Falling asleep in the window

Devotional PicturesI’ve preached some long messages in my time – but I don’t think anything tops this story!

As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutycus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he sank into a deep sleep and fell three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry.” he said, “he’s alive!” Then they all went back upstairs and ate the Lord’s Supper together. And Paul continued talking to them until dawn; then he left. (Acts 20:9-11, NLT)

Wow!

Holy Spirit, “Holy handkerchiefs”, and evil spirit thumpings

Devotional PicturesVerses Read: Numbers 32; Acts 19 (NIV, NLT)

I read through Acts 19 today as part of my devotional and there’s a number of verses that jumped out at me (from Acts anyway). In this post I think I’ll make a few “brief” comments on some observations I’ve made…(note to self, there’s gotta be an easier [and more search-friendly] way of entering these devotional thoughts – I have the “StructuredBlogging” plugin and I’m thinking sometime I may develop a microformat for devotionals…if anyone reading this knows of one that’s already developed let me know…it’ll save me time :lol:…in the meantime for lack of time I’ll keep publishing my devotional thoughts as a simple post!)

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them. “No.” they replied, “we dont’ know what you mean. We haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2, NLT)

When Paul arrrived at the metropolis of Ephesus he discovered that there were already believers there (Paul wasn’t the only evangelist after all!) I find it interesting that one of the first questions Paul asked of these believers was whether they had recieved the Holy Spirit. Their response was telling – not only had they not received the baptism but they hadn’t even heard about Him (the Holy Spirit). Upon further probing Paul discovered that their knowledge of the gospel was incomplete in that they had only recieved the baptism of John. After Paul spent some time explaining the good news of Christ these believers were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus and after Paul laid hands on them the scripture records that the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied.

What’s jumped out at me in this passage is that Paul considered it important to ask these believers if they had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Obviously Paul thought it was integral to the life of a Christian and significant enough to pursue. In fact, one can infer from his conversation with these men that Paul considered the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to be an indicator of whether believers had a complete understanding of the gospel of Christ revealed by his question, “then what baptism did you experience?” (Acts 19:3). Certainly Paul seemed astonished that not only had they not been baptised in the Holy Spirit but that they hadn’t even heard about Him!

This past Pentecost Sunday is traditionally a celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. This particular year also happens to be the 100 year anniversary of the more modern-day outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street – an event that led to the incredible explosion of “pentecostal” experience in our world. Our Christian experience is incredibly enriched by the advent of Christ’s gift to the church in the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Without the work of this third person of the Trinity I’m convinced that Christianity would not have flourished as it has. The Holy Spirit convicts to repentance, enlightens to truth, and empowers to witness in His role as counselor, comforter, and coach. Every believer should ask of their church and church leaders, and themselves as Paul did, “Have you received the baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

Next verse,

God gave Paul the power to do unusual miracles, so that even when handkerchiefs or cloths that had touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and any evil spirits within them came out. (Acts 19:11-12, NLT)

Recently, I was given a handkerchief by a lady in my church that she says has been anointed and prayed over by a team of evangelists. It is one of many that they had anointed and prayed over specifically for bearers of the handkerchiefs. She asked me to put it under my pillow at night and keep it with me so that I will be healed of my hearing loss. While I love her as a sister and admire her faith I’ve always been hesitant of such claims about the healing powers of such anointed cloths and such. Why? Because to me it comes dangerously close to replacing Christ as the healer and worker of miracles with an object as that source. It almost takes on a “magical” significance in its inherent healing properties because of it being “infused” with power.

This particular passage in Acts is probably one of the more significant supports used for the practice of anointed hankies. But when I read it a couple things stand out. First, while the cloths or handkerchiefs that had been taken to the sick had been in contact with Paul’s skin…there is no mention of Paul specifically praying over them or “anointing” them. Why is this important? I don’t deny that there’s something going on here but it’s worthwhile to mention that this was an exceptional circumstance….by no means a normative one. The description of this particular event begins with, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that…” In other words, God was working so powerfully through Paul that handkerchiefs and cloths that as word got out people were taking whatever pieces of cloth that had touched Paul’s skin they could find to the sick and these sick were becoming whole. It seems to me that this was recorded as an observation of something astonishing taking place rather than a description of a regular practice. Second, nowhere in the New Testament are there instructions given to the church or to believers to have leaders’ pray over objects for the purpose of distribution to the sick and ailing. Are we to pray for the sick? Certainly! Are we to lay hands on them? Yes! Are we to anoint with oil? Of course! Those are all explicit instructions found recorded in the letters to the churches and expressed as a normative practice of the church.

With all that said, does this mean that what is recorded here in Acts was not of God or cannot occur today? No, I believe it was of God and that it can (and does) occur today…however these are exceptional miraculous occurences and in my opinion should not be sought out as a regular practice (i.e. specifically anointing and praying over handkerchiefs, and cloths and the like). One biblical story that popped in my mind is the story of the “bronze serpent” recorded in the Old Testament.

In 2 Kings 18 we read about King Hezekiah and the renewal he intiates in Israel as a result of his conviction over their deplorable condition because of sin. In verse 4 it says this, “he removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and knocked down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that moses had made becasue the people of israel had begun to worship it by burning incense to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan.” (emphasis mine) What was this bronze serpent? The book of Numbers (21) records that as punishment for grumbling against God and Moses while journeying in the wilderness God sent poisonous snakes among the Israelites and some of them were bitten and died. The people came to Moses and repented for their sin and after he prayed for them God instructed Moses to make a replica of a posonous snake and attach it to the top of a pole. According to his instructions, God indicated that if those who had been bitten simply looked at the pole they would be healed and live. This was clearly an exceptional miracle that God worked through an “object” for that particular time and circumstance (and was also a prophetic pronouncement of the work of Jesus Christ – see John 3:14, but that’s for another discussion!). However, over the years this bronze snake became revered so much that by the time of Hezekiah it evolved into an object of worship and distanced people from God.

This is what I fear the practice of anointing handkerchiefs and cloths can become – simply another form of the “bronze snake”.

Finally, a third observation from Acts 19 (turning into a long post indeed :lol:),

…The incantation they used was this: “I command you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But when they tried it on a man possessed by an evil spirit, the spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and i know Paul. But who are you?” And he leaped on them and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and bodily injured. (Acts 19:14-16, NLT)

Some quick points:

  • The evil spirit knew who Jesus was and who Paul was. Obviously, Paul was known because of the difference Jesus made in His life and the clear mark of the Holy Spirit upon him. You can be sure that any believer in Christ who has the Holy Spirit resident in their lives is “known” by evil spirits as well!
  • The supernatural realm is not something to play around with. The name of Christ in of itself holds no “magical” power. It is only when the name is spoken in revelatory knowledge that it carries weight. In other words, these priests were using Jesus’ name kind of like a magician uses, “abracadabra” The only problem is, because they didn’t really know Jesus and hadn’t embraced the Christian faith there was no weight behind what they were saying. The evil spirit rightly recognized that they had no true authority over him.
  • The lesson is clear…don’t be fooled into thinking you can have authority over evil spirits by simple incantations, or special words…only when you have faith in Christ as your Lord and Savior and when you walk in His authority can you have the gall and confidence to command evil spirits to leave.

Well, that’s all my observations for this post…whew! I look forward to any and all comments 🙂

Man…that’s gotta hurt!

WARNING: This post contains descriptions that might bother the squeamish…
The pox has invaded the Ethier household. Chicken pox that is. I vaguely remember having it as a kid but watching my kids go through it almost makes me want to scratch ouch! Karissa went through it about 2 weeks ago and the scars (scabs) are just starting to heal over (if you have a good imagination you might be grossed out about now :lol:) Liam, Jenna and Zachary now have it. Out of the three I think Liam has it the worst but that doesn’t mean Zack and Jenna got off easy. Needless to say they are pretty antsy (more than usual hehe) and are finding it difficult to sit still (really nothing new there). I really feel bad for them….hey! where was children’ benydryl when I had chicken pox?

Ugh…a bug!

UPDATE (June 4, 2006; 12:47am): I think I’ve crushed this bug…please comment if you notice anything awry though. Thanks!

Well, you may have noticed that I’ve been hard at work changing the theme and adding various things to my blog. Well…some are things you’ll notice, some are things you won’t. Anyway, i just realized that this theme doesn’t display my photo gallery that well which means I have to do some more…yes, you guessed it…tweaking! hehe. Looks like I’ll have to play around with the .css and stylesheets BUT I can’t get to it right now…I’ve already stayed up past my bedtime. I just thought I’d put this post up so that in case anyone was browsing the picture albums (yeah right! :lol:) they’ll know that, yes “I know there’s something wrong with the page…”

Tweaking, tweaking…and yes more tweaking

I haven’t posted much lately because in the little spare time I’ve had the last few days I’ve been downloading and testing out various themes, widgets, and plug-ins for my blog.? It’s something I can’t seem to avoid – I always have to be modifying or “fiddling around” with things on any websites I maintain.? Anyhoo, there may be some funny things happening with this blog off and on in the next few days as I transfer what works on test to my live blog…hopefully everything will work okay lol.

Aliens, UFO’s and the Extraterrestrial “conspiracy”…

Alien Intrusion by Gary BatesI just finished reading the book, “Alien Intrusion” by Gary Bates last night. The summary and title of the book intrigued me because from childhood I have always been interested in stories involving “ET’s” (extraterrestrials) and UFO’s. I remember doing a presentation on UFO’s as a project for one of my classes in high school. The reason why this book interested me is because I discovered a website for it advertised in the Creation Ministries International flyer that I recieve in the mail and after checking it out I thought the book would be worth a read (because of my already piqued interest in ET’s). Here’s the description found on the back of the book:

UFOs have been seen throughout the centuries. But in our enlightened technological age, are we any closer to solving the mystery? This book revisits the most famous events that have defined UFO culture, such as Roswell and alien autopsies; astronaut Gordon Cooper’s sightings; Major Donald Keyhoe’s allegations of official silence; and the claims of famous contactees Billy Meier and George Adamski.

Also discover evidence about alien abductions and other UFO phenomena that is widely ignored by the UFO community. The author’s research and conclusions will surprise you and challenge your thinking — not just about UFOs, but about the nature of life itself.

This landmark volume that brings together the most important evidences, and comes to conclusions far more sinister — yet profound — than most could imagine.

I don’t want to write too much about Gary Bates conclusions about UFOs here because of the profound amount of evidence he amasses and the well-thought out progression he takes through the book to reach them. For me to just list the conclusion might prevent some from reading the book because of bias’ they may already have. However, I will say this – my eyes were opened – WIDE OPENED – to the reality of the UFO phenomenom and how far off from the truth most people are when reading about it and explaining it.

Bates does an excellent job of presenting a logical and reasonable explanation for the numerous reports and evidences that have been collected in the past century (and referencing supposed ancient sightings as well). I can’t help but wonder if any honest, sincere, and open-minded investigator would not reach the same conclusions he did. Certainly when I finished the book I agreed with his conclusions.

For the Christian – this book helps us to understand the UFO phenomenom and grasp the significance of its influence in our culture. It also gives good reason for our faith to be strengthened and encouraged about what the Bible has to say about the “conspiracy” behind UFO’s and Aliens. I believe Bates correctly identifies the religious (or spiritual) nature of the UFO phenomenom and how it requires a belief system that is inherently antagonistic to the Christian faith. In his conclusions, he expertly gives opinions why this is so (the conclusions are shocking to say the least!). After reading his book I definitely feel it’s a worthwhile read for Christians – let me put it this way…like I said earlier, I have always been fascinated by stories of UFO’s and aliens (and a bit of a sci-fi buff to boot) and the idea that there may be life on other planets in our universe. Yet, after reading this book I’ve realized that such interests cannot be taken lightly or even seen as a harmless indulgence…

For the non-Christian I would invite you to read this book and not be put off by what I stated in the paragraph above. For certainly, in my opinion, Bates is not writing this book as an apologetic of the Christian faith and doesn’t even mention the Christian connection until the last chapters. Instead, it very much read as an honest attempt to have an objective look at the UFO phenomena, it’s origins, it’s ideals, it’s evidences, and it’s stories. Bates draws from an incredible amount of resources (from a multitude of differing viewpoints) that demonstrate the diligence in his research and investigation into the subject. The way he presents this information is in the method of an open-minded researcher. It is clear that Bates was honestly trying to get to the bottom of this mystery from a scholarly perspective. By the end of the book I think you’ll appreciate the high plausibility that his conclusions are true – and at the very least give you something to really think about.

Bates presents numerous stories, evidences, and research that no doubt many people have seen presented in documentaries, or read before (a testimony to how widespread talk of UFO’s has become…almost an accepted expectation in our society). Overall this book was a very interesting read and one I will be recommending to many people!

The Battle for Children

I attended a seminar put on by JAM Ministries yesterday. The seminar was entitled “The Battle for Children” and basically Rob Lukings shared how in our nation today (and all over the world) there is a battle being raged for the hearts minds, and lives of kids. His premise is that the church is doing a terrible job at influencing the younger generations for Christ.

I agree. A quick glance at a number of statistics and any childcare worker will tell you that today’s world is not a great one for kids. In the seminar Rob covered five sections:

Section A. “Why Attack Children?”
He asked the question, “Why would Satan want to wage war on children? Why do churches and parents need to have truly effective minsitry into the lives of pre-teen children.”

The basic answer to the question is that research has shown that people develop their positions on values, morality and a worldview at a very young age. What kids are exposed to and have modeled early in life will definitely influence to a great deal what their adulthood will be like.


Section B: “Strategy of Destruction”
Here, Rob talked about how there is a intense spiritual warfare being fought over and for our kids. He covers how they are being attacked physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It was an eye opener to understand that yes, this is taking place.

Section C: “The Church’s Response”
Rob shared an assessment of what the church is doing to respond to this attack by the enemy and how well she is doing. In this frank but true assessment he sought to motivate us to take a close look at the priorities in our congregations.

Section D: “A Battle Report”
Rob painted a picture of the spiritual condition of children, both inside and outside the church. The result is alarming!

Section E: “What God Has to Say.
Rob spent some time here sharing about what God’s Word has to say about our responsibility in ministry to children.

All in all, the seeminar reinforced the kinds of things I’ve been hearing a lot of lately. Case in point – check out the theme of the May/June issue of “Outreach Magazine” The main story of this issue is headlined by the title, “Church in Crisis”. As a part of this report there’s an interview of Josh McDowell entitled, “We’re losing a generation”.

For myself, as a pastor of a church, and as a parent of young children – I see the incredible importance for valuing and prioritizing ministry to children. I’m sure for the unchurched or non-Christian the assumption sometimes made is that we’re out to brainwash kids. However, the truth is, our kids are already being brainwashed in our world today. The mass influence of media and abdication by parental involvment (instead relying on schools to “raise” our kids) has resulted in upcoming generations with a degraded moral and value system and a worldview that places more emphasis on the individual then on the common good.
As a church I think we can and must do a better job of ministering to kids and their parents. I hope that this year as we evaluate our ministries and direction of HPC that our children’s ministry is something high on our priority list. That’s not to say that other ministries aren’t important and will be neglected – but children need help! I’m also excited about the possibility of expanding our involvement in helping parents be equipped for raising their children. Ultimately its the parents who can make the biggest difference in their children’s future. (Anybody see the show, “Honey we’re killing the kids” on TLC?).

What if everyone were a Christian…?

Here’s a thought I had last night: If everyone was a Christian…what would the world look like? Now, it’s important to understand that my thinking was not if everyone were a Christian in the ideal biblical sense (valuing community, caring, and other- centerdeness etc.) but more along the lines of the typical ‘Christian’ churchgoer in the western world today. Just a thought (and maybe way off base in a cynical kind of way) but would the world be a religious fundamentalist scary place where you’d have to be careful how you sneezed…or would there bickering over laws being passed not on the grounds of morality but more along the lines of scriptural interpretation? Would volunteer organizations suffer because everyone is too busy in church activity? I guess, it all depends on what “brand” of Christianity people embrace wouldn’t it?? Just a thought…