Church advertisements can be interesting. I’ve seen things like, “Business healing services,” one that advertised a concealed weapons class, and “You have a friend request from Jesus: Accept? Ignore?” But one that confused me the first time I saw it was “Spirit-filled.” What does that mean? And are only some churches Spirit-filled? Or all of them? Or partially filled? What’s the difference between a Spirit-filled and non-Spirit-filled church?

Generally, the advertisement intends to mean that the Holy Spirit’s power and presence are observable in that local church. Praise God if that’s true. But, assuming accurate advertising, what ought we expect from such a church? What will that look like?

Here are 11 evidences of the Spirit’s power and presence in a local church:

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Imagine a video game. In this video game, the graphics are so advanced that they are indistinguishable from reality. In fact, the game is so realistic that the characters in the game believe that they are actually living human beings. Impossible, right?

Not so, according to Elon Musk.

HECw8AzKElon Musk is one of the brightest minds in the world. In fact, several rocket scientists believe that Elon Musk might be the smartest human to ever live. He was one of the founders of Paypal. After selling that company, he founded Tesla, a company that produces cars that run on electricity. He also started Solar City, a company that produces solar panels. Last but not least, he runs SpaceX, an American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company hoping to colonize Mars one day. (He is pretty confident that he will be able to do so before the end of his life.)

Elon Musk was recently the keynote speaker at a big conference. During the Q & A section, he was asked a question that everyone thought was pretty comical.

He was asked if he’d ever heard of the simulation question. That if he’d ever considered whether we were in a simulation.

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Shakespeare was a sonnet maestro. A sonnet, from the Italian word meaning little sound, is a structured form of poetic expression. An English sonnet has 14 lines, each one must contain 10 syllables and there are certain rules for rhyming. The point of the sonnet is to show the poet’s prowess commanding the language to conform to strict limits, while still expressing what he wants to communicate in an artistic way.tweet button

The Bard used sonnets, we use tweets. Twitter limits our expression to 140 characters. This is somewhat easier than what Shakespeare had to do, but for many loquacious youths these days, any type of limit is a challenge.

Founder, Jack Dorsey, explains,

[W]e came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was.”

The brevity of the tweet is what makes it simultaneously both appealing, and potentially useless. But Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet law at Harvard says,

The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful.”

But just because a message is short, does not mean it is insignificant.

Horatio Spafford saw his life collapse when he heard his four daughters had drowned in a shipwreck. This news came from his wife’s poignant telegram: “Saved Alone.”

World War 2 ended with the words “Unconditional Surrender.”

My wife made my day, and my life, with two words: “I do.”

In Jonah 3 we see five (Hebrew) words that changed history for over 600,000 people, with implications that echo in our very lives today.

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Over the past few weeks, we have been taking a look at how Jeremiah responded to Judah’s suffering at the time of the Babylonian exile, with the goal of learning lessons on how the believer can respond to suffering righteously. We’ve seen that Jeremiah weeps with those who weep, that he acknowledges the role of sin in suffering, that he trusts in God’s absolute sovereignty, and yet never finds fault with God but recognizes the proper enemy. Today we come to the final, and perhaps the most important, lesson that Jeremiah teaches us on suffering well. In the midst of his intense suffering and deep anguish, Jeremiah does not mourn as one who has no hope (1 Thess 4:13). Rather, he sets his hope entirely on, and rests in, the character of God. He hopes in the restoration of God’s people according to His character and His covenant.

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“Everyone has it, why can’t I have it!” “They’re leaving me out of everything!”… cue the tears, bring up the music, and now the dramatic finish…”you’re ruining my life, I’ll never make real friends!”

This year’s winner of best actress in a pho-drama goes to a middle schooler for her role in Deprived: the tragedy of a young lady traumatized by social media prohibition.

Sound familiar? This discussion is ricocheting around our home right now. Apparently “every kid” at school has (1) an iPhone, (2) unlimited texting and (3) every social media stream possible. Oh, and did I mention “those” kids also watch all the latest movies, have pet unicorns and probably have a new car waiting in the garage, just in case they turn 16 before the end of 7th grade.

Like it or not, our kids live in a world of increasing digital communication. Social media streams, texting, email, and chat features in video games are only a few ways they may engage others. Ignoring the subject is dereliction of duty and unfiltered access to digital content is insanity.

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defiant-child

learningworksforkids.com

Parenting is no easy task. Charles Spurgeon once said, “He who thinks it easy to bring up a family never had one of his own. A mother who trains her children aright had need be wiser than Solomon, for his son turned out a fool.”

Thankfully, God has not left parents to grope about for advice in their exalted task. Scripture is full of guidance. However, it seems that one of the most commonly-quoted parenting verses is frequently subjected to misunderstanding.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). (ESV, NASB)

The verse is predominantly understood in a few ways.

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Do you struggle with lack of assurance of salvation?

child faithPerhaps you’ve wrestled with this issue for some time, and have never come to a place where you were satisfied. So many times we complicate the matter and forget that Jesus said, Matthew 18:3 “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Of course let me say at the outset that I deny the idea that you can simply say a prayer and be saved. Lordship salvation is the only type of salvation and there are no other kinds. If we say that we are Christians but have no love for Him, no love for His people, and no love for his Word, the Bible would call us liars and say that the truth is not in us. In this case, lack of assurance would be warranted. Repentance is a necessary component of the Gospel, because when we truly believe we will repent. But there is a sense in which we overcomplicate the Gospel pretty regularly. And those who are saved are the ones who constantly doubt, and those who should be worried, sleep like babies at night. Continue Reading…

When I was a really little kid a cheesy 80s horror movie hit the big screen. It was called Gremlins. The story is about a boy who finds a small, fury, odd-looking creature called a mogwai that seems as harmless as a hamster. But you discover that if this unassuming little pet stays up past midnight, and has a snack, it morphs into a grotesque, evil, brutally violent monster called a Gremlin! Like I said, it was the 80s.Mogwai

I begged my parents to let me watch it, all the kids at school were talking about it. They wisely refused. The movie was a box office hit and soon spawned merchandise like the fluffy toy version of the mogwai. As compensation for not allowing me to see the movie, they bought me this fluffy toy mogwai to add to the posse of teddy bears on my bed.

One day I was at a friend’s house for a sleep over, and his parents said we could rent a movie. We rented Gremlins. I didn’t sleep a wink that night, and when I got home I was too scared to go into my room because I now knew what that harmless looking mogwai was capable of if he was fed after midnight. I had nightmares for months, and donated my toy mogwai to some unsuspecting neighbors so that it could torment other little kids and leave me alone.

The Bible talks about another insipid danger which people consider mostly harmless. But what they don’t realize is that it turns into an evil monster when it is fed after midnight. It’s called the sin of anger.

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Having grown up in the densely populated state of New Jersey, I learned to drive in one of the more hostile traffic environments in America. Between the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and the occasional foray across the George Washington Bridge or the Lincoln Tunnel into some part of New York City—especially Manhattan—I’ve been in my share of close calls and quick decisions. When you add the fact that I now live in Los Angeles and use some of the busiest freeways in the country on a daily basis, it’s rather a miracle that I’m still alive. In fact, there are often times when I consciously thank the Lord while driving that I was spared from this or that potential accident. I certainly know that my passengers have improved their prayer lives while driving with me from time to time.

Because of this absolutely ridiculous vehicular heritage, I often make it a point to observe the different patterns other drivers follow and decisions they make while I’m driving. Sometimes I even think to myself, imagining what I would have done if a driver lost control or decided to change lanes abruptly, or whatever. “If he made a mistake and needed to jump in front of me, could I get out of his way?” Stuff like that.

Now, some people without the NY/NJ/LA driving heritage might think I’m going a little overboard here. And they might be right. But I realize that in certain situations I might have only a fraction of a second to react. I need to be so prepared with a sound way of avoiding an accident that my reactions are just second nature. Because in the moment, I won’t have time to think clearly and dispassionately evaluate my options. The craziness of the moment simply won’t allow it. At least not where I’m driving.

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June 2, 2016

Fearing the mic

by Josh Thiessen

For many the fear of public speaking is rated higher even than their fear of death. Personally, I was scared to death (no pun intended) of speaking publicly growing up. So as I began taking leadership roles in the church (teaching Sunday school, preaching, etc.), it took me a long time to get comfortable in front of people and confront my fear of man.

The more I have preached the more comfortable I get. But lately, I have realized that their should always be some level of caution or fear when preaching. Teaching is a a great responsibility and should foster a healthy level of glossophobia because teachers will face a greater judgment (James 3:1) . When I first started preaching, I could easily trace my fear to a sinful desire to please man. Now, I’m discovering a healthy fear that includes my judgment before God for the things I teach. I think examining both fears are healthy for every teacher in the church. Continue Reading…