Tag Archives: Bible study

The International Miracle of Pentecost

Happy Pentecost! This weekend, millions of Christians all across the globe are celebrating the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the apostolic church. Pentecost has always been very important for me, since the apostolic Pentecost as it is described in Acts 2 combines everything I like: charismatic fire, economic redistribution, universal evangelism as well as simplicity, worship and joy.

It all started when the wonderful Holy Spirit descended with fire and the international gift of tongues:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? (Acts 2:1-8, NIV)

In my experience, this is quite a common miracle. When the early Pentecostals met at the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles to enjoy the restoration of Spirit baptism, many claimed that people actually started to speak real languages. In the October issue 1906 of The Apostolic Faith, the official publication of the Azusa Street church, the following article is included:

Sister Hutchins has been preaching the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. She has received the baptism with the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Uganda language, the language of the people to whom she is sent. A brother who has been in that country understands and has interpreted the language she speaks. Her husband is with her and her niece, who also has been given the African language.

Continue reading The International Miracle of Pentecost

New Book: Guerrilla Gospel by Bob Ekblad

guerrilla-gospel-1-683x1024.jpgJesus was born into a world marked by oppression and injustice to announce and embody God’s global liberation movement. Like an insurgent, Jesus comes in under the radar, behind enemy lines, and then builds a foundation of trust with a growing entourage of humble followers. He incites a revolution that he calls the Kingdom of God.

Guerrilla Gospel: Reading the Bible for Liberation in the Power of the Spirit is a practical manual that condenses the outlines of God’s liberation movement.

In this book you will learn to

  • identify and overcome common obstacles to stepping into active faith,
  • grow in your awareness of how God speaks and the Spirit guides,
  • discover approaches to preparing messages that invite conversion and holistic transformation,
  • learn essential basics for preparing and leading Bible studies and
  • grow in understanding how the gifts of the Spirit are available now to provide essential support for the adventure of faith.

Get the book here!

Bob Ekblad is co-founder and co-director of Tierra Nueva in Burlington, Washington. Bob is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  He holds a ThD in Old Testament and is known internationally for his courses and workshops on reading the Bible.

The Cleansing of the Temple and Non-Violence

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple is the most commonly cited example of those who allege that he did not absolutize loving enemies or refraining from violence. I submit that this episode implies nothing of the sort.

First, it is important that we understand that this episode was not an expression of unpremeditated anger on Jesus’ part, as some allege. Most NT scholars concur that this was a calculated, strategic act on Jesus’ part, and it contained deep symbolic significance. More specifically, this episode appears to be a classic example of a prophetic symbolic action.

There is, however, some disagreement over what exactly Jesus was symbolizing. For example, many argue that Jesus was revealing himself to be the long-awaited messiah who was widely expected to cleanse and/or restore the Temple. Others argue that Jesus was symbolically revealing Yahweh’s displeasure with the corrupt religious establishment and issuing a prophetic warning that the Temple would soon be destroyed, a point that John makes explicit (Jn 2: 19-22). While interpretations differ, however, they all presuppose that the Temple cleansing was anything but a spontaneous tantrum on the part of Jesus.

Second, there is simply no indication in any of the Gospels that Jesus resorted to violence when he cleansed the Temple. Yes, the texts suggest that Jesus was angry, and yes, John tells us that Jesus made a whip (Jn 2:15). But there is no suggestion that he used it to strike any animal or person. To the contrary, throughout history cracking a whip has been a commonly used means of controlling the movement of animals, and John explicitly reports that this is what Jesus used it for.

He used the whip to create an animal stampede of “both sheep and cattle” out of the “temple courts” (Jn 2:15). Not only this, but had Jesus actually whipped any of the court officials, it is hard to imagine how he could have avoided being arrested on the spot. It is also hard to imagine how he could have avoided the charge of hypocrisy, for such behavior would have flown in the face of his previously mentioned public teachings about refraining from violence.

There is therefore nothing about Jesus’ cleansing of the temple that runs counter to my claim that the non-violent, enemy-embracing, self-sacrificial love that was supremely revealed on the cross is the thematic center of Jesus’ identity and mission. To the contrary, Jesus engaged in a kind of “street theater” out of love for his “Father’s house” as well as for the poor who were being oppressed by the corrupt leaders who ran the Temple’s “buying and selling” system.

And, as the Gospels make clear, he confronted these leaders in this aggressive manner as a way of forcing their hand, and thus as a steppingstone to his crucifixion. Far from illustrating Jesus acting in an unloving, let alone violent way, I submit that this entire episode reflects Jesus’ self-sacrificial love.

Moreover, John explicitly makes the cross the thematic center of this episode, for he records that Jesus brings this episode to a close by drawing a connection between the newly cleansed temple, which Jesus prophesied would soon be permanently destroyed, and his own body, which would rise again three days after being destroyed (Jn 2:19-22).

Read in context, NT scholar Richard Hays notes, John is declaring “that Jesus’ body is now the place where God dwells, the place where atonement for sin occurs, the place where the division between God and humanity is overcome.” Hence, far from counting against the thematic centrality of the cross, the Temple cleansing illustrates this centrality.

Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist, and author. He has been featured in the New York Times, The Charlie Rose Show, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and numerous other television and radio venues.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

What Revival Looks Like: Sharing Possessions

by Craig Keener, originally posted on his blog as the second part of a series on Spirit empowering.

If the immediate expression of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was prophetic empowerment, the longer-range impact was a new community of believers who walked together in their lives and shared one another’s needs.

Much of Acts 2:41-47 follows the following structure:

A         2:41     Successful evangelism (3000 converts)

B         2:42     Sharing meals, praying together

C         2:44-45            Sharing possessions

B’        2:46-47a          Shared meals, worship

A’        2:47b   Successful evangelism

Whereas the conversions in 2:41 responded to Peter’s preaching, the conversions in 2:47 apparently responded to the life of the new community. Peter’s preaching explained divine signs at Pentecost; but the sacrificial love that Christians showed one another was no less divine, no less supernatural. Continue reading What Revival Looks Like: Sharing Possessions

From Babel to Pentecost: Letting Go of Fear, Embracing the Spirit

by Alex Mayfield, originally posted on Engaged Pentecostalism.

The rise of populist and nationalist movements around the world is a fact of our time. A quick survey finds the tide rising the world over: the recent Brazilian presidential victory ofdictatorship-loving Bolsonaro, the many far-right groups gaining ground in European elections, the rise of violent Hindutva in India, and the increasingly abrasive Chinese nationalism fostered under Xi Jinping illustrate that nationalists movements have turned ethnic, cultural, and national identity towards increasingly troubling ends.

Here in the United States, Trumpian politics have risen to power by questioning the legitimacy of a black leaders and stoking fears over Hispanic migrants, and ethnno-nationalist ideas have gained renewed traction among conservative voters. While support of Donald Trump cannot be equated with an embrace of racism, it is no accident that radical white nationalist groups have been growing and becoming increasingly vocal in their support of the president; these groups are ideologically wrong, but they are not stupid.

These trends should be concerning for anyone who is a student of history: rampant nationalism tends to breed war. While undermining the international order is one thing, the rise of Trumpian politics has had a more concrete casualty: the public witness of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians. Continue reading From Babel to Pentecost: Letting Go of Fear, Embracing the Spirit

Why Didn’t Jesus Denounce Military Service?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

A common objection to the claim that Jesus and the authors of the New Testament were opposed to all forms of violence is that neither Jesus nor anyone else speaks out against it. When soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do in response to his message, for example, he told them not to “extort money,” not to “accuse people falsely,” and to be “content with [their] pay” (Lk 3: 14). He didn’t tell them to leave the military. In a similar fashion, when Jesus encountered a distraught Centurion, he healed his servant and praised his faith without saying a word about his leadership role in the violent and unjustly oppressive Roman-governed army (Mt 8:5-13Lk 7:1-10).

Along the same lines, without commenting on his military service, Mark reports that a Centurion confessed faith in Jesus when he witnessed how he died (Mk 15:39). And this same attitude gets carried over into the early church. Indeed, the first Gentile who came to Christ in the book of Acts was yet another Centurion. As Peter preached the Gospel to this man and his household, the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they were all baptized without a word being uttered about this man’s military service (Acts 10:44-8).

From Augustine to Aquinas to Luther up to the present time, these episodes have been frequently cited to justify Christians serving in the military. Continue reading Why Didn’t Jesus Denounce Military Service?

The Perils of Group Think

When David became king of Israel, certain groups gathered around him, each faction precisely gifted in ways that contributed to his ability to rule with wisdom and integrity. Far from being threatened, David welcomed them. He held the position of king for the sake of the nation and wanted all the help he could get to encourage the wellbeing of his people rather than undermine it, as rulers can so easily do. 

One key group to join him were members of the Tribe of Issachar, described in the Bible as ‘men who knew the times and understood what Israel ought to do’. (I Chronicles 12:32) It’s worth remembering that Issachar’s mandate was not contingent on David’s willingness to listen to them. Even if he’d rejected their insights they would still have followed through on their specific, God-given aptitude to recognize and understand the times they were living in, and look for ways to influence the culture of the nation.

After David died, the people of Issachar with their uncanny ability to see what was really happening underneath the hype, were no longer valued or utilised by succeeding kings. Continue reading The Perils of Group Think