Supernatural Church

Here are my notes for the final session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

One of the most striking similarities that most churchgoers share with the non-Christian world is their ability to complain about the way the church operates.

If you could create the perfect church, what would it look like? If you joined a perfect church, would that church still be perfect?

Could that perfect church be accomplished through human talent and strength? Or would it require the power of the Holy Spirit?

We could duplicate most of our successful churches by assembling the right group of talented, winsome people. If a church has the right worship leader, an exciting children’s program, and entertaining speaker, it will grow. But is that really the secret to life-changing ministry? Is that how God designed the church to operate? Where does the Holy Spirit fit in that model? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Zachariah 4:6

I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for him to come through. That I am ruined if he does not come through.

Consider your involvement with church life. In what ways do you tend to rely on natural talent as we strive to fulfill the church’s mission?

The tractor illustration from the video segment: We get excited about the tractor, and then we wear ourselves out by pushing it inch by inch through the field. At the end of the harvest, we barely managed to finish the job and end up with just enough food to go around. Tragically, this is how many churches operate; they are built on the sweat and efforts of a few talented but exhausted leaders. When we consult the owner’s manual, however, we find that the tractor is actually designed to run and plow the field on its own. When we discover that the church was designed to function through the power of the Holy Spirit, it changes everything.

Do you see yourself and/or our church pushing and pulling the tractor an inch at a time?

Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5 – Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth to address the factions that were dividing the church. Groups were forming around attractive personalities.

How does Paul describe human effort as compared to the power of God?

According to this passage, why is it so important to rely on the power of the Spirit?

Think about the way you minister to the people around you. Can you say, “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)?

There ought to be a real difference between a spirit-filled person and everyone else. As Christians, we have the source of both joy and peace living inside of us. Sometimes the difference isn’t apparent until tragedy strikes.

Have you ever witnessed a person manifesting the Fruit of the Spirit to a supernatural degree?

The Spirit wants to do more than just help us out a bit. He wants to transform us, patiently but steadily, into people who transform the dark corners of our world. Sometimes we get so caught up in everything God wants us to do that we lose sight of who God wants us to be.

We won’t be transformed by simply trying harder. Remember, it’s never about you doing it on your own. It’s about the power of the Spirit in your life.

What would it look like for you to cultivate a relationship with the Spirit, allowing him to transform you, rather than simply trying harder on your own?

Perhaps we don’t recognize the Spirit’s power in our lives because we’re not stepping out in faith and doing anything where we desperately need God to show up. Talk to hurting people around you, digging deeper to learn how you can love and serve them, that’s when you need the Holy Spirit, and that’s precisely when he shows up. God works in the most desperate situations so that no one can make it for anything other than by his power. Maybe he will grant you boldness to speak into a frightening situation. Maybe he will give you a divine compassion for the lost and the poor. Maybe he will give you wisdom to say exactly what a person needs to hear at a critical moment in their life. You won’t know what God will do until you get out there and follow his leading.

We absolutely need to step beyond our own abilities. You get praised for using your own talents well. God gets praised when his power accomplishes the humanly impossible.

Have you ever walked away from a ministry opportunity because it would take you beyond your natural talents? In what areas would you need the Spirit to empower you in a situation like that?

This is by far the most difficult. It’s time to follow the Spirit’s leading, even if you’re not sure where he’s taking you or how you’ll get through it.

What would it look like if every Christian in our church fully submitted themselves to the Spirit’s leading?

What practical steps can you take right now to pursue the Spirit and live in dependence on him? Will you rely on your natural abilities, or will you allow the Holy Spirit to use you in incredible ways? If you rely on your own talents, you will be stopped so easily. You will get tired, distracted, overwhelmed, and attacked.

Pray that the Spirit of God would radically transform your life from the inside out.

Francis Chan Quotes from The Forgotten God:

 

 

  • I bet you would agree that a group of talented, charismatic leaders can draw a crowd. Find the right creative team, musicians, and speakers, and you can grow any church. It doesn’t even have to be a Christian Church. The fact is that without making a conscious choice to depend on the Holy Spirit, we can do a lot.
  • I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for him to come through. That if he doesn’t come through, I am screwed.
  • We created a whole brand of churches that do not depend on the spirit, the whole culture of Christians who are not disciples, a new group of followers who do not follow.
  • God is not interested in numbers. He cares most about the faithfulness, not the size, of his bride. He cares about whether people are lovers of him. And while I might be able to get people in the doors of a church or auditorium if I tell enough jokes or use enough visuals, the fact remains that I cannot convince people to be obsessed with Jesus.
  • Regarding Elijah and the prophets of Baal: Is that what happens at the Christian gatherings you attend or does it feel more like what the prophets of Baal experienced before Elijah prayed? We can have a great time singing and dancing ourselves into a frenzy. But at the end of it, fire doesn’t come down from heaven. People leave talking about the people who led rather than the power of God.
  • We all can choose to face life’s issues and circumstances in exactly the same way as someone without the Spirit of God. We worry, strive, and grieve know differently than non-believers. While it is true that we are humans like everyone else. It is also true that we are humans with the Spirit of God willing in us. Yet, whether consciously or not, we essentially say to God, I know you raised Jesus Christ from the dead, but the fact is my problems are just too much for you and I need to deal with them by myself.
  • He desires to do more than “help out” a bit. He wants to completely transform us. He wants to take a timid heart and set it ablaze with strength and courage, so that people know something supernatural has taken place, life change just as miraculous as fire coming down from heaven. He wants to give us wisdom because he is the spirit of wisdom and revelation, (Ephesians 1:17, Isaiah 11:2).
  • What disturbs me most is when we are not really bothered that God living in US has not made much of a noticeable difference.
  • Don’t keep yourselves from praying desperately and courageously put the Spirit to work in your life simply because you are not the prophet Elijah as this verse says, Elijah was a human being with a nature like ours. He was just like us. The key thing about him? He prayed fervently, (James 5:17).
  • I know that I tend to run from situations where I need God, and I think that is true in most every one of us. It is safer to avoid situations where we need God to come through than to stake it all on him and risk God’s silence.
  • The church is tended to be a beautiful place of community. A place where wealth is shared and when one suffers, everyone suffers. A place where one rejoices, everyone rejoice. A place for everyone experiences real love and acceptance in the midst of great honesty about our brokenness. Yet most of the time this is not even close to how we would describe our churches.
  • When we stock up on knowledge without applying it to our lives, we are actually sinning. You would think that learning more about God would be a good thing, and it can be. But when we gain knowledge ABOUT God without responding TO God or assimilating his truth into our lives, then it is not a good thing. According to the Bible, it is sin.

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Forget God’s Will for Your Life

Here are my notes for the sixth session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

What might you accomplish with your life? How often is this just asking about your five-year or ten-year plan? Sadly, we often focus only on the future rather than on the here and now.

Why might it be safer to follow “God’s will for your life” than following God in what he may lead you to do today?

If you were absolutely, 100% submitted to the will of God at this moment, what do you think he might ask you to do?

Read Romans 8:1-13

That which is impossible to do (and live up to) in Romans 7 is possible in Romans 8. What makes the difference?

In Romans 8:5-8, Paul writes about the difference of the mind set on the flesh and the mind set on the Spirit.

In Romans 8:9-13, what does Paul mention that set the Spirit-filled person apart?

What do you think it means to “by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). The process of following the Spirit’s leading is walking according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4, Galatians 5, 16, 25).

The analogy of walking: We don’t really think about the getting from point A to point B when we walk, we are focusing on the next step. Practically, what would it mean for you to walk by the Spirit in your daily life?

Walking by the Spirit means we are moving in a particular direction, and that direction is set by the Spirit.

What is the real difference between adding the Spirit to your already busy life and actually following him step by step?

When you just add the Spirit to your life, you are not open to change, you want the Spirit to enhance what you are already doing.

When you follow the Spirit, you will find yourself changing, maybe letting go of some things that were once important to you, maybe even giving up some good things in your life.

Which is more frightening? Giving up everything you own or going through life without the Holy Spirit?

Remember the rich, young, ruler (Mark 10:17-22). He didn’t realize what was keeping him from Jesus until Jesus asked him a similar question.

By definition, submitting to the Spirit’s leading means giving up control. This is not a one-time act but a lifelong process. Walking by the Spirit comes down to daily dependence on God. Falling into sin means you are disregarding the Spirit’s leading.

Identify a particular sin in your life. What would it look like to be Spirit-led in a moment of temptation?

There can be real pressure to try harder to produce the Fruit of the Spirit. Truth is, you really can’t try harder! Obedience only comes through the power of the Spirit.

Francis Chan Quotes from The Forgotten God:

  • And to expose our hearts to truth and consistently refuse or neglect to obey the impulses it arouses is to stymie the motions of life within us and, if persisted in, to grieve the Holy Spirit into silence. – A.W. Tozer
  • It makes sense that Jesus would say it’s to our advantage to have this “other counselor.” After all, Jesus merely walked beside the disciples; the Spirit would actually enter their human bodies (John 14:17).
  • To be honest, I believe part of the desire to “know God’s will for my life” is birthed in fear and results in paralysis. We are scared to make mistakes, so we fret over figuring out God’s will. We wonder what living according to His will would actually look and feel like, and we are scared to find out. We forget that we were never promised a twenty-year plan of action; instead, God promises multiple times in Scripture never to leave or forsake us.
  • My hope is that instead of searching for “God’s will for my life,” each of us would learn to seek hard after “the Spirit’s leading in my life today.” May we learn to pray for an open and willing heart, to surrender to the Spirit’s leading with that friend, child, spouse, circumstance, or decision in our lives right now. To say that we are not called to figure out “God’s will for my life” does not mean God doesn’t have purposes and plans for each of our lives or that He doesn’t care what we do with our lives. He does. In both the Old and New Testaments He tells us that this is true. The key is that He never promises to reveal these purposes all at once, in advance.
  • Nowhere in Scripture do I see a “balanced life with a little bit of God added in” as an ideal for us to emulate. Yet when I look at our churches, this is exactly what I see: a lot of people who have added Jesus to their lives. People who have, in a sense, asked Him to join them on their life journey, to follow them wherever they feel they should go, rather than following Him as we are commanded. The God of the universe is not something we can just add to our lives and keep on as we did before. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is not someone we can just call on when we want a little extra power in our lives. Jesus Christ did not die in order to follow us. He died and rose again so that we could forget everything else and follow Him to the cross, to true Life.
  • I think repentance is one of those words we hear a lot but maybe don’t incorporate into our lives very often.
  • Jesus is calling us to be willing to suffer anything and forsake everything for the sake of the gospel.
  • I say I want to give it all to God, to truly submit myself to the leading of the Holy Spirit. But I won’t lie, sometimes the reality of what that means leaves me wanting to hold back a little. There are things on this earth that I really enjoy, like surfing, golfing, eating out, and laughing with friends. I know what you’re thinking: that those things are not sinful. And you are right. But that doesn’t mean the Spirit will not lead me to forgo those things occasionally or maybe even permanently for His purposes and the glory of the Father.
  • Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not limited to the day we first meet Christ. Instead, throughout Scripture we read of a relationship that calls us into an active pursuit of the Spirit.
  • Imagine I buy a treadmill to lose some weight. Three months later I take it back to the store and complain to the clerk that it didn’t work, I didn’t lose a pound. He would asked me, “What’s the problem? Did it not work properly?” I respond, I don’t know if it works. I never ran on it. I just know I didn’t lose weight, so I am done with it!
  • Receiving freedom and healing in answer to prayer is generally not something that is done to you, a situation in which you are just a passive participant. Occasionally God works this way and simply heels or frees a person outright. He is certainly capable of this. But in my experience, he typically asks us to play an active role in the journey toward wholeness. He doesn’t need our help but invites us to participate. Also this journey to freedom takes time, sometimes a very long time.
  • Have you been stuck in a cycle of sin for a long time? Have you given up on the Holy Spirit and resign yourself to thinking that he doesn’t work or doesn’t have the power to bring freedom, at least not in your life? If this is you, then maybe you have not internalized the reality that walking in the spirit requires action on your part.
  • The hopeful part in all this is that even when I do ignore the Spirit and sin, the Holy Spirit convicts us of that sin. Though at times we sin, we are not ruled and enslaved by sin as we once were.
  • The Holy Spirit will not, cannot, lead you into sin. If the Holy Spirit is in you, as a believer, then when you sin you are not listening to the Spirit’s leading.
  • Living by the Spirit implies a habitual, continual, and active interaction with the Holy Spirit. While this sounds exhausting, it really isn’t because all of this living and action is done in the power of the Spirit. It is not by your own strength.
  • I love the apparent contradiction in Philippians 2:12-13. Paul says in one breath, work out your own salvation, and then the next, it is God who works in you. The both-ness here doesn’t allow us to escape a simple conclusion. Yes, it is God who works in you. And yes, there is work for you to do. Yes, the spirit empowers you to do the work. And yes, you do the work.

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A Real Relationship with God

Here are my notes for the fifth session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

What comes to mind when you think about relationships?

What if your personal experience is not so warm and cozy?

Honestly describe your relationship with God.

  • How does it feel?
  • How do you maintain it?

Read Galatians 4:1-7—Paul contrasts slaves and sons…

  • What are the differences?
  • What are the privileges?
  • How does each feel?
  • What confidence does each possess?

Incredible truth: believers are adopted by God, we are his children whether we feel like it or not. But God wants us to feel adopted… to call him, Abba, Father.

What is the significance of Paul’s statement? How should it affect our relationship with God?

Read Romans 8:12-17

Paul says about the same thing, but notice he adds something (Romans 8:15-16). How is this like the Prodigal Son?

Sometimes guilt or perfectionism keep us from enjoying our intimacy with God, so how can Romans 8:15-16 help us?

We tend to take relationships for granted, but what makes close personal relationships so incredible? (Psalm 139:7) If Psalm 139:7 is true, then why don’t I feel close to God?

COMFORT: we often live life so comfortably and safely that we don’t need the Spirit to be comforted (John 14).

When was the last time you absolutely needed the Spirit to comfort or help you? How did he do it?

If you answered “no” to the last question, have you ever thought about living a more radical life for the kingdom of God? (Basically getting out of your comfort zone)

NOISE: If your life is not too comfortable, it is probably too noisy, it can be hard to hear the Spirit.

When was the last time you had nothing in life to distract you? (Not people, drama, entertainment, family, etc.)

The purpose of a retreat: to get alone with God, to speak to and listen from God, regaining intimacy with God. So, make sure to set aside time for God.

List some things that tend to distract you from a real relationship with God.

What can you change to better pursue God? To chase after him? To seek his face?

Read Galatians 3:13-14

  • Jesus died so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit.
  • Jesus purchased intimacy with God for us.

Are you guilty of taking the Holy Spirit for granted? If so, how can you reverse that trend in your life?

Francis Chan Quotes from The Forgotten God:

  • A study through Galatians helped me discover and destroy the strongholds of earning and insecurity. And it was while preaching the book of Galatians that I learned to enjoy being “known” by God. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? (Galatians 4:9) Have you ever thought about what it means to be “known”? Though I’d been telling people for years that I “knew” God, only recently have I explored the concept of being “known” by Him.
  • Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Helper” or “Comforter.” Let me ask you a simple question: Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable? It is those who put their lives at risk and suffer for the gospel (Philippians 1:29) who will most often experience His being “with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NASB). Though this verse is true for all believers (of course God is always with us), if we are never alone or feeling like we need Him, how much do we care or need to know that God is with us?
  • Each of the twenty-three missionaries surrendered their lives to God that night and told Him they were willing to die for His glory. There was even an argument over who would get to die first. One of them had a small Bible that the missionaries secretly ripped into twenty-three pieces so each could glance at Scripture when no one was watching. The Word of God and the Spirit of God got them through the forty days of imprisonment.
  • One of the most fascinating things this man told me was about what has happened since. Now that they have been back in Seoul for a while, several team members have asked him, “Don’t you wish we were still there?” He tells me that several of them experienced a deep kind of intimacy with God in the prison cell that they haven’t been able to recapture in their comfort.
  • Our lack of intimacy often is due to our refusal to unplug and shut off communication from all others so we can be alone with Him.
  • It makes sense that Jesus would say it’s to our advantage to have this “other counselor.” After all, Jesus merely walked beside the disciples; the Spirit would actually enter their human bodies (John 14:17).
  • We have been chosen, grafted, adopted into the family of God. And now that we are a part of the family, the Spirit causes us to call out, “Abba! Father!” Remember that Abba is the most intimate form for referring to a father. It is like saying “Daddy”; it connotes a deep level of familiarity and intimacy. As God’s Spirit speaks to our hearts, we can call out to God as our Abba. We will begin to experience this intimate relationship more deeply than we ever thought possible, so much so that we will begin to wonder, Does everyone feel this loved by God?
  • It takes faith to believe God is truly like the prodigal son’s father, who from afar “saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Lest there be any doubt, the father made it absolutely clear that his son was to be forgiven, with no questions asked. He invited his son back into his life without bitterness or requiring penance and guilt. In the same way, the Spirit speaks truth to our hearts, such as “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and “[nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39) and “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). These are verses we could probably spout off, but often we need reminding of the power and veracity of them. And one of the Holy Spirit’s roles is to do this reminding.

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Why Do You Want the Spirit?

Here are my notes for the fourth session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

The first step in reversing the neglect of the Holy Spirit is to desire to see him at work in us. So ask, “Why do you want him?” We can’t assume our hearts are right in our motivation. Why does it matter?

What are a few possible motivations for desiring the Holy Spirit?

Can you detect any of these in your heart?

Read Acts 8:9-24

It appears that Simon was intrigued by the power of the Holy Spirit. Why did he want the Spirit?

What would Simon’s motivation look like if it were transferred into the American church today? Have you seen examples of this in your church experience?

Peter calls Simon’s motivation into question. Seeing the Spirit working is one thing, but your heart must be in the right place. What is the purpose of the Spirit working in a believer’s life?

  • The Spirit works to glorify God (John 16:14)
  • We work to glorify God (Matthew 5:16)

When was the last time you saw someone do something amazing, yet received all the glory for himself?

When was the last time you saw someone do something amazing, yet all the glory went to God?

Jesus was very clear that their mission could not be accomplished on their own, they needed the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1-2)

We fixate on flashy manifestations of the Spirit, but when a proud person exhibits humility, is this any less supernatural?

What are some less glamorous ways the Holy Spirit’s power can be manifested in a person’s life.

Why are these expressions just as powerful?

Another trap we can fall into: we could be trying to lead the Spirit. We start with our dreams and desires then ask the Holy Spirit to accomplish our plans.

Practically, what does it look like to be led by the Spirit rather than trying to lead the Spirit for your purposes?

What is the right reason for desiring the Spirit?

  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, it is for the common good.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:31, there is a more excellent way: love people placed in our lives.

If we are open to the Spirit’s working in our lives, we must first let go of things that keep us from close fellowship with him.

Having the Spirit is not about being everything you want to be, but about God working through you to help people around you grow.

If the proper motivation for desiring the Spirit is love, ask yourself how much you love the people around you. Francis Chan challenged us in the room to speak the truth in love, and recognized how difficult this is for people to do this…

  • Are you willing and humble to do this for someone else?
  • Are you willing and humble enough to receive this from others?

Francis Chan Quotes from The Forgotten God:

  • Recently, a man dying of cancer asked the church elders to anoint him with oil and pray for his healing. Before we prayed, however, I asked the man a question I don’t normally ask: “Why do you want to be healed? Why do you want to stay on this earth?” The man, as well as everyone else around, seemed a bit surprised that I would ask such a blunt question. The reason I probed like this is because in the epistle of James, we are reminded that we often don’t receive the answers to our prayers because we ask for the wrong reasons: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). Our desire to live should be for the sake and glory of the God who put us on this earth in the first place.
  • Right now I want you to take a break from reading and spend some time asking yourself why you want the Holy Spirit. Is it for power? Is it for your own betterment and purposes? Or is it because you want to experience all that God has for you? Is it because you love the church and desire to be a better servant to your sisters and brothers?
  • First Corinthians 12 tells us that each follower of Christ is given a “manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). As we’ve seen, these manifestations, or gifts, are “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). So these reflections of the Spirit’s presence and activity in us have nothing to do with our natural abilities, and we have not received them because we have earned or somehow deserve them. Since these gifts come according to God’s will and not ours, it should be clear that they should not be used for our own boasting or entertainment.
  • The Holy Spirit has given you a supernatural ability to serve the people God has placed around you. If God cares enough about His church to give you this Spirit-empowered ability, shouldn’t you care enough about the church to use that gift for the same purpose?
  • The Holy Spirit works to glorify Christ (John 16:14), yet so many who emphasize the Holy Spirit seem to draw attention to themselves. The Corinthian church was notorious for this.
  • I have yet to meet someone who wouldn’t want to see a miracle. My concern is that I’ve met many people whose pursuit of miracles is greater than their pursuit of God. A lot of people want to talk about supernatural things like miracles, healing, or prophecy. But focusing inordinately on these things quickly becomes misguided. God calls us to pursue Him, not what He might do for us or even in our midst.
  • It used to be that if I had a great worship experience, I asked God to duplicate it the next time I came to worship. Like the kid impressed by a silly magic trick, I would pray, “Do it again!” One thing I’ve learned about God over the years, however, is that He rarely “does it again.” He’s the Creator, which means that He is (among other things) creative.
  • The Spirit is not a passive power that we can wield as we choose. The Spirit is God, a Being who requires that we submit ourselves to be led by Him. Do you really want to be led? Even people who are natural leaders don’t get to lead the Spirit. Everyone is called to be led by Him.
  • What if He asks you to give up something you’re not ready to give up? What if He leads you where you don’t want to go? What if he tells you to change jobs? To move? Are you willing to surrender to Him, no matter where He wants to take you? Am I?
  • The fact is that God is calling. The Spirit is beckoning. The real question is will you follow? Will you listen? I know I prefer a multiple-choice option for what God is asking me to do. That way, if I don’t like A or B, there are always options C and D. Sometimes, of course, this is exactly how the Spirit leads us. There can be two equally good choices that God lets us choose between.
  • My purpose in these questions is to get you to take 1 Corinthians 12 seriously, to believe that you have been given a manifestation of the Spirit and that your church, the worldwide body of Christ, and the world are crippled without your involvement. I write this because I love the church and want you to trust that you are more than just a helpful addition. You need to believe you are a vital member.
  • If you are still alive on this planet, it’s because He has something for you to do. He placed us on this earth for purposes that He orchestrated long before we were born (Ephesians 2:8–10).
  • When we submit to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit, He helps us become more holy—more like Jesus. It is a lifelong journey of putting our flesh to death, or as Paul puts it in Galatians 5, of walking by the Spirit and not gratifying the desires of the flesh.
  • The phrase crucifying the flesh is not exactly a friendly, appealing group of words. I think this is because God wants us to be clear on what we are getting into. He wants us to know that His gift of the Holy Spirit is really not for our own pleasure or purposes. The Spirit is meant to lead us toward holiness. The Spirit is here with us to accomplish God’s purposes, not ours.

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Holy Spirit Theology 101

Here are my notes for the third session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

If we stop short of applying the truth of God to our lives, then we do not actually grasp that truth. Our belief determines action. More important than what we know is how we act. For lack of understanding we grieve the Spirit.

Think about KGBC in light of the huddle analogy. How have you been running from the huddle to the bench?

God gave the Spirit so that we might change the world. How might our church look if we all began running plays?

We study biblical truth, which makes us smarter and knowledgeable, but doesn’t affect our lives. We are educated far beyond our obedience.

So, the result of this study could be that we walk around with more knowledge of the Spirit, or we can know and obey the Spirit.

The Spirit is a person, rather than a force, an it, or a ghost. (Matthew 28:19, the trinity / Ephesians 4:30, emotions)

The Spirit is God, not less than the Father or less than the Son. (Acts 5:3-4, the Spirit is called God)

The Spirit has his own mind and will (Romans 8:27, First Corinthians 12:11) and enables and empowers us to fulfill our mission.

The Spirit has emotions (Ephesians 4:30), grieving when there is disunity, or lack of love for others or God. Sin affects God.

The Spirit is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable. (Zechariah 4:6, First Corinthians 2:10, Psalm 139:7-8).

The point is not to completely understand God but to worship him. Allow him to lead you to value him more.

Jesus left this earth and gave his followers an impossible task (Acts 1:8). He made it clear the Spirit’s power was needed.

What the Spirit does in and through us:

He helps us when we are in precarious situations (Mark 13:11, Luke 12:12).

The Counselor teaches and reminds us of what we need to know, and to remember what Jesus taught (John 14:26).

The Spirit brings peace in the midst of turmoil (John 14:27, Romans 15:13).

The Spirit works in the hearts of all people, convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11, First Thessalonians 1:5).

The Spirit seals us in Christ, and is a pledge of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Spirit confirms in us that we belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).

The Spirit is the truth-revealer that helps and guides us to understand and interpret God’s Word (John 16:13).

The Spirit is our Helper, Counselor, Comforter, (Paraclete) (John 14:16).

The Spirit convinces us of the deity of Christ (John 15:26).

The Spirit is a gift-giver (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11, Romans 12:6).

The Spirit is a fruit-producer (Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Spirit is a witness empowerer and equipper (Acts 1:8, Romans 8:26, Ephesians 3:16-19).

The Spirit is a slave-redeemer, he sets us free (Romans 8:2, 10-11, Second Corinthians 3:17).

The Spirit is an adoption-confirmer, being witness we are God’s children (Romans 8:15-16).

The Spirit is a weakling-strengthener (Romans 8:26-27).

Now that we know all this, we must ask, “What does the Holy Spirit want from me right now?” “How can I cooperate with him in his work?” Don’t just ask what he can hypothetically do, but ask what he can do in your life.

Ponder the amazing power of the Spirit.

Francis Chan Quotes from The Forgotten God:

  • What you do and how you live are absolutely vital. Without action and fruit, all the theology in the world has little meaning. But theology is still important—what you believe absolutely determines how you act.
  • The point is not to completely understand God but to worship Him. Let the very fact that you cannot know Him fully lead you to praise Him for His infiniteness and grandeur.
  • I have heard the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit described like the three parts of an egg: the shell, the white stuff, and the yolk. I have also heard people say that God is like a three-leaf clover: three “arms,” yet all are a part of the one clover stalk. Another popular comparison is to the three forms of H2O (water, ice, and steam). While these serve as cute metaphors for an unexplainable mystery, the fact is that God is not like an egg, a three-leaf clover, or the three forms of water. God is not like anything. He is incomprehensible, incomparable, and unlike any other being. He is outside our realm of existence and, thus, outside our ability to categorize Him. While analogies may be helpful in understanding certain aspects of Him, let’s be careful not to think that our analogies in any way encapsulate His nature.
  • Yet when the Holy Spirit descended and indwelt them, a radical change occurred. From that point on, none of these disciples was ever the same. The book of Acts is a testament to this fact. We read of Stephen, the first martyr. We see Peter, a changed, courageous man. We see Paul (formerly Saul) go from killing Christ followers to becoming one and showing many others how to do so too.
  • I believe that if we truly cared about the Holy Spirit’s grief, there would be fewer fights, divorces, and splits in our churches. Maybe it’s not due to a lack of belief but rather a lack of concern. I pray for the day when believers care more about the Spirit’s grief than their own.
  • In 1 Corinthians we read that the gifts of the Spirit are “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (12:11). This is an important reminder of who is in control. Just as we don’t get to choose which gifts we are given, so also we don’t get to choose what God intends for us or for the church.

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Fear of the Holy Spirit

Here are my notes for the second session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

Think about a time in your life when you were afraid (real or imagined). How did you feel? How did you respond?

Why do you think it is easy to become defensive and fearful of change when it comes to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit?

With which camp do you most identify? What fears and stereotypes do you have with the other camp?

Do these fears prevent you from changing your views and practices, even if Scripture teaches those views are misguided?

If you have ever been afraid that God won’t act when you ask him to, what would that say about your view of God?

Imagine the Spirit taking control of your life and he showed you exactly what he wanted you to do. Is this thought actually scary?

Read Luke 18:18-30

  1. Why do you think the ruler was surprised of what Jesus asked him to do?
  2. What did Jesus mean when he said, “Follow me?” Do you think the ruler understood Jesus? It is always easier to go “all-in” when you don’t have much.
  3. Put yourself into this situation. What might the Holy Spirit ask you to do?
  4. Would you be willing to follow, no matter what the cost, or what that might mean? The Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally want or choose to do.”

Read Ephesians 4:30 – Write down areas in your life that may grieve the Holy Spirit. Pray, and Repent!

Francis Chan Quotes from The Forgotten God:

  • I would be dishonest if I did not admit there are still times when I worry about how others view me.
  • Whole denominations have been built around specific beliefs about the Holy Spirit. I know people who have lost jobs at churches and Christian colleges because of their beliefs about the Holy Spirit.
  • A life of following Christ requires relinquishing those fears when they do come. It means refusing to let your fears of what others think, your fears of rejection, keep you from pursuing the truth about the Holy Spirit and whatever else God is teaching you and calling you to. Are you willing to pursue truth in your journey to know and be known by the Holy Spirit? Do you have enough humility to be open to the possibility that you have been wrong in your understanding of the Spirit?
  • Fear of stepping outside of a certain theological framework causes us to be biased in our interpretations. We work diligently to “prove” that our presuppositions were correct (another example of eisegesis) rather than simply and honestly pursuing truth.
  • I think the fear of God failing us leads us to “cover for God.” This means we ask for less, expect less, and are satisfied with less because we are afraid to ask for or expect more. We even convince ourselves that we don’t want more—that we have all the “God” we need or could want. I can’t imagine how much it pains God to see His children hold back from relationship with the Holy Spirit out of fear that He won’t come through.
  • All this leads to a question we cannot escape: Does God really give the Holy Spirit to those who ask, or was Jesus lying when He said that? I have found that it comes down to faith: Do you believe God keeps His promises or not? Do your prayers and actions give evidence of your belief?
  • Now you fear asking again because it would weaken your faith if God “fails to act” again. I’ve heard many people question God for not responding when they prayed in faith. I don’t doubt that these people prayed in faith, but the question is whether they prayed for things God has promised. Often, it’s the un-promised requests that God answers with a no. There is a huge difference between believing what God has promised and praying for things you’d like to be true. I encourage you to pray confidently for what God has promised.
  • The flip side of fearing that God won’t show up is fearing that He will. What if God does show up but then asks you to go somewhere or do something that’s uncomfortable? For many people, fearing that God will ask them to go in a difficult, undesirable direction outweighs the fear that God will ignore them.
  • When it comes down to it, many of us do not really want to be led by the Holy Spirit. Or, more fundamentally, many of us don’t want to be led by anyone other than ourselves. The whole idea of giving up control (or the delusion of it) is terrifying, isn’t it? Do you thrive on controlling the big and small in your life?
  • The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally want or choose to do. The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be. This often incredibly painful process strips you of selfishness, pride, and fear.
  • Sometimes the sin we take on becomes such a part of us that it requires this same kind of ripping and tearing to free us. The Holy Spirit does not seek to hurt us, but He does seek to make us Christlike, and this can be painful. So, if you say you want the Holy Spirit, you must first honestly ask yourself if you want to do His will. Because if you do not genuinely want to know and do His will, why should you ask for His presence at all?
  • We want to believe that we are people who desire TRUTH even over relationship and acceptance. But the chances are that you care about people’s opinions more than you’re willing to admit.
  • Take some time to consider what fears you have about the Holy Spirit. It may take a while to pinpoint exactly what your attitudes and responses toward the Holy Spirit have been. Don’t hide your fears. Admit them, first to yourself, and then to God (who knows all of them already yet desires to have us share our fears with Him). As you come to Him, be honest about how you fear disappointing people more than quenching His Spirit, or how you don’t really trust Him to come through on His promises, or whatever else you may be feeling toward Him.

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Who Needs the Spirit?

Here are my notes for the first session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

Our western mindset: we tend to assume that God won’t work supernaturally in our lives. We read some crazy stuff in the book of Acts but we don’t expect the supernatural.

In John 14:16, Jesus promised “another” counselor to be with them. This is not another of a different kind, but another of the same kind! Jesus says the Spirit would be like him!

When we are honest, we would prefer a real and physical Jesus we can see and touch over an invisible Spirit… but Jesus said it is BETTER that he go away and his followers have the Holy Spirit.

We don’t value the Holy Spirit or his importance in the Christian’s life. What does he do?

  • John 6:63
  • john 16:7
  • Romans 8:9
  • Romans 8:11

How have we missed this? How have we come to except our experience of the Christian life as normal?

In general, how did you learn your theology, that which you believe about Christianity? What process do you follow in forming your beliefs? MANY people get their knowledge of God and theology from people we know; pastors, teachers, friends, parents, rather than from our only source of faith and practice, the Bible. One problem with the American church is that we are full of believers who possess a second-hand faith who have never discovered on their own who God is or received personal inspiration from his Word. God help us develop a first-hand faith.

Take a moment and list your beliefs about the Holy Spirit?

Are these beliefs shaped more by Scripture or what you have come to see as the normal Christian life?

What the Holy Spirit does in a person’s life:

  • Acts 1:4-8, 2:1-13, 4:31
  • Romans 8:1-17, 8:26-27, 15:13
  • 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, 3:16, 6:9-11, 12:7-11
  • 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
  • Galatians 4:4-7, 5:16-25
  • Ephesians 1:13-14, 3:14-16
  • 1 John 4:13

The bottom line, does the Holy Spirit make a difference in our lives?

What would you expect to observe as the Holy Spirit entered a person’s life? The fact is that when you get outside the church walls, you can’t tell believers from non-believers. When people see no difference, they question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, they question our God.

Why do you think that everyday life does not match these biblical descriptions?

According to Galatians 5:16-25, what does it look like to walk by the Spirit?

What would distinguish a Spirit-filled person from a non-Christian?

Every day, people try to live the Spirit-filled life without the Holy Spirit. What good can we do in merely human effort?

How should supernatural results differ from what we can accomplish on our own?

Since it’s not about you, what practical ways can the Spirit work through you to bless people around you?

It is impossible for finite human being to fully know God, in fact, we don’t need more cerebral knowledge but experiential knowledge. We can never go back, only forward, seeking what it means to live faithfully in the time and culture where God has placed us.

Caterpillar Confusion: Life Transformation (a parable of our new life in Christ)…

Have you ever wondered what caterpillars think about? Just imagine what a caterpillar experiences. For all its life it crawls around on a small patch of dirt and up and down a few plants. Then one day it takes a nap. A long nap. Then, what in the world must go through its head when it wakes up to discover it can fly? What happened to its dirty, plump little worm body? What does it think when it sees its tiny new body with gorgeous wings?

Francis Chan quotes from The Forgotten God:

  • If you are still alive on this planet, it’s because He has something for you to do.
  • God calls us to pursue Him, not what He might do FOR us or even IN our midst.
  • When we are at our wits’ end for an answer, then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can He give us an answer when we are still well supplied with all sorts of answers of our own? – Karl Barth
  • Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Helper” or “Comforter.” Let me ask you a simple question: Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?
  • Our lack of intimacy (with God) often is due to our refusal to unplug and shut off communication from all others so we can be alone with Him.
  • A lot of people in churches have added Jesus to their lives. People who have, in a sense, asked Him to join them on their life journey, to follow them wherever they feel they should go, rather than following Him as we are commanded. The God of the universe is not something we can just add to our lives and keep on as we did before. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is not someone we can just call on when we want a little extra power in our lives. Jesus Christ did not die in order to follow us. He died and rose again so that we could forget everything else and follow Him to the cross, to true Life.
  • Some of you would like it if I said we were going to find a healthy balance between unhealthy extremes. That’s not what we’re going to do. When we are referring to God, balance is a huge mistake. God is not just one thing we add to the mix called life. He wants an invitation from us to permeate everything and every part of us.
  • And perhaps the core issue is really about our holding back from giving ourselves to God, rather than our getting “too much” of Him. Perhaps when a person says, “I’d just like a little God, thank you very much,” she or he is really saying, “I’d rather not give the parts of my life that I really care about over to God, so I’ll just hold on to this, that, oh, and that, too….” It doesn’t work that way. When I read Scripture, I see the truth and necessity of a life wholly surrendered to and dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
  • Most of us assume that what we believe is right but have never really studied for ourselves.
  • When those outside the church see no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God.
  • Thousands of years later, I think most of us would also choose a physical Jesus over an invisible Spirit. But what do we do with the fact that Jesus says it is better for His followers to have the Holy Spirit? Do we believe Him? If so, do our lives reflect that belief?
  • I am tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people who do not have the Holy Spirit of God living in them. I want to consistently live with an awareness of His strength. I want to be different today from what I was yesterday as the fruit of the Spirit becomes more manifest in me.

Are you tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people without the Spirit? Let’s live in the awareness of his strength, and grow…

Pray for humility to be open to what the Spirit want to teach you, even if you have overlooked the obvious.

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The Forgotten God

I am a fan of Francis Chan, the author of Crazy Love and The Forgotten God. He’s a great speaker and is tremendously challenging. I will one day share information from his books, but that will be another day. Today I will share just a glimpse of the Forgotten God.

The Forgotten God is actually the Holy Spirit. Some faith traditions quote The Apostles’ Creed, which says, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Author J. B. Phillips once said, “Every time we say [this] we mean that we believe that [the Holy Spirit] is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it.”

With the introduction of the Star Wars movies, sometimes we forget that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. The Bible describes The Holy Spirit as God. He possesses the attributes of God:

  1. He is present everywhere (Psalm 139:7-8)
  2. He knows all things (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)
  3. He has infinite power (Luke 1:35)
  4. He does things that only God can do:
    1. Create (Genesis 1:2)
    2. Give life (Romans 8:2).

The Holy Spirit is equal in every way with the other Persons of the Trinity—the Father and the Son.

The Holy Spirit is a Person who engages in personal ways with us:

  1. He grieves when we sin (Ephesians 4:30)
  2. He teaches us (1 Corinthians 2:13)
  3. He prays for us (Romans 8:26)
  4. He guides us (John 16:13)
  5. He gives us spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11)
  6. He assures us of salvation (Romans 8:16)

The Holy Spirit indwells us if we have received forgiveness of sin through Jesus. He desires to transform us so that we become more and more like Jesus. Let’s cooperate with the Spirit by reading God’s Word and relying on His power to obey what we learn.

I’ve heard it said and believe this to be true: the Christian who neglects the Holy Spirit is like a lamp that’s not plugged in. He is the power of God working through us.

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