Category Archives: Gifts of the Holy Spirit

God’s Power Announcer

How do we measure the power of a message?  Surely the efforts of John the Baptist in announcing the advent of Jesus’ public ministry would qualify as powerful, given the overwhelming response he received.  Mark reports, “The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.” (Mark 1:5)  Matthew says, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.” (Matthew 3:5)

Given that communication was mostly dependent on word of mouth and that transportation was accomplished primarily by walking, it is remarkable that John was receiving huge crowds of people from all over Judea.  Jerusalem would have been at least a day’s walk and more remote areas of Judea would have taken even longer.

What made this even more extraordinary was that John’s message was not one of sweetness and light.  It was a tough message, calling people to change their ways and repent of their sins.  Imagine, people from all over Judea going to John to confess their sins.

Only by the power of the Holy Spirit, would John have been able to attract so many people, from such distant areas, with such a challenging message.

This was previously confirmed by the angel Gabriel when he appeared to Zechariah and told him that his wife, Elizabeth was going have a son whose name was to be John.  “He will be great in the sight of the Lord” and “will be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Gabriel added, “He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:15, 17)

In fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy, John was preparing the people of Judea to receive the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.  “A voice of one calling in the desert; prepare the way of the Lord.” (Isaiah 40:3) He was preparing them through the confession and cleansing of their sins in the waters of baptism.

Like John, we too, are called to lead family, friends, colleagues and even strangers to open the door of their hearts to Jesus. It starts with how we live our lives.  Righteous conduct gives credibility to our words. Sometimes, our role is just to plant seeds for God’s future cultivation.  Sometimes we have a more direct role such as with our families (spouse and children) for whom God gives us a direct responsibility.   Sometimes God places people in our lives for the purpose of introducing himself to them through us.

Like John, we too, have the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us the wisdom, courage, knowledge and opportunity to speak and build relationships with others for the purpose of leading them to Jesus.

As we move into this season of celebrating Jesus’ birth, are we acting with the same passion as John the Baptist in introducing people to Jesus?

The Acts of the Apostles in Today’s World

Can we experience the acts of the apostles in our lives today?

Some scripture commentators refer to the Acts of the Apostles as a “testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit,” or “The Gospel of the Holy Spirit.” It begins with Jesus’ instructions to the disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5)

With the coming of the Holy Spirit, we see the apostles, who all ran at Jesus’ arrest, take on a new courage to witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus, proclaim the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven and perform miraculous works among the people just as Jesus did. The same Holy Spirit that empowered the early disciples to build God’s church in the first century is still present to all of us today as evident by the following story taken from Hope for the Workplace-Christ in You. (p. 107)

John was a county prosecutor in Minnesota, and worked with a detective sergeant named Eric, who was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. Eric was in his mid-thirties and married with two children. After a couple of months of chemotherapy, Eric lost his hair and was often too weak to come to work.

John could see that Eric was very ill, so he asked him if he could attend a Christian conference in Minneapolis in order to be prayed with for healing. John explained that the healing power of Jesus had been manifested at these conferences. Eric was open to going, but he had additional chemotherapy scheduled and was too weak to make the trip. John told him he would pray for him there.

In Acts 19:11-12, Luke reports, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured.” At the conference John stood in for Eric, as people gathered around him to pray that Eric’s cancer would be healed. Someone handed John a handkerchief that was prayed over to take back to Eric.

Upon returning home, John met Eric one day at the courthouse and invited him into his office. “I told him that we had prayed for his healing at the conference, and someone had given me a handkerchief, which we prayed over for him. I emphasized that I firmly believed in the healing power of Jesus Christ and that God could use the handkerchief as a sign of our faith to heal Eric just as had been done in biblical times. We placed the handkerchief on his chest and prayed that the healing power of Jesus Christ would remove the cancer from him.”

“He thanked me,” John said, “and told me he believed that he would be healed and would return the handkerchief after the doctors had confirmed that he no longer had cancer.” About a month later Eric informed John that the doctors had confirmed that he was cancer free. This took place in the fall of 2001. To this day, the cancer has not returned.

Sometimes our willingness to step out and do something that may seem to be foolish reflects the kind of faith on which God wishes to act. The most important lesson from this story is that God is still performing miracles today through the power of the Holy Spirit just as he did with Peter, Paul and the other disciples of the first century church.