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John Wesley: The Witness of the Spirit

‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.’ — Romans 8:16.

But what is the witness of the Spirit?

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

“The original word μαρτυρία may be rendered either (as it is in several places) the witness, or less ambiguously, the testimony, or the record: So it is rendered in our translation (1 John 5:11), ‘This is the record,’ the testimony, the sum of what God testifies in all the inspired writings, ‘that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.’ The testimony now under consideration is given by the Spirit of God to and with our spirit: He is the Person testifying. What he testifies to us is, ‘that we are the children of God.’ The immediate result of this testimony is, ‘the fruit of the Spirit;’ namely, ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness:’ and without these, the testimony itself cannot continue. For it is inevitably destroyed, not only by the commission of any outward sin, or the omission of known duty, but by giving way to any inward sin; in a word, by whatever grieves the Holy Spirit of God. (more…)

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Spirituality and the Spirit

I have previously written about spirituality in what might be called a generic sense: as a human capability. A simple way of understanding the spiritual side of human nature is to see it as the capacity for self-transcendence.

candle-tipI have explored this idea here:

As I say, it is possible to see all of this as “spirituality” in a generic sense. It’s a human capacity.

But, to go further in discussing this, I need to draw on ideas explicitly from Christian theology.  At this point, the Christian perspective gives us some help in understanding how human spiritual capabilities connect us with God and with the world around us. The helpful concept in this case is the idea of the Holy Spirit. Our human capacity — and yearning — to reach out beyond ourselves is answered by the reality of God’s Spirit reaching to us. This is only natural to expect. We have an desire to connect with a higher reality than ourselves. Our desire to breathe is answered by the air around us. Our desire for food and water are answered the reality of food and water. Our desire for a connection with God  — which would give a framework of meaning to our lives and our moral choices — is answered by the Holy Spirit of God. (more…)

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The Prayer to the Holy Spirit

emmaus-logoSince 1985 I have been involved in the Walk to Emmaus movement of the United Methodist Church.  When the Chrysalis weekends (for teens) began in Michigan, I quickly became part of that. More recently, I have been a part of the Keryx prison ministry movement which is a similar weekend but held for the inmates of prisons here in Michigan. (In other parts of the world, the comparable prison ministry is called Kairos.)

All of these are an outgrowth of the larger Cursillo movement that began in the Roman Catholic Church, in Spain in 1949. As Protestants became interested in the Cursillo, many Protestant versions began to arise. The Walk to Emmaus is simply the United Methodist version. Chrysalis is the United Methodist version for teenagers. But, there are many other Protestant versions of Cursillo as well, including: Pilgrimage (Presbyterian), Via de Christo (Lutheran), Episcopal Cursillo, Tres Dias, DeColores in Christo, etc.

It is characteristic of most of these Cursillo-type weekends that at the beginning of the several talks (traditionally called “rollos”) given on the weekend some version of the following prayer is recited by the participants: (more…)

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Thomas Coke: The Good a Preacher May Do

Thomas Coke (1747-1814)

Thomas Coke (1747-1814)

The good which one single minister, true to the cause in which he has engaged, can do in the course of his life by a faithful ministry of the word, is not easily to be described. How many of the ignorant he may instruct, how many sleepy consciences arouse, how many daring sinners confound; how many mourners he may bring into the liberty of the children of God, how many believers confirm in grace, yea, lead into the enjoyment of perfect love! Blessed be the Lord, we have had our ministers, who were formed according to the model of Jesus Christ, according to his simplicity, his unction, his sacred zeal. We have had our WESLEYS, our FLETCHERS, our GRIMSHAWS, and our WALSHES. Every thing was borne down by their holy eloquence, and by the power of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them. The villages, the towns, the cities, could not resist the impetuosity of their zeal, and the eminent sanctity of their lives; the tears, the sighs, and the deep compunction of those who heard them, were the commendations which accompanied their ministry. The strictness of their manners left nothing for the world to say against the truths which they delivered. The simplicity of their spirit, and the gentleness of their conversation and conduct toward others but severity toward themselves, belied not the gospel of which they were ministers. Their examples instructed, persuaded, and struck the people almost as much as their sermons: and the Spirit of God, who inflamed their hearts, the divine fire with which they themselves were filled, spread itself through the coldest and most insensible souls; and enabled them almost everywhere to raise chapels, temples to God, where the penitents and believers might assemble to hear them, and each return inflamed like themselves, and filled with the abundance of the Spirit of God. O what good is one apostolic man capable of working upon earth! There were no more than twelve employed to begin the conversion of the world.

— Thomas Coke (1747 – 1814), On the Ministry: Four Discourses on the Duties of a Minister of the Gospel, Discourse 1, Part 1.

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