4th of July Reflection

By Warren Coe

fourth of july

Where We Came From

Thirty years ago I ran across an article whose source is lost and author unknown in which the message is more powerful today than when it was first written.

“When the French historian Guizot asked James Russell Lowell how long the American Republic would last, Lowell is reported to have said, ‘It will last as long as the ideals of its founders remain dominant.’

“Carl Sandburg expressed the same conviction in these lines:
‘When a society or civilization perishes,
One condition may always be found.
They (its people) forgot where they came from.
They lost sight of what brought them along.
The hard beginnings were forgotten and the struggles.
Unity and common understanding there had been
–enough to overcome rot and dissolution
–enough to break through their obstacles,
But eventually the mockers came, and the deniers were heard.
And the custom of greeting one another became, ‘What’s the use?’
And vision and hope faded.
And men whose forefathers would go anywhere holding nothing impossible in the genius of man
Joined the mockers and the deniers.
Not knowing the past, they lost sight of what brought them along.'”

Does this sound like the United States of America?  May God shine His grace on us again.


4th of July Reflection

The Life of the Spirit



The Spirit of God is ready to guide you, empower you, and use you. Will you let Him? 

  1. The Holy Spirit brings New Birth.
  2. The Holy Spirit speaks through His Word.
  3. The Holy Spirit speaks through the People He indwells.
  4. The Holy Spirit speaks through Prayer.
  5. The Holy Spirit speaks through Circumstances.
  6. The Holy Spirit brings Revival.
  7. The Holy Spirit moves God’s People into Action.
  8. The Holy Spirit empowers Ordinary Believers.

 1. The Holy Spirit brings New Birth

Have you ever felt like a spiritual leader or teacher addressed you personally when speaking or teaching — applying God’s Word to your situation, exposing you, convicting you, bringing a breakthrough in understanding, or guiding you precisely in a specific situation? If so, then that leader or teacher is speaking prophetically.

Prophetic inner conviction brought about by the Holy Spirit brings rebirth. “Truly” Jesus said, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3.3). God’s people are born of the Spirit (Jn 3:6) and receive the gift of faith (Eph 2:8).

God’s people are built up by the Spirit who brings forth the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). He also brings about ongoing sanctification through the Word of God (Jn 17:17). As that happens, the ripple effect widens, so that together God’s people bring blessing and welfare in their homes, communities and cities (Jer. 29:7; Mt 5:13-16). The epicenter of this redemptive process is the inner spiritual awakening and regeneration of God’s people.

“Ask,” Jesus said, “and it will be given to you… the heavenly Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:9-13). The power of the Holy Spirit is what His children most need — and the Father delights in giving it!

2. The Holy Spirit speaks through His Word

No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet 1.21)

The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible. Being written by the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures are completely reliable. The Holy Spirit speaks with absolute clarity. Do you want to hear the Holy Spirit speak? Just open your Bible.

Internalizing Scripture (for example, through Bible study, meditation, journaling or memorization) builds up resources the Spirit can use at any time and in any circumstance. Internalizing Scripture is essential if we want the Spirit to lead us.

Being led by the Spirit of God depends on being filled with the Word of God. This is one of the reasons why Village Schools of the Bible is passionate about helping people deeply imbibe God’s Word. Our desire is for people to experience for themselves the joy and delight described by the prophet Jeremiah: Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts (Jer 15:6).

The Holy Spirit also speaks into our lives at an even more fundamental level: through the way He shapes our character. Man shall not live by bread alone, Jesus said, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4). The words that the Holy Spirit wrote constitute food for the people of the God, which, when ingested, shapes inner character. The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to focus us primarily on the kind of people we should be. When we become the kind of people God wants us to be, we will quite naturally do what He wants us to do.

3. The Holy Spirit speaks through the People He indwells

To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spiriteach one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up (1 Cor 12:8; 14:26).

God speaks to us through other believers. There are times when we need words of wisdom and knowledge from our brothers and sisters in Christ. For example, in Acts 15, the Jerusalem council was faced with a controversy for which they did not have a Bible chapter and verse for guidance. In this situation, God let the church Body debate and dialog their way to a wise resolution.

So God will use others in the Body to guide us more fully into paths of wisdom. For this reason, the people of God should always be ready both to listen for the Spirit, and speak in the Spirit. The Spirit of God puts the Word of God in the mouths of the people of God. And when that happens, the people of God build one another up.

Some words of caution. Firstly, if you have a message for someone that ‘God has placed on your heart’, be aware that your dream, vision or conviction may not necessarily be God’s will. Even an exceptional spiritual leader of the caliber of the apostle Paul did not always get it right. For example, Paul and Silas had determined to go into Asia (Acts 16.6-8). They were undoubtedly convinced this was the right thing to do. But they were wrong. God had a different plan, and a greater one. God was leading Paul to enter Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). So even if you are a great spiritual leader, don’t think your particular vision and conviction is necessarily God’s will.

That’s one reason the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible. He always keeps us safely anchored to His Word, which helps us know God’s true will. We need to know the Scriptures! Is your conviction aligned with God’s will as revealed in the Bible? Be cautious about delivering to others (or receiving from others) messages unless the message has chapter and verse attached to it. We should be like the Bereans who received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11).

4. The Holy Spirits speaks through Prayer

Pray in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit did not write the Bible for us to simply read through, but to pray through as well. Rather than reciting a catalog of needs, prayer is communion with the Father in and through the Holy Spirit’s written Word. As we pray, God may direct our minds to a special topic of heartfelt prayer, much like Paul hearing the cry: Come over to Macedonia and help us (Acts 16:9-10).  Or God may answer prayer in a very special way, accompanied by a certainty so unusually strong that it is unmistakably from God, bringing with it a response of profound gratitude.

These are examples of a prophetic spirit (the Words of God for us in our time) upon believers. But a prophetic spirit cannot be expected if we set out with a false posture of prayer. The Holy Spirit is neither a divine butler serving my needs, nor a life-coach helping me up Maslow’s hierarchy towards self-actualization. The true Spirit of Jesus serves, not the American Dream, but the mission of the Cross.

Also, let us not obsess with following false ‘nudges’ – inner impulses or convictions that we attribute unquestioningly to the Holy Spirit. Pastor and spiritual mentor A.W. Tozer wisely said that a man is like a musical instrument that can be played on by the Holy Spirit, or a demonic spirit, or a man’s own selfish desires. The best way to test where deep conviction is coming from is to check alignment with the Holy Spirit’s book, the Bible.

Finally, don’t be prideful and make big decisions in isolation. Here’s a key question: “Did you talk to others before you made that colossally dumb decision?”  Here’s a dumb answer: “No, but I prayed about it.” That God moves and speaks into our spirits, is clear from the book of Acts, but as imperfect people we must hold tenuously our conviction of the Spirit’s leading, remain open to godly counsel, and always subject our convictions to Scripture. Let’s not just assume that whatever pops into our minds is the voice of God.

5. The Holy Spirit speaks through Circumstances

The Holy Spirit always speaks through His Word into our circumstances. Nevertheless, at times, we may subjectively feel He is silent. But God’s silence does not mean we are not in His will. For example, God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, and at no point did Esther or Mortdecai appear to get audible direction from God. So even when we don’t see signs of God’s activity, we can trust that God is right there with us, continually directing our circumstances, and shaping us in them for His purposes.

Sometimes our circumstances entail great suffering. God, who is loving and omnipresent, is with us and at work in our suffering. To quote A.W.Tozer again, it is doubtful whether God can use a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply (see Gen 32: 24-31). Think back to your most significant, defining spiritual experiences, and notice how God has used the pain to give you special grace that can be shared with others. What God lets you go through indicates what he is calling you to.

We’re all familiar with the book of Job. Contrary to appearances, we are not alone in our suffering. Consider also the heroes of faith, listed in the book of Hebrews. Some…were tortured…others experienced mockings…scourgings…bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned…sawed in two…died by the sword…wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated…They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground (Heb 11:35-40).

Through such passages, the Holy Spirit reminds us to think deeply about our commitment to the mission God has given us. Do I love God more than his material blessings? Do we trust God when He promises that all things work together for good to them that love God (Ro. 8:28)? The sufferings of the heroes of the faith show their decisive answer to these questions.

6. The Holy Spirit brings Revival

The Holy Spirit’s dynamic power is seen in Word-centered revivals in the Old Testament, in the book of Acts, and in the history of revival throughout history. For example, the Great Awakening in the 1730’s and 40’s saw explosive outpourings of God’s Spirit (as at Pentecost) in America. This was repeated in the Second Great Awakening in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.

In Old Testament Nineveh, God did more in a moment through Jonah’s half-hearted sermon than a thousand missionaries could have done in generations. Like Jonah, God has placed us where we are in everyday life, to call forth in the desert living streams of revival. God has chosen to exercise His power through His Word in His people. Simply preach, teach and write God’s Word. Spiritual awakening and revival involves remembering afresh the heart-melting glory of Jesus, the extraordinary beauty of the gospel, and the joy of our salvation.

But we can stop the Spirit’s work in its tracks. Unconfessed, secret or willful sin deeply grieves the Holy Spirit. Nothing quenches the fire of the Holy Spirit faster than unconfessed sin (Eph 4.30-32; 1 Thess 5.19).

When we realize how great a debt we owe to God, we ought to become willing servants, eager to be poured out (like Jesus) for God and His kingdom. If we do not feel that way, perhaps we have not truly understood the gospel. May we be consumed with God’s glory and filled with His compassion just like He is, and follow His footsteps to move willingly into a world of need around us.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers…to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Ro 12:1). Jesus illustrated this kind of fully surrendered, living sacrifice, by His life. So did Paul, as we see below.

7. The Holy Spirit Moves God’s People into Action

The book of Acts, about the birth of the church, reminds us that the Spirit is a mighty, rushing wind (Acts 2: 1-11), so those filled with the Spirit move. They move into a world of need – to those within the community in need of the gospel, to those who are broken and in need of hope, and to the ends of the earth. Movements move. Where there is no movement, there is no Spirit. When the Spirit leaves the church, the church is left with religion.

The true Spirit of Jesus serves the mission of the Cross. His goal is to make the Cross larger in our hearts so that we yield our lives in service to its purpose. The Holy Spirit is always leading people to the Cross for salvation and sanctification, and leading people from the Cross to carry the message of salvation to others. The primary objective of God’s Spirit is to complete the mission. To know Him is to be devoted to the mission, regardless of the cost. Here is the price Paul paid:

I have…been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea… I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas…I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm… 2 Cor 11:23-33).

Are we sufficiently committed to God’s mission to start a movement?

8. The Holy Spirit Empowers Ordinary Believers

We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10).

The Holy Spirit regenerates and indwells each believer, guiding and sanctifying the everyday life of the follower of Christ in every stage and sphere of life, at home and in the workplace. Enormous power is available to God’s people through the indwelling Holy Spirit. As we see from the example of Paul, there is no limit to what Christ can do through a life fully surrendered to Him.

The Spirit’s work is to glorify Jesus and empower believers to participate in God’s mission to the nations. To this end, the Holy Spirit drives us deeper into the Word, ignites our hearts for the mission of God, and melts our hearts in affection for Jesus — and for a world in need of redemption.

The Holy Spirit Jesus sent to live inside us is even better than if Jesus was walking by our side (see John 14; 16:7; Acts 2). God indwells His people and empowers them in the Spirit. So ministry is never about working for God. It is about letting the Holy Spirit work through us. How? Go deeper into God’s Word. Find your unique God-given gifting, passion and calling. What has God created you to do? What has Holy Spirit gifted you to do? What good work do you love doing in everyday life? Your gifting, passion, purpose and vocation — your life calling — is the Spirit’s true north for you.

Fan into flame the gift you have been given. (2 Tim 1:6). Stay grounded in the Word, clarify your life purpose, and bring to full fruition your unique gifting — so you can answer the Spirit’s call with dynamic conviction, heartfelt passion, love for Jesus, and deep joy.

The Spirit of God is ready to guide you, empower you, and use you. Will you let Him?

Written by Warwick Alcock, Director of Strategic Operations, Village Schools of the Bible.

This blog post draws heavily from the following highly recommended books on the Holy Spirit:

Greer, J.D. Jesus, Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You. Zondervan, 2014.

Murray, I. Revival & Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism.

(The Bible, the Holy Spirit’s book, is of course the best starting point for an understanding of the Holy Spirit.)

Click here to learn more about Village Schools of the Bible, or to support our mission.

Written by Warwick Alcock, Director of Strategic Operations, Village Schools of the Bible.

The Life of the Spirit

A Prayer of Christ-Centered Joy

A Puritan Prayer

Christ, All Your ways of mercy tend to end in my delight.
You did weep, sorrow, suffer that I might rejoice.
For my joy You have sent the Comforter,
Multiplied Your promises,
Shown me my future happiness,
Given me a living fountain.

You are preparing joy for me and me for joy;
I pray for joy, wait for joy, long for joy;
Give me more than I can hold, desire, or think of.
Measure out to me my times and degrees of joy,
At my work, business, duties.

If I weep at night, give me joy in the morning.
Let me rest in the thought of Your love,
Pardon for sin, my title to heaven,
My future unspotted state.

I am an unworthy recipient of Your grace.
I often disesteem Your blood and slight Your love,
But can in repentance draw water
From the wells of Your joyous forgiveness.

Let my heart leap towards the eternal Sabbath,
Where the work of redemption, sanctification,
Preservation, glorification is finished and perfected forever,
Where You will rejoice over me with joy.

There is no joy like the joy of heaven,
For in that state are no sad divisions, unchristian quarrels,
Contentions, evil designs, weariness, hunger, cold,
Sadness, sin, suffering, persecutions, toils of duty.

O healthful place where none are sick!
O happy land where all are kings!
O holy assembly where all are priests!
How free a state where none are servants except to You!
Bring me speedily to the land of joy.

A Prayer of Christ-Centered Joy

What People Say About The Bible

By Warren Coebibleeye

Abraham Lincoln said, “I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book.”

W. E. Gladstone said, “I have known ninety-five of the world’s great men in my time, and of these eighty-seven were followers of the Bible. The Bible is stamped with a Specialty of Origin, and an immeasurable distance separates it from all competitors.”

George Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

Napoleon said, “The Bible is no mere book, but a Living Creature, with a power that conquers all that oppose it.”

Queen Victoria wrote, “That book accounts for the supremacy of England.”

Daniel Webster: “If there is anything in my thoughts or style to commend, the credit is due to my parents for instilling in me an early love of the Scriptures. If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.”

John Ruskin: “Whatever merit there is in anything that I have written is simply due to the fact that when I was a child my mother daily read me a part of the Bible and daily made me learn a part of it by heart.”

Thomas Huxley: “The Bible has been the Magna Charta of the poor and oppressed. The human race is not in a position to dispense with It.”

Patrick Henry: ‘The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”

Horace Greeley: “It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.”

Andrew Jackson: “That book, sir, is the rock on which our republic rests.”

Robert E. Lee: “In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.”

Lord Tennyson: “Bible reading is an education in itself.”

John Quincy Adams: “So great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens of their country and respectable members of society. I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year.”

Immanuel Kant: “The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity.”

Charles Dickens: “The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world.”

Sir William Herschel: “All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more and more strongly the truths contained in the Sacred Scriptures.”

Sir Isaac Newton: “There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history.”

Long ago, God said through James, 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.  26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.  (Jam 1:21-26 ESV)

What People Say About The Bible