Shortly after becoming a Christian, I was hitchhiking from Palm Springs to Los Angeles to see my mother. About halfway there I caught a ride with a kind, middle-aged Pentecostal lady who was very pleased to hear of my conversion. As we drove along, she asked, "Have you received the Holy Ghost yet?"
I was a little surprised by the question because no one had ever asked me that before. "Well, I think I have," I said slowly. "I have certainly felt God's Spirit in my life. The Lord is helping me make so many changes, you know-like giving up drugs, stealing, lying, cursing, and much more."
"No, that's not what I mean." she said, looking a little frustrated. "Have you received the baptism of the Holy Ghost? Do you speak in tongues?"
It struck me as odd that she seemed far more interested in whether or not I had experienced an ecstatic utterance than she did in the fact that I was having victory over the old sins that had held me captive!
"Then some of the Scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:38-40.
What exactly is the "sign of Jonah"? That is the big question in connection with this familiar text. Unfortunately, most of the attention is usually diverted to the lesser issue of the "three days and three nights." As a result, this particular passage in Matthew has managed to cause intense confusion, frustration, and even division among laymen and scholars alike.
Three Days and Three NightsJesus said that the Son of Man will "be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Assuming that "in the heart of the earth" means in the tomb, if Jesus died Friday and rose Sunday, then we note that Jesus was not in the tomb three nights even though the Scripture distinctly states "three nights."
Sales were plummeting in a department store in Iowa. Worse, the sales manager had resigned in discouragement. The owner placed the assistant manager in charge and spent most of his time worrying.
One day he said to the assistant, "I wish you would move this huge inventory of raincoats. We have oodles of them. Most are not in very good condition. Some are cracked. Some soiled. A few are good, but they take up a lot of space. If we don't get rid of them, we may as well throw them in the river. Please see what you can do to move them."
"Leave it to me," his assistant replied. "I'll run an ad that will move them."
Next morning while reading the paper, the owner saw this ad from his own store: "We have some bad raincoats which we must move. Some are soiled. Some are cracked. A few are good. If we can't get rid of them, we may as well throw them in the river."
When Karen and I decide that it's time to get away and pursue some much-needed R & R, we often head for the enchanting big island of Hawaii. Our friends Steve and Chris Boyl, who live near Kona, always open their beautiful home to us on such occasions.
Steve is a building contractor by trade, but his real passion is for fishing. He owns a little fishing boat and is always happy for an excuse to use it. Though I am a fish-free vegetarian, I do love the sun and water and have often joined Steve and his brother, Joe, while they pursue their favorite diversion. As a result of numerous fishing excursions on the ocean with Steve and his friends, I have come to better understand why Jesus said that if we follow Him, He will make us fishers of men. Here are a few similarities I have noticed between fishing and soul-winning.
People need heroes. Great men and women we can look up to as role models and mentors.Ministries need heroes, too. Kings and prophets from long ago who proclaimed special messages and displayed examples of courage provide excellent heroes whom we can emulate in our lives today. Amazing Facts has chosen two of the greatest prophets in the Holy Writ as our designated heroes-Elijah and John the Baptist.
The last words of the Old Testament reveal a stirring and powerful prophecy that has often been misunderstood. Take a moment to become familiar with this passage. With the Spirit's help, we intend to bring new life to these words:
Several branches of the armed services have an elite team of commandos that are carefully trained in guerrilla warfare and other special combat conditions. To qualify for one of these units, a person must pass through an incredibly grueling process of physical and mental training. Only those who demonstrate unflinching self control and perfect obedience are chosen. These special-forces commandos are assigned difficult and dangerous missions, such as rapidly attacking enemy troops or raiding behind enemy lines. Their job is to lead the way for the main troops. Because of their thorough training, a small team of commandos is often able to achieve great victories. During the Gulf War, a team of about a dozen Navy Seals were able to create a diversion on the beaches of Kuwait that fooled the entire Iraqi army into thinking that the U.S. attack was coming from the sea.
If that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of." Matthew 24:48-50.
During World War II, resistance fighters in France believed the Nazi occupation was temporary. They fought long and hard and suffered much when captured. These brave men and women continued their campaign against pathetic odds, spurred on by the faith that the Allied forces would soon come and deliver France from its cruel oppressors.
But, as days turned into weeks and then months into years, some of the freedom fighters grew weary of their life of constant resistance and fighting. To them, it began to seem that the Allies would never come-that they were too busy fighting the Nazis on other fronts. It looked as though France would forever be under the control of the enemy.
This is the time of year when many Christians give special thought to the birth of Christ. It's a story most of us have heard more times than we can count. But as with every other story of the Bible, it never loses its significance. In fact, a careful study of Christ's first advent should help us learn how to be better prepared for His second coming.
At the time of Christ's birth, God's people were waiting with great anticipation for the world's Redeemer. His arrival was the event every generation since Adam had hoped to see. How could the religious leaders of that day have missed it?
Some have thought it was because they were ignorant of the many prophecies pointing forward to the Messiah.