I don’t think we’ve shared this story here, so I wanted to give a quick testimony of something cool God did for us a few months ago. We’d been working hard trying to learn Romanian, but it was a slow and grueling process because the resources aren’t as abundant as for the big languages like Spanish, French, German, etc. Even Chinese and Russian have more resources out there. With only 20 million speakers and no real worldwide influence (yet), Romanian isn’t much sought-after as a language.
So we bought all the books we could find, some audio lessons, movies, and found some free software online (byki), and we were slowly but surely working our way through everything. It was frustrating though, because we weren’t quite sure how our pronunciation was, and it was difficult to decipher some of the more complex aspects of the grammar.
We looked for classes, more software, anything that would work better than what we had, and nothing was turning up.
While doing a support-raising meeting, the person I met with told me, “Hey, you should give Vin and Jess a call. They just got back from Moldova, where they speak Romanian, and Vin and Jess got extremely fluent in the language. And I think they live a couple blocks from you guys.”
Turns out they did live just a couple blocks from us, so I tried calling them right away. No one answered. I tried a few days later and still no one. I tried at least once a week for a month, leaving voicemails every time, and never spoke with a person. So I just gave up and we went back to learning on our own.
One night, as I was calling people to schedule support meetings, I thought, “You know what? I’ll give Vin and Jess another call. It’s been a while, maybe I’ll reach them tonight.”
I grabbed the phone, dialed, and waited to hear the usual answering machine message. Instead I got a very rushed, “Hello?”
“Hi,” I said, taken off-guard that I was speaking to an actual human, “are Vin or Jess home.”
“No, you’ve got the wrong number.”
Then, rather than just saying the normal, “Oh, OK, sorry for bothering you,” I asked the mysterious rushed voice, “What’s the right number?”
“Hold on, I’ll be right back.” A minute or two of holding the phone and waiting in silence. “OK, here it is…” and then she gave me a new number to call.
I called the number, talked to Vin, and the next morning he walked over to our house to give us our first real, live Romanian lesson.
I love how God works. We needed a tutor, so he had one come back from Moldova for us, had him live a couple blocks from our house, gave us a wrong number to reach him, and then brought him right to our door. Praise God!
Jessie and I lead a youth group in Oconomowoc, on the outskirts of Milwaukee. I’ve been teaching a series on the harder things that Jesus said, such as “You will be hated by all on account of me” and “If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Sayings we hear and sometimes gloss over because they’re really hard to surrender to.
This past Wednesday night, I planned on teaching on Mary and Martha and how Jesus said of Mary, “One thing is required, and Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” In essence, Jesus was saying that knowing Him and learning from Him were more important than all our busywork for him. Sounds good, but this is really hard to do in actuality. So I was planning on teaching on this passage, and I was really excited about it.
We don’t have a worship band right now, so we’ve been streaming worship over the internet from Bethel Church in Redding, California. It was a little awkward at first, but now we’re all used to it.
During worship Wednesday night, out of nowhere, God spoke to me very clearly in my heart, “Somebody needs to get baptized in the Holy Spirit tonight.” “Cool,” I thought, “I’m down for that.” And then I got lost in the worship and completely forgot about it.
After worship, I was talking with some of the teenagers and getting ready to give my message on Mary and Martha when Dave, one of our adult leaders and a guy I’ve been discipling over the past year, came up to me and said, “Hey, God told me during worship that someone needs to be baptized in the Holy Spirit tonight.”
“What?! That’s so crazy awesome!” I exclaimed. “God told me the exact same thing but I forgot it. Cool, well, I’ll change plans tonight and teach on baptism in the Holy Spirit instead.”
Then as I was thinking things through in my head, Zorena, a student who got dramatically saved, healed, and filled with the Holy Spirit a few months ago and started seeing her whole life change, came up to me, “Hey, could you read this?” She handed me a piece of paper with her testimony of recently getting saved and then baptized in the Holy Spirit.
I read it, it was really awesome (I knew the story already, but it’s so cool to see her processing what God’s done in her life), and so I asked Zorena if she’d share her testimony tonight. She of course said yes.
So Zorena shared her testimony, I taught on baptism in the Holy Spirit, and then I asked if anyone wanted us to pray with them to receive it. One girl, Laura, raised her hand right away. We all gathered around her, prayed, and God started filling her with Himself. She got crazy hot, she started speaking in tongues, and she said she felt God’s presence closer than ever before.
Then Alex, a girl who got saved just a few months ago in the youth group, quietly snuck over by me and my wife – “I want to get baptized in the Holy Spirit too, but can we do it downstairs? I’m a little nervous around so many people.”
So we went downstairs, prayed for Alex, and God filled her too.
Over the course of the night, two people got filled with the Holy Spirit and God healed someone of back pain they’d had all day and another person from pain in their ankle and legs they’d had for a couple days. God is good!
I don’t want to do a huge teaching on baptism in the Holy Spirit, but let me just say that I believe the Bible very clearly teaches that when you’re saved, you receive the Holy Spirit, but that there is a second infilling of Him where you are empowered for service. This second infilling is usually but not always accompanied by speaking in tongues.
In Acts 1:4-5, after Jesus rose from the dead, He told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the “promise of the Father” which He had spoken of much (Luke 24:49, Luke 11:13, John 7:38, John 14:26 for example). He told them, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” This is after Jesus had breathed on them and they “received the Holy Spirit” in John 20:22.
Jesus’ last words before rising up to Heaven to sit next to the Father were on the same topic. Further explaining what was to happen, He told them in Acts 1:8, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
This is the point of baptism in the Holy Spirit – power to be witnesses. You receive an infilling of God’s Spirit to live in holiness, to move in supernatural power, to speak in tongues, to hear God’s voice clearer, to be filled with boldness, etc. Baptism in the Holy Spirit isn’t so you can feel tingly and warm all over – it’s to give you power to declare the Gospel! God may manifest Himself very dramatically, or you may feel nothing at all, but that’s not the point anyway. The point is yielding to Him so He can have access to more of you, allowing Him to empower you for His service. And who wouldn’t want that?
So Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and give them power, and in Acts 2, you can read all about that. The Holy Spirit falls on the disciples, flames of fire appear on their heads, they start speaking in tongues, people think they’re drunk, Peter preaches with boldness, and 3000 people are added to the church as a result.
From that point, you see people getting baptized in the Holy Spirit in Acts 4, Acts 9, Acts 10, Acts 19, and maybe other places I can’t think of right now. Paul refers to it a lot in his letters. It’s not something you can just dismiss as a Christian or just write off as “too expressive” or “too emotional” or “just not for me” or “passed away with the disciples.” You’re doing yourself a discredit and you’re not being honest with the Scriptures if you refuse to investigate it and seek it out.
Anyway, Wednesday night was fun, seeing God completely change my plans and do something way more cool.
For a good book on speaking in tongues, from a skeptic’s perspective, check out They Speak with Other Tongues by John Sherrill.
For an in-depth Biblical teaching on baptism in the Holy Spirit, check out this site.
Jessie and I have been reading a ton of books about Romania, its people, culture, language, history, etc. One of the better books was The Complete Insider’s Guide to Romania by Sam R. This book is a little rough, like most self-published books – graphic design is odd, layout could be better, some spelling and grammar errors – but it’s enjoyable and very informative.
First, though, a warning: this book is not for kids. It’s a very honest look at Romania and Romanians, not just your typical guidebook. As a result, there are some sections that could very well offend you and you may have to skip over those. For instance, Sam R openly discusses topics like Romanians’ loose views on sexuality and dress, finding prostitutes, how to hook up with a Romanian guy or girl, what kind of alcohol is the best and cheapest in Romania, etc. So if you can’t handle that kind of stuff, he does have a “missionary” version of the book that you may like better. I haven’t read it, but according to the description, it’s got less of the racier stuff and more on the religion and culture. You can find that version here.
That being said, I really liked the honesty of the book. I’m not going to look for prostitutes in Bucharest, but I like knowing about it so I know what to pray against and what we’re getting ourselves into.
The book is really funny and a lot of fun to read, which is a rarity in our stack of books on the nation. It was hard to put down. I loved Sam R’s sense of humor, and the stories and situations he talks about are often hilarious.
It’s also incredibly informative. He doesn’t have all the information on all the hotels of Romania, but he gives you the real scoop of the ones you want to stay away from and the ones you want to check out. He doesn’t give you all the history of every bit of Romania, but he tells you the stuff you need to know that really matters when you live in the country. He doesn’t have all the maps for all the public transport, but he’ll tell you where to go to find those maps and exactly how to get on a train, where to stand for the bus so you don’t get trampled, how to get around the cheapest, etc. The book is a wealth of information on the topics you really want to know about.
Where the book particularly shines more than any other is in dealing with the culture of Romania. He dissects Romanian thinking and customs, honestly talking about the positives and negatives, the good things and the really frustrating things about Romania. Most guidebooks aren’t as honest about Romania – they try to make everything look beautiful and great – but Sam R shows Romanians with all their unique national flaws, not ignoring some of the things that make living in Romania strange, difficult, or frustrating.
I definitely recommend this book. I wish the layout were better, I would like an index of topics, I’d like a little more information on everything, and some of the racier stuff could have been toned down a bit, but it’s really fun to read, had me laughing out loud at points, shows Romanians in a very real and honest way, and has all the information you need to know and none of the stuff that doesn’t matter.