Picture above taken from Google StreetView. The real photo would have a lot more snow around it this time of year. 🙂
Yesterday, I started posting about the calamity that occurred between Matei and Geta, two new believers who have been coming regularly to our Monday night meetings and growing a ton. Thanks for everyone who has been praying. We don’t know anything more about Matei, but Geta’s situation has improved, and family friends are taking care of the kids. Keep praying, though, because the whole family still needs God to do a lot for them.
We hope to visit Matei in prison soon, but no one seems to know where he’s being held right now, but we were able to visit Geta yesterday at the hospital.
We were a humorous-looking troupe. Ben and I, already identical twins, happened to be both wearing hiking boots, blue jeans, black jackets, and black snow hats, carrying black Romanian Bibles. Jason, with his dark beard, black coat, and gray backpack, looked like a cross between an Orthodox priest and a homeless guy. And we were all three following Teresa and Rita, two short, round Gypsy women dressed in flowery dresses and “Christmas sweaters” as Jason described their outfits. But we were going to see our sister, a member of our church family who had been attacked by the one closest to her. She was hurting and scared and she needed us.
When we got to the hospital, Jason warned us, “They may not let all of us in. Usually they’re pretty strict about only one or maybe two visitors being allowed in at the same time.”
“Let’s pray for favor then,” I suggested, and we all gathered together in front of the hospital to pray for a minute.
We walked into the hospital, went through one corridor after another, and eventually got to the security guard who made sure only one person was going in at a time.
Teresa explained the situation and asked if all of us could go in to pray for Geta, because she was desperately hurt and we were her church family, so she needed us. “Well, I don’t know…” the guard hesitated.
So Teresa reached into her pocket and pulled out 2 lei and flashed it at him. “OK, fine,” said the guard, grabbing the equivalent of 59 cents from her. You can’t get much in Bucharest for 2 lei, so I don’t know what he was thinking. Maybe he just decided to have pity on Teresa and let us pass, realizing that anyone who would offer you a 2 lei bribe was probably really desperate.
Rita looked at Ben, Jason, and I. “Dumnezeu lucrează, frații,” she said with a smile. Indeed, God is working.
We passed the security guard, walked down some more halls, and began the hike up the stairs. One old man passed us and asked Teresa, “Where are you going? Are you here for surgery?”
Finally, we found our way to where they were letting Geta rest and heal. Before entering the large room filled with hospital beds, mostly empty, they handed us hospital gowns to put over our clothes. When we tried to put our arms in the sleeves, the nurses corrected us, grabbed the gowns, and draped them around us like Jewish prayer shawls. Now our humorous troupe was even more bizarre.
As we walked into the room, we felt like Medieval Orthodox priests with our robes hanging about our shoulders.
We found Geta and learned her situation had improved greatly over the previous day. She could move a little, she could talk, and she seemed very awake and aware. Doctors said she would be eating regular food soon and should be fine to leave after she has enough time to rest and recover. She had lost 50% of her blood from the attack, but a blood transfusion was holding well and infections seemed to be held at bay. She said her body hurt everywhere, but at least she was going to live. Praise God. He’s already been answering the prayers of a lot of people.
What broke our hearts the most, though, was to hear her blame herself for everything that had been done to her. The first thing she said to us was, “I need to repent. I have done something terrible. I must have committed some great sin for this to happen to me.” It was awful to hear her blaming herself for what her husband had done to her.
We told her she wasn’t the one to blame, that if she had sin in her life, God would never punish her by doing this, that he simply demands repentance, not torture. We shared the Scriptures with her, encouraged her to believe for healing, prayed for her and commanded her body to be restored, and let her know that we and many others would be praying for her.
As we finished up, we told her that many Gypsies were praying for her, many churches in Bucharest, and that hundreds of people in America, friends of ours, would be praying for her because we would email them and tell them what had happened. As we told her of the literally hundreds of people who would pray for her and her family, her eyes welled up with tears and she began to cry.
Suddenly, a doctor entered the room, scolded the nurses for letting all of us in at once, and told us we had to leave.
Just in time.
Please keep praying for Geta, Matei, and their kids. We praise God for how He’s been healing Geta already, but we want to see God completely restore this family, robbing Satan from any and all glory that he hoped to achieve from this. Romans 8:28 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
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.