The Spirit Empowered Life
For the past 30 years, Beth Jones has been helping people learn the basics of faith, family, church and leadership–through writing, speaking and pastoring. Through The Basics With Beth, she’s passionate about sharing the basics to help people around the world unlock their potential to live a life they love and love the life they live.
As an author, Beth has written 20+ books on “the basics.” She has sold more than 250,000 copies of her flagship book, “Getting a Grip on the Basics” in America and thousands more have been distributed in more than 17 foreign languages around the world. In 2016, she released two new “basics” books: The Spirit Empowered Life and Wealth and Generosity. As a speaker, Beth teaches the basics in a down-to-earth, humorous and practical way at churches, conferences, online schools and television.
Beth and her husband Jeff are the founders and Senior Pastors of Valley Family Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where they minister to thousands of people each week. Together, they have raised four kids who are actively involved in the ministry and are now starting their own families. The Jones family also collectively writes the Basics Daily Devo blog for thousands of subscribers.
The heart of Beth’s message is simple: “I exist to help people get the basics!” Learn more at thebasicwithbeth.com or valleyfamilychurch.org. The following is excerpted from Beth’s book, The Spirit Empowered Life.
These days people are coming to our churches from all types of different spiritual backgrounds—unsaved, nonchurched, lost, dechurched, dry, semihungry, disillusioned, skeptical and yet so very much in need of the love of God, the grace of Jesus and the empowerment of the Spirit.
In addition, to the variety of backgrounds people have—the attention span of all of us in this digital age has gotten shorter—and getting people to commit to a 12-week class or an 8-session Bible study is difficult and not always the most effective approach.
That’s where we face a challenge and an opportunity!
How do we help people with a variety of spiritual and biblical backgrounds enter into the joy of the Spirit empowered life? How do we teach people with a short attention span the riches of this life with the Holy Spirit? Those are the questions I endeavored to answer as I wrote The Spirit Empowered Life, the first “Faith Basics” book in a new series of 6 books.
If you’re looking for a new, fresh tool to help those you lead and disciple to experience more of the Spirit. Here’s an excerpt from “The Spirit Empowered Life book. The book starts with “My Story” with the hopes of connecting with and drawing in those who are not yet “born of” the Spirit as well as those who are hungry to be “filled with” the Spirit.
I want to start by sharing my story with you. While we all have our own unique stories, sometimes hearing about someone else’s journey helps us to relax and open up our heart to all that the Lord has in store for us! I hope you resonate and connect with various parts of my experience and are encouraged as you run full on into the Spirit empowered life!
Being Born of the Spirit
I remember the first time I noticed Spirit empowered Christians. I was not yet a committed follower of Christ, but during my freshman year in college, I watched Andi, my roommate (whom I had been friends with since third grade), live a life that was full of love for others and with a contented joy. During our senior year of high school, she had become a born again Christian. It was attractive. Now as her roommate, I watched her get up early in the morning to read her Bible, and peace seemed to ooze out of her.
Meanwhile, my life was quite different. Although I had been raised as a Catholic, I was not living for the Lord. Whatever my roommate had, I did not. Acting like I was happy, smoking my cigarettes and living the party life was the way to a good time, in my book. At least that’s what I told myself. Deep down, I was empty. I had felt empty for some time but had never taken time to recognize it or admit it. Maybe it was because I felt so capable of running my own life, and I couldn’t accept or didn’t want to know my role as “lord of my life” wasn’t working.
I was ten years old when my dad left, and I distinctly remember taking on the “lordship” of my own life and the responsibility of growing up overnight to help my mom. I was in third grade when I called my three younger sisters together for a meeting in the basement. I gave them the plan: “Ok you guys, since we now come from a broken home, everyone is going to expect us to drop out of school and start doing drugs. But we aren’t going to do that. We’re going to stay out of trouble, get good grades, and be good kids.” I didn’t ask for any questions or feedback. This was just what we were going to do. The Big Sister of Oz had spoken! Turns out we were good kids; we did stay out of trouble and got good grades—and we partied just enough without getting caught. (When I say we were good kids, I mean good enough. I probably shouldn’t have introduced them to the art of stealing cigarettes from mom’s purse or taught them how to keep the vodka liquid level in mom’s stash by replacing what we borrowed with water. Ok, so I wasn’t the perfect big sister.)
Watching my childhood friend and roommate float around our dorm room with this radiant love, joy, and peace forced me to come face to face with my own internal emptiness, and I had to admit that my best efforts at lordship were not enough. I definitely did not have what she had.
To top off all of my internal emptiness and to convince me thoroughly of my need for a Savior, the Lord must have made certain we were assigned to share our dorm suite with two other suitemates who were super cool, super cute, super rich, and had super good-looking boyfriends.
For someone who was not easily intimidated, I started to feel insecure for the first time in my life. Kim and Kimmie (yes, their actual names), had everything a girl could want—plus they had beautiful, long straight hair. I had short, thick, wavy hair, and the waves were not in the right places. When I upgraded my hairstyle to a permed mullet, it didn’t help. They had nice, expensive clothes, and I had an eclectic mix of thrift store tomboy jeans, converse tennis shoes, and turtlenecks. They had earrings and bracelets made of real gold, and I had cheap costume jewelry I took from my mom’s jewelry box. And their homes? Can’t even go there. Massive. They were the size of apartment buildings that could house 56 people. We lived in a small duplex. My bedroom was in the basement, and my walls were covered in red shag carpet, literally.
Compared to my angelic roommate and my super perfect suitemates, the emptiness I felt inside enlarged. After several conversations with Andi and visiting a Bible Study with her (only to see if there were any cute boys—totally wrong motives, I know),I started to read the Bible in secret. And, to my surprise, God was in His Bible. Seriously. He was in it. It was alive, and I felt like He was sitting on my shoulder speaking to my heart whenever I cracked open the pages. I seemed to know that Jesus was knocking on the door of my heart, asking me to open up and give Him my heart—or rather allow Him to come into my heart. Of course, I argued, debated, pondered, and delayed making any decisions about the Lord. I only opened the door a crack to talk to Him for a few minutes, but I kept the chain lock engaged, never inviting Him in. What I was holding onto, I don’t know (probably a bologna sandwich). He was patient.
By the end of my freshman year, I was ready to open the door fully and invite Jesus in. The change came as I was reading the Bible. I simply realized the truth. I was a sinner (a good person, but a sinner nonetheless), and I needed a Savior. Jesus was that loving Savior. So in May of 1978, sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, I received Jesus into my life and declared Him as my Lord. When I blurted out, “Ok you guys, I’m gonna be a Christian,” that was it. That was the extent of my salvation prayer. Poof; just like that, I was born of the Spirit and became a born again Christian.
My permed mullet remained intact, and my fake gold earrings didn’t turn to 14k, but I did experience His complete forgiveness and an internal satisfaction like I had never known. I felt new joy in this relationship with the Lord and I couldn’t get over this book—the Bible! Reading the Bible was unlike any of the textbooks I was reading. It was alive, and God was speaking to my heart daily. I felt the flow of His peace fill the deepest part of me, and for the first time in my life, I experienced the reality of never being alone. It was wonderful! I recall literally thinking that the sky was bluer and the birds were chirping more sweetly than I ever remembered.
Knowing Jesus radically changed my life from the inside and eventually, the outside.
Perhaps, you’re like I was, living your life, empty inside and knowing you need Jesus. Maybe you realize, like I did, that you are a sinner and you need a Savior. The Bible says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved” (Romans 10:910, NLT). If you’ve never surrendered and personally invited Jesus to be the Lord of your life, but you’d like to, let’s start our study by giving you the opportunity to be born again.
You could say what I said to the Lord, in front of your family or friends, “Ok you guys, I’m gonna be a Christian.” When I did it, it was from my heart. I meant it, and it stuck.
If you want a more official prayer, you could go with this one:
Father, I want to be born again. Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I need your forgiveness. I believe in my heart that you died for my sins and rose from the dead. Today, I confess with my mouth that You are my Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and causing me to be born of Your Spirit. From this day forward, I will follow You as my Lord and Savior. Guide my life and help me to do your will. In Jesus’s Name. Amen.
Congratulations! You’re a born again Christian!
Being Filled with the Spirit
I loved this new life of being a Christian and getting to know Jesus on a daily basis. God’s Word was so alive. The Lord seemed to customize my quiet times with Him as I journaled my prayers and everything I was learning and experiencing. Seriously, for the first three years of my Christian life, I was soaring high with the Lord, internally!
Meanwhile, He was working a serious overhaul on my exterior—my habits, lifestyle and choices. The closer I got to the Lord, the more I desired to eliminate things that were contrary to Him.
I remember having to make some tough choices, like: walking away from a few ungodly influences who were trying to pull me in the wrong direction, getting rid of my trashy novels and most of my music albums and 8tracks. (Obviously, this was before the Internet, iTunes, and digital downloads. Who am I kidding? This was before the invention of the home computer, CDs, and DVDs, around the time the last Tyrannosaurus rex faded from earth.) One day as I read Acts 19, I began to have a desire to get rid of paraphernalia that didn’t honor the Lord—so, I grabbed my stack of secular albums and flung them like Frisbees into a dumpster. (A true test of my faith as that music stash was probably half of my net worth. Thankfully, I was able to spare my Carpenters album and a Barry Manilow 8track tape.)
While the Lord was working on my exterior habits, He patiently and simultaneously worked on sanctifying (cleaning up) my inner desires and habits including my language; my love affair with cigarettes and alcohol; my pride, fears, and judgmental attitudes; and my, shall we say, over-the-top sarcasm (my apologies to the angels assigned to my case).
What a season it was. I was growing. I loved Jesus, loved reading His Word and I loved getting to know Him better. When I got involved with a campus ministry, I learned how to share my faith, and even led a few people to the Lord including most of my family. I was as “on fire” for the Lord as I knew to be, yet I noticed a few Christians that seemed to have a different type of joy and freedom in their relationship with the Lord—different than what I had—and I got thirsty for more than I had.
The only problem? I heard they were charismatics, and I had been told by well-meaning mentors and friends that I should steer clear of—well, actually run from—those weird, emotional charismatic Christians who believed in being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues.
The fear of ending up like a spiritual weirdo, a trance-like zombie, or crazy Aunt Matilda who lives alone and talks in tongues to her sixteen cats, successfully kept me away from those charismatics. That is until Andi, my old college roommate, was filled with the Spirit and began to speak in tongues! I couldn’t believe it! She wasn’t weird. She wasn’t emotional. She was normal, and she was the one that had led me to the Lord! In her, I saw the fruit of the Holy Spirit in love, joy, and peace; but I also saw the power of the Spirit flowing in her life—she had boldness I desired. She had been filled with the Spirit and her ability to talk about Jesus with others and her freedom to worship the Lord was attractive to me.
Andi explained to me what being “filled with the Spirit” was all about, but because I had been taught to stay away from “those people” and from “speaking in tongues,” I had to unlearn some things in order to actually learn new things. I was thirsty for all the Lord had for me and I really wanted to learn the truth, so I read all the books I could find on the subject of being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues. To be honest, the authors each had different opinions and all of the reading confused me! I decided to set all of the books aside, and I picked up my Bible and prayed, “Father, I am not a Bible scholar, but you know my heart, and I desire the truth. I want everything You want for me, and I don’t want anything You don’t want for me. As I read the Bible, please show me the truth. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
I began to read the Books of Acts and 1 Corinthians and other books in the Bible that contained passages about the Holy Spirit. After weeks of reading, I came to the conclusion that there was indeed such a thing as being filled with the Holy Spirit (also called being baptized with the Spirit or receiving the Spirit) which happens subsequent to being born again of the Spirit. I also came to the conclusion that I had not yet received this infilling of the Spirit. Mainly because I didn’t know how to get it! Until one night…
One Thursday night, Michelle, a Christian friend of mine, and I decided to visit a Bible study in town. We knew several of the people there. At this Bible study, the man in charge welcomed us to the group and asked us to share our personal testimonies. I shared my salvation testimony with the group and then Michelle did the same. When we finished, the man asked us, “So, when were you girls filled with the Spirit?” My eyes grew wide, and I said, “Uh, well that’s the thing, I have been reading about this experience and I don’t think I have been filled with the Spirit. I don’t know how to receive it.” My friend Michelle said the same thing. The man smiled as if to say, “You girls have come to the right place!”
At the end of the Bible Study, he asked Michelle and I if we wanted to be filled with the Spirit and we both said, yes! They put two chairs in the middle of the room, and he and his wife and the other college kids gathered around us, laid hands on our shoulders, and began to pray. Immediately, I heard people around us praying in foreign languages, which I took to be tongues. The man leading the Bible study asked me and Michelle to repeat a prayer after him, and we said something like, “Father, I am a born again Christian, but tonight I ask You to fill me with Your Spirit. I am hungry for more of You and I receive the infilling of Your Spirit, right now. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
When we said “Amen,” I was excited because I believed I had received the very thing we had just asked for. I was ready to open my eyes and stand up from the circle when the man said, “Ok girls, just yield to the Spirit, and speak in tongues. Go ahead and speak in the words that are bubbling up from the river inside of you.” I remember thinking, “What river? I don’t have any words to say, and I don’t feel any river bubbling up inside me.” The group continued to lay hands on us and pray in tongues. I kept looking for a bubbling river, but I felt like a dried up creek! Then, like a terrible person, as I sat there in the middle of the circle, I prayed that they would stop praying!
I honestly didn’t feel any type of river bubbling up, and even if I did, I wasn’t going to speak in tongues in front of everyone! Eventually the group stopped praying for us and removed their hands from our shoulders. I think they may have been disappointed that I didn’t speak in tongues. But, I left the Bible study that night on cloud nine (even with a dry creek!) certain that I had received the baptism of the Spirit.
Five days later, on a Tuesday, I was home kneeling by my bed, spending time in prayer when I said, “Lord, I want to praise You from my innermost being. I want to tell You so many things, but I just don’t have words to tell you. I feel like I just keep repeating the same thing over and over, ‘I love You Lord; I praise You Jesus,’ but it seems like there are more words I want to say to worship You. I think if I could speak in those tongue words, I could praise You the way I want to.”
I felt the Lord speak to my heart and say, “You’re being too analytical and logical about this. Your mind keeps talking you out of it. Just take your head off and put it on the shelf, then worship me from your heart.”
So, in my mind’s eye, I took my head off and put it on the shelf. Within moments, I saw this word flash by my heart kadesh. So, I said it out loud, “ kadesh.” Then I said to myself, “What am I doing, making up words now? What in the world is kadesh?” So, I took my head off the shelf and put it back on my body and got up from my prayer time half disappointed and half excited. “What was that all about?” I wondered, “Was ‘kadesh’ a tongues word, or did I just make it up?”
A few days later on Thursday (one week after the people had prayed for us at the Bible study), my friend Michelle and I were at the Detroit Metro Airport getting ready to catch a flight to Boston to see old college friends. Michelle asked me, “Has anything happened to you since those people prayed for us?” I told her about my experience in prayer on Tuesday and the word kadesh.
I asked her if anything had happened to her since the night people had prayed for us, and she said she had a similar experience on Tuesday. She was home praying and the Lord spoke to her heart and told her to throw her fears in the wastebasket and worship Him from her heart. She said, “So, I threw my fears in the wastebasket and started to worship and magnify the Lord in this language of tongues. It felt like twenty years of praises to the Lord came out as I worshipped the Lord in tongues. It was wonderful!” Her face was lit up like a Christmas tree, and I thought to myself, “Great! She gets an entire language, and I get kadesh!” Then I whispered, “Lord, I’ll yield now!”
We were just about to board a United flight heading to Boston, and I could hardly wait to let the river that was now bubbling up inside of me out! Once on board, I waited for the jet to take off and get to our cruising altitude so the seatbelt sign would go off and I could get to the airplane’s restroom to pray (I assumed in those kadesh tongues). As soon as I was able to move about, I went to the restroom at 30,000 feet and had a wonderful time standing in that little space worshiping the Lord in a gusher of tongues!
Over the next few weeks as I prayed in tongues in my quiet times with the Lord, I heard myself say a few words numerous times, and I saw how they were spelled. The three words were kadesh, hodiah, and shem. I didn’t know Hebrew, but somehow they sounded like Hebrew to me. My Bible had a Cyclopedic Index in the front section. So on a whim, I decided to see if these words were there. To my surprise, they were!
The word “kadesh” meant, “holy.” The word “hodiah” meant, “splendor of Jehovah” and “shem” meant, “renown.” I was stunned and extremely blessed to discover this. To find that I was praising the Lord in tongues by calling Him “holy, the splendor of Jehovah and renown” was a real confirmation that this language was indeed given to me by the Holy Spirit. (As a person who had been taught to be skeptical of this type of experience and with my analytical approach to the whole subject, the supernatural confirmation of my first three words in tongues as actual Hebrew words that magnified the Lord settled the issue for me.)
In addition to speaking in tongues, I also noticed a fresh boldness in my spirit. I felt a new confidence to be a witness for Jesus and empowered to talk about the Lord with others. I sensed a new freedom to worship Him from my heart of hearts. When I read God’s Word, it was as if the brightness dial had been turned up, and I started to see the truth dots connect like I had never seen before. It was as if I had crossed a threshold in my spiritual walk with the Lord. That was many years ago, but it seems like yesterday.
I was born again in 1978 and filled with the Spirit in 1981, and it was game on—the Spirit empowered life! Do you know I have never regretted one second? Knowing the love of my Father, the grace of Jesus, and having a friendship with the Holy Spirit has only made every part of my life better. Every day with the Lord is sweeter than the day before—not to mention it’s a really fun faith-filled adventure!
And that’s why I am so excited to share this book with you! I know He has wonderful things ahead for you too!
The Spirit Empowered Life book is written in four sessions, to help people read and study this material in bite-sized doses.
The four sessions include:
- Session 1: Getting to Know the Holy Spirit
- Session 2: Being Filled with the Spirit
- Session 3: Praying in the Spirit
- Session 4: Being Led by the Spirit