Charismatic Crisis & Chaos
Paul expresses his desire to know Him and the power of His resurrection and be made conformable to His image and likeness. These three critical objectives, the resurrection, Holy Spirit, and redemption, are fundamental to the apostle. He knows that the resurrection validates all that the Lord and the prophets have declared and promised (Rom. 4:1; 8:11). The gift of the Holy Spirit is the “earnest,” “first fruits,” and “seal” of our future redemption. This hope set before Paul is so great that it superintends all earthly desires and challenges. It is for these reasons that the resurrection and the Holy Spirit are being marginalized and domesticated respectively. To minimalize and distort the ministry of the Spirit and to dismiss the resurrection from our preaching and teaching agendas promotes an ignorance, gullibility and even a skepticism among a generation that has never heard of these issues of faith. The chaos is a result of the misuse and abuse of spiritual gifts and the crisis is the anit-charismatic sentiment that has crept into the churches.
Eternity In Our Heads
There was a time when we were so heavenly minded that we were of no earthly good. We were so preoccupied with the great catching away, angelic visitors, and streets of gold that we neglected any concern for this world. There was enough Biblical information to support our theology of escape and “otherliness.” For example, the apostle John admonished us to not love this world nor the things that are in the world ( 1 Jn. 2:14). The apostle Paul presented the idea that the things that are seen are temporary and the things that are unseen are the source of all that is seen ( Rom. 1:20). However, with the revival emphasis on the Kingdom of God, global evangelism, and cultural discipleship there has come a most interesting paradigm shift. We have become so earthly minded that we have lost consciousness of eternity. Our preoccupation with influencing the kingdoms of this world and establishing powerful earthly ministries has almost silenced the thought of heavenly things. Perhaps heaven and eternity might be two needful topics to include in our preaching and teaching agendas.
Where are we going? What are we doing? How are we to get there? And is there a Divine agenda? These are critical questions considering the “sea” of information, ideas, objectives, values, and practices available to our contemporary redeemed communities. There are many “buzz words” that testify to the many emphases of our faith communities such as kingdom, apostolic, prophetic, legacy, destiny, relevance, culture-friendly, creature-friendly, church growth and spiritual health. We have wandered through periods of monasticism, materialism, humanism, liberalism, legalism, and even lawlessness. There have been periods of examination and criticism which surfaced in a variety of publications that examined specific movements such as Word of Faith, Kingdom, Discipleship and Shepherding. While some of these writing represented honest concerns for truth, many were simply complaints against principles and practices that existed outside the theological boundaries of the authors. If the earth is to be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord; if the kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdom of our Lord; and if the manifold wisdom of God is to be made known through the Church then there is the possibility that a Divine agenda exists. It may be good to re-examine the essence of this whole redemptive process.
The Law of Place
The prophet Jeremiah is instructed by the Spirit to go down to the potter shed and await a Divine visitation (Jer. 18:1-11). Interesting enough, the Spirit would not speak to Jeremiah at his current residence but directed the prophet to come to a certain local. This narrative may indicate that some revelation may be “place-specific” and will only be available when we are in the geographic location indicated. This is an expression of the sovereignty of God to reveal or conceal information at a certain time and in a certain manner. This may be a good admonition for us to stay faithful to the “place” where we have been assigned.
The Law of Association
There is evidence to support the idea that some revelation is dependent upon the interaction with other people. Such was the case of Apollos who was eloquent and mighty in the scriptures (Acts 18:24-26). Although he was fervent in spirit and taught diligently the things of the Lord, he only knew the baptism of John. His theology was deficient. But Aquila and Priscilla heard of Apollos and they took him aside and expounded the way of the God more perfectly to him. There are some things that the Spirit will not reveal to us individually. In essence, some revelation is of a corporate nature and requires the involvement of other people. Indeed, the body is fitly jointed together.
The Law of Momentum
Social and even spiritual progress is generally characterized by a dissatisfaction with the status quo and some anticipated hope in the future. This generally requires a depreciation of current ideas, thoughts, and practices in order to establish credibility to new ones. Paul never depreciate the law and prophets. Quite to contrary, the apostle builds upon historic traditions. Henry Ford did not devalue the horse and buggy as a strategy to introduce the horse-less carriage. To discredit history can be risky since some very significant information can be lost. It is profitable to integrate the past with the future. In essence, history needs to speak to the future and the present need listen. This is possible is several perspectives are kept in mind:
full counsel-hold all truth simultaneous and not specialize in one dimension
transcendence-communication beyond our doctrinal and practical borders
endurance-a consciousness of finishing the journey
foundation-a connection between historic and present truth
long range-consciousness of history and the future
These perspectives are indispensable for a profitable journey.
The Character of Faith
Our fundamental challenge as believers is conceptual. Our interpretation or mis-interpretation of historic principles, experiences and even people influence the nature and dimension of our faith. Since faith comes by hearing, then the quality of our faith depends upon the integrity of the gospel that we hear and believe. In fact, Biblical truths can be neglected and even denied. For example, a gospel that focuses upon individual privileges and promises and neglects to mention individual responsibilities is a partial gospel. A gospel that emphasizes the salvation of the individual and omits the transformation of the world is a deficient gospel. And a gospel that presents an alleged male dominance over women is an inferior gospel. In essence, the character of our faith depends upon the integrity of the gospel we hear and believe.
X-Raying the Church
One of the diagnostic tools that I use in my dental office is x-rays. They enable me to see the unseen and to evaluate the oral health status of my patients. What if there were x-rays available for the churches? What if there were diagnostic tools such as blood pressure and blood chemistry indicators that could reveal the internal health of ministries? While current technology does not offer such devices, there are indicators that reveal the health of churches. When these principles and practices are present in the operational behavior of a ministry then there is a good prognosis. Consider the following:
foresight-ability to predict changes
discernment-know times, seasons, and proper respeonses
persuasiveness-ability to enlist the trust of the masses
global awareness-consciousness of world events, trends, and cycles
Spirit dynamic-power to influence the natural
credibility-integrity and charisma
compassion-power to comfort
transcendence-ability to influence the sacred and the secular
longevity-duration of effectiveness
character-ethics and morality
While these are not the only signs of church health they are good indicators.. It is important to keep in mind that the growth of the church and the health of the church are not always synonymous.
A paradox is a statement, belief, or perspective that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense. The prophet Isaiah writes that Divine thoughts are not the same as human thoughts (Isa. 55:6) and the Lord Jesus declares that His kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 16:13). Both of these statements set forth the existence of two worlds. The greater of the two worlds sets forth the premise that we find by losing (Mt. 10:39); exalted by being humbled (Psm. 75:6); become great by becoming little (Mt. 18:4); are strong when weak (2 Cor. 12:10); and conquer by yielding (Rom. 13:14). It becomes obvious that this is not the world that is seen but this is the most powerful world. These are paradoxes which provokes us to redefine strength and weakness. And perhaps, there is something beyond success called greatness.
Paul presents the idea of equity or a return on earthly investment in the Philippian epistle (4:17). Hebrews 13 is a cascade of witnesses who invested their lives with a more glorious return in mind. And the Lord Jesus admonishes the disciples to laid up treasures in heaven (Mt. 6:20). There is the premise that faith in God, obedience and acts of kindness toward others are investment. Periods of life that are filled with expressions of faith, hope, patience, benevolence, kindness, persistence, and obedience have dividends that cannot be destroyed nor diminished. May be good to relook at the concept of earthly stewardship. When we add benevolence, brotherly kindness, patience, kindness, charity, and integrity to our faith, it is akin to an investment that provides dividends.
The Emotions of Faith
Faith is our contractual relationship with God. It is propositional since it is based upon our acceptance of absolute truths. The character of faith is dependent upon the integrity of the knowledge and information that is heard and believed. That is the reason some can “err from the faith,” “depart from the faith,” “cast off their faith,” and even “deny the faith.” While the propositions for faith are wonderful and glorious they are not dependent upon human emotions. While the Divine promises may solicit joy and excitement from us, the integrity of these promises do not rest upon our emotions. For when the thrill of the moment has departed, there is a faith that remains and works. The emotions of faith is not psychological but conceptual. It is not what we feel but what we know, believe, and choose to obey.
The idea of God being a writer is evident throughout the prophetical literature. King Beltshazzar experienced a Divine sentenced written upon the wall (Dan. 5). The apostolic writer refers to the saints as “living epistles.” Divine editing is the process of arranging and rearranging events, circumstances and even people in the lives of believers. After all, Jesus is spoken of as the author and finisher of our faith. Hence, a Divine commentary of our negative past reveals some most interesting propositions. Perhaps what was intended for evil may be for our good after all.
The Lord puts His ideas, thoughts and values upon our hearts through channels of communication and experiences. While a lot depends upon our willingness to believe and obey the Lord, we must remember that the grace of God toward us are the intangible words and pictures that are impressed upon heart.
Spiritual Circadian Rhythm
There is a time clock installed within all of us at birth that determines our sleeping and awakening patterns. For that reason, some of us are “day people” and some are “night people.” That is, our circadian rhythm dictates our periods of creativity, sociability, and productivity. To discover our circadian rhythm is to know when we are most suited for work that requires “out of the box” thinking and “in the box” thinking. Would it be most interesting, if we could determine when we are most creative, productive and sensitive to spiritual things. Perhaps our time is not every morning but at different times during the day. Since the Holy Spirit is everywhere and all time, then we should not seek to restrict the Spirit, nor ourselves, to an early morning conversation when we are not a “morning person.” Just a thought for consideration.