Be Faithful For Revival

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“If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” Luke 16:11 (ESV)

Ray Ortlund gives insight into this verse I had not seen before. This verse comes on the heels of Jesus parable usually called, “The Parable of the Shrewd Manager.” Some Bibles, like the ESV and the CSB now call it, “The Parable of the Dishonest Manager.” The different titles come from the difficulty of interpreting this strange story.

There is a rich man who had a manager who oversaw the rich man’s possessions. It was found out the manager was “wasting possessions.” The rich man called him looking to hold him accountable. He told him to turn in his books for he was fired. The manager was beside himself wondering what he was going to do for a living.

His idea: approach the rich man’s clients, offer them a smaller payout to clear their debt. This shrewd manager was the manager’s attempt to make friends with the rich man’s clients. When he is no longer working for the rich man, perhaps they will hire him, or support him. In the end, the rich man commended the manager for his shrewdness in spite of his dishonesty.

Then Jesus says something curious. He says, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”

The point of this story has been interpreted in many ways. However, the point that Ortlund makes concerns in verse 11 where Jesus says, “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?”

Ortland says the unrighteous wealth is the money of this world. How we deal with money determines how we will be entrusted with the spiritual things of the kingdom. He quotes Francis Schaeffer,

“The church is constantly saying, ‘Where’s our power? Where’s our power?’ Jesus’ statement here gives us at least part of the answer. We must use money with a view to what counts in eternity.”

Perhaps one of the reasons the church has not seen a revival in a long time is we are mishandling the resources that God has given us. If we think we can misuse the material things God has given us, how will he entrust us with the spiritual things? How can we handle a revival, a powerful move of the living God, if we can’t handle the dead materials of this world?

God expects us to be faithful with the little we receive. Then he will give us revival.

Unity By The Spirit

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Eph. 4:1-3

Are you “eager to maintain the unity fo the Spirit”?

We all need to ask ourselves this question. I’ve always heard unity preached through the years. But I wonder if we really want unity in the Church. Do we really want unity with those brothers and sisters we disagree with?

I want to note the translators of the ESV version chose to capitalize the word “Spirit” in verse 3. Most every modern Bible translations follows suit. In other words, verse 3 is referring to the Holy Spirit. This means, the unity of the Church is brought and worked out by the Holy Spirit.

What makes this interesting is the fact many churches are divided when it comes to the Holy Spirit and his work today. How is it that the very means of unity of the Church now has become the means of division?

A recent article on The Exchange speaks of a time after WWII where there was an explosion of missionary agencies that brought together different traditions in hopes of reaching the lost in our world. This brought together Charismatics with Cessationist in efforts to reach the world.

“Mission agencies of all kinds became new voices – InterVarsity, the Navigators, Youth for Christ, Young Life, and Campus Crusade, to name a few – bringing young people together in new kinds of missions and understandings. This generated inter-church activity, mixing those from Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal communities, breaking down walls.” – Brian Stiller

The Holy Spirit brought together people hungry to see lost people saved. Because of their faithfulness God moved in a huge way. A way that many said did not happen and could not happen. People’s doctrines were shook up.

“Into that mix came missionaries returning home and giving accounts of healings, deliverance from demonic oppression and miracles, this often to churches that assumed such manifestations had ceased. Deeply divided churches were about to discover what they had in common.” – Brian Stiller

What they had in common was the power and the work of the Holy Spirit in the world.

It is said, there are no atheist in foxholes. In other words, in the midst of war, in the trenches where the battle is most fierce, everyone begins to pray. When it seems all is lost many being to pray to the god they don’t believe in.

It is the same in the mission field: there are no Cessationists in the front lines of the mission field. In the mission field you will find out you are praying healing and miracles. When faced with a real enemy you will be praying to cast out demons. You’ll want to see God move in a miraculous and supernatural way. In the mission field there are no Charismatics or Cessationists. There are only people of God living out the kingdom in a powerful way.

Paul tells us humility, gentleness, and patience, as we all strive towards unity.

Are you eager for the unity of the Spirit?

Religious? You’ll Probably Live Longer

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Ohio State University has conducted a study of obituaries nationwide. The obituaries gives us a unique insight into a persons life and their lifespan.
Obituaries usually have the age of the person, the size and extent of their families, what they were known for, hobbies, and religious affiliations.

What they found was interesting. They found that religious affiliation gives a person an extra four-year boost in life. On average, a person who is involved religiously lived 4 years longer than someone who did not.

“The study provides persuasive evidence that there is a relationship between religious participation and how long a person lives,” ~ Baldwin Way, associate professor of psychology at Ohio State.

Let’s not be too hasty to wave the, “See, Christianity is right!” flag. There were other religions in this study that had the same life extension.
Except for snake-handling churches for some reason.
What we can learn from this study is the necessity to continue to work in unity and in a community. Coupled with religious norms that promote a healthier lifestyle (avoidance of drunkenness, drugs, and promiscuous sex) and stress-reliving practices (prayer, meditation, fasting) there is a communal aspect that is also a factor.

“Many studies have shown that people who volunteer and participate in social groups tend to live longer than others.”
Though, those who ONLY volunteer and participate in social groups did not live as long as those who were religious. Nonetheless, it is an aspect of religion we should not neglect.

When we come together as a Church we are doing more than doing our duty. We are actually helping each other live longer. By encouraging one another, building each other up, comforting those who are hurting, helping those in need. This is why the writer of Hebrews tells us not to forsake coming together. It’s not to keep the pews full. It is so that we all can benefit from each other.

Individual Spirituality

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I read an interesting article in the LA Times a few weeks ago. The headline: “Religiously unaffiliated ‘nones’ are pursuing spirituality, but not community.

The category of “nones,” those who check the “none” box when asked what religion they are, has increased from 10% in the 80s to over 23% today. It is the Millennial generation that is the driving force for this increase recently.
However, it is not that they are not religious. They are very spiritual in their thoughts and actions. Contrary to the sexy secular utopia promised by the New Atheist of the last decade, the “nones” are turning to other forms of mysticism and spirituality.

“Rather, they are turning toward more individual forms of spiritualism, including yoga, meditation, healing stones, Wiccan spell casting and astrology.”

The individualism is reaching its peak in our culture. Religion and spirituality is no different. Picking your own beliefs, your own truths leaves you free from the judgments from others. It lets you be you, no matter how greedy or envious you are. There is no need to change because you are OK just the way you are.

When people look at the Church, they see judgmental, oppressive, and controlling entity that is a huge kill-joy. What they don’t see is the love, the compassion, and the family that can be found in Jesus Christ.

The challenge of the Church today is to show the love that God has for his people. The way in which that love is shown is how the Body of Christ loves each other. Several places in the Bible the unity of the people of God is a witness to God’s work and God’s love. When we are united we show the true image of Christ on earth.

As long as we continue down the road of disunity we will continue to push away those who need God the most.

I Want To Say I’m Sorry

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So I want to say I’m sorry that I drew the line
I built the wall, the fault is mine
And maybe now the only way to find some peace
Is just to give it time and trust in grace

So this is my communion hymn
I want to sit beside you at the feast, my friend
Again, again and again
And again
~Andrew Peterson

This video was played at our recent Solemn Assembly. It was played during communion, as a communion hymn.

The last few lyrics, I think, are the most profound. What divides many people are walls that we have built up around ourselves. These can be grudges, hurts, guilts, and jealousy.

For followers of Christ, we build different walls around ourselves. Walls of law, doctrine, and liturgy. When we build these walls around us we think we are protecting ourselves, protecting tradition, protecting the faith. But really we are separating ourselves from the very people that God wants us to love, to be unified with, and to grow with.

Perhaps it’s time we say we are sorry. We are sorry for allowing our beliefs and convictions to separate the body of Christ. We are sorry for treating our fellow brother and sister in Christ as less-than us. We are sorry for destroying reputations of other churches and their people. It is now time to unite.

How can we do this? The lyrics give us a hint. We are to give it time and trust in grace.

Give it time. This will not happen overnight. Hostilities have been high, people hurt and abused in the past, it will take time to be able to trust one another and understand one another.

We need to trust grace. Grace, first, for ourselves. For without grace we would not have the favor of God in our lives to live this godly life. We need his grace to sustain us and to move us forward. Second, grace for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The same grace God shows you, in spite of your sin and shortcomings, is the same grace God shows your fellow believer. It is the same grace that we are to give to them too.

Sprinkle a little grace, a little forgiveness, into your conversations and interactions with other Christians and see what happens. Perhaps we can all sit at the same communion table in the future.

Church Unity Is More Important Than ‘Being Theologically Correct’?

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“Father…I do not pray just for these disciples only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word. I pray that they all may be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one with us. This way the world may believe that you have sent me.” ~ Jesus (John 17:20-21 Paraphrase)

The Christan Post came out with an article quoting Andy Stanley, “Church Unity Is More Important Than ‘Being Theologically Correct.‘” Using the verse from John 17 where Jesus prays his disciples would be one, as he and the Father are one, so that they may one together.
Stanley said it is significant Jesus prayed for unity for his disciple above other things, for example, being theologically correct. But I am wondering if Andy Stanley has read the previous verses where Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in your truth…” I think Andy Stanley massively downplays having the right doctrine here. Each church needs to strive for the right teaching of Jesus and to continuously reform to achieve it. Even though I thinking Stanley goes a little too far, I do understand his sentiment.
What usually divides us is not the core of the faith. It is usually peripheral doctrines concerning baptism, communion, the work of the Holy Spirit…etc. Others are divided by worship styles, liturgy, and style of preaching.
I am not saying we shouldn’t have diverse practices or even diverse beliefs. What I am saying, is, these should not divide us when it comes to our mission in this world.
Notice Jesus’ prayer. He says in essence, “Father, I pray my disciples will be united in us so that the world may see and believe in me.” In other words, our unity should be a sign to the world of Jesus’ ministry and kingdom on earth.
I’ve often heard from skeptics about the plethora of churches that exist in our culture. Which one is right? Who is wrong? Why does this church belittle that church? Why are Christians always fighting?
Our disunity has damaged the image of Jesus in our churches. When we no longer live out the unity that is found within the Godhead, we no longer bear the image of that Godhead. Our witness falls apart.
My suggestion for churches that differ in the secondary doctrines of the faith, that we agree to disagree, charitably, and work together to rebuild the image of the unity God in our communities.

Test For Revival

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 (ESV)

If you haven’t guessed from my posts I am a Charismatic, or better, a continueist. This means I believe the gifts and the signs of the kingdom of God can still be practiced and seen today; for example, healings, miracles, prophecies, and those “nefarious” tongues.

But, just because I am a continueist, does not mean I cannot learn from my cessationist friends. These friends don’t believe these gifts and signs are for today, rather, they ceased when the last Apostle died almost 1900 years ago (some believe the gifts ceased when the canon was completed).

I came across this article, “Jonathan Edwards and Why I am a Cessationist,” written by Jeff Robinson. Though, he does not really describe why he is a cessationist, other than him being creeped out by a Charismatic service he attended. But, he goes on to describe how Jonathan Edwards handled the revival he encountered, and the working of the Spirit upon men and woman.

One of the “neutral signs, as Edwards put it, is bodily effects. Our body can do some strange things when encountering the Spirit of God: fainting, shouting, tongue talking etc… But, because these bodily effects happen does not mean they are evidence of the Spirit. The effects can happen without the Spirit. One only has to visit a sporting event to know this.

But, there are five things that Edwards lists that are marks of true revival. I’ll list them here without comment – I want to comment on Jeff Robinson’s comments.

1. A deep and aiding love for the person and work of Christ.

2. A desire to kill sin and break the bonds of worldliness.

3. A deep love for and desire to feast on God’s Word.

4. An unshakable conviction of sound doctrine.

5. An increased love for God and man.

These are positive signs that God is moving in the heart of people when revival comes. Edwards was no continueist, but, what he gives us here are tools for us to use to “test the spirits” when the Spirit does come.

The author of the article does on to ask, “How might Edwards advise us to approach today’s claims of revival?” He goes on to list out 4 items for us to consider.

1. We must beware of accepting everything as from the Lord. The fault of my tradition is the fact we have not tested the spirits. We have not filtered our experiences, and our prophecies, against the Word of God. We went with whatever happened because of tradition, leadership, or because we saw bodily effects as a sign of God moving on people.

2. Not all spirits are holy. This is very true, especially when there is a move of the Spirit of God. The enemy is always outside looking in, seeking how he can penetrate into the kingdom to do damage. He will enter through unsuspecting people willing to grasp hold of any spirit that will give them the experiences they are witnessing. Without sound doctrine to guide us, and to guide the people, they can fall into error and seek the experience instead of the Spirit behind the experience.

3. We should be skeptical of any movement that draw attention away from the local church and its preaching ministry. I believe the goal of a Spirit initiated revival is to make disciples of people. While parachurch organizations, revivalists, and traveling evangelists may be involved with a revival, they cannot replace the local church.

4. Such movements often foster what I call a “lightning-bolt spirituality.” I haven’t seen what Robinson describes here. What he describes are revivals that are person centric that promotes encounters where you are “struck by a spiritual lightning bolt and become instantly more sanctified.” He goes on to say that sanctification is a progressive through God’s grace. While I agree with him, I do believe one can surrender more to God, so much more than they have before, in one life changing event. The revival can be such one event. What Robinson does say is any revival needs to point people to Jesus, and not an event or certain teachers at the revival. The goal is for people to become followers of Jesus Christ – saved, discipled, and working for the kingdom.

Chasm Between Charismatics and Cessationists Part 2

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“Of all the theological squabbles that have plagued evangelical Christianity over the years, especially in the West, a particularly profound division centers on the power of the Holy Spirit and the ways in which He is at work today.”

I am continuing today talking about an article that came out of the Christian Post recently. They are asking the question if the chasm between Charismatics and Cessationists be bridged. For the sake of the kingdom of God, I hope so. The Christian Post asks a few scholars from both sides to weigh in. Here are a few quotes and my thoughts.

“And we do not ask them to come to our church, we’re not trying to offload anybody or tell them ‘If you don’t have the ‘fire’ of God in your church you should not be there.’ We don’t say that. I don’t agree with that at all.” – Jennifer Eivaz, author of Seeing the Supernatural: How to Sense, Discern and Battle in the Spiritual Realm – Continuationist

I think this is the key to Charismatics and Cessationists working together in the same community. We should not be undercutting our fellow sister churches in our communities. We should not criticize or talk down about another church. What we should do is teach our doctrines charitably agreeing to disagree. When we learn to love each other in spite of our differences we begin to show the world that we are indeed Jesus disciples.

“Brown told CP that the increasing visibility and overt presence of the demonic in popular culture will precipitate an even greater awareness of the reality of the spiritual realm.”

Seeing our post-Christian culture as it is today versus yesterday, it would lead one to believe it is getting worse, become more godless. Seeing the enemy work the way he does in our world pushes many Christians to seek our God and ask him to move in a powerful way.

When we go out evangelizing we will see the enemy working in ways we have not seen before. If you read any missionary biographies you’ve seen Charismatics and Cessationists alike encountering demonic forces they were not prepared for. But, by the grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, both Charismatics and Cessationists were able to defeat the enemy in the name of Jesus Christ.

The one thing that Charismatics and Cessationists need to do, is rely upon God, his Holy Spirit, and his Word.

Chasm Between Charismatics and Cessationists Part 1

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“Of all the theological squabbles that have plagued evangelical Christianity over the years, especially in the West, a particularly profound division centers on the power of the Holy Spirit and the ways in which He is at work today.”

The Christian Post come out with this article last week asking the question if the chasm between Charismatics and Cessationists be bridged. For the sake of the kingdom of God, I hope so. The Christian Post asks a few scholars from both sides to weigh in. Here are a few quotes and my thoughts.

“It is very possible that our differences may continue to keep some Christians from working intimately together on some ministry projects, but the overall ability to agree together on the essentials of the faith must be a stronger chord that keeps us together on mission.” Eric J. Bargerhuff, author of The Most Misused Stories in The Bible – Cessationist

As any student of Church history knows, there will always be churches and Christians who disagree with each other. But, the point I stress here on my blog is that though we do have differences we can still work together on mission. We can still walk the streets together in evangelism. We can still help the poor together; feed the hungry together; clothe the naked together; house the homeless together. The kingdom of God is an active kingdom that has not stopped being active when the apostles died out – of this I am sure we can all agree. Therefore, let’s work together getting our hands dirty for the kingdom of God.

“And when we speak of the sufficiency of Scripture we don’t mean that we have a relationship with the Bible. We mean that God’s Word is His one and only Word — that there is only one Bible and that nothing else can be called Scripture or claim to be the Word of God for all people.” – Michael Brown, author and talk show host – Charismatic

This is a huge hurdle for the Charismatic and Cessationist alike. Many Cessationist accuse Charismatics of downgrading the sufficiency of Scripture by using the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and interpretation. There is much evidence in the past, and still some circles today, where these gifts are misused outside of biblical boundaries. But this is not to say that all Charismatics and Pentecostals don’t believe the Bible or not see it as the final authority. Likewise, it would be foolish to accuse the Cessationist of not be “full gospel” because they don’t exercise the gifts.

Let’s come together knowing our Bible to be the sole source for our gospel and see our communities changed for Jesus Christ.

Who Are We?

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“How will they call on Jesus, the one they have not believed. How will they believe in him when they have not heard? How will they hear without someone to tells them? Who will go tell unless they are sent?” Romans 10:14-15a Paraphrase

I had the opportunity to be trained and to be a part of an evangelistic team this past Saturday. It was an interesting experience, one that I will not forget.

The day began with worship and prayer. Then we went through training for street evangelism, something I have never done before. After, we split up into groups and went to different areas of the city to pray for people and speak about the kingdom of God.

I was partnered with a within a group of three: two people who have done street evangelism before, and me, a novice observer. We went to a local “big box” retail store to do our evangelism. As you can imagine, doing a “cold” approach to someone at the store to pray and speak to them about Jesus is way out of most people’s comfort zone. I was moving into unknown territory.

We had a few hits and misses as we moved through the store. Our time was running out so we went for one more approached. In came a woman on a motorized cart.

We approached and asked if she would like to pray for her. She gladly said yes and took our hands! I could tell this woman knew God and believed in the power of prayer. What she asked us to pray for was her pain. She has fibromyalgia, a disease that causes pain all over the body. So we prayed.

Now, I don’t know how you feel about healing, whether healing is for today or not, nonetheless, we ALL still pray for God to move in our lives.

So we prayed.

And her pain went away.

She stood up out of her cart and walked around it pain-free, walking like she has not walked in weeks. Tears came to her eyes as she walked around astonished.

Then, she asked a question I won’t forget, “Who are you guys? Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

The question made me chuckle. But in hindsight the question saddens me.

You see, this woman had prayed for Jesus to take her pain away earlier that day. She did not plan to come into the store that day but decided on a whim to come in. Then out of all the people walking into the store we approach her to offer prayer. This woman believed in prayer. Believed Jesus could heal her.

But, she thought we were Jehovah’s Witness.

Why?

Because, as a Christian, she knew this is not what Christians normally do. Christians don’t go out of their churches to pray for people, to speak to people about Jesus. WE don’t do that. WE let the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons do all the one-on-one, public evangelism.

I believe this needs to change. When we read the book of Acts we see that everywhere the Church went it turned the city upside down. In some cities there were riots!

But now, we are content to live our churchy lives, comfortable, not “rocking the boat,” and allow other pseudo-Christian sects to do the work that Jesus Christ has called his Church to do.

Who will go tell unless they are sent? I tell you, we have been sent my friends.