Thursday, May 17, 2018

What Are We Missing

We are coming up on the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Christians church. It was the day when the Holy Spirit came upon a group of believers huddled together in an upper room in Jerusalem and transformed them into a powerful team that transformed the world. Wouldn't it be great for that kind of experience to occur today?

It had been fifty days since Jesus' resurrection and ten days since they watched Him ascend into heaven. For forty days Jesus had taught His followers and commissioned them to continue His ministry. On the day He ascended, Jesus told them to wait in the city for the "promise of the Father," the Holy Spirit, who would empower them to accomplish Christ's will for them. 

One Hundred Twenty believers waited for ten more days.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4 (NKJV) 

We can only imagine what that might have looked like. Several years ago I wondered why we do not see that kind of phenomena in our world today and why we have not had that great an outflowing of the Holy Spirit. Yes, there have been many revivals; John Wesley led a revival in England that led to the end of slavery, The Great Awakenings in the early days of the US (1760 and 1806); The Welsh revival that transformed an entire nation, Azusa Street, the Charismatic renewal, and several more. Even today there are pockets of revival still going on. But none like Pentecost.

While reading the biblical account of the birth of the Church, I began to wonder why we do not see this happening today. I do not believe that Pentecost was a single event that started the ball rolling and then petered out. 

There were five elements which all came together at Pentecost.
  1. They had all heard Jesus tell them to wait in Jerusalem for power.
  2. They obeyed His direction and waited for ten days.
  3. For ten days they prayed.
  4. They were all in one accord.
  5. They even took care of business while they waited. They decided upon a replacement for Judas Iscariot. 
Could we recreate these elements and see what God might do? After sharing my idea with my wife, Rita, we began to plan how this might work. Could we even find a small group of people willing to hang out together to wait on the Lord, for ten days -or more? If the one-hour church service runs a little longer we have rebellion.

A couple of weeks later while we were teaching a class on hearing God, I made a short comment about my crazy idea of spending ten days locked up in a room without any teaching or preaching - just prayer, worship, and waiting on God. Unbeknownst to us, some student in the class circulated a sign-up sheet for those who desired to join us in this crazy idea. 18 out of 22 signed up!

That was all the encouragement we needed. We began planning. First, we need a location. After contacting several retreat centers we began to realize that ten days would be cost prohibitive, so we dropped back to two and a half days to start -Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday.

We proposed our idea to the Aslan Ministries, Board of Directors who quickly approved the "Break Through" event.

The results were very promising and successful. It was a time of personal renewal but lacked the outreach to the extended community.

I still wonder what would have happened if we could get a group of people together to spend the full ten days in prayer and worship and come together in one accord.

If you want a personal Pentecost, spend ten days listening to God, obeying His call, praying and worshipping Him.

Let me know what you think.


Thursday, May 3, 2018

What is really Going On

It just seems to me that the world is going crazy.There is a geometric growth in anxiety, anger, and frustration. 

Theologians blame it on the approaching "End Times." 

Scientists blame it on entropy; (Newton's second law of thermodynamics) left to itself things are going to get worse.

The level of anxiety is higher now than at any time in my lifetime. There is a frustration in government, ethnic groups, political parties, and religious bodies. As this frustration rises, anger increases. As anger increases, actions become stronger and emotions explode. We see this happening almost everywhere - in our cities and towns and around the world. Frustration is rising in minority communities, in the younger generation, and in middle-class families.
Frustration is at the base of the explosion of violence throughout the world. It is the result of a reality that does not live up to expectations. The level of anger increases as our expectation keep falling short of reality. The level of frustration is the ratio of expectation divided by reality. When our circumstances fall short of our expectatins, frustration increases.
We sell our youth on the idea that if they graduate from college, they will get good paying jobs. They go to school and come back to live in their parents' basement playing video games. We tell interest groups that if they elect this leader, their life will improve. When it doesn't, frustration sets in.

We can solve the problem in two possible ways: lower expectation or improve reality. Lowering expectations has been attempted in several countries with socialism and communism. The state controls everything and owns everything. That evens the playing field for everybody except the ruling class. There is little incentive for workers to excel and the populace lives in mediocrity while the power of the state increases and often leads to tyranny. In all nations where this has been established, it did not lower expectations. We have witnessed lowering of expectations: in the education system as grades were eliminated; in our children’s sports activities where winning was de-valued. 

Lowering expectations will always lead to more frustration

Lowering expectations will always lead to more frustration because the human spirit seeks the frontiers of creativity -the highest reaches of consciousness and wisdom. Plato termed this “A fully functioning person", others have used the term, "healthy personality." Abraham Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs, calls this "a self-actualizing person."

The only viable solution is to change reality, but how?

Twentieth-century missiologist,  Donald MacGavren, created a term "Redemptive lift." He noted that missionaries in third-world nations noticed an increased standard of living where ever the Christian Gospel took root. 

On my first visit to India, I noticed an extreme contrast between prosperity and poverty. India is the worlds largest democracy with social programs galore, but many people are still locked into an illegal caste system with little hope no hope. There is no expectation of improving the reality of the lower classes. India is making strides to change by outlawing the caste system, but it still exists within certain religious sects.

We can change our reality, but it requires a change in our expectations. We must all expect to grow, increase and improve our lot in life, but this requires hope. The lower classes in India have lost hope.

Any traveler to Israel can witness the contrast between the Israeli controlled areas and the Palestinian controlled areas. Many of the Palestinian controlled are poverty stricken while the majority of the Jewish controlled areas are dynamic and financially stable. 

This is not a result of Israeli persecution of the Arabs. It is more a result of the God they worship. 

We often become like the God we worship. Have you noticed how married couples who deeply love each other become alike? If the god we worship is kind and loving, we tend to be kind and loving. If the god we worship is angry and vengeful, we will become angry and vengeful. If we worship a dung beetle (a scarab) we will become like the dung beetle.

We can change our reality and the reality of those around us. 

Find the right God to worship and allow Him to guide our lives, as a nation, as a tribe, people group, or as an individual human being. Social programs will continue to fail but "Redemptive Lift" is available for those who follow Jesus. 

The Christian Gospel continues to transform individuals and nations.

Feel free to make comments