Thursday, October 27, 2011

It’s (Past) Time for a Charismatic Reformation

This came from Keith Hazell, and I thought it was worth posting.  I especially agree with his first point.

It’s (Past) Time for a Charismatic Reformation
by Keith Hazell

In honor of Reformation Day, here are some complaints I’m nailing on the Wittenberg door.
Long before there was an Occupy Wall Street, Martin Luther staged the most important protest in history. He was upset because Roman Catholic officials were promising people forgiveness or early escape from purgatory in exchange for money. So on October 31, 1517, Luther nailed a long list of complaints on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.
Luther’s famous 95 theses were translated from Latin into German and spread abroad. Like a medieval Jeremiah, Luther dared to ask questions that had never been asked, and challenged a pope who was supposedly infallible. Through this brave monk, the Holy Spirit sparked the Protestant Reformation and restored the doctrine of grace to a church that had become corrupt, religious, dysfunctional, political and spiritually dead.
I am no Luther, but I’ve grown increasingly aware that the so-called “Spirit-filled” church of today struggles with many of the same things the Catholic Church faced in the 1500s. We don’t have “indulgences”—we have telethons. We don’t have popes—we have super-apostles. We don’t support an untouchable priesthood—we throw our money at celebrity evangelists who own fleets of private jets.
In honor of Reformation Day, I’m offering my own list of needed reforms in our movement. And since I can’t hammer these on the Wittenberg door, I’ll post them online. Feel free to nail them everywhere.

1. Let’s reform our theology. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is God and He is holy. He is not an “it.” He is not a blob, a force, or an innate power. We must stop manipulating Him, commanding Him and throwing Him around.

2. Let’s return to the Bible. The Word of God is the foundation for the Christian experience. Any dramatic experience, no matter how spiritual it seems, must be tested by the Word and the Holy Spirit’s discernment. Visions, dreams, prophecies and encounters with angels must be in line with Scripture. If we don’t test them we could end up spreading deception.
3. It’s time for personal responsibility. We charismatic’s must stop blaming everything on demons. People are usually the problem.

4. Stop playing games. Spiritual warfare is a reality, but we are not going to win the world to Jesus just by shouting at demonic principalities. We must pray, preach and persevere to see ultimate victory.

5. Stop the foolishness. People who hit, slap or push others during prayer should be asked to sit down until they learn gentleness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

6. End all spiritual extortion now. Christian television ministries must cease and desist from all manipulative fundraising tactics. We must stop giving platforms to ministers who make outlandish claims of supernatural financial returns, especially when Scripture is twisted, deadlines are imposed and the poor are exploited.

7. No more Lone Rangers. Those who claim to be ministers of God—whether they are traveling evangelists, local pastors or heads of ministries—must be accountable to other leaders. Any who refuse to submit their lives to godly discipline should be corrected.

8. Expose the creeps. Churches should start doing background checks on traveling ministers. Preachers who have been hiding criminal records, lying about their past marriages, preying on women or refusing to pay child support should be exposed as charlatans and shunned if they do not repent.

9. Stop faking the anointing. God is God, and He does not need our “help” to manifest Himself. That means we don’t sprinkle glitter on ourselves to suggest God’s glory is with us, hide fake jewels on the floor to prove we are anointed or pull chicken feathers out of our sleeves to pretend angels are in the room. This is lying to the Holy Spirit.

10. Let’s return to purity. We’ve had enough scandals. The charismatic church must develop a system for the restoration of fallen ministers. Those who fall morally can be restored, but they must be willing to submit to a process of healing rather than rushing immediately back into the pulpit.

11. We need humility. Ministers who demand celebrity treatment, require lavish salaries, insist on titles or exhibit aloofness from others are guilty of spiritual pride.

12. No more big shots. Apostles are the bondslaves of Christ, and should be the most impeccable models of humility. True apostles do not wield top-down, hierarchical authority over the church. They serve the church from the bottom up as true servants.

13. Never promote gifts at the expense of character. Those who operate in prophecy, healing and miracles must also exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. And while we continue to encourage the gift of tongues, let’s make sure we don’t treat it like some kind of badge of superiority. The world needs to see our love, not our glossolalia.

14. Hold the prophets accountable. Those who refuse to take responsibility for inaccurate statements should not be given platforms. And “prophets” who live immoral lives don’t deserve a public voice.

15. Let’s make the main thing the main thing. The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s anointing is to empower us to reach others. We are at a crossroads today: Either we continue off-course, entertained by our charismatic sideshows, or we throw ourselves into evangelism, church planting, missions, discipleship, and compassionate ministry that helps the poor and fights"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Believing God

I have been thinking a lot about grace and faith.  As a young Christian I was taught that faith was a means to move God.  We were taught that there are principles of faith that God would not ignore. If we only believed, confessed and acted we could get what ever we had set our faith toward.  As I have walked with God I find that I don't believe that God is so easily manipulated.  Don't misunderstand me, faith sits central to our life in God.  I do believe that we are to confess God's Word and put into practice, but in a response to a relationship and revelation from God.  My view of 'faith principles' has been shaped by the message of grace.  Grace in the Greek carries the idea of God's influence on our hearts.  God speaks to us by His Spirit; we are designed to be a people of revelation.  Faith is the response to an encounter with God.  Consider Gideon, frightened, hiding in a wine press.  An angel appears and makes a declaration that Gideon is a mighty man of God.  It was that revelation that propels him into the destiny that God had for him.  To some Gideon’s ongoing conversation and request for confirmation was a lack of faith on Gideon’s part.  Yet it speaks to a remarkable act of grace and revelation.  It was in that encounter that dynamic faith is fostered and released.  As a Bible teacher it is easier to contextualize Gideon’s request as unbelief and to discourage people to look to an encounter with God, than to set them up to the possibility of God not responding to their request.  We some times dumb down the mystic nature of Christianity to avoid any need to wrestle with God.  Jacob wrestled with God and carried the reminder for the rest of his life.  We need more divine encounters. Another truth that has come as I consider grace is that life is more about God and less about us.  We were created for His pleasure, yet some how we can lose that perspective and shift to ‘my happiness, my dreams, and my fulfillment’.  In all the heroes of faith we see recorded in the book of Hebrews, it was more about how they responded to God and His purposes for their life.  Life is complex; God’s ways are far above our own, He moves according to His own sovereignty. We are called to a living and dynamic relationship with God let us seek him and avoid resorting to formulas to find our way. When we “hear” God, then let us believe, confess and act with confidence.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Forgiveness a Key to Freedom

Mark 11:20-26

And as they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. And being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which You cursed has withered."  And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him.  "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you. 25 "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."

Many times we look to this story for insight into faith yet Mark tells the story to lead into profound moral teaching.  The power of faith is linked to having a clean heart in regard to others. So profound was Jesus’ teaching upon His disciples that all would write of the same truth.  Peter like us was perplexed and troubled by the extremeness of Jesus’ remarks.  They required a generosity of spirit that seemed unreasonable.  If we forgive, we will be forgiven, if we don’t forgive, we will not be forgiven was more than Peter could fathom.  Peter asks for clarification and receives even a greater challenge.


Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"  Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.   Matt 18:21-35

Paul would later write  that we should model forgiveness  because of Christ and his work in us.  He would point out in Col 3:12 how we were chosen by the grace and mercy of God and we were to act like Christ.  James in his direct and (some would say harsh way) lays out the importance with no wiggle room whatsoever.  “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”  James 2:13

With all this emphases on the subject of forgiving it begs the question of what does it mean to forgive.  As a verb it means to stop blaming or to absolve from payment.  As an adjective it means inclined to show mercy.  It is a position of moral strength that lives above the circumstances of life.  All relationships has great possibility of offenses.  Yet there is a way to live above the fray.

We gain insight when we look at motivations for not forgiving.

  • Vengeance – We have a secret desire to punish or see people hurt.
  • Self-protection – We build a wall so that the offender no longer has access.
  • Manipulation- Victim status gives opportunity to rally support and pity.

All of these are corrupt and lead to the ensnaring world of bitterness.  Our life becomes consumed by the offence.  Unforgiveness is described as unwilling to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty, grim determination or harsh and severe.  In our desire for justice or vindication we can hinder the grace of God in our life.

The following is a list of some of the destruction unforgiveness causes.
·        It requires us to desire ill to befall another.
·        It requires us to determine another’s value.
·        It places our life under increased scrutiny.  Places us under judgment.
·        It affects all of our relationships.
·        The future is controlled by past hurts.
·        Bitterness is seeded and grows in our souls.
·        It demands loyalty of others to our point of view.
·        You can’t be in agreement with God’s purpose.
·        Holds us prisoner to circumstance we have no power to change.
·        Causes physical harm to our bodies.  

Do you see any of these attitudes in your thought life?  If so consider the advantages of forgiveness.

·       Sets us free from bitterness.
·        Allows us to identify with Christ and comprehend His love for us.
·        Sets us free from a vindictive spirit.
·       Health for our current relationships.
·       Freedom from past hurts.
·       Frees us to love unconditionally.

How do we identify an unforgiving spirit in ourselves?  First we examine our thought life.  Do we review an offence over and over again?  Do we have fantasies of vengeance?  Are we judgmental?  Second we evaluate our current relationships.  Do we hold people at a distance?  Do we tend to keep score?  Do we justify our actions towards others?  Do we harbor a grudge?  All of these are symptoms of unforgiveness.  Lastly we must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal problem areas of our heart.  If we recognize ourselves any of the above attitudes we must take responsibility and move toward real change.

How does one forgive those who have hurt us or offended us?  It starts with seeing the need and working to bring our hearts and mind in agreement with God.  Meditate on His love and faithfulness toward you.  Realize how much Christ has extended Himself to you.  Think of the result of your sins and the extravagance of grace given to you.  Grace can be described as God’s unmerited favor designed to draw His enemies to Himself.  He sought you even when it was your actions that led Him to the cross.  Seek to understand God’s involvement in your life.  Evaluate your life today in light of God’s faithfulness.  Recognize God looks at the larger picture and he is committed to your development.  Ask for the Holy Spirits help and repent of bitterness and resentment.  Think of simply canceling the debt that another owes to you.

Learning More

Mark 11:20-26
Matt 6:12-15
Matt 18:21-35
James 2:13
Col 3:12-14
Eph 4:30-32
Rom 8:28

Monday, March 28, 2011

Maintaining Momentum

I was talking with an amazing group of volunteers who serve the poor a while back. We had seen tremendous growth in the number of people we were serving. The preceding distribution day we had planned for 140 families and had 260 families show up for food assistance. Needless to say we were overrun with the need and our systems broke down creating some pressure for our team as well as our guests. Some of those we were serving were, shall we say a little less than patient as we struggled to serve the crowd. In the end every thing worked out fine. More food was brought from the warehouse so every one received a week’s supply of food and the meals we were serving somehow stretched to feed everyone.

Later we sat down to evaluate the month’s distribution and to celebrate the joy of being able to help so many people. Our conversation inevitably drifted to those few rude and less than greatful people. I was amazed to watch the joy and satisfaction of a job well done start to bleed from the room. Now these are some of the most giving, envisioned, caring people I have ever had the opportunity to work with and yet the negative was eating away at the overwhelming positive.

Life is like that, we have so much to celebrate and yet it is the negative that captures our thought life much of the time. We can see a bump in the road and that captures our attention and we lose sight of the big picture. I remember a story a friend shared that on a Christmas morning one of his children opened gift after gift with great joy and anticipation. Piles of wrappers and toys were mounting up and after while the moment was over and the family settled in to lazy family morning. A little while later Dad noticed his son looking a little forlorn. When he asked what was the matter the little boy lamented that he didn’t get the one toy he wanted. Surrounded by the generosity of family and friends, and abundance on every side that was meant to bless and encourage, this little boy could only see what wasn’t.

I must admit I can fall into that trap of losing sight of the victories of ministry life and only see the problems. I believe that I have learned some things that help keep me on track.

1. Evaluate the positive verses the negative.
2. Ask God for His perspective.
3. Celebrate! Take real joy in the victories we have.
4. Focus on the objective, don’t lose sight of the ball.
5. Be thankful.

Let me illustrate and go back to our meeting. We stopped and evaluated the percentage of those guests that had been difficult. Was it 20%, 15%, 10% that were difficult? We as a group narrowed it down to 5% that were a problem. All of a sudden a light went on, we served and helped 95 out of a 100 that needed help!! 95% of those who came went away blessed and encouraged! Everything changed as we saw things from God’s perspective, renewed energy as we got our eyes back on the ball. We could honestly say that we were making a difference. Joy in the mission returned.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Serving Others Leads to Life

My wife Margi and I have the privilege to lead Mission of Hope a ministry that serves the needy with food and hot meals. MOH is this last month distributed to over 1200 individuals emergency food boxes and served an additional 600 hot meals. (If you would like to know more about MOH check out What has struck me is how serving others has brought life to those who serve. It is so easy to be caught up on our cares and needs that it can cause us to lose focus about what is important in life. Jesus teaching his disciples stated that
"who ever would seek to save his own life will lose it but he who loses his live for Him they would find it again". Again and again I have seen folks be come energized in life by serving others. One volunteer wrote,

"It was so fulfilling to help people in need. I myself know what it feels like to need a little assistance in these tough economic times. I met a young woman who came directly from her job to the food bank because she had been laid off from her full time job and now only works part time at a job where she is not able to work at her full potential with no benefits and less pay. Her husband is also laid off and they have two children to support. I held her hand and told her that I also was out of work and I understood how difficult it was. I told her how good it felt to just be volunteering and how reaching out to others is really helping me to be lifted up as well. She began to cry and sincerely thanked me for what we were doing at Mission of Hope. I told her to thank God because He is the ultimate provider and even when times seem unbearable He is always there to give us the help we need. I told her not to feel ashamed for asking for help. It is important in these times to understand that people need each other for help, understanding and support. Mission of Hope is more than just a food bank it is God's people coming together to serve and love people in need without a judgmental attitude but a heart to serve and show God's love. I am so thankful to be a part of a work so meaningful and special."

What is so remarkable about this, is this volunteer had been out of work and was feeling somewhat defeated, yet as she served her confidence grew and now has found a very good job. She now has a new perspective on life and it is evident to everyone. I believed we are wired by God to serve others. The great command to love God is reflected in loving others as well. There is a strong sense of significance that comes from opening our heart to others. Another volunteer wrote,

Just thought you should know - today while I was at the church office a lady called in. She wondered when the next MOH distribution was in Silverton. She went on to say she'd just gotten home from the distribution today, was going through the food she received, and couldn't believe how much there was! She shared that her social security income was being reduced, and she's been unsure how to make ends meet. She was extremely grateful for the help that MoH provided, and said it was so great to see so many smiling, happy people willing to serve. She ended with the statement, "and I'm going to have to check out your church, it must be a fun place to be!" Sounds like we're really blessing some people here in Silverton!"

I love the excitement reflected in the note. There is a sense of mission and purpose that is reflected in the last line. We are meant to live life on the edge of our seats, spending our lives to the expand the kingdom of God. Yet it is so easy to be caught up with the cares of this world and to let the joy that comes from serving others get choked out of our lives. I would encorage anyone that is caught in a rut to jump in to serving in some way. Get involved with a food bank, an after school program, or some other service organization. Maybe your church has become in-turned, get a group to serve at a local mission, do something! It will energize your life. Have a Happy New year.