The Power of the Cross

I would agree with much of what Roger Olson says about evangelical churches and a serious lack of preaching on the cross. We have stripped the symbols of the cross out of our sanctuaries (or coffee shops or worship centers or whatever we’re calling them these days).

The ironic piece is that I am actually preaching a series on 1 Corinthians from the lectionary readings and the focal point is the cross of Christ. I have been especially helped by Daniel Kirk’s commentary on the text at workingpreacher.org.

And it’s even more ironic because as I have been preaching on the cross, we have experienced more of a move of the Spirit in our services. So, to those who may still claim Pentecostals don’t focus on the cross… I just want to say…. well, I’ll refrain. 😉

120 Days

Lent begins 4 weeks from today. As we walk through this time as a church, I want to unpack more of the meaning as we prepare our hearts for Resurrection Sunday. Lent is a 40 day walk. Pentecost Sunday will come 50 days after Resurrection Sunday. Fudging numbers, that’s about 120 days.

There is a stirring in my heart for something deep and lasting the Spirit wants to do in us as a church. I am being called to some sort of fast for Lent. I don’t know all the details, but in the next three weeks I will be asking the Lord for more direction. Lent begins and we will enter into a 40 day period of preparation. I want to encourage each one in our church to ask the Lord for some way in which to prepare for Resurrection Sunday. Would the Lord ask you to give up something for this period of Lent? Together, there is something stirring the Lord desires to bring in power to us on Resurrection Sunday.

Then, 50 days to Pentecost. In these 120 days the Lord is calling us as a body to something significant. For our church, I ask you seek the Lord and let’s be open to this journey. I am anxious. The anxiety is good! The Spirit is stirring. Let us hear what the Spirit wants to say to us.

 

Thoughts on Pentecostal Theology and Practice

I teach at a denominational school. I pastor in a Pentecostal denomination. My life has been immersed in Pentecostal practice all my life. So, I offer some thoughts with some trepidation. There is always the risk of being misunderstood by people you really need to have understand (like denominational officials who can pull your credentials or keep you from teaching). Nevertheless, here it goes.

I write this to young students and older Pentecostals.

Quit fixating on tongues. Both of you. I mean it. Just stop.

Let me start with the older guys. Learn some history. In my denomination, we just don’t know history, so we refuse to know what certain things mean. Please visit Azusa Street once again. Learn from William Seymour and how he viewed Pentecostal experience. What mattered most to him?

Please review the life of D.W. Kerr, the man who penned the doctrine on initial physical evidence.

And quit insisting on YOUR view of tongues when it comes to doctrinal issues. It’s causing young guys to have conniption fits. We need young guys, so quit making them nervous. You know what? They believe in the gifts of the Spirit. They actually are not opposed to the sign of tongues. Ask them. I have.

To you younger guys… quit blowing your brain gaskets. You’re young and you’re exercising your brains for the first time and you think you can out-think older guys. Therein lies your problem. You’re thinking a bit too much and you need to ease off the gas pedal just a tad.

First of all, tongues is truly a minor issue. You get it in your head that it’s something more. MAKE IT A MINOR ISSUE. Just ease up. You love Jesus. You long for the power of the Spirit. I get it. You also like arguing. You like picking apart things. All well and good… in its season. Learn to find the right season for the right issues. Learn to take the long view. Believe me, you’ll sleep better at night. You’ll have less stress.

Dear friends, it is about empowerment. That is the crux of the baptism of the Spirit. It is about the power to truly love God and love our neighbor. And your shouting at each other or stubbornness toward each other is not really showing the power of the Spirit.

In the past I have had people tell me what we need are more sermons on the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I disagree. We need more prayer. We’ve lost our way in prayer. When we become people of prayer again, and get hungry for God again, we’ll find the power of the Spirit again. Until then, we’ll just keep nitpicking. And young guys will stay away from credentials, and old guys will huff and puff and grouse about that “younger” generation.

Enough for now. I’m going to go find my credential card and an envelope just in case someone misunderstood…

Three Voices We Need to Hear Again

Through church history, especially since the Reformation, I am convinced we are only rehashing old problems. We are just doing it with greater speed. (Kind of like our fashion trends these days. Did the 80s styles have to come back SO fast?)

Three voices need to be heard once again, in my view.

1. Soren Kierkegaard.

While I can never pretend to understand all he wrote, and I would probably not agree with all he wrote, I do understand his statement in 1855. He remarked that Christianity no longer existed in Denmark.

We need that voice again. We need someone who will get in the face of every American Christian and say, “Your brand of Christianity is not Christian. It’s not Christ.” Liberal Christians are acting like Democrats and conservative Christians are acting like Republicans. It needs to stop. Seriously.

2. Karl Barth

Again, there is no way I could lay claim to understanding everything Karl Barth said or wrote. I certainly wouldn’t agree with all he wrote. Yet, he stood up in the face of liberal theology and chose to BELIEVE THE BIBLE once again. He actually studied the Scriptures. He took it as truth.

We need that again. I used to think that we needed it in liberal strains of Christianity. After attending Society for Pentecostal Studies, I am convinced we need this call all through the Church in America once again. We have people who teach and preach who really don’t believe the Bible is authoritative. We need a Karl Barth once again who will plunge into Scripture, choose to believe it first, and teach what the Word is saying.

3. William Seymour

The one-eyed African American preacher pushed past all kinds of prejudice in his day to seek the power of the Spirit. He lived in the power of the Spirit and walked in radical love. He allowed racists to preach in his pulpit. He chose to love those who called Azusa Street “the last vomit of Satan.”

We need Pentecostals to be Pentecostal. We need to quit arguing about tongues and start living in the power of the Spirit. We need to be bathed in the radical love of Christ and walk with humility. We are full of ourselves. Preachers preach to show off their skill. We reward churches for their numbers. People aren’t changed. They just come to hear the band. Let’s be honest.

Where are those three voices? I want to hear them again. We need them soon.

The Healing Presence of Jesus

The Church should be about the healing presence of Jesus. My wife told me about a dream she had, and then I was reminded of two incredible stories in Acts. In Acts 5 it was Peter walking down a street and people could be healed by Peter’s shadow touching them. In Acts 19 it was Paul working at his trade. People would take work items from him and bring them to the sick and demon possessed… and they were healed.

It wasn’t Peter. It wasn’t Paul. It was the healing presence of Jesus. That should be the Church. We are to be so saturated with the Spirit that at any time the presence of Jesus touches infirmities and healing can flow. All kinds of healing. Not just physical healing. The Church is to bring the healing balm to the nations. We are to be the place of peace. Come around the Church and you find wholeness and healing.

We need that healing presence of Jesus flowing from us!

The Systems Are in Place…

Over the past few months I have been preaching on the Holy Spirit. One of the key areas of Spirit-filled life I’ve examined is Acts 2:42. The Early Church had a “system” to catch what the Spirit was doing in their lives.

1. The apostles’ teaching

2. Fellowship

3. The breaking of bread (which I think emphasizes the Lord’s Table)

4. Prayers

These forms came out of their Jewish heritage. They were already in place and God had set it up for them. It’s a good lesson! There are basic things we need in our lives and too often we’re out looking for God to do a “new thing.”

What I wonder is this: There may be a need for a “new thing” in how these disciplines look in our lives. Maybe THAT is the “new thing.” So, how do I lead my church in a way where the power of the Spirit is touching us and we have these “systems” in place?

What forms do we take on that are useful for our day? For teaching, for fellowship, for the Table, for Prayers. What do we, as a church, create to make sure we are capturing in our lives what the Spirit is doing?

The Strange Things We Do “Under the Anointing”

Richard Foster gives several perils of the Charismatic tradition in his book, Streams of Living Water. Too often, the perils are far too numerous to even think about! Over the years I think I’ve heard just about everything. But then… Yes! There are always stranger things! Lee Grady has a column in Charisma (a magazine I religiously avoid, but found a link to it on another blog) where he details yet a few more Charismatic abuses.

My favorite paragraph was about angels among us:

During the Lakeland Revival last year in Florida, a man from Germany took the stage and claimed that an angel walked into a restaurant while he was eating a hamburger, took his intestines out and replaced them with a gold substance. Others have testified that angels took them to heaven and operated on them. And many are claiming that angels are dropping feathers, gold dust and precious gems on worshippers.

It is no wonder teachers like John MacArthur can write books like Charismatic Chaos. The examples are so numerous, you really could fill a book.

There is a need for discernment in our lives. It is first and foremost JESUS CHRIST: his life, death and resurrection. It is about HIS good news…for the world. I am just not sure how my golden intestines become good news for the world…

There is a true power of the Spirit! There ARE healings, miracles, and so much more that is legitimate! Let’s follow Jesus and avoid this “strange fire.”