Speaking with boldness into this culture

“We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.”
Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” (Gen. 40:8)

We don’t like dreams very much. We chalk it up to what we ate last night.

But this culture is shifting. There is a realization that we can’t explain everything with scientific reason. There are movements beyond our control. So, people may dream some dreams and be interested in what it may mean.

Are we willing to be open to the Spirit of God to aid us in those moments? Can we trust the Spirit like Joseph trusted God?

This is a day we can speak boldly into our culture. Are we ready?

Loving truth AND loving others

1 Cor. 13:6 — Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (NIV)

The careful walk we must take in the Spirit is to understand we want to communicate with kindness, but we cannot work so hard on being kind that we neglect truth. Then, there is the other side that gives little regard for kindness because TRUTH is to vital to them.

If we work so hard to be kind but neglect truth, we imperil others who are obviously ignoring something that bring LIFE. But truth delivered without compassion or kindness is likely to fall on deaf ears.

What brings that balance is the powerful love of God. It is sincere love that causes us to wake up to truth and then long for Kingdom rightness to be brought into the lives of others. It is a heart with feeling compassion that draws us to others and with every possible means we want to bring TRUTH into other lives. The heart truly set free by Christ longs for truth in others and does its best to communicate with kindness.

But the truth spoken in love doesn’t always meet with “positive” results. The thing to remember then is that the results are not up to us. We don’t get to dictate the response at the altar call. We WANT to manipulate that response, but a heart set free by Christ will not let that happen.

Speak truth in love. Rejoice in truth. Rejoice in loving others. Do not manipulate others for response. Bring Kingdom rightness and let the Spirit bring the results.

 

Walking in the Spirit

Some of the lessons I am learning from 1 Corinthians 12:

1. Spiritual gifts and the moving of the Spirit should be an expectation in the life of the Church. 

It doesn’t have to be in some huge scene. It doesn’t need to be “spectacular” or “epic” or distracting or annoying. Life in the Spirit should be something normal. At times it may be spectacular and we should be blown away. A healing can be spectacular. It should blow us away.

Over the past 6-7 weeks we have held up our missionary friend Steve in prayer. He has gone from a coma to a road of full recovery. He was riding his bike last week and preached his first sermon last Sunday. THAT is spectacular.

Life in the Spirit isn’t all about the physical manifestations that get attention. It is the quiet words of knowledge someone may get in helping someone else. It is a word of wisdom spoken in due season. It is an act of service.

We should expect the Spirit to use us in a variety of ways as we walk with him. There are gifts more suited to our passions and personality, but the Spirit may need someone who is introverted to step up and bring healing to another person on a particular moment. That is completely possible if we can simply be open to what the Spirit wants to do.

2. Spiritual arrogance today may come in two forms. 

The first form is the Corinthian form. It’s the idea that some gifts are more “mature” or “special” and if you have those you are superior to others.

The second form is a false humility. That is more common today. It is a sense of saying something like, “I’m so unique I just don’t ‘fit’ in normal ‘Church’.”

The first form still exists. We like the spectacular gifts and if someone lays hands on someone else and they are healed, we’re ready to rent out the local arena and start a healing crusade. We push the spectacular too far. We add spiritual maturity to someone who has been used in healing… and that just does not correlate in the Kingdom of God.

The second form exists because there are so many social anxieties and we think something we observe as “normal” is not like us, so we must be “abnormal.” At first, it’s uncomfortable. Then, as society urges us, we push our uniqueness out there and brag on it. Then, we want others praising us in our uniqueness and then we want to demand we retain our uniqueness.

Let’s get this straight right away: Church is not normal. The Kingdom of God is not normal. 

We have “normalcy” in some churches because as humans we just want to find a way to get along with each other for a time period and too many people flashing their uniqueness all at once is simply chaos.

But compared to any culture, and especially this culture, the Kingdom of God is simply not normal. And, quite frankly, it will be treated as a very risky abnormality in this culture over time. So, if you want to be “unique” you do indeed belong in the Kingdom of God.

It’s when we use our uniqueness as an excuse not to fit in with the Body that we run the risk of spiritual pride. Paul gives the illustration in the last half of 1 Corinthians 12 to highlight this point. When we say, “I’m just too unique for the Church” we are really, honestly saying, “I don’t need the rest of the Body. I’m happy being the pinky toe and the pinky toe will just go wee, wee, wee all the way home.”

We’re all unique. Some wear it inside. Some wear it outside. But it takes maturity in the Body to realize we all fit together in some way. Paul calls for maturity, and that has nothing to do with the spiritual gift residing in each one of us. We simply need to learn to grow together.

This is the importance of 1 Corinthians 13. We have to learn to set aside our particular pride issues and learn to LOVE one another. And that means not waiting for someone else to love you first. It means YOU step out and decide to bring Kingdom rightness into someone else’s life.

The power of the Spirit is ready to be poured out on the Church. We need to recognize the availability of the Spirit in our lives today. We need to lay down our spiritual pride and join up with what Christ is doing today. This world so desperately needs it.

 

Being bold in prophetic words

As I prepare teaching on 1 Cor. 12-14 in our series on the Holy Spirit, there is something that is on my mind and may sound quite rude. I am not trying to disrespect people, and especially the Holy Spirit, but this question just comes to my mind as I think of services where there have been messages in tongues and interpretation. (And I speak from PAST experience, not current.)

As a message in tongues would be given and the interpretation would come, I would sometimes be left with this question: “Is that all the Spirit is saying? We stopped the service for that?”

It’s carnal, I know.

It’s a question that needs to be addressed because we can indeed fall into the Corinthian problem of just “showing off” our spirituality. The problem with just showing off our spirituality is that when it’s just us it WILL come across as quite shallow. The Spirit has far more to say to a church, and THE Church, than small platitudes that could be heard at any time in any service. Sometimes there are BOLD words to be spoken and the Spirit is ready to deliver… but we may not ready to receive.

Just a thought.

 

Creating a healthy laboratory for the Spirit and spiritual gifts

What is the outcome of this, brothers and sisters? When you meet together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All these things must be done to build up the church. (1 Cor. 14:26, CEB)

We all have fears. Even as Pentecostals, we all have fears when it comes to church services.

One of the great Pentecostal scholars of the early 20th Century, Donald Gee, said, “Any service where you know what is going to happen next is dead.” 

There was a time when Pentecostals feared order. It was a badge of honor to be as unprepared as possible so the Spirit could “move” on you.

A lot of whacky things got blamed on “the anointing.”

Today, I fear we have too much order. It’s not about a lack of preparation. It’s a fear of losing control.

When we were planting a church in Kansas, we had a time at the end of an evening service where we opened it up for testimony. We had new people, because we were a new church. A man raised his hand and asked if he could give a testimony. I said he could, but then he got up and marched right to the pulpit. I was young and inexperienced, so I just let him. I got experienced in that moment.

He launched into one of the wildest testimonies I know I’ve ever heard. He had been to the sun and found it wasn’t all that hot. It was because “all things are possible in God.” On and on it went. Like that. It never got better.

There are things pastors just worry about in a service.

But too much control is also unhealthy. It’s not about “order” or being prepared. The more prepared we are as pastors, the more opportunity we could have for spontaneity of the Spirit and know what is really the Spirit.

The church service really could be a laboratory for the Spirit and spiritual gifts. It’s not a time for just anyone to grab a mic and give a “moonbeam” testimony, or start singing like they’re auditioning for American Idol. It IS a matter of saying that when we come together to worship, we should come together. We SHOULD come expecting the Spirit to use any one of us. Not ALL of us at exactly the same time, but live with the possibility that the Spirit could use us in any number of ways.

The key is at the end of the verse: BUILD UP the Body of Christ.

Too often it’s about how great WE are and isn’t God lucky to have us on the team.

What builds up THE BODY.

With the celebrity culture we’ve built in the nation and in the American church, this is a horrifying proposition. Yet, we need to lead with better instruction, be bold in making sure people understand what SHOULD happen, and bold to stop people when it’s NOT the Spirit.

Sounds like hard work. It is.

And too often we’re just too lazy to stretch into this dimension.

When you come to church, ask what the Spirit may want to do through you. Not just in front of the congregation, but as you greet others. As you pray for others. As you talk in the parking lot.

What does God have through you, not just for you, today?

 

Luke and the Holistic Gospel

One of the strings of conversation I ran into on a Facebook group site that consists of members of my denomination was the thought that Luke’s portrayal of the Spirit was something more than just simply “spiritual.” It was more than signs and wonders. It was also about the whole person.

This, of course, raised the ire of a few who only view the activity of the Holy Spirit in light of our doctrine of “initial physical evidence” and maintaining that the gospel is just about the soul. It’s about saving souls. It’s about what is ahead. Here… well… we pray for healing.

It’s not an honest reading of Luke. Now, to deny the manifestations of the Spirit in Luke and the Early Church is also bad exegesis. Yet, we need to understand we don’t need to “pick sides.” Too often, that is all we can do.

Luke’s Gospel demonstrates the activity of the Spirit from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He is driven to the wilderness by the Spirit. He is sustained there and comes back in the power of the Spirit.

His first recorded teaching is almost a full contact event. He is challenged in the synagogue and his response is to tell the story of God blessing… get ready for this… Gentiles.

Even when Jesus is casting out demons, it is demonstrating his care for the whole person. He longs for captives to be set free. He doesn’t want them bound by that kind of oppression. He is thinking of the whole person.

The early Church, full of the Spirit, made sure they took care of their own, even if it meant selling property to help out.

The gospel is for the whole person. And that is ministry that is Trinitarian… and Pentecostal.

Walking in Kingdom Power is About Using What You Have

I am walking my way through the Old Testament narrative right now and currently find myself in the story of David and Goliath. I love these stories!

When David volunteered to take on Goliath, Saul tried to lend David his armor. They were not fit for David. They had been fit for Saul. David simply said, “I cannot go in these.” He used what he had: his sling.

What do you have? Too often I obsess about what I don’t have. (“Well, if I had THIS our church would do that…”, or some other such dreaming.)

It’s not about what you don’t have. It’s about what you HAVE. What is in your hand? What have you been trained in to this point? Offer it up. It was absolutely absurd to think of going into battle with a sling. But it would have been insane for David to go into battle with untested equipment.

What you have in your life is from God. Use it. Become familiar with it. Then, watch what he can do with it when battles come. Being used in the Kingdom isn’t about what you don’t have. It’s about what you have in your hand, and you offer it up for use in the Kingdom.