Smoking, Cussing, and Talking about the Lord

Many of us had the experience of living through most of the Charismatic movement. At least, we caught the latter part. The movement began in “high church” circles such as the Anglican and Lutheran churches. It was pentecostal in nature, but got the moniker “Charismatic” which spoke of the gifts of the Spirit. The movement quickly spread to the Catholic Church and some of the early leaders were priests of Catholic or Anglican persuasions. It was an exciting time.

The problem came when people became dissatisfied with the regimen of worship that was rigid, formal, and lacked life. People began to meet in homes around the country. Many of these homes were large, fine, homes of mid to upper income folks. Churches opened their doors to these meetings in classrooms and libraries. Meetings were open ended with teaching, singing, prayer, deliverance, and anything that was God. People were seeking and hungry for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Out of this movement many of the churches we know were started. The movement has had many upstarts and failures, churches opening and closing. Many of the churches flourished and grew. Networks formed and streams of favorite teachings formed and groups around particular teachers formed. We have the remnants of all those flavors with us today. However, missing today is the fervor and desire for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Missing is the pursuit of the gifts of the Spirit. Missing is the anointing that comes with a move of God. Oh, we have remnants of the anointing. We have tried to create the anointing, but you cannot create the anointing, it comes from above as a sovereign expression.

While we could reminisce about the movement, it only becomes counterproductive. We have hoped that some of the short term events were a new move, but they only lasted momentarily. They were called revivals or blessings, but not a movement. As John said last Sunday, “not interested in revival, a regurgitated expression, but a new fresh move of God.”

Herein lies our dilemma: while desiring to see God move, we cannot define and demand a certain type of movement or expression because we will make it like what we have known and what we want. Having been a part of that movement, I was surprised and saddened at the time how few older people were a part of it. Oh, there were some who supported and imbibed of the new move of the Spirit, but oh so few. I was privileged to have a handful in our church which gave me some connection to the previous move of God known as the “Latter Reign Movement.” Those who had lived in it during the 40’s and early 50’s saw the Charismatic movement as God’s next move and joined. The new move was different. It had people that smoked. It had people who drank socially. It had people who wore fashionable clothes which seemed to some immodest. One young man at the time related how he came to the Lord. He said there was a group of guys who were sitting around smoking, cussing, and talking about the Lord when the Holy Spirit showed up and they were converted to Christ.  Not your typical conversion. All these various people were coming to Jesus and being filled with His Spirit. God’s definition was different than man’s definition.

We are seeing the same thing happening today. Our definitions are being challenged once again. Things are not neat and clean like we like them. Styles have changed, mores have changed, communication has changed. Are we going to be upset because somebody reads the Bible on their smartphone and do not carry a book bible? That would be really close to the Catholic church centuries ago fighting the people having a Bible in their own language. If it were up to those folks, we would all be reading Latin and still stuck in works for salvation.

Can we change? Do we know what to change to? It is easy to want change, but where are we going with it? Are we just going to be iconoclasts and tear down, but have nothing to put in its place? Do we really know what God is doing right now? Are we to copy what others are doing just because they seem to be successful? I do not think so.

We do know that God is moving, but not in the dynamic way that a movement produces, but it does not alleviate us of pursuing and following what he is doing now. It may not be the big parting of the Red Sea, but it is the moving of the cloud for guidance and path choices. The day to day following of the cloud was not as exciting as the parting of the waters, but it did take them to the Promised Land.

In the interim there is hard, grunt work. Change will require attitude adjustment, it will require opening ourselves to new ideas, it will require us accepting people that do not fit our idea of what church people should look like or do, and it will require prayer to discern where we are going. 

Do I want another movement? Yes, but remember, they are messy. You do not remember all the messiness because you have selectively remembered the good testimonies, salvations, and people being filled with the Spirit. You may not remember the wildfire, the false prophecies, the judgmental prophecies given, and the crazy teachings that flew around. You survived. Your selective memory may rejoice in the “good ‘ole days,” but they were not as good as remembered.

If anything, following the Lord is a journey requiring adaptability, flexibility, and lots of hope. We change, we have to. The survivors of the previous movement cannot be the cork to block the next move and the next generation. I want to be the Caleb or Joshua and join the movement that takes us to the Promised Land as it looks today. 

– Pastor Bill

Where Are We in History?

It is hard to see where you are in history or even how this generation will be judged. In Lincoln’s time he was vilified, hated, and treated poorly. Yet, with time, he is now considered one of the best presidents of the United States. He is credited with keeping the union together and upholding the Constitution. Hitler, on the other hand, was wildly popular in Germany and across Europe and even in the USA till he began to take nations and aggressively seek to conquer the world.

History has the advantage of looking back and seeing the results of actions and policies. Jesus was admired by thousands and hated equally. The masses were fickle in their affection; loving the healings and the food and hating the call to commitment and sacrifice. Healings and food were surface issues. The real was much deeper than that. History has judged Jesus to be the most effective person to ever walk the earth. He has received praise from all quarters as a great teacher or prophet. He has been seen as the one who has moved armies to fight, people to change, churches to be built, and governments to rule. He is looked at as a man of sorrow, a man of faith, and yet, he is far more than those things.

How is history going to judge us? Where are we in the time table of eternity? Are we living Matthew 24 where the signs of the end of this age are upon us? Or are we just experiencing another contraction of a birth yet to come? Are we going to see life go on into the 31st century, the 51st century, or are we coming to a conclusion?

One thing for sure, we are experiencing serious changes in how people respond to Jesus. In the face of a growing amoral society, discipleship will be a highly necessary part of our duty to the Lord. No longer can we assume everyone knows what is right or wrong. The world is preaching a message that breaks down moral conduct. There are those who are growing up without the restraint of moral teaching, manners, and social graces. The faithful have their hands full since the modern church has taken a position to accept the world’s definitions and make the church experience as non-convicting as possible.

How will we be judged I wonder? Our place in history will be judged. Jesus made it known that Capernaum would be judged more severely than Sodom and Gomorrah. He also indicated that the generation that rejected him while he walked the earth would be judged for all the prophets, martyrdoms, and persecutions. Some places in history are pivotal, paradigm shifting, and philosophically radical. For instance, the American Revolution and the French Revolution changed the way people think to this very day.

Are we being faithful to Jesus, have we considered where we are, have we seriously held our ways up to the pattern of Jesus? These are difficult to see while you are living it, but history will judge what is done in this time for sure.

– Pastor Bill

The Guidance of Prophetic Words

The Guidance of Prophetic Words

 

I have received a number of prophecies through the years. There are some unknown people who have a good spiritual gift that blesses other people from time to time. They are not published, they do not have webpages, twitter accounts, and facebook pages to promote their gift. Their notoriety is really just their faithfulness to hear and deliver a word of prophetic importance from time to time. Most of us are in this category. 

But it does not take away from the importance of those helpful, encouraging words, and words of guidance that come at the appropriate times. I have found that following the word of God is important, but it does not always bring peace and tranquility. Sometimes the word of God gives you the strength to stand, to fight, to not be moved. In times of difficulty, we often look for a word of deliverance, the one that says God is calling you to Hawaii. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had traveled to England during the rise of the Nazis. He was fighting at home in Germany for the church and its survival. He was deeply opposed to the Nazi plan for world domination. The brethren in England begged him to not go back to Germany knowing the danger to his life. However, even with the opportunity for safety, Bonhoeffer chose to return to Germany and fight for the orthodoxy of the church. And yes, it cost him his life being executed as an enemy of the Nazi state. Likewise Paul, the apostle, was warned prophetically by folks in the churches he visited on his way back to Jerusalem that imprisonment awaited him there. His answer, was that he was bound by the Holy Spirit to go and face what may.

Sometimes we are held, restrained, captivated by the prophetic words we have received. We have weighed them, tested them, and found them to be God’s true word. The Spirit bears witness to the veracity of the prophecy. We then begin to live accordingly.

I have been led by confirmed words many times. I have received some words that I had hoped would not come true, but they did. I have wondered about my situation many times and have sought the Lord regarding it. We all like to read success stories, fantastic testimonies, positive results, and rightfully so. However, we must trust God that as we obey the word we received that somehow in the long run, it will become a testimony of his victory. John the Baptist, in a very dark hour, asked his disciples to check with Jesus if he, Jesus, was the one or should he look for another. Yet, it was John who said that he should be baptized by Jesus. It was John who declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus responded that John should not be offended in him. The way things were going to work, were not the way John had imagined it. However, the ministry of Jesus did accomplish what it was intended to do from the beginning.

Prophecy has been extremely helpful and a blessing. The words delivered have sustained me many times in dark times. The words have encouraged, meaning, gave me courage to persevere. Thanks to all those faithful, unknown, unrecognized prophets that have obeyed God and delivered the mail.

– Pastor Bill

Jesus Loves Strange People

It is scary to read in the gospels how Jesus addressed the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes. These are the categories of the well educated, the theologically superior people, the aristocratic religious elite. These were viewed as those who understood the law, lived by the law, and were the instructors of the people.

When Jesus comes along, he begins to unravel the web of deception that had been perpetrated on the people. Throughout the gospels, we read of how they attempted to trap Jesus in some debate and then make an accusation against him. If you read the questions, they were tough ones. Probably they had impaled many on their sharp sword of reason and debate. However, Jesus was never trapped. His answers were astounding and the people reveled in his wisdom. Many a time the Pharisees walked away bewildered by his sagacity.

Ever so much more the trapping attempts escalated in the final weeks of his earthly ministry. What is the greatest command? Do you pay taxes to Caesar? By what authority do you do these things? On and on the attacks came. Finally, his answers foiled them and they gave up trying to trap him in debate and, instead, switched to plots of murdering him.

The big problem with Jesus is that he does not fit the religious mold, but he is the Son of God. He does not fit the pattern of holiness; yet is the Most High in the flesh. He associates with, he loves the rabble, the outcast, the down and out, the sinner, but that does not fit the shunning and abstention of fellowshipping with such types. The religious avoided such people for fear of being tainted; yet Jesus fellowshipped with them hoping to infect them with grace.

I think our fears are based in our weaknesses. We are afraid of the sinner, because we are concerned that we do not fall prey to sin. So, we avoid the sinner fearing of being polluted and fall. We might start doing their things to our destruction. Jesus had no fear of that. We also, because we have lived in such legalism, are afraid of what people will say. Even the sinner likes to accuse, saying we were in a bar, or a place of questionable reputation. More so will the rumor mill work in church circles if one is seen or reported to be fellowshipping with certain folks.

In the book, The Gospel Blimp, Joseph Bayley related the story of people who wanted to reach the lost. The bought a blimp and used it to drop leaflets about salvation on their community. There was the big fundraiser, the training for the crews, the flying of the Blimp, the gospel bombs prepared and on and on it went. The town became aggravated with the litter of gospel tracts clogging the roads, yards, and roofs. Finally, one couple became disenchanted and quit the Gospel Blimp Outreach. They decided to just talk to their neighbor and invite them for a cookout. The Gospel Blimp team thought they had backslidden, but, lo and behold, their neighbors began meaningful conversation through the friendship and eventually became people of faith too. You see, Go, Love, Serve works when we love our neighbor as ourself.

– Pastor Bill