Charisma

Since the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost about 2000 years ago, we have as believers been given gifts and authority (among other things) through God’s choice to abide in us.  The following is a recent reflection I have had regarding such authority and gifting, based largely on my observations as I continue to be blessed by fellowship with charismatic brothers and sisters. It should be noted that I use the term ‘charismatic’ in perhaps its most general theological sense–simply those who affirm that the ‘miraculous’ gifts laid out in the New Testament are still for believers today (though, naturally, not every gift for every believer). I gladly identify with this sense of being charismatic (though never to the exclusion of our cessationist brothers and sisters).

Our emotions need not be ‘caught up’ with our service, obedience, and action—even speaking healing over someone, praying against Satan, or being confident in God’s deliverance. So often they go together, hand in hand–the fruit of our being undivided selves–but must they be so? I would say no. Moreover, I would say that, often, our emotions can be a means for us to (attempt to) manipulate the spiritual realities that we would seek to influence—even in Jesus’ name. They become a way that we feel, momentarily, control over the scenario by our emotional connection.

When words are not fulfilled, or people not healed, dissonance is created. We perhaps rush too quickly ahead of the dissonance, instead of learning what it would teach us. Were the emotions very different from the time when the word was fulfilled? the person healed? the prayer answered? Probably not. Yet fulfillment did not come. What do we make of that, if not that it never depended on our emotions, and that our faith and confidence run much deeper than them; our faith and confidence in Jesus perhaps find their rightful place even leading our emotions.

Appeals to the creator can be made out of depths of despair, emptiness, fullness, love…all these situations. Yet our authority depends on He who hears, not we who muster and feel. Rather we are filled. Thus even without supplication, saying with Peter, “In Jesus’ name, stand!” we remember our filling, not our feeling, often in tandem, but not mutually dependant.

If this is accepted, the implications of the principle are far reaching, affecting how we view our involvement in God’s kingdom. I think we become much wiser in how we assess and engage others, as well as being ourselves enriched toward deeper dependence and trust in God, and a fuller understanding of His omnipotence, and omnipresence, as a separate person—a self—who has chosen to set up his sanctuary in us, ourselves selves with our own range of independence and feeling.  We recognize the dissonance between our selves and God’s patient self, but not toward despair at the gap we might see.  Rather, in hope, as we remember our daily renewal unto God, and his deep faithfulness despite our wavering selves.

Praise God, who fills us with every good thing from above through Jesus, as the apostles have taught us.

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A Dead Man, an Outcast, a Reckless Gamble, and the End of All Things

The decision follow (and keep following) Jesus is a frightening gamble when you consider many of the comforts and securities right in front of your eyes.  They flaunt themselves daily, and the comparative success in life of their patrons is, generally speaking, undeniable. Being so tantalizing it is, in reality, almost impossible not to follow suit. Money, a ‘good’ community, a high paying job, ‘better’ schools—we almost feel entitled to them after experiencing it for a few generations.  Living in a society that is on a whole saturated with such things, it’s difficult not to pursue them.

A dissenting voice cries out amidst our vanity fair, “You have died.”  Died?  Who?  The Jesus-followers to whom Paul writes. Moreover, “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Those same followers—Christians in Asia Minor.  In Paul’s letters, it is obvious that the one who chooses to obey the gospel—to follow Christ—is attached to him.  So Paul can tell them, “You were buried with him.”  Dead. But also, “you were raised up with him through faith.”  Life.

“You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

If it’s true, then it’s everything.  Everything of substance, everything of hope—everything we cling to.  If it’s not true, it must be brushed aside so that we may cling to our brief existence and the varied delicacies it offers.

Why would someone forego the conveniences noted above, or even more, undergo various losses, mistreatments, or suffer the life of an outsider, for the sake of following Christ?  “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  As much as one can depend on the One who guards that life, he or she can rest at ease.  Who is able to threaten the power God himself commands?  Hidden with Christ. Again, if it’s true, then it’s everything that is hope—what we cling to.  Peter addresses believers this way, “sojourners of the Diaspora…chosen by God.” Without homeland and socially rejected, but choice in God’s eyes.

Present injustice and loss can be endured when ultimate justice is certain.

The alternative is much wavering in identity, or even becoming an empty shell, robbed of dignity, and without hope.  But if one could hope in God—that God would vindicate his people—injustice and loss can be endured.  This is the faith of the psalmists, and even Jesus, who himself hoped in God for vindication.

The same is true of the voluntary relinquishing of present comforts for the sake of obedience.  If my life is hidden with Christ…if it’s actually true, then I look only to my eternal inheritance, which as Jesus and all the NT writers affirm, comes with eternal glory—eternal ‘weightiness.’  I need not join a rat race for comfort or security if I already own these things.  I also need not fear leaving them behind for the sake of Christ, his mission, and my obedience.  Paul says, “Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” If it’s real, then we inherit eternal glory, if not, ‘we of all men are to be most pitied,’ says the apostle.  Why?  We give up everything of value here for our short, often miserable lives.  Much, much more than a crutch is all this following Jesus business….it’s too hard to be just a crutch.  It’s living life as if the whole world really is a lie—a truly insane gamble, considering what presents right before our faces every single day.  If you left Jesus, would your life be much different?

On Reality and Revelation

We often ponder the end of all things as Jesus’ second “coming,” as if from a distant place.  The New Testament employs in addition to this some different, quite significant language for this event: “revealing.”  Christ will be “revealed” at the end of all things, as if He is already present and imminent—right in front of you.  Because of this Peter can say that in the end Christ will be “revealed” as one who is present, although unseen. The fine line that separates will be removed.  God will ‘appear’, suddenly.  And those whose lives are likewise ‘hidden’ in him—they will be vindicated, receiving the unfading inheritance promised by Jesus so long ago.

“So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.  The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”

What would you do if God were real today?  I mean, really real.

What would I do if God were real today—right in front of me?  That can be the dividing line between faith and unbelief.

The Difficulty of it All

I admit that this notion of “dying with Christ” is too often romanticized in my experience.  By the romantic sentiments, the weight of the metaphor cancelled.  If this excites you, you may be missing the gravity of it.  Comprehend the reality that in Christ you die…dead…boom.  “You died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  Period.  You’re dead, so start living like it.  The weight of that…of not living life for anything in this world whatsoever because you died…is, well, terrifying.  Imagine living life for 60 or 80 long years, hoping only in one thing—vindication by God in the end, and inheriting an eternal possession. To genuinely live life in light of this inheritance all the while bearing loss, ostracism, or even persecution for it, and for as long and far ahead as you can see is…terrifying, because you do not receive the inheritance here and now.  As children of Abraham, we remember that he never received the land of promise, even after years and years of sojourning.  His life ended with a promise yet to be fulfilled. So I too must decide, do I sojourn as an outsider—joining the faith of Abraham—or attach myself to the world absorb as much as I can before I’m gone?

I know I must do it, but my confidence shrinks back at the thought.  I resolve to walk in it, but I admit, I struggle with it.  The whole thing is terrifying, and I pray that God help me deeply with all of it or I am sure to fall away.  The world is so tempting. If God did not keep me; if the Holy Spirit—God’s gift and surety to his followers in the meantime—did not sustain me, I would fall away.  It’s all too tantalizing and tempting…all that the world has to offer. Day after day, those who do not follow God prosper—it’s undeniably before my eyes every day.  An insane gamble.

“Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.””

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”

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Wisdom and Rashness…

Let me be honest, Most High—You who rule the kingdoms of men.  It seems to me that even among my brothers—Your holy, chosen people—there is much lacking in the area of wisdom.  People speak too quickly, even about their brothers, act rashly, presume to lead people without due thought being given to how or why they lead them the way they do.  I am caught in tension, because I wait.  I wait for Your divine wisdom—Your gift of governing, insight, perception, understanding—to be given to me that I might lead with proper consideration, due thought, and careful conviction.

Yet I see them being successful…some of them.  And I wonder, Ruler of Men.  I am curious, Wisdom of Heaven—why would they who do not (it seems to me!) consider adequately what it is in fact that they are doing, prosper?  Is it that they will soon fall—not without your blessing having been administered; not without your will having been accomplished in the lives of those they lead, to be sure, for I speak of Your church—until another generation rises to make similar mistakes?  If this is true, then I need only wait and see, perhaps if I live long enough, to observe their folly (intently watching…not self-righteously or with bitterness).  Or is it that you work through such imperfection…even rashness in such a way that I will surely not surpass it?

But will they last?  Will their ‘kingdoms’ last?  They preach Your Kingom, and you rule all men…Christian and non-Christian.  So I appeal to you for an answer—insight into the goings of mankind.  That I might present to You a heart of wisdom, to be used for your glory.  This I know: for any kingdom to be established, it must have Your hand behind it.  For any organization to have longevity—to reach into generations beyond the one of its inception—it must be backed by Your breath.

This I confess:  We are extremely short sighted.  We depend, deeply, on your divine wisdom—Your perspective.  May we not, O Father, be enticed by rashness—quick progress.  But I, Judge of all, do not in any way wish to be a perpetual cynic—steeping in my own false wisdom. Take your sword, Warrior, God, Father, Judge; take your sword and carve my soul.  This is gruesome. Cut me, God, that I praise you. That I bring to you a heart of wisdom—not pseudo-wisdom, which is a cleverest snare of Folly!  Bring me to you, O God, that I might breathe you…to all the nations…and to my neighborhood.  That I might administer those things You breathed with wisdom, being established by your hand, with effects reaching long into the future…long after I have died. I will die, and 70 years is nothing next to You…even next to what we know of you—the past up to this point.  There are endless generations of people coming and going until the end you appointed, which only You know.  Only You know.

But there is also this generation…and they will be judged after death.  This is the tension.  Help me navigate it correctly, that I might present to you a heart of wisdom, conditioned by you, and thus to Your praise and glory…at the end of the age, when we all gather round You, and exclaim Your everlasting weightiness, wisdom, and faithful love. I look forward to that day, and would wish to be an instrument of rescue for some from here and now, that they would be there too—they and the generations after.

 

—I think I understand, at least partially the objections to a longing for ‘long’ establishment, and patient waiting for divine wisdom (e.g., your crack addict neighbor just OD’d last night, don’t wait to do Kingdom work…to ‘lead’).  But I challenge you: can anyone argue convincingly that the problem of the church today is long-sightedness? Too much thought?  We have, in my opinion, a deep propensity to act rashly…both Christian, and non-Chrisitan (i.e. all humanity…).  But I think there is a perspective on life—a zooming out…accompanied by a certain understanding—that is the salve to such rashness—running around like chickens with our heads cut off.  I am concerned mostly with leadership; not daily Christian living and obedience.  Leaders are leading people somewhere…even whole groups of people…even long into the future generations. This is a weighty thing.

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At the death of my grandfather

God of the living, not the dead.

Trees, woods, deer, flowers.

Death followed by life…continual renewal—Spring.

At the death of my grandfather I remember the renewal—

his forested backyard brimming with life

 

But I feel our tension.

Most of your church lay dead in the ground.

When will we raise again to life imperishable?

We wait in much faith, and hope (as we must)

            For You to make good on Your promise.

 

           I wait in the name of the risen Christ.

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Preambles…

Creating a blog means that I have the audacity to think that some of my ponderings are valuable enough to be published and read by people at large (admittedly, it will likely be mostly my closer friends and family who take the time to read it, half of whom do so from felt obligation).  By way of some preliminary remarks, I will have to beg your deepest forgiveness for errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar inasmuch as they might distract you from what I’m trying to say or (even worse!) subtract from my credibility.

In the end, I have two main goals that drive this newly created blog:  perhaps you will be encouraged along your journey by some of the things I post. If so, I am sincerely grateful.  Being a person who thrives off of words of affirmation, you may always feel free to let me know if something to that effect has happened.  Secondly, I publish for interaction and feedback.  Many things that I will say here I am not entirely sure of, and could make for a beneficial discussion for all parties involved, an example of which being my forthcoming post on wisdom.  I hope to get feedback, and spark discussion so that my thinking might be sharpened or challenged by yours.  I would only ask for a similar ‘learning’ attitude to be assumed in replying, unless there is something urgent…like my imminent apostasy.  In the end, I am trying whenever possible to not assume what I would call a purely ‘blogger’ stance—detached, self-absorbed (though I find this to be inevitable in an exercise like this).  Rather, I am trying to be vulnerable, lest this end up an arena of shows of intellectual power. Thoughtful humility seems better.

Thanks for stopping by and reading.

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