Thoughts on Being Charismatic

How do you strike the balance between being a wild charismatic church and a dead one? I think there are a number of underlying tensions that must be explored. 1. Hunger. I firmly believe that we are supposed to "earnestly seek the Spiritual gifts, especially prophecy" The orientation of pursuit of a deeper supernatural encounter with God is critical. Yet, the difficulty is that this is a defining feature of the Charismatic thing we don't want to be. We need to be able to distinguish the healthy Read more [...]

Starting a Revolution

Part of what is on my heart is a shift in the current Church culture because of the changed lives that will result: A "Reformation" or a "Revolution" Starting a revolution requires several key components. 1. The right cultural moment. Every indication around us is that many many in the Church are very hungry and don't know where to turn. 2. A highly dedicated and persistent group of men. 3. A message. These men unite around a core set of principles. Specifically they agree about what needs Read more [...]

The ‘Come Follow Me’ Principle

Discipleship is a thorny and difficult to discuss issue in the Body of Christ. First of all there is argument about the actual meaning of the word "discipleship." Some people think of it as a state of personal total submission to God. You have "discipleship" when you are a sold out believer. This is generally what's meant by the book by Dietrich Bonhoffer "The Cost of Discipleship." Additionally people may think of it as a personal process of submission to God. On the other hand others Read more [...]

The Conversion Process

Since the advent of the Reformation the Church has recognized the importance of being converted, born again, etc. However our understanding of what this process is and means has gone through a long development process. In the early days of the Reformation, everyone in a locale went to church, so they were always preaching real conversion to those who attended. They expected this conversion to be a process, not a definite moment per se. In the 19th century Finney began to place an emphasis on a Read more [...]

God and Sentimentalism

I don't know about you, but sometimes I am really turned off by sentimentalism. You know, those remarks like, "Bless his little heart, isn't he just an ANGEL?!? Look at him. Isn't that the most PRECIOUS thing you have EVER seen in your LIFE?!?" Even as a mother of three tender boys under 4yrs old, I still can't always relate to the remarks, trinkets, and momentos that mothers store away painstakingly in fragile boxes or baby books to immortalize their infant's lives. It's not that I don't like memorabilia Read more [...]

Theology and Control

A friend, struggling with making a wise decision about a career move, told me recently, “The other day I prayed that I wish God had made me a robot so He could just tell me what to do and I could obey. Then I’d feel secure.” This made me reflect on the issue of control, and God’s dealings with it. Historically, control in the sense my friend was talking about has not been a good thing. I’m not sure which came first, the chicken or the egg, but it seems that God did not make us to be Read more [...]

Body, Soul (and Spirit?)

The words, body, soul, and spirit are commonly used in Christian language to express the totality of man -- his whole being. This has led some to believe that there are actually three faculties in existence. But closer analysis suggests that these words do not refer to three planes of existence (ontology) but rather three types of desires (morality): carnal, rational, and gospel. Put another way, we use the words body, soul, and spirit metaphorically, and by convention. If we were using them literally, Read more [...]

Because He Loved Not the Bretheren

One of the truly notable men of faith of the 20th century was Jack Coe. He moved in a realm of miraculous healings that his otherwise impressive peers of the 50's only wished they could. Sadly, he died at age 38 of an illness that he had seen many people healed of. Before his death a prophecy was given that he had to correct three areas of his life, or his ministry would be cut short. The first of these was that he "loved not the bretheren." Unquestionably he loved the lost, but his esteem for other Read more [...]

Unity

One of the themes of the Latter Rain was unity. The idea developed that if you could have everyone in one accord, you would go much deeper in the Spirit, and that discord was deadly to God's purposes. The analogy was made with the Tower of Babel--because they had perfect unity they could do anything. The Tower of Babel is not a particularly good place to find ideas that please God, but clearly Jesus did pray for his people to be in unity in John. So I do think there is something powerful when you Read more [...]

Thoughts on Revival Services

I interviewed an old-time Baptist evangelist once. He was 88 at the time, and this was 5 years ago. He was a really great guy, who basically planned to win souls right up until he died. Being that old he had lived through a number of eras in American church history, and one of the most helpful observations he gave was about the effect of Television on meetings. Before TV people were happy to come out night after night to do anything because if you were holding a special service in town, it would Read more [...]

Home/Cell Groups

One idea that his been floating around the church for about 30 years, but it still amorphous is the "home group" or "cell group." The two are not synonymous although they may the same thing in a particularly incarnation. A cell church is really a church of churches. This cell idea was popularized by Paul Yonggi Cho's Korean megachurch, and has been a part of other megachurches especially in the less economically developed areas. In addition there is the idea of the "home church" which is based on Read more [...]

A Survey of Church/Family Worldviews

We live in a era when the basic building block society -- the family -- is breaking down. This family disfunction is invading the church. Different segments of the church have recognized different aspects of the problem and are addressing it in different ways. Here is a brief survey of family approaches I'm familiar with: The Vision Forum/Conservative Calvinist Approach -- Some of the best Christian family resources available today are produced by a group called the Vision Forum. Doug Phillips Read more [...]

The Fire and The Altar

I've been doing a lot of study of the history of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement lately. As I look at the current state of the church I feel a real burden to do something about it, and I know God is calling us forward into that, but it hasn't taken shape yet. It's in the preparation stages. Part of that preparation for me has been examining what has happened in the past 100 years. How did we get here? Revival dynamics are often talked about in terms of wine skins. The Holy Spirit moving in Read more [...]

Calvinism, Conclusions and Confusion

I've said before that it is rare to meet a consistent Calvinist. Within Calvinist circles there is a divide between hyper-Calvinists and other moderate forms. Iain H. Murray, whose work and life mission I really appreciate, has a book called "Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism" in which Murray revitalizes Spurgeon's moderate positions. Charles Spurgeon himself used the hyper-Calvinist label as a way of separating his own evangelistic views from the non-evangelistic Calvinism he saw in extremists around Read more [...]

Exercising the Gift of Discernment

A lot has been said in the past 15 years about prophecy and the prophetic. There are numerous books and teachings on hearing the voice of God. These often focus on the Word of Knowledge, Word of Wisdom, and Prophecy, but little is ever said of the Gift of Discernment. I have repeatedly heard people over the years say "Where is our discernment?" however. Perhaps what this is indicating is that the Gift of Discernment is something that has not been restored to the church in the fullness that the others Read more [...]

Return of the Thunder

Rob Rufus recently prophesied that the church had been going through a dry spell with limited experiences of the presence of God. It was confirming to hear this coming from a voice from such a different location. For the past few years I have been feeling like "nothing is going on" in the church. This is not to say that nothing at all is happening, or that we have not been advancing the gospel around the world, but that there was no movement which was positively moving the character of the church Read more [...]

Paul Washer

A speaker at a Southern Baptist youth convention named Paul Washer has stirred up a bunch of controversy by giving a tough message at a youth convention. Here are some thoughts about that message: Positive Points Paul Washer's basic point that Salvation is accompanied by holiness and a real pursuit of God was correct, and a lot of people need to hear that message and can be born again because of it. He actually preached from the heart and with conviction,which unfortunately seems to be fairly Read more [...]

Apostolic Movements

The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a term used by Peter Wagner to describe current trends in church movements, particularly with regard to a "five-fold" ministry and church polity. These NAR movements are supposed to be led through relationships instead of structures, and generally follow the Ephesians 4:10 pattern. This concept first emerged as part of the Latter Rain movement. The Latter Rainers had the original revelation of the "five-fold" but this began to develop in unhealthy ways as the Read more [...]

Pastors and Narcissism

Most people forever live on the follower side of leadership. On the follower side, it's easy to criticize because you do not have the responsibilities or understand the special temptations which relate to it, much less have to face them. One of the special temptations or weaknesses associated with the pastoral role is what the world calls Narcissism. Although I probably will use the term a bit creatively, I think it's a good umbrella for a specific and real pastoral pitfall. I had a pastor once Read more [...]

Signs You Might Have Pride

On two separate occasions people have confronted me directly about having a "pride problem." The first was when I was still in High School by a youth leader who was concerned about me. She meant well, but I really had no capacity to understand what she was talking about or suggesting to me. Later, after college, a friend called me out on the same thing. By this time I was able to hear it, and although I don't remember the specific examples he used, I accepted his assessment and allowed that to start Read more [...]

Evangelical Ph.D Programs

There are many evangelical schools for training ministers, thereby offering the Master of Divinity degree, but comparatively few that offer the Doctor of Philoophy (Ph.D) or Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) Here is the list of accredited programs. I am not counting here Missions degrees or Leadership degrees. Of these, which are evangelical of some stripe? For purposes of this discussion, I'm focusing on Bible or Theology related Ph.Ds, not missions, etc.   Southern Baptist Schools Southeastern Read more [...]

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People (Reflections on the Theodicy)

This is the question which seems to plague a lot of people -- Why bad things happen to good people? It's a tricky question. Too often, it seems that the standard Christian answer comes back to some form of  "We don't know. They just do. Worship God anyway." Or worse yet, "All thing work together for good, so God has a good purpose in your bad thing." I do not find these answers very satisfying, do you? Before we set about answering the question why bad things happen to good people, we should Read more [...]

The God Who is Near

In 1998 I was in a Paul Cain meeting which radically reshaped my life. Why did it affect me so? Because the way he used his gift was so dramatically revelatory of the love and nearness of God. Suddenly, in one moment, you realize that any goodness or nearness you had previously understood of God grossly underestimates His true glory. For a lot of people, including me, it's actually more than our character is capable of handling. Although I did not want or intend to, I became too stuck on Cain himself, Read more [...]

The Role of Imagination/Fiction in Christian Living

With the advent of the Christian movie industry, especially "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" and "The Lord of the Rings," more and more Christians are getting into fiction and fantasy. This has some people worried. Tales with magic, imaginary creatures, and unreal environments often bring the temptation of fundamentalism close to many of our doors... "It isn't of God, don't get into it!" But is this necessarily the case? Let's momentarily put aside the fact that there are good reasons for Read more [...]

A Conservative Education

The past 20 years has seen a closing of the ranks among liberals in the American University setting. It's long been an open secret that colleges were liberal, and of course the liberals attributed this to the fact that smart people were liberal. Once you get an education, of course you go liberal. It's recently taking a more sinister turn. Ward Churchill is of course the most striking example. Here is someone who thinks that the victims of 9/11 were morally equivalent to the rulers of the Nazi party. Read more [...]

Movies a Christian Can Enjoy

As the film industry continues to produce movies with no morality, a pagan morality, or which are otherwise unenjoyable to the Christian who is pursuing God, it has become of more interest to me to find Movies which support a Christian worldview. This does not mean that life is sanitized, but that theme of the movie overall supportive or revelatory of ideals we should appreciate as Christians. Many of these are war movies, I guess partly because the struggle of good versus evil is one of the last Read more [...]

Politics and the Meaning of Life

We are locked in a struggle with evil that operates on the macro level as well as the micro. The very systems in which we live either encourage righteousness and salvation, or they militate against it. They either promote God and therefore human prosperity, or they undermine it. So the struggle for people's lives is manifest in governments, business, and every other kind of institution. The enemy is eager to crowd these fields with his people who will lead us to destruction as fast as they can get Read more [...]

Thoughts on the State of Worship Music

Thirty years ago, there was no such thing as "Christian Contermporary Music" (CCM), and it has only been in the past fifteen that "Worship" has really emerged as a music style. Musical options were limited to the traditional Southern and Black Gospel genres and then all kinds of worldly music. Why is this important to note? Music is so deeply connected to the spiritual realm that I would suggest that all music is spiritual. Whatever you listen to, you take in the spirit of that music. So even music Read more [...]

Reflections on Growing in Prayer

I just have a couple of thoughts on prayer. When I was younger I remember a friend saying that she was a Bible person and I was a prayer person.... My prayer life at that time was non-existent minus the few times when things got so bad that I would actually spend more than a few minutes asking for help. Now this was not because I did not believe in prayer, but because I really did not have any broader experience of prayer. Then I read a book by Jim Cymbala which posited prayer as the answer to most Read more [...]

Toronto and Brownsville

In 1994, God did something special at the Toronto Airport Vineyard. Likewise, in 1996, God showed up at the Brownsville Assembly of God. Although a lot of what you will find on the internet is purely against Toronto, and some are uncritical proponents, I think we should have a more measured approach. I believe that part of how we measure a revival is through retrospective review of it's impact. The real criticisms of these movements seem to center around the "manifestations" which occurred. These Read more [...]

The Five-Fold Ministry

The idea of a five-fold ministry has caused some consternation among not just evangelicals but also classic Pentecostals. I was talking to a brother recently from the Pentecostal Holiness denomination who was upset because their denomination seemed to be pushing everyone to be like "Apostle" Ron Carpenter, who has one of the largest churches in the denomination. Wayne Grudem, who is generally open to a Charismatic understanding of the Scripture, also does not give high marks to the idea of a modern Read more [...]

The Problem with Scholarship

So I recently found out that I need to review my Hebrew for an upcoming class. I got out my old Hebrew book and started to review. I quickly found myself lost in details as I tried to capture the big picture. I was swimming in exception cases on Dagesh Fortes before I knew it. Nevermind nouns and adjectives. This kind of approach is typical to scholarly literature. It's hard to see the forest for the trees. I remember in College, the hardest class I ever took was statistics. It got so bad that I Read more [...]

Bible Translations… Argh!

In the time of Martin Luther, the Bible could be found chained to the Pulpit inaccessible both because of it's language and it's location. It has been pointed out that this was also figuratively true -- that the Church held sole control over the Scripture and its interpretation and it was Luther who unchained it. He translated it into the language of the people, and he also taught them to live by it and from it. This was a very dangerous thing as far as Satan was concerned. He has fought long and Read more [...]

Thoughts on Charismatic Bible Interpretation

In the last post on this topic, I was touching on various approaches to the Bible. I'd like to hone in a bit more on the crux of what I'm grappling with. There exists today a tremendous gap between Charismatics and Evangelicals in their approach to Scripture. So I'm a hard core Charismatic with an evangelical background at an evangelical seminary. No wonder I'm living in tension. Why the tension? Well on the one hand the best of evangelical preaching and thought is very grounding. It's straightforward. Read more [...]

The State of Arminianism

Following on the previous discussion, the question arises as to, Who are today's Arminians and what are they doing? Fundamentalist Wesleyan Vic Reasoner publishes the Arminian Magazine and is the leader among a group of articulate individuals who understand theology and contend for Wesley's vision. In his book, The Hope of the Gospel: An Introduction to Wesleyan Eschatology, Vic Reasoner shows how Arminianism naturally leads to a victorious postmillennial approach to history. I would love to Read more [...]

The Resurgence of Calvinism

Calvinism is increasingly becoming identified with contemporary evangelicalism. Let's look at some of the evidences: Britain, after 200 years of Methodism, has emerged with an almost exclusively Calvinist evangelical community. The Southern Baptist church, the largest American evangelical denomination,was for more than one hundred years essentially Armianian but is having a resurgence of Calvinism. The Presbyterian Church of America, strongly Reformed in doctrine,  has become the de facto Read more [...]

20th Century US Revival Movements

1906 - Azusa Street -- Started the Pentecostal Movement.  Speads like wildfire around America and around the world for decades to come. 1950s - Healing Revival -- Brought Divine healing to America. 1950s - The Latter Rain -- Contemporary to the Healing Revival.  Eventually reshaped the vision of church. 1960s - The Charismatic Movement -- The Holy Spirit invades the traditional church. 1970s - The Jesus Movement -- Massive numbers of hippies get saved in Pentecostal revival as the hippie Read more [...]

Reading The Bible

Reading the Bible is not as simple as it sounds. I think the hardest thing is that we bring so much to it through our unknown pre-suppositions. Different parts of the Body of Christ use different hermeneutical systems. The way you read the Bible will underlie your entire Christian experience, also entire movements. Now that I've been under several systems, I've developed a real interest in starting from the best possible angle. Here are several approaches used today: Text and Background -- Read more [...]

Prophets That I Know About

The prophetic movement began in 1948 with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. A group of Pentecostal Bible students from the Sharon Orphanage and Schools began fasting after some of their leaders had driven to Vancouver to see William Branham in person. Branham's gift was so amazing that they began to seek God to see similar results. Several weeks into the fast, there was an powerful outpouring of personal prophecy, and several other things. These events became the Read more [...]

Post-Reformation Hermeneutics

In the last post, I talked about various contributions made to Christian epistemology through Church History. Upon the core of post-Reformation Epistemology is hermeneutics. The seminal feature of the Reformation was its emphasis on the importance of Scripture for determining the truth, and therefore the great determinant factor in such a context is the method of obtaining truth from the Scripture-Hermeneutics. What Martin Luther initiated in his protracted struggle with the Catholic hierarchy was Read more [...]

Christian Epistemology and Church History

One's epistemology, or method of ascertaining the truth, is the foundation stone of all understanding. Not only is our epistemology the foundation of our own personal understanding, it is the foundation of culture. Culture, in turn, is decisive force in human history. It is through culture that the Christ is either corporately resisted or corporately welcomed, and it is therefore culture to which God's hand of divine government ultimately responds. If history turns on our corporate method of obtaining Read more [...]

A Vision of Church

No Substitutes I believe the church in America is in a moment of transition and also in a moment of emerging hunger, and the current season of my life has caused me to share in this hunger. I have been exposed to radically different expressions of what church is supposed to be, and while each has elements which I cherish, none is really satisfying. A new paradigm must emerge which leverages the best of existing paradigms and perhaps other features which have not yet been introduced to the church. The Read more [...]