Brothers and sisters, I first want to say that when I preach, I preach also to myself. I may point fingers yet these fingers are also pointed right back at me. I do not write these words to belittle anyone, but more importantly to encourage you in Christ so that his work may be accomplished through your love and kindness. As we all know the Middle East is war torn and in need of desperate help. We also are aware of the many terrorist which absolutely hate the West and what we stand for. We are saddened by the latest attacks in France yet we must forgive and love, we must not hold bitterness and hate. This is the power of Christianity and what draws people to Christ.
We are now as a country accepting thousands of refugees from war torn Syria. We must remember our commission given to us by the Lord himself. The majority of these people are undoubtedly Muslim and I understand people are fearful yet there is no need to be. Your life is not your own, it was bought with a price and you have been called to be an evangelist. The great commission is still in effect. Instead of having to travel to a war torn environment to share Jesus, we have the opportunity to reach the unsaved with the love and kindness of Christ to those coming to our own backyards. We do not need to fear their culture or convert their way of life, what we need to do is obey the Spirit of God to show love, even if they hate us. Remember while you were still a sinner Christ died for you. We have been extremely blessed in this country. We should look at our blessings as a way in which we can be an blessing to the world. Abraham was blessed as was Israel in order to bring forth the light to the nations (Jesus). So let us do likewise. Do not get me wrong, we are at war with Islam, yet not with the people who profess Islam. We do not need to fight with hate or weapons of war, but with prayer. If we believe the Bible and follow Christ we shouldn’t be concerned but grateful for the upcoming opportunities to serve.
I am saddened by so many on social media who are living in fear of the refugees. So many who claim to be Christian yet I cannot imagine Jesus acting in such a way. I remember the parable of the banquet (Luke 14:15-24) in which a man invited certain people to a great banquet. Yet Those in which the man invited did not come. Because of their refusal the master decided to invite all people, the poor, crippled and lame. Are we refusing to invite those to the banquet of the Lord because of our fears? Are we trying to hold onto our lives that have already been purchased by the blood of Christ? Do we really think we are superior because we are citizens of the United States? I can understand this way of thinking from unbelievers, but it is unacceptable as believers. It is selfish to think of your safety over the salvation of souls. Many missionaries who went to serve overseas packed their belongings in coffins because they knew they would probably not make it back home. Their lives were not anything to hold onto, but like Christ something to give so others may be saved.
I have had the great opportunity to meet with many wonderful Muslim men and women in the Quad Cities. These men and women live in the projects as refugees from the Middle East. I have been able to freely place Bibles into their hands only because they were here. I could not have done this safely in the Middle East. I have seen dozens of children with smiles on their faces because Christians went to these same refugees to simply be a friend and give them an afternoon of joy. These children may always remember these acts of kindness and instead of being bitter they may grow to love. This is right here in my hometown. I am sure there are projects housing refugees all over the United States, and there will soon be many more. Such a great opportunity to be a missionary without even leaving the city!
Yes I understand the very real possibility that some refugees may use violence against us. Yet so what? Christ knew that he was going to be put to death when he came to earth yet he still came. The selfless missionaries I mentioned above didn’t think of themselves when going overseas, but accepted death before stepping on to the boat. None of us get out of this life alive. We can hate or we can love. We can be like Jesus and seek to unite all the nations in the worship of God, or we can be like the enemy who only wishes to divide.
I write this with all the love in my heart to The Christians of the United States.
Do you have enough time? For most of us the answer is probably no. Time is an interesting concept. Physicist look at time as the fourth dimension of the universe. Without time we would either be a disorganized society or a society that is worry free. Humans have found the need to keep a measurement of what happens within our life, early man created calendars of stone, today we have computers. We all possess have a time of birth and will receive a time of death. Time is what it is, and while theoretically time can be altered we are trapped in it. Time is like marriage vows, till death do we part. So when did this marriage to time begin? Was it during the creation? After Adam was created? Or I would propose possibly after the fall. While we may understand time from the book of Genesis through the seven days of creation, remember God did not write those words. It was man presumably Moses who most likely learned of them through oral tradition passed down to him.
It is said that after the fall of man that God struck humanity with death. As far as we know Adam and Eve could have lived millennia before the fall and only after started recording the dates of their life. So, Just as sin came into the world, so did time? I do not really know. I am just a theoretical theologian making guesses. Yet it is fun to think about. One thing that I believe most Christians can agree on is that God does not live under the constraints of time. He is the Eternal. This is the premise my assumption that time did not exist before the fall. Adam was eternal, there was no practical reason to measure time. Remember modern man used God’s creation the sun, moon, and stars to help in the measurement of time. In an eternal state, time would be irrelevant. Isaiah prophesized of the future when the sun will no longer be needed because God will be the light. (Isiah 60) This is restated by John in his revelation “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5, NIV) So now in our mortal bodies that we now reside in we live under the concept of time. From time immemorial people have used the given tools of nature to keep their time on the earth. Each one of us only has so much of it, and God implores us to use it wisely. In this state of man we must work with the dimension of time and take full advantage of what is given. We must also understand that God lives outside of this dimension and for him time does not exist is as we measure it. The psalmists writes “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” (Psalms 90:4, NIV) Peter restates this in his epistle, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8, NIV) This takes us to a whole new level of patience. Yet what persist is the fact that we live in a time operated world we must maneuver through in the most effective way possible for the glory of God.
Make the most of your time
As stated above, before the fall time was of no real value. Today we live with a limited amount of time. If we look we can find beauty in this. In the East Tibetan monks create beautiful works of arts out of colored sand called mandalas. These works of art can take weeks in order to create, at the end of their creation they are brushed away into a pile of sand. It is as the life of man a beautiful creation who matures and becomes more complicated and complex. Then at the end of life all of the beauty that was formed on this earth is wiped away. I can hear the great king Solomon “vanity, vanity all is vanity.” James tells us, “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14, NIV) Life is crazy like that, just when we seem to get it all together it is over. Yet for us who are Christian life is never truly over, only life on this earth. We just transition from our earthly garments to the garments in which the Lord has prepared for us. That being said we cannot live this life as if there is no work to be done. We must get rid of the attitude of “pay taxes and die.” Remember the parable Jesus gave of the talents, recorded in Matthew 25:14-30. Jesus uses the word talent which would have been equivalent to one year’s wage; a lot of money! They were expected to use what they were given invest and multiply what they had been given so upon the Lord’s return they would have proved themselves worthy. One of the men chose to do nothing with this large sum of money and only return it, and for this he was cast out. We might say well that is unfair. It is not unfair, God gave him a great opportunity and he did not use it. I believe that even if the man invested the talent and lost it all, the Lord may have praised him for having fortitude to take the risk needed. God gave you and I great abilities and we are required to use them for his glory. We will stand before the Lord one day and give an account for what we have done with what we were given. I am not saying that we need to work ourselves into heaven, what I am saying is that we will be judged for what we have done with what God has given us. While we should not be in a constant worry about this, it should encourage and motivate us to take risk, use our gifts, and to pursue our dreams and passions in life. I could use the old saying, “you only live once.” Many use this phrase to justify self-destruction and immorality. Instead I suggest use it for the motivation to use the abilities God has set in front of you. I am serious when I tell you to start doing all that you only see in your dreams. Start living out the dreams in your life as if nothing will stop them from being fulfilled. Write that book, make a movie, apply for that job, plant a church, write a song, start a business, do it all and more. Imagine if the world would take the attitude the Lord desired of his servants in the parable. We wouldn’t just have a few visionaries who create the latest and greatest, the world instead would be filled with visionaries who are multiplying their God given talents.
Time to start believing
Some might say this is too difficult of a task to accept. You may say, I am 40, 50 years old and have done things a certain way my whole life. We may feel like we are losers because of the actions we have done in the past. Every day many of us wake up to the same old grind just holding on to life. The once sparkle our young eyes are gone and only misery remains. Let me say this, all of these thoughts are lies. I do not care if you are 40, 50, or 60 years old. I do not care about what you have done in the past, and life does not have to be just one long painful event. Sure there will be some pain, life is not easy but it doesn’t necessarily always have to be hard. Most of the time we make it hard because of our perception. You can make the decision today to not live like you have been living. It is not too late to have a new beginning, God is all about new beginnings. One of the biggest steps involved in taking advantage of our time on earth is laying our will and our lives over to God through Jesus Christ. This is a huge hurtle and by no means is it an easy step, but you can do it! Start telling yourself today, you are who you wish to be, and start acting like it. Be the hero of your own life. If you want that good job, go get it, if you want to get sober, put the drink down, if you want to get closer to God, pray. All of these require action, and this action becomes your story in which you are the hero of your life. You are doing what others choose not to, you are called out from among them. You have taken charge over your own personal slice of time. It is time to start believing in yourself. Paul tells Timothy, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13, NIV) The thing is God has your back. Most of the time it is us who do not realize or accept this fact. God did not just put you on this rock to suffer. You may feel like you’re doing time in prison waiting for your exit date, but God is waiting for your conversion date. We only have so much time on this planet, you have been given the talent now go and use it! If you do not it will be taken from you and given to another. Be who you want to be in life. Do not let society dictate who you are. Do not let your past define you. If you have today than you have the time. Be the hero!
Many of us may come from different church models and traditions. I am not writing this article to undermine any of these. My desire is to present my thoughts on a model of “doing church” that I have not seen practiced before. I had searched the web, and it took me a while to find an article that was similar to my idea. I say this because I do not believe in original ideas. There is essentially nothing new under the sun. I did find an article by David Fitch which I will share here. http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-how-to/168717-david-fitch-church-gathering-should-be-like-a-good-aa-meeting.html my article is in no way meant to be a copy of his, but one expressing my thoughts on the subject. I do love many of the points in which he expressed and will follow a similar format. I will admit I have pondered a model of doing church this way many times. Especially when I sit in an AA meeting and listen to those who speak ill of the church, but find God in the rooms of AA.
This article will not be able to speak to every ecclesiological concern. It is my own personal belief that regardless of how one “does church” we probably are not doing it perfect. Or should I say, there is no perfect church. Or maybe church isn’t supposed to be perfect, after all it is operated by humans. Jesus said, it takes two or more in his name, seems pretty simple, but boy do we know how to complicate things. One of my concerns in writing this article is the enormous task that the current church places on its pastors and leaders. Read the shocking statistics here http://www.pastorburnout.com/pastor-burnout-statistics.html we have all heard of the latest scandals within many of the denominations in the world. I also believe that the body of Christ is the church; which is all of us, is not as active in the world as it could be. The “AA model” for lack of a better name at the present is a basic model that I would gladly see used by church planters across the world. In fact it probably does exist somewhere out there already.
So what is this ecclesiological model that I think may be so great? I am a member of a self-help group called Alcoholics Anonymous. As I have attended meetings throughout the years and I have often thought that this would be an excellent way to have a gathering of believers. I attend many meetings and I always leave feeling like I have been blessed by God. Many times I enjoy going to AA meetings more than church. I guess that doesn’t say much about me. What I will say is that AA doesn’t promote yet is often filled with people every day of the week. It is a very simple model which includes a servant leader not a paid professional, a body of people, chairs, tables, and coffee. Think of how much money would be left over for actual ministry in the community with that kind of set up! No rock star like worship service, flashy lights and videos, not one person who addresses the congregation over and over every week. Just people in unity sharing in the hope of Jesus Christ through teaching, fellowship, and prayer. It probably would not be so far from what the last supper or early church gatherings were like. Let me also make it clear I am not against flashy lights and videos, or minister preaching on Sunday. I am just here to express some thoughts for future church planters.
First I want to address the body of believers who gather together on Sunday mornings. Many churches have a time of fellowship and then sit and listen to the leaders of the church. In an AA meeting there is what is called a chairperson, a servant leader who gives a reading or small teaching that is normally about five minutes in length; sometimes less. The members of the meeting go around the room and give their thoughts and insights on what was read. I suggest that the same could be done within the church. A servant leader a non-professional clergy man or woman gives a small teaching, then allow the body of believers to give their thoughts and insights of the teaching to one another. Often during an AA meeting it is not the actual teaching or reading itself that I learn from, but the thoughts and insights from others. The apostle Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians 14:26 “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” (NIV) How many times have you been asked in church if you have a word or a hymn, or much less a word of instruction? Yet this is what the church is about. Often times in AA meetings people will say that “God uses people to speak to them.” I completely agree, I have heard God speaking to me through people in many places outside the walls of a church building. Through the words of each believer the body is edifying each other and being edified. The message is given by all of the people not just a single person. The church is the body of Christ, how appropriate that Christ himself teach us. Obviously I do believe even within this structure that competent leadership is needed to guide the body. We still need pastors and deacons, yet the pastors and deacons will be tent-makers. With an emphasis on the priesthood of the saints sharing in the work of the Lord. In AA they have what is called sponsors, a sponsor is someone that takes a new member under their wing and guides them on their journey. The AA model of church would call on its members to be active in the discipleship of new members. The discipleship is not only conducted by the elders of the congregation but by all of the people within the congregation. Everyone serving each other as Christ served his disciples. I believe this is not a new way of doing church but actually a way in which church was done from the beginning.
Fellowship and the Breaking of Bread
Next I want to address one of the most important sacraments in all of Christendom. The Holy Eucharist also known as the Lord Supper, and communion. A side note for my fellow Protestants the word Eucharist has been used since the first century and simply means in the Greek giving thanks, being thankful, or gracious. As an Evangelical Protestant I know there is a vast difference in beliefs from our Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters. The AA model which I propose until a better name is given will look at the earliest Christians and examine how they conducted the Lord supper. We all know that the early church loved to eat. Also we the modern church loves to eat. I would never want to change this! Many people have different ideas on how the Lords Supper should be conducted. The earliest writings state that the Supper was conducted on the Lords day. These are non-canonical such as the Didache and writings by early bishops yet have been proved to be trustworthy in regards to the historical record. This would be once per week. Often in our churches we celebrate once per month. Obviously an AA meeting does not conduct a Lords Supper. So how do we implement this commandment into an AA model of church?
Due to the autonomous nature in which I would want each congregation to possess, the churches may receive the Lords Supper how they wish. As long as it is done in reverence and respect. Not a regular meal, or done without inspection of your soul. I suggest a service once per month which is only dedicated to the Lords Supper. A time for reflection and prayer among the congregation. Followed by good fellowship and a meal. The whole meeting being dedicated just for the Lord’s Supper. Fellowship takes place throughout the week, but there is just something about fellowship when we are gathered together. A time to talk, eat, pray for one another, and just enjoy each other’s company. We need each other in many ways and celebrating the Lords Supper and having a lengthy time of corporate fellowship is important for the health of the church. The unity that I believe that will take place within the church through the Lord’s Supper will heal and strengthen the body and keep our eyes focused on the Lord and his soon return.
Cult of Personality
The last section was not so controversial. Unfortunately this next section addresses an issue that I may receive some grief from. The cult of personality of most congregations is the pastor. I do not know the exact statistics of the matter or think that there is any way to really solve the problem of cults of personality even the early church had them. We all love a celebrity preacher. Many of whom are called and used of God greatly. It is we the people who follow the man or woman forgetting the head of the church is Christ. How many times do pastors leave a church to serve another only to be followed by a section of the congregation in which they left? Or many people will find another church altogether. The only reason for their appearance on Sunday morning was for a show and speech from the same guy over and over.
I propose in the AA model that elders selected by the congregation be in charge of the pastoring. These pastors would not be full time professional clergy but clergy whose responsibility is spread out so that no man or woman may hinder the congregation financially. Nor a cult of personality formed. Also no one man or woman would be the only “leader” but all the elders work together for the edification of the church. Essentially the elders may come from all walks of life. None should be forced into leadership but only if moved by the Spirit. The elders are subject to the congregation and accountable to one another. I have not thought far enough ahead if bishops over the congregations would be appointed. I suppose that upper leadership would be necessary if the model caught on. Speaking in this way it seems I am creating a denomination although that is not my intention.
Issues of concern
Obviously this article is very limited in nature. There are many issues involved in church planting and even more when planting a new style of meeting. Or maybe an old style that is rebirthed. Much work would have to be done while the congregation developed. It would be an exciting time for a new church. Just as in AA meetings which have many meetings throughout the week, the AA model would have many meetings. This is truly a family that doesn’t just meet on Sundays. A place of no condemnation, no judgement, a place of freedom and joy in the Spirit. Rich, poor, sinners, and saints, we are all the same.
So many times I have heard in actual AA meetings how they were drove from the church for their behavior and held in condemnation by legalistic attitudes. It truly breaks my heart. I know that there is a major section of society who are not even in recovery that feel the same way. I have often said that recovery, AA, and treatment would be good for anyone regardless of addiction. It would be my desire to see an AA model of church offered to the unchurched or those leaving the “traditional” church.
Some may say, what about sound theological teaching? If you do not have a professional pastor how would sound teaching be taught? Well the early church made due than so can we. In fact all of the body should be able to “pastor” for a day if need be. We created a profession of professional preachers that the early church condemned. Paul went to great efforts to not take any monies from congregations he served. Also out of thousands of denominations around the world that claim the will of God, I know for a fact not a single one has the whole thing right. In a sense we are all a little bit heretical because true orthodoxy is lost. I think that the canonical scriptures and creeds of the early church give us a guide in how we should live out our lives as Christians. That being said none of us will get it 100% right. This was the struggle for the early church and the reason why a New Testament was even put together and creeds developed. The focus should always be on Jesus and his people, the body of Christ on earth. Our salvation through the cosmic action of his death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit and his guidance on earth giving the people comfort and power to live our lives as followers of Christ. If we stay submitted to the Spirit in the best way we know how, everything will work itself out.
Vision into reality
I have always felt called to preach the word and pastor his people. Often within my denomination one must plant a church in order to be able to do such. Not planting a church for my sake, but for the people. Especially those in society who are on the fringe and maybe wouldn’t feel welcomed in the current church models. The whole idea would be pointless without a passion for people and a desire to see others come to the knowledge of Christ in their lives. A church without a lot of doctrine which hangs us up, a church that comes together with all our uniqueness. Do I plan on planting a type of church such as this? Yes, I am. I would love to turn this vision into a reality. I am in prayer and waiting for the time in which I believe God will say go, and I will go! If you like this idea and have the opportunity do it. Plant an AA model church or call it whatever you want. Contact me with ideas and suggestions I will humbly receive them all.
What is possible? What is impossible? If you were to ask these two questions many people would give you dozens of answers. I am here to explain in this article that nothing is impossible! I truly believe that the laws of physics are just man made labels given to our understanding of the working universe. While these labels are useful they can also prevent us from breaking the boundaries between science and faith. There was a time in history in which it was said that man could not travel faster than sound. A day will probably come when man will travel faster than light.
Take us out of this human shell and we will have the ability to travel faster than light. Everything that we think we know about existence now, we will one day realize that we knew nothing. I see this within the many Christianities that make up my faith. So many feel that they have the right theology and practice the proper doctrine. Truth is most of us are probably off center; this is another amazing example of God’s grace. One possibility that many would deem impossible would be the church being able to unite as one putting aside our differences and embrace our unity in Christ. This will probably not happen till Christ comes in glory but hey, anything is possible.
I am of the Pentecostal flavor of Christianity. That basically means that I am a continuist, I believe that all of the gifts of the Spirit that are found within the pages of the Bible are still readily available to people today. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters of the young earth found in the book of Genesis is within you. This Spirit and desires to help you accomplish the impossible in Christ. We need to believe that we possess what we know we have in God before manifest in our lives. Take hold of the things in our lives that you know that are attainable for you and go after it. Even if it doesn’t seem attainable at the present, start taking small steps towards it. One of the biggest things that holds us back from achieving the impossible is fear. Fear eats us alive, we must be fearless! being fearless enough to know that you can do the impossible!
Do not listen to those that say it cannot be done. Or that you are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or strong enough. Do not let your past define you, let your actions today determine your future. Live in the now! I could go on and on but I am sure you get my point. What matters is if you are following God’s will for your life. God is a powerful, wonderful and amazing God, he desires us to do amazing things on the earth.
Some of us wish to have what we shouldn’t trying to attain what is outside of God’s will. This in many cases is why miracles are not happening in our lives. When we are being led by the Spirit the laws of physics do not apply to us; they are just suggestions. You say you have not, I say you haven’t asked! God can and will make what is nothing into something. The Latin term used by theologians is “ex nihilo.” This is to create something out of nothing. This is what God does; it is his business. Start to believe that you are already a successful person. Your thoughts become reality when you place actions in front of them!
You may say how this is done? Let us look at the book of Hebrews the writer list many great people of faith, and how they believed God.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones. By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews Ch. 11, New International Version.
Now I wouldn’t normally place a whole chapter from scripture in my article but this is an exception. I have been inspired throughout my entire life from the verses above. These great people of faith did what seemed to be impossible. Yet through faith the impossible became possible! They believed God, carried out the action and the results are seen. They were not out for themselves or their personal will, but for God’s will. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” This is how Jesus taught us to pray. Not Nate’s kingdom come, Nate’s will be done. (You can add your own name). We need to pray for the knowledge of God’s will in our lives. Most of the time we know already what God’s will is for us. Or at least we know what to do. We do what is right, what is good, and what lines up with scripture. Basically it is about doing the next right thing. Keep it simple!
Furthermore we cannot forget about God’s miracle working power in our lives. We may try to downplay God’s will and by doing so miss out. Remember Jesus fed the multitudes with just a small amount of food. He healed those who were sick, he raised the dead. Jesus commanded evil spirits out of men, and silenced their lips. He walked on water, and guess what, he said we can do the same as him! Start believing in the supernatural and start making the supernatural natural in your life.
I am far from a physicist, but I love hearing about the new discoveries that scientist in this field are finding. It has been brought to my attention that in Switzerland scientist at CERN were using the Hadron Collider and doing research into some of the smallest known particles. It turns out that they have identified particles that do not follow the “standard model” of how they should act. You can read about this here http://www.sciencealert.com/the-lhc-finds-evidence-of-particle-activity-beyond-the-standard-model
In my personal opinion science and faith can co-exist. The more science discovers the more they reveal the wonders of God. These scientists have found that certain particles do not follow the “standard model.” I do not think that we will ever be able to fully understand all of the mysteries of the universe even through modern science. Yet I am sure that we will continue to try. I bring up this article because the scientist found something that they did not think was possible. These particles basically did not follow the laws of physics in regards to gravity. The thing is our God does not follow the law of physics either. He doesn’t follow any law, he is the law. Whatever he does is law, and whatever he wills manifest. Ex nihilo takes place and we stand back in amazement and worship the God who created this universe and still cares enough to give the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, his son Jesus Christ. Today believe in the impossible, believe that there are no limits on what you can do in life. We will not always be able to understand it. Listen to the voice of Christ and just believe!
Do you speak in tongues? Yes I do, but do you and why? Being raised Pentecostal and choosing to continue in the Pentecostal tradition as an adult, speaking in tongues has never been a scary or foreign topic. I have spoken to many Christians outside of Pentecostalism who have a variety of opinions on this matter. Most of the opinions come from cessationist, those who believe that there was a gift of tongues given to the early Christians but that after the days of the Apostles it ceased along with the other spiritual abilities such as healing, and prophecy. Those of us of the Pentecostal persuasion are considered continuationist, because we believe all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to the church on the day of Pentecost and have continued on up to the present day.
I love spirituality and the mystical nature of Christianity, I was born to be a Pentecostal. I always figured if God is alive in the world, he is speaking to us through spiritual means. God is spirit, he is doing miracles every day in each one of our lives; we just have to look for them. I believe he has also given you and me the ability to perform miracles for the kingdom of God. We are spiritual beings, this means we have spiritual abilities. This is awesome! Yet many conservative fundamentalist find it scary. Why, I really don’t know or understand. Jesus said himself, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7, NIV) The NIV translates the Spirit as Advocate others say Comforter, basically the same thing. We know then that the Spirit of God is upon the earth. Jesus is no longer physically with us, but the Spirit is. Most Christian traditions believe in the Holy Trinity and would never deny this fact. But what about that gifts of the Spirit, specifically the gift of tongues also called glossolalia. Many Pentecostals believe that tongues is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. While my opinion differs from most mainline Pentecostals I understand why it is used. Spirit Baptism is another article. Today the focus is just tongues. So tongues it is. It is considered by some the least of the gifts, a personal gift, yet also a gift that can be used in the church under proper order. Such as when one may be able to interpret what the Spirit is speaking to the congregation. I have seen this take place many times in my life, although I speak in tongues daily I have never interpreted. Listening to a message in tongues and hearing the message interpreted is a holy experience to behold. It is part of the joy of being open to the Spirt of God and his gifts. It is also an amazing powerful experience to speak in tongues; but what is tongues you might ask?
Where did tongues come from?
As a Pentecostal Christian, I might look to the Biblical text to find out where tongues came from and of course look to the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2). What about prior to Acts 2 was there tongues before the coming of the Holy Spirit? Possibly. Some would look to Saul the first king of Israel “He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 19:25, NIV) to put it in a better perspective the ISV states that Saul was “Caught up in prophetic ecstasy.” Scholars often define tongues as a “disjointed, highly pitched, ecstatic series of ejaculations, similar to tongues spoken in times of spiritual awakening.”1 The book of Samuel also says the people thought he was among the prophets. This is interesting. Did all the prophets experience the gift of tongues during ecstatic experiences? It is a good question, without a solid answer. The Holy Spirit of God is God, and is not limited by time and dates of man. He has the discretion to do what he wills among us.
What about other faiths pre Pentecost and even today? We do have knowledge that spiritual awakenings and ecstatic experiences take place in mystical traditions around the globe. Hindus, Buddhist, Muslims, various shamanic traditions and mystical religions incorporate speaking ecstatically. Yet this surely is not the Spirit of God? No it is not. The Spirit of God is only moving through those of the Christian tradition because the Spirit is only going to point us to Jesus Christ. Then what the heck is these other religions doing? Is it the devil? I don’t think it is the devil I have another answer. I believe it is within our biology and spirit to be mystical beings. We are spirit after all. We are only temporarily living in these earthly temples. It is no wonder that other faith traditions are able to be speak in tongues because it may just be an ability that is in all of us.
The Christian experience of tongues that is still active today was initiated by the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This ability to experience this awesome spiritual activity is available to you. All through the book of Acts one can see how tongues was passed from believer to believer, often through the laying on of hands. This leads us to examine how one can receive the gift of tongues.
How can I experience this gift?
Pentecostal denominations usually have doctrine that shows the process leading to the experience of receiving tongues. Many Pentecostals and many within my own denomination look at tongues as the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is where I disagree. I believe that we receive the infilling of the Spirit at the time of salvation. All of the abilities that the Holy Spirit may give to us are already within us; it just needs turned on. While many Pentecostals like to look at speaking in tongues as evidence of Spirit baptism, it is not an absolute. It is impossible to theologically know for sure. Sure we can derive a doctrine from the biblical text but so has 10,000 other groups, movements and denominations.
In short the answer is faith. If you want to experience the gift of tongues, you must have faith that you already have the ability. Remember you’re a spiritual being. Also after you receive it you must be able to believe what you are speaking is the gift of tongues. Often times as in my experience it was through the laying on of hands by my pastor. I not only spoke in tongues I felt the power of God moving through my body like electricity, it was a powerful spiritual experience. You must to let go of doubt and believe. Some Pentecostals believe that one must first be water baptized, while this may be ideal. I know it is not necessary, I have seen unbaptized believers speak in tongues. Although I highly suggest all believers to be baptized in water as the Lord commanded. I want to add that speaking in tongues should not be a one and done experience. It should be the beginning of a life long journey into a powerful prayer life that is beyond natural. So step into the supernatural and enjoy!
So what are the benefits?
Actually this could be one article in itself. There is many benefits for the Christian who have realized that they have been filled with the Spirit possessing the ability to perform spiritual acts such as tongues. Paul tells us that in 1 Corinthians 14 how people should speak in tongues. He tells us that we are speaking directly to God, that it is not the cognitive self which is praying but the minds or spirit; the true self. In my opinion, many of us do not know what to pray for in the body, tongues will allow your spirit to communicate to God’s Spirit and tells God exactly what needs to be spoken. This is supported by Paul’s letter to the Romans, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26, NIV) Tongues is a form of prayer that can be done all throughout your day in order to keep yourself better attuned to the Lord.
Speaking in tongues brings one closer to God. It creates a shift in consciousness that allows the Spirit to speak to us in a way that ordinary prayer does not. Many receive a message in tongues for the church. Another brother or sister who is present may be able to interpret the message. Speaking in tongues allows you to be humble and not pray for your own interest but the interest of your true self. A person will receives peace of mind and better emotional stability. It allows us to pray without ceasing, to relieve ourselves of the stress of the day, and most importantly it is something I believe that God wants us to do. Jesus told his followers when he left to wait until they receive the Spirit. The first thing that they did after receiving the Spirit was to speak in other tongues. This is the power that created the universe on the tip of your tongue we just need to have the faith to receive.
In my opinion my personal ability to speak in tongues, as well as being around the phenomena is a holy and powerful experience. It brings your walk with Christ to another level allowing you to experience God in a refreshing way. I know there are detractors who believe that this is “strange fire” yet like many things all I have to say is, if you don’t know I can’t explain it. Speaking in tongues is one of the best benefits of being Pentecostal and I encourage you to speak in tongues as much as possible. If you have not yet tapped into your ability, use your faith that God has given you and begin your new journey in the Spirit. Blessings!
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1984. 1137.
The last few articles I have written have been about issues related to society and how we handle these issues as Christians. Yet I think that there is an ecumenical way in which the body of believers can handle the issues of today. The answer, a spiritual awakening. I have been fascinated with spiritual awakenings since I was a teenager. I had a spiritual awaking when I was 16 and it has continued to affect my life. Two words come to mind from scripture saved and perfect. Saved in the Greek is very similar to what we would think it would mean when in the context of salvation, “to save” “to heal” “to restore to health” and so on. Truly having a “saved” experience will start to change our consciousness, the Spirit of God is given to us and by grace we receive. Without this impartation it is difficult to impossible for an outsider to understand Christianity, especially in its inner most works. As Jesus many times spoke of having eyes that see and ears that hear.
Now anyone can say the sinner’s prayer, as preachers often end their sermons with the famous alter call; but does that make them saved? I am not God so I don’t know, yet if some shift in consciousness does not take place I would doubt the person’s salvation. Again I am not an expert or care to be in soteriology, only God truly knows the heart of man. Yet, salvation is a spiritual awakening process. It is the beginning of being made perfect in Christ through the work of the cross. Perfect means essentially reaching the end. Like the Apostle spoke, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. Christians believe this final perfection takes place upon death. For us death is not the end but the beginning. So death in itself is the ultimate spiritual awakening. For we will see him as he truly is.
Many times Christians wonder why some people just do not get it. Why can’t they just believe in God? The scriptures speak of faith being a gift of God. It is also impossible to please God without faith. Just as Abraham was made righteous through faith, so are we. There is no works or good deeds, just faith. Once faith has been used to sincerely believe, and surrender we will have awakened to the spiritual. Now we see, now we hear. All things become new, we see the world in a different light and the scriptures become alive. Since my spiritual awakening I have done what many Christians call, to backslide. This for me is to set aside my consciousness and indulge in my base or profane self. I believe that for the most part our salvation is secure although I am not a complete determinist I ponder how much God effects our destiny outside of ourselves. Being a good Arminian I believe that God has given all humans faith, it is our choice to use it or not. While God may know our destiny we determine it. Many Christians backslide in life before leveling off into a maintenance stage of Christ consciousness. Peter himself betrayed Jesus and digressed to his base self. We are a work in progress towards ultimate perfection. We can have an awakenings continually throughout life. Awakenings are actually much closer than we may think.
While few will have the awakening experience given to those such as the apostle Paul who had a direct encounter with the Lord; who also later was taken up into the third heaven. Why not seek out the deepest spiritual experiences possible. I know I do. I also know that we can stir up awakenings, I believe God desires it. The answer I believe is contained in the act of surrendering. True surrender to God’s will brings about a spiritual awaking. I believe that surrender and salvation are next door neighbors. It takes faith to surrender our will to God. It is probably one of the hardest things in life to do. It is scary, it is uncomfortable, it goes against human nature, but when God’s grace allows us through faith to surrender the results are a life altering spiritual awakening that will last an eternity. For the Christian who is already saved what are some ways which will lead to continued spiritual awakenings? I will mention and explain a few. These are prayer, meditation and giving.
First prayer. Prayer is essential for the Christian. I actually do not know if one can be a Christian without a regular prayer life. In fact I will be so bold as to say no, you cannot be a Christian without a prayer life. We are to be one with the father as Jesus was one. That is at least what the master wished for us. Jesus was a man of great prayer. His life revolved around prayer and the master would spend entire nights in solitude and prayer. We cannot have a conscious contact with God without prayer. God also connects with us through prayer. We are spiritual beings who are designed by the creator to pray. Praying should be as normal as speaking. The desired outcome of prayer is union with God. This is what theologian Friedrich Heiler called mystical prayer. Heiler also considered mystical prayer to be the highest form of prayer.1 (see Das Gebet by Heiler for his work on prayer) This is the elevation of the mind from the earthly to the heavenly. During prayer we will often petition, intercede, praise, and give ourselves to God’s will. Prayer creates a conscious shift in our minds toward God. We begin to see the big picture, it eases our souls. Prayer changes things, and most importantly it changes us. Prayer will also change the world around us. All of us who have had any type of a prayer life will be able to testify to at least one noticeable miracle that has taken place due to our prayers. Do not limit your miracles! If you are looking for a spiritual awakening pray and watch it happen. Let me remind you that prayer is a discipline, and like any discipline it must be worked to see results. While you may have a life altering event the first time you pray, this is not often the case. Quantity and longevity will work in your favor.
Next meditation or contemplation. For myself personally I feel that meditation is the next best thing to prayer. In my own daily routine I spend time in prayer then I spend a time in meditation. I meditate as they do in the East. I sit in silence, using my breath as a guide into the unknown. Not only is it great self-care for your body and mind, it is an opportunity for God to connect with us. It is a time for you to shut up and empty your mind so that God may fill it up. Many have had great revelations as the result of meditation. What are these revelations, well they were conscious shift that create what we call an awakening. Some Christians cringe at the idea of meditation yet I find this foolish. Christians dislike meditation because it is a practice of the East, associated with religions such as Buddhism. Prayer is also a practice of the East and of the Pagans yet they somehow find it beneficial.
Do I believe that Jesus mediated? I would assume he probably did some type of mediation. Okay I will be bold again and say yes I am sure that Jesus meditated especially during his 40 days in the wilderness. Individuals who meditate have been known to go for long periods of time without food or water. They become one with themselves and God. They awake to new insight and a stronger spirituality. I would love to have the time to meditate for such lengths. America would be a much nicer place if everyone prayed and meditated on a daily basis.
My third key to a spiritual awakening is giving. No, and not to the televangelist, they already have fancy suits and cars. Actually when you think about giving in this article let’s just leave money out of it. Yes I believe in giving money to your local church and to charitable organizations but in many ways that is an easy fix. It is easy to write a check it is often more difficult to give of your time out of love. We all have different abilities we can use in order to give to society. Remember Jesus said even if you give a cup of water in my name. The scriptures also say freely you have been given freely give. Read Luke 10:25-37 about the Good Samaritan. I could list literally hundreds of ways in which a person can give. You could be a medical doctor, a lawyer, teacher, mechanic, elected official, business owner, all of these and more. I think you see what I am saying. You have talents worthy of giving. Most importantly in your giving do it out of love. Don’t feel that you must give, give because that’s what you want to do. Love in giving will make all the difference. So how does giving create a spiritual awakening as I have defined it, as a conscious shift in our minds? First it takes you out of yourself and brings you closer to your fellow. You realize that you are not the only person on the planet and the world doesn’t revolve around you. For those that have given it creates a sense of joy and peace. Giving activates the mind. When I speak of the mind I am talking about the spirit of man, not our physical brain. Most importantly giving is what God first did for man. We were created to be like God so we should act like God and give. It is better to give than receive. You will only understand this from giving.
These are not the only paths to a spiritual awakening there is so many more. I will give a few honorable mentions that I wish to write about more in the future.
Alcoholics Anonymous, many look at this self-help group as a way in which a person can stop using alcohol. This is true and is also their stated primary purpose. AA is also so much more than that. I am going to list the 12 steps of this group.
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.2
I am not going to get into details yet for more information read the AA book. If you notice, the steps focus on God, prayer, releasing self, meditation, and giving. These same steps or variations of them have been used to help treat people in addiction all around the world. Those in the know understand that alcohol and most drugs hinder our relationship with God. The spiritual person is most of the time a sober person.
On the flip side I will give one last mention and that is the use of drugs, specifically psychedelics. This is not a new concept, but one that has probably been around from the beginning of time. I sometimes wonder if the tree of good and evil mentioned in Genesis was not of the psychedelic nature opening the eyes of man. I am not advocating for the use of drugs yet it is an undeniable fact that if not abused there can be great benefits from psychedelics. Evidence based research is starting to show these benefits in treating certain mental illnesses and addiction. People around the world have been using psychedelics to interact with the spiritual world for thousands of years. This is fascinating and why I give it mention. God certainly created all the plants of the earth. God being God knew of their nature and potential. It is man who abuses and disrespects what God has created for good. Surprisingly the federal government is allowing research into some psychedelics for the treatment of PTSD. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/18/dea-mdma-study_n_6888972.html
The point to this is not to abuse a drugs, but use drugs such as psychedelics for a better life. Through a spiritual awakening.
Spiritual awakenings have always fascinated me and always will. As I said above I had one when I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ as a teenager. It has totally changed my life. I encourage you to pray, meditate and give, and have a spiritual awakening of your own. If the world was awake which I believe is starting to happen at an accelerated rate we will experience a better world. A kingdom of heaven on earth. Blessings!
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker
Book House, 1984. 946.
Alcoholics Anonymous. 4th ed. New York, New York: A. A. World Services, 1976. 59-60.