The Wrong Kind of Desire

“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

When we focus on riches, and our thoughts are centred on the accummulation of material wealth, we fail to see the plight of the people around us. Indeed, our capitalist mindset may mean that in some way or other we are instigators of that plight. If this is you then please take a step back. Take a deep breath, and try to see who amongst the victims has the Holy Spirit inside of them.

A Fundamental Part of a Holy Life

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I think that every Christian is called to be a prayer warrior:

In praying we bring ourselves before God, we sacrifice time for Him out of our busy lives. Prayer is a conversation with God because, althoughout we may ask for healing, protection and support for this or that person, a necessary part of prayer is to listen. We must allow our hearts and minds to be silenced in order for us to hear God’s answer. If you find such things difficult then pray that the Holy Spirit may still your thoughts and make you receptive of God’s love. For when God answers, when the Holy Spirit moves you to contemplate the gift of grace and mercy brought through the sacrifice of Jesus, you will be filled with joy. It will be impossible to stop smiling and you will thank God for everyone and everything around you.

Rainbows – God’s Signature

Yesterday I went for a drive with my parents. These days I do not spend as much time with them as I would like to, and yesterday’s excursion will be treasured for as long as I live. Our route took us mainly through country lanes and passed many many farms. It was fantastic seeing the cows and bulls grazing and the birds swooping down to investigate the freshly ploughed soil (although I wonder what farmers feel about the latter!).

The weather was strange: hot (20-25 degrees centigrade) with a lot of cloud creeping in, which also brought some rain. Sitting in the car I was pondering the things that I have heard in the Pentecostal community, and also what I regretted saying and not doing during my time there. To be honest, I was getting a bit emotional. (I hope that my parents didn’t notice.) Then suddenly I felt a slight pressure on my shoulder, and a still small voice within me say:

“Do not waste any more time. You have learned all that I sent you here to learn, and the gifts which I have given you will be of little value here. Return to …. ….., and let these people get on with the task that I have set for them.”

I was confused: such things (divine messages) have rarely happened before. By this time it had started to rain and as I looked up I saw a rainbow. I love rainbows! Meteorology and climatology (and science in general) are a bit beyond my comprehension, and so I have no idea how rainbows are formed or why there are so many different colours in them. But I love the way in which they seem to just suddenly appear and brighten up a segment of the sky.

This rainbow only had 3 colours in it, and just about a third of it was visible. Bending to the right it merged with and faded into the clouds. I wish I’d captured this beautiful image on camera, but many times in life we regret not having done this or that. Fortunately, today we have Google, and so this image will give you some idea as to what I saw:

SmithsonianMag

Copyright @ Smithsonian Magazine

Marvelling at the sight I was reminded of what God said to Noah after the flood:

“…I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (Genesis 9:13-15, NIV – emphasis mine).

When God had become disappointed with almost the entirety of creation He sent a global deluge to wipe away evil from the face of the earth (Gen. 6:5f.). Repeatedly we hear of localised floods and monsoons in different parts of the world and may God’s compassion, grace and enabling Spirit be upon all those caught up in these natural disasters! I thought that rainbows were only referred to in the Book of Genesis, but after returning home I found that the symbolism is also used for God and His heavenly Kingdom in the visions of two biblical prophets: Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:28) and John the Apostle (Rev. 4:3; 10:1). Maybe people will say I’m crazy for jumping to conclusions, but based on the evidence of that great day my parents and I had yesterday, I believe that YES God spoke to me and YES the message was sealed with God’s colourful, elegant and majestic signature – the Rainbow.

My friends, thank you for all your prayers. Now my Pentecostal experience is over; God has told me to go home. [1]

Endnote

[1] In the 2010 episode of Doctor Who, ‘The End of Time’ (Part 2), the 10th Doctor’s last words are “I don’t wanna go!”. I never thought that I would have cause to say this myself, but just as he had to regenerate, so must I obey God and stick to His plan.

Denominational Tourism

A few days ago I was with a Bible study group when there was what seemed to be a fleeting reference to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). This is my favourite parable and has been on my mind ever since. Now here, maybe I am guilty of stretching a metaphor. I have started to see in the rich man the personification of denominationalism, and in Lazarus someone who is seeking the Word of God.

Leaving aside what happens to both figures after death (I don’t think musing upon afterlife punishment would be very helpful here), I will just concentrate on verses 19-21. Imagine if you will that the finely dressed, arrogant rich men is eating the Word of God. Except, rather than eating just pure Scripture he has ordered his cooks to add some denominational ‘additives’ to it. It turns out that the additives are so sweet and so filling that the Scripture at the centre falls to the floor. Lazarus longs for just one of these refreshing scrabs. Maybe the dogs belong to the rich man and are there to keep beggars away.

Sometimes I love nothing better than hopping from one denomination to the other. I find that in life there are very few things better than experiencing how the Bible can be interpreted and lived out in a variety of ways. And when I am away from church services (and any other activities that a church puts on during the week) it is just so thrilling to read up about their thology, their history, their victories…and also their defeats. I find one must always keep a balanced mind in these matters, and one needs to understand why people have veered away from the denomination in question.

Overall, though, I’d say try to enjoy a denomination: even go as far as to imagine what your faith and life would be like if you were to abandon your own denomination and ‘sign up’ to this new one. From personal experience I’d say that there is a possibility of heartbreak in this (maybe thinking what you would leave behind, or even God telling you that this new life is not part of His plan for you). But I’d also say that it is worth it because such things can lead one to grow in their faith.

However, if you ever start to criticize the denomination you are visiting: LEAVE! Even if you feel a burning desire to criticise, be very very careful. In most cases, the denomination has already existed for years, probably even centuries, and brought untold numbers of former-lost souls to Christ. How will people feel if, by your arguments you convince them that their ancestors’ faith was wrong? Even if we ignore the dead and just keep in mind the contemporary community members, criticism could cause untold damage. Some may leave. Can you really be certain that they will go on to find another church to attend rather than just abandon the faith altogether? You would be responsible for leading Christ’s sheep astray (Mark 9:42; 1 John 2:26; 3:7)!!!

But do not worry about leaving one denomination for another, or just visiting, for the Church is the Body of Christ and is far bigger than a single part (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-30; Eph. 4:25). I do think it very wise what David Orth said in a comment on my site recently: that “the Spirit is no respecter of denominations”. I really do feel that the Holy Spirit is urging Christians to make the Church’s divisions (i.e. the rich man’s additives) crumble, not so that Christians can think and interpret the same way and forego their individualities, but so that the purity of the Scriptures can shine forth, and that present and future calamities can be faced by a united Church. As one Church we shall be led by Christ, have a “shield of faith and belt of truth, a healing sword, and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, each soldier will be armed with grace, love and prayer:

I am not sure how much I agree with the whole military imagery thing, but I do think that for whatever is coming there is safety in numbers. Imagine if Christians refused to join other Christians just because of their petty squabbles about communion, songs or hymns, infant baptism, ecclesiastical hierarchy, etc.? We would be as weak as Hell! And as Jesus said, Hell cannot fight the forces of Hell (Matt 12:25-26; Mark 3:23-26).

So please, Christians, whatever denominations you are affiliated to, and whatever position you may hold within your churches, do not be like the rich man: do not arrogantly hold onto denominational differences. Let no denomination seek a monopoly because, though we are not all the same, we are one body, having different gifts and thus different roles. But in this we are united: that God became man and died for our sins. Through the Holy Spirit we are not just certain about the victory that has already been won, but also the victory that is to come.

When Christ comes to lead us home, make sure you are not left behind mourning the defeat of denominationalism!

Time to go home?

Sometimes it’s a great idea to explore. We may go mountaineering, scale the heights and look down upon God’s beautiful creation. We may go through towns and villages, noticing hidden gems snd meeting new people. The kind of ‘exploration’ that I love is going to churches of other denominations and experiencing how other Spirit-filled followers of Christ interpret the Bible and live out their faith.

 

I think, however, these should be intended as temporary sojourns. Mostly I am a happy in my faith, and when I feel that my faith is unable to grow anymore a small dose of another denomination’s theology can be just the spark needed to reignite the spiritual fire inside me. Those who have seen my previous blogs will no doubt have noticed that Pentecostalism has worked wonders for me and taught me to see things in a whole new light. The things that I have learned include:

 

  • as long as His salvific grace is proclaimed, God is not bothered by the style of music we use;

 

  •  the Third Order of St Francis, or a family who only has time to attend church on a Sunday, they all have the same potential and duty to be led by the Holy Spirit;

 

  • Prayer is powerful spiritual tool and should be used at all times. I love the way this is emphasised amongst Pentecostals: pray for insight; pray for God’s love to spread outwards; some in our community are joyful – praise God for them; some one in our community is hurting so lets us pray for them now! I also love the story of how Pastor Derek Prince and his wife would pause on numerous occasions during dinner in order for them to join hands and pray for whoever or whatever had come to mind in that moment. [1] In a nutshell, what I have learned is this: PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!!! Prayer is one of the most socially helpful gifts that we have, so lets attune our hearts and minds with Jesus (Rom. 8:34) and make this a better world today!!!

 

  • Throughout all my years as a baptised Christian I have prioritised my own personal faith. I have been selfish. But since I came to an understanding of how the Cross is linked to the Resurrection by the Harrowing of Hell (outlined here), I now feel it’s time to at last stop making excuses and wasting time and work to help fulfil the Church’s evangelistic ethos (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 2f.).

I do owe my local Pentecostal community a great deal of gratitude, but I also thank you my friends. Though this blog site has been going for less than a month, reading both your comments and your own blogs has also helped encourage and strengthen my faith. Thank you. I pray for you and that the limitless love of God may stretch across the whole world. Please pray that God may tell me me which Christian community He wants me to be with.

 

God bless you.

 

Endnote

[1] Prince, Derek (2009, 2018) Secrets of a Prayer Warrior. Grand Rapids: Revell Books, p. 7.

The Primary Purpose of an Evangelist

I’ve been wanting to ask this question for some time, but I’ve been a little hesitant. But now, having read many blogs from various Christian perspectives – particularly T.F. Thompson’s on The Issue of Christianity and Free Will – I feel a pressing need to seek the opinion of any of you who wish to comment.

Google “Evangelist” and it is defined as “a person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith, especially by public preaching” (emphasis mine). A good definition, isn’t it? However, in my view, such a definition could possibly only have applied to the apostles in the New Testament period, and even then there was a struggle to present a unified front (cf. Acts 11:1-18; 15:1-29; Gal. 2:1-21). Fast forward 2000 years and owing to the various and almost countless denominations, one feels obliged to ask whether a person is really free to preach God‘s message? For example, can the church-sponsored evangelist preaching in church-owned property, and / or in an area dominated by a single denomination (or even on a website sponsored either by a church or the denomiation of which it is a part), ever be completely free to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit? Or do we continually deceive ourselves and dilute His message in order to communicate our own denominational biases (either consciously or unconsciously)?