Monday, October 27, 2008

Revival Jesus

I've written before (see the link in the title bar) about my growing lack of enthusiasm for revival. The recent pseudo-revival at Lakeland only serves to reinforce the trend. There was a time when I thought revival was just what the doctor ordered for the ailing church, for I came to Christ in the midst of a wave.

State College, Pennsylvania was a truly happening place in the late 70's and early 80's. People were coming to Christ, it seemed, hand over fist. Miracles were occurring. God's presence was readily experienced, fellowship was sweet. I was too naive at the time to know that what was happening was revival on a small scale, I just thought that was how Christianity was practiced. It was the Bible in life after all. It was only the subsequent study of church history that made me realize what had occurred, and I ached to see it occur again.

I still have that longing, but I'm reticent to get on the revival bandwagon these days. Frankly, the record of revivals since WWI has been spotty at best... "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." They fall like a meteor, make a splash, but given just a short time, the waters still with scarcely a ripple left to evidence that anything happened at all. Why? Imho, revival, as this generation knows it, tends to be about the heeby-jeebies or the cleansy-weansies rather than the person of Christ, the experiencer rather than the expiater.

Folk either lay in convulsing heaps regretting with loud sorrow their sinfulness longing for absolution, or fly around erratically like untied balloons in the joy of their release. Either way the emphasis is on me rather than thee, and eventually, either activity runs out of steam and things settle into a depressing, entropic sameness but lessness. A few stalwart cowboys may try to rekindle the brands and restore the sizzle of flesh on fire, but their efforts tend to be more style than substance. Then the pining begins. All those folks want is to return to the experience, like addicts trying to catch that first rush again. I have to wonder why, didn't they meet Jesus? Wasn't that what it was all about?

You see, I can't avoid the sneaking suspicion that what some of the revival hungry are really saying is that the Jesus thing doesn't truly work except in those special times. At all others, it produces substandard spirituality, with something missing, yielding no real satisfaction. The only Jesus worth experiencing is Revival Jesus. I've got to tell you, for me, that just does not compute. It's not what being a disciple, a brother, the redeemed is all about. It's not what is presented in the Bible.

It does not, and it never will get better than a personal, interactive fellowship with Christ. That is not revival, that is Christianity. I'll happily embrace, and longingly pray for a season of visitation and harvest, outpouring and filling for the church, but we need to keep our bearings straight. To love Revival Jesus better than Jesus everyday is to flirt with idolatry.

"I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ " Philippians 3:8

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vote for Life

Approximately thirty years ago, Evangelicals, no longer satisfied sitting on their hands as part of Nixon's silent majority, decided to speak up. The Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition and some of their companion groups arose with a vision of preserving America's religious roots and returning her to them through political engagement. I've always seen that ideal as a selective reading of history, because America has always been a land of booze, getting rich quick, and the guy at the bottom of the food chain getting the shaft from the guys at the top. For the bulk of our history, Africans have been held against their wills in slavery and women have had no political or legal say-so. Are those roots we want to return to?

I do believe, however, (at least in this country where people are the government) that Christians should be politically engaged, and in both of the major parties. We the people are responsible for what our political leaders do on our behalf. We're responsible if we don't vote, because we could have, we should have. We're responsible if we do vote, particularly if the candidate we voted for wins and is seated in office. Other people in other times in other places in the world didn't have this responsibility, we do! There's no running or hiding from it, it's the cost of living in a representative democracy.

So how should we handle that responsibility? How about very carefully? Not so much about the whos of who's elected, but at what cost to our allegiance to God do we support and promote those whos. No politician is the answer to what ails us, Jesus alone has that power. No singular politician, at least under our form of governance, is going to change everything. Most of what passes as politics is bluster and lie, and needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In fact, the sooner we get these folks back to productive life after their public service the better!

There is, however, one issue that stands above all others in my viewpoint, and one for which we cannot lose heart in the struggle. When the most innocent among us are cold-bloodedly murdered day in and day out, nothing else can be right in the land. Being anti-abortion is not about returning to some fantasy about some former golden day in America, it is about life and death and we cannot shirk our responsibility. Christians must vote pro-life.

You may strategize about how to do that, whether by party affiliation or the individual candidate's stance, but make no mistake about it: you are the government and you are responsible for the choices government makes. What you can do to influence those choices is good and right for you to do, so long as it's not rebellious. The easiest thing you can do is vote for life.

Take a look at this! (HT to Paul Grabill)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is This the End?

When we see before our eyes the calls for a coordinated global response to the current economic crisis, we have to question whether or not this could signal the end of the age. Is this current crisis the harbinger of the rise of the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation? Who knows? For the Antichrist to arise, the psychology of the world has got to be herded toward the acceptance of a global economic currency, and a global economic regimen, and ultimately a global leader. A crisis like this one may well be just what the Devil ordered to prep the world for his last Antichrist scheme, but it is next to impossible to say so definitively.

We did have a global economic crisis, caused by the same trigger (i.e. debt), just before the seventh Antichrist scheme was uncovered. Then, the U.S. Stock Market crashed sending ripples through the rest of the world and causing economies around the world to collapse. Germany was already in a fix at that time and the wave overturned a swamped, leaking vessel. The chaos of misery was used by Hitler to undermine sitting governments flailing to cope, and eventually to gain political power democratically, though his party only got a third of the vote. It took him less than four years from the crash to do so. Since the Devil never does learn a new trick, this moment is certainly a significant one.

We're in for a bumpy ride, that no one can deny. Hope has been ripped out from under so many like a proverbial rug. Their noggins have been dinged like the dinner bell. When the fog clears and reveals a bleak landscape, who will they turn to? We survived the Great Depression and the Seventh Antichrist, but the world will not escape the eighth and last. If history is the key to the future, the Antichrist is now unfolding his gambit for power. I don't think it's Obama (I could be wrong), things are interesting in Turkey; regardless, in light of the ride were on, loosen your seat belts-- why have any drag from the world we're in when the trumpet sounds.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

When We Get Behind Closed Doors

I like NASCAR but hate country music (go figure): too many achy hearts, empty whiskey bottles, childish adulterers, and twangy vocals. That probably explains why I like the food at Texas Roadhouse well enough, but hate eating there! Regardless, an old cross-over country tune from my childhood brings to life a well worn phrase that I think has some spiritual applications.

I think virtually everyone has an outside face and an inside one. Not that everyone is markedly two-faced, or hypocritical, but they are divided. The outside face is the one people see. For apparently holy Christians, generally, that face is self-controlled, successful at its endeavors, happily married, great at parenting, doubtless in faith, and growing in Christ. For virtually all of us, especially apparently holy Christians, that is not entirely true about us when no one is looking. When we're alone in the room, we see the inside face: frustrated, confused, self-loathing, fearful, doubtful, even despairing our lot or the possibility that we'll ever be different, better.

Why do we feel the need for the dichotomy? Maybe we're afraid of what people will think, or that we'd be ostracized if we went about maskless. Maybe we're egotistical and need to prop up our self-delusion lest the statue we've painstakingly sculpted crumbles. Maybe we're just that pathetic. Regardless, our lot is all too human, too common, two-faced. Is our hypocrisy actually hypocrisy, or is it just humanity?

I think our private rooms exist, closed off, in the space between the walls. On one side of those walls is the space which all see. On the other side of those walls is the space where God sees all. In between are the secret passages, the places where rats dwell unseen. Afraid of being a rat in God's presence, or being seen as a rat in the world's, we gnaw at our inner turmoil in the hidden space in between. Why do we feel the need?

Could it be, deep down inside we don't understand Christ? This one, who with eyes wide open, went to the cross for the likes of us! Did he do that in order to become dependent on us, or because he needs us, or because he has some expectancy of us? No, he did that because he loved us, as we are, as he knew us to be, warts and all, nothing hidden. As long as we feel the need to hide our inner rat, we'll neither be free in the world nor in our own spaces. Freedom and joy come to the rat unafraid of being a rat in God's room. Grace will always be no more than a theory, until it gets behind closed doors.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

From Our Tongue to God's Ear?

Who are tongues addressed too? Some Pentecostal scholars have suggested that the audience is God and therefore the interpretation of tongues should address God as well in order to be legitimate. Under such a regimen, an intepretation that addressed people (a la prophecy) would be considered out of order out of hand. Is this intimated in scripture and should this be the standard leaders apply in accepting or rejecting intepretations?

No, for two reasons:

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:2 (NIV)

1) Although this text says straightforwardly that a tongue speaker speaks mysteries to God, in saying so, is its intent to highlight the direction of tongues? No, in context, this passage states very clearly why a tongue speaker, in effect, speaks to God: because only God can understand him, no one else does. To people it's babble, to God it's understandable-- even if it was directed to men, only God would understand the language and comprehend the message. To extrapolate from that functional reality to say that tongues must be directed conversationally to God is to say more than, and other than the scripture says in context.
Although there are passages which anecdotally imply direction toward God (in those instances, anyhow), that is not the same as asserting that the direction has to be toward God just because it was in those instances.

In the Law it is written: "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord. Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 (NIV)

2) When Paul quotes Isaiah to point to an OT presage of tongues, he clearly reverses the direction of communication, i.e. God speaks to men through the strange tongues other men are speaking. If the model for tongues was directed from God to men, why would anyone doubt the fulfillment could be?

Since God inspires both the tongues and the intepretation, it is up to him to determine what is done with them, especially directionally. The only objective tests we are given in scripture regarding any spoken utterance deal with content, not direction. If we listened to the proponents of directional theory, we would wind up paying undue attention to the pronouns in a message rather than its actual content. What excess or error could that possibly address? Aren't there enough real problems for charismatics to deal with that we don't have to go around turning stones over looking for intellectual trifles to stumble over? Oy vey, from my tongue to God's ear!