Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Quotables from John Wimber

Part of the fun of researching the Post-Charismatic project has been re-reading some old (meaning, 1980's) books by people like John Wimber.

Although Wimber was not writing with postmodernism or the emerging church in mind, these tidbits jumped out at me as very applicable (and somewhat prophetic?) about where we're at in the early 21st century:
  1. "Scripture values the contemplative life. This is a result of holding a supernatural worldview... An example of this is Psalm 77, where the psalmist 'remembered (his) songs in the night' and '(his) heart mused and (his) spirit enquired of God."
  2. "Scripture is poetic. This value comes from the Christian's understanding of revelation being rooted in the supernatural, testifying to a reality beyond the temporal order. Intrinsic to this trascendent reality is beauty.
  3. "The Bible employs vivid picture language. A first-century semitic person did not argue from a premise to a conclusion -- he was not controlled by rationalism. Instead, he painted a word picture, employing concrete situations, relationships, and places to make his point.
  4. "Scripture accepts paradox easily. For example, Western Christians have always found it difficult to accept the paradoxical truths of God's sovereignty and man's freedom. They are pre-occupied with logical consistency, a concern that first-century Christians did not have. Their worldview allowed for apparent contradiction when touching on the mysteries of God.
  5. "Religion is a way of life... Distilling Christian teaching down to a set of creeds and a code of ethics, (Western Christians) are usually more concerned with personal conduct and assent to doctrine than with Christian lifestyle. They hold more of a Christian ethic or practice, not a way of life. But Christianity is more than a list of beliefs to which we assent."
John Wimber, Power Evangelism

Nothing New Under the (Charismatic) Sun

I love reading the wisdom of the Christian writers in the past. They have some great insights to give us, and it's also encouraging to read that they had similar struggles and difficulties that we seem to go through as well. Here's a few tidbits from George Whitefield's experience in the Great Awakening:
George Whitefield: "It is no sign that a work is not from the Spirit of God, that many, who seem to be subjects of it, are guilty of great imprudencies and irregularities in their conduct. We are to consider that the end for which God pours out His Spirit, is to make men holy, and not to make them politicians. It is no wonder that, in a mixed multitude of all sorts -- wise and unwise, young and old, of weak and strong natural abilities -- there are many who will behave themselves imprudently."
Then the critics speak up:
"Because Whitefield would not (leave the church of England), the Associate Presbytery vilified him in 1742 in a pamphlet entitled The Declarations, Protestation, and Testimony of the Suffering Remnant of the Anti-Popish, Anti-Lutheran, Anti-Prelactic, Anti-Whitefieldian, Anti-Sectarian, True Presbyterian Church of Christ in Scotland. In it they charged that 'Whitefield's foul prelactic, sectarian hands' had administered the sacraments to Presbyterians and stated that Whitefield 'is not of a blameless conversation... but is a scandalous idolater... a limb of anti-Christ; a boar, and a wild beast...'"
Ouch. And when the Azusa Street revival gave birth to Pentecostalism in the early years of the 20th century:
"One leader called the Pentecostals the 'rulers of spiritual Sodom', their tongues 'this Satanic gibberish', and their services 'the climax of demon worship'. While glossalalia (speaking in tongues) can be indeed inspired by demons as well as by the Holy Spirit, it can be harmful to write books with such titles as Demons and Tongues, a 1936 diatribe against the early Pentecostals.
"G. Campbell Morgan referred to Pentecostals as 'the last vomit of Satan', while R.A. Torrey accused them of being 'founded by a Sodomite'."
Back to George Whitefield:

"But if revival comes with eruptions of burning hostility, it also brings with it a new openness of heart among members of the family of God. Friend George, a Quaker, told George Whitefield in 1741, 'I am as thou art; I am for bringing all to the life and power of the ever-living God: and therefore if thou wilt not quarrel with me about my hat, I will not quarrel with thee about thy gown.'

"Whitefield shared the same spirit. In preaching the gospel he was not ashamed of being contaminated by others. The threat of 'guilt by association' never daunted him. Faced with bitter criticism, he writes, 'I was more and more determined to go out into the highways and hedges; and that if the Pope himself would lend me his pulpit, I would gladly proclaim the righteousness of Christ therein.'"
(source: When the Spirit Comes with Power by John White)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Finding Wisdom in Community

My heartfelt appreciation goes out to all of you who have taken the time and trouble to send me "forwards" over the past 12 months.

Thank you for making me feel safe, secure, blessed and healthy.
  • Extra thanks to whoever sent me the email about rat poop in the glue on envelopes - cause I now have to go get a wet towel every time I need to seal an envelope.
  • I now also scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.
  • Because of your genuine concern, I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with a needle infected with AIDS.
  • I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.
  • I no longer eat KFC because their "chickens" are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers.
  • Thanks to you, I have learned that God only answers my prayers if I forward an email to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.
  • I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl on the internet with no arms and no legs who is about to die in the hospital (again).
  • I no longer have any money at all in fact - but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special on-line email program.
Yes, I am so overcome with gratitude to all of you for looking out for me, that my only response can be to return the favor.

If you don't send this email to at least 144,000 people in the next 3 minutes, a large pigeon with a wicked case of diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 PM (PST) tomorrow afternoon. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbour's ex-mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician.

(With heart-felt appreciation to my daughter Jo, who forwarded this to me.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Letters to the Editor

"It's not that this writer says nothing that is true or of value. On the contrary, this article contains a great truth, but it is forever obscured and eclipsed by a bitter fog of sarcasm and cynicism."
Mark Driscoll has been provoking quite a bit of reaction around the blogosphere for his published response to Brian McLaren's statements about homosexuality. You can read Mark's thoughts at Christianity Today's blog.

Mark's blog has also had some witty but quite biting things to say about the Emergent crew in general (of which he was an early member), as found in his inaugural post entitled "welcome", and following posts regarding his lunch with Ravi Zacharias.

Not everyone has been happy with Mark's attitude or choice of words. I haven't read any of Mark's books so far, but I've seen some good things in what Mark is blogging about. Good questions. Good observations. I don't agree with everything, but there's still some good content there.

But that sarcastic, dismissive tone? Whatever happened to humility (1 Peter 5:5), speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and treating others as you would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31)?

For the record, the quote at the top of this post does not refer to anything Mark Driscoll has written. It was a well-crafted letter to the editor, sent over 20 years ago, providing a very necessary rebuke and correction to an arrogant, sarcastic, and equally acidic young writer named Robbymac.

I hope Mark loses "the attitude". I'm still trying to co-operate with the Spirit on refining my own (Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Timothy 5:1-2). In the meantime, don't miss what God may be saying through Mark -- remember, even Balaam's ass still had the Word of the Lord (Numbers 22:28-34 KJV).

Friday, January 13, 2006

Dreams

He sat quietly for a few moments, swirling the dark ale in his glass, thinking unheard thoughts before answering my question.

"Twenty years," he finally announces, placing his glass gently but firmly back on the table in the pub.

I did a double-take, my own ale momentarily forgotten. "Twenty years?" I finally managed to say, unable to hide my surprise and incredulity.

"Yeah, hard to believe, eh?" He responded, leaning forward and taking another hearty sip of his drink. "It's been twenty years since I was last in full-time ministry."

"How do you process that?" I asked, "Do you feel like you've lost something, did times just change, or do you just look at 'ministry' in a different way now?"

He and his wife exchanged looks. "All of the above," he replied. "I think something was lost, something which I'd love to get back. Times have changed, churches have changed, society's changed. And I guess we look at ministry differently, but let me tell you something..."

He leaned forward to emphasize what he was saying. "When we talked about our life dreams a few weeks ago at our home group, we were the only ones who had dreams of full-time ministry. Our group is awesome; very godly people. But we were the only ones with ministry-oriented dreams."

He leaned back into his chair, fingering the tankard of ale, the food on the table now cold and forgotten. "I guess I still dare to dream."

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Grocery Lessons

You remember those old posters that said "Everything I needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten?"

I've always been kinda partial to the one that said "Everything I needed to learn, I learned from Star Trek", but that's probably just the geek in me speaking.
But I know that I learned at lot during my high school years of working at Canada Safeway, and it's funny how God brings memories of those days to mind every now and then, and how it provokes my thinking about the present.

It was a Wednesday evening shift, and Wednesdays were typically not as busy as other days of the week, with lower customer numbers, and no semi-truck to be unloaded. My two buddies and I had worked diligently in the early part of our shift, and we had actually finished about 98% of the store-closing tasks that were required, and we still had a couple of hours left before the store closed.

We were standing around in the back room, laughing and talking, when our manager strode briskly through the doors. "Finished for the night, gentlemen?" he asked, in his usual abrupt and business-like manner.

Not sensing for a second our imminent and implied doom, we cheerfully replied, "Hey, just look! We've got everything finished already -- just a couple of minor bits that we can't do till the store actually closes!" We were naively self-congratulatory, and for some inexplicable reason seemed to believe that our manager would share our joy.

He said nothing for a moment, only looking back and forth at the three of us, hands on his hips. "Come with me," he finally said, and led us away like lambs to the slaughter.

We all ended up with the dregs of possible store duties. I can't remember what the other two penitents ended up doing, but I spent the next two hours in the milk freezer, scraping up the spilled (aged, rotten, and extremely odourous) milk that had congealed on the floor in the back freezer.

After that night, we suddenly discovered that -- if we'd only look around -- there was always something else that we could be working on, and it would consistently be much more enjoyable than scraping the floor of the milk freezer.

Our mananger had never said a word to us, beyond giving us our new duties. He never had to explain the lesson. It was immediately obvious: there's always something else to do. Just look around. Be observant. Lift up your eyes from your own small little world, and see what else needs to be done.
Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35)