Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pentecost Extraordinaire

"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come ... they were all amazed, and were perplexed, saying one to another, What meaneth this? ... This is that ..."
(Acts 2)

What made this Pentecost different from all others?

Something extraordinary was being fulfilled.

Devout Jewish men from every nation had gathered for generations at Jerusalem to celebrate this yearly feast. The eleven disciples with friends were no doubt gathered in the Upper Room as part of this festival, but with a greater purpose in view.

Suddenly - the skies gave no indication - a distant sound, growing ever louder, like a gathering windstorm, then a thunderous explosion as its epicenter struck the room where the 120 were gathered, sitting. This otherworldly wind filled the house profoundly affecting each person present. Bolts of fire distributed, settling upon everyone - young and old, men and women, regardless of status. This heavenly fire so infused their beings and captivated their powers of speech that they began speaking the very languages of the many gathered for Pentecost, declaring the wonders of God

The sound of the tornado-like wind and its effects upon nature and the 120 drew a bewildered crowd to this never-seen-before scene, asking:

"What Does This Mean?"

God the Holy Spirit had come!

God had come upon Mount Sinai.

God had come to the Tabernacle of Witness.

God had come to Solomon's Temple.

God had come to Bethlehem's Manger.

Now He had come in baptizing power upon the nucleus of the first early church, the Body of Christ on earth. 

The question awoke memories of something similar, to the days of Joshua, when a memorial of stones were set up of the crossing of the Jordan - a witness to God's deliverance to future generations (4:1-9). These many years later God's activity in their daily lives were all but a faded memory. They weren't expecting anything different from life than the normal. Thus the question held somewhat of a rebuke of the supernatural. Perhaps too to their tired faith and dreams it carried a breath of fresh hope.

Sweet Wine or This?

The Spirit-filled Peter responded to the fears, doubts, and hopes of the crowd by reminding them of ancient prophecies when God would once again visit and claim His desolate people, and that this time He would come with salvation to everyone who called upon the name of the Lord. No, this activity of speaking in tongues wasn't the result of sweet wine. This was God's time. God was taking this early morning opportunity, before man's inventions could mar it, to literally pour His Spirit upon men and women, with a promise of more to come.

When Peter quoted Joel 2 he did not say, 'this fulfills that spoken by the prophet Joel', as a past event, but rather, 'this is that' ... as a continual action, meaning that it will continue indefinitely.

Even today.

To “know Christ and the power of His resurrection”, we ask for the Holy Spirit.

To see what God can and will do through His Church, locally, we ask for the Holy Spirit.

To make a difference for God to reach a dying world and our communities, we ask for the Holy Spirit.

This Is That ....

* which helped Moses become the man and leader he was, led His people by fire and cloud, anointed David for kingship, inspired holy men to write the Holy Bible we have today
* likened as oil for anointing, water for life, wind for power, fire for purity, a dove for meekness
* a rest and refreshing for the weary, aids us in prayer and worship, a sign from God to the unbelieving, a means of edification and communication with God, extols the wonderful works of God
* gives wisdom, understanding, counsel, and might to people; lifting a standard against the kingdom of darkness
* fathered Jesus, anointed Him in life and for service, raised Him from death, gives life today
* the source of hope, miracles, boldness, purity, spirituals gifts and leadership roles
* gives access to God, strengthens our inner person; creates, illuminates truth, convicts of sin
* prophesied by the prophets, the Promise of the Father, commanded by Christ to receive
* "This is that" is God the Holy Spirit, ready to fill and empower us today

No Opportunity Wasted

Take the challenge. Face your greatest fears. Seize the day. See what the Holy Spirit can and will do through you. We can be ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Through the Holy Spirit we can:

1. Speak the Kingdom of God into lives and situations (Acts 1:3,4).
2. Devote ourselves increasingly to prayer (Acts 1:14)
3. Be continually filled with His presence and power (Acts 2:17; Eph. 5:18).
4. Live in an atmosphere of repentance toward God (Acts 3:19).
5. Live as the reconciled (Acts 2:43-47).
6. Empower the coming generation (Acts 2:39a).
7. Be the voice and vision of God; no Spirit, no voice - no Spirit, no vision (Acts 2:39b)
8. Suffer for the glory of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:41)
9. Bring the healing Jesus to suffering humanity and a skeptical world (Acts 4:30)
10. Extend the blessing of Christ to the nations (Acts 3:25)
11. Elevate our praying into new dimensions through the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 14:14,15)

Father God, I want to be a difference in my world of influence; I ask for the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost: Memorial or Legacy

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly ...
Acts 2:1,2)

A memorial is something designed to preserve the memory of a person or event; therefore, a specific reminder. A legacy is something handed down from the past; a perpetual inheritance, endless in existence. Memorials are standing monuments, legacies are gifts of a LIFEtime. A memorial is also a written statement of facts or a petition presented to a sovereign, legislative body, or CEO.

Pentecost is both a memorial to a past event and a legacy of the present and future. The past lay a foundation upon which to build today for tomorrow. Pentecost, as an event, cannot be repeated. However, as experiencing its reality, there are many 'fillings' of the Spirit. Many just are content with remembering the past, but not God. From God's perspective, Pentecost is His living legacy, or will, to the church, His governing body. For the church, it is a factual statement and petition presented to God of our rightful inheritance.

Sudden things do not occur with stationary monuments, they happen with the releasing of a legacy.

Latin American Exodus

The Catholic Church in Latin America has embarked upon a "continentwide, great evangelical mission" in an attempt to reach out to the faithful, especially in their cities slum areas, where Protestants have been gaining converts. In so doing the Church hopes to stem the exodus tide from Catholicism to evangelicalism.

One billion Catholics live in Latin America but Pentecostal churches are seeing enormous growth in recent years. Brazil's census shows that the Catholic population dropped from 89% in 1980 to 74% in 2000, while evangelical Protestants rose from 7% to 15%. In Guatemala, the evangelical community represents almost 25% percent of the population.

The faithful poor are leaving the stale and inactive liturgy dedicated to the past for the personal and vibrant faith where God lives and acts through the Holy Spirit in daily life. In reinvigorating itself the Catholic Church must return to the basic tenets of Pentecost.

Pentecost's Continuum

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. (Acts 2:32,33)

This is the legacy. The Holy Spirit! The Spirit is a continuum of the life and death, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, being poured back into our lives to reproduce the same life and works. One part cannot be distinguished from the other; it's a whole.

Speaking of the Spirit Jesus promised, "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-39) The fountainhead of these 'rivers of living waters' is Pentecost . These waters are living, not stagnant. He also said that the streams would flow from Jerusalem to the most secluded, remote, out-of-the-way places of earth. (Acts 1:8) Its grand earthly finale is discovered in Revelation 22:1 where it flows eternally.

When Jesus commented that the source of the rivers in the believer is his 'belly' he was referring to the area know anatomically as the solar plexus, a large network of sympathetic nerves located behind the stomach; the area where we really feel things, thus the pit of the stomach. Some has translated it as 'heart', as the 'heart of the matter'. The Spirit assists in the very core issues of life. And this is the area where the gift of tongues exists.

It is also interesting that in Peter's pentecostal message he confirms that of these things we are 'witnesses', someone who gives a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced, furnishing evidence. We affirm our Christian faith, as a witness, being present when a spiritual transaction took place, and we sign our name, our life, to its authenticity.

Generational Blessing

We speak of generational curses but the promise of Pentecost is a generational blessing. God covenanted with Abraham to make of him a great nation, Israel, and through them "all peoples on earth" would be blessed. That blessing was fully realized with the coming and continuum of Jesus Christ through the New Covenant beginning at Pentecost. The blessing of Abraham is one of faith and the Holy Spirit. (Gal. 3:7-9, 14)

Isaiah spoke of the Gospel era in these terms, "As for Me," says the Lord, "this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants," says the Lord, "from this time and forevermore." (59:21) At Pentecost Peter reminded, "you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-39)

We are blessed to be a blessing to, in, and with every generation! Let's be living legacies.


Pentecost: Before and After

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come ....

The Day of Pentecost is the Jewish Feast of Shavu'ot. It is also called the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering. Pentecost follows Passover by fifty days. It commemorates the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. This was one of three feasts in which every male was to attend. Ritual sacrifices, offerings, and holy worship were observed.

This then is the setting for the Day of Pentecost. Jesus attached special significance to this day. God was up to something, something out of the usual, something different from the normal, something new and extraordinary. He spoke of the fulfilling of a promise. As the fulness of the season arrived in the Temple city of Jerusalem, on schedule, the Ruach HaKodesh blew in and consumed those seated in the Upper Room with divine unction.

Days of Waiting

Before His ascension Jesus gathered with His family of disciples, commanding them not to leave Jerusalem, but to "wait ... until". They did not fully understand what they were waiting for, nor could they have predicted the events of Pentecost. Similarly, we also pray as we wait and wonder what God is up to; we cannot predict when or how the Holy Spirit will act out His plan and desires. Often nothing seems to be happening; our work of faith has gone unrewarded, our prayers unanswered. This is the business of waiting on God. The church waits to hear from its Lord; we know not what the Holy Spirit will do in the church and in our lives anymore than the early disciples did. In this waiting time of birth and rebirth things cannot be rushed, contrary to the "fast food mentality" of our world. We wait prayerfully, attentively, expectantly. The Holy Spirit will come, with new orders. Ascension days are preparatory to pentecostal days.

Ascension Day

Forty days after His Passion and Resurrection Christ Jesus "was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God". His re-entrance presents four priorities of Ascension Day.

1) The Son of God has resumed His role in the Godhead. While upon earth the Son of God lived and acted solely as Son of Man, limited as a human being. Now exalted to the right hand of God, the Son of Man lives and acts solely as the Son of God, unlimitedly. "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."

2) The Son of God is enacting His role as Saviour of the World, administering His sacrificial salvation on a worldwide basis to all who believe. "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God."

3) The Son of God is mediating His role as Advocate and Intercessor. "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us."

4) Being ascended the Son of God shall descend at His Second Advent to rout His enemies. "For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death."

The tenor of New Testament thought is that the Resurrection and Ascension are contemporary events; being raised from death Christ is raised in position. Jesus is not living and moving about short-changed from earth; He is actively engaged and involved from a heavenly position.

Fully Come

Pentecost is more than an event, it became an experience. Christians worldwide live out Christmas and Easter; less experienced are Ascension and Pentecost. Pentecost came yearly, as usual, but this time it came with a difference. It arrived with wind, fire, and speaking in tongues, causing the gathering crowds to question, "Whatever could this mean?" Whenever God did the unusual it evoked, "What does this mean?" So, Pentecost means ....

a) The Holy Spirit has come. It was in the Heavenly Father's eternal plan to send His Son to earth as the Redeeming Sacrifice. Everything in history pointed in that direction. Jesus came and lived the perfect life, died to remove sin, rose in conquest of death ... end of story. But it's not; Jesus ascended in exaltation and sent forth the Spirit in His place. This is equally as true and important as the sending forth of the Son to initiate the plan of God. The Son writes the covenant agreement with His life, death, and resurrection. The Spirit now enacts the conditions of the covenant, to the end of time. One initiates, the other consummates. One without the other leaves the plan of God unfulfilled and incomplete.

b) The Church was born. It was conceived in eternity past, it birthed at Pentecost. In and through the church God's plan is carried out across the face of the earth. Without the church the Cross dies; it has no vehicle to propel itself. Without the Cross the church dies; it has no message and no reason for existence. The church is the single most important entity in the world today. The church is comprised of many individual ministries, but ministries alone does not the church make. At Pentecost the flames came individually, but then collectively they were "all filled with the Holy Spirit". The Spirit created the church as a body, "a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit". Let us honour that, because together is better.

c) The Church is gifted. The Spirit endows and empowers the church with His manifold gifts, graces, and abilities, for the common good of its members and the benefit of mankind through the proclamations of the Gospel. "But we have gifts that differ and which are meant to be used according to the grace that has been given to us." God wants us to discover and develop our gifts and to use them to His glory. No gift or ability is too insignificant for God. And God expects churches to allow the members to use the gifts He entrusted them with. He wants no one left behind. In this way the life and ministry of Christ is replayed in our day for all to see.

That makes God smile!

Source: Acts 2:1, Ex. 34:22; 23:16, Lev. 23:15,16, Ex. 12:6,12; 19:1,11, Deut. 16:16, Lev. 23:18,19, Duet. 16:11,12, Lk 24:49, Acts 1:4, Mark 16:19, John 17:5, Rom. 3:22, Heb. 10:12, Rom. 8:34, 1 Cor. 15:25-26, Acts 2:12, 33, Eph. 2:22, Rom. 12:6

Forum Explores Pentecostal Explosion

Whatever could the global explosion of Pentecostal "renewalism" have upon the religious, political, national, and social landscapes of countries increasingly being touched and impacted? Like countries in North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia?

This question has been repeatedly asked and debated since its inception in the Upper Room at Jerusalem during the Jewish Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13)

To address the rapid growth of one of the fastest-growing segments of global Christianity with a quantitative study on the religious, political and civic views of the participants, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, with financial help from the Templeton Foundation, revealed some interesting data.

Before identifying the survey, key terms must be understood. Pentecostal is used to describe individuals who belong to classical Pentecostal denominations, such as the Assemblies of God (AOG) or the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC).

Christians who have experienced the "in-filling" of the Holy Spirit but who are not members of Pentecostal denominations are Charismatics (graced with gifts from God). Most charismatics belong to mainstream Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox denominations.

The report when referring to Pentecostals and charismatics as a group uses the umbrella term "Renewalist".

The World Christian Database suggests that 1/4 of the world's 2 billion Christians are Renewalists. The common denominator of the Renewalists is the belief that God, acting through the Holy Spirit, continues to play a positive, direct and active role in their everyday lives.

Survey Says

The Pew Forum surveyed 10 countries with larger than normal renewalist populations. These were the United States; Brazil, Chile and Guatemala in Latin America; Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in Africa; and India, the Philippines and South Korea in Asia. In each country, the surveys were randomly taken of the public at large, as well as a larger representation of pentecostals and charismatics.

The report is lengthy and comprehensive. Therefore, for the sake of brevity we'll crunch the numbers. In the United States 5% are Pentecostal, 18% Charismatic, for a total of 23%. Brazil is 15% and 34% respectively, totaling 49%; Chile, 9% and 21%; Guatemala, 20% and 40%; Kenya, 33% and 23%; Nigeria, 18% and 8%; South Africa, 10% and 24%; localities in India, 1% and 44%; the Philippines, 4% and 40%; and South Korea, 2% and 9%. These findings show that Renewalists not only make up a significant portion of the country’s population but as well make up the majority of all Protestants.

Pentecostal Distinctives

There are certain distinctives that distinguish pentecostals and charismatics to a lesser degree, from other Christians. In seven countries surveyed nearly half of pentecostal churches include the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues speaking, prophesying or praying for healing of the sick. Charismatic services are less so, though still prevalent.

When it comes to healings and miracles, receiving divine revelations from God, and the casting out of evil spirits (exorcisms) renewalists outnumber other Christians. In South Korea, for example, healings have been witnessed by 56% of Pentecostals, 61% of Charismatics, and 20% of other Christians.

It is interesting to note, however, that outside of the United States these manifestations of the Spirit do rise significantly among non-renewalist Christians. In the USA only 28% of non-renewalists witnessed healings, 25% received a direct revelation from God, and 7% saw an exorcism while in Guatemala, for instance, it's 47%, 39%, and 28% sequentially. Perhaps this is because the need is greater.

Beliefs and Politics

Renewalists also have a higher view of traditional Christian doctrines and practices. In eight of ten countries renewalists believe the Bible is the literal Word of God. Amazingly this drops in the USA and Chile.
> Compared with non-renewalist Christians, renewalists stand out for their views on the "end times". The survey showed that in six countries over half believe that Christ will return in their lifetime. More than 80% in each country believe in the Rapture.

Pentecostals also share their faith with unbelievers at least once a week. And 70% in every country, except South Korea, completely agree that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.

Renewalist Christians are not apolitical; they believe there is a place for faith in political and public life. In every country they are as likely as others to express their views on day-to-day social and political issues. They also believe that political leaders should have strong Christian beliefs. Most believe in separation of church and state, but many adhere to the idea their nation should be Christian. This view is strongest among African pentecostals; 48% in Kenya, 58% in Nigeria, and 45% in South Africa.

Pentecostals are divided on whether or not AIDS is a punishment from God, are more likely to stand with Israel than with the Palestinians and are more willing to allow women leadership roles.

You can access and resource this and other survey material at http://pewforum.org/surveys/pentecostal/.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The fire alarmed sounded at my apartment complex. The housing authority usually does a monthly Tuesday system check so, personally, I considered it such until it didn't stop ringing. The fact is, nobody down my wing, including myself, believed it, and that is dangerous and could have been fatal.

No one systematically did the drill check, we just sat/walked around wondering if it was real and what we should do. We even took the word of a tenant that everyone was out of their rooms or at work without checking.

I don't even know who the fire monitors are. We have the emergency info but at this moment that was useless; I forgot about it or what it contains. But clearly we're not prepared for the 'real' thing! Staff were in our wing at the time and they were in the same boat as the rest of us, unbelieving and unsure of procedure.

I just couldn't believe our ignorance and stupidity.

But on a broader scale it reminded me of what I believe as a Christian, about a judgement to come, a place of separation. And we sit around, talking/discussing/wondering if the fire is real and the siren is trustworthy. When it comes to spiritual matters we're just as ignorant and stupid.

What do you say, is there life after death? Is there a hell or a heaven? On what do you base your beliefs on? How trustworthy is it?

Something to think about ....