Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Within Pentecost (and that embraces enough variations to give different perspectives on what is about to be brought forth here) we have always believed that the Holy Ghost restored unto us via a born-again experience includes those gifts listed in the twelfth chapter of 1st Corinthians. In the early days, when I first stepped into this with my bunch, we were taught that an initial baptism into His presence would be distinguished by receiving the manifestation of “speaking in tongues” and, until one accomplished that achievement, everything else was “on hold”. Today, however, there is very little instruction concerning any of it and, within our ranks, while most occurrence of the Supernatural during our services tends to flow from the pulpit, there are those among the congregation who seems to have no problem sharing with whomsoever “authority claimed”. Boldness equates to faith. Failure to accept or receive amounts to a lack of faith on your part. Why do I remain? Because within the mess our humanity brings to such subject there is yet the reality of God’s grace alive in our midst. We quite often know the blessings of the Spirit settling over us like a thick cloud, penetrating the depths of our identity and bringing us into unity in spite of all our differences. How do I deal with the confusion, the question of what springs out of His well and what is no more than a head full of good intentions but void of His anointing? When prophecy comes forth, not only must it not contradict the Word, but it also must be verified by its being fulfilled somewhere down the road. Indeed, those terms must be met regardless of which gift is declared to be in operation. People are people; God knows the heart; and learning to wait on His “tug” is a lesson found in a stumble down the path, especially if the Church fails to disciple its own……
Posted by Jim at 6:50 AM
Monday, June 8, 2015
I sat by myself in the rear of the sanctuary this morning. Worship took me into another dimension at one point; but, after that, my mind was more on the people around me than it was on the sermon brought forth. It could have been that greeting an old friend who’s at least fifteen years younger than me had sparked the mood. Rick’s hair is gray now, what there is of it, that is. Bald, not all that tall, sporting one of those chin beards that give him the “hillbilly biker” look, and wearing a Harley vest over a white t-shirt and jeans, he resembles an animated gnome, smiling with his eyes to complete the picture. I never see him that my thoughts don’t go back, the image of him sitting on our front door steps and confessing Christ after teenage years had taken him far from the small country church known in his childhood. A preacher’s kid who now attends another assembly, but visits his widowed mother here every week and is but one of many who connect with me in memories of long ago. Four decades is no short amount of time. Rick’s faith has held him. A lot of others, wounded along the way, sit now in the shadows, some still reading their Bibles, some not. I’ve come to believe we all are God’s children, each of us under His ministry regardless of location and, in the end, judgment will be one of the heart. Community is for fellowship. A thousand can do more together in ministry, quantity-wise, not quality-wise, than merely two hundred. Nonetheless, salvation remains a one-on-one experience worked out in a man’s heart. You can be just as lost singing in the choir as anywhere else. Gathered as one in His name we are as diverse a collection of individuals as one might find at a ballgame, a concert, or even in a bar. Being born-again doesn’t eliminate our humanity. Sitting in a pew doesn’t necessarily make you born-again. I miss Roger, though, and Junior, and Becky, and at least a hundred more, their names listed in my heart and remembered in my prayers as the Spirit stirs an old man’s memories. In Him, we are not separated. The tie yet binds. Distance is no barrier…
Posted by Jim at 7:40 AM
Sunday, June 7, 2015
A point within a point. My mind is yet turning over the Geometry lesson utilized as a sermonette at the Detention Center a few weeks back. The illustration, it seems to me, is much closer to truth than the understanding most believers adopt within this. There may be just one Book, but theology formed from what it says is another matter; and, while orthodox Bible-based variations of the faith claim unity, nonetheless, in Christ, yet any study of individual dogma gives question as to how it all concludes on Judgment Day. Will there be segregated lines for each denomination? Will it all hinge on whether we’ve been good Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals, fill in the blank, or whether we made use of what came to us through Calvary’s Cross? Is humanity’s problem solved through a theology or a reality maintained and worked out in the trenches? Is there an assurance we might possess beyond “herd mentality”, one that doesn’t abandon the Word and, at the same time, doesn’t create a zealot lost in his own heresy? From my own perspective, born out of a journey in this for more than four decades, believers own a “trinity”: (a) Scripture as an authentic blueprint to guide us in (b) the next step, life, itself, sorting out for us our continual stagger down the path as (c) the Holy Ghost, reconnected via a born-again experience, feeds us, directs us, and secures us only in as much as we utilize such grace given us, Christ “in” me more than just a catchphrase. That third element, though, remains a mystery, Deity not mine to own nor control in any manner. He exists in another dimension, yet proves Himself unto me as I go, a dream once, a vision another, every so often an audible voice, soft, stern, always as a Father; and that much of the relationship indeed is known “mentally”, in my head, but apart from my own thoughts. Beyond that, however, there is that “belly” anchorage, that Spiritual “pipeline” by which the Holy Ghost feeds me and ministers unto me, a point of encounter whereby, as He rises out of an inner well, I surrender myself to know Him in all that He is. It is an osmosis of sorts, a merger wherein depth varies, whether determined by my willingness to continue or by His wisdom I know not, but contact is undeniable. All else is religion. It’s what we do otherwise. It all comes down to a point……
Posted by Jim at 10:22 AM
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Beth and I watched one of those Nicholas Spark’s “chick flicks” yesterday. While something like “Braveheart” tugs more at my masculinity, if the plot is emotional and pierces the heart, then it makes no difference, romance or just life in general, this old man confesses to an enjoyment of such genre. “Best of Me” revolves around two teenagers whose love for each other is physically severed for twenty-one years by unforeseen circumstances before a close friend’s death draws them back to their former childhood home. Within the story, the author poses the question as to whether or not destiny holds some sort of grip on all of us. Is humanity merely fulfilling a script written long ago before any of us were even born, our assigned role assumed upon arrival? It’s one of those mysteries beyond our ability to comprehend and to each their own opinion. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having experienced here and therein this journey, moments of what seemed to be “déjà vu”, those times where my mind has pondered the possibility if, in knowing the future before it even happens, God doesn’t determine the details of our existence. Choice is still a freedom seized back there in the Garden, fires stolen by Prometheus; but somehow little was achieved by such theft when Divinity owns eternity in either direction. My own sanity in the matter, “freedom”, if permission is granted to define it in such words, lies within my trusting Him with all my decisions, all my actions, and giving recognition to the truth that He, alone, has my back as well as the next step. In that I can rest. There is no need to worry if everything I do is in His will, for He IS His will and He abides within me. The only requirement is surrendering all of me unto Him for evaluation on a daily basis. Then, whatever tomorrow brings, pre-ordained or not, peace reigns within my soul, for if, from my perspective, things “happen”, that doesn’t change the facts: Nothing escapes His eye, His authority, and His power over all “things”…….
Posted by Jim at 7:32 AM
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Beth and I watched a Disney production yesterday, something called “Into the Woods” and more of a musical than anything else. McKenna had already seen it in the theater, loved it, and asked if we would buy the DVD for her. As it unfolded there before us in our living room, the plot quickly revealed itself to be at least four or five fairytales woven together into one story. No animation. Johnny Depp played the Big Bad Wolf and is killed within about a twenty minute segment. My oldest daughter and friends were quite disappointed with the whole thing, but this old man was rather amused with the lyrics and the genius of whoever thought to so combine Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack in the Bean Stalk. Amused, that is, until what should have been the end, everybody living happily ever after, was drawn out another thirty minutes, the situation reversed and all the characters blaming each other for the fact that life was still life and no fairytale. Yet so it is with humanity, even “in” Christ. I posted a quote on Facebook yesterday stating how “Genius and talent develop in quiet places; but character develops out in the full current of life”. Forty-three years within Pentecost has taught me that, while being “born-again” connected me internally with Deity in another dimension, any and all aspects of what that change in my existence brings to me depend on how often I “return to the well” as well as how much I “make myself a vessel permitting overflow”. In Bible class last night, our teacher pointed us to D-Day, America’s present moral state, and the pastor’s Sunday morning sermon “Making room for the Holy Spirit”. My immediate question was as to whether this nation’s condition was created by a pagan society or a Church that has failed to reach it with the reality of Christ “in” me. Have we been so busy “making war” that we have lost His heart, His vision, and His compassion in this? Do we gain any ground “swinging the sword” out of our own passion, or would we accomplish more by putting it back into His hands and walking by the inner tug on our anchor-line? Is it more about “my way or the highway”, or His way and His voice leading me in the next step? This isn’t Mother Goose. This is the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, our Father, Trinity within…….
Posted by Jim at 8:39 AM
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
My granddaughter turns fifteen in August. She’s been raised within Pentecost all her life, had a few Spiritual encounters in her younger years, but only in the last six months or so has stepped into being more overt with her faith. Singing in the Youth Service, involved with the drama group that every so often ministers in the adult sanctuary, and openly seeking His presence during altar calls points to a hunger never before openly expressed. Her older brother, as well, has greatly changed within that same time frame and perhaps seeing that transformation take place has birthed this in her. Does it make me happy? I rejoice! Not that either were ever anything but good kids. Just that Papaw, with over four decades in this, has long prayed for his grandchildren, not just to receive the blessing, but to know it with as much understanding as possible. I want them anchored, not merely submerged and then left to wonder where He’s at once the water has receded. Picking McKenna up at the church after practice and a prayer meeting tonight, therefore, I asked her during the drive home how she would define the word “prayer”. She looked at me quizzically and replied “conversation with God”. When I suggested that implied a need for words and, in truth, the Bible, itself, tells us linguistics aren’t really necessary, she cocked her head to listen. “While there are indeed any number of ways to approach His throne”, I said, naming praise, worship, as contemplation as examples, ”contact and interaction are found only in as much as we surrender ourselves unto His divinity, His wisdom and His judgment as they come forth to meet us out of an inner well.” I believe that. Grace is a Reality who has taken up residence within us. Heaven and earth has already been spanned; and if we, out of a hunger and thirst, humbly submit our will unto His, we CAN touch the hem of His garment. We CAN experience Him in the depths of all that He is. Capture Him? Encase Him and hold Him within the schematics of our theology? This isn’t an algebra lesson. This is life, and much more than just existing, if we visit His well on a regular basis…….
Monday, June 1, 2015
Facebook was avoided by me for a long time. My first visit in its initial stages discovered not much more than people announcing to others their daily routines, everything from mowing the lawn to a trip to the mall to turning out the lights and going to bed. That has changed somewhat along the way. For me it seems now like a place where whatever community you have befriended shares a bit of their identity through pictures, videos, and on-going conversation that might embrace almost anything from politics to food fantasies, from events attended to sharing one’s faith without trying to preach. It’s an on-line bulletin board that hasn’t replaced the cell-phone, but does offer one some “connection” in another form; and, when a close friend posted this morning a single sentence that read “I’m not right, but I am forgiven”, he “sparked my brain”. Shouldn’t the latter indicate that the former, at least to some degree of sanctity, has been accomplished? How many of us, I wonder, walk in this journey with our understanding shaped by what has been preached to us rather than a salvation worked out one-on-one with the Holy Ghost? That’s not to suggest the believer ought to throw away the Book and shoot his pastor. We need both solid foundation in our faith and authority with a concern for our soul; but within my own over-four-decades of knowing Christ there has, in truth, been much that came to me from the pulpit that needed re-examination in the next step and, likewise, chapter and verse addressed by so many perspectives that I long ago learned that any real understanding of it was a matter continually “under construction”. Being “right”, in the sense of me having completely conquered the enigma will never happen in this life; but, if assurance of my position in Him flows out of my “belly” rather than manufactured in my head, the above quote, it seems to me, becomes an oxymoron…….