Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pentecost: Speaking in Tongues

Sunday just gone was Pentecost Sunday.

Acts chapter 2 records the coming of the promised Holy Spirit. Those gathered were filled with the Spirit and spoke in other tongues. It’s a strange and bizarre event that marks the birth of the church. It’s an empowering event that equipped Christians to be the church, to gather and scatter in the name of Jesus, active in the mission of Jesus to bring healing and reconciliation to the world.

Pentecost however is not a onetime event that God simply used to get the ball rolling. Pentecost is a reality to be experienced today.

We should expect divine interruption as the Holy Spirit speaks into our lives through those impressions which over time we discern to be God’s voice. We should expect to speak in other tongues, that somehow when we ask the Holy Spirit to fill us and enable us to speak in tongues we’ll learn to speak a kind of “gibberish” language that just roles of the tongue and speaks to the Spirit of God. I can’t explain this any better; it’s a subjective, bizarre and weird phenomenon. Yet, over the last 100 years the Pentecostal church has grow to over 400 million people who have experienced this as a reality in their life.

We should expect to speak in other tongues in the sense of speaking a different language to the world around us. We tell a different story to the world in regards to how to make sense of life. Inspired speech always follows the infilling of the Holy Spirit. We speak in tongues and bring the presence of Pentecost into people’s lives when we speak words of hope, life, grace, possibility and promise in the midst of uncertainty, doubt, worry, anxiety and hopelessness. We speak in tongues when we talk about the resurrected Messiah, Jesus Christ who was not abandoned to the realm of death but whom God raised to life in order that we all might be raised to life. It is a different story, a different language; it’s the good news of the gospel of Jesus.  We speak the language of Pentecost!

With this in mind there is always going to be something a little strange, a little crazy, and a little bizarre about Christ followers. Let’s make sure the strangeness is our belief that God talks to us, talks through us, interrupts our lives, leads, guides and challenges us.  There is no need to wrap Pentecost up in weird pentecostalism wrapping paper and go all Harry Potter or Old King James. Like with prayer in Matthew 6:5-8 there should be simplicity and a humility that comes with the empowerment of the Spirit.

Too often pentecostalism causes us to throw out Pentecost. Pentecost then becomes contemporary rather than unusual. Lights, projectors and sound systems, replace noise, wind, and fire. All because we thought the noise, the wind and the fire needed to be out of control. We forgot that a Dove is in control.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reading the Bible - Part 2 of 2

As we engage in reading the bible we discover a big story by which it is possible to make sense of humanity’s story and of our own story. We discover that the bible is the great story of God’s love and plan for humanity. It’s an exciting concept but reading the bible can be a daunting task. A lot of bibles, no doubt, live covered in dust down in that black hole between the bedside cabinet and bed. In truth is the bible is simple and complex. It is an ancient document even though you can download it to your iPhone. Making sense of the original meaning and context, the big story and its implications for life today, can be a challenge.

A plain reading often reveals plain truth. Genesis 1-3 tells us that God is the creator of the universe and that humans are somehow special in creation, designed to reflect the nature of God but that something has gone wrong.  It is simple and straight forward. But it is complex as well. How exactly did God create the universe? Instantly? 10,000 odd years ago? 4.5 billion years ago? Via an evolutionary process that God set about? How is humanity special? What does it mean to be created “in the image of God”? What’s gone wrong and can it be remedied?

It is helpful to remember that the bible was always intended to be read in conversation. Most of the books of the bible are addressed to a community of people who would have engaged with the content in conversation with each other, the young and the old, the immature and the wise. Read in community it is much easier to make sense of. To do this you need to slow down. Forget any bible-in-a-year type plan. Read with a friend or a group of friends and invite an expert into the discussion. It’s not that hard to do, the experts write books.

(My favourite way to read the bible is on random sets of steps down alleys with my arms wrapped around my wife [like the couple in this picture]. It has never happened but I am sure it would be awesomeness. #somepeoplearefruity)

N.TWright, one of the world’s leading bible scholars, has a series of books called For Everyone in which he explains in simple terms what’s going on in the various books of the New Testament. Just “google” John for Everyone or Romans for Everyone. The Drama of Scripture is a great introduction to the big story of the bible written by two great scholars.  Finally, by Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel (exploring the gospel) and One.Life (exploring Christian living) provide a fantastic explanation of the Christian faith. If you’ve been reading the bible for years or never have but always thought you’d like to have a crack, these books will be a great help in making sense of the big story of the bible.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Reading the Bible - Part 1 of 2

Christian conviction understands the bible to be unique in its revelation of God to humanity. Christian’s understand the bible to be; 1) inspired by God (the various authors wrote in their own cultural context and language but they wrote under the inspiration of God); 2) to be infallible (the bible is not liable to deceive and when understood and interpreted correctly is trustworthy); and 3) to be authoritative (the teaching, instruction and big story of the bible is to inform and shape how we live out our lives).  With this in mind, how do we meaningfully engage with the bible?

We need to appreciate that the goal is bible living not simply bible reading. The goal is understanding that leads to transformation, understanding that leads to right beliefs, right affections, and right living before God. As well, the bible can be a source of strength, encouragement and wisdom in the process of transformation. With this in mind we go to the bible to discover the true story of humanity and of God’s love and plan for humanity. The bible contains a big story (metanarrative) out of which it is possible to make sense of humanity’s story and of our own individual stories and experiences.

That this is the case makes reading the bible an exciting proposition and life changing experience. For many however this isn’t their experience. It is easy to get lost in the various genres, genealogies, and small stories that make up the big story. Some people therefore don’t read looking to make sense of the big story of the bible and its implications for their own story and life. Rather, understanding that the bible is inspired by God and that God can inspire you as you read, some people simply read looking for a verse or line to stand out which they can underline and find strength or solace in. There is nothing expressly wrong with this but the reality is we often read into the text what we would like the bible to say. It’s also pretty easy to miss the big story that is unfolding as we tackle chapter or a paragraph every now and then looking to underline something that is personally meaningful. It is a legitimate way to read the bible but wisdom is required and, in reality, you can do better than that.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why Men Should Not be Ordained for Ministry

This is stolen from some blog that stole it from some other blog. Credit as possible at the bottom.
In regards to the whole women in ministry / leadership debate which goes on in some circles of the church, though non I move in.

Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained

10. A man’s place is in the army.

9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.

7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

CREDIT: Apparently the top ten list was presented by David M. Scholer on February 20, 1998, at the Fuller Follies at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA. David’s version was taken, with small modifications, from a November 24, 1997 internet communication from W. Ward and Laurel Gasque, who have long been champions of Biblical equality.