Dreaming Convictions

Last night I had a dream that we were living in the last days on earth. I knew it was so because there was war, chaos, and persecution. I knew we were still in America because I was surrounded by all my fellow Christian friends. We were hiding. People were missing. Families were separated. America had finally become unsafe.

In the dream, I found myself upset…less upset at what was going on and ore at the fact that I knew I wasn’t going to get to live out a lovely life. I probably wasn’t going to fall in love, have a family or a defined career path or ministry. I had become an outsider in this world as a follower of Christ, and here I was pitying myself.

It occurred to me in the dream that I had the wrong heart attitude, but it wasn’t easy for me to make a change, feeling blessed, as I should, that I was chosen to likely be a martyr for the gospel.

My pastor was amongst our hideout group and he was going around asking people what they were most concerned about in the moment and if their hearts were right with the Lord. He asked me the questions I was already wrestling with and asked me to relay the questions to more individuals.

Wow. It was so convicting.

Even though we are yet to be in an age of physical violence and chaos, spiritual warfare is on the uprising and the Day is indeed drawing near, as Hebrews 10:25 says. “So where are your priorities?”, I believe the Lord is asking. Do I have expectations set for my life that are unaligned or beyond the Lord’s simple calling? Do I meditate on my relationships, talents, usefulness, or job before I meditate on my relationship with the Lord? Do I seek knowledge through books before I seek to know the Lord through His Holy Word?

I must be so cautious of these things, ever more as I see the Day approaching.

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Being Me

I’m the weirdo.
I’m the oddball that likes to step outside my comfort zone and take risks.
I’m that way half because of who I am and half because of the presence of people in my life who encouraged me to step out in faith.
I see it in a positive  light…this whole stepping out thing. Sometimes I step into a pile of poo, sometimes I find myself standing on cloud nine, other times I’m simply standing on a stepping stone–it wasn’t as big of a deal as I anticipated. Either way, I’ve grown through stepping.

I want to see others in my life grow too, so I encouraged them to take those faith steps…even if they’re tiny. However, many times, my encouragement of this stepping is labeled “being pushy”…a phrase that’s been a humbling reminder of my imperfection for a good chunk of my life.

Something I thought was positive turned negative and I find myself pondering: “Where did I go wrong?”

I wrote this exert in a book cover the other day and, being a blogger, a few titles came to mind as I closed up this series of thoughts with an open ended question.

I experience my fair amount of frustration by simply living my life…by being who I am. Since we all have flaws, I figure everyone experiences this sort of frustration now and again. So this whole “I’m the oddball” feeling expressed on paper made me think of a title for my little exposition.

“Being Emily”… an exert written and ended with some self-pitying, “whoa is me” question. I can throw a great variety of parties, but I’d rather not practice my skills in the pity party department.

So I thought to myself… “how can these thoughts of mine exemplifying frustration and confusion become a positive aspect?”
The real question is…”why don’t I ask myself this question every time I feel a less-than-joyful emotion?”

“The Redeemed Me”… my blogger mind created a new title.  WHAT IF… What if I asked myself how the Lord can redeem each and every misunderstanding I experience, insecurity I feel, ingenuity I see, and every frustration that weighs me down? I know for a fact that He can; am I recognizing His ability to do so and subjecting myself to that positivity?

I’ve always wanted to write a book….maybe I found my title.  What do you think? I guess I’ll ponder that one for a while….
In the mean time, let me share a great quote from Dan Kimball. It applied to my little exert and maybe it will be a small lift for your day too!

“Not all perceptions about us are correct, but just because they’re not correct doesn’t mean there aren’t good reasons we are seen the way we are.” -Kimball

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Lines

Sometimes I wonder…
When should one begin to accept rejection in its most deceitful, underlying forms?
When does one stop hoping for a particular something that seems never to happen,
shrugging their shoulders saying, “Well, I guess it wasn’t supposed to happen that way”?
And when should one just just stop dreaming too big,
wishing too often,
anticipating too much,
hoping so fervently?
Is there a point in each individual circumstance in which one should draw the lines for themselves
and maturely announce,”Now, that’s enough.”?
Do these lines exist?
If they do, should they?
Who is to say anyway?
I say.
Only I have say over the existence of these lines in my life.

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A Universal Word

So this blog has its name for a reason. “Capacity for Culture”. The mindset and heart that came up with that name is truly a different one than the one that writes today.

To me, at this point in my little life, capacity for culture means keeping my arms and heart open to all which has developed and is developing around me, no matter what soil I am standing on. “Keeping open”–not to say I’m accepting of all, approving of all, tolerant of all, but to say that I’m loving of the potential that sovereign God has placed in all. “Keeping open” to say that my mind can’t possibly wrap around the infinite web of ways that God pulls out the potential in all of His creation.

Today was our 6th Birthday at Origin Church. Whoohoo! Happy Birthday Origin!! We had quite the celebration. There are loads of  beauty, freedom, joy and excitement that comes with audible worship to God. Tears came to my eyes this morning when I closed them and listened to so many voices sing the words “Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen” from the song City Harmonic. What I heard was volume and not everyone right on pitch or on rhythm and it was beautiful, because what i saw behind my closed eyes was a Christ follower from every different country and tribe in this world all being able to sing that one word, “Amen”, together.

“We will be a people free from sin; We’ll be free, a Kingdom with no end”

On this, all believers in the body of Christ, agree and sing “we agree, we agree, we agree, we agree” all together.

I’m not normally one to fantasize, but in that moment, I could see myself anywhere in the world with Christian brothers and sisters and it was the most glorious thing. Do you think I was seeing apart of what God’s Kingdom here on earth will be like?

All that to say…. Unity. Culture can be divisive; that’s why I value it so much. Because while the entrancing, lovely qualities of culture remain as such, somehow, in the largest and the smallest ways, it can make us feel categorized–like we have limits on us. The unity of the body of Christ and the power of God transcends all culture, though, and redeems it, so that the beauty in difference shines through and the barriers are no longer. And in that kind of phenomena that we see happen here in our lives on earth, all can look upon it, be told it was nothing that they accomplished and joyfully express agreement: “Amen!”

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Freedom or Lack Thereof


There’s this luxurious place I can go in the mornings before it’s terribly hot outside. It’s outdoors,  at the back side of my house. I go out the side door and sit in an aged picnic chair positioned right in the morning sunshine with a short brick wall in front of me for my feet to rest upon. It’s a small back yard, but it never seems quite so tiny because when my back is facing the house, I cast my eyes forward not on a wooden fence, but on a golf course. With nothing but an almost invisible cyclone fence between the brim of my backyard and the edge of the course, it seems I could get up, walk forward and never stop walking.

I’ve never known it these 21 years of living in this house, but facing the backyard “fence” is one of the most freeing places I can be while still confined by minimal suburban property lines. One of the best features of my morning perch is that I feel I can see everything, 20140612_100215but no one can see me. The chair is positioned just right so that one inside the house would have to purposefully peek out the windows or come into the backyard to discover my whereabouts. I’m alone and free, yet sitting with my home to my back and the golfers right in front of me. Somehow, though, I’m almost always free from distraction in this place.

I compare this place of beautiful solitude to last week’s experience. This blog is not meant to announce my life, but I have not written for two whole months, so I’ll dare to give a quick update. Without any particular reason beyond “why not?”, I was admitted to Kaiser Redwood City Hospital last week for five days worth of an ongoing EEG. I’m epileptic and they just wanted to see if they could discover anything more about my brain than they were able to see with more minor tests in the past. Really though, I am in good health overall. No freak-outs, please. :)

Last week’s experience included neither surgery, pain, nor anything else dramatic, but it did include a good amount of unanticipated discomfort. Confinement was something I had never experienced–at least not for five days straight. I had these huge windows to look out. I could see the mountains, the bay area fog, the sunshine and the tops of buildings from the 6th floor in the hospital tower. But I could not taste, smell or feel on my skin any of these lovely things…this brought along discomfort much faster than I even thought possible. Who knew that one could be so teased by looking at freedom, but not being able to feel, touch, taste or smell it? When I sit here in the backyard, I know that I cannot go walking out onto the golf course right in front of me, but I’m content being able to look at it, feel the beautiful weather, smell the occasional whiff of skunks walking by, breathe in the freshly blown breeze, and know that this is not confinement.

I learned something about myself last week: I really enjoy my comfort. This hit me pretty hard considering what bragging I’ve done in the past about the places I’d be willing to travel to, to live and the daunting tasks I’d be willing to undergo. Did I ever consider that these endeavors could bring about the sort of confinement, at times, that reduce my freedom and may haunt me in the same way the hospital room did?

For me, I know some truth, though, that keeps me going. Even when all my “deserved” freedom is taken away, I have freedom in Christ Jesus…and this freedom is entirely different than the kind one doesn’t get when confined in a hospital room, when their body is functioning properly, when they can’t speak their mind freely, or whatever the restriction may be.

This freedom exists outside of life as we know it on this earth-

2 Corinthians 4:16- So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

This freedom is given freely to all who have the Spirit of the Lord living within them-

2 Corinthians 3:17- Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

This freedom is not a quick fix for the confinements and discomforts we experience. It’s given to us for this very purpose–testifying that God is merciful in many ways-

Galatians 5:13- For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

In my life, it appears that comfort, in more ways than one, equates to freedom. Confinement is the opposite of freedom and equates to discomfort. I must ask myself, though, how many more times in my life will I experience confinement is some way, shape or form. How many times will I be lacking in freedom? The second to last day in the hospital yielded one of the worst mornings. I had experienced insomnia all night (something I’d never known before) and my mind was really wrestling to stay sane. Mom left Sacramento at 5:30 am to make it to the hospital as early as possible. I just lost it while she held me; and in all my vulnerability and desperation to leave that place, she had some profound wisdom to offer:

“This probably won’t be the hardest thing you ever have to do, Emily”

She is right and I knew it. There is always going to be more confinement, more discomfort, and thus, less freedom.

What is it, in your life, that equates to freedom? Why do you feel you deserve it? What would you do without it?

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Sojourners

In this world, many of us who believe there is eternal life after mortal life would loosely call ourselves “sojourners”.
To be a sojourner means you are a on a journey, without a permanent home or settlement. A sojourner might stay in one place longer than their last stop, but that’s just dependent upon how long the season surrounding that stop may take. A sojourner identifies with the people and location they are dwelling with and in because they know that the key to thriving is diving into the hearts and mind of those that surround them by looking at life through their eyes. Such a relationship with each stop along the way will make for a good, healthy journey. The sojourner’s end goal is to arrive at a place they will remain at forever. Such will be a place they are most healthy, most happy and most satisfied. Sojourners may move in groups or alone, but whomever desires to sojourn with them, in search and en route to this perfect residence, they will not turn away.

If eternity spent with Jesus Christ is that perfect, final destination, then followers of Christ are the sojourners. In a physical world that is less than perfect, followers of Christ are spiritually sojourning their way through this life. The Christ follower is confident they will arrive at that end destination and they know that the path between now and there is no more than being wandering strangers who love…who live life one season, one calling, once location at a time…who make effort to find identity and confidence in their lifestyle yet mold themselves to learn the ways of others in order to reach out to them, hoping they may find the sojourner’s destination a worthwhile road and desire to begin sojourning themselves.

There will be times that the spiritual sojourner comes and goes from a season so quickly because their foreignness is treated with persecution and mockery. There will be times such a season is long drawn out to the point where the sojourner is wondering how much longer until they may pack up and keep moving. Sometimes the winds of heart change blow and sometimes they do not. That’s not up to the sojourner.

There will be times that the sojourner is warmly welcomed, well fed, well received and shown much hospitality. These seasons of rest may also be short or long.

And at all times, the spiritual sojourner seeks to explain their end destination, though their obvious identity as sojourner often provokes this question from others almost right away. They want to know about this foreigner that stands before their eyes…how and why they stand out.

The life of each sojourner is different, but when they cross paths with each other, there is a joy shared because of their mutual destination. Whether they begin traveling together or not, they know they will both see each other again on the other side of the journey.

For many, the life of sojourning is bewildering to them. They ponder why one would stay as less than settled for so long. At the same time, they wonder if they themselves could be striving for this great destination and if they are missing something by not doing so. The sojourner understands their bewilderment and curiosity. They too were once settled. They remember that moment they chose to identify as a sojourner and the first time they saw the light of the end which spurred overflowing gladness in them. And they cannot say that sojourning is considered ideal in the physical world. They either began their own journey with great vigor and excitement and realized later some of its sacrifices or they made commitment to sojourn with a knowledge of the sacrifices, later discovering the worth their commitment carries. Either way, all sojourners, in choosing the unsettled life, know their persistence and strength will not be flowing through themselves, but from that which feeds into them when their eyes  are set on the bright, shining light of their final destination.

To keep eyes on the light is not simple, nor easy, nor delicate, but the sojourner knows it is their only hope to sojourn well. And in that hope, they kind joy in the unsettled life. The hope that has already arrived and the final destination that is to come.

spiritualsojourning

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Public Righteousness

This thought dish is smaller, but it may be harder to chew and perhaps impossible to swallow.

Today, the professor who best challenges my critical thinking skills reminded his students of a simple, biblical concept. That Jesus calls His followers to a higher standard than humanity holds for itself, in general. This is exemplified in the Sermon on the Mount. If you’re not familiar with it, brush up by reading Matthew 5, 6, and 7.

I decided I would brush up myself by reading it after class. Every time I go over this passage of scripture, something different hits me. Today, it was Matthew 6:1-

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in Heaven.”

My first thought? Facebook. But really…any social media sites.

Every day I read Facebook updates or tweets from fellow believers in Christ that are very related to their spirituality, their faith, their personal growth or just citing scripture or some inspirational quote. And every couple days I contribute to this spiritual feed through my own Facebook account. Some statuses have significantly encouraged me, some have left me shocked, others are neither here nor there. I’m sure my statuses provoke similar reactions to those reading  skimming them.

Regardless.

Could publicly posting one’s spiritual walk and struggles possibly be called “practicing your righteousness  before other people in order to be seen  by them”? Heart attitude is everything, but perhaps social media helps many believers glorify themselves.

Hooray for yet another gray area. I think Jesus kept many things gray for a reason. To each his own…to each his own heart before the Lord. If these issues were black and white, there wouldn’t be much need for letting the Lord do some work on our hearts, huh?

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

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What do you think?

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Loss, a Gain in the End.

Much has occurred in these past few days. Mom and I “met” my new neuro-surgeon in Redwood City through a phone appointment. His name is Dr. Josiah Ambrose. I believe I’ll be working with him for some time.

(For those of who didn’t know, I have been epileptic since I was 4 years old. It’s been mostly controlled and my health situation has not changed. However, the occurrence of a grand mal seizure in October 2013 has brought the issue back to the surface and made us delve into some issues that were not in the mix before. Let’s just say, we’re becoming less ignorant about my state of health along with the extent of treatments).

Dr. Ambrose is a compassionate man, it seems. A prayer answered, to be sure. The appointment went well. I feel very informed about what our next courses of action are going to be. Dr. Ambrose, however, caught me off guard by asking me about driving and, after much hesitation, I told him the truth. Though he did not respond with questioning over the phone, he did send me a follow up email regarding it. The issue of driving has been neither here nor there for me in the past 5 years and hasn’t exactly run its normal course for an epileptic–not because of trickery or dishonesty, but merely because the issue has been rarely addressed both by doctors and by my parents and me. 

I am finding myself continuously feeling like I’m in quicksand…same health situation, but tons of new health and legal implications. It’s very frustrating. I could get my license taken away out of the blue.

When my capacity of how much I can do is on the verge of being even more limited, the best thing I can do is ask: “What can I best make of what I’m about to lose?”

For me, right now, this thing I may be about to lose is my license.

I stopped today to observe the post-rain weather, having a quiet moment with the Lord and pondering my whole situation right now.
I heard the Lord say to me, “Emily, what are you going to do with what you’re going to lose?”

At first, I thought materially—my car. Yeah, who could use it instead? But then, I thought about what else I might lose:
-my ability to be almost totally independent
-control over commitments in my schedule
-maybe my ability to escape campus for some alone time

But I heard the Lord telling my heart that He can make good things out of these things too…just like He has made good out of everything else I have lost in the past.
In fact, with every loss came some growth, and ultimately, a gain.

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The Former Days

With a great dose of humility must I accept that I cannot change the way a once dearly-loved friend thinks of me now. For I have done what I can do and brought myself to the most humble place I could in order that I might gain back their friendship and good trust; despite my efforts and sorrows, they will not have it. They will not relinquish what hurt they have gripped onto; it is clear that I no longer have any effect on what they think of or feel about x, y, z, or me. This is a painful place to come to, but one which I must accept as reality. To continue to fight for this person would only push them further and further and now I know for sure that I can only pray that God softens their heart at some point to be able to relinquish their pain to Him and truly forgive me. For Ecclesiastes 6:11 says “The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?”. There is nothing more for me to say, for this friend only sees my words as a persuasive path to getting my own, so it seems.  Eccl. 7:3 says “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise in in the house of mourning.” It is better that I take the present reality and learn to not only live with it, but to love the situation in its new form. Might I now see my circumstances not as cursed, but as renewed in a way that I trust the Lord has formed with His greater purpose in mind.

Ecclesiastes 7:8-10

“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
Say not, ‘why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

The there and then cannot be changed, nor can the here and now be changed by me at all. By the Lord’s grace may I potentially view the “former days” as a blessing while they existed and see the present situation not as lacking, but as simply different and for a reason specific to the Lord that I do not yet know.

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Evidence of a Life Change

I just caught up on my Bible reading from Origin Church’s reading plan. Matthew 24 and 25 are very plain and simple yet harsh reminders of our need to be investing what God has given us and not laying around idly when we do not know the hour that Christ will return. You know, our gift of salvation from the Lord is entirely free, BUT yet it comes with a cost. It’s not a one-decision-saves-all sort of thing. It’s an authentic life-change that should keep us constantly on our toes and deeply desiring to expand the kingdom of God here on earth.

Read Matthew 24 & 25. I think you’ll see this for yourself.

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A review of 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Do the charismatic spiritual gifts exist today?

*Note: I decided a couple week after the fact to publish this because it’s a concept that I believe has anything and everything to do with culture. Whether or not the American church believes in the charismatic spiritual gifts is a completely cultural issue and constant debate—the argument is different and much more confined in other cultures. Think outside the box–what is our culture saying?

I left the sources cited at the bottom because I am no certified theologian eligible to write position papers without the backing of much higher educated theologians gone before.

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

 

Theological Position on the Modern Day Presence of Charismatic Spiritual Gifts

By

Emily Cortese

Christian Theology

Dr. Mark Moore

2 December, 2013

Confessional Thesis

We believe that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit have not ceased and are still present in this day and age. These gifts, to specify, are speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues, prophecy and healing. We believe that, though they may not be seen in the universal and drastic way they were demonstrated in the apostolic age,  the Holy Spirit still works through these spiritual gifts to bring forth the evidence of the Kingdom of God on this temporary earth. We respect that cessationism strives to maintain the authority and sacredness of the Holy Word of God, but also believe that a lack of belief in charismatic spiritual gifts is a result of a lack of believing without seeing. There are three solid truths that we have built this doctrine upon. First, charismatic gifts were acknowledged, encouraged and given order by the Apostle Paul for the sake of long term usefulness to the Church. Secondly, charismatic gifts are shown in Scripture to be present for the unity of the body of Christ. Thirdly, all spiritual gifts will eventually cease, but only when we once again see Christ face to face. It will be then, that they will be needed no longer. These statements are to be proven true by the Holy Word of God alone.

Charismatic Gifts are for Long Term Usage

            There is a battle in modern Christian culture that argues both for and against the current presence of charismatic spiritual gifts. It is without an ounce of hesitancy that any individual who wishes to righteously explore this controversy dives first into scripture to see what the Holy Word of God has to say. The main passage that argues for the case of charismatic gifts is found in 1 Corinthians 14.  The entirety of the chapter speaks fluidly on this issue, but some of the key verses are as follows.

v.18-19- I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. (NIV)

v.27-28- If anyone speaks in a tongue, two-or at the most three- should speak, one at a time and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. (NIV)

Paul just finished telling the Corinthian church, who was having some issues with ecstatic eruption, that he would be thrilled to have them speaking in tongues, but that that action is not nearly as valuable as prophesying, unless there is an interpreter for the message spoken in tongues and thus the church be uplifted.  Tongues is not a lesser gift as much as it is slightly more complicated since it takes two (the speaker and interpreter) for the gift to be beneficial to the body of Christ.

v.29- Two or three prophets should speak and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that every may be instructed and encouraged. (NIV)
v.33- For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. (NIV)

Siegfried Schatzmann makes an excellent case for the gift of prophesy in his book A Pauline Theology of Charismata. He states, “Prophecy refers to the function of communicating revelations from God as a spontaneous utterance. The factor of spontaneity seems to capture the idea of intelligible communication under the inspiration of the Spirit” (Schatzmann 22). Many cessationists may argue that spontaneity is the exact disorderly, dangerous factor that assists many charismatic gifts in being unaligned with the solidity of Scripture. However, the way that Paul encourages these gifts, yet sets guidelines, treads against the very idea of dangerous spontaneity. One nature of the Holy Spirit is spontaneity; however, the Church, being in its very nature mortal and sinful, must have guidelines to go by in order to keep its potential spiritual extravagance organized and in check.


v.39-40- Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (NIV)

The supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are not meant to be separated; they were created and intended to be used as a holistic operation, hand in hand with all other spiritual gifts, to serve the Church Body. Schatzmann writes, “Rather than viewing each element in isolation, it may be more Pauline to gather all elements into one focus, thereby affirming…that charismata served the upbuilding of the whole body. Emphasis of various details at the expense of a holistic approach unnecessarily fragments the Pauline concept of charismata” (Schatzmann 80).

Paul loved the spiritual gifts; that is made obvious throughout his letter to the Corinthian Church, particularly in chapter 14. But order was and is necessary, lest the human nature experience a magical, self-created aura of sorts that is beyond submission to the Holy Spirit’s empowering work. Guidelines are useful, but they are not designed to crush the spiritual gifts all in all. Donald Gee, in his work Concerning Spiritual Gifts, emphasizes Paul’s heart on this issue: “After laying down these rules, however, he emphatically stated that speaking with tongues is not to be forbidden, lest his precepts should be misunderstood as an intention to quench this manifestation of the Spirit altogether. All he pleaded for was balance. It is a pity that some Christian leaders today do not approach this gift in the same spirit” (Gee 77). If these gifts are beloved by the Apostle Paul in the church and given guidelines in preparation for man’s tendency to pervert the work of the Spirit, it is only fair to say that these gifts are accessible and edifying to the Church today; the same Spirit, the same gifts, the same guidelines.

Charismatic Spiritual Gifts are Present for the Unity of the Body

Paul makes it crystal clear in every letter in which he addresses the spiritual gifts that these gifts are valid only if being used to build up the unity of the Church. After listing the spiritual gifts at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 12, Paul exhorts the church by saying in verses 27-28: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues” (ESV). The meaning of tongues in Scripture is debatable, but the main purpose is to feed edification to the Church. Michael Horton in his systematic theology book, The Christian Faith, states that, “We should therefore understand tongues as synonymous with natural languages, which some were miraculously gifted to speak and others to interpret…None of these gifts was given for the personal edification of believers alone, but for the spread of the gospel and the maturity of the saints in that Word” (Horton 884).

The different parts of the church are to work together as one. Paul brings the picture of unity together in the classic metaphor of the Church being a body in Romans 12:4-6: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to your faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching…” (ESV). As stated in the last section, the spiritual gifts, including the supernatural gifts, are to be viewed as a holistic operation that assists in the unity of the body of Christ. To be sure, all prophecies, messages spoken through interpreted tongues, and circumstances of healing should align properly with scripture. Dr. Wayne Grudem, in an interview with Tim Challies, speaks on The Westminster Confession of Faith (TWC). He says that all revelations of the Spirit stated in TWC , whether private/personal revelations of the Spirit or “…decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers and the doctrine of men” are to all be put in the same category: “These are all to be examined and attested by Scripture” (Grudem). And certainly these revelations are not held to the same level of authority as the Holy Scripture, by any means, but to be valid at all, they must align with the Word. Benefit to the body of Christ is one of the prime ways that revelation through the Spirit can be tested. Again, the gifts were not created for an individualistic society. The church is a communal organization. “The intent of individual giftedness for service, therefore, cannot lie in individual giftedness for service, therefore, cannot lie in individualism but always points to the higher goal of the corporate body in togetherness” (Schatzmann 68).

All Spiritual Gifts will only be fulfilled when Jesus Returns

Finally, we recognize that all spiritual gifts will eventually pass away, but not until the second coming of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of His Kingdom on this earth. Prophecies from Joel 2:28-29 have been fulfilled by now: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” (ESV). These spiritual gifts promised are present even now. The charismatic gifts were a sign that Christ’s kingdom had arrived and their ceasing will be a sign that His Kingdom has been fulfilled.  1 Corinthians 13:8b-10 says, “But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears” (ESV). The perfection that Paul speaks of is Jesus Christ Himself. We have yet to experience perfection in this day and age, and thus the spiritual gifts are still a gift that the Lord bestows upon His church to increase His Kingdom and bring unity. Horton addresses the gift of healing as a harkening of the kingdom: “Similarly, the gift of healing was a sign that Christ’s kingdom had arrived, bringing a preview of the consummation in all of its fullness at the end of the age” (Horton 884). We may be approaching the end of the age, but we have yet to arrive.

Though the supernatural gifts are not as evident (in some cultures) in this day and age as they were in the first century church, there is somewhat of a call to return to the less cultured, faith-filled state of the early church. Gee says we should cast our eyes toward such: “Nothing is of more vital importance concerning the reestablishing of New Testament Christianity than the full return of every one of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Ghost. Their partial, instead of complete, restoration is a constant source of weakness….No theoretical or doctrinal belief without active operation will suffice here. We must have the gifts” (Gee 102-103). Mark Driscoll, a significant head of the Reformed Church asked and answered: “So, when do these gifts cease? When? When Jesus comes back, when we see him face to face. So the Cessationists are right: certain gifts will come to an end. But the Cessationsists are wrong: the end has not yet come. And the Continuationists are right: all the gifts continue until we see him face to face, until Jesus comes again” (Menzie- Driscoll quoted).

Cultural Context- the two extremes at war becoming the reputation of the Church

Certainly the elements of Christian witness are vital to how the Church is individually viewed within each cultural context. When one is looking upon an institution from afar, is there anything more vulgar to be seen than battle within that particular group of people? If the Church is truly designed to be one, not many denominations and church buildings, but rather the holistic Body of Christ, then dividing issues, such as charismata, must be a huge blow to the institution of Christ’s Church in the eyes of unbelievers all around. In regards to the case of a Continuationist Theology versus Cessationist Theology, the battle in America is still going on, but the war is very much perceived to be over in other parts of the world. Dr. Grudem speaks of England in particular:  “Another widely-respected British Evangelical leader fifteen years ago said to me that the battle between cessationists and non-cessationists in England is over. And that’s the case, I think, in almost the entire world outside the United States” (Grudem).

Daniel Migliore, in his systematic theology book Faith Seeking Understanding, states it simply: “All theology is contextual…historical and cultural context is a factor in all Christian life, witness, and theology” (Migliore 197). Culturally and contextually, the American Christian Church is still fighting this battle. “Different strokes for different folks” may be the peaceable way of looking at the division in the Church over doctrine. That may be alright, except for the fact that different folks are imposing their strokes of ultimatum upon each other. Leaders within the Church are declaring each other heretics and by all means, media captures it, enlarges the issue and advertises the negative aspects to American culture like there is no tomorrow. For example, Dr. Grudem points out a form of accusation: “Now cessationists come along and say, ‘Sorry God doesn’t do that today. He did that throughout the whole history of the Bible but He doesn’t do that today’” (Grudem). Naturally, the Continuationists declare Cessationists either utterly confused or heretics in the same manner. It is a battle that results in disunity and a terrible reputation for the Church in society.

Wallace Henley, one who may be seen as a more neutral party in this theological battle, addresses John MacArthur’s views on ridding of bridges between Cessationists, Continuationists, Traditionalists and Charismatics. Henley says that MacArthur’s view is “…based largely, apparently, on the extremes of the charismatic movement” (Henley). Henley brings his thoughts down to the recognized view that there appears to be one extreme or the other, also known as Form (the extreme Cessationists) versus Frenzy (the extreme Charismatics). Form theology, in summary, pictures God as “so far beyond us that He fades from view and engagement” (Henley), whereas Frenzy theology reaches the other extreme and can dangerously verge on seeing God as, “our valet, fetching us healing on demand…” (Henley). At the end of the day, Henley would like Christians to consider where this has placed them culturally: “Maybe we can’t all go out to the center of what’s left of the bridge, hug and sing Kum Ba Yah. But perhaps we can see that the state of our culture provides unprecedented opportunity for the contemporary church-and maybe all ought to run out to Jesus before we blow this strategic historic moment” (Henley). We, the Church, are in the midst of a prime time to unite and adhere to the physical, mental, emotional, but most of all spiritual needs of the world. How will we do that while being divided instead of united?

Church Application- Two Extremes Causing Disunity in the Church

            This grand issue comes down to the Church’s belief in the work of the Holy Spirit. As Migliore states, “Routine neglect and suspicion of the work of the Holy Spirit has damaging effects on both Christian life and Christian theology. It can lead to distortions in the understanding of God, the doctrine of Scripture, the significance of the natural order, the value of human culture, the interpretation of Christ and his work, the nature of the church, the freedom of the Christian and the hope for the final fulfillment of life” (Migliore 224). The Cessationists are accused of stemming from the attitude of Pharisees and Sadducees lacking in faith, while the Charismatics are accused of being wild and crazy, giving more authority to spiritual revelation spoken through prophecy or tongues than to the Holy Word of God. The Cessationists are experiencing too much limitation in God’s power and Charismatics taking advantage of liberty in the power of God. Who is right and who is wrong? The Power of the Holy Spirit, in its true and perfect form, not stemming from pharisaic doctrine nor from ignorance of Scripture’s authority, is “a liberating rather than a coercive power” (Migliore 224-225). It is liberating.

The issue within the church aligns perfectly with the issue that this poses in American culture. How is the Church uniting as it has been called? How should the Church address these disagreements? Dr. Grudem says, “Doctrinal disputes should be settled by appeal to Scripture. Experience is not our final authority- Scripture is” (Grudem). Perhaps if the leaders in the Church today, especially from the “Form and Frenzy” extremes, were to bypass their own experiences and humbly come together over Scripture in discussion, then a corporate attitude, originally intended for the Church, would begin to take place—bridges would be rebuilt. Thomas A. Smail once said, “The gifts of the Spirit are less individual endowments, far less spiritual status symbols, than ways in which we work together within the body of Christ” (Schatzmann quoting Smail). Not only the extremist leaders humble themselves and inherit a desire for community with those whose doctrine may vary from their own, but all who have a faith in Christ Jesus, an inheritance in the Kingdom, and a love for Scripture should be willing to not only merge with their own kind, but acknowledge the Body of Christ as the more important entity above their own doctrinal community. Humility of such a type would feed into following the example of unconditional love that Christ set for us. Christ’s love, shown for each other, within the Church, will never pass away. As 1 Corinthians 13:1 says, all spiritual gifts will eventually be unnecessary after Christ’s return, but “Love never ends” (NIV).

 

Works Cited

Gee, Donald. Concerning Spiritual Gifts. Springfield, MO: Gospel Pub. House, 1980. Print.

Grudem, Dr. Wayne. “Continuationism and Cessationism: An Interview with Dr. Wayne Grudem.” Interview by Tim Challies. Challies. Challies, 13 Dec. 2005. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.

Henley, Wallace. “John MacArthur Burning the Bridges Between Cessationists, Continuationists and Traditionalists and Charismatics (Pt. 2).” Christian Post (2013): n. pag. Christian Post. 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.

Horton, Michael Scott. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

Menzie, Nicola. “‘Cessationists Are Wrong’ About Speaking in Tongues, Says Pastor Mark Driscoll.” Christian Post (2013): n. pag. Christian Post. 14 June 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.

Migliore, Daniel L. Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2004. Print.

Poythress, Vern S. “Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit within Cessationist Theology.” The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (1996): 71-101.Frame & Poythress. Frame & Poythress. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.

Schatzmann, Siegfried S. A Pauline Theology of Charismata. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987. Print.

 

 

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No title for this burden…

The truth and peace of the gospel conquers all anxiety.

This was the central truth from the passage that I got to preach this morning and I’m desperately trying to remember and embrace my own sermon as I battle anxiety today.

There’s really no way to beat around the bush with this subject. I have epilepsy. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. I have seizures and it affects my life. I’ve been blessed enough for it to not take the largest toll and make me dysfunctional as it very well could have, but it’s still a burden. I’ve had epilepsy since I was 4 years old. It’s always varied; it’s not predictable; it’s not something that be easily fixed, potentially never fixed at all.

I’ve grown up with the perspective that this is how it is and I should accept it. I can function; I should be grateful for the relatively low burden I carry compared to others. However, recent complications have arisen that have re-established relationships with neurologists. It began about a month ago with a trip to the emergency room after the worst seizure of my life and completely unexpected….never in my personal memory of my life have I experienced a trip to the emergency room…on my own, my brain not functioning, not knowing what’s going on. No control.  A little difficult.

Now we’re re-evaluating the situation and I’m being told options and potential problems that I have never been informed of before. In my 17 years of having epilepsy, ideas like being a surgical candidate, the toll this takes on your personality, cognitive function and memory as you get older, the fact that I shouldn’t be driving… these are all just now coming to the table?

Here’s where it gets tough for me. I think, “Fine. I’m human. There are people who have it way worse than me and some of us are just bound to have medical issues. Fine.” But I’m truly struggling…is this medical issue easier for me to accept with or without Jesus? A large portion of me would like to think I’d be more okay with my brain deteriorating at an earlier-than-normal age if I didn’t have such a passion to share the gospel. The other part of me says that I can easier deal with this anxiety and burden because I DO have my Lord Jesus to hand it off to.

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be made known to all; the Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I can rejoice in the Lord because He is sovereign; He has never failed me and He never will. He is righteous and upstanding and His ways are far better than mine. I can come before Him with an attitude of humility and lowliness, not proposing a solution but merely saying “Help me Lord. I don’t know what to do”. I can have a heart of thanksgiving that chooses beforehand to be thankful for the situation no matter how the Lord takes care of it. I can do all these things and THEN give my anxieties to God and He will fill me with His divine peace that no other source can give me.

This is truth. I know it. It does give me peace, but I will still battle. These anxieties have been a long time coming and they churn my stomach whenever brought to my attention all over again. Lord, why? I want to be an effective tool of yours, not a limited one!

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The Evangelical Approach to Gay Lifestyle Abroad

If the Church can’t win the marriage rights battle in America, is it right to seek justice and victory in other countries?

Take a look at this video (or read the article):

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/power-players-abc-news/culture-war-film-links-u-s–evangelicals-to-intolerance-against-gays-in-uganda-191437464.html?vp=1

This is my opinion, but maybe this will force you to think…how do you feel about this? How does this representation of the American Church sit with you? Is it accurate? Inaccurate? Is it justified or is it wrong? Are we representing the Kingdom of God the way the Lord would want us to? Is this how Jesus would have acted?

I read this article  before a weekend outreach trip to SF and have just now watched the video.
How interesting this is.
I DO believe that there is perverted evangelism going on (especially in other countries) that are concerned more about political interests and conversion of souls than about the compassion that Jesus modeled for us. At the same time, to put the title “God Loves Uganda” on a movie that is attacking the overall American evangelical church is really jumping the gun and is definitely an attack against the Church. It sounds like this movie is trying to make a statement on behalf of Christians that Lesbians and Gays are good. The Christians is Uganda who have recanted of their LGBT-hating ways must move from believing that Gays and Lesbians are monsters (one extreme) to believing they’re in the right (the other extreme) to finding a balance based on Scripture says:  “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). Thus, they cannot be good; no one is good. God hates sin. Sexual Immorality is sin, but there is grace offered for that, along with all sin. Love and compassion is to be had, tolerance is not. It does not surprise me that some evangelical organizations/churches would take this aggressive approach in a developing country such as Uganda. It also doesn’t surprise me that the media would take that and run with it, putting words in the mouth of the Church as a whole.

Fellow believers, we are to be weary of this. One, weary of having a hateful demeanor and imposition upon other culture, being forceful with the gospel and political views at one time while lacking in compassion.
We are ALSO to be weary of the way media seeks to portray us and make the Church look like a full-blown political and cultural enemy, at times.

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