PREACHING A SERIES ON OUR PENTECOSTAL DISTINCTIVE

Missing from Pentecostal pulpits

It is not uncommon for Pentecostal churches to shelve preaching on Pentecostal distinctives as they seek relevance with a contemporary audience. Addressing felt relational, emotional and felt needs of church members take priority over church’s distinctives. This can happen because the Pentecostal doctrine of baptism of the Holy Spirit can be an offence to today’s young adults. Yet it must be talked about or we will lose our heritage, our identity and one of God’s greatest gift to his church and his greatest resource to reaching the world for Christ.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

I announced and planned a series on the Holy Spirit. I initially planned something that began with the works that the Holy Spirit would do according to the teaching of Jesus in John 14-16, and then talk about the Baptism of the Spirit, and finally a session on Speaking in Tongues.

However, as I proceeded to prepare, with the Lord’s influence, it began to be (1) The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, covering the five incidents in Acts when the Spirit was poured out as initiation experiences/encounters. After feedback from members, newbies and mature ones, I slowed down and stayed with Acts 2 the Day of Pentecost and drew most of my observations and conclusions from Acts chapter 2, after painting a picture of what happened there, giving the Bible background of the passage. I also brought in two persons, one of mature age, and another younger person to share their experiences of being baptized with the Holy Spirit and how the gift of tongues had blessed them.

At the end I gave an invitation for prayer for fresh anointings and healings, and invited those who wanted to be filled with the Spirit to meet at the conference room after the service. Three adults in their 50’s showed up. After giving them a briefing, several of us laid hands and prayed for them to be filled and remarkably they were granted the gift of tongues within fifteen minutes, and we spent the rest of the time praying, prophesying, anointing with oil, and singing in tongues for another 20 minutes or more.

My Cry and Prayer

It was a blessed time and gratifying. My only disappointment was that not many of the younger age group were there desiring and thirsting for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I am praying that God would stir the hearts of people who had been content with what they have experienced of the Christian life thus far, with a holy discontent that wants more, indeed ALL of what God promised and intended for His people. May we have a people with hearts aflame for the passion of His name.

I wonder if it is the same with the church you worship in. Do they preach about their distinctive? How often?

Lent: Prayer of the Inward Journey

The inward journey is like caving: a guide is a must.

A relevant prayer for Lent season. You can call it the soul searching prayer. Or better still I would call it the prayer of inward journey.

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!  (Psalm 139:23,24 ESV)

This is a well known and beloved Psalm. In verses 1-6, shows us that God knows all; and verses 7-12 tells us God is everywhere; and 13-18 tells us God is our loving and wise Creator. In verses 19-22 the Psalmist prays against those who rise up against such a wonderful God. He hates them and prays for them to experience the worst! Then suddenly in verse23,24 his tone changes and he prays that famous prayer, Search me O God…. Its like he is praying, Lord I don’t want to be like these guys who rise up and fight against Your love and power. See if there is even a tiny bit of them in me, for I want to be rid of that and be changed by your power. Instead please lead me to the everlasting path instead of the path that leads to grief.

This is indeed a prayer we all need to use when we feel disturbed, upset or hurt. When we lost our peace and feel out of sorts and in disequilibrium, we can seek God’s help in understanding what He wants to show us about ourselves and Himself.

Its a prayer that sends me inwards to look at my heart, my thoughts, and even “any grievous way” in me. The Hebrew for “grievous” denotes forced labour, or the fruit of sorrow, bondage and misery it brings. This inward journey can be daunting and intimidating.

That’s why it has to be a guided tour. The Psalmist invites God to be his guide on this inward journey. I wouldn’t go on this journey alone. It is fraught with the dangers of discouragement, self-hatred and condemnation. However with this God who loves me, has forgiven me, and dealt forever with all my sins past present and future, I have no fear, only assurance and peace that this journey will heal and help me, not harm me.

Lastly, its a blessed journey because there are many blessings. One blessing is increased self-knowledge. Another blessing is knowing which areas of weakness Satan will seek to tempt me. I can watch and pray at those particular weak areas in my defence.

 

Overcoming Cell Weariness With The Triad

We do get weary of being part of a cell group. Have we ever felt “reluctant to see or experience any more of something”,  like a  “cell group” experience? How do we revive our zest? By calling the triad to help. What triad? Faith, Hope and Love. Heard of them? Yes, this triad is not uncommon in the letters of Paul to different churches. They are the fundamental elements that keep the believer in Christ steadily on the kingdom path. I would add, steadily on the cell journey too. Here are just a few verses as examples:

So now  faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.(1Cor 13:13 EV)

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our god and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1Thess 1:2-3 ESV)

So how does a believer or leader who is weary of being a part of the cell group recover his or her zest?

Ask three questions that are derived from Paul’s triad. Let the triad help you recover your missing zest!

FAITH

Do you believe you can make a difference by your being a part of the cell group? You have to believe that your uniqueness as a person made in the image of God and redeemed by the blood of God is destined to make some unique difference in the cell community and beyond it. Your background and history, your knowledge and skills, your example, your stories and spiritual gifts, heck, even your mere presence itself will make a difference!

HOPE

Are you  willing to wait patiently for God to bring improvements and life-changes in yourself and others in His time? Cell groups are never perfect because they have imperfect people participating. There will be let-downs, frustration, conflicts, misunderstandings and despair over the hypocrisy and inconsistency and obstinacy of fellow cell members. Do you have your hope pinned in God’s prayer answering and life transforming powers?

LOVE

Do your really love God’s family? Not the large congregation on Sunday, which is easy to say you love; but the shoulder to shoulder, face to face tyre hits the road kind of love that sees the dirt, and smell the dung, and feels the drain of real people who are works in progress. God’s love has been shed in your hearts and it wants to overflow from you and inundate a community thirsting not for Coke but for for incarnational love: the kind that listens, accepts, serves, reproves, encourages and journeys with the cell group to spiritual maturity.

Take these questions before the Lord in prayer. Tell Him exactly how you feel about where you are in each of the elements in the triad. Wait for Him to listen or just to receive life by being in there “with him” – a kind of spiritual osmosis. Do this in an extended time of unhurried prayer, perhaps over two hours or over a half a day of turning your heart to God.

You will gradually regain a sense of purpose, a renewed hope, and a fresh simple love.

 

Beyond regular habits of prayer and Bible reading

QT

We are creatures of habit and this can be used to great advantage for the cultivation of a spiritual life. Regular habits of silence, solitude, examen, lectio divina and journaling have been established in my life over the last few years. This helps me greatly, but I want more.

More recently, I have been listening through the whole Bible online. I am now listening to audio readings of Exodus and Mark at the YouVersion Bible app. I am encouraged that it is more viable than I thought possible. Going through the Bible is a challenge for me. Now I have even gone through the complex book of Job which to me is quite an achievement. This helps me greatly but I want more.

There were several moments in recent weeks when I felt a holy discontent. Where it sprang from I cannot remember. They were invitations from a heavenly source. An invitation to go beyond routines and habits as important as these were. An invitation to love God with first love, with desire, passion, enthusiasm, and emotions. An invitation to love God with more than just my intellect and will.

We are to live out our spirituality by faith without depending heavily on our emotions. However, if will and mind set on following God can be accompanied by strong love and passion for my Lord in this long journey called life, why not? Having a love relationship devoid of emotions all my life is not my idea of a real relationship. God did not create emotions, desires and passions in me only to want it set aside when He relates to me. He wants my soul and desires to want Him and enthrone Him too.

I now pray more often for this grace: “Lord grant me a passionate love for You. I want to be able to love You with all my mind… AND emotions AND passion AND desires. Help me return to the first love.”

I know I cannot manufacture this. It’s not sustainable. It has to be a gift. A grace. So I ask in faith and wait patiently for Him to stir my affections as I seek Him during Lent.

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ (Mark 12:29,30 The Message)

Testing, Testing

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming towards him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ (John 6:5-7 NIV)

When we are faced with a challenge what would be our response? Would it be one of faith, hope and love? Or would our response be one of fear, despair or indifference? What would be your internal and spontaneous response when faced with a challenge?

The company announces that your department will be affected by a restructuring exercise. The Polyclinic suddenly urges you to immediately go to the Accident and Emergency Department of a general hospital. Your daughter has sent hundreds of resumes to secure a job but all were unsuccessful.  You have been praying for a loved one to be cured of a serious illness for some months but the latest check-up showed that his condition was getting worse.

What is your response to these challenges? One of faith or fear? One of hope or despair? One of love or cold indifference? God is testing you because he has hopes that you have it in you to respond with faith, hope or love. When you respond with faith, hope or love, it pleases the Lord and puts a smile on his face. It gives him great pleasure and joy.

Philip was put to the test by the Lord. There are thousands of hungry folks here. “Philip how can we feed these people?” Philips reasoned and very rational response was, “No way we can feed them. We don’t have the finances. Why even six months’ salary could only put a mouthful in each of their mouths!”

Jesus knew he would do a miracle of multiplication. However, he always wanted his friends involved in his kingdom miracles and work. He had hoped that since Philip had seen the miracle of the supply of the wine he would say something like, “Lord you supplied wine supernaturally. Surely you can supply food supernaturally too!” But Philip did not say that, to the Lord’s disappointment. He relied on his own understanding and on what he saw and calculated. “No way Lord, we do not have the budget to take care of their needs.”

“Oh Philip, how long must I be with you guys. How many miracles must I do to show you my power and love? O you of little faith!” Did these thoughts flash through Jesus mind?

Thank you, Philip. You are not alone. We identify with you. I and many like me would respond as you have responded. We think in very human terms: by what our senses tell us. We are greatly limited by our lack of faith and imagination. We are too practical and realistic to imagine a solution that the faith of Jesus had actually grasped.

Lord increase my faith. Your ways are higher than my ways. When I am faced with challenges and limitations and impossibilities, help me to believe, to have hope, and to love. I want to bring a smile on your face, and great wonder in your eyes.