Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pentecostalism

Several years ago a friend of mine decided to move to Argentina.  She had grown up in Mar del Plata, but she and her husband had settled in the United States.  When her husband died unexpectedly, she decided to move back home and raise her daughter there.  She used to write to me quite often when she first moved back, frequently bemoaning the lack of evangelical churches.  "The only churches near me," she would say, "are Pentecostal."  Things had changed quite a bit since she'd left. 

Another friend of mine grew up in Russia.  She and her husband, an OT professor at Moody Bible Institute, and their two children live here in the Chicagoland area.  Because of her background, she has managed to pick up free-lance Russian/English translation and interpretation work to help support their family.  She too laments that so many of the Russian churches and organizations she deals with are Pentecostal.

But Pentecostalism is alive and well in the States, too.  Several years ago I wrote a post and quoted Harriet A. Harris in Fundamentalism and Evangelicals to point out the influence Pentecostalism is increasingly having on Evangelicalism here:

“Charismatics challenge traditional fundamentalist thinking about God’s supernatural activity. Traditionally fundamentalists confine miracles to the Bible and regard them as violent divine interventions (Barr 1984: 86). In John Wimber’s words: ‘Christians unconsciously consign the supernatural to an impenetrable upper tier (except for the resurrection, early church miracles, and transcendent moral standards), excluding God’s power from their theology and practice’ (1985: 88). However, increasingly in fundamentalist circles God is regarded as ever-present and active, providing such mundane services as finding parking spaces in the centre of town on a Saturday morning. As Nancy Ammerman (1987: 48-9) found, having spent a year studying a fundamentalist church in New England,

‘Almost anything good or bad can be explained as God’s doing. God keeps the dishes from breaking, locates things that are lost. He supplies friends and offspring. He makes sure cars get fixed at affordable prices. He arranges convenient overtime work schedules and makes hiring and firing more pleasant. He provides clothes and food when they are needed, as well as less essential items like tickets for a rodeo or a pet dog for the children.’”


I bring up these three examples to show that "the winds they are a changin."  In fact, according to World Christian Encyclopedia there are now an estimated 500 million followers of Pentecostalism. As recently as 1970, Pentecostals and Charismatics represented only 6% of the world’s so-called Christian population. By 1997 the figure jumped to 27%, or 497 million people, which is more than Protestants and Anglicans combined.  Because Pentecostalism has only been around since the early 1900's, this runaway growth is especially phenomenal. Some even wonder if Pentecostalism is Christianity's next reformation. 

The Pentecostal movement is not simply a new denomination, though.  According to Margaret M. Poloma of the department of sociology of the University of Akron, “The rise of Pentecostalism is more analogous to the rise of Protestantism in Christianity than the birth of a new denomination. It’s an example of the restructuring of Christianity.”  Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life concurs: “Pentecostal beliefs and practices are literally reshaping the face of Christianity throughout the developing world.”

A good example of this growth is the Assemblies of God (AG), the largest Pentecostal denomination, which has 2.5 million adherents in the U.S. and 35 million worldwide. From 1987 to 1999, the number of AG churches in the United States increased about 16%; however, much of that growth came from immigrants, particularly Hispanics. Worldwide, the number of AG churches almost doubled within the same time period to more than 212,000.

Indeed, most of Pentecostalism’s growth is occurring in developing countries.  One reason for this is its extensive missionary efforts.  Because Pentecostals link the outpouring of gifts of the Holy Spirit to the “end times,” there is a real sense of urgency to their missionary activity.  One might question why the people in these "foreign lands" are so receptive to the Pentecostal message.  One reason may be that since mysticism has long been a way of life in third world countries, Pentecostalism isn't a big leap to them.  Add to this what The Pew Forum found in 2006 when they conducted a survey of Pentecostals in 10 countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas.  Not only did majorities of Pentecostals in nine of the countries agree that God would grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith, but most Pentecostals in all 10 countries said that God would grant good health and relief from sickness to believers who have enough faith.  Who wouldn't want that?

So what's the big deal?!  There isn't that much difference between what the average Evangelical and Pentecostal believes, is there? 

Well, yes and no.   Evangelicals believe the essential beliefs of the Christian faith. That would be things like the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, the deity and virgin birth of Jesus Christ along with His death, burial and resurrection, ascension to heaven, and His return. They believe in salvation by faith, eternal security, the resurrection of the body, and the reality of Satan, angels, heaven and hell.

What about Pentecostals, then? They believe the same things that I mentioned above, except that most Pentecostals believe in conditional security instead of eternal security.  (This is huge in my book because either Christ's death and resurrection was sufficient or it wasn't!)  Pentecostals also place a large emphasis and focus on some things that most Evangelicals would either reject, or downplay. This includes speaking in tongues, seeing visions, miracle healings, prophesying, and things like this. Sometimes pentecostal refers to a specific denomination or church with the word pentecostal in the name. Other times it is an umbrella term that refers to all that hold to the distinctives I mentioned.

There is also an umbrella term called Charismatic. These people may or may not be evangelical. The term generally refers to a movement within the more mainline churches – and even the Roman Catholic Church. They emphasize the “gifts of the Spirit” that Pentecostals do, but many may or may not believe the essential beliefs of the Christian faith.  The terms Pentecostal and Charismatic are often used interchangeably.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Paul's ministry

"But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and THE MINISTRY WHICH I RECEIVED FROM THE LORD JESUS, TO TESTIFY SOLEMNLY OF THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD."  — The Apostle Paul in Acts 20:24.

"GRACE to you, and peace" (Rom 1:7);
"being justified as a gift by His GRACE" (Rom 3:24);
"through whom we have obtained our introduction by faith into this GRACE in which we stand" (Rom 5:2);
"the GRACE of God and the gift by the GRACE of the one Man, Jesus Christ" (Rom 5:15);
"the abundance of GRACE and of the gift of righteousness" (Rom 5:17);
"where sin increased, GRACE abounded all the more...so GRACE would reign" (Rom 5:20-21);
"for you are not under law but under GRACE" (Rom 6:14);
"Shall we sin because we are not under law but under GRACE? May it never be!" (Rom.6:15);
"But if it is by GRACE, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise GRACE is no longer GRACE" (Rom 11:6);
"by the GRACE of God I am what I am, and His GRACE toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the GRACE of God with me" (1 Cor 15:10);
"For all things are for your sakes, so that the GRACE which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God" (2 Cor 4:15);
"we also urge you not to receive the GRACE of God in vain" (2 Cor 6:1);
"For you know the GRACE of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 8:9);
"God is able to make all GRACE abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed" (2 Cor 9:8);
"the surpassing GRACE of God " (2 Cor 9:14);
"My GRACE is sufficient for you" (2 Cor 12:9);
"I do not nullify the GRACE of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly" (Gal 2:21);
"to the praise of the glory of His GRACE, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved" (Eph 1:6);
"the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His GRACE" (Eph 1:7);
"the surpassing riches of His GRACE in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:7);
"For by GRACE you have been saved through faith" (Eph 2:8);
"the stewardship of God’s GRACE which was given to me for you" (Eph 3:2);
"the GRACE of our Lord was more than abundant" (1 Tim 1:14);
"who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and GRACE which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (2 Tim 1:9);
"therefore...be strong in the GRACE that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 2:1);
"GRACE be with you all" (Titus 3:15).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

French Silk Pie


The day after tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  This year we will be celebrating it at the home of my niece's husband's sister (hereafter referred to as NHS).  There will be 18 of us in all: my MIL, SIL, niece and her husband and 3 kids, my NHS and her husband and 3 kids, the parents of my niece's husband and NHS, and my husband, our 2 daughters and me.  It may seem a little strange that we're gathering at my NHS's house.  After all, Thanksgiving is when one usually gathers with one's immediate family, and we're not even technically related to my niece's husband, let alone his sister. But then I freely admit our family is a little strange.  We actually celebrate many holidays with my niece's husband's family.  There's an explanation for this, though.  My SIL has known my niece's husband's father for years.  They met when they both worked at Moody radio (WMBI) back in the 60's. 

Anyway, all that to say this:  One of the things I'm contributing to the Thanksgiving meal this year is a pie (well, actually pies).  And since my niece's husband's favorite pie is French silk pie, I must be sure to make that kind, right? 

I got this recipe from a friend from church some 20+ years ago.  It produces a very rich, but oh so delicious, pie!  For those who are aware of the Baker's Square chain of restaurants, this recipe duplicates their French silk pie almost to a tee.

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
Whipped cream or Cool Whip

First make and bake your favorite pastry pie crust.  If you don't currently have a favorite, here's one you can try. 

Next, beat sugar and butter until sugar is not grainy. Add chocolate and vanilla. Add eggs, two at a time, beating 5 minutes after each addition. Pour into cooled pie crust. Chill 2 hours or until firm. Before serving, top with whipped cream and a little grated chocolate.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Secure in Christ

If we are indeed secure in Christ, then what is 2 Cor 6:1-3 all about? "And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain (for He says, 'at the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.' Behold, now is 'the acceptable time,' behold, now is 'the day of salvation') giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited.'"


If we remove Paul’s parenthetical thought for a moment, it becomes clear that the apostle had the ministry in mind, not salvation, when he used the phrase "urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain."  As representatives of Christ in His absence, the Corinthians should have been living exemplary lives.  However, their conduct was far from godly, placing their ministry which they had received by the grace of God in jeopardy of being ineffectual. With the re-insertion of Paul’s parenthetical phrase, we see that he was trying to show the Corinthians the seriousness of the situation. While they were busy fighting among themselves, people were perishing.

We see the same thought in 1 Timothy 4:16:

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.


***Salvation in 1 Tim 4:16 does not refer to the spiritual and eternal deliverance granted immediately by God to those who place their faith in the Lord Jesus; rather, it refers to the deliverance from the bondage of sin; it is this present experience on the part of believers virtually equivalent to sanctification; they were not to neglect it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Old Gospel

They tell us things are moving at such a rapid pace,
That the world's outgrown the Gospel of Christ's redeeming grace;
That anyone's old fashioned who believes the Bible true,
That the world has made such progress it needs a gospel new.

If we happen to be sinners, we're really not to blame,
In fact we just think we are sinning is what some people claim.
Most folks don't understand you when you say "be born again,"
For they're working for salvation, imitating Cain.

Control our lives with noble thoughts, be gentle, sweet and pure,
And because we do the best we can, God's mercy will be sure.
Speak of God's great love for us but of His wrath say naught,
Preach heaven all you care to, but hell must not be taught.

Of Jesus some speak kindly as the Man of Galilee,
But nothing of the Lamb of God, who died on Calvary's tree.
Say naught of His pierced hands and feet, naught of His wounded side,
Out of which the Father is forming the Saviour's precious bride.

And so they twist and try to change the word which Christ did say
Shall long endure the dying world and never pass away.
O, sinner, come and see thyself a lost and ruined soul,
And hear the words of Jesus Christ, "Thy faith hath made thee whole."

Away with the world's new theories and back to the blessed Book,
Let's go to the cross of Jesus and get a saving look.
And know as we see Him hanging in agony and pain,
It was for our transgressions the Son of God was slain.

We need no other gospel for none other will avail,
But against the Church of Jesus Christ, hell's gates shall not prevail.
Be safe in the Ark like Noah, and escape the judgment flood,
Anchor your faith to Jesus, get under His precious blood.

And we'll keep our gaze on heaven and watching unto prayer,
We'll wait for the Lord of glory and meet Him in the air.
And down through the endless ages when heaven and earth are new
We'll sing of the cross of Jesus and know that His words were true.


by John O'Hair

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less."

Tim Keller, The Reason For God

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Martian Child

Tonight I watched the movie Martian Child, starring John Cusack and Bobby Coleman.  It's a sweet story, without being corny, about a lonely widower and best selling Sci-Fi author, David (John Cusack), who adopts a child who lives in a world of his own. The child, Dennis (Bobby Coleman), is rather strange — he hates the sun, doesn't smile much, and has convinced himself that he's from Mars. At first the writer isn't sure he's up to the task of bringing up a child with such big issues, but little by little comes to realize he's the perfect match for the boy.

One of my favorite quotes in the movie is when David says this:

"Dennis, can I just say one last thing about Mars? - which may be strange coming from a Science-Fiction writer - But right now, you and me here, put together entirely of atoms, sitting on this round rock with a core of liquid iron, held down by this force that seems to trouble you, called gravity, all the while spinning around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour and whizzing through the milkyway at 600,000 miles an hour in a universe that very well may be chasing its own tail at the speed of light; And admist all this frantic activity, fully cognisant of our own eminent demise - which is our own pretty way of saying we all know we're gonna die - We reach out to one another. Sometimes for the sake of entity, sometimes for reasons you're not old enough to understand yet, but a lot of the time we just reach out and expect nothing in return. Isn't that strange? Isn't that weird? Isn't that weird enough? What do ya need to be from Mars for?"

Rather reminds me of the old Dr. Seuss quote:

"We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love."

I found myself smiling and laughing throughout most of this movie.  Certainly a must-see on the power of unconditional love.