Tag Archives: Signs and Wonders

Character & Gifting: Lessons From Our Eastern Brethren

Born into an Eastern Orthodox family on Cyprus, Kyriacos C. Markides adopted an agnostic view of God and spirituality in the 1970’s while at college in the USA. After years of scientific materialism, he begin a journey that took him through Hindu spirituality and transcendental meditation before returning to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Being a professor of sociology (University of Maine), Markides documented and published various segments of his spiritual journey including his chats with various healers and mystics on the edges of Eastern Orthodoxy. The focus on this book, The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality, is Markides discovery of Eastern Orthodox spirituality as seen through a monastic lens.

The book starts off with Markides seeking to visit the monks living on Mount Athos in Greece. Christian monks and hermits have lived on this mountain for over 1,800 years with the single focus of pursuing God. The importance of this mountain in Eastern Orthodoxy can be seen through the  nickname the “Holy Mountain.”

Sadly, Markides was unable to visit Mount Athos at the beginning of the book. Rather his journey took him back to Cyprus where a former monk of the mountain recently became the abbot of a monastery. Throughout the rest of the book, Markides and his monastic guide, Father Maximos, constantly refer back to Mount Athos and the traditions of the mountain. The book ends with Markides finally reaching Mount Athos only to find that the monks had taken a vow of silence during the time period he had chosen to visit. Hence the name of the book.

The concepts recorded within the pages of the book were fascinating to me. There were times when I put down the book thinking that I was reading a book on Pentecostalism, only with more monks. At other times, however, could see bits of Markides’ transcendental meditation background slipping in through various words and concept. At still other points within the books I could see Eastern Orthodoxy at its finest.

While I gleaned many a new concept from the book, the thing I want to focus on here is the Pentecostal fare of the book. By this I mean, throughout the book Markides would talk about the various signs and wonders the monastic monks would perform. Everything from healing a person in front of them to the healing of someone at a distance to prophecy to words of knowledge. The charismatic gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 were in full view throughout the book.

There was one primary difference, however, in how the Eastern Orthodoxy monks and Pentecostalism in general saw the gifts. Namely, the monks saw the gifts as coming about after years of seeking God and denying one own desires. Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movements that followed (including the Vineyard) tend to teach that anyone can experience the charismatic gifts at any point in their Christian walk. As in, a new Jesus follower in the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition would be taught that they could pray for the sick and see folks healed whereas in the monastic tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy it would be elders and lifelong monks who would see that type of stuff.

While I clearly lead towards the former view (as noted in my book The Here and Not Yet), I have to wonder if the monastic view doesn’t have something to offer us. A common danger within Pentecostal and Charismatic circles is that a person who is used by God becomes prideful and goes off the rails. The gifts in effect become more important than the character of the people doing the stuff. By denying themselves and waiting on God for years, the elders within the monastic tradition tend to have a better grasp on the character portion while also operating in the gifts of the Spirit. So I guess you can say that they place a greater emphasis on the character of a person rather than that persons gifting.

And that, I believe, is something we in the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition need to learn. Gifting, while cool, isn’t as important as character. We need to create a culture and teaches people to focused on spiritual formation and character development while at the same time pursuing the works of the King (i.e. signs and wonders). As the Apostle Paul told us long ago, the gifts will stop but love (i.e. character) will continue long after this age ends (1 Corinthians 13).

Defining Healing: A Review of Rick Richardson’s book “Experiencing Healing Prayer”

experiencing healing prayerThe book Experiencing Healing Prayer was written out of Rick Richardson’s experience as an Anglican priest helping people find healing for the soul. Rick’s own personal journey in inner healing started when he told a friend about a recurring dream about a man coming at him with a knife. His friend suggested that they pray about Rick’s relationship with the gentleman in his dream.  When they did this, Rick experienced “the healing touch of God and the blazing light of his wisdom” (page 13). That day marked a turning moment in Rick’s life as it was the start of a journey helping others experiences the healing power of Jesus.

The book’s seventeen chapters can be broken into seven major sections with each part focused on a different subtopic of soul healing. The first section (Ch. 1-3) serves as an introduction to inner soul healing. From there the remaining chapters are split among the six signposts Rick proposes as guides “along the way on the healing journey” (page 33). The first signpost or second selection of the book (Ch. 4-6) is focused on God’s presence and hearing “God’s still small voice” (page 46). The third selection (Ch. 7) talks about gender identity and replaying our “diseased images and memoires” with “healed and transformed images” (page 89).

Chapters 8-9 make up the fourth selection or third signpost with an emphasis renouncing unreal identities and embracing an identity rooted in Jesus. The fifth selection (Ch. 10-14) tries to get to the “roots of pain and problems, not just the fruits or symptoms” (page 12). This is quickly followed by the sixth selection (Ch. 15) which talks about the “physical and sacramental means God has given as channels of healing power” (page 178). The last selection and the sixth signpost proposed by Rick is covered in chapters 16-17 and deals with giving away the healing received from God.

Overall I agree with Rick and the six signposts he proposed. Learning to recognize the presence of God and allowing him to transform the imagines we have about ourselves and others is very important. All too often people pray a simple prayer of salvation without recognizing that the decision to follow Jesus is an “exchange of sovereignties” in which we move from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God (Williams 2006, 15). This sovereignty exchanged requires that our minds, hearts, bodies, and desires be transformed into those of Jesus. As St. Paul told the church in Ephesus, we are to “put of [our] old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of [our] minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV).

There was one point of disagreement I had with Rick. In chapter two, he defines healing as the “transformation of the person into a truer and more whole follower, worshiper and lover of God” (page 27). This definition leaves a lot to be desired as it effectively spiritualizes the healing message of Jesus. Gone is the concept that healing brings physical pain relief or restores the wholeness to a person. Rather, healing under Rick’s definition becomes akin to sanctification in that it deals primary with the transformation of believers into the image of Jesus.

By defining healing as a spiritual transformation, Rick dodges the issue of why some people are physically healed and others are not. Since spiritual transformation happens on the inside rather than the outside like physical healing, there less risk in offering healing as one can claim that it is a lifelong process. Rick states on page 30 that he does not make a “sharp distinction” between physical and inner healing and that there are times when “inside-out healing” will “affects people in very physical ways.” While this caveat is nice, it is noteworthy that physical healing is not mentioned again in the book nor do the six healing signposts proposed by Rick allow for people to experience physical healing separate from inner healing. This limitation of the healing message of Jesus clearly shows Rick’s biases and reaction against the healing models he experienced (pages 21-23).

Rick’s spiritualization of healing can also be seen through the stories he chooses to use from Jesus’ ministry (pages 26-30). According to Rick, the primary reason why Jesus healed the man born blind in John 9 and the hemorrhaging women in Mark 5 was to get them to worship him. Why I’m sure Jesus wanted them to follow him, this is a poor treatment of Scriptures as there are other stories about people who did not choose to follow Jesus after their physical problems were healed. The story of the ten men with leprosy in Luke 17 is a prime example of Jesus healing people without all of them becoming worshipers of God. Rather than holding physical healing hostage for only those people who follow him, Jesus freely offered healing to everyone he met.

The definition of healing I would like to propose is from Alexander Venter’s book “Doing Healing.” This definition states that “healing is the event and/or process of restoring wholeness to the whole person” (Venter 2009, 55).  While this definition has some overlap with Rick’s definition, Venter’s view of healing places the focus on God bringing wholeness to a person regardless of whether or not they choose to follow him. God, in his great love and mercy, does not hold healing hostage for only those who follow him. Rather he gracefully holds out physical and emotional healing to people across the spectrum of life. Accordingly, we, the followers of Jesus, are to go out to every nook and cranny of the world declaring that God’s kingdom has come while demonstrating it through healing the sick regardless of their belief system. We have to trust that God will use our obedience to draw people to himself, offering them complete wholeness through an exchange of sovereignties that will last a lifetime.

Bibliography

Richardson, Rick. 2005. Experiencing Healing Prayer: How God Turns Our Hurts Into Wholeness. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Venter, Alexander. 2009. Doing Healing: How to Minister God’s Kingdom in the Power of the Spirit. Cape Town, South Africa: Vineyard International Publishing.

Williams, Don. 2006. Start Here: Kingdom Essentials for Christians. Ventura, California: Regal.

“Go Ahead – Pray This Prayer. Your Life Will Never be Dull Again.”

The following text was written by Steve & Cindy Nicholson, Evanston Vineyard pastors, for the recently released Come Holy Spirit” booklet  published by the Vineyard USA.

“’Come, Holy Spirit.’ We remember the first time those words were used by us as a conscious invitation to the Spirit to come, with an expectation that we might see evidences of the Spirit’s presence. It was at our young church’s annual dinner-come-slide-show-come worship celebration. Everyone was standing. There was a deep, unnerving, very long silence.

steve and cindy nicholsonThen in the cavernous acoustics of a church gym, the sound of a metal folding chair flipping over and the unmistakable wail of a man whose emotional pain had just gotten uncorked by God. More flipping chairs, more crying, laughing, shouting, people shaking, people ending up under folding chairs, and all through the room, such a sense of purposefulness to it all, of God doing things and saying things, as though we had finally opened the door and let Him in. Which we had!

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ did not originate with John Wimber. We are merely the latest generation to embrace it. It has its roots back in the earliest prayers of the first Church Fathers and Mothers, the first generation after the apostles to carry the flame of the gospel forward. This prayer is not just some oddity of 21st century Western Christianity. It is part and parcel of Trinitarian theology, a beloved prayer of every generation of believers before us. You are in very good company when you pray, ‘Come, Holy Spirit.’

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a direct, bold request for the Spirit to do the work the Father wants to do in us, and to be the fire that propels us out to do the work the Father wants to do through us. The words are not magic (oh, how many times have we found that out the hard way!); we have to actually expect the Spirit to accept our invitation! Otherwise it’s a bit like standing inside our home saying ‘Come on in!’ to someone standing outside, but never actually opening the door.

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a prayer best prayed with willingness to welcome surprise and unpredictability. When we pray this prayer, we never know what will happen next! Most of us love the image of Aslan, in the C.S. Lewis Narnia books, as ‘good but not tame.’ It’s another thing entirely to be met by this not-tame Holy Spirit in real life! But nothing beats the joy of seeing the Spirit come and do what we are powerless to do in our own strength. Go ahead – pray this prayer. Your life will never be dull again.”

The Third Person of the Trinity

The following text is an excerpt from the recently released “Come Holy Spirit” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.
Who Is The Holy Spirit?

Who is the Holy Spirit? In many churches you will hear messages on God as Father, and God as the Son. But how often will you hear a message about God as the Holy Spirit? The truth is that the Holy Spirit may be the least understood Person of what church history calls the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The Vineyard story is driven by the reality that God eagerly desires us to experience his presence. The presence of God is expressed by the Spirit of God, and it is the experience of the presence of God that empowers us to do the work Jesus has called us to do in the world.

Recognizing The Person Of The Spirit

holy spiritWe are committed to being “functionally Trinitarian” in all our church activities, recognizing that the presence of the Holy Spirit among us means everything to the church Jesus is building.  Recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and communities, we are softened in our desire to become “change (coins) in God’s pocket” (John Wimber) – people ready to be spent by the Lord and led by the Spirit into any act of kingdom service he desires.

According to church history, the Holy Spirit is God, and as such, shapes our lives as God indwells us, by his Spirit through the work of Christ (Col. 1:27). In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is called by many names including the Comforter (Jn. 14:26), the Advocate (Jn. 14:16), and the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2).

The Spirit is given to us as a deposit guaranteeing God’s goodness to come (2 Cor. 5:5), to assure us of Christ’s presence within (1 Jn. 4:13), to speak through us to one another (1 Cor. 12:18), to guide us in our understanding of God’s gifts to us (1 Cor. 2:12), to empower us to impact nonbelievers (Mk. 1:11), and to give us rest (Is. 63:14).

Jesus And The Spirit

It is by the power of the Spirit of God that Jesus ministered:

“One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick” (Luke 5:17).

The Spirit also empowered Paul and the other disciples to do the works of Jesus, and touched those to whom they ministered:

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:15-17).

In the Vineyard we believe that the Holy Spirit, likewise, distributes gifts among us, his Church today. These gifts of healing, prophecy, prayer languages, miracles and many other gifts enable us to experience God’s presence personally and corporately. These gifts enable us to minister to the world around us imbued with the power of God.

Come, Holy Spirit: The Story Behind the Prayer

The following text is an excerpt from the recently released “Come Holy Spirit” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.

Sometimes, the simplest prayers are the best prayers. One prayer that has been prayed by the church in many forms over the past 2000 years has become very important to us in the Vineyard family of churches.

It is the prayer “Come, Holy Spirit.

come holy spiritOn Mother’s Day, 1980, John Wimber had a unique experience at the church he pastored in Yorba Linda, California. John was from a Quaker tradition, and was a respected voice teaching leaders about Church growth through evangelism.

John had invited a guest speaker named Lonnie Frisbee to teach at their evening service. Lonnie was a hippie who was a part of what became known as the Jesus People Movement in the late 1960s in Southern California.

John’s church was filled with young people, and they gathered to worship as usual that night. Lonnie got up to speak, and at the conclusion of his message he prayed a prayer that has been prayed by many throughout church history.

It was a simple prayer, one that has become one of the most important prayers we pray across the Vineyard family of churches. The prayer was simply:

Come, Holy Spirit.”

It is a prayer the church of Jesus Christ has been praying in many forms over many centuries. That night, when that three-word prayer was prayed, all heaven broke loose in John Wimber’s community. An entire movement of churches has, in many ways, grown around that prayer. After that gathering, deeply encountered by the Holy Spirit, young people poured into the streets, leading hundreds, then thousands, to faith in Jesus Christ. Miracles followed their simple prayers, such as healings of bodies and minds, as well as deliverances from addictions.

Since that time, tens of thousands have come to faith in Jesus through the work of the Vineyard. Our belief in “Power Evangelism” – reaching people by participating with God in the miraculous – centers us on the Holy Spirit’s work in drawing the heart to God.

Today, you will hear this simple prayer, in some form, being prayed in virtually every Vineyard church around the world. It is because we are learning in the Vineyard what the Body of Christ has had to learn again and again throughout history – that with the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, we can do the works of Jesus. We can join him in the advancing of the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.

We are a people of the presence of God. So we pray “Come, Holy Spirit.”

SpiritTribe: Nicaragua Mission Intensive

mission intensive picNow that the holidays are over it is time to start looking forward toward the SpiritTribe Mission Intensives. These are domestic and international trips that go beyond simply going somewhere ‘exotic’ and marking a check box on your bucket list.

These are trips that are designed to expose, train and tweak people for the Kingdom of God. They are trips for those who are tired of the same old life, tired of sitting in a church pew, tired of wondering where God is in the midst of injustice – these are trips for those who are willing to sell everything they have and join Jesus in changing the world.

While there are four such trips to different places, I am personally leading one of them – a two week intensive to Nicaragua, Central America. For this trip, we will be partnering with Vineyard Boise’s i-61 Ministries in learning about and then doing something about the seven areas of world crises:

  1. Spiritual Confusion
  2. Undeveloped Leadership
  3. Educational Inequalities
  4. Environmental Decline
  5. World Hunger
  6. Poor Health & Disease
  7. Human Injustice

Each morning of the intensive the team will gather together to learn about one of these seven areas before taking to the streets that afternoon to experience the issue firsthand. For example, if the issue is “world hunger”, we might get transported to the La Chureca dump site, one of the worst dumps in Central America, where we would help prepare food and feed the children who reside there. If the issue is “spiritual deadness”, we might be given the opportunity to serve into a community of the local Vineyard churches in the area.

The goal of all this, as mentioned previous, it to train, equip and tweak people into joining with Jesus in changing the world. Our heart is that after this mission intensive each team member will go back to their local community/church and start doing the stuff there – after all, Jesus is already at work everywhere, we just have to open our eyes and start walking with Him.

The Details
  • Trip Dates: June 16-30, 2014
  • Team size: 14 members max
  • Preferred age of team member: 18 to 30~ years
  • Cost: $975 USD per person (based upon a 14 member team, if smaller the cost with change)
  • Price included food, lodging, and transportation in Nicaragua. Does NOT include plane tickets to Nicaragua as this will vary according to where each team member is located.
  • 10% of cost is due on March 16th with the remainder due on April 16th
Application Process
  • Everyone interested in going should either contact me directly or go to the SpiritTribe’s Nicaragua Mission Intensive website and fill out the content form located there.
  • Note that all applications for this trip will need to be returned to me by February 10th with chosen team members notified on or before February 24th

My Life Through The Three Movements of the Holy Spirit: Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Third Wave

azuzs streetEd Stetzer, the President of LifeWay Research and great missiologist, has recently embarked on a series of blog posts about the Pentecostal / Charismatic / Third Wave Movements. The first post starts off by defining the “continualist movement” (i.e. Christians who believe that the spiritual gifts are still active today) as opposed to the cessastionists who believing that such gifts have stopped. From there, Stetzer gives a good history overview of the beginning of Pentecostalism before summarizing their doctrine/theology.

In the second post, Stetzer tackles the Charismatic movement – with a great history on how that movement got started in in the early 1960s. This was, to me, the most interesting article of the series as I didn’t know very much about how the Charismatic movement got started. (Spoiler: God used Dennis Bennett at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, CA to spark the movement).

The next post was about the Third Wave, which moved through the USA in the 1980’s. This wave was different from both the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements in both doctrine and practice. Pentecostalism was rooted in the Holiness Revival of the 1800’s and hold to a doctrine of subsequence (meaning that a believer is fill with the Holy Spirit in a second, or subsequence, event after conversion). The Charismatic movement pick up this doctrine of subsequence and brought it into the mainline churches (i.e. Anglican, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Lutherans, Orthodox, and Reformed).

Third Wavers, a term coined by C. Peter Wagner Professor of Church Growth at Fuller, disagreed with this doctrine. They believe that a follower of Jesus is baptized with the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion and that one could be filled with the Spirit without speaking in tongues (something the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches would disagree with). Stetzer lists John Wimber of the Vineyard and Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel as proponents of this view.

Wild Goose Chase Computer imageAs I write this overview of Ed Stetzer’s articles, I can’t help but smile as I’ve personally been shaped by all three movements. My paternal great-grandmother, paternal great-granduncle, paternal great-uncle, maternal grandfather, mother, step-father, maternal aunt, and maternal uncle all have been licensed and/or ordinated pastors within Pentecostalism (mostly with the Independent Assemblies, who broke off from the Assemblies of God in 1967). Growing up, I remember attending Buddy Harrison’s Faith Christian Fellowship in Tulsa, Ok, before my family sifted over to some Charismatic churches in Tyler, TX. College found me deeply rooted in a local Church On The Rock church, a network of Charismatic churches in Texas started by Larry Lea. After college I moved to Idaho where I fell headlong into the Third Wave through Tri Robinson and the Vineyard Movement.

Looking back, I can see where these three movements have shaped my worldview and theology. My Pentecostal roots taught me to look at the world through spiritual eyes, seeing the spiritual battle waging around us every day. It also introduced me to spiritual gifts, miracles, and the Christus victor atonement model, among other things. My journey within the Charismatic movement tampered my typically emotional self and introduced me to the Reform/Calvinist approach to spiritual gifts as well as the penal substitutionary atonement model. Charismatic and Evangelical college professors also opened my eyes up biblical studies, giving me a taste of the joy that comes with studying the Scriptures.

Life within the Third Wave over the last ten years have transformed me once again – opening my eyes up the center-set beauty of enacted inaugurated eschatology Kingdom Theology. Big words describing a worldview deeply rooted in the Kingship of Jesus who transformed history and all of creation with his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. Gone is guilt of not having enough faith when praying for the sick, or anything else matter; gone is the doctrine of subsequence (granted, I was introduced to the Holy-Spirit-at-conversion concept at the Charismatic leaning Church On The Rock); gone is the strict holiness club mind set of Pentecostalism…

It has been an interesting journey full of twists and turns (like any good journey). Three unique movements with different histories and doctrines with some overlapping theology and practices…three movements that have left their stamp on global church and my life. Three movements all chasing after the Holy Spirit with a belief that God is still working in the world today and is calling His people to step out in faith and do the impossible.

Fun times. Let’s go.

Dream Interpretation: Scriptural or Not?

prayer dream signRecently I created a sign and started sitting out on the side of the road offering “free pray and dream interpretation.” The “free prayer” part is fairly straight forward and is typically non-controversial. The latter part, however, caused some folks to raise their eyebrows and wonder if I had left the straight and narrow path of the Scriptures.

Knowing that people have questions, I have decided post my thought about dream interpretation and the Scriptural support for such activity. Well, support for interpreting dreams that is – sitting on the side of the road in rural Idaho offering such a service may have ran afoul of culturally appropriateness and, well, been unwise…  =/

In today’s modern world folks normally do not talk about or mention dreams – they are things of mystery that are to be dismissed as foolishness.  Yet the Scriptures are full of stories about God talking to people through dreams. Jacob saw a staircase into heaven (Gen 28:12), Joseph saw his future (Gen 37), the wise men returned home after visiting Jesus because of a dream (Mt 2:12), and Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, had multiple dreams encouraging him to do lots of crazy things like marry the pregnant girl Mary, flee to Egypt and then return home to Israel (Mt 1:20, 2:13, 19, 22).

Then there is Joseph who interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh, his cupbearer and baker (Gen 40-41). Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar dreams and became the chief wise man of Babylon, a position that most likely included interpreting future dreams (Daniel 2, 4). Gideon received encouragement when a member of his army shared his dream to a friend who then interpreted the dream and informed Gideon of its meaning (Judges 7).

We must also take into consideration that large portions of Scripture are actually dreams and/or visions written down and saved (visions are similar to dreams only they typically happen while one is awake versus when asleep). Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah and Revelations all continue dreams/visions that are daily interpreted by people around the world. It would therefore seems that the Scriptures actually support interpreting the dreams of others (both believers and non-believers) rather than forbidding it.

I would even say that offering to interpret someone’s dreams is, in a lot of ways, akin to offering to pray for someone who is sick to get healed. Both are done through the power of Holy Spirit at God’s choosing – we don’t heal people nor do we interpret dreams according to our wisdom. In both events we ask God to come into the situation and reveal to us what is going on.

Continue reading Dream Interpretation: Scriptural or Not?