Archive - September, 2011

Exhausted, but reminded.

“I hear a voice in the autumn breeze/ Telling me that I need to leave/ But I can’t fly with these broken wings/ The leaves, they move like poetry/ It’s all still such mystery/ But I can finally hear the melody “- Whereever the Wind Blows, Pillar

It always amazes me how one can sleep for days on end, but still awake feeling absolutely exhausted. After a week of being bed ridden due to a nasty concoction of a virus, a double infection, and random chemical imbalances… I still do not have the energy to return to scheduled programming.

However horrible being sick is, it always has one positive for me: being ill facilitates regression to a completely unfiltered state. I have no energy to maintain facades, and thus illness often releases the truth in my life. And over the last few days, I have been reminded of two very simple truths.

  1. Broken wings don’t repair themselves. -   It is no secret that I have been struggling to get back to a place where I can function as myself. And, well it is going to take some hard work on my part to make that happen. Rebuilding begins in the trenches, and involves dedication and discipline. I cannot continue waiting around for things to fix themselves because it will never happen. 
  2. I can’t tell myself where I need to be. – Yes, I’m extremely introspective and I know myself well. But, I am not the Holy Spirit. I cannot direct my path or choose my steps. And, as much as I hate the mystery of not knowing what I am doing next, I cannot fill in the blanks myself or force them to remain blank because I don’t like what could be penciled in. As usual, in the end, I’ll go wherever I am lead and that will be exactly where I need to be. 

Here’s to rebuilding and to listening to the gentle voice in the autumn breeze because God knows I need some repair and direction this fall. Grateful for the stoppage of time and the reminder of the simple things.

“I’ve been here for so long /I think its time I moved on/ So tell me where it is that I need to be / Where ever the wind blows / You will find me there / Standing exactly where I wanna be” 

Recalling a more accurate history of Pentecostalism

This blog post is taken from last week’s assignment in my Global Pentecostalism class. It is my reflection on our readings on the foundational history of the Pentecostal movement (pre-Asuza street).

Growing up,  I learned that “crazy Pentecostals” practiced “demonic” behaviors… [now]  I consider myself a Pentecostal (on most days) … but I normally tell people that I am an evangelical semi-reformed charismatic Christian. My description is generally an effort to start a conversation while recognizing my multi-denominational background and attempting to avoid being put into a denominational box. Little did I know, my description of my own faith is actually a great description of the roots of the Pentecostal movement.

One of our texts; see Ch.2.

Pentecostalism is most certainly evangelical with a great focus on international missions. It is most certainly charismatic with an emphasis on the empowering of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. And though I never really thought of Pentecostalism as a Reformed,  after this week’s readings, I am reminded that Pentecostalism has emerged from a wide variety of influences including the Reformed tradition.

Drawing from Catholic mysticism, German Pietism, Zinzendorf and the Moravians, Wesley and the Holiness movement, the Keswick Convention and revivalism, and a number of global awakenings… Pentecostalism is most certainly a wider movement covering a greater spectrum than most people recognize. While many pinpoint Pentecostalism to Azusa Street, it is important to recall that there were three distinct streams of the foundational movement before that particular outpouring.

  1. The Wesleyan/Holiness perspective- a fullness of sanctification is the second blessing
  2. The Keswick/Reformed perspective – the baptism of the Spirit is an empowerment for service
  3. The ‘third blessing’ perspective – which emerged into the beliefs that the baptism of the Spirit is a subsequent blessing evidenced by speaking in tongues.

It is also important to note that while many outpourings of the Spirit occurred with manifestations of the Spirit [and that each of these perspectives included the belief of a baptism/empowerment/infilling of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation], Parham was the first to indicate that speaking in tongues was an initial physical sign of Baptism of the Spirit [some time after each of these three streams were already gaining momentum]. It seems that the birth of Pentecostalism is often linked to this doctrine, when in all actuality there is a rich history before and beyond Parham’s conclusion.

Another observation that I found interesting was how abruptly some of the sub-movements came to a halt. It is interesting to note that momentum seemed to stop when the leaders involved became too prideful or judgmental.  [Just one example is Parnham himself.] After judgmentally trying to distinguish between true and false tongues, Parham’s movement fizzled out, a scandal occurred, and he lived the rest of his life in obscurity. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence, but it seems that humility and prayer played a key role in many of these outpourings.

Similarly, I think it is important to remain humble when considering the origins of Pentecostalism. Personally, one of the reasons I tend to stray from describing myself as a Pentecostal when initially asked for a denominational/doctrinal association is due to the fact that Pentecostalism seems to trace the beginning of the Holy Spirit moving back to Azusa Street while placing speaking in tongues on a pedestal because of the uniqueness of the doctrine at that time. 

How often does someone defend the history of manifestations of the Spirit by pointing back to Tertullian or Zinzendorf? Our narrow definition of Pentecostalism allows us to reference Acts 2 or the aftermath of Azusa, while failing to acknowledge everything that God has done in the almost two thousand years between.   Perhaps a recognition of a [more accurate] history would help bridge the gap between denominational Pentecostalism and other branches of Christianity.  Limiting the scope of Pentecostalism to Asuza and what follows eliminates the ability to connect with fellow believers with the same rich history and beliefs. It also diminishes our ability to encourage traditionally “non-Pentecostal” denominations to continue to seek the empowering of the Holy Spirit, as we are neglecting to recall that the gifts of the Spirit were prominent in North America and around the globe before our idea of denominational Pentecostalism was even initiated.

In contrast, when one takes a step back and really takes in the scope of the rich history of the global movement, it is humbling to be able to consider oneself a Pentecostal and exciting to know that Holy Spirit is still actively moving as Pentecostalism/Charismatic Christianity is the fastest growing faith in the world.

Must see film- “Mugabe and the White African”

“Yes, the perfect movie to watch!” I doubt that everyone will immediately share my enthusiasm about a documentary involving land seizures in Zimbabwe, but needless to say, I was quite excited to see Mugabe and the White African pop up in my Netflix instant watch.

Since researching Zimbabwean politics for a paper on illiberal democracies, I have intentionally kept up to date with current events and have kept the people of Zimbabwe in my prayers. Knowing a bit about Mugabe, I expected the documentary to appeal to themes of justice while exposing the heinous crimes of an corrupt political regime. But, I was admittedly surprised to see how clearly and prominently themes of biblical justice and faith were highlighted in this film. It is definitely a must see for any Christian interested in social justice or international relations.

For those who may not know, allow me to briefly provide some context: Robert Mugabe has served as Prime Minister/President for over thirty years- declaring himself “president for life” in 2006. His party ZANU-PF is known for political violence, unfair elections, corrupt economic policies, and human rights violations.  In 2000, Mugabe’s regime began a land redistribution program, promoted as an initiative to reallocate  the land owned by the minority white farmers to the majority poor black population. In all actuality, it was redistributed to political allies of ZANU-PF.  In the years following, there has been widespread hunger, hyperinflation, job loss, and increasing political violence.  [Disclaimer: this is obviously an incomplete summary; here is a good place to start for a more comprehensive history]

Back to the documentary…

“In 2008, Mike, 75 years old and a grandfather… took the unprecedented step of challenging Robert Mugabe before the SADC (South African Development Community) international court, charging him and his government with racial discrimination and of violations of Human Rights.

This film is an intimate account of one family’s astonishing bravery in the face of brutality, in a fight to protect their property, their livelihood and their country…

On the brink of losing everything, Mike and his family (wife Angela, daughter Laura and her husband Ben Freeth) stand united by their courage, their faith and their hope… Whatever the verdict by the court, this audacious and unprecedented stand may yet cost them their lives.” – excerpts from the summary on the film’s website

Despite the threats and odds against them, the family fights for justice believing that God is directing them in this pursuit.  The cameras document them asking workers to pray for the court cases, reading their Bibles, and talking about God’s presence being with them. All this to say, it is obvious that faith is important in their daily lives.

When Mike,  Angela, and Ben are kidnapped, beaten, and tortured… amazingly they seem to maintain their faith, their livelihood, and their sense of calling. Laura talks of interceding for her dad, mom, and husband– truly believing that God heard her prayer and saved their lives. A week later, Ben travels to the international tribunal to continue the case. During an interview, he says that he has no bitterness and no hatred toward his attackers. He simply smiles and says that he has only love, and that love is exactly what the country needs.

Their story is heartbreaking, inspiring, and convicting. I find myself asking: What would I do if I were in their shoes? Would I persist in prayer,  the pursuit of justice, and kindness to others in the face of adversity? Would I be able to smile and say I love men who literally almost beat me to death?

The truth is that I don’t know that I would. Honestly, I know that I don’t show that level of faith in my own daily life. And, the thing is that my life has never been on the line- the only thing under the threat of dying is my pride, my security, and my reputation.

The Campbell family was faithful in the little things like the everyday running of their farm, and faithful in the huge things like international court tribunals. I have little doubt that God will look upon their lives and say “well done good and faithful servants”. My prayer is that God will continue to work on me and enable me to live a life worthy of the same affirmation.

Even more importantly, my prayers are with the people of Zimbabwe who are still facing injustice. Just today, the news reports that ZANU-PF supporters have evicted children from an orphanage. Even more disturbing is the fact that the supporter responsible is an excommunicated Anglican bishop…

I digress… bottom line: you should watch the film. [Update: Full film is available to stream for free on PBS- there you have no excuse, watch it.]

Deconstructing the Life of Christ

Over the last few years, I have been in a perpetual identity crisis. In ministry, it seems that there is always this unspoken alliance to some sort of denomination or theology. My problem is that I  am dissatisfied with and disagree with every viewpoint- including my own.

I was listening to a radio broadcast earlier today where a Christian thinker/speaker said simply “deconstruction happens”. Why yes, yes it does. Especially in the Church and especially regarding the life of Christ. But should it?

Has anyone else noticed that sects of Christian thought tend to focus on specific aspects of Jesus’ life? Instead of following Christ in His entirety, we like to boil Jesus down to specific principles or moments in his life.

  • Inception- I’m not implying that Jesus was part of the multimillion dollar film, but simply stating that some people dwell on the role of the divine truth- the logos nature of Christ and His place in Creation. The goal is the find God in creation, to find the divine in everything, and to recognize the interconnectedness of everyone. Fantastic, but if put all your focus here you end up with a relativistic faith where the truth was never revealed or you end up dwelling on a broken world where God is simply an abstract that created the world and then left it destroy itself. If you solely focus on Jesus as images of God in the Hebrew scripture, you are left waiting for a Messiah who has yet to arrive.
  • Incarnation- Others focus solely on the incarnation and incarnational ministry. They emphasis that Jesus came and lived as a man. During his life on earth, he healed the sick, fed the hungry, spent time with the lowest members of society, and so on and so forth. To follow Christ is to replicate his material life; if we live a life of social justice, we are replicating his life on earth. True. Yet, if we dwell here, we neglect to see that Jesus came to redeem much more than just the material. If we only focus on this, there is no need for atonement and there is no hope of eternal salvation.
  • Crucifixion-   Some people spend their entire Christian lives praying to  a bloody Christ, dying on the cross. Yes, we need to recognize His sacrifice for us. Yes, we need to remember that the sinless Jesus gave himself as an offering of atonement for our sins so that we can be reconciled to God. However, if we only focus on the blood dripping from His wounds, we neglect to celebrate the fact that He is Risen. He is no longer dead, He no longer rests on the Cross, and the hope of the Gospel is knowing that Christ is alive and working amongst us.
  • Resurrection-  Similarly, there are evangelicals who celebrate daily the Risen Christ, but forget to acknowledge that Jesus ascended into Heaven and bestowed His Holy Spirit on the Church to spread the good news. These Christians spend their lives singing praise, but never invite anyone else to do the same or perhaps they have never seen the gifts/fruits of the Spirit working through their lives.
  • Ascension/Empowering of the Church- On the other hand,  some churches focus solely on the fact that Jesus ascended and that the Holy Spirit filled believers with power so that the Church could share the Gospel and advance the Kingdom through signs and wonders. All of which is true, but an over emphasis on spiritual gifts can sometimes lead overlooking the other aspects of the Gospel like the incarnational ministry of social justice, or the fact that Christ’s atoning act on the cross was enough, or the fact that God is diverse and expressed through many ways- not just charismatic gifts.
  • Return. – The last group I want to mention is those who are obsessed with the End of Times. Yes, Jesus is coming again and He will return and restore the Earth. BUT, it is important to remember that we are called to help bring Heaven to Earth now. The reconciliation and the restoration of the Gospel is for the present time as well.  We will never truly understand the End of Times, so we must do our best to live our lives in a way that glorifies God in the here and now.
Christians cannot deconstruct the life of Christ. He is all these things. The world was created through Him, He did show us how to live a perfect human life, He did die as a sinless sacrifice for our sin, He did rise again, He did ascend into heaven so that He could send His Holy Spirit to empower the Church, and He is coming again. All of this things are true, and picking and choosing the aspects that best fit our personal theology or lifestyle is not an option. 
I recently listened to a sermon where Bill Johnson declared: “Jesus is perfect theology”.  Amen! Jesus is perfect theology. Everything that he is, everything that he said, everything that he did, and everything that he will do… it’s all perfect. If we are calling ourselves followers of Christ, we must follow Him and represent Him. All of Him, from the beginning of times until the end. Deconstruction can not be what we base our lives upon – because if it is, we are basing our faith on an incomplete Gospel.  As Colossians 2:10 reminds us, we are complete in Him. Not in part of his life or message, but in the fullness that is Jesus Christ himself.


This man’s theology is not perfect. No man’s is because no man is Christ. With that said, I think he has some inspiring and challenging thoughts worth listening to and considering.

My question is this:   Are we living our lives in a way that seeks to bring Heaven to Earth or are we simply choosing aspects of the Gospel that reinforce and affirm the way we are already living?