Category Archives: prayer

Pyro Techniques?

By Marv

There was a little girl, who had a little curl, applied directly to the forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good. When she was bad, she was horrid!

Speaking of Team Pyro

As a frequent reader there (Pyromaniacs), frequent writer here (To Be Continued…), I’ve known sooner or later it would happen. I find myself pretty much in their camp on most things–with one major exception–which happens also to be the subject of this blog–Continuationism. I knew eventually I’d have to post something to be applied directly to the horrid.

I figured I’d wait until one of the crew posted some cogent argumentation for Cessationism, and then counter with a well-reasoned, insightful, exegetically-based, Biblical response. But then Dan Phillips today offers a 26-worder in which he basically says: “Don’t bother.”

His pithy posting we can reproduce in toto (plus title):

Tersely put: “continuationism” self-refuting

The very fact that “continuationists” acknowledge the need to make their case to Christians by argument is, itself, a devastating and sufficient refutation of the position.

Now what are we to make of this epigram, which would seem to be a low and inside pitch, or to change metaphors, a little bit of choir practice? Mr. Phillips, sir, you force me to bring out the numbers.

1. As best as I can decipher his meaning, being a bear of little brain, I would paraphrase thus: Continuationism is about the showy-stuff. If you can’t show me the showy stuff, what good is to give me a bunch of telly stuff? Cessationists of this ilk are prone to refer to certain gifts as “spectacular” or  “dramatic,” with razzle dazzle like a kind of magic show:

Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it, and the reaction will be passionate.

While a manifestation of the Holy Spirit may well be impressive, especially to those to whom His work is directed (e.g. 1 Cor 14:24-25), we would be wrong to expect Him to put on a show for us. His effects are deeper, directed toward spirit, heart and mind: “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Cor. 14:3); conviction of “sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).

2. Behind this statement lies a number of Cessationist misconceptions about how “spiritual gifts” work. This type of argumentation (much in the MacAruthur tradition) I call the Unicorn and Jackass show. Insist on a unicorn: a mythological beast, which never existed: such as a “gift of healing,” with which an individual is endued (something like an X-man super power), operating at will, always efficacious, instantaneous, permanent, irreversible. Or inerrant oral prophecy, which neither the Old nor New Testaments teach (the Scriptures yes, oral prophecy, no.) Then with this expectation bring out the jackasses. This can be done in as few as two words: Benny Hinn.

3. Note the formulation of his statement. Quotes around continuationists. Why? The use of “need” (always a red flag for misleading argumentation). I’d like to know who he is purporting to quote here as “acknowledging” this or that. Who knows? Maybe it’s Team Continuo here. I doubt it, but we do acknowledge the importance of Biblical argumentation.

4. Which makes it odd, coming from a blog that otherwise highly values “argumentation,” appeal to Scripture and right reason, that one of them would denigrate such in this case.

5. So often Cessationists accuse their Continuationist bretheren of basing their view on experience rather than the Scriptures–all the while doing this very thing themselves, as in this case.

6. So often Cessationists accuse their Continuationist bretheren of being “an evil and adulterous generation [who] seeks for a sign,” and then themselves insist on a “spectacular” sign, or else they will not believe the Scriptures.

7. It is the Scriptures themselves that teach Continuationism. We see both in the direct teaching of our Lord (John 14: 12) and of His apostles (1 Cor. 12-14), that it is the Father’s will, and to His glory that the Body of Christ continue Christ’s empowered ministry between Pentecost and Parousia. One looks in vain for valid support of the notion that any of this would cease within the first century.

8. We are called to pursue these gifts (1 Cor. 14:1), but to do so we must be convinced that the Scriptures do in fact teach that they are for today as well as for the first century. This cannot be done by experience, but only by examining the Scriptures. Whatever we do, we must do in faith, and faith must be grounded in the Word. Thus argumentation.

9. So anyway, if we show you something “spectacular,” you say, there are “lying wonders.” Just because it’s supernatural doesn’t mean it’s of God. Or if we demonstrate something clearly from the Scriptures, you ask “Tell me about your most recent spectacular miracle.”

10. A Continuationist is not one who can say “Lookie-lookie what I can do.” It’s not about possessing an ability in oneself. It is one who says, “Look here in the Word of God. Shall we not believe what God tells us?”

11. You might as well have someone who insists God is not doing that “prayer” thing any more. God is not answering prayer any more. Go on, show me. Pray something and lets see what happens. Sure, you hear stories about God answering prayer with specific fulfillment, but this is always somebody’s neighbor’s cousin’s hairdresser. Face it, these answers–if they happen at all–are coincidence, wishful thinking, psychosomatic. We many wonder at our lack or efficacity at prayer, when the Bible promises so much (James 5:16).

12. Anyway, to hold to Continuation is not to say that all happens now as it did for Christ and the apostles. Or that history has shown a constant and even presence of these gifts without fluctuation. What continues is God’s purpose, design, and provision, not His church’s specific performance in what He has provided. It is thus with every other aspect of the life of the Church. Why should “spiritual gifts” be any different. Some things nearly lost must be rediscovered (such as salvation by grace through faith), and the Church must always be seeking in the Scriptures to return to the faith taught by the apostles.

Sense and Subjectivity

by Marv

This is the story of two sisters–and the man who loved them.

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5)

Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus–Jesus was their particular friend. There’s not a friend like Jesus–the soul of kindness, and if anyone had a just claim on that kindness, it is a particular friend.

But one day He disappointed them. Lazarus fell ill, and though they dispatched word to Jesus, they sat at their brother’s side, day after day, and watched him–anxious, frustrated, dumbfounded–as he sickened, dwindled and died. And where was Jesus? Where was their particular friend?

Now you know these ladies, daughters of the same mother and father, but so very different in their characters.

Martha is the one who, left to roll the canapés all on her own, dropped the “Don’t you care?” bomb on Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42)

Jesus? Care? You mean the one who left Glory for our sqalid hovel of a planet to come to our miserable kitchen, wipe up the spilled milk we cried over, scrape our burned toast, with His own hands–and at great personal cost–whip up a feast so nourishing that it endures for eternal life? That Jesus?

He told her, basically, that with Him there, a woman’s place was not in the kitchen.

And Mary, the other sister, she was the one who, shortly afterward will engage in–let’s face it–some pretty blatant emotional excess (John 12:1-7). It’s one thing to raise your hands while worshipping, but where’s the sense of decorum?

Still, Jesus doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, He quite approves. The congregation objects, however, particularly Judas (v. 4) who seems to have been working on commission (not the “great” one). Maybe Judas is the patron saint of the anti-emotionalists… Oh, wait, he can’t be anybody’s saint. Silly me.

So here we are, dearest brother Lazarus now dead and buried–for four days no less (V. 17)–before particular friend Jesus makes it to town. He even missed the funeral.

Martha, the sensible one, did the right thing and went to talk with Jesus. Mary, who couldn’t be separated from Him before, doesn’t go. She sits at home.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she says (v. 21). Makes sense. Perfectly theological. She was right. Worse than that, He could have healed Lazarus with a word from anywhere.

She does hint. Gives another very sensible proposition: “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (v. 22). A statement of indubitable truth.

In return, Jesus gives her some of the most magnificent red letters in all the Bible.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (25, 26)

Now, I love me some propositional truth–I really do. Objective statements of Scripture that we can ground our lives on, as Jesus Himself said. The gospel is about Jesus Christ, what He did, and does, outside us. Martha understood this. She knows: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (v. 24). She believes: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (v. 27).

Jesus gave Martha a great gift, showed her great kindness. Oh, that His very words to me might be written down forever in Scripture. Unimaginably gracious.

Then He asked to see Mary.

How was Mary feeling? Yes, feeling. Do you suppose John tells us for nothing that she stayed sitting in the house, while Martha went to see Jesus? Grieved over Lazarus, her heart was broken regarding Jesus. Yet, when He called for her, she hurried to Him (29, 31), and fell at His feet, crying. Not just “weeping,” crying (klaiousan).

And she said the same words as her sister: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

And they were the same words, exactly the same words–and yet what she said was not the same.

Now bringing up the Greek, directly, need only be an occasional thing. But here it is necessary. I would not begin to know how adequately to render the difference in the two sisters’ statements to Jesus. So I will show you. Understand, you may have heard that word order is not important in Greek. This is perfectly untrue. It functions rather differently from English, but there are regular patterns and variations, and these signal meaning. One device is known as “fronting,” moving a word or phrase toward the front of a sentence or clause from where it usually would stand. This gives it something called increased “prominence,” which does any number of things, depending on the context.

This is what happens in this passage. The ladies no doubt were speaking in Aramaic, though John represents their speech in Greek. And he is an excellent and thoughtful writer, the difference, subtle perhaps, is non-accidental. Non-incidental.

Martha:
Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἂν ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός μου
Kurie, ei es hode ouk an apethanen ho adelphos mou
Lord, if you-were here not – died the brother of-me.

Mary:>
Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἄν μου ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός.
Kurie, ei es hode ouk an mou apethanen ho aldephos
Lord, if you-were here not – of-me died the brother.

Syntactically, the genitive pronoun which belongs with the noun it modifies, belongs at the end of the clause, is moved up in Mary’s speech about as far as it can go in it’s clause. Semantically, this alters the focus of the statement.

Martha is stating the objective reality about Lazarus. Just the facts, ma’am.

Mary, however, is saying something about herself. Very much personal. Very subjective. It’s something like “if you had been here I wouldn’t have lost my brother,” though that is too forceful, I think.

So what was Jesus’ response to her? What was the gift He gave Mary? Some precious objectivity?

Jesus wept. (v. 35)

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. (v. 33)

He was moved, troubled, emotional. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15). This was His answer to her prayer. That she should “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

A subjective cry received a subjective response from our Lord, who cannot be unmoved by the tears, the cries, the pain of His particular friends.

He therefore felt with her, wept with her.

And raised her brother from the dead.

Remember, He knew all along that Lazarus was sick and dying, would die, and yet would not be left dead (4, 11, 13-15). He was acting on instructions (John 5:19), though it had to pain Him. And was He not acting in answer to prayer? The prayer, however, came later in time, or prayers, two at least, Martha’s and Mary’s.

There is great mystery here. Does it matter how we pray what we pray? “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8). It’s not a matter of information. Is there something about mingling the subjective with the objective–as we were created for both?

A Simple Way God Spoke Through A Song

by Scott

I thought I would share some music musings that I had originally posted over at The Prodigal Thought. I wanted to share a simple little story about an ol’ favourite singer of mine, a song that has been stuck in my head this week, and a little story of how God spoke to me through the song.

One of my favourite singers since I was a little toddler has been Kenny Rogers. Yes, Kenny Rogers! Now, I don’t listen to him on a regular basis today, but my ventures with Kenny Rogers all started when I was just a little tyke of a boy. I fell in love with his singing when he appeared on one of the Muppets episodes (not the Muppet Babies cartoons, but the real Muppet puppets). And my parents taped that one show (on a VHS tape) and I watched it constantly, continually, perpetually, even religiously. My parents regularly recall how I would always call out to them, ‘Mommy, daddy. Kenny Waagerrs and Mwuppwets! Kenny Waagerrs and Mwuppwets!’

I supposedly could not get enough. And I have vague memories of that one show with Kenny Rogers embedded deeply within me.

Well, interestingly enough, before I was to move to Brussels, Belgium, I had been involved with a guy’s prayer group on a weekly basis within our local church. A few weeks before I moved, the guys were specifically gathered around me, praying for my situation. I had shared how there were a lot of things going on with preparing to end out things in Memphis and preparing to head to Brussels. I was beginning to feel quite overwhelmed.

As the guys were praying for me, one of my good friends, Sam, spoke up and said something to the effect of: Scott, I don’t know if you know the Kenny Rogers song, The Gambler. But I really believe God wants to speak to you through the one line that says, ‘You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.’
Sam went on to share how, in this time, there are things that I need to consider if they are worth holding onto or if it is simply better folding them and laying them down. Though you might laugh, and some might even mock at my suggestion that God could ever speak through such a song, it was quite a strengthening word given to me from a simple line from a simple song, a song from my favourite singer as a little tyke. I will always remember that evening as I gathered with a handful of guys for prayer. And who wouldn’t remember a time when God speaks like a two-edged sword into your life and situation?

So, lately I have been singing that song. And so, in tribute to my most-liked singer as a little boy, and in remembrance of that strengthening word before heading to Brussels, I post this video of The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.

New Series on Gifts of the Spirit at Scot McKnight’s Blog

by Scott

Over at Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed, a new series has just begun by guest blogger, T. He begins his first article with these words:

As many regulars here know, I (“T”) believe God still heals (in every sense), still speaks to us and through us in a variety of ways, and generally does all the amazing things we see Jesus and his followers doing in the New Testament.  In a nutshell, I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still being given as part of God’s continuing gospel work and mission. There are a lot of ways we could discuss the topic here, but for this series, I’m going to share stories—personal stories—and then discuss them.

He, then, goes on to share how God had given one lady a public tongue and another lady the interpretation of the tongue. The interpretation was, ‘I’m leading you into my freedom, and it’s through honesty.’

This message in tongues and interpretation was followed by one particular man praying for another specific man, the prayer being deeply emotional with lots of tears from the pray-er.

In the end, the message in tongues (with interpretation) and the time of prayer for the one particular man led to the man’s confession later that evening of leading an affair-filled, double life. Through deep repentance and counsel, the man repented before fully after being reminded in counsel that he had to be completely honest with her.

Remember the tongue and interpretation that had come – ‘I’m leading you into my freedom, and it’s through honesty.’ You can see how God weaved that whole account together to free this man through honesty.

A beautiful, edifying and God-glorifying story of the gift of tongues and interpretation.

You can read the full article here.

Preaching Series on Gifts of the Spirit

by Scott

Starting this Sunday at Cornerstone, I plan to begin a preaching series on the gifts of the Spirit. As I have shared much recently (here, here and here), God has been re-emphasising his power to me – the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the kingdom of God and the power of the gospel to change lives (amongst other emphases on His power). And, I have specifically been spending time preaching on the power of the Holy Spirit. You can listen to two of my most recent sermons: Acts 1:1-8 here and Acts 2:1-21 here.

Thus, after spending this time with Cornerstone looking at the reality of the power of the Spirit in both Acts 1 and 2, I believe it is now right in God to move on to specifically addressing the gifts of the Spirit. This will be an exciting time for the church, as they have never had any specific previous teaching on the Holy Spirit and His gifts. The past month has already been very stirring as we held two conferences – VMI and Fast Forward – and have been focusing on the power of God, especially the power of the Spirit. But this will be helpful, meaty and practical in seeing our local church body move forward into the things God has planned for us.

Though the church has never been antagonistic to the Holy Spirit and His gifts, and many come from backgrounds that allow for all gifts of the Spirit to be active, as I mentioned, the church had not had any specific teaching on the Holy Spirit’s gifts and, thus, not actively looking to practise these gifts in their gatherings and lives. But, with the recent connection of the church with Lifelink International, and with my arrival to oversee the church as of the summer of 2008, we have been purposeful to move towards an emphasis on the work of the Spirit and His gifts. It has taken us a while to get there, but now with a little (or BIG) push out of the nest by God, it is time to specifically dive into such an amazing reality.

But, we have had tasters of His gifts, no doubt. There have been times when prophecy has come forth (though some might not have realised it was such). And I have done teaching on the continuance of all five (or four) ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-13: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (you can see the 4-part series here). And, just two weeks ago, we had an evening of seeking God together, mainly to hear from Him and speak forth what we believed God was stirring and saying. And, lo and behold, we had some prophecy, as well as others stepping out by praying aloud, sharing Scriptures, etc. It was truly beautiful and stirring!

So, I look forward to jumping into that all-important text in Corinthians on gifts of the Spirit, beginning with 1 Corinthians 12:1-11:

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

There is a lot one could address just in that text, but we will take it week by week. We will also have visitors in to speak on some Sundays, so my specific series might be put on hold here and there. But that is fine by me. They will bring the word of the Lord into our church regardless.

And I also look forward to a time of training in hearing God and prophesying next Saturday morning, 11 September. God continues to blow upon the embers of our heart and I can only expect there will be more blowing in the weeks to come.

So, stay tuned to our podcast if you would like to hear some teachings on the gifts of the Spirit (rather than read, though I might post some articles as well in the weeks to come). I will also post links to the teachings here at To Be Continued.