Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What does it mean to be Pentecostal?... part #1

While I (and my generation) shy away from labels, the language we use does provide meaning.  Therefore, it is practical and pertinent to ask the question, “What does it mean to be Pentecostal?”

I've heard many people identify themselves to be Pentecostal and there are a variety of meanings that are attached to their usage of the term.  For instance:
  • I grew up in a Pentecostal church, or my parents used to go to a Pentecostal church.
  • I attend a Pentecostal church.  
  • I like dynamic worship songs, so I must be Pentecostal.
While the above elements are not "wrong" per-say, Going to a Pentecost church doesn't make you any more Pentecostal, than going to McDonald's makes  you a hamburger.  However you may label yourself, I would like to redeem the term Pentecostal and provide a brief, yet Biblical definition in a 2 part blog-entry. 

The purpose of this entry is not to separate a Pentecostal Christian from other Christians, but to properly clarify what it means to be Pentecostal.  In fact, in the first century as the church was being formed, there was no distinction between a Pentecostal church and a non-Pentecostal church.  This move/gift of God's Spirit was shared with all those who accepted the message of Christ.  

In order to progress, we will first begin in the Old Testament which provides the context of what now has become reality through Christ.  Part #2 we will return to Acts 2:1-4 which will help define specifically what it means to be Pentecostal in the New Testament and beyond to present day.

  •  In the Old Testament, Pentecost or Shavuot, was to be celebrated 7 full weeks (or 50 days according to Leviticus 23:15-16) after Passover when God brought the national of Israel out of Egyptian slavery.  It was traditionally a joyous time of giving thanks and presenting offerings for the new grain of the summer wheat harvest in Israel.  The parrellel between Old Testament and New Testament was that following Jesus' Resurrection (of which Christ was the “Passover lamb”), there was a span of 50 days that passed before the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The outpouring of God's Spirit in this chapter was an empowering work for the spiritual harvest.
  • This day of God's outpouring was foretold in Joel 2.  We know this because Peter explains what happened in the beginning of Acts chapter #2 as he addresses the crowds, referencing Joel's prophecy. 
The "promise of the Father," foretold in Joel 2, became the launching point for the Church recorded by Luke in the book of Acts.  Since the Old Testament provides a shadow (or representation) of what was to come in Christ, briefly describing the OT references allows us to understand the New Testament revelation of Pentecost.  It is so vitally important for us to not only understand what it means to be Pentecostal, but also to BE PENTECOSTAL. The life of the Church depends on it.  

How this is practically expressed will be examined in the next entry.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

When You're Dog-Tired

How do you deal with fatigue?  Not a week goes by that I do not have a conversation with someone sharing their lack of sleep, a very busy schedule, or just a general feeling of being drained. What do you do when you're DOG TIRED?

Sometimes I just simply sympathize with those sharing, but at other times I have learned to ask probing questions for them to discover what type of fatigue they have.  And depending on what "type" of fatigue, determines how one needs to recharge their batteries.  Below is what I've discovered (sometimes in hind-sight) about the different types of fatigue I encounter:
  1. Emotional/Relational Fatigue:  This comes from prolonged hours or even days with people that require emotional or relational energy from  you.  This can be with your kids (mother's of preschoolers know this well), dealing with emotional drama at work, or any other setting that requires your involvement emotionally or relationally.  The answer is is found in being with people, or doing an activity that will infuse energy back into you. Time with a close friend or going on a walk can help. 
  2. Mental Fatigue:  This would always happen in graduate school after working and finishing a 20 page paper and studying for exams.   Yes... I did typically wait until the end of the semester to do these.  After the intense time of focus I needed not to think.  I needed to get "lost" mentally.  The key is not to escape in a fantasy world (much sin begins with escaping), but rather not engage yourself in creative thinking.  For some this may be getting lost in a good book, or watching a movie, or going on a bike ride. 
  3. Physical Fatigue:  Physical fatigue typically has its source from lack of sleep, or lack of good diet.  I even talked to a friend who realized he was getting dehydrated and that his lack of energy was resolved from drinking more water, and periodically a Gatorade.
  4. Spiritual Fatigue:  After focused time of ministry, prayer and spiritual investment (in yourself or others), we can become spiritually fatigued.  Like the prophet Elijah, after great spiritual battle (even victory), we will reach our thresh-hold.  While some of the strategies above are helpful, they will not re-fill you spiritually.  Like Elijah, it was the still small voice in which he found God, and his soul was restored. 
So, the next time you're dog-tired, observe what type(s) of fatigue you may have and that can alert you how to recharge the drained energy in your life. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Choosing to Cheat

It has never made sense to me... people who say they gave 110% or those who expect 200% from those they work with.  You literally can't give more than 100%.  You can't give what you don't gave. We have to CHOOSE TO CHEAT!

That's a hard message for many of us to hear.  We would like to think we can be involved in everything, do anything we want, and be better than everyone in all we do.

For many, we want to be the best parent/grandparent, a caring/supportive spouse, reliable friend, faithful Christian, involved in the community or PTA, be well read, exercise 5 days a week, have an immaculate house, have a home cooked meal each night, and you can't forget the leisure time of hunting, attending that show, family trips, etc...  All this, and we expect ourselves to work unreasonable hours, and of course you doctor tells you to get at least 8-hours of sleep.

When we don't have a good sense of priorities and focus, our lives are so scattered, that something or someone looses.  For instance, parents who both work, and then are completely engaged with their kids lives and activities, many choose to cheat their marriage.  The father who is so focused on providing for his family working 6-7 days a week, may forget to invest in his family, cheating his kids.  Many from my generation are so focused on giving their kids every experience available, forget to invest in them spiritually with church, cheating spiritually.  Most of us don't need an example concerning how we cheat our health with lack of exercise and good eating habits.

I guess the question is... WHAT WILL YOU CHOOSE TO CHEAT!?!  How will you divide your resources, time, energies, and creativity?  Your answer makes all the difference and we produce the fruit we plant.

FYI, Great book by Andy Stanley on this subject: Choosing to Cheat.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dealing with Discouragement

So much written today deals with how you can become successful, rich, influential and powerful.  Everyone is looking for the shortcut or magic-pill that takes them farther, and takes them there faster.  But the pathway to success (accomplishment & effectiveness) ALWAYS PASSES THROUGH THE VALLEY OF DISCOURAGEMENT. 

Because of this, I don't just like to only hear about other's success, I also like to hear how they overcome discouragement and opposition.  This inspires me. For instance:

Former heavy-weight boxer James (Quick) Tillis is a cowboy from Oklahoma who fought out of Chicago in the early 1980s. He still remembers his first day in the Windy City after his arrival from Tulsa. "I got off the bus with two cardboard suitcases under by arms in downtown Chicago and stopped in front of the Sears Tower. I put my suitcases down, and I looked up at the Tower and I said to myself, 'I'm going to conquer Chicago.' "When I looked down, the suitcases were gone."  (Today in the Word, September 10, 1992.)

When we set off to conquer the world, build a family, start a career, or whatever dream  you may have... rarely are we prepared for the set-backs.  When we look down and realize that the bag we brought with us are missing, it can take the "fight" out of us!  Perhaps this is why my grandparent's generation developed the phrase, "Keep On, Keeping On."

So how do we Keep On Keeping On?  Below are a few suggestions that have worked for me in seasons of discouragement:
  1. Keep focused on the Prize:  We all need to know the goal or prize we are working towards.  This needs to be very clearly developed, because it is easy to lose focus, especially during times of discouragement.  Pain and problems tempt us to ask the question "Is it really worth it?" 
  2. Keep working the Process:  What will it take to get from where you are to where you want to be.  This is the process.  For an athlete, there are certain exercises, skill sets, and knowledge they must work on for years before reaching their full potential and goals.  Not only do you need to work the process, but also trust the process.  The process is what BUILDS you toward your goals. 
  3. Keep walking on the Pathway:  Your pathway is your journey.  it is the people, places and influences that can derail you even if #1 & #2 are in place.  The perfect recent example is Lance Armstrong.  Because he strayed early from the pathways of integrity, honesty, etc... everything he worked so hard to accomplish has now been stripped away.  He was certainly focused on the prize, and was know for his tremendous work ethic, but his pathway led him down a road that ends in bitterness.  
These few suggestions for Keeping On, will not stop discouraging times from happening, but they will help keep you moving forward.  Perhaps you have found ways to keep discouragement from stopping you.  I would love for you to share how you deal with discouragement.