Maria wept as she shared the story of Mary and Joseph when they sought a place to stay in the city of Bethlehem. They had found no room at the inn. Maria shared the tradition of Posada in which the parents of Jesus looked for someone who would offer them hospitality and finding no one, they moved on to the next house also finding no welcome. Her voice was raw with emotion as she shared that Jesus–the one who dwelt within real people continued to seek hospitality in a world that offered him no welcome.
I wondered why this story brought up so much emotion in my friend. I didn’t ask, we had a hard time talking with one another due to a language barrier. I spoke little Spanish, and she spoke little English. Nevertheless somehow the Lord knit our hearts together with a deep love. A few years later, there was an ICE raid in our rural town and I was supposed to meet with Maria’s daughter for discipleship. The two girls in the group had frightened looks on their faces as Maria’s daughter explained that her mom was undocumented. We cried together and prayed. I ached inside as I witnessed the trauma experienced by my young friends.
From that moment on, Maria and her family were in my prayers. I often noticed a shadow of shame fall on her face. As Maria gained more English, we began to talk together about her immigration status. Often we gathered to pray together. Continue reading Solidarity and Prayer: One Story
by Andrew K. Gabriel.
Some Christians believe the myth that those who are really Spirit-filled will always experience victory. This belief is a cousin to the idea that if you have enough faith you will always experience health and wealth.
Just as faith doesn’t guarantee a life free of disappointments and hardships, the Spirit-filled life is not a life free of disappointments and hardships. Jesus is the epitome of spirituality, but he never became an earthly king. Instead, “through the eternal Spirit [he] offered himself unblemished to God” so his death might give us life (Hebrews 9:14).
In the Bible, “the one who is victorious” (Revelation 2:11) may suffer and face poverty (v. 9). Their victory is that they resist their culture’s anti-Christian values and are “faithful, even to the point of death” (v. 10). And their “victor’s crown” is eternal life, not achieving success in the eyes of the world around them (vv. 10–11). Continue reading One Common Myth about Spirit-Filled Christianity
The spate of recent headlines about sexual abuse and victimization in the Church have made clear the prevalence of these crimes. The revelation of decades of abuse by Southern Baptist pastors and complicity by denominational leaders is only the most recent example. Willow Creek Community Church is still addressing the reverberations of trauma surrounding accusations of harassment against women. Sexual abuse is rampant outside the church as well. According to statistics compiled by the Rape, Assault, and Incest National Network (RAINN), one in six women in the United States “has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).”Much-needed discussion surrounding prevention and accountability in leadership is beginning to take place. Churches must also address how they treat women who have been sexually abused, both within and without the church.
In addition to these needed reforms, Christians must examine how our underlying theology may continue to damage victims rather than offer redemption. If what is preached from the pulpit, embodied in song and worship, and internalized by the congregation does not offer a message of hope and healing for those who have been abused, it is not the good news of Jesus Christ. In particular, our understanding of atonement—how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus brings us into reconciliation with God—must be examined carefully.
Continue reading Atonement and Sexual Assault: Redemption for the Sinned Against
Have you ever noticed the tenacity of a flower that blooms through the cracks of a sidewalk? All around is the hard surface of cement but in the crack the flower has found a way to poke its head up, push through the earth and bloom. Becoming whole, becoming adult has been for myself a journey in which it has felt as if I were trying to bloom through cement. What is this cement? Having come through it, I now have a name for this cement–Patriarchy.
Patriarchy in my life has been the hard surface through which I have tried to bloom.
I grew up in a small rural Charismatic church led by a pastoral couple. She preached as much as he did and I had my first picture of what a strong Christian woman might be like. While the little church was not the picture of emotional health, I had been given a picture of a man and woman working together for the sake of the gospel. The Apostle Peter said this about Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
This is a picture of restoration.
By the Spirit men and women would speak, by the Spirit a new community in Christ would be formed. In this new community God’s people would become whole–once again partners with God and one another to bring healing in the earth. Continue reading Blooming Through Cement
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Every great leader has a mission and I believe that Jesus is no different. No, I’m not talking about Jesus CEO, I am talking about the focus of Jesus as he lived his life on the ground. And I believe as followers of Jesus, we are invited to join with Jesus in the mission.
Very often churches that are in decline have a singular focus that revolves around its own interests, its own needs and its own preferences and the mission is mostly lost. Churches in decline also tend to find themselves having their beliefs defined by a favorite news source that they perceive as “Christian” rather than the actual Bible. Often the church has become more like the world in the ways it colludes with power. And we lose our focus on the real mission of Jesus. Continue reading The Mission of Jesus
Heidi Baker and Bill Johnson were transformed at The Toronto Blessing. But, have you heard of Bob Ekblad?
He was a radical. Rejected by evangelical churches. Opposed by Central American dictatorships.
But he felt like his gospel wasn’t strong enough to meet the needs of the poor he was serving. Then, God did something new.
Watch this brand-new documentary by our friends at The Wind Vane Project right here:
Read more about the ministry of Bob Ekblad and The People’s Seminary.
by Craig Keener, originally posted on his blog.
Pentecost (Acts 2:1) was a significant festival in the Jewish calendar, offering the first fruits of grain to the Lord (Lev. 23:16). Its significance in this narrative, however, may be especially that it was one of the major pilgrimage festivals, when Jewish people who lived all over the world came back to visit Jerusalem. This sets the stage for the experience of the Spirit that will drive the church in Acts across all cultural barriers.
The narrative opens with God’s people in unity (Acts 2:1). They have been praying together (1:14), and prayer often precedes the coming of the Spirit in Luke-Acts (Luke 3:21-22; 11:13; Acts 4:31; 8:15).
Suddenly, they experience signs of the Spirit. The first two signs touch key senses, hearing and sight. They evoke biblical theophanies, perhaps also as foretastes of the future age. First, they hear a wind, perhaps prefiguring the promised wind of God’s Spirit that would bring new life to God’s people in Ezekiel 37:9-14. Second, they witness the appearance of fire, which was often associated with future judgment (cf. Luke 3:9, 16-17).
The third sign, however—speaking in tongues—is the most important of the three. This is clear because it occurs again at two other outpourings of the Spirit in Acts, although no one present on those occasions recognizes the languages spoken (Acts 10:46; 19:6). On this first occasion, though, their experience is also important because some people do recognize the languages and it therefore forms the bridge to Peter’s sermon. The crowds hear this sound (2:6) and ask what this phenomenon means (2:12). Peter goes on to explain that this tongues-speaking means that the promised time of the Spirit has dawned (2:16-18). Continue reading The Point of Speaking in Tongues in Acts 2