I've never tried to embed video before, but I thought that I would give it a try.
I guess my first attempt will be an anti-war parody from You-Tube.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Sunday, April 16, 2006
When you have a Midwest background, but pickup and move to Asia, you have an endless amount of opportunities to try and see new things. Today our church took a bus to East Coast Park and two people gave their life to Christ and sealed their commitment by being baptised in the Pacific Ocean. Afterwards, the church went to the East Coast Park Hawker Center where I had a meal of duck and pig's ear. (I had never dreamed that I would eat pig's ear, but really it is not bad. When cooked, a pig's ear is a dish with a small, thin layer of edible bone sandwiched by two fatty skin layers.) Since living in Asia, I have also ridden trains incredible distances, slept on straw mats, been served coagulated pigs' blood, met an incredibly diverse group of people, and attempted to crap in numerous awkward positions. All of these were things that I would have never imagined doing in the Midwest.
I could go on about new experiences, but since this is Easter I thought I would spend some time writing about something spiritual- spiritual gifts. Both in college, in rural Missouri, and in Singapore I have ran into charismatic people who enthusiastically talk about the many signs and wonders that God is doing: "An angel helped us sneak Bibles into China," "I met a guy who knows a guy who just spontaneously started speaking Japanese," "I prayed for my choking kid and pepperoni miraculously shot out of his nose," "I have the ability to heal people who have one leg longer than the other," "I prophesy that God will do a mighty work in [insert your favorite church group]," "I heard that he feels called to resurrect a dead baby." I could go on...
I grew up in a Methodist environment that completely rejected this sort of talk. A healing service and tongues speaking are about as far away from Methodist ministry as a bowl of fish head curry is from a Midwest rodeo; the two just don't mix.
In college when I accepted the reality of the claims and stories in the Bible and professed a faith in Jesus, my faith and mentality changed dramatically. Ideas and events that I once scoffed at or found impossible, I began to accept or at least consider. "The writers of the Bible really DID have a relationship with God that gave them wisdom to communicate to all of mankind." "It is POSSIBLE that there really was a seven day creation, a garden, and a talking snake." "God really gave the Jewish people of the Old Testament commands to massacre thousands in order to exterminate evil tribes and obtain a holy land." I highlight these ideas, because these are the most controversial, but I could go on with several more.
However, despite these ideas entering my frame of reference, one thing that always made me a little nervous was when people began to talk about real miracles and spiritual gifts occurring in the present day. I find it especially problematic when the person doing the miracles is the one who is talking about how great the miracles are. When Jesus did miracles, he usually told other people to keep quiet about it, but usually the people that had been blessed were so elated that they couldn't keep their mouth shut. I don't understand how some random college student or guy in his twenties can go around bragging that he has some incredible spiritual gift. The person might even preach Jesus, but, in reality, the things that they are saying just bring attention to themselves.
I guess part of my problem is that I believe that it is definitely in God's power to create supernatural manifestations, but I have never seen them occur in a provable way or even a way that I can experience with my senses. Most miracles I know are usually something out of the ordinary happening and then someone else talking about how miraculous the situation was. I think the miracles of the Bible were probably a little more concrete. Many of them were not rumors, throngs or rooms of people could see them and testify to them.
The thing that I am batting around in my head now is the way that spiritual gifts should be dealt with in the church. I've been to some churches that say that spiritual gifts died out with the creation of the Bible. I've visited others that say that you must experience a supernatural gift to consider yourself saved. I am uncomfortable with both extremes. If God is really making those things happen, I think the people doing them should continue doing them, but here's the kicker- they should keep quiet about it. I'll give a tangible example. Suppose there was a man who had the ability to lift one thousand pounds without assistance. Such an ability might be incredibly useful for the church. Speakers and equipment could be set up in a flash. Double parked cars could be moved quite easily. Pianos could be moved from room to room in seconds. However, imagine if someone had that ability and bragged about it all of the time. Even if they did their boasting "in the Lord" it would still be an extraordinarily arrogant thing to do. No one would want to be around that person unless they needed something moved. Sure, he can do something amazing that could be very useful, but he didn't get that power himself and if he ever stopped training his body he would probably lose it. If anything, that person should be even more quiet and humble than the average person.
If you know how powerful God is, especially if God is acting through you, it should become apparent how insignificant you are. If something amazing does happen through you, don't hold back, go ahead and do it. Yet don't you dare brag about it. First, you could be wrong. Often things that seem miraculous are simply natural things that would have happened to anyone regardless of their religion or spiritual disposition. Second, if you are right that God has given you a gift there's still no benefit in talking about it all of the time. If God wants you to have a reputation for that, then let it slowly build over time and accept that some will still not believe you. This will save you from all kinds of grief. If you are wrong about your gift it will prevent you from making a liar out of yourself and a fool out of your religion; and if you are right and you are doing something amazing, then keeping things quiet will make sure that only God will get the glory. The way I understand it, God wants you to be more concerned with your private relationship with him than the way other perceive you. Remember, God would much rather have you pray in the closet than in the street. If you are really out there moving parked cars by yourself, I'm sure someone will notice without you saying a word.