Everything You Always Wanted To Know About St. Paul’s Global Missions—Part 1

Acts 1:8 (NIV):

…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Jesus’ last recorded words to His disciples in his resurrected body.  I guess that pretty much covers “why” we go. (For more on that question see Roy Gonzalez’s post from his visit in July.)

In the next few weeks this blog will address more questions, more specific to our family of faith at St. Paul’s, such as:

     “Where do we go?”
     “How do we choose where we go?”
     “Who helps us get there, and helps us when we get there?”
     “What do we do when we get there?”
     “What does it cost to get there?”
     “How often do we go?”
     “When do we go?”

and any other questions that you ask in the process.  My prayer is that as the picture builds, so will all of your vision, enthusiasm and prayers for this particular aspect of our collective calling.  I also pray that some – if not all – of your hearts are captured with a desire to personally participate in one of our mission opportunities.

Before I go on though, let me confess – I took my first trip because I had to.  My daughter, Katie, had been asking to go on a mission trip since she was 7 years old.  I always figured we’d go eventually, but at that time I had no enthuasiasm or burning desire.  That came later.  We hadn’t been at St. Paul’s for very long when they announced an upcoming mission trip to Panama.  Katie was convinced that this was her time but, because she was barely 16, she needed a parent to go with her.  Long story short, God agreed.

Funny how God works.  I had studied French, not Spanish, and the church that Katie grew up in offered mission opportunities to India and Africa, so that’s where I thought I’d wind up.  What I discovered was that no matter where you go or why you go, when you go God gets a hold of you in a way that just isn’t possible in familiar surroundings.

But I promised photos:

This is me and Katie with our Panamanian hosts, Jonas and Betty

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These are some of the people who came to Christ after one of our afternoon outreaches in a public park:

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In closing this first entry, I invite you all to prayerfully consider being part of the upcoming trip to Guatemala, January 3 – 10, 2015.  For more details join us on Friday, September 26 at 7 p.m. – our address and phone number are in the church directory.  And keep following this blog for the fascinating and unexpected answers to the questions listed above.

Shalom and Agape,

Pam Riddell

Join us for our Volunteer Fair and Potluck Dinner!

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Join us this Sunday, August 3rd, for our Volunteer Fair and Potluck Dinner. After the service, talk with our volunteer leaders to find out how you can get involved during the week or on Sundays. Then stay and enjoy some good food and great company during our monthly Potluck Dinner.

To sign up to bring something to share or to find out what other people are bringing, use our easy online sign-up:

Sign Up Genius: August Potluck


Alive in the Spirit: Part 4

This week, Chuck Redfern shares his experiences with the Holy Spirit as we continue reading Clive Calver’s Alive in the Spirit together:

 

Riding On The Wind

The Holy Spirit snuck up on me from behind, kidnapped me, and buckled me and my family into a roller coaster seat in the early 1990’s. I’ve sometimes whined about the thrill-ride, which often jolted me past the theme park’s hawkers, freak shows, and diabolical clowns offering onion-flavored cotton candy. God has sometimes unsnapped the buckle and allowed me to wander in “normal” Christianity again. It is astonishingly dull. I rushed to the roller coaster and breathed a sigh of relief: My empty seat awaited.

Confusion often swirls when we talk of life in the Spirit. Some stress underlying, covert reality while others emphasize their personal experience and God’s overt acts. We talk past one another. Fingers wag. Frustration mounts. We take back our toys and run home. Fact is, the Spirit pervades our existence whether we feel Him or not, so my journey began long before my felt experience. God “breathed” the “breath of life” into our nostrils (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word for “breath,” nismat, is translated as “spirit” in Proverbs 20:27, which means the passage could speak of how God breathed “the spirit of life” into our forebears. Our intimacy with the Holy Spirit was severely marred at the Fall in Genesis 3 but never completely destroyed. Theologians call God’s activity among unbelievers “common grace:” He halted our slide before we slipped into absolute demonism and gave us the ability to choose. Jesus began to restore fuller intimacy when he breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

Underscore and emphasize: Jesus’s disciples were the forerunners of the “new creation” of which Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 2:17; Galatians 6:15). They were “made new in the attitude of (their) minds” as they donned the “new self,” bearing God’s “true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24). We’re harbingers of an alternative creation. We’re “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), present-day tokens of His future kingdom (see the Parable of the Weeds in Matthew 13:24-29) for which creation groans “as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22). We bear His fruits (Galatians 5:22-23) and swap society’s culture for God’s.

Such is the underlying reality. God always acts through His Spirit. The Spirit, although a person and not a mere force, can be like the still air, which always sustains us whether we’re know it or not.

And sometimes He stirs overtly. No mistake. This is God.

I felt God’s overt act at the peak of an adolescent crisis in 1973 when I was almost 17. I gave my life and He flooded me with a new sense of purpose. God acted even more dynamically in the summer of 1984. I awoke from a strange dream that illuminated how I’d been worshipping my journalism career. I confessed my sin and felt an energy surge flow into my head and through my torso. God rinsed me. I felt born-again again – and my days in newspapers were over. I unpacked my bags at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary six months later.

Then came the roller coaster. I served an inner-city church and I prayed with a group of pastors. I innocently asked a colleague: “Have you ever read anything by John Wimber?” The late John Wimber spear-headed the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, California, from which about 700 churches had been planted. Many told of honest-to-goodness New Testament-style signs and wonders: Cripples walked out of wheel chairs; legs lengthened; the blind were seeing and the deaf were hearing. What’s more, there was none of the dubious theology or eccentric methods found in other sectors.

My friend loaned me Wimber’s Power Evangelism.

I was enthralled. Wimber and other church leaders read of God’s power throughout the Bible and reasoned it should be today’s norm. They began praying for healing and saw no results for about a year. Some even got more sick. Wimber and his elders actually cried out to God: “It’s not fair!” But they persisted in sheer obedience. A healing finally came one morning, soon followed by others. There were visions and words of knowledge. The Holy Spirit even swept through an evening church service in which almost all the young people fell down. The felt the same type of energy I felt on my bed in 1984.

This was key: Vineyard prayer teams never shouted over anyone, nor did they blame those who were not healed (and not all are healed). They often asked people how they were feeling during the prayer sessions, which made sense.

I decided to try the Vineyard method, fully confident I would flop like a rag mat. I prayed for a woman with neck pain and asked her how she felt. “Much better!,” she said. My cool pastoral reply: “WHAT?” Another had a terrible cold; she felt power from my hands. I visited a third person whose dentist had drilled the wrong tooth earlier that day. I gingerly laid my hand on her jaw and, while praying, felt it tingle. She gasped. The pain evaporated. And then there was the woman with back pain in her kitchen. I prayed for her and nothing seemed to happen. She complimented me on my “nice” prayer and we kept chatting, then she cried out: “Oh my God! My back is getting hot!”   The pain vanished and the air was thick with God’s presence. She wobbled like a drunk while walking to the refrigerator for a glass of water, shedding new light on Acts 2:15: “These people are not drunk, as you suppose …”

It was a rush. We held prayer meetings in which everyone felt “hot.” I drove to Toronto and witnessed a Pentecost-style renewal. Other churches experienced the same type of renewal in the 1990’s and I traveled to many of them.

But then the roller coaster plummeted: Many in the church were worried that I was trying to make the church “charismatic;” others levelled a variety of accusations and everyone seemed to be yelling at each other. I was constantly tense and biting my nails over the next phone call. I even had to face a panel of church members, one of whom read from a written statement in which she said I was worried that I had joined a cult. I successfully established the Biblical basis of the signs and wonders – and no, I was not making people speak in tongues; and no, I would not impose a guilt trip on those who remained unhealed; and no … and no … and no …

The panel was pleased, but there were more fights and battles and struggles and clashes. Finally, a huge brawl rendered me exhausted. I felt like I had lost all credibility. I resigned and we moved to New Hampshire, where a Pentecostal church was experiencing a Toronto-like renewal. The Spirit moved mightily, but the roller coaster twisted and turned when I took the helm of a dying church. We restored its solvency and trebled its size, but old issues bit back and it crumbled. What’s more, there were odd teachings about how we must fawn before self-designated prophets and apostles. It was so strange, so twisted: God’s renewal had morphed into a freak show with diabolical clowns offering that terrible cotton candy.

I finally resigned and, after a break, took on an interim pastorate in New Hampshire in which I had a lot of fun. The Spirit was active like the still air: There were few healings, but He always nurtured me. We moved to Connecticut and I took the helm of another church, which proved to be a mismatch. I then helped two conflict-riddled churches re-establish themselves and I’ve found that deeply satisfying. Miracles and healings did not abound (although I prayed for two people on their deathbeds and they got up the next day), but I re-learned the lesson of savoring the unspectacular. The Spirit is always there and the roller coaster is always moving – perhaps a little slowly this time. I also now see the sense of Mark 1:41-45. Jesus healed a man with skin disease, but then warned him not to tell anyone about it. I love the signs and wonders, but they can be misinterpreted and they can stir a hornet’s nest – especially among veteran believers. Witness the reaction of the teachers and the Pharisees to our Lord: They criticized him for healing on the Sabbath.

Still, I ache for a setting in which the Holy Spirit is allowed to roam free, where both inner and outer healing is welcomed, and where we can continually savor the living water of Christ. Perhaps even some of those hawkers and clowns will quiet down.


Alive in the Spirit: Part 3

This week, Jason Riddell shares his reflections on the Holy Spirit and Clive Calver’s Alive in the Spirit:

 

How did I get here?
 
In the past two weeks, I’ve taken my car for an emissions test, earnestly compared health benefits between four different providers, talked with my insurance agent about potentially saving money by switching plans, experienced a passing fancy in the stock exchange, and participated in a conversation centered around the mortality of family members and the dividing of assets.
 
Apparently I’m an adult now.  I just don’t remember becoming one.
 
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bemoaning my childhood becoming an ever-diminishing speck in life’s rearview mirror.  I never wanted to stay there.  Besides, I’m 28 years old- I’m not out of my depth here.
 
I’m more interested in the fact that somewhere along the way, without realizing that it was happening, I began to identify myself, to myself, as an adult.  Somewhere along the way I started caring about budgets and framily plans and miles per gallon and the look of a freshly mowed lawn and cooking meals that weren’t cheese fries.
 
And somewhere, what are you going to do with your life turned into what are you doing with your life.
 
Did this happen to anyone else?  Have you all come to the realization that, man, everything I do with every second of every day contributes to who I am, to what difference I make, to how I am remembered?
 
That stuff matters to me.
 
In reality, it always mattered to me, but somewhere, in passing from youth into adulthood, thoughts about my life and future turned from hopeful dreams into something resembling a mandate.
 
I need to be making something out of me.
 
Gosh, that’s a lot of pressure, isn’t it?  Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at avoiding applying pressure on myself.  That’s why I always got annoyed when my Dad would come over when I was waiting in the on-deck circle at a baseball game.
 
I would see him walking over from the bleachers and grimace before he even made it over to me.
 
‘Keep your eye on the ball,’ I’d think.
 
“Keep your eye on the ball,” he’d say.
 
“Got it, Dad.”  I wouldn’t look at him.  I was busy, thinking.  ‘I can’t let another curve by me.  I got fooled last time, I’ve got to stay back.’
 
“You got froze by that curve last time.  Be sure to wait on it.”
 
“Got it, Dad.”  Still not looking.
 
‘I’ve gotta look for him to miss with a fastball.  I shouldn’t waste a swing on junk.’
 
“Make sure you get your pitch, okay?  Something you can stroke.”
 
I wouldn’t even say anything at this point.  It’s not that I was disagreeing with anything he was saying- I was saying the same thing to myself, after all.  I just wanted it known that I knew enough to handle myself.  That I could think through everything, be ready for anything, on my own.  That I didn’t need my Dad’s help.
 
Sometimes- a lot of times- I’d think so much I’d make myself nervous.  Then, I’d be so nervous I’d do something stupid, like swing at a first pitch curveball and hit a dribbler to second base.  Then, because I did something stupid, I’d be mad.  I’d be mad at myself, and I’d be mad at my father.
 
I don’t play baseball anymore.  But I do go through the same routine.  And I’ve found it’s much harder to live by these habits with life in general.  
 
Life happens so much more slowly, and it takes more time to see the fruit of what you’re doing.  In baseball, you immediately know the fruits of your efforts.  Either you got on base, or you didn’t.  And if you didn’t, there’s another chance coming in a couple of innings.  
 
Still, the principle remains the same: don’t overthink it.
 
I’ve found my self-condemnation- like the anger I’d feel after striking out- often stems from an incorrect perception of myself.  I’m too smart to do something that stupid, I’d think.  Well, obviously not- I did it.  It’s the same thing in the broader scope of life.  I can do anything, I think.
 
Except I can’t.
 
The way I think of myself can become a hindrance to the Holy Spirit’s ability to do his work through me.  If we believe ourselves to be capable of anything, we will attempt to plow our way through everything, and eventually become tired of crashing through wall after wall after wall after wall, and we’ll wonder, why, God, does life have to be so painful?  Conversely, if we don’t think ourselves capable of anything, then we never try, and we’ll sit and wonder, why, God, doesn’t anything good happen to us?
 
And anywhere in between.
 
Really, the only truthful way to look at ourselves is that Christ is capable of anything, and we are capable of whatever it is that he wills for us exclusively by the power of the Holy Spirit who resides within us.
 
If we approach life from any other perspective, we’ll only find frustration, or worse.
 
But the crucial thing, the thing I often forget, is that there’s a second piece to that truth.  And if you don’t have the second piece, you can become just as tired following God’s will as you can following your own, even if you are following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
 
Clive Calver mentions this truth on Day 8 in the Holy Spirit book:
 
“The living God is no arbitrary deity just trying to get His own way, but He longs to bring fulfillment to our lives.”
 
It is so, so, so easy to resent being told what to do.  Especially, I think, as an adult, where it can go beyond annoying an become an assault on our identity.  Truth be told, I learned to how to hear the Spirit’s voice at a young age.  But I don’t always listen, because it’s important to me that I “make” it.
 
That I’m somebody.
 
That’s such a lie of the enemy!  That’s exactly what we were given the Holy Spirit for- because no matter what we can make it look like to other people (and some of us are better at looking more together than others), none of us have within us everything we need for this life.  We are ill-equipped without the guidance of the Spirit.
 
And yet, we need even more than that.  The Holy Spirit is not simply a life GPS, the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of the loving God within us.  The God who named us, planned for us, cares for us, sent His Son to die for us.  The Holy Spirit is not your boss, emailing you the stuff he expects you to get done today.  He’s bringing you the plan that God has for your life- he’s showing you the path that will lead to the most fulfillment and happiness for you, and all you have to do is listen and obey.
 
It’s like the situation with my Dad and the on-deck circle.  I was trying to prove to my Dad that I didn’t need him.  I got annoyed because I felt like he didn’t trust me to do what he asked of me, and yet, all along, my performance was never the issue for him.  He was going to love me no matter how I performed, and all of his advice- no matter how obvious it seemed- came from that place of unconditional love.
 
If I don’t get anything beyond that out of Calver’s book- just the simple reminder that every thing the Holy Spirit is asking me to do, no matter how strange or unorthodox or uncomfortable, is designed upon the foundation that my Father in Heaven loves me and wants the best for me- then it will have been a worthwhile read.
 
I might feel like a grown-up, but I’ll always be my Father’s child.
 
And children do what their Father says, because they know that He loves them.

Alive in the Spirit

This week, Brandon Hawk shares his reflections on Clive Calver’s Alive In the Spirit:
 
One image that I particularly like, and that I think intersects well with Clive Calver’s study, is in a sermon by a medieval monk named Bede. He lived in England, from about 672 to 735, and was a monk in the twin monasteries of Wearmouth-Jarrow from the age of seven until his death. Over the years, Bede had a lot of time to study the Bible, and he wrote a lot about it. Among his works is a series of sermons on the gospels. In his sermon for Pentecost, Bede gives the gospel reading from John 14:15-21, and says this about it:
 
Truth [Jesus] says to his disciples at the commencement of this gospel reading, “If you love me, keep my commandments, and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete.” Paraclete means “consoler.” The Holy Spirit is correctly called a Paraclete because, by producing a desire for the heavenly life, he raises up and restores the hearts of believers lest they falter amidst the adversities of this age.
 
I really like this multi-faceted image (and Calver talks about this, too, in different parts of his devotional): in our love for Christ, we receive both a spiritual longing for heaven–here in our present time on earth as well as in our eternal future–and a hope and comfort in the Holy Spirit. Christian love, longing for heaven, and spiritual peace all converge in the Spirit.