The day of the nations

Today we celebrate Pentecost. And our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Shavout.

I love this holiday!

The First Pentecost was about the Nations

The rabbis tell us that on Shavout, God descended in fire on to Mt. Sinai and gave Torah. There was lightening, thunder, smoke, horn blasts, and trembling. It was such a powerful experience, Exodus 20:18 says

“…the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke…”

People saw the thunder!

The rabbis also teach us that God’s voice split into 70 tongues all the languages of the nations of the earth at that time.

I grew up thinking the Torah was given to the Jewish people on Sinai. I love that Midrash discusses how every nation received God’s commands from Sinai.

Fire and Wind and Foreign Languages

As a follower of Jesus, knowing the rabbinic conversations adds so much more depth to Pentecost. God descending in fire descending, sound like a violent blowing wind…and people talking in the languages of all nations.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

I love that.

God’s heart has always been for the nations. And God continues to extravagantly reach out to us. In our own language. Busting out all over.

I love that we are being pursued by a such a loving God.

Prepare the field

Preparing the field

I love watching Facing the Giants. Tonight, my son laughed, “We’re not even 35 minutes into it and dad’s already bawling!”

Tonight, the part that really hit me was an exchange between the football coach and Mr. Bridges, a guy that had been praying for the school for years.

Mr. Bridges felt God gave him a word for Coach Taylor. It was a good word.

Then there was this exchange:

Mr. Bridges: 2 farmers who desperately needed rain. And both of them prayed for rain but only one of them went out and prepared his fields to receive it. Which one do you think trusted God to send the rain?

Coach Taylor: Well the one who prepared his fields for it.

Mr. Bridges: Which one are you? God will send the rain when He is ready. It’s your job to prepare your field to receive it.

How about you?

What have you been praying for? For a really long time? Some situation where you really need to see God move in your life?

Are you preparing the field?

Classic quote on attitude

This is one of my favorites:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than gift, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you, we are in charge of our attitudes.
–Charles Swindoll

Four Stage Theory of Life Development

Here is a version of the handout I’m working with at VCW

David Schmelzer, of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Cambridge gave a terrific session at the 2006 Vineyard Eastern Regional Conference. One of the things that struck me, and continues to resonate, was about M. Scott Peck’s 4 stages of development. Here is the description found on Wikipedia.

The four stages Scott Peck postulates that there are four stages of human spiritual development:

Stage I is chaotic, disordered, and reckless. Very young children are in Stage I. They tend to defy and disobey, and are unwilling to accept a will greater than their own. Many criminals are people who have never grown out of Stage I.

Stage II is the stage at which a person has blind faith. Once children learn to obey their parents, they reach Stage II. Many so called religious people are essentially Stage II people, in the sense that they have blind faith in God, and do not question His existence. With blind faith comes humility and a willingness to obey and serve. The majority of good law abiding citizens never move out of Stage II.

Stage III is the stage of scientific skepticism and inquisitivity. A Stage III person does not accept things on faith but only accepts them if convinced logically. Many people working in scientific and technological research are in Stage III.

Stage IV is the stage where an individual starts enjoying the mystery and beauty of nature. While retaining skepticism, he starts perceiving grand patterns in nature. His religiousness and spirituality differ significantly from that of a Stage II person, in the sense that he does not accept things through blind faith but does so because of genuine belief. Stage IV people are labelled as mystics.

Scott Peck argues that while transitions from Stage I to Stage II are sharp, transitions from Stage III to Stage IV are gradual. Nonetheless, these changes are very noticeable and mark a significant difference in the personality of the individual.

Peck writes about these in his Further Along the Road Less Traveled (chapter 7 I believe). He says he stumbled on these because of his counseling practice. People with really defined spirituality would leave counseling with no faith at all. But people with no faith at all would come out of weeks of counseling with a vibrant, cohesive spirituality. Same counseling, very different results. As he developed the four stages, he realized Stage II folks progressed to Stage III even though it looked like a regression. And Stage III’ers were progressing to Stage IV.

One way he describes Stage IV is that as you analyze and question, eventually you may start realizing that you’ve taken the shards of the Stage II myths and beliefs you smashed in Stage III and made a collage. Interestingly, that collage looks quite a bit like Stage II but it’s deeper, more beautiful.

I’m interested in becoming a Stage IV church in Waterville.

Centered-set II

I like the language of being “centered set.” Here’s a brief description I found on Kingdomrain.net 

As we have seen, Wimber’s commitment was strongly evangelical, and, at the same time, surprisingly open. He described the fellowship of Vineyard churches sociologically as “centered set,” that is, with Christ as the center. Faith in him held the whole together. This contrasts with churches that are “bounded set,” where issues such as eschatology, cultural habits, or liturgical forms define the fellowship. For example, a Calvary Chapel pastor must believe in the “pre-tribulation rapture of the church.” Wimber rejected such careful eschatological defining for his movement. 

 

Centered-set

Being a centered-set group is an important concept for VCW. The explanation below was created from information from the Association of Vineyard Churches of East Africa.

The Laissez-fair or “Fuzzy set” mode
This model is the key to an understanding of church that leads to a “phantom church.” Here, structure and definition are minimized and spontaneity overvalued.

Bounded set model
The second model is the bounded set where there is a very definite understanding of what it means to be inside and outside. There are a set of sometimes unwritten rules that determine who is part of the church. To belong, one has to follow these unwritten “rules”.

Centered set model
The third model, which we like to pursue, is the centered-set model. This is an understanding of the church where at the center as our focus is Jesus, the Bible and our particular values which express God’s particular calling to us. Membership is understood not in terms of being inside or outside but something much more dynamic. We understand that people might be at different distances from the values at the center but for us the important thing is not so much where they are presently but in which direction they are moving. We are all on a journey of being more definitely committed to our values and expressing them more fully.In this sense, John Wimber often taught that our values are rather like the sign on the front of the bus that indicates its destination. We welcome anybody getting on the bus provided they are clear as to where we are going and also want to head in the same direction as us! Again, to quote John Wimber, “You don’t join the Vineyard, but discover that you are Vineyard!” Hearing these values will bring forth different responses depending upon what the Spirit of God is doing in a particular person. We are aware that many will be called to different expressions of Christianity by God and we respect that. At the same time, we know that as some people hear us teach on these values, where we are going and what God has called us to, something deep inside of them will identify fully with this. In that regard, these values are caught not taught!

As Bob Fulton once said, “Go out and sing your song. When somebody comes saying that you are singing their song, then get together. Don’t try to teach somebody your song when they are singing another song.”  

Can you tell we’re in the midst of a three-part core orientation for VCW? *grin* I love thinking about this stuff. Especially when I see how free people get. This is all about mercy and grace and God’s power to change lives. Who wouldn’t love that?