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In 1901 students in a class taught by Charles Parham began speaking in tongues. This was something they sought, and something which in their mind proved the power of the Holy Spirit. It was an evidence. The evidence of the Holy Spirit, as illustrated in Acts 2, Acts 10, and then in Topeka, Kansas was considered speaking in tongues.

Such an evidence as this gained traction. More people prayed in such the way the Topeka students prayed, more people began speaking in tongues, some indeed recognizable as regular languages it is claimed. Then such a thing as this had a trip down route 66, to Los Angeles where on Azusa Street, it is known, this claim to the evidence of the Holy Spirit began to do a curious thing. It exploded. It was given a name, Pentecostalism, and this name has traveled from the dusty streets of the City of Angels to all corners of the world.

So there must be something to Charles Parham’s discovery. And there certainly is. For instance read Numbers 11:22-24:

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp.

And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!”

But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!”

And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets. The story of this passage isn’t about all the people becoming prophets, however, it’s not even about a small number of people becoming prophets. Moses, you see, was rather overworked. He was the man who went up the mountain and came down with a bright face and a lot of authority. All of it. Question his authority and you might, like Miriam, get a spot of leprosy. Moses, even with all of his honors, was still but a man, and not a man superempowered to do all the work that authority must do in a group this big. He was spending a lot of his time on minutiae. A man such as Moses should not be immersed in minutiae. He had things to do, like keep everyone’s eyes on the prize.

Keeping their eyes on the prize was a particular problem as the people tended to be rather grumbly. And what with all of Moses work, and his devotion, and whatnot, he got fairly fed up with being between the rock of God and the hard place of Israel. He felt trapped and asked God to kill him. God said he’d rather not, but that he would show him a thing or two. So he had Moses call 70 elders and God spread the wealth a little bit. The Spirit was poured out over the whole bunch. And when the Spirit came, well these men got a bit filled up. Overfilled really. They weren’t enough in themselves and the Spirit overwhelmed them. It was like walking out into a bright day after spending years in a dark cave. The eyes get overwhelmed and they squint. When the Spirit comes, the soul gets overwhelmed and things begin to happen.

That’s the sign of the Spirit being poured out on a person. But, that’s not the reason for the Spirit. God sent the Spirit here so that Israel would have a bit more leadership variety, all while knowing everyone is on the same page. This is important as having leaders turned to different pages often means a whole mess in the making. Take Korah for instance. The earth sure did.

The Spirit is the only way of the work of God, and without the Spirit there is only a muddle. But that’s really the key point. The Spirit is about the work of God, not giving us the goods to put on a show for ourselves or for anyone else.

Which brings us back to the gift of Tongues and Acts 2. Now, it’s certainly not the case as some authoritarian people might suggest that the gift of tongues is gone. It’s in the lists, and it serves a purpose. So did prophecy in the old days, and today. But, the ecstatic overwhelming quality in which the souls becomes filled and overfilled into a frenzy is a sign of the Spirit’s coming, but it’s not a sign of the Spirit’s staying. Tongues is not the goal of God. Neither is prophecy.

What is? Well, the quick response from many is salvation. Which is true in a way. But that’s not really it either. That’s just a beginning of the beginning. Salvation is sort of like, if I can engage in a terrible analogy, buying a ticket at Disneyland. It costs a lot, usually children are more eager for it and pay less, but the payoffs are nice because there’s the Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones, and Star Tours inside. The payoff, you might be surprised to know, is not in buying the ticket. I mean there are Disney themed pictures and even the occasional Mickey Mouse or Goofy wandering about. That’s not why anyone would want to go to Disneyland and if you suggested going to Disneyland soley to buy a ticket that would be silly, what with the hassle of parking and driving all the way there. No, you buy a ticket to do something more, and salvation is a ticket to something more.

That something more is what the Spirit is really about.

God is in the restoration business. He has created us in his image, but we’ve gone and distorted his likeness. As Mark Twain once said, “I was made merely in the image of God, but not resembling Him enough to be mistaken for Him by anyone except a very near-sighted person.” Yet God is wanting to renew that resemblance. The Spirit comes for that very purpose, to lift us up, and guide us into becoming wholly sanctified. Jesus opened the door to this process. The Spirit presses it forward in our very lives, taking our salvation and making into a whole lot more. Wesley called this sanctification. The Eastern Orthodox call it theosis. These are but words to describe the fact God thinks we are worth quite a bit, and able to be quite a bit more than our present wallowing selves.

He once walked in the evening breeze with a man and a woman. He’d like to do so again. The Spirit makes us pleasant and inviting company for such a thing as this, restoring our souls towards real wholeness so that we think right, feel right, listen right, and feel joy right. Our wan selves can’t handle the fullness of the Spirit, so we’re given time to change. Part of what we have to learn, part of the extensive remodeling of the Spirit is our learning how to relate. God, you see, values relationship, being in eternal relationship and creating in terms of relationship. We have lost this, becoming selfish, isolated, indulgent people who are always gunning for our rights or expectations. Always seeking to fulfill our desires by using other people. The way of the Spirit, however, is in mutual giving and mutual receiving so that we live for others as they live for us.

That’s what we see at the end of Acts 2. The Spirit poured out. There were tongues. There was evangelism. It is only at the end of the chapter we get to the heart of it all. The Spirit comes, and people begin to instinctively respond in the fullness of community. They interact with one spirit for they are filled with the One Spirit who unites and shares and values all equally while expressing divine qualities diversely in each.

Of course saying that Acts 2 is a fine community is a common thing. That’s the goal of every shameless idealistic group of people who leave their churches to live in a commune and do things “right”. Only that’s not quite it either. See, the thing at Acts 2 isn’t about this group of people who decided to be selfless and share. They were simply expressing the continuation of the fullness of the work of the Spirit in their lives. In other words, they didn’t think about it, they were just doing it. It was as natural to them as such as thing is unnatural to most of us. Natural in the fullest sense of the term, being part of our truest nature. But, we don’t do this, and we don’t see this. But we don’t see a lot of things. That doesn’t make it untrue, that just goes to show our present status on the ladder of God’s restoration.

Should we see the fullness of the power of the Spirit in our own lives. Should we experience the kind of renewal and the kind of enlightenment we read about, then its not a matter of our choosing then to sell our property and give a great deal to the poor. We just will do those sorts of things. It’s a reflection of the Spirit, not a working towards the Spirit.

That’s what Charles Parham had wrong. He thought it was about the tongues. He thought it was about the fireworks and the parade, when really there’s a lot more to it. Inasmuch as he got it wrong, inasmuch as many of those who came after him missed reading to the end of the chapter and so cut off, or grieved the Spirit in whatever way, they missed out on seeing in their own lives the fullness of the Spirit, the fullness of themselves, in a gathered community that reflects the ultimate reality of God among us.

We miss out on such things for much the same reason. But, there’s no reason to make an artificial attempt. There’s only to do those sorts of things the earliest church did and pray the Spirit comes upon us in power, and then not get distracted by the shiny things but press on in the Spirit so as to see the real work. It’s not something we do. It’s something we become. That’s the gift of the Spirit, to us and to this world.

I suspect William Seymour got a lot more of this than did Charles Parham. Not all of it. He was entranced by the initial works as well. But, there was a freedom to press on and see what happened, a freedom which too many denied to him. Sad. But that’s the topic of another post.

a quote

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“I’m sure there are artists that are good businessmen, but I’ve never met any.”

–Arthur Miller

On Jesus

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Jesus Christ’s standard for the worker is Himself. Am I allowing His standard to obsess me? Am I measuring my life by His all the time? The one standard put before us is Our Lord Himself; we have to be saturated in this ideal in thinking and in praying, and allow nothing to blur the standard. We must lift up Jesus Christ not only in the preaching of the Gospel but to our own souls.

If my mind and heart and spirit are getting fixed with one Figure only, the Lord Jesus Christ, and other people and other ideas are fading, then I am growing in grace. The one dominant characteristic in the life of the worker is that Jesus Christ is coming more into the ascendant. The motive is not a sentiment but a passion, the blazing pasion of the Holy Spirit in the soul of the worker; not–“because Jesus has done so much for me,” that is a sickening, unscriptural statement. The one attitude of the life is Jesus Christ first, second, and third, and nothing apart from Him. The thing that hinders God’s work is not sin, but other claims which are right, but which at a certain point of their rightness conflict with claims of Jesus Christ. If the conflict should come, remember it is to be Jesus first (see Luke 14:26).

–Oswald Chambers, Approved unto God

I need some more notecards

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It seems I have a lot of vocabulary practice to do. The English language hits word 1 billion.

Whither me?

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I haven’t been posting regularly. And I certainly haven’t been posting a great deal of substance. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because I’ve been writing a lot in other places, some of which may be leaking out here, some of which not. Mabye it’s because I’ve had points of distraction which call me away from the computer. Maybe it’s because I’m just in a mood of Spring, where I’d rather be elsewhere, rather than staring in front of a computer. I’d rather be staring at a sea lion or 200, or a ray gliding through the ocean, or at the coreopsis blooming on an offshore island. Or at the waves rolling against my kayak, or at a sail making sure it is trimmed properly for the wind. Maybe I’d rather be teaching somewhere, letting my excitement for a subject pour outwards. Or doing some creative work with others, letting our combined gifts develop into something rather amazing. I don’t know.

A friend asked me recently and I responded with these words. Though I don’t know if they are spot on either. They are words, however, and sometimes throwing enough out there will triangulate the issue:

The old webpage is a reflection of my own thinking I suppose, and I suppose my own thinking is encountering a bit of a puzzled season. Hopefully this week I will be better able to get back to those things which spark my thinking. I’ve fallen off a bit in my reading, and then coupling that with my increasing disinterest in things political, and the fact I need to recharge the batteries for my camera, well, I guess things don’t get mentioned. And I realized I was encountering a lot of personal things, with me and others, and couldn’t get around to writing about the things I was thinking about. It’s a mess.

Also, and I think connected with this is my increasing realization that I, as a writer and as a person, will really only find freedom when I really get to letting everything go. This has been a process, much of which has been started for me and outside of me, but now I’m really hitting a wall and realizing it is because I am still too tied down, in expectations, in considerations, in hopes, in frustrations. I’m far too self-conscious, and that is robbing me of my creativity. The problem, now, is that my situation greatly encourages a self-consciousness as I have no other project outside myself to occupy my mind and pull me into some grand goal. So, I have to learn to let everything go, especially myself, when there is only myself.

That’s a trick. And that’s not the only trick. The spiritual path is to hold everything loosely, to let it all go not only as a hope but also as a weight, while at the same time engaging all things, and people, with hope. I have to learn how to never have any expectations, to never let my soul be caught up in others opinions of me, and still love and invest in people as though all things depended on it. To love and let go all at once, fully for both. That’s a great trick. But, I see in that, should it ever happen, I will find a whole new reality opening up for me, a releasing out of the prison of my own mind, to say and to think and to act in ways that aren’t necessarily altogether new, but with a freedom I’ve never felt, and which would allow me to really become.

That’s what I said to her. But I’m thinking it’s more the fact that it’s Spring. And Spring makes me wander afield a bit more in my soul, catching me staring wistfully at the breeze tossed limbs, and longingly at the clouds billowing by. I think my mind retreats a bit. Calms a bit. Seeks a bit. Enters into extended moments of variously affected pensiveness.

All of which, gathered together in the bundle of my present existence, leads to a lull in posting. Only for a time, I imagine.

new look

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So, I’m thinking of changing some of the looks around here. Dualravens.com, frankly, is a mess. When I started I was borrowing some webspace, didn’t know one thing about web design, and had Microsoft Frontpage as my only way of getting things online. Well times have changed. I now know possibly three or four things and have rather better programs on my computer. But, as this site has grown in my experimentation, I haven’t been very good about keeping things standard. I’ve learned that such things really have to start from the ground up. It’s a good deal of work to get everything the same, and a good deal of work when I don’t have any real reason to do it other than my own personal interest. So some things around here are better, some are worse, a lot could use some tidying up, and even major changes.

I’m thinking about that sort of stuff and spent a bit of time thinking about a new front page. Which is funny, because my front page really isn’t one of the sections that needs a lot of work. Anyway, I did a bit of work on it, and am thinking of switching over but I’m not sure it’s a step up. So have a look at the present front page, and the possible new front page. Let me know what you think if you have an opinion one way or another. I’ve already two nay votes, so it’s not looking good for this change.

Wheaton and the Homosexual Activist Tour

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A few weeks back it got into the news that a group of young men and women were getting on a bus and planning on visiting Christian schools which had a policy against homosexual behavior. They wanted to bring attention to these policies and assert a new way of looking at homosexuality. They felt the historic Christian policy was wrong. And they wanted to make everyone face this issue, rather than simply push it under the rug, or into the closet. I happened to graduate from one of these schools, one of the schools that decided to respond to the activists rather than deny them any access. Earlier this week I got an email from the president of Wheaton asking the alumni to pray for wisdom and peace during the confrontation, so that it would be a civil conversation rather than a nasty fight.

I just received this email telling us what happened. No matter how you fall on this issue I think it should be encouraging that there can be civil discussion and conversation. For while there are people on both sides who merely want power and assert their own opinions on issues, there are also people on both sides who really do want to find the fullness of truth in all things. May both sides listen, and may the Spirit give counsel to those who do listen, and peace to those with turmoil in their hearts.

Dear Patrick,

I promised you a report on the recent visit to our campus of a group of gay activists. We can provide you more details later if you like, but for now let us settle for this early summary.

The occasion proved on one level to be rather uneventful. There were no unfortunate incidents, no other activists made an appearance, and the media gave the event only scant attention. All parties on both sides handled themselves not only civilly but graciously. The many issues were fully and freely aired with honesty and candor all around.

At a deeper level, however, I think this event has proved to be a significant one for Wheaton College. I cannot speak for our visitors, but for our part I think this episode turned out to be the very learning opportunity for which we had hoped.

Our task as Christians is to speak the truth in love, and it appears to me that we made progress during these two days on both sides of this tension. On the “truth” side, the impasse between the two positions was laid bare. And Wheaton upheld its commitment to the historic truth of the Bible, not to mention the monolithic testimony of two thousand years of church history, without waffling. Here we stood, for we could do no other.

Yet we also gained something on the “love” side of this tension. These visitors condemn us for maintaining an historic Christian stance on homosexuality. So what does this require of us in return? It cannot mean abandoning the truth. But it has served as a reminder to us all of our Lord’s instruction to “bless those who curse you,” and to “revile not in return.”

“If you love only those who love you,” Jesus asked, “what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:46-48).

These visitors were real people, with real stories, real struggles, and real needs. They are individuals our heavenly Father loves and for whom he gave his Son. According to Jesus, we are to emulate the Father’s love. If we cannot do that, I found myself thinking during these last few days, then no matter how clearly we maintain the truth, we are just “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal … we are nothing … it profits us nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

I want to thank all who expressed your willingness to pray for us. The Lord has used these events to remind us of what it means to uphold his truth in the face of some strong challenges, but to do it in love. Which means the Lord appears to have answered your prayers.

Duane Litfin
Wheaton College

The evidence of the Holy Spirit

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A little while back I made a note saying I think Charles Parham was wrong. And I connected that post, oddly enough, with a later post about a friend who was having particularly isolating experiences in things churchy while being peculiarly welcomed by people particularly non-churchy (even more non-churchy than the episodes I mentioned). Charles Parham, you might remember, is considered the founder of the Pentecostal movement by many, or if not the single founder at least one of the key names involved in the establishment of this dynamic part of the Church. Now then when I say Charles Parham was wrong I’m clearly not saying just he was wrong. I’m saying something more, basically that the Pentecostal church is wrong about a key part of its understanding of the Holy Spirit.

Then again, in that post I also mentioned I shouldn’t say he was wrong. Rather, it’s more that he left the study incomplete. He and his students, you see, didn’t read far enough. They got excited about that certain bit, and began to pray, and things happened, then they forgot to read the rest of it. Or at least they forgot to read the rest of it with the same intent they started reading Acts to begin with. This rest of it is important, and has left the Pentecostal movement dynamic and somewhat incomplete. They were traveling to Chicago and got sidetracked by the shows and buffets in Vegas.

This isn’t surprising, because Acts in general is a fairly forgotten book, and the passages in question are particularly forgotten or oddly adopted in a way that doesn’t seem to match what the text is saying.

If you don’t have it memorized, have a go at Acts 2 again. Make sure that when you get to verse 4 you, unlike Charles Parham and his students, keep reading through to the end of the chapter.

You might think I’m saying what countless idealistic people have said for generations. But no, it’s not quite that.

joining an elite club

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It’s come to my attention that dualravens.com has recently joined an elite club. China, Russia, France, the United States, India, Pakistan, Israel (though they won’t admit it), Britain, and now dualravens.com. Yes, that’s right. We’ve gone nuclear.

At least I assume we here have now mastered the power of the atom, for peaceful means of course. Why else would two links from iaea.org to our fine little website be showing up in my statistics?

I assume this will help in my negotiations with other internet domains.

Stations of the Resurrection

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Christ is RisenJust as it is a worthwhile practice to meditate on the death of Christ in the Stations of the Cross, so too is it worthwhile, and vital, to meditate on the risen life of Christ. There is more than the cross. There is more than the tomb. There is life. That is the message at the heart of Christianity.

There is indeed life.

And so I offer the Stations of the Resurrection.