Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Friday
May272011

BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

Chapter 4 of Jack Towe's Spiritual Autobiography

 

During 1969, I was a seeker.  I explored gatherings and teachings in the Charismatic movement to discover what the LORD was doing through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I read avidly on the subject.  But, my chief source of learning and experience was the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship, Inc. -- an unfortunately named organization.  FGBMFI would have more accurately been called "The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit".

That year, I was a member of the executive council of the FGBMFI, and thus was in close contact with experienced Pentecostals and Charismatics.  At times, they were an alarming experience for me -- for example, I had no previous experience of being hugged by men.  Also, some quoted Scripture at machine-gun rate and volume.  However, I was awed by their love of Jesus and each other.  Each had a powerful testimony of Jesus' work in his life.

Fellow Lutherans usually avoided talking about God.  When the LORD was the conversational topic, we were usually talking theology.  In contrast, among FGBMFI members, we spoke of experiences.  That really appealed to me.  It was like getting with first-century Christians because Jesus was a living reality among us.

Short Legs Grow

I remember that one evening at the General Electric plant I used the phone to call a fellow GE employee in Texas.  I had heard about his miraculous healing.  One leg was shorter than the other by ¾ of an inch. He wore a built-up sole.  At a recent prayer meeting, his leg had grown out the additional ¾ of an inch.

The following Saturday morning, I was at the FGBMFI meeting, and I related the Texan's story to the men around me.  The man across from me added, "Yeah, last year the LORD grew my short leg out two inches."

FGBMFI met twice a month:  A Friday dinner meeting with wives present; a Saturday morning meeting for men only.  At several meetings I asked for the laying on of hands to be baptized in the Holy Spirit -- but (as related in both chapters 2 and 3), I had already been baptized in the Holy Spirit in December, 1968, and in April. 1969, I received a gift of healing

It's Like Buying Shoes

What was going on?  I had bought into the traditional Pentecostal conviction that if one were really baptized in the Spirit, it would be evidenced by tongues.  Their statement was: "It's like buying a pair of shoes. Tongues are included." 

The other Pentecostal tradition I learned was "tarrying". In Acts 1, Jesus says, "Tarry ye a while in Jerusalem." Jesus was saying to the disciples after the resurrection, "Stay here. Meet together. Don't scatter." Interestingly, Pentecostals reapplied this to being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and I was intro­duced to "tarrying meetings", extended sessions where one sought the second baptism. I was repeatedly prayed over. One man would counsel me to "hold on, brother," and another would say, "let go, brother." No results as far as I could tell.

For eleven months I was frustrated because I didn't speak in tongues. That changed one Saturday in November. Ted Sippel and I had gone to the FGBMFI breakfast meeting at Perkins Pancake House way out north on Colerain Avenue. I no longer remember what went on at the meeting. Probably I again asked for the laying on of hands. That was nothing unusual. At the end of each meeting, many men would go forward for prayers -- for healing, for the second baptism, for crisis intervention.

On the long ride home, Ted and I prayed aloud in the car. In the course of my prayer, I made a vow to God that I would leave my job as Manager of Equal Employment Opportunity Programs at General Electric and work for Jesus in Over-the-Rhine in youth employment. We finished the prayer, and Ted dropped me off at my house. [Notice that Ted appears at critical points in this narrative? Evidently, he is another of God's earth angels.]

During the afternoon, strange syllables began occurring in my head. But, I couldn't accept them or trust them. Why? I had taken a year of Russian at the Army Language School in Monterey, California, 1957-58. The sounds in my head were clearly Slavic (but not Russian.) They included sounds that most Americans cannotknow how to make, but I did because of my Russian training.  For example:  "shch" and "chx", where the x is a glottal flip.

Phony Slavic Sounds

Fortunately, I knew a Charismatic woman who was deep in the LORD. I visited her and complained about what was happening. It felt phony. I was hearing these Slavic sounds, and they were in paired dactyls.  That is:                _.. _..     _.. _..    etc.

It's like the dactyl rhythmic scheme, for example, of Longfellow's Evangeline:

"This is the forest primeval.

The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

bearded with moss and in garments green,

indistinct in the twilight,

stand like Druids of eld,

with voices sad and prophetic.

So, I was bewildered.

To my surprise, she was not sympathetic. "Let me be sure I understand you, Jack. The LORD has given you a tongue, and your problem is that your tongue is too elegant to suit you?"

In response, I stammered in confusion.

She asked, "If you could have selected the form of your tongue -- and none of us can -- what would you have told the LORD?"

Old Church Slavonic Epic

"Well, I dunno. Certainly I wouldn't have dared asked to declaim an epic in Old Church Slavonic. That would have been presumptuous."

"So you got better than you expected, and you're complaining? Get out of here. Stop worrying and enjoy the blessings the LORD gives you."

Excellent advice. So I spent the rest of the day enjoying my new relationship with Jesus. It wasn't a big emotional high as it is for many, but it was very satisfying.

Some comments:

Praying Without Ceasing

First, I found that I could let the tongue speak aloud or I could let it speak in my head while doing other things, including speaking aloud in English. This may be one of the possibilities that St. Paul is talking about when he writes, "Pray without ceasing."  (I Th. 5:17)

Second, tongues are often described as "ecstatic utterance", as if the speaker is out of control and gripped in a frenzy by the Holy Spirit. The term "Holy Rollers", applied to the Assemblies of God, fosters this view. However, I never found the experience of tongues to be like that. For me, it's a pleasant experience, but not emotional. And it's always under my control, with ability to start and stop at will.

Third, I have never spoken in tongues. True statement. Rather, I have the manifestation of tongues, which is a private tongue, just between God and me. The gift of tongues is for a public gathering of Christians and is to be accompanied by a gift of interpretation. The two together, tongue and interpretation, are a prophecy. A careful reading of I Corinthians 12 to 14 will confirm this distinction between the gift of tongues and the private tongue.

Why have I not had the gift of tongues? Mostly I suppose because I have not often been with gatherings of Christians who seek to be directed by the LORD's gifts. Note: There's nothing automatic about this process. I have been in several prayer groups, composed of all Charismatics, where we seldom or never sought the LORD's gifts for guidance or for the building up of His kingdom. Groups of believers, to be led by the LORD, need to get out of their comfort zones and make the switch from self-absorption to seeking the LORD.

Fourth, the manifestation of tongues is wonderful, but it's not a big deal. Some Charismatics seem to seek tongues avidly, but not the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. But, St. Paul warns us against this in First Corinthians 12:31. "But earnestly desire the best gifts.  And yet I show you a more excellent way." And then he gives us his great poem on agape love in Chapter 13. And he begins Chapter 14 thus: "Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy." Together, we are to seek the gifts for the building up of Christ's body among us.

Quiet, Gentle Second Baptisms

Fifth, the Holy Spirit does indeed work differently among us. When Charles Finney was converted, he spent the night in the woods weeping. Pentecostals are likely to have strong emotional experiences when they receive tongues. However, with people from liturgical churches, such as Lutherans and Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, for example, the Holy Spirit seems to work quietly and gently. Thank You, Jesus.

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Within a year after receiving my tongue, I met and married Margaret Heine in Milwaukee. That story is a chapter in itself.  But, I'll mention one detail.  On a Monday morning in Milwaukee, I interviewed her for a job opening at our church in Cincinnati, Prince of Peace Lutheran.  We spent the entire day together. Then I left to spend a week's vacation with my parents in Michigan.

I phoned from Charlevoix and asked her for a date the following Tuesday. She agreed. I flew to Milwaukee from Sault St. Marie on Tuesday morning, and then spent the rest of that week with her in Milwaukee. She was living communally with six other women. Speaking of events later, she said, "Jack organized a Charismatic gathering at our house for that Friday evening -- and never asked permission to do it." (I thought I had asked permission.)

Receiving the Holy Spirit at Confirmation

Well, it worked out anyway. That night she asked for the laying on of hands for Holy Spirit baptism. (Actually it had already happened, when she was confirmed.) A month later, she too received her tongue.

We both had a commitment to inner city ministry and were social activists, and we were distressed by the separation of the two Christian worlds in which we lived. Charismatics focused on Jesus. Social activists focused on urban problems and opportunities. And they seldom interconnected.

Margaret and I attended many Charismatic gatherings and teachings. One of the best was by Dennis and Rita Bennet. Dennis had been an Episcopal priest in VanNuys, California. He was one of the first denominational clergy to become Charismatic. After his second baptism, he told about these wonderful experiences from the pulpit, and it split the church. (Other clergy learned to preach more fervently about Jesus – and not about the Holy Spirit. Focusing on Jesus builds the church, and then the gifts follow. That's the example Paul gives us.)

Dennis and Rita spoke at the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Cincinnati. I was fascinated by their teaching: It was soundly based on Scripture and was also matter-of-fact and sensible. They spoke regular American English, not a King James hybrid as some clergy do.

In the question and answer session, I was one of many to raise my hand, without being able to catch Dennis' attention. After the meeting, I met him in the hall and asked my question anyway. As soon as I did, I was sorry. The man was exhausted. He didn't need me pestering him. But, his weariness may have led to the wisdom and brevity of his reply.

My question: "St. Paul tells us that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are to lead us into more agape love, and the entire Bible shows us that we are to have special care for the poor. Yet, I find few Charismatics who are concerned with solving urban problems. Why is that?"

His answer: "Don't sell the Holy Spirit short. Be patient. You'll see things happen."

And I have. Within our churches, it is often the Charismatics who are active in building the body and doing works of love. In Over-the-Rhine, the lively, effective ministries are mostly directed by Charismatic's and Pentecostals. So, praise God. As has been noted before, He knows what He's doing.

[God-incidence: Dennis and Rita Bennet came to Cincinnati from St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Seattle's Ballard community. Dennis has since died, and Rita now heads a ministry in the northern suburb of Edmunds. Since July 1, 2010, I have been living in Ballard -- four blocks from St. Luke's. My Christian service is with Victory Outreach, located on the grounds at St. Luke's. On Sunday mornings, I worship with the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, which meets in the old St. Luke's sanctuary.  On Sunday afternoons and Wednesday mornings, I attend Emmanuel Anglican Church, a charismatic spin-off from St. Luke's.]

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A  PAIR  OF  QUESTIONS

1. What's going on here?  I never heard of any of this stuff before.  And as Martin Luther pointed out, the Devil can fake any of the LORD's gifts.

Short answer: Read through the Book of Acts and underline each mention of the Holy Spirit. Also, read Romans 12 and First Corinthians 12 through 14. Thus, you will see how the LORD works.

Nonsense.  That was back then.  This is now.  The LORD used miracles to get the church started, and then when they were no longer needed, they ceased.

Did they? Then why do we read in Hebrews 14:8? "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Because He is.  But how He relates to us has changed.

You quoted Luther as saying that the Devil can imitate the LORD's gifts. So, today, if someone prays in tongues, do you think that it's likely that the Devil, rather than God may be the source of the tongue?

Certainly.

Then, are you saying that the Devil has power today, but Jesus does not?

__________ 

And so it goes.  The problem is that Christians, worldwide, are separated into three groups:

First, those who don't see miracles happening today and reasonably conclude that miracles didn't happen in Bible times either.

Second, those who believe that the LORD performed miracles throughout Bible times, but He caused them to cease sometime in the first three centuries after Jesus' death.

Third, those who pray for miracles, expect miracles, and see miracles happening all around them.

The related problem is that these three forms of Christianity do not communicate much with each other.

     Group one is dying out swiftly.

     Group two is dying out slowly.

     Group three is expanding greatly.

Each hour, the churches in the Northern Hemisphere loose 3,000 members. But, in that same hour, the churches in the Southern Hemisphere gain 18,000 members. And it's group three that is primarily carrying the mission load in the Southern Hemisphere.

2. You seem hostile to Lutherans, and yet you have been a Lutheran for the 50 years.  Why?

Good question. Yes, I am somewhat hostile to Lutherans, but I am also deeply grateful to my Lutheran brethren. For 50 years, they have nurtured me with Word and Sacrament. They have also frustrated me. How best to explain this? I've been like a person in a house with ceilings so low that I couldn't stand up. However, that house has a marvelous foundation and floor.

Lutheran doctrine – as far as it goes – is extremely sound. Every child should have and should learn Luther's Small Catechism. Lutheran preaching and theology have given me good understanding of Scripture – I can spot ordinary Christian works-righteousness thinking from half a mile away -- but Lutherans have also frustrated me because my personal experiences of Father, Son and Holy Spirit were usually mistrusted and unwelcome. That's why I say that the ceiling was too low for me to stand.

My concerns with Lutherans also apply to most Reformation churches:

Mostly they are not hospitable to experiential Christians.

For the past 44 years – since I received Jesus as my Savior, I have had to walk on eggshells at church as  sort-of an undercover missionary.

Generally, I have had to receive my spiritual nurture elsewhere.

Specifically regarding Lutherans, however –

As Billy Graham has said, "Lutherans are the sleeping giant of American Protestantism." It's true. With few exceptions, Lutherans do not evangelize, they do not proselytize, especially not in the United States. Why not? They believe firmly that we must receive Jesus. We cannot make a decision for Jesus because this would be salvation by works. And how do we receive Jesus? Through Word and Sacrament.

As a practical matter, "Word and Sacrament" means go to church, receive the Sacraments, read the Bible, and pray regularly. Implication: You will then "receive" Jesus. (By osmosis?)

Strangely, this process does work for some Lutherans, who do experience the LORD's presence in their lives. Most, I suspect, do not, but, I do respect them. They trust in Jesus as a matter of will, with no personal experience to buttress their faith.

However, with a theology of "receiving" Jesus, the Lutherans have crippled themselves. They are not significantly taking the Good News to those who do not know Jesus. Lutherans are declining in numbers, not even keeping up with their own birth rates.

So why have you continued as a Lutheran?  Why haven't you joined a full-Gospel congregation?

Another good question. For at least five reasons:

My real allegiance has not been to the Missouri Synod, but rather to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati's #1 poverty community. It's been an amazing congregation, which learned well how to serve the neighborhood. Three examples:

+  We had the Nation's only inner-city Clinical Pastoral Education program.

+  We had a Montessori Nursery School.  (From which my three children benefitted greatly.)

+  We were a source location for the Over-the-Rhine Community Council, the Alcoholic Drop-Inn Center, and Sign of the Cross Housing.

My wife, Margaret Heine Towe, was a Lutheran Deaconess.  We met and married in, with, and through Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. We joyously –- and sometimes contentiously –- shared ministry there. It was a great place for our three children to grow up. They received solid Christian basic training through the confirmation process. They also learned racial egalitarianism and Ebonics.

What Lutheran do, they do well. I'm comfortable with Lutheran worship and have appreciated their Bible studies. When Pastors have been absent, Prince of Peace has given me intensive experience in witnessing, creating liturgy, in preaching, in conducting funerals, in ministering to shut-ins, and in teaching Scripture.

And Prince of Peace Lutheran gave me a wonderful gift:  It taught me my vocation – Playwright.  It started with my working with a clique of women who sat together talking on Wednesday evenings, while their children and teens were in Jesus School. Our Youth Minister challenged me to have the women stage a play at Sunday worship once a month. She thought I was going to find plays for them to do. Instead, I began writing Scripture plays for them.

So, I had good reasons to be a Lutheran for 50 years.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2011 by Jack Towe

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