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..." 

Saturday
May282011

DISCOVERING THE HOLY SPIRIT

Chapter 2 of Jack Towe's Spiritual Autobiography


Witnessing

After my 1966 conversion experience in Oklahoma City, I was eager to share Jesus with others. A friend from church and I began calling on people we knew from our congregation. It was a mistake. When we began talking about personal relationships with Jesus, we met with reactions like:  "I think you're out of line" and "I don't think that's any of your business." Such reactions quickly cooled me off on suburban witnessing.

A few years later, in Over-the-Rhine, my low-income Cincinnati neighborhood, witnessing was different. I'd ask, "Have you ever had a chance to meet Jesus personally?" The answer would be yes or no. If the person said no, my follow-up question was "would you like to meet Him?" The answer could be yes, no, or not now, but the response was respectful. The questions were taken seriously.

Some of us found street witnessing was easy. Several people were eager to meet Jesus. But, this too was frustrating when we realized that we were thus tossing newborn babes in Christ on the street to die. I realized, there has to be a better way, and I'll get to that in later chapters.

Churches

In 1963, I graduated from Harvard Law School and went to work for General Electric. My first assignment was in Schenectady, NY. For my first five months on the job, I didn't have a car, only a bike. The only Lutheran Church within comfortable biking distance was Zion Lutheran, which turned out to be a Missouri Synod congregation. After I joined, I discovered that the Mo Synod did not permit women to vote and was still fighting Darwin. A decade later, I would have resigned in protest over the non-voting status of women. At the time, I regret to say, I only found it quaint and funny.

Later in Cincinnati, when I drafted the constitution for our new congregation, I put in the clause that said all confirmed members could vote -- so not only women, but also teens, were included.

GE transferred me to several cities, in each of which I became a member of the nearest Mo Synod church: Hudson Falls, NY, Oklahoma City, New York City. In each of these congregations I was active in the young adult group and taught Sunday School. I was reading about the Christian walk and was reading the Bible, but didn't have sense enough to get a Christian mentor from any of my churches.

Holy Spirit

After meeting Jesus in 1966, I soon began to hear about the work of the Holy Spirit -- and specifically about tongues. I read They Speak in Other Tongues by Morton Kelsey and Tongues Speaking by John Sherrill, but it was a little like reading science fiction. I didn't know any of these strange people with God's anointing.

My first contact was unexpected, and it happened in Lent, 1967, in New York City. I worked at General Electric headquarters, then at 51st and Lexington in Manhattan. I lived on 82nd Street in Yorkville and attended Immanuel Lutheran Church at 88th and Lexington. It was a congregation almost without spiritual life, just formal worship. We had worship on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. During Lent the pastors in the circuit had set up a round robin. Each preached on a phrase of the Apostles Creed, and they rotated among the churches.  Easy for them -- prepare one sermon and deliver it seven times.

Well, one evening Pastor Erwin Prangue was scheduled to preach on "I Believe in the Holy Spirit." I wasn't expecting anything special, so I was electrified during his sermon when I realized that Pastor Prangue had a lively personal relationship with Jesus. He was speaking about ways in which he had experienced God's love and power in his life. That was a new one for me. I was 33 years old, and I'd never heard a clergyman talk that way before.

So, as soon as worship was over, I hustled downstairs for the coffee hour, but my friend Bud beat me to Pastor Prangue. Bud was blind. He monopolized Pastor Prangue for 25 minutes. They were both hi-fi nuts. ["Hi-fi" -- high-fidelity -- referred to top quality analogue equipment used to play 33 rpm records.] So, Bud and Pastor traded hi-fi info, while I stood by impatiently waiting to talk with Pastor Prangue about God. 

And I suppose the wait was God's loving care for me. If Pastor and I had conversed right away, I might have dismissed some of his comments as spacey musings. But, the 25-minute delay showed me he was certainly in contact with worldly realities.

When we finally spoke, it was obvious to him that I was a seeker without a clue. He commented, "Too bad you couldn't have been with us last night. At our prayer meeting in Long Island City, the Holy Spirit was moving so powerfully that we were in prayer til 2 a.m." Well, that didn't sound like any Lutherans I had heard of before. The only Lutherans I knew felt oppressed if a prayer lasted five minutes.

Does God Hang Out in Rockefeller Center?

He directed me to a meeting that Saturday morning at 8 a.m. in the basement of Schrafts in Rockefeller Center -- some group called the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship, International. (FGBMFI) While 8 a.m. was a serious imposition on my Saturday sleep, I went anyway -- even though it sounded like a weird group in a strange place. Would God hang out in Rockefeller Center?  In Schrafts?

This FGBMFI group surprised me. First, they laughed a lot.  Real laughs, not the embarrassed Protestant titters I had grown up with. Second, I had the feeling that I could walk up to any person in the room and ask, "What has the LORD been doing in your life lately?" -- and could expect real answers.

In any church were I had been a member, asking people what the LORD was doing in their lives would have been rude, bad manners, bad form, an unthinkable breach of propriety.

How Appropriate!

The speaker that morning was the Rev. Jim Brown, a Presbyterian minister from Lancaster Pennsylvania. A somewhat stiff individual, who gave an amusing testimony of how he was, as a pastor, converted from being a disciple of Norman Thomas to being a disciple of Jesus. He told about the time the Lord led him to give an altar call in his staid old Presbyterian church. And nothing happened. Then, a man stood up in the left rear of the church and came up the side aisle. Another man came up the side aisle on the right. When they both arrived front and center in the sanctuary, they shook hands. "How appropriate," thought Rev. Brown.

He also told how the Lancaster Presbyterians had begun to gather in groups for Bible study and prayer. He told how the Holy Spirit had come to them as in Acts 2 and how they began speaking in unknown languages. He told how the Lord had thus brought real change into the congregation and people had begun to witness for Jesus and bring new converts into the church.

I had no idea what was going to happen, but the people at my table knew. They told me, "Just wait." Suddenly Rev. Brown began to hop and exclaim, "Oh, my" and "Thank You, Jesus". This was evidently his normal behavior. As he preached about Jesus, he received a special anointing in the Holy Spirit which led him to do a hip-hop dance, as if he had been given a hotfoot. The audience roared in appreciation.

For me this was entertaining and also showed me a new world in the LORD, where He was the active agent with us as cooperative followers. The Christianity I had been taught was, at best, a religion of will. And except for my conversion -- an event separate from my church life -- the Christianity I knew was devoid of experience of God. And suddenly I was introduced to people at FGBMFI who experienced God whenever they chose. It was a heady morning.

From Schrafts I headed to the New York World's Fair, where I was scheduled to spend the rest of the day with old friends from my congregation in Schenectady, NY. At lunch I babbled with joy about my experiences at the FGBMFI breakfast meeting. I expected this to be totally new for them. Reactions varied, but one was strongly negative. "Tongues! My grandma is nutty, and she speaks in tongues all the time. We keep her locked in her room on the second floor."

Driving to Idlewild

Well, after that, I became a seeker of experiences in the Holy Spirit. In December '67, I took a memorable drive on the Merrit Parkway with Keith McLaughlin, an old friend from Schenectady. He was driving me to an Idlewild flight (now JFK), and during the course of the drive, he asked me if I wanted to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. I said yes. He rested his hand on my shoulder and prayed for me to receive the Holy Spirit. What happened is reported in Chapter III, "Healing Archie".

Also, in December, 1967, I was hired at the Evendale General Electric aircraft engine plant, just north of Cincinnati. And in 1968, I became active with the Cincinnati FGBMFI. I began to receive teachings -- and to do much reading -- about being baptized in the Holy Spirit and about the signs and wonders which are to accompany believers.

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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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