Friday, November 03, 2006

Okay, so it appears that I have been slacking, but I have been reading - just not taking the time to write. I am reading a great book right now. It is "The Charismatic Century" by Jack Hayford. The book has wet my appetite to learn more about the movement of the Holy Spirit from the Apostolic Age until now. That will have to be my next research project.

I have noticed a number of things in my reading so far.

1) The Holy Spirit was busting out all over around the turn of the twentieth century (1900s). Many holiness movements began at that time. Azusa is known as being part of the creation of Pentecostalism, but so much more was happening in the world at the time.

2) Most of the groups sprouting at that time had very similar theology and goals. They argued over retoric. It is quite sad, actually. God did amazing things through these people, even though they chose to segregate themselves. Imagine what might have happened if they had set aside their small differences and worked together. I am sure that the differences didn't seem small at the time, but I see them as small.

3) The biggest controversy was speaking in tongues. Amazing what this one gift has done throughout the ages. Personally I think the people discovering tongues put too much enphasis on it. They assumed that you were not filled with the Holy Spirit if you did not speak in tongues and that if you did, you could go off to the Mission Field and be understood by the people there. I am afraid many were disappointed. The groups running from tongues were just as bad - judging as sinful and even demonic by some those who did speak in tongues. A bit extreme.

4) Many leaders during that time fell into sin, pride and/or insanity. My first instinct is to shame-shame them, until I realize that most people God used in scripture fell to those things at one point or another. Guess we are still a fallen humanity in need of a merciful savior.

5) Searching to be filled with the Holy Spirit - whatever that meant to each individual group - and spending time in prayer characterised not only Azusa, but many movements during this time. They kept Christ at the center and had a strong missionary focus. I would say those are some pretty significant things to have in common.

6) So much emphasis on those being the last days. I have mixed feelings on that. Even today those who run in "prophetic" circles openly proclaim that we are in the last days and the the return of Christ is coming soon. Okay, I will buy that. We are at least 2,000 years closer than those who received Jesus's original message. But I think soon is relative. More importantly, I think we need to introduce people to our Jesus because they need him to live a full life and, second coming or no, to walk into eternity with God. I think that is an important focus. As long as it does not drive us to ignore our responsibility as caretakers of the earth and one another.

Okay, those are my thoughts. I will read more and write more - eventually. :-)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Hmmm. It seems part of the controversy around the Azusa Street Outpouring stems from the number of "works of the Spirit" there are. Is it only salvation? Is it two works of Salvation and Sanctification? Is it three works of Salvation, Sanctification and Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

I used to believe strongly that there were two works. Salvation and Sanctification. I remember one of my college professors saying that Salvation is where God gives you all of Himself and eternity in Heaven and Sanctification is where you give God all of yourself and then He is able to work through you in power. Silly me always thought that being filled with the Spirit was part of Sanctification. Once you let God flush you out, He is more free to work in you in power.

In some ways I still believe along those lines, but more and more I am starting to think that there are probably infinate "works of the Spirit." I still think that the two steps of choosing to follow Jesus and then making the decision to trust Him with your life are key. I just think that it takes a lot of God working through us throughout our lives to allow that to happen.

Some say that we should not build our theology around our experience, but sometimes I do. And I have found that even after having made the decison to trust God to run my life, I still sometimes react in fear. There have been many times God has reminded me to, once again, "Stay in Jerusalem" until the Holy Spirit falls fresh. I can't always depend on yesterday's filling to take me through today with power.
A point of concern for me.

It seems that in the book of Acts, as well as in many great movements of the Holy Spirit (including the Azusa Street Outpouring) people gathered together daily for prayer. A lot. In order to see great outpourings of the Spirit, do we need to be gathering together to pray and minister to one another daily? How does that work in today's world? What would it look like? Is it possible? Why does it seem to be such an important link? Any thoughts?
I imagine that the harsh criticism of this movement will be something I process continually throughout my study. I have only read a handful of critical essays so far, but the thing that bothers me about them is that they seem so full of legalism and bitterness. A shortsightedness that seems to indicate that if a movement disagrees with yours in any way then it must be from the Devil. Interesting thought, I suppose, but one that has annoyed me from as far back as I can remember.

I can not claim to have the understanding or knowledge to forcefully state what God is or is not capable of doing. And while there are many out there smarter than I ( a lot smarter!) I would venture to say that they, too are limited in this type of certain knowledge. In the writings belonging to these critics I find a lot of judgment - statements claiming that the Azusa outpouring must be of the Devil because of the type of people it attracted. Surely a Holy God would not fill such an unholy people with His presence.

Uh-oh. I think we are stepping on the very toes of Jesus, himself, when we make statements like that. In fact, they sound just a little too much like the accusations thrown at Jesus while He was here on earth. It seems that He spent an unusual amount of time rubbing elbows with the socially unacceptable and worse. Not only did He not try to hide the fact that He spent time with these people, but He often used their faith as an example to the religious leaders. Ouch!

I haven't done enough research to fully make my own opinions on all that happened at Azusa, but if they were attracting losers, addicts and sinners I tend to think they might have been on the right track.

It made me sad to read the critical writings of great church leaders in regard to the Azusa Street outpourings. It reminded me that we, as humans, are often too quick to discredit things that God may be doing because we don't agree with the theology behind it. Coming from a former Religion student, that may sound strange, maybe inconsistent, but I don't think it is. I believe theology is important. We each need to know what we believe about God. We need to know why we believe it and be able to defend it, own it. However, I also believe that we must be humble enough to understand two (2) things.

1) We are not God, nor are we - at this time - infinite. We are limited, finite creatures waiting for the eternal. While I know what I believe, I also understand that I could be wrong. I know, highly unlikely! hehe

2) God's grace goes beyond what we know or understand. Just because our theology may be off in a few areas, doesn't mean that God will not bless us as we strive to fulfill the great commission. Chances are, none of us have the "right" theology yet God has chosen to use us anyway. I personally do not believe that you have to speak in tongues to be filled with the Holy Spirit and work for His Kingdom in power, but I recognize that God still works powerfully in those who do believe that way - especially if they are seeking God's Kingdom first and foremost.

I am also learning that while God does not have to wait for people to be sold out to Him to work through them. It certainly helps to choose to open our lives to God's cleansing and power, but occasionally He steps in with His infinite, uncontainable self and works through people anyway. I don't know why. Maybe he knows the depths of our hearts and can see that a person desires to make steps toward God but doesn't feel that they can? Maybe He just wants to show them how much He loves them even while they are covered in "sin-mud."

Okay, this one wasn't short. But let me know what you think.
I have decided to do some research/study on the events at the Azusa Street Mission in the early 1900s. I have done some reading online at and am currently reading a couple of books on the same subject. I have read some of the testimonies of the time as well as letters of criticism. It is interesting to try and discern what was truly happening when looking at such diverse opinions on the matter. I wanted to have a place where I could "discuss" items that interested - or bothered - me during my research. Most of my posts will be on the short side (comparitively), but I image there will be many of them. Please take the time to add any comments or thoughts you might have. I promise that, if I get offended I will get over it. Or as my mom says, I will, "get glad in the same shoes I got mad in." :-)