One of the interesting dynamics at the School of Supernatural Ministry at Pihop that I am involved in is that it is the combination of two separate movements of the Holy Spirit. On one hand there is Bethel and on the other hand there is the House of Prayer movement. Both have great insights to offer and areas of weakness. Before the school started the leadership candidly admitted that they were not going to agree on every issue. Sometimes there are teachings that are actually contradictory or an alternative understanding to what was previously taught.
In reference to the differences between both movements Lou Engle once brought up Matthew 11:17 which says, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’” Bethel, he explained is the flute. Marked by happiness, joy, healing, ecstasy, and manifestations of the Holy Spirit Bethel, and the movement of the Holy Spirit it is part of, is definitely marked by a lot of joy, happiness and celebration. The House of Prayer movement, Engle explained, is the dirge. Marked by fasting, time spent in the alone in the prayer closet, intercession, mourning and hastening the day of the Lord, it certainly contains a lot more somber elements of faith and life. Engle closed by saying it best: “We need both.”
I could not agree more.
Far too often I fear Christianity falls into a trap of forgetting one aspect of faith or overly focusing on another. This usually creates an unbalanced faith. The push and pull of the two streams at the School of Supernatural Ministry at Pihop keep all sides of our faith in tension. And the older I get, the more I realize how much of our faith and life is lived in a tension.
What I mean is this. I have seen a lot of these tensions as I have lived life. For example, while I have seen people healed of things in front of my very eyes I still wake up in pain for arthritis. God is the best father in the whole world, yet He clearly does not intervene in certain circumstances to protect those He loves from horrendous evil or calamity that has (or at least appears to have) absolutely no redemptive value. This tension is also in scripture. God closed the mouth of the lions to protect Daniel but apparently was okay letting lions eat Christians that were thrown into the Coleseum for sport. John the Baptist (and many others) were in love with God and served Him with everything, yet they were beheaded, burned to death, or went through years of misfortune, even as people who hated God prospered. The New Testament is rife with people becoming free, getting healed and falling in love with God but also with people being crushed, persecuted, abused, mistreated, imprisoned and martyred.
A faith that I want to cultivate, a faith that I think is healthy, is one that can successfully integrate all of these experiences. It has the wisdom to know what is evil and what is discipline. It has the wisdom to know what is of the Devil and what is of God. It sees all aspects and extremes of human life as in their own way legitimate. It is a faith where we can mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.
One of our most recent speakers, Jake Hamilton, gave a powerful teaching recently. While I do not agree with everything he said, I was deeply moved by his words and I believe he truly captured this tension in his words. I wanted to share it with you all so I’ve provided it here on my blog. I encourage everyone to listen to it, especially those from Pentecostal/Charismatic backgrounds. I also wanted to comment on just three things that I thought were most important form his message.
First, when Jake said, “Everyone wants to be resurrected, but no one wants to die” I could not agree more as this reflects the attitudes of many Christians (including myself), especially Charismatic and Pentecostal ones.
One of the main reasons I stayed away from Charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity and one of my critiques of it as I continue to engage with it more is that often it can devolve into a preoccupation with celebration, victory and power. The focus in that culture is on having a good story of victory, a narrative of ascents where things just keep getting better and better for you, and stories of praise. While these are good things and the joy of the Lord is a good thing and celebrating what God supernaturally does is a good thing, the problem is that life is not always like this and this is not always how the spiritual realm works.
Type approach to life can encourage people to wear superficial masks of happiness lest they be seen as not spiritual enough or not trusting the Lord enough. People caught up in this often offer those going through mourning or hardship simple solutions or easy answers so that they can get back to rejoicing faster. They rejoice with those who rejoice and try to make those who mourn rejoice as well. While their hearts might be good, their head is in the wrong place. Lamenting suffering and injustice and mourning loss has a place in life and faith.
The way of following Jesus is the way of the cross, not the way to super-stardom and victory. Many times we are promised hardship and trials that will purify us and prepare us. People who want the power, glory and victory of God must be willing to go through the many deaths that bring about the ability and wisdom to use such gifts, power and authority wisely, lest one hurt oneself or other people. If you want stories of power and victory you must also accept to road to such things which is fraught with brokenness, defeat and an increased awareness of your own weaknesses.
Second, I really appreciated what Jake had to say regarding having a relationship with Jesus and I think his comparison of a relationship with God to a marriage was spot on.
Jake suggested that some people commit to following Jesus without ever having met him. They get into their relationship through what other people said about Jesus and through what is said about Him in the Bible. This would make no sense in a human marriage, so why does it make sense to us when we think about our relationship with God? I think this is a huge reason why many people who once profess Christ simply fall away.
Jake suggested that our relationship with God, again, like a marriage, involves far more than a one time commitment (of the wedding ceremony or baptism/confession of Jesus as savior/Lord) but both involve daily intentional choices and dying to self. I would push this even further by asking a question. How many of our friendships, marriages or other relationship would be sustained on the amount of time we intentionally spend with God? The amount of time I intentionally spend seeking to know God more and know God deeper is increasing, but in the past it has been incredibly abysmal, even when I was doing ministry full-time. I was working for a God I never knew.
Third, I appreciated Jake’s teaching on how God can use hardship and trials to prepare us and mature us.
In some of my psychology classes I have learned that over-protective parents often stunt the development of their children. While children should be protected from obvious harm, parents who swoop in and constantly solve their children’s problems enable their children to persevere in immaturity. Learning how to deal with challenges, obstacles, frustration and set-backs is a natural part of life that develops people’s characters. Where a child has all their problems solved, they do not grow up.
Healthy fathers and mothers get this and if God is the best Dad in the whole world, clearly He gets this as well. Think about it. If God supernaturally solved every difficulty or issue you faced, life would be on easy mode and we would probably have an incredibly spoiled and entitled mentality. This is not exactly in line with a Christ like character. This is not the kind of attitude that will submit to God’s will, even when that means hardship. This type of mentality will not handle leadership, authority, incredible power and responsibility well. We would be, as Hamilton put it, six year olds with guns. A lot of us would probably be, like James and John, asking if we can light entire towns of fire with judgment from heaven.
That is why I do believe God does discipline us through hardships, adverse situations, difficulties and frustrations. I believe God redeems some such situations but also intentionally causes others, where He does not come in and rescue us from our troubles. If God did not, why then does our Bible talk about God disciplining us and why does the Bible tell us to rejoice in our suffering because of what it will produce in us? Now there are many evils I do not think God caused to “teach us a lesson” but I would agree with Hamilton that we need to stop rebuking, avoiding, casting out, or refusing every hardship or difficulty that comes our way and assume it is from the enemy. We might be pushing away the very thing that we need to go through to refine our character, grow as followers of Jesus, and develop attitudes and beliefs so that when blessings and power come, they do not destroy us and we do not use them to destroy other people.