Archive for December, 2010

We got stuck on the roads, shoveled ’till our backs ached, and didn’t get to work. But getting buried in snow is almost always a good time!

I shoveled, they threw it back onto the driveway, I shoveled it again...

Notice that I’m leaning on the mailbox. The next day the mailbox was completely buried. After shoveling it out the snowbank stood 7 feet high!


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We charismatics love Acts 1:8.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

Specifically, we love the “power” that is promised here. If you’ve never heard a sermon on this text pointing out the fact that the Greek word for “power” used here is “dunamis” (which is where we get the word “dynamite”), then you can hardly call yourself a card carrying charismatic. This “dunamis” is the source of all things shock and awe in the Christian life; the heavenly voltage of the indwelling Holy Spirit that makes possible the working of miracles, godly living, and “the greater works than these” that Jesus promised His followers would do in His name.

Unfortunately, most of us look at the promise of this passage and others like it, then look around at our churches, fellow believers, and selves,  and say: “where’s the dunamis”?! Somehow there is a disconnect between the expectation of scripture and the common Christian experience (at least in the western Christian experience with which I am familiar).

The most common explanation I’ve heard for this is something along the lines of “we have no desperation”. We lack for nothing in our abundance of western riches and therefore live as though we have no need of God. As a result, we rarely turn to Him for healing, provision, and deliverance. We have multiple other options and sources of provision we turn to before we ever think of looking to God to meet our needs. We don’t cry out in desperation as our brothers and sisters, for example, in third world countries who have no other options do. Therefore, they see God move among them in ways we do not commonly experience. They know what it is to be desperate, pray with fervency, and believe in faith for God to “show up”, and He does.

I believe this is true, partially. However, I’m not sure it represents the full picture. I say this because Jesus said a couple of things that, I believe, give us a greater understanding of the nature of our problem. Jesus said this:

“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (mammon).” Luke 16:13

At first glance you may not see the connection here, but when you dissect the language of the passage it becomes clear. I’m no Greek professor (and neither, likely, are you) but thanks be to God that guys like Ben Witherington and Greg Boyd are, so we can rely on them for some help (see Greg Boyd – “Exorcism”, and Ben Witherington III – “Jesus and Money”).

What Jesus says in Luke 14 is not an ultimatum that we need to literally abandon all we materially possess to be his disciples (although if He does tell you that, so be it!). What Jesus (literally) says in the text is: “anyone of you who does not ‘appotaso pas hyparcho ou dunamai’ my disciple”.

You may have noticed the word “dunamai” in there (it is a verb form of “dunamis”). Here’s what the words mean:

(appostaso) = bid farewell, send away, surrender, renounce

(pas) = all

(hyparcho) = possess, own – The literal connotation is that you “’come under’, to begin something new”. You hold something up, support it.

(ou) = not

(dunamai) =power, ability, strength (verb form of “dunamis”, power)

The lynch-pin word in the phrase for this discussion is “hyparcho”. When applied in the context of possessions it means we “come under, support, and begin something new” with that possession. Namely, we create something new by conferring ownership on it; it becomes “mine”. “My” house, “my” money, “my” kids, “my” life. What Jesus is saying here is that we cannot lay claim to ownership of anything at all. The minute we do, the reality is that we will not have the “dunamis” to be his disciple. Furthermore, Jesus uses the present active participle so we understand that this is an “ongoing relationship” we have with our possessions.

Jesus goes on to say in chapter 16:

“No one can (dunamai) serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot (dunamai) serve God and money (mammon).” Luke 16:13

Jesus uses the unusual word “mammon” (refers to demonic power) for money. Taken together these words of Jesus inform us that possessions are not neutral, but that there is a spiritual power behind them. The more we give ourselves to ownership (“mine-ing”) of possessions, the more we are given to evil spiritual principalities, and the less power we have to follow Him. Our possessions now own us, we do not own them as we would like to believe. Jesus simply states a reality: we do not have the power available to serve both him and our possessions. We will worship one or the other.

The conclusion of the matter is not hard to perceive. We live in a culture idolatrously engulfed with passion for material possessions where the majority of our time, thought, and energy is spent on the earning, acquiring, maintenance, and consumption of those things, and given over to the powers behind them. Meanwhile, we see that the church in that same culture is lacking in the display of the miraculous. It doesn’t take an advanced degree to put “two and two together”.

Where’s the Dunamis? Sucked up by what’s parked in our garages, stashed in our banks, stowed in our backpacks, sitting at our dinner tables, or plugged into our walls.

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