A Very Pentecostal Christmas


The danger of experiencing Christmas year after year is it becomes “normal.” We begin to feel like the Christmas story is more like another Hallmark channel movie with a predictable happy ending. Nothing against Hallmark movies, my wife is a big fan, but the story of Jesus’ birth is closer to a nuclear explosion sent from heaven with the after shocks still being felt today.

One way that we see this is, even though it is hiding in plain sight, is to look at the gospel of Luke. We are helped past our familiarity with the story by looking at it through the lens of the wonderful foreshadowing that he is doing in setting up his second volume Acts. The lives of the people in the next book will experience a paradigm shattering experience of life in the Spirit and Luke is setting the stage right out of the gate here in his first book. Here are some of the lessons from the Christmas story

The bringing of the Spirit and the prophetic

In the Old Testament the operation of the gifts was with special people and for the moment but now things are changing. Zechariah is prophesying and Mary is singing with outbursts of praise. Mary, Elizabeth and even John the Baptist in his mother’s womb is filled with the Spirit. As Bob Dylan would sing The Times They Are A Changin. We better hold on cause it is just getting started.

There is an eruption of the miraculous

We have probably been to too many Christmas programs where little boys and girls get to play the part of angels. When the people in the Christmas story saw angels they freaked out a little. The shepherds in the field saw one angel and were terrified we can only imagine what they felt when they saw a multitude of them. But in the Bible story of Christmas the miraculous seems to be everywhere with angels and dreams and stars of direction in the sky. Are we ready to get in on the story of Christmas today?

The unexpected get to be involved

My home church pastor made a good point this week when he pointed out that outsiders get invited into the story of Christmas. If Mary was a teenage mom and Elizabeth was a senior citizen they would have made an unusual pair. Shepherds with no names get a personal invitation to the story. And the birth of Jesus story reminds us that even foreigners get involved with wise men from another land getting to be a part. Jesus even gets to experience life as an immigrant in the story of the Bible. No nice neat bows on the end here. Pentecostals have traditionally been for the down and out person and the outsider and it starts with Christmas.

Prayer is shown as the engine that keeps the story going

When Luke starts his story and Zechariah goes in to be with God, Luke makes the point that, “the whole multitude of the people were praying outside.” (1:10) This will be a lesson he goes back to again and again through his two books. When the people give themselves to prayer God shows up. Prayer is what drives us into the mission of God. The prayer of God’s people is sprinkled in right from the beginning.

The heart pounding fact about Christmas is it was a starting point for a way for us to interact with God. He will take ordinary, fragile and broken people and use them as they are filled with the Spirit. Will you be one of them?

(BTW-For a scholarly look at the connection of the Spirit in the book of Luke I recommend Roger Stronstad’s book The Charismatic Theology of St Luke)

Give yourself a break – Amazing Grace


The other day my daughter was working on a Rubik’s Cube. She wanted to know if I could help. I told her that I had solved it years ago when I had put solving the Rubik’s Cube on my “bucket list.” It was after solving it by watching some YouTube videos that I wrote my first blog on a site that I could not even find when looking for it today.

It makes me wonder how things would have been different if I had given up when I was making mistakes in solving it or when I struggle with writing a post. That takes us to one of my favorite books that I have read in the last couple years: The Making of an Ordinary Saint by Nathan Foster. Nathan is the son of author Richard Foster and one of my favorite quotes from that book is, “Yet grace understands my humanness. Grace gives me space to keep going, appreciate the process and accept what I lack.”

I love this. And this “grace that understands my humanness” goes past things like Rubik’s Cubes and blog post to every part of our journey to follow Jesus. God’s grace is with us as we mess up in our attempts to live the complete life that God has for us.

I need to remind myself that, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) This is not just encouragement for those who have just begun to follow Jesus, but those who are trying to grow many years into the journey. God’s grace is bigger than our imperfect attempts to follow Him.

This is not to say we give up trying and just resign ourselves to the lowest common denominator. Dietrich Bonhoeffer warns of that thought in his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship, when he warns again “cheap grace.” It is actually exactly the opposite. When we understand that will always be a work in progress and God’s grace understands that, we respond by getting back up again.

If you like fancy words this is what theologians call, “Progressive Sanctification.” They mean that when you first start following Jesus you still have sin patterns in your life that you will work on and continue to work on for the rest of your life. So be kind to yourself and continue to grow in your love and faith in following Jesus. At some point the struggle will be over when you are with Him forever. It is like what is written on Billy Graham’s wife Ruth’s tombstone: “End of construction-thank you for your patience.” 


*If you buy either of the books mentioned using the link a portion of the profits will go to help the ministry. If you prefer not you can simply search for either of those at your favorite book place. Either way I recommend both of them.

My Spanish journey


About a year and a half ago I made a commitment to learning Spanish. (See the reasons here.) Knowing that in this case I was going to need to take the slow approach and fit it in my schedule I added working with the app Duolingo to my daily schedule.

The way that Duolingo works is you learn new words and slowly move up a tree. A couple days ago I made it to the top of the tree. See picture below.


I don’t tell you that to brag because as you can see even by their standards I am only just over 50%. I went a couple weeks ago to the Spanish service at my home church and I am well aware that I still have a long way to go. And I am still committed to putting in the work.

Which is why I am writing this. I made the commitment over a year and a half ago and then it becomes a day after day activity. Sometimes it seems like a long time and I don’t feel like I am making much progress.

It reminds me of the verse- Romans 12:1- “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” There is an old saying that goes, “The problem with living sacrifices is that they keep getting off the altar.”

There is a challenge of things that God calls us to do that takes time. It is temping when it feels like a long time to want to get off the altar. Chris Guillebeau, in his book the Happiness of Pursuit was talking about dying for something. He said, “…living for something can be mundane- and therefore far more sacrificial, because seldom does anyone notice.” I am not saying anything against martyrs because they have an important place in church history but I get what he was saying.

I am guessing this is part of why Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Certain things are a daily choice to die to ourselves to walk in obedience to Jesus.

Let me suggest three things when you get in the “long” season of whatever God has told you to do:

Reconnect to your why: Why are you doing what you are doing? Maybe it is simply because God has told you. But stepping behind that you will find powerful motivation. Leonard Ravenhill’s tombstone reads: Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for? Or as I learned when I visited the site of the Moravian revival one of their slogans was, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”

Find encouragement from a fellow traveler. -For me the last few months I have found motivation by finding another person working on the same Spanish app as I am working. I am also encouraged to work out at the gym because I am in a contest with my brother-in-law. Competition or not a friend can give you strength in your journey of obedience to God.

Celebrate the progress you do make. Even though I still have a long way to go on my Spanish journey the fact that I am to the top of the Duolingo tree is motivation to keep going. I am guessing that Noah would have been motivated when half of the ark was finally built.

I hope this helps you stay the course. For me it is back to learning Spanish.