Taking the Word to the World

ACTS

A little over one hundred years have passed. Here is what the Christian world is saying today:

According to Christianity Today, twenty-five percent of the world’s Christians are Pentecostal or charismatic with a world growth rate of about 19,000,000 per year. 

C. Peter Wagner in his book Prayer Shield, stated, “The most massive growth of churches is found in Pentecostal/ Charismatic traditions.”

Estimates show that there are between 400 and 600 million Pentecostals worldwide—a half billion or more—not bad for a group that found its humble beginnings in a Bible school classroom.

Philip Jenkins anticipates that by 2050 there will be one billion Pentecostals/Charismatic in the world.

Mark Noll said the 21st century will belong to the Pentecostals not only in religion but in all other areas of life as well.

Global Pentecostalism is “the new face of global Christian missions.” Surely, this is ample reason to trace our roots and perform exegetical and hermeneutical analysis to ensure we are on the right track and stay there.

Lloyd Oglivie states my every-day quest, and maybe yours as well: “The greatest longing in the church today, stated both directly and indirectly, is the quest for something more than dull religion. People are in need of the intimacy, inspiration and impelling power of the Holy Spirit…It is impossible to live the Christian life without the indwelling Spirit. Courageous discipleship in the crisis of society cannot be accomplished without the guidance and enabling energy of supernatural power. The church today, like the disciples in the Upper Room, is waiting on the edge of a miracle (1983, 55-56).

Acts: Their Story. The Past

At the turn of the 20th century, a Bible school teacher stood in his classroom to give an assignment. Perhaps the students moaned and whispered, “Another assignment!” He reported, “I set the students at work studying out diligently what was the Bible evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost that we might go before the world with something that was indisputable because it tallied absolutely with the Word.”

ACTS

Charles Parham left school for three days. He returned the morning of December 31, 1900 to collect the assignments. He wrote, “To my astonishment they all had the same story, that while there were different things occurring when the Pentecostal blessing fell, that the indisputable proof on each occasion was, that they spoke with other tongues.”

The first day of the twentieth century marked the birth of the modern Pentecostal movement. Agnes Ozman received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. A few days later, Charles Parham, his wife, and twelve of his students received their personal Pentecost. They started out studying Acts, but ended up living it. The doctrine of the first church was restored as a step was made toward the Book of Acts.

Throughout the last century, the Pentecostal movement has exploded. Never has a group grown more rapidly than the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. As we wade ankle-deep into the twenty-first century, God’s army continues to sweep across the globe undaunted by worldliness and modernistic thinking, still burning with the fire ignited at Pentecost. I applaud the Pentecostal movement of the past and look forward to greater things from God and His church.

Nona Freeman once said, “The Word of God is a time-proven irrefutable fact. Whatever God has done through the ages, He can do it again, and more, much more, than our finite minds can comprehend.”

Today’s church has seen multiplied, tens of thousands receive the Holy Spirit in a single service. I have stood on overseas platforms and looked out over a sea of people with hands stretched forth to God. The floodgates of revival have opened, and a great end-time harvest is being reaped. The river of revival is flowing throughout our world. No one can stop it. Our only choice is to flow with the current or against it. The church of God is a mighty, moving army. We can sit still or get up and march in beat with the church.

Acts is not only a book of the past, but I am convinced it is God’s Training Manual for Today’s Church. The contents of Acts will motivate believers to evangelize, receive understanding of the apostles’ doctrine, and to share it with others with supernatural power. It provides further truth for any serious seeker.

I genuinely, undeniably, indescribably love the Book of Acts. Surprising since I do not enjoy history! Arnold Cook probably had me in mind when he advised, “Those who live in the past are blind in one eye. Those who never consult the past are blind in both eyes.” I am an enjoy-the-present, don’t-mess-me-up-with-reality, let-me-help-make-a-better-future kind of guy. I find it ironic that the Book of Acts, the history of the first century church, is my favorite New Testament book. I am fascinated with its twenty-eight chapters that provide thirty-three years of history. I find myself striving to walk as the early church walked—in the power of the Spirit. I struggle to preach with boldness and desire to see God at work in my ministry. Yet, I am convinced that Acts’ then and there, in the first century, has much to say to the here and now, twenty-first century church.

ACTS

Acts compels me to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. I cannot get away from its message. It calls me to be an effective Christian witness, to walk in holiness, looking for the Lord’s soon return, and desiring to turn the world upside down with truth that changes lives.

I want to be victorious, to overcome obstacles, and run the race that is set before me. Like the men and women in the early church, I will not retreat into compromise or be lulled to sleep by a world calling me into tolerance. I will not conform to this world but seek to be transformed into the image of God.

I must admit, I come short of my expectations and occasionally fall flat on my face. Acts encourages me to get up, brush myself off, and try again. The ninety-five people introduced in Acts encourage me to press on. They provide role models of what I ought to, and can, be. Sixty-two of my friends are never mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. The twenty-four missionary messages of Acts correct me, convince me, convict me, challenge me, and change me. Collectively, they teach me that God has a team consumed with a passion for reaching the world. Individually, they caution me not to be afraid of standing alone and that I can make a difference. Acts has spoken hundreds of lessons to my soul, and I have felt the tug of the Spirit to write so that others may learn.

I will consult the past, but will skip living in it, choosing to face the challenges and opportunities God has given us today. As much as I love Acts, I really would not want to exchange places with Stephen, or be let down in a basket like Paul, or even knocked down on the road to Damascus. I prefer to write lessons from my corner at home, instead of a prison cell, or nestled in the belly of a ship destined for shipwreck. I will skip walking miles delivering a letter to the new Christians, and stick with the convenience of sending e-mail. I will pass when it comes to messy, time-consuming inkwells and stick with the modern convenience of my trusty laptop.

I will learn from history (even if I do not like the subject), but I am thrilled to live in the finest hour ever. We cannot live in yesteryear and have no promise of tomorrow. God continues to move all over our world, and miracles are happening that cast a shadow on the events of Acts.

Sensing God’s Direction

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Here’s what I’ve noticed some people saying about the book Sensing God’s Direction recently:

Kennadie Graves, Next Steps 2014

Finally had a chance to sit down and read this book and it is incredible! I highly recommend it to anyone!

Brianna Wolterman, AYC Ghana

That book changed my life! It’s the reason I went on the AYC missions’ trip to Ghana!

Amber Leigh Thompson

Sensing God’s Direction is quickly becoming one of my favorite books. I’m only a few pages in and I don’t want to put it down.

Brianna Rachelle, AYC Ghana:

I got to meet the man who wrote Sensing God’s Direction that rocked my life. The book that I sobbed over as God confirmed and told me I was going to Africa.

Mike Long, AIM France:

Sensing God’s Direction is an incredible little booklet written by Rev. James Poitras (Director of Education and AIM, UPCI) with collaboration from Rev. Bruce Howell (Global Missions Director, UPCI).  With over 80 pages, SGD will detail some of the things that you can do to foster a sensitivity to the quiet voice of the Lord, leading you into the center of his will (cultivating a love for souls, embracing solitude, being open to both surrender and sacrifice, and so forth).  Over and above the incredibly practical content provided by Rev. Poitras, various stories and anecdotes from contributors such as Rev. Howell and Melinda Poitras (MK – missionary kid – from Ghana, West Africa) bring context to the content. While SGD is written by United Pentecostal ministers and can be purchased through the Pentecostal Publishing House. The content is not limited to the Pentecostal experience. The principles are broad enough yet practical enough that people from any Christian background would find it a beneficial read… and I highly recommend it!

Author’s Note:

I am humbled and honored with the comments made about Sensing God’s Direction and pray that many will find their direction through reading the book and following God’s will. His plan is not at the end of the proverbial rainbow but is finding and doing the next right step. I trust Sensing God’s Direction will help you along the journey.

Order the book today from pentecostalpublishing.com.

Kenna Graves:

After being up for thirty-seven hours straight and then getting between twelve to thirteen hours of sleep, I made my way to the kitchen and opened up the screen door. It was empty and quiet and it hit me all over again. My family is no longer here. That’s what you all became to me. You were like my sisters. It was an honor to travel this beautiful country and experience this culture along with some of the most amazing, strong, and hardworking people I know. You’re all part of the reasons Next Steps 2014 was life changing and forever remembered.

Courtney Boyd:

- Sitting in my favorite chair.
– Cuddling with my favorite blanket.
– Drinking from my favorite mug.

I used to cherish the things above, which are on “My Favorite Things” list. And even though these things still warm my heart, they don’t make me feel at home. My heart just isn’t the same after leaving Africa. Looking back, most of those things were simply material. Now my favorite things are not material, rather the little things and moments that helped mold my life.

- I miss sitting under the Africa sky being completely overwhelmed by how beautiful the moon was, and how it was as if I could reach out and pluck it from the galaxy’s abyss.
– I miss cuddling (nugging) with my girls in the “safe space.”
– I miss drinking from my favorite coconuts that I’d freeze beforehand.

Brandi Young:

How weird it was waking up to a cold, quiet house this morning. No sounds of kids laughing through the village, no woman yelling and selling bread, no sound of motorbikes or trucks passing by. Those sounds drove me crazy at 5am in Africa and I never thought I would miss them! But man, waking up to silence; that was hard. Saw the pic my best friend painted me this morning and lost it because it is so, so true.

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If it’s true “home is where the heart is” I have a feeling there is a group of young people today with bodies in one continent and hearts at home in another.

A Guest Post by Brier Scott

The dream began at fourteen years of age when I started to feel the burden for missions tugging at my heart. I remember receiving an AYC flyer and wanting to go so bad on a missions trip, but I was two years too young at the time. I still remember how hard it was for me to wait those two years until I could apply. After what seemed like an eternity, I turned sixteen and was finally old enough. I was technically still too young to go on an international trip since the age restriction was seventeen or up. But, I was determined to go overseas so I went ahead and applied for an international trip anyway. I thought “it’s worth a shot.” I am so glad I did because I indeed was accepted to go to on the AYC Switzerland/Lichtenstein trip.

I applied for this trip with no money saved, no source of income, but with great faith! I just knew God would provide somehow. And He did. I sent out letters, I sang with my guitar at Pikes Place market (in Seattle), and began to make connections with different people through my fundraising efforts. All these things provided some income, but not nearly enough for the amount I needed to raise.  I had never had a job before, but I knew in reality I would need to get one. While I trusted God to provide, I knew I would need to do everything I could to raise the funds for my trip.  So, after applying for a few jobs, it was only about two or three weeks until I got a call back for an interview. I went in for the meeting and started working at Taco Time NW three days later. With that job I was able to raise most all the funds I needed. It was a sacrifice and stressful at times since I worked full-time while trying to stay caught up with full-time online high school and having to miss out on many church-related events. But, I knew that job was a God-given opportunity for me so I was thankful for it nonetheless.

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However in the midst of God’s blessings and provision, things weren’t always easy. Working at this job was difficult because I was constantly surrounded by poor, worldly influences that began to wear at me. During that time I learned that even though I was taking these God-given opportunities so I could do His work it didn’t exempt me from having to experience trials and trying times. Yes, God provided, but it was up to me to continue to do my best to live righteously and according to His word.

So I went to Switzerland and got to experience the mission field there and I was hooked. I was already anticipating applying for my second trip because I felt the burden so strongly. I think I would have applied for Next Steps if I would have known about it since I felt a burden so heavily for missions, But, then I wouldn’t have had the wonderful opportunity to experience all that I did while in El Salvador. I am so thankful I did.

I had quit my job upon the return from my first mission’s trip so I once again had no money saved, no source of income, but great faith when I applied for my second trip to El Salvador.

Since this trip was not as costly as my first, I raised the majority of my funds through letters and other fundraising methods. But I still didn’t have enough for my third payment. So I did what any reasonable seventeen year old full-time college student would do, I sold my car praying and believing that somehow God would provide other means of transportation for me. I was willing to take the bus to college if I had to (long commute). But God came through for me once again and provided me a new car shortly after and enough funds to get me to El Salvador.

After my second AYC trip, I knew that my missions work was just beginning. I was ready for more, and I felt the call stronger than ever on my life. I didn’t want to settle for another ten day trip, but something more long term to give me a deeper glimpse of what being a missionary is really like. So I went on the AIM website and stumbled upon Next Steps.

I do not think it was by coincidence that I came across this program, but I believe it was by God’s hand and after much prayer and godly council, I made the decision to apply for this trip.

And for the third time (and probably not the last), I had no money saved, no source of income, but great faith knowing that God WOULD provide the financial means for me to go and continue on my journey of fulfilling Gods greater purpose in my life.

God once again, like I knew He would because He did it before, provided me with an excellent job that allowed me to have the time off I needed and that was God’s blessing of meeting my financial means so I could go on Next Steps 2014 in Togo.

photo credit: danielmoyle via photopin cc

Back in Ghana today has caused a flood of memories. Sitting here in the home of our missionary friends, windows are open, and outside the rain is cascading down. The rainy season was always my favorite time of year while living in West Africa for twenty-eight years. We experienced two seasons: dry and wet or we would commonly say, “Hot and very hot!” During the rains, temperatures would drop to comfortable levels of coziness.

rain

I still remember teaching in the Bible school in Nigeria and the sound of torrential rains beating down on the metal roof. It cooled temperatures and brains at the same time since you couldn’t hear me teach over the welcomed noise. 

I still remember Candra, our youngest, as a little gal, outside, with an umbrella, rain pelleting, and us singing, “Raindrops keep falling on my head…”

I still remember, with our girls much older, occasionally reenacting the whole scene with the three of us rushing out into the yard in the bucketing rain. We ended up refreshed and looking like the proverbial drowned rats. 

I still remember the rains falling and collecting enough pressure to force down the compound wall next to our house and flooding into our driveway. 

Dirtied gutters in our city would overflow as rains would unclog and forcefully wash debris away. Nothing could withstand the power of the rain.

I still remember our Sheaves for Christ vehicle swishing through rain-made road-rivers and lakes. SFC vehicles, like Star Trek, going where no man had ever gone before, conquering new territories, and forging new paths. 

Rain. Refreshing. Reviving. Renewing. Revitalizing. 

Cold. Calming. Cleansing. Covering. 

I still remember going down into the cold, cleansing waters of baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. My sins washed away! Forever. 

I still remember receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost and times of refreshing that came from the presence and power of the Lord.

I still remember failing, faltering, falling and the cleansing feeling of genuine repentance.

“Wash me thoroughly [and repeatedly] from my iniquity and guilt and cleanse me and make me wholly pure from my sin! (Psalms 51:2, AMP).

I’ve got a River of Life falling down on me, flooding me, and flowing through me. Like the songwriter said, “I feel the rain.”

I still remember the rain!

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