4. Word of Faith
It is a fact that we will experience trials and tribulations, sometimes until death. Some of us will be fortunate enough to have pretty nice lives and others of us will spend our entire time on earth suffering. Charismatics don’t like to preach on that though. They say to speak the good things that you want into existence, because our words are powerful. Last year a charismatic woman I know was even praying for her sister to be raised from the dead! I really hate to criticize. I’m glad that she prays and has faith in God. And of course all things are possible. But I, in all sincerity, worry about the toll on people’s spiritual and mental health when they spend so much time and energy trying to build up faith for such miracles to happen, only to be let down repeatedly. It seems to me, that if a miracle is going to happen, it’s not going to take so much effort on our part.
I was at a church service once where a woman walked up to the altar for healing. The pastor said to the congregation, “If anyone here doubts that God is going to heal this woman today, I ask you to leave.” This is because if there is a doubter in the group then everyone is not of one mind and our prayers might not be powerful enough to heal her. I sat there thinking, Okay, I know that God can heal her, but most likely he won’t because in my whole life of attending church I’ve never personally seen a miraculous healing. But what was I supposed to do? Get up out of the front row and walk to the back door while everyone watches and deems me a doubter or a rebel? So I stayed. And she wasn’t healed. I guess it was my fault…
When my stepdad was badly burned in a house fire I tried to believe that God would completely heal him, because people at church told me to have faith that "By Jesus' stripes he’s already healed!"…Whatever that meant. They said, “I’m believing for a full recovery!” I just wish they would have said “I’m hoping for a full recovery.” That would have made so much more sense. We can all have hope. I remember crying out to God (in my mind, because I’m not a loud kind of person) and telling him that I know that he can heal him, but how am I supposed to have faith that he will, when I know that some people are never healed in this life? And then Matthew 8:2-3 came to mind:
A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!" Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
I felt like God had illuminated his word for me. This man asked if Jesus was willing. The man didn’t say “Lord, I proclaim healing today!” He asked for healing, if it be his will. Charismatics regularly demand and expect healing from Jesus rather than innocently asking him to, if it be his will. And often, it’s not.
Today when I pray, it’s not stressful. I don’t try to muster up enough faith and believe that God will do what I ask. I hope that he will, but I also know that he might not. And that gives me more peace than believing that he will, and being disappointed that he didn’t because I lacked faith.
By now you may have assumed that I am a cessationist (someone who believes that the miraculous spiritual gifts are no longer for today). But I actually see no proof in the Bible that those spiritual gifts have ceased, and therefore I still lean toward a continuationist view. I am, however, extremely cautious and skeptical of those who claim to have such gifts and extraordinary experiences. I actually think that it may be impossible to determine from scripture how those gifts should be exercised and what they should look like. There are so many differing views on the gifts of the Spirit, and after having studied every Bible verse related to them, I am undecided on my views and doubtful that we can determine with certainty their function. I’m okay with that. It’s not essential to my faith.
I have not belonged to a charismatic church in eight years, and I probably never will. And I absolutely will not belong to a church which requires of elders and pastors “baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.” I would rather belong to a church that focuses on sound teaching, service, sacrifice, purity, and love, while also remaining open to the spiritual gifts. I have recently found a reformed church, which is also continuationist and I find that to be a great balance. The reformed theology keep the crazies away.
This is part three of a three-part series. Click here for part one and here for part two.
3. Emphasis on Personal Revelation
Charismatics talk about hearing God’s voice on a regular basis. I’d say they’re pretty obsessed with God’s voice. I’ve heard people say he told them where to find their misplaced phone, what they should cook for dinner, and at which store they could find their new sofa. “It’s as if he was standing right next to me,” they would say. As a kid I thought it was so awesome that God talked to people, and I wanted to hear God too. I wanted him to tell me exactly what I should do each day, as he apparently did for so many others. I was on a journey to “hear God’s voice.” I don’t recommend it. It will drive you crazy. A charismatic pastor once recommended a book titled Dialogue With God. Schizophrenics beware! I threw it away a long time ago. Actually I recycled it, but the point is it’s out of my life. This book suggested praying to God, and then waiting to hear his response, writing down any words that come to you. When the words stop flowing, read what you have. If you aren’t sure if they are God’s words, or yours, or Satan’s, you should ask a spiritual counselor. How maddening, right?
I was encouraged so many times not to make a decision unless I had a word from God. I should ask God which college to go to, which job to take, who to marry. If I wasn’t sure what God wanted me to do, I shouldn’t act. But it was okay if I didn’t hear from God because someone at church would “have a word for me.” Of course, it always left me even more confused. I was told that if I couldn’t hear his voice then the Holy Spirit would give me a feeling, letting me know what I should do. Well, the only feeling I’ve ever felt confident about is that the things I saw and heard in the charismatic church were whack.
Now, sometimes I feel compelled to do something, or sometimes scripture will come to mind, and I do believe the Holy Spirit illuminates his Word for us. But I wouldn’t be so bold as to say “God told me.” I might say that I believe or feel that he is teaching me something, but I wouldn’t be so definitive. God’s words are special and I will not so casually utter the words, “God told me.”
About seven years ago I read another book, Decision Making and the Will of God. This book was so freeing! Finally, someone validated my beliefs that it’s destructive to attempt to discern God’s voice or his specific will for our individual lives. He has already told us his will and it is written in his Word. I now live as a confident and productive Christian, doing the things that he has already, in the Bible, called me to do, and making decisions with the Biblical wisdom and counsel he has given me. I no longer worry that I’m making the wrong decisions all the time.
This is part two of a three-part series. For part one click here and for part three click here.
I grew up attending churches that are considered charismatic or Pentecostal or continuationist. They believe that all of the spiritual gifts, including the more extraordinary gifts like tongues, prophesy, and healings are still in operation today. My intention of this post is not to belittle anyone or any group of people. I share this with the hope of preventing others from experiencing the chaos and confusion I felt as a charismatic. Throughout this post it may seem as though I’m making general statements about all charismatics. Please keep in mind that I’m of course not referring to every single charismatic, but a large number of them.
I think charismatic churches are appealing to a lot of people because, for one, every Christian wants to be close to God. Charismatics teach that we can hear his voice and know his specific will for our lives. People are also fascinated by miracles, and charismatics seemingly experience God’s miracles on a regular basis. People also get bored easily. Charismatic services have dancing, shouting, loud music, the mysterious speaking in tongues, the casting out of demons, people being slain in the spirit (that means falling over because the power of the Holy Spirit has overcome you), sobbing, running laps around the sanctuary…pretty much anything goes, and every service is different. That’s exciting to a lot of people. Also, not a lot is expected of anyone, intellectually. In my experience, theological discussions were avoided. I even remember pastors making fun of theologians because they “rely more on their minds than their hearts,” as if anyone can discern another person’s heart. This leads me to my first reason.
1. Spiritual Pride and Lack of Intellectualism
In addition to looking down on theologians, charismatics poke fun at non-charismatics (in a lighthearted way, usually). But it came across to me as spiritual pride. They also preach in a way that leads people to believe their interpretation of scripture is the right one. I know that preachers of all denominations can be guilty of this, but I noticed it a lot among charismatics. I have since met preachers who don’t interpret scripture for you. Instead, they discuss the different theological explanations Christians have about a particular passage, and might give their opinion too, but they make it clear that it’s their opinion and encourage you to study God’s word for yourself. That’s spiritual humility, and it’s something I rarely saw among charismatics. In fact, they’re often offended if you question their beliefs and actions and will try to convert you to their thinking. If you still aren't on board you'll be viewed as a baby Christian, lacking in faith, and “quenching the spirit." Charismatics need to break away from the mindset that they are marginalized and misunderstood by other Christians. That is the sort of thinking that leads to cult-like behaviors.
Charismatics have an unhealthy preoccupation with dramatic, supernatural experiences. This is sensationalism and one of its main flaws is that it devalues the ordinary things of God, like sound teaching, sacrifice, service, and sacraments.
At a revival I once attended, everyone in the congregation who desired baptism in the Holy Spirit was asked to come forward. So I, along with every single other person in the congregation (probably 30 of us), made my way to the altar. The revivalist had us line up and he started at one end of the line, laying hands on each person and praying in tongues. One by one people either fell over, spoke in tongues, or jolted as if an electric shock ran through them. But when he got to me, nothing happened. And I felt the dude trying to push me! He quickly realized I wasn't falling over so he moved on to the next person. I felt totally disregarded. If he really cared about my baptism in the Spirit couldn't he have kindly prayed with me for a few seconds to receive the baptism at some point in the future, rather than moving on as if I were unworthy of his time? There were just a handful of people who didn’t have anything sensational happen to them, and they cried quietly to themselves, probably because they didn’t feel spiritual enough.
Why, in all of my years of being "open to the Spirit," did the Holy Spirit’s power never come on me? I believed the supernatural gifts were for today and I would have defended that position to doubters. I have always loved God and strived to live a life that is pleasing to him-not because I feel it's a requirement for salvation, but because I want to. I’ll tell you why nothing happened to me- because for many charismatics, it’s a big show. They jump. They yell. They fall over. They convulse. Someone is always on the keyboard, ready to set the mood for the Holy Spirit to “move in this place.” Prayers are fast and loud, adding a lot of filler words like “Lord Jesus.” They babble and sway back and forth and bend over like they have appendicitis. I remember as a teenager feeling like my prayers weren’t powerful enough because they were quiet, slow, and spoken as if I were talking to a friend. Once, a preacher's wife even took it upon herself to pray for me at the altar to be cured of my introversion so the Spirit's power could move through me. Does that mean God plays favorites based on personality type? I spent hours and hours of my life praying and waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit (you’ll know when that happens because you’ll speak in tongues, they say). Never happened. I guess I’m not a sincere Christian. I guess I don’t love God enough. I guess I’m doing something wrong. Those were the thoughts I constantly wrestled with as a charismatic.
This is part one of a three-part series. Click here for part two!
I know, it's 2017 and you're wondering why I'm just now posting about the 2015-16 school year. Well, that year was some work! I was homeschooling my two nieces (3rd and 5th grade) in addition to my own two (kindergarten and 1st), and I had a baby. I had no time or energy to blog that year. I'm back to homeschooling my kids only now which has been such a relief! I'm thankful for last year though, because it introduced me to new curriculum. Allow me to share what I loved and what I could do without.
After completing about 1/3 of The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading we stopped (it was boring) and started Explode the Code workbooks instead. Explode the Code is a complete phonics program and also provides handwriting and spelling practice. It has been phenomenal. There are 16 workbooks, each covering different phonics rules. My kids have almost finished the series. I will miss Explode the Code.
I love BJU Spelling for the variety of activities. It includes word study, proofreading, dictionary skills, and writing. Each lesson takes approximately 10-15 minutes. The student workbook is not too expensive, and I don't buy the teacher's manual.
I'm not as in love with BJU English as I am their spelling, but it is the best program I have found. Chapters alternate between writing and grammar. The grammar is thorough and the writing is sufficient for the younger grades, when they are just beginning to write. When my kids are older, though, I will need to find something more challenging for writing. I've heard a lot of good things about IEW but it's too expensive for us right now. I do buy the teacher's manual for English because it includes a CD with a lot of extra worksheets.
Apologia's Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology was intensive! There were so many activities in the text and the notebooking journal that we were spending half of the day doing science! Although Apologia is thorough, from now on we will not use a science curriculum. There are many free and inexpensive resources at the library, online, and in our community.
I wasn't impressed with Christian Light Reading. The stories in the reader were okay. Nothing exciting. The workbooks that went along with the reader seemed like busy work. I'd rather just have the kids read stories they will enjoy and create my own comprehension and application questions.
Galloping the Globe is a world geography unit study, full of information, activities and recommended reading for each country. It contains a wealth of information and it can be overwhelming at first. This book really isn't necessary for a world geography unit study, though. There are plenty of free resources online and at the library.
My kids and I enjoyed Harcourt Grade 1 Math. It was a nice intro to math and I liked that the pages were colorful. I also liked how cheap it was! We found one at a thrift store for a few dollars, and I bought another one for my other child on eBay, for about $10. The one thing that I didn't like, though, was that there was hardly any review. For example, once you complete a chapter on money, you rarely see anything about money again.
This year we are using Christian Light (CLE) math, which is what I used with my nieces last year. It has the perfect balance of new material and review. Every lesson includes a variety of problems, including time, money, stories, geometry, number sense and math facts. My kids actually ask to do math!