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Friday, August 29, 2014

The Simplicity of the Gospel

This morning as I went in to our bedroom to help my wife get up, I plopped down on my knees and began to speak softly to her.  About that time the dog came quietly into the room, walked up to me and sat down.  She seemed to be watching what I was up to with great interest.  As I reached out and began to pet her with my free hand, I began to consider the simple trust that she has in my wife and I.  While I scratched behind her left ear she tilted back her head with a look of satisfaction on her face that just sort of said Ahhh!
Then when I retracted my hand she reached out with her left paw, placed it on my arm and stared at me with what had all the signs of a happy but yet pleading smile!  That made me laugh and caused me think of the attributes of having a childlike, innocent and simple trust in the Lord.
A few nights ago just before bed the Lord put it on my heart to read from one of my favorite books that I hadn’t read for a few years.  I am sure that I have mentioned it in the past as over the years, I have read and re-read this book probably dozens of times!  It is called “Nine O’ Clock in the Morning” and was written by Father Dennis Bennett back in the late sixties and first published in 1970 by Logos International.
Dennis Bennett came to be recognized as one of the fathers of the Charismatic Movement that occurred throughout denominational churches in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.  My wife and I found (or maybe better said “put!”) ourselves right in the middle of this move even before we were married in 1975!   Father Bennett was the Vicar over a large, successful and growing Episcopal Church in Van Nuys California, when he was introduced to a young couple who had become “fired up” after they received the “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit” and spoke in tongues.  Beginning as a skeptic and later as a believer, Dennis investigated the phenomenon through a careful study of the New Testament, his church’s doctrine and with an immense hunger to experience more of God as the early church did.
On Passion Sunday in April of 1960 Father Bennett went before his congregation and openly shared his experience.  As he put it, “The general reaction was open and tender – hearted until the second service.  At that point my second assistant snatched off his vestments, threw them on the altar, and stalked out of the church crying: ‘I can no longer work with this man!’  That ‘blew the lid off!’”
By the third service the small but vocal group of distractors had stirred up enough unrest that Father Bennett resigned his position.  Following this incident the story was picked up by the local TV stations in Los Angeles and eventually ended up with both Newsweek and Time magazines running national articles on it.  Father Bennett eventually ended up going to a small dying mission church in a suburb of Seattle, Washington and that is where his story really bloomed!  In this locale he had the full support of his Bishop and his congregation.  The church began to grow and Father Bennett became a national representative of the move of the Holy Spirit among a vast and diverse range of denominations across the globe.
I was first introduced to Father Bennett after receiving the “Baptism” in 1974 and was seeking a more studious explanation to what I was experiencing.  His book “The Holy Spirit and You” came to be known as the “text book” on the subject and to this day is still used as curriculum in many Christian Colleges.  After studying this book, I came across the story of his adventure in faith as related in “Nine O’Clock in the Morning.”
One thing that always impressed me with his story and did so again in my current foray into its pages, was his journey back to the simplicity of his faith in Jesus.  As a highly educated scholar in the Episcopal Church, he had developed a complicated doctrine of faith and religion that explained away the childlike love of God and the power that Jesus and the early church seemed to enjoy.  For some reason, our dog’s actions this morning reminded me of all that!
Throughout this journey with my wife’s health, I have continually found myself returning to the simplicity of the Gospel.  Many in their attempts to assist us have tried to draw us into their “rule keeping systems” similar to what Paul talked about in Galatians 5:3-4 (The Message)  And while I am a firm believer in the effect of what we say and do in line with the Word of God, I have begun to see that God is FAR more concerned with the attitude of our hearts than in how we keep up with a strict form of do’s and don’ts.
When I read of Christians who pray a simple prayer of faith for healing or any other need and receive what they are praying for, even though they don’t necessarily know what I know, nor do it the way my denomination says to do it, I am amazed and my heart is warmed with the understanding of how much He loves us.  His love goes beyond the confines of denominations, of methods followed, or of what our life may look like!  Our Papa God looks through all the external dressings and examines the real motives of our hearts. 
I personally believe and have come to experience that at the very bottom of all that we do and say, He is really concerned with the childlike, simple trust that motivates us and drives us to be and act like Jesus!  Those actions… His actions through us… will cause us to walk steadily and lovingly through the situations we face on a daily basis.  This simple trust is what encourages us to “be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated (or any other rule-keeping system's) existence.” (Galatians 5:18 – The Message)
So walk forth on this Labor Day holiday weekend empowered by a simple and loving trust in your Papa God… and see the miraculous of His kingdom encompass your life!  Have a great holiday.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

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