20 Nov Guest Post by Dr. George O. Wood
Recently, I was in contact with Dr. Wood, new General Superintendent for the U.S. Assemblies of God. In sharing about this blog, I invited him to submit a guest posting. What he shares below has been shared on another blog, but in case you haven’t seen it, I think it will give you a wonderful window in Dr. Wood’s heart and mind.
Let me also share that Dr. Wood is scheduled to speak at State College Assembly of God (use for directions) on January 13, 2008. The evening before he has made himself available to meet with any A/G credential holders who wish to come for an evening meal and a personal time of sharing.
The dinner will be provided free of charge by State College Assembly and will be held from 6-8 pm on Saturday, January 12 in our Fellowship Hall. Please RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and simply saying who is coming and from where (for name tags). RSVP deadline is Friday, December 28.
He will be unable to interact with comments here, but I do hope you enjoy the following:
For my devotions this year, I’ve been slowly moving through Ezekiel with Donald Bloch’s terrific (and technical) commentary; and journaling a verse a day through the Gospel of Mark. My journaling is definitely not exegesis, but iso-gesis. I type in the verse and then “think (i.e., write) out loud” my thoughts onto the computer. At the end I write a brief prayer. I’ve found this daily absorption in the Scripture to be really invigorating.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been plowing through Mark 9 – a very long chapter. Now, I’m almost at the end and suddenly some things fell together as I awakened the other morning. Funny how you can cogitate and meditate on something for a long time and not see how the parts fit – and then all of a sudden, a flash of inspiration comes in a nanosecond and you see everything clearly.
So, here’s how I see where Mark 9 fits into a lot of discussion on the blog. Mark 9 is all about the disciples and their perception of themselves and their place in the kingdom. The chapter follows the disciples through 4 stages, and I suspect we’ve all been there or are in one of them now.
First, revelation. That’s the Transfiguration or Metamorphosis of Jesus. It’s the only time in his early life where his divine nature shown through his humanity. Moses and Elijah are there. Jesus face is shining like the sun and his clothes whiter than any Clorox could get them. What a great moment for the three: Peter, James, and John.
Revelation is the spot where we are overwhelmed in the presence of the majestic Christ. It’s something we Pentecostals covet – being caught up into spiritual revelation and experience beyond what the rational mind can fathom. It’s being lifted into the heavenlies and encountering God in such a way that language cannot hold the experience nor can the emotions be articulated.
Second, argument. When Jesus and the inner 3 come down from the mountain they find the remaining 9 locked in an argument with the teachers of the law. What’s the argument about? The 9 cannot cast the demon out of the boy. They cannot do this even though earlier Jesus had commissioned them to cast out demons and Mark reports that they had done so. But, now they command and nothing happens – so they’re left to argue with the critics.
It seems to me that this is one of the problems we are having now in the Pentecostal movement. When we don’t have power, we argue. The fullness of the Spirit has leaked all the way out. And, our arguments don’t solve the pressing needs of those who are looking to us. I fear a dried up Pentecostal theological scholasticism that has no power. Argument (except for a wholesome apologetic for the faith such as the Apostle Paul’s dialogical evangelism) never produces the fruit of the Spirit, much less the gifts.
But, since the disciples at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration have no power, they can only fall back on defending themselves with argument. It’s not a pretty picture. Jesus chews them out for not praying, thereby connecting argument with prayerlessness, and authority with prayer.
Wait. It gets worse. Third. Arrogance. After getting chewed out by Jesus for their powerlessness, they then start arguing about who is the greatest. They are doing the very thing that breaks community. Whenever we pit ourselves against others, or take the attitude “I don’t need you” – aren’t we exhibiting the same arrogance? When I was a new district official I visited a pastor who had a large church in our district but never was involved in anything. I wanted to reach out to him and find out what we could do to establish relationship. His response to me was, “I went to Springfield once and the brethren had nothing to add to me.” I wished I had said, “Well, maybe you could have added something to Springfield.” I think that’s what the Antiochians would have done for Jerusalem.
And, let’s face it – “Springfield” can be just as prone to arrogance as “non-Springfield” because arrogance doesn’t have territorial limitations.
So, Jesus talks to his arrogant disciples about being a servant, and he sets a little child in their midst. I think he does that because he’s telling the disciples: “If you really want to be great, then put your arms around the next generation and serve them. Stop being so narcissistic. My way is not self-fulfillment but self-denial. My way is not independence, but interdependence.”
Fortunately, by the time we get to the book of Acts – the disciples have gotten over arrogance and become a model community. It took awhile for them to realize the world would know them by their love for one another, not how smart they were, how cutting edge (or dull) they were, or what their age and cultural preferences were.
Then, the fourth thing happens in Mark 9. From revelation to argument to arrogance to exclusivity.
The disciples, who couldn’t cast out the demon, tell other people who are casting out demons to stop. If it weren’t so serious, it would be funny. They think they’ve got the exclusive franchise on Jesus.We must avoid narrowness of heart and spirit. Jesus tells these disciples of his that they better not lead the “little ones” into sin for if they do, it would be better if a millstone were tied around their neck. What he’s really saying is that the fractiousness of the disciples is going to doom the novices in the kingdom, that exclusiveness is not only silliness but spiritually deadly.
So, in these recent weeks I’ve been drinking deeply from the well of Mark 9 and asking the Lord to help me stay fresh on the revelation side so that I’m inundated with His presence; and spared from the traps of being argumentative, arrogant, or exclusive.
During the charismatic renewal of the 70s (for those of us who were alive then!), we sang a beautiful and haunting chorus. I almost always led it at communion time: “Bind us together, Lord; bind us together . . . with cords that cannot be broken.” That binding is to Christ and to one another. In Mark 9, the disciples are seen at their nadir – but the Lord wasn’t finished with them. By the time he was done working on them – that argumentative, arrogant, and exclusive mind
ed group had become a community (the body of Christ) that changed the world. They got bound together by the work of the Spirit.
And, incredibly, by the grace of the Lord, he’s doing the same thing with us! He works with all our limitations and sees that he can bring gold out of all our dross.
George O. Wood