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Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Blessing’

Painting by Solomon Joseph Solomon (1860-1927)

Painting by Solomon Joseph Solomon (1860-1927)

Samson had everything he needed to serve and lead. He was called from childhood, from the day he was born. He was a Nazirite: dedicated to God. But these gifts made him prideful. He lost sight of the true source of his strength.

“Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines confronted her and said to her, ‘Seduce him and find out what gives him such great strength and what we can do to overpower him.’ . . . “ [CEB, Judges 16:4-7a]

Did Samson make a mistake falling in love with the “wrong” woman? Apparently women were his weakness even more than his hair.

Delilah wasn’t the first time a woman betrayed him. Read Judges 14 where his Philistine wife [unnamed] beguiled him for the answer to a wedding riddle and told her relatives. That treachery ended badly with Samson taking revenge both in killing thirty random Philistine men and later destroying a number of his enemies’ fields and crops. The Philistines feared and hated Samson. And yet for the next twenty years, he continued to win victories with his strength alone.

Then Delilah, yet another Philistine woman, came into the picture. Her village elders offered her great sums of money for the secret of Samson’s strength. And so she double crossed Samson. Why couldn’t he see what she was doing? Why couldn’t he remember how it went the first time? Did he actually trust Delilah? I don’t think so. Pride consumed him. He could not imagine that God would allow him to be defeated. That lesson came hard when he was taken, blinded, and put to labor in prison, reduced to a stock animal grinding grain. He told Delilah the “secret” of his strength. But really, the secret was the hand of God. The hair was a symbol of the covenant.

Do I know the real secret? Or I have I fallen into Samson’s folly?

God has given us all gifts, strengths, and abilities. Certainly, God has given much to me but I take most of it for granted: my comfortable life, my health, my stage presence, my writing, my adopted children, my energy, my passion and enthusiasm, my long-standing marriage, my home, my job, my church; the list goes on and on. I am too comfortable I think. My gifts have become a norm like Samson’s long hair. As a result, I have lost my vision and gratitude for them and their purpose in my life.

Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.” [Luke 12:48b]

Art by Cheryl Ward

Art by Cheryl Ward

Forgive me O God, for I have sinned in my plenty, fearful of less, but holding on too tightly to the cornucopia.

I remember, back in the high days of the Toronto Blessing (1994) when people were “catching the fire” and manifesting all kinds of strange behaviors (of course, lives were changed as well – I have no bone to pick with that revival experience), one of the popular phrases/prayers was to say, “more” Lord. They were asking for more of God, I know, but looking back, it also feels a bit narcissistic: give “me” more, touch my life, etc.  I suppose the ideal would be that God would give me more so that I might give others more. But I don’t see myself following through on such an arrangement. At least, not so far. There was a time I longed to be used of God in some miraculous way, as a conduit for healing or prophesying or wisdom . But I’m thinking, for the few who gained great popularity in those arenas, most of them went the way of Samson. With great power comes great temptation.

No, I don’t want that either.

I just want to be true to the Presence of God in me, to hold my hands and heart open, to speak truth, to forgive freely, to look and listen without comparing people to myself or to one another, to accept now with gratitude and pray for tomorrow with confident anticipation because God is sovereign. I don’t need to wait for my hair to grow long or my days to number into the seventies or eighties. Samson didn’t need to wait either. It just took him that long to figure it out.

Let this reveal have legs, Lord, and roots. Nourish my soul with your Breath. Today and always.

 

 

 

 

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I have heard it said that everything we need—we have, in order to accomplish what is needed to fulfill God’s destiny. This is so easy to say but so hard to live, to believe. If anything, I see myself (and those around me) always looking for more and still more, thinking that will make the difference.

II Peter 1:3
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

I remember during the season of the “Toronto Blessing” when a great outpouring of delights and miracles seemed to be endless at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church of the mid-nineties. In addition to a variety of phenomenon from laughing to falling out in the Spirit to shaking, a buzz word of that time was “soaking” in the Spirit and asking for “more.” More, Lord, more.

In hindsight, this call seems self-indulgent. It feels too much like more Edmund in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe who, under the influence of the evil White Witch, could not get enough of Turkish Delight. When she asked what he liked the best, this was the first thing that came to mind, this sickly sweet candy. And then, he was driven by his desire for it, excluding all else.

Do we really want more? Do we really want Divine Power? Would we know how to wield it if had hold of it consciously? Would we merely laugh and shake and cry? Or worse, be like Bruce Almighty, who uses this temporary power for personal gain.

Or, do we want “more” power because we have our own vision of what we want to do or be?

God’s divine power is available to us for one purpose, to live a godly life. And what is a godly life: to love others, to serve those less fortunate that we are, to worship and adore God.

And out of that, comes, on occasion, an opportunity to make a difference.

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Acts 5:14-16
Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number… Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.

This kind of momentum is like a snowball. Once it gets going, there is no stopping it until it reaches the bottom of the hill. And even then, it keeps going as long as their is energy behind it.

This type of momentum is not peculiar to the time of the apostles. There have been equally amazing periods in our own recent history: The revivals sparked by Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley (1700’s), Charles Finney in 1821, Azuza Street (California) in 1906, Asbury College, Kentucky in 1970, the Toronto Blessing of 1994, and the Pensacola Outpouring also known as Brownsville in the late 1990’s, just to name a few.

People flock to these places from all over the world and all over the country, looking for signs and wonders, looking for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and most often looking to be healed (physically & emotionally).

We experience this phenomenon in smaller doses every day: if we’re “on a roll,” we want to keep going.

But how does momentum of this kind start? The apostles only did what they knew to do, what they felt called to do. They were not trying to create a maelstrom. They just wanted everyone to know what had happened… and that Jesus was coming back. They had a natural urgency in their message.

Marketing people try to create urgency in whatever it is they sell: “gotta have it… gotta have it now.”

I think it begins with commitment, passion, and singularity of purpose. And of course, the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit, which cannot be bought, sold, or replicated.

In our times, we call this “viral” marketing. Some people try to create viral strategies through guilt, sending “touching” messages via email and challenging the receiver to “pass it on.” But that’s not how it works. When an authentic message reaches my heart, I don’t need someone to tell me to “pass it on.” I can’t wait!

Christ’s message has been around for 2000 years… the only thing that gives it momentum is the story in which it lives and thrives: my story… your story.

The momentum can start today…

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