Musing on Remembering Pentecost

Yesterday, Sunday May 27th, 2012, was Pentecost Sunday. Unfortunately, that is a fact that many people in the church were unaware of. In most churches during most years, Pentecost Sunday comes and goes without even a mention.  It seems that by a large, a good portion of the church has simply forgotten Pentecost.  It is a day that should never be forgotten and people need to wake up and remember.  The early church fathers I think would be appalled if they were to find that such an important day is rarely remembered.  We celebrate Jesus birth, we celebrate Jesus sacrifice and resurrection, but we fail to acknowledge God giving us the comforter, the one who empowers us.  The question is why do we forget?

The day of Pentecost falls on the Biblical feast day of Shavout also known as the Feast of Weeks or Feast of first fruits. It is a day very important to God, and it is one in which He has moved to give important gifts.  It is not only the day in which the Holy Spirit came to indwell those who have been redeemed, it is also the day he provided the Torah.  God has chosen on this day to give both His instruction and His empowerment. It is a day of sealing and cementing His promises and establishing connection with mankind. 

So the question is why do we forget something so important?  Why is the day not attended to?  One could post many theories but at some level the shift comes from a looking to God’s direction and moving in our own way.  God gave us guidance through Torah and the Holy Spirit, yet we all too often want to go our own way, do our own thing, and determine our relationship with God.  We may grow in knowledge of God and grasp varied orthodox understandings of God, but do we at heart, deep down have a God directed relationship. Others may embrace spiritual experience but the focus is on what feels good, feels powerful, or looks cool but lacks depth or growth.  Do we seek Him for guidance and empowerment or do we ask God to bless us as we go about doing our own thing?  Do we follow God, and surrender to Him or just do what we want to do?  I think in essence, it comes down to that question. Going the way of self or going the way of surrender.

So here is a challenge on this day of remembrance, take time to remember God.  Take time to examine where you have gone your own way versus walking in submission to Him. Let God bring to mind what He asks of you as you move ahead.  Each us will continue to have a choice. Follow God’s ways and surrender to Him. Grow in walking His path and let Him enable each step. The other choice is the way of self. Each of us need to wake up and remember.  For God and His ways have not changed, He has shown and provided a narrow way to walk in and given us the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us along the way. So wake up and remember for God is with us, every day.

Musings on the Tragic Life and Death of Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston died tragically on February 2nd, 2012. Much has been written and examined related to the life and death of Whitney Houston. Many thoughts and statements have been made regarding Whitney. Some have even commented on her standing with Jesus, easily concluding that she rejected Jesus. Barry McGuire made such statements in an opinion piece: http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2012/s12020066.htm suggesting that Whitney rejected the judgmental Jesus of the fundamental church. However, personally not really certain that Whitney rejected Jesus as she has given performances singing boldly of Jesus love including the snippet of her short duet with Kelly Price and the performance in Brazil in 1994 that are readily available on YouTube.

She knew of the love of Jesus. She grew up learning of the love of Jesus at New Hope Church pastored by Joe A. Carter. Her first solo performance was at age 11 when she sang “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah.” So she knew and was exposed to the love of Jesus and personally don’t think her story is one of rejecting Jesus, but rather getting lost and distracted by the things of this world and looking for love in places other than Jesus. She was hurt and turned to things that lead to death led by her own desires. While Whitney grew up in the church, she also group up in a family that valued music and entertainment. Her mother was Cissy Houston. Her cousins were Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Warwick, and Darlene Love. Her honorary Aunt was Aretha Franklin. Music was central to her family and Whitney Houston was created and gifted with a beautiful voice. Her voice opened doors and brought her fame and fortune. However, all that she received did not fulfill her and she was lost and hurting. Yet, at the base level she knew of Jesus love. However, that knowledge appeared to be something that she knew intellectually but did not experience at the core of her being. She knew of the love of Jesus, but did not seem to experience it.

There is a reason that Whitney Houston gravitated toward the simple song, Jesus Loves Me. The words state “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” And that appears to be the level of Whitney’s knowledge of Jesus love. She was told it was true. She sang of the truth but her experience of it was limited. It is clear that Whitney craved deeply love. Her words deeply touched on the human perspectives of love and longing, yet ever missing the true love. Yet, at core she knew that Jesus was where there was true love, yet couldn’t break from the pain and loss and hurt coming from the wounds caused by others. She got hooked into the poison of alcohol and drugs that give momentary relief of those pains, yet she did not experience the healing of Jesus love in this life. She walked a path that lead to death and fully embraced the poison.

Whitney is really not any different than anyone else, other than being famous. She experienced hurt and pain. She wanted love, but what she experienced didn’t measure up. She lived a life that pursued her desires and she was able to have a lot of her desires fulfilled. However, one desire was not fulfilled, to be able to live free from pain and experience love deeply. She craved, it wanted it, sang beautifully about it, yet she did not let the words of her first solo be her path. She chose her own way and it came easy, for she had “THAT VOICE.” We also readily choose our own way and pursue the things that come easy. We go after our desires and do not surrender to God or look to Him for strength. We also at times only have knowledge that Jesus loves us because of what we are told. There is more. Jesus love is real and can be experienced. Jesus love is beyond measure. It can touch one beyond the deep levels of pain and hurt living in the fallen world brings. We all too often go ways that seem right to us, that give us all we think we want but in reality ensare us and trade the promise of love into pain as the promise turns to a cruel and abusive master.

So there is much to be learned from the life and death of Whitney Houston. We all have a story and paths to choose. We can follow God and surrender or we can walk the path of self. Each path has pain and joy. Each path has difficulties. One path leads to full life, one leads to death. Whitney is one of many who only grasp things at a superficial level and go looking for the answers in ways that seem right but are death. Our natural inclination is to choose paths that do seem right, yet are our own destruction. The choice to follow God is always difficult for it involves given up of what I think I want, for we fear giving of self will result in being denied goodness and pleasure. However, it is only truly in the giving of what we think we want that we can receive all that is of good. Whitney missed out in this life, for she walked the path of self. Walking the path of God brings more than can be imagined but it requires all, but in that is true goodness, pleasure, and life. So please, take time and lament the death of Whitney Houston, then examine own life. Open up to surrender to God and being able to truly experience the love of Jesus so it moves beyond knowing about it because one was told about it, but rather that love is experienced moment by moment.