Division comes naturally to mankind. Have you ever noticed how much energy some Christians spend on religious arguments? I’m not talking about meaningful discussions of Scripture and doctrine. No, I am specifically talking about disagreements on church traditions, worship styles, and spiritual methodologies. I am talking about competitive histories, customs and comfort levels. “My way or the highway” battles. Catholics vs. Protestants in Ireland. Pentecostals vs. Evangelicals in Central America. And on and on. Since before Jesus’ death, his followers have been arguing about relative value, perfect meaning, and their own understanding. It is one more proof that humanity is fallen; for almost 2000 years God’s Beloved People have had to fight back our own contentious streak. This streak runs through my heart as well, but some level of time has formed a real appreciation in me for God’s gift of differences. He does, after all, make each snowflake unique.
In faith, God works in many different ways. In an effort to honor all that is godly, may I share my personal thanks for the different ways God’s people worship and grow? I’ll use as a guide the five traditions that have been called throughout Christian history – “The Five Streams of the Spirit.” I know that each of these streams has been distorted from time to time for extreme, ungodly uses. Satan is the great deceiver and counterfeiter. Still, all Five Streams do contain Truth as measured by pages and events of the Bible, and all are a part of my Christian growth. So, in no particular order:
· I am thankful for the Pentecostal stream, for it has fought the sterility of organized religion and pushed me to seek the power and presence of God new each day. It gives my picture of God back new wonder, excitement, and awe. It teaches me that I am to be a “gifted” tool in the hand of an active and alive Savior. (Job 37:5, Isa. 55:8-9, 1 Cor. 2:3-5, Rom. 12:6-8)
· I am thankful for the Evangelical stream, for it has shown me the ultimate, immeasurable value of the Bible. It has taught me to seek for ultimate answers only in the revelation of Scripture, not in momentary experiences or relative feelings. It has taught me to study and to proclaim the Word with passion, for there alone is the Eternal Hope found. (Psm. 119, 2 Tim. 4:2-5, 2 Tim. 3:16-17)
· I am thankful for the Contemplative stream, for it seeks to balance my type-A, driven personality with, “Wait on the Lord, for only in Him is there strength.” It reminds me that I can quiet myself for a time, and listen for the wisdom of the Creator. It says that I should become something in Christ, not just do something. (Psm. 36:13-15, Phil. 4:8, 1 Cor. 4:5). I find my Celtic Christian ancestors like St. Pattrick understood the need for silence and solitude, often in the bbeuty of nature.
· I am thankful for the Servant stream, for it calls me to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. It bids me to pray and to serve my brother in love. It reminds me that when I offer a cup of water to those who are thirsty, I reach out to Jesus in love. It says faith and action are wed together at the altar of Christian maturity. (Mark 9:41, Rom. 12:10, Jam. 2:14-17)
· I am thankful for the Discipline stream. It has laid its ruler of obedience at my feet, and said clearly, “Here is the path – walk in it.” It reminds me that sanctification is a process to which I must be wholly dedicated. (1 Sam. 15:22, Prov. 6:23, 1 Tim. 4:7-8)
God is at work in many ways in you, too. How are you growing in each of these areas? Where are you strong? Where are you weak? How would God like to stretch you? Into which stream would he call you to wade? Regardless of the Stream, why not trust God and jump on in? With our Lord, the water’s always fine…