Editor's Note: This article appeared in the December 1982 issue of Charisma Magazine and was written by Jamie Buckingham, former senior pastor at Melbourne Tabernacle Church in Melbourne, Fla. Buckingham died in 1992 at age 59.
I write this aboard a jet airliner speeding south from one of the nation’s greatest northern cities. I am heading home for Christmas.
How eager I am to see the face of my wife, embrace my now-grown children who are gathering at the old homestead, grab my little grandchildren and swing them high as they squeal: “PaPa’s home!”
How eager I am to sit quietly with my dear friends, my extended family, to embrace and whisper “I love you” in the ears of those as committed to me as they are to their own blood relatives. We will embrace, take off our shoes, sit in front of a fire (sipping eggnog), and feel “at home” in each other’s presence.
Last Friday, just as our nation was showing the beginning stages of healing from 9-11 to our nation, we took another hit. A total of 26 children and six adults were massacred in a quiet, suburban, elementary school.
The devastation of this small community has rocked the nation. People from all over the nation are sending comfort, wreaths, Christmas trees, toys, ornaments and coffee to the community of Newton, Connecticut. Why does this massacre hurt so much?
Schools are usually considered safe places. In fact, most emergency shelters are in schools. Before 9-11 we felt the U.S was impenetrable. In the last years, churches, colleges and high schools have seen death and violence—and now, an elementary school. The outpouring of love and support to this devastated community shows that we all share in the pain, and we can all share in the recovery.
The burning question this week for me is how will this impact our Christmas services?
On Nov. 21, 1980, when the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas burned, survivors were brought into the Convention Center, where our Crusade meetings were being held. In an interview, Governor Robert List talked about the good times at the MGM only 24 hours before. “And how quickly,” he said, “the music has stopped.”
Some day, for all of you, if you don’t know God, the music will stop. It will all be over. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
The Bible says that Job suddenly lost all of his wealth and his children. The devil said to God, “If You take all those possessions away from him, he’ll curse You and turn from You.” But God replied, “You can do anything to him, except you can’t kill him, and then we’ll see” (Job 1:11-12).
Something uncomfortable usually happens at my church. Somewhere in the day, I will be praying a third time for an injury to be healed and wait as they check to see if the pain is gone; or be perplexed by a testimony that is almost too good to be true; or be left in a somewhat confused conversation with God about what I have seen or heard—and I am one of the leaders.
Being in a healing/revival environment can be uncomfortable for pastors. We tend to operate in our strengths of bringing comfort and care, order and answers, and connection and protection. Uncomfortable stuff makes people feel, well, uncomfortable; so we usually try to keep it at a minimum.
But if—and when—the community catches the kingdom mentality that anything is possible with God and sets its collective heart on worldwide transformation and the healing goodness of the heavenly Father, we’re all regularly drawn into experiences for which we have no grid and, perhaps, even little inclination.
This is coming to you from a man who has just passed through the valley of the shadow of death. Since my close call with eternity just a short while ago ... everything has become clearer. I can hear His whisper. Unabated obedience has become my mandate. That is why I'm writing this word from the Lord.
A few days ago, after enjoying quality time with Jesus, I was surprised by an alarming vision. I saw a massive, majestic mountain covered in glistening snow. It reminded me of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. Its peaks were sparkling white and I was amazed by God's attention to detail. It was so realistic I wanted to go skiing! But I sensed that there was more that the Holy Spirit was about to reveal. As I closed my eyes, I was in a winter wonderland bustling with thousands of vacationers. The ski lodge, condos, hotels and cabins were at full capacity at this popular resort.
Day quickly turned to night as the skiers, snowboarders and sports enthusiasts were settling in. Anticipation grew as the snow began to fall. Everyone headed to bed believing tomorrow would be a day of sheer enjoyment on freshly covered slopes. For an avid skier, the exhilaration of being the first one to race down a new blanket of snow is a dream come true.
A famous “defender of the faith,” Benjamin Warfield, against the overwhelming teaching of Scripture, actually claimed, “Christianity makes its appeal to right reason, and stands out among all religions, therefore, as distinctively ‘the Apologetical religion.’ It is solely by reasoning that it has come thus far on its way to its kingship. And it is solely by reasoning that it will put all its enemies under its feet.”
Apologetics in this context means, “a reasoned defense” rather than a “presentation-in-power” of Christian belief. Apologetics assumes that one becomes a Christian more by intellectually grasping “right doctrine” or “good ideas” rather than humbly receiving the revealed presence and power of Jesus.
In early church history, as the power of the Spirit became a threat to the church hierarchy, most of the early “church fathers” became more acceptable as “apologists,” defending the faith against philosophical and religious attacks, even as they (rarely) conceded that Christianity was mainly spread by those who healed and drove out demons. Since these apologists were trained in the same intellectual traditions as their opponents, their crucial problem is that they accept their opponents’ premise that human wisdom is the way to discover God and to accept His gospel. The gospel then became a matter of accepting certain facts about Christianity (the creeds), rather than basing faith on the “experience” of God’s revelation and power—a problem even today in evangelical Christianity.