Wineskins Archive

January 23, 2014

AfterGlow: Divine Empowerment (June 1992)

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by Phillip Morrison
June, 1992

In our most optimistic dreams we never imagined that the response to the premier issue of Wineskins would be so positive and enthusiastic. Though we will not have a regular “Letters to the Editor” section, we do want to share these reactions with our readers.

A long-time friend wrote,

“As the idea of the magazine began to unfold, and as I received meager information about its emphasis on church renewal, I felt some degree of anxiety and even concern … I should have … trusted all of you to remake and refocus the best in church renewal and not the worst of its history. The first issue has done exactly that – remind us that the conversion of the Christian’s heart to Jesus is always the prerequisite to Christian action. Your purpose statement sets forth in every way the best of the hopes for Christianity as we know it. I love the church of my heritage, but I am not blind to its shortcomings, even sins … I wouldn’t trade our problems as a religious fellowship with the problems of any religious group I know. So it is refreshing to read of your commitment to encourage and help all of us in Churches of Christ.”

A new friend wrote, “I found a message on every page straight to my heart. It has indeed been a long time since I have heard anyone in the church speak to the needs that I experience every day. I have indeed quite dreaming … We have closed ourselves into our buildings and formed a circular firing squad.”

I thought of those two letters in light of this issue’s focus on the power of the powerless. Who is powerless? The abuse or incest victim? The people unable to break out of poverty’s bondage? The people bound by an ecclesiastical system which prevents them from knowing the Father? Yes, these are all owerless, just as we all are.

Even the human Jesus was powerless, by his own testimony: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; … My teaching is not my own … I do nothing on my own” (John 5:19, 7:16, 28; 8:28). If Jesus acknowledged his weakness and lack of power by proclaiming that his power came from the Father, can we do any less?

When the powerless, out of despair and frustration, pour out their rage and rebellion, the response is often a call for more law and order. But Paul recognized that even the “law was powerless … in that it was weakened by the sinful nature” (Romans 8:3). What no person can do and no law can do, God can do!

Weakness and strength are always found together when we are dealing with God. As Paul reflected on the successes and failures of his life, he expressed his fondest hope: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10, 11).

David spoke for the powerless of every age as he exalted the Lord: “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now our God, we give … you thanks, and praise your glorious name” (1 Chronicles 29:12, 13).

Empowerment may be a ’90s buzzword, but the concept is as old as man. Adam and Eve sinned when they listened to the wrong voice, chose the wrong power. They were empowered and didn’t know it! Even more are we empowered by the Christ in wom we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).

Phillip Morrison was, for many years, managing editor of Wineskins Magazine and wrote the column “AfterGlow” opposite its inside back cover. He was also the former managing editor for Upreach magazine, and worked as a fund-raising consultant and conducted study tours to Bible lands.

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