Get in the Spirit!

Okay, I may ruffle some feathers with this, but here we go...

I had a friend once who refused to go to the church I attended because he wanted "to experience more of the Holy Spirit's power" than my church supposedly allowed.

As he said that, he was puffing on his fifth cigarette of the day, lying about his work situation, and I knew his closet held a stack of porn magazines. Oddly, he did not see the inconsistency.

Have you heard things like this before?

Too many people consider the working of the Holy Spirit as some sort of magic show and they want in on it. They want the flashy, exciting evidences of spirituality, as though that encapsulated the power of God. He does work with power and might. He does do miracles, give supernatural gifts, and empower his children to do more than they could do on their own.

But if you mention His power to defeat personal sin strongholds, His convicting power, His power for victory over the flesh...the audience thins instantly.

Sincere believers have different perspectives on exactly how the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in believer's lives today, but there are some things we can all agree upon. An honest search of the Scriptures reveals some true evidences of the Holy Spirit's power in a Christian's life. Consider the following evidences of a Spirit-filled life:

  • Do you love to sing and worship God?(Col. 3:16)
  • Are you thankful? (1 Thess. 5:17-19)
  • Is your life free from besetting sins? (Eph. 5)
  • Are you humbly submitting to those in authority over you? (Eph. 5:21)
  • Does the Word of God come alive to you when you read it?
  • Is all sin, including yours, repulsive to you? (Rom. 6, Luke 5:8, Is. 6:5)
  • Do you seek God and his righteousness with all your heart? (Jer. 29:12-14)
  • Are you exhibiting the nine fruits of the Spirit regularly and without fleshly effort? (Gal. 5:22)
  • Does your passion and free time center on the things of God?
God gave his Holy Spirit to indwell those whose hearts are wholly his, to empower them for greater service, and to enable them to commune intimately with Him on His terms. He teaches us what real worship is and brings us into proper relationship with God. To expect Him to put on a show at our command like some sort of magician is not only preposterous, it is blasphemy.
We've all see the decadence on television and heard the heresies spouted by supposedly "spirit-filled" leaders, but when we hold those lives up beside the quiet servitude of the Lord Jesus, the truth is painfully obvious.
The Holy Spirit gives us the power and desire to become more and more like Jesus. So it's really not difficult to identify a false prophet: If you don't see the character of Jesus in someone's life, neither are you seeing the Holy Spirit.


Truth Wins

 A controversial book has made its way through Christian and non-Christian circles. Its title sounds innocent enoughLove Wins. The basic premise is that since God is love, He couldn't possibly condemn people to an eternal hell, so there must be some escape clause buried within scripture. 

Author Rob Bell, a popular mega-church pastor, contends that everyone will eventually gain eternal life in heaven. He argues that it doesn't really matter what a person believes here on earth, as long as he is sincere. Even the insincere get a second chance to think it over after they die. He ends with the satisfied conclusion that love trumps justice and we will all live happily ever after.

Let's look at this idea from another perspective. Let's say your neighbor comes to you convinced he can fly. He has read aviation magazines, studied a bit of aeronautics, and believes with all his heart God has given him the ability to flap his arms and soar. It is a sincerely-held belief.

You try to talk sense to him, but it is pointless. He is firm in his conviction and insists that when the time comes, you will see that he is right.

According to Bell, this belief is just as valid as Newton's idea of gravity. And as long as your neighbor stays away from heights, he may wax eloquent about his beliefs, even convincing others. At times, his arguments could even appear as sound as yours.

However, the day comes when he climbs a steep cliff and leaps off, arms spread wide, victory written on his face. Now, according to Bell, your neighbor will have another chance to reconsider his belief system before he hits the ground. 

This much is true. He probably will reconsider--the moment he realizes his arm-flapping is useless. But it's too late by then.

Because, Mr. Bell, love doesn't always win. Truth wins.

No sincerely-held belief, no amount of love, no good intentions will save a person who has chosen to defy the law of gravity. Neither your love for your neighbor nor God's love can save him once he has made his final decision.

And no feel-good theology, no human understanding (or lack of it), and no man-made religion will save a person who has chosen to defy the law of God.

Jesus clearly stated: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No many comes to the Father, except through me." (John 14:6)

And, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)

God is not only Love, He is Truth. In the end, Truth wins. Be certain you are on the side of Truth.


You Are Awesome!

I stared at the big red F on my young son's math paper.

"Hmm...," I mused. "You wrote 2 times 2 equals 9. And 4 times 5 equals 11. Your problems all have ...uh... answers your teacher did not choose. Is that why you got an F? Is that why I have to sign this page?"

"Yep," he retorted, not the least bit concerned about it. "She don't like my answers, but I do. I like my answers better."

I smiled at his upturned face. My eyes misted at the sweetness and innocence in his eyes. I couldn't hurt him, couldn't discourage him. So I said, "Well, that's fine honey. You're a good math student. You should feel good about yourself. Your teacher is too narrow-minded. She should allow others to express their ideas in her classroom. You have just as much right as she does to determine what answer is right for you."

He left the room, triumphant, and I enjoyed the warm sense of satisfaction in making him feel good about himself. He was happy now, filled with confidence and certain that his way would always triumph. 

I made him feel good---but I had harmed him.

No, that scenario never happened. But something similar is happening all over the world. And it is causing irreparable, eternal harm.

"God is for you!" the smiling preachers cry. "You are wonderful! Believe in yourself and the potential within you. You can do amazing things! God is there to champion your dreams, cheer you on, and bless you abundantly. Just have faith!"

Faith in what?

Faith in myself? In my potential? In my own ability? In the confidence that my way will always triumph?

Jesus never said any such thing. In fact, he proclaimed the opposite of what is now being touted as Christianity. He said, "You are my friends if you do what I command you." (John 15:14)

And  "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:25)

The truth, according to the scripture, is that God is only for us when we are for him. If we are not his children through repentance and faith in Christ, then we are worse than non-friends. We are his enemies. 

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, 
walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, 
and they glory in their shame, 
with minds set on earthly things. 
Phil. 3:18-19

Encouragement is only biblical when it is being used to urge someone further along the path where God has placed his feet. Encouragement by itself can be either good or evil. You can encourage someone right into hell.

The feel-good preachers enjoy the popularity and warm-fuzzies they get from encouraging the masses. But how many are they harming by making them feel so good on their journey to destruction?

Two times two will never equal nine, no matter how strongly I feel it should. And my willful dreams will never bring me into the presence and blessing of God. Real joy and satisfaction only come in relinquishing my dreams in favor of God's dreams for me. Or as Jesus put it, in "losing my life for his sake."

Are you buying into the new brand of pseudo-Christianity? The brand Jesus never taught? 

Be sure you don't let anyone rob you of the right to come to God His way. It's the only way.

"If any man would come after me, 
let him deny himself, 
take up his cross, 
and follow me." 
Matt. 16:24


Out of the Blue

  • He showed up at work like he'd done a thousand times before.

  • She swept the floors, washed the clothes, and hummed as she prepared dinner for her husband.
An older couple, still in love, living the life they'd been handed to the best of their abilities. They tried to focus on all that God had given them, rather than on that wounding emptiness of what He'd left out.

How many years had it been since they'd stopped asking? Stopped hoping or expecting? It was almost too late now. For reasons known only to Yahweh, they had never had a child.

The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth found in Luke 1 is often overlooked in favor of the greater news found in Luke 2. But their story was important to them, as yours is to you. And there is something we can take away from it that meets most of us right where we are.

Notice the words the Bible uses to describe this senior citizen couple: blameless, righteous, upright.

Picture them: Zechariah with his flowing white beard and a twinkle in his eye. Nothing gave him more pleasure than serving in the temple. It was his calling, his life's work. He loved it and he loved God and he tried not to let it matter that sometimes it seemed God did not love him back. 

Second to God in his heart was his lovely Elizabeth. Even with her graying hair and plump frame, she could still make his heart race when she gave him that playful look. Even with no son to carry on his name, he could thank Yahweh that he had Elizabeth.

They were past the stage in life where we all think we are going to do great things. Youthful idealism had evaporated, replaced by resignation and a determination to not let it matter. Rather than grow bitter or turn away from the God they served, they tightened their grips on their faith and held on.

And God noticed.

God always notices. Imagine His pleasure as he watched this sweet couple remain faithful to him even when he had not granted their heart's desire.  

Nothing delights the heart of God 
like one of his children clinging to him 
when the world says 
we should turn away.

And out of the blue, an angel appeared.

There was nothing special about that day, nothing that alerted this faithful couple to the fact that God was about to change their world. And that was the point. God found them faithful, righteous, and blameless even when they could have grown cold and cynical. And he delighted to bless them.

Have you about given up? You've prayed and pleaded, cried and stormed heaven's gates, and nothing has changed. Are you remaining faithful anyway? When Heaven writes your resume will it use words like "righteous, blameless, and upright"?

God notices. And he loves to surprise us. If you are remaining steadfast in your holy calling, honorable in the midst of dishonor, trusting the plan of God even when it doesn't look like your are in for a treat. 

Out of the blue, an angel may appear. Be sure you're ready.


Til the Whistle Blows

I admit it right up front: I am not a sports fan. I know very little about any of them--they all seem the same to me--and don't care to increase my knowledge. However, for some reason, this weekend I watched a little of the OU/Texas game with my husband. 

Rather than speculate as I usually do on what a football game would look like if played by counselors and therapists (There would be no injuries,everyone would take turns with the ball, and we'd all go home feeling good about ourselves and the other team!), I actually watched it for a little while.

As my husband gave his usual advice to the coaches, via our television screen, I decided to delight him by asking questions about the rules. I generally couldn't care less, but he loves to expound on it, so...

"That whistle means the play is over," he explained. "It tells the players they can stop now. See, every player is taught to keep pushing till the whistle blows. He can't know whether the ball is still in play until the ref calls it, so he just keeps giving it all he's got until he hears that whistle."

He went back to shouting at the TV and I returned to my usual contemplation. That last phrase echoed in my head: "He just keeps giving it all he's got until he hears the whistle."

Isn't that what the Christian life is all about, too? We're not called to be successful, only obedient. We can't know the final results of everything we do. We have no way of knowing whether we have fifty more years or fifty more seconds to play as hard as we can.

Only God can see the whole game. Only God has the power to call the plays, rule on our choices, and give us the best possible counsel until that moment the whistle blows. He doesn't expect us to always understand what's going on, just as that player down on the field can't know the bigger picture, either. 

Every player is trained not to give up too soon or he might miss the winning play. His failure to give it all he has could impact the lives of many more people as well. And we will never know until Heaven the great impact our decisions had and all God accomplished through us simply because we refused to give up or give less than our best.

What about you? When the whistle blows, signaling the end of your turn, don't you want to be giving it all you've got?

Oh, and by the way, OU won big! I'm pretending I care.


Citizen's Arrest!

My name is Yankee and I would like to file a report with somebody. This is a disgrace, and being only 8 pounds and very short, there's not a lot I can do about it.

That inelegant ca-nine my family brought home a couple years ago has done it again. She's nothing but a Big Red Troublemaker. I keep hoping she will finally leave, but no...she's still here, thinking we can be friends. Ha!

My people certainly overlook a lot where she's concerned and I find it offensive. Just look at her....playing innocent. Gets to them every time.

Now consider me for a moment. Perfect in every way, beautiful beyond comprehension, and doing a fine job running this household if I do say so myself. Do I run off when they're not looking? Of course not! Never!

Besides the fact that there are despicable street dogs who live down the road, I would never think to set one dainty paw outside the yard. Because as I told you, I always do the right thing. At least, right to me. 

I'm fairly obedient when they ask me to do something I want to do, I share my food dish with the red beast when I have to, and I never do anything wrong, but do they praise me for it? Ha! Take me for granted is what they do.

Again today, the red monster took off across the field as soon as my mistress turned her back. I watched her go and shook my head in disgust, knowing what will happen. Will they lock the doors and call the pound? No! They'll let her come back, scold her a teensy bit, and forgive her. She'll be back on my couch, lying on my cushion, eating my food and drinking my water before nightfall. And they don't understand why I don't like her.

Sure enough, after a couple of hours, there she was. On the patio, stickers in her fur, looking sheepish. And what do they do? Scold her, comb out the stickers, and let her right back in! If they had a fatted calf, they'd probably kill it too and throw her a party!

All I can say is, I hope you humans aren't like that. When someone offends you, I hope you drive them away forever, refuse to let them apologize, and remain as haughty as possible all your days. That would be the right thing to do, the Yankee thing to do. If I was human, that's what I'd do.

Let's face it, there are just some dogs--and humans--who don't deserve a second chance. Or third or fourth, as is the case with What's-Her-Name.

So to those of you who refuse to forgive, harbor resentment in your hearts, and let outright hate fester inside towards people who've offended you---I'm proud of you! You should be proud of yourself, too. You're my kind of human. Right on my level.


Your Only Job

He shifted in his seat, unable to look at me. "I don't know what I'm gonna do. I needed that job. I'm doing everything I know to do, everything I thought God told me, isn't coming out like I thought."
She wiped the tears from her cheeks and squeezed her eyes shut. "The burden is too big," she whispered. "I'm praying and believing, but I'm so scared. What if...?"

"My daughter is making terrible choices. I've given her to God, tried everything I know, but she continues on this downward spiral. What am I supposed to do? I can't take this hurt."
Could one of those illustrations be you?

Many times we've done all we can to obey what God tells us. We are keeping our lives as close to Him as we can, trusting Him as well as we can, but the circumstances are careening out of control. It feels like certain disaster.

And our hearts duck for cover. We go back over every decision, analyze every move, second-guessing our choices until we are a puddle of emotional turmoil.

There is a simple reason we do that. And when we understand the reason, we can swim out of the puddle.

We have adopted the false notion that we are responsible for the results in our lives. Results are not the same thing as consequences. We bring on consequences by making choices that have direct results. If I run a red light in front of a police officer, I get a ticket. That is my consequence.

However, if I have obeyed every law and am pulled over by the highway patrolman anyway, then I am reaping results I did not create.

Often in our walk with God, we get the cart before the horse. We think we know what God intends to do in a given situation, so we begin to pray "in faith" and expect Him to get to it. When He does something differently, we often turn inward. "What did I do wrong? Where did I fail?"

One simple understanding can eliminate a boatload of frustration and spiritual confusion:  

I am only responsible to God for my obedience to Him, not the results of that obedience.

Praying "in faith" does not mean I confidently tell God what I expect him to do. Praying in faith means I allow God to so conform my will to His that I place all my trust in his nature and character. I have faith that He will do what is best, even if it does not look like MY idea of best.

Then I confidently obey what He tells me to do and leave the results with him. At the end of every day, there is only one question that every child of God should ask him/herself: Lord, was I as obedient to you today as I know how to be?

If the answer is NO, repent and accept forgiveness. 
If the answer is YES, then you're done. Period. The results are up to him.

Freeing, isn't it?