Friday, May 13, 2016

What If God Didn't Show?

I know all the theology, so you don't need to correct it. I know God is with believers, etc., but the question the title asks is a challenge none-the-less. Let me explain . . .

I remember hearing a question once that asked, "How many ministries [in a given church] would continue to operate without a hitch if the Holy Spirit departed?" This question comes back to me now and then as a challenge. How much of my life? How many of our ministries at True Life Christian Fellowship? How much of what we do and try? How much depends on the Holy Spirit . . . and how much is simply our good intentions and our resources and would continue without a hitch if God simply didn't show up? How much is just "church" . . . and how much is actually the living God, poured out Spirit, at work in and through us?

How much of my life, and how much of our fellowship, operate dependent on God? I know ultimately we are, of course, but the point being made is one to ponder for each of us, and for each fellowship of believers. I think it is very easy to simply do things because we've always done them, or to convince ourselves it isn't God talking to us when the thought comes to do something radical or that stretches us. How much of what we are doing, saying, etc., requires God to bring it to completion?

For example, ultimately salvation is something that must happen between a believer and God. But I wonder how many people have been pressured or emotionally hyped into saying some "magic" prayer. I know, as a fire department chaplain, that many, many times when I've asked about someone's faith who has died, the answer from loved ones has been something like, "Well, they prayed a prayer when they were eight" . . . and now in their middle ages there has not been any fruit of any true interaction between them and God. (I know it isn't our place to judge the salvation of someone, but we are given discernment, and I do believe it fair to comment on what I've observed, not drawing any ultimate conclusions about a person.)

I know when I am in a place where I am really following Jesus—submitted, allowing myself to be the sail that rather than tacking against the wind of the Holy Spirit is running with it steering me at full strength—it is actually unusual for Him to not lead me into very uncomfortable places or discussions or attempts at something . . . things that take me way out of my comfort zone and absolutely require Him to bring them to completion. I also know that when I am struggling, or in a rut, or hurt and withdrawing, I find it too easy to "turn off" the dial to His still, quiet whisper and to remain in my "safe" shell.

One of the first acts of Jesus recorded in Mark 1:21–28 is His casting out of a demon in a synagogue. I have a penciled in note next to that account that causes me to pause each time I read it. It says, basically, "The demon was comfortable in church until Jesus showed up!" Wow. May my life, and my fellowship, never be so devoid of the Spirit's anointing and power that a demon is quite OK around me. May I never quench the Holy Spirit.

A passage that is a strong warning to me is in Acts 19:11–20. Paul is casting out demons, healing the sick, etc. Then the seven sons of Sceva try the same thing, using Jesus' name like some magic word, and they get jumped on and beaten up and driven out of the house naked by one demonized man. What a strong reminder that Jesus isn't just some magic "open sesame"—He is the living God and when I am submitted to His authority I then walk in the authority He has delegated to me. Demons aren't afraid of me . . . they obey the authority and name of Jesus when Jesus has given it to me to use, and I am under His authority.

May my life, and the fellowship I pastor, live in a place where we are operating completely dependent on the Holy Spirit's anointing. If we aren't, if we only stay in the realm of what we are comfortable doing on our own (comfortable, because we know WE can do it so we don't have to live in a place of faith, knowing that if He doesn't finish it then it won't happen), then we will not experience the edge of what He is doing. Of course "church" will be really comfortable then . . . but is that what any of us really want?

I know for me, I have to repeatedly ask about different ministries, events, youth group activities, etc., if God still wants us doing something. It is very comfortable to do something you've done over and over, and if we aren't careful we can assume God wants us to do something just because He has in the past. I don't think it is a mistake, however, that the Old Testament records God delivering His people in almost every instance in a different way—each time they had to hear from Him His plan for that specific moment. In the New Testament we see Jesus healing people, and in instance after instance He does it one way one time, then another way another time.

If we get to that place where we just kind of do what we've always done, we stop listening for the whisper that says, "This time, spit in the mud and wipe it in the eyes . . ." This doesn't mean He won't guide us to do something the same way we have before, but how affirming and faith building to have heard His fresh voice on that and to know we are living/acting in the freshness of His life and power and leading, and not simply in some comfortable religious tradition. He is life, He is breath, He is living water. The Holy Spirit is living water, fire, a wind. These are words of life, of movement, of dynamic relationship. And asking and living in dependence keeps us in relationship and not just in some religious "mode."

It is not comfortable to live in complete dependence on God, but the alternative . . . to live so comfortable in doing it like you've always done it, because you've always done it, runs the risk of living within your self and your means . . . and I don't ever want to do it. I do it too many times. It is safe . . . but I don't want safe—not really—I want to see miracles, I want to see His power poured out, I want to see addictions broken, marriages restored, fathers and prodigals returned, bodies healed, depression crushed, demons fleeing in terror, the lost saved . . . and I can't do any of those things. Only He can.

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