Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Get Out of the Rut

Stand on your tiptoes on one foot. Close your eyes, and with the hand you do not favor, stick out your index finger to side and then in a sweeping fashion reach up and touch your nose. Hold that posture (one footed on tiptoes, offhanded, touching your nose with your index finger, with your eyes closed) for as long as you can.

How long did you last? A minute, two, longer? Did you feel great when you gave up and were back flat-footed, bipedal, eyes open, and arms down? Comfort, ahhhhh! It feels so nice to be rid of physical and mental tension. When our experience of tension in life approaches a crescendo, comfort is about all we think about. When we are aching for a rest, we're not ready to hear inspiring oratory urging us to reach higher, stretch further, lift more, go faster. It's annoying and frustrating at that time-- rubbing salt in our wounds.

Sit back in your favorite easy chair. Kick your feet up and relax. Take ten deep cleansing breaths in a row, shut your eyes and lay your head back, and empty every thought from your mind. Hold that position and frame of mind for as long as you can.

How long did you last? You didn't fall asleep did you? Did your rest come to an abrupt end when you remembered something important you had to get done; or with a start, did you jump to your feet, realizing you were hungry for some pretzels, or ice cream or that particular sandwich you had been thinking about earlier? Rest is great for a while, then it gets, well, boring. The antidote to that boredom is hunger: something inspiring that urges us to to reach higher, stretch further, lift more, go faster-- lighting a fire under us.

To always be hungry or to always want rest are unrealistic approaches to life. It's not the way God made us. He grants his beloved rest, AND drives his Son into the desert to battle the devil. To make progress, the most important thing is not getting stuck in a rut. In some ruts, torrents are rushing causing everything stuck there to tumble and roll and be bulldozed down the muddy hill by the tide. In other ruts, things are the same as they've been for so long, the rut itself is the only evidence that something once happened there.

God is a god of comfort and a mighty rushing wind. We need to find peace in either condition in its season, knowing that seasons change. How about you, my friend, are you at peace? Or are you tense and frustrated, restless? Maybe you're foggy, dazed from inactivity, not quite sure where you are or what you're supposed to be doing? If either of those two extremes is your answer, it's time to switch gears. The Holy Spirit will guide you, if you're open to change. There is life outside your canyon, but to experience it, you've got to get out of your rut.

Friday, May 25, 2007

What's In a Day?

Pentecost is upon us. It doesn't get celebrated like Easter or Christmas, maybe it should. Then again it's hard for me to see any need to treat one day as more important than any other.

In my view everyday is Christmas, a day to gratefully acknowledge the incarnation of God the Son in human form. Without his willingness to empty himself of divine prerogative, to be found in a form like ours, the lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world would never have been slain at all. Then our sin would still be ours to pay for-- perish the thought!

Everyday is Easter to me as well, a day to joyfully celebrate the resurrection of the Lord. If he had not bodily walked out of that tomb, we'd have nothing. Anyone can make an outrageous claim to be God and to know the secret of life. Anyone's followers could spin their guru's death after he was gone as an altruistic martyrdom. But where would that leave things? Nowhere with certainty. How can we know a messianic claimant has the goods to deliver? Simple, let him defeat the ultimate foe-- death! We know for certain that what Jesus did worked because he rose bodily from the grave. How do I know there's hope in eternity for me. What he did, he promised I will do too. How exciting!

Everyday is Pentecost for me too (at least since April of 1980), a day to experience the discernible fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Jesus thought it was important for his disciples, after they had known him as the risen Lord, to wait until they were endued with power from on high before they went out to be the witnessing church. I'm glad the experience happened early in my Christian life, before I pursued God's calling for my life.

I once heard a preacher say that he was a Calarminibapticostal. That's a mouthful, for sure, but today like everyday, I celebrate Pentechristeaster! God is with me, now and forever, so what's in a day anyhow?

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Holy Hunch

What does inspiration feel like? How do you know you're receiving it? Jesus described what he experienced as inspiration as seeing the Father act and hearing the Father speak. We may be at a loss to understand exactly what that was, but we would have to say he was sensing something.

The evangelists occasionally describe Jesus as being moved in the bowels (i.e. with compassion) just before he began miraculous ministrations. I know there is a scholarly assumption which sees that as nothing more than an idiomatic expression basically equated with "he felt their pain". I think there was more to it than that--Jesus was "feeling" inspiration. He certainly felt virtue go out from him when the woman with the issue of blood touched him.

Speaking of what would be our experience in the Holy Spirit after the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus said rivers of living water would flow out from our bellies. A metaphor, or more? How about a physical analog for a spiritual experience: the action of the Spirit causing sensible repercussions in our corporeal beings. I'm not saying every bit of indigestion is God speaking, but I am most certainly saying God speaks to those that believe, and his voice reverberates in the soul of man!

There are those who would naysay this interpretation of things, but I ask, where are their greater works, their miracles, their anything that Jesus modeled, the Apostles emulated, and that the early church reproduced? Unbelieving, they say those things passed away; whereas believing, charismatic folks produce such things even today! When one has faith, and is open to the inspiration of God, the flutter of the Spirit of God can stir the soul, and somewhere in our consciousness we experience that stirring as the "holy hunch".

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Faith or Feeling

As a Pentecostal, I fully believe the present day inspiration of the Holy Spirit is available for all who believe. The works that Christ did, and the Apostles did, and the church at Corinth did, we can do, and even greater works than those. That is a promise from Christ, and who would dare call him a liar! That, however, begs the question, how does one receive that inspiration? Somehow that inspiration must be discernible or nothing could happen. It has to be felt, someway! Of course, that kind of thing makes many folks nervous (especially cessationists). After all, everyone knows that Christianity is a matter of faith and not feelings.

On one level that is most certainly true.
Becoming a Christian is about buying into an historical record. Accepting certain facts by faith. For instance...

Jesus, the Son of God, came to the earth as a man. Fact. Jesus, the Son of Man, led a sinless life, never once disobeying or displeasing his Father, God Almighty. Fact. Jesus, the Messiah, went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the Devil. Fact. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was crucified and died for our sin in our place. Fact. Jesus, the Risen Lord, came alive out of the grave on the third day, securing our redemption and resurrection. Fact.

More could be said, but that suffices to get the point across. To become a Christian one must believe in facts about Jesus Christ, related by eyewitness testimony. Warm fuzzies, lightning bolts, feelings are not necessary, faith is.

When it comes to inspiration, the past can set a pattern, but the goods are in the present being experienced right now. One must feel in order to move in the Holy Spirit, but what kind of feelings?

Anyone involved with Pentecostalism or the Charismatic Movement for any amount of time can recount horror stories of folk doing bizarre, even the harmful things because of a feeling; or conversely, not doing what is clearly commanded in scripture because they didn't have a feeling. That CANNOT be moving in the Holy Spirit! Have you ever done something you shouldn't have because of a feeling, or haven't done something you should have because you didn't have a feeling? I don't ask in order to set up a false dichotomy, because ultimately, it's not faith or feeling, it's both.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Oops, There Goes Another Rubber Tree

Jesus said if we had any faith at all, we could send trees flying. Well, I just looked out my window, and guess what-- not one went whipping past! Does that tell us that faith is a rare commodity? It's not like everyone doesn't have a tree or two he or she would like to fling (I've got three in my backyard all by myself); so wait a minute, let me look again-- nope, nothing! We're not talking about a lot of faith here, Jesus said a mustard seed's worth is enough. Shhhh, I just heard something, let me look again... it was only wind and thunder, no uprooted trees setting sail. The car owner in me is glad, the child-like Jesus follower in me, kinda wishes it was dangerous out there. Hard hat territory!

I know, I'm being silly and a bit cheesy, but there are a lot of folk in the Christian realm that feel absolutely awful because they're not able to get a flowerbed weeded let alone the dead oak out back banished. I'd sure like to comfort them with the words of Christ, but how are we to get past the rebukes for that kind of thing. Jesus made it abundantly clear that he wants us to have faith that moves things, that births miracles.

How? Sista Cala pointed out in the prior post's comments that Jesus marvelled at the centurion's faith. Wow, that's a mighty fine affirmation! What was it about his faith that gained the approval of Christ? Let me suggest two reasons:
1) The centurion's faith was rooted in the authority of Jesus;
2) The centurion's faith was focused without doubt.

I want to expand upon those thoughts in future posts (and add a few more), but until then, let me ask you, how do you feel about where you're at in those two areas of faith? Leave a comment, let's talk.