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Before we were in our mother’s womb, God knew us (Jer.1:5), which means that His intent, purpose, and calling were established independently of our parent’s DNA, the circumstances surrounding our physical conception, or the history of our family. 

He not only made us in His image (Gen.1:27), but “pre-destined” us to be conformed to that image as well (2Cor.3:18).  Scripture goes on to say that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by God (Psalm 37:23), that the days ordained for us are written in His book, before one of them comes to pass (Psalm 139:16), and that God is faithful to complete the good work that He has begun in us (Phil.1:6). 

Within that framework, our identity, our value, our security, and ultimately our destiny were all meant to be completely derived from Him.  This design was fully realized in His Son, Jesus Christ, and to the degree that we are willing to surrender our lives to that pattern, it can be manifest in us as well.

A catastrophic consequence of sin is that as we become disconnected from the person of God, we also lose our connection to these provisions, and thereby invest those aspects of our being in other things.  Indeed, as originally conceived, Adam and Eve were naked, yet without shame (Gen.2:25), as they viewed themselves through the lens of the Lord’s affection.  But upon eating of the fruit, they gained a new awareness that caused them to look at themselves, and each other with a different perspective (Gen.3:7). Nothing had actually changed, other than their perception.

Undoubtedly, this is where the poisons of comparison, covetous, and competition were first introduced, and mankind has grappled with them ever since.  Within the first generation these toxins produced murderous effects (Gen.4:8), and like a swarm of locust, they have combined to devour just about every tender sprout of fellowship / community the church has endeavored to establish. 

With Western culture essentially fueled by these elements (i.e. comparison, covetous, competition), they have seamlessly blended into our brand of Christianity, largely rendering the church (in the west) impotent, or at least incapable of healthy reproduction.  Indeed, it seems doubtful that there is any standard within scripture that we have fallen shorter of than Christ’s assertion that the way people would be able to distinguish His disciples was by the way they loved one another (John 13:35).

In his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor.12) Paul lays out God’s strategy for the body, with each part having a unique design, and purpose that work together for the greater good of the whole.  Indeed, if these individual parts derived their identity and value from their Creator, they could work together in harmony, reveling in their distinct function.  Sadly, Paul also forecasts the inevitable chaos that comes when the various parts begin to compare themselves to each other (versus 15-26). 

Throughout scripture we see examples of the damaging effects of comparison, and Paul speaks directly of it in his letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor.10:12-18).  When the Israelites compared themselves to the people living in Canaan, they judged themselves to be too weak (Num.13:33) to apprehend the promised lands.  In Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard, the workers hired at the beginning of the day compare their wages to those hired at the end of the day, and feel cheated, even though they had agreed to do the work for that price (Matt.20:1-16).  And when Peter tried to compare the manner of death he was facing with how John might perish, he earned a strong rebuke from the Lord (John 21:20-23), who challenged, “What is that to you?  You must follow me.”

The inescapable byproducts of comparison are covetousness, and competition, which also breed their own dire consequences.  When Esau covets Jacobs stew, he willingly forfeits his birthright (Gen.25:29-33), and when David covets another man’s wife (Bathsheba), it leads to adultery, and murder (2 Sam.11:2-17).  Even more damaging, when the nation of Israel covets an earthly king to lead them (1 Sam.8:4-21), they forsake the supernatural protection of their heavenly King.

Likewise, there are multiple gospel accounts of the discord resulting from various disciples jockeying for their heavenly positions (Matt.20:20-28, Mark 10:37-45), Saul’s murderous intent caused by the people’s praise of David (1 Samuel 18:8-11), and the fatal outcome of one brother’s offering being found acceptable, while the other’s was not (Gen.4:2-8). 

Today, even relatively mature believers generally struggle to gather in any sort of meaningful way without falling into these same destructive patterns.  Churches and ministries are infamously contaminated with envy, greed, intrigue, and power struggles.  This constant strife is the antithesis of the destiny the Lord authored for His Bride.

And if sin is what separated us from our identity in Christ (including our value, security and destiny), then surely reconnecting with that identity is a critical part of our redemption.  Paul speaks of this in various places within his writings, especially in Ephesians 4 (17-32).  This “putting off” or “laying aside” the old self, in order to step into the fullness of Christ is a transformation rarely witnessed in Western Christianity, but it is the key to experiencing genuine freedom, and becoming effective ministers of the gospel. 

It begins with taking our eyes off of each other, and our circumstances (2Cor.4:18), and fixing them on the One who is Lord (Heb.12:2).  If real love is not proud, and does not boast; if it does not envy, and keeps no record, then there is no context in which it could ever be competitive.  And until (or unless) God’s people manifest the genuine article, we have nothing to offer in Jesus’ name (1Corth.13).

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There are three questions that the Lord routinely asks me to facilitate an attitude adjustment.

  • What do you know?

Jesus doesn’t just reveal truth, He is the embodiment of truth (John 14:6).  Without Him, we simply have information.  Frequently, the world convinces us that we have the facts, and from there we develop an argument, and soon we find ourselves looking for a forum to make our argument.  In the midst of such moments, the Lord commonly asks me, “What do you know?”  In other words, what is it that I have revealed to you about this?  More often than not, I find that my passions have been stirred by some external stimulus, and that He’s not speaking about the issue at all.  If I am endeavoring to live by every word that proceeds from His mouth (Matt.4:4), I can’t allow myself to be moved by such things.  If He’s not speaking about it, do I need to be speaking about it?  Only He has the words of life (John 6:68).  The genuine Spirit of prophecy is not only saying what God is saying, it is not saying what He’s not saying.

  • Is that how I handle (or have handled) you?

When I reach my wits end with people (or situations), and want to throw up my hands in frustration, the Lord often chimes in with, “Is that how I handled you (or your situation)?”  This instantly reminds me of the incredible patience and grace which He’s extended to me throughout my journey.   Within that context, it becomes impossible to justify withholding grace from someone else.

  • What does that have to do with you and me?

If I have truly surrendered my life to Him, if He has become my source, if He is the vine that I abide in… than this question destroys my rationalizations and excuses.  It doesn’t matter what “they” said, or did, or didn’t do…  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself as love (Gal.5:6).

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After working in the nuclear industry for nearly four decades, I have developed the habit of approaching issues in a scientific manner.  As such, I tend to look for the elements that are known (i.e. proven, reliable), or in mathematical terms, constant; because it is the arrangement of these constants that facilitates the determination of variables (e.g. if A+B=C, then knowing A and C will allow me to solve for B).   

Similarly, when developing a theory, it is important to identify the assumptions, because they play a significant role in the interpretation of experimental outcomes.  Faulty assumptions result in the misinterpretation of data, which then leads to wrong conclusions.

Most of us would like to think that our assumptions are rooted in truth, but it would be more accurate to say that they are based on what we believe to be true.  Jesus is the embodiment of truth (John 14:6), and our revelation of Him is partial at best (1Cor.13:9).  Consequently, our presumptions about truth tend to be more entrenched in our personal experience (including what we’ve been taught) than in anything that might qualify as factual. 

The idea that we somehow have an innate ability to discern the difference between what is right and what is wrong (i.e. good versus evil) is part of what the serpent promised Eve in the garden, and mankind has been eating of that fruit ever since.

Indeed, there is a way that seems right to a man (i.e. that he presumes to be right), but in the end it leads to death (Prov. 14:12).  Scripture’s exhortations to God’s children are predicated on His direct involvement; I can do all things through Christ who strengths me (Phil.4:13), with God all things are possible (Matt.19:26), those who abide in vine will produce much fruit (John 15:5)…  Jesus warned that apart from Him we could do “nothing” and I am convinced that He means absolutely nothing! 

The concept of sanctification seems to imply that believers eventually mature to a point of being immune to the temptation of doing what is right in their own eyes, but nothing in scripture supports such a notion. 

As a young child, riding in the back of my parent’s car, I didn’t pay attention to where we were going, because my father was driving, and I trusted that He knew the best way to get us there.  Even as an adult, I would never have presumed to take the wheel of my father’s car.  Why should it be different with my heavenly Father?

Minute by minute, we have to make a conscious effort to take every thought captive (2Cor. 10:5), to not lean on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5), to partake of the divine nature (2Pet.1:4), and to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt.4:4).  Even with the best of intentions, we can effortlessly slip into presumption, and not even recognize that we’re doing it.

How often do we act or speak in Jesus’ name, without ever consulting Him on the matter?  We presume that our knowledge of scripture qualifies us to handle an issue, and then wonder why our ministry doesn’t produce more real fruit.  Peter presumed he was saving Jesus when he grabbed the sword in the garden, just as Saul presumed he was doing God’s work by persecuting Jesus’ followers.  In both cases, God intervened on a personal level to stop them.

Ministers who have a sense of calling on their lives, or have been given a vision for their ministry, often begin to pursue the calling/vision instead of continuing to trust the Lord to guide them step by step to that destiny. 

God gives someone an anointing to flow in a particular gift, and they presume that they are now empowered to dispense that blessing as they see fit; even to the point of marketing it, or offering to “impart” it for the right price. 

Even simple prayers of petition can be laced with presumption, as we beseech God to do what we believe is needed, instead of seeking to understand His perspective and will for a given situation.

When we read 2Chron. 7:14 as a call to pray for our nation, we presume that we’ve already humbled ourselves, turned from our wicked ways, and sought His face.  Praying for a hundred fold return on every seed planted presumes that we’ve planted nothing but “good” seed.  Praying for God to send revival, send the fire, send… presumes that we’ve exhausted the resources He’s already sent (i.e. His Son and His Spirit) and that they were somehow insufficient to accomplish what He’s called us to.

If Jesus, a faultless son with intimate knowledge of His Father, refused to act without His Father’s guidance on a matter, than how can we presume to do otherwise?  If we genuinely fear the Lord, we ought to fear speaking, and taking action, apart from Him. 

Ultimately, it is the presumption that we know what is best for us, and/or what will make us “happy”, and/or  what is needed in any given situation, that keeps us from experiencing the “exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask for, or imagine” (Eph.3:20).

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I am a gifted man.  Does that sound arrogant?  I promise you that it’s not.  Actually I’m just repeating what the Bible says about all of those who are in Christ.  If you are a “Believer”, you could (and actually should) say the same of yourself.  Even if you’ve never recognized a spiritual gift within you, I can assure you that you’ve got them. 

The Apostle Paul said that we should eagerly pursue “spiritual gifts”, and he goes on to explain that these gifts are to allow each of us to fulfill our unique role within the Body of Christ.  This means that our motivation in desiring this giftedness should not be to glorify ourselves, but to serve.  Therefore it is important that we go beyond pursuing, identifying, and deploying our spiritual gifts, to also find the context in which the Lord is calling us to use what He’s given us.

Not many years ago, I would have denied possessing any special gifts, but as I’ve pursued a deeper and more personal relationship with the Lord, I’ve come to realize that He has actually given me many wonderful gifts.  While some might view that as a prideful statement, I would submit that the quality of a gift is a direct reflection of the Giver, and that it does not necessarily reflect anything about receiver (other than the fact that they are the object of the Givers affection).  I know that I’ve not done anything that warrants the good things that God has given me; it is simply a manifestation of His generosity toward me. 

While some might claim that God has been more generous with some than others, I doubt that is true.  I believe that there are many people who never realize what their gifts are, and thus never walk in the fulfillment of them.  I also believe that we judge some gifts as more valuable than others, but that in God’s view, they are all vital to the fulfillment of His purpose.  Because God is no respecter of persons, I believe that He’s given all of His children good gifts.  In light of that, it seems that the only grateful response is to use whatever He has given us to glorify His name, and to serve His people.

The danger in recognizing our spiritual gifts is that we can begin to see them as God’s stamp of approval.  As we become skilled at moving within our area of gifting, we can mistake that ability as Gods reward to us for faithful service, instead of His purely unmerited favor.  The Bible says that the spiritual gifts are “without repentance”, meaning that even if they’re not used for His glory, He doesn’t take them back. 

This also means that giftedness and holiness are not necessarily connected, or proportional.  It seems to me that we in the church are overly impressed by giftedness and largely uninterested in holiness; yet scripture tells us that “without holiness, no one will see the Lord”.  I once heard a minister say that the church doesn’t suffer from a lack of giftedness; it just suffers from a lack of money.  I’d submit that what the church truly lacks is holiness (and the genuine fruit it produces), and that without it, money and giftedness will only hasten our downfall.

In my own walk, I can see that the realization of my spiritual gifts has not made my heart any more pure.  The flesh continues to war with the Spirit for control of my soul.  God may give me the ability to discern something in the spiritual realm (which is simply a manifestation of giftedness), but the power is not in the discernment, it is in what I choose to do with it, which is greatly affected by what is in my heart. 

If I have bitterness, envy or strife with someone, I may use that discernment to gossip, or cause factions.  If I am insecure, I may use this discernment to try to puff myself up, or to promote my own agenda…, but if my heart is sold out to the purposes of God, I will ask Him what to do with this discernment, and seek to advance His purposes through it. 

The Lord reminded me of the story where Ham found his father (Noah) drunk, and naked in his tent, and of how Ham’s brothers walked into the tent backwards, so as to cover their father, and bring no shame upon him.  I felt like the Lord said that Ham wasn’t cursed for discerning the error of Noah’s ways, or even for telling his brothers about it, but because his heart did not seek to honor his father, or protect his family. 

I was convicted by that example, because I know that I have often been “accurate” in my discernment (i.e. giftedness), but have responded in ways that have not been protective of the Body of Christ or glorifying to the Lord (i.e. holiness).  Giftedness was never meant to be a substitute for holiness, or to be applied separately.

It is not my intent to in any way discourage the seeking and fulfillment of spiritual gifts.  As a matter of fact, I believe that the scripture mandates it, and that it is an essential element for us to reach our destiny as children of God.  I don’t believe that the church has even begun to scratch the surface of what Christ has attained for us, and that the great storehouses of heaven remain jammed with unopened gifts.  But I also believe that these gifts will only be effective to the degree that our hearts are submitted to the Lord, and that above all things that must be our priority. 

Spiritual gifts are like tools for the work of the Kingdom; and as with any tool, their effectiveness will largely depend on whose hands they are in.  We must place our tools in the hand of the Master Builder, because unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain.  As a man who is aware that he has been given gifts, I pray that God would give me a heart that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

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In my personal experience, I have found that the God who entreats us to resist our natural urge to worry about tomorrow (Matt. 6:34) is rarely speaking about future events.  Instead, He who is unmoved by circumstance, and does not regard outward appearances (1Sam. 16:7), is almost always addressing the condition of our hearts in the present tense.  Indeed, mankind’s obsession with knowing the future is rooted in fear, and is the antithesis of trust. 

In the C.S. Lewis classic, “The Screwtape Letters”, the old demon explains to his young apprentice that while humans are created with the ability to access both the spiritual and natural realms, their connection to the spiritual exists in the present.  Because of this, he encourages the younger demon to always have his “patient” looking back, or looking ahead.  Undoubtedly, this is so that they never make the connection to the source of their strength.  In this, Lewis unveils one of the most successful strategies of our enemy. 

Given the clamor of so many “prophetic” voices, claiming to have special insight into future events, we might do well to run back to our Father, and hear what the Spirit of the Lord is saying to the churches (Rev.2).

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Part of the fruit of “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” is the inherent belief that we know what is best for us, and ultimately what will make us happy.  Reflexively, we view situations through the lens of our own experience, and then lean heavily on our own understanding.  We may try to evoke some scriptural justification for our assessments, but it is the Spirit of God that offers us the balance. 

For instance, we can watch the evening news, and in our frustration, we can decide that what we really need is boldness, and then start praying for a “spirit of boldness” to be released; when the Spirit of Lord is actually trying to get us to take our eyes off the circumstance (i.e. temporal), and get us to engage in the actual spiritual battle (2Cor. 4:18).  Without the temperance of the Spirit, our fervor tends to drive us toward destruction.

No doubt, it was zeal for God that compelled James & John to want to call fire down from heaven (Luke 9:54), and Peter to swing the sword in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:51), and Saul to persecute Jesus’ followers (Acts 8:3).  But all were eventually admonished for doing what seemed right in their own eyes.   Indeed, boldness without discernment is a dangerous thing.

In much the same way, knowledge can be a two edged sword.  It is only when knowledge encounters humility that it has the potential to become wisdom.  Without the moderation of the Spirit, knowledge can simply puff a man up (1Cor 8:1), and God resists the proud (James 4:6).

Our carnal mind likes to classify things as either “good” or “bad”, but context is essential.  Paul tells us to eagerly seek spiritual gifts (1Cor.12:31), but then warns that without love, those gifts become worthless (1Cor. 13:1-3).  Scripture cautions that we are justified by faith and not by works (Gal. 2:16), but then declares that faith without works is dead (James 2:17).  We learn that there is power in the name of Jesus (Mark 16:17), but find that doing things in Jesus’ name is of no eternal value, unless we actually know Him (Matt. 7:23). 

To our finite way of thinking, things like justice and grace are diametrically opposed, and yet they are both perfectly reflected in the person of God.  The balance of these (and many other) issues can only be found in Him.  Ultimately, this is what allows us to be in the world, but not of the world (John 17:15-18).  Only He has the words of life (John 6:68), and apart from Him, we can do “nothing” (John 15:5).

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The longer I walk with the Lord, the more inclined I am to believe that the depth of our relationship with Him directly corresponds to the role we assign the Holy Spirit in our lives.  If we simply regard Him as a ghost (who essentially backlights our spiritual journey), or cast Him in the role of Jiminy Cricket (i.e. a little voice to tweak our conscience when necessary), or treat Him like a Technicolor Dream-coat (i.e. to provide us with exhilarating spiritual experiences), or view Him as a tool in our toolbox (i.e. ostensibly to do the work of the Lord), our relationship with the person of God will likely remain vague and distant. 

Indeed, there are whole denominations who have concluded that the Holy Spirit essentially completed His work back in the 1st century, which resulted in “the perfect word of God” (i.e. the Bible), which is now to be treated as our sole source for truth.  And while I certainly would not want to diminish the vital role the scripture plays in our walk with the Lord, I can confidently say that it was never meant to supplant the work of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, I would submit that we have no hope of rightly applying the scripture without the Spirit’s involvement.

It is also important to note that the scripture never actually claims to be the “Word of God”.  It says that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1); and then it explains that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). 

Before the crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that it was better that He go, so that the Holy Spirit would come.  And then, in the epistles, we learn that through the Spirit we have an anointing that teaches “all things” (1John 2:27), that we’ve been given the “mind of Christ” (1Cor 2:16), and that He’s provided everything we need for Godly living (2Peter 1:3).  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we are reminded that apart from Him, we can do “nothing” (John 15:5).  That most certainly includes rightly dividing the scripture.

It’s much too easy to grab ahold of a verse that seemingly supports our position, perspective, or attitude; without ever really inquiring of the Lord as to what He is actually saying about a matter.  Devoid of context, we may want to justify walking away from difficult people (i.e. if they don’t receive you, dust your feet off and go – Luke 9:5), when the Spirit is actually saying, “they asked for your cloak, but you should offer your tunic as well (Luke 6:29).” 

We may rationalize walking by the homeless man based on Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, which says that a man who refuses to work should not eat (2Thes 3:10), while the Spirit is trying to remind us that whatever we do to the “least of these”, we do unto the Lord (Matt 25:40-45).

Prophetic declaration is much the same.  We cannot simply grab ahold of what we want the Lord to be saying over a specific moment/situation.  We need to go directly to Him, hear what He is saying, and then declare those things.

The Pharisee’s and Sadducee’s dedicated their lives to the study of scripture, and yet, when the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah stood before them, they could not recognize Him.  In much the same way, we can spend time diligently studying the ancient texts without ever encountering the person of God (Matt. 7:21-23). 

Jesus warned, “You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.  These are the very scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life (John 5:39-40).  Though we like to refer to the Bible as the Living Word of God, this is only true to the degree that the Holy Spirit is involved.

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Many years ago, I felt like the Lord told me that He has not called us (i.e. the children of God) to be, “builders” of the KingdomAnd as I pondered that word, He began to show me that there is a big difference between building a house and moving one.  When we build a house, we choose a site, make our plans, and build to suit our expectations/desires.  But when the house already exists, we must go to where it is, and study its design, if it is to arrive intact at its new location.  It takes a totally different skill set, and it is a completely different activity.

The Kingdom of God already exists and God Himself was the Architect and Builder (Heb. 11:10).  God is not interested in some earthly replica of His Kingdom (Acts 7:48-49), He means for His Kingdom to come to earth as it already exists in the heavenly realm.  Scripture tells us that He is the “builder of everything” (Heb. 3:4), and that unless He builds the house, we labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). 

When Jesus spoke of destroying the temple and rebuilding it in 3 days, He qualified that the former was built by human hands, while the latter would not be (Mark 14:58).  He promised that “He would build His church”, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt 16:18).  Nothing that we’ve ever built has risen to that level.

I’ve heard many people use the first century church (described in the book of Acts) as the model or blueprint for what the Body of Christ ought to look like today.  And while there are certainly principles that we can derive from those early believers, they were never meant to become the prototype for the church. 

Reading through the New Testament, it is obvious that they had many of the same issues that we have today (e.g. arguments about doctrines, rituals, & traditions; factions; sexual immorality within the church…), and more importantly, they never became the glorious bride that Jesus returns for.

This isn’t to say that we (i.e. the Body of Christ) don’t have any role in the coming of the Kingdom.  Quite to the contrary, our part is essential.  Many have grabbed ahold of Paul’s allusions to a “wise master builder” (1 Cor. 3:10) as evidence that we are similarly called to be Kingdom “builders”.  But a closer examination of that passage seems to indicate otherwise. 

What he actually says is that he laid a foundation, as a wise master builder would (1 Cor. 3:10).  Part of moving an existing structure, is forming a foundation at its new location (preparing the ground), and that speaks to our role today.  He warns that no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:12). 

It is not incidental that within this same passage Paul points out that we can plant and water seeds, but only God can make them grow (1Cor. 3:7).  He is explaining the limited, yet vital role we’ve been given.  And so it is with the Kingdom of God.

Throughout the rest of that chapter, he reminds us that we are God’s field, God’s building (1Cor. 3:9) and God’s temple (1Cor. 3:16).  He’s not talking about structures, or organizations, or ministries, or doctrines, or methodologies, or networks, he is speaking of Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col.1:27). 

This foundation must be laid internally before it can be manifest externally.  Indeed, Jesus told His disciples that He would build “His church” upon the foundation (i.e. rock) of followers who’ve had the revelation of who He really is, and who hear the voice of the Father (Matthew 16:18).

Too much of the dialogue and activity surrounding the advancement of the Kingdom of God seems to take our focus off the King.  The idea that we are building something gets people excited.  It stirs our imaginations, and gets us strategizing.  But the Kingdom will not come until a proper foundation has been established, and that is ultimately a matter of the heart. 

To that end, I would submit that a more intimate connection to Him, and a greater to devotion to hearing/obeying His voice are the keys to seeing His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  Without those critical elements, we are likely to build yet another religious monument, that either crumbles from decay, or which the Lord Himself knocks over.

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For the last couple of years we’ve repeatedly heard that the best way to avoid the spread of infection is to minimize the time spent around other people, and to maintain a safe distance and/or wear a face covering when you have to interact personally.  While the effectiveness of these actions with regard to the spread of COVID is debatable, it is hard to deny their effectiveness within the standard western religious paradigm. 

Jesus said that the world would be able to distinguish His followers by the way they love each other, but it’s doubtful that anyone would describe “Christians” in the west as a close-knit group.  Indeed, we are more famous for the contentious division that has resulted in thousands of different denominations, and other disenfranchised ministries.  Even amongst these independent tribes/sects, there seems to be precious little transparency, trust, or genuine fellowship (i.e. mask-wearing).  This obvious discord could rightfully be deemed “Religious Distancing”. 

As individuals we need to examine our own relationship with the Lord, and wonder at the degree to which our hearts have truly succumbed to His.  God means to be the end that we are pursuing, not the means by which we pursue some other end.  The truth is that you cannot walk closely with Him, and not be infected with His compassion for the lost, or His burning desire to see the will of the Father done “on earth as it is in heaven”.  You cannot spend time in His presence, or hear His voice without being changed in some way.  But just as Paul told the Corinthians (2Cor. 3:18), we must behold the Lord with “unveiled” faces in order to experience this kind of transformation.

It is unlikely that a lost world will be infected with the love of God, by a people who seem to be immune to it themselves (1John 3:15-17).

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In my years of experience within the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement I’ve seen and heard some ridiculous stuff.  So I completely understand those folks who are apprehensive about walking down such paths.  But there is a reason that I’ve stayed.

For as long as I can remember, I have believed there was a God, who lived up in heaven, and who is “Our Father”.  Similarly, I was raised with stories of Jesus, who lived 2000 years ago, and who died for my sins.  I was taught that He was God’s “Only Begotten Son”.  There was also mention of a Holy Ghost, but being a ghost left Him a bit of a mystery.  Like some sort of eccentric relative, I’d heard his name at our gatherings, but no one ever seemed to speak of Him directly. 

Though I am thankful to have been raised with this understanding, it offered a woefully incomplete picture of who God really was.  More significantly, it made Him seem distant, and maybe even somewhat standoffish.  After all, the Father lived in a whole other realm, and Jesus was basically presented as an inspiring historical figure.  This made the most tangible elements of my relationship to God, a crucifix, some rosary beads, and possibly a communion wafer.  This sense of detachment made it easy to remain detached from Him.

Inevitably, I built a life without Him, and just as predictably, that life collapsed in the midst of the first real storm.  For the first time, I went looking for Him, and this time I needed Him to be as real as my struggle, my pain, and my fear.  I had to admit to myself, and to God, that He had been little more than a symbol or philosophy to me; and I prayed that He would reveal Himself to me in a way that would change all that. 

He promised that if you seek, you will find; if you knock, the door would be opened.  By His grace, He did that for me.  When I was finally introduced to the Holy Spirit, it was as though God had stepped out of heaven, Jesus had stepped out of history, and they all took up residence within my very being.

As awesome as that moment was, learning to live by the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and be led by the Spirit has been (and continues to be) a journey.  What drew me to the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement was their acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit, and the supernatural dimensions of our relationship with the Lord.  What has disillusioned me about my experience within these circles has been the way the power of the Holy Spirit is consistently trivialized and prostituted for temporal pursuits. 

The working of the Holy Spirit is meant to be deeply personal, transformative, and ultimately life giving.  But the Charismatic world is often more interested in creating a sensational event; a sort of supernatural light, or magic show.  We love to loudly proclaim that, “Lives are being changed,” but we struggle to produce much evidence that this is true.  Too often, we view this power as a tool to cultivate/grow our ministry, when our ministries ought to be a tool for the Holy Spirit. 

God’s power was never meant to be an instrument in our hands, we are meant to be an instrument in His hands.  Attempting to implement spiritual power without a corresponding submission to the person of God, often devolves into a sort of religious witchcraft.  Several years ago, the Lord told me that “the church” has tried to use His power like a stolen credit card, making purchases He’s not authorized for items He never intended for us to have.

Many have suggested that I simply return to a more traditional form of religious practice, but I have no desire to go backwards.  The Holy Spirit is the gift Christ died to give us.  In fact, Jesus said that it was better that He go, so that His Spirit would come. 

Ultimately, there are ditches on both sides of this road.  On one side, we risk becoming the people that Paul warned Timothy about, who have a form of godliness, but who deny the power thereof (2Tim. 3:5).  On the other end of the spectrum, we can become like the people who boasted to Jesus about prophesying, casting out demons, and performing many miracles (Matt. 7:22), only to have Him turn them away because He never really knew them (Matt. 7:23).

There is a narrow path that passes between these ditches (Matt. 7:14).  Lord, help us to walk in Your way.

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