Monday, August 22, 2016

Encountering the Holy Spirit

"The Holy Spirit must be really chaotic and scary," I decided as a young believer. In my quest to find out who the Holy Spirit was, my youth group leader directed me toward a charismatic church in town. "They will show you," he suggested ominously. That night I found myself in a church, radically different from any I had ever known. People were running, jumping, screaming and chanting in tongues up and down the aisles. A lady standing close by caught my wide-eyed, bewildered look. "This is the Holy Spirit's doing," she explained briefly. Her words was no comfort to me. If I had not been completely surrounded by this mayhem, I would have fled this scene as quickly as possible. Much later I understood that the Holy Spirit does endow Christians with gifts such as teaching, prophesy and tongues, but they are for the building up of the church. What I had experienced was the same chaos which the apostle Paul addressed in the early church when he asked, "If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?"  (1 Cor. 14:23)

Slightly intimidated, I continued my quest for knowing the Holy Spirit. A year later I spent Easter at Camp Obadiah in Australia. After an evening worship meeting I asked the main speaker for prayer, telling him that I desired more of God in my life. "What you want is the Holy Spirit," he clarified. "I will pray for you and then you will fall over immediately. Afterwards you will start speaking in tongues." This seemed like a proven method, when I watched this speaker pray for others. Now he started praying for me - nothing visible happened. Other leaders joined in - still nothing seemed to happen. "Stop resisting the Spirit," they urged. After half and hour, which seemed like an eternity, almost the entire camp had joined in praying. Finally they gave up, deciding I was too resistant to the work of the Holy Spirit. Really?! - If I could have conjured up in myself anything to force the Holy Spirit into action, I would have done so.

From that day on God has regularly given me prophetic visions. This has taught me that the Holy Spirit cannot be put into a box. He has no prescribed method and does what He wants. (John 3:3)
The Holy Spirit is nothing like I thought in those confusing beginnings. Yes, He is unpredictable like the wind, but He is not scary, because He does not act contrary to his own character. This becomes visible in the fruit He brings forth: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22)
It has been so worth overcoming my prejudice and fear for the sake of knowing Him.

"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:13)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

You are mine!

My thirteen-year-old son, Daniel, is Southern to the core. He is an accomplished hunter, an award-winning fisherman, and he knows how to hull sunflower seeds in his mouth - something I will probably never master! Recently he decided to give his mom an introduction to some of his favorite country songs. Contrary to my expectations I actually really enjoyed them. One song in particular strongly resonated with me. "He is Mine!" is what country singer Rodney Atkins declares about his teenage son, who comes running to him for safety. Despite the fact that his boy is on trouble with the neighbors for smoking and shooting beer bottles while trespassing on their property, the father embraces and claims him wholeheartedly. "He is mine," he proudly tells them and no action on his son's part could ever change this.

Through his song, this father gives us a perfect example of unconditional love, without condoning a single part of his boy's actions. Atkins clearly reflects the father-heart of God. God is speaking to his children in the same way when He says, "You are mine." (Is. 43:1b) Even when we get into trouble, He still claims us as His own. My propensity is to hide from God in shame when I have sinned against Him. Like Adam and Eve I doubt that He would still want to be with me. Instead, God longs to embrace us as we come running to Him, just as Rodney Atkins displayed in his song.

Nothing that we do can cause God to stop loving us. God claims us completely, not only when we are doing well. Sometimes it takes a Southern boy and his favorite country song for us to really grasp this truth!

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." (Isaiah 43:1b)