Happy To Welcome You To The Hallelujah Chorus

I will exalt you my God, the King, I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and exalt your name forever and ever. Psalm 145:1-2

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Chasing the Wild Goose"

If you haven't read Mark Batterson's book, "Wild Goose Chase", I highly recommend that you first try to find it in your local library and failing to do so, order it from Amazon. The book is about the Holy Spirit and its title is taken from the way the ancient Celtics thought about him, a "wild goose".

Recently I saw segment on a television show about two young men in London in the early 70's who purchased a young male lion from a famous department store. They were able to "tame" the lion while he was young but as he grew much larger they wisely realized that living with this naturally wild animal as though he were a dog or a cat wasn't very smart. So, after several years they took him to Africa to an experienced animal conservationist who had worked with such animals for a long time. Eventually the lion was released into the wild to be what he naturally was, a wild animal living free rather than in a limiting cage.

Please feel free to disagree but I think maybe we modern Christians try to do something similar with the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote this to his son in the faith at 1 Timothy 3:16 "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great", which he then applies directly to Jesus' incarnation, earthly ministry and ascension. I see the Holy Spirit lurking in there too because from Jesus' conception to ascension, the Spirit's role was pivotal.

Hundreds of years before Jesus' earthly ministry, God promised to "pour out my Spirit on all people", the Joel prophecy which Peter quoted at Acts 2 as its fulfillment on Pentecost. As a young preacher I confess that I conveniently "skirted around" most of this great promise because I was unable to fit all of it into the theology I had been taught and was comfortable with. Not any more.

I confess also that I still am unable to answer all the questions that Joel's prophecy raises for me but the easy answers I was taught in my younger years seem now to be an effort to put a leash on the Holy Spirit. Trying to put the Spirit of God into a personal theological box that I am comfortable with is equivalent to thinking I can make a wild animal into a domesticated house pet. Truly the "mystery of godliness is great" and it always will be. In the same way that I cannot fully explain how God became a man (although I understand "why"), I will never be able to answer all of my questions about the Holy Spirit.

The ancient Celtics had it right I think, the Spirit of God is and will always be a "wild goose". My faith finally came to a point where I realized that I really don't need answers to all my questions - I just need to have faith in my Father that no matter what, his Son and his Spirit will always be at my side to reassure my heart and challenge my spirit. He may not always do so in ways that fit my theological leanings but when that occurs I know there is something I need to learn from the experience.  HALLELUJAH!

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Pray in the Spirit"

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." Ephesians 6:18

I have to confess that for at least twenty years or more, this one verse vexed my own spirit. Its one of those small "snippets" that is easily overlooked because it isn't really a clear principle like "obey your parents". It just leaves too much room for questions that may not be easily answered. So, I struggled to understand the "how" of it for a long time. I studied it every way imaginable trying to get a handle on how to connect "pray" with "in the Spirit" in my own practice of prayer.

Finally in 1992 I met and became very close with a brother (Ronnie Worsham) who helped me step backward and see the greater context in which Paul made this statement. In fact, he and I later wrote a workbook about that greater context. In the years since I have praised God often for sending Ronnie to help deepen my understanding and daily awareness of the presence and ministry of God's Holy Spirit for my life. So, here it is.

This statement is found near the end of Paul's detailed instructions about living as "children of light" that began back at chapter 4. As he began his closing exhortations, he urged us to "put on the full armor of God" and "take your stand against the devil's schemes". He then goes through the famous litany of exactly what that "armor" is and how it helps us to stand up to Satan with confidence and faith. All of that "armor" is defensive except the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God", which is both a weapon of defense and offense. Then Paul injects this encouragement to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests". He goes on to tell us to always "be alert and keep on praying for all the saints" and to pray for him.

I have come to realize that all this "armor" is really a defense mechanism for my mind against Satan's ability and determination to attack my mind and sidetrack my actions away from being a warrior for God in my world. If Satan can control my mind, he can control my actions and thus the outcome of my faith.

Actually Jesus warned about this very thing in his Parable of the Sower at Luke 8. Satan controlled the outcome of three of the four situations Jesus spoke about. Any time the word of God is sown in any heart, there is always the great possibility and likelihood that Satan will control the outcome, if not immediately, at least eventually. He is nothing if not persistent. But, so is the Holy Spirit.

I have come to realize that the Holy Spirit is actually my "armor bearer" who helps me get dressed in that protective armor God has provided. That is something all of us need every day we draw breath because Satan patiently watches and waits for just the right moment to step in and whisper his instructions into our own spirit. Without that "armor" we allow him to, as Jesus said, "come and take away the word from our hearts" or "in the time of testing, fall away", or being "choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, do not mature". Satan controls the outcome unless we are "armored up" as the saying goes.

So, "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kind of prayers and requests" is what getting "armored up" is all about, the protection of my mind to prevent Satan from controlling the outcome of my faith. My Father constructed me to succeed in this battle for my mind, he sent Jesus to ensure that victory of faith and he has given me his Holy Spirit as absolute assurance that Satan will not win. Paul had already said that to the Ephesian disciples at 1:13-14 "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession to the praise of his glory". HALLELUJAH!