Authentic New Testament Solutions

The Divine Flow

Love Series #3

Job said, “. . .  when God comes near, I cannot see him. When God moves by, I do not see him.” This could be the testimony of thousands of Christians. They want to be used by God, but do not recognize his presence and guidance when it comes. The Lord is so near, yet they don’t perceive him.

I love God’s people and desire to help everyone of them find the best for their lives. And I believe that every believer, regardless of their occupation, can be a minister to others. God wants to use all of his people to serve others. Every one of us are called into ministry.

But very often we don’t recognize God’s Spirit working in our lives to help us minister to others. Most of us are convinced that God will work through someone else to reach the people we care about. But no one has the relationships and the credibility we have to reach the people in our world. We are special. We are called. We are right where we are supposed to be, the age we are supposed to be, and with the relationships we are supposed to have. With that confidence, we can uniquely help the people around us.

You can reach people no one else can reach. God wants to use you to make your specific world a better place. It starts with your sphere of influence. You are God’s instrument.

But how do we know who we are to minister to and how we are to minister to them?

Matthew 14:14 says, Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 20:34 says, Jesus felt sorry (had compassion) for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him.

In Mark 8, Jesus said, I feel sorry (have compassion) for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. After this, he multiplied the loaves and fishes and fed the multitudes.

There are 21 Scriptures in the New Testament that talk about miracles happening through Jesus after he felt a strong, loving emotion toward people. It’s the same with us. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior and ask him to fill us with the Holy Spirit, we receive love in our hearts like never before. In other words, we have a greater desire to make the lives of others better. We want to heal those who are sick and give to those in need.

All of my ministry life I’ve watched people be filled with God’s loving Holy Spirit and they always do the same thing: hug people, love people, pray for people, give to people, serve people.

Why is that? It’s because God is love. And when we ask God to take dominance in our lives, love takes over. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are filled with his love.

And just like Jesus was moved by love and compassion toward others, so are we. I call this the divine flow. In the Scriptures listed above, and many others in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Jesus felt love flowing out of his spirit toward others. He followed the flow of that love and ministered to the multitudes. The end result was that the healing love of God brought deliverance and healing to the suffering people of that day. Love directed his life. It led him constantly.

The Devine flow of God’s love in our hearts can move us toward the people God wants us to reach..

2 John 6, quoted here from the Amplified Bible, says,

And what the love consists in is this, that we live and walk in accordance with and guided by his commandments, his orders, ordinances, precepts and teachings. This is the commandment, as ye have heard from the beginning that you continue to walk in love, guided by it and following it.

All of us have had someone come to mind and, when we pick up the phone and call them, or send them an unexpected gift, or visit them, the result is some form of healing. This, I believe is the way we are guided by and follow God—by being guided by and following love.

Let me urge you never to follow hate. Never follow evil thoughts or impulses to get even. Never return evil for evil. Never follow that which is selfish or that which is full of greed and covetousness. These are not of God.

Instead, pay attention to the prompting of the love that is in your spirit. It might be the Holy Spirit guiding you.

I am sure that at some time you have felt God’s love tugging you. God is nearer to you than you may think, and he is directing you through love to share his grace with others.

Don’t miss that blessing. You are experiencing God.

Be guided by love.

Follow love.

God’s love is stifled when we are selfish and mean, unwise or manipulative, lustful, covetous, self-seeking, or deceitful. It doesn’t flow through us when we argue and fight or have ill-will and malice.

Instead, love is living for the good of the other.

Jesus is the perfect example of love, yet he was friendly to some, but not to others; he rebuked some, but not all; and he healed some, but not all. Love is serving others, but it does not mean we are mushy. Love does not make us weak; it gives us strength so we can serve others (see blog #1 in this Love Series).

So, fill up with love by being continually filled with God’s Spirit. Get rid of any bitterness that may be in your heart and avoid strife, filth, darkness, and hurt, and forgive those who have hurt or disappointed you. Think of ways you can gain skills to help you serve people better. This is how you love them. And finally, be open to the flow of God’s love through you, so you can sincerely make life better for others.

Love does lead us, which is why all of us need a secure attachment style (read blog #2 in this Love Series for more explanation of this important idea). When we have a secure attachment style, the love of God can work without hinderance in all of our lives, and we can respond to that love with the wisdom that also comes from God. This is how God will use you as a minister to heal yourself and others. With long-term life-giving relationships and long-term participation in a life-giving church, you’ll gain the wisdom and power to let love direct your life, and you will discover the abundant life God has prepared for you.

Authentic New Testament Solutions

Slender Man: The Holy Spirit Can Help You With Him

On a beautiful Saturday morning, May 31, 2014, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, two 12-year-old girls lured another12-year-old friend into the woods and stabbed her 19 times in an attempt to impress Slender Man, a fictional character. The two girls who attacked their friend were later sentenced to 40 years in a mental institution.

Gayle and I watched the 20/20 special on this tragedy. As I watched the program, I couldn’t help but wonder if all of their lives might have turned out differently if they had been more involved in a healthy life-giving church.

I pastor St. James Church in Colorado Springs, and enjoy watching the lives of those who attend improve. As any of us develop a healthy walk with the Lord, God’s Holy Spirit motivates us to discard negative thoughts and behaviors and cultivate life and service for God and others. It’s life changing as God’s Holy Spirit works in our lives.

I love the Holy Spirit. He is the third person of the Trinity who is present within us and among us. He is the source of the still small voice of the Lord in our hearts; he is the one who gives us strength when we are weak; and he is the one who comforts us.

Isaiah 11:2 lists some of his characteristics as wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord, all of which he willingly shares with us. No doubt, it’s the Holy Spirit who delivers into our lives the goodness the Lord Jesus appropriated for us on the cross.

The Holy Spirit reveals the love God has for us, and the reality that God sent his Son to the earth to rescue us from the pitfalls that could trap any of us.

No doubt, little girls who confuse a fantasy character like Slender Man with reality are in great need of the Holy Spirit’s friendship.

The Holy Spirit was poured out on the whole earth over 2,000 years ago; but God’s ministry in our lives only becomes dominant when we invite him to be our Lord. It’s then that he saves us from our own dark and sinful desires.

That’s why Paul wrote in Romans 8:13b,

. . . But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.

That life is available to all of us IF we know we have a need and take action. When we participate in a life-giving local church, learn the Scriptures, and invite the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, we grow in God’s loving nature instead of the world’s violent, power hungry, dark view of life. And we can trust the Holy Spirit to illuminate our lives so we can see ourselves accurately. David’s famous prayer from Psalm 139 can serve all of us well. David wrote,

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Now this is where we all have opportunity. Once we become self-aware and acknowledge that we need to eliminate certain aspects of our lives while building other, more positive aspects, we are able to judge ourselves. Then the Lord helps us with the process of becoming better people.

In the case of the 20/20 report we saw, life-giving spirituality may or may not have provided a complete solution for the two young attackers, but healthy spirituality would have certainly helped.

Very often, our spiritual lives give us a desire to improve, a desire to be better people than we currently are, and a desire to serve God by serving others. But the Holy Spirit does not always give us the steps to get there. So often, the Holy Spirit’s ministry gives us the motivation that launches us on a journey to greater goodness, but then we are responsible to identify and then walk the path that eventually gets us there.

If, however, we reject the Holy Spirit’s counsel and involvement in our lives and decide not to deal with our destructive issues spiritually, then we may very well lack adequate motivation and power to change, and are more likely to suffer the consequences. However, if we cooperate with God, he will help us, and sometimes he will discipline us just like competent earthly fathers assist their children in growing in goodness and shunning evil.

In Hebrews 12:9-10, the Bible says,

Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.

So we have a choice. We can try to avoid God’s counsel completely, avoid church, God, the Holy Spirit, and good Christian people, and live according to our best guesses, or we can ask the Holy Spirit to become involved in every area of our lives and enable us to grow in God’s goodness.

It’s our choice.

21st Century Evangelicalism

Rational Charismatics

I was raised in the United Presbyterian Church by a Presbyterian Dad and a Methodist Mom. When I was 16, Bill Bright ushered me into a more dynamic and personal relationship with Christ, and when I was 18, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I loved serving the Lord and experiencing the fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in my life. But when I turned 50, I went through a personal crisis as I tried to determine how I should identify myself within the body of Christ. After much internal debate, I finally decided that I was a “Rational Charismatic.”

I am Charismatic, knowing without any doubt that the gifts of God, as outlined in the New Testament, are available and operational today.

I am rational, meaning that facts and reason inform my beliefs. Evidence matters. A quality education and the ongoing development of ideas that impact our lives and inform our understanding of the world around us matters.

Sadly, after writing that, I feel the need to validate my conservative biblical beliefs to my friends reading this blog. That subtle feeling reveals the problem we have created. Why have we believers allowed ourselves to think a high view of Scripture and confidence in the person of Christ doesn’t coexist with rational thought?

Jesus is so completely the Son of God, Son of Man, Lord of all and Creator of all, I have no reason to doubt that he is who he says he is. So much so, that I have no fear in pursuing my doubts, thinking through the realities of life, and interfacing what I read in the Scriptures every day with science. In my mind, New Testament faith does not require blindness, because there is evidence for its truth. I have no trouble reconciling the discoveries found in the natural history museum with Genesis, or chemistry with Jesus turning water into wine. Because of the miracle Christ has done in me, I know he can override natural law, but natural law is not his enemy. He created this orderly system within which we live, which is why the scientific method of discovery works.

As referenced earlier, some conservative believers have made a horrible mistake by positioning their teachings against science. Modern science is the product of western civilization, which is the child of Christendom. Centuries ago the popes taught that science and the Bible conflicted in areas which science has since been proven correct. Now Bible scholars agree that the church’s interpretation of the Bible was wrong and that, in fact, the Bible and scientific knowledge are harmonious. Think of that. As science has proven to be correct, the church has had to refine its interpretation. What’s wrong with that? Our interpretations of the Scriptures are not the absolutes of Scripture. Some of our interpretations should change as we grow and learn. I believe that since God is a God of order, and he created all, that the knowledge we gain through studying his creation is harmonious with the Scriptures.

Those who deeply embrace and defend ideas they believe to be biblically based, which are not evidenced, might find themselves in the same position as our forefathers who tried to defend a flat earth. Facts are helpful in informing our interpretations of Scripture. Scripture is helpful in informing our existence. Facts are never the enemy of Christians.

I’m not defending the cynic or the unbeliever. In my view, people who let their hurts, arrogance, or bigotry shadow their thinking are just as vulnerable as sincere believers who are desperately hoping they are right, when they are wrong.

Accepting modern science is not a contradiction of Paul’s admonition to reject the “wisdom of this world”. He wasn’t dealing with science, but philosophy and our understanding of God and our existence. He wasn’t devaluing the importance of facts or truth, but emphasizing the temporary nature of trends and traditions, something we should continue to be cognizant of today.

We can grow in our understanding of the Bible, believe the New Testament, and fully operate in the power of the Holy Spirit, without having to deny the reality that exists in the world around us.

Let’s be rational, Bible-believing Christians. To be rational Charismatics might require that we discard some of the cultural superstition in our modern Christian practice. I think that would serve us well.