Hungry for God

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Ride the Wave  

There have been thousands of “waves” of the Holy Spirit throughout church history.  Here’s one example: in the country of Wales, between 1762 and 1862 there were at least 15 outstanding revivals (see “Revival Comes to Wales” by Eifion Evans). 

I grew up in Southern California, and did some surfing.  I never surfed enough to became a good surfer.  But I did learn some of the fundamentals of the sport.  There are many parallels between catching a wave on a surfboard and catching a wave of the Holy Spirit. 

What do you do when you surf a wave? 

1.  Watch for it.  While we are never without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, it’s good to always be looking for incoming waves.  When you see people being touched and hear stories from near and far about extraordinary things God is doing, you are seeing incoming waves that might reach your own shores.  This raises your faith level, and spurs you on to seek the Lord diligently, to pray and listen and respond to him. 

2.  Get yourself in a position to catch it.  Being in the right place at the right time is supremely important in surfing waves.  You learn it by doing it.  Simply go where there are waves and you pick up the knack for being in the right place.  Things of the Spirit are “more easily caught than taught.”  So hang around people and places that are receiving and giving away the Holy Spirit’s blessings.  Several years ago I was in Hawaii on a ministry trip (poor me, someone has to do it).  I got a couple of brief surfing opportunities with my son, Ben.  While I was paddling to catch a wave, one of the local surfer women shouted out, “go, go, go!”  She could see I needed to pick up the pace to catch the wave.  We need friends around us to cheer us on towards our spiritual goal. 

3.  To catch the wave.  You have to build up speed to catch the wave, which means you have to paddle hard. I relate this to having good spiritual habits.  You learn to pray by praying.  Just as surfers build up strong upper body muscles through lots of paddling, we build up spiritual muscles through frequent practice.  Mother Teresa said, “Prayer is a 2-way conversation.  God speaks, we listen.  We speak, God listens.”  The Holy Spirit is our constant inner teacher.  We tap into what he is saying by maintaining a posture of prayer. It’s not easy to catch a wave in surfing, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.  (I think it’s much easier to receive the Holy Spirit than to catch a beach wave!) 

4.  When you’re on the wave, you move in response to the wave.  You “do what the wave is doing.”  Keep listening.  Abide in him.  Get your instructions from him.  Do what he says.  In Paul’s teaching on discerning spiritual things, he says, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2).  If we have access to the mind of Christ, that means he can potentially be feeding us his thoughts non-stop.  Because we aren’t perfect receptors for his thoughts, we miss a lot of stuff.  Nevertheless, he is always ready to lead and guide. (Every analogy has weaknesses.  In a sense, we are always on a wave of the Holy Spirit because he is connected to our own human spirit.  See 1 Cor. 6:17, 2 Peter 1:4).  In surfing, you “feel” your way along the wave.  Not unlike moving with the Holy Spirit. 

5.  The power comes from the wave, not from us.  If we abide in him, we will bear much fruit by virtue of our connection with his love, wisdom and power.  This is liberating.  We never have to produce the power, and we never take the credit, because he is the source of every blessing.  

Good waves come in sets of 6 or 8, then there’s a lull, then another set rolls in.  Watch and wait for the right times to surf.  If there are no waves, go have a barbeque on the beach!  At all times, love one another, serve the needy, and do the “main and plain” things that every Christian should do. 

6.  Riding a beach wave is unlike any other feeling I’ve had.  It’s definitely a euphoric experience.  I think it’s even more fun than skiing or snowboarding – being smoothly carried along by a very powerful force.  For me, these euphoric feelings in surfing have been few and fleeting.  The Holy Spirit’s presence in us is much more constant and dependable than a beach wave.  He is always with us.  We don’t focus on euphoria, we focus on him, and sometimes he gives us a taste of heaven, and helps us to help others experience the same wonderful freedom. 

7.  Disclaimer.  Maybe the biggest weakness of this analogy between surfing and responding to the Holy Spirit is that surfing is and individual sport and immersion into the Holy Spirit is best done in relationship with others. 

8.  Watch for waves!  Paddle hard!  Trust the wave-Maker.  Be connected to a community of comrade-Holy Spirit-surfers.

Post #10: Living in Humility 

A life-changing conversation between mother and son 

When he was 10 years old, David Eisenhower was vey excited about joining his older brothers to go trick-or-treating on Halloween night.  But his parents wouldn’t let him go.  They thought he was too young.  David threw a terrible temper tantrum.  He begged his parents for the chance to join his brothers.  In a rage, he screamed and cried and beat his hands against a tree. 

His father spanked him and sent him to bed.  Later on, his mother came to comfort her son, taking him into her lap and gently rocking him.  After a time of quiet, she quoted Proverbs 16:32: “He that conquers his own soul is greater than he who takes a city.”  She explained to him how dangerous it was to hold bitterness in your heart towards others.  Hanging onto anger will damage and imprison you. 

Sixty-six years later, when he was seventy-six, Eisenhower wrote, “I have always looked back on that conversation as one of the most valuable moments of my life. To my youthful mind, it seemed to me that she talked for hours, but I suppose the affair was ended in fifteen or twenty minutes. At least she got me to acknowledge that I was wrong and I felt enough ease in my mind to fall off to sleep.”[i] 

Here is another example of foot-washing.  In this case, we see the long lasting impact of sitting quietly with a person and speaking kind words.  Ida Eisenhower was doing what all faithful mothers do.  She was consoling and counseling her young boy.  She couldn’t have known she was shaping the character of a boy who would become President of the United States.   She couldn’t have known that this 20-minute conversation would always be remembered by her son as one of his most life-changing moments.  The slow, steady, humble work of showing compassion to a weeping child has long-term benefits that we can’t see in the moment of crisis.  This was another “secret place” moment of showing love to a hurting child. God sees every kind word, every minute and hour you’ve spent in compassionate caring. God sees that kind of faithfulness and rewards it—even if it takes a long time.  Through the centuries, mothers have had huge influence in shaping the character of their children and students, some of whom become leaders and influencers.  Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” 

What if David Eisenhower had turned out to have an unproductive, unremarkable life?  What if he had spurned all of Ida’s wisdom and guidance?  Would that have changed the value of Ida’s tender care for him?  No. If you’ve loved, you’ve succeeded.  If you “make love your highest goal,” as the Apostle Paul says, you’ve done well. We can’t control how the recipients of our love will respond.  

[i]   David Brooks, The Road to Character, Random House, New York, 2015, Page 52.

Post #9: Change in God's Pocket 

Change in God’s pocket 

Rich Nathan, pastor of the Vineyard Church in Columbus, Ohio, shared in a sermon, “John Wimber used to say that we need to be loose change in the pocket of the Lord that he can spend any way he sees fit.  If you want to spend me right where I am, spend me, Lord. If you want to spend me overseas, spend me there, dear God.  If you want to spend me in this ministry or this job or this non-profit or working with kids or elderly people or whatever, do so.” Have you ever said, “God, I give you the absolute right in this season of my life.” You may be a young person and single or you may be a retiree or an empty nester.”

I heard John use this term “change in God’s pocket” many times in sermons.  It’s a picture that sticks with me.  In our culture, people feel entitled to all kinds of privileges.  In God’s great plan, he can do with us whatever he wants to.   

“Come to Latin America” 

Earlier this year I was in Mazatlan, Mexico, teaching and leading worship at a Vineyard church that reaches out to many groups of poor people in the greater Mazatlan area.  One of the last nights, I was leading worship in a training meeting for local Mexican church members.  

The meeting wasn’t well attended.  I have to admit it’s hard to fly thousands of miles to a place, and sometimes only a small group of people show up to the meetings.   But it’s worth it (vale le pena).  It’s all about partnering with local churches who are pouring out their lives to reach needy people. 

Though the meeting was small, on this occasion I was really enjoying leading worship in Spanish.  When the worship set was finished, I turned away from the microphone to walk offstage and I spontaneously started singing, “I’m change in your pocket, you can spend me however you want to.” 

On another trip to Latin America this year, God spoke to me clearly, reaffirming a previous word.  I was leading worship and teaching at a Vineyard church in Santiago, Chile.  After the meeting, I sat down on the front row and the Holy Spirit came on me powerfully, so I sat quietly and waited.  God said to me very clearly, two times: “Keep coming to Latin America.” 

This was part of God’s answer to a prayer I frequently pray: “God, what do you want me to do next?”  Just to be clear, there’s nothing more spiritual about going to a different continent than there is in helping people in our own neighborhoods.  It just happens to be part of what I do.  What has he called you to do?

 

Post #8: Living in Humility 

A Teenage Girl Says Yes to God 

Pretend for a moment that you are the main character in this unimaginable situation.   You are a 13-year old girl, engaged to be married.  A huge angel shows up to announce that you’re going to get pregnant by the Holy Spirit.   This gigantic shining angelic being is staring you in the face and you feel overwhelmed. 

Yes, you know the story.  Put yourself in Mary’s shoes for a moment.  “The angel greeted Mary and said, “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.”[i] This is the angel Gabriel we’re talking about.  When Gabriel appeared to Daniel around 600 years before Christ, Daniel was so terrified, he fell facedown on the ground.  He was sick for days after his experience with the angel.[ii]  Aside from being very afraid, what were Mary’s thoughts?  “OK, what do you want from me?  I’ve never seen an angel before and I’m scared.” 

The frightening angel continues, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.  He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’[iii]   God “has a surprise” for Mary—that was the understatement of the century.  

There are different kinds of surprises in life.  Like, “your house just burned down!” or your boss says, “I’m sorry but this is your last day.”  I wonder if in the first few moments of this encounter, Mary saw Gabriel’s visit as a bad surprise.  We don’t know what she thought. 

Perhaps Mary was thinking, “What this angel just told me has nothing to do with what my mother taught me about pregnancy!”  No woman in history had ever become “pregnant by the Holy Spirit.”  Did Mary say to herself, “Do I really have a choice in the matter?”  There’s no way we can know exactly what she though or felt.  But you have to wonder… 

Mary was a regular teenage girl 

When we hear this story at Christmas time, we frame it kind of like a fairy tale.  Because we know the end of the story, we think, “of course, Mary did the right thing.” 

We say, “O yeah, the virgin birth, how amazing!”  But this miracle was completely unprecedented.  Maybe Mary wondered, “are you a good angel or…?”  We can’t possibly understand or experience the shock and angst this teenager felt.  

Mary said to the angel, “How could I get pregnant if I’ve never slept with a man?”[iv]  When the angel explained she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit, I wonder if it made her feel any better.  Mary was a typical young teenager in ancient Israel.  She probably spent very little time outside of her own home and neighborhood.  It was customary that women weren’t allowed to talk to men unless their father was present. 

In first century Palestine, women were seen as second class citizens.  (Jesus would soon be turning that tradition upside down.)  In Mary’s time, women simply did what men in authority told them to do.  “Well behaved” women really didn’t have a choice—do what the man tells you to do, or in this case, do what the giant man-angel tells you. 

Whatever her first reactions were, by the end of the conversation with this male angel, she said, “OK, let God’s will be done with me.”  She was convinced that this messenger was truly from God. She must have been thinking, “I don’t know exactly what I’m getting myself into, but here I go.  My gut tells me this is right.”  

Isn’t that what hearing from God is like?  This is how Peter and John just knew it was right when Jesus said to them, “come, follow me.”  There’s no other explanation for why they immediately left their jobs to follow Jesus, the preacher-healer.  It’s the same reason that Matthew left his job immediately when Jesus invited him to “come, follow me.” 

[i] Luke 1:28, Common English Version 

[ii] Daniel 8:27  

[iii] Luke 1:32 

[iv] Luke 1:34, The Message

Post #7: Living in Humility 

Humility in the Desert 

Jesus is the forerunner for all believers—the Father led him into the desert to test and try him.  When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit of God descended “like a dove” on him.   A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 

In the very next verse, we read:  “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”    At the baptism, the Father essentially tells Jesus:  “I am so proud of you!”  Though Jesus had not yet done any public ministry, the Father affirms how pleased he is with his son.  The very next thing the Father does is to take Jesus to the desert to test him!    This is what our Father does with all of us.  He refines our faith and character through trials and temptations.  He teaches us to surrender our power. 

Jesus’ desert experience is a model for us.  The context is this: God loves you and is inviting you to go deeper with him.  When he takes you to the desert, it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong!  He is testing your character.  In the desert, who we are is revealed.  He refines us. We go deeper in trusting him. We humble ourselves to learn whatever it is he’s trying to teach us.  He gives us grace to endure difficulty and become more like him. 

Why does he humble us?  So we can know him better, rely on him more, and make less mistakes in the future. The journey to the promised land always goes through the desert.     God purposely humbles us to teach us his ways.  Every person who sincerely follows Jesus should get ready to embrace humbling experiences.  It’s part of God’s game plan. 

Post #6: Living in Humility 

Humility Brings Rewards 

If you’re smart, you’ll learn humility.  If you want your relationship with God to flourish, you’ll walk humbly.  If you want satisfying relationships with your family, friends and work mates, you’ll develop a humble heart.  If you want the best long-term rewards available, you’ll always be learning from Jesus’ example of humility. 

Humility is a safeguard against unnecessary failure and disappointment.  We will make mistakes and be disappointed, but we can minimize that by learning the Jesus way.  Humility makes us ready to learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime.  

Without humility, you can’t be a lifelong learner.    To be an apprentice of Jesus we must constantly have the humility of a child who is eager to learn.  A teachable heart opens the door to God’s grace. 

Scripture teaches that we catch God’s attention by walking in humility.  Despite the trials we may undergo, walking in humility brings a huge reward: 

God rewards the humble with wisdom.[i] 

God saves and shows favor to the humble.[ii] 

God guides and sustains  the humble.[iii] 

He crowns the humble with victory [iv] 

He hears the prayers of the humble.[v] 

Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life.[vi] 

The God of all grace is all about helping us, enabling us, and blessing us.  The idea of grace in the Bible describes the whole of God’s activity towards his children.  It’s available in unlimited measure to those who choose a humble path.  

[i] Psalm 18:27  

[ii] Proverbs 3:34 

[iii] Psalm 25:9  Psalm 147:6  

[iv] Psalm 149:4  

[v] Daniel 10:12  

[vi] Proverbs 22: 4

Post #5: Living in Humility 

Seek Jesus, Find Humility      

It’s not that humility should be the focus of our life’s pursuit.  Jesus is our focus.   At the core of Jesus’ nature is humility.   

Jesus humbled himself to the very lowest place and as a result was exalted to the very highest place.  In Jesus, a very important spiritual principle is demonstrated:  those who humble themselves will be lifted up—honored or exalted.  Jesus followed the Father’s plan, and was rewarded with the very highest honor of any human in history.  

Jesus shows us the definition of humility – saying “yes” to his loving Father’s plan. He cooperated with his Father, saying “not my will, but yours be done.”  

To be a disciple of someone is to copy everything they do.  It’s to absorb and become everything they are.  Being apprenticed to Jesus means taking on his character.  Because humility is central to the character of Jesus, by seeking him, you enroll in his school of humility. 

When a new position becomes available in your company and you see yourself as highly qualified for that position, but someone else gets promoted, God is taking you to humility school. 

When you passionately argue your point with a friend but in the end you see she is right and you are wrong, you’re learning humility. 

When your role at work is discontinued and it seems like God has pulled the carpet out from under you, you feel like asking “Have I done something wrong?”  Not necessarily.  It means:  It’s time to grow!!  God is saying, “I’m pruning you, purifying you, getting you ready for the next step.” 

You are God’s child and you’re also his student.  What a privilege—to follow in his footsteps, humbly serving just as he did.  This is the key to life, happiness and fulfillment. 

Post #4: Living in Humility 

Humility is Good Soil

Andrew Murray said, “Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure.”  Murray, a pastor and writer from the late-18th and early-19th centuries in South Africa, is one of the many voices from history who lifts up the importance of humility. 

When I plant flowers in a pot or a tree in the ground, I make sure I am using healthy soil.  Without a nutritious environment, the plant won’t grow. 

In becoming a student of Jesus, we nurture “good soil” in our hearts.  In this good soil, the graces can thrive:  obedience to God, and all the attributes of divine love. The fruit of the Holy Spirit thrives in the soil of humility.   Humility creates an environment in which Christ-like qualities can thrive and grow. 

Humility is the soil in which gratitude grows. 

Humility acknowledges God as the giver of every good gift. 

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  

Without humility, you can’t be thankful when life beats you up.  

Without humility, I can’t forgive when I’m insulted or disrespected. 

Without humility, I can’t volunteer my time to serve someone who has no way of paying me back.  

Without humility, I can’t shut up and listen to my wife’s side of an argument.  

Without humility, I can’t graciously bend with the changing seasons and responsibilities of my life. 

What does a humble life look like?  

Moses, Part 2

Moses shepherded a very large group of unruly, complaining people.  He put up with their forgetfulness of God’s many miraculous interventions.  When there wasn’t good water to drink or good food to eat, they complained.  Most of the time, Moses was patient with his grumbling flock.  On a few occasions, Moses got angry with his people.  But he never deserted them.  He faithfully and humbly served them. 

Even when his brother and sister turned against him by publicly complaining against him for marrying a Cushite wife, he showed compassion.   Moses was merciful to Aaron and Miriam, asking the Lord to heal them of leprosy.  

Moses’ humility was first expressed in surrender, and later expressed in using his authority to release God’s saving power through signs and wonders.  The order of those two things is key.  First surrender, then come works of power. 

When Moses said yes to God’s call to set the Hebrew people free, amazing miracles happened and millions of people’s lives were radically changed for the better.  God poured out his grace. 

But, even after the Red Sea miracle, it seems that Moses had no illusions about the limitations of his own power.   He carried a sobering responsibility—leading a small nation to freedom. He knew it was way above any human’s ability level.  He knew his only choice was to depend on God’s help. 

Jesus shows us the definition of humility – saying “yes” to his loving Father’s plan. He cooperated with his Father, saying “not my will, but yours be done.”