Holy Spirit, You are welcome here

“Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere”

Where is “here”?

The room we are in?
The community?
The city?

Could we think bigger and bolder?

Is here our state?
Perhaps even our country?
Can we invite the spirit to fill the world?

I do not believe the Spirit needs nor wants our permission to fill a room. This gives us power we do not compel. Worse, it puts the Spirit in a box. The Spirit… one of the attributes and parts of the Trinity of God. I think this is important to define to help us understand what we are singing about. Even if the Spirit were waiting on instructions from our limited understanding, what would we tell it? I fear, based on our often selfish ambitions and lack of omniscience, we would ask for things that do not serve at the feet of God. I’m thinking of farmers that pray for rain while just one town over people are devastated by floods. While possibly well intentioned, they are oblivious of the larger picture surrounding them.

So where is ‘here’? Close your fingers into a fist and pound your chest just once. Here! We may not be able to command the Spirit, but we can BE the Spirit. We can invite the Spirit into our church on Sunday mornings to enhance our singing or possibly boost our courage before we go back into the world… or we can invite the Spirit into us. Where we take it with us. Where we can yield to it and be the hands and feet of God in the world. What are the words after, “you are welcome here”?

After we welcome God into our hearts? “Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere”. Flood our bodies. Fill our souls. And when we walk into the Sizzler after the church service, it is not us that enters the buffet line, but it is God exuding beyond our skin. We don’t tell God where to go, we kneel and obey and follow him from within.

We can’t force God in. But we can force Him out. This isn’t taking power away from God. It’s the free will that He gives us. We can fill our soul with unpleasantries that God simply won’t treat with. If our lives are filled with garbage and we invite the Spirit in, you may just leave church empty and alone. When you invite someone into your home, what do you do? You sweep. You mop. You clean. If it’s your boss, you hide all of the company stationary. Some may light candles for an inviting mood and a pleasing smell. In short, we create an environment where someone else might feel comfortable and welcome. We don’t say, “welcome to my filthy trash heap!” No! We welcome them to our home. Our HOME. Our dwelling. We are welcoming God to stay within us. He won’t stay long if He is competing with the flies around overflowing garbage cans.

While it may seem like semantics to some, I’ve witnessed too many people asking God to come down and visit for a bit before allowing Him to retreat back to Heaven where He belongs. And it breaks my heart. Mostly because I’m extremely guilty of this and I can’t stand it when I disappoint my Savior. Holy Spirit, you are welcome here. Here. HERE! Bang that chest one more time.

Before asking, I’ve cleared out all of the offensive and wasted space to allow room for You, Holy Spirit, to truly dwell. I don’t want a visit. This isn’t temporary. It’s not a sleepover nor am I requesting You take the room over the garage for an extended stay. I’m inviting You to take over my life. It’s clear that without You leading my body, I’m a complete wreck. I’m inviting You to the only place that I have any control over… the temple that You created for Yourself. While You had the power to occupy this person, You have patiently waited for me to choose You. Not just choose You, but to sacrifice for You. To toss out and run away from things that have kept us apart. And now that I have learned what Your love is for me. And how desperately I need You, I’m inviting You to come back. To come back and to take control. Where You lead me, I’ll be there overflowing the atmosphere of every place my feet are able to step… with You.

Holy Spirit, You are welcome HERE! Come flood THIS place and fill the atmosphere…

I have a theory as to why so many don’t ask God to come into their own personal lives…. They are scared. Terrified. It’s not a prayer that typically goes unanswered. Heal the sick, keep those traveling safe, bless the homeless. We can take them or leave them. But… asking God to step into our lives and turn everything upside down. Shaking the foundation of who we are, rattling the walls we built for our own safety, and when the dust settles… changing our outlook, turning away from earthly priorities, and walking out a new, changed, reborn person of God. Yeah, that isn’t for the weak or faint of heart.

I’d like to ask you to ask God into your life, but most everyone thinks they already have. So instead, I’ll dare you to sing this song and mean it. Ask God to tear down all the wrong in your life and rebuild you in His rebirth. Maybe the better question… is God even welcome in your life? Only you and He can answer that.

Prayer Life. What does that mean?

I pray when I fly

If I’m honest, I’m scared. It’s the one time I don’t have control…

And too many variables can go wrong. There are the extreme possibilities: terrorism, hijacking, explosive devices, and all manner of ideas that those who wish harm on innocents might concoct. But there are plenty of much more normal occurrences that can happen. Weather could be worse than predicted. Electronics can malfunction, mechanical failure can occur, human error, oversight, or judgement could cause an innumerable amount of issues, the inflight movie could be Indiana Jones 4.

I don’t have control. I don’t have the physical abilities to combat multiple armed enemies. I don’t have the technical skills to repair a damaged plane. I don’t have the engineering skills or the forensics abilities, or the foresight, or any of the myriad of needed experiences to assist when something may not go according to plan. Flying has proven to be very safe… until the news reminds us that there are exceptions to many rules in life.

So I do the only thing I can do. Yield to God. I pray. I ask for safety. I pray for those around me. I pray for the pilot, the mechanics, the flight attendants, the baggage handlers, the ticket takers. Each of them a potential hole in the security and safety of my flight… and each of them a possible hero of the day.

But prayer leads to reflection. Not knowing the entirety of each intricate detail of God’s will, I pray for myself as well. This plane will either land and I’ll continue my life (hopefully a better servant for God) or it will fall and I’ll see God momentarily (hopefully having pleased God with my life lived). A bit grim perhaps, but prayer leads us places. When we really open and pray honestly… it can lead us to many places.

I pray often during the flight. If I manage to get distracted from my quiet time with God, it doesn’t take long for some turbulence to hit, or to hear a creak, squeak or moan from the plane itself. Even the fasten seat belt sign coming on can jerk me back into prayer mode.

And all the while, I’m thinking the same thing you probably are. What a sissy! Look at everyone else enjoying the flight. Read a book, talk to someone, take a nap. This tiny fear has fully consumed me. And I go running right into my Daddy’s arms so he can make it all OK, just like a little child. Because God is our Father. He kisses the booboos, and protects us from the dark just as any Father would. And what parent doesn’t love it when the kids come to them, putting their faith in them, their trust?

This is the relationship God wants with us. To go to Him. To acknowledge He is in control. To have faith in Him. To trust in Him. To bring our fears to Him. To hide behind Him as both our authoritative father and our loving and protecting parent. But once our feet hit the ground we can’t seem to let go of the controls. Once we feel safe, as soon as we get into familiar territory, or after the fog clears, then we are ready to go at it all alone again.

Flying may get us from point A to point B, but prayer really takes us places. And when we have the strength to let go of the controls, we realize that the real fear isn’t in not having control. The real fear is what we will do with it. Running to God isn’t the weakness. Not letting go… that is the coward in us refusing to stand behind a bigger God. God wants us to pray when we are scared. Even more importantly, God wants us to pray when we aren’t afraid.

What if we offered up to God something we aren’t scared to do? Driving to work, eating lunch, mowing the lawn, time with friends and family. What if we handed EVERY moment over to God, and not just the ones we can’t do anything about anyway? What if God was not only our Father, but also our friend? And in that, we humbly share our lives with Him. But most importantly, allow Him to guide us, knowing He is in control when we let go. What if we asked Him into our lives and trusted Him in ALL things. I can answer that broadly. There would be NOTHING to fear.

I guess that is irony that what keeps us afraid is our inability to let go of our fears. But it takes a pretty deep relationship with God to understand how He works in our lives and how He responds to our faith in Him. He isn’t a genie that grants soccer wins, admonishes money, or flashes fancy clothes on us. He is a parent that loves His children and wants them to love Him back. No one feels love when the child returns with their hand out. My prayer on the plane… That was for me. The journey begins when prayer naturally exists in our lives just as we breath and sleep.

Christ didn’t gamble on us

Perhaps it may help to understand the mind of Christ when He came to earth.  Or, to be more precise, where His mind wasn’t.  A quick glance in Isaiah 53 can clear this up for us.

“He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.  Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we counted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

This was written in scripture quite some time before Jesus came to earth.  In fact, this was the scripture He came to fulfill.  The point i want to make today is very basic.  Jesus didn’t come to us on a bet.  It was NOT a gamble.  He and God didn’t have a disagreement about mankind.  Jesus didn’t leave heaven exclaiming, “You’ll see!, they will change!”.  He didn’t come to earth, first with a goal of saving us, and the cross was merely His backup plan.  The sin had already been committed.  The cross was already the ONLY plan Jesus had.  And if you are sitting there thinking, “Well, duh!”.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Jesus still came.

We sing about Him on the cross and how he could have called 10,000 angels to set Him free from his torture and death.  But we rarely realize that this was not Jesus’ first introduction to the plan.  The cross wasn’t an ‘uh-oh’ moment for Jesus.  The cross was His destination all along.  He knew, from before birth in the manger, that His life here was about pain, humiliation, backstabbing, manipulation, and death.  All from the folks He loved and wanted to save.

He still came.  In other words… humanity did not disappoint.  God knew blood had to be paid, and who better to handle that?  Like clockwork, we found out Jesus was better.  He was holy, he was pure, he was unwavering in His faith.  And we knew very quickly He had to die so we could get on with our corrupt lives.  We all performed God’s plan to perfection that day.  Jesus showed up, prepared to die.  And the sinners showed up, prepared to kill the innocent Savior.

This isn’t revolutionary, but I hope a change in perspective might help with the magnitude of what Jesus did for us.  His trip to earth wasn’t a mission gone south.  The cross wasn’t the result of poor timing, missed opportunities, or misinformed planning.  The cross is EXACTLY what was planned in response to our refusal to honor God.  And we made it possible.  In fact, we carried it out.  He knew.  He knew our hatred, our greed, our corruption, our pride, and He still came.  He also knew God.  He knew God didn’t bluff.  He knew God loved mankind in spite of our actions.  He knew God wouldn’t send him here with a hidden agenda or with a secret plan B.  He knew His mission was the cross.  He knew when He carried it on His bloody back, He knew when He was adored by cattle and wise men in the barn.

So my question for today is… now that we KNOW what He did for us and what we did to Him.  What will we do today in response?

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Daily Prompt: Copycat

via Daily Prompt: Copycat

When I look in the mirror, I see an anomaly.  Difference.  Insufficiency.  Not like them.  They have grace, they have purpose, they have a likeness.  All of them do.  Why do I fall so far short?

He runs faster, she writes better, they tell better jokes.  Enthralling.  I can’t stop watching.  Comparing.  And shrinking into the shadow alone with my shortcomings.  They can’t see me, I’m certain of that.  Sight does not protrude past elegance and charm.  Why would it?  What could it gain to envision garbage beyond their crystal existence?

I have a plan.  I’ll be like them.  Just like them.  The dress, the walk, the language.  It’s all so perfect.  When I’ve mastered it all I’ll join them.  Will they know?  Can they smell the deceit?  Will my trickery be punished with worse than what I’ve already endured?  It’s worth the risk.

Tomorrow I’ll change.  I’ll transform.  I’ll study, mimic, and pattern.  Tomorrow, I’ll copycat.  And… finally… I’ll be unique.

Greetings Sinner!

Good morning sinners!

Or, would you prefer to be addressed as something else? Something a little less blunt and honest? Lets face it, you most likely read that greeting and hung your head down knowing you have a checkered past that you regret, or you got angry because you are living in denial. We are all sinners. Some of us have just forgotten about that. Some of us don’t want to be reminded as it’s in our past.

There is a movement that I have noticed among Christians that seems to have lifted a passage or two out of our Bibles.

“Do not judge” Matthew 7:1

Whew! It’s still there. What a powerful and complete thought in three blunt and irrefutable words. Why not judge? Well we don’t even have to turn the page to find out why we shouldn’t judge. It’s the very next sentence. If you judge, you will be judged. And that verse is extremely threatening because each one of us deserves the cross for our sins. Some of us have dropped to our knees and made life sweeping changes at the thought of Jesus taking on our sins and redeeming us from our fate.

And for those of us that know Jesus personally, we get that verse. We get Paul. The Christian murderer who went on to proclaim Christ and who has become a saint in the eyes of many new believers. We understand the prostitute. The woman whose death-sentence was being carried out until Jesus gave permission for any perfect person around to finish her off. With no one able to meet that criteria she walked away a new woman with a simple command, “sin no more”. Why no more? Because Jesus knew what his cross meant for us. It was a dividing line that bridged a massive gap between yesterday and today. Yesterday we lived in sin and today we live in Jesus. The cross did that. His sacrifice for us did that. Jesus allows us to live a new life, innocent of our past.

So all we have left to tidy up this gift of salvation is our hypocrisy. Our ability to thank God for forgiving us from our past and then turning to our neighbor and condemning them for theirs.

And here is the really hard part. We all know people we would love to forgive right now. Or at least allow God to forgive them… but we know deep down that if we did that, we would have to allow forgiveness for others, and that would put them all on the same playing field. And, if we are brutally honest (which is the only kind of honesty) that makes us sick. We want to forgive one person while claiming another person is irredeemable.

“That all of them may be one”. John 17:21. Jesus’ final prayer to God before being executed. We are one in our sin. We are one in our forgiveness. Jesus wants us all to be one in Him. He knew then, that evil would tempt us towards division.

I’m not proud of my sin. I’m actually proud of very little in my life. But I find great pride in my future. I am happy and secure in God’s promises for me. And the thing I’ve noticed in my short life as a forgiven Christian, is that I’m not looking at the sins of others, when I’m looking at God. I’m not judging others, when I’m trying to improve my own life.

I’m not much on challenging others or calling people out. But I thought this verse was particularly helpful to me today. I can imagine the rebuttals, and the exceptions, and the what-ifs being hurled directly, indirectly, or even under the reader’s breath. But this verse speaks for itself. Lets try it out:

But….

Do not judge.

You are forgetting…

Do not judge.

How about…

Do not judge.

But…

Do not judge.

This person…

Do not judge.

The Bible also says…

Do not judge.

Aren’t you judging us right now?

Do not judge (besides, it’s a loving reminder :p)

I like it when it’s simple. Jesus knew the minds of people. If only one person stood before the prostitute with rock in hand, ready to stone her to death for her sin, and Jesus gave them a chance to admit sin in their own lives… they could have easily justified throwing with full force. Our minds are tricky that way. We can rationalize a lot of things. But this was a community of believers. They looked around at each other and their minds began to fact check. That guy knew me when I was a teenager, I can’t throw this in front of him. She saw me after prom, I can’t throw in front of her. All alone we can summarize a quaint, perfect, existence for ourselves… until we remember we have a past. And then we catch a glimpse of those we have wronged ready to cast blame at another.

As a community of believers, we have strength in sobering up to our true pasts and current selves. As one, the one unit that Jesus prayed we would be, we can’t honestly cast stones at each other. It’s far too easy to judge. The enemy uses it as a sucker’s game to lure us in and we just keep dropping money until, before we know it, we are broke. The high road is to follow the scripture. “Do not judge”. Period. Amount of anger does not matter. Level of depravity does not matter. Humiliation suffered does not matter. There isn’t an asterisk in the ancient manuscript that points us to all of the exceptions where it’s OK to judge. Its simply never allowed. Instead, we have bigger fish to fry. We have sin in our own lives that needs forgiveness. We have enemies to pray for, possibly the very ones we are tempted to judge. We have service to provide. We have a world that desperately needs to see the love of Jesus in each of our hearts.

A judgmental heart is accompanied by an idle mind. One that has the time and energy to put towards work against the will of God. Harsh? Perhaps. But let’s be honest, we’re all sinners. And we need each other focused on God and leaning on each other in the spirit of love. We need each other judgement free, so that we can confess to each other, work with each other, love one another, and be one with each other.

Let me try one final analogy. Eternity isn’t the time where we start learning to get along. I would go so far as to say that it will be a required trait to have mastered BEFORE we leave this side of life.