Last night a storm came through our town, it continued through most of today bringing strong winds and blowing snow. My husband was sick, so he slept upstairs in our bed and I crashed on the couch, only I couldn't really crash. I just laid there for hours listening to the sound of the wind rushing around our house and through the trees. I heard the creaking of the front porch swing. I felt the strangeness of "perfectly still air" indoors knowing that just on the other side of the window, the door, the exterior walls, the air was anything but still. It was violent, powerful, unstoppable.
I immediately formed a mental picture of the protection of God while the storms of life rage all around yet inner peace is maintained supernaturally. I thought I'd spend some time today writing about that beautiful stillness in the storm. But when I sat down to write, I knew there was more to the story, or at least a different angle. Some winds we are not supposed to be sheltered from. There is a wind we are supposed to be right in the middle of, enveloped by, changed by.
The winds of this world, Jesus can still. He proved that on more than one occasion with his disciples on the sea. Sometimes he demonstrated this power by his words, rebuking the wind and the waves, and other times by his mere presence (Matthew 4 & 6). It strikes me, that when Jesus instructed His disciples that He would have to leave them to return to the Father, but that a helper would come - that the helper was ushered in by a violent, rushing wind (Acts 2). Wind leaves little doubt as to power. Unseen power. Every power on earth was created by God and is less powerful than God, a pale glimpse of what He is capable of. The sun in our solar system is unbelievably bright, so bright we cannot gaze directly at it for very long without fear of damaging our eyes, but we are told that when we are in God's presence in heaven there will be no need for a sun to provide light and warmth. God will BE our light. Unfathomable!
It is only fitting then that He should demonstrate a greater wind as well. A wind that brings life and not destruction. A wind that can distinguish between that which should remain and that which should be blown away within the soul to make room for that which should reside there. I am feeling that now in my own life. Feeling the aches and pains of old soul scars acting up, as a fresh wind prepares to blow through and bring about some needed changes in my life. As Christians, we are not able to live comfortably, happily, unscathed while holding on to things that do not belong in our souls - sinful attitudes, actions, desires. They eat at us and the pressure mounts, reminding us that these lesser gods have no place in our lives. And yet, if we insist on them for long enough, God will allow us to batten down the hatches of our hearts, boarding up the open places - and effectively QUENCH the wind of His Spirit. We haven't beaten Him or overpowered Him if we do this... we have rejected His life-giving work.
This song, by Keith Green expresses a desire to remain wide open for the wind of God's Spirit to blow through our lives and do the work it was created to do. I used to sing it in college and it comes to mind frequently. May I ever be grateful for and open to His Mighty Rushing Wind.
Rushing wind, blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within;
Come and breathe your breath upon me:
I've been born again.
Holy Spirit, I surrender; take me where you want to go.
Plant me by your living water,
Plant me deep so I can grow.
Jesus, you’re the one who sets my spirit free;
Use me, Lord; glorify your Holy Name through me.
Separate me from this world, Lord;
Sanctify my life for you.
Daily change me to your image,
Help me bear good fruit.
Ev'ry day you're drawing closer;
Trials come to test my faith.
But when all is said and done, Lord,
You know it's been worth the wait.
Jesus, you’re the one who set my spirit free;
Use me, Lord; glorify your Holy Name through me.
Rushing wind, blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within;
Come and breathe your breath upon me,
For I've been born again.
I've lost nothing, personally. Not a family member or friend. Not even a community member or a friend of a friend. Yet, my stomach churns and the tears flow.
I find myself asking... Do I get it now? Do I recognize the frailty of life? Is this what it takes to wake up a 30-something wife and mother to the reality that she will eventually lose every relationship and every earthly thing - either when they pass on to eternity or when she does?
Everything on this earth can and will be shaken. Do I really understand that now? If I do, how then shall I live?
Is this a wake-up call to YOLO living? You do only live once, after all.
Is this a wake-up call to pursue a cause? Gun control? Anti-gun control? Better care and more options for those with mental illnesses? Surely some action should be taken, after all.
Is this a wake-up call to love my family more fully? Do I need to become more involved in my son's school? Devote more time to family activities? Visit relatives more frequently? Family is important, after all.
Is this a wake-up call to be more observant? Do I need to pay closer attention to the people around me who may show signs of being unstable? Should I think back on every person I've known through the years and see who might fit a profile? After all, If I don't notice, who will?
Over the coming days and weeks, Americans will be encouraged to do all of these things by a variety of people we have likely never met nor will we ever meet - newscasters, political figures, heads of movements - and we may even be challenged to examine some of these things by our own family and friends. We are awake now, and when you are awake it is time to get up and do something.
So what shall we do? How shall we live in a world where horrible things happen without a single warning? Here are some suggestions the Bible offers for living "fully awake:"
1. Know God. At the end of the day, everything in this world can be shaken and taken. Make it a point to know the only One who cannot. There is no excuse for not getting to know Him. Romans 1:20 NIV: "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." The unshakable, unchangeable God of the universe invites you to know Him: James 4:8-10 NIV - "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
2. Be Kind, Forgiving and Joyful. Pray and Give Thanks to God. Once you know God and you are steadily learning more about Him more, you inevitably want to know what He wants from your life. What is his will? 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 - "Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
3. Spread His Hope, Lovingly. Don't keep His light to yourself. The world is a dark place. Don't just be glad for the Holy Spirit's unquenchable flame in your life; share it with others. 1 Peter 3:15 NIV - "But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."
We can do these things, and by God's grace, though outwardly we may be wasting away as the world turns on, inwardly we can be renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
It will take people who are being inwardly renewed day by day to keep up the good fight - to live life knowing we only have so many days on earth, to respectfully and passionately pursue causes worth pursuing, to love our families selflessly, and to be truly observant and mindful of those around us.
"For this reason it says, 'Awake, Sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." - Ephesians 5:14
This morning, my husband and I were awakened by our son who came into our room announcing that "SOMEONE needed to take him to school!" He had overslept. We had overslept. Let me explain why:
1. The past few days in Southern Ohio have been hot and muggy.
2. We do not have air conditioning in the house we are renting.
3. There is only 1 outlet in our bedroom that is near our bed.
4. There are three different plugs that need to be plugged into that outlet: the alarm clock, the bedside lamp, and a fan.
5. Only two of these items can be plugged in at once.
6. Last night, the fan and the bedside lamp won the outlet face-off.
I wanted to read last night, so I unplugged the alarm clock and plugged in the lamp. Unplugging the fan was NOT AN OPTION given how hot it was. Guess what! The alarm clock does not work unless it is plugged in. My son's frantic request this morning is proof of that. Thankfully we got him to school on time (and when I say "we," I mean my husband), but the situation left me thinking...
We have a source of unlimited power in the world. His name is God the Father/God the Son/God the Holy Spirit. Those who believe, have access to His power! The only outlet for God's power, however, is His Will; His "good, pleasing and perfect will." He doesn't let us plug into Him for power in order to do things that don't go along with His perfect plan for our lives. When we find ourselves running on empty, it is likely because we are doing one of two things: trying to accomplish God's Will without accessing His power (through prayer, time in the Bible, time with other Believers, time spent in worship) - this is like my alarm clock that had access to the outlet, but remained unplugged and was thus ineffective; or trying to accomplish things that are not God's will for us (which He will not sustain) - this would be like me plugging in a lamp that had a burnt out light bulb, I could plug it in as many times as I wanted to, but it will never light the room.
When the power is available and abundant, but the outlets are limited - it is important to choose wisely what we plug in.
1 Corinthians 1:18 NASB "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
PS - If you comment on this blog post that I need to buy a book light, you are right, but you've missed the point. (wink)
Today in my personal time of Bible study, I was compelled to write down all of the ways that I can find that God tells us in scripture that the Holy Spirit is (or should be) active in the lives of Believers. I tend to focus on one or two of His qualities and neglect others, but this is not the way I want to live and it is not the way I was designed to live. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is God Himself, present and active, enabling believers to do whatever God asks of us. Here is what I've uncovered so far:
- The Holy Spirit lets us know what God's will is for us. "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." John 16:13 NIV
- The Holy Spirit guides us into all Truth, teaching us Truth and reminding us of Truth. "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26 NIV "He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." John 16:45-15 NIV
- The Holy Spirit helps us when we pray. "In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Romans 8:26-28 NIV "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Ephesians 6:18 NIV
- The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God in our lives like a sword. "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God." Ephesians 6:17 NIV "For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 NIV
- The Holy Spirit's presence in our lives is reassurance of our salvation. "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV
- He gives us the ability to understand spiritual things and to live counter-culturally when necessary. "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 NIV
- The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to say no to our natural sinful tendencies. "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." Galatians 5:16-18
- The Holy Spirit produces Christ-like qualities in our lives. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
I want to know God's will for my life!
I want to know what is True and be reminded of it when I forget!
I want help to pray when I don't know how to pray!
I want the Word of God to make a difference in my life and help me discern my true motivations!
I want to have assurance of my salvation!
I want to understand spiritual things and have what it takes to live out my convictions even when it is hard!
I want to be able to reject the sinful tendencies in my life!
I want my life to be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control!
Apparently what I really want is to embrace the reality of the Holy Spirit of God living within me! "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Galatians 5:25 NIV
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!