English: Megaphone icon. Türkçe: Megafon ikonu...

English: Megaphone icon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week, I wrote that God speaks to ordinary people in different ways. This might be surprising to some who believe that today, He speaks only through His written Word, or to others who believe He’s a daily chatterbox. I believe that God communicates any way and any time He chooses.

After all, He designed us to live in a physical environment, but also equipped us to perceive and interact with a spiritual one. It’s unfortunate that this is generally considered acceptable and normal for biblical people, but highly suspect for us. Who are we to automatically dismiss or attack modern-day visions, mental images, and one-on-one voice encounters? No wonder God can seem such a stranger!

So, this week, I thought I’d share an awesome encounter of my own.

First, I’ve always been more assertive than my husband, a quiet, laid back kind of guy. But in 1988, I struggled while he was on a one-year Air Force assignment overseas. I was left with three kids aged 4, 5, and 6, not to mention managing what little money there was, running the household, and working split shifts at my job—all isolated from extended family.

Before and during his absence, I had been reading Christian articles about supposedly ideal Godly mothers. They don’t usurp their husbands’ authority; they submit. Godly mothers don’t lead; they follow because husbands are stand-ins for Christ. So I had tried to suppress my take-charge personality. Yet, despite doing everything “right,” my life wasn’t following their script.

So I remember sitting on the living room floor one night, head in my hands, sobbing and praying. In my own familiar thought-voice (for lack of a better term), my mind was a tornado. What was I doing wrong? Where was God? I must be the worst mother ever. This went on for maybe 15 minutes.

Then, suddenly, a different Voice—like an audible laser beam, calm and unruffled, clear but not booming. “I want you to raise a proper family.”

It’s hard to explain, but it came from outside me, yet within—not in the other room or outside the house. I somehow recognized it as not my own; and it completely disrupted my mental flailing and tears. I was so startled, in fact, that I snapped my head up expecting to see a glowing figure, but saw nothing.

The Voice knew that I knew what proper meant, so that wasn’t spelled out. The command wasn’t as much instruction as it was reassurance and permission—as if to say, “I know how tired and confused you are, pulled in every direction. Why don’t you try it My way? Just do what you know to be right, and stop listening to everyone else.” Somehow, this was all conveyed in a single sentence.

I, myself, was at a loss for words, feeling tremendous relief and gratitude, but at the same time, energized. I guess the astonishing thing isn’t that it occurred, but that God spoke in a way that I instantly understood. I knew exactly what direction to take in leading my kids to integrity, character, and strong faith, even without an agenda.

Looking back, I realize that was the start of my long exodus from what’s now called “nominal Christianity,” though I didn’t know it then. I’ve since learned that God’s will is to create a world of ruler-servants—men and women—who don’t need to be told every move to make.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21) is about taking charge of your life without running people over and without getting run over yourself. There’s a sensible balance to it that fulfills the life and glory God happily shares, communicates, and wants us to have. The lives we’re living now are the starter kingdoms in which we practice.

 

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Surrender Dorothy written in the sky by a witch.For several weeks, we’ve been looking at the movements of transformation, the process of re-integrating mind/thoughts/feelings with heart/will/spirit to create a new inner person who surrenders to good will and abundant well-being. The result is love for God and self that overflows to even the most obnoxious neighbors.

Normally, I’m not a fan of the word surrender because, for me, it conjures an image of raised hands in a do-nothing stance. You surrender your wallet when you’re being mugged. It carries a negative vibe: “powerless,” “defeated,” or even “violated,” and implies being stripped of your will. It’s hard to embrace because it just doesn’t feel right. Maybe that’s because this is the usual human experience when people surrender to other people.

Then again, handing your wallet over at gun-point isn’t true surrender.

A Life of Its Own

By contrast, surrender to God is a positive thing because, unlike a mugging, it conveys genuine consent and cooperation. No one surrenders to God against their will. In the Christian context, true surrender brings participation and increased activity instead of waiting on the sidelines for things to just happen. And life takes on a whole new texture and energy.

Now and throughout human history, the ongoing movements and grace of God are active rather than passive. He invites participation and involvement in an adventure bigger than difficult neighbors. A surrendered heart is actively and willingly engaged with God, intent on passage from inner death to life here and now. (more…)

English: The Human Spirit, a 2002 sculpture by...

The Human Spirit, a 2002 sculpture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My last few posts have explored the Christian understanding of spirit as heart, mind, will, and character—the essence of personhood.

Spirit can be regarded as a force. I don’t mean an impersonal force like gravity or weather, but a personal force that can know and be known. It can act, interact, choose, and do work as a force for good or evil.

Further, spirit is a force whether housed in an earthly body or not. Paul, for example, alludes to some kind of spiritual body that has substance (1Cor. 15:44). Verses all through the OT and NT consistently describe an active spirit world teeming with angels and other beings who carry out various tasks and deeds.

To put it another way, spirit has power. This is true of God’s Spirit, your spirit, and mine. While God is omnipotent and we’re not, that doesn’t mean we’re powerless. (more…)