Ruach Hako’desh

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries.

“And the three men I admire the most, the Father, Son and that other guy …”

It seems a lot of times that’s how Christians view the Holy Spirit. Oh, sure, He gets mentioned sometimes, always last in some songs and creeds. You get baptized “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In the Doxology, we “praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

But while there are plenty of songs to or about the Father, or to or about Jesus, the Holy Spirit doesn’t get many hymns of His own. He really is just sort of the other member of the Trinity.

Which is sort of ironic, in a way. On the one hand, it kind of makes sense. He doesn’t play the same sort of role in the Bible. He’s never quoted. The Father and Jesus show up, walk around, eat, talk, hang out, do miracles, all that sort of stuff. The Holy Spirit comes and fills people and places with His presence. Just not quite as sexy, you know? So it’s no wonder His Q score isn’t as high.

On the other hand, though, while He doesn’t say anything in the Bible, if you hear God speaking to you personally, yeah, it’s probably coming through the Holy Spirit. So, like I said, ironic — we’re more focused on the aspects of the Trinity that spoke to Moses and Paul than to the one that speaks to us. Why? Perhaps the words given to Moses and Paul are easier for us to hear and to listen to.

To be honest, this has been the hardest of the posts so far for me to work on. I’ve been putting it of all week, hoping that by today I would have something to say. I dedicated my hike this morning to seeking insight in what to write. Part of that is because I’m very much in the middle of this one. Several of the topics on the list are ones I’ve been deconstructing over the past couple of years, so they’re going to come pretty easily. Wait until we get to “the rite of communion.” Depending on how deep I want to get, that could easily be the longest post I’ve ever written. I’ve taken that one apart and put it back together constantly over the last couple of years. The Holy Spirit? Heh. Read my last blog post. I’m very much knee deep in that one at the moment. Ask me in a month or two, I may have something different today. But the prompt came for this week, and I’m writing it this week.

The one bit of rethinking of the Holy Spirit that I have done in the last year or two is having been challenged with the idea that the Holy Spirit does not convict us of sin. It’s one of those things that we just take for granted — if you asked people what the Holy Spirit does, for a lot of them, convicting us of sin would be pretty high in His job description. But supporting that with scripture? Well, that’s an interesting issue. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying I haven’t taken the time to find support for it yet. Instead, what I have found is that the Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness. He reminds us who we are.

In some ways, it’s similar. When we go astray, He confronts us about it. But the argument is that, rather than pointing out our failures, He points out that we’re better than that. Picture a student who has failed a test he “should have” passed. A parent could berate the child and punish him. Or a parent could say, I know you can do this. What happened? God doesn’t need to convict us of our sin. Since the fall, since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we’ve carried that ability within ourselves. We’re self-policing. We just choose to ignore that fact sometimes. We choose to ignore who we are, who we should and could be. When we do, the Holy Spirit reminds us.

I’m not saying I’ve completely drunk that Kool-Ade. I’m just saying it’s an interesting argument I’m still considering.

Another fact that I was reminded of in meditating on this blog entry is that I’m not, technically, the Holy Spirit. Oh, sure, sometimes I would like to be, but it seems that the position is full, and that they’re not hiring for it at the moment.

Now, I believe fully that the Holy Spirit can work through other people. If He can speak to a person, He can speak through a person. And I’ve had that happen numerous times recently — people have given me a word that was given them for me by God. Heck, I think I may have had it happen in the last couple of hours. And, conversely, there have been times the opposite has been true. I’ve been given something to say that was a message for someone else. And it’s an incredible honor to be used in that capacity. In some ways, that’s unfortunate, because there can be a temptation to seek that privilege, to take it upon ourselves to serve as the Holy Spirit in someone’s life, rather than serving as the tool of the Holy Spirit. And, really, that’s not such a good idea. Again, a fault I probably have lapsed into during the past week. Sorry.

The other thing that came out of my hike was a meditation on the different ways He speaks to us, which has definitely been a journey for me over the past couple of years. To be honest, me three years ago would probably think me today is crazy. But oh well. I’ve never had Him speak to me in dreams, but I’ve seen it happen. Someone was telling me about a friend who gets mental pictures, and was trying to figure out whey she didn’t. I said I figured it was an individual dispensation, that I didn’t either; only to realize that I did — once. I used to listen primarily to providence and circumstance, and now try to avoid as much as possible relying on those. Occasionally He uses the weather with me, but generally just when He’s showing off. I’ve never heard an actual audible voice, and am jealous of those who have. I don’t begin to understand the whole idea of prayer languages, but have been open to the idea that the lack of understanding is my fault — and then heard a story over lunch today that pretty much sold me on that. Still kinda glad it’s not my gifting, though.

At this point, I wish I had a good conclusion or wrap up or parting thought. But I don’t. Like I said, I’m still working through this one.

Uh, the end?

“The best apologetic for a Christian is the Holy Spirit” — Patrick Collins

When You Believe…

Ashira l’adonai ki ga’oh ga’ah
Ashira l’adonai ki ga’oh ga’ah
Michamocha, ba-elim adonai
Michamocha nedar-bakodesh
Nachitah v’chasd’cha, am zu ga’alta
Nachitah v’chasd’cha, am zu gaalta
Ashira, Ashira, Ashira…

“… stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

We’ll start simple. When I left to go to Las Vegas, I updated the one-word prayer request on my blog.

Or, more accurately, I didn’t. I probably should have made it something for the trip, like safety or fun. But I left it the last thing I had changed it to: “Dew.”

It was a reference to the story of Gideon and the fleece. God tells Gideon to drive the Midianites away. Well, Gideon, playing it safe, tells God he wants a sign. He puts a fleece outside, and says if the Midianite-routing is, in fact, God’s will, for God to make the fleece wet while the ground around it was dry. Sure enough, next morning, wet fleece, dry ground. Not one to leap to conclusions, Gideon puts the fleece out again, and this time asks for the reverse. Again, next morning, dry fleece, wet ground. So, long story short, Gideon gathers up some men and they go do some serious Midianite-smiting.

And that’s what I wanted. Not the Midianite-smiting, but a good, solid sign from God of His will. A reassurance. So I put out my fleece, and left for Vegas. And, while I was there, I got my dew. (For the record, not literal dew; the exact sign isn’t worth the explanation. Though, in retrospect, literal dew in the desert might have been a better request.) But I realized it was a dumb request. I mean, this dew didn’t have to come from God. Could just be coincidence, right? So I go on, kinda amused but not taking it too seriously. I get back, and update my blog. I’d forgotten that I’d put that in the sidebar, and sort of shake my figurative head, still refusing to take it seriously.

After I dismissed it, more dew. But, again, that’s just proof that it was coincidence. If the Vegas dew had required God’s intervention, it wouldn’t be happening so easily now, you know? So Monday morning, I’m meeting with my former discipleship leader for coffee, and I tell him the story. And tell him flat out, at this point, I can’t believe it. I asked for the sign, I asked people to pray about me getting a sign, I got the sign, I got it redundantly, and I can’t believe it. I want to write it off as coincidence.

Yeah, Monday, there was some dew. All day. To the point of it being ridiculous. I mean, seriously.

And, yet …

I couldn’t believe.

I was telling someone this story at Journey Group on Wednesday night, and explained the way I felt. I’m afraid to believe it. The dew could be coincidence. I don’t know the likelihood, but that’s possible. If I believe it’s coincidence, then it doesn’t matter what happens down the road. If the Midianites don’t get smitten, it’s doesn’t matter, because there wasn’t really dew. But if I believe it’s real, and no one is smitten, then there’s a problem.

Now, my friend is in the camp that’s not necessarily pro-Midianite-smiting. (Uh, obviously, just like we’re not talking about literal dew, the Midianites here are also metaphorical.) She probably would be just as happy if the dew were coincidence, since that would mean I could easily skip the smittenness. So she surprised not only me but herself with her advice — I need to pray for God to cure me of my unbelief.

OK, seriously? What is that supposed to mean? I believe in God. Whole thing would be a lot simpler if I didn’t, you know? And she didn’t come right out and say I should believe in the dew, that it was real. Just that I needed to pray for him to take away my unbelief.

It made no sense, but it was one of those things where, yeah, OK, I think maybe I’m supposed to.

So I plan on carving out some time the next afternoon to do so. In the meantime, I install an iPhone app that another friend had recommended to me, “Praying God’s Word,” based on a Beth Moore study.

The first section of readings in the app is, of course, “Overcoming Unbelief.”

The introduction gets my attention from the beginning, talking about how sometimes certain themes keep popping up, and you know you’re supposed to pay attention to them. Oh, you mean like when one friend says you need to pray about overcoming your unbelief within hours of another giving you something to read about it? I mean, hypothetically …

And then I got to this part:

Several weeks passed, and I still didn’t get it. Finally one morning even Oswald Chambers had the audacity to bring up the subject in that day’s entry of My Utmost for His Highest. I looked up and exclaimed, “What is this all about?” I sensed the Holy Spirit speakingto my heart, “Beth, I want you to believe Me.” I was appaled. “Lord,” I answered, “Of course I believe in You. I’ve believed in You all my life.” I felt He responded very clearly. Adamantly. “I didn’t ask you to believe in Me. I asked you to believe Me.”

I sat very puzzled for several moments until I was certain that the Holy Spirit had faithfully shed light on my pitifully small faith. I sensed Him saying, “My child, you believe Me for so little. Don’t be so safe in the things you pray. Who are you trying to keep from looking foolish? Me or you?”

Oh. Um. OK.

But even then, what does that mean? My problem with the dew isn’t not believing Him. It’s not believing me. I don’t think He’s wrong. If the sign was real, I’ll follow it to my grave. It’s that I don’t trust myself to know if it is, or not.

And in the midst of all that, I come across this: God Told Me. It’s a story. And there’s this guy. And he thinks that God has told Him to marry this woman. Only the whole thing falls apart. And so he’s trying to figure out what to make of the situation (not “The Situation“).

Interesting story. Uh, again, hypothetically.

And the article posits a couple of possibilities. The guy was wrong. The clear voice he heard was just a voice of his own desires, despite the fact it wasn’t necessarily what he wanted. Or that God had told the guy to pursue marrying the girl, as a test or trial.

The former, yeah, you know, that’s always a possibility. And there’s really no way to know whether that’s what was going on with the guy or not. (Especially since the story’s fictional, as it turns out, so nothing is really going on with him at all.) The second possibility, I have trouble buying into. I’ve heard posited elsewhere a situation where God leads one person to fall in love with another as a way of teaching them something. But I have trouble buying into a God who is capricious or cruel in that way. I believe in a God who is trustworthy: If He leads you in a certain direction, it’s because that’s the direction He has for you. If He continues opening your eyes in that direction, you might want to go that way.

There were other parts of the article that didn’t relate to what happened in that situation that did speak to me, stuff about dealing with the fall-out of that.

“Brother, we can talk about God’s will,” he said. “But that’s not the real issue here. Are you willing to wrestle with God — to stay with Him until you know Him more; to figure out what He’s doing? Or are you going to run because He doesn’t fit your ideas?”

Again, um.

But reading the article, even now knowing that it was fictional, left me with another possibility about what happened between the guy and the girl and God, beyond the ones it offered. It described the “speed bumps” that led to the dissolution of the relationship. He wanted to have kids soon; she didn’t. There were family issues.

For a few weeks, everything seemed to be fine. But then he and Melanie began lapsing into stony silences when they were together. There had come to be a list of uncomfortable subjects they avoided — from having children to his mother’s relationship opinions. Meanwhile, Melanie was making excuses not to get together.

And this is where our tangent returns to our main story line. Because what if it’s an issue of belief?

I can completely see where those would seem like major issues. And I could see where, unresolved, they could come between two people. But is that believing God?

If God had really meant these two (fictional) people to be together, He would have been aware of those issues. He knew the families. He knew where the two of them were about having kids. Arguably, if the guy really believes God, he places those issues in His hands. Maybe that means they have kids sooner than she was talking about. Maybe that means God fulfills the guy through the relationship in unforeseen ways that don’t involve having kids. Maybe it means something else entirely.

But the guy can’t rest in the idea that if this is the person God has for him, there’s no need to worry about it. There’s no need for fear. He questions; he doubts. He allows it to become a wedge between him and her. And he allows it to drive her away.

And, you know … Hmm. Like I said, I do believe in God. And my doubt about the signs isn’t not believing Him. Not really, you know.

But … I realized I’d been that guy. Oh, I was a little better than him. Kinda. But Susanna and I had our issues. Now, unlike story guy, I was completely confident that if she was the one for me, they would work out. So, I immediately got to work trying to work them out.

I wasn’t willing to believe God that if He wanted those issues resolved, then He would resolve them.

Now, to be fair to myself, I don’t know that I was the only one who wasn’t completely able to rest in trusting Him to take care of things. But I’m the only one I had any control over. And by not resting in trusting Him, by trying to do things myself in my own time the way I thought they should be done, I hurt someone I loved, very much. (Very much being an adverb for both of those verbs, conveniently.) And for that, I’m sorry.

That wasn’t where I thought that path was going to lead. I was wanting to pray about my unbelief, and have a chorus of angels come assure me that my dew was real, and that I could rest in it. Well, maybe not a chorus of angels. I’m not greedy.

I wasn’t looking for conviction. But I got it. And I’m grateful. Because He’s right. I don’t believe Him.

It’s not surprising at all that this all ties back to some extent to surrender. To living unconditionally. I thought maybe that was my lesson for 2009, and I was done with it. And maybe I am, and this is just the next step, the 2010 version. But it is something I need to work on — believing that, if He wants it, He can take care of it.

One of my pet-peeve Bible verses is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Because you see it all over the place, presented like it was a promise to you. And I don’t know that it is. Sure, there are a lot of promises in the Bible that are universal — I imagine “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” is one of those. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” But, if you’re reading these, chances are, even though it is promised in the Bible, you’re not going to become the father of nations or king of Israel or give birth to the messiah. I think those promises were probably more for specific people in a specific time than universal. And unless you’re planning on spending 70 years in Babylon, like it says in Jeremiah 29:10, I don’t know if you can really take verse 11 out of context and claim it.

And that’s why I’m a bit hesitant about something in the Beth Moore study. But, I would like to believe it. And, hey, it is Beth Moore, right? She claims Romans 11:23 as evidence that if unbelief causes you to fall from God’s plan for you, returning to belief can restore you to His plan. “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.”

So I still don’t claim to have any clue about the dew. And, to be honest, that sucks. I wish I did.

But for right now, it doesn’t matter. He’s not calling me to smite the Midianites. If the dew is real, He’s already taking care of things Himself. All I have to do is let Him. And stay out of the way.

And, to be honest, for me, that can be the biggest challenge of all.

I wrote this post last night, and didn’t publish it until this morning so I would have time to dwell on it. What you’re seeing today is revised, and, sadly, a little shorter than the original, if you can believe that. Point being though, this morning, I hit publish, and went in the other room to read my devotional. Today’s entry, of course — “Trust His Promises.” I’m not revising the post again, save to add this note, but I found that interesting. “Sustain me as You promised, and I will live; do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” Psalm 119:116.