When the Spirit falls

Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came on Saul’s men, and they also prophesied. Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Finally, he himself left for Ramah…But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. 

1 Samuel 19:19-24

Saul was out to kill David. Saul was jealous of David and at times lost his mind in fits of rage. Yet, when the Spirit of God falls, the plans of humanity fall apart. No matter how many times Saul sent men to kill David, they all ran into the thick Presence of God and started prophesying. Saul then decided to do it himself, and he too was waylaid by the Spirit of God. The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry...especially when God decides to interrupt them.

One of the main promises of when the Holy Spirit is poured out on everyone–prophesied by the prophet Joel and then quoted by Peter–is that everyone will be able to prophesy.

…this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:17-18

So we know that when the Spirit falls upon people (like in the Old Testament), or when the Spirit fills people (like in the New Testament), the result is often the gift of prophecy.

We also know that when the Spirit falls, our plans get interrupted and disrupted. Things get messy. King Saul found himself lying naked day and night. Neat and tidy Sunday services burst open with fervor and fire. Calm and respectable people get undignified. This has always been the case when the Spirit falls in power. It will always be the case no matter how tidy we try to force the Spirit to be.

Sometimes the Spirit falls so powerfully that we are unable to continue with our day. We are knocked to the ground or so enraptured with His Presence that we don’t want to do anything else but be with Him. Notice what happens to one of Saul’s servants when he goes to offer sacrifices at the tabernacle.

Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd.

1 Samuel 21:7

Sometimes in our normal obedience, maybe something we’ve done a thousand times, the Lord comes and detains us in His Presence. Suddenly the ordinary worship becomes a divine encounter. When this happens, it’s best not to fight it. If the Lord wants to interrupt our routines and traditions with His beauty and power, we should be grateful. We should linger. We should surrender and allow ourselves to be detained before the Lord.

We American Christians can get so offended by the messiness that comes with the Spirit of God. We can get put off by such raw displays of divine affection. We like to be in control, and we’ll often resist the move of the Spirit to try to stay in control.

But is that what the Lord did with us?

No. The Lord saw all of our messiness, the sin and chaos of our lives, and never once flinched. He didn’t get offended by our mess or distance Himself because of it. Instead, He did the opposite. He came near. The Spirit saw all of our chaos and mess and decided to move in. He decided to take up residence inside the mess and then invite us to join Him in the great renovation of our lives.

Do we not owe God this same response to the messiness that comes with a move of the Spirit? When the fire falls and we get pushed out of our comfort zone with things like the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t we do what He did for us? Shouldn’t we lean in instead of push Him away? Shouldn’t we embrace Him as He has embraced us…mess and all? Shouldn’t we put to death our inner control freak and let the Spirit lead us?

I think so.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good…

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

Fear of the Power of the Spirit

Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.

1 Samuel 16:13

Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David…In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.

1 Samuel 18:12, 14-16

When the Spirit of the Lord comes powerfully upon a person, fear tends to be the number one reaction of those around that person. Saul had a few different reasons to be afraid of David, but those were just surface reasons. The deeper truth was that the Spirit of the Lord upon David stirred up a fear in the heart of Saul.

I have seen this over and over again in my own life and in the life of others. When a person experiences a powerful touch from God, the enemy often stirs up fear in those around that person. When I got powerfully touched by God, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and began to experience the supernatural power of God in my ministry, many people around me started to operate in fear.

Some were afraid I would become “too charismatic” and would go off the deep end. Others were afraid that I now thought I was super-spiritual and held it over them. Some were afraid that the power I was now experiencing was from the enemy. Others didn’t really believe I was any different but that I was exaggerating my experiences for personal glory.

Most of these fears came from wounds that already existed in the person. The enemy exploited these old wounds and insecurities in some of my friends in light of what God was doing in my life.

The reason fear is the primary thing that gets stirred up is because that is what the enemy is feeling. The enemy is afraid others will also catch fire and experience the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. The enemy knows this is a huge threat to his kingdom of darkness. So because he is afraid, he projects that fear on as many people as possible in hopes they will distance themselves from the one who is experiencing the power of God. This strategy is as old as the story of David in the Old Testament. The enemy keeps using it because it still works today.

Imagine what would have happened in the life of Saul and in the life of Israel had Saul embraced what God was doing in David’s life through the power of the Spirit. Saul and David would have become a dynamic duo for God’s Kingdom, like Peter and Paul for the early church. But instead, what unfolded was a tragic story of Saul spiraling into ruin and David rising to the throne.

I remember the feeling of being unsure and scared of the supernatural aspects of the Kingdom of God. I remember feeling uneasy about the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. I too was faced with a fork in the road. It was the same fork I faced in college when I decided to reject the things of the Spirit in favor of a more reasonable, safe, and academic version of Christianity. By God’s grace, 15 years later, God once again put in my path another fork in the road. I once again had the opportunity to embrace or reject the powerful move of the Holy Spirit in my life. I just had to be willing to take the risk. I had to be willing to get beyond my fears, my prejudices against charismatics, and my unbelief.

Most of global Christianity has embraced the powerful, supernatural side of the Kingdom of God through the Holy Spirit. Only a small segment of western Christians have not. While I once thought the Pentecostals/charismatics were the weird ones, I now realize by rejecting the supernatural gifts of the Spirit I was the extreme minority in the worldwide Church. I was the “weird” one.

Fear will always be the main tactic of the enemy to try to pacify the Body of Christ into powerless Christianity. Don’t let fear win. Don’t let fear keep you from an entire aspect of the Kingdom that you were born for. You were made, in Christ, to be supernatural. Don’t believe anyone who would tell you otherwise.

Proven Faith

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel… “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

1 Samuel 17:8, 10-11, 26, 28-29, 32

Faith in the Living God and courage to do what He’s called you to do often looks like arrogance and conceit to those who live consumed with fear and doubt. David did not have faith in his own abilities; he had faith in the God of Israel and God’s ability to use David. People with this kind of faith come across as arrogant to those who struggle to trust God and don’t believe God can use them for great things.

But David had more than faith in God and confidence that God could use him. He had experience in trusting the Lord and seeing the Lord use him.

Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

1 Samuel 17:33-37

It wasn’t just that Eliab struggled to trust God. It wasn’t just that Eliab doubted how God could use him (In other words, he didn’t have an identity grounded in the Lord). But it was also that Eliab didn’t have experience trusting in the Lord in difficult situations and seeing the Lord come through for him. David did.

For David, this wasn’t blind faith. This was proven faith. God had proven Himself faithful time and time again as David stepped out in faith. Goliath simply represented the next step of faith, not a “giant” leap.

The problem with many of us is not that we don’t possess “giant level” faith. The problem is that we haven’t been taking the smaller steps of faith behind-the-scenes when no one else was around. We haven’t been taking the smaller risks to trust in the Lord and see Him come through. This is what prepares us for the day of battle–the day where giant faith is needed.

In other words, the real issue isn’t that we don’t have the faith to face a Goliath. The real issue is that we haven’t been taking the smaller steps of faith to go after a lion or a bear. We haven’t been willing to take those risks when we were in charge of sheep, and we wonder why we can’t take charge of an army and face a Goliath.

David was full of faith and confident in how God could use him because of all the risks he took leading up to this moment. Goliath was simply the next logical step. What seemed impossible to the rest of the army just seemed reasonable to David.

It’s not blind faith that makes the impossible seem reasonable; it’s proven faith. Tested and proven faith–faith that’s been seasoned with real experience–is what is able to face down impossible situations. Proven faith is something that grows in the life of a person willing to continually take risks that require trust in the Lord. It’s a lifestyle, not something that is mustered up in a crisis.

Stepping up and stepping out with proven faith will often look arrogant to those who have confused doubt with humility. For too many Christians, humility looks like uncertain timidity, waffling doubt, and the fear of what other people will say. But is that the humility we see Jesus live out? Is that how we would describe Jesus? Timid? Waffling in doubt? Afraid of what people will say? No way! And yet Jesus walked in absolute perfect humility.

What David did to face down Goliath took tremendous humility because it required him to trust not in his own strength and ability but in the Lord. So what looked like an act of arrogant conceit to his brother was actually radical humility on display. This teaches us that radical humility may, at times, look like meekness, yet at other times it will look like bold courage. David’s action was radical humility in bold courage form. David had to trust that the Lord would come through for him. He also had to trust what the Lord said about him. He had to trust that God could use him powerfully. David risked his life based on that trust. That’s true humility.

I’ve seen this same accusation of arrogance and conceit in the Christian community launched against people stepping out in proven faith and bold courage for the name of Jesus. We have whole churches, and sometimes whole denominations, full of Eliabs. Timid uncertainty–waffling doubt–is not humility. Most of the time it’s a symptom of unbelief.

Eliabs mask their fear and unbelief by calling it prudent wisdom. They only want to do what seems reasonable, measured, safe. Is that how the New Testament describes the life of following Jesus? Safe? Reasonable? Measured? Not even close.

I don’t want to be an Eliab. I want to be a David, don’t you? I want to walk in bold, proven faith. I want to step out and take risks for the name of Jesus regardless of the whispers and gossip it creates around me. I want to lay my life down and trust the Lord. I want to believe what He says about me in His word, and I want to trust Him for big things. Don’t you?

It doesn’t start with Goliaths. It starts with sheep. It starts with lions and bears. What risk is God asking you to take? What steps of radical faith is He requiring of you in 2020?

The Future of Christianity

As we enter 2020, I want to reflect not just on the local church that I pastor, but on the Church around the world. As churches in America seem to be shrinking at an alarming rate, and as more and more churches seem to think the answer to this problem is to become more accommodating to our culture’s new norms of sexuality and inclusion, what are we to make of the Church heading into this new decade? Is the Church dying? Is Christianity waning? Do we need to abandon archaic sexual ethics and beliefs in the supernatural that seem irrational and unscientific in order to survive?

What I am learning is that I was wrong about the Church and so are you. The narrative that we hear in America about the state of the Church and Christianity couldn’t be more false. For instance, if I were to ask you, “What does a typical Christian look like?” you might describe a white, southern woman driving a minivan. Or, if I were to ask you, “What does a typical evangelical Christian look like?” you might describe an older man in his 60s who wears a suit and tie. And if I were to ask you, “Is Christianity dying?” you might give me predictions about how the Church is irrelevant now and how it will be barely existent in the future. And if those were your answers, then, in all three cases, you couldn’t be more wrong. The statistics about the global Church say the exact opposite.

Simply put, the global Church is exploding with growth. But western arrogance, xenophobia, and cultural prejudice has led us to only look at what is happening in the Church in America. What the numbers tell us is that the Church in America is a strange anomaly that barely resembles the global Church. In particular, the more liberal Protestants in America represent a strange aberration theologically compared to the rest of the world and are dying faster than any other segment of the Church.

Here are the stats that will help correct our view of the Church:

In 2015, 68% of Christians are of color (1.6 billion). And, globally, evangelicalism is a predominantly non-white movement within Christianity. In 2015, 84.1% of all Evangelicals in the world are of color (non-white; 270.1 million)

Center for the Study of Global Christianity

Philip Jenkins is a well-respected professor of history, specifically focusing on the history of religions. His research affirms this:

Today, the largest Christian communities on the planet are to be found in those regions (Latin America & Africa). If we want to visualize a “typical” contemporary Christian, we should think of a woman living in a village in Nigeria, or in a Brazilian favela…By 2050 only about one-fifth of the world’s three billion Christians will be non-Hispanic whites. Soon, the phrase “a white Christian” may sound like a curious oxymoron…

Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom

In other words, if you are still picturing a white woman in a minivan or an old, white man with grey hair when you picture a Christian, you are WAY off. White Christians are the minority. White evangelicals are the extreme minority among evangelicalism. Narratives that try to explain conservative theology as a by-product of “privilege” need to be reconsidered and abandoned in light of the actual data. Globally, those most likely to espouse evangelical theology look more like a poor, hispanic woman or a young, African man.

But, surely, these poor, “Third World” Christians have a progressive, liberation theology, right? Nope. Mostly, liberation theology was crafted by those originally from the global South but educated in the western world with western mindsets. While those Christians in the global South care very much about caring for the poor, most of them do not ascribe to a liberation theology. Here’s what the research says:

…we can reasonably say that many global South Christians are more conservative in terms of both beliefs and moral teaching than are the mainstream churches of the global North, and this is especially true in Africa. The denominations that are triumphing all across the global South are stalwartly traditional…

Global South Christians retain a very strong supernatural orientation and are by and large far more interested in personal salvation than in radical politics. As Harvey Cox showed in Fire from Heaven, Pentecostal expansion across the Southern Continents has been so astonishing as to justify claims of a new Reformation.

These newer churches preach deep personal faith and communal orthodoxy, mysticism, and puritanism, all founded on clear scriptural authority. They preach messages that, to a Westerner, appear simplistically charismatic, visionary, and apocalyptic. In this thought-world, prophecy is an everyday reality, while faith-healing, exorcism, and dream-visions are all fundamental parts of religious sensibility.

Pentecostals are flourishing around the globe. Since there were only a handful of Pentecostals in 1900, and several hundred million today, is it not reasonable to identify this as perhaps the most successful social movement of the past century? According to current projections, the number of Pentecostal believers should cross the one billion mark before 2050. In terms of the global religions, there will be by that point roughly as many Pentecostals as Hindus, and twice as many as there are Buddhists.

Philip Jenkins, The New Christendom

All of this is saying that globally, the vast and overwhelming majority of Christians are conservative, traditional, orthodox, and charismatic.

So when you picture a typical Christian, what should you picture? The words we would use in America to describe what a typical, global Christian is like would be these: poor, non-white, charismatic, evangelical. So picture a young, brown-skinned woman who regularly casts out demons, prays in tongues, believes in the actual resurrection of Jesus, and rejects any sexual ethic that would embrace homosexuality as normative. And picture her in a church that is exploding with growth.

In terms of picturing the local church, don’t picture a mainline Protestant church with 20 senior citizens who can barely afford to pay the bills for their 1950s church building. That reality is an anomaly only the western Church is experiencing. No, instead, picture a crowd of thousands of brown-skinned believers trying to fit into buildings that are bursting at the seams. This is the Church today. This is reality. This is the future!

If you’ve bought into the lie that, in order to survive, the Church must abandon things that seem strange to our culture–like the supernatural aspects of Christianity–and embrace progressive ideology, you have it backwards. You’ve been lied to about the Church, about what it really looks like, and about what causes it to grow.

If we are humble enough to learn from our brown-skinned brothers and sisters in Christ, and we don’t think we have it all figured out because of our white, western education, then those of us who have ears to hear, let them hear. We need to be doing what our hispanic and African family is doing. We need to embrace the poor, embrace the non-white, embrace the conservative evangelical framing of the gospel, embrace the charismatic gifts of the Spirit, embrace the supernatural, and embrace a pietist/holiness understanding of morality.

None of this fits neatly into our old, American, political and theological categories. As we step into a new year and a new decade, it’s time for something new in the American Church.

Rise of Skywalker: Biblical Themes (Part III)

So far, I have covered three themes that are in the movie Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker that we also find in scripture. (You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). In this third installment, I am unpacking a fourth theme from the movie. [Warning: spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the movie yet.]

4. The power to raise the dead

In Episode III, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine tells Anakin a legend about an ancient Sith, Darth Plaguies, who could essentially raise people from the dead. We are led to believe Palpatine was the apprentice who learned this “unnatural” power from Plaguies. Cut to Episode IX, Rise of Skywalker, and it seems as though Darth Sidious (Palpatine) has returned from the dead using this power in a sort of Frankenstein body. Darth Sidious further animates his carcass of a body by using the dark side of the Force to steal life energy from Rey and Kylo Ren.

At the end of the movie, we also see Kylo Ren, who is Ben at this point, use the Force to transfer all of his remaining “life energy” into Rey who is dead. This is essentially force healing on steroids. (I talk about Rey’s explanation of force healing here.) This raises Rey back to life but ends up killing Ben.

Both of these forms of resurrection/resuscitation are very different than what we see in the New Testament. Jesus does, in fact, raise the dead in His ministry and, like healing, passes that calling on to His disciples. We see both Peter (Acts 9:36-42) and Paul (Acts 20:7-12) raise the dead through the power of the Spirit in their own ministries. I write more extensively about that here in a conversational format, but I don’t have the space in this post to get into too much detail.

Suffice it to say that the same differences that exist between praying for healing and force healing exist between raising the dead in the New Testament and using the Force to bring back the dead in Star Wars. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. By dying and defeating death through His own resurrection, He showed His own authority over death. And through the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Christ from the dead now flows in us as followers of Jesus (Romans 8:11).

Jesus is the source of life. Jesus is the source of resurrection/resuscitation, not our “life energy” getting transferred. We are the conduits of the power of the Holy Spirit, but we are not the source. Jesus alone has that power.

In one instance, Jesus raised a young girl from the dead after her father asked Him to. He apparently had become so well known for healings and resurrections that people had confidence He could do it again upon request.

“My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”

Matthew 9:18

In another instance, Jesus raised a young man from the dead right in the middle of his funeral. Can you imagine being at that funeral?

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow…When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Luke 7:12-15

Far from being an “unnatural” power as described in Sith lore, Jesus, the author of life, releasing life to this young man. Bringing him back from the dead was the most natural thing in the world. In God’s Kingdom, there is no death. Jesus was ushering in the Kingdom of God to invade the kingdom of the world in that moment. The New Testament describes Jesus this way:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 

Colossians 1:16-17

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was the One through which all of creation came to life. He has been bringing things to life from the very beginning of time. In Him all things hold together. So for Jesus to bring this young man, and the young girl, back to life was the most natural thing in the world for Him to do.

Jesus is the Source of Life. He has authority over death. He is the resurrection and the life. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Him is life and that life is the light of all humanity. He alone is worthy of our worship, our surrender, our life.

Rise of Skywalker: Biblical Themes (Part II)

In my first post about Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, I listed two themes that were in the movie that we also find in scripture. The first theme is the idea that there are more with us than are against us (2 Kings 6:16). The second theme is the truth that, as followers of Jesus, we are never alone. Jesus is always with us (Matthew 28:20), and we have a cloud of witnesses cheering us on (Hebrews 12:1).

In this post, I want to examine another theme (#3) that is prominent in Rise of Skywalker that is also prominent in the New Testament.  

3.  Healing the sick through the laying on of hands

We saw glimpses of what the Star Wars universe calls “force healing” in Episodes III and IV but nothing like what we saw Rise of Skywalker (Episode IX). In Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan bends down and seems to administer force healing on Padme when she is nearly choked to death by Anakin on Mustafar. We see Obi-Wan do something similar for Luke in Episode IV after Luke gets attacked by Tusken Raiders in the canyon on Tatooine. But in Rise of Skywalker, we get a more in depth look at force healings and an explanation from Rey about how they happen. 

In Episode IX, Rey first uses force healing to heal a sand worm. She uses it again on Kylo Ren after she impales him during their lightsaber fight on the ruins of the old Death Star. In both cases we see Rey lay her hands on the being/person she is trying to heal.

After healing the huge sand worm, Rey explains that, as a Jedi, she is able to use the Force to transfer a part of her life energy to another being in order to heal them. This ends up draining the Jedi because it takes some of their life and releases it to another person. The greater the injury, the more it drains the Jedi trying to heal the person. 

In the life of Jesus, and in the lives of the early disciples, we see people healed through the laying on of their hands. Jesus modeled this for us.

“…the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.” 

Luke 4:40

Then Jesus tells his disciples that they will continue to heal, through the power of the Spirit, as He had been doing.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

John 14:12

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will…place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” 

Mark 16:17-18

Then we see the disciples do exactly that. One time, when Paul was shipwrecked on the island of Malta, he healed the father of the chief Roman official of the island in much the same way that Jesus healed people.

“There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.”

Acts 28:7-8

We too are called to lay hands on the sick and see them healed. On a number of occasions, I have laid my hands on people, prayed, and seen the body part that needed healing immediately get healed right under my hands. Members of my prayer team have seen the same thing happen with them. But let’s be clear, we are no Jedi.

Real healing that happens through the power of the Holy Spirit are not like “force healing.” In fictitious force healing, one must be able to connect with or be one with the Force. Then they must use the Force to transfer their life energy to someone else. When we lay hands on people and pray for the sick, we are not connecting with an impersonal force. We are connecting with a person named Jesus. He’s is the one who purchased our healing by His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. We must be relationally one with Him.

Then, when we pray for the sick, we are asking Jesus to release His healing power, the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, to bring healing. We are inviting the Kingdom of God to come here on earth, in this body, as it is in heaven. We know there is no sickness or disease in the Kingdom of God. So, we are inviting God to bring His Kingdom of no sickness into this broken world.

When power flows through us to the other person, it is not our “life energy” that we are giving away. We are not the source. We are merely conduits of the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a privilege to be a conduit, but the power that brings healing is not ours to manipulate. It belongs to Jesus alone. Jesus sent His own disciples out to do ministry and told them this:

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Matthew 10:7-8

As followers of Jesus, we have freely received the Holy Spirit and all the gifting that comes with Him (read 1 Corinthians 12:8-11). Now we are to go and give it away. We are to step into our authority as ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), as sons and daughters of the King of Kings (Romans 8:14-17), and command demons to leave and body parts to be made well. But we do so based on delegated authority, not our own authority. We do so by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by the power of our own life energy. Again, we are not the source of the healing. We are only conduits.

Having seen people healed right in front of me, I watched the force healing scenes a little differently than most. While many watched in delight and wonder at a Jedi using force healing, wishing they could do that, I was reminded that Jesus did do that and calls us to do the same. While most relegate healing through the laying on of hands to the realms of science-fiction, I have participated in it in real life. So have others at my church and many churches around the world.

The power of the Holy Spirit is real, and you don’t need to be a Jedi to experience it, but you do need to be a follower of Jesus. As followers of Jesus who have fully surrendered to the Lord and have been filled with the Spirit, this is our inheritance. We’ve been given the awesome responsibility of praying for the sick and the amazing privilege of watching as Jesus heals people through us right before our eyes.

Rise of Skywalker: Biblical Themes

I took my oldest son to see Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker yesterday while my younger son was seeing it with a friend for his friend’s birthday party. We absolutely loved it! It had everything you’d want in a Star Wars movie. Without giving away too much, I noticed a couple biblical themes in the movie.

1. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

If you’ve seen the movie, you might think I was quoting from something that was said to Poe Dameron. But this actually comes from a section of scripture in 2 Kings. The king of Aram was trying to attack the prophet Elisha. When Elisha’s servant saw the vast army surrounding the city they were in, he felt overwhelmed. But Elisha could see what the servant could not. Here’s what happens:

“Go, find out where he (Elisha) is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

2 Kings 6:13-17

While all seemed lost and hopeless because of the vast army of Aram, Elisha knew that the Lord had sent an even greater army–an angel army–to guard and protect him and his servant. The army of Aram was sent into mass confusion that day and never touched Elisha.

This same thing happened when the resistance fighters, specifically Poe, thought they were outnumbered and alone. The massive force that was coming against them seemed overwhelming. Yet, two different times, Poe was reminded that there were more that were with him than were against him. We often need to be reminded of this as well.

2. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” &
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”

The first quote is Jesus’s final words in Matthew 28:20 before He ascends to the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is always with us. We are never alone.

The second quote is from Hebrews 12:1. The writer of Hebrews had just reminded the readers, in Hebrews 11, of all the great men and women of faith that had gone before them. Then he starts chapter 12 by saying that, because we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses who are cheering us on from heaven, we can boldly accomplish our own mission.

Both of these passages came to mind as Rey gained strength from all the Jedi who had gone before her. She could accomplish her own mission knowing that she was the culmination of all the great Jedi who had gone before her and were now cheering her on. She was not alone. She was never alone. Neither are we.