Women in Ministry

If you didn’t know, there is a debate in the church about women and their roles in the local church and in ministry. This debate has been going for some time. In my discussions with various church people and church leaders, it seems as though there are 4 views that are floating around. It’s important for you (and your daughters) to know what view your church holds. What follows is a quick (incomplete and cursory) summary of the four main views that are out there.

Imagine a continuum. On the right side of the continuum are the more conservative views and on the left side are the more progressive views. I will list the views as if we are moving from the far right to the far left.

Hard Complementarianism

This view holds that women should not be in the roles of deacons, elders or ordained pastors. It also holds that women should not ever preach/teach from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. This view comes from a universal application (meaning they apply to all churches for all time) of Paul’s words to the Corinthians that “Women should remain silent in the churches” (1 Corinthians 14:34) and Paul’s words to Timothy that he “does not permit a woman to teach a man/husband” (1 Timothy 2:12). Included in this interpretation is Paul’s words to Timothy about the qualifications for an elder and deacon (1 Timothy 3:1-13) which imply that all elders and deacons are men.

Not permitting women in these roles is seen as a way to protect them, not a way of oppressing them. It is an attempt to align the church with a God-ordained authority structure. Women do serve in various other ways throughout the church and are celebrated in those roles. Churches that tend to hold this view are: conservative Baptist churches, conservative Presbyterian churches, Reformed churches, and conservative Bible churches.

Soft Complementarianism

This view is similar to hard complementarianism but is less strict in its prohibitions. While women are not permitted to be elders or ordained pastors, they do sometimes serve in deacon roles and other leadership roles in the church (small group leader, missions team leader, etc.). The verses mentioned above are interpreted both universally (see above) and culturally (meaning part of the instruction of Paul was just mean for that specific church and cultural situation). Also noted is Priscilla’s role in teaching/discipling Apollo (Acts 18:24-26) and the fact that Phoebe was a deaconess in the Roman church (Romans 16:1). Because of this, you will see women speak from the pulpit from time to time (Mother’s Day, missions Sundays, Sanctity of Life Sunday, youth Sundays, etc). There is some disagreement as to whether this is “teaching” or simply “speaking.” Churches that tend to hold this view are: conservative Baptist churches, conservative Presbyterian churches, Reformed churches, conservative Bible churches and many nondenominational churches.

Egalitarian (based on gifting)

This view supports women in all roles in the church, including deacon, elder, and ordained pastor. Because of this, women teaching/preaching from the pulpit is welcomed. The passages of scripture above that record Paul prohibiting women from teaching and requiring them to be silent in the church are understood in their cultural context and are not applied universally (in the same way that braided hair and head coverings are interpreted culturally and not universally). It is noted that in the same letter to the Corinthians where Paul tells women to be silent (1 Cor 14), he also acknowledges that women pray and prophesy in the church (1 Cor 11:5). Prophesying in the early church was always done in a corporate church setting, and it seemed to be a common thing for women to do (Acts 21:9).

Likewise, Paul lists 10 different women who were co-ministers in the gospel with him in Romans 16. In this list, Phoebe was called a deacon, Junia was called “outstanding among the apostles,” and Priscilla was called a “co-worker in Christ Jesus”–the same word used to describe Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Luke and two other women, Euodia and Syntyche. Based on all of these roles that women served in the early church (apostle, prophetess, deacon, co-worker in the gospel with Paul) and in light of Jesus’s radically affirming actions toward women (they were the first to see and declare the resurrection of Jesus in a time when women weren’t allowed to be a witness in court), it appears that the passages that prohibit women should be interpreted as local, culturally informed prohibitions (likely because of the abuses of the cult of Artemis).

The emphasis of this view is that the Holy Spirit has distributed His gifts throughout His Church to men and women equally. So those who are gifted to lead and teach should do so. Those who are not gifted in that area should not. The determining factor is not based on sex but on Holy Spirit gifting. Churches that tend to hold this view are: Pentecostal and charismatic churches, Wesleyan holiness and moderate Brethren churches, moderate Baptist churches, moderate Presbyterian churches, and moderate nondenominational churches.

Egalitarian (based on justice)

This view is very similar to the Egalitarian view listed above. The views on how to interpret the various passages of scripture are very similar. The main difference is an emphasis on empowering women because they have been oppressed in the church throughout church history. Rather than the focus being on Holy Spirit gifting, the focus is on avoiding injustice toward women. The passage of emphasis is Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This emphasis on justice also allows for a re-interpretation of various passages prohibiting homosexuality. So churches that tend to affirm women in ministry from a justice perspective also tend to affirm the LGBTQ community. Churches that tend to hold this view are: mainline protestant churches & theologically progressive churches, liberal Baptist churches, liberal Presbyterian churches, and progressive church plants.
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I would label myself an “Egalitarian (based on gifting)” in line with the Wesleyan Holiness and Pentecostal traditions (though I come from a Southern Baptist background, went to an anabaptist college and a moderate Baptist seminary, and now pastor a nondenominational church). I have found that conversations between soft complementarians and egalitarians (based on gifting) are the most productive when discussing women in ministry. I have found that those with the extreme view on both the right and the left do a lot of yelling and not a lot of listening.

I would encourage you to do your own study and discover where you land on this issue. And then check with the leadership of your church and see what they say about this issue. Well-meaning Christians can humbly disagree with each other and still worship together. But it is important to know what your church is teaching about this issue.

Forgiveness

See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you…

…May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

1 Samuel 24:11-12, 15

David and his men were being chased down by King Saul and his army. David and his men were hiding out in the back of a cave when Saul went into the cave to go to the bathroom. While Saul was relieving himself, David snuck up and cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. All of David’s men wanted him to kill Saul, and David could have easily taken his revenge in that moment for all the ways Saul mistreated him. Instead, David seeks reconciliation and peace.

David comes out of the cave and humbly reveals the situation to Saul, and Saul breaks down at David’s kindness and generosity toward him. But notice David’s words to Saul because they are a perfect description of what happens when we forgive someone.

When someone has wronged us, the Lord commands us to forgive them. For followers of Jesus this is not a suggestion. This is a command. We forgive because we’ve been forgiven of so much. We are the most forgiven people on the planet. Who are we not to forgive? When we lavishly accept mountains of forgiveness from Jesus and yet refuse to squeeze out a handful of forgiveness for the ways other people have wronged us, we are trampling on the cross of Christ.

But notice David’s words. Forgiveness is not saying that what the other person did was okay. Forgiveness is not making excuses for other people’s wrongdoing. Forgiveness is not making light of the ways people have hurt us. Forgiveness is not a declaration that what they did was fine. It’s not an invitation for them to do it again and for us to be a doormat.

Instead, forgiveness is declaring that we will not be the one to bring justice and fairness into the situation. Forgiveness is giving up the right to seek revenge. I like the way David said it to Saul, “May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you…” And then he reaffirms this idea when he said, “May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

When we forgive we are not saying there shouldn’t be justice. What we are saying is that we are not the Judge. God is. When we forgive we are putting the situation in God’s hands and declaring that He is the one who will bring justice. We are trusting Him to be the Just Judge. And in so doing we are also saying, “My hand will not touch you.” But this doesn’t just mean avoiding physical violence against the person who wronged us. It also means, “My heart will not resent you” and “My mind will not harbor bitterness toward you.” There are many kinds of revenge–many that originate in the heart and mind–and forgiveness is giving up our supposed “right” to all forms of revenge.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we instantly rebuild trust with the person. Rebuilding trust is the process of reconciliation and is step number two. Reconciliation requires two people willing to work to rebuild the relationship. Forgiveness does not. Forgiveness does not require that you trust the person, but it does require that you trust God. We must trust God enough to release the situation into His hands and trust Him with the outcome. Forgiveness is something that we work through between us and God. The third party is not required in this process. We can forgive family members who have long since passed away. We can forgive people who are no longer in our life. It doesn’t require their participation.

Reconciliation does require the other person’s participation and, if it is possible, we should pursue it. But it is not always possible, nor recommended, that we reconcile with some people. There are situations that are just too toxic for reconciliation. But no situation is beyond forgiveness. Forgiveness sets us free from the damage that resentment and bitterness does to our own heart. Forgiveness is a gift to us, made possible by Jesus’s death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to forgive when it seems impossible. Jesus gives us the grace to forgive when we don’t want to.

Below is a great prayer of forgiveness by Rodney Hogue. Who do you need to forgive today?

PRAYER OF FORGIVENESS:

In the name of Jesus, I choose to forgive as I have been forgiven. I now choose to forgive _____________. I release any right I have retained to bring revenge. I release them from my hands and place them into Your hands, Jesus, my Just Judge. I break every curse I have sent to them and call forth a blessing to them instead. Thank you for the grace to forgive and the power to live in freedom.

You've Got a Friend in Me

While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”

1 Samuel 23:15-17

We all need friends like Jonathan. David was in trouble as Saul was hunting him down. Jonathan came to encourage David, and he did it in the best possible way. He helped David “find strength in God.” And the way Jonathan did this was to remind David of the promise God had spoken over David’s life.

Too often when friends are trying to comfort and encourage someone, they do it poorly. Here are some common mistakes that are made:

  1. Messiah complex: sometimes a friend tries to encourage someone by being the savior in the situation. They point people to themselves rather than to the Lord. They shell out their advice rather than help the person hear from the Lord.
  2. Minimizing: sometimes a friend tries to convince someone that it’s really not that bad. The intention here is good but too often it diminishes the real struggle that the person is having.
  3. Self-comparison: sometimes a friend tries to encourage another by comparing it to something they went through. Eventually the conversation turns away from the friend in need to the friend trying to help. It becomes all about a past situation that may have little to do with the current one.

But notice what Jonathan does. Jonathan doesn’t try to be the savior but instead points David to the One who can save. Jonathan doesn’t minimize the danger that David is in. Jonathan doesn’t tell a story of his own. Instead, he helps David find strength in the Lord. He helps David focus on the Lord rather than on his terrible situation. He reminds David of God’s promises to him. He reminds David of the prophetic words spoken over his life. He declares God’s words about the future even though those words seem impossible in the present.

Jonathan also didn’t try to compete with David. Jonathan was fine being in second place. He knew God’s plan for David and was not so arrogant as to fight against God’s plans. Jonathan humbly accepted the truth about what the future held for him. He wasn’t interested in competing with his friend; he just wanted to encourage him through this hard time.

We need friends like this. We need to become friends like this. Next time we encourage a friend going through a hard time, we need to think about how we can help them find strength in God (rather than in us). Let’s listen for the Holy Spirit and what He has to say about the person and their future. The word of the Lord is better than any advice we could give. Declare the truth about who God says they are, regardless of the situation they face. And if God has spoken a big destiny over their life, we shouldn’t be afraid to say it and we shouldn’t try to compete with it. We’re called to humbly encourage our friend. After all, this isn’t about us.

Checking In

When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,” he inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.

”But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!”

Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. 

1 Samuel 23:1-5

David was on the run from King Saul who was trying to kill him. Yet, when he hears news about the Philistines looting one of the towns of Israel, he wants to help. David doesn’t want to get caught and killed, but his mind is not on self-preservation. His heart is for the people of Israel. His heart is tuned in to the heart of God.

Notice that David continually checks in with God. Scripture says that David “inquired of the Lord.” When you read the story of David you’ll noticed that he does this over and over again. He checks in with the Lord to see if he is the guy who should help in this situation. This shows that his heart and his life are surrendered to the Lord. He’s not fighting the Philistines out of bravado or trying to prove himself. He’s fighting out of a place of obedience.

When his men respond to him in fear, David checks in with the Lord again. In other words, he listens to his men. He takes their fears seriously and considers them. Then, he ultimately submits their fears to the Lord and asks if they should still go and fight. When God says, “Go,” David goes. He is fully obedient, fully surrendered, fully submitted to the Lord. His life is not his own. He knows he belongs to the Lord. And because of this, the Lord promises to go with David and give him victory.

David is modeling for us a heart-posture we should have before the Lord. Throughout our day, but especially when making decisions, we need to check in with the Lord first. Then, we need to hear from trusted friends and family. We need to listen to their concerns carefully. Finally, we need to go back to the Lord and submit their concerns to Him. We start with the Lord and we end with the Lord. He is the beginning and the end.

Even as Christians, we’ve tried to come up with ways of making decisions that don’t include asking the Lord. We try to work our systems and strategies thinking that human wisdom will be enough. But it’s not. We need God’s direction–wisdom that comes only from the Holy Spirit.

I think we avoid asking and listening to the Lord for a few reasons: 1) We haven’t cultivated a relationship where we are regularly hearing from the Lord because 2) we don’t think we can hear from the Lord. Or, 3) we haven’t been taught how to hear from the Lord, or 4) we don’t think God would speak to us even if we could hear Him.

The truth is that God wants to speak to us, and we can hear from the Lord. We do need to first learn how to hear from the Lord and begin to cultivate a relationship with Him where we hear from Him. And we don’t start with gigantic decisions. We cultivate a relationship of hearing from the Lord with smaller things first, things that don’t stir up so many of our emotions and our swirling thoughts. If we can begin to hear from the Lord on smaller, daily things, we will be better prepared when big decisions come our way. We will have learned how to hear the voice of the Spirit speaking to us. We’ll begin to learn how to discern His voice from our own internal monologue. We’ll be able to sense when it is a lie from the enemy or a statement from the Lord.

This is the kind of relationship David had with the Lord; it’s a picture–a foretaste–of what is available to us in Christ. Now that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, this kind of dialogue with the Lord is even more possible for every believer. The question for us is whether we are willing to surrender our lives in the way that David surrendered His.

Adullam Church Planting

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

1 Samuel 22:1-2

Too often what we see here with David is also what we see with church planting. As someone who has planted a church, I am big believer in the need for more new churches. Yet too often, an unhealthy gathering of unhealthy people is how a new church begins.

First, too often the leader is running away from an oppressive situation. They were an associate pastor or youth pastor who felt too controlled by their senior pastor or elder board. They may not be running for their lives like David was, but they are running from authority. Rather than facing the problem or facing their own issues with authority, they run away and call it church planting.

Then, notice who is compelled to join David. First, his family comes to support him, and this is pretty common among church plants. Nothing wrong with that. But also notice that those next to arrive are “in distress or in debt or discontented.” People in distress come because they’ve exhausted other church environments. People who are financially unstable come because a church plant feels more chaotic, and they are quite at home in chaos. And people who are discontented with other churches come because they believe their discontentment is always the other church’s fault. They think what they really need is just a new church that they can influence to do things the “right” way.

You can probably already see the difficulty of this situation. A church plant has little resources because it is just trying to get off the ground and many people are not financially stable enough to tithe regularly. What resources a church plant does have–financial, emotional, and leadership resources–can get drained quickly because of those who are in a constant state of distress or in a perpetual state of discontentment. This is part of what makes planting a church, especially in the northeast, so difficult.

Eventually, the ones who came discontented and were initially really excited about the new church plant find new reasons to be discontent. They carry the discontentment with them wherever they go, so they will end up hopping from church to church, never able to settle in. The ones in distress will also fade away, frustrated that someone wasn’t constantly holding their hand through life. The ones in perpetual financial crisis, if they don’t find ways to get healthy, won’t stay long either.

This is why the crowd that is there for the first year or two of the church plant usually isn’t there within a few years. In order for a church to survive, it needs solid leaders who have emotional intelligence and stable lives. Without people like this, the church will not make it. True disciples of Jesus Christ willing to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel has always been the core of a healthy church. Yes, the church should always be reaching out to the broken and the lost, and this will always make church messy. And yes, life always brings unpredictable crises into the lives of church members that we all walk through together. But the core of the church leadership can’t be in disarray or it won’t survive. And many church plants don’t.

The church was never meant to be a nonprofit where the discontented gather. It was never meant to be “the cave of Adullam.” It was meant to be on mission as the Body of Christ in the world ushering in the Kingdom of God to earth. It was meant to be a worshiping community of those filled with the Spirit and on fire for God. For every believer, the church serves initially as a hospital for sinners, but it was never meant to stay that way. It’s not supposed to look like a permanent ER. It’s supposed to look more like an army of saints, who take a field hospital wherever they go, spreading the love of God and the good news of Jesus.

Re-baptism

Do you know that feeling of being in love?

You think about the person all the time. At the store you think about fun gifts you could buy for them. At the stop light your mind drifts to them, wondering what they are doing. Regular daydreams featuring that person cloud your mind throughout the day. Just thinking about the person makes you smile, and sometimes it makes you tear up. You go through your day in awe of their love for you and intoxicated by your love for them. It’s a beautiful thing, but it usually doesn’t last very long.

Do you know that feeling of loving someone sacrificially for a long time?

This feeling is different than being in love. There is a grit and a strength to this kind of love that doesn’t disappear when hard times come. This kind of love has seen it all and comes back for more. This love isn’t easily offended or deflated. It sees past the surface of things and into the heart of a person. This is a love that is willing to do the hard thing, the messy thing, the painful thing. This love is deep and lasting. This is the love that grows in a marriage that has stood the test of time.

Now imagine if you were able to combine these two loves. Imagine if you could experience the depth of sacrificial love with the fire of being in love. That is the best way I know how to describe what it felt like for me to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Luke 24:49 & Acts 1:4-5

I had been a Christian for 26 years. I had been in full-time pastoral ministry for 10 years. I had a good relationship with the Lord. I loved God and served Him as faithfully as I knew how. But getting baptized/filled with the Spirit was life-changing. I found myself radically and totally in love with Jesus like never before. It wasn’t the kind of “in love” feeling that was fleeting. It was a deep and lasting love. And I’ve been in love ever since. It has now been over four years and the intoxicating love of God just seems to increase.

I find my mind drifting to Him when I sit at stop lights. Sometimes I just pray prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving. Other times, His love is so tangible that it brings tears to my eyes. Even after all those years as a Christian and all those years in ministry, I never knew this kind of closeness and connection to the Father was possible. I never knew you could actually be in love with God and have that intimacy last forever. This is not a youth group camp spiritual high. I know what that is like. This isn’t that. This is like being married to someone for 30 years and falling deeper in love with them than the day you married them.

Use whatever label you want. Some Christian traditions call it being baptized in the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5; 11:15-16). Others call it being filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4; 4:31; Ephesians 5:18). Still others use those terms interchangeably. For them, baptism in the Spirit is the first of many fillings of the Spirit that happen sometime after receiving the Spirit at salvation. The debate about what to call it comes down to an argument about whether there is an experience of the Spirit that happens after salvation–after we’ve received the Spirit.

I used to think the answer to that question was “No.” I used to think we received the Spirit at salvation and that was it. But I was wrong. There is more! I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. You can call it whatever you want, whatever fits with your theological tradition. But make no mistake, there is an additional encounter of the Spirit after salvation that is life-changing.

People have asked me if I think I got more of the Spirit in this experience. I tell them that I didn’t get more of the Spirit but that the Spirit got more of me. And because He got access to more of me–more pieces of my life in total surrender to Him–I got greater access to Him. I didn’t get more of Him as if He is some spiritual liquid. No, I got all of Him when He came into my life at salvation. But I now experience more of Him. Just as we experience more of a person when we go from friendship to marriage–more connection, more physical intimacy, more closeness–so too we experience more of the Holy Spirit after being baptized/filled with the Spirit.

Baptism in the Spirit is available for every Christian, and every Christian, if they knew how amazing it really is, would want it with all their heart. It’s not something you earn. It’s something you receive, like salvation, with a heart that is postured to receive it.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled“(Matthew 5:6). Hunger matters. If you want more of what I described here, then ask Jesus to baptize you in the Holy Spirit. Or, if that language is difficult for you, ask Jesus to fill you with the Holy Spirit. There is more! There is always more of our infinite God to experience in our lives.

Father, You are so good and so gracious. You pursued me–a skeptic with a scientific and theological mind. You broke down the walls of doubt that I had put up around my understanding of You. Holy Spirit, You flooded my heart, my mind, and my body with Your Presence. Holy Spirit, even after all of my sin, even after all of my rejection of You, even after I mocked those who believed in Your gifts and manifestations, You still pursued me. You still came after me. You still came flooding in, upending my life. And I am so grateful.

Jesus, I ask in Your name that You would do the same for those reading this who hunger for more. I ask You to flood their lives, baptize them in the Spirit, fill them with your Holy Spirit. Break down the walls that are keeping them from experiencing more of Your Spirit in their lives. Holy Spirit, come! Have Your way! We give You our “Yes,” our unconditional “Yes!” More Lord!

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