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.

Convergence: social justice, the supernatural, and scholarship

I have noticed that streams of Christianity that have a limited view or limited experience of the Holy Spirit tend to err toward conservative, legalistic fundamentalism or universalistic and licentious progressive liberalism. Unfortunately, in the past, streams of Christianity in western culture that have embraced a full experience and practice of the Holy Spirit have tended toward anti-intellectualism and a cult of personality.

Thankfully, what is emerging now in America is a stream of Christianity that fully embraces the Holy Spirit and scholarship and is also informed by global, charismatic Christianity. Global Christianity sees no conflict between caring for the poor and believing in miracles. In fact, one informs the other.

The greatest representative of this convergence of social justice, supernatural Christianity, and scholarship is Heidi Baker. As a missionary she has run an orphanage for decades that cares for hundreds of impoverished children. She also happens to evangelize by using signs, wonders, and miracles. Specifically, she and her team enter a village, call forward the deaf and blind, and show the power of the gospel as they pray for healing and see most of them get healed. This all happens in front of the other villagers who, naturally, then want to know more about this Jesus who heals. She also has a PhD in systematic theology from King’s College London. She is currently launching a university in Mozambique. She daily lives out this beautiful convergence of social justice, the supernatural, and scholarship.

Global Christianity is teaching American Christians that churches which don’t operate in the power of the Holy Spirit are ineffective. Our brothers and sisters around the world are also teaching us that empowering women and caring for the poor is essential to the gospel. Likewise, they are warning the American church that caving to a sexual ethic that is at home in America but foreign to the Bible and global Christianity will weaken the Church and diminish the gospel. And as global Christians get beaten, imprisoned, and killed for the sake of the gospel, they expose universalism for the lie that it is.

The church in America is shrinking while global Christianity is exploding in revival. It is time we learn from them and from the convergence they represent.

A Different Person

Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?…The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.”

1 Samuel 10:1, 6-7

Samual was the prophet and judge for Israel when Israel asked for a king. They wanted to be like all the other nations around them who had a king, so God handpicked Saul. Samuel anointed Saul with oil and spoke a prophetic word over his life. The Spirit of the Lord would come upon Saul, enable him to prophesy, and would change him into a different person. And that is exactly what happened.

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. 

1 Samuel 10:9-10

What happened to Saul when the Holy Spirit came upon him is a foreshadowing of what happens to the early disciples when the Holy Spirit comes upon them during Pentecost in Acts 2.

When we put our faith in Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit within us and are saved. We see this happen to the early disciples in John 20:22. Yet, when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, as it did to the early disciples in Acts 2, we often see a dramatic shift in the life of the believer. Along with life change, we see supernatural gifts like prophecy awakened.

When Peter tries to explain the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, he describes it as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2:

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, 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 2:14-18

One of the effects of the Holy Spirit coming upon a believer–sometimes called being “filled with the Spirit”(read Ephesians 5:18; Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8 & 31; Acts 13:9 & 52)–is that they begin to prophesy. In other words, they begin to hear more clearly from the Lord than they’ve ever heard before, and they feel a fiery urge to speak those words. Yes, there are many other gifts that are awakened or imparted when a person is filled with the Spirit, but throughout scripture, prophecy is one of the most prominent and consistent ones.

And similarly to Saul, when a believer goes from having the Holy Spirit dwell in them to then also being filled with the Spirit–having the Spirit come upon them–they feel changed. It often feels like a second conversion experience. Many testimonies attest to the feeling of being changed into a different person, as Saul was.

A hunger for intimacy with God gets ignited. A sense of how completely loved you are by the Father overwhelms you. Gifts and talents that you had before are set ablaze with the power of the Spirit. Love and grace for people around you increases. Your prayer life deepens. Old sin habits aren’t given a second thought because your desires have been renewed. You no longer want the old things you used to want. Your boldness for the gospel triples.

I am convinced that as followers of Jesus we were never meant to only have the Spirit dwell within us. We all were meant to have the Spirit come upon us. We were meant to be changed and empowered as Saul was. We were all meant to be filled with the Spirit and meant to live a dynamic, supernatural lifestyle. This is what God always intended, not a new religion but a new kind of humanity.

“…His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity…”

Ephesians 2:15

Voluntary & Involuntary Suffering

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings…

Philippians 3:10

If we want to know the power of the resurrection of Christ then we must chose to participate in His sufferings. This means that to the extent that we are willing to voluntarily suffer, is the extent to which we’ll operate in power and authority in that area of our life. This is a Kingdom principle.

When we empathize with and serve people, we will often find ourselves suffering with them in different ways. This is a kind of voluntary suffering. When we fast and contend in prayer for a breakthrough, this is a kind of voluntary suffering. When we sacrifice for others, this is a kind of voluntary suffering. When we stand for truth in the face of people mocking and slandering us, this is a kind of voluntary suffering. When we participate in the sufferings of Christ in this way, we will find that our ministry and our prayers will carry more resurrection power with them.

It’s not that we are “paying the price” for greater power. It’s that Jesus already paid the price on the cross so that sons and daughters of the Kingdom would be able to operate in greater resurrection power. Romans 8:11 says, “…the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you…” Jesus already paid the price, so our job is to identify with Him in His sufferings. The result is resurrection power.

Voluntary suffering is different than involuntary suffering. In this world full of sin and brokenness, we will automatically face involuntary suffering (accidents, illnesses, financial issues, relational issues, hardship, etc). Involuntary suffering is useful too but just in a different way. While voluntary suffering produces power, involuntary suffering produces perseverance, character, and hope. Romans 5:3-4 says, “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

James put the same idea this way:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

James 1:2-4

So one way to look at it is that while voluntary suffering empowers the gifts of the Spirit, involuntary suffering (handled well) empowers the fruit of the Spirit. Voluntary suffering God uses to make us more effective. Involuntary suffering God uses to make us more solid.

Healing Brings Praise

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Matthew 15:29-31

Physical healing naturally brings praise to God. Notice that even though Jesus likely healed hundreds of people that day, and some with extremely severe illnesses, the crowd instinctively knew to praise God for the healings. They knew a man could not heal unless God was working through him.

People today get so worried that if someone has gifts of healings (one of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:9) that all the credit will go to the person instead of God. But this is just not true. I have seen it time and again, that when someone experiences healing, the most natural thing in the world is to give glory and praise to God alone. We exaggerate our fear that a person will take the credit for the healing and it keeps us from engaging in more healing prayer in the church.

Through Jesus, the crowds “saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing.” This is what people should be seeing in the Church, the Body of Christ on the earth. We are His hands and feet in the world. We are His ambassadors. “…In this world we are like Jesus“(1 John 4:17). We are called to pick up the mission and ministry of Jesus and continue it today. As more and more people in the Church pray for healing and see people get healed, more and more praise goes to the Father for His goodness and faithfulness.

This is who we are called to be as the Church, ushering in the Kingdom of God on earth. We need more people pursuing the supernatural gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12, including gifts of healings (in the Greek both the word “gifts” and “healings” are plural). It needs to become commonplace for people to walk into church sick and walk out healed. Just as a nutrition plan has become a new addition to many people’s treatment plan for their illness, we need a new normal where people add regular healing prayer to their treatment plan.

How are you going to pursue more healing prayer in your life with Christ?

If you’re looking for a place to start, this book can help: Power to Heal by Randy Clark

Gracelets

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:8-11

We who are followers of Jesus have been given the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit has in turn given us gifts. The word used in the Greek for “gifts” is simply the word for grace (charis) with a suffix on the end (either -ma or the plural form -mata). One way to translated the word gift (charisma) is “grace-enablement” or “gracelet.” Each gift is a little droplet of the grace of God pouring through the Holy Spirit in us. Each gift is the grace of God in a different form.

The purpose of these gifts is clear–to serve others. They aren’t given to us to serve ourselves or our own glory. They are meant to give glory to God as we serve others. They are divine enablements that empower us to built others up. They are gracelets that operate in our lives so that we can love others well. We are to steward these gifts, knowing that they didn’t originate in us but came from the Holy Spirit. They are things we try to steward well as a way of honoring the Source from which they came. The whole purpose of having and using these gifts is that “in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

To not use the gifts we’ve been given and to not grow in the gifts we’ve used is just as dishonoring to God as misusing the gifts of the Spirit. We all are wary of gifted people who misuse their gift in a way that is selfish and destructive. But are we as wary of those who never use the gifts they’ve been given? Are we as wary of those who have the seedling form of a gift but never allow it to grow through the use and development of that gift? Both misuse and un-use of the gifts of the Spirit are damaging to the Body of Christ.

We can’t be so afraid of misuse that we scare people into never using and developing their gifts. Living in this kind of fear paralyzes the Church. We need healthy risk-taking and discerning wisdom that allows room for mistakes and yet creates an environment of growth for the gifts. This is the only way gifts can flourish and mature into health.