Darkened Understanding

“…you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.”

Ephesians 4:17-19

In the passage above, Paul reveals the connection between insightful thinking, a tender heart, and actions that line up with God’s way of living. He starts by exhorting the Christians in Ephesus to no longer live as the Gentiles do, and he specifically identifies the problem: “the futility of their thinking.” He rewords this same problem a couple more times saying the Gentiles are “darkened in their understanding.” He exposes their “ignorance.”

All of this is a problem in the mind. Their thinking was skewed. They lacked insight and wisdom in the way they thought about things. Their minds were cut off from God’s revelation and truth. What is most interesting is Paul’s diagnosis. How did their minds and their thinking get so warped? How could they become so blind to the truth? Paul says that this happened because of the “hardening of their hearts.”

I find this fascinating!

The reason their thinking was so warped and their ability to embrace truth so damaged was because of a condition in their heart. They had “lost all sensitivity.” What does that mean? It means that, over time, if we don’t actively try to keep a tender heart, our heart will become hardened. If we aren’t actively forgiving those who hurt us, if we aren’t actively being sensitive to the contamination of sin and impurity, we will eventually become desensitized. Bitterness will become normal. We will stop feeling the pangs of conviction when we sin. Instead of feeling the natural guilt that comes from lust and perversion, we’ll feel nothing at all but justification for our actions.

When hearts become hardened to sin, our actions become unrestrained. Selfishness, indulgence, pleasure, and ego become king. Greed becomes normal, along with lust and jealousy, fear and hatred. And it’s not difficult to see how this works its way backward toward darkened understanding and futility in thinking.

When sin abounds in our life, our heart loses its sensitivity to conviction, its sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. And when our heart loses sensitivity over time, it becomes hardened, calloused, desensitized. Inevitably, the hardness of our heart prevents our mind from receiving truth, illumination, and revelation. We are cut off from the profound insights that the Lord wants to plant in our minds, and our thinking becomes darkened and futile.

So often we compartmentalize the wholeness of our being and we miss the deep connections between our actions, our heart, and our mind. Paul makes these connections clear to the Ephesians and to us. We all want to have profound, insightful thoughts, but most people don’t see the connection between how they’re living and how they’re thinking. We want to have illuminating thoughts without obedience. We want insight without self-discipline. But they are connected.

The more willing we are to surrender our actions to the Lord, the more willing we are to be obedient in our self-denial, then the more tender our heart remains. We want a heart that is sensitive to the gentle nudges of the Holy Spirit. We want a heart that is quick to embrace conviction of sin and quick to repent. This then keeps the door open and receptive for when God wants to download His thoughts into ours. This then keeps us ready to receive profound, illuminating thoughts that are thick with wisdom and insight.

Our actions change the condition of our hearts. Our hearts then change the receptivity of our minds.

DNA of the Spirit

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Matthew 3:11

Whenever I tell people that the Lord has taken me through a journey of deeper engagement with the Holy Spirit, people often assume something about tongues or becoming charismatic. But this kind of assumption totally misses the point.

In order to give a more holistic picture of what has really happened in my life, I tend to say that I got a download of the “DNA of the Spirit.” This happened at God’s initiation and invitation, not my own. Using language from the charismatic stream, we might call this a filling of the Spirit or “baptism” of the Spirit. But many people are uncomfortable with that language for various reasons.

Using language from the spiritual formation/contemplative stream, we might say that this DNA of the Spirit is often the result of Jesus moving us from mansion 3 to mansion 4 or 5 in our interior life with God (according to the seven mansions laid out by St. Teresa of Avila in her Interior Castle paradigm of spiritual formation [read this if you want to learn more about this paradigm]). 

In order to bring greater clarity to what I’ve experienced, I list here some of the common characteristics that I’ve noticed accompany a download of the DNA of the Spirit. This DNA is not just about having the Spirit or interacting with the Spirit. This is something more. I write this as a person who for many years did not operate with this DNA and now does (I was a Christian for 25 years and a pastor for 10 years before experiencing this).

A person who embraces the DNA of the Spirit will often experience: 
1. An increase in awareness of and prioritizing of the unseen realm/spirit realm 
2. An increase in deep intimacy with the Lord, often accompanied by supernatural encounters with the Lord
3. An increase in two-way conversational dialog with the Lord, often accompanied by a desire to spend more time with Him
4. An increase in the sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s tangible presence and the Holy Spirit’s activity in the room, including a desire to notice and obey spontaneous promptings of the Spirit
5. An increase in the use of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12)
6. An increase in the power of the Spirit and the authority of Christ
7. An increase in the awareness of spiritual warfare as a regular part of the Christian life (including demonization and casting out demons) 
8. An increase in the conviction that the gospel is true and that Jesus is the only way (any residue of unbelief gets washed away)
9. An increase in the amount of God’s Kingdom that is believed to be available to us “already,” this side of heaven
10. An increase in prioritizing ministering to the Lord (rather than just to people) and hosting His Presence (rather than just hosting people) 
11. An increase in willingness to obey God even when it might seem weird to the people around you and you might be misunderstood [an increase in boldness is often a result of a “filling of the Spirit” (see Acts 4:31)]
12. An increase in a desire for holiness and purity, often accompanied by a reduction in desire for sin
13. An increase in expectancy as it relates to God moving supernaturally
14. An increase in the desire to speak about the above realities so that others may become awakened to them in similar ways

Most Christians can relate to one or two (or even a few) of the above characteristics. But imagine if you experienced all of these at once (or in a very short amount of time). That’s what a download of the DNA of the Spirit feels like. For me it was both a process and an event. It was a year and a half process of wading out into deeper waters of the Spirit (like slowly walking out into the ocean) followed by an event of being overwhelmed by the Spirit (like a wave of the Spirit crashing over me). This, then, was followed by a lifestyle of living in the deeper waters and experiencing continual wave after wave of the Spirit crashing upon my life. Once you’ve experienced these things, you want them for everyone you love and everyone around you. 

Yet, there is another reality to experiencing the DNA of the Spirit that’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There are some difficult aspects of it as well. 

Here are some things that are difficult that also tend to accompany a download of the DNA of the Spirit:
1. An increase in misunderstanding from people: I don’t think I’ve ever been more misunderstood than I have during this time. The amount of misunderstanding that has come from the DNA of the Spirit in my life has been disorienting. When one begins to try to explain this new engagement with the Holy Spirit, it is often met with skepticism, confusion, and false assumptions. When one becomes a Christian, it is difficult to describe to your non-Christian friends what exactly has happened to you. When you’re married with kids, it’s difficult to describe your new life to your single friends. There are certain things in life that will be misunderstood until they are experienced firsthand, and this is one of those things.

2. An increase in attacks from the enemy: The enemy will begin to recognize you as a greater threat to the kingdom of darkness and will respond accordingly. He will launch all manner of attack against your life including illness, grief, loss, betrayal, false accusations, and an increase in temptations. The goal is to ruin your reputation and limit your impact for the Kingdom of God.

3. An increase in testing from the Lord: The strangest thing to experience is that God allows the above things to happen, both misunderstandings and attacks, in order to test your character. He begins to test the clarity of the “well water” of your soul, not at the surface but at the deeper levels. And down in the depths of your soul is where you will find sediment that you didn’t know was there. It’s a painful process as you get As on some tests from the Lord and Fs on others. Your character is pressed and stressed to see where it is weak. The gold of your heart is thrown into the Refiner’s fire in order to clean out the dross and purify your desires. The point of all of this is so that God can trust you with the weight of “more” without crushing you under it. He has to sure up the weak parts of your character so that it won’t break under the weight of His glory.

You may have noticed by now how often I’ve used the word “increase.” And that is the main theme of receiving a download of the DNA of the Spirit. You get “more.” You get more intimacy and connection with God; you get more gifts; you get more passion, conviction, revelation and insight. But you also get more challenges and testing. You get an “increase” and an “upgrade” on all fronts.

So, this is the best I know how to describe what has happened in my life. It still doesn’t do it justice, but it’s a good summary of the experience. What is most amazing to me about it all is that it was initiated by the Lord. It wasn’t something I was interested in or something I was asking for. It was an invitation that He initiated on His own for His own purposes.

The only way I know how to describe this humbling feeling is to imagine being a first century beggar on the side of the road as Jesus and His disciples come into town. I know all too well that Jesus could have passed me by. He could have kept walking (and probably should have). Instead, on His own initiative, He decided to stop just for me. And in doing so He forever changed my life, my family, and my ministry. And he’ll do the same for you if you’re willing.

Words on a Plane

But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort…

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy…

1 Corinthians 14:3, 39

I sat down in my seat for my flight home from Texas. Missy would stay in Texas for a few extra days for a girl’s trip. The kids where already home with my parents awaiting my return. I’m not often by myself on a plane so this was a good chance to stretch my faith a little and see what God would do.

I sat in an aisle seat in a row with one guy already at the window seat. He was a young, African-American guy, maybe in his twenties. He had a durag on with a hoodie pulled over that. He had earbuds in listening to music from his phone and a mask on his face (though masks were optional on this flight). He had sweatpants on and slide-ons on his feet. His socks were some sort of cartoonish design. His posture gave the over all message, “Leave me alone.”

As more and more people filled the cabin, and seats were running low (this was a Southwest flight where you chose your own seat), a young woman decided to claim the center seat in our row. She looked to be in her twenties as well, fashionably dressed, and either Puerto Rican or mixed race. She had a lot of make up on but it was well done. Her nails too. She had one of those looks that could be confused with a number of different ethnicities.

We all settled in and I decided to tilt my head back onto the headrest, close my eyes, and begin to pray. I began with some prayers of gratitude and praise. Then I shifted into asking the Lord what I have asked Him a hundred different times when praying for people, “Lord, how do you see him/her?”

In my estimation, if this question works in church environments it should work everywhere. Meaning, if I can practice hearing what the Lord says about fellow Christians that I pray for in church, then I should also be able to hear what He says about the people around me in daily life. For some reason, the latter seems to demand more faith from me than the former.

As I began listening, I started with the African-American guy in the widow seat. The first thing I heard (“heard” meaning: a conversational thought that came to my mind that seemed not to be my own) was, “His IQ is very high, much higher than the people around him.” I don’t know what I was expecting God to say about him, but that definitely wasn’t it. Then I saw a picture in my mind’s eye of him at a computer. It seemed like he was playing video games on his computer but based on the first word, it could have been him doing programing or something. I wasn’t sure.

Feeling bolstered by what I heard for the guy by the window, I asked about the girl next to me in the center seat. I got a picture of her with children. She was helping them in some way. Then I heard, “She is good with kids. She helps kids who are forgotten and on the margins. She’s good with kids because she wasn’t allowed to have much of a childhood.”

This was all going so well, but I wasn’t sure any of it was accurate and I wasn’t sure when or how I would share these words with these people. I prayed for an opportunity to share and the courage to step out in faith.

I also asked about the lady across the center aisle from me who was sitting in the aisle seat directly next to mine. She was a heavyset hispanic lady that looked closer to my age. In my mind’s eye I saw a picture of her cooking tons of food for a big family. Nothing about her necessarily signaled that she was a mother, but it was as if she brought her family joy and connection through her cooking. Maybe a grandmother? I didn’t know.

The final word came for the lady sitting diagonally across the aisle from me in the seat in front of the hispanic lady. She was a well put together white lady in a business suit. I wondered if she had flown somewhere for business. The only thing I heard for her was, “The business deal will go through. It will work.” I had no idea what this meant or even if she was a business person. She could have been a teacher for all I knew. It’s just what I felt like I heard from the Lord.

I held on to these words waiting for opportunities to share them. After an hour, I was still waiting. It wasn’t until the girl next to me needed to get up and go to the bathroom that I felt like there was an opening.

After she left, I mustered up the courage to tap the guy in the window seat on the arm. He looked up surprised and took one of his earbuds out. I greeted him and explained that sometimes I’ll pray for people around me and ask God how He sees them. Then I asked, “Do you want to know what I heard Him say about you?” Still a little confused, he said that he did.

I said, “I heard the Lord say that your IQ is really high and that it is higher than the people around you. Then I saw a picture of you on a computer either programming or playing video games. Are you a computer programer or something?” He said, “No. But I do play a lot of video games.” I nodded, “Oh, okay, I must have mixed that up a little. Can I ask what you do?” He replied, “I’m going to be a doctor. I’m finishing up med school to be a radiologist.” Laughing I said, “Oh wow, that must be the whole thing with your IQ. I just want you to know that God has given you your intelligence as a gift and he wants you to use it for good. And it sounds like you already are!”

He thanked me for praying for him and asked about me. I shared that I was a pastor. He asked a few questions about my church just as the girl from our row returned from the bathroom. That seemed to go well and gave me a little more courage to try out the other words.

The plane landed and parked at the jetway. I stood up to stretch my legs as people prepared to leave the plane. I didn’t want the girl next to me to leave before giving her the word. So I decided just to jump in and explain to her that sometimes I pray and ask God how He sees the people around me. I asked her if she wanted to know what I heard God say about her. She looked very skeptical. And with more than a little attitude she said, “Sure.”

Unexpectedly, the guy next to the window chimed in and said, “He did the same for me. And he was right. Trust me, it will be good.” Now I was the one a little shocked. This guy who I just met was helping me out. So cool. The girl confirmed again that she wanted to hear what I had to say.

I said, “I heard the Lord say that you’re really good with kids. I saw a picture of you helping kids who had been forgotten and on the margins. He said you are good with kids because you weren’t given the chance to have much of a childhood.” Still looking skeptical, she nodded and said, “Okay?” She seemed to be processing it all and not knowing what to do with it.

I asked, “Can I ask you what you do?” She said, “I’m a nurse.” Pointing to the guy next to the window I said, “Oh great, he’s a doctor.” Surprised, she turned and had a short conversation with him about what he was doing in medicine. She then turned back to me and said, “Yeah, I’m a travel nurse but I used to work in pediatrics.”

This was a gracious lifeline to me. She could have left that detail out, but she decided to throw me a bone. I was so encouraged by this little detail because it meant that I wasn’t totally off in hearing the Lord. I said, “Oh wow, so you are good with kids, and probably some of those kids were really struggling.” She nodded in agreement. I said, “Well, maybe God will give you an opportunity to return to pediatrics. Clearly, you are really good with kids and God loves that about you.” She was still reserved in her response and didn’t seem totally convinced, but I considered that conversation a win.

We were all getting off the plane before I could deliver the other two words to the other two ladies. But then I noticed that the heavyset hispanic lady was walking right beside me as we entered the airport terminal. I tried my best to give a quick, 30-second summary of how I listen to the Lord and that, for her, I got a word about her cooking for her family. She looked a little freaked out and nodded in a way that said, “Please leave me alone.” Ha! She quickly darted in the the women’s restroom before any conversation could happen, and I was off to baggage claim. I never caught up with the lady in the business suit.

Two out of four ain’t bad. But it confirmed to me that God has thoughts about every person on the planet (read Psalm 139:17-18). He knows us intimately and in the most detailed ways. His heart posture toward us is love, not condemnation.

As followers of Jesus, not only is God willing to share his thoughts through the Holy Spirit (read 1 Corinthians 2:9-13), but He is willing to share his feelings as well. When God gives me words about people, I find that I can’t help but love them in that moment. It’s like God’s love is so big that the residue of His love sticks to every prophetic word He gives. Each word is just a fragment of all the thoughts He has for that person, and each one carries a tiny fragment of His love with it. As His word for them flows through me, the residue of His love for them rubs off on me and changes my heart for them.

Prophetic words weren’t designed to come as raw data. They were meant to come wrapped in His love. They are a kind of incarnation. The word becomes flesh, even on a plane.

Tremble

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth.

Psalm 96:8-9

Throughout the Psalms, and the Bible in general, we see that a normal response to the tangible Presence of God is to tremble. When theophanies happen in the Old Testament, people often tremble in the presence of God.

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

Exodus 19:16-17

We get the sense that in a face-to-face encounter with the fullness of the living God, our bodies can’t handle all the power, our sin can’t handle all the holiness, our eyes can’t handle all the light, our hearts can’t handle all the love. The healthy and reverent fear of the Lord hits people and they begin to tremble. We might call this trembling a “physical manifestation of fear” or a “physical manifestation of being emotionally overwhelmed.”

I grew up in a Baptist church where we used to sing a hymn that spoke to this reality. It was called “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.”

 Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Stanzas 1 & 2

All of this got me thinking about trembling as a “physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit.” To clarify, this is different from trembling that is a “physical manifestation of being emotionally overwhelmed” (although emotions may accompany it). When the Holy Spirit causes the physical manifestation, it is not showing up in our body because of our emotions. While emotions may be a part of the experience, physical manifestations of the Spirit are when the Holy Spirit himself causes our body to react to an increase of his tangible presence. And while our bodies can react in a number of different ways, trembling is a common one.

Both Jonathan Edwards, in the First Great Awakening (1730s), and John Wesley, in the Second Great Awakening (1790s), recorded the phenomenon of people trembling under the power of the Holy Spirit. In subsequent revivals (Azuza Street in the early 1900s, Charismatic renewal in the 1960s, Toronto and Brownsville in at the 1990s) the experience of people trembling under the power of the Holy Spirit was very common. While this reaction of trembling has been recorded by historians in nearly every revival, it sometimes gets explained away with accusations of some combination of groupthink and mass hysteria.

Yet, these simplistic dismissals can’t account for the wide rage of personal experiences that people have had with the Holy Spirit. How do they account for people continuing to experience these physical manifestations of the Spirit while they are alone in the privacy of their own prayer time with the Lord? How do they account for their regularity? How do they account for people with no prior religious experience experiencing these physical manifestations despite not wanting them and even being skeptical of them? There is too much personal and historical evidence that one of the physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit is the phenomenon of trembling.

What’s fascinating to think about is that while people who experienced trembling were not necessarily experiencing a theophany in the traditional sense–they weren’t face to face with the living God–their bodies were reacting as if they were. It’s as if their bodies were picking up on the reality of the tangible Presence of God in a way that their eyes weren’t. What if their bodies were responding appropriately to God’s tangible Presence even when their mind wasn’t able to?

Have you ever had a moment where your heart was ahead of your mind? Your heart picked up on something and tears began to flow but your head was still unaware of what was going on. You were crying but you weren’t sure what you were crying about yet. Your heart was ahead of your head. Only later, upon further reflection, did your mind begin to understand what your heart already knew. Has that ever happened to you?

I suspect the physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit that happen to our bodies, like trembling, are versions of this. It’s like our spirit and our body picks up on God’s Presence in a way that our mind hasn’t yet. Our body and spirit are ahead of our mind. Only later does our mind make sense of it. And this completely makes sense when we begin to recognize the truth that we have the Spirit of God actually dwelling in us. When the Spirit within us connects with the Spirit falling upon us, our body will react to that powerful connection often before our mind can catch up.

We may begin trembling in a way that is beyond our control. If this happens to us, we shouldn’t fight it as if there is something wrong with our body. Quite the opposite. Maybe our body is actually responding appropriately. Maybe it’s the rest of us that has to catch up. We’re experiencing the profound Presence of God in our midst, and maybe whatever walls may be up in our heart and mind need to come down so that they too can join in on the moment.

Self-Limiting

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

As Christmas approaches, I’ve been thinking a little about the incarnation–God becoming human in the person of Jesus. Nothing can limit or contain God except Himself. When Jesus became human in the incarnation, it was a gigantic act of self-limitation on the part of God. The One who was once omnipresent, self-limited to a time and place in history. The One who never experienced pain, hunger, or thirst, self-limited Himself into a human body that experienced all the basic human needs for food and sleep. He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.

Does this mean that Jesus wasn’t the fullness of God?

No. Colossians 2:9 is clear, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Imagine a dad playing basketball with his young son. If he is a good dad, he will “self-limit” the amount of force and skill that he exerts. He does this out of love for his son. Does this mean that in this moment he is “less” of a dad? Quite the opposite. In the dad’s loving self-limitation he is fully himself and maybe even the best version of himself because his love is tangibly on display. The same is true of Jesus. “The Son is the image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15).

What about God’s omniscience and power? Did God self-limit those in the incarnation?

I believe He did.

It is true that we see Jesus know things He couldn’t know without supernatural insight. We also see Jesus do incredible miracles that He couldn’t do without divine power. Yet, I believe that what we see in Jesus is a tiny fraction of God’s total omniscience and power. I believe Jesus only did that which is possible to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. He only did that which was possible for a human to do who is completely filled and empowered by the Spirit and perfectly connected to the Father. In other words, I believe Jesus did these things as a perfect human conduit of the power of the Spirit not as God the Son.

Luke 4:1 says that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” after His baptism as He was led into the desert to be tempted. Then, having been victorious over Satan in the desert, Luke 4:14 says that Jesus returned to start His ministry “in the power of the Spirit.” It’s not until this happens that we start to see Jesus do miracles, healings, and deliverances. So I believe that the “supernatural” aspect of Jesus’s ministry was Him acting as a human fully empowered by the Spirit and completely connected to the Father. I don’t believe they are instances of Him flexing is divinity (though He had every right to as God the Son). So even His miracles are an aspect of His self-limitation.

We know that the power He could have displayed could have been so much more overwhelming. Jesus even said, leading up to the cross, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?“(Matthew 26:53). There was so much more power that could have been unleashed but wasn’t. Again we see Jesus’s self-limitation.

Though Jesus knew things about people that He couldn’t have known without supernatural help (see John 1:47-48 & 4:16-18, Luke 5:22 & 9:47), I believe this was Him operating in what the apostle Paul would later call gifts of the Spirit like words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). Yet, we still see that Jesus self-limited His foreknowledge when He talks to His disciples about the end times and says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).

Jesus’s self-limitation in the incarnation was a radical act of love toward us. It also leaves us followers of Jesus without excuse. We can no longer write-off parts of Jesus’s ministry with the statement, “Yeah, well, He was God.” We sometimes like to think Jesus’s divinity gets us off the hook from having to operate like Jesus did in the fullness of the Spirit. But, though He could have operated out of His divinity, I don’t believe He did. Everything He did He did as a human fully surrendered to the Father and fully empowered by the Spirit. And though we will never be the perfect conduit of the Spirit that Jesus was, we are still called to be a conduit just the same.

Washing Feet – Revisited

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 

John 13:6-15

I love when the Lord shows me something new in a passage of scripture I’ve read a hundred times. I read the above passage the other day and felt like the Lord showed me something new. We tend to think of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet as an act of humble service whereby He then instructs His disciple to do the same for each other (that is, serve each other). But consider that there’s more that Jesus is addressing here. 

We know that Jesus isn’t just talking about personal hygiene. And I believe He’s talking about more than just service. When He’s talking about taking a bath, He’s really talking about baptism/salvation. He’s talking about the cleansing of the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus says, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

And when Jesus is talking about washing feet, He’s talking about the regular cleansing that we need even after we are saved. Jesus said, “Those who have had a bath (been saved) need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.” Meaning, we who are followers of Jesus have already been forgiven of all of our sin, and yet we still need a regular kind of cleansing because of our regular contact with sin and the contaminants of the world. We’ve been cleansed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out (our spiritual bath), yet we still get the muck and grime of the world on us simply by walking daily in the world. After we have had a “bath” we don’t need to get saved over and over again, but we do need a different kind of cleansing. We do need a foot washing.

We see this same kind of “dual cleansing” demonstrated by the priests at the Temple. First, they offered the sacrifices of animals to account for their sin. The spilling of blood addressed their guilt from sin. Yet, the priests also had to wash in the wash basin before entering the Holy Place. The washing with water addressed anything they may have had contact with that made them “unclean.” And these wash basins were made from bronze mirrors. They would have literally seen a reflection of themselves as they washed away the contaminants of the world with water. I don’t think it was an accident that a time of reflection accompanied this time of cleansing.

Jesus introduces a new kind of “dual cleansing” for the new priesthood of believers. First, baptism represents the full and total cleansing of our life from sin. Jesus’s blood is what would enable the Holy Spirit to come and bathe us in righteousness from the inside out. Then, a foot washing, which represents the ongoing need for forgiveness, repentance, and cleansing from the muck of the world.

Not only do we need a spiritual “foot washing,” a regular kind of repentance and cleansing, but this cleansing is something we believers can offer to each other. Jesus commands, “…you also should wash one another’s feet.” We not only are called to serve each other humbly, but we are called to participate in helping each other stay clean. The cleansing water is the Holy Spirit, and He does what only the Spirit can do. Yet, we can participate in this by metaphorically washing each other’s feet.

I have seen the reality of this kind of cleansing happen over and over in the prayer ministry we have at our church. People come in for prayer with the muck of sin and the muck of the world caked on them. They feel ashamed and defeated. They feel oppressed and depressed. They know there is more to this Christian life than what they are experiencing but they just can’t seem to tap into it. They are followers of Jesus who have been bathed in the waters of baptism, but they still need a foot washing for their soul.

Then we start praying, and the increased Presence of the Holy Spirit begins to be poured out. We as prayer ministers bend low to wash feet and the cleansing power of the Spirit does His work. I watch as time and again people get set free from sin, free from shame, free from unforgiveness and hurt, free from the heavy weight pressing down on their shoulders, free from the heaviness on their chest that keeps them from taking a full breath. As the cleansing water of the Spirit is poured out, the Light comes, lightness is felt, freedom is experienced, hope returns, and a cleansing takes place right in front of us.

When Jesus taught us to wash each other’s feet, I do think he had in mind humble service. But I also think He had in mind ministry that brings freedom and cleansing, ministry that one believer can offer to another. We have the honor of ushering in the cleansing power of the Spirit for each other if we are willing to bend low. This ministry of cleansing is the ministry of washing feet and inviting the Holy Spirit to come and wash souls.

Carrying God’s Presence

Imagine God calls you into something through a prophetic word. You have a special assignment from Jesus. This assignment is so unexpected that the Lord actually uses supernatural divine revelation to bring it about. God tells someone else ahead of time what will happen and that person then tells you. And then, God’s prophetic word through this person comes about. It actually happens! As unexpected and unlikely as it seems, God brings about the word spoken over your life!

Now imagine that the divine calling that came through this prophetic word is that you will carry the very Presence of God on you and release it to other people. You will be the conduit through which people will experience a tangible encounter with Jesus. Other people will have an encounter with God because of the tangible Presence of God resting on you. This is your calling! Can you imagine?

Have you ever experienced something like this?

How special would you feel if this was you? How uniquely chosen would you feel? How honored would you feel? How humbled would you be? How overwhelmed at the enormity of this responsibility?

Yet, I am reminded that there is someone who had this exact thing happen to them in the Gospels. It was a donkey.

As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 

Luke 19:29-35

Jesus spoke a prophetic word to His disciples about what they would find. He called this donkey out ahead of time through a word. And what was the divine calling? It would be to carry the very Presence of God into Jerusalem so that the people of Jerusalem could have an encounter with their Savior.

We who have been called out by a prophetic word, we who bear the heavy responsibility and incredible honor of being a conduit of God’s power and Presence, need to remember that we are very much like that donkey.

We are special and unique and loved and called. We are honored and humbled and surprised that God would use us. Yet, our main task is simply that of the donkey. We simply carry the Presence of God to others. He does all the rest. We can’t save, or heal, or deliver, or empower, or comfort. But Jesus does all of that and more. Our job is to carry His Presence, follow His lead as He pulls on the reins, and do what He asks us to do. Then we watch as Jesus does the miraculous all around us.

A minister named Dr. Randy Clark operates in an astounding measure of God’s power. I love his prayer. Let it be ours!

“God! Let your eye fall on me, for I want to be totally yielded. I want to be that person through whom you can show yourself strong. I want to be the coin in your pocket for you to spend any way you want. I want your glory to rest on me. I want to be the donkey that you ride on. I just want to be yielded, God, and I want to believe that I can be the person that you clothe yourself with. I want to believe, God, that I can be mightily used in your kingdom. God, in my heart I am saying to you, please, look upon me and let your grace fall upon me because I want to reveal your glory. Show yourself strong through my life.” 

Dr. Randy Clark, Spend and Be Spent

Proximity Healing

As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Mark 6:54-56

A guy in my church came down for prayer after our service was over on Sunday. He wanted prayer for his foot that had been bothering him for some time. When we prayed, he immediately started to feel heat all over his body to the point where he started sweating. The Presence of God was on him in an intensified way. As I continued to pray for his foot, the pain left. The prayer time took no more than 5 minutes. Jesus healed his foot right there.

But why ask someone else for prayer? Why go to someone who has seen people physically healed before and ask them to pray for your physical ailment? Can’t we just pray on our own? Doesn’t God just heal whomever He wants whenever He wants? Why would the book of James recommend that we go to particular people for prayer?

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. 

James 5:14-15

In the time of Jesus, people traveled long distances carrying their loved one on a mat just to get them near Jesus. Proximity mattered. They wanted Jesus to touch them or for them to touch the edge of Jesus’s cloak. Either way, power seemed to be coming from Jesus that was bringing physical healing to people. Jesus was a touchpoint, a conduit, of God’s power. So they traveled to get near Jesus wherever He was. The Gospel of Luke says it this way:

…a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

Luke 6:17-19

But couldn’t God just heal all those people in their own homes? Couldn’t God just heal them in their own synagogues? If God really wanted them to be healed, couldn’t God just answer their prayers for healing right where they were? Why would God have them travel to Jesus to get healed?

The answer is, “Yes.” God could have healed each of these people right in their own homes and in their own synagogues. He could have sovereignly healed them right where they were. But He didn’t. Just like He could have healed my friend in my church who came forward for prayer. God could have answered His prayer for healing right in his own bedroom. But God didn’t. God chose, instead, to use me as a touchpoint of His grace, a conduit of His power, in order to heal. This is something that is a regular pattern for God.

When God flows through us, through the Holy Spirit, to bring healing to someone else, we are functioning like a spring of water. Sovereign healings are like rain. Someone in ancient times could wait and say, “If God really wanted me to have water, He would send rain.” And there is some truth in that. But understanding the ways of God is really important. Another way God provides water is having people travel to a spring, or to a well, to collect water. People shouldn’t just wait on rain; they must travel to that spring if they want water.

Waiting on rain isn’t always always an act of faith. Often it is an act of misunderstanding the different ways that God provides water for us. The same is true of healing. Waiting for a sovereign healing is sometimes an act of faith. But often, it is simply a misunderstanding of the different ways that God provides healing for us. Sometimes we must travel to a source of healing, a place or person where God is regularly pouring out His healing through the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9-10, 28).

So we should always pray for our own healing and ask God to bring healing. But sometimes we must go to the wellsprings of healing. This means seeking prayer from those within our church who operate in gifts of healing. It also might mean traveling to people and ministries who specialize in gifts of healing and miracles.

In Jesus’s day, people could have stubbornly stayed home and reasoned with themselves, “If God wanted to heal me, He would do it wherever He wanted and whenever He wanted.” But this is a misapplication of the truth of God’s sovereignty. Those who traveled to Jesus got healed. Those who saw the power of God pouring out of Jesus, and understood that proximity mattered, picked up their friend on a mat and did whatever they could to get them in front of Jesus. They understood that sometimes God sends rain to us and other times we must go to the wellspring for water.

We need to be ready in faith to travel, to go to where God is pouring out His healing power. We need to be able to identify healthy springs and go to them. We need to have enough wisdom to discern the difference between the charlatans and the real servants of God. Going to someone who has gifts of healing still does not guarantee our healing, but it acknowledges one of the primary ways God brings His healing into this world.

COVID-19 and The Gospel

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:15-20

The gospel and being filled with the Holy Spirit were always meant to spread like a virus, not unlike COVID-19. One person can “infect” a whole group of people. Yet, what are the preventative measures that stop the spread? Masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing, and inoculation.

Masks = when people hide their face, when they are afraid to be transparent about their life

Hand sanitizer = when people refuse to get their hands dirty, when they want their Christianity tidy and neat and don’t want the mess that comes with the Holy Spirit and a servant-life of following Jesus

Social distancing = lack of connection, lack of community, relational distance

Inoculation = vaccines work by exposing the immune system to part of the virus without being exposed to the whole thing. People get inoculated from the gospel and the Holy Spirit when they get a partial exposure but don’t experience the whole thing. This leads them to believe they have experienced the whole thing, and they are not impressed when it is offered again. They’ve built up a hardness of heart, an immunity.

By far the strongest preventive measure against a virus is a vaccine. Likewise, the strongest preventive measure the enemy can enact against the gospel and the filling of the Holy Spirit is partial exposure without full exposure.

I see this with the gospel when people say, “Oh yeah, I grew up in church.” What they often mean is, “I already know all about Jesus and the church and I don’t want any part of it.” But of course, that isn’t true. They were exposed only partially to the Kingdom and all that comes with following Jesus. If they knew the whole thing, they’d want all of it.

I also see this with the filling of the Spirit, mostly from those who have some experience (usually bad experience) with the charismatic tradition. People saw a charismatic televangelist or went to a charismatic. church for a time in their life and had horrible experiences with that. They now believe they are an expert on the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Spirit. They reject so much of the Spirit’s work in the world because “they already know.” But if they really knew the fullness of the Spirit, they would be running around telling everyone about it. They’ve become inoculated with just enough exposure to leave a bad taste in their mouth but not enough exposure to see what all the fuss is about.

This is why it is vital for churches and Christians to be “all in.” When we give people a partial exposure to the gospel or a partial exposure to the gifts of the Spirit, we run the risk of eventual inoculation. We must be all in ourselves, sold out for Christ, and invite people to an uncompromised experience of the Kingdom and the Spirit.

Baptism of Jesus

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:4-8

John the Baptist baptized people in water for repentance. But where did he get the concept of being baptized with or in the Holy Spirit by Jesus? Because of church history and tradition, we usually reserve that phrase, “baptism in the Spirit”, for charismatic or Pentecostal churches. So where did John get this idea from?

John the Baptist was the final and greatest prophet of the Old Testament/old covenant (Matthew 11:11). So this idea of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit must have been a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. John was simply proclaiming what was expected of the coming Messiah. And there are a number of prophetic passages that expected the Messiah to have the Holy Spirit upon him and for the Spirit to be poured out in abundance in the new Messianic age. This was in contrast to the Spirit being selectively given to certain kings and prophets as was the case is the Old Testament. Here’s a few of those passages:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners…

Isaiah 61:1

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 44:3

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
I will show wonders in the heavens
    and on the earth…
    
And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance

Joel 2:28-32

We know that Peter quoted this Joel 2 passages when the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost in Acts 2. The disciples saw that moment as the beginning of the fulfillment of these prophetic promises. Jesus was baptizing, immersing, flooding them with the Holy Spirit just as others had been baptized by John in water.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:1-4

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is when we are filled and flooded with the Spirit. There is a tipping point of Jesus being invited to take over every part of a person’s life. Like a dam breaking and a flood carving new terrain in the landscape, the will breaks in surrender to the Lord and the Spirit pours out, carving new terrain, new freedom, new gifts, new power, new intimacy in the life of a believer.

The prophets of old had long expected this kind of outpouring of the Spirit. We get the incredible blessing of being a part of this Messianic age where all of this is possible under the new covenant. The Old Testament prophets and king longed to see what we see and experience what we now have access to in the Spirit.

Then he (Jesus) turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Luke 10:23-24