Catch as Much Light as You Can
I got a wonderful email a few days back, and I have been given permission to share it.
I’ve been reading your blog (in all its permutations) for years and have always enjoyed your narrative style and content. I don’t drop in on your site as often as perhaps I should, but it is always a pleasure when I do.
I wanted you to know that you have had a positive impact on me. Your admonitions to pray in tongues encouraged me to try it – and the Holy Spirit has never been stronger in my life. Bear in mind that I’m from a straight-laced Methodist background (where even raising one’s hand in praise makes some congregants uncomfortable) and, at 58 years of age, the old dog / new tricks effect is in full play.
All that said, I recently had a failed business, lost a lot of what I’d materially accumulated, was looking at foreclosure, had college bills to pay for my two kids, etc. Dire times. In that state of despair, I prayed – for the first time – in tongues. I came so naturally to me that I was amazed (which detracted, at first, from my focus). Now it is a morning routine. The Holy Spirit moves in me for perhaps the first time in my life. It has been a great gift, Steve, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. The Lord clearly steered me your direction and had me accept your admonitions.
I just started a consulting engagement on a one year contract and am looking forward to this new career. I’ve still got a hard row to hoe in order to get out of debt, but I now have hope. And that, my friend, is something that lifted a crushing burden. At my age, getting hired (and particularly in this economy) wasn’t likely to happen. And as we age (particularly men who have taken the responsibility of supporting their family), that fear can be all-consuming. Absolutely crushing. It is now gone. I can function with some sense of confidence. The Lord has lifted me and prayer in tongue has given me the conduit to reach out and accept the lifting.
Thank you, Steve. It has been a blessing.
Can you believe that?
It amazes me that God is actually using me. Much of the time I feel like I’m accomplishing absolutely nothing, and I know I don’t do all the things I should, but occasionally God does something in a way that involves me, even though my activity is so slight, I’m practically a spectator.
Sometimes I’ll find myself in a group of people, and I’ll see an opportunity to pass on something I’ve learned about God. While I’m praying and trying to get it out, someone else will pipe up and say (or do) something. On these occasions, I don’t have to do much of anything. In fact, I tend to feel as if I’m being restrained. Often it will seem as people are talking over me and ignoring me, as though God is stimulating them to keep me quiet while he moves. It’s very strange.
On the one hand, it can be frustrating to be unable to speak when I feel sure God has told me what to say. On the other, it’s really neat to sit back and watch God work. It’s also nice to know I don’t have to worry about getting the glory. I think glory is like vitamin A. You need a little in order to get by, but too much is a poison.
Sometimes I’ll show up somewhere thinking I’m going to get something done for God, or I’ll be asked to do some chore or other for the church, and people will show up and start doing things around me. Sometimes they’re borderline rude. It’s as if they don’t see me. For example, someone may ask me to help move chairs, and I’ll try to get in there and work, and people will barge in and make it impossible for me to do much.
I wish something like that had happened yesterday. A toilet got clogged up at church, and God seemed content to let me handle the plunger.
The wonderful thing about teaching people about tongues and the Holy Spirit is that it’s a perfect act of charity. When you give a bum five dollars, you get him drunk for half a day, and then he’s back where he started. When you get somebody started with tongues, they get everything they need to lead a successful life for God. If they keep it up, they won’t need you to teach them much. God will teach them directly, and the first thing you know, they’re spiritually independent (of other people), and they may come back and teach YOU. That has happened to me.
One of the reasons I like the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is that you can get together with people and send a donation, and they’ll move a Jew to Israel, permanently. It’s not a fleeting blessing. You can rescue someone from anti-Semitic neighbors in the former USSR and put them where God wants Jews to be. Salvation and the baptism with the Spirit have the same quality of permanence (assuming those who receive them don’t screw things up). It’s like conceiving a child; using you, God creates the potential for a new life. In comparison, other acts of charity are a little bit like feeding a mule for a day.
The other night, The Name of the Rose popped up in my cable box’s free movies list. I always have to have something to watch when the birds are out, so I turned it on. I totally forgot about the ridiculously long sex scene, which I had to blast through with fast-forward, but other than that, it was a worthwhile experience. It’s based on a novel by Umberto Eco. It’s about a Franciscan monk who visits an Italian abbey in 1327 and solves a murder mystery.
I don’t really care about the story. It was great, but that’s not what stood out to me. The thing that impressed me was the way things have changed.
I looked up the terms “Middle Ages” and “Dark Ages,” thinking they were not quite synonymous, but it turns out you can use them interchangeably. More or less, these were the years between 400 and 1400 A.D. The Holy Roman Empire collapsed, and after that, nothing good happened until the Renaissance. If you believe what you see in The Name of the Rose and various Monty Python movies, people wallowed around in the mud in filthy grey robes, eating dirt and excrement, and that was about all there was to life. There were nobles, kings, monks, and far-off heathens who were better off, but in the Christian world, life was rough.
I think the movies exaggerate. Don’t misunderstand. I’ve read books on the Middle Ages, and they were actually pleasant, prosperous times for many Europeans. The word “house” really meant something we would now call a compound (which automatically appeals to my far-right, gun-and-Bible-clinging personality). A person Obama would call “rich” would own the house, and it would be home to his family, as well as a number of servants. The bottom floor would likely be devoted to business, so you might see a workshop (see previous parenthetical), and everyone worked to keep the place prosperous (Ibid.).
People had things like soap and combs, and servants were expected to tidy up, so it probably wasn’t as bad as Dennis the Peasant and his filth-based anarcho-syndicalist collective.
Still, people had a lot of problems, and the movies emphasize that. The Name of the Rose served to remind me how rare knowledge was in the Middle Ages, and how far people were from God.
I don’t think the Middle Ages began because the empire fell. I think they started because carnal people succeeded in exterminating charismatics.
In the early church, tongues and the other gifts of the Spirit were not considered extreme. They were staples of the faith. Everyone was expected to partake in them. As a result, God worked great wonders through people, and the church actually threatened the supremacy of human government, as God intended it to. The human race made its choice, as it has so many times, murdering those who came to deliver it. The gifts and fruit of the Spirit disappeared, and backward, hopelessly ignorant Catholic and Orthodox clergymen took over, misinterpreting the scriptures and ensuring that generations would die powerless and captive.
In The Name of the Rose, a sub-plot centers on a huge debate in the Catholic Church. The Franciscans thought poverty was a huge virtue, and the Pope–a billionaire warlord in a mitre–disagreed. The events in the movie took place during a sort of convention, in which clergymen from various factions met at a remote abbey to debate the issue. The Pope’s big advantage was that one of his representatives was an inquisitor who could burn people instead of responding to their arguments. I guess you could say this guy was the Chris Matthews of his day.
The fictional debate centered around this issue, on which the welfare of the universe pivoted: did Jesus own his own clothing?
I’m no historian, but I don’t think that’s unrealistic at all. Christians fight bitterly about all sorts of stupid things. You might think the thing that disturbs me is that we get angry over trifles. That’s not really it. The thing that bothers me is that we have been so lacking in Spirit-given enlightenment, even if we argued about big issues, they would be the wrong ones! When the light of the Spirit goes out, the darkness of human tradition spreads across the land, and the first thing you know, the kosher laws have been augmented to the point where chicken parmigiana is forbidden.
The abbey held the biggest library in the Christian world. The books were piled up in a tower, and the top floor was a labyrinth only two people were allowed to access. The justification for locking the books up was that many of them disagreed with scripture and/or tradition, and the monks didn’t want to see the populace seduced by ideas on which the Pope had not signed off. As it has in real life, the Catholic Church actively suppressed knowledge.
I don’t really care if the church hides erotic fiction written in Latin. But over the centuries, traditional churches have hidden God himself. At times, possession of the Bible has been illegal, not under secular law, but church-made law. That’s insane.
I had the misfortune of visiting an Episcopal church for a funeral a couple of years back. I was stunned by what I saw. I had forgotten what traditional churches were like. People sat in pews fidgeting while womanish old white men in fancy robes muttered and gestured behind a heavy altar, yards away. The priests handled all the God stuff. The people watched, like miserable spectators. It’s funny; when God makes me a spectator, it’s a great gift. These people…not so much.
It reminded me how I had hated church as a kid. Back then, I fought when my mother tried to take me to church, and once I got there, I suffered and squirmed and lived for the moment it would end. It was only natural. I felt no connection with God. The dry lectures I received were dull and not very useful. I was offended and repulsed. I felt that I had an obligation to be there, but the experience was awful.
At my church, I literally feel God moving inside me. I get revelation upon revelation. The speakers prophesy. The Holy Spirit shapes the sermons so that, simultaneously, they meet the unique needs of dozens of people. Church is alive because God is alive, and because he is welcome. The traditional churches dispense God’s presence and power with an eye dropper. Satan owns them, and he controls the tap.
What I’m trying to say is that we still live in the Dark Ages. The real Dark Ages started when the baptism with the Spirit died out and Satan’s blind, carnal servants took over. We spent over 1500 years in defeat and helplessness.
Since the Azusa Street revival and similar outpourings, things have been improving. A new dawn is transpiring. God could have let is continue to grovel and meander in blindness, because he is under no obligation to fix our problems, but he has chosen, once again, to give us a new light. Like the monks who kept knowledge to themselves and denied the laiety the right to approach God without proxies, the traditional churches have been a barrier between God and man, but now that the baptism with the Spirit is back, God drops behind enemy lines, without having to battle his way across the front. God comes to live inside us, and there is no carnal weapon that can get him out.
This is why carnal people like to kill us. There is no way to “fix” us. They can either exterminate us or put up with us and wait to be overrun. They came after us in the “Holy” Roman Empire, and they’re going to do it again, because Satan can’t deal with us any other way. Most human beings, including Christians, serve him. In the flesh, he is vastly superior. The closer we come to fulfilling God’s mission, the more violent and numerous our enemies will be.
We are so privileged. We can know God, in a way only a small percentage of human beings have been able to do. And we have an incredible wealth of human knowledge, too. A disciplined person with an Internet connection quite literally has no need of a high school or university. I’m so glad I don’t live in 14th-century Italy, relying on homosexuals, politicians in cassocks, and the rejected sons of nobles to tell me who God is and how to serve him.
The Inquisition is still with us, unfortunately. It has been dormant for a long time, because there hasn’t been any need for it to act, but now that Spirit-filled believers are increasing, the voices are rising against us. Suddenly, sincere Christians are “bigots” and “haters.” We are the problem. The Jews are just as bad. Something has to be done about us! And it will.
But the Spirit is always stronger than the flesh. By the time they get around to boiling us alive again, we may have so much supernatural strength, it won’t bother us at all. That was the situation with many of the ancient martyrs. They joked while they were roasted or flayed. They were glad to get out of this place.
God is pouring grace out on us, and I am really grateful for it. For a believer, this is a wonderful time to be alive. It’s easier to get God’s help than it has been in centuries. They may round us up and gas us, but until they get us, we’ll live in a state of victory our grandparents could not have imagined. We will be untouchable, until the harvest. That’s what I expect. Some will go sooner, and some will go later, but many of us will not go until we are warned by God and we are ready to lay down our lives.
I believe the Dark Ages are coming to an end. War is going to heat up, but at least we’ll be serving our purpose.