When (last) were you filled with the Spirit?

Many of us have had someone ask us before; “When were you filled with the Spirit?”, but have you ever been asked “When LAST were you filled with the Spirit?”? Paul would have:

Ephesians 5:18-21
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

I really enjoyed my conversation with Levra in a previous post. It reminded me that it is one thing to RECEIVE the Spirit for the first time and another thing to REMAIN filled by Him daily as Paul pleads here. Unfortunately, besides “read your bible and pray every day”, PRACTICAL teaching on how to be continuously filled with the Spirit after conversion is not common in my circles. Yet it seems that Paul spent much energy prioritizing this very issue with his young converts. My feeling is that many of the things which we need and desire as Christians are not in us but in Him – not default privileges but rather dependent upon whether or not we are filled with His Spirit. Do you agree?

I would love for you to share your experiences in this regard to encourage each other. What has God taught you about how to remain in the Spirit in real life? In a very practical sense, what has worked and what has not? Looking forward to sharing…

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What kind of knowledge of God?

What is the knowledge of God that we so often read of in scripture? Paul spoke about it often, yearning for us all to grow in it, but what was he speaking about exactly?

Jesus said: “you will KNOW the TRUTH, and the TRUTH shall set you free”. How we understand this sentence may help us answer the question above. To our modern ears, Jesus may have sounded like He was saying:

“You will HEAR the FACTS, and the FACTS shall set you free.”

Or

“You will UNDERSTAND the DOCTRINES, and the DOCTRINES shall set you free.”

Or

“You will MEMORIZE the SCRIPTURES, and the SCRIPTURES shall set you free.”

Or

“You will GRASP the THEOLOGY, and the THEOLOGY shall set you free.”

I don’t believe this is what Jesus was saying. Continue reading

A spontaneous thought about spiders and the meaning of life

Today I sat for a while looking out from a height over our neighbourhood and into the distant sunset. I enjoy taking some time at the end of the day just to recollect my thoughts, and mostly, to switch them off. It is in these times that I actually catch up with myself and with God. It sometimes feels as if I am like a coral reef submerged beneath the ocean of life, and all these movements of my soul at the end of the day are like bubbles rising up from the deep and breaking open on the surface. It takes calm waters to notice those bubbles. Today I was enjoying them as I just allowed myself to float. Something caught my attention today though – a little spider weaving its web near my head. This triggered another release of bubbles. I wondered if this spider noticed the view at all – whether it knew or cared how big the world was out there. In some ways I pity the simplistic life of such creatures, but I also envy it, in a way. It looked so content, blissfully unaware of the amazing beauty in the sky, the human mess below it and the collision between it all on the horizon that we have to deal with. I wonder whether it also has such questions and longings bubbling up from within. I guess not.

SpiderWhat this makes me realise, is that spiders were created to be spiders – to make their webs and catch things in them. When they are doing that, they lack nothing. Perhaps a spider sitting in someone’s glass jar somewhere, with no web and nothing to catch in it, would have longings and disillusionment. Perhaps then it would look out into the wide world and wonder what was out there and why it was in there. Today I looked at the spider and considered her ways. I decided that there are many things I was made to do that I am not doing, and many things I am doing that I was not made to do. I’ve decided I want to be like that oblivious spider in the web, that lives like it was created to. Maybe you need to do the same. There is no discontent and no glass bottle there, and perhaps also fewer bubbles…

Conversations on morality: what about emotions?

There are times when I experience toxic emotions that can lead to sinful behavior. In the past, I used to battle distinguishing the emotion from the behavior, which meant that in an effort to avoid bad behavior I ended up avoiding bad emotions. I guess that having bad emotions made me feel like a bad person, and so I began to strive to be an ’emotionally’ good person. On the positive side, I think I learned good self control, which is a fruit of the Spirit after all. I wanted to obey God’s commands to rejoice, to be patient, to not be anxious. In some ways it worked. I didn’t allow myself to entertain or indulge unhealthy emotions. On the negative side, by moralizing my emotions I actually closed the curtains on the window to my soul. I treated bad emotions like sinful choices, and forgot that there was something under them. So in some ways I lost touch with myself. Lately I find that I am becoming more ‘real’ instead of ‘right’ with my toxic emotions, and I feel more authentic. Yet there is this nagging feeling that it might not always be a good choice.

ARE emotions choices? Are they moral in God’s sight? Or are they merely like the lights on a car’s dashboard that He designed to let me know what’s going on under the bonnet? What is the balance between being real and being right?

A thought about discipleship: push and pull

My wife studies educational theory. One interesting fact I have been able to grasp from our conversations about it is that there are two basic views on how to educate people. These two views both involve the link between learning and development. The first view is that a person’s learning pulls their development along, while the other view claims that a persons development pushes their learning along. These two theories have complicated names and explanations so I just call them ‘pull’ and ‘push’ learning. Pull education is about teaching people something to help them grow, whereas push education is about waiting for people to grow before teaching them.

push and pull

Push and pull learning are quite fascinating when you think about the practical implications. Take the school system for example. Should the curriculum be designed to stretch students beyond their capacity so that they can learn faster than if they were not challenged? Or should it be tailored to their natural mental development? There is a lot of debate about how much we can shape the internal growth of children through external influences, and how much we can’t. I can relate to this push and pull dynamic in my personal development. There have been times when new desires, drives and capacities have developed spontaneously in me which have ‘pushed’ me into new explorations and learning that I wouldn’t have had a desire for before. But there have also been other experiences and exposures due to my environment which have inspired (pulled?) me towards growing in an area that I would have never have desired if left to myself.

All this makes me wonder: how does this apply to Christian growth and discipleship? Continue reading

A thought about your inner child – Three things to consider growing out of

I love children. They can bring such joy to a home and a family. At their best they can be the epitome of innocence, making those around them feel compelled to nurture and protect them. On the other hand, they also often get away with murder as people excuse them for their childish behaviours: their need for attention, their messiness, their manipulations etc. The other day I was confronted with the thought that there are still some things in me that belong in that bracket of bad behaviours. I realised (to reverse a similar saying) that while growing is inevitable, growing up isn’t. People usually say something similar to mean quite the opposite – that we have to grow up, but we don’t have to grow old. I get that, but why do we fear growing old more than we fear not growing up? Is it right to cuddle and excuse your ‘inner child’? For all the encouragement by Jesus be childlike, there is also a lot of discouragement in the Word about remaining childish for too long.

myinnerchild

However, many people seem to mourn their journey out of childhood and innocence. They feel that they have somehow lost something, a better part of themselves – or at least a happier one. So they talk about being child-like, or ‘staying young at heart’. In some ways it’s understandable. However you slice it, the world out there does leave its scars as we are lured (or pushed!) into it. And yet, I don’t believe we should cling to our youth because – to put it bluntly – immaturity hurts. I am realizing painfully as I grow older that there are childish things in me which should have passed away and (for some reason) didn’t. There are actually three specific things (that I believe are rooted in childhood) which I would like to share and get your insights on: egocentrism, excitement and impulsivity. Continue reading