Today, I have the privilege of introducing a very special guest blogger: my dad.
He’s bringing you part two of “Water and Oil” – the next saga in our mini conversation series about the Holy Spirit. No further introduction necessary; I can’t wait for you to get to know his heart.
“Stephen, the man so full of faith and the Holy Spirit’s power, did spectacular miracles among the people.” Acts 6:8 (TLB)
Last night I watched “Father of Lights”, the final movie in the Finger of God trilogy. It was moving to say the least. There was a pastor in India that woke up every day and simply did what the Holy Spirit told him to do that day. His story was amazing, as were the people and their circumstances he encountered. The movie left me to question why I’m not experiencing the Holy Spirit like that more often in my life, and larger still, why we don’t experience the Spirit as a Christian culture at large.
Although I’m still learning the discipline of abiding in the Spirit daily, I will say that at several times in my life I have heard the Holy Spirit give me a clear word and I have stood on that word and watched it unfold exactly as spoken. On one occasion, I was sitting in my car in the middle of a hailstorm. I had just hung up the phone from a call with my daughter, Karley. She had received the news from SMU that her opportunity for a full ride scholarship was not to be. She felt rejected and hurt.
As a parent, when my child hurts, I hurt. We had all thought the scholarship was a sure thing. It seemed like a perfect fit. I cried out to God in that hailstorm and clearly heard Him speak this phrase to me: “she can go to California and you can let her.” Whoa! Instantly my mood of sorrow and hurt was broken, changed instead to excitement. With one smooth phrase, He addressed my biggest concerns. Would she be accepted into Pepperdine (her dream school), would I be able to pay for it, and could I let her go all the way to the West Coast, knowing I couldn’t rescue her at a moment’s notice?
Keep in mind that to this point, Karley had never even left the nest for summer camp unless her mom or myself were also attending as counselors. Also, I am a bit of a control freak! Needless to say, having heard the Father’s voice, I went home and told her that she was going to be accepted into Pepperdine and that is where she would go. She got the official notice from P.U. the next day, which was confirmation of the word He had spoken during the storm. And just so you know, He provided the funds and she graduated in three years with no debt. Praise God!
On another occasion, the Holy Spirit clearly told me I was going to have a dog; and not just any dog, but one that I had just been told about by a friend. He was a two-year-old lab being given up by a single mom. The timing was perfect for me. I clearly needed a “bud” as I was going through empty nest syndrome. There was only one problem: my wife Ann is not a big fan of dogs, and I knew that constantly having hair in the house would never fly with her. While pulling into my driveway in my Jeep, though, I clearly heard the voice of God tell me this was my dog. It immediately moved me to tears and I said to Him out loud, “then you are going to have to take care of Ann.” I proceeded into the house and asked her what she thought about us adopting this lab. Her response was simply, “we can go take a look”. Whoa! I knew right away her spirit was open and it was going to happen. I’ve had Cody now for over three years, and consider him a true companion. On a much deeper level, through pet ownership, God has used Cody to redeem me from past wounds. But I’ll save that for another day.
Despite these experiences, more often than not, I don’t operate my life on a consistent basis by following the Holy Spirit. It seems that neither does a large percentage of our American Christian culture. After last night, I believe I know why. We don’t encounter God in miraculous ways because we simply don’t believe we need Him to live our lives of comfort and pleasure. Instead of seeking God and continually talking with Him throughout the day, we only cry out when something goes wrong with our plans or we encounter fear over something. I call this being a “foxhole Christian”. We have bought into the lie that comfort and pleasure are the primary goals in life. The American way has become about acquiring things and having more leisure time to use them. We believe that this will ultimately make us happy.But since things can never make us truly happy (and always leave us longing for more), our blessings have become our downfall. We’ve been deceived.
What then do we pursue? Contrary to what our culture says, the greatest achievement in life is not becoming financially independent or acquiring more possessions, but rather the ability to hear the voice of God and have Him accomplish His purposes through us and in us. God says knowing Him personally is life’s greatest achievement. It’s the Olympic Gold medal! This is what the Lord says: “let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on Earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
The operating system of the Christian is the Holy Spirit. God designed it that way and promised to impart the Holy Spirit upon salvation. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you and watch over you.”
In my life, I am so often distracted by all of my gadgets, possessions, and technology. That’s a problem, considering the times when I hear His voice most clearly are quiet times; while meditating on the Word, mowing the lawn, sitting in the steam room, or other places where distractions are muted. In this I learn what He means in Psalms 46:10 when He says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
First, I rest and abide in Him. Next I discipline myself to speak to Him regarding every detail and decision of my day, then listen for His response. Finally, I act in obedience to His direction. I do this until it becomes a habit — not an exception. I have found that in doing so, I experience what it means to be led by the Holy Spirit and I encounter God in miraculous ways.