One of the coolest lines ever sung to or about Jesus rises from the spiritual “I Will Arise and Go to Jesus”. It begins, “I will arise and go to Jesus. He will embrace me in His arms. In the arms of my dear Saviour…”. And then, “…O, there are ten thousand charms.” And it’s important to note that this wasn’t cradled on the floor of a jamming praise and worship time but amidst the horror and suffering of slavery. Not goosebumps or out-of body states, but life situations that strip one of hope down to the bone give rise (To spiritual experiences? Maybe. God does what He wants.) to intimacy whether experiences come or not. What we miss in between burning bushes, seas parting, visions, earthquakes and Moses and Elijah doing a prophetic karaoke of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” on the Mount of Transfiguration is that biblical people often went months, sometimes years, in between spiritual experiences. Experiences fade but intimacy digs and drinks from deeper wells of everyday life.
In Exodus 33:11, Moses leaves the tent of meeting to return to Israel in the wilderness. The cloud of God’s presence has lifted. It’s an empty tent. But He has been there. And that’s enough for Joshua who never leaves the tent. He’s not hanging out to get a good seat for the next show when God comes down in fire by night. That Yahweh stirred the cords and fabric of this place was enough…whether there’s a next vision or not. Gods we make up don’t hold us like this even if we call them “Jesus”. But this “Matthew-Mark-Luke-John” guy who claimed to be God and Saviour of the world raised from the dead is quite different. The events of the New Testament occurred roughly two thousand years ago and today 33% (2,229,951,315 and counting rapidly in some corners) of the world follows Him. Why? Truth, in part. This is bedrock stuff; it doesn’t fold or collapse on us because we struggle or feel like it isn’t true. But there’s more.
There’s Jesus Himself (He is risen, you know. The Easter thing.) He indwells our personalities through the Holy Spirit Whose breath rises and falls under every breath of our own even when we think He has gone, given up or lost us. We may go years, maybe a lifetime, without visions and dreams. But Jesus Christ has stirred the frayed cords and worn fabric of our lives. And it is more than enough. Sadhu Sundar Singh, a twentieth century evangelist/mystic, sat talking with some Hindu intellectuals (People with enough power of thought to blow a battleship out of the water.) who asked him,”What did you find in Christianity that you could not find in Hinduism?” “Jesus Christ,” came his simple reply. ” Well, yes, of course. But what drew and held you, what compelled you to make this shift in your thinking?” Again, “Jesus Christ.” We talk about Jesus being in us but what does that mean? Where is that? In the ongoing discussion/argument, my vote comes down on the mind. The rest of the human body is already full of spleens, bones and things that already do stuff. A few years ago I went deaf in one ear and a doctor who treats Ozzie Osborne, half the Rolling Stones and other rockers couldn’t fix it but He did put me through my first MRI. The specialist brought in the pictures, made some explanatory hearing related comments and walked out. For the first time in my life, I stared into my own brain and the mind encased in it. My first thoughts ambushed me. Instead of thinking, “Okay,cool” and moving on or falling back into the mopes over being deaf in one ear, I just grinned and said, “So there You are!” I could almost see His fingerprints on the window sill and His coffee mug on the shelf. And it was enough. I’m grinning as I write. It still is.
Christ in us; the hope and foretaste of glory (all the beauty, holiness, love, truth and power of God in one enchilada) poured over us in the Spirit like syrup on pancakes and soaking deeply into every atom, nerve ending and enterprise. This intimacy, beyond but not excluding experience, stands as the real craving of our heart. Turning spiritual experiences (those we’ve had, desire or lust after) into a temple and then moving in will actually kill our appetite for real spiritual intimacy, for real following Jesus Christ. People on both sides of the cross get cheated. J.I. Packer notes, “We need to frankly face ourselves at this point…We can state the gospel clearly and can smell unsound doctrine a mile away. If anyone asks us how men may know God, we can once produce the right formula…Yet the gaiety, goodness and unfetteredness of spirit which are the marks of those who have known God are rare among us.” These are the ones who know that in Jesus there are ten thousand charms draped over the days and years of our lives – sweet both in intimacy and experience. Of course, everything said here also fits with here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
The cool rendition of “I Will Arise” can be found in the album “Songs, Stories and Spirituals” by John Patitucci.
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In the sixties and early seventies, the Jesus Movement burned through the campuses of this country and western Pennsylvania was no exception. Revival produces strange bedfellows. People the Lord used to pour steam into the boiler at my school included two former missionaries from India and Kenya, an owner of a car parts store whose sons got caught in the Asbury revivals…and than there was Mel. Mel ran a sign company. But his real bang for the buck was that he sang as featured vocalist for the Pentecostal faith healer Kathryn Kuhlmann. Jesus did some strange things in the land back then. She held services in First Presbyterian Church in downtown Pittsburgh, a place so Presbyterian that John Calvin could have preached there wearing his Steeler jersey (If he were alive, he would have one.). This would be as normal as an electric polka festival in the National Cathedral in Washington. But she held services there on weekdays and people came from all over the world, flown in strapped to gurneys and stretchers. And Mel sang in exchange for free advertising for his business. Years later, Mel would meet with a bunch of us in an off campus apartment. We all knew he probably had some choice Holy Ghost stories to tell. But Mel refused to spill the beans of his personal spiritual life saying, “The Lord and I have had some wonderful times but to share them would cheapen and tarnish them because they’re too personal.”
In the West, we’re reduced knowing to the mere possession of intellectual knowledge. We may know a great deal informationally but that knowledge rarely lays claim to how we think or to the shaping of our lives. We’ve transferred this to the knowing of people; we can put a name with a face, rattle off the hometown, names of siblings, their major and a few incidentals. We know that stuff but do we know them? And it’s not just about people. If our car needs work and the guy doing it speaks to our car in feminine pronouns, this is a good person! Watch someone who knows how to work wood – to build or restore. More than head knowledge is going down here; these people are intimate with motors and wood.
And now for a little Hebrew. In Gen. 4:1, we read that “Adam knew his wife.” This “knowing” isn’t warehousing info as a warmup for Jeopardy, it’s sex. We see this repeatedly in places like Gen. 4:17,25 and I Sam. 1:19. But we also find it in Jer. 9:24 where it says, “…let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me…” The same root word. Unlike today, Israel never separated sex from intimate knowing in the setting of a covenant. Jeremiah’s knowing God isn’t sexual but it is an intimate and thoroughgoing knowledge deeper than a squeaky clean doctrinal statement (vitae for Pharisees). Think Satan for minute. What doctrine or point of theology does Satan not understand? He didn’t understand the cross, the atonement or the resurrection then. but while he understands all that now, he lives in hateful flaming rebellion against everything he knows. Knowing isn’t knowing.
Let’s talk pornography for a second. What make pornography pornographic is that it takes what was meant to be sheltered in the privacy and security of a marriage covenant and callously throws it into the street to be gawked at and leered over by passers-by (or in print or online). Pornography can be spiritual as well. There is a real case to be made, except for the most careful and timely disclosures under the Holy Spirit’s clear prompts, that spiritual experiences should not necessarily always be shared. Read John 21:20-23. We simply have no innate right or entitlement to gawk or probe into other people’s spiritual innards.
But there’s more. In Luke 8:40-48, Jesus heals a woman with a bleeding issue (possibly menstrual). Quietly desperate, she forces her way through the crowd tailing Jesus already en route to an emergency. She just touches His clothes, power is released and she is healed. And Jesus’ reply is pretty generic. “Your faith has made you well.” Not WELL STEP UP HERE, SISTER, AND GIVE YOUR TESTIMONY AND GIVE ALL THE GLORY TO JEEEEZUZ!!!! He knew (Duh! What doesn’t He know?) that just maybe she didn’t feel like divulging this in front of a crowd mostly of men. In I Cor 15, Paul lists many of the resurrection appearances of Jesus. In verses 5 and 7, he mentions the interesting tidbits that Jesus appeared to both Cephas (Peter) and James. Dig as we might, we will not find one scrap of information, nothing leaked to the media about either incident. The Holy Spirit didn’t think it anyone’s business. Finally, in II Cor 12, Paul completes a smack down (Sometimes this has to be done.) of some carnal punks trying to showboat the church in Paul’s absence and he describes a very powerful experience I alluded to before. Please notice his tone; Paul feels extremely hesitant to share this to the point of trying to obscure his own name in the telling. He didn’t want to pull this out but thought he had to. Sometimes we might need to pull something intimate out should the situation call for it or just to check with someone we trust to see if we’re crazy. We will sense a guarded freedom to do that from the Holy Spirit. And sometimes we will share it with a group or the church or maybe a TV evangelist (Arrrgh! Please don’t do that!). But Mel was right. To take our intimacies with God and throw them out to be gawked at even in the church can cheapen and tarnish them making them spiritually pornographic. Some things are better kept to ourselves and those who have earned our deepest trust. If you’re just jumping in with this post, put this bead on a string starting here, here, here, here, here and here.
Next time on geezeronthequad.com…
The end of both spiritual experiences and the faith we walk in…knowing, loving and enjoying God and growing in holiness and grace.
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We love wilderness hiking in mountains and one of the cool things that come with that involves seeing wildlife on their own turf. Our sightings included deer, elk and turkeys but also moose, cougar, wild boar, coyote and a black bear. Some of this happened close up and personal. In Nova Scotia, we were fifty feet or so from an adult bull moose who held seven feet of air between his antler tips. The cougar leaped out twenty yards in front of our path. (Almost no one sees a cougar. If we do, it’s because it has been watching us for some time and we won’t like what it’s thinking.) Last fall in eastern Tennessee, we’d gotten off the main trail onto a horse path. We agreed to turn around after one more curve. Around that curve, we confronted a yearling black bear – thirty feet away. We sized each other up and mutually decided to walk away in opposite directions; it was a “win” for us and hopefully the bear felt the same. We hugged, glad that our arms were still attached and high-fived in amazement that we’d seen a bear that close.
Should we seek spiritual experiences? People have had them both in the Bible and throughout history. Some questions to probe our motives – why do we want to have one? Are we just curious or think it would be cool? Are we looking for a hit of adrenaline or some goose bumps, a thrill? Do we think seeing God play hacky-sack with angels would knock the kinks out of our spiritual life once and for all? Are we lazy, just wanting God to make it simple instead of learning to obey the Scriptures and walk by faith (This is known as growing up and becoming a spiritual adult.)?
In the vast array of spiritual experiences in Scripture, I only see one instance (If anyone can think of others, please let me know but my point here will still hold water.) where someone who sought something slam-bang big from God got, not only what he wanted, but so much more that they were sorry they asked. In Exodus 33, God tells Moses, “Here’s the deal. I’m sending out an angel as a lead blocker to take out in judgement all those creepy people who already live in the land. They do human sacrifice and other things they won’t quit. You’ll get to eat vineyards you didn’t plant, drink out of wells you didn’t dig and live in houses you didn’t build – the whole milk and honey enchilada. One catch – I won’t go with you. The people I brought up out of Egypt are nothing but ungrateful, complaining, live-for-the-lusts-of-their-bellies scuzzbags. You get all the goodies but as for Me, Yahweh is leaving the building long before Elvis.” Let me add that large chunks of contemporary American Christianity would snap this up in a nanosecond; they would take the blessings and run. Moses says, “I’ll take ‘Answers That Please God’ for $1000, Alex”. Moses says,” Unless You go up with us then don’t let us go another mile. How will anyone know we are Your people if You do not go up with us?” Moses thought first of God’s reputation among the nations. When God says He’s pleased with Moses, Moses blurts out, “Show me Your glory!” (Exodus 33:18) God knows if He gives Moses what the man asks for that Moses will die. You can get too close to the bear. Many people like Isaiah (Is 6) and John (Rev 1:10-17) marvelled they were still alive to describe what they saw. Others (Luke 9:28-34) were gripped in the kind of fear (unknown to us who reduce God to a benign watercress munching deity sitting in luncheons daintily mopping His mouth with a napkin) that makes one empty his bladder, fill his pants and try to claw through the floor to escape. (See also Daniel 8:17 and Ezekiel 1:28)
The Living God does not lie in wait; He comes in ambush. In every other account besides the one above smacking of direct supernatural (It’s natural for Him if not for us.) contact, God ambushes someone. He’s not a gum chewing waitress on roller skates at a Fifties retro diner who says, “Do you want ketchup with those goosebumps, Sweetie?” He doesn’t do requests; He takes the lead, the initiative – He ambushes.
Should we seek spiritual experiences? Unequivocally and biblically no. We should seek God (Jeremiah 29:37, Deuteronomy 6:4,5; Matt.22:37) whether that seeking leads to experiences or not. Actually the grad school of Christian spirituality involves no supernatural experience and emotion possibly of the most negative kind if any at all. In the sixteenth century, a monk named John of the Cross penned “The Dark Night of the Soul” while in prison. (Note: God does some of His best work in prisons. Every time the world starts throwing Christian in prison, it’s a huge mistake.) We’ve done two things to mess this up. First, we assume that a “dark night” is always bad. Second, we tie it to every ripple on the pond that disrupts our love of comfort and convenience. John describes what happens when God withdraws every sense and token of His presence to compel us to strive harder in pursuit of Him and to love God for who He is instead of what He can do for us. Spiritual experiences do not really do this. Drought, and not the abundance of rain, drives the roots deeper. Be sure to tie stuff said here together with this, this, this, this and this.
Remember learning to ride a bike? We pedaled slowly and did that wobbly handle bar thing because we were afraid we’d fall. And we fell! But after a few bruises, we got it. One question – was the ride better when we pedaled fast or slow? This Jesus thing is hardwired to pedal hard, full-bore. Going hard after Him, experiences or not, brings joy, hunger and fire that carry us through the decades and transitions of our lives. And sometimes the Bear breaks through…
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Spiritual Experiences – Intimacy with God. What is it? Should we talk about these things?
If you think this might encourage a college student or someone who loves them, then share, subscribe, text, tweet and all that social media stuff. If you already subscribe to geezeronthequad, then you need to be part of Geezer 1, the Facebook face of all things Geezer. It’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, artists, musicians, composers, cultural thinkers and campus rats who think that Jesus Christ thinks the university is a special place. Even if you get geezeronthequad.com, you’re missing a cool bunch of people who are body, mind and soul stretchers – and fun. You will only make us better. Go to Geezer 1 and ask to join or shoot a friend request (Do not ask us to shoot a friend.) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Loving makes us bold. We get it from God; it’s part of His image in us. Forty years ago, my wife and I became engaged and things changed quickly. Without hesitation, I grabbed the money for the second semester of the college we attended and spent it on engagement and wedding rings. It made perfect sense to me. I wanted my parents to be as excited as we were. Well…they were excited…sort of. Right from the beginning, Paul went Niagara for Jesus – totally over the falls on a jet ski in love with the Lord. He didn’t get a lot of strokes for this, not much applause. Actually a bunch of men patrolled the city gates of Damascus to kill him so his new Christian friends let him down in a basket over the city wall. So it began and would continue. We picture Paul as this fiery bullet proof guy roaring around the Mediterranean planting churches and writing the Bible. It got to him. He repeatedly (II Cor 4:1, 12; 7:5,6) talked about the temptation to lose heart and even to despair at the end of his rope (I Cor. 1:8). Paul was not a junkie for drama, a whiner or quitter. Responding to some posers and phonies in the church, Paul pulled out his resume (“vitae” for you academic types)…”far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren: I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (II Cor 12:23-27)
Cathy Rich was the daughter of Buddy Rich, the great drummer. Her Dad rested up at home having suffered a heart attack. Hearing the doorbell, Cathy opened the door and there stood Frank Sinatra holding a pan of homemade meatballs in maranara sauce. (Sort of like Bono showing up at our next campus dinner with a bucket of wings? More than a little surreal!)
Could someone going through all this for Jesus use a little help? Jesus apparently thought so. Make no mistake, if Paul went Niagara for Jesus, Jesus went galactic in love with Paul…and with us. In II Cor 12:1-6, Paul speaks with great embarrassment (more later) of an experience of being caught up to the third heaven (spiritual lingo for one whopper of an encounter). It was the Lord’s way of saying, “Here’s something to help you remember that this is more than what you’re seeing right now.” In His love for us, God can just jump through into our lives at strategic times in powerful ways. A large portion of Christian spiritual experiences people have today describe the hot kindness of God pouring into our lives often in places and situations of great pain. His love makes Him bold. Sometimes Frank Sinatra shows up with meatballs. Just because we hurt. Just because we’re His, cherished and loved. When we worship these times, trying to capture and make a house out of them, we limit God and cripple ourselves along the lines that John MacArthur talks about. But when we don’t throw over walking by faith to get mired down in emotion, we can reach back over decades and find these times have a life all their own that breathes at the touch.
If we’ve never known an experience like this, it doesn’t mean at all that God doesn’t love us. In things like angelic or appearances of the Lord, God isn’t playing favorites or just trying to randomly freak people out (although this is sometimes the effect). He is exquisitely strategic to His own timing and bold in His love. And of course, the things said here, here and here all overlap and intertwine. As I said in the last post, it is not a tame hand that reaches through the veil of time and space. But even though He is not tame (to paraphrase The Wind In the Willows), the Lord is good, kind, tender and timely. He bends His most fiery love to our deepest pain whether there are visions, dreams or not. Whether our emotions boil over, collapse underneath us or are nowhere to be found at all. But sometimes He shows up with meatballs.
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Should we seek this kind of thing out because others may experience them? Do these things necessarily make us stronger or deeper?
If you think this might encourage students or someone who cares about them, then share, subscribe, tweet and all that social media stuff. If you already subscribe to geezeronthequad.com, you need to be part of Geezer 1. It’s a Facebook group of students, student ministry leaders, professors, musicians, artists, composers, cultural thinkers and campus rats who all think that Jesus Christ thinks that college and university campuses are cool places. Even if you already get geezeronthequad.com, you’re missing a cool bunch of people who are body, mind and soul stretchers – and fun. You will only make us better. Just go to Geezer 1 and ask to join or shoot a friend request to email@example.com.
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Sometimes we’re just dense. Floating face down in our coffee (tea, in my case). I mean not being able to hold up our end of a conversation with a rutabaga (a Swedish turnip the size and density of a cannonball). Playing Jeopardy, we’d come in third competing against a cabbage and a rock. God knows this. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Ps 139:14 ESV) Some days are dustier than others. We walk through a lot of days with a flatline desire for God. Sometimes the accumulated backwash of years of shallow Christian living leave us drooping through our days deader than we know. Sometimes He must punch through.
Take Moses. The Book of Exodus tells his story simply; God is all over this guy but at first, he’s clueless. Providentially saved from certain death and raised by Egyptian royalty, he discovers his ethnic heritage. He sees an Egyptian mistreating a Jew and intervenes by killing the Egyptian. He hides the body and makes a run for Midian, a wilderness south of the Dead Sea slightly resembling the surface of the moon. He settles in, marries a local girl and ends up working for his father-in-law herding sheep. And so, Moses figures, this is his life. And it was for a chunk of years. Then the bush burned without being consumed. A shepherd knowing the lay of the land would notice that. Moses was no more expecting the burning bush than I expect the next pope to be a hip hopper named Mookie RJ (Pope Mookie I. It does have a ring to it.). People today look for good coffee shops much harder than Moses looked for God because He wasn’t looking for God at all.
Look at Abraham (or Abram) in Genesis 12. He pops up in the text like somebody’s toast at breakfast. We know nothing about him before this but if his life before Genesis 12 mirrored what we do know about, Abraham’s life was rather shabby. Unlike Noah or Job whose righteousness God recognized and commended, Abraham couldn’t crack anybody’s Top Ten list. We see nothing but his taking up space and oxygen when God flat-out nails him with one of the most staggering packages of blessing in Scripture.
Spiritual experiences come sometimes because what God wants to get across is so important He doesn’t want it missed or misunderstood. That fits both cases here but there’s more; sometimes God has to stir the styrofoam inside our heads to get our attention. God put on a Cirque du Soliel for Moses and all he could do was run through a string of excuses as to why he couldn’t do what God wanted. Peter was another one. In Acts 10, God works to convince Peter that the Gospel of Jesus included people not Jewish. The Jewish/Gentile divide had to be bridged not only to demonstrate that knowing Christ dissolves deep hatreds but also to keep the young faith alive. Had this not happened, Christianity would probably have been killed in the cradle, not have outlived the first century. This was a big deal and having Peter on board was crucial. No rational argument alone would sway this brickhead. So God worked to set up a preaching gig for Peter at the home of a Roman centurion named Cornelius. But first Peter saw a vision of a sheet filled with unclean animals and heard a voice say, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat.” Most people believe that if they had some kind of spiritual experience, it would permanently change their lives. If God spoke to us, we would certainly pay attention. We’re mistaken. This had to happen three times before Peter stopped arguing with God. We underestimate the gravitational pull of our sinfulness and the depth of its penetration. In one of Jonathan Edwards’ sermons he points out that “although most human beings give the appearance at times of being confused seekers of truth with a naive respect for God, the reality is that unless they are moved by the Holy Spirit they have a natural distaste for the real God, an uncontrollable desire to break his laws and a constant tendency to sit in judgement on him when they notice him at all.” I’ve touched the kinds of things we talk about in these posts. Details aside, these times were unsought by me but would certainly be coveted by some. I am humbled to say that in a very short time, I blew off all of what was communicated. I’m not the only one.
God sometimes resorts to spiritual experiences to overcome the deadness of rebellion. Paul was “breathing out threats and slaughter” against the first Christians. That’s heavy breath. In Acts 9, we see Saul of Tarsus, Christian hater extraordinaire become a child of God, Jesus lover, missionary, theologian and writer of the Word of God. With all that God planned to draw out of his life, there was no time to waste. This had to happen decisively, the wounding deep and clean, the brokenness total. It couldn’t have been any other way. So the brilliant light blinded and the Voice cut through Him like a chain saw through a cheese stick. And then he sat helpless for three days – time to think.
Never underestimate, disrespect or hold in contempt the intensity God brings to the pursuit of people in rebellion and alienation due to their sin. The cross of Christ screams that He means business and it is not always a tame hand that reaches through the veil of space and time.
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Sometimes people have spiritual experiences because God has something overwhelmingly important to get across or make known. Sometimes the receiver left their brain in the fridge and accidentally filled their head with Captain Crunch before leaving home (I hate it when this happens.) and God turns up the volume to get through. But a third reason why these things can happen is this: God loves us so much He just has to reach through.
If you think that anything here might encourage either a student or those who love them, then share, subscribe, tweet or any of that social media stuff. If you already subscribe to geezeronthequad.com, you should also be part of Geezer 1. It’s a mixed bag of students, student ministry leaders, professors, musicians and artists, cultural thinkers and campus rats (That would be me.) who know that today’s university is one of Jesus Christ’s favorite places. Everyone in Geezer 1 sees the latest from geezeronthequad.com but you also get input from the rest of the gang and what a gang they are! Just go on Facebook and ask to join.
Some have asked as to whether or not we will be offering Geezer Swag (shirts, hats, etc.). First of all, we will not descend into mindless material consumerism just to shuck and jive to the tune of a market driven public square. We have set a lofty standard of sophistication and intellectual integrity already established by the first seventy posts of this blog. Plus we haven’t found a mug yet that doesn’t shatter to bits when my face gets plastered on it.
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I just checked out a blog listing “The Blogs Every Christian Should Read” and find myself not included. That’s three years in a row and I give myself high marks for consistency and biblical faithfulness. Another blog touted “The Top 100 Most Popular Christian Blogs On the Internet.” I came in at 187,435. That’s a huge move up from 201,234 last year and I owe it all to you guys.
Seriously, I don’t spend much time paying attention to numbers. All that notwithstanding, subscribers to geezeronthequad.com more than doubled this past year (Ignoring the twenty-five times I subscribed myself, that’s still pretty cool.). And so did additions to something on Facebook called Geezer 1. You bestowed on me the highest compliment anyone can lay on a writer – you read what I wrote. Maybe you nodded your head or chuckled (I hope there was some of that. The Lord thinks we’re all a little funny.). Maybe you ripped out your hair, screamed at your computer or other device or just gagged. But you gave me your time, attention and thought. No gift bag or spool of ribbon I know about is big enough to hold those. Humbly, thank you. If you cancelled me (If you did, you won’t see this.), I hope you found something that sounds like where you and Jesus Christ share the same space right now. Once or twice, I was tempted myself to cancel at least eighteen of my twenty-five new subscriptions. The lists are out there so browse away. The one you land on instead of me may well be one of my favorites.
geezeronthequad.com isn’t for everyone by design. The focus is here. For Sabbath, I actually go to campuses (Michigan State, Univ. of Virginia, Cornell, Harvard, Western Ontario among others) supposedly the armpit of Satan to just walk around and sense the Holy Spirit rippling through the grass. The grace of Jesus Christ can land on one’s cheek in special way on a university campus; it’s the most strategic mission field in the world. Not everyone (and sometimes it seems like hardly anyone) gets that. Everyone rushes to chocolate, vanilla and strawberry; geezeronthequad.com is pralines and cream – unique and edifying to those who get it without the sinful elitist sprinkles on top. Along with my continued concerns for the Kingdom of God spreading on university campuses, I will continue to attempt to convert all of Geezer 1 and geezeronthequad.com to embrace jazz over lower life forms of music. Surrender now; resistance is futile.
If anyone currently subscribing to this blog isn’t part of Geezer 1, you’re missing some good stuff. We’re a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, musicians and artists, cultural thinkers and campus rats (that would be me) who know that Jesus Christ does some cool things in and through today’s university. What shows up there from them is some really sharp, deep stuff; they offset me well. All going into Geezer 1 get geezeronthequad.com also. If you already subscribe (thank you) and want to be part of me and the rest of the Mouseketeers at Geezer 1, you can join from the Facebook page.
Next post will continue the series on spiritual experiences – what they mean, why people have them, etc. We started already here, here and here. If you think these or anything else we do here would encourage a student or those who love the university, then share, subscribe, tweet and all that social media stuff.
Meanwhile please return your seat to the upright position and return your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit the rear. In 2014, I know that together we can crack the 150,000 barrier – I just know it. See you next time on geezeronthequad.com
Finals and papers should be almost done. Then we leave the rest to the Gradebook Reaper, pack up the laundry and head out for someplace where we intend to sleep late, eat food, sleep in, play video games, see a holiday movie, reconnect with a few friends, sleep in late, eat food and generally impersonate a vegetable. A warning; God loves to jump into times and places like this. He dropped into a loser nowhere place called Nazareth in Galilee. Enter Mary. Cue the angel.
Even more than a TA scanning a seating chart, names matter to God. He’s always on a first name basis with the unknown, forgotten, broken and wounded. The first word Jesus uttered after His resurrection came to the most broken and scared person in the mix; He said her name – “Mary”. Native Americans know in their culture something called a naming ceremony. It’s never an automatic. One approaches a tribal elder to request it; the elder may simply refuse. Once he agrees, the elder takes a long time to think and pray over the person until a name describing new traits or character emerges. Even then, he does not reveal it right away but keeps it hidden sometimes for months or years until the right time. The revealing of the name is one of the most important moments in a person’s life. Nobody was more off the world’s radar than Joseph and Mary. The two of them were intimates in the deepest mysteries of the heart of God; they’d’ been in His sights for centuries. Their names lay hidden, yet simmering, for centuries. Now all things were ready.
“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Maybe we’ve imagined God speaking to us in an audible voice. If this was all He said, it would be more than enough for the rest of our lives. The last post talked about urgency at the root of many spiritual experiences. So it is here. An unvarnished angel appearance stands as something far more profound, even fearful (They do say ‘Don’t be afraid’ a lot and with good reason.), than Della Reece (as in Touched by an Angel) or some Precious Moments cutie pie. Then the angel performs the first of a number of naming ceremonies with the words just noted. Favored one. The Lord (The God of Abraham and Moses.) is with you. You have found favor with God. Who ever got this put together just this way? Absolutely no one.
Second naming ceremony. “…you shall name Him Jesus.” Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His Kingdom will have no end. God knew that her fiancée’s family would be highly unlikely to throw a baby shower. And that Mary would never be out of earshot of slanders and gossip the rest of her life. He gave her a lot to counterbalance all that and continued to give deep reassurances. The Holy Spirit, not many in Mary’s day though about Him. He was Someone Who came “upon” people like Samson and even King Saul but almost no one else. Today we think of Him often in raw power but Mary hears that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her. This will be an intimate, tender, delicate hidden thing that protected her. The Holy Spirit can be as strong in His whispers as when He roars in fire. The angel finishes by telling her of Elizabeth, now six months pregnant. In a Facebook/Internet/Twitter age, she would have known this long ago. A parallel miracle similar to this would show Mary that God was at work without her knowing it. He always is, it’s just His way.
An overwhelmingly powerful mix of assurances – an angel, a message of love and blessing directly from God, an incredible honor (giving birth to the Messiah, the Son of God), new names from the heart of God expressing things only He could see or make happen in them, the Holy Spirit as a midwife, a parallel miracle to show He was already moving. And one more thing – a closing word of hope that covers a lot more than conceiving a child while still a virgin. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” A couple going on vacation asked for suggestions on things to do. I told them to get tattoos. “What should we get ?” they asked. I said they could get anything they wanted (dragons breathing fire or a skull with a dagger through one eye) as long as it said “I love Pastor Dave” underneath. For all readers here, “I love ‘geezeronthequad.com’ will suffice. But if neither of these ring your bell, how about “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Right there on the forearm where we can see it twenty times a day.
So now we’ve finished the exam and paper stuff, put our brains in a jar and are ready to head off to crash in a pile in Galilee where the fridge never seems to have those hairy green cheese remnants or petrified pizza crusts. Galilee where not too much happens and that’s what we’re hoping for. Again, a warning. God still dreams up new names that describe what He wants to do in people’s lives (See Revelation 2:17). Angels still seek out Galilees like heat seeking missiles and the unsuspecting who are unaware of the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing. Good sabbath this Christmas from geezeronthequad.com! When we get back after break, what tales some of us may have to tell!
Just a personal suggestion for a holiday treat. Dig up “Holmes for the Holidays” and “More of…ditto” edited by Anne Perry. Twenty or so new Christmas stories featuring Sherlock Holmes. In one, Sherlock bumps into descendants from Dicken’s Christmas Carol. It’s egg nog between book covers.
NEXT POST – ANOTHER REASON PEOPLE HAVE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES. GOD’S WILL IS USUALLY DONE BY CABBAGE HEADS!
If you think anything here might encourage college students and/or those who love them, then subscribe, share, Twitter and all that social media stuff. Or you can go to Facebook and ask to be part of something there called Geezer 1. It’s mixed bag of campus rats who love the university and think Jesus Christ does too.
Please return your seats to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. A parting Christmas wish for you – May all the fruitcakes mailed to us wind up with the people we think really deserve them. Mazeltov. See you next time at geezeronthequad.com.