John 3:8……Summer Wind
Jesus is brilliant. In John 3, Jesus finds himself in a night-time deep conversation (Isn’t that when they usually happen?) with Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. A “head” guy (meaning big into Hebrew verb tenses and rabbinic commentaries), Nicodemus wanted answers about God and about himself. And Jesus talked about wind. “The wind blows from where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going, so is everyone born of the Spirit.”
I’m glad we can’t see wind. We feel it and see its effects. But if something that might be a mile or so high and five or six miles wide rolls toward me at forty miles an hour, do I want to see that coming? Maybe I’d get used to it. While we sense it passing through, it’s impossible to tell where the gust of wind began or where it will play out. In this summer rolling by, I don’t know where this will find the readers but somewhere where you are, the wind blows and I’d like to give some cues so we don’t miss it.
The Bible, it’s really the Holy Spirit’s book. Writers, both known and unknown, lend their hand and style but He’s the editor with composing privileges. It’s a stunning work, the only book ever written that reads the reader. We will not sense much of the wind of God this summer by neglecting or ignoring it. Here are three places to pay special attention.
Where the Bible seems to speak right to our deep places. One of those cool experiences comes when, as we read, the Holy Spirit, using a verse or passage, reaches right out of the page like gushy aunt and squeezes our face. Maybe our eyes tear up. How did He know? A Bible verse on a freeway or rural billboard cuts through the muck in our heart at the oddest yet most needed moment. The Holy Spirit sometimes shows up banging a drum. Pay attention, drink it in and, when the band’s playing, get up and dance! (Biblically, rejoice!)
When the Bible seems to lay there and say nothing at all. Anyone trying to read the Bible through will run into the doldrums of II Chronicles, Leviticus or Ecclesiastes. We hear someone begin to preach or teach on a passage that seems light years away from anything remotely important to us. Trying to read the Bible daily, we dutifully plow through verses as lively as oatmeal without raisins, mentally yawn and think, “That was spiritual.” Living in a consumer culture, we tend to see everything through “what’s-in-this-for-me?” lenses. The Bible is a God centered book. He spends a lot time listening to people who only come when they “want”. And when they don’t get “it”, they pout and become “atheists”. I suggest that God doesn’t have many lovers today, those who come just because of Him. To how many can He trust the deep things of His heart? The Bible passage that says nothing to us may be under our nose because it’s what’s important to Him today. What might the Holy Spirit want to say today that lies on the front burner of His heart?
Where we find passages that we disagree with or don’t understand. The Holy Spirit’s book is not a buffet; we can’t pick and choose according to taste – not without grieving Him and doing damage to His prior work in our lives. We should expect not to understand sometimes large parts of it. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9). Can we talk Genesis 1 for a minute? Let’s say the Holy Spirit decided to write it differently and go into great detail as to how everything happened. Not only would nobody back in about 1500 AD have understood it, modern Nobel scientists would sound like Moe, Larry and Curly trying to figure it out. The Spirit knows what we need to know and when. Let’s not frustrate ourselves over where the wind hasn’t blown.
What about when we don’t like what we do understand or disagree? Here we need to be careful. Honest doubt marks the doorway to deep walks with God. If we don’t wrestle with Scripture, we haven’t read much of it. I still do. But in disagreeing, are we really rebelling and masking it? Skeptical ignorance is often pseudo-intellectual activity. When the Holy Spirit reveals God from Genesis to Revelation, it’s as if God says, “This is Who I Am. You make the adjustment, not Me.” The Spirit doesn’t care what Zogby, USA Today or any of the other polls say. He isn’t auditioning to be cool, popular or to win us over. The incredible God Who created everything on both sides of time and space put on our skin, sweated our sweat and bled our blood. He came to offer us mercy. It’s a good deal; we better take it. When the Spirit’s wind howls (as it does in Scripture), it’s not smart to stand on our roofs screaming angrily into the sky. Kathryn Greene-McCreight (Yale PhD in biblical studies) says wisely, “When I come across a difficult passage…I struggle with it until I can gain some meaning out of it. If I can’t, I am willing to leave it alone until I am wiser, should such a day ever come, rather than jettisoning it in my mind as though it were less profound than I.”
Watch what rises in us through relationships. Nothing rubs the sandpaper of the Spirit across our lives like other people. Pay attention to the thoughts, attitudes and actions evoked by sharing breathing space with other people. Some we would clash with no matter what. With some, we have a history. Many of them knew us before we got involved with this Jesus stuff. When the Spirit uses somebody to tell us, “You know, Dave, there’s just not much of Me driving inside you right now, is there?”, moisten our finger and stick it up. The wind is blowing.
Look for God in between the stitches of the everyday. Some only notice the wind when cows, SUV’s and large trees fly by. Elijah, the prophet, was a guy like this (I Kings 18 & 19). He’d just come through the big showdown with the priests of Baal capped with a huge demonstration of God’s power. When Jezebel, the priests patron, heard of it, she intended to kill Elijah. So he ran. God came to him while he was in hiding and put on quite a show. Mountains were ripped like paper and rocks dashed to pieces. An earthquake and huge swirls of fire came next. Most of us would see “cows” in the air and say, “Man, God’s all over this!” But He wasn’t. After the fireworks came a gentle blowing…and only then the voice of God.
Souls are delicate, beautiful, fragile and one-of-a-kind. The Holy Spirit shows incredible sensitivity. Power sometimes ripples its finest muscle, not in explosions, but the restrained soft touch. “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14) Just this week, I worked in our garden. The sun shone, the heat rose as I downed a lot of water. As I stopped for a moment, a gentle prolonged breeze wisped through the yard and stroked across the perspiration on my neck and face. I didn’t know where it had started blowing and didn’t care where it would play out. It and I were there at the same time and that was enough. I just melted savoring the invigoration of good work and the coolness washing my skin. Pure refreshment.
Where I live, the air is always moving. You never see a limp flag, never a tree where at least one or two leaves flutter. Our summer may seem like a desert. But, like the wind in Michigan, there is never a time when the Spirit isn’t present or not moving. Stop looking for flying cows and SUV’s (If we do see these, seek shelter immediately.) and be alive to His flutters and gentle voice. Whatever summer means for us, Jesus, through His Spirit is with us. Whatever brings us to this summer and wherever we go from here, both of us are here together right now. And that is enough. Pure refreshment.
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Please return your seats to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.