geezeronthequad: Spiritual Experiences – “Hello, McFly!”
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.
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