Sunday, May 24, 2015


“If a cat sits on a hot stove, he will never sit on a hot stove again. But by the same token, he will never sit on a cold one either.” –Mark Twain
We fail to see the beauty and good purpose of a thing when blinded by prejudice, bias, and misinformation. Bad experiences often cause us to avoid even the good ones. Therefore, I am reaching out to those who have never done a biblical study of the Holy Spirit’s work and to those who have been “turned-off” by bad examples. I would encourage the reader to take another look at the subject from a biblical perspective rather than taking cues from negative experiences that often hinder our ability to see the pattern and examples given us by the first Christians in the book of Acts.
To remove common misconceptions we should look at the many clear and obvious Biblical examples of the Holy Spirit at work. When we stand before God, we will not be able to use other people’s actions as excuse for our inaction. The Lord will say, “You had My word, an historical example, describing how I moved and worked in and through My Church . Where was your hunger to experience My Presence?” –

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-21.
I could write a book listing the miracles I have witnessed and the ones I have been a part of. Reading it you would be pressed to believe in God and His desire to work intimately in the lives of people. But then I could also write another book about the times I was in “the deep” about to be swallowed up and close to losing everything. Reading this list of my failures and struggles, you might then say, “Where is your God?” We don’t have all the answers. We don’t always do everything right. We make mistakes, we stumble, but because of our hunger to know God and His intimate presence, we step out in faith, trust Him to teach us, and press on to grow in the things of the Spirit.
I could tell you of friends being healed through prayer and also of others dying in spite of it. I have friends who have experienced miraculous healings and friends who have been raised from the dead. Some have received immediate response to prayer, and others have suffered what seems an interminable wait as they call on the Lord daily for healing, help, or an “open door.” My experiences, however, do not change the truth. My success or failure does not change the reality of God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is arrogant to think that something is not real if I have not done it or seen it. One man boasted that miracles were not real today because not one miracle had ever occurred in any church in his denomination. That statement is no basis for a theology denying miracles. It is, however, an indictment against his denomination.
The New Testament church knew both the reality of a Sovereign God and the reality of human weakness. They were not afraid of God’s presence, and they were not daunted by human weakness and propensity toward mistakes. The first apostles did not prohibit the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit when they saw abuses and misuses, but rather they provided instruction and wisdom. They did not quench or despise the working of the Holy Spirit, but rather proved all things and held fast the good.”

We should not use “bad apples” as an excuse to avoid all “apples.” Grocery stores and trees are full of good apples, and it is extremely rare to find a bad one. When I was a kid I found a worm in a peach taken from a tree in our yard, but it did not stop me from eating peaches. I found a rotten egg once when I was a child. It stank worse than anything I had ever smelled before or since. But I knew that it was an exception to the norm. Eggs are good, and so I continue to enjoy them as a part of my usual breakfast menu. I did not let one bad egg cause me to henceforth approach all eggs cautiously as if they might be rotten.
If you were to visit a church where people were swinging from the chandeliers or behaving strangely, would you then reject emotions and joy in your spiritual walk? Would you say, “These people are crazy,” and use this as an excuse to avoid any search for God? Or would you search for the reasonable Biblical pattern for worship and the healthy expression of joy and emotions? Would you read the Bible to find out what it really says or just assume that the “apple” or “egg” you found represented the norm for all “apples” and “eggs?”
The things that people usually fear in spiritual experience are not the true Biblical patterns, but rather the unreal “phantoms” they have created in their own minds as a result of prejudiced propaganda or experiences with bad examples which most likely were exaggerations or soulish aberrations of the true biblical model. For example, I have seen and heard some preachers that caused me to flinch, but the greatest portion of my experience is with the many stable, sincere, and gifted men of God who serve the Lord faithfully and wisely. The preachers we see portrayed on the typical TV show and in the movies are usually parodies or burlesque exaggerations of the real thing. Anyone investigating a spiritual truth or experience should go to the Bible first and see what is actually described there, rather than skipping the Biblical model and arguing against the distorted, the false, or the counterfeit they may have encountered. Our hunger to know God should cause us to wade past the stumbling blocks, go to His word, call out to Him, and search for the real thing.

This principal is especially true in the matter of the supernatural manifestation of God’s presence among His people. The problem is that people tend to approach the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit from an initial negative perspective. Rather than welcoming the potential of God’s wonderful presence supernaturally at work among us, they begin with a negative disposition seeing the working of the Holy Spirit as a necessary evil, as something from which to protect themselves. Their first response is not to hunger for the amazing, positive possibilities, but rather to assume a defensive posture with their primary focus on avoiding the abuses. They are so worried about the “bathwater” they don’t see the baby. The result is avoidance, severe regulation, or prohibition. We should not fear the presence of God. Jesus, in referring to the Holy Spirit, said, "If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you...know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Lu 11: 11-13). To always expect the "scorpion" rather than the "egg" is an expression of unbelief and is a lack of confidence in God's goodness and in His ability to manage His church.

This tendency to approach God's presence negatively with fear causes churches and Christians to remain in “safe” waters where the boat will not be rocked and where there is no need for discernment and risk taking. We don’t have to worry about the “bathwater” problem if we don’t have the “baby” among us. We don’t have to worry about “cleaning the stall” if we don’t have an “ox” in the barn. We don’t have to worry about a “rotten egg” if we just avoid all eggs. This fear causes us to miss out on the adventures of life. It keeps us from launching out into the deep and witnessing the supernatural presence of God at work.
The point here is that the church should not be ruled by the fear of misuse and abuse of spiritual things. The church should be secure and discerning enough to move out courageously and in faith into the wonderful area of God’s presence at work among us, not fearing the awkwardness and stumbles that are often necessary in the growth and learning process. We see this principal in the example of how Jesus trained the twelve disciples. He knew the mistakes they would make, but He did not “roll His eyes” and withdraw, but instead, He “rolled up his sleeves” and moved on with the full training program.
We should follow His example.
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-21.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My mom wanted me to drive her to the store to do some shopping. So I splashed some cologne on my face and went on ahead of her to the car and took my seat. She soon came out of the house and sat in the front seat on the passenger’s side and immediately began sniffing the air. I watched as she leaned forward and started checking the bottoms of her shoes. Turning to me she said, “Billy, check the bottom of your feet and see if you stepped in any dog poop before you got into this car.” I went through the motions of checking my shoes, but I knew it was the cologne. I never used that particular brand again.

Smells range from pleasing fragrance to repulsive odor. The sense of smell can strengthen our romantic attraction to someone we love or wonderfully enhance the pleasantness of a room. The sense of smell is vital to our enjoyment of good food, but also senses decay and corruption and warns us to discard that which is unfit for consumption. A bad smell can be repulsive to the point of producing nausea. The stench of a rotten egg or a dead rat hidden somewhere in your house is almost unbearable to human nostrils.

Fragrance or odor can indicate if you are clean or need a bath. My Uncle Thomas once said, “By the time you smell yourself, everyone else has been smelling you for three or four days.” The smell of your clothes tells people if you are a smoker, reveals where you’ve been— if you’ve come from a camp fire, a seafood restaurant, a friend’s musky house, or a smoke-filled bar. Dogs can detect the presence of poisonous snakes by the sense of smell.

The sense of smell can be vivid and strong and have deep effects upon us. I remember smelling the sweet odor of jasmine in bloom when I was a child walking barefoot along the dirt road behind our home. The smell of gardenias still transports me in memory to some of my earliest childhood visits to my Grandpa Willie Long’s house and to Aunt Maggie’s house next door to his. I remember Grandpa Tharon’s old spice, and the very intense and wonderful root beer smell that filled the air in Aunt Ida’s house when she made tea by boiling the sassafras roots I dug up for her.

The reality of fragrance and our ability to smell are more proofs of God’s existence. He is the first and greatest artist. The beauty we see in nature was first in the mind of God. He painted the flowers and gave them their perfume. The numerous fragrances that fill the air along with brilliant floral colors bring pleasure to our walk through a nature park profuse with flowers, but they cannot compare to that which awaits us in the age to come. The beauty of heaven’s paradise with its wonderful fragrances and sights are incomprehensible to the natural mind and are beyond our human language’s ability to describe. God has reserved some wonderful things that we will not experience until we stand in His presence in eternity. There is a God and there is a paradise, an Eden, a new heaven and a new earth for us to enjoy for eternity.

The Apostle Paul was given a glimpse and said he was not allowed to tell us what he saw, and even with permission would still be unable to express it. What we see, hear, smell, and taste in this life is only a glimpse of the panorama and glory to come. This life is only a very brief beginning.
I close with words from the old hymn that was inspired by Psalm 45:8.
My Lord has garments so wondrous fine.
And Myrrh their texture fills.
It's fragrance reached to this heart of mine,
With joy my being thrills.