Let’s ride

bull riding

At an outdoor fair in Colorado Springs, I rode a mechanical bull – or more accurately, a mechanical buffalo. Regardless, I didn’t just pose atop the beast. In spite of everything that could have kept me from it, I got on that bronco and rode.

For me, that ride illustrates living life, not as a religious Christian, but as a friend of God. It reminds me of the promise in Malachi 4:2, “You will go out and leap like calves [or mechanical-bull riders?] released from the stall.”

It’s alarmingly easy to become a “religious Christian,” imprisoned inside “stalls” Christ died to free us from. But you, be released to ride!

Read more on the page, Come out! Be free!

Living by the Spirit

key_1879_dividerLiving by the Spirit equals living Spirit-to-spirit. 

You can be a Christian, yet not live by the Spirit. You might even think it preferable that way. But saying yes to Jesus Christ – and then saying no to the Holy Spirit – is as tragic as being born but never maturing past infancy.

The New Testament says:

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly – mere infants in Christ” (1 Cor 3:1).

“Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit” (Gal. 5:16 MSG).

“Live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16 NET).

If you want to live by the Spirit – or you’re at least interested in considering it – you may wonder how it works and how it looks. Some of you want to write from the Spirit, and you wonder how that works, too. And you who have already experienced living by the Spirit know: There’s always more to learn.

So let’s explore a wonderful passage in 1 Corinthians 2 that often gets lost in translation, but is crucial to see.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

writing from the Spirit

© Bowie15 | Dreamstime.com

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one (vv. 9-15 ESV).

What do you see in Paul’s contrast of the “natural person” and the “spiritual person”? Our minds, guided by English translations, typically see a contrast between the Christian and the non-Christian. Unlike them, we (spiritual persons) freely accept and readily understand the things of God.

Those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord do have a spiritual capacity others do not. But we do not have any room for pride. Indeed, far too often we do not act on the access we have. We do not accept and understand what the Spirit says. So let’s look again.

In the original language, this passage not only distinguishes between the “natural person” and the “spiritual person.” It also distinguishes between the soul and spirit within each of us.

Spirit-to-spirit communing

One phrase in verse 14 is translated “natural person” (ESV); “natural man” (NASU); and “the man [or person] without the Spirit” (other translations). Ah, but the Greek, psuchikós ánthroopos, can be literally translated the “soul person” or “human soul.”

The human soul does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they seem foolish, and the soul is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The human spirit judges all things …

The Message rendering of verses 14-16 amplifies the term “human soul” this way: “the unspiritual self, just as it is by nature.”

The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit — God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah’s question, “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit.

Ah, yes. A second picture is emerging. Christ’s Spirit within us communes with our human spirit. Spirit-to-spirit, we access stunning things we haven’t seen, heard or dreamed, things our Lord wants to show those he loves. To receive what the Lord is releasing, we have to humble our souls. Otherwise, we quench and grieve the Spirit. We shut the communion down.

Sometimes when the soul mutinies against the spirit, we recognize the disconnect, but don’t know what’s wrong or why. That’s a good thing if it propels us to the Lord, to seek the answer.

All too often, though, we don’t recognize soul mutiny at all. We seek spiritual truth via the “unspiritual self,” latch onto what sounds religious but does not breathe with God’s life – and believe, because we’re Christians, that we have spiritually discerned.

The tragedy multiplies when we write or teach this soul logic to others seeking spiritual truth.

Spirit-to-spirit imparting

Living by the Spirit equals living Spirit-to-spirit: God’s Spirit and your spirit in open communion, you breathe out what he breathes in. You move in intimate oneness with God.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Living by the Spirit, you speak from your human spirit by the Holy Spirit into the spirits of others – and they into yours. Similarly, when we write from the Spirit, we write to the spirits of others. They receive in their inmost being what God has poured out and we have passed along.

Ah, but even when revelation or understanding comes through a person, no one is settling for a second-hand word. Rather, as each of us relates to God Spirit-to-spirit, the breath of God in the words of the one speaking or writing sparks direct communion between the hearer and the Lord.

Spirit-to-spirit blessings

You who love the Lord, who want to live by the Spirit (and perhaps to write from the Spirit):

Be blessed to receive the Spirit of God, fully, continually, in the same way you receive breath.

Be blessed to recognize when your “unspiritual self” is usurping the place of your spirit and trying to figure out the truth. Renounce such a foolish and self-defeating mutiny. Cooperate with your Lord in humbling your soul, so Spirit-to-spirit communion can thrive.

Be blessed to see the extent to which you have been taught to believe and act on, to speak and write, what did not come from the Spirit, but from the soul. Refuse the deception that insists, “Not you! You’ve avoided this error, and so has your branch of the Body of Christ.”

We all live with the soul-spirit struggle. All of us, at times, speak or write from our own imaginations, and mistakenly believe it has come from God. Sadly, our US church culture – evangelical and charismatic – has colluded in reinforcing this pattern, instead of helping us recognize and reject it.

In the name of the living Spirit, called in Hebrew Ruach HaKodesh, I bless you with eyes to see:

  • how thoroughly we’re trained to believe and impart religious stuff based on human wisdom;
  • how loudly we’re applauded and how highly rewarded for suppressing the spirit and speaking from the unspiritual soul.

As you see the true picture emerging:

I bless you with courage to stop, turn around and go a different way.

I bless you with unhindered Spirit-to-spirit communion – wide-open access to the incredible things God freely gives you because he loves you; grace to move in intimate oneness with him.

I bless you with breath to impart what he reveals, in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit of God.

. . . . . . .

psuchikós ánthroopos, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Interlinear Transliterated Bible.

Browse Spirit-to-spirit posts. Where to start?

Browse Writing from the Spirit posts

God who lifts up my head

Funny. But not. You hang your head when your heart is heavy. You express outwardly the heaviness you feel inwardly – whether it results from sorrow, self-reproach, intimidation, discouragement or despair.

King David hung his head the day his son Absalom tried to kill him and to usurp the throne. David had remained blind to the betrayal while his son plotted a coup, manipulated the people and won their hearts. Even close friends whom David trusted were wooed into Absalom’s camp.

As David fled for his life – his heart, broken; his world, shattered – he cried out:

Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him.”

Ah, but then, in the same breath, David sang:

“You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high” (Ps. 3:3).

“… my wonderful God who gives me courage” (NCV).

“… the one who restores me” (NET).

“… the One who lifts up my head” (NKJV).

Even in his darkest hour, King David knew God’s ways.

It is God’s way to see what our bodies are saying, to know what inner turmoil we’re expressing – and to act. It is his way to give comfort, honor, courage and good hope to those who are his own.

You too be blessed to experience this facet of God’s goodness. Be blessed to declare it, and so to see it: “You are the One who lifts my head high.”

lifts my head

© code1name / stock.xchng

The God Who series

Again and again, the “God who …” phrases in Scripture reveal God’s works. As we respond to our Lord deep within, receiving what he communicates Spirit-to-spirit, those phrases also reveal his ways.

“God Who” article – introducing the series
Posts in the “God Who” series

Throw away the copy key

Adapted from The Elijah Blessing: An Undivided Heart

fiery heartThe moment the courageous prophet Elijah appeared on the scene, standing before wicked king Ahab, announcing drought on the land, God affirmed what Elijah testified: this one stood before the face of the Lord. From that place of holy intimacy, everything else in Elijah’s life flowed.

Time and again, whatever Elijah touched literally burned with holy love: God’s love for a person who stood before him with an undivided heart. Elijah’s love for his incredible God. The love God had, and imparted to Elijah, for people who could not receive it, because they wouldn’t let go of everything else they were trying to embrace.

You, too, be blessed to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5). It’s the key to everything else.

Did you ever try to use a key that should work, but didn’t? That often happens with a copy of the original. To the eye, it seems a match. But the copy key is off just enough that it doesn’t open what it should fling wide.

Did you ever try to love the Lord with all your heart – but it didn’t seem to work? Try as you might, you couldn’t make it click.

That often happens when we unwittingly use a copy key. We make an honest effort, but come up empty, because we’ve put our own spin on the words love and heart.

To our thinking, we feel with our heart, and think with our mind – and, together, heart and mind comprise the sum total of the “inner person,” the soul. Scripture paints a different picture, one much more complex. Together, the Word and the Spirit reveal us as three-part beings, not just body and soul.

For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says that holiness involves our entire “spirit, soul and body.” Deuteronomy 6:5 commands us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and strength. The two lists seem to correlate. The third item in each list – body, strength – speaks of our physical nature. Soul, in both lists, does seem to encompass the mind and emotions. But what about the first item on each list – spirit and heart?

I’d suggest: They’re parallel too. When God calls us to love him with all our heart, he’s talking about a singleness in yearning toward him that springs from the depths of our innermost being, the part that is one with him. We read those words and think they’re commanding a feeling.

And so, we try to love the Lord from our souls. Mentally, we try to figure out how to do it. Emotionally, we try to summon up an “all our heart” feeling, an over-the-top fireworks kind of love.

But we cannot do it. We cannot conjure up such a feeling. We certainly can’t sustain it. The key will not turn in the lock.

So let’s throw away the copy key.

Instead of trying to conjure up an emotion, ask God to teach you to respond to him from the deepest essence of who you are. Day after day, stand before his face, and open yourself to him, as fully as you know how. Pray to know him and to honor him – and ask for grace to walk whatever path he takes you in order to accomplish both.

As your spirit learns to respond freely to Christ’s Spirit, you’ll find yourself impelled by something stronger than emotion and more certain than intellect. The asking will become yearning – a hunger deep in your spirit to know him, a thirst for his name to be hallowed and his kingdom to come.

Then, to your amazement, your soul will join in. It will echo your spirit-yearnings. Your mind and emotions will participate joyfully in what they could not start. And even when God takes you places that make no sense and where your emotions scream not to go, your spirit will recognize God’s voice, your soul will surrender – and all of you will go with God.

Be blessed to burn as Elijah did with the Lord’s holy love.

Adapted from The Elijah Blessing: An Undivided Heart. © 2012 by Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.

In the place where Ahab and Jezebel ruled, Elijah loved fiercely and lived fully. As you peek into lives lived long ago, learn how spiritual schizophrenia opens the way for Ahab and Jezebel to rule today. Receive the Elijah Blessing – the blessing of an undivided heart.

“My family never owned slaves”

Since writing, We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church – and now working on a documentary film based on this book – I’ve heard lots of statements similar to the title of the 2010 post in which blogger Abagond offers a response we whites may not want to hear, but desperately need to know.

For generations, we’ve let our own defensiveness keep us from acknowledging and addressing what we’ve been party to and/or benefited from that deeply hurts whole groups of people and deeply offends God. Yet, much as we may try to do so, we cannot buy ourselves “a pass from American history,” nor from the racist fallout still occurring today.

Many of us don’t even see that we’re clinging to privilege (and fear and pride), but we’re all experiencing the results of it. For privilege built on grave injustice may seem a blessing, but always carries a curse.

Profound denial will keep us in a cycle of hurting ourselves, mistreating others and misrepresenting God. The only way out is to do what Abagond suggests: face up to these things and seek God’s ways to truly set them right.

oakalleyplantation

From Abagond post published 2/24/2014:

“My family never owned slaves” is something you hear White Americans say. Although not racist in itself it has the effect of turning a blind eye towards racism.

The statement by itself is true for most whites: even back in slave days in 1860 fewer than 2% of whites owned slaves! Slaves cost way too much for most people and in half the country it was against the law. On top of that millions of whites came to America long after the slaves were freed, like most Italians and Jews.

The trouble with the statement is not its truth but how it is used: to cut white people off from history. When they say black people live in the past and need to give the slave thing a rest, they are making the very same argument: history does not matter, it somehow magically does not affect anyone alive now. If we are affected at all by history it is only through our families, nothing else.

That is wishful thinking. America’s slave past still profoundly affects its present. Most white people, it seems, refuse to see that: it makes them uncomfortable. By saying “My family never owned slaves” they are trying to buy themselves a pass from American history, both past and present …

Read the entire post.

Confederate Memorial Day and cataclysmic storms

In April 2011 and again in April 2014 – on the date when the most state celebrations of the former Confederacy converged – major storms spawned deadly tornadoes and record-breaking floods across the Deep South.

Coincidence?

Blood-red cloudsApril 2011, states across the Deep South launched a four-year celebration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.

Every year, eight Southern states still officially observe Confederate Memorial Day.

Yet, the God of covenant love has a different plan for this time – a plan that involves confession and cleansing, not celebration of needless bloodshed. To cooperate with him, we have to let him show us what we haven’t wanted to see: The awakened white church across the South in the early 1800s became deeply double-minded and led the region to secede, to go to war and to vow repeatedly never to yield.

Never means never.

Today, the Southern states that still officially observe a Confederate memorial day don’t all do so on the same date. Indeed, each state has chosen its own date (and some, their own name). Texas commemorates Confederate Heroes Day in January (with a second unofficial observance in April); North and South Carolina, hold their observances in May; and Tennessee commemorates Confederate Decoration Day in June.

Five states observe Confederate Memorial Day in April. The five observances don’t necessarily all fall on the same date. But in 2011 and again in 2014, they did.

April 2011
150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and (unofficially) Texas observed Confederate Memorial Day on April 26.

In We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church, I wrote:

It’s May 2011. Last month and this, a series of disasters has plagued the South. In April, devastating droughts sparked wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma. Meanwhile, five severe weather outbreaks lashed the eastern half of the nation, breaking numerous records in terms of severity, destruction, and deaths. In the words of newscasters themselves, the months’ storms took the heaviest toll in “Dixie.” On the heels of the storms came the Great Flood of 2011. The Mississippi River overflowed its banks from Illinois to the Gulf Coast, nearing and topping 100-year flood levels and causing billions of dollars of damage, most of it in the Deep South.

Of these disasters, the tornadoes produced by far the greatest loss of life. A record-breaking 751 tornadoes occurred – 209 tornadoes more than the previous monthly record, set in May 2003. The two storm systems that primarily hit the Midwest caused great destruction, but no fatalities. Conversely, the three storm systems that plowed through the Deep South resulted in escalating numbers of casualties. April 4-5, nine people died; April 14-16, 43 died; April 25-28, about 340 died.

The April deaths from tornadoes or straight-line winds took place in these states (from greatest to least number of fatalities): Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kentucky.

The month’s last storm system, occurring April 25-28, spawned one of the worst tornado outbreaks in US history. April 27, 2011, became the single deadliest tornado day in the nation since 1925.

Can it be coincidence that April 2011 launched four years of celebrations of Civil War bloodshed? Can it be coincidence that, in the 150th anniversary month, the deadliest tornado day in generations left a staggering death toll across the Deep South, but especially in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia – the day after those three states and two others commemorated Confederate Memorial Day? Can it be coincidence that all the month’s storm-related deaths took place in former slave states or territories and the vast majority of them in states that still officially commemorate the Confederacy?

April 2014
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and (unofficially) Texas observed Confederate Memorial Day on April 28.

And it happened again. A storm system that launched in Oklahoma and Kansas on Sunday, April 27, quickly turned deadly, taking 15 lives in Arkansas alone. On Monday, April 28, the system careened across Mississippi, Alabama and into Georgia, as well as other Southern states, spewing tornadoes, causing untold destruction and more than doubling the death toll. As the storm pushed eastward on Tuesday, cataclysmic flooding became the greatest devastator, especially on the Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast. Repeatedly, areas hardest hit were said to look like war zones. See more details here.

What if?
We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the ChurchWhat if God has a purpose for this 150th anniversary of the Civil War, that he expresses in Joel 3:21 (CJB)? “I will cleanse them of bloodguilt which I have not yet cleansed.”

Might the devastating weather events during strategic Confederate celebrations suggest how desperately we need this cleansing? Might the reoccurring siren-sound of wind and waves echo the shouts of a loving Father, crying to the evangelical church culture rooted in the Bible Belt? “Stop pointing fingers at everyone else. I am speaking to you.”

“April 2011” section taken from We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church, by Deborah P. Brunt (WestBow Press, 2011), 10-11. All rights reserved.