When the Spirit Falls


This last Sunday, I was helming the drums during a worship song our lead guitarist had written, when the Holy Spirit fell on the church. His presence was palpable and from my spot on stage, I could see Him on people’s faces. By the time we segued into “The Beauty of Simplicity,” I was close to weeping. Let me say this: When you’re the timekeeper, it’s not wise to go all to pieces.

Come, Holy Spirit!Now I know some people reading this may not have experienced one of those beautifully sweet times when the Holy Spirit broods over worship. He’s light permeating the darkest recesses of your soul, warm oil anointing your head, and love overflowing your heart. No words fully describe the naked encounter of your person with the person of the Holy Spirit.

I attend a pentecostal church, so this experience of the Spirit isn’t out of the ordinary. I feel for folks who don’t regularly encounter Him. I can’t imagine living one’s life and not meeting the Lord in such a sweet way, surrounded by others who praise His name.

I’m no pushover for emotionalism, either. Anyone reading this blog long enough knows I don’t stand for that. If I’m overwhelmed, it’s because God Himself showed up, not because some favorite worship song tugs my heartstrings.

Sunday’s touch proved to be the real deal. I’d only wished I’d been better prepared to receive instead of dedicating so much brain power to each timekeeping limb and upcoming musical transitions.

If one thing troubles me about these visitations of the Spirit it’s that we may be wasting them. I don’t believe He comes just to make us feel warm and fuzzy for a few minutes.

When the Spirit falls, I believe we need to be ready to meet Him just like the five wise virgins, with lamps filled with oil and wicks trimmed. His real Presence must be met with ready hearts, otherwise I believe we miss the fullness of the blessing He’s prepared to lavish on us.

I won’t presume to understand the heart of the Spirit in all His manifestations, for He blows as He wills, but I feel He expects the following from us when we encounter Him:

  • Repentance – First and foremost, He is the Holy Spirit. We are to be a holy people.
  • Praise – He is Lord and must be worshiped as such.
  • Reception – We are to receive Him and receive blessings from Him with praise.
  • Transformation – We are to be bettered for having met Him in that moment.

For these reasons, I believe when we encounter the Lord in this way we should do the following:

  • Confess any known sin.
  • Ask the Spirit to search our hearts for hidden sin.
  • Confess hidden sin when He reveals it.
  • Praise Him for revealing sin in our lives.
  • Praise Him for who He is.
  • Ask Him to prepare us for what we might receive from Him.
  • Ask Him to fill us with Himself, His gifts, and His direction.
  • Thank Him for meeting those needs.
  • Ask Him to transform our lives so that we are better able to serve him, so we leave the church with a greater revelation of Him to share with the community of faith and those still outside the flock.
  • Thank Him and praise Him again.

I think if we take these ten steps in the presence of the Lord, He’ll bless us so much more than if we simply bask in Him then leave unchanged after the encounter. And all too often, we walk out those church doors with less than we ought simply because we did not know how to come before Him.

Think about these things. Like Samuel, if we desire to grow up into the fullness of service the Lord asks of us, we must be ready to meet the Spirit when He comes calling.

Be blessed.

Because We Can, We Should?


I'm not into today's CCM. The worship leader at our church must think me a pagan because I have a blank look on my face whenever she brings up the latest hot Christian band and their equally hot quasi-worship song that's blazing up the Christian charts. Who? What song? Let me guess; it has the same beat as all the others….

Today, I had one of those crazy days of endless errands. Oil change, allergy shots, soccer practice, a ten-item grocery list that necessitated trips to three different megagrocers just to get common items any ONE of them SHOULD have had. You know the drill. So desperate for a little spiritual refresher, I turned on the big Christian radio station in town to hear one of the afternoon teaching programs. Instead I got an earful of tedious music. 

Whither the teaching? Well, the station's booted all its teaching in favor of a non-stop music format. I guess every station wants to be just another vapid K-LOVE clone. In some corporate roundtable, station management decided to give the people what they want rather than what is best for them, thinking that 24/7/365 of the Pablum that passes for Christian music today better enlivens the masses than Ravi Zacharias talking about techniques for witnessing to Muslims.

Ugh. Maybe I'll call 'em up and request Keith Green's "You Love the World (And You're Avoiding Me)."

It's symptomatic of a gigantic problem. 

One of the most worldly concepts you'll find in our culture is this idea that "because we can, we should." Name a moral failing or a political ambition and I'll bet "because we can, we should" empowers it. Abortion and fetal tissue cultivation are the sick offspring of that thinking. You can probably come up with a million more.

Christians are not immune to this mistake. In fact, we rationalize a lot of  "because we can, we should" under the guise of redeeming things. Kids love Saturday morning cartoons? Well, let's make Christian cartoons! Your son wants an action figure? Why not give him a brand-spanking new Jesus action figure complete with a whip to drive out moneychangers and a glow-in-the-dark sword that springs out of his mouth to slay the wicked?

Almost all "Jesus junk" hatches from "because we can, we should."

Truth be told, I feel queasy walking into Christian bookstores. They're so utterly derivative and reactionary that if I were an unbeliever plunked down in one, I'd guess the first stage of being born again is losing one's sense of beauty, creativity, and charm.

Yet for all the WWJD paraphernalia floated over here from Shanghai, a more soul-killing expression of "because we can, we should" exists.

Mysecret.tv is a recent addition to the Web. Some Christian organization thought there weren't enough avenues for confession for Christians, Confession or Gossip?so because the Web exists and is (somewhat) anonymous, it's the perfect medium for confessing one's sins. 

Except it's not. Not in the slightest. Instead, Mysecret.tv stands as a warning to us all, the epitome of "because we can, we should"-ism in the American Church.  

The site raises my ire for a number of reasons:

1. It's pornography. Like some lurid afternoon TV talk show, the site parades sin as entertainment. By offering verbal voyeurism (consider the domain name), it's no different than a hardcore porn site. One click and you can read the details of someone else's failure before God. "But doesn't the Bible show great believers failing?" Sure, it does. But if anyone here's calling for adding Mysecret.tv to the canon, well….

2. It usurps the role of the local church. No doubt, Evangelicals have dropped the confessional ball. Too many Evangelical churches would rather judge than offer grace after a confession. But building a site like Mysecret.tv actually circumvents local churches improving their dealings with confession, sin, and grace. It provides a cheap excuse NOT to fix the problem in our local churches. It asks for none of the commitment inherent in a Christ-centered community, cheapening how we relate to each other in an age when real community in the church is already on its deathbed.

3. It asks for no repentance. Enough said. 

4. It offers no grace. Real grace doesn't come with a disclaimer. Jesus Christ gave us a model for how to dispense grace to the repentant. It's the church body of real people who hear confession, cry with the sinner, and offer grace by the Holy Spirit working through people. But Mysecret.tv expunges all face-to-face restorative human contact. Therefore, by removing the links in the chain of how grace should be dispensed, it offers no grace at all.

5. It offers no accountability. After people confess on Mysecret.tv, what follow-up occurs to help them work through the ramifications of their confession? None that I can see.

6. It offers no restitution. How does one walk out the end product of a confession on Mysecret.tv? Well, if nothing is asked of the people who confess on the site, then no restitution occurs. How that benefits the one confessing is beyond me. 

7. It demeans the death of Christ on the cross. If Mysecret.tv angles to be a Christian-sponsored site that takes confessions, yet offers none of the hallmarks of true Christian confession, repentance, accountability, and restitution, then it's not Christian in the slightest. That mocks the Lord.

I could name a half dozen more failings in Mysecret.tv, but its concession to "because we can, we should" speaks for itself. When considering this site's premise, it appears no one asked if it undermines everything the Church should be. They just plowed ahead and slapped it up on the Web. Alakazam, now you can confess to boinking your kid's babysitter and feel better about yourself for doing so. (And yes, all you grammar mavens, I intentionally wrote that last sentence for maximum {read ironic} ambiguity.)

Is anyone else disturbed that so much of what passes for Christianity in America displays the same hollow core as Mysecret.tv? A group sees a need in the Church, but instead of pursuing tough answers that might require a complete overhaul of how our churches live out the Gospel, they settle for the cheap and meaningless—because they can.

Cerulean Sanctum exists to find ways to better our churches and the people who comprise them. For this treason, I loathe cheap answers to the pernicious problems we face as Christians in America. I see a site like Mysecret.tv and my blood boils. When another blogger told me about the site, and I checked it out myself, my jaw dropped at the utter lack of discernment behind this online confession booth.

(If you're a regular reader of this site, you know I almost never single out a particular ministry or program for scorn. I don't like to name names because so much out there needs to improve, even on good sites. I know that Cerulean Sanctum lacks in some areas. I also know I'm not satisfied with cheap and easy.)

I pray this post gets us thinking about finding the narrow path, rather than the wide, destructive one behind "because we can, we should." Too many Christians trudge down that "because we can, we should" superhighway leaving the rest of us to wonder if we're the ones going the wrong way.

Our response to the problems of our day will cost us something precious. When we're not prepared to pay the price, we'll settle for the path of "because we can, we should."

But Jesus won't be waiting at the end of that road. 

Gut Check #4


Let's start the week with a bang. I think the number of American Christians who struggle with this gut check question is in the millions. Sadly, the answer for many people is yes.

Will you lose your standing at church
or the support of Christian family and friends
if you finally, publicly confess
the sin you've kept secret for years?

Protestantism broke from a corrupt Roman Catholic Church that turned Jesus into "Jesus and…." I don't support the idea that we need to add anything to Christ's finished work, so I don't support the RCC. However, if there's one area that the RCC has dealt with far better than any Protestant sect, it's in the area of confessing sins. 

Imagine always having a flesh and blood human being available to hear our confession! Although the usual advice to repeat some pointless "Hail Mary's" isn't the recipe for repentance, what do the Protestants offer? The Bible has this to say:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
—James 5:16 ESV

Too few Christians are willing to hear another's confession, and even fewer are willing to confess. Yet what power, healing, and freedom resides in that confession!

I've known Christians who literally wound up institutionalized because they kept secret sin secret. A Gaboon viper in its typical surroundingsOr they worried that whatever they'd done was somehow treading on "unforgivable sin" territory.

In a way, who can blame them? We talk a lot about our sinfulness, but when someone sins in a way unfamiliar to our own experience, our first reaction is usually judgment.

Many years ago, a much younger Dan was part of a men's group. One day, we studied passages on confession and decided that we would confess our sins to each other. By the time it was all done, self-righteous me had been traumatized by the utter depravity of the guys around me. They shared things I couldn't even imagine, making my sins seem small.

However, as I grew older, I better realized the depths of my own depravity and saw that while my sins were indeed different than theirs, mine still deserved hell. The same Christ who cleansed me had cleansed those men, no matter how awful their confession might have been. In time I learned that none of us is pristine, even the most devout. There's not much difference between my 100 percent sin and their 100 percent sin, no matter what gradations we assign to a certain moral failure.

Too many of us learn the hard way on this one, though. We need to be more ready with grace and less with our high and mightyness, because that superiority we wield like a club is the reason so many are in bondage to secret sin.

The bulimic pastor's wife. The lauded Christian businessman who lies to clients. The self-help expert who hates herself. The porn addict. The judgmental. All need a grace-filled environment that encourages confession and remembers the Golden Rule.

Frankly, I think a private confession booth is a good thing. Our self-righteous attitude imprisons too many others in their jail of sin. Those folks need us to listen and offer grace first, not judgment.

I'm listening. The comment section is open—and during this series, anonymous. 

{Image: a Gaboon viper in its typical surroundings


Other posts in this series: