Why I’m Pentecostal: The Impact

[Make sure you read the background and change posts first.]

Being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” is not a panacea for your spiritual ills and human failings. You don’t suddenly stop struggling with the fleshy side of who you are. Nothing stops that but death. But that second baptism does jolt your life.

Now, let’s stop here and clear a few things up. The gifts of the Spirit are weird, yes—at least from our perspective. But they aren’t unintelligible—they clarify. He points us to Jesus; He inspired the Bible to be written and opens it up on this end as well; and He charges up our worship like a Red Bull.

He does not do things that lead people away from Christ—ever. He keeps things nice and tidy. He’s done with the Bible. And He does not inspire anyone to hang out with poisonous snakes. (He gives us wisdom to not be dumb, after all.)

Since my second baptism, the Spirt most often shows up in private moments to talk to God in a way that He understands, but I don’t. I never know when I’ll start or when I’ll stop. That’s up to Him. I can throw myself in fervent prayer all in English for an hour—and that’s all there is. Or I can have Him spark something when I had no other intention than falling asleep. It’s His leading, not my urging.

I’ve also been given one—and only one—interpretation of what someone else said in a language I’d never heard before. In fact, while the person was speaking, I kept my head down, hoping not to be noticed—like you do in a class when you don’t want to be called on. But I got called to bat, and the interpretation rolled out before I could even think.

As for miraculous healing, that’s also a single incident. A friend who’d suffered from epileptic seizures suddenly stopped having them—and hasn’t since we prayed for her. Given how bad they were before, I was pretty stunned. It was like brain surgery without the scalpel.

But for the most part, my post-Holy-Spirit-baptized life has been more of a private transformation. Slowly, I’ve had courage wired into me. I don’t really think about it unless I consider where I started. But when I do, I see how God’s taught me to master that manual transmission in my spiritual life.

And that’s where I am.

Seeking Adventure

At thirty, Jesus strode out of the desert and got a jolt of clarity. The Holy Spirit flashed down in the form of a dove. God spoke illuminating words of confirmation. And Jesus immediately found Himself doing exactly what He was supposed to do.

I’d take something more subtle.

The angst of entering my third decade has nothing to do with dissatisfaction or disillusionment. Unlike the mopey protagonists of literary fiction or the sullen heroes of popular fare, I have no desire to live someone else’s life or to grow fangs, sprout wolf hair, or sparkle in the sun. I love my life.

Like other Millennials, I make family time unimpeachable. I grew up with microwaved pasta in front of the TV; my kids get a dinner table and homemade bread. We spend all weekend together without someone rushing off to work, and I probably love VeggieTales as much as my two year old—maybe more.

So, what’s the nagging sense that there’s more?

Before God yanked me out of the mess I called my life, I yearned. The great adventure is stumbling under the weight of a daily cross with a gleam of white in the distance. I know that now. But I remember believing that the yearning should stop after salvation stormed in. It hasn’t.

If anything, my pursuit of the ineffable “it” has only become more intense. When I finally stopped covering my eyes so that I could see Christ, the immensity of a God-filled universe slammed into me. Instead of a mote in the vastness of space, I became a mote with the Creator’s attention. It’s an immense shift, but not one the removes the scale of all things.

I seek Him, and that’s an adventure that never ends.

Good Friday 2000 Years Later

David’s poetry in the Psalms pokes at sin and guilt with all the gentleness of sledgehammer.

Take this one, for example:

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

The next time you hear a news report concerning the “genetic basis” for why people struggle, remember these lines. Sin goes much deeper than just physical causes. Sin is a predisposition.

But there’s more. People who live a life opposed to what God had in mind really do have an ingrained struggle that runs much deeper than choice. It’s the orientation of a sinful heart.

We can’t single out certain people as if they alone are somehow choosing sin. We all choose sin. From birth. (I have kids—I know.)

The power of Christ’s resurrection and the Holy Spirit’s re-heart-ment are, then, that much more amazing. We run to sin; God completely changes the landscape. Suddenly, we’re running to Him. He completely transforms the bent of a wayward soul.

As Easter approaches, remember that Good Friday did this—reoriented the entire universe. Where once the faithful only looked forward to Hope, we look back at a finished masterpiece.

Knee Callouses

How’s your prayer life?

I usually go there. In fact, I usually go there first. I’ve never charted this, but I suspect that if I took the problems people have told me about (and my own) and plugged them into some amazing graph, the amount of prayer would be inversely proportional to the rising struggles. And I don’t mean “thank you, God” prayers. I mean knee-callous prayers.

When Paul says that those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh, he doesn’t mean an all-flash-no-boom, bottle-rocket prayer life. He tells the Galatians that the desires of the Holy Spirit don’t and can’t go hand-in-hand with our—let’s just say—less-holy desires. They’re like magnets of the same pole—they can never join together. If we live by the Spirit, we have to use the Spirit as our walking stick. Prayer keeps us standing up.

That’s exactly why I go straight for the jugular and ask about the prayer life. When it’s weak, so too is the fight, the drive. So, make sure you check your knees every once in a while.