Sometimes, one has a bit of writers block – managing only to pump out some book reviews and recaps, roundups and so on. At other times, you need the feel of the wind on your face to open your eyes and think afresh.
One of the great joys of the Christian journey is the connections that make strangers into friends and friends into family. One of these friends – a brother from the wrong side of the pond, so to speak, is called Luke, he’s a pastor and a blogger, and generally a good egg. Recently on Facebook he posted something that I really liked:
If you just travel around to the latest and greatest spiritual experience, going only where you get an emotional high, might it be true that you are functioning as your own god, controlling your own spiritual experiences and simply receiving what you choose to get? (Think about that)
There is just something very healthy and valuable and incarnational and sustainable about being plugged into and committed to a local church. Those people can love you and encourage you and help you grow in sustainable ways, as opposed to the crowds who float around or who won’t show up when times get rough.
When we approach the church as something to consume, we miss both what the church actually *is* (a community of people) and why the church exists (mission).
So don’t let an individualized culture cause you to have such a shallow, unhealthy, selfish, bankrupt and unsustainable view of the local church!
Love Jesus and love what Jesus loves! Partner with the Holy Spirit and engage in the lives of those around you and you *will* grow and experience some pretty amazing things.
At least that is what I read in Scripture and how I have experienced grace… and I am ever thankful for the many local churches out there that, week after week, gather to love and encourage and refine and serve people. It’s a beautiful thing!
This was one of those things that made my mind and heart sing, gently, ‘yes!’. It also, as a set of ideas, reminded me poignantly of a couple of bible verses:
“I said to myself, ‘Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.’ Then I applied to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind” – Ecclesiastes 1:16-17
These words from Ecclesiastes are a strong provocation to me, at least, to simultaneously be committed to lifelong learning and study, and also to obedient participation in a local church. I’m someone who likes reading – and my temptation spiritually is to strike out on my own. That, for me, is the the way of madness and folly, which ultimately would be just chasing after the wind. For other friends, it is almost the opposite – they are wired for experience (Whether ‘spiritual’ experience, musical experience, serving experience, listening-to-perfectly-crafted-sermons experience, or any one of a number of other experiences that are a part of but not the whole of, the Christian journey) – and the notion of undertanding wisdom is difficult. For everyone – and I realise that I have set up a false binary that is better expressed in a biblical unity, of wisdom and experience, Word and Spirit – there is the danger of falling into the way of madness and folly, and to be those whose Christian lives are ultimately just chasing after the wind.
In his brilliant letter to the Ephesians, in a passage that sketches out a beautiful picture of how the unity of the Church can happen, Paul writes:
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their decietful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” – Ephesians 4:14-15
The promise here, the avoidance of madness and folly in pursuit of wisdom and joy, is maturity. Unity is linked to maturity – linked, as it must be, to Christ. This is why I resonated so robustly with my friend Luke’s comments on Facebook. This is why the wind of the Spirit blows wherever it will.
This blog post is a personal reflection.
This blog post is a personal invitation. You, yes, you, are invited to feel the wind on your face. To breathe fresh air, to feel sunlight on your skin. Because that, in light of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and the ever-coming Kingdom of God (All things I would love to talk to you about) is a hint of what is going on. A hint of what it actually means to be a Christian.
I’ll leave you with a bible verse, from the Gospel I am most invested in, about the Spirit that I am trying to follow:
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. – John 3:8