"Spirit led," or just an excuse?

There's a terrible danger in the way we Christians credit God and the Holy Spirit for our actions.

I often imagine how strange it must be, both for people outside of the church and for those outside of the denominational or ecclesiological bent, to hear us when we talk about when we say "I'm being spirit led," or other things of that nature. "The Holy Spirit told me to..." such and such.

Of course, I have to acknowledge a disclaimer that as Christians, we regularly say things about Jesus/God that are just as problematic - "I felt God leading me here - God told me to do this - God wants you to vote Republican."

How does anyone substantiate such grandiose faith-claims?

But I still believe some of them are true. Maybe not voter instructions, but direction? Guidance? Inspiration? Caution? Wisdom? Peace?

Yes, I believe the Holy Spirit is quite active, even supernaturally, in our lives. That said, I think the Holy Spirit gets abused, regularly - blamed (or credited, however you want to say it) for our gut-level decisions.

When I was younger, the Holy Spirit told me I was going to be a famous actor.

In middle school, the Holy Spirit told me Rush Limbaugh was the smartest man alive.

In high school, the Holy Spirit prophesied my marriage to at LEAST a dozen attractive young ladies...

"The Holy Spirit" has been wildly inconsistent for me.

I've also seen a lot of horrible things done by others in the name of the Spirit. Or less dramatically, I've been at head-to-head odds with other strong believers over matters of faith - each of us certain of the Spirit's wisdom leading us to our conclusion and horrified that the other could be so deeply mistaken.

On the other hand, there are times when, beyond "gut," I've known something was wrong, or felt compelled to do something beyond my own desires or reasoning. In retrospect, I think God is behind everything that is good and true in the world and in life. Sometimes that's very humdrum and sometimes it's quite extraordinary. But I'm learning (for myself at least) how important it is to be cautious about crediting "The Spirit" for things.

My human perspective is pretty limited, even with the Spirit of the Living God inside of me.

read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at www.essenceproject.blogspot.com...

An inconvenient payoff...

I finally got around to watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. I won't spend a lot of time saying how much I enjoyed it or how provocative I found its content (yes to both, despite my conservative, naysaying friends and colleagues who still believe anything spouted by Bill O'Reilly and the Bush administration).

There was one fairly brief mention by Gore of several scientists who changed their Global Warming research conclusions based on political pressure. He paralleled this with researchers years ago who altered their conclusions about the harmful effects of tobacco due to big money pressures. The lesson? It's hard to be objective when your wallet depends on a special interest group of any kind.

Immediately, it got me thinking about paid ministry - an issue I've obsessed over for several years now. Paid ministry (of some kind, whether church or parachurch) is generally the end-goal for a Masters of Divinity. But how in the world can I be expected to speak truth - or at least speak my God-given gut - when I have to worry about feeding my family?

This is why (I believe) so many churches remain stagnant, unchanging and impotent - financial dependence literally castrates prophetic teaching.

Several weeks ago in school a fellow student (in his late 50s) approached me after class. He said, "I've got a question for you: if we, the church, were doing what we're supposed to be doing - taking care of the poor, the widows, the wounded, the hurting, the outcasts... the church structure as we know it wouldn't survive. Isn't that right?"

I nodded my agreement.

"And that would be ok!" He exclaimed, but also seemed to be seeking my affirmation.

"Yes it would," I answered.

"See," he said to another classmate who had crept up to listen, "I'm a heretic. I agree with this 20-something!"

But I think it's true on a number of levels. If the church was as dirty, missional and honest (transparent) as it truly needs to be, it couldn't sustain that dirty, missional transparency if it decided to HIRE a paid pastor. Money, by its nature, immediately changes the game - immediately corrupts any semblance of objectivity or detachment from personal interest.

Still chewing on this, but finding it harder and harder to swallow the notion of becoming a paid pastor. Except when I get really pissed off at my job and want to step out of the business world... then I create an idyllic garden of vocational eden in my head...

read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at www.essenceproject.blogspot.com...

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