Christian Life ...

Christian Life ...
Christian life is meant to be a life of bearing much fruit. What does that look like? How do we get there? This blog will record thoughts and meditations about living a life striving to be a fruitful branch.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stealing From our Creator

A while back now Pastor David Berge of City of Lakes Covenant Church, and preacher at Resurrection MPLS worship service at Aldrich Church in South Minnepolis, (pfwehw ... deep breath) began a sermon series on the ten commandments. I can assure you, that if this description of Pastor Berge's role leading my congregation leaves you as rooted as a helium balloon, please click the link and learn more about my church community.

The idea of a sermon series about the ten commandments, immediately makes me squirm a little bit. Am I going to sit here and have someone, even a good friend, tell me what I can and cannot do? The greatest thing about this series was that it wasn't that way at all. It wasn't a direct personal "do" and "do not", but a study on how God provided these Commandments as rules to freedom.

One week, Berge preached on the "Do Not Steal" commandment and one part of it really stood out to me. This was the idea of what it means to steal from God our creator. To preface my interest in this comment, I will first review a portion a previous sermon series in which Pastor Dave used a book by fellow Twin Cities Covenant Pastor, Steve Wiens entitled Beginnings as a guide. In that book, Wiens takes the reader though the Creation story in Genesis. In doing this he points out how God continues to create within us. He shares lessons and thought pieces from each day of creation, expressing the many ways that God continues to help us grow, embrace change and experience new creation and new life.

In the chapter related to the Third day of creation, Wiens speaks about the Hebrew word zera, or in English, seeds.  

God Spoke: "Earth, green up! Grow all varieties
          of Seed-bearing plants,
Every sort of fruit-bearing tree."
          And there it was.
Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
          all varieties,
And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
          God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning--
Day Three.

-Genesis 1:11-13

In this passage, God gives creation the ability to create. He plants seeds that we grow plants that will produce fruit that will hold seed that will grow more plants. God created perpetual creation. He gave even the simplest of his creations the ability to create. We have the same ability, both physically to reproduce, and more generally to come up with new ideas and to inspire one another. 

In this chapter, Wiens tells a story about a fundraiser he participated in where he and a few other men ran all the way across the Grand Canyon, in exactly the kind of sweltering heat as you would expect. They did it to raise money for The Keziah Project, a organization that helps Ethiopian women escape sex trafficking. 

Steve's uncle Ed, who ran that day as well, described the action of running an actual marathon, twenty four miles down into and back out of the Grand Canyon, like passing "..through the womb of the earth" (Page 65). Wiens relates this to the idea of bringing something into the world. Birth is good. Birth is beautiful, but any mother would tell you that it's extremely painful too. Like how birth brings good into the world, God created us to that too.

Wiens mentions that the value of the fundraiser was more than what first meets the eye. It wasn't just the joy and satisfaction of finishing an impressive physical feat or raising a bunch of money for great human rights cause that struck him the most. In addition to all  that it was the feeling of doing something that brought people together. He explained it as "being in the center of a very wide group of people who loved me and who supported me as we did something redemptive together" (page 65-66).  He felt like it started something new in him like the planting of a seed. It brought forth new life. 

Going forward in the chapter Wiens talks about viewing people with the assumption that they have "something in them (that) needs to be born" (page 67). God gives us gifts. He has given each of us something that we are made to do. Something that is designed to bring good into the world. Something like a seed in us that will sprout forth with fruit that holds inside of it, it's own seeds.

I feel this way when I write. I feel this way when I spend time with youth and when I collaborate with other musicians. These things bring me joy.

Back to the main point of this post, it is hard to conceptualize how a person could steal from God, especially when God created everything and has, as they say, "got the whole world in his hands". The point of this however is that when God created us, he created us with gifts planted inside of us and skills and abilities that we were made to use for His glory and His kingdom. This is fruitfulness. If we intentionally refuse to acknowledge our gifts, or refuse to use them as he has called us to, we are in a sense, stealing from God.

That hit me pretty hard. I can't count how many times people have told me how great a gift I have at relating to youth. I have felt the daily urge to write. I've felt the itch to share music. But when I feel this urges I have learned to cut them down. I tell myself they are impractical, because they are not money makers. I fear that if I spend my time doing these things that I am called to do that they will come to nothing and it will all be a waste of time. Let me insist, both outwardly to any readers of this blog and to myself, that what is practical is rarely redemptive. Practical decisions are, by their very definition, to insure comfort, to save face, to take care of me, to captain my own ship.

God has planted these seeds in me. He has given me these gifts to write and to perform music, and he has made me uniquely gifted in relating to people, especially youth. In my worry about what is practical I have forgotten what is missional. In worrying about my bank account, I have forgotten that I can't take the currency with me.

Because I am God's and he planted these seeds in me, the fruit that comes of them are His. In not using these gifts, in not acting upon the deep urging of my God given gifts, I am, and have been, stealing from my creator.

We have been created in the image of God, and are called as Christians to mirror Christ. In this way we are to be primarily merciful, sacrificial, self-giving, prayerful, relational, word focused, and creative people. In creating us he didn't make mistakes. He didn't put desires to create in my heart as a test so that I would learn how to choose more practical hobbies. He did not give me a heart for hanging out with youth so that I could only do that when it happens to come up.

God is a good Father and he knows how to give his children good gifts. He knows what makes me tick. He knows what things are "my jam" and what are not. He knows that better than I do. God doesn't expect me to build his Kingdom in ways that He's gifted somebody else. He desires for me to trust Him. Instead, I continually find a way to worry about the value of doing the things that actually give me vocational joy.

This is actually really good news, isn't it? Isn't it good that God has planted seeds in us that are made to grow fruit that in it holds more seeds? Isn't it great that he has given us unique gifts and promised to be with us?

I am learning how much I want to be good on my own. I realize that when I worry about being practical, and making the absolute perfect choice of what is best to do, I'm not trusting God, I'm clinging to my own safety. I'm like a child hugging a Christmas present that is too afraid to set it down. They are so afraid of losing it, that that they never open it. That steals from the giver. The child has to put down the pretty packaging and get to the actual gift inside.

I'm not planting the seeds that are inside me, at least not completely.

Once at a bible study retreat while I was a student at Gustavus Adophus College, a student from another school shared an memorable image. She said that she envisioned herself wrapped in heavy chains. However instead of the chains being locked, this girl saw herself clutching them. No matter how many times she had been convinced that God had graciously removed their burden from her, she eventually picked the weight of the broken chains back up again.

Let me state this clearly. This is NOT what it means to pick up your cross and follow him. We are not picking up a cross of judgement and following Christ, we are picking up a cross of redemption. This is an enormous difference.

Like that girl's vision, God intends to give us freedom. Freedom in exactly the way he created for us. One of the ways that he does this, is by planting these kinds seeds in us. By giving us gifts that will give gifts. This is good news. We have a God who created us out of the joy in His nature. His creation is built to continue to create. Actually, it's built to re-create. God has planted in us the seeds that will help grow the garden of re-creation. He's given us gifts that fit our vocation and our personal sense of recreation to lead to his re-creation of the world. God's redemptive purposes are in the works right now. The reconciliation of creation isn't passive. We, as members of Christ's vine, as parts of the body of Christ, His church, we are meant to be fruitful in our role.

I urge you. Listen to the desires of your heart. Listen inside of you to find the thing that makes you buzz. What excites you? What drives you crazy? Is there a way you are called, or people are calling you to work on those things that excite you or in opposition to those things that make you want to throw stuff?

One of the most remarkable things about God's law is that it is for our good. I am stunned by how much this idea of breaking God's law by stealing from him has effected me. It has shown me that the things that people have called out in me, the things that God has planted upon my heart are the things that give me real lasting joy. Not doing them, is stealing from God and stealing from my role in the redemption of the world.

Nonetheless, there is Grace for that theft. Only Christ followed God the Father's will completely. In him, God "made the One (Christ) who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Pray about those things. Pray for the Holy Spirit to provide you with wisdom and guidance. Ask the Lord if there are ways in which you are stealing from Him the goodness He has planted with you. Consider these words:

Forgive me Lord for the times where I have let what appears practical for my safety and comfort distract me from the gifts and inclinations you have placed within my heart. Gardener of Creation, nurture within me the seeds you have planted there, even some of them that I may not know yet, and use them for Your Kingdom purpose. Water them with your plans. As I look to you, remove from the soil of my heart the weeds that make it less fit for fruitfulness. Thank You Lord for your promises to work for our good. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit and Your living Word. Spirit help us to see in others, those things that must "be born in them". Give us vision. Lord, our strength is in You. Amen.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

All Good People & All God's People; Seek & Speak Truth

We are living in a heated time. There's a lot of emotion in the air. People are angry. Racial inequity, gun policies and police procedure leave people clenching fists on both sides of the issue, not to mention the anger that comes with grief of vibrant life lost.

What I know, is that violence is a major issues in the US and the world. It is something that I really despise. So much so that watching something like UFC fighting makes me feel like a barbarian. Recent events have filled me with so much inner rage that at first I don't know what to do about it except cry and pray angry prayers. Let me recap (please know that I acknowledge countless others as well)

1) The massacre of LGBTQ individuals in Orlando
2) The shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA
3) The all too close to home shooting of Philando Castille
4) The senseless murder of police officers in Dallas
5) The subsequent protesting and reaction to protesting by Police.
6) The assault on police during protests turned to riots (by only a small group of participants).
7) The anger of communities: both black and those close to law enforcement providers.
8) The use of a tuck as a weapon of terror in Nice, France. 
9) The murder of police officers in Baton Rouge
10) The even more recent shooting of an unarmed Assisted Living assistant in North Miami.

Death is tragic. When lives are ended prematurely I am wrecked. Especially by violent means. These last weeks I have been wrecked more that I ever remember.

The last couple days I've been pretty angry about the state of the world and the way people are relating. I'm really frustrated that Black Lives Matter has to be a slogan of a national organization. I understand why it does, but I am bothered because, in my intellectual mind, of course Black Lives Matter. For many white Americans like myself, we conceptually believe that black lives matter on paper. But current events and history shows they remain collectively of less worth. I'm furious that I gleaned from my education that after Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement happened, racism disappeared and everybody was made equal. In the shelter-the-child-from-reality world we live in, a lot of the grit of the situation was removed. Now I've come to a better understanding of my own privilege and I'm conflicted when I see it, because I don't know what to do with it. I'm not sure how I give it away. I feel like I'm supposed to do something or say something, but I don't have the words to say or the knowledge of what to do. As an emotional man, I'm afraid of sounding ridiculous if I'm too passionate about how my privilege guilt feels. I'm afraid to speak up, in case I am wrong. I'm even more afraid of not speaking up and falling back upon the privileged I have been so unfairly blessed with.

A while back now, Pastor David Berge of City of Lakes Covenant Church and Resurrection MPLS preached on the 9th commandment, which according to Genesis 20:16 is: "Do not give false testimony against your neighbor."

Now the sentiment of this commandment is, in simple terms, do not lie. Please take a listen to Pastor Berge's sermon via the link above, as it brings up some very enlightening thoughts on this passage and issues that I will not hit on. I would like to ask, on a simple literal sense: what is the actual definitions of the words of this commandment? I feel that this small case study in the depth of words is fascinating.

According to Merriam- Webster the definition of false is:
  • not real or genuine
  • not true or accurate; especially : deliberately untrue : done or said to fool or deceive someone
  • based on mistaken ideas
This definition should be easy for us to understand. What is false is what is not true. That is a true definition. But there's more to what this is saying about giving false testimony. Now testimony has legal connotations, but do not consider that to be limiting. 

According to Merriam- Webster the definition of testimony is:
  • something that someone says especially in a court of law while formally promising to tell the truth
  • proof or evidence that something exists or is true
This starts to show just have intent this commandment is on maintaining truth. First the word false means untrue, now testimony is defined as a formal promise of the truth, or a direct assertion that something exists or is true. This takes the ideal of lying and goes a bit deeper. This is saying false or mistaken testimony should be avoided at all cost. This means do not gossip, do not assume, do not spread rumors against your neighbor. That brings me to my last set of English definitions:

According to Merriam- Webster the definition of neighbor is:
  • a person who lives next to or near another person
  • a person or thing that is next to or near another
According to Merriam- Webster the definition of near is:
  • close to someone or something in distance
A neighbor is someone or something close. That's pretty vague. Let us think of that as people who we are connected. Does this mean only our friend? ... I think history has confirmed that we don't always like our neighbors. They don't always see the world the same way as us. In fact, Christ says in Matthew 5:42-44a, “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy'. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ..." 

So what does the 9th commandment mean now. It's not simply saying do not lie. It's not only saying do not tell an intentional falsehood or blatantly defame in court the person to whom you live next door. 

It is saying so much more. The ninth commandment is about being a truth seeker and speaker. It is about testifying to truths revealed and doing so with kindness. It's about standing for the truth for the good of our neighbors. This means we should be doing our research and listening to what the Spirit of God says inside of us. As Christians we have access to truth. We have freedom to pray, both as intercessors for our neighbors and in discernment as to how to relate to them in a positive, kind and professing-of-the-truth manner.

In Pastor Berge's sermon he referenced John 18:33-38 in which Christ says to Pilate "I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice" (vs 37b). To this Pilate responds: “What is truth?” (vs 38). Berge details how Pilate's declaration is much like the world today. Truth is relative to who speaks in in our time. Lies are followed by lies and then can be frequently passed as truths. We cannot behave like this if we are Christians. As Christians we must be people of the truth. That is to say if we are of Christ, we must be testifiers of truth. We shouldn't withhold evidence or provide partial accounts of events.

Christ is Truth. As Christians it is our responsibility to see to that truth in prayer. It is also our responsibility to care for the underprivileged, the needy and the oppressed. In a confusing way, it's also our responsibility to respect authority and the rulers of this world. It's not easy be we have the God of creation and the Spirit of that God inside of us as our councilor in these matters. 

I challenge you that if you haven't, please take a listen to Pastor Berge's sermon linked above, but more importantly, seek God. Listen with a discerning ear to what is said. Be mindful of what you hear and what you say, seek truth, and seek to speak truth. We are all children of God, black, white, hispanic, asian, Christian, Muslim, or police officer. The shedding of innocent blood is despicable. 

Because it's worth sharing, I have placed the inspiration for the title of this post below. This video is from a 3/31/2016 concert at the Varsity Theater, over in Dinky Town, in Minneapolis, MN and while I didn't personally take this video, I was present at this concert. Let me tell you, this band put on one of the greatest live performances I've ever seen and this song should be a bigger deal than it is. Delta Rae wrote "All Good People" in response to the murders of Black people in 2015, especially brutality leading to Eric Garner's death, and the despicable shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charelston, SC. Back in March, this band helped me feel the weight of the issues of gun violence, systematic racism and instances of police brutality.

I hope that song inspires you to seek the truth about the history of our country. Do not let yourself be deceived. While Christ has fulfilled the law, and the Ten Commandments are the base of the law, they are still worthy of our respect. These commandments can be thought of as the testimony of Christ. What Christ stood for as the spotless lamb. We see here that the 9th commandment is about Truth, capital "T" Truth. It's only about refraining from lying. In John 18 Jesus says that he came to testify to truth. As followers of him let us do that.

In this circumstance, I believe the violence experienced by Black Americans is truly wrong. I believe the methods of systematic oppression our country has created is truly wrong. I believe that the number of White Americans who live with no understanding of privilege is truly wrong. Law Enforcement's fear of the black man is truly wrong. Societies fear of the black man is wrong. Black peoples fear of profiling by those law enforcement professionals who are meant to be protecting them, is truly wrong. The murder of police officers is truly wrong. We have to seek truth. We have to testify to the truth. We cannot bend the truth to fit an agenda. We can't simply spout whatever we thing. We must stand for the oppressed and respect authorities, with respect to truth.

All good people, and all God's people must make an effort to come around to testify to the truth that this system is broken. Everyone has our biases and our competencies with regard to diversity and privilege, but I pray that everyone of us would have the same bearing. I pray you will seek the truth.

Now, I end with the words of the Apostle Paul.

Philippians 4:8 
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable--if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise--dwell on these things.
Violence and lies, rabble rousing and fear-mongering is not any of this. Treat people with dignity. Love God, and, like Christ, strive to seek and speak Truth. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Fruitfulness in the Moment & Relating to the Past

In my recent bible study and life experience, action mindset is a huge focus. I have been working through my natural desire to overthink choices, decisions, due to not knowing what is right. I have also tended to doubt the potential for future successes due to past failures. Various things of late have reminded me that living as a Christian must be hope driven people of action in the moment. 

What does that mean exactly? I will consult an atypical source:

“It's being here now that's important. There's no past and there's no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can't relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don't know if there is one.” -George Harrison

In my experience as a Christian, it's really common to take secular things and discount everything about them because they do not fully embrace Christian values or directly express Christ-centered truths. There is something to that, I guess, but the only thing not true in a Christian sense about what George Harrison is saying is that "we don't know if there is (a future)."

Brain science and my experience tell me that George is on to something with what he's saying. There are some similar sentiments in some Beatles songs in general. "All You Need is Love" reflects this same notion of living in the moment. John Lennon's "Imagine" goes further into a deeply humanist view of the beautiful ideal of the "brotherhood of man". If everyone would just live in peace and harmony, without agendas, we'd all be better off.

Now understand that I'm entering a very existential realm here, but in my experience truth is truth. We can not live waiting for the future to be different, because on earth, George is right, "we don't know if we have one." The past means nothing to this current moment because the past is no longer happening. If we neglect to be in the now and dwell in the past, we really fail to dwell at all.

Brain science says that the brain only works in the now. It doesn't record picture or video memories. It doesn't re-live the past. If you are dying for an interesting read take a look at this The empty brain, by Robert Epstine. It's a little nerdy, but it shares some very interesting and somewhat related ideas. While it's certainly not inherently Christian in voice, it's foolish to think it's against Christian thought.

If we believe God created the human mind, and if the human mind doesn't store information, we must confirm that God doesn't want us to dwell on the past. George Harrison can get behind that.

The past and Christian Life have an interesting relationship.

“We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it.”
― Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?  

There are things from our past that we can stand on. Transformation moments in our understanding of life, love, work, play, and God. We have to understand that these events shape us. No one would think the way they do without their past experience, not Rick Warren, not Mike Boosalis, not Robert Epstine and not George Harrison.

I firmly believe that healthy balanced people have made peace with their past. Sometimes this is easier said than done. An individual may have things in their past that they want to hide; they are afraid people will judge them according to things they have done.

This is life.

Isaiah 43:18 says
"Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old."

Initially this seems to suggest that we shouldn't acknowledge the past at all. This however does not see the context of the rest of the passage ... even in the minuscule.  Isaiah 43:16-21 says:
This is what the Lord says—
who makes a way in the sea,
and a path through surging waters,
who brings out the chariot and horse,
the army and the mighty one together
(they lie down, they do not rise again;
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick)—
“Do not remember the past events,
pay no attention to things of old.
Look, I am about to do something new;
even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert. 
The animals of the field will honor Me,
jackals and ostriches,
because I provide water in the wilderness,
and rivers in the desert,
to give drink to My chosen people.
The people I formed for Myself
will declare My praise.
Here, God declares that he is doing a new thing. Oddly enough, in describing the new thing that He's doing, the word of the LORD calls out some references to Israel's past.

Do you catch the peculiarity of this? "Forget the past!" God says, "I am doing a new thing, much like what I did in the past! ... remember that?"

God IS.

I think that is one of the most important things to remember about Christian relationship with time. Our heavenly father exists within time and outside of time. He is alpha and omega - beginning and end. This isn't saying that He was Alpha and He will be Omega. Its saying He is both of them.

This is reality. This appears to be paradox. So many spiritual truths seem impossible to a human mind. Especially a mind entrenched in Western philosophy and academic, enlightened though.

"Here I raise my Ebanezer ..." might be one of the weirdest phrases in your standard church hymnal, but in this context the idea is very helpful. The Prophet Samuel coined the phrase after God had been faithful to Israel by assisting them in defeating the Philistines. The Ebanezer is a commemorative pile of rocks. It's a symbol for the future, about God's faithfulness in the past.

In the words of Isaiah 43, the LORD is calling Israel to remember the Ebanezers they built up because in their now he was doing a new thing, like he had done then. God is telling them to forget their past actions or past circumstances and stand upon His faithfulness. God brought them through before. God's faithfulness remains.

In trying circumstances, it's not always easy to see the Ebanezers we have built. This is what Christian relationship with the past should be. We must acknowledge the past as something that has shaped us. We must acknowledge that we are not our past, and dwelling in it, letting it drive our current actions, isn't beneficial to the here and now. In human terms, George Harrison is right, "all there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can't relive it; and we can hope for the future ..."

Now with God, this is were George misses the mark. We can hold fast to the fact that God IS alpha and omega. He IS the beginning and the end ... now. He is faithful and we can look to our past experiences and see those little metaphorical piles of commemorative rocks. We don't have to blot out our past, and we can learn from it. It's the nature of the human brain. Our brain practices activity and remembers positive and negative results of actions. It remembers good stimulus. But still, where George misses the mark is about the future we do not know we have. As Christians, we are people not just rooted in hope, but in assurance of God's renewal.

Christian life can be defined as life with hope, help and healing. We are not perfect people, our histories reveal that. Those three "h"s are nice things. God provides us with strength to help us in the present, blessed assurance and promises to give us hope for the future, and if we look close enough, lines and lines of Ebenezers, commemorating God's faithfulness and healing presence in our past(s). 

Friday, June 3, 2016

This IS Eternal Life; The Ordinary Extraordinary Life

The reality of Christian faith is transcendent. It's not something that stands still. It's not simply following a routine of bible reading, following rules, making requests or reciting prayers. It's not simply a rhythmic mantra to center the body and mind. It's not simply religion. There is more than what we do, but what we do is still important. 

Faith, in a colloquial sense, can be defined by the near cliche of "being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see." This is radical trust. I have faith that my family will be there for me when I have a hard time. I can't see the future. I can't predict any hardship, but I believe and trust that they will be there for me. I am also certain that they will continue to value my well being. I also have faith that the company I work for is, as they claim to be, working to provide equitable service for the populations they serve. I certainly hope for that, and I am certain that many of my co-workers are invested in shaking up the health care industry for the better.

This is interesting, because this definition of faith does not suggest any type of fuel except a personal conclusion. It's a person's decision whether to mix the trust and hope together and link them to one thing or group of people. I can evaluate past experiences and decide whether or not the thing that I am considering faith in is, in fact, faithful. There's no assurance or power from faith in the colloquial sense. There's no external source. Except for relationship.

That's what I consider to be the key to faith. Relationship is what makes the difference. No one puts faith in something of which they are not in relationship. Even long ago, the relationship of fear that ancient people felt while presenting sacrifices to sun gods and gods of the harvest. They were confident, that by making the effort to please these gods, they would give them the benefit of the doubt and decide not to wipe them off the face of the earth. Closer to home, I know my family, and I know they love and care about me. I know the people at my company, and I have seen the record of what they have done and continue to do. I have a faith in both of them. It's different, but real.

What does this say about Christian faith? What does Christian faith have different than colloquial faith? My 'ol pal Oswald Chambers has some ideas (from reading for May 27th):

The Life To Know Him

The Life To Know Him

The disciples had to tarry, staying in Jerusalem until the day of Pentecost, not only for their own preparation but because they had to wait until the Lord was actually glorified. And as soon as He was glorified, what happened? “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). The statement in John 7:39— “…for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified”— does not pertain to us. The Holy Spirit has been given; the Lord is glorified— our waiting is not dependent on the providence of God, but on our own spiritual fitness.

The Holy Spirit’s influence and power were at work before Pentecost, but He was not here. Once our Lord was glorified in His ascension, the Holy Spirit came into the world, and He has been here ever since. We have to receive the revealed truth that He is here. The attitude of receiving and welcoming the Holy Spirit into our lives is to be the continual attitude of a believer. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive reviving life from our ascended Lord.

It is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit that changes people, but the power of the ascended Christ coming into their lives through the Holy Spirit. We all too often separate things that the New Testament never separates. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an experience apart from Jesus Christ— it is the evidence of the ascended Christ. 

The baptism of the Holy Spirit does not make you think of time or eternity— it is one amazing glorious now. “This is eternal life, that they may know You…” (John 17:3). Begin to know Him now, and never finish.
This is resounding reality of the Christian faith. We, as believers in Christ, have access, and direct relationship with the given power of the spirit, which IS "the reviving life" of "our ascended Lord". The death of Christ paid the price of sin and the resurrection of Christ defeated the cost of sin. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). We have been given life and life eternal as a gift. This, can be a complex monetary metaphor. First, there's the idea of death as our wages. That we should be paid death due to the labor of sin. Then, there's the idea that Christ paid the price for our sin. In other words, Christ took on the death that was due to us, and cashed the check with more than enough of a deposit limit, so that what we never had to bank those destructive wages.

It's probably easier to say that Christ paid the debt we incurred from our sin, but there's something interesting about the idea of thinking of death as wages...

Nonetheless, because of Christ, there is no balance due. Christ is risen and in him so ARE we who believe in him. We have this resurrected life at our grasps, right within the reach by "our own spiritual fitness."

Now while Chambers is talking about baptism, don't think of that as the action of symbolic physical baptism, but more like Holy Spirit entering in. "The word baptize can mean to dunk, submerge, or immerse. It can be used to describe  part of the process of pickling a vegetable" (Sacrament: ... "Remember Me"). To me this feels like a marinade. It's not a one time thing. It's not, dunk, move on you're good. Like soaking a cucumber in a brine or marinading a steak, it takes some time to make all that much difference. The idea of baptism, is a symbolic submergence in the reality of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The act of physical baptism in one meaning symbolizes the joining in Christ's death and resurrection. Under the surface of the water with Christ in death, out of the surface again with Christ in new life. "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4) . This is completely valid. But remember also that John the Baptist baptized before Christ's death and resurrection. This was a baptism of purification and repentance. This is not a one time idea but the idea of turning and going the other direction and still going that way.

The action of this is to symbolize a continual action, or reality to live in. Repentance is a u-turn, not a flipped switch. Spirit baptism is constant marinade. This is the point Os Chambers makes when he says "the receiving and welcoming the Holy Spirit into our lives is to be the continual attitude of a believer."

This is a relationship with the eternal-life giver. This is the access to the power that rose Jesus from the dead. This IS eternal life.

The ordinary extraordinary life of the Fruitful Christian is that the Kingdom may not be here but it is at hand. It is within reach. The power is in us and we can live in that reality. The ordinary extraordinary life is life in right relationship with God due to His coming down into our reality.

Faith in God is faith with relationship AND with real power promised. This is the mind-blowing gospel of Jesus Christ, that we we attach to the vine we are given the eternal life force of our creator. This is the transcendent element. Faith in Christ, continually seeking out that relationship, though the power of the resurrection and the given spirit, IS eternal life. "Begin to know Him now, and never finish."