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Abandoned

My pastor preached on the battle of Jericho this last Sunday. He talked about the evil practices of the people living in the city. Their child sacrifices to Molek, and temple prostitution for Baal, among other things. God used the Israelites to put an end to all that evil in the city of Jericho (Joshua 1-6).

My husband and I got into a conversation about this later. Archie pointed out how God probably wanted to use the first generation out of Egypt to overthrow Jericho on their way into the Promised Land, just like He ended up doing with the second generation. Which meant, when the first generation refused to enter the Promised Land it not only put Israel’s blessing on hold for forty years, it also put God’s plan for justice in Jericho on hold. There was another forty years of deplorable sacrificial acts, children lost, and hearts turned to stone from abuse.

This got me thinking about the Church today. What are we avoiding, or refusing that is putting blessing and justice on hold? We, as Christ followers, are meant to be filled with the Holy Spirit (blessing) and by His power, bring healing and deliverance to those with whom we share the gospel (justice). The bible is pretty clear about this (this theme can be found in nearly every Pauline epistle, and the books written by James and Peter).

Yet that is not the church experience I grew up in. A lot of the time we’re fumbling with how being filled with the Holy Spirit and moving in His power looks today. For the apostles in Acts it seems perfectly natural for them to move in His power and spread the gospel. But how does that translate to the water cooler and school pick up? Frankly, it seems really scary to invite the Holy Spirit into such mundane and even keel sorts of settings. So we don’t.

From the many conversations and reading I’ve done over the years I get the overall sense that there is a large number of Christians, at least in America, that hear the message of the New Testament and how we’re meant to spread the gospel with the Holy Spirit; quietly say, “No thank you,” and carry on with their mortgages and football.

I’m not saying it’s everyone. But it’s there. The fear that causes hesitation and withdrawal is there.

Here’s the problem. Like the disobedience of the Israelites delayed the justice brought to the evil practices of Jericho, our disobedience can delay the plans of the Lord in the lives of others we were meant to reach, plant the seed, impact, deliver, mentor, whatever the case may be. God has a plan for us, and that plan involves helping others, spreading the good news through our words and our life-example. But when we retreat out of fear we abandon those people. The people Jesus wishes to reach and love through us.

I heard a preacher once say he thought Abram became Abraham because he was the first person to say yes to God’s call. There could have been many calls and many “no thank you’s” before Abram said yes and started the journey to Abraham.

How many times were we called and our “No thank you” left someone struggling for another year? Or perhaps someone else’s “No thank you” left us struggling for another year? There’s no way of knowing for sure really. God works in His own way, in His own timing and He will accomplish what He starts (Isaiah 55:8-11).

All I’m saying is, I don’t want to allow fear to dictate my actions. Or tell me when it’s ok to act in obedience or when I should retreat. Fear is a cold, abandoning master, and I don’t want it as my master. I’d rather risk bringing the Holy Spirit to the water cooler and the school pick up. I’d rather be on fire for God and moving in His power, even when it feels out of control. Because the truth is, it’s not out of control, it’s just out of my control. I’d rather be like Caleb and say to the fearful parts of me, “Let us go up at once […] for we are well able to overcome it.”(Num. 13:30 NKJV) The NIV says, “We can certainly do it.”

We should stop being afraid of the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives and our churches. Because it is by the power of the Holy Spirit in us that we can look at everything God is asking us to do through the bible and prayer and say “I have more assurance than Caleb. I have Jesus, I am filled with the Holy Spirit. I can certainly do it.”

-Etta Woods

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