Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Summer of the Spirit // Gifts, Part 2


sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 08/03/2014

video available at
podcast here:
or via iTunes here:


You may think of yourself or your life as unpredictable, un-patterned, or chaotic, but it’s not true, not really. Your heart beats regularly. Thump thump, thump thump. Your breath too, steady and smooth, rising and falling, in and out. You, waking and walking, showering and brushing teeth, eating, digesting, eliminating, exercising and working, tracing much the same path through your home and your local world, sleeping and then waking again. Day after day after day. A wonder of order.

Look around you. You can’t see it, probably, but the air around you isn’t like you, not at all. It’s in chaos. Molecules of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and water zooming around, colliding, moving in new trajectories, random, pattern-less. (Which, by the way, is why smells travel in every direction, even when there is no wind.)

Now take a breath.

Those disordered molecules are becoming ordered almost as soon as they enter into your body. Each molecule sorted, recruited, finding a place, a purpose. Joining with the incredible structure and life-giving purposes of your body’s systems and cells. The systems and cells themselves order-making machines. You yourself ordered and patterned, distinctive and functional.

Some scientists, in fact, suggest that may be one of the best functional definitions of life that we have. Life takes in this disordered, random, wild stuff and gathers it together, tames it, shapes it, gives it form and function.

This connects to the big picture story of what’s happening in the universe, doesn’t it? To the big question about what’s happening in our lives.


There is the fear that randomness and disorder are in fact running the show somehow, that everything is devolving into chaos. That the end of the story is one of isolation and coldness, making it all meaningless.


And standing against that fear, Love itself. The hope that Love is gathering everything together for a purpose, entering into the chaos and bringing out of it something beautiful, something ordered and purposeful, something that tells a good story. Full of meaning, power, warmth and life.

The announcement of the Bible, the witness of the people who encountered the God who is Love, YHWH, the Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father in the heavens revealed by Jesus, is that the true story is a good news story. And at the center of that story is the Holy Spirit whom we’ve been talking about all summer. The non-material, energetically animating, personal presence of the living God.

We first meet the Holy Spirit in Genesis One:


2Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit [Breath] of God was hovering over the waters.

Genesis 1:2

This Breath of God is the same Spirit that is poured out on Pentecost to Jesus’ first followers. And to us. God’s favoring and forgiving presence transforming us from anxious, disintegrated, enslaved persons into whole, self-differentiated, free human beings, bearing God’s image afresh to one another and to the creation itself.

The Holy Spirit that hovers over the chaos, the welter and the waste, bringing forth all of creation, and life itself. Order, form, function. The Spirit takes the formlessness and darkness, and out of it shapes a story – a good story.

Listen to the next two verses:


3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good

Genesis 1:3,4a


As we’ve explored in our Summer of the Spirit series, one of the primary activities of the Holy Spirit is helping us see.

And what he helps us see is the order he’s bringing out of chaos, the life that’s springing up from the dust, the truth that the story that everything tells, if we have eyes to see it, is a good news story. That love wins, not fear. That perfect Love is driving out fear. We see who we ourselves are – children of the Father in the heavens. Finite, vulnerable, and needy though we may be, we are children of a good Father. We see who all the people around us are – brothers and sisters, beginning under evil like us, broken and flawed, but also children of the same Father. And we see who God is – neither a competitor nor an ally, but a dad who loves and forgives us, and whose glory it is to address our needs as we bring them to him and wait on him. A father to whom we can come with our needs in courageous vulnerability and discover joy is set before us. And through the Holy Spirit, we see what the world around us is – a creation awaiting renewal, awaiting integration with the heavens, awaiting the image-bearers to begin bearing the creator’s image again, longing for God to dwell here in fullness.

The Holy Spirit is the primary gift that our Father gives us; the gift that is so powerful and priceless that Jesus himself told his followers it was better that he go to be with the Father so that they could have this gift. A statement that begins to make sense as we as the Spirit empowers us to bring our needs to God for him to address and we experience the fruit that the Spirit brings. Fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

And the Holy Spirit, the One who is the Father’s gift to us, distributes even more gifts of grace to us. Gifts, freely given, out of God’s favor to each and every one of us, for the bringing together initiative that was inaugurated, that began in earnest, in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.


7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit [the Spirit’s revealing] is given for the common good [the bringing together]. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 12

We began unpacking this last week, so I’d like to continue that today, making it more concrete and practical for us.


Spiritual gifts are, in essence, the particular ways in which the Spirit helps us see some aspect of reality as it really is, and the way the Spirit helps us connect that seeing with Love’s reconciling, bringing-together purposes.


We talked last time about how that phrase “the common good” (Greek - symphero) might be translated more directly as “the bringing together.” Theologically, we might understand it as the reconciling of all things to Christ that is written about in the first chapter of the letter to the Colossians. We’ll get practical with that in a few minutes, just hold the thought for the moment.


Right now, notice the phrase “the manifestation of the spirit.” In Greek, the word translated manifestation is phanerosis (we get the English words fantasy and phantom from this word) – and it means to make visible. Another way of translating this phrase – a translation that makes more sense to me in context – is “the Spirit’s revealing” or “the Spirit’s revelation.” In othe-r words, the Spirit reveals things to us, helps us see some aspect of reality that was previously hidden, shines light in darkness so that we can participate in the bringing together, the common good.

We already know, in normal everyday life, that seeing is central to repairing non-functioning things. Things where chaos has had its way over order.

Like your broken car. What’s the first thing the mechanic does that maybe you can’t do as well? “Let’s take a look and see if we can figure out what’s wrong.” The mechanic sees what’s wrong, and sees a way to fix it, and then, using his talents and experience and resources, does the actual fixing.

Or you take your sick and broken body to the doctor. The doctor has to first diagnose the problem, and diagnosis is all about seeing, understanding, making connections between different, seemingly random data points and weaving it together into a true story about what’s happening. And then seeing what the way forward to health is. And then using her talents and experiences and resources to do the actual healing.


Plumbers, electricians, engineers, teachers, administrators, accountants, builders, entrepreneurs, artists, everyone involved in improving the world is doing the same thing. Remember how Michelangelo described his creative process? “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to others as mine see it.”


When spiritual gifts – these varied, graceful ways the Spirit helps us see – are combined with loving, cooperative, obedient action, you have miraculous results. As Jesus said, the Father shows him everything the Father is doing, and Jesus does the same thing. The end result? Water changing to wine. Cripples walking. The dead being raised to life. Exiled, oppressed people experiencing true hospitality and welcome. The blind seeing. And on and on.


This is why there is such a variety of gifts; the things which the Holy Spirit will help you see, and the ways in which he will invite you to cooperate in responding to what you see, are potentially infinite. And that is why you will have some gifts, and I will have others, and others will have still others. We are each of us uniquely wired, experienced, impassioned individuals whom the Holy Spirit is gifting with sight and inviting to respond to that seeing with all the talents and training and resources we have.

Practically, we’re talking about God inviting us to participate with him as he makes the world whole again under the authority of his son Jesus.

For example, imagine someone who has been damaged emotionally, mentally, physically – perhaps by their own sins, perhaps by sins committed against them, perhaps simply as a symptom of being a part of this broken world – being made whole again. A mended, healthy heart, a clear and integrated mind with a healthy view of the world, a healed and healthy body.

How might a spiritual gift work in this case? If it’s a message of wisdom you receive through the Spirit, then perhaps you have an insight about the way forward for the person, an action they can do or a new way of thinking that moves them towards wholeness. If it’s a message of knowledge, perhaps you understand something about the nature of their brokenness or hurt that they can then use to cooperate with God in their healing. If it’s faith you receive through the spirit, maybe it’s a surge of confidence to ask God for a particular kind of help for the person, or to encourage them to ask God for, and then in the asking God addresses that need in just the right way that the person can receive. If it’s a gift of healing you receive, perhaps it’s the kind of seeing that doctors and nurses do that lead to healing, or perhaps it’s the kind of seeing Jesus does that leads to authoritative prayer that leads to healing. We can imagine all kinds of gifts of the spirit – ways the spirit helps us see that we then cooperate with – that could participate in the bringing together God is doing for a hurting person. Hospitality – seeing the kind of welcome that would communicate God’s love and favor to a person, or meet them in their specific needs. Prophecy – seeing the words that God wants to speak to the person but that they might only hear and receive if you speak them to them. The distinguishing of spirits – helping a person sort through which voices in their head, or which cultural winds they feel pushing them in one direction or another, are the inclinations of fear and which are the inclinations of Love.

The bringing together can have a wider meaning, too. For example, two people who’ve been divided by fear and hate, having a restored relationship, forgiveness and love at the center. Or two communities, or two races, or nations, divided by years, decades, centuries of animosity, brought together in peace and understanding, forgiveness and love at the center. Surely Spirit empowered seeing in the form of a message of wisdom or knowledge or a gift of healing or the effecting of miracles or the distinguishing of spirits, combined with people willing to give their talents, training and resources to cooperate with God in what they see might be the only hope for this kind of bringing together.

The bringing together applies to a person who hasn’t been on good terms with God, or who has assumed God isn’t on good terms with them, discovering a joyful loving connection to him. I think the speaking in different kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues is probably often given by the Spirit for this kind of bringing together. It involves a seeing at a primal, profound level that you can be freely yourself before God, and that he is present to the deepest core part of you.

You may notice that spiritual gifts are sometimes hard to separate from natural abilities. Of course! In fact, I’d argue that this is the only way it could be, if the scriptures bear true witness to the nature of God. The Holy Spirit is described by Jesus as the paraclete – the one who comes alongside. The Spirit comes alongside of us and empowers to do what we can’t necessarily do on our own, but what we can most assuredly do in cooperation with him. Doesn’t that sound like Love? Doesn’t that sound like a God who cares about relationship and has created a universe that is fundamentally relational? Doesn’t that sound like a God who revealed himself in Jesus as a divinely incarnated human being? Wouldn’t anything beyond that actually be less?

Which is why spiritual gifts can be exercised in all areas of life – work, raising family, personal relationships, art, music, the political sphere, business, caring for creation, social justice, community development, sports, and on and on.

We could go on, but perhaps we should stop here, for now. We’ve just scratched the surface, in truth. But for today, for this series, we’ll conclude by asking ourselves a couple of questions.

Do we want to be part of the bringing together that God is doing in the world? In ourselves? In our relationships, personal, family and community relationships alike?

Then we would do well to receive and begin to exercise the gifts that the Spirit has for us. We would do well to invite the Spirit to help us see in the particular ways that will give us the most life in God, and will allow us to share that life most freely with the world around us. This is where so much of the fun is to be had in the life Jesus has made possible for us.

You have been given gifts. The Spirit is at work helping you see. Don’t imagine that you are hopelessly blind to the reality of your self or others or God or the world around you because of your own brokenness or inadequacy or flaws. The gifts of the Spirit are for you out of the incredible favor of God, freely given to you. You get to be part of the team. You get to play.

Use the gifts you’ve been given. Don’t be like the doctor who can see the diagnosis and says nothing. Or who can see the cure and does nothing. Put all of your talents and training and resources into exercising the gifts the Spirit is giving you; there is no better investment of those things, because the wind of heaven is at your back when you point your energies in the direction that the Spirit’s revealing leads you. The more you cooperate with the Spirit’s gifts, the more your confidence will grow in how the Spirit is blessing you in God’s great Bringing Together, and the more freely you will play in heaven’s playground.


Practical suggestions:

1. Get help identifying your gifts. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you one of your gifts, one of the ways he seems to help you see. Still feel in the dark? Ask someone in the church to help you. Others often have eyes to see us more clearly than we see ourselves.

2. Practice using one of your gifts in the service of the church.

12…Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

1 Corinthians 14

The gifts are given for the bringing together of the whole world, in every nook and cranny, but the church is the place where we learn, practice, give and receive feedback, grow together in the way of Jesus. Plus, if the church is built up through the gifts, than together we can exercise them even more effectively for the blessing of the whole world.

Summer of the Spirit // Gifts, part 1


sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 06/27/2014

video available at
podcast here:
or via iTunes here:


Spiritual gifts. They are our topic this week (and next) in our Summer of the Spirit series. Big picture, what are spiritual gifts? Practically speaking, how do they work? What role to do they play as we grow to experience more life in God?


Spiritual gifts can seem so... well, so spiritual.

We get the idea of talents – the product of genetics, environment, and training. Talents are amazing to witness, and wonderful to possess, but they aren’t magic. We’ll even call them gifts, especially if they appear at young age, or seem to be connected to genetics and internal wiring even more than practice. Wow, she is a gifted athlete! Or, he has some incredible musical gifting. As in, a gift from God, or nature, or parents or whatever.

But spiritual gifts – I don’t know, say something more generally regarded as spiritual, like healing, or sensitivity to extra-dimensional realities, or prophetic-type stuff, or really profound wisdom, maybe – they land in a different category. Disconnected from the natural world somehow, separate from our genetics and environments and even training. Like someone got zapped somehow, or brushed up against something and caught it like a cold, or who knows, maybe even some kind of spiritual experience in the womb or on a mountain top where they were touched by God or an angel.

As we've said over and over this summer, the Holy Spirit isn't magic. Supernatural, yes. Powerful, yes. A mystery, even. But not magic.

I think mystery is a fundamental aspect of our experience as human beings. Mystery is meant to invite us in, to cause us to wrestle and probe, to engage with it and reward us in the engagement. It’s not meant to cause us to leave it alone and write it off as something we’ll never understand anyway, so why bother?

What are the implications of that for our understanding of spiritual gifts? How might we be rewarded if we wrestle with the mystery of spiritual gifts? What might we see when we look below the surface?


Recall how, in Luke 11, Jesus contrasts the world we’ve known and grown up in with the kingdom of the heavens that is breaking in to our world through him? He says we’ve begun our lives “under evil.”

Beginning under evil, the rule of fear, has distorted our vision of our world, ourselves, one another, and God. We see a world of scarcity, of not-enough, where we have to fight for our survival. We see ourselves as on our own, needing to present an image of strength, to use our power to get ahead, or at least to win the favor of those that can help us get ahead, far enough ahead until we feel secure. We see others as either competitors or allies, to be resisted or supported depending on their inclinations towards us. We see God in much the same way, if we see him at all – he is simply a more mysterious and powerful other, one who condemns us for our flaws, and whom we would do best avoiding, or perhaps he is an ally, if we can do the right things to remain in his favor. Our lives are characterized by striving, by shame, by the disintegration that comes from wearing many masks, by perfectionism and numbing busyness, by addictions and other escapes, by violence, by anxiety, by stress.


Into that broken world, our world, steps Jesus, the beloved one of a kind son of the living God, wearing our flesh, our blood running through his veins, our suffering and temptations his daily companions. He announces, embodies, and demonstrates a new and different world under the authority of Love, the kingdom of God. This announcing, embodying and demonstrating is empowered by God’s Holy Spirit, the non-material, energetically animating personal presence of the living God who is Love. Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, helps us see (and creatively brings into present reality) a world of enough, ruled by a God who favors and forgives us, who invites us to be his children and bring our needs to him, day by day, for him to address for the sake of his glory. And Jesus promises us that after his work reaches its fulfilment in his death and resurrection, he will send that same Holy Spirit to all of us, for the purpose of bringing us into the full freedom of the children of God that he enjoys.

Jesus follows through on that promise, as he does on every promise, and 50 days after his death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit is released in Jerusalem, and from there all across the planet.


So here we are, human beings set free from anxiety and shame by the gift of the Holy Spirit, learning to live as children of our loving Father in the heavens, bringing our needs to God day after day for him to address, waiting in faith for his responses, and experiencing the fruit that comes from that well-directed investment of energy and faith: love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. It’s sweet fruit, life-giving, and filled with seeds poised to multiply.

That’s not all there is to the Holy Spirit, though. That’s just the beginning. What comes next are the gifts of the Spirit.


12 Now about the gifts of the Spirit [spiritual things], brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.


4There are different kinds of giftssy [Greek: charisma], but the same Spirit distributes them. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working [effects], but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.


7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good [Greek: symphero; to bear or bring together]. 8To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians


Let’s start relatively simply, by defining gifts. The word in Greek is charisma, which has come to mean, in English, a kind of compelling attractiveness or charm that causes people to feel attracted to or inspired by someone. At the time this was written to the Jesus followers in Corinth, in the first century, charisma meant a gift of grace, freely given.

This is significant mainly because it means that these spiritual gifts, whatever they are, aren’t the sort of thing a human being earns from God through earnest, disciplined effort, or great devotion, or anything like that.

Some gifts are like that in our world, aren’t they? If we accomplish something – graduating with honors, making someone happy with our efforts, pooping on the potty – it’s not uncommon to be rewarded with a gift. Or some gifts come with strings attached; you can have this, as long as you _______. [Trumpet/iPad examples]

The spiritual gifts described in the Bible are different. They are gifts of grace, freely given. It appears God gives them because of his favor towards us as his children, pure and simple, no strings attached. You can’t earn or achieve a spiritual gift, and it’s not conditionally given. (Experience tells us that we can strengthen or develop the gifts the Spirit distributes to us by exercising them faithfully, but that’s a topic for another day.)

All of which makes sense, seeing as gifts of the Spirit are a defining feature of the world under the rule of Love. Love is characterized by giving and receiving (activities of free persons), not by taking and earning (activities of the unfree).

This text also suggests a couple of other defining features of these gifts given through the Spirit.


First, there are a variety of gifts.

4There are different kinds of gifts…different kinds of service…different kinds of working…

This particular list includes messages of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in languages, interpreting those languages. (This list is suggestive of the breadth of variety, but not at all comprehensive. There are others listed in other parts of the New Testament, and experience tells us that the number of gifts could be as infinite as there are human beings and ways in which grace can be used in Love’s employ.)


Secondly, everyone gets gifts.

7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given…to one…to another…to another…to another…to still another…to another….to another…to another…to still another…

Perhaps yours remains in its packaging, unopened. Perhaps you’ve left it in the basement, gathering dust. Perhaps you haven’t noticed in your own life the gifts that you see in another person, and you imagine that means you don’t have any gifts, or as many gifts. Regardless. Everyone gets gifts from the Spirit. You, particularly you, included.

Maybe today is the day you awaken to their presence and receive them.


Thirdly, the gifts of the Spirit are distributed by the Spirit as the Spirit sees fit.

11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Which means we can desire gifts, and ask for gifts, but we don’t necessarily get to pick (unless, of course, the Spirit invites you to pick). It’s a gift, after all. The Spirit has good purposes in his gift, both for the individual to whom the gift is given, and for the “common good.” Literally, for the “bringing together.” Whatever that might mean.

Which brings us to a fourth defining feature of spiritual gifts.

Spiritual gifts have a purpose; they are for something.

Something having to do with a “bringing together.”


7…the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good [Greek: symphero; to bear or bring together].

After all, this is the work and agenda of Love, isn’t it? To bring together what fear has driven apart. To make whole that which has been broken. Isn’t the good news of God’s kingdom that the Father is reconciling his estranged children to him again, his lavish forgiveness bringing together a family torn apart by sin? Ending the exile of humanity from God, of earth from the heavens?

Is yours a gift of wisdom empowered by the Holy Spirit? It is given to you to be exercised for the bringing together of dis-integrated people, for the bringing together of fractured, anxious communities, for the bringing together of fearful people and the Loving God, for the bringing together of the place where God dwells and the places that have suffered so much under our failure to bear His image.

Is yours a gift of knowledge? Faith? Healing? Miracles? Prophecy? Tongues? Interpretation? It is given to you for the same purpose, by the same Spirit, under the authority of the same Lord, to have the same effect that true Love always has. To do good in this world. To bring together. To reconcile all of creation to Christ.


Now, perhaps, is as good a time as any to ask the question – how do these gifts actually work? Is it some kind of supernatural ability, almost like in the matrix where Neo could hook himself up to a Kung Fu module and suddenly be a Kung Fu master? Is it more like some kind of magic amulet that doesn’t actually become part of you, but that you have possession of and can pull out and use when needed, like the Ring of power that Bilbo and Frodo had?

Let me offer to you my understanding, recognizing that we are dealing with mystery here, and confessing that I’ve been dissatisfied with most of the literature I’ve read on the subject, because most of it sounds to me like religious mumbo jumbo. And also acknowledging that what I’m about to say may just sound like a fresh variation on religious mumbo jumbo. But at the very least it’s been helpful to me.

I believe spiritual gifts are a continuation of one of the primary works of the Holy Spirit in human beings; namely, that the Holy Spirit helps us see. See in the broadest, deepest sense – to perceive, understand, make connections, put it all together and apprehend what reality truly is.

We know from the scriptures that the Holy Spirit helps us see who God is, who we are, who others are, the truth of the good news, and on and on. This is an essential activity of God’s Spirit, because love and sight go hand in hand. We love God when we see him for who he really is. We love ourselves when we see ourselves truly. When we really see another, we find ourselves loving them. And it’s a two way street. When we love, we see even more clearly – because fear is absent in the presence of love, and fear always distorts sight. Which is why the scriptures describe the Enemy as someone who blinds, who puts people in darkness. And why Jesus is described as the light of the world.

Notice a detail in the first paragraph of 1 Corinthians 12.


3Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

When we look at Jesus without the seeing that the Holy Spirit empowers, we see a failed revolutionary executed by the Roman Empire and succeeded by a group of deluded, fanatical followers. A poor man hung naked and publicly humiliated on a makeshift tree, with a legacy of crazy to his name. Jesus of Nazareth is a false messiah under the curse of God.

But when we see him empowered by the seeing that the Spirit of God brings, we see everything differently. We see love triumphing over evil in the humble, vulnerable obedience of the innocent victim. We see, in Jesus’ resurrection, God raising a servant to the position of king over the universe. We see the brutal violent Roman Empire, in service of the prince of this world, having spent its worst on him, to no avail. We see that Jesus, not Caesar or any other power, is Lord. The author is arguing that no one can see that and say, as a result, Jesus is Lord, except by the seeing the Holy Spirit brings.

There’s more to say on this, but we’ll save it for next week as we conclude our Summer of the Spirit series.

For now, some practical suggestions.


1. Green-light God’s Gifts. Give God permission to give you the gifts he desires for you by expressing a willingness to receive them. “Father, I receive whatever you desire to give me. I trust that you see me, and you see what I need and what will bring me life and joy, and you see what bringing-together you want me to be a part of in the world around me.”


2. Summer Reading Assignment: Read John 9-11 in light of 1 Corinthians 12:3. Picture Jesus as a human being whom the Spirit has gifted with sight. Imagine him doing and saying everything he is saying not as some divine power, but as a vulnerable human able to see by the gifting of the Spirit. Notice who else in the passages are receiving the Spirit’s gift of sight, and who are clinging to their own sight. Notice who experiences fear and anxiety, and who experiences peace. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see as you read.

Summer of the Spirit // Fruit


sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 07/20/2014

video available at
podcast here:
or via iTunes here:


Recently, the podcast Radiolab featured a fascinating story called 9-Volt Nirvana about the surprising effects of electrical stimulation to targeted areas of the brain. Seemingly without effort, people were able to learn markedly faster, entering a state they describe as "flow." Like learning to be a sniper. Or to see those 3d pictures where you have to focus your eyes just right. And there were other effects as well, maybe even more interesting. Sally Adee, an editor at New Scientist who underwent military simulation training with an M4 assault rifle using this technique, describes what she experienced afterwards….

[full radiolab program here]


Of course, this is a relatively unexplored field of study – there’s a lot that hasn’t been verified, and a ton that isn’t understood about it; if you’re skeptical about all of this, you’re probably in very good company. But I think Sally’s experience might shine some remarkable light on some things we’ve been talking about when it comes to the way the Holy Spirit works in us, when it comes to growing to experience more life, as we’ve been talking about in our Summer of the Spirit series. In particular, there are a couple of things I’d like to draw out of this account, to point our attention towards as we move in a few minutes to the Bible passage that will be our primary text today.


“I was just this person that I hadn’t experienced before…maybe this is just the actual core person who I am when all my baggage isn’t weighing on me. It was like someone had wiped a really steamy window, and I was able to look at the world for what it was.”

The first thing to note is the variety of interesting parallels between what this electrical stimulation did for Sally, and what the scriptures teach us about what the Holy Spirit does.


The experience of being set free from anxiety.

The real Sally emerging.

Being able to see reality as it really is.

All three interrelated, working together for freedom, for joy, for life. Just like we’ve talked about with the Holy Spirit, nothing had changed in Sally’s external circumstances, and yet all of sudden, her experience of life was radically altered. She was free, clear-eyed, alive.

Of course, the effects of the electricity wore off, so it was only temporary, but perhaps even that is illuminating – the Holy Spirit, the non-material, energetically animating, person presence of God, seems to be the sort of thing Jesus’ followers are to ask for day after day, like we ask for food.


And even the power connection might be revealing. The Holy Spirit is referred to over and over with the Greek word dunamis, meaning power – it’s where we get our English word dynamite.

The second thing to note is that all of the good results Sally experienced were not the product of her strenuous efforts. She didn’t try harder to learn. She didn’t try harder to not be anxious. She didn’t try harder to see her actual core self. She wasn’t even the one who’d wiped the really steamy window clearer.

Don’t get me wrong, she’d really exerted herself in different ways along the way. She’d gone through quite a bit to fly from London to L.A. to get hooked up to the tDCS (trans-cranial direct current stimulation) equipment. It had taken courage and vulnerability to allow herself to be hooked up to it. She’d cooperated with instructions she was given. But at the end of the day, her efforts weren’t directed towards the positive experiences she was having. Those good things were the happy result of the other things to which she’d given her energies.

And this dynamic, too, seems to be the case with the remarkable transformation that the Holy Spirit brings about in us as we follow the way of Jesus together.

Let’s look at Galatians 5 to see what I’m talking about.


19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.


22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Big picture, what’s happening here is that Paul is explaining to the people following Jesus in Galatia that there are two competing approaches to life, one of which has all kinds of negative outcomes, and another which has all kinds of positive outcomes. And Paul, obviously, is advocating for the one that results in love, joy, peace, etc.


The first approach Paul describes in Greek as the “ergon ho sarx.” Literally, the work of the flesh, translated in our bibles as the “acts of the sinful nature.”

Basically, he’s saying that when we are living in a world ruled by fear (you may remember how we saw Jesus describing it last week, “beginning under evil”), when we buy into the story that fear tells, we learn to play by fear’s rules. We think we are on our own, that our survival depends on us, that we’ve got fight and claw and get whatever we need in competition with everyone else around us. Sure, maybe we get civilized about it all, so it doesn’t look so primitively violent, but even then we are just masking our vulnerability so that others can’t see our weakness, trying to win the approval of others so that we can be more secure around them, gaining their help in surviving. Either way, it’s a lot of work, constantly being on guard, constantly fighting through anxiety and protecting ourselves from perceived threats. All of that shapes our embodied selves (our flesh – brains and emotions and reflexes and bodies, even our social structures) in such a way that what living from that approach results in – the work or acts of that flesh – is sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Paul’s not actually saying anyone living in the world ruled by fear has put all their energies into doing those things, but rather that anyone living in the world ruled by fear who puts their energies into trying to survive by playing by fear’s rules, buying into fear’s story, will find that those things are the end result.

Perhaps we can identify with that. Perhaps that’s what life ends up looking like when the anxiety gnomes get the last word, when there is so much steam on the window that we can’t see clearly anymore. Perhaps it’s hard to even see who we are, at core, anymore, so dis-integrated are we from all the masks we’ve had to put on in one setting after another, just to survive.


But then Paul contrasts that approach to life with another approach. Not life that springs from the flesh, but life that is driven by the wind of the Spirit. A wind that blows not from the world ruled by fear, but rather that blows from the heavens, from the world ruled by Love, the kingdom of God.

When we are living by the Spirit, we are living surrounded by the living, breathing presence of God. A God who favors and forgives us. A God who announces, through the incarnated witness of his beloved son, Jesus of Nazareth, good news. Good news that fear has been telling lies. Good news that our vulnerability isn’t something we have to cover in shame, but rather something that he enters into with love. Good news that our needs don’t put us on the outside of his favor, but rather draw us into relationship with him in the way that the needs of children draw them into relationship with their parents. Good news that he is doing something about the evil that we began under, that he’s defeated it, putting it on the run, and that he’s going to have the last word. Good news that we don’t have to fight for our survival, but rather bring our needs to him in trust, and wait for him to act on our behalf. Good news that is evidenced by the presence of the living God, right here with us now, in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Paul says that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Notice that fruit is a very different word than work. The world under fear is full of laborious, back-breaking work. The kind of labor into which slaves are forced. But the world under Love is full of a different kind of labor – the labor of organic growth. The kind that a plant does when it produces fruit. (And not surprisingly, a lot like the kind of work involved in the other ways Jesus describes God’s kingdom growing: yeast working through dough, a seed buried in the ground and growing into a tree.)

After all, what is fruit?


fruit / froot / (n) the ripened ovaries of a flowering plant, often sweet

Fruit looks beautiful, seems to come out of nowhere as delightful surprise, often tastes sweet, brings nourishment and energy, and carries seeds of life in it.


Isn’t that like love? Joy? Peace? Patience? Kindness? Goodness? Faithfulness? Gentleness? Self-control?

Which is astounding and beautiful and wonderful all by itself. Lending some appeal and credibility to the story that Jesus tells about the world and the salvation he brings.

But where does the rubber meet the road? How do we get in on this fruit? How do we live by the Spirit instead of the flesh? What does that mean, practically speaking? Tomorrow morning, for example, what do we actually do?

The temptation is to say that what we actually do is resolve to work hard at doing the things in list 2 and avoiding the things in list 1. To strive to love, and have joy, and be kind, and faithful, and self-controlled, and so on and so forth. To strive to avoid sexual immorality and hatred and selfish ambition and envy and so on and so forth.

No! Say “No!” to that temptation.

That’s the flesh talking. Our brains and bodies and emotions and social systems and all the rest have developed, grown up in, been shaped by this world under the spell of evil, and what the flesh drives us to do is to strive for the wrong things with good motivations. The flesh knows it can enslave us just as well that way as it can by getting us to strive for the right things with bad motivations, or for the wrong things with wrong motivations.


What the Spirit drives us to do is very different. It nudges us awake with the awareness that God is near, with favor and forgiveness. It nudges to open our eyes to the reality of our neediness, and helps us see God’s longing to meet us with help. It nudges us to courage to bring our needs to him in faith. It waits with us as we wait for God’s response, sharing with us in, and empowering us for, the hard, hard work of waiting. It helps us see his goodness all around us in the gift of life right here right now, building our faith in his promise of future provision. It tells us a truer story about our lives to date, revealing to us God’s hand along the way, showing us that we were, in fact, never alone, and that Fear is a liar, a fraud, and a cheat.

As we receive the Spirit’s presence (by which I mean, simply, that we say yes to him, that we give him permission to be present), and respond to the Spirit’s nudges (by which I mean, simply, that we bring our needs to God to address, every one of them, as we become aware of them), and fill our eyes and minds with the truth the Spirit shows us (by which I mean, simply, that we discipline ourselves to give attention to the stories around us that Love is telling), it’s like someone has sent an electrical charge through our cranium. The anxiety is diminished. Our true selves, in Christ, emerge as the weight of the baggage is lifted. The fog and confusion around us are wiped away.

And then, lo and behold, what starts to show up…surprising, sweet tasting, nourishing and energizing, loaded with life-carrying seeds?


Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

All the ways of living that make perfect sense in light of the good news of the kingdom. All the ways of living that bring life to the trees rooted by streams of living water which are bearing the Spirit’s fruit.

The organic, (super) natural result of the Spirit. Not the result of effort or striving – except the effort of trusting in God, of asking him for help with our needs.

Which suggests an important clarification.

Have you noticed how you can spend extraordinary amounts of energy in both work and play? How you can have the bad pain of broken muscle and torn tissue that threatens to keep you from working again? Or the good pain of hard play and exercise that strengthens you for a lifetime of joyful exertion? And how one kind of expenditure of energy can drain you of life and one can fill you up?

Life lived by the Holy Spirit can be just as demanding and strenuous and filled with suffering as life lived by the flesh. Perhaps even moreso, if Christ Jesus’ example is any indication. But that’s where the similarities end. Because a life lived by the Spirit directs its energy into asking and waiting and obeying in trust, not into trying to survive on its own. A life lived by the Spirit is like an investment of energy with an incredible rate of return, rather than a spending of energy on a cheaply made product which proves unusable and toxic to boot. A life lived by the Spirit produces fruit that brings life and growth to everyone in its orbit, rather than sucking the life out of everyone with the misfortune to rub shoulders with it.

It’s because energy expended in slavery squeezes the life out of a person. But energy expended in freedom brings growth. The way of freedom is the way of the Spirit. And the way of the Spirit is the way of Jesus, the way of courageous vulnerability, bringing one’s needs to God for him to address, day after day after day. You want to be loving? Start by asking God for the Spirit, and for help with your needs. You want joy? Start by asking God for the Spirit, and for help with your needs. Peace? Same thing. Patience? Kindness? Goodness? Faithfulness? Gentleness? Self-Control? Start by asking God for the Spirit, and for help with your needs.


Practical Suggestion:

3 Minute Spiritual Exercise.

Minute 1: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see the connections between fear and the works of the flesh in your life. To show you the needs you have that the enemy suggested to you that you had to meet on your own, because if you didn’t take care of it on your own, your needs wouldn’t be met.

Minute 2: Ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of his presence right now, here, in this place. To make you aware of God’s love for you. His favor towards you. His forgiveness for any and all of your flaws and failings and shortcomings. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the good news that Jesus gets the last word on everything, and that the last word sounds like resurrection, not death.

Minute 3: Now ask your Dad in the Heavens for more of his Spirit. And bring your needs to him – especially the ones that fear likes to tell you bad stories about. One after the other. Dad, I/we need ________________, and I/we need your help with it.

Now close with this prayer of faith: Father, Jesus told us that you know what we need before we even ask. And he told us that we are your children, and that you know how to give good gifts to your children. So we wait now, trusting that you will address our needs with your good gifts. Thanks, Dad.

Summer of the Spirit // Ask


sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 07/13/2014

video available at
podcast here:
or via iTunes here:


A quick recap of the Summer of the Spirit; lots of Holy Spirit big ideas so far, etc.

· Growing our capacity to experience more life.


· Enabling each of us to be the same person everywhere, all the time, with everyone, because our source of life is internal and independent of our external circumstances.


· Increasing our security, confidence in God’s love and favor, transforming and freeing us at a core level to live in love and joy and faith, instead of in anxiety and the posturing, sword-wielding and hiding that goes along with it.


· Empowering us to be self-differentiated, non-anxious, loving presences in our communities, creatively participating in Jesus’ liberation of the world from the grip of fear and tyranny of anxious systems.

Going to make it a little smaller, more personal today.


The Holy Spirit’s pretty great. But how do I get it? Or more of it? Not that that’s even the right way to say it – I mean, I know the Holy Spirit is a person, God himself, and all that… Seriously, is there actually something I can do to experience in real life what we’ve been talking about? Because if I knew what it was, I’d probably do it.

Yes, there is something you can actually do.


You can ask.

As in, ask God to give you his Holy Spirit.

No, it isn’t rocket science.

It’s less complex than rocket science. And math free. But way harder.

Because rocket science feels like something we can control, master, get a handle on, with enough work. Which is a really good feeling for most of us. It feels safe.

Asking feels....well asking feels different for each of us, because we’ve all had different experiences with asking (and the kinds of responses we’ve gotten along the way). But at the end of the day, asking sets in motion a process that we aren’t in control of anymore.

Which isn’t our favorite feeling. It makes us feel vulnerable.

And asking is an admission of vulnerability. Which is terrifying for lots of us.

As a pastor, I hear lots of stories of people asking God for things. And lots of stories of them reporting God responding to their requests. Big requests and small. Parking spots. Good deals on stuff at the mall. Tickets to be available to the game. Pink Cadillac’s (seriously!). Growing to 6 feet tall. Weather. Finding lost things. Lost pets. Success or guidance with business or work. Jobs. Spouses. Healing from serious health problems, addictions. Healing from colds and bumps and bruises. Restoration of relationships. And on and on and on.

What’s going on with these stories? Does God really care about the little stuff, what with all the more serious stuff going on in the world? What about the things that seem worse than trivial, maybe falling in the category of sinful or unhealthy? Was it even God, or just things attributed to God, but actually coincidence or heaven forbid, the devil himself? I don’t know. Obviously. As if I get that kind of info.


But I’d recommend a perspective that makes room for those stories to be true in a way that strikes me as consistent with the God revealed in Jesus. And that perspective is this. God wants us to bring our needs to him to address. All of them. It’s at the very heart of faith. So much so, that I can imagine him addressing all kinds of needs out his love for us in such a way that might seem surprising to us. I can imagine him helping someone find the right 10 million dollar home of their dreams, for a million dollars below listing price, in order to teach them to bring every need that matters to them to him for him to address. Because for that person, their current step in discipleship was all about learning to bring their needs to God to address. And yes, you getting that parking spot maybe means someone else isn’t – someone else who is now frustrated and late. But I can imagine God is creative enough to sort out the details when two people ask for the same parking spot. And more than that, I can imagine him being so interested in someone’s growth as an asker that he would reward even the most trivial asks to demonstrate his desire to be engaged with a person. Simply because if God can develop that kind of faith in human beings, foster that kind of relationship with us, everything else can come along for the ride.

And because if that never develops in us, if we keep trying to meet all our needs on our own, out of the fear of embracing our vulnerability and need, we’re doomed.

Luke 11 is our text today. We looked at a brief portion of this on Father’s day, but now we’ll expand our view a bit.


11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

2He said to them, “When you pray, say:


“ ‘Father,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come.

3Give us each day our daily bread.

4Forgive us our sins,

for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

And lead us not into temptation.’ ”


5Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.


9“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.

11“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”


We could summarize this section of Jesus teaching this way: When Jesus’ disciples ask him to teach them to talk to God, Jesus tells them to ask God to address all of their needs. And, maybe most importantly, he tells them that what they need most of all, and what they should ask for most of all, perhaps, in fact, what he asks for and receives most of all from God, is the Holy Spirit.

But summaries flatten all the details, and it’s in the details that the shape, texture, and power of Jesus’ teaching are revealed. Shape, texture, and power that are sometimes the difference between being impressed and being changed. So let’s dig in.



It all starts with Father, and ends with Father.

Father is to whom we speak when we pray.

And it’s our Father in the heavens who gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

Asking is not some spiritual formula for succeeding in life, in other words. This is a relationship, a personal, child to parent relationship. Which means being a human being is really all about being a child with a father.

Teach us to pray, the disciples say. Teach us to do the thing that you do all the time that seems to be so much at the center of who you are and how you live and how you do what do and experience things the way you experience them.

I’m a kid, and God’s my dad. So I go to him for help with everything I need. And you can too, if you’d like to. I know he’d really like you to. Because you’re a kid too. And God’s your dad, too.

It all starts with a Father and ends with a Father.

Growing to experience more life.

Being the same person everywhere, all the time, with everyone.

Being secure, confident in God’s love and favor, transformed and free at a core level to live in love and joy and faith.

Being a self-differentiated, non-anxious, loving presence in your communities, creatively participating in the liberation of the world from the grip of fear and tyranny of anxious systems.

We kids need our dad for any of that to happen.

Jesus goes on.


Hallowed be your name. In other words, Dad, we want you to have a great reputation – the greatest of anyone, anywhere.

So that when people think of you, they’d say, now that’s someone who’s proven himself capable of greatness and power beyond our imagination. So that when people think of you, they think, now that’s someone we can count on in any kind of jam we ever find ourselves in. So that when they think of you, they think, now that’s someone who loves us so much, he’d do anything for us.


Your kingdom come.

In other words, we kids want our world to be ruled by you, by Love, not by the current prince of this world, by Fear. Because when it’s ruled by fear we’re all fighting for ourselves, for survival, and it’s ugly and brutal and violent and discouraging and lonely and ultimately futile. But when you’re in charge, when Love rules, together we can share our needs with you, and ask you for help, and share our needs with one another, and help one another.


Give us each day our daily bread.

In other words, we’re kids with needs. Lots of them. The kind that at best we can satisfy for a little while before they crop right up again. Like we need bread, food. Subsistence. Protection. Affection. And on and on. All the way to identity and freedom. So we’re coming to dad, saying, Dad, can you help us with this stuff? We’ve got so many needs, and so many desires, we can’t even sort out all the time what we actually need to make it through today. You’re our dad; we trust you to take care of us.


Forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone who sins against us.

In other words, us kids realize we’re deeply flawed, broken, confused. We’ve gotten off track with ourselves, and others, and you, and we get off track all the time, it seems like. That terrifies us, because in the world we grew up in, the world ruled by Fear, most of the time when our flaws get exposed it means we’re out. It means we aren’t worthy of belonging anymore, because we look like damaged goods unlikely to help anyone else survive. So we’re pretty harsh on ourselves and on everyone around us, and it doesn’t seem like it’s really done anyone any good, even though at the time it seems like the only right thing to do. Would you forgive us? Embrace us, make our belonging with you secure, in spite of our flaws and brokenness? Then we can do the same with each other. Together we can put an end to this Shame business. And get on with love.


And lead us not into the trial. (Note the misleading translation of peirasmon as “temptation.” Peirasmon is probably better understood as “trial”.)

As a general rule, as kids, there are things bigger than we are, that are more than we can face successfully. This is a basic reality of being a vulnerable mortal alive in this world. So one of our basic needs is to avoid such things. Trusting that if in fact we must face such a thing, our Father will have some good purpose for it, and find some way to put us back together afterwards. As he did, in Jesus’ case.

That’s it, all of our needs as vulnerable, flawed human beings, presented to our heavenly Father to address.

Which, as we noted earlier, is difficult for us to do. Because to ask for help with our needs means our next step is to wait on God. Wait for his response to our request. Wait and see how he’ll address our needs. Receive whatever he has for us. That’s hard. That’s a vulnerable place to be!

And it’s hard because to even say we are kids coming to our Father for help is to admit we are vulnerable in this world. Vulnerability is so terrifying we spend most of our time trying to hide the fact, even from our selves.


Jesus gets how hard this is, so he tells this next story to encourage us. The one about going to the friend at midnight, asking for bread for a friend that has arrived after a long journey. What’s the key line here? “…and I have nothing to set before him.”

This is an admission of need, isn’t it? Of lack. Of the inability to provide on one’s own for one’s friend. This is vulnerability.

At the same time, it’s also picture of real abundance in the face of need. You don’t have bread for your friend, but you do have a friend with bread. And in the end, having a friend with bread, and having the courage to ask, and keep on asking, is all you really need.

Jesus’ point, which he makes a little later, of course is that God is more even than a friend to us. He’s a Father, and a good father at that, one delighted to give us good gifts.

But the point within the point is that there is no getting around asking. Ask. Ask. Ask. This is the relationship between us kids and our Father. And this is the relationship between us kids and each other. Vulnerable before each other. And well provided for.

Finally, let’s notice this, right at the end. The last sentence.


If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.


If you then, beginning under evil (translated again, unhelpfully, “though you are evil”)…

In other words, if we, who have grown up in the world where Fear rules, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Father, the one who lives in the heavens, where Love rules, give the Holy Spirit to us when we ask.


Because when we ask, addressing God as Father, we need the Holy Spirit to see him as Father and to see ourselves as his children.


For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Romans 8v14-16


And when we ask for God’s name to be hallowed, we need the Holy Spirit to see him as someone who loves us, to whom we can bring our needs to be addressed, so that he can be glorified in answering our needs. Because that’s how God’s name is made great: in coming through for people who wait on him.


Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

Isaiah 64v4


We need the Holy Spirit in order to pray for our daily bread too, and for forgiveness, and to be spared the trial – all of our weaknesses…


In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Romans 8v26

The whole of the life of faith begins here, with the Holy Spirit letting us see the truth of our neediness, the truth of our Father’s love, and reminding us of everything Jesus taught us about bringing our needs to our Father to address. And out of that experience of his forgiveness (the end of our exile, the reality of his embrace of us despite our sin, because of the saving work of Jesus on the cross) and provision, we come to our heavenly Father with our needs, he addresses them, and we grow up, step by step by step, more and more under the rule of love. At ease with our vulnerable nature – because we’re not naked in the garden any more, we’re clothed with power from on high! – and at ease with each other – because we have no need of judgment but rather a call to love, something we can do even more profoundly when we are at ease with our own vulnerable nature – and at ease with God himself, because we have been adopted as sons and daughters through the Holy Spirit.

Listen to Jesus, as we close.

All this I have spoken while still with you. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”


John 14v25-27

And it all begins by asking for the Holy Spirit. And waiting, that most vulnerable form of worship, for our heavenly Father to respond.


Practical Suggestion:

1. Pick 6 and Ask. The first 6 needs that come to mind, each morning. I’d recommend at least 3 are your own personal needs. Write them down. Then pray, “Dad, would you address these needs for me/us? And I want your Holy Spirit. As much as you know that I need today.” And then wait.

2. Keep at it. Do this until your natural response when you come into awareness of a need is to bring it to God to address. And to ask for the Holy Spirit when you feel the anxiety that usually accompanies an awareness of need.