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Where the Spirit of the Lord Is

Where the Spirit of the Lord Is

by Jim McGuiggan

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Overview

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if we developed a reverent but joyful intimacy with the Person who has existed in eternal, holy, and loving communion with the Father and the Son?" So asks Jim McGuiggan as he invites you to allow the Spirit to take up residence in your heart and transform your life. Discussions on the Holy Spirit range from the sensational to the sterile. But McGuiggan approaches this vast and somewhat mysterious subject with warmth, scholarship, and stories of human beings touched by the Eternal Spirit of God. Once you start reading McGuiggan, you'll want to find a quiet spot and stay awhile. Third in a trilogy by Jim McGuiggan, this richly written book will enhance your knowledge of the Holy Spirit and inspire you to allow Him to work more and more in your daily life. McGuiggan's short, poignant chapters will lead you to a deeper understanding of life lived in the Spirit.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451665680
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication date: 09/02/2011
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Jim McGuiggan, a powerful speaker and seasoned writer, has written numerous inspirational books, including The God of the Towel, Jesus the Hero of Thy Soul, Where the Spirit of the Lord Is . . . , Let Me Count the Ways, and Celebrating the Wrath of God. Born in Belfast, Ireland, McGuiggan has studied and taught the Bible in America at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Since he and his wife of 44 years, Ethel, returned to Ireland, he has worked with a congregation of God's people outside of Belfast.

Read an Excerpt

Where the Spirit of the Lord Is


By Jim Mcguiggan

Howard Books

Copyright © 1999 Jim Mcguiggan
All right reserved.



Introduction

Escaping the Spirit?

        What the psalmist said is true: There's

nowhere we can run to escape the Holy Spirit. And if we unconsciously replace him with

rich words like "providence" or "grace" or "faith," we make

a poor trade.

        W. E. Sangster observed: "Among some

schools of Protestant thought, grace is the substitute for the Holy Spirit. . . . They

speak of being 'fortified by grace' and 'enabled by grace' and even

'inspired by grace.' It cannot be denied; . . . we could find some justification

. . . for this wide use of the word 'grace.' But even that cannot justify the

virtual (if unconscious) substitution of grace for the Holy Ghost. He fortifies. He

enables. He inspires."

        In any case, those who have been called to

God's side and nurtured by that Spirit don't really want to escape him or

minimize his role. To realize that the Spirit is and has been intimately involved in every

phase of the self-revelation of God can only do us good and make us even more thankful.

        Besides, it isn't safe to leave all talk

about the Holy Spirit to those who are regarded as sensationalists. It's when we make

a taboo out of a subject of central importance that it springs backwith power at the

first opportunity and becomes the only truth some believers want to talk about.

        While I'm sure that's true,

that's not the reason we want to have a rich understanding of the Spirit's

person and work. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we developed a reverent but joyful

intimacy with the Person who has existed in eternal, holy, and loving communion with the

Father and the Son? How could it not be of incalculable benefit?

        What follows is a very modest attempt to help

us think more often, and with gratitude, about the Holy Spirit who brings us all the rich

blessings of God, which are mediated to us in Jesus Christ.

 

ONE

The Spirit and Mr. Hyde

        In Robert Louis Stevenson's riveting Dr.

Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a caring doctor drinks a poison and becomes monstrous.

Tragically, in real life we've seen our children drink at the wrong fountains and

turn back to us with their eyes forever changed.

But where the Spirit of the Lord is we don't need to worry about the kind of

transformation that will take place--it'll be from death to life and then from

glory to glory.

        We've seen that in many lives, too,

haven't we? Dead men walking with soulless eyes--changed! Happy pagans with no

time for God or man--changed! Spoiled and bratty children, self-centered

wimps--changed! Old men with hard, embittered spirits, as twisted in mind as in their

aging bodies--changed! The self-centered and cozy, who deliberately choose to pass by

neighbors or a whole world in sin and misery--changed! The smug and self-righteous,

clucking their tongues and prattling on about what the world's coming

to--changed! The fiercely upright, scorching the earth but avoiding costly

involvement--changed! And on rare occasions, whole cities, even countries are raised

out of the mire into which the whole planet would sink without a trace if God left it to

itself.

        Let others say the changes are simply the

result of psychology, human kindness, and conditioning; fine literature, church services,

new laws, or government leaders. Christians will insist that all of these and more are

tools in the hands of the transforming Spirit, bringing life to the dead, passion to the

indifferent, and generosity to the selfish. It is he who is at work convicting and

sanctifying.

        For the Christian, nothing less than the

presence of the Spirit is enough to explain the marvelous changes worked in human lives.

Call it grace; call it providence; call it the result of Bible study, practical

involvement, or social ethics; call it "common grace"--call it what we will,

just so we understand that in and behind any or all the instruments is the presence and

work of the Spirit who seeks and finds and transforms.

        There's a day coming, so say the

Scriptures--without giving us any developed explanation--when this transforming

work will embrace the whole creation, which presently groans in bondage. When the curse is

obliterated, the creation will experience a glorious change along with the children of

God. The Spirit of God is a sort of "firstfruits" of all that.

        Where he is present there is a change--from

glory to glory!

 

Of Pigs and Ancient Magic

        Homer tells us that Aeëtes, the baleful

king of Colchis, had a sister called Circe, a goddess who had no love for humans. After

Odysseus and his crew had fought their way into the peace of a harbor, more than twenty of

his men went on to the Island of Dawn to investigate. They made their way through the

forest of Circe and approached her palace. They heard Circe playing the harp and looked

in; she smiled and invited them in to eat. How pleased they were to be invited, and what a

fine meal she fed them. But as they ate the drugged food, she hit them on their shoulders

with her wand, and they changed into grunting, feverish swine.

"I didn't believe the story, of course," said one Christian gentleman,

"until one evening when I was passing a group of young men on a street corner. I

heard enough of the lascivious story being told, and I saw the leers, the flushed faces,

the glistening eyes, and the muttered wickedness, and I knew I had wandered into the

garden of Circe. The spell was working before my very eyes. These humans were changing

into swine."

        And so it is, feeding on what has been

poisoned, we surrender ourselves to a spell that cheapens and coarsens us, making animals

of us in our passions and the way we indulge them. We need someone wise enough and strong

enough to deliver us from the curse, because in our sinfully weakened state and in a

society like ours, we aren't able to do it alone.

         But it's more than wisdom and strength

that's needed. We need someone who cares greatly if we cheapen ourselves. Because she

was malicious, it didn't matter to Circe that the humans were turned into animals

that roamed her forests or pigs to be herded into sties. But it matters to the Holy

Spirit. He seeks our sanctification because he cannot bear to see us continue in our

shame. Those who don't care for us will shrug at our dishonor or give up on us before

too long, especially if their wisdom isn't heeded or recognized.

        Hosea, who speaks more tenderly of the love of

God for his people than any other prophet, also speaks more trenchantly against the

corruption of the people. He pictures God as a loving husband/father, driven to

distraction by the bentness of his wife/son. The husband who paces up and down the floor,

rehearsing the treachery of the wife, cannot cease to love her--doesn't want to

cease to love her. The father who laments over his son's wild and reckless ways knows

that the sinful boy is destroying himself, but the loving father can't turn away.

"How can I give you up, Israel? How can I abandon you?"

        Simply reflecting on God's patience

sometimes makes me tired. Sometimes, when I'm already weary and thoughts of his

loving kindness come to my mind, I wonder why he doesn't just wash his hands of us

all and create a world where he hears nothing but praise and sees nothing but glad-hearted

obedience.

        But I know better. For even I have learned

enough about him to know he cannot abandon us, cannot give up on us, because it is not in

him to want to give up on us. The often repeated words of the famous missionary Hudson

Taylor come to mind: "Before I had children I knew God wouldn't forget me, but

now that I have children of my own I know God can't forget me."

        Even for those who presently don't care

that they bury their snouts in swill and muck, who are content to be humans with piggish

ways, there is the possibility of full reclamation because God is not willing that any

perish. And since many of us have been redeemed from just such crass wickedness, we have

special reason not to give up on others.

        For those of us who do care about honor and

fidelity but have moments of terror when we look in a mirror and see piggy eyes looking

back at us--eyes greedy for favorite sins that cheapen and damn us--we're not

to despair. For if the Spirit of God works for the reclamation of those who don't

care, you can be sure he works for the deliverance of those who do. He loves us more than

we love our sin, and there is, as people like C. S. Lewis have reminded us, an ancient

"magic" at work--a magic more wonderful than Hermes' fabled flower that

delivered those who were under Circe's spell. We are even now being delivered, and

one day the rescue will be completed.

        Another ancient myth, every bit as terrifying

as the one about Circe and her evil spells, is about a young man who cast a spell upon

himself. One day as he lay by a river, he leaned over to look into the water, saw his own

reflection, and fell in love with himself. More precisely, he fell in love with his image.

He couldn't take his eyes off the wonder of the vision, and he died adoring himself.

A narcissus plant marked the spot where he died!

It might be that those who look in terror as piggy little eyes glare back at them from the

mirror are in less danger than those who love the vision they have of themselves.

        It'll take wonderfully strong

"magic" to deliver them from so powerful a spell. It's an awful enchantment

and all the more dangerous because the self-adoring have a hard time seeing themselves as

self-adoring. And what's more, they aren't repulsed by what they see, so

they've no wish to be rescued.

The wicked tax-man is in less danger than the righteous Pharisee. The man in the ditch

whose life is oozing away with his dripping blood is not nearly as wounded and robbed as

the two who energetically marched past him in their "Sunday suits."

        Still, we're not to despair; Christ is

able to break even that evil spell from which Narcissus died. We know that, because he has

done it for multiplied millions of us down the years, hasn't he!

        This much we know, where the Spirit of God gets

his way in a human life, glory and honor result!

Nightingales in Berkeley Square

        Week after long week they waited, until

weeks became months and the dry, withering months became years. The land groaned, an awful

burdened groan, while the wind whispered through the dust and humans shaded their eyes

morning after disappointing morning, hoping, or at least wishing. "It'll be

different," said the old man, "when the rain comes." But the sky was

copper, and the land panted.

         Just when the last of the people began to

bury their hopes, someone noticed a slight breeze one morning, and before the sun went

down, the breeze became a wind. Many sat through the night, listening to it as its

strength increased, and by early next morning there were clouds on the horizon. Later that

day the sky filled with huge, water-saturated clouds, and the downpour began. Heavy,

isolated drops at first, and then the sky opened up. The earth gulped and gurgled. Old men

grinned, young men laughed in joyous relief, and children kicked at the puddles in the

drenched streets. Life had come!

        Around the world and in a different age, a

rebellious people of God trembled as the Assyrians moved across the earth like a

scorching-hot wind, burning and withering everything in their path. The Assyrian

didn't know it, but he was on his way to do the will of God and take Israel off into

"utter darkness."

It's this judgment by God on treacherous and unrighteous Israel that the prophet has

in mind when he speaks of desolation like this: "Beat your breasts for the pleasant

fields, for the fruitful vines and for the land of my people, a land overgrown with thorns

and briers--yes, mourn for all houses of merriment and for this city of revelry. The

fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a

wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks."

        Forever? Or will it just feel like forever? If

not forever, how long? And the prophet tells us: "Till the Spirit is poured upon us

from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a

forest."

        He turns to speak to the gleeful and vindictive

hordes of oppressors, and having said to them, "Your day's coming," he

again speaks to Israel of the transformation to take place on that day when the Spirit

will fall on them like life-giving rain.

        The desert and the parched land will be glad;

the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it

will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the

splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our

God. . . . Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning

sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.

        All this when the Spirit comes!

        When I was a boy, one of the songs that

everyone was singing was "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." The song tells

how the world becomes a lovely, startling, and unpredictable place when love enters a

life. A piece of it goes like this:

                   

I may be right, I may be wrong,

                   

But I'm perfectly willing to swear

                    

That when you turned and smiled at me,

                   

A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

        One day followed another and there was no

reason to expect anything better--until love arrived--and the tame, same, ho-hum

world changed. Angels were eating out at the Ritz, streets were paved with stars, and

nightingales were singing where nightingales are never seen. So it was to be with Israel;

so it is to be with us.

        All of this when the Spirit comes.

        Life bursting out of the ground and climbing to

the sky. Gurgling springs where there had only been burning sand. People with broken

dreams learning to dream again, the weary reviving, the feeble becoming strong, the

fearful becoming brave, those with dead eyes seeing visions, the mute shouting for joy,

and the deaf rejoicing just to hear it.

 

Beauty and the Beast

        Down the years, many thoughtful people have

observed that no one can free us from our ugliness unless he or she loves us even in our

ugliness. Of course, they learned that from the all-wise Lover of Humanity.

        The Disney screen adaptation of Madame de

Villeneuve's story, Beauty and the Beast, tells how a selfish and self-centered

prince ruthlessly denied shelter to an old lady on a wintry night because her appearance

repulsed him. When he discovers that the old woman is really a beautiful enchantress, he

apologizes; but his loveless apology is rejected, and she turns him into a hideous beast.

His outer appearance now reflects his inner ugliness.

        The horror would disappear, the curse said, if

he could learn to love and be loved by someone in his ugliness. Years pass, and he falls

into despair, losing all hope that anyone could ever love a beast like him.

        When the Beast captures one of the villagers,

the man's beautiful daughter, Belle, offers herself as a ransom to free her father.

If she wants him free, the Beast insists, she must stay with him forever. Belle falters,

asking him to step into the light where she can see him. She recoils in horror at the

sight of him but gives her word that she'll stay.

        Moved by Belle's love for her father, the

Beast tries to please her, and then the desire to please her becomes something deeper.

Though he's aware that his rage sometimes drives her from him, still, it enters his

mind--the wish, the half of a broken hope--that she might be the one who can cure

him. But he overhears her say in a fit of temper that she wants nothing to do with him.

Dismayed, he rumbles to himself, "I'm just fooling myself; she'll never see

me as anything but a monster. It's hopeless."

        Gaston, the handsome but vain and cruel

villager who wants Belle, gathers the village and, working them into a fever, cries,

"Kill the Beast!" And that's what they try to do.

        But in the end, it isn't the villagers or

handsome Gaston who kills the Beast; it's Belle and the love she has for him. She

doesn't deny his ugliness, but she comes to see beyond it. "Love covers over a

multitude" of things. In loving him, she kills the inner beast, and the visible beast

vanishes along with it.

Her willingness to recognize lovely things about the Beast, to see possibilities when

others, repulsed and fearful of his influence on their community, try to kill

him--that's what saves the monster. And her commitment works wonders, for the

Beast becomes a fine and honorable young prince. Love not only saved, it transformed.

        Yes, yes, all very romantic, very appealing,

very touching--but mere sentimentality. Is it really? Neither God nor life allows us

to believe that!

        The Bible is filled with descriptions of our

race, and ugly isn't too strong a word for our state; bestial is not too harsh a

description for our condition. And there's Someone who moves in the world seeking to

save it from its handsome but starkly vain Gastons, who compare themselves too favorably

with the Beast. There is One who even now moves about the earth transforming beasts into

kings and queens in a royal priesthood.

        It would be better to admit that we are too

easily tired, too quickly impatient, too self-righteous and self-centered--better to

admit that we are too "something" than to deny that love in the person of the

Spirit of God is at work in the world changing individuals, churches, and nations;

redeeming us from our stark and sinful ugliness.

         Matthew 18 was not written to teach us how to

get rid of offenders but how to win them back. The section teaches that every single

person matters to God and that when we lovingly pursue the offender to bring about

reconciliation, we're doing something that pleases God. The transgressor is worth the

trouble! To dismiss him without a loving pursuit is to say that his life is of no

consequence to us, that we wouldn't miss him, that nothing in or about him matters

enough to us to motivate us to go the distance with him.

        It's at this point, I'm sure, that we

are most unlike Christ. It isn't that we lack power--it's that our love

lacks depth and so quickly reaches its limit. If we don't see quick results in

transgressors--a marked change of attitude and behavior within a specified

time--we consign them to the dungeon and eternal ugliness.

It doesn't seem to enter our heads that we might be hideously ugly as we go about our

business of trying to change transgressors. We apparently think they deserve nothing

better than for us to turn them into bloody and torn spectacles. It's all very holy

work, don't you understand, and they should be grateful that we would even bother to

save them. And if it means we have to degrade them--so be it! What do they expect?

They sinned grievously, didn't they?

        The good news is that the bad news isn't

as bad as it might be. There are countless people who are like the Christ, who themselves

have been loved into loveliness and make it part of living to do for others what was done

and is being done for them.

         Madame de Villeneuve was right, love can redeem

beasts. Countless humans are living proof of it.

The Wind of the Spirit

        Many of us go through spiritually depressed

periods that feel like near-death experiences. On advice, we read the rich biblical texts

that have helped so many others, yet our hearts remain as cheerless and lifeless as a cold

fireplace. We try all the spiritual tonics, speak to all the wise people, do all the

spiritual aerobics, read all the books on the spiritual disciplines, and try the

"seven sure steps" offered by the well-known authors--all to no avail. Our

depression deepens, and despair begins to knock on the doors of our hearts.

        These cures are supposed to work! They appear

to have worked for other people and churches, why not us? That they haven't worked

for us is a matter of real concern if we are serious about having a relationship with God

that pleases rather than grieves him, one that involves our giving as well as receiving.

But our prayers and promises--our vows, sworn in blood-red earnestness that we'd

be better, speak better, do better, and think better--have all come to nothing. The

vows were sincere--at least we thought they were--and they were made in agony. But

when the passion cools, we feel that "the summer is gone and we are not saved."

Despair or near despair sets in. And why wouldn't it? We share the poet's

distress:

                   

Weary of passions unsubdued,

                    

Weary of vows in vain renewed,

                   

Of forms without the power,

                   

Of prayers, and hopes, complaints, and groans,

                   

My fainting soul in silence owns

                   

I can hold out no more.

        And the words of the sufferer become ours,

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far

from the words of my groaning?"

        And in our hearts, they aren't words

snarled in bitterness--they're weary and disappointed rather than angry, because

with our track record we can blame no one but ourselves. Still . . . still . . . we were

hoping that God in his mercy would take sides with us against ourselves and deliver us for

his own name's sake.

"O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not

silent." And as we complain, we're perplexed, because the God to whom we make

our appeal has a reputation as a deliverer: "Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;

you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you

delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not

disappointed.

        Wonderful stories. Salvation stories. True

stories. But all the more distressing because they are true. Others called and were saved.

We call and, instead of rescue, continue to see ourselves as worms, and our

"enemies" mock us even though we throw ourselves on God for deliverance.

So we lie down, exhausted, having despaired of ourselves and feeling that God must have

despaired of us also. And as we lie in our silent graves with no earthly help that will

make any difference, paralyzed by a crushing hopelessness, we hear the whisper of the

wind; and the word of God comes to us again through a nation that was dead in sin and

beyond all human help.

        As a nation they had tried everything to stave

off the death they richly deserved. They paid tribute until they were broke, made treaties

with foreign powers, and sent ambassadors north, south, east, and west. They fortified

cities and studied the ways of war. They even tried religion--they built altars; they

fasted and prayed. But there was no salvation in any of their efforts. They were all just

new ways of speeding the death process, and they ended up in a national grave.

Their bones were more than dry; they were "very dry." And there weren't

only a few of them--the valley, like one giant coffin, was choked with them. The

prophet spoke, and bone came together with bone; but there was no life--only a huge

ravine full of skeletons. Sinews and flesh wound themselves around the bones, but there

was no life--only a mighty gorge stuffed with corpses, an eerie, silent valley of

corpses! Well, not completely silent. There was the wind. The man was told to speak the

word of God to the wind, and the wind became the Spirit of God entering those lifeless

figures--just as on the day of creation --and they were filled with life and stood

on their feet, a mighty army. A nation alive from the dead!

        And hearing their story, we're persuaded

to trust again--or at least not to not trust again. At this very moment, we may feel a

sense of fatigue and despair, but it's not the end of the story. God--and may it

please him to be soon--will give us reason to rejoice as life courses through us,

delivering us from one enemy after another. One day we'll assemble to worship and

feel compelled to turn to fellow-worshipers and speak of our deliverance. In the strength

and joy of the Spirit of God, we'll dismiss depression's view of sadder days and

say with the psalmist:

                   

He has not despised or disdained

                   

the suffering of the afflicted one;

                   

he has not hidden his face from him

                   

but has listened to his cry for help.

        And we, as our forefathers did, will enthrone

God as the Holy One and the praise of our hearts. From him will come the theme of our

praise in the great assembly, and our story will be told as one of deliverance to children

not yet born, and people will trust because we were delivered.

        And what is true of individuals can be true of

whole congregations, and what is true of congregations can be true of cities and nations!

What is true for others can be true for you. What is true for you can be true for me. Weep

if you must, and tell him your poor heart's breaking--but trust, wait, and listen

for the wind!

He Did It for Others;

He Can Do It for You!

        The Spirit will not permit sin to have

victory over those who turn to him for aid. It was the Spirit himself who led Jesus to

say, "The Spirit of the Lord . . . has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

        Doesn't the very saying of it lift your

heart? It's liberating to know that Jesus came to proclaim such a message and that he

guaranteed the truth of it by his life and death and glorious exaltation.

        We read such promises, but continued defeats

tempt us to water them down--the failures oppose the promises. We place our hope in

the promises, but they don't work--or, at least, they haven't worked. We

rely on them, but they say more than they deliver, make us imagine more than reality

supports. So we're tempted to conclude that we somehow misunderstood and that the

texts really call us to accomplish something by our own striving.

        We might think that, after we read the fine

print, we'll find it's like humanistic psychology that finally tells us,

"It's up to you!" And we aren't up to it. Feeling this way, we avoid

the texts. There's no point in reading them again. We'd just feel again the

rising hope and the bitter disappointment that follows; we'd feel again the guilt

that steals over us when we don't experience the victory promised. So we settle for

less, and this settling for less breeds resentment and cynicism, depresses our spirits,

and inclines us to sneer at others, "Yeah, yeah, we've heard all those texts

before, felt all that hope before, whipped ourselves up into a lather before. But

experience has cooled our brains, and we now know better. You'll agree with us by and

by."

        The whole experience is like a heavy stone

weighing us down. It's more than conscious, it lies buried deep in our souls like a

foreboding. It's a wound that remains open, and our life's blood oozes away.

We're anemic and tired, too tired to bother. Too tired to want to bother.

But whatever we're tempted to think, God did it! He turned adulterers, effeminates,

drunkards, thieves, coveters, abusers of themselves with men, revilers,

extortioners--he turned them into people who were washed, made holy, and justified

before God. They had given themselves as hostages to sin, had paraded their evil for all

to see and had prowled in the stench-filled basements of life--but God changed all

that! The wind of the Spirit swept through Corinth, knocking down walls, bringing light

and air to long, dark corridors and musty hallways, flinging windows open, and tearing

down dust-laden curtains. People came out of the dark and into the light, rubbing their

eyes and seeing a new world.

        W. E. Sangster opens one of his books with this

blunt sentence, "The purpose of God for man is to make him holy. Not happiness first,

and holiness if possible, but holiness first and bliss as a consequence." God in

Christ, and through the Holy Spirit, refuses to offer us less than moral and spiritual

grandeur. The presence of the Spirit and his implacable hostility to what's evil,

cheap, dishonorable, and pathetic is our assurance that for those who abide in Christ

there can be nothing less than glorious Christlikeness--we will be like him!

        It's true that we're continually

wrestling with wickedness, but it's also true that the Spirit is our helper.

"For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit

are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what

you would."

This is not simply the statement of unending struggle; it has the tone of assurance. The

tone isn't, "Well, it's too bad, but we're always going to be stymied

by 'the flesh' because it is always at odds with the Spirit."

        The passage doesn't avoid tough reality:

It insists that, despite our being in Christ and despite our rejection of "the

flesh," we still have an inner struggle against wickedness. But it also insists that

a tougher reality exists--the Spirit within us who opposes the evil! That means we

won't be swallowed up by sin, because greater is he who is in us than he who is in

the world.

        In some ways, it's those of us who are

most familiar with the Spirit's promises who are in the greatest danger. Someone said

that familiarity may not breed contempt, but it takes the edge off awe. Something like

this is true about rich texts and glory-filled promises that drop the jaws or widen the

eyes of newcomers but provoke no more than a raised eyebrow in the old-timers who have

ceased to dream.

        We need to say it aloud--not only to one

another but to ourselves, in front of a mirror--"God did it, so don't tell

me it can't be done!"

Elephant Men

        I'm one of those who struggles with

excess need for approval. How that has come to be doesn't matter, but the reality of

it takes a lot of the perfectly legitimate contentment out of life. Those of us in this

condition are tempted to try too hard or to edit ourselves and our speech in certain

ways--not good ways--to gain approval and acceptance. What's worse is that

even though God accepts us completely, we are not satisfied. And that's too bad!

        Having said that, it's no crime to want

the approval of people. New Covenant writers are pleased to tell us of people who had the

approval and good report of those around them. Paul sends brief "letters" of

recommendation in the Book of Romans and formal letters of approving introduction where it

made good sense to do so.

        Still, it must be a blessed freedom to be able

to enjoy approval when it comes but live without it when it doesn't. It must be grand

to be able to resist the temptation to "sell ourselves" to get it.

        Peter and John would have liked the

Sanhedrin's backing, but when it didn't come, when instead they were threatened

and told to stop preaching, they did not sell out; rather they shrugged and said,

"Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than

God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." No sale!

        When a serious crisis of confidence in Paul

developed among the Corinthians, Paul tried hard to regain their approval. But he was more

than prepared to live without it, so he said, "I care very little if I am judged by

you or by any human court." When we read both letters to the Corinthians, we have

reason to believe he would have said this with sadness and deep disappointment since he

had labored so hard by God's grace on their behalf. But he said it nevertheless! No

sale!

Christ told Paul he would deliver him from the Jews and the Gentiles to whom he was

sending him. That turned out to be true in more ways than one, for Paul was not bound by

their opinions of him; no one counted with Paul more than his Master. The praise and

approval of people can become addictive, and it takes the Spirit of God to deliver us from

slavery to such a potent elixir. We need to be delivered from the people we're sent

to, or we won't be able to help them.

But I suppose we've all felt the alternating emotions of anger and shame that

resulted from being judged by "the wise ones"--from being gazed at,

assessed, pigeon-holed, and dismissed as being without accomplishment or potential or

appearance. I suppose we've all experienced the snobbish looks that say we're a

non-entity, a "sheep in sheep's clothing," or "a modest little man

with a lot to be modest about" (as Churchill is said to have described a fellow

politician). The pain in all this goes to untold depths in vulnerable people.

        I know of no quick cure for my condition or for

those who are like me--but I know a sure one. To be loved! To be loved unashamedly and

without reservation by someone--anyone! That's the beginning of the end of

self-despising.

        To know we are loved! Many of us have lived

long in darkness, feeling unwanted, useless, ugly, and fit only to be abused. Then into

our lives comes "a significant other" who seems to care even though we are

afraid to believe they do. We are afraid that if they get to know us, the warmth will

dissipate and we'll be alone again. Amazingly, the better they get to know us, the

more they seem to care, and so the world turns the right way up, the sun comes out, and we

come to life.

        Has anyone experienced this at a deeper level

than John Merrick, "the Elephant Man," who was made famous by the movie of that

name? Deformed beyond description, used, and abused for years in the most hideous fashion,

he was profoundly alone except for those times when with damnable cruelty people intruded

into his life to gape and shove "the freak" around!

        A riveting piece in the movie shows the

grotesque Merrick fleeing a mob through a train station. They finally corner him in a

public toilet, some gaping, some laughing, some yelling insults at him as he cries out in

his pain, "I am not an animal. I am not an animal! I am a human being!" And

then, completely traumatized and exhausted, he sinks to the floor and wearily says,

"I am a man."

        Dr. Frederick Treves meets Merrick, and down

below the ugliness, hidden behind the ugliness, and contrary to the testimony of the

ugliness, the doctor finds a sensitive human being. Down behind the horror, Merrick begins

to live again!

        Then comes the visit of the beautiful and

acclaimed actress, Mrs. Kendall, who sees his ugliness and recognizes it, but meets it

with such sensitivity and gentleness that Merrick, for the moment, rises above it. She

exchanges some lines with him from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet--he reading

from the book she gave him and she quoting. When the lines conclude, she smiles and, with

genuine warmth and in gentle mockery, says, "Oh, Mr. Merrick, you're not an

elephant man at all."

        "Oh, no?" he asks softly, afraid to

agree.

        "You're Romeo!" she whispers and

gently kisses his supremely ugly cheek.

        He can hardly believe it for joy--the

wonder of it all! He is overwhelmed and can scarcely believe that her beauty could meet

his ugliness and in warm embrace look beyond it. But however astonishing, it had happened,

and life floods into his sad soul.

        Not long before he dies, Merrick tells Dr.

Treves, "Do not worry about me, my friend. I am happy every hour of the day. My life

is full because I know I am loved. I have gained myself." And then pausing to look at

the doctor, he gently says, "I could not have said that if it were not for you."

        David Prior called this little speech

"arguably one of the best descriptions we have anywhere of the impact of the gospel

on one man's life."

        Loved by God? Can it be true? If we dare to

believe that profoundly astonishing fact, shackles will dissolve, link by damning link,

freeing us from ourselves and our paralyzing ugliness. We'll be free from the scorn

of our peers who know and despise us for our sinful weaknesses and who enjoy reminding

others of them. We'll be free from them because they've been outflanked and made

powerless. We'll be free from them because Christ comes to us, is gentle with us, and

then holds us in a warm embrace saying, "Oh, you're not an 'elephant

man' at all!"

        And then we, scarcely able to believe,

tremblingly say, "Oh, no? I always thought I was, and with the ugliness I know is in

me, I feel as though I am. Are you sure I'm not?" He whispers back,

"I'm sure! You're my beautiful child!"

        Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the

love of God. And where the love of God is, we are able to come to ourselves. We're

able to look at the Christ--out from behind our fears, pains, and ugliness--and

say, "I am happy every hour of the day. My life is full because I know I am loved. I

have gained myself. I could not have said that if it were not for you."

        Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is

freedom to rise in joy above an unhealthy dependence on the goodwill of others. There is

freedom to say that all people "count with you, but none too much."

        Blessed freedom. Blessed Spirit of Freedom!

What Is Christ Prepared to Do?

        Alison Cunningham was her name, and she was

the devoted nurse of Robert Louis Stevenson, whose short life was one long illness. Edmund

Gosse, his friend, described Stevenson's life as a "painful and hurrying

pilgrimage." Cunningham was selflessly devoted to serving Stevenson, and Stevenson

never forgot her. He adored her and praised her lavishly for her good influence on him. In

a letter to her, he said, "Do not suppose that I shall ever forget those long, bitter

nights, when I coughed, and coughed, and was so unhappy, and you were so patient and

loving with a sick child. Indeed, Cummy, I wish that I might become a man worth talking

of, if it were only that you should not have thrown away your pains."

        Cunningham invested her life in the writer, and

because of that kind of investment, Stevenson, after fitful starts and stops in life,

described himself as coming around "like a well handled ship" with God as the

helmsman.

        What Alison Cunningham did for Stevenson,

Christ has done and continues to do for a whole world, in every generation. But this

Christ does it, not for a weak and pliant and grateful child--he does it for a

rebellious planet peopled by hosts of humans who either cannot, do not, or will not gladly

submit to his care or join him in his purposes.

        "I came," he said, "not to rob

but to rescue, not to cheat but to give, not to kill but to offer fullness of life."

But can he do it? Well, perhaps not can he do it, but will he continue to want to do it

when people like us can be so hard, so selfish, so indifferent, so self-serving and wimpy?

Can he really be aware of what he has taken on? Will he not one day--looking at many

of us in our love of ease and comfort--will he not throw up his hands and say,

"I've given them my best and they're no different. They're still

protecting themselves, still gorging themselves while others starve. No more! I've

done enough, the job's too great even for a god!"? Will he not say that? Yes,

yes, we know where all the verses are that say otherwise, but don't you sometimes

look inside and then around and wonder at our colossal arrogance? Our amazing

self-satisfaction? Do you never feel that our pathetic and trivial little lives must

surely test his resolve? Does it never stagger you that we can put out our hands and take

the gift of himself with an assured politeness, as though someone just passed us the salt?

Why would he put up with it?

A humiliated and discouraged Elliot Ness is alone on a bridge, gloomily looking into the

water, smarting from his wounds. Jimmy Malone, an honest policeman who walks the beat

because he won't say yes to bribery and corruption, checks him out, and so they meet.

Later, Ness approaches him about beginning a small band of Treasury men who would clean up

Chicago and deal with Capone.

        After some verbal exchanges about the matter,

Malone dismisses Ness's offer. The frustrated but desperate Ness presses him hard:

"If you want to stay on the beat, you do that. If you'd like to come with me, I

need your help. I'm asking for your help."

        The policeman, clearly filled with inner

tensions that are pulling him one way and the other, reflecting on the cry for help, says

more to himself than to Ness,         

"That's the thing you fear, isn't it?" And then after more thought, he

says to Ness, "I think it's more important to me to stay alive . . . thank you,

no."

        But he can't live with his refusal, and

realizing the dangers and the need for unfailing commitment, he calls on Ness to say,

"You said you wanted to get Capone . . . do you really want to get him? What are you

prepared to do?" This phrase he repeats again and again during the course of the war

they begin against the widespread corruption and murder.

        And it's that phrase that's on his

lips when, after being gunned down by Capone's killer, he lies dying on the floor of

his apartment, choking with the blood in his throat. He passes crucial information to Ness

and then grabs him by the coat, drags himself up until he's right in his face, and

snarls with his last breath, "What . . . what . . . are you prepared to do?" He

himself has given all he has to give and wants to know if Ness is prepared to do the same.

         And some of us--thinking of all that Christ

has already done and desperately disappointed at our response--some of us are

heartsick at our paltry lives, so full of crabbiness, smugness, trivia, and self-service.

And some of us wonder if he won't wash his hands of us, wash his hands of this whole

sorry mess of a world. For we have no understanding of a love like his, and we

haven't a cat-haired notion why he would bother with the best of us. Feeling all this

and knowing that we won't clean ourselves up because we can't; realizing, as we

reflect on the years gone by, that our redemption will not be a quick cure because

we're awfully sick, we come anxiously asking the Christ, "What are you prepared

to do?."

        And he, knowing our fears and knowing our sins

and selfdoubts, assures us that he will do what it takes to get the job done, and he lies

down on a cross and dies. He hasn't undertaken the task thinking it was a breeze. No, not

him. He knew that the Incarnation was only the beginning and that the Cross was not the

end, but he makes it clear: "I'll do what it takes!"

        The we, because there's nowhere else to go,

because there's nowhere else we want to go, don't we sigh deep within us, "O Lord, I

wish that I might become a person worth talking of, if it were only that you should not

have thrown away your pains."

        And he--from the cross and thinking of the

whole world and not just us--with his own wounds and his long, long patience, looks us

in the eye and asks, "What are you prepared to do?"



Continues...


Excerpted from Where the Spirit of the Lord Is by Jim Mcguiggan Copyright © 1999 by Jim Mcguiggan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction: Escaping the Spirit?

ONE: There Is Transformation

The Spirit and Mr. Hyde

Of Pigs and Ancient Magic

Nightingales in Berkeley Square

Beauty and the Beast

The Wind of the Spirit

He Did It for Others; He Can Do It for You!

Elephant Men

What Is Christ Prepared to Do?

TWO: There Is Glory for Christ

Worthy Is the Lamb

The Spirit and Center Stage

Led by the Spirit

Jesus Is Lord!

I Saw a Butterfly

Wistful Unbelievers

Shaping the Christ

The World He Came to Save

This Christ Is King!

Every Hair on My Head

THREE: There Is Freedom

Truth and Emotions

Free Because Forgiven

Free from Meaningless Pain

Free from Legalism

Free to Say No to Freedom

Free from Abusive Emotions

Free from Anxiety

Free from Pretense

FOUR: There Is Love

The Fruit of the Spirit Is . . .

Where It Pleases

The Bookkeeper Is Dead

Love Isn’t Touchy

Love Protects

God’s Bundle and Ours

Lord of All or Not Lord at All

Love Rejoices

Love and Peace of Mind

FIVE: There Is Community

We’re Something Else

Weeping in the Aisles

To Eat or Not to Eat?

Love Will Find a Way

Sunday Morning

Some Anti-Class Remarks

The Outer Fringe

On Our Side of the Gulf

SIX: There Is Truth

Truth and the Believer

Camels and Gnats

Holy Spirit or Blueprint?

Changing Jobs?

Musings on Truth and Tolerance

Truth Is for Doing

No Dead End!

Notes 

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