Want To Experience Real Power?

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. – 1 Corinthians 4:20

Since childhood, we’ve been told a story about what power means. Powerful people can have whatever they want. Powerful people command respect. They sit at the head of the table. They chart the course. Power means having your way; the weak must pay the price.

This is a lie, of course. But such a lie, told often enough, takes on its own sort of reality. Most of us have heard this ancient lie so much that we no longer realize we ever heard it. It’s become obvious, unremarkable. Of course the powerful exploit the weak. That’s just the way life is.

Yet, there is an alternative to this culture of falsehood that we’ve been raised in. There is a definition of power that defies the seduction of domination. Hidden in the hearts of children and fools, there is a weakness that is stronger than human strength.

When we dwell in this weakness that overcomes the world, we suddenly see life as it truly is. Despite all odds, we discover that love triumphs over hate, truth over falsehood. We know in our bones that Jesus’ death on the cross was no accident. He demonstrates the greatest love, laying down his life for us, his friends.

The power of God undermines all our false systems of human power. The cross of Jesus exposes the structures that dictate who is the greatest, who commands the resources, who calls the shots.

To live in this subversive power, we must first acknowledge that we are not in control. We live in God’s power precisely because we are weak. By owning our frailty, by acknowledging our pain, we reach a rock bottom; we tap into a common well of authentic humanity that draws us repeatedly into the loving arms of the Spirit.

It is here at the bottom of our messy lives that we find our brother Jesus waiting for us. We instinctively recognize the marks on his hands and the wound in his side because we, too, have been pierced by this world. We discover that every trial we’ve endured is but an echo of his own suffering. We dwell in the life and power of Jesus because we are baptized into his cross.

This baptism of power brings us into direct conflict with the twisted powers-that-be. Like grass growing up through cracks in the pavement, Jesus’ way of humility and love emerges in conditions that are anything but ideal. War zones. Outbreaks of infectious disease. Oppression. Atmospheres of hatred, fear, and greed. The green shoots of true life are all the more brilliant as they emerge amidst the gray of concrete. And as we face the fury of this culture’s powers, we root ourselves ever deeper into the rich soil of Christ.

The kingdom of God does not consist in the empty words of politicians and magnates, seeking a veil for their selfish interests. It doesn’t emerge in the ways that our culture recognizes as significant. But for those with eyes to see, the kingdom of God has come near. This kingdom exists wherever the little ones of the earth speak the truth plainly, love the poor frankly, and announce the good news that the mighty ones have been toppled from their thrones.

This is the power that James Nayler knew when he said:

There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations.

As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thought to any other. If it be betrayed, it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned; it takes its kingdom with entreaty and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind.

In God alone it can rejoice, though none else regard it, or can own its life. It is conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it; nor doth it murmur at grief and oppression. It never rejoices but through sufferings; for with the world’s joy it is murdered. I found it alone, being forsaken. I have fellowship therein with them who lived in dens and desolate places of the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life.

Is this the power that you live in?

When We Pray, It Boils

Stand still in that which shows and discovers, and then does strength immediately come. And stand still in the light, and submit to it, and the other will be hushed and gone. And then contentment comes. – from George Fox’s Epistle X

At our Fall Gathering this past weekend, the Friends of Jesus Fellowship had a pretty amazing experience of prayer. The quality of it was different from anything I had ever experienced before. It was as if we were sitting together in a frying pan, and the spiritual temperature was steadily rising. Simmering. Boiling.

The only way I knew how to describe it afterwards was to say, It felt like the lid was about to come off. The room was literally shaking with the prayers of those present, our bodies and voices trembling under the power of the Spirit.

As a Quaker, this intensity of feeling makes me suspicious. It’s hard to know sometimes whether our emotions are being stirred up for human reasons, or divine ones. Yet, from everything I witnessed, I believe that our time of fervent prayer bore the marks of the Holy Spirit. There was real healing taking place as hidden hurts and heartbreaks came to light.

It has taken me a while to begin processing what I saw and felt this weekend. It was an awesome thing to watch the Spirit of God reach down into our depths and dredge up mercy out of the darkness. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But also beautiful. Cleansing and healing.

I am so grateful for Christ’s presence in our midst this weekend. I am blessed to be part of this community where we approach God together, and receive a clear response. It’s a pure gift, and I’m thankful.

Are You Ready to Join Sinners Anonymous?

Hello, my name is Micah, and I’m a sinner.

When I say that I’m a sinner, what I mean is that I’ve been fighting with God all my life. I choose my twisted version of the world over the truth and beauty of the Creator. I prefer empty idols to the whole grain bread of life that Jesus offers. I want to be in control, rather than accepting that I am powerless to overcome life’s challenges without God’s help.

Like a lot of people, I became a Christian because I had reached the end of my rope. I’d hit rock bottom, and there was nowhere left for me to go but back to God, or to a place of deep darkness, despair, and death.

In the years since I acknowledged God and invited his presence back into my life, things have changed for the better. I’m more whole and healthy than I have ever been.

It would be easy for me to get complacent at this point. It would be easy for me to think that I’ve been cured of my tendency to rebel against the truth, to put myself first rather than loving others as Christ first loved me. But the reality is, I’m just one moment of weakness away from being back where I started.

In my walk of recovery, God has gradually weakened my desire to sin. I’ve learned that I can trust the Spirit, that I don’t have to give into fear, despair, or selfish pride. Nevertheless, I know that the seeds of alienation remain within me. They lie in wait for moments of fatigue, life setbacks, and spiritual dryness. All I have to do is yield to the darkness, and these seeds will bloom their hideous flowers in me once again.

It’s so important that I stay awake to the truth. I must stay conscious of the fact that I am nothing more or less than a (relatively new) member of Sinners Anonymous. I am not better than anyone. I haven’t achieved anything. I’m just one man on a daily walk of recovery with Jesus. By the grace of God, I am being saved day by day as part of the body of Christ.

There is no essential difference between me and my neighbor who has not made a decision to follow Jesus. We both struggle with darkness, despair, and misdirected priorities. We both know beauty, and also carry within us the seeds of evil. We both are capable of terrible thoughts and deeds, but also loving-kindness. We share a common condition as human beings in a fallen world.

But when I choose to follow Jesus, I find the evil in me weakened and the good raised up. I am able to confess that, solely by God’s power and grace, I am on the path of recovery from addiction, narcissism, alienation, and death.

Are you ready to take the first step – whether for the first time or the thousandth? Will you admit that you are powerless over your addiction, alienation, sin – that your life has become unmanageable? Are you prepared to open your life to a power greater than yourself that can lead you in recovery? Have you heard the voice of Jesus, who can speak to your condition and make you whole?