My Church Has Gold Dust! What About Yours?

water__lights__colors__people_in_awe_by_wokie15-d9345qtI love to talk to young people about spiritual matters. For reasons only God knows, I can connect with people younger than my own children with very little, or no problem at all. And, as a matter of fact, the other day I had one of those interesting conversations with my friend, Henry.

After attending a mega church for the first time, Henry called with a question about a phenomenon that had taken place at the Sunday service. He wanted to know what I thought about the supposed “gold dust” that had appeared in the atmosphere and landed on people during the worship time.

Before I go any further, I know that some of you might be already hot under the collar even at the mention of the phrase, “gold dust” because gold dust is not mentioned in the Bible. Fair enough! By the way, neither is dating, yet I wonder, as the Bible says, how many of my dear friends allowed their parents to choose mates for them? In any case, I promise this post isn’t about the validity or lack of such appearances, but it’s about the outcome of them.

“I have no objections to this phenomenon. I’ve been around these appearances since 1995. I don’t care if they got gold dust coming out of their ears. However, what I have issues with is what they do with it after they leave their gold dust meetings? How is this helping them share the Gospel with those outside the faith?” I told him.

My answer had a lot to do with a discussion I’d earlier had with a young Christian leader whose organization operates in these appearances and prophetic gifts with a great emphasis on worship/loving God.

I’d mentioned to him that Christ’s greatest two commandments to us is to love God and with that love to love our neighbors. That we should use the God-given gifts of the Spirit as tools in sharing the Gospel with a lost world. His answer rather stunned me, “Our ministry is called to fulfill the first part of the commandment—loving God in worship— and not the second!” I didn’t know Christ’s greatest commandment to his disciples could be parsed so decisively. Maybe it’s my English, but I always thought it was called “the great commandment” and not “the great YOU pick and choose”.

In the last 20 years, I’ve spent much of my life focusing on “centering prayer” and intimacy with God, but always with one goal in mind… using what I gain in being closer to my Creator to invite those who don’t know him to follow suit. What are all the worship, prophecies, and intimacy with God going to do for the Kingdom if we don’t love our neighbors through our love for God?

Some might argue that the purpose of the gifts is to strengthen the body of Christ, but to what end? Why do we need to be stronger if it’s not to be better followers of Christ in doing all that He’s commanded us? I have a hard time believing that He allows us to experience some of these manifestations just to make us feel good, which eventually causes some of our gatherings to become nothing but “bless me” clubs. I can’t help but be reminded of James’ admonition, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)

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As the technician starts hooking me up to the Echocardiogram machine in my cardiologist’s office, I begin to ask her questions. This is the first time I meet Shirin (It’s pronounced Shee-reen), my Iranian technician. My questions are mainly about her personal life­– questions like how long she’s been in the US, how old she was when she came here, where she was born in Iran, where she went to school and so on.

As I’m talking to her, I’m also praying for the Lord to show me what kind of questions to ask in order to establish trust. To me, the main ingredient for a long lasting relation is winning people’s trust. “No trust, no real relationship!” is my motto. It is to that end that I’m praying.

As I close my eyes, I see a picture. I ask Shirin,

“Are you facing making a big decision in your life?”

She shows no reaction and turns her back on me.

“Boy, I must have blown it,” was my first thought.

Then she turned around and said,

“I don’t like my job. I’m a graphic artist. This is what my parents want me to do. I’d like to leave this job and start being an artist again.”

Then she looks at me and says, “How did you know? Did I give off a vibe?”

I chuckle! “No vibes! It was God, who loves you so much, who uses a total stranger to tell you that He cares for you. In fact, He wants you to know that when you jump, not one parachute, not two parachutes, but He will provide you with three parachutes to make sure you land safely.”

With tears in her eyes, she says, “All I needed was a push.”

The picture I was given was of her standing on the edge of a flying airplane door debating whether she should jump or not.

After the exam, I go to my car and get her one of my books and leave.

This is what I call using the gifts of the Spirit to share the Good News with people you come in contact with every day.

How do you use your God given gifts?

 

 

 

Does Quoting Scripture At People Solves Their Problems?

d4ef35196c669263d088472aac80174dMy two little dogs were going crazy in the backyard. They were barking alarmingly and jumping at the back fence. Something was up! This was not a normal behavior for them. So I went to where they were, looked over the five-foot cinderblock fence, and saw six coyotes standing on the other side while one was jumping up and down to see what was in my yard. They knew my dogs were there, but were trying to scope it out to see if they could get over. I yelled at the coyotes, but they barely moved, so I threw rocks at them and they ran away. I’d been told many times that animals will not jump over fences if they don’t know what’s on the other side, but these coyotes proved me wrong.

The next day I was talking with a couple of neighbors about what had happened, and I asked them if they’d ever heard of coyotes trying to jump over fences. Instead of answering my question, one of them said, “We live in an area with all kinds of wild animals; it is our responsibility to keep our dogs safe.” REALY!!! Luckily, my first thought didn’t come out of my mouth, but I thought, “I have taken care of these dogs for more than five years and you think I don’t know that?” How was her comment helpful? It wasn’t.

This reminded me of another conversation I had with some friends who are long-time Christians. I was telling them how for years I have prayed to be less prideful. I related how God has been able to lessen it considerably, but recently it reared its ugly head, and I struggled with it once again. Immediately, one of my friends said, “Pride goes before a fall.” Of course, quoting Proverbs 16:18. REALLY!!! “After living as a Christian for more than 20 years, do you think I don’t know that?” I asked. My other friend then related to us how he too has prayed for more than 40 years for God to take away his anger. Yet, it is something he continues to struggle with. Now we could have quoted to him Ecclesiastes 7:9: “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.” But would it really help? I think not.

I must admit, I am more readily willing to share my struggles with my friend who related his own struggles than the one who quoted Scripture at me. Often, quoting Scripture at people, especially those who’ve been followers of Christ for a long time, alienates them, and shuts them down. They often feel invalidated, rejected, unsure about themselves, and sometimes even about their relationship with God. Just because I know Scripture doesn’t mean I am not human. I am still fallible. I still make mistakes. I still fall short. I believe both friends wanted to help, but only one showed empathy, and it wasn’t the one who quoted Scripture.

As a bit of subtle irony, I will quote Scripture here, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” To simply quote a Bible verse at someone as if it is magically going to solve some problem, comes across way too often as sounding brass. Don’t get me wrong the Bible is great for instruction and guiding our lives, but to think we can merely quote it to solve another person’s problems misses the mark. It removes us from having empathy toward one another.

Recent research has shown that our society is losing its ability to empathize. Over the past 20 years, among college-age students, empathy has decreased 40 percent, and the greatest amount of decline has happened within the last 10 years. This is not a problem only among younger people, it affects us all. You might think this is due to more and more people not going to church, but the culprit is digital technology, namely our cell phones. As a society—yes, church goers included—we are communicating less and less in person. We are losing our capacity to show empathy. We are losing our ability to connect meaningfully with other human beings.

Going back to the conversation with my two Christian friends, by admitting our struggles to one another, it didn’t give us license to feel free to be more prideful or angry. Instead, we connected in our humanness, knowing full well that we will continue to try to be the best people we can be each day. In other words, we empathized with one another. In our society that is losing its ability to connect in a humane way, what a great time to love people, empathize with them, and make a human connection. To me, this is what means to be the light and salt of this world. What better way is there for us to be witnesses of God’s love than to empathize?

By CK Miller