Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Faulty Connections

Recently I shared a bit about my experience in replacing the alternator in my wife’s vehicle. While I believe my initial post got across the idea that I am a far better English teacher than mechanic, I didn’t include one slightly embarrassing part of the endeavor.

After completing the installation, including attaching the two electrical connections, I re-charged the battery and took the newly powered vehicle for a test drive. All went well as I drove around the neighborhood. I pulled back into my driveway, switched off the ignition, and then started it up again. Still no problem. With my triumph nearly confirmed, I asked Penny to take a ride with me. We started up the vehicle again, although I noticed a bit of sluggishness this time. Pulling out of the driveway and putting the beast into drive, I saw matters go wonky. The gas and temp gauges started to rock as lights dimmed. After pulling back into the driveway, I grumbled. Apparently the alternator wasn’t the problem after all.

As I reflected on my wasted afternoon and the money I’d dropped on the new alternator, it occurred to me that the car was behaving in exactly the way it had before and that we had previously done the test to assign the blame to the alternator.

“Wait . . . ,” I said, startling my dog. “What if I didn’t get those wires connected properly.” One wire screwed on securely, but the other was a plastic plug with several smaller wires trailing from it. That plug had been a chore to disconnect. Walking out to the car, I raised the hood and reached down to the suspected culprit. When I pulled it to the right, it slid out easily. Pushing it back in, with some force, I felt it click into place. There was my problem.

Now, several weeks later, the car is operating perfectly. Like I said, I’m a better English teacher.

Before I made that connection, the new alternator had been sitting in the engine compartment, spinning under the power of the serpentine belt, and generating electricity. It was doing its job, but my failure to connect it to the devices that wanted to use that electricity made it useless.

In Philippians 4:13, Paul offers one of his best quotable nuggets: “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. ” How does God strengthen me? He strengthens me through the Holy Spirit. In fact, in Acts 1:8 we learn that the Holy Spirit will give us power–electricity, if you will allow me some latitude.

As a believer, I have the Holy Spirit and its power within me, but sometimes I don’t have the wires connected properly to make use of that power. Sometimes, the power just goes wasted within me.

Fixing that bad connection to tap the new alternator’s power was pretty simple. It’s slightly harder to restore my connection to the Holy Spirit when I’ve allowed it to shake loose. However, unlike in my driveway mechanic work, I have the master mechanic ready to assist me in making good that connection.

Allowing the Author to Speak–Mark 1:22

The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. –Mark 1:22

One of the things that I enjoy more than anything else is working with others to create some sort of dramatic production. It could be a brief skit, a short drama for VBS, or a lengthy production. I can direct, act, write, or perform whatever role. It doesn’t matter; I simply enjoy watching the final project unfold. (Okay, I lied. I enjoy acting more than any of the rest.)

In my current church, I have become the go-to person for directing dramatic work. It’s not that I’m particularly gifted in directing, but I seem to be the best person available. In the course of doing several productions, I’ve discovered something interesting. When I have written the script, I find myself much more confident in my decisions than if I’m attempting to interpret someone else’s text.

In the same vein, I’ve sat under choir directors who had written the music in our laps. Those people know precisely what they intended measure 33 to sound like. They understand exactly how much that crescendo on the second page is supposed to grow or just how much slow down the molto ritard on the last page was intended to evoke. Anyone else, even someone who has spoken with the actual writer, will be doing their best to interpret what the other person said. They might be imposing their own view intentionally or unintentionally, but they’ll undoubtedly impose their own ideas.

When Jesus taught in the synagogue, he didn’t simply appear as the author of the  scriptures that he read. He stood there as the author of human life, of the natural world, and of everything that those scriptures related to. The only thing Jesus did not author was himself. (And if we think too hard in that area, our brains begin to hurt.)

When I teach Sunday School, I will be like one of the teachers of the law, an interpreter of someone else’s text (even though I wrote this month’s curriculum). When you share the gospel with someone, you’ll be like a teacher of the law. Regardless of how you encounter God’s Word, it will always be God’s Word, not yours.

However, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, we can speak as one with authority. When Stephen delivered the eloquent sermon that wound up placing him on the wrong end of a stoning, do you believe that those were just his interpretation? When, on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached and drew 3,000 people into fellowship, did he speak under his own authority or Christ’s?

I cannot speak with the same authority that Jesus employed in Capernaum, but I can, I must, speak with the Spirit’s guidance and authority rather than as a mere interpreter of the law. Failing that, we’re no better than the scribes of Jesus’ day.

Sense of Direction (Hebrews 3:12)

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:12)

Last week I spent an interminable morning attempting to kill time while Penny attended a cheese-making class. There’s not much going on in Oologah, Oklahoma at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. When I wasn’t shopping the wonders of the largest convenience store in Oologah or reading in a McDonald’s in nearby Claremont, I did far too much driving around on country roads. Without a map, I risked life, limb, and well-being as I drove down county road 4060 and traveled along road 390.

Some people might have been worried about getting lost among those various twists and turns. I, on the other hand, have been granted an almost superhuman sense of direction, making it next to impossible for me to get lost. As I explored the various streets of Claremont, locating the post office and passing the gun museum (complete with a tank out front), I always knew which way to turn in order to head back toward the Will Rogers Memorial and, ultimately, my cheese-making bride.

To some degree, my odyssey in northeast Oklahoma resembles my spiritual reality. Just as I wound my way around corners in Claremont, I find myself aimed all sorts of directions when it comes to my attitude toward God. The big difference, however, is that I seem to turn away from God without ever realizing it. I’ll be headed in a spiritual north direction only to look up and find myself headed south-southeast or west-southwest. What’s up with that? I never do that in the car, but in following God it seems to happen constantly.

Happily, I always seem to know which way to turn in order to head back in the right direction. That’s good news, but I’m not sure if I wouldn’t feel more excused if I didn’t know. How can we as believers turn away from God so quickly, so often? We have the road atlas and the Holy Spirit’s GPS, yet still we find ourselves headed in the wrong direction. All I can suggest is that we keep our eyes on the road.