The God Box Temptation

IMG_0201 boxThe problem with people who want to “take God out of the box” is that they can seldom resist the temptation to stuff him in another one of their own making.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit is like a river that flows and a wind that blows. He is ever moving. To try to put constraints on him, by explaining him by how we have seen him move before is putting him in a box.

Jesus said:

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. ( John 7:38,39)

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

Jesus did not heal everyone the same way each time. God did not respond to the cries of his people for deliverance the same way each time.

Recently I heard someone say that the rules and regulations surrounding practices in their denomination were put there for protection. The rules seemed to be quite reasonable when they were devised years ago. But as I was thinking about this, it struck me that the berms built around my son’s neighbourhood in High River, Alberta were also put there for the protection of the town. When the river temporarily changed course at the highest point of its rain-fed uncontrollable gush, the berms actually served as barriers that stopped the water from flowing back into the channel and turned whole neighbourhoods  into a stagnant lake, a lukewarm mix of both fresh river water and disgusting sewage sitting in the summer heat. Stagnation created ideal growing conditions for mold and bacteria in the foundations of homes that were now trapped behind the man-made parameters that were “put there for protection.”

Sometimes denominations form around groups of people with similar experiences, similar understandings, similar revelations, similar aspirations, similar emphasis, or similar disgruntlements. The unity they experience can feel like a refuge and berms are built around it to protect this peaceful easy feeling. But after a few years those protective structures can serve more to keep some folks in and other folks out, and sometimes even try to confine Holy Spirit inside the berms of their definitions of themselves.

The result is stagnation.

Many of us sit in dangerous lukewarm water. We have become the comfortable church of Laodicea, thinking we are rich, when we are poor, not noticing how stinky it is getting and that all of our accomplishments are tainted by the backwash of our own waste.

Church-leavers who form tiny home groups and church-planters who organize stadium-filling mega-gatherings all face the same temptation to berm themselves in. It doesn’t work.

Why? Because God no longer lives in a box. No longer does he need to say, “Touch this box and die!” because we couldn’t approach his holiness in our sinful state. He lives in his people – living, moving, breathing people, reconciled to their Creator by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are his temple. Living stones.

Christ in us, the hope of glory.

This doesn’t mean we abandon discernment and wisdom and accept any old thing. In fact when the Holy Spirit is flowing there is greater discernment and falsehoods are swept away instead of being treasured in hidden places in our hearts’ basements.

He desires all who truly follow Jesus Christ to drop the barriers, and worship Him in Spirit and truth without anger or disputing.

Flow, river flow,

Flood the nations with grace and mercy

Send forth Your word

Lord and let there be light.

(from Shine, Jesus, Shine by Graham Kendrick)

Flow, River, Flow
Flow, River, Flow

8 thoughts on “The God Box Temptation

  1. Allan Halton

    Very good word, sister, thank you. I believe the Lord is preparing His people in this hour to be a riverbed for the river of the Spirit. I mean those who are meek and lowly, and are willing to risk giving the Spirit of the Lord His lordship.

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  2. I have been so blessed by your writing and pictures over the last few months. Invariably they have just spoken so clearly into my situation each morning. Thank You for sharing.

    I just love the picture you have given regarding stagnation and your son’s very sad disaster earlier this year. Our gorgeous, precious Lover indeed can work the bad for some good in this case. Do hope they are managing in their dire situation.

    Just one little correction if you don’t mind?! Shine Jesus Shine was written by Graham Kendrick not Cliff. May I re-post please?

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    1. How encouraging to open my mail and read your kind comment this morning. I love corresponding with beautiful people like you in Europe and Asia and Australia because their comments are waiting for me when I get up in the morning. Thank you so much. Of course you may re-post.

      You have also spoken to my heart today. I quickly googled the lyrics to Shine to make sure I had them written correctly and the page I landed on listed Sir Cliff as the writer. It struck me as very odd that I was not aware of this fact before, but I ignored that little question and posted it anyway. I was probably in a hurry. I usually am. Herein lies the problem with easy access to a public forum. Blogs and Facebook and self-sponsored web-sites have created the ideal conditions for the dissemination of “mis-information” Don’t you just love euphemisms? My favourite may be “I mis-spoke myself.” Is it too hard to say, “I was wrong. I apologize?”

      Well, my friend, I mis-spoke myself was wrong on this one because I didn’t take time to check the facts. I am sorry and I apologize to Mr. Kendrick and Mr. Richards as well, and I am grateful for your kind correction. Bless you for speaking up!

      May you be filled to overflowing with the joy of the Lord, even in your sleep.

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  3. Yes. I have been thinking lately that it’s possible to get comfy with one’s understanding of God, stop being challenged, stop growing. I found myself asking the Lord today to show me if there are ways I’ve stagnated or come short of knowing Him fully because I’ve stopped seeking. Holy Spirit, lead us into all truth!

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    1. “Holy Spirit, lead us into all truth!” Yes, Lord!
      Do you know the story of the blind men each describing their understanding of the nature of an elephant from what they can feel standing at opposite ends of the creature? Well, every time I pray that prayer, the Lord lovingly yanks me around to another part of the elephant and says, “Now feel this.” I seriously wonder sometimes if I have been under the elephant for the past few months, but it is giving me a greater sense of the weightiness of the subject. Frankly I am rather comforted by fact that complete knowledge of the Holy is too big for me to gather in my limited reach. He shows me he is approachable and know-able, but also that there is much more to learn. It will take an eternity.

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