I've been talking with several people about the Spirit.
On a side topic (I will get to my main points in a minute) what is it with the christian obsession with capitalizing everything. Word, God, Spirit, He, Thee, It, One: is it really that important. I know we want to seperate the idea of God from god, so that weknow we mean to talk about the one and only God and not any of the so-called gods, who, whether they are gods or not, are not the one and only. But do we really have to capitalize One and Only? I just think it's an obsession, and there's no real reason for it. Like in songs, if we sing "you," we don't have to sing "You," because it's not like we don't know what we're talking about, especially if we're singing worship music. And really, in what other setting would you see the words to the music up on a screen for you to sing with (let's discount sing-a-long childrens' videos)? So we know what we mean right? Or "Him." Can't we look at the context? That's what we do with every other piece of literature. We read the pronoun in context and quickly make the distinction of which pronoun refers to which noun. So I don't see what the big deal is. As far as "Spirit" such as many places in the bible where it is capitalized, does that really matter? There were no capital letters in the greek version, as it was written. Yeah, go pull out your Greek New Testament and see. No capitals... imagine that! So really, since we don't have the capital letter to indicate that "spirit" refers to "Spirit" shouldn't we translate accordingly, and leave it up to the interpretation? If god puts his "spirit of peace" on us, does it have to be his "Spirit of Peace?"
Anyway, now that I'm done ranting, I was talking about the Spirit. I've been under the impression for about twelve years, since I first started thinking about these things, that people in American churches don't really know what to do about the *Holy Spirit* (that was a whisper). And I'm not limiting this to my own church, my own upbringing. There are charismatics and pentacostals (not to group the two together too closely) who think they've got it, or some semblance of it, that they know what it's all about, and they certainly have more of a flair for the emotional side of christian living, but do they really get it? Does anybody? I've known people who see angels or, bless them,, see demons. And I feel like they know something the rest of the world doesn't, but I don't think they really know what it is. They just have a window, over which everyone else seems to carry shutters. I've known people who think they can discern God's will with the way they "feel the spirit", but I don't think they can really explain it, nor do I think that all of them really have the ability. A lot of the people who are into things of the spirit, seem to be manufacturing the evidence for themselves. They learn to cloak their entire mindset with an aura of spirituality, but are any of them really being moved by the spirit? I don't know. I believe some of them are. But the ones who are the most convincing have never really been taught. Things just happened. It's like God just stepped into their lives and started changing the way they experienced him. This includes gifts of the spirit which are typical of charismatic traditions: tongues, discernent prophecy. It astounds me how many people think they have these gifts.
The rest of us seem to be floating in a miasma of confusion. Let me lay out how I learned that we were supposed to "hear God's voice:"
There was the bible reading. You had to read your bible. That was the most important part of finding God's will for your life. Everything we needed to know about living in this world was found there, and if God was going to give you specific guidance for your current circumstances, he was going to do it through "THE WORD."
Then there was other people. In addition to using His Word, God would sometimes use other people, namely strong christian people, to tell you his will. This would usually come in the form of a parent, pastor, mentor figure who was wise enough to understand what you're supposed to do in life, or maybe even is moved in some mysterious spiritual way, unintentionally of course, to tell you something you need to hear.
Then of course there was prayer. If you prayed a lot, God would probably cause the right thoughts to come to your mind.
All these things were what we knew about the way of God's Spirit. The Holy Spirit did other things, too. We didn't disbelieve the accounts of miracles and tongues and other things in the modern day; we just weren't comfortable with them within our own doors. Casting out demons was cool, if God had really called you to do that, and if you went over to places where it was really happening, like South America. They clearly have a need for casting out demons in South America. But any of that done in your back yard or at some religious gathering was clearly a little weird. If the guy is not throwing himself in the fire or overpowering twelve men, each twice his size, then he's really not demon-possessed. Or at the least, let's not make a stink of it, unless he starts showing these signs. Because really, how embarrassing would it be if we started casting out a demon, and it turns out the guy was just acting creepy to try and scare us. Boy wouldn't we be chagrined. Let's not have any of that, okay? Really, we just don't like the idea of making mistakes like that, so let's avoid that whole line of thinking as much as we can.
Is this really the Way, which the disciples followed? Is this what got people burned alive or fed to the animals in the gladiator pits or crucified upside down? Is this the amazing power which sprang up in Christ's followers like springs of living water? It doesn't seem to fit. Nothing I've seen seems to fit. I just think the entire church needs to take a new look on the Holy Spirit. Because I'm sure he exists and I'm sure that we can truly learn to follow him and truly have those living waters springing up in us, but I don't really know what it's all about.
Okay, that was long, but I'm done talking for now. Give me your ideas, if you've got them.