Our church has been going through The Story together and the last line of last week’s chapter keeps resonating in my heart and in my head. “Is the Lord among us or not?”
The Hebrews had just been rescued from Egypt and delivered from a life of slavery by events that unmistakably pointed to God’s presence and intervention in their circumstances. Yet in the time it takes to get hungry in the wilderness, it seems they forgot how they got there. The plagues that convinced Pharaoh to let them go… The pillar of fire and cloud that led them forward and kept the Egyptians at bay… The sea path that dried up for them to cross, then refilled fast enough to obliterate the oncoming army…
“Is the Lord among us or not?”
The answer seems obvious, but before we get on their case too much we may want to step back and examine our own lives. Are we living lives that look like we know that He is among us? In Acts 4, Peter and John surprised the Jewish council with a passionate response to their attempts to quiet the disciples’ talk of Jesus and to stifle any display of the power of His name. They shouldn’t be able to defend themselves so eloquently. They’re unschooled… These are just ordinary guys from the lake… But they had been with Jesus!
And that changed everything.
The presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives gave them courage to live lives that didn’t make any sense. He enabled them to do things that they could not possibly have done without Him there. What is going on in our churches and in our lives that doesn’t make sense apart from the intervention of God? What is happening in our relationships that gives unmistakable evidence that the Lord is indeed among us? Jesus early disciples rocked the Roman empire in the wake of His resurrection by adopting orphans and abandoned kids, caring for sick people left to die alone, and valuing human life in ways that no other culture did.
We need the same Spirit of courage today. We’ve too often forgotten how we got here, and we’ve become afraid. Instead of living as a life giving culture within every dark corner of our world, we cower and cling to our rights. We’re afraid they’ll take our guns and indoctrinate our children so we rail about the 2nd Amendment and pull the young salt and light from places that are desperately in need of their influence. We’re afraid the world is coming to an end so we squirrel away every golden nut we trust to keep us going in the dark days ahead. We’re afraid the government is out to get us all, so we re-post every conspiracy theory and sensational headline we find that lends credence to our fears. We’re afraid we’re just not good enough to deserve the love of God, so we re-post the ridiculously viral Facebook attempts to curry Jesus’ favor. I have nothing against responsibly owning guns and educating our own kids, or planning ahead and not counting on politicians to have our best interest at heart – but don’t be motivated toward those things by fear.
Is the Lord among us or not? Could we just stop? Stop being afraid, church. They’ve already killed the one who laid down every right He had. They pulled His body off the cross, wrapped it up, and put Him in a grave. And He already defeated the enemy! We have nothing left to fear!
God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.
-Paul, in a great reminder to his spiritual son, Timothy
“Is the Lord among us or not?”
May the lives we live reveal that we know with every breath we take that He is.