In ninth grade, my brother Andy’s locker partner (the school drug supplier) had a bad trip on LSD. The bad trip continued in a small series of scary flashbacks, and Kevin asked Andy if God had anything to say about it.
My brother had just had a Sunday school lesson about the Four Spiritual Laws. He even had a copy of the tract. Together Andy and Kevin read the pamphlet, and Kevin prayed the prayer on the last page: Lord, I want to know you personally … Take control of the throne of my life.
Kevin’s life abruptly changed. He told everybody at school that Andy had just introduced him to God. Kevin’s old customers came to Andy to meet God, and Andy took them through the pamphlet, and they met God. Soon they asked Andy questions, like: how do you pray? how do you read Scripture? how do you handle temptation?
Andy didn’t know how to respond, so he asked my parents. My parents made suggestions which Andy repeated to his new friends, and their lives changed even more.
One day someone asked a question he couldn’t answer. On the way home from school, Andy slipped into a telephone booth (you can find an example in the Smithsonian History Museum), and he really prayed for the first time in his life.
And Andy met God. And his life totally changed. I’m his little brother, and I’m a witness.
Fruit Is a Bad Litmus Test
My brother Andy is not the first person to bear fruit without a relationship with God. God used him to convert dozens of students before he himself was a true disciple. It is so tempting to measure our spiritual stature by our converts, followers, or Facebook likes. But Scripture forbids us to trust our headlines:
- A donkey prophesied to Balaam, but nobody has ever suggested the donkey was anything other than an ass.
- Jonah’s sermon convicts 120,000 people who repent, but Jonah himself is an intolerant, grace-lacking bigot; he probably would have disdained St. Francis too.
- Scripture say “many” will prophesy, cast out demons, and do mighty miracles, and Jesus himself will declare, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
- Paul says, we can speak in tongues, exercise great prophetic gifts, understand spiritual mysteries, and even die as martyrs, all for naught.
If we minister to thousands of followers, or if our kids are perfect or our marriages exemplary, it might be all for naught; we’re looking at faulty report cards. God is merciful, so he gives rain to both the just and the unjust. And since he sees the neediness of this world, he also works through both the just and the unjust.
We Need Simpler Technology
When the disciples return from a mission trip, they rejoice at all the miracles they performed. Jesus tells them to rejoice rather in the relationship they have with him. We injure God’s work in us through our conscious focus on the work he does through us.
God often works mightily through us, but in his mercy, he also pursues us with mysteries that drive us to him. He sends each of us on detours, to a phonebooth, where our headlines are stripped away, and we stand naked before him. Jonah had the puzzle of the mystifying love of God, and my brother Andy had the spiritual question he couldn’t answer.
We can enter that phonebooth as humble Clark Kent and emerge with the super-natural power of God that glorifies his name (not ours), or we can enter the phonebooth carrying our superman headlines.
And emerge as an ass.
P. S. Jesus stirs up mysteries so we bring them to him; so we can grow in intimacy with him. So we can hear his voice.
To grow in that divine dialogue, please watch the video bel0w (Is that all there is?), and read, Hearing God in Conversation.
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