Okay so I’m still officially a United Methodist, but I became a Pentecostal preacher this week. I’ve decided to describe what happened to me in a matter-of-fact way even though it was paranormal. Here’s a summary. Wednesday morning, at a prayer meeting, I started speaking in tongues, which I had done before, but without fully owning the gift since I wasn’t sure whether it was “Jesus Camp” fake or not. Then Thursday morning, I was posting a blog piece to the Huffington Post and God didn’t like what I had to say so He made the power flicker at the church so I lost everything I wrote and had to rewrite it the way He wanted it. Thursday night, I wrote a 7667 word prophecy overnight over the course of about 5 hours after which I had an enormous pain in the top of my abdomen which made me think I was going to die. Then I took a bath and had some sort of awful spiritual encounter with Satan in which I made awful spiritual utterances which seemed really loud to me even though my wife in the next room couldn’t hear, and I asked God to throw somebody “into the lake of fire,” then wept and laughed uncontrollably. Friday morning I went walking at Burke Lake and the air was so bright and beautiful that I literally thought I was going to run into Jesus on the path. Then Saturday night, I preached a sermon completely extemporaneously though I had generally thought through the ground I was going to cover. I hope you’ll still be my friend even though life has gotten a little strange.
Honestly, I want for you to be able to experience what I have. It’s been pretty amazing. What I have learned is that “the powers and principalities” Paul said we are supposed to wage war against are the boundaries that define the “normal” world that keeps all of us in a state of false comfort and hopelessness. It is the delusion that things will always be as they are, there’s a certain way that life works, and you just kind of coast through and try to pretend like you’re having fun. Life is so much more beautiful than that! God is alive and active in our world. He has put mysterious people in our path for a reason. We are inside of a giant tragicomic drama in which the reason it seems like the bad guys are going to win is because God wants us to give us an opportunity to be heroes. Heroism is simply the word for listening to the breath of God and letting it carry you into battle.
Basically we have a choice as to what story we are going to inhabit about the world around us. The default story in our world is one in which impersonal forces are in charge and we have to obey them. The change in the Dow Jones Industrial Average lets us know whether we’re supposed to be happy or sad that particular day. We pick whether we’re going to be donkeys or the elephants and throw ourselves into the uber-important task of forwarding articles about the latest outrage that Obama or Romney committed because the world will end if the wrong guy gets elected. Step back from that silliness and just laugh for a minute. We’ve got our talking points and we’re so proud of how strongly we articulate them. What a sad, sorry existence.
Well I’ve got news for all of you who are slaves to the meme wars. Jesus is coming. The election is irrelevant. And you know what? It doesn’t matter whether He comes in a month or 200 years from now. Your life will be immensely more beautiful if you live as though He’s landing tomorrow. That’s what it means to live in the kingdom of God. The true king of the universe has been in exile like Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings. Those who have joined the king are soldiers of truth. We don’t have any enemies except for the one enemy who tries to trick us into hating other people. We don’t have any weapons except for the sword of truth, the sacraments of the church, a contrite spirit, and a crucified flesh. With these weapons, we transcend the “normal” that is oppressing everyone else. We go to the same bars and the same baseball games, but without the anxiety of living under the rule of the powers and principalities. If you join the kingdom, you can be sitting in the most miserable cubicle job in the world and have a taste of heaven every day through fasting and prayer.
To me, being Pentecostal simply means that you live in a world that’s a lot cooler and stranger than the so-called “real” world that a lot of people live in. You lose the basic foundation of nervousness that so many people carry around with them. I don’t know what it was that I battled in my bathtub last Thursday night, but it was something because there was an awfulness that filled the room as I was hollering at it in strange otherworldly tongues. It’s funny because I had a pain in the same place in my abdomen tonight and my wife said, “Why don’t you just take some heartburn medicine?” I was like duh, I wonder if that was the issue the other night when I wrestled with Satan. But there was more than just heartburn going on. Because of where it was and the way it was intense enough to make me short of breath, I started thinking about Jesus on the cross and it was as though God had gifted me with the experience of bearing some of the weight of that glory. I cannot explain why it was so beautiful to feel some small measure of what He felt. Maybe you’re reading that saying, dude, why would you be happy about having a pain in your gut? I would just say that when you live outside of the powers and principalities of the “normal,” the authenticity of crucified flesh is sweeter than flesh that is comfortably sluggish.
I have no idea what will develop. I just know that God is present with so much more intensity now than was the case before. He tells me what to do and I obey it. It doesn’t feel like slavery; it feels like inspiration. I hope that you get a chance to join the world outside of “normal.” It’s pretty awesome.