I recently finished reading the book: Forgotten God, Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan. Chan is well known as the former pastor of Cornerstone Church in California (he is involved in other ministry now) and also the author of the book Crazy Love. I admire Francis Chan. He seems like the real thing.
This book is not academic, so you won’t find a discussion of the various “isms” of false belief about the Trinity from the early years of the church. The book is also more broad or general on the Holy Spirit – so you also won’t find content about which gifts of the Spirit are available today (cessationsim vs. continuationism).
Rather it is a practical book for the everyday Christian about the Holy Spirit. It alternates between looking at biblical texts on the role of the Spirit in our lives, and personal stories. Chan’s writing is always very challenging, with statements that you’ll want to highlight and ponder long after you’ve put the book down.
That’s actually about all I am going to say, except to focus in on one part of the book that resonated with me. A few years back, I led a Bible study group on the topic of “Christian decision making.” One of the lessons was on knowing God’s will for our lives, and a main point of the lesson was that we spend too much time worried and wondering about where God is taking us in the future – when we should be more focused on living for God in the here and now. I appreciated the clear-cut way that Chan discusses this:
I think a lot of us need to forget about “God’s will for my life.” God cares more about our response to his Spirit’s leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decisions.
It is easy to use the phrase “God’s will for my life” as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. It’s much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask him what he wants you to do in the next 10 minutes. It is safer to commit to following him someday instead of this day.
To be honest, I believe part of the desire to “know God’s will for my life” is birthed in fear and results in paralysis. We are scared to make mistakes, so we fret over figuring out God’s will….We forget that we were never promised a 20 year plan of action; instead, God promises multiple times in Scripture never to leave or forsake us….
To say that we are not called to figure out “God’s will for my life” does not mean God doesn’t have purposes and plans for each of our lives or that he doesn’t care what we do with our lives. He does. In both the Old and New Testaments he tells us that is true. The key is that he never promises to reveal these purposes all at once, in advance. – (from pages 120-121 in Forgotten God.)
Despite teaching a lesson on this years ago, I needed a reminder about it! I’ve been at a point in my Christian life where everything has seemed at a standstill and doors seemed closed to me. I was heavily involved in leading and coordinating small group adult Bible studies and ministry. One reason I decided to enroll in seminary was to be better equipped for all I was doing. But then soon after enrolling in seminary, just about all doors slammed shut in my face! Even doors I tried to help push open, would not open for me! I’ve been doing nothing. Well, attending seminary certainly isn’t nothing, but I missed being involved in ministry. And I have frustratingly even wondered if getting a seminary degree was worth it since I may never have the opportunity to do anything with it.
Several people who knew my struggles suggested that I try blogging, and it has proved to be a helpful and encouraging outlet for me. It has even become a ministry of sorts. During these last several years of standstill, I have also learned some invaluable lessons (both from life experience and seminary) that will be and already have been helpful to my spiritual life and any future ministry involvement.
When I began to do what I could in the present (such as blogging) despite many other shut doors, and when I focused more on what I was learning in the present (instead of worrying about what I wasn’t doing, or how God would use me in the future), it was then that things started to look up for me. As Chan states, “the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decisions.”
**If you live locally and know me personally, I’d be pleased to lend you this book if you would like to read it. Just let me know.