Posted by: 15shekels | June 8, 2011

With Power from On High

“‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.'” -God, Psalm 91:14

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed…” -Jeremiah 22:3

“‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…'” -Jesus, Matthew 6:25

“’When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind…’” -Jesus, Luke 14:12-13

I believe with all my heart that God intervenes directly on this earth. We read in Scripture of the Lord miraculously parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14), literally raining down bread from heaven (Exodus 16), delivering men untouched from fiery furnaces (Daniel 3), keeping whiny prophets alive inside whales for three days (Jonah 1-2); and of course the greatest direct intervention of all—coming to earth as a poor, Middle Eastern carpenter to save rebellious mankind from itself.

Furthermore, I believe that God continues to intervene directly today. I have heard countless stories of people hearing the audible voice of God, experiencing miraculous healings, even stories of dead men literally being raised (when I start doubting modern miracles, I like to browse the blogs of men and women on the World Race, an 11-country global trip where Christians step far out of their comfort zones in faith and see God do incredible things). It is to be expected, really. If God created this world and cares about it, it makes sense that He would intervene to advance His purposes.

And yet, one of the great mysteries of God is that He doesn’t just feed, heal, rescue and redeem his broken world himself, even though that would certainly be the most efficient way to get things done. Instead, for some unfathomable reason, He invites us to help Him. He does so by commanding us to share the good news of his eternal salvation, but he also does so by commanding us to help restore the world here and now. Looking at the scriptures at the beginning of this post, it is no coincidence that God says, “I will rescue” in Psalm 91 and then in Jeremiah commands the king of Judah (and all of us) to rescue the oppressed. It is no coincidence that Jesus tells his followers not to worry about food, and at another time commands them to invite the poor to eat with them. God does not need us to fulfill his promises, and yet he clearly commands us to partner with him to fulfill those promises. Gary Haugen, founder and president of the International Justice Mission explains eloquently how God uses us to respond to injustice in the world:

How does God rescue the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked? Overwhelmingly, he does it through those who choose to follow him in faith and obedience. He doesn’t need our “help,” but he chooses to use us. Looking at the millions of bonded child laborers in India or the thousands of child prostitutes in Asia or thousands of torture victims twisting and bleeding in the world’s forgotten jail cells, we can say to God, “Thank you, thank you… thank you! Thank you for all the power, protection, freedom and justice you have granted us in sparing us from such fates. Thank you, thank you…thank you!’ Or we can ask, ‘What have you given me, Father, that I might help those who don’t have power, who don’t have protection, who don’t have freedom, who don’t have justice?” (Haugen, Good News About Injustice, 101)

Now, these commands can seem crushing, because most of us have a sense of our own weakness and inadequacy in responding to even the broken heart of a friend, let alone torture victims twisting in forgotten jail cells. The good news is that God does not command us to do these things, wish us luck and retreat up into heaven. If we read the end of the gospel of Luke, we do see Jesus saying a temporary farewell to the disciples and ascending into heaven. However, he makes a crucial promise before he leaves: “‘I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.'” (Luke 24:49). Mysterious words that find their fulfillment when the story resumes in the book of Acts:

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” -Acts 2:1-4

God doesn’t leave us as orphans; He sends us the Holy Spirit. God himself, dwelling within us. The Holy Spirit is not only described as a comforter and counselor, he is also described as “power from on high.” If you read the rest of Acts 2, you will find the same Peter who had recently denied Jesus preaching boldly in front of a hostile crowd and healing a crippled beggar. You will also find the believers, who had recently been squabbling over who would get the most power, living together, and giving “to anyone as he had need.” (2:42-47). The Holy Spirit comes, and the disciples are transformed from doubting, petty, cowards to powerful agents of God’s kingdom.

It’s a win-win situation for us, really. We are invited into the greatest adventure of all time—God’s redemption of the world—and we are guaranteed victory, because we have been told of Christ’s triumph over death on the cross and God’s promises of restoration. We get the excitement of carrying out much of the action, with the reassurance that it is God in us breathing power into the action. We literally enter into God’s power as it moves through the world, because we become the vessels through which it often moves. How often do we miss out on opportunities to use our power from on high to further God’s purposes? And how often do we cry out for God to act in our lives, and then miss his response because it is through a fellow broken human instead of through lightning from heaven?

A few weeks ago, a young woman who has experienced great injustice and evil told me that she wished God would rescue her and change her situation. In the days that followed, I have watched as God has used many of his children, clothed with power from on high, to surround this woman, to love her, to listen to her, to pray for her, and to provide for her. There is much more to be done, but the body of Christ has mobilized, and I believe it will continue to do so on her behalf. I hope that some day soon she will see that God is in fact rescuing her—that we will all see the ways in which God is rescuing us as well—through what is perhaps His favorite method: His church.

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Responses

  1. love the blog Heather. Keep up the good work. I like the length too 🙂

  2. Excellent post, Heather. You are one of those “clothed with power from on high”, you know!


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