23 September 2012

In the Name of What?

I grew up in a mainline denomination. There was a lot of good stuff there, but they were missing out on things. They'd given up on, or turned away from, miracles (they aren't for today) and the gifts of the Spirit (ditto, though the fruits of the Spirit are mostly fine today, thank you).

But just as the mainline denominations were missing some things, so were the charismatics and the non-denominations. Many have missed wisdom in one area in particular.

Some of us have wasted a lot of time looking for the secret formula, the right phrases, the right attitudes, some hidden message we've all somehow missed, the secret to getting God to do what we want done. "The Answer" has allegedly been revealed many times under many guises: Name it and Claim It, Word of Faith, Positive and Negative Confessions, etc. While all of these had a grain of truth to them, they ultimately became either an attempted means of controlling God (the very worst form of sorcery) or The Thing We Needed To Do To Please God (a kind of works-based grace).

The phrase "Christian Sorcery" is, I trust, an obvious oxymoron. But what are sorcery and witchcraft except finding the key words or works to force someone or something supernatural to cause a desired effect in the natural? God makes no distinctions I can find between "black" and "white" or "good" and "bad" witchcraft. He simply says, "No. Don't be trying to manipulate." He doesn't distinguish between killing curses and love potions, between lightning strikes and rain dances. He just says, "No."

There are even prayers that get into this territory. It's irrelevant how they are phrased; if what we're after is getting God to force someone to do something they don't want to, we're in a dangerous place. It's one thing to cry out to God that we need rain; it's another thing altogether to demand it, much less to try to to do something to force him to rain where and when we want.

Some Christians get irate at this concept. "Sorcery involves the Devil!" If you want to be picky, we can be picky. That's Satanism, which is a subset of sorcery or witchcraft. But it makes no difference. God is about relationship, not rules. God cares about the means, not just the ends. The means involve our relationship with him, and if that relationship isn't about getting to know him and trusting him, if it's about getting our way, it's an attempt to manipulate God. Do you really think that goes well?

Quit looking for the secret, the magic words, the right gestures and attitudes, the correct phrasing, to produce miracles, healings, or provision. If you pay any attention at all as you read the Gospels, you will notice that of the recorded things Jesus did, he seldom did them the same way twice. How many different ways did he heal the blind? How many different ways did he approach the lame? In some cases (the woman in the crowd) he did nothing, the woman reached out in a desperate faith and was rewarded.

If, indeed, there is An Answer, it's simply to have a desperate faith, a faith that recognizes there is no other answer, that one has nothing to lose. But that's not something you can work up. It has to be real, from the heart, giving up hope in anything else. If nothing seems to happen right away, just keep asking, reaching, touching. I can't tell you why we sometimes need to keep on this way, but Jesus recommended it. And when something does happen, recognize it is simply grace, a gift from God, a work of love. Don't check the last thing you did and think it's The Answer, a way to reproduce the miracle, a way to force God to do it again and again and again. He knows what we want and what we need, and he's capable of doing all those things. And he loves us. Trust in that, and see what happens. You won't always get the miracles you wanted, but you will always get expressions of his love. It's simply a question of whether we're willing to recognize and accept them.


  1. You should never cross-link this blog on Facebook. Then I might see it, and have bizarre brain things happen.

    See, the majority of the church (meaning people who aren't in authority, since they're mostly in it for political and financial gain) have gone from looking for a "Father God" figure, to a "Godfather" figure. Right down to horse heads. By the way, Marlon Brando would make a terrible Jesus in a movie.

    It's the fault of two things. The Bible, and people who reinterpret the Bible to make money or gain power.

    See, the Bible has always been the perfect embodiment of combining the Carrot and the Stick. "Do good and be blessed, or do bad and go to hell".

    Now, cynicism mode activated, but a lot of people "find religion" due to one or more of a few factors, usually including Placebo effect, desperation, a need to have decisions made for them, fear, or brainwashing. A lot of which will involve a feeling of lack of control.

    I'm not sure what it is, but I think the mysticism gives them the feeling of "control" back into things, without removing the external factors that justify every single thing they do or think for them.

  2. By the way, sorry if that came across like I wanted to crap on your blog, was just my perspective on it. Plus a reference to a totally haywire movie.