Welcome to the Overflow – forsaking the American pursuit of safe, comfortable, manageable and clean living for something much more exciting and dangerous and dare we say, biblical. I am writing this to encourage men to open up their lives to the overwhelming presence and work of the Holy Spirit and then to live the adventure of watching it happen. I will share my experience that began in 2006, and invite men to join me and others who are living in the overflow.
At a men’s retreat in the Spring of 2006 I was encouraged to make the choice between living according to the sinful nature or according to the Spirit. Romans 8:6 sunk in deeply – it’s so easy to see with every day, every choice, and every response which choice we have made.
“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;” (Rom. 8:6, NIV)
I knew right away that my desire was to overflow with the fruit of the Spirit in my private life, family life and work life. I want to bring the sweet fragrance of life and peace to everything and everyone I touch. And when I fail and bring the stench of death, I want to be quick to get down on my knees and repent and be forgiven. Here I was, a Christ-follower since I was 5 years old, a worship pastor, and God was leading me to take the next step of faith with him – a call to go deeper. Wherever you are at in your relationship with the Lord, I hope you hear his call to go deeper and I hope I can encourage you with my testimony.
On January 3, 2006, I wrote down my goals for the year and one of them was, “Pursue foster care/adoption and open the floodgates of love in our home – do more to love the ‘least of these.’” Little did I know the implications of that goal, but I did sense a strong leading from the Lord that it was time. This had been a desire of mine since I was 20 years old. But it was what happened at a men’s retreat a few months later that made me adequate for the task.
I came to that retreat a year ago with an intense desire to connect with the men and lead them in worship to God. I also felt very inadequate to do this – awkward as I was out of my usual context of the church and people who I knew. As a result, I became ‘super-dependent’ upon God and him empowering me to be able to do the task. The call to ‘live by the Spirit’ was not new to me, but in retrospect I had just touched the surface. Even now, having gone deeper, I still feel that way. As I led worship that year, I felt God’s Spirit moving through me in a way I had never experienced before. I realized that I needed to approach my own congregation this way every week – with this intense desire to connect them to God in worship – something that could only be done as a result of a “super-dependence” upon his Spirit working in and through me. I wrote this in my journal, “It was time to kick it into the ‘overflow’ gear by the power of the Holy Spirit.” In the same way, I needed this “super-dependence” to make me adequate as a husband and as a father to my son and to the children I hoped to foster and adopt.
This raises the question, “How do we open our lives to the work of the Holy Spirit?” I will outline what I have discovered over the past year.
1. We must forsake the pitfall of the distorted American way of life as Christians. We unconsciously follow American Christianity instead of a biblical Christianity. Let’s face it, most of us are focused on creating a safe, comfortable, manageable and clean life for ourselves. I propose that this life gives very little space for the Holy Spirit to fill us because we are full of ourselves. We work really hard to create a life where we don’t need him. Until we enter a period of tragedy that draws us to the end of ourselves and our ability to manage and control our lives, we live fairly ineffective, albeit pleasant, lives. We totally miss out on the joy of being wholly dependent upon Christ and His Spirit. Tragedy will certainly come, but why wait for a tragedy to draw us to our knees in dependent faith? I’m going to assume that if you are reading this you can categorize yourself as a) someone, like me who was just living a nice clean, manageable and comfortable life which I call ‘the myth,’ b) someone going through a tragedy that feels hopeless, or c) you are living in the overflow of God’s Spirit. Living in the overflow transcends our circumstances be it tragedy or tranquility. The answer for those of us outside of the overflow lies in the following – God is calling us all to a deeper obedience and trust, to a “super-dependence” upon him, and to be influential leaders in whatever positions he has given us. Success is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit overflowing through us. Welcome to the overflow!
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:16-19, NIV)
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” (Col. 2:9-10, NIV)
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. May you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
2. Take time to listen to God – through His Word (Bible study), prayer, and communication with other believers. As a college student, I encountered the J.P. Moreland challenge – say goodbye to the 10-15 minute unfocussed, compulsory, quiet time and spend 1 or 2 times each week in depth with the Lord. It’s much more likely that we will listen to God if we’re really taking time to examine the Word, examine our hearts, and go deeper as we wrestle with the reality of life against the reality of Christ in our lives. This is a place to start that will foster a quiet time out of a ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’ rather than a guilty compulsion.
3. Be obedient to the call he has placed on your life – guaranteed that this call is not to a safe, comfortable, manageable, and clean life. God made a man’s heart beat for the opposite kind of life – anything else is settling for less than God’s best. Can you name one man in the Bible who was highly influential and didn’t experience danger, discomfort, sacrifice, and yes, a super-dependence upon God? Think of King David – enemies, sin, a small man with a big God. Think of Job – loosing possessions, his job, family, friends and health, a man of incredible wealth and influence. Joseph – false accusations, prison, separation from family – incredible wealth and influence. Moses – 40 years in the desert, 40 years in the wilderness, – a man who knew God. Daniel – the Lion’s den, faithful in prayer 3 times a day got him into the whole mess. Micah – persecuted as a prophet, a call to do justice and walk humbly with God. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Nehemiah, Hosea, etc. The disciples and apostles – persecuted for the sake of the gospel, yet, wrote the inspired Word of God. The first Christians – slaughtered for their faith, faithful unto death, loosing homes and loved ones and their livelihood, yet, established the gospel and the church for all time. “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psa. 86:11, NIV) It is interesting to note that early Christians called their faith in Christ, “the Way.” Like those who risked everything to identify with Christ and then follow him with their lives, we need to forsake the safe American life for something much more exciting and fulfilling.
The raises the question, “Then what is my call? What way is God trying to teach me to walk in?” Back to my testimony – at 20 I was deeply compelled to do foster care and adopt children. At 24 I was reminded of that call and wrote this in my journal: “A dream of mine is to buy some nice property and adopt a number of kids – provide a home where love and discipline are practiced and taught. He [a Ugandan preacher] and his wife were shooting for 20 orphans. I’m thinking closer to 5 or so. We’ll see how God will develop this dream.” In 2006 I realized that God was saying, ‘Go’ and so I went. My wife and I were not on the same page, so I just prayed and casually brought it up. Within 5 months she actually initiated the process. We qualified for foster care in 6 weeks and within 4 days since that time received an infant from the hospital – Maria. 3 months later we learned that there was a great aunt who wanted her. My wife and I chose to dedicate Wednesday lunch to fast and pray together. We also opened up our lives and situation to our church family and immediate family. Nothing externally changed – God seemed to be allowing Maria to transfer out of our home. Internally God was working big time taking me, my wife and all those who joined us in prayer to a deeper place of trust in Him. During this process I was deeply convicted that God was calling us to love Maria’s great-aunt because she was a widow. His call is to do justice for the widow and the orphan. We opened our hearts to her as well. We began praying for her salvation in Christ and saw our potential role in bring Christ to her. 2 hours before we were to meet the great-aunt and begin the transfer of Maria out of our home, it was called off. The court ruled in our favor and we still have Maria. Her great aunt came to visit during Easter weekend and attended our church with us. God is clearly calling her to himself and opening her extended family to us. We cannot stop giving God all the praise for this wonderful work of his sovereign will in our lives.
My first inclination is to implore everyone to do this type of ministry to the orphan and widow, but the deeper issue here is an obedience to God’s call on each of our lives – and it will be uncomfortable, unsafe, out of our control at times, and about the most exciting way of life you can ever imagine. I have been drawn into a deep trust in the Lord, and rich partnership and relationship with my wife in this ministry to our first foster-daughter, deeper into prayer and anticipating God’s response, deeper in dependence upon the body of Christ, his church and our relationships with my family and friends. Welcome to the overflow! For me there is no turning back – just an intense desire to go deeper. Lord, take me deeper for your glory and for the good of those you have called me to lead and influence.
What is your call?