Archives For Holy Spirit

Zen Bowling

October 11, 2012 — Leave a comment

bowlingI really stink at bowling. I always have. I do it about once a year and look and feel stupid the whole time.

Today, my unit at work had a team building outing. We ate some lunch, and went bowling. The first game did not go well for me. I didn’t even break 100. The second game was going the same way until the 10th frame. I got three strikes in the 10th and actually won!

The weird thing is, it was just a weird thing. I don’t know what happened, how it happened, why it happened. I just happened.

I got the ball, took a deep breath, and time stopped. I couldn’t hear the music playing, didn’t hear the voices of all the people around me. Before I released the ball I knew it would be a strike, and it was. Same for the second shot and the third. I just knew it was going to happen.

This same thing has happened just like this four other times in my life. I wrote about one here where I hit a bumblebee with an acorn. Once in the third grade during a baseball game (which I also was no good at) I hit a grand slam to win the game. Eight years ago I won an XBox 360 in a raffle, and the same thing happened about six months ago when I won a Wii.

I knew I was going to bowl three strikes. I knew I was going to hit the bumblebee. I knew I was going to hit a home run, and I knew I was going to win the raffle. It’s like time stopped during each of these events and I just knew.

What is that? Have any of you ever experienced anything like that?

I called it “zen bowling” today. Everyone with me agreed that something weird/special happened. I know it’s not zen – I don’t believe in that philosophy. But on the surface, it was a very peaceful experience where I had an insight, ability or intuition that I normally don’t have. Which, if you think about it, is actually kinda zen.

Do you think the Holy Spirit can give a person this kind of insight or ability? Do you think in each of these situations of weirdness, I was given something I don’t normally have so that I could do something I don’t normally do? Is this what being filled with the Spirit is all about? Or did I just get lucky and feel really good about it?

A big question is, why would God care if I did these things? Was he glorified in each of them? I wasn’t thinking about God, I know that for sure. I was thinking how crazy it was. If I give God the credit for these things will they happen more often?

So many questions. You know what I’m talking about, right? Or are we just in the Matrix?

Comment below if you have answers or similar experiences!

Whoa Whoa Whoa Feelings

September 10, 2012 — Leave a comment

notebook

Yeah, The Notebook. Get over it.

You know what? I was sound asleep 15 minutes ago. Sound asleep. Then my eyes popped open, I sat straight up in bed, my mind immediately awake and full of ideas. Two words. Holy. Spirit.

There has been an occasion in my life where I had the opportunity to have a moment like in the picture above. Imagine it for a moment. How ridiculous it actually is, I mean. Why am I standing outside in the rain kissing someone? Why am I not inside, where it’s warm and dry? Who does that?

Have you ever had a moment like that?

Well, let me try to explain the unexplainable.

Circumstances have drawn you toward this one single moment. Everything is all lined up. It doesn’t even matter what happened to draw you into this moment – all that matters is this is where you are.

You’re shivering, but not cold. Actually, you’re pretty warm inside. Your heart is pounding, you’re out of breath, your skin feels like lightning is about to strike. And it’s like there’s only two people on the entire earth. Everyone else, everything else, is outside of existence.

Have you every had a moment like that in life? I hope you have – in spite of being ridiculous, it’s actually pretty wonderful. Pretty life changing. It’s something you will never forget.

I’m married to a girl I shared a moment like that with. She’s beautiful, inside and out. Our life could be a movie! And the weird thing is, we have moments like that all the time. Except for the rain part.

We have other moments, too. Moments when things are too hard, moments when we can’t stand each other, moments when everything is too hard and we just want to give up. Moments when there’s a mountain of dirty laundry, the dishes are all sitting in the sink dirty and neither of us wants to wash them, moments when both cars are broken down and we have no idea what to do next because neither of us gets paid until Friday and it’s Tuesday and we just paid the mortgage and we only have $28 to last the week.

All of those moments are what life is. I wouldn’t trade one of them for anything. I have experienced all of those things, and maybe you have too. I cherish each and every one of those experiences, and all the others. It’s part of who I am, and they have, at least in part, made me who I am.

There’s one more moment. It’s almost unexplainable. But I’ll give it a try.

Circumstances drew me into this one single moment. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are – here I am. Maybe I’m scared, or upset or worried about life or work or whatever. And Cheryl is there praying over me. My heart is pounding, I’m shivering, out of breath, and there’s electricity in the air. But instead of it being just the two of us, there’s someone else there. There are three people in this moment and all three of us are engaged in what is happening. Everyone else, everything else, is outside of existence.

Everything becomes completely still, the hairs on my arms stand straight up, a cool, calming breeze blows across my skin.

It’s just me and Cheryl and the Holy Spirit. He brings us together, he breathes through us, into us. He give us love and life and hope. He makes life more than the laundry and cars and home repairs, more than the sum of all the moments put together. He makes even the hard things worth it. Life – for us anyway – is not possible and maybe not even worth it without him.

Have you ever had a moment like that? I hope you have. In spite of me trying to give words to it, it’s unexplainable, wonderful, life changing. It’s something you will never forget, and something you will long to experience again and again. The awesome thing about it is, you can experience it. You can have this every single day. You can experience this moment over and over again, and it’s brand new every single time.

Romans 8:26-28 comes to mind. We often come to God with a laundry list of mundane things to pray about – health, safety, work, family. God already knows our needs! Not that we don’t need to pray for and over all of it, but there is a level of prayer that goes much deeper. God wants to know you, not just the things you’re worried about or in need of. He wants to share life with you!

Sometimes we don’t know what to pray, or how to pray. The Spirit helps us, he intercedes for us, sometimes with words we don’t even understand. He helps us to see that it’s all going to be ok, that everything is going to work out, even if we don’t think it will, even if we think there’s no chance that this will ever be ok. He helps us to understand that we are loved beyond what we can presently know, and that all things work together for good to those who love God.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? I hope you have -

einstein_thinking

I learned some things in church on Sunday. Well, I say I learned them – I already knew all that stuff, but it was presented in a new way that made me think. And it put me into a really weird mood. I was wresting with it all day on Sunday, all evening, all night, all day today. And I was crabby and irritable and generally off-putting to those around me. I sometimes get that way when I have to work through something, but not very often. It depends on how much thinking I need to do. And to be honest, the less I have to think, the better.

It’s not God’s fault I was in a bad mood. Even though it’s God stuff I was thinking about, it really wasn’t his fault. It’s my fault.

Here’s what we talked about yesterday – being born again. Should be a pretty elementary topic for a Christian, right? But this message threw me, and made me think long and hard about my salvation experience, and all that has happened afterward.

We talked about the story of Nicodemus from John 3. The pastor walked us throught the story – a Jewish religious leader, a Pharisee, came to Jesus during the night, probably so none of the other Pharisees would see him. They kinda didn’t like Jesus much. As a group that is. All through the Gospels you can read about Jesus doing something miraculous and the Pharisees complaining that he did it on the Sabbath and then saying that they were going to kill him for it.

Nic was a bit different. He told Jesus, “We know you’re from God – nobody can do all this stuff unless he’s from God.” Jesus stepped right around that statement and made one of his own – “Unless you’re born again, you’ll not see the Kingdom of God.” And Nic was all like, “Wait. What?”

It’s all about perspective, and you have to understand where Nic was coming from. As far as God loving, Law abiding, tithing, fasting, Scripture memorizing, church attending, praying people go, there were no better people than the Pharisees. And from what I’m reading, Nic even believed in Jesus!

What else is there? What other qualifications are there? What is expected of us? If none of that is enough to get into heaven, what do we have to do?

We must be born again.

Wait. What?

Nic didn’t get it, and most people who love God, read the bible, do the right thing, tithe, fast, pray and go to church miss it too. And maybe I’m missing it and just don’t know it yet.

You must be born again. Jesus said we have to born of water and Spirit. The first one, water, is natural birth. If you’re reading this, you may have actually been born at some point in your life. Except for that small segment of the population that was delivered by stork, or who crawled out from under a rock somewhere. Seriously though – you were born.

The second birth is Spiritual birth. This is salvation. The first birth is from your mom, the second is from the Holy Spirit. I have previously written a little bit about the role of the Spirit in salvation (which you can read about here) but basically the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, leads us to salvation and regenerates our spirit. This is what it means to be born again. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (Jn 3:6).

So far I’m hanging in there, really eating up everything being said. Then I started thinking. “Well,” I thought, “I do all those things. I mean, I’m not much for fasting, but I’ve done it. And the other stuff too.”

Then the pastor went on to give examples of people who said they became a Christian at some point, but nothing really happened after that – not much in the way of change in their lives.

And I started thinking even more. Who am I? How do I act? What goes on in my mind? Is it God stuff or worldly stuff?

If you could see into my mind, you’d most likely puke up a lung. It’s a mess up in there. I’m not going to list my sins here, my thoughts, the things I think and do when I think nobody is watching. I’ll just say that to a certain degree, I lack integrity. Integrity is the glue that holds it all together, and my glue dried out. You can’t even pull the lid off anymore.

So, I spent most of the night kicking myself for all the junk in my life. I even had a pretty deep conversation with Cheryl about it. And I still don’t have an answer yet.

I could also list all the good things – all the things that the Pharisees did that were not good enough to get them into heaven either. It’s not about the good outweighing the bad and if there’s just a little drop of good left, “Whew, I made it!” No – I must be born again. Am I? Are you? How do you know??

Here’s the answer – before I was saved, I did good and bad things. When I did bad things, I was punished and instructed not to do those things anymore. I didn’t even care. My freshman year of high school I was in so much trouble. My dad was seriously going to send me to a military academy about 4 states away. I couldn’t change, and I didn’t care to. I kinda tried, but it was no use. I was just a bad kid. No – really. I was a bad kid, and no amount of effort on my part could change that.

In the spring of 1980, I went to a revival on youth night at a local Baptist church. Cuz they had free hotdogs. And I ate a ton of them, and tried to sneak out the back door. My plan was to vandalize the majority of the vehicles in the parking lot. I hadn’t thought much past that, but if time remained I would have thought of something.

I got caught by a wonderful man named John Childers, and he made me go to the service. I sat by a boy named Tommy, and we dipped snuff and spit on the floor. But at the end, something got ahold of me. I heard the words, not in my head, not with my ears, but in my heart. I didn’t know what to do. I waited until it was all over – the bus had left, the janitor was shutting the place down. He went and got the pastor, and the pastor took me home and led me to straight to Jesus. I was born again in the spring of 1980. I don’t remember the exact day, but I know it happened! And I have a baptism certificate somewhere around here from just a few weeks later. I was born of the Spirit on that very day!

You know what? I still got into a little trouble. Heck, I was a kid. But the heart behind those action was different. No more anger, no more hate. Before I was saved, I had to work hard to be good and failed, and afterward, I had to work hard to be bad!

Before I was saved, the burden was all on me, and I could not handle it. Afterward, that burden was and is on God – and he’s got it covered. There’s no checklist, no condemnation, no burden of guilt – just freedom! And it is such a sweet deal – I gave up everything that was killing me – physically, mentally and spiritually – and in return I got a brand new life!

I still mess up. My thoughts are still a mess. I still dip some snuff even all these years later. But just ask around – “Who is Rich Nifong?” I know the answer you’ll get. Everyone knows who I am and what I’m all about.

What about you? Are you trying to work your way into the Kingdom? You can’t! You’ll miss it by a mile or by an inch but you’ll miss it either way. You must be born again!

I love that kind of music – kind of a smooth jazz. Don’t let this be well known, but I also kinda like Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr., Michael Buble, and others. Not as much as I like Def Leppard, but sometimes you’re just in the mood.

I like this particular song by Dean Martin because it talks about getting kicked in the head. Which is funny to me for some reason.

“How lucky can one guy be? I kissed her and she kissed me. Like the fella once said, ‘Ain’t that a kick in the head?’”

Why would a kiss be compared to a kick in the head? Well, have you ever kissed someone? Remember your first kiss, or a kiss with that special someone? Yes, I just said that. It’s electric, it gets your heart racing, your mind goes numb, your body tenses up. Like if you were to get kicked in the head.

I only mention that because Cheryl busted her head real good last night. We had to go to the doctor because of it. She bent over real quick, right into the door frame, which has a huge dent in it now. I heard the sound, saw her legs get rubbery, saw her collapse. I mean, she hit it hard. She was almost completely out when I got to her. Nothing like a kick in the head – her eyes were glazed over, she was dazed, her heart was racing.

Have you ever hit your head like that? It’s a surreal experience. Out of body, metaphysical, electric. Spiritual.

Have you ever had an encounter like that with God? Have you ever had the Spirit come over you, out of the blue, and just flat out kick you in the head? Metaphorically speaking obviously. God doesn’t kick people in the head. But sometimes he kinda does. Right?

I’m thinking about myself – how hard headed I am, and the lengths God went to to not just redeem me, but to get my attention. Sometimes it’s a gentle voice, like a spring breeze. Mostly if he wants my attention it’s a bone jarring experience and we pick up the pieces together and move on.

I’m also thinking about Israel. How many times in the bible were they walking with God, turned their back on him, got overrun by the Philistines or whoever then remembered how things were before they went their own way?

We all do this. Unfortunately. It’s normal. We are so blessed, we praise God, we worship him, we get all caught up in our lives, we get to a point where our worship is just songs, our prayers are just words, and our power is our own. Then something happens and we run back to God.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to be – you know that right? We are supposed to walk with God daily, we are supposed to be empowered by the Spirit daily, we are supposed to always be in a mindset of worship and prayer – continually. That’s the trick right there.

I think we all deserve a good kick to the head from time to time – it sets us straight, it reminds us what’s real, it reminds us who paid the price for us. Ideally, it would just happen once, but then again we’re human and we all need a course correction from time to time.

If you’re one of those that recognizes immediately when something is wrong and immediately correct it, good on you. Me? I’ll probably continue to need a good swift kick every now and then.

Pray for me, and with me – God is working in my life right now! He’s shaking things up, making me see the reality around me. Cheryl’s head wound reminded me that God has a plan for me, he’s not done, I’m not used up, too old, too broken – not ever – God still has a plan. I just wish it was my head that got hit - it can take a lot more abuse that Cheryl’s.

water balloon

My daughter Trinity just got back from Crazy MixUp Camp 2012. Looks like she had a great time! This was her first camp experience, except for those years when I was a Youth pastor – I think she was 6 months old, 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 during those years, so I’m sure she doesn’t remember.

I saw a pic or two that the camp posted on their Facebook page. Seriously – I’ve said this for years – the thing I miss most about ministry is summer camp! I never missed a year between 1979 and 2003.

Trinity came home with all kinds of ideas for games that we all had to experience as a family. As a former rec guy, I saw a spark in her – creativity, fun, organization skills. It all kinda falls apart when you take a game built for 500 and try it with a family of 4 though. Still, we had a great time tonight just playing!

The culmination though was when Trinity nailed me in the head with a water balloon. She threw, I dodged, it was a fake, she really threw and it got me good – one of the only ones tonight that actually popped on contact. The look on her face was priceless, then I pretended like I was mad and about to throw her over the back fence – even more family fun!

While Trinity was at camp, I went into her room every night and prayed for her – just like I have every night since the day she was born. She wasn’t in her room, obviously, but I still prayed – that God would speak to her, that the Holy Spirit would teach her, that Jesus would walk beside her. I know people always think great things about their kids – but Trinity is very special. God shows her things, she speaks the things she is shown, and they come to life.

I don’t know what God is going to do with my little girl, but I pray it’s big things! I pray that she won’t be weighed down by worldly things. I pray that her sense of curiosity is never satisfied. I pray that God would inhabit her praises and that no matter what, she will walk with him her whole life.

My Grandmother used to pray for those things for me. Looking back, it was just around the time she died that I lost my way. I know she prayed for me daily, and I prayed for her, too. She was an exceptional woman – loving, kind, gracious, forgiving. Even when I was the opposite, she still loved me, and in that she showed me that God still loved me, too.

While Trinity was away at camp, I had the opportunity to go to a special service at my church called Habitation. Many people have been healed physically and spiritually during this time, many people have heard powerful words from God.

When we got to the church last night, I immediately felt tension – like I was being pulled apart on the inside. I went into the worship center and there were already close to 1000 people there – and I was an hour early! They do a prayer service right before Habitation, and all during that portion more and more people poured in. By the time the actual service started, the place was full! They had printed 1500 handouts and were not even close to having enough. I mean the place was full! At least 3000 people, all with one thing in mind – growing closer to God!

Back to my feeling of tension – All of a sudden I didn’t want to be there. People talked to me and I was grouchy. I was really being attacked I think – and I generally don’t think that way to be honest. I wanted to go home. I wanted to watch reruns of House. Anything except for be at church.

They prayed, they sang, people testified, and then I knew what it was – the whole night was revolving around gratitude – to God for the wonderful things he has done and for the things he has given us. And it dawned on me that I am so ungrateful!

My expecation was that God would provide, that I would be successful, that if I did what he wanted, nothing would ever stand in my way. And when it didn’t happen the way I wanted I shut God out – I stopped praising because the blessings stopped coming. Or maybe it was the other way around, now that I have some perspective.

I stopped praising because I got full of myself. I stopped praising because I was in charge of my life. I stopped praising because I became my own god. And when I put myself on the throne, God stopped blessing. Oh, he still loved me, he still gave me a good job, he still gave me life and breath. But the rest was all me and under my reign it all fell to pieces.

I was reminded last night that every good thing comes from God and that there is so much good in my life, so much to be grateful for! My beautiful wife Cheryl, my beautiful daughters Trinity and Zoey, my house, my job, my truck – and beyond that, my health, the health of my family, that God loves me in spite of me being me, that he loved me enough to forgive me, that he called me to do great things!

I often wonder if it’s too late – if I’m too old, if anyone even cares – then I remember that it’s not about who cares or my age or how much I have failed in the past. It’s about my willingness to praise God and show him that I am thankful for the little things. When I can praise him, from deep within, when I can meet with him, spirit to Spirit – that’s like getting busted in the head with a water balloon! It comes out of nowhere and changes your perspective on everything! When God invades your space, there’s no telling what might happen – he might even renew your calling, let you know you’re not a has been, you’re not too old or too broken – he might just give you hope!