The Bubble Has Burst


BubbleI live within walking distance (depending on how far one likes to walk) of the Washington Redskin training facilities. They have one of those huge practice bubbles there. It’s been a landmark for me. When I’m driving home at night, I’m reminded that I have to make a turn when I reach it.

During our blizzard a few days ago, the bubble collapsed. It was strange driving by and not seeing there. I also had to concentrate a little harder to know when to turn as I drove home.

I don’t know much about how these contraptions work. They obviously don’t have any metal beams or wooden supports. They are apparently held up by air. It’s kind of amazing to see it standing there year after year without incident (until the other day).

“I could see pockets of air-filled vinyl beginning to rise.”

Lo and behold, I was driving past the facility today and saw a couple guys walking around on the collapsed structure. I went to a meeting and ran a couple of errands. When I drove by on my way home, they were inflating the balloon.

I could see pockets of air-filled vinyl beginning to rise. It was almost eerie. That was a few hours ago, and I suppose it’s just about back to normal by now. I’m not sure I would want to go in there anytime soon.

State-of-Deflate-Washington-Redskins-facility-deflated-by-blizzardThis deflation and inflation process (like many other things in life) reminded me of the church. Specifically, it reminded me of preachers. Since I am one (a preacher, I mean), I guess I can talk about it this way.

So many times, we preachers try to inflate our congregations like that. We try to pump them full of air. More specifically in our case, we try to pump them full of the Holy Spirit.

What happens so much of the time, however, is that we end up trying to force something. By that I mean, we try to manipulate our congregations. Sometimes, in so doing, we attempt to manipulate God as well.

Hot air is no substitute for the Spirit of God

We have an idea in our head of what God wants to do in our local church. We have an idea of what God wants the folks in our congregation to do. So we try to inflate their sense of spirituality to a level that will rise to our expectations.

This is almost a natural malady. The words for “spirit” in Scripture are ruach (Hebrew—Old Testament) and pneuma (Greek—New Testament). Those words can be translated into the English words spirit, breath, or wind. We preachers sometimes try to do in a natural way what only the Holy Spirit can do supernaturally. To be honest, sometimes our parishioners want us to do that as well.

Sorry preacher. Sorry congregants. It doesn’t work that way. If you want to be Bubble Collapsedpumped up spiritually, it’s not going to happen unless you approach the throne of God and ask for a fresh indwelling from him.

I can preach up a storm upon occasion. But only God can fill us.

How Big Are the Gates of Hell?

Does Size Matter?

I’m the pastor of a very small congregation. We probably couldn’t maintain our viability as a local church if we were any smaller.

Having pastored several churches of varying sizes, I’ve found that (at least when it comes to local expressions of the Body of Christ) size doesn’t matter. Sometimes the problems and challenges are a bit different, but the scope of the daily battle remains the same.jesus fish

To join our church, there are several vows one must take. One of them goes something like this: Will you resist evil in whatever guise it presents itself? The presumptive answer, of course, is “I will.” We all say, “I will.” Then we all proceed to personally add to the evil (even if it happens to be in small, innocuous ways). It’s called “being a sinner.”

I’m not slamming the church on this. I’m just as guilty as everyone else. I’m just pointing out that we all have our flaws. We all fall prey to temptation from time to time. In addition, we often think we’re mainly okay while the rest of the world is the problem.

“Who do you say I am?”

I only point this out because of something Jesus said a couple thousand years ago. Remember when he asked his disciples what people were saying about him? He specifically said, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The disciples gave him a few differing answers that were floating out there among the hoi polloi.

Then he asked them, “Who do you say I am?” That’s when they got the big revelation. Peter immediately shot back, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

I’m not sure what the others thought, but Jesus seemed quite pleased and told Peter that God himself had given him that info. He hadn’t heard it from any human being.

Then, in the following conversation, he dropped the big announcement. He would build his church and, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Think about that one for a minute or two.

I don’t care if you are part of a mega-church or a congregation of six people. Small churches are the same as large ones in this arena. We have been bolstered by the claim of God Almighty that we will defeat Hell.

“We are going to win because of one thing…”

To be quite honest, I’m not sure how big Hell (and its gates) happens to be. I am sure, however, that we will be victors over it. I’m just as sure it’s not going to be due to the fact that we’re bigger, stronger, better, or craftier than whatever creatures call Hades their domicile.

We are going to win because of one thing, and one thing only. That one thing is the person of Jesus Christ. Without him, I’m not interested in taking on the evil in my own life, let alone that which permeates the realm we call Hell.

The congregation I serve is sparse in number. But we’re winners. So are you if you belong to Jesus.