Lets Keep the Joy Flowing!

My husband says that we need to keep the “HO” in “HOLY.” However, I never understood the concept of a rejoicing God until this move of the Holy Spirit. I grew up in a Christian home and was taught that it was very easy to insult God with casual speech. Even “gosh” was forbidden. I was taught that God was offended by sacrilegious phrases so that when I first arrived in Toronto, I winced at lingo like “carpet time.” What if our casual approach caused “the Dove to fly”? But nearly ten years have gone by, and the Dove is still nesting in Toronto in spite of regular fire tunnels and the annual summer Party conference.

Breaking down my false concepts of what offended God was part of my on- going deliverance from the “religious thing-y.” Some people call it a religious spirit, but I can’t find that term in the Bible anywhere. What I do find is that 13 times in the New Testament, Jesus told his own disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”

I never understood this admonition until I had served in the pastorate for about five years. I had repressed my sense of humor and dutifully removed my make-up and earrings. I fasted constantly for revival until I was practically “anorexic.” Why? Because I was downright afraid of God and thought my feelings about him fell under the category of “the fear of the Lord,” a subject that liberally laced my messages. To say that I was “intense” was an understatement. Eventually I broke when some members of our congregation took my emphasis to the ultimate. They out-fasted me, out-prayed me and left the church because Bill and I weren’t “spiritual” enough to lead. God bless them. They did me more good than a year’s worth of fasting, because I suddenly saw my own religiosity in their “mirror.”

Intensity, I have come to notice, is the number one symptom of this infection I call the “religious thing-y.” Humility involves taking off the religious mask and becoming normal, putting yourself on the same plain with the rest of humanity, in need of all you can get of God’s bottomless well of grace. When we take ourselves too seriously, we start to feel that it all hinges on what we do rather than what He has already done.

There are probably a billion reasons why God sent this move of the Spirit in the way He did, but I’m sure one reason was to “hide Himself” from the religious. He knew the whole thing would either offend us or radically change us into His image, the image of the real God who is a happy Father overflowing with such joy that anyone in His presence is literally toppled over by it. He’s not jealous, vindictive, easy to scare or mean. He’s full of childlike innocence with a playful quality that strangely borders on what cynical people call “naïve.” He’s naïve enough to be full of faith that things are going according to His plan. You don’t believe me?

In Nehemiah 8:10-12, the Israelites gathered to hear the Law read to them for the first time in 70 years. Their first impulse upon hearing it was fright, then mourning as they realized their disobedience. Then Nehemiah and Ezra admonished the people, “This day is HOLY, do NOT mourn or weep...Go eat of the fat, drink of the sweet and send portions to those who have nothing prepared...for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” In other words, God says, put the “Ho” back in “HOLY” or you won’t be like Me.

Originally Published June/July 2003 Editor Melinda Fish