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Books: Forgotten God by Francis Chan – First Impression August 2, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Baggage, Books, Holy Spirit, Prayer, Trust, Worry.
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I am far too tired to coherently write what I had originally planned for tonight. However, on the well-timed recommendation of a friend, I did just finish reading “Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit” by Francis Chan. Or I should say, I finished reading it for the first time. In my eagerness to devour this fantastic book I read it far too quickly (as I am apt to do), and am going to need to go back and read it more slowly and thoughtfully (with a Bible in hand) to really absorb the meat of it. But I wanted to get some thoughts down while they were still fresh in my mind.

I have to admit, I was wary of a book about the Holy Spirit. Extremely wary. Chan understands this, and in the introduction one of the first things he says is that we all have “baggage” about the Holy Spirit. Oh, boy, do I!

I was raised by a mother who asked me at the age of six why I wasn’t speaking in tongues yet (I ended up pretending by babbling gibberish when I would pray for the next year just to get her off my case). When I was naughty and did something typically kid-like such as talk back or shove my toys under the bed instead of putting them away, she would pray to cast the evil spirits of  Satan’s influence out of me and that the Holy Spirit would give me good spirits instead. I really would have preferred a spanking at that point. When a friend’s mom had a mental breakdown she decided it was because the people who had lived in the house before them were Satanic and spent an entire day anointing all their doorposts with oil and praying for the Holy Spirit to cleanse the house. And she refused to sell our house to a nice gay couple who bred border collies because she had spent so many years getting it spiritually “clean”.

So yes, I am a bit gun-shy about the Holy Spirit. Or rather, about the ways other people try to use the Holy Spirit to do some creepy and weird crap. But while I don’t have an actual problem with the Holy Spirit doing stuff (as long as no snake-handling is involved), I also don’t really spend any time thinking about him as a separate part of the Trinity. I tend to think of him as kind of an extension of God the Father. When something mysterious happens that I know is from God, that’s the Holy Spirit. But that’s about all I give him. And I certainly don’t think about being indwelt by the Holy Spirit – isn’t that kind of a Jesus thing?

Apparently not. And Chan is right, we have neglected the Holy Spirit. Whether through ignoring him in our lives and churches as much as possible, or attributing things to “the Holy Spirit” that have nothing to do with him and are only to satisfy our own ideas of how God should be working or what we should be doing. It is neglect all the same.

Chan points out that if we were to have read the Bible knowing nothing about Christianity or church tradition and then were to walk into almost any modern day church we would be appalled at how the Holy Spirit is (or in many cases, isn’t) treated. The Holy Spirit, he says, is central to the Gospel and the scriptures. And this is true. I sat down and cracked open the New Testament at a couple of more or less random spots and neither Jesus (in John) or Paul (in the Timothys) go very long without talking about the Spirit. This is something I need to adjust my thinking on, and just spend time reading and reading with new eyes and a new perspective on the Spirit. And thinking about what it actually means to have the Spirit living with in me – as opposed to just floating around out there somewhere, intervening sporadically and unpredictably.

The other thing that really hit me was Chapter 6, entitled “Forget About His Will For Your Life”. Quite a provocative statement, given that I thought that was what we were all supposed to be seeking above all else. But Chan is not saying that God’s will doesn’t matter, only that we spend so much time asking and obsessing over getting an exact blueprint for our lives (or at least a five-year plan) from God that it becomes completely paralyzing and we end up doing nothing.

Living out of the Spirit means letting him guide us. But we are never promised a complete road map. It’s more like a flashlight, that illuminates just the next step or two ahead.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
Isaiah 30:21

This is not talking about God’s will for our entire lives, this is talking about just our next move. And as Chan points out, if we can’t even live today, one single day, by the Spirit, how can we possibly hope to follow a divine plan for the rest of our lives. And if we had such a plan mapped out for us, would we even bother to ask him for daily guidance?

I am so susceptible to this. I am a planner and a schemer, and a control freak. When Indy and I went on vacation last summer I literally had an accordion file with folders for each day containing directions to where we needed to go, phone numbers of anyone we might need, where we were going to stay, what hikes we would take and what sights we would see, as well as a contingency plan in case that didn’t work out.

This works fantastically for a vacation. Less so for a Spirit-filled life.

There is so much in this book I want to unpack and will need to really deal with: What does it actually mean to have the Spirit? Why do we even want to have the Spirit? And am I really ready to surrender that level of control in my life to him? And so many more things, which I will probably go into in the future as I process them.

But I think the main message for me, for now, is to wake up each day and ask the Spirit to dwell within me and show me where he wants me to go today. Just today. Do I go to the right or to the left? Because that simple act alone can lead me places I could never imagine at the moment, if I have the ears to hear and the courage to obey. I am going to try not to worry about the future, or plan and contingency plan, or beg God to show me the shape of my future life so that I can feel better about things. I am just going to try to wake up and ask the Holy Spirit: “Okay. So which way now?”



1. Barry Wallace - August 5, 2010

Pretty good for someone too tired to write. 🙂

I just finished reading Crazy Love for the first time. I’m looking forward now to getting a copy of this book and reading it. Thanks for the review.

orualundone - August 5, 2010

Thanks! There was an excerpt from Crazy Love at the end of my copy, and it was great, so it’s definitely on my list now.

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