I had the pleasure this past weekend [January 1997] of attending a series of spiritual renewal meetings led by Dr. Jack Deere (author of Surprised by the Power of the Spirit and Surprised by the Voice of God), at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church here in Houston. Located in the heart of the posh River Oaks community, the epicenter of Houston’s “old wealth,” St. John’s is a Christ-centered congregation led by Rector Larry Hall, who is a strong evangelical and a brother with a sweet Christlike spirit. I have had the privilege since 1982 of guest teaching adult Sunday School classes on numerous occasions at St. John’s, and I have many dear Christian friends there.
Following a period of deeply moving worship in beautiful songs of praise (both contemporary and traditional/classical), Jack preached a simple message on Friday night about three traits of those who best hear God’s voice: (1) They are people who spend time with God; (2) They are people who are prepared to obey God; (3) They are people who are humble and not proud. Jack, who has a Ph.D. and formerly taught Hebrew and Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, noted that “smart” or “educated” has nothing to do with hearing God’s voice, and that the Bible nowhere says anything like “Blessed are the smart,” or “Woe to the dumb.”
After the message, he led the congregation of 500+ people in several minutes of totally silent prayer, then invited persons with two or three specific physical ailments (which he believed God had indicated to him) to come to the front to pray for healing. All this he put in a context of saying that God is sovereign, that no one merits or deserves healing, that we do not know why God heals some people but not all people, but that we do not want to go lacking simply because we do not ask. It was a time of quiet blessing with no fanfare, but it was marked by a powerful sense of expectancy and of the presence of the Risen Jesus by his Spirit.
I would observe that for its first 500 years, the Church proclaimed Jesus as Savior and healer, victor over sin and Satan and all his works, the bearer of God’s Kingdom which comes with visible power to transform lives and to heal bodies, minds and spirits as God in his kindness sees fit. As we approach a new millennium, all human-powered, man-centered, denominational and sectarian religion is seen as spiritually bankrupt and doomed to die.
Once again, I believe, God’s people throughout the universal Church are being renewed to proclaim and to live out the original vision brought by Jesus Christ — a vision of the Father as eternal, sovereign God, of Jesus Christ as all-sufficient Savior and Redeemer of the whole person, and of the Holy Spirit as the personal, powerful Presence of the Risen Jesus and of his Heavenly Father in our midst. Let us be found in the center of that vision!