The extraordinary specific details were the name of a woman unknown to Pastor Evan who was burdened by the trial of debilitating migraines. Pastor Evan obediently shared this prompting, and the person came forward after the service ended, confirming the details, moved that God would reach out in such love and care. In the second service, the extraordinary involved details about a father and son relationship that is broken. The details of that situation were verified on the spot in the worship service.
When God does something like this, verifiable, through someone with great credibility, what is He doing?
He is intensifying something He is always doing. He is manifesting His overflowing kindness and personal care for us. He’s reminding us, “I am Real,” “It’s all Real.” “Believe the scriptures.” “Adjust your lives to Me and the reality of My love.”
This ordinary way that God manifests Himself through preaching the Word should amaze and astonish us just as much as the extraordinary. God always reaches out to us through His Word. He applies it to us in specific ways, tailored to our diverse lives and hearts. That happens every time the Word is preached at Covenant. People often accuse preachers at Covenant of bugging their house because the Word comes to them with such relevance. “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword…able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
Do not allow the extraordinary to cause you to lose sight of the ordinary. God said to the person in the storm of migraines to pray. And God said to the father in the conflict with his son to take initiative and say, “I’m sorry” and seek reconciliation with his son. Every single day God calls us to trust him with our ailments and illnesses. (James 5:13) Every single day God turns the hearts of fathers to their children and turns the hearts of children to their fathers. (Malachi 4:6) Those are scriptural principles that belong to us every single day.
But God also delights to do things that put us out of our comfort zone. I can tell you, this is out of the norm for me and out of my own comfort zone. But if I stayed in my comfort zone, I would stop growing. God is alive. He can’t be put on a shelf. He is too sovereign for anyone to leash or curtail. He reserves the right to show Himself God. We dare not put God in a box. “He is good but He is not safe.”
But, if we’re honest, it makes all of us uncomfortable when God does the extraordinary. In fact, that’s one way we know it’s Him and not us. It might not have happened to this degree and in this way in Covenant’s history, but God has done a lot of extraordinary things at Covenant. This specific way of God drawing attention to Himself might not happen again. It’s not an every-sermon feature in Pastor Evan’s ministry. Pastor Evan doesn’t have miracles from God on tap. No one does. Pastor Evan was being stretched just like the rest of us. But he did obey and did what he discerned God was directing him to do in this unique moment.
The ordinary expectation of the New Testament is that a mature believer is saturated with scripture. That is why every sermon and all of our small groups are devoted to the study of scripture. You should expect that every single sermon. And you should be open to God sometimes doing the unusual.
We must never womp up the extraordinary, but neither should we resist it. Dangers lie in extreme reactions to both. We must earnestly seek and cherish every legitimate movement of Holy Spirit among us. Scripture warns us against “quenching the Holy Spirit” or “despising” any manifestation that is of God. Scripture also calls us to “test everything.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)
I would rather play with a metal pole in a lightning storm than sit in criticism of an extraordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit. But it is just as dangerous to sit under the ordinary preached Word of God unmoved and unchanged.
We sing “Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here, come flood this place and change the atmosphere.” I mean it when I sing that. But when He answers that prayer powerfully and personally to me, as He sometimes does in both ordinary and extraordinary ways, I am always surprised, uncomfortable and stretched by it.
I encourage you to come to the seminar on February 12th to dig deeply into the scriptures, hear insights I’ve gleaned from the best Christian thinkers from two thousand years of church history, and receive encouragement and challenge from God’s Holy Word.