We so badly want God to show up and do great and mighty things. But we also want him to do those things in ways that don’t scare us. That don’t push us out of the comfort zone or cause us to question our assumptions about him.

And God simply will not be boxed in and contained within our traditions and preconceived ideas. He’s bigger than that. He’s more powerful than that.

Of all the people who should know exactly how to spot God at work, you’d think the earliest apostles would have, but God had a way of showing up in their midst in surprising and unexplainable ways. God didn’t behave predictably very often. For example…

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

~ Acts 4:31 NIV

They prayed, as they’d done many times each day since Jesus had left to ascend back to heaven. But this time, the earth shook. And as the earth shook, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And the result of the filling of the Spirit? Preaching boldly about Jesus.

I believe that God shows up in the lives of those who welcome him. Though our faith is a gift with no power in and of itself, God responds to faith. He sees it as an invitation to intervene and manifest himself in our lives in surprising ways.

Not long ago, I was in a terrible place, emotionally. As much as I wanted to simply be better, I couldn’t seem to snap out of my mood. I was sad and angry and my family was feeling the effects of that, not in any violent way, but with the weight and anxiety of my emotional struggle.

My wife began to pray. She prayed for God to show up and to rebuke the enemy, to cause him to flee. She prayed for him to fill me afresh. And in that moment, the stress and tension I’d felt in all of my joints subsided. The pressure in my head and neck released. My mood changed. My heart melted. And I began to repent and apologize and thank God profusely for answering her prayer.

There are many things God wants us to know in our heads about him, about his Word, about his world. But more than simply knowing about him, God wants us to know him in a way that changes us from the inside out.

The key is praying prayers of surrender and trust. There is no greater way to experience the reality of God than to repent of our sins and to receive his grace in greater measure by faith.

Don’t keep God in a box. Ask him to work in your life, but be ready for him to do so in a way that might surprise you.

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