By John Beverly, Reader, Springline Parish
Monday After Pentecost – How to glow
What is all this Holy Spirit stuff? It rarely gets talked about in church.
Years ago. I inwardly groaned when a friend, out of the blue, gave me a book and told me he thought I should read it. I hate it when others tell me about their taste in books or music or films. I recently left a book group because the only books I’d enjoyed reading were those I’d recommended! What’s more, I only liked books with good stories. This was some strange religious book.
I knew he’d be asking what I thought so I started looking at it – so when he asked I could honestly say that it didn’t do anything for me.
It was about this vicar – Dennis Bennett. A colleague asked him to meet a couple of parishioners. They were odd people. They looked happy all the time! “Looking happy in church – that sounds suspicious,” joked Dennis.
From rarely attending church they suddenly appeared every Sunday … and at any events during the week … and they volunteered to help at everything! “They just seem to glow!” said his chum. “And they’ve started tithing – giving ten per cent to the church! And they say that they can speak in tongues.” It was this last bit that was worrying him.
After persistent nagging from his friend Dennis went to meet the couple, expecting something perhaps over the top. Instead he found a very pleasant, “normal” couple, assured, happy, hospitable but not at all pushy.
Only when asked were they pleased to talk about what had happened. They were persuaded to go to a prayer event at a neighbour’s house – and they enjoyed it (“Good heavens,” thought Dennis, “enjoying a prayer event!”).
They continued, “What impressed us the most was the host. He seemed so happy and sure of God he made us hungry to know what he had. ‘I’ve been baptised in the Holy Spirit,’ he told them. We didn’t know what he was talking about. Nobody had taught about that in church. But whatever it was he had we wanted some of it, too.”
It turns out the bloke offered to pray for them. He did. And the result was they were baptised in the Holy Spirit. That’s why they were fired up.
“What’s ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit’ mean?” asked Dennis.
“Just like in the Bible,” said the couple.
So I read this first chapter of the book. I’d never heard any of this but like Dennis I thought, “I want some of this as well.” So I read the book. By the end of the book I wanted it even more. Dennis still hadn’t told me how to be filled with the Holy Spirit so I had to buy his second book. And about page 70 he told me. That’s when it happened to me.
Tuesday After Pentecost – Get plugged in!
That’s better. Get plugged into the power source to shine a light. In the same way, if we want to receive the power of God we need to plug in … to his Holy Spirit.
One cold winter Sunday evening I turned up for Evening Prayer along with half a dozen others. We gathered in the vestry and huddled together round a gas heater for warmth. When it came to the intercessions the vicar asked each of us if there was anything we wanted prayer for. A number of things came up including Jocelynne asking on behalf of her sick mother-in-law. Then we had a time of free prayer when we prayed for each others’ needs. But nobody prayed for Jocelynnes’s mother-in-law. The vicar mentioned her as he was rounding up the prayer. However, I just had a feeling – a kick from God – this was not enough and I interrupted to pray a heartfelt prayer. About 7.30 p.m. we dispersed.
Next Sunday before the service Jocelynne rushed up to me, excited. “When I got home last Sunday evening my mother-in-law rang me. She said that about twenty past seven she suddenly felt better!”
I wish that every time I prayed for healing something as dramatic as that happened!
The Holy Spirit is all over the New Testament. In the book of Acts it’s mentioned over 40 times. This feeble group of people – the disciples – who didn’t understand Jesus when they lived right by him and who ran away when Jesus was in trouble became courageous men who spoke out, healed, and prophesied. They spoke truth to power and preferred to die painfully rather than deny that Jesus rose from the dead. What made the difference? They received the Holy Spirit. They were plugged into the power.
If we want to do stuff for God we need to be plugged into the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can shine.
Wednesday – It was there all the time!
Although I had never heard a sermon or any teaching about the Holy Spirit I discovered it was in the Bible all the time.
John the Baptiser told us about it. He told us this is what Jesus would do – give us the Holy Spirit. “I baptise you with water,” he said, “but Jesus will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”
And Jesus encouraged us, “If your child asks for an egg do you trick her and give her a spider? How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.”
(More about that on Saturday.)
The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual power. Jesus declared to his disciples, “You will receive power.” Think back to yesterday and the lamp that wouldn’t work. That’s why I likened the Holy Spirit to plugging in a lamp to the power supply.
What sort of power? Well to start with the Bible tells us that it changes our character. The Holy Spirit will make us like a tree that bears fruit. Fruit such as love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5). And who doesn’t want that? I think I sometimes see those characteristics in people and I think, “I bet they are Christian.”
More specifically, the Holy Spirit carries for each one of us a specific gift. Maybe your gift could be hospitality. Or you could be an encourager. Perhaps you become a strong prayer who God listens to particularly well and your prayers bring healing.
I know a Christian who used her skills to bring about reconciliation. She would talk to warring neighbours and bring about peace.
Or how about somebody with a talent to make the nature of God and his desires known? We call such a person a prophet. Once, as a visitor to a church where I was completely unknown I was being prayed for. The couple praying for me told me that God was using what I did in my community as a legacy. Many months later, my wife (we both do Messy Church, School Assemblies and Café Church together) was at a church where she wasn’t known and was prayed for. The people praying for her said that God would use what she did as a legacy!
Such a spiritual gift where God is made known is called a prophetic gift.
If you are filled with the Holy Spirit what gift will God give to you?
Thursday – What happened to me
When I prayed for God’s Holy Spirit to be released in me my character was improved. All that stuff about love, joy, peace. Even self control improved.
I am painfully shy. I dread the end of a church service because I will have to talk to people. It’s not that I dislike people. Certainly not. It’s just shyness. For a maximum of two minutes I can blag my way through a conversation but then I run out of conversation.
In a similar way I don’t like answering the phone. For example, my sister-in-law will ring to catch up with my wife. “Do you want to speak to Audrey?” I ask. Sometimes she says, “Hang on. Let’s chat. How are you doing?”
Aaaagh! My stress level hits the ceiling.
But here’s the thing. I can do something most people say they find really difficult. I can speak to a room of 200 people with no nerves at all. As well as preaching in our local churches I’ve gone all over preaching to strangers (I’m a volunteer speaker for Christian Aid). Somebody saw me do a school assembly last year and couldn’t believe I was the same person.
And I really enjoy this public speaking. No. I don’t just really enjoy it. I love it!
It’s a gift God has given to me. I remember Sue Deacon asking me to engage somebody in conversation to make them feel welcome. She was a little surprised when I said that I couldn’t do that. I can talk engagingly to crowds. God’s given me that gift. But he’s given others the gift of welcoming. He uses all his people in different was. So he will give a variety of tools to his church. One will be a witness, one a preacher, one the gift of welcoming, another the gift of hospitality and to yet another the gift of praying for others.
1 Corinthians 12:14-31 (abbreviated)
I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. Here are some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his “body”:
- miracle workers
- those who pray in tongues.
Friday – Stories of the spirit
Wherever Street Pastors are then anti-social behaviour is reduced. When Street Pastors are out in Lincoln City centre late at night there is a small group of people praying for them When they come across a situation needing their help, they ring in to the Prayer Team who pray. A few years ago I was on the prayer team on the night the sixth form pupils had received their ‘A’ level results and were out celebrating. They came across a young man absolutely out of it. He was rolling about, totally incoherent with drink, alone and vulnerable. The Street Pastors couldn’t do anything with him so rang the prayer team who prayed. Within minutes the lad was able to sit down and speak and help was given. Being part of that team really gives faith in answered prayer!
When I was training as a Reader in the Church of England there was one woman who was very traditional and orthodox and also very devoted and committed. She had never heard of speaking in tongues or gifts of the spirit. When it was mentioned in a training session she told this story:
“I was on a driving holiday in France with a friend a couple of years ago. We were involved in an accident and had to stop to sort out all the insurance and so on. When we had finished we were able to drive off safely. ‘I didn’t know you could speak French,’ my friend said. ‘I can’t,’ I answered. ‘Well, for the past hour you’ve just been speaking it fluently.’ Could that be like speaking in tongues?”
I don’t know if that was speaking in tongues or not but my respect for her faith convinced me that it was God’s Holy Spirit guiding her through a very stressful time.
Nicky Gumbel who leads the Alpha course describes his feelings when his father died. “What I found hardest was that I wasn’t sure if he was a Christian or not. Ten days after his death I was reading my Bible and came across this verse from Romans: ‘Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ About five minutes later my wife came in and told me she had been reading from Acts 2:21 and she thought the verse was for my father. It said, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ It was quite extraordinary that the verse only appears twice in the New Testament and God had spoken to us both through the same words from different parts of the Bible. Three days later we went to a Bible Study in a friend’s home and the study was on the same passage from Romans. Three times in three days God spoke to me about my father, Nevertheless, on my way to work I was still thinking about my father. As I came up out of the underground there was a huge poster that said, ‘Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ I remember talking to a friend about it and he said, ‘Do you think God is trying to tell you something?’”
Pete, a friend of ours, was out for a walk to pray and think about something. He wondered whether he should set up a support group for Christians who were doing pioneering work. Somehow, he felt that he should walk a different route but didn’t know why. After a while he saw something red in the hedgerow. He picked it out. It was a red Co-op balloon with the word “Pioneer” on it. Decision made.
God speaks to those who have the spirit released in them.
Saturday – How to do it
Somebody training people on how to preach told his audience that we often exhort our audience to do something but don’t tell them how to do it. We might say, “Read your Bible.” But the Bible is a big book, written ago in a different language and culture and age. We should, he said, explain how to read the Bible. Now I need to explain how to release the Holy Spirit in your lives.
In our house we have boiler. The pilot light is on all the time. But the boiler is not giving out heat all the time. Some people have only the pilot light of the Holy Spirit in their lives. When the Holy Spirit is released within people they begin to fire on all cylinders (pardon the mixed metaphors).
Would you like to have that pilot light ignite?
As you enter prayer, pause to be still Spend some time stilling yourself. Breathe slowly. As you breathe in, take in all that God has for you. As you breathe out exhale all that distracts, bothers or worries you. Be conscious that God is in that place with you.
Use this summary of verses of God speaking to you from Isaiah 43:
“I have called you by name, you are mine. You are precious in my sight and I love you.”
In order to actually own and believe these words try to speak them back to God in this way:
“Father, you have called me by name. I am yours. I am precious in your sight and you love me.”
Then reflect on how most of the time we don’t think about God in our lives. Think about how we don’t ask God what he wants of us but just do our own thing.
Pray, “Father, forgive me for the ways I have not lived the way you want me to. Forgive me for those ways, in thought, word and deed, through negligence, through being weak, through my own deliberate fault. Lord, I want to be your obedient child. Please forgive me through the blood of Jesus.
Pause to reflect on what you have just said. Make sure it is real in your heart.
Now, pray, Father, I pray that you will baptise me in your Holy Spirit. Release your spirit in my life so that I can yield your heavenly fruit and be your effective servant.
God always answers this prayer no matter how you feel. Thank him for his love, for his goodness and for his Holy Spirit.
When you have finished here’s my prayer to you (skip the ads!):