A Story About the Holy Spirit

I find that it can be easy to read the Bible without really taking it in.

My eyes can be going over the words, and I know what I’m reading, but my brain slips into autopilot, and I just read through the verses as though I’ve read them a hundred times before. (I wonder if I have? Never kept track…)

But when I stop and try to let everything sink in, the Bible blows me away.

Take the story of Pentecost. We only get the bare bones, without human reactions and feelings involved, but seeing as those were real people experiencing it, I imagine emotions were running quite high.

The disciples must have been on an emotional roller coaster in the time leading up to Pentecost. They had spent every single day with Jesus for almost 3 years. They had walked with Him, and talked with Him, and ate with Him, and learned from Him, and just lived with Him, all the time. They believed that He was God’s Son, and that He was going to save them. They just didn’t understand what that was going to look like.

And then when He died, I can’t imagine the confusion and fear and doubt that they must have been feeling. Everything that they had dreamed of and hoped for those three years looked like it was over.

But suddenly He was alive! And all their hopes came back to life, too. Plan to conquer the world was back on.

And then He said He was leaving. It must have been hard to keep up. He’s here, he’s gone, he’s here, then he’s going again. What?!

He gave them final instructions. He said,

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit….You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and  you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts.1:4-5, 7-8)

And then He went up into heaven, and they stood there looking up into the sky.

photo © 2008 Kevin Dooley | more info (via: Wylio)

Some angels appeared, and asked them why they were still looking up into the sky. The angels said that Jesus had gone back to heaven, but that He would come back.

So the disciples went back to Jerusalem. It must have felt so strange and anti-climactic – nothing was happening, after all the emotional ups and downs. But something was going to happen – they just didn’t know what.

Jesus had told them that the Holy Spirit was coming, but they probably didn’t know what that meant. They had never experienced the Holy Spirit. Jesus had told them a little bit about all that, but who knows how much they really understood?

So they waited.

And then one day, while they were all together, singing and praying, crazy things started to happen.

The sound like a violent wind filled the room. I read that, and I think, “Oh, yeah, the violent wind part. Read that before. I know this story.”

But really? If I was inside with a group of people, and suddenly the room was filled with the sound of a VIOLENT wind, and then I would look around, and everyone would have FIRE on their heads, I would not know what was happening or how to take it all in. The power of that moment must have been completely overwhelming.

And then they all started speaking in tongues. Being brought up in a good Mennonite church means that we always quickly skipped over that part, but if you think about it, that must have brought the whole experience to a level where they could hardly bear the emotion of the moment. They were overcome. By the Spirit.

They were quickly surrounded by crowds of people, who were all very confused, and then comes my favorite part: Peter started preaching.

He boldly preached this powerful message in front of an enormous crowd of people. It was so powerful that 3,000 people came to know Jesus that day.

3,000 people. Think about that!

And then think about Peter. Just a little while ago, he was the one who was so scared to admit that he even knew Jesus that he lied about it three times.

What brought him from the place of denying Jesus to the place of proclaiming Jesus?

It was the Holy Spirit. That same power that took hold of Peter, transformed him, and enabled him to preach a message that touched the lives of 3,000 people is the same power that you and I have available to us, every single day.

Do you ever feel like you’re missing out? Like you want in on the same stuff that Peter had?

I often do. I often feel frustrated because I want so much more of Jesus in my life, and yet sometimes I just feel stuck.

At this point, it would be really awesome if I could say that I used to feel stuck, but I have learned the secrets to living victoriously, and I will share them with you tomorrow!!

I have learned some things that I’ll share with you tomorrow, but I’m still not living as victorious life as I dream of. I still mess up. I still get stuck. But I’m learning, and I’m less stuck than I used to be! We’re on our way to victorious! On our way to preaching to a crowd of 3,000 people? Who knows! Anything can happen. I bet that Peter did all kinds of things that he never imagined he would do. That is exciting to me. The Holy Spirit excites me.

I still have lots of learn, but tomorrow I’ll share with you what I’ve been thinking about lately regarding the Holy Spirit.

See you then!

Been Thinking About Labels

Fair warning for everybody – when it’s going to be a serious day around here, the title will always include something that I’ve been thinking about…

There is this wonderful lady I know who made me wildly happy by agreeing to be my mentor, a few months ago.

She blesses my life, heaps love and encouragement on me, reminds me of what is truly important and worth striving for, and teaches me so much that I now spend a good portion of my life feeling challenged, uncomfortable, and humbled.

Learning is hard! But very good.

Anyway, she has this thing about labels. She’s made me realize how often people will make statements about themselves that are negative, and verbally strengthen things in their lives.

Stuff like, “I’m just not a patient person.” Or “I tend to be a perfectionist.”

That second one was mine. I was talking on the phone with her one day, and called myself a perfectionist. She reminded me gently, once again, that I had labelled myself.

So why are labels harmful?

Well, let’s say that I struggle with being patient. If I keep saying over and over again that I’m not a patient person, I’ll really have hammered it into my head that I’m not a patient person. And then, when I’m in a situation where patience is not the easiest thing to produce in the heat of the moment, I’ll already be thinking, “I’m not a patient person!” And I won’t try my absolute hardest to rely on the Holy Spirit to muster up just a little bit of patience from somewhere.

Which is kind of dumb when you think about it, because one of the fruit of the Spirit is patience. If I have the Holy Spirit in me, and if I am trying to live my life for Jesus every single day, then there should be the fruit of patience growing somewhere in some small corner. It needs a little more sun and a little more love, but logically, it should be there, waiting to be discovered.

But I won’t find it if I just say, “I’m not a patient person”, and use that as an excuse, as a “life pass” for being impatient.

This is a challenging one for me to think about, because I like to talk a lot. And even the Bible says that people who talk a lot have a higher chance of saying something foolish. I’m starting to learn about the power of words, and what happens when I toss them around carelessly.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

So I’m thinking about it more and more all the time. I’m starting to notice, not only when I do it, but when other people do it, too.

Poor Ben had no idea what was coming…

One night when we were talking, Ben was sharing some thoughts on a difficult situation that he needed to deal with, but was struggling to do so.

And he said, “I’m just not a confrontational type of person!”

And something suddenly clicked in my head. Ben has often said this about himself, and has often struggled with being direct enough in difficult situations. He wants to change, but he’s “just not a confrontational type of person!”

Suddenly I got mad. Not at Ben – but at the lies that he’s believed for so long. Without either of us realizing it, Ben’s weakness was labeled over and over again.

So I burst out with something that went kind of like this:

“You are labeling yourself!! I do NOT believe that you are a non-confrontational type of person! I believe that you are a person of honesty and integrity, and that you live in obedience to God. If He is laying it on your heart to address a situation, I believe that you will do so because you seek to do His will, to glorify Him in all that you do, and to have relationships with others that are open, honest, and pleasing to Him!!”

(I got a little carried away. But I believe it’s all true!)

And he kind of blinked and lay there quietly for a little while.

Then he said very cautiously, “Alright, well…I need prayer for…a situation…in which I am feeling…uncomfortable…about talking to someone…about some things which…I find…difficult…to share….” And then he peeked over at me to check if this was a safe statement to make, or if I would burst forth again.

I found his prayer request to be acceptable.

But it’s not like I’m the label police or anything. I’m still trying to figure this thing out myself. Still trying to choose words that bring truth and life, instead of claiming junk that I don’t actually want in my life.

I’m just thinking that if I’m going to eat fruit, I would like it to be the life-giving kind.