In the States, March Madness is currently underway, a phenomenon completely foreign to the British masses. But more familiar is the turbulent weather this time of year when March can come in like a lion and leave like a lamb … or vice versa.
The windiness of March was very present to my consciousness as a little boy because my dad’s birthday was in early March – and so annually we would give him a kite. Flying a kite in the early winds of March was fun, and perhaps a foreshadowing of the Holy Spirit experience he would later have in Montreat.
Like a mighty rushing wind: these are words that defined the perspective of believers participating in the Charismatic movement. We believed that Spirit encounters were not limited to the book of Acts; we could participate in the life of the Spirit today. And many people personally experienced the ‘wind of God’ in their lives.
It seems not possible that those who have prioritised the Spirit could neglect him, but we shouldn’t take for granted the gift of God’s Spirit in our lives. Paul told Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God. The issue is not, ‘Did you experience the power of the Holy Spirit in 1982?’, but rather, ‘Are you walking in the power of the Spirit today?’
Paul’s instruction to Timothy should both encourage and challenge us. We should be encouraged by the fact that even someone like Timothy needed a ‘flame fanning’. Paul was unwilling to let his spiritual protégé rest on his laurels and coast on what had happened previously in his life. He wanted to be sure Timothy was walking in all that God had for him. That Timothy needed to be proactive is a reminder that even the most spiritually attuned of us continue to need God’s work in our lives.
And therein lies the challenge: we should not disengage from pursuing God and seeking his work in our hearts. We never graduate from needing God. But this raises a question: why would we grow less proactive? Why would we settle for what God has done rather than leaning into God and pressing forward for fresh Holy Spirit encounters. Why would we bother to keep being filled with the Holy Spirit – as Paul wrote to the Ephesians?
Perhaps the answer lies in our perspective of God’s purpose. If we have an anthropological orientation – if we think that God’s business is primarily about blessing me … this is perhaps insufficient motivation to ‘stay hot’. It’s easy to adopt a ‘been there, done that, what’s next?’ point of view if we believe that all God wants is our comfort and happiness.
However, if we believe that God has the world in view – that our Lord retains intense interest in bringing into his family those who currently do not know him … WELL! This is an entirely different proposition. Understanding God’s mission in the earth feeds our vision and prompts us to remain filled with the Holy Spirit.
You shall receive power: the big idea in Acts is that God’s power is for purpose, not play. I’m reminded of a scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Father Christmas gives gifts to the Pevensie children, including swords and daggers. He reminds them that these are tools, not toys. There are definitely personal benefits we experience through the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that Christ dwells in us, and it is by the Spirit that we are made members of Christ’s body. By God’s Spirit we enjoy righteousness, peace, and joy. But there is more.
We are living in tricky times. We need to walk in the power of God for witness more today than ever before. Just this past week I was exploring the possibility of a church plant in Berlin. The planter and his wife are Iranian refugees, but they have a heart for the German people. That’s not an easy mission to accomplish, and without the presence, wisdom, and power of the Holy Spirit, it won’t be effective.
God continues to open surprising doors for gospel ministry across Europe, and we are seeking God’s will for where, when, and how to engage. Because we have a vision for long-term fruitfulness, we are actively working to lay the foundation for a training centre to equip pastors, church planters and missionaries.
The promise is for you and your children and all who are far off… I am so thankful for the charismatic roots of our ministry. But we can never let our perspective grow overly nostalgic. God is at work today - and he is moving by his Spirit. Stylistically and culturally, the contemporary move of the Spirit may feel different from what many people experienced in the 1970’s. But make no mistake: God’s rushing wind did not stop blowing in 1st century Jerusalem, and even though the Charismatic movement as a specific era in Christ’s body may be over, the work of the Spirit is not.
There is more to do: more people to reach, more places to go, more churches to plant, more cities to engage, more nations to reach, more people with whom to share the gospel. And to get this done, we desperately need the power of the Holy Spirit. But we also need you – the body of Christ - standing with us in faithful partnership for the advance of the gospel.
This is what our CBU Global Partners are all about. Together, we can make a difference. The good news is that we're not alone: the same Holy Spirit that was with the early church is with us, filling us, and blrowing through our lives in fresh and powerful ways. Let the wind blow!
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