Tuesday, November 04, 2008

introducing the holy spirit

Joe launched us beautifully into this new series on the Holy Spirit. I think we’re in for a wild ride.

Doctor Luke certainly doesn’t help smooth the ride. Scholars have long said that it’s nearly impossible to develop a theology of the Holy Spirit based on the book of Acts. But maybe that’s the point; try describing the wind. It reminds me of the children's poem Who Has Seen the Wind? by romantic poet Christina Rossetti:
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:

But when the leaves hang trembling

The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I:

But when the trees bow down their heads

The wind is passing by.

Perhaps it’s easier to see the effects of the Holy Spirit than to systematize the means.

In the second chapter of Acts, we learn that after Jesus was resurrected and returned to His Father, there was a mix of 120 men and women praying in the large, upper room of a house. The disciples were there. Jesus’ brothers. Mary, the mother of Jesus was there. And suddenly a massive train-like noise, perhaps as a tornado sounds, filled the room. Then a glowing light, like fire, exploded and scattered above their heads, flickered over each one of them and they began to speak in languages they had never learned…turning Mother Mary into one of the first Pentecostals. The power was so intense that they must have stumbled out into the streets looking glazed because the Jews who had come to the festival of Pentecost thought they were drunk.

But as people began to listen to them, some who had come from countries all over the Mideast began to recognize their own dialects and heard them worshipping God.

In my private prayer, I like to pray in tongues, in a language I’ve never learned.

Forty years ago, there was a combination of two waves that rocked the Church boat: it was the Jesus movement and the charismatic movement. The Jesus movement stunned the traditional church; it was marked by huge numbers of the alternative culture—hippies, the disenfranchised, the disillusioned counter-culture, and to the shock of the conservative church, even Democrats—were getting born again. The institutional, mainline church had become increasingly ineffective in its ability to read the emerging culture and communicate with it.

The charismatic movement, almost simultaneously, saw the worldwide outbreak of spiritual gifts in every denomination. Hard-line Pentecostals were shocked that even Catholics were speaking in tongues. That’s not how it was supposed to work. There was upheaval in denominational churches. It was as if God dropped a spiritual atomic bomb in the middle of the global sanctuary and said “Let’s shake things up!” In the 1500’s it was the Reformation; in the 1700’s it was Methodism. In the 1800’s it was Finney and the evangelicals.

The Jesus movement and the charismatic movement of the 20th century were, in my opinion, divine invasive surgical operations of God to blood-let the introverted, unfocused, homogeneous club the Church had become. It had its own subculture with its own language, music and practices…and institutionalized and unproductive. When believers stop connecting with lost people, God drops the bomb.

Were there excesses and craziness in all of that? You bet! What a mess. My own family was spread out and one-by-one we each came to Christ and got blasted by the Holy Spirit. We were so crazy we should have been locked up. My mom was in her 50’s and turned into a Jesus freak. One day my sister-in-law was at the Cincinnati Zoo and heard two people from India talking and said “Hey, that sounds like my prayer language!” She ran up to them and says “Do you know what I’m saying?”—and started speaking in tongues. They looked at her like she was from another planet, gathered their children close to them and walked away. Quickly. We were not well.

I have seen a lot. And through it all, look how normal I turned out.

Okay, maybe that’s not such a strong endorsement.


  1. Wow. I am so intrigued by this idea of speaking in tongues, which really demonstrates a supernatural dimension that is for the most part ignored. Could you say more about this, or maybe recommend a place to find more information?

    As for God shaking things up when followers become comfortably oblivious to the plights and indignities of others, this is happening in several Cincinnati places ... perhaps in other places too.

    Cool post. Good thoughts to process.

  2. Since your talking about the Jesus movement. Did you ever meet Lonnie Frisbee? Was not he one of the original vineyard people along with Winburn? Did you see Lonnie's PBS special? I got it at home, thought it opened my eyes to what really started this vineyard movement.

    I am kind of disappointed in how it has turned out.

  3. Thanks, Dave.
    I know how laid back VCC is so it's good to hear something said about the "T" word (Tongues).