What Is the Wind?

( Thoughts partly drawn from these sources: a devotional by Allen Weenink, Doran’s Minister’s Manuel, and the wise men at Fitch’s IGA)

ITALY - Tuscany - Mediterranean - Tyrrenian sea - Argentario Sailing Week“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

“What is the wind?” a little boy asked his grandfather, a wise and hardy sailor. “I don’t know, my boy, answered the old man of the sea, “but I can hoist a sail.”  On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended like the sound of a ‘mighty rushing wind.’ The 120 people gathered in Jerusalem were there in obedience to Christ’s directive in Acts 1:1“He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father”Acts 2:1-2 tells us, “They were all with one accord,” in prayer, waiting for something to happen. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting”.  They did not question the the miracle of the coming of that tremendous life-surge.

Although their understanding of the phenomena was incomplete, those 120 faithful hoisted a sail, gave God their lives, responded to God’s inspiration, and went out to transform the world. The church was born out of a group of bewildered individuals grieving the loss of their leader. The promise of the Father came. The power was given. Then, because they could not help it, they became leaders – charismatic individuals with the same dynamic that had first drawn them to Christ.

A miracle took place in the upper room where they had gathered to wait as instructed. Something new ‘breathed’ into their lives, and they were never quite the same again. A miraculous event occurred and continues to take place wherever men and women have enough faith to hoist a sail!  A powerful symbol we might use for the Church is that of a ship plowing through the sea of life, sails unfurled, driven on by the mighty force of God Himself.

The Holy Spirit has been called “the truth of the invisible God in action.” That is an apt description of the incredible surging energy unleashed that day, setting in motion far-reaching forces still undiminished to this very day.

How can I know that this power is real? one might ask. By what happens, I respond. You can hear it rustling through the leaves. “What is the wind?” the boy asked his grandfather, who replied, “I don’t know, but I can hoist a sail.” What happens is evidence of the unprovable fact. For the seaman, it is the wind in the sails. For the Christian, it is the life of the soul. To the sailor, it means lifting a canvas sail to catch the power of the unseen force. To the Christian it is the set of the soul, the waiting expectancy, the openheartedness that says, “Come, Holy Spirit.”

Every one of us has been inspired: some spoken word, a soft refrain, some thunderous majesty of nature, a crisis we felt we couldn’t conquer but did, the silent thought that gripped us throughly, an act of adoration, some confrontation in which all conviction was called on to respond.  And in that situation something out of nowhere, it seemed, possessed us, fired us, lifted us, pushed us, calmed us, helped us, healed us, restrained us, restored us, until we were not only ourselves, but inspired by the Holy Spirit we found that what we couldn’t do on our own, God helped us do.

The ‘Wind of the Holy Spirit’ was the force that created the Church. It is the force which creates new lives. It is the strength that makes saints. It is the same power that created the world out of nothing and created man out of the dust of the earth. It is that force that created the living church out of mourning disciples.   No less divine than the miracle of physical birth is the miracle of rebirth – the new life in Christ.

The supreme work of the Holy Spirit is to convince people and convict them, to cleanse and renew them, and make them over in the likeness of Christ.  Paul lists the “fruit of the spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The apostle would have us know that we do not make fruitful Christians of ourselves, cultivating the Christian graces, manicuring our souls, and pulling ourselves up by our moral bootstraps. Rather, we open our lives in faith to the cleansing, renewing breath of God.  We enable the spirit to produces these graces within us as naturally as a tree produces fruit.

Is this concept so very difficult to understand? Perhaps it sounds too mystical and unreal, so we shy away. We raise our credibility guard against what we do not understand spiritually. But we don’t with the physical. “What is the wind, grandfather?” “I don’t know my boy, but I can hoist a sail.”

The understanding of a personal Pentecost for us today is a time of implicit challenge and crisis just as it was for the disciples during the weeks following the execution of Jesus.  We live in a revolutionary age, full of unrest among students, races, ethnic groups, and economic classes. These are days of turmoil, demonstration, polarization, fragmentation, and frustration. The account of Pentecost in Acts 2 serves to remind us that a handful of people utterly transformed a sick society and gave it new life. What they did then is equally possible today. The Church has not failed, nor has God. We are the Church as individuals, and God makes Himself known to us as individuals. We are invited by the Father to be fellow laborers with Him as He works to reconcile the world to Himself.

Knowing God and doing His will, we become part of the leavening influence of which our Lord spoke (Luke 13:20-21).  To pray earnestly, to serve despite the cost, to worship as an act of faith, to give as an expression of loyalty, to study the Word as discipline for the soul, to become actively involved in carrying out the Great Commission – these are ways to hoist the sail, leaving the rest to the providence of Almighty God.

The Set of the Sail

One ship drives east, and another west
With the self-same winds that blow;
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
Which decides the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate;
As the voyage along through life;
‘Tis the will of the soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

~ Brother Roy

Revival on Shoemaker Ridge (Or, How New Hope Became the Proud Owner of a Horse Trough)

The little church that NHIM helped to plant on Shoemaker Ridge in Lee County, Kentucky, has experienced its ups and downs since it was dedicated on Easter Sunday two years ago.  The ridge is a tough place to minister – poverty, alcoholism, and drugs have plagued the community for years.  A revival meeting was scheduled for September 17-21, and the Holy Spirit moved in a special way in the little church on the ridge.  After more than 90 people crammed into the tiny sanctuary on Sunday night, the revival meetings were extended for another night, then extended again to Tuesday and Wednesday.  Many spiritual victories were won at the altar.  On Wednesday night, the last night of the revival, three believers were baptized in a horse-watering trough purchased by New Hope to serve as a baptistry.  We thank God for the moving of His Spirit on Shoemaker Ridge and ask that you would join us in prayer for the ministry of Ridge Chapel and for the believers, some young and some old, who have begun a new walk with the Lord.

Here are some pictures and videos from Wednesday night’s closing service:

A simple purchase with a profound purpose

A simple purchase with a profound purpose

Pastor David leads the congregation in singing

matt

NHIM Board Chairman Matt Kinnell sings during the service

More congregational singing

One of the baptisms that took place on Wednesday evening

One of the baptisms that took place on Wednesday evening

Still Waters

still waters“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2b-3a)

Noise, jangled nerves, family pressures, and a hectic pace, are all part of the daily life most of us live. Cell phones, Internet, Facebook, and Twitter, add to the chaotic nature of modern life. If you are like me, at times we long for a place beside the “still waters.” We need a quiet place where the Lord can restore our soul.

Thanks to our wonderful Christian friends, Wayne and Pam, we are invited to stay at their beach house on Dauphin Island, Alabama, whenever we can. Three or four times a year, we avail ourselves to their invitation. There are times when the water is so still the bay looks like a mirror. It quietens a stressed heart. A soft, gentle breeze refreshes our weary souls. While there is a need for our bodies to rest and relax physically, there is an even greater need for spiritual calm and rest for the soul.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  The Book of Jeremiah echoes the theme of rest for the soul in chapter 6:16“Thus says the Lord; Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you shall find rest for your souls.” 

We may not always be able to go a physical place ‘beside the still waters’, but praise the Lord we can all come to Jesus for rest wherever we are. His Spirit is closer than our hands and feet.  Acts 17: 27 assures us that “He is not far from each one of us.” Are you stressed, harried, anxious? Come to Him! He will lead you to the spiritual still waters and restore your soul. He promised!

~ Brother Roy

Chest-Deep on a Duck

water over roadWhile I take the responsibility of posting devotionals on the NHIM website seriously, nevertheless, a funny story from my mountain background serves as the impetus for this devotional. Here’s the story:

A stranger (from the flat ground) was traveling in the mountains on Squabble Creek Road. There had been a couple of days of hard spring rains. He came over a rise, and the road disappeared in a pool of water that had covered the road. He stopped his fine car and walked to the water’s edge in an effort to determine the depth of the water. He couldn’t see through the murky water, so he took off his shoes, rolled up his pant legs, and waded out a short distance. Unable to ascertain if he could drive through the water, he found a long stick and tried again. After several more failed attempts, he looked up and saw an old mountaineer leaning on a fence post on the bank above him. “Do you live around here?” the stranger inquired. “Might nigh all my life”, was the reply. “Can I drive through this water without drowning out my car?” The old man answered, “Yep, I’d reckon ye can. It hain’t vary deep.”  The stranger drove into the water. Within moments, his car disappeared beneath the muddy water. Wet and angry, the stranger struggled back up to road by the old man. He shouted, “You stupid old hillbilly! I thought you said the water wasn’t very deep.” The old man responded, “I didn’t figger it were. T’was only chest-deep on my ducks.”

From the beginning, Satan has tried to lure us into sin by lying about the eternal consequences of disobedience. His deceitful nature can be seen in mankind’s first encounter with him in the Garden of Eden. “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘ You will not surely die’” Genesis 3:4 (NKJ).  Eve saw that the forbidden tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eye. She took the fruit and ate. Oh, what a price she paid! What a price all people have paid ever since that day. Satan is still using his devious ways. He tells unwary people that the waters of sin aren’t that deep and they can make it through with little difficulty. Then, when it is too late, they are in over their head and overwhelmed.

The cunning lies of Satan can be heard in the words of many secular songs. The lustful lyrics that one proclaims, “ It can’t be wrong, if it feels so right”. You can hear the hiss of the Serpent in the words of another, “Heaven’s just a sin away.”  Paul speaks to the issue in Titus 3:3 (NKJ): “For we ourselves were once also foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures…” There is a phrase in an old gospel song of several years ago, which makes the truth about sin very clear. “Sin will take you farther than you ever planned to go, sin will keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay, and sin will cost you more than you ever expected to pay.”

Hear the final word on the matter. Galatians 6:7-8 (NKJ)“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

~ Brother Roy

Slapped with the Truth

slapRecently, while traveling in South Africa, I saw a hand-painted placard with what was apparently an African proverb on it. The message read, “It is better to be slapped with the truth than to be kissed with a lie.” As the words sunk in, I was captivated by its profound message. I work from the premise that all truth is God’s truth, whether it is found on a hand-painted sign or in scripture. As I reflected on this truism, I thought it sounded much like one of Solomon’s proverbs. I went to Scripture and this is what I found:

Proverbs 27:6: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (NKJV)

Proverbs 28:23: “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.”  (ESV)

Ecclesiastes 7:5: “It is better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool.”  (NCV)

Proverbs 26:28: “A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”  (KJV)

Proverbs 12:19: “ The lip of truth shall be established forever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”  (KJV)

Proverbs 12:22: “ Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are His delight.”  (KJV) 

The gem of truth in the proverb raised a question or two in my mind. How do we react when someone confronts us with a truth that is not very flattering? Would we rather be flattered and sweet-talked, to our detriment, than to be reprimanded in love? Do we really want fellow believers to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) to us? I have challenged myself, and I challenge you to be conscious of this proverb.

Let me share a final thought that relates to the proverb. The Gospel of Mark records a moving account of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  Mark 14:45 says, “And as soon as he (Judas) was come, he goeth straightway to Him, and saith, Master, Master; and kissed Him” (KJV).  Jesus was betrayed by a kiss from one whom He then called “friend” (Matthew 26:50). We need to understand that when we live in such a way as to dishonor Him and still try to maintain the appearance of being His friend, we kiss Him with a lie.

Prayer: Lord, please let me be open to correction and reproof.  Whether it comes from Scripture, the inner stirring of the Holy Spirit, or a family member or friend, let me receive it graciously. “Create in me a clean heart, O God ; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10)

~ Brother Roy

The High Tide of the Spirit

Boat beached on sandbar in river estuary; Camel Estuary, Padstow, Cornwall, UK (GBR)In my early years of evangelistic preaching, I often heard the old timers -veteran evangelists – speak of the ‘high tide of the spirit’. I only had a vague idea of that to which they were referring. Now, after more than a half century of preaching, I have a much clearer understanding of that phrase. Preaching experience has certainly been a great teacher, but I also wish to highlight two additional things that have illuminated my understanding of this crucial phenomenon of spiritual life.

First, let me share a lesson from nature. Across the years, Miss Sue and I have spent many wonderful days looking out across the waters of Mobile Bay. Close friends, the Eldridges, have a lovely beach house at water’s edge on Dauphin Island, Alabama.  They have graciously invited us to come whenever we can and rest from our labor and enjoy the beauty of Dauphin Island. When there, I read the reports of tidal phases with as much interest as I read the weather forecast. There is a small sandbar island across from the back deck. At high tide, it is completely under water. At low tide it is clearly visible. It is a resting place for shore birds, but also a hazard to boaters who do not know the tides in these waters. At high tide, fishermen can easily move through the passage into open water. At low tide, you can get stuck on the sand bar. If you drive through the bayou country surrounding Dauphin Island, you can witness oyster boats and many other types of vessels stranded high and dry at low tide. You must be aware of the tides, or you will be marooned.

The second thing that has heightened my understanding of the phrase ‘high tide of the spirit’ comes from Shakespeare’s writing. In Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218-224, Brutus and Cassius are at a point of disagreement about how to conduct the final phase of their civil war with Octavian and Marcus Antonius. Cassius believes they should secure their position and rest for a final push. Brutus, however, is convinced they have an advantage and should press the issue.  Brutus speaks, There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyages of their life 
is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” Brutus insists that there is a force that ebbs and flows in time, and one must “go with the flow.” Waiting around only allows your opportunity to pass its crest and begin to ebb. If the opportunity is “omitted” (missed), you’ll find yourself stranded in miserable shallows. Since all ‘truth’ is God’s truth, it shows up in a myriad of places. It may be in nature, it may in secular writing, and always in scripture. When God’s spirit stirs in our hearts, it must be ‘taken at the flood’.

2 Corinthians 6:2b (KJV) “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Hebrews 2:3 (KJV) “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation;”

Psalm 95:7b (NIV) “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”

I cannot number the times I’ve witnessed the ‘high tide of the spirit’ in a service. Some have heeded the Lord’s invitation, stepped out in response to His voice, and found victory. Others have resisted the spirit and have been left floundering in the shallows. Opportunities were missed, and the grieved Holy Spirit moved on.

PRAYER: Lord, when the ‘high tide of the spirit’ comes, may we follow the advice of the Psalmist (Psalm 95:6, NIV)“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”  May we respond like the young Samuel in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 3:10b, NIV): “Then Samuel said, Speak, for your servant is listening.”

~ Brother Roy