While flipping channels on our old black and white TV in nineteen seventy-five, a man telling his amazing story of crossing the Sahara Desert with two friends on motorcycles caught my attention. His story was spellbinding as he told how he and his companions came to three certain points of death on their journey: no water, a broken leg, and an irreparably broken motorcycle. Although the men were without any religious affiliation, in desperation, each of them cried out to their grandmother's God: Jesus. On all three occasions, prayer brought a miracle and they were rescued. That was the moment, I first realized there was a living God and that He answered prayers! Following the TV host’s invitation, I prayed and accepted Jesus as my Savior. I had no real idea what that would mean or how radically my life would change; but one thing was sure: I truly believed I had been saved by a miracle working God!
My wife's parents were driven to their knees in prayer when I married their daughter. To their dismay, this cocky New Yorker had won the heart of this graceful and kind, church girl from Knoxville: their only child. Their daily prayer was that we would find a good church and not be casualties of our generation’s “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” morality.
Followers of Christ learn this lesson early on; “watch out what you pray for; you just might get it.” My wonderful Southern Baptist in-laws forgot to be specific about the kind of church they hoped would guide and shape our lives into being an upstanding Christian couple. God answered their prayers His way.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” and the Jesus movement opened our minds to a non-conventional approach to the ageless Gospel message. A series of encounters and books paved the way to an all new church experience. We were drawn to a charismatic congregation that believed the whole Bible: Genesis to maps. The pastor was a gifted teacher who stressed continual Bible study in order to know God’s will and ways. He encouraged us to dig into the Word as the New Testament Berean's had done. Without hesitation we followed his lead and began to study the Bible for the first time in our lives. Within six months of publicly confessing my faith in Christ at a Jesus Festival, and being baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit, we made our first pilgrimage to the Holy Land (1976).
Israel wasn’t much different in 1976 than when Jesus taught, preached, and healed in its synagogues and streets, on its hilltops and beside the Sea of Galilee. It was there, in the King David Hotel, that my new walk with the Lord gave me halt. My wife shared that she was impressed by God that we would have a deliverance ministry. A ministry of what? Casting out demons? I resisted the calling - even the idea - that we would be “called” to pray for people and cast out demons as Jesus and His Disciples had done. I’d seen “The Exorcist”: no way!
God has a sense of humor! On our return to the US, we became leaders of a home fellowship group. One evening, as we always did, we opened our fellowship group with prayer for people’s needs. As we prayed, one woman began hissing and talking in a man's voice. I said to the group of thirty some odd people: “If you're not going to pray, don't stay”. All but four people ran out the door as I recollect. After much prayer, the woman was delivered! She had been freed from her tormentors and began praising God. Our lives were changed forever that night as we were introduced to the powerful gifts of the Holy Spirit in action!
Not many days later, my wife received a call from her dad. A neighbor from across the street had come to them for help. She was terrified. She believed her house was haunted. My father-in-law, Charles, told us that he called his pastor to take care of it. Sadly, the pastor didn’t know what to do and had no intention of wading in those waters. We had told him about healings we had seen and other miraculous manifestations of God so he turned to us in his dilemma asking: “Do you know what we should do?” Drawing from the things she learned in the Healing and Deliverance classes at our church, and from our recent firsthand experience with a demonic spirit, my wife tried to reassure her Dad that he would be safe and the evil spirit had to go in Jesus name.
Having been taught that spiritual gifts all passed away with the death of last Apostle, belief and courage to intervene on his neighbor’s behalf were hard to come to for Charlie’s Dad. Two hundred and fifty dollars in long distance phone calls later, Charles went across the street and did as he was instructed. He commanded the demons to leave the woman’s house in the name of Jesus. He was thinking the physical house would be cleaned out when he laid hands on his neighbor. But with the command, “out in the name of Jesus” the woman immediately began manifesting deliverance. My father-in-law quickly ran back across the street and called us asking what to do next. A bit fearful, but a being a Godly man, he returned to his neighbor and prayed until she was set free and gave her life to Christ. Charles reported back to his minister who turned a deaf ear to the victory won that day by the power of the Holy Spirit.
My father-in-law had never heard of the baptism of the Holy Spirit or the ministry gifts given men for establishing God’s kingdom. Hungry to know more after his first experience with God’s miraculous intervention in His neighbor’s life, Charles wanted the Bible explanation of what had taken place. I led him through a quick study beginning with John 20:20 where Jesus said receive ye the Holy Spirit.
What does “receive the Holy Spirit” actually mean to believers? In Greek, Holy Spirit is “pneuma hagion” literally meaning “holy breath”: the breath of God… the breath of life! Just as God breathed into Adam the breath of life (Genesis 2:7) and man became a living soul, the Holy Spirit entering man is the life giving gift of the “born again” experience. My father-in-law understood and agreed that John 20:20 was referring to the seal of redemption all believers receive when new life in Christ is breathed into us by the Holy Spirit. Our study continued. I asked Charles to read what Jesus told His disciples on the following page in Acts 1:4-5 (NIV).
“On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “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.”
Those who had received the seal of redemption when the Lord Jesus breathed on them “the breath of new life”, were instructed to go to the Upper Room and wait to receive the gift… the promise of the Father: the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon them. My father-in-law realized in that moment the difference of disciples receiving the Holy Spirit “in them”, and later receiving power when the Holy Spirit “came on them”, (Acts 21-21:) as two separate encounters.
I then asked Charles the question Paul asked the disciples he met at Ephesus (Acts 19: 1-5 New Living Translation)
“While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers.
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.
“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
“Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked.
And they replied, “The baptism of John.”
Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”
As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied.”
Those empowered by the Holy Spirit turned the world upside down with signs and wonders: by “demonstration and power”. Power is what built the Church: not man's power, not military power, not government power, but God's gifted power! Beautiful buildings, eloquent speech, or market driven campaigns are not what builds God’s eternal kingdom. From the first disciples until today, it is the power of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that endow us with enhanced ability to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These gifts empower us to speak, to know, and act according to the will, knowledge, and power of God. (1 Corinthians 12: 1-11).
How does one receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit today? Luke 11: 9-13 answers that beautifully.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ASK him!”
After asking for and receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1976, our lives changed forever. From a call to ministry we heard on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem to today, the Holy Spirit continually empowers and inspires us to share the good news of Jesus’ love and grace around the world. It is not always in religious settings like the Holy Mountain of the Samaritans or the Temple in Jerusalem that we are called. We are guided by Holy Spirit led opportunities into the highways and byways to compel the lost to come to the God who loves them. And through the Holy Spirit’s gifts and anointing we find the overcoming power to live as true Christians and impart His gifts to bring comfort, saving grace, healing, and yes, deliverance to a hurting world. And today, we call out to you to do the same.
The pandemic of 2020 has quieted the marketplace, homes, and souls enough to prepare hearts for a spiritual awakening. Held captive by an invisible enemy, unthinkable global mortality, and made to come face to face with the fragility of life, men and women have begun to long for redemption. From the economy to the spirits of men, there is a cry for intervention… for help from the God that has been pushed far into the background for so very long. Days of prayer have been called for from the highest office in the land and the sound of intercession has swept from shore to shore. The cry in the street is for salvation and empowerment.
Unlike the time God scattered prideful men by confusing their one language into many at the Tower of Babel, He united His church at Pentecost as tongues of fire anointed each man and woman to speak the mysteries of God so that all could understand and believe. Today, as believers around the world commemorate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, may we hear the sound of a mighty rushing wind: God’s answer to our prayers to heal our land by a fresh out-pouring of the Holy Spirit.
Could the Day of Pentecost, May 31st, 2020, be the beginning of a world-wide outpouring of the Holy Spirit? Could today begin a move of God beyond anything mankind has ever witnessed? World events have revealed how desperately people need the Lord’s forgiveness and empowerment. Nation against nation, race against race, need an empowered church to anoint them with the healing balm of Jesus and offer hope in the midst of international upheaval. Only the Holy Spirit is up to the task! Turn your attention to the Master's Decree: John 14:12-14 New International Version.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Today, we pray you will ask for your own Pentecost to come. Simply pray: “Lord Jesus, baptize me with the Holy Spirit!” ASK, EXPECT, and wait until you RECEIVE! Get ready for the miraculous experienced in the ministry of Jesus and His disciples 2000 years ago to become your reality in 2020.
Come Holy Spirit!