13. Why Wind

Meditations in Acts : 13 :  Why Wind?

Acts 2:2  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

These first verses provide us with the reason for the rest of the book. Something happened on this day that meant that the world was never the same again. We are about to read of a supernatural event that pushed these weak, frail, and uncertain disciples  out into the world in such a dynamic way that the world was changed. Now I maintain with this passage, as I maintain over so much Scripture, that many of us who have been Christians a long time become so familiar with it that we lose the impact of the incredible things we are reading about. There were three things that happened on this day of Pentecost that caused the disciples to be precipitated into the lap of the world in such a manner that the world was changed. Each of these phenomena convey a message from God to us. The first of these three things is the sound of wind.

Now note something significant here and it is something I missed for many years.  It is NOT a wind! Contrary to what many of us think, this is not a great movement of air – it was simply a sound. We aren’t told that the furniture flew everywhere and the disciples were blown out into the open by a tremendous gust of air. When Elijah was taken it was clearly in a whirlwind, a tremendous movement of air, and as we commented in Part 1 in Acts 1, his young disciples went looking for him because they expected his body would be dropped somewhere by the wind – but this wasn’t like that. There wasn’t a wind!

In fact it must have been much more eerie for there they all are, sitting in this house when suddenly there is this tremendous noise like a great wind blowing, but they feel no movement of air on their faces. This sound fills the house, there is no escaping it. It isn’t a gentle whisper; it is a great rushing sound, just like there is a gale blowing – but it isn’t! Now that IS scary!

So it is not a physical manifestation so it must be an indicator of a spiritual movement. The sound of wind is the sound of great energy moving. Something is happening, something is coming which, if it is not material or physical, must be something else. Jesus had challenged Nicodemus with his teaching: The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:8) Perhaps that teaching says no more than you cannot tell how the Spirit comes or from where he comes, and so perhaps we are on a fruitless task trying to make some sort of explanation of what happened on this day.

But something is happening and from the outworking of it – the energizing of the disciples as we shall see later – it is a power thing. This sound seems to convey the idea that there is a mighty power that is pouring forth from heaven. We do need to hold onto the scale of it – it was a mighty power for that is what the description is, of a violent wind. This, whatever it was, is going to sweep everything before it; it is very powerful. Now we must realise that He will not sweep unbelievers before Him for He gives them free will and always gives us opportunity to make personal decisions.

However, in accounts of revivals, when God turns up in such power, there are accounts of unbelievers being so struck by the awareness of the presence of God that they are mightily convicted and literally floored. The powerful presence of God does have that effect without doubt. But here He is coming to believers, to those who have been following Jesus and who are waiting as an act of obedience to him. These are people who are waiting for God and so their hearts are open to Him. So when the energy of the powerful presence of the Spirit of God poured out and released from heaven comes into the open hearts of these believers they are suddenly energized in ways we will look at in the days ahead.

Have you ever stood near a tyre when it gets a puncture and the air pours out with a tremendous hiss? I imagine heaven being rent so the Holy Spirit who fills heaven, pours out with a tremendous rushing sound. It is the power of God being released on the earth, but He doesn’t just get dissipated, He pours into open hearts. In the past I have described ‘spirit’ as energy with a personality. This isn’t just energy being poured out, this is the energy that is God Himself and when it comes into the hearts and lives of human beings, it brings with it the character and nature of God Himself. There is not just a feeling of energy being received; it comes with a content, the goodness and greatness of God and as a result it produces in these men an instinctive desire to praise and worship God. It releases a great sense of joy. I believe that is what the Holy Spirit does whenever He is invited in and He comes and brings new life and He comes and fills an individual. He always brings with Him a sense of the greatness, the glory and the goodness of God, and that is expressed in what we call joy.

This divine energy with personality doesn’t just wash over these believers; He fills them. It is not an outward thing but an inward thing. In the past individuals had been anointed with oil as a sign of being anointed by God outwardly to equip them to serve Him, but now when the Spirit comes, He fills them and they are changed from the inside. They are all aware of some inner change taking place. Their hearts, their minds, their very beings are suddenly energized with the glorious presence of God and they are no longer the same.

Have you ever thought about what ‘God’s Power’ actually means?  My definition is Holy Spirit directed energy to bring about God’s will. It is that simple, and that is what has come this day.  A new day has truly arrived!  The Message? This new Church is all about people empowered to be different!

119. Resources

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 119. Resources

Mk 6:37,38 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five–and two fish.”

“We don’t have enough money!” How many times does faith flounder with this statement? That is the most common form of this problem of resources. Or it may be “We don’t have enough personnel to start this project.” Or it may be, “I just don’t have the time or energy to be involved.” These are all resource problems that arise again and again in the Christian life.

Rather than wallow in these statements of unbelief, how about adopting the perspective that says, “Lord, if this project is of you, please provide us with the resources or show us how we are to get them.”

The disciples are in learning mode – although they don’t realise it – and haven’t yet reached this level of understanding. They have confronted the initial difficulties of their situation: it is late and the people need feeding and so common sense says send them away to get food. But Jesus doesn’t operate on common sense; he operates on the knowledge of his Father’s resources. He knows what can be and so he needs to gently lead the disciples into the place of faith but first they will have to confront the impossibilities of the situation.

So, to start the ball rolling he suggests that instead of sending the people away, they simply feed the crowd. One of the disciples does some quick mental arithmetic and concludes that to feed this crowd it would need the equivalent of two thirds of a year’s salary, i.e. a lot! Are they to spend that amount because, implied, we haven’t got it!

OK, says Jesus, instead of focusing on what you don’t have, what have you got? Five loaves and two fish is all they can come up with. I mean, even asking what they have got, Jesus is playing with them. He knows they won’t have enough for this crowd, however much they have.

What is going on here? Jesus is bringing the disciples to a place where they realise that they just don’t have what is needed. In what follows there will be no question of explaining it away. They are about to experience a miracle and nothing else will explain this.

 

60. Young Men

Meditations in 1 Peter : 60: Guidance for Young Men

1 Pet 5:5a Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.

There are two schools of thought in churches about house groups or cell groups or whatever else you call them. One school separates people according to background, job etc. on the basis that the things they have in common will enable people to open up to each other and relate together better than might otherwise happen. They will also be better at reaching those with similar backgrounds. The other school mixes people up in groups on the basis that we learn from different ages and backgrounds.  Both schools have merits. It is useful to focus on the commonalities – which include the unique experiences – of specific age groups or people groups, as well as mixing them up to learn from one another’s different experiences.  However it is the former thing that comes out here.  Peter now gives a simple word of guidance to a specific group – young men.

Interestingly each of the main apostle-writers picked up on young men at various times. Paul encouraged Titus by saying, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” (Titus 2:6,7) John in his first letter also wrote, “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one …… I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 Jn 2:13,14). Each of these writers thinks of something that is peculiar or unique to the experience of ‘young men’. For Paul it was the awareness that young men were full of vigour and energy and life which could be poured our in unrighteous, unrestrained, profligate living and so he cautions them to be self-controlled, observers of those who they could emulate well.  John was aware similarly of the vigour and energy of young men but who, when they were Christians, could be valiant warriors who oppose the enemy and stand out in their generation.

Peter has a different aspect of being young and vigorous in his thinking. He recognises the tendency in the young, in the fullness of their energy and life, to feel that they are the people for today and it therefore becomes very easy to slip into a way of thinking that despises age. We are after all, they might think, the ones full of energy, the ones who are likely to bring change into this dull world, the ones with fresh new ideas. We are the church of today, the ones who are going to change the church and the world.

Now such thinking is good as long as it is seen within context: you are just part of the body of Christ and perhaps nowhere more than here in matters of youthfulness do Paul’s words about being part of a body ring true and need remembering: Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor 12:27) and “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (1 Cor 12:14) and “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Cor 12:21)

The tendency of youthfulness is to say, “We don’t need you,” but that comes from lack of understanding. To be fair one has to say that that isn’t always true, at least in a church where the older people are loving and caring and open to the young people. I have been blessed by hearing some of our young people say they are blessed to be able to relate to, and be alongside, older people. The challenge, perhaps, is more for the older people!

But Peter is being more specific: be submissive to those who are older.” Peter knows that an aspect of this youthful independence means a rejection of the wisdom and authority of those who God has called to lead the church, and that independence could therefore make them very vulnerable to the enemy. The answer is to be rightly related to the authority within the church which resides in those with wisdom and maturity in the church. Yes, youth does have all the energy and vibrancy that goes with younger years but without doubt wisdom comes with the experience of years. Unfortunately we live in an age when wisdom does not rate very highly in discussion areas, it is not valued. It is not realised that wisdom comes with experience and godly wisdom comes with experience of God.

Being submissive is all about attitude. It is about recognising that on our own we are vulnerable. It is about recognising that God calls leaders and our call is to recognise, acknowledge, esteem and let them lead. It is about having a teachable spirit, one who recognises they have much to learn (may we all have that until we go to heaven!) and is therefore open to hear what those who have walked this path before us have got to say. They may not have learnt the wisdom of the years but, nevertheless, listening to them will be instructive. It is about recognising authority that God has established and respecting and honouring it. It is about coming to an understanding of some of the burden that they carry, the responsibilities that they carry, their accountability to God. All these ways are simply expressions of what it means to be submissive to those who are older and in authority. In a day when the world and the enemy derides these things, we would do well to look at them again and ensure they are alive and well in the church.