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Jim Cymbala believes that many of us are missing something vital. Christianity, he says, for even the best-intentioned person or church, is impossible without the Holy Spirit. You can have regular devotions, great preaching, a strong emphasis on the Bible, a great worship team, and a congregation that is trying, but ...
Jim Cymbala believes that many of us are missing something vital. Christianity, he says, for even the best-intentioned person or church, is impossible without the Holy Spirit. You can have regular devotions, great preaching, a strong emphasis on the Bible, a great worship team, and a congregation that is trying, but if you aren’t vitally in touch with God’s Spirit, you are missing out on the life God has for you.
The Holy Spirit, he points out, is God’s agent on earth. Yet he is the least understood, least preached about, and least discussed member of the Trinity. That is sad, because without him, our spiritual lives will always become dry, mechanical, and a struggle.
Too often, the body of Christ is divided into two sides. One side stresses the Word of God, separating itself from what it views as the emotional fanaticism often linked to those emphasizing the Holy Spirit. The other side is sometimes known for drifting into unbiblical manifestations and unorthodox teaching while attributing it all to the Spirit of God. But the Christianity we see in Scripture is both grounded in the Word and full of the Spirit.
With stunning stories of how God is working in the lives of people and churches today and biblical teaching about the Holy Spirit, Jim Cymbala invites you to experience God in a fresh and vital way. Nothing else will change our prayer life, our study of God’s word, and our worship more than opening our hearts to the Spirit. If we want power, confidence, joy, peace, and more love in our lives, then we need a better understanding of how and why the Spirit moves so we can join him there.
I wasn't expecting the Holy Spirit to join me for lunch, yet that's exactly what happened.
My wife, Carol, was out of town, so I went to a little café that I like on Long Island. I found a quiet table against the wall, ordered my usual salad, and while I was enjoying my healthy food, I caught up on some reading. I subscribe to the New York Times on my Kindle, and I'd already read through several stories when a headline caught my attention: "Hate Engulfs Christians in Pakistan." I was well into my salad by then, but I set my fork down as I read the article:
The blistered black walls of the Hameed family's bedroom tell of an unspeakable crime. Seven family members died here on Saturday, six of them burned to death by a mob that had broken into their house and shot the grandfather dead, just because they were Christian.
The family had huddled in the bedroom, talking in whispers with their backs pressed against the door, as the mob taunted them.
"They said, 'If you come out, we'll kill you,'" said Ikhlaq Hameed, 22, who escaped. Among the dead were two children, Musa, 6, and Umaya, 13.
The article described a rampage by a crowd of twenty thousand Muslims that lasted eight hours in Gojra, Pakistan, where Christians represent less than 5 percent of the population. In addition to the murdered members of the Hameed family, twenty Christians were wounded, and the mob burned and looted a hundred Christian homes, in some cases also wiping out the family's livelihood.
The day before, Christians at a wedding party in a nearby village were accused of burning a Qur'an. Officials who looked into the accusation said the charges were false, but local religious leaders used the news to rally Muslims against the local Christian minority.
The Hameeds, a Christian family, weren't involved in any of that. They were just eating breakfast in their home as the mob gathered nearby. When the grandfather opened the door to see what all the noise was for, the crowd of Muslims rushed inside. The Hameeds tried to take refuge in a back room as the mob entered their house and looted it before setting it on fire.
The Spirit Moves in Me
I couldn't believe what I was reading. Often the mistreatment of Christians goes unreported in the national media, but this story was in the New York Times. I searched other newspapers for additional information and learned that apparently Pakistani police had stood by while the carnage went on. A comment by one of the survivors moved me the most. He said he wouldn't retaliate because the Bible taught him to pray that his enemies would see the light.
I began to pray for the Christians in Pakistan, but as I prayed, I found myself weeping, and I had to turn my face toward the wall. I was concerned others in the café would see my tears and wonder what was wrong. What a tragedy! I couldn't imagine the suffering those people were going through because of their faith in Jesus. I felt such a bond with them — those brothers and sisters whom I didn't know personally but would one day spend eternity with.
Like Mr. Hameed, I am a Christian and a grandfather, but that's where the similarities end. I have never opened my door to an angry mob and tried to protect my family from looters. I've never watched my family die while trying to escape the flames of our burning house. I've never suffered physical violence because of my devotion to Christ. I could only try to imagine how those circumstances would test their faith. Or my faith.
Here in America, we believers may feel like our faith is being tested by something as silly as a traffic jam or a car that won't start. The truth is we're all spoiled, including me. I had so much and they had so little; our lives and experiences were worlds apart. And yet I now felt such a burden to help them. But how? I didn't know anyone in Pakistan. I was just a simple man eating lunch alone in a Long Island café.
The Holy Spirit had stirred my heart in an unusual way, and I couldn't cease praying for them. Lord, be with your people. Help them to find food, work, a roof over their heads, and a bed where they can rest. Comfort them in their grief. Protect them. Guard their minds — don't let them lose faith because of the violence committed against them. I prayed until I didn't know what else to pray. When I finished, I felt as if I'd done what I could, yet their tragedy remained in my heart like a weight.
For the rest of that Monday and most of the next day, I went about my business, but my mind frequently returned to those people, and each time it did, I interceded in prayer for them. One man had sold grain from a cart, but the mob had burned it along with a chest for his daughter's dowry. Where would he find work now that the tools of his trade were gone? Families were suddenly homeless and on the street searching for a place to live. The people in their church couldn't even help them, because a hundred other houses had also been burned and looted. Only God could help them cope with such pain and loss.
The Spirit Connects Two Worlds
Every Tuesday night the Brooklyn Tabernacle holds a prayer meeting. That next evening, as I sat in the front row singing and praying with my church family, I still couldn't get those Pakistani believers out of my mind. Something was unsettled in my spirit. I felt like I needed to do something more; I just didn't know what.
At some point in the meeting I stood up. "Something's heavy on my heart," I said to the church. "I can't shake this, and I want to share it with you. And then we're going to pray. I don't know what else to do." I pulled out my Kindle and prepared to read from it. "We're a long way from Pakistan, and most of us will probably never go there — but listen to this...."
As I read the article, I could feel the congregation's pain at the thought of a mother and her child being burned to death because of their faith. Like me, they grieved for those Christians who lost family members, homes, and jobs.
"Let's pray right now," I said after finishing the article. "God said in the day of trouble we should call upon him and he would answer us. Let's stand and get into groups of three or four all across the building. The Bible also says that the Lord is 'the God of all comfort.' Let's ask our Father to minister to those precious believers on the other side of the world." Immediately, fervent voices filled the building with the sacred sound of men and women calling on the name of the Lord.
I believe the Tuesday night prayer meeting at the Brooklyn Tabernacle is the spiritual engine that drives the church. My wife and I began there more than thirty-five years ago with a handful of people on Sundays and less than a handful on Tuesday nights. But now years later, at least fifteen hundred people were present. Some had come two hours early to get a head start at the throne of grace.
I joined hands with a few other men in the front row, and we added our voices to theirs. But as we finished praying out loud and I thought about transitioning into the offering, my mind was still searching for something else we could do. Lord, we've prayed as best we could. Is there something else I am supposed to do? It's time for the offering; it would be great if we could send them some money. Maybe we can slice off a portion of tonight's offering to help these believers? But God, who would we send it to? I don't know anyone in Pakistan. I don't even know anyone who knows a Christian there. Should I mention this to the people? But what if I can't follow through on moving the funds to where they're needed? Oh God, direct me. Lead me to what I should do.
I finished praying and moved back onto the platform. "Please be seated," I said.
As I paused, waiting for them to be seated, Craig, a leader in our church, rushed down the center aisle waving his hands to get my attention. I switched off my mike so I could hear what he had to say.
"Pastor, there's a woman sitting in the back — she's from Pakistan."
A woman from Pakistan in our downtown Brooklyn church on a Tuesday night? "Send her up," I told Craig.
Craig led her forward, and in front of everyone, with my mike still off, I chatted with the woman.
"Have you been here before?" I asked her.
"No, it's my first time."
"And you're from Pakistan?"
"Yes, my husband is a pastor there. My husband and my father-in-law were among the first outside Christians to go into Gojra to bring help."
"Yes, they are there right now."
Just imagine, at that very moment, her husband was in the town we were praying for! He was working with other representatives to bring aid to the families who had lost loved ones and homes. That was her first time visiting the Brooklyn Tabernacle — the very same night I had spontaneously asked the church to pray for the Christians in Gojra, Pakistan.
I shared what she said with the people in the church. There was an audible gasp, and then the room filled with a sense of holy wonder and awe as people began to spontaneously thank God for this woman, her husband, and their ministry.
I was in shock.
The church was in shock.
The woman was in shock.
We had called out to God for some way to comfort and aid those involved in this catastrophe, and within minutes we found out the Lord was ahead of us.
We took up a collection for the persecuted Christians in Pakistan, raising thousands of dollars for the Pakistani believers. I instructed Steve, our CFO, to check out the details of the woman's story and contact her husband. Everything was legit, and her husband seemed a very godly man. Later that week, another member of our church heard the details of what happened at the prayer meeting. He came forward and wrote a check for ten thousand dollars to add to what we had already collected. We sent the money to Gojra as quickly as we could.
Don't Miss the Blessing
Does that kind of story seem strange to you?
Have you ever been part of such a divine arrangement?
Perhaps you find the whole thing hard to believe. Maybe you even think it's the kind of story a pastor tells, embellishing the details for an effect. Or worse, perhaps you think I made it up.
But it happened.
And it shouldn't surprise us.
It was nothing more than the Holy Spirit leading a person, and then a church, to pray for and send help to hurting believers on the other side of the earth. No one had to think it up or figure it out — or for that matter, take credit for it.
Sitting in that café reading about the Christians in Pakistan, I felt a God-given burden for them even though I didn't know them. At the time, I had no idea what would take place in the next few days; I was just moved by their suffering and frustrated because I couldn't help. Now I understand why my heart had been so affected by their situation. If I had ignored the deep compassion for the Pakistanis that the Spirit had stirred in me, if I had ignored the prompting of the Spirit to pray, the connection that God had planned for that Tuesday night between our congregation and the Pakistani believers never would have happened.
What a loss it would have been if the people of Gojra had never received our financial aid. But what a bigger loss it would have been to me, and our prayer meeting, had we not experienced the working of the Holy Spirit in such a profound and dramatic way. God stepped in and did something "immeasurably more than all we [could] ask or imagine" (Eph. 3:20). He is that kind of dramatic, prayer-answering God, and we could have missed it. It was amazing to be a part of something so beautifully orchestrated and timed by the Holy Spirit.
But those kinds of Holy Spirit disruptions shouldn't seem shocking to us if we carefully read our New Testament. Examples of the Holy Spirit's work appear often in accounts of the early church. Unfortunately, today many of us have gotten used to doing without the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives and churches.
Consider these honest questions:
How many Christians suffer from a spiritual life that is dry and mechanical?
How many serve a Jesus, whom they know about from the Bible, but who is not a living reality in their experience?
And do we ever wonder why Holy Spirit interventions are so rare among our congregations?
Could it be that we're missing out on some wonderful blessings planned for our lives and churches because we're not properly acquainted with the person and work of God the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God's agent on earth, yet he is the least understood, least preached about, and least discussed member of the Trinity. And that is sad, because without him, our spiritual lives will always become a dry, mechanical struggle. That's why I am so happy you're beginning this study of the Holy Spirit. I can't think of anything else that will change your prayer life, your study of God's Word, and your experience during worship in church more than inviting the Spirit to join you in a new way.
On the pages that follow, you'll learn more about who the Holy Spirit is, what happens when he moves, and how you can surrender yourself to his leading. Along the way, you'll meet some radically transformed people whose stories are so powerful I wanted you to hear them from the people who experienced them — in their own words and in their own chapters. There is only one thing more powerful than seeing the Spirit work in someone else's life, and that is seeing him work in yours.
If you want power, confidence, joy, peace, and more love in your life, ask the Spirit to come and do something new in you. Perhaps you'll be surprised when the Holy Spirit joins you for lunch, like he did me that day in that Long Island café. But I promise you that when he does, your spiritual life will cease to be dry and mechanical. Instead, it will be filled with awe at the power of the Spirit and the wonder of God's goodness.
Many Christians have only a vague notion of who the Holy Spirit is. They may have heard of him, but they struggle to understand his role. And some Bible translations haven't helped. The Holy Spirit isn't a "holy ghost" in the Halloween sense of a ghost. Neither is he a gas that fills up people, an ethereal presence, or a force like the one found in Star Wars.
The Holy Spirit is a real person — the third and coequal member of the Trinity. Though he is often overlooked or perhaps even neglected by many twenty-first-century believers, he is just as divine as the Father and the Son (Acts 5:3 – 4). Consider these facts:
He possesses a divine personality and personally chooses people for ministry assignments (Acts 13:2).
He communicates with us (Rev. 2:7) and searches out the deep things of God to make them known to believers (1 Cor. 2:9 – 12).
He is the one who makes Christ a living reality to the believer (Eph. 3:16 – 17) and in fact is called the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9).
He is coequal with both the Father and Son as part of the mystery of the triune God.
Understanding these biblical facts about the Holy Spirit within the larger biblical story of who God is — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — and how he relates to his people is important.
A Triune God
The triune God is a mystery that can't fully be explained. The Bible reveals God as a single God, one entity, who mysteriously exists in three persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Examining each of these three persons to more fully understand the Holy Spirit, the person who is the focus of this book, is worth a moment of our time.
From reading our Bibles, we know that the Father, Creator God, is featured in the Old Testament. He is shown as the sovereign ruler of the universe. He is God the provider who faithfully answers prayer. He is also the Holy One of Israel who gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and to Israel — his chosen people. He knew the law would be a safeguard for them and bring blessings when obeyed. When Moses came down from the mountain and read the Ten Commandments, the people responded, "Everything God says to do, we will do." But unfortunately, they promptly started breaking every commandment they promised to keep.
Excerpted from Spirit Rising by Jim Cymbala Jennifer Schuchmann Copyright © 2012 by Jim Cymbala . Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Foreword Francis Chan 7
Part 1 God's Agent on Earth
1 Holy Disruptions 11
2 Who Is the Holy Spirit? 18
3 Christianity Is Hopeless without the Spirit 26
4 Controlled by the Spirit 34
5 Influenced and Controlled: Roma's Story 43
Part 2 When God's Spirit Moves
6 The Word Comes Alive 55
7 There Are Signs and Symbols of Renewal 65
8 There Is Joy 74
9 Entitled to Joy: Evelyn's Story 83
10 There Is a Quest for Christlikeness 93
11 There Is Power 102
12 The Power of Love: Diana's Story 111
Part 3 When We Surrender To The Holy Spirit
13 We Love the Unlovable 121
14 We Are Drawn into Fellowship 128
15 A Fearful Life and a Cry for Fellowship: Terry's Story 139
16 We Overcome Fear 151
17 We Can Shake the Kingdom with Our Prayers 159
18 An Answer to Prayer: The Story of Annes 169
19 We Are No Longer Spectators 179
Conclusion: Where Do We Go from Here? 189
Posted December 29, 2012
Sated and rather disappointed by a video series of Cymbala used by our church's small group ministry, I put off reading this book for weeks. I don't like the sub-title. It struck me as turning what should be Spirit-centred into how we can find power for ourselves. Then one Sunday, I sat down and read it almost through. I came away with a new appreciation for Cymbala and our need of the Holy Spirit. I'm often put off by the books and videos put out by famous and highly promoted preachers. So I'm glad I persevered.
That which sets Cymbala's book apart for me was the combination of a solid rather than aberrant theology of the Holy Spirit, astounding examples of conversion and deliverance seen in his church in Brooklyn, and the transparency of Cymbala himself. Instead of coming across as a theological or practical expert on the subject, Cymbala repeatedly emphases his own fears and needs. He cries out in prayer for the Holy Spirit again and again. Through it all he is very balanced and very biblical.
The book is divided into three sections: God's Agent on Earth, When God's Spirit moves, and when we surrender to the Holy Spirit. In this first section he describes the basic biblical teaching on the Spirit but seasons this with examples; the astounding answer to prayer for Pakistani Christians suffering from a terrible example of persecution and the conversion of Roma, a wild player in New York's drugs and gambling scene. In this first section he also laments the deadness and lack of spiritual power in most of our churches.
The second section also comes alive through illustrations of dramatic interventions of the Holy Spirit. He underscores our need of the Spirit to understand and apply Scripture, to find joy, to find power for living a Christ-like life, and to interpret the sign and symbols of renewal.
Section three brings the Holy Spirit even more intimately into our lives. He shows how only the Spirit can help us love the unlovable, impress us with our need for fellowship, overcome fear, and enliven our prayers.
Spirit Rising is an inspiring read that plateaued Christians, and those who think they aren't—like me—should read. I do, however, wish Cymbala had included many more examples of the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit on more ordinary Christians. Too many of the examples highlight dramatic deliverance of people from unbelievable evil and problems. And what about when the Holy Spirit does not answer prayer. What about perseverance. Nevertheless, a very uplifting read
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