When Lightning Strikes



Lightening is powerful. It cannot be predicted, but can be anticipated. Lightning is a meteorological phenomenon that essentially (really over simplified summary coming) is a result of the conditions above meeting appropriate, coordinating conditions below (equal electric charges of opposite polarity). When that happens, the result is a powerful flash of lightning. Other than the heat, light and energy released – lighting also oxidizes nitrogen in the air into nitrates which are deposited by rain and can fertilize plant growth. So lightning, a result of coordinating conditions above and below, is powerful AND contributes to conditions for growth. Interesting.

Revival is similar to lightning. Revival is a result of coordinating, conducive conditions above and beneath. But there is a significant, encouraging, and I believe challenging difference. To an almost total extent, the conditions “above” are always right. By that I mean that God is never not in the mood for powerful expressions, manifestations of His Spirit’s person and work that lead to greater conditions for growth. The contingency is with the conditions below.

Heaven is poised and longs to influence earth. From the beginning of the Gospel the message has been that the Kingdom is here – and to respond correctly by repentance and faith (Mark 1:15). And the concurrent imperative has been to pray for and proclaim the interests and influence of heaven on earth (Matt. 6:10, 16:19, 18:18). God has already declared and demonstrated His intent and activity: “in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…” (Acts 2:17ff). Heaven is open and committed. The Spirit has been paid for and poured out (John 14:16-18).

The conditions below must change. Jesus implied as much with the statement, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). The implication being that the variable is not on the side of heaven, but earth. Jesus is looking for faith on earth. The conditions above are looking for coordinating, conducive conditions below.

The Holy Spirit can initiate activity without asking anyone’s permission – He is God. But it must be acknowledged that God has always operated through the faith and obedience of someone. He has rarely “shown up” or “moved in” without partnering with a person. In the most influential revivals of history – and their contemporary counterparts – even when it has seemed or been said that “this is a sovereign move of God” – the truth is closer to a divine partnership between heaven and earth.: somewhere, someone prayed and obeyed. Every time. The reformation. The great awakenings. Azusa. Brownsville. Topeka. Lakeland. Toronto. Redding. Every strike of lightning has resulted from coordinating, conducive conditions.

The excitement, enthusiasm and hunger that result from initial “strikes” usually foster even greater conditions for more. Testimony increased faith and hunger and expectation. Expectation creates enthusiasm. Enthusiasm generates more interest and more crowds with more of all the above. Since the days of Jesus, people have moved in mass to where the lighting of heaven is striking.

Often the question is asked as to why certain “moves of God” lift or cease. I do not believe that Heaven lost interest. I sincerely believe that earth loses hunger, anticipation, expectation… that real, humble, yielded faith wanes… and the conditions below are no longer conducive the conditions above. Lightning cannot be faked or forced. The conditions below must change.

I recognize that heaven responds to the prayers and petitions of the church. In some measure, though God’s preference never eases or ebbs, His apparent willingness to act is directly affected by the actions of His church. The idea of “waiting on the Lord” is not so much waiting for God to stir Himself from slumber, or to pay attention. Waiting on the Lord has much greater impact on me – it readies me for what God is already ready for.  I also recognize there appears to matters of timing and design from heaven. He does know the plans He has for us (they are good). But sovereignty is His arena, not mine. I am responsible for what I know, and I know that for the most part, I am not waiting on God as much He is waiting on me. If He’s looking for faith, I want Him to find it in me.

This brings me to why I am both encouraged and challenged.

I am encouraged because I know that Heaven is more ready than I am for revival. I don’t put very much stock into predictions about “what God is about to do” as if He’s been holding back and waiting for the right calendar year to line up metaphorically with an ancient timeline.  Nor do I believe He overly concerned with current events or politicians. Not in a way that would make more or less persuaded to be manifestly present in power and life. No one thing, not a person or event or the passing of time or the appearance of the moon can leverage Heaven’s interests on earth more than the shed blood of Jesus and His glorious ascension. Jesus has been exalted and has poured out the Spirit (Acts 2:32-33). Nothing greater than this can ever occur. No greater reason could ever exist for the manifest presence of the Outpoured Spirit. I do posit that the Spirit perceives when someone has started affecting the conditions below, and will let folks know that He’s “found a spot.” As such, I think the Holy Spirit forecasts manifestations of His work – not based on His own whim, but because the Son of Man has found faith on the earth.

Therefore, revival is always a possibility. If Heaven is ready now – then any delay or diminishing is not on Heaven’s side but ours. If the Son of Man is looking for faith, I want to be found with it. I want to be the conducive, coordinating “spot” below where lightning of God may strike again and again. And, by faith, I can hear the peals of thunder in the distance even now.

Waiting and the Promise of the Father


man in praise

On one occasion, after His resurrection and during the season prior to His ascension, Jesus was meeting with His disciples and 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” (Acts 1:4-5). I would like to lean into the brief imperative in verse four, where Jesus says, “Wait for the gift promised by my Father.”

This phrase told them three things: what was coming, where it was coming from, and what they should do.

What was coming was the Gift, the Promise, the Holy Spirit of whom Jesus had told them (some of which “telling” we have record particularly in John’s Gospel, chapters 14-16, but I posit that after His resurrection Jesus spoke more of the Promised Spirit).

He, The Spirit, was coming as a gift from The Father. Wow. Just really: wow. The Holy Spirit is The Promised Gift from our Heavenly Father. He’s not just A gift, He’s The Gift. He’s not a bonus, an extra, an option, an ancillary or an elective. He’s the very “thing” (it pains me to use impersonal nouns in reference to the Spirit – I use them metaphorically only) – the very thing that Heaven yearns to give. He is the final expression of the vibrant, brilliant love of God to us: the Promised Holy Spirit. This gift is what Jesus paid for, prayed for and triumphantly poured out (Acts 2:33).

And they were to wait. Wait. Not beg, and not earn, but wait. The word wait is a compound word that stretched-out could be understood as “to abide concerning,” or “to wait with purpose.” They weren’t just biding time or punching a clock; they were focusing their attention, their affection, as well as their time on anticipating the arrival of the Promise. Of course we know from hindsight that their waiting was necessary until the fulfillment of prophetic timeline. There is no indication, however, that the disciples had idea when the promise was coming. They just kept waiting. A day went by, and two, and three.  They continued to meet together in anticipation for ten days.

I sincerely believe that this period of waiting had far more effect on them than on heaven. They weren’t asking (that we know of) for the Holy Spirit to be poured out. Jesus had already told them He’d prayed for that already. Jesus in no way exhorted them to pray for the promise – rather He gave them assurance the Promise was coming. So their waiting would, I think, have affected them. It would have crystallized the significance and import of this Promise. I think, even, that their waiting would have cultivated a hunger, desire, and appreciation for this Promise.

If they did this – waited in expectation, waited in submission, waited in worship, waited in prioritization… only knowing a promise and a portion of what was to come – what of us? We know what happened. We know Who came. We know what effect He had. We know that those in that room were never, ever the same after His coming. Further, we know that the church was never the same, nor was the world. Everything thing changed when the Comforter came. We know the testimony of fulfillment; we know the explosion of power.

And we, you and I, have the same promise. If they waited, why not us, and how much more us? No, we are not waiting for Him to come – for He already has. Our waiting does not bring Him – but neither did theirs. Their waiting affected them, and so will ours.

How might we posture ourselves toward the promise of the Spirit? Even and ESPECIALLY those who have drunk from His fountain? Even and especially those who have been warmed by His fire? Even and especially those who have felt the blessed bliss of His presence? Even and especially those who have seen and heard of His magnificent power? Might we also wait? Might we also set aside distraction? Might we also submit? Might we also wait in reverent wonder and gratitude? Might we also wait?

For we do not wait like those waiting for something that is not. We wait like those who stand before the magnitude of something that is. We wait like those basking under the radiance of the noon-day sun. We wait like those who with open mouths stand beneath the spring rains. We wait like those who linger over the extravagant fragrance of the finest rose. We wait like those who lay quietly near the serenading sounds of ocean tides. We do not wait in the valley of lack, but in the sea of abundance.

We do not wait with worry. We do not wait without assurance. We do not wait in hopes that time will pass quickly.

We wait with wonder. We wait with boldness. We wait in hopes that time will NOT pass quickly – so that nothing might pull us away from the pristine awareness of His blessed outpouring.

Our waiting is not confined to a room, or a building, or a city.

Our waiting is practiced wherever our hearts and minds are willing. Our waiting is shared, multiplied, intensified when we wait together.

And so – we wait. We wait upon Him; we wait for more of His power and influence. We wait in submission and surrender and in wonder and in worship. We wait.


The Fruit of the Spirit



The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) is not a list of things to try harder to attain or maintain. This is a list of exemplary ways the Spirit will manifest His influence in our lives. The text says, “The fruit of the Spirit is…” not “the results of trying harder are…”

Paul uses the word “fruit,” which is something that is produced when trees are rightly connected to the flow of nourishment. It is not the result of striving or straining, but abiding and yielding.

The emphasis of the passage is on the effective role the Spirit has on the ethical life (5:16, 22), as He is the source of life (3:3, 5:25). When He is yielded to and trusted in, He produces these effects.

By supplying a list of virtues, Paul has informed our expectations with regard to the result of the Spirit’s rule. We are to believe that the Spirit is present, that He is powerful, and that He is producing (see what I did there – “produce” and “fruit”?).

Furthermore, the fun thing about fruit is that there is always more. To hold one apple in my hand is to know that I also hold the potential for an orchard. Likewise, there is no limit to the abundance of fruit the Spirit can produce in and through my life.

All of my expectation, all of my confidence, is in and upon the Holy Spirit. But my expectation is informed, and my confidence is focused. I know what qualities His influence should produce, and I choose to walk in those qualities, believing the Holy Spirit is fully present and powerfully working, and that His work is working.

So, I respond to Galatians 5:22 in prayer this way:

“Holy Spirit, I believe you are Love and produce your love in me.”

“Holy Spirit, I believe you are Joy and produce your joy in me.”

“Holy Spirit, I believe you are Peace and produce your peace in me.”

“Holy Spirit, I believe you are Forbearing, and produce your forbearance in me.”

“Holy Spirit, you are kind, and you make me kind.”

“Holy Spirit, you are good, and make me good.”

“Holy Spirit, you are faithful, and make me faithful and full-of-faith.”

“Holy Spirit, you are gentle, and make me gentle.”

“Holy Spirit, you are perfectly controlled, no one and nothing enslaves you – and your presence in me fully empowers me to control myself.”

Let us deeply, gratefully, and confidently depend upon the Holy Spirit to increasingly re-produce in us His own life.

Thanks for reading; share if you’d like…


Come, Holy Spirit


“Come, Holy Spirit!”

What does this mean?

When I pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” I offer no erroneous assertion. I recognize He is already present – I could never go somewhere where He isn’t. Nor am I capable of summoning the Sovereign of the Cosmos.

For me to pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to ask that He manifest His presence and influence in my life – in my person and circumstances. There is little question that there is a difference between the acquiescent (omnipresent) presence of the Spirit and the dynamic, manifest presence. Even if that difference is often (or mostly) only realized by faith (and not necessarily the senses), it is in fact faith that I exercise with the words, “come, Holy Spirit.” By faith I embrace and make myself aware of His presence. Often this results in some form of sensory awareness, ranging from a mild, personal, subjective sensation to a shared, powerful experience with others.

For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is an expression of my own submission to Him. I consciously yield my cognitions, my affections and my actions to His immediate influence and infilling. With gratitude I patiently reflect on my circumstances, surroundings, and concerns and visualize all things surrendered to Him.

For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to honor Him, to reverence Him, and to welcome Him. I am expressing a sacred awareness of the Presence of the Holy One in my heart and life. I am deeply humbled and pristinely happy to host His Presence.

For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to value Him above the pressing matters and urgent concerns of the moment. It is to give my attention to Him first and most. It is to magnify Him in my perspective so that He eclipses all other things. Only in this light do I see clearly.

So I quite often, throughout the day, quiet myself and focus with joy uttering the phrase, “Come, Holy Spirit.” And to my immense awe and wonder, He always does; He always “is.”

Blessed Holy Spirit, Come!

*Come, O Creator Spirit, blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest;

Come, with Thy grace and heavenly aid, to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

Great Paraclete, to Thee we cry: O highest gift of God Most High; O Fount of life! O Fire of love!  The sweet Anointing from above!

The sacred sevenfold grace is Thine, Dread Finger of the hand Divine: The promise of the Father Thou, Who dost the tongue with power endow.

Our senses touch with light and fire; our hearts with charity inspire; And with endurance from on high the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far back our enemy repel, and let Thy peace within us dwell; so may we, having Thee for Guide, Turn from each hurtful thing aside.

O may Thy grace on us bestow The Father and the Son to know, and ever more to hold confessed Thyself of each the Spirit blest.

Thanks for reading! Share if you like.

*The Hymnal: Published by the authority of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1895

Awareness and Expression


I have been ruminating on something lately. A friend of mine texted me just prior to a speaking engagement, praying that I’d have an acute awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirt. Ever since, I have been reminded of the powerful relationship between awareness and expression. In short, I believe that our awareness of the Presence of the Holy Spirit has a direct impact on the strength and substance of what we express (in ministry and in all of life).

Cultivating a deeper, deliberate awareness of His presence has a causative impact on His influence upon and expression through my life – in word and deed.

It seems to me that Jesus made this connection clear in Luke 4:18-19. Reading from the scroll of Isaiah (and immediately claiming “these words” were fulfilled in their hearing), Jesus said “The Spirit of The Lord is upon me…” I am intrigued by this rather straight forward statement of fact. He stated what he believed to be true – what he was aware of by faith (faith that was affected by experience, perhaps even informed by experience). The Spirit of The Lord was “upon Him” and had anointed Him to be a liberator, healer, deliverer and herald of good news. I find it fascinating that Jesus professes His awareness of the Spirit’s presence and proclaims how that presence will be expressed in a cause-and-effect manner.

Later in Jesus’ ministry, when touched by a suffering woman who believed that touch would make her well, Jesus claimed that He knew he was touched because He felt power come out from Him. He was aware of the Presence of the Spirit upon Him so acutely that He sensed the movement of His power from Him.

After Pentecost, Peter carried an awareness of the Spirit’s presence and power – with an apparent expectation of expressing that power. In Acts 3, when the man at the gate beautiful asks for alms, Peter answered famously that although did not have money, “what I DO have I DO give.” What I have (what I am aware of, have a deep, acute, assurance of – by faith and by experience) I give (I express now – by faith).

Awareness is often informed and affected by experience (like Luke 3:21-22 or Acts 2:1-4). Awareness is also determined by a decision. Peter in Acts 2 quoted Psalms 16. The quote in Acts is slightly different in some words than the OT version – probably due to Peter’s LXX version or something. But what Peter says, in close proximity to the Pentecostal experience of the Spirit, is this:
~ I have set The Lord always before me:
Do you see this? The Psalmist confessed that he has made a choice to place The Lord ALWAYS before him – in front of him, before his face. It is fair to say the Psalmist says, “I have decided to be always be aware of the Lord’s presence.” The Lord’s presence is “front and center” – the centerpiece of his consciousness.

In the interest of brevity (there are many more passages of scripture and a significant amount of biographical testimony that is relevant to this thought), I offer just one more passage for consideration – or two more. 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19. In both passages Paul is arguing for attitude and behavior changes on the part of the Corinthian church. And his argument is basically this: awareness should influence expression. “Know ye not?” Paul asks. Do you not know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit? Do you not know that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If they were aware, then they surely would not have been engaging in divisive and dishonorable behavior.

For me, I believe that this means I can (and should) cultivate a confident awareness of the Spirit with a specific anticipation and assurance of that Presence being expressed in a manner congruent with the strength and substance of my awareness. Awareness of His anointing will produce a powerful expression of that anointing. Awareness of His abiding will produce a joy and a peace and a boldness. Awareness of His Holy Presence will produce a life-style that honors and cherishes it.

So, I jot these thoughts down mostly as a way to reinforce my own commitment to cultivate a deeper, stronger, more deliberate awareness of His presence. That awareness will, I hope, continue to be informed and enriched by experience, while remaining secured, protected and promoted by faith.

I share these loosely worded thoughts with you in hopes that, as always, you too will be encouraged.

As always, thanks for reading and feel free to share

Reverencing the Holy Spirit


The more we reverence the Holy Spirit, the greater His active influence will be among us. By reverence, I mean a strong feeling of respect and admiration, a deep and joyful awareness of and honor for the Holy Spirit.

Luke presents this precept in the unfolding life of the early church. In Acts 5, a man named Ananias sold some property and gave the proceeds of the sale to the church. However, he claimed that he withheld none of the money for himself. Peter called him out for lying to the Holy Spirit (not for keeping what was rightfully his). Consider this clearly: Ananias tried to mislead the apostles (in order to appear generous), but Peter called this lying to the Holy Spirit. Peter recognized the prevailing presence of the Spirit in the church. This reverent awareness seemed to allow for or produce a powerfully active influence of the Spirit, so much so that the lying man and his wife (who was part of the plan to “test the Spirit of the Lord”) both fell dead (Acts 5:1-10).

As a result, great fear come upon all the church, and as many as heard these things. And (as further result) many signs and wonders were performed by the hands of the apostles (vv. 11-12). I believe the same joyful awareness of and honor for of the Holy Spirit fueled the compassion and confidence to work miracles. Luke continues in vv. 13-14, describing a broad respect for the church: no one dared join them under pretense, and the community held them in high regard. This sentiment was not due to a program or a strategy of the church; it was not in any way due to the church’s attempts to fit in or be accepted. This was directly because of the reverence the church possessed and practiced toward the Holy Spirit, which fostered His active influence in and through them.

Luke brings the narrative to crescendo in vv. 15-16 when he describes people bringing the sick and oppressed from neighboring cities and lying them on the streets so that Peter’s shadow would fall on them, and “they were healed, every one.” We can probably assume there was no mojo in Peter’s shadow. What we can assert is that Peter walked with a reverent (bold, joyful, respectful) awareness of the Holy Spirit. As a result, both he and the church he helped lead bore a reputation as carriers of divine presence. This reputation fueled not only a healthy respect and admiration from the world around them, but also a robust hope in the Christ they served.

It is easy to hear the Apostle Paul’s affirmation of such reverence: “Do not grieve the Spirit” (Eph. 4:30), “Do not quench the Spirit” (I Thess. 5:19), “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). Apostolic faith is that which prizes, prioritizes, cherishes, and reverences the Holy Spirit.

I am challenged to centralize my own awareness of the Holy Spirit, to reverence Him deeply and happily. I am determined to humbly lead my family and encourage my church to foster such reverence for the Spirit. Because, I believe, the more we reverence the Holy Spirit, the greater His active influence will be among us. I want nothing less and nothing else.

Thanks for reading,
~ Dav

Walk By The Spirit




Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the Spirit..”

Paul’s understanding of the Christian life is that it is lived, it can only be lived from, by, and according to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the fountainhead of Christian worship, ethics, relationships and ministry. Paul asserted that the Spirit alone is entirely sufficient and totally adequate to accomplish God’s purposes in and among His people. He therefore prescribed attitudes, postures, and behaviors toward and with the Spirit – imperatives. The believer has the opportunity (responsibility) to rely on and conform to the influence of the Spirit. This is not striving or laborious. Our part is to choose (say yes), to believe (confidently anticipate and trust in His power and results), and to give thanks.

Walk by the Spirit

The second imperative we will consider (the first one was “be filled”) is Paul’s urging to the Galatian Church that they “walk by the Spirit.” In the letter, Paul has implored the Galatians to live in the freedom Christ has secured for them, free from the obligation (and curse) of the law, and free from the tyranny of the flesh. Neither are life-giving. Both are replaced and displaced by the power of the Spirit.

Walk by the Spirit, Paul says, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Note here that Paul is describing (prescribing) opposite directions. He is not presenting two parallel tracks – one pristine and other problematic – between which we might hop back and forth on life’s journey. No. He is saying, in effect, if you walk north, you will not walk south. Period.

We need not confabulate what Paul has in mind by “the flesh.” Rather than strictly define “the flesh,” Paul describes its influence in vv. 19-21. Walk by the Spirit and you will not indulge in or engage in any of that kind of stuff. It is worth emphasizing that Paul says, “You will not.” He doesn’t suggest that walking by the Spirit will “aid in your avoidance” or will help you “ease up on this stuff” or even “keep you from doing it as often.” The Spirit’s empowering influence is entirely sufficient to ensure that you will NOT. Wow. Those who seek to comfort the consciences of saints by telling them there’s no real way to live free, but just to do their darndest, might should reconsider Paul’s perspective of the Spirit’s power. That, I think, is the problem. Too many believers struggle on their own, leaning on methods, on accountability partners, or adopting rules to avoid or abstain from certain things, but never becoming free.  Freedom does not, cannot come from doing our darndest. It flows from the empowering, gracious, personal influence of the Holy Spirit of God. Freedom comes as we relax and rely on the Holy Spirit. Paul’s prescription for freedom, for victorious Christian living, is singular: walk by the Holy Spirit.


This word means “to tread all around.” To walk (present tense) implies the continual actions of everyday life, one’s way of life and manner of living. The whole of our life is to be immersed under the gracious influence of the Spirit. Not only is this Paul’s antidote to the influence of the flesh, but it is a summary of Paul’s view of the whole of Christian life. We live, and therefore walk, by the Spirit (v. 25). In v.16 Paul says to “walk” by the Spirit in terms of our whole way of living, and in v.25 he says to “keep in step” with the Spirit, which to me implies yielding to the Spirit, following Him, in all the decisions and details of life – every step.

Learning to Walk

Paul doesn’t follow the imperative with an instruction manual. He seems content to point us to the Spirit and say, “He is enough. Trust Him.” Walking by the Spirit isn’t about a set of rules or a list of things to do, it is a relationship. Relationships require vulnerability and trust. This is how we walk by the Spirit. We trust Him. It seems to me that the simpler we make learning to walk by the Spirit, the closer to Paul’s intent we are.

Because this is an imperative, it begins with a choice. I decide. I choose to submerge my will beneath the life-giving waters of the Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, I yield to you. I choose your Lordship over my life, and my steps, today.

I believe He is fully present. I practice an awareness of His abiding, surrounding presence. Think about Him. Be confident that He abides. Honor Him. Delight in Him. Walk with Him.

I believe He is working.  I believe that He is not passively present, but actively influencing me. He, in full power, is working in and through my life, now. Wow. Selah. Don’t move on too quickly from this thought. It’s a doozy.

I believe His work is working. Paul has informed me what kind of results to anticipate (v.16, vv.22-26) from the Holy Spirit’s work in me. I believe His work is working – now. I trust Him. I rely upon Him. I know that He will produce these good results in my life. He is right now.

What if I blow it? What if I demonstrate all kinds of behavior that Paul ascribes to the flesh? I have two choices: One, I can beat myself up and pout in my failure for as long as it takes for me to get tired of it (and be no better off whatsoever). Or, I can trust more in the Presence and Working of the Spirit than in myself. I do not accept a failure on my part as evidence of His incapability. Stumbling doesn’t mean you give up walking. Just keep walking.

Paul inspires our hopes, our expectations. He points us to an ideal. He helps focus our thoughts and affections and values on these qualities and outcomes (16, 22-26). Abandon yourself to absolute hope in the total sufficiency of the Spirit to accomplish all of God’s purposes in your life. He is enough. Trust Him. Believe He is present, that He is working, and that His work is working. And, overflow with thanksgiving for it. Freedom lies in the next step as we walk by the Spirit.

If this or any of post on this site has encouraged you, please consider sharing it with a friend. And, as always, thanks for reading!

~ Dav

Be Filled with the Spirit

be filled

      The Apostle Paul unequivocally asserted that the Holy Spirit is God’s powerful, perfect provision for living in the freedom and wholeness that Christ secured for us. The Holy Spirit is God’s empowering presence* for all our worship, witness and walk.

The Spirit in Paul

I invite you to join me, in several entries to follow, as we consider what Paul had to say about the Spirit and us. What I set out to do is identify in particular how Paul prescribes the role and influence of the Spirit in believers’ lives. By way of introduction, this is the fundamental truth that will bear out: Paul’s understanding of the Christian life is that it must be lived, can only be lived, from, by and according to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the fountainhead of Christian worship, ethics, relationships and ministry. The Spirit alone is absolutely sufficient to accomplish God’s purposes in and among His people. Paul, therefore prescribes attitudes, postures, and behaviors towards/with the Spirit – “Pauline Spirit Imperatives.” They are imperatives – meaning that these require the active will of the believer. I don’t mean that they require will power, just an act of our will. Walking by the Spirit requires decision and surrender by the believer. Believers do their part to rely upon His power and conform to His influence; that “part” is to give thanks, believe, and choose.

Be Filled With the Spirit

There are seven or eight unique imperatives from Paul regarding the Spirit, but let’s look at this one first. In a way it’s not just another imperative, it encompasses all of them. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Consider with me what this means, and perhaps just as urgent, how this happens.


What does it mean to be filled; what does Paul mean when he says this? A literal meaning indicates that we are to be actually, fully-filled with the Person of the Spirit: like an earthen-container burgeoning with divine life. Handfuls of other passages in the NT indicate that this understanding should be accepted – regardless of its mystical feel. We truly are temples, “dwelling places” of God’s Spirit. Consider that whatever a container becomes full of, that becomes the identity of that vessel. A water bottle. A coffee cup. A pop can. All those things are defined by their fullness. So are you. You are filled with the Holy Spirit.

We are filled individually and as a community. This imperative, as most Spirit-imperatives, is given in the second-person plural. “You all, each of you and all of you together, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The “plurality of Spirituality” is often missed – that Spirituality is intended to be shared with others in community. The fullest ideal of Spirit-filled living really requires us to be part of a “body” – much like our organs rely on the exchange of life, blood and breath. I, we, are invited (expected) to be made full of God’s very self. Words fail to describe the wonder of this.

In addition to the “actual” meaning of filled, there is an “influential” meaning. The Holy Spirit indeed lives personally in me, and His presence is not without effect. He influences me, inspires me. In truth, He has come to fill me because He loves me just the way I am, but loves me too much to leave me that way. I am not merely a clay container of a foreign-but-blessed substance. He fills, saturates, permeates, and transforms every fabric of my being. It is not incidental that Paul begins this imperative by urging his audience not to be drunk with wine, “but” Paul says, be filled with the Spirit. Do not come under the corrupting influence of drunkenness-from-wine, rather yield to the sublime influence of the Spirit’s fullness. To be filled is to live under His gracious, empowering weight. Of further interest is that immediately following this imperative to be made full are concurrent verbs (present participles that connect to the main verb “be filled”): speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs… singing and making music in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks to God…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:19-21). The Holy Spirit’s influence manifests in my relationships, attitudes, and the overall climate of my heart.

Finally, there is no inference here (or anywhere in the NT) to being “partially full.” There is no gradient of fullness. The Holy Spirit does not come partially to us, but fully. We do not possess more or less of Him, we do not contain limited measures of His presence. He is fully present. Jesus Christ paid for, prayed for, and poured out the Holy Spirit generously (Titus 3:6). The only “degree” or “measure” is our surrender, our confidence, our awareness, our choice.

Be-Being Filled

You might be saying, “Sounds terrific! But how?” The English text gives us a direct command, but can leave the reader wondering how to respond. The Greek syntax, I believe, makes it much clearer.  “Be filled” is a present, passive imperative in the original language. Unpacking this can help us see how simple and straightforward obeying this imperative is.

First, it is an imperative. That means the reader is responsible to choose. The action is a decision, initiated by one being commanded. Being filled begins with your choice. Second, it is a passive verb. That means it is something that happens to you, rather than something is done by you. Being filled is something you let happen to you. I have often likened it to the Nestea Plunge. Being filled is a decision to let God fill me. Being filled is not-not-not a result of my discipline, my energy, my striving or efforts. It is the result of surrender. So I take the plunge. Third, it is a present-tense verb. That means it is something that is happening right now. The present is happening now. It is always happening now. As is supposed to be the infilling of the Spirit. It is always happening right now. You are always a candidate to be filled – regardless of whatever you done or wherever you’ve been. No matter how stellar or how cellar your conduct – you’re a candidate to be filled. Right now. The present passive imperative means that being filled is something I choose to let happen to me, and it is happening right now. Believers are to be continually, completely filled with the Holy Spirit.

So, let me say it this way: Christ has made every provision for you to be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit is fully present to fill you and keep you being-filled. What is your part? That couldn’t be easier. Believe. Believe that Holy Spirit is filling you. Believe He is soaking you down in the depths of your person and flowing up and over the brim of your life. Believe it. And, give thanks. Just thank Him for His abiding fullness. Thank Him for His fresh filling. Just thank Him. Go ahead… give thanks for His filling right now.

Perhaps pray something as simple as this: “Lord, I believe you are filling me. I thank you for filling me now, and continuing to fill me. I choose to surrender and yield to you; I welcome your fullness now. Come, Holy Spirit, and keep on coming.”

Be (being) filled with the Holy Spirit!


If this or any of post on this site has encouraged you, please consider sharing it with a friend. And, as always, thanks for reading!

~ Dav

*Thanks, Gordon Fee



How the Spirit Helps Us Pray




help wanted

In Romans 8:26-27, the Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us to pray. How does He help us, and what does His help mean for us?

The Spirit’s Help

When Paul says that the Spirit helps us, he uses an eight syllable Greek word that means “to lay hold of with, to help in obtaining.” The Holy Spirit personally partners with us prayer; his hand reaches and grasps alongside my own – providing guidance and grace.

The Spirit helps us to pray in at least two ways: directly via assisted or inspired expression – as the text seems to more heavily indicate, and indirectly via the influence of His presence – as the text at least allows us to consider. Both, I think, are important and should be incorporated into our understanding and practice of Spirit-aided prayer.

But first, let Paul remind us of why we need help…

Why We Need Help

The Spirit helps us in our weakness, which Paul explains to mean that we have a limited knowledge of how to pray or what to pray. We pray from limited perspective, finite knowledge, and regardless of our best intentions, often a personal bias. We pray from reality as we see it; The Spirit prays from reality as He sees it. Therefore we need His help. I do not believe that Paul here intends in any way to encourage introspection and fear regarding our ability to pray, but much rather to inspire us to pray with confident, robust trust in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit intercedes through us in accord with the will of God. The Spirit who knows our hearts perfectly also knows with precision the will of God. And He weaves our longings and God’s will together in harmony.

How He Helps

The Spirit (directly) helps us to pray by interceding for us with groanings too deep for words. What does Paul have in mind here? The word he uses for “groans” just means “sighs,” or literally groans that cannot find articulation. This spirit-aided expression can certainly include glossolalia, if not by design than by default (even if not intended by the text, tongues certainly gives us opportunity to express our deepest longings with the empowered guidance of the Holy Spirit). The only other time this phrase (groans) is used in the NT is when Stephen is describing the deep longing of the Israelites (Acts 7:34) to be freed from captivity. These “groanings,” then, can include anything that expresses great longing: a sigh, a word, a string of words that may or may not make sense… The point is not to emphasize the expression itself, but the activity, the unction, the help of the Holy Spirit behind and with it. The Spirit is active in connecting with and interceding on behalf of our greatest longings. Spiritual prayer (spirit-aided prayer) engages our deepest self; it is not merely a cognitive function.

The Spirit also helps (indirectly) by bringing his influence to bear upon our prayers. By this I mean that we (should) pray with a deliberate awareness of His presence. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:18 that we should “pray in the Spirit an all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Wayne Grudem tells us that “in the Spirit” means “dwelling consciously in the presence of the Holy Spirit Himself, a presence characterized by Godlike qualities of power, love, joy, truth, holiness, righteousness and peace. To pray in the Spirit, then, is to pray with conscious awareness of God’s presence surrounding us.” A conscious awareness of His surrounding presence invites His influence to prevail upon our thoughts and affections. This “helps” us to pray by heating our hearts and minds with Holy affection and insight. Awareness leads to influence.

What His Help Means for Us

First, everyone can and should pray in/by the Spirit. Yes, everyone. There is absolutely no mention in the text here of a learning curve or difficulty. There is no hint of difficulty implied. Nothing in this hope-filled text suggests that one needs to practice to get this right. It is not reserved for the super-spiritual or exceptionally mature. In fact, friends, we only become spiritual BY THE SPIRIT. The Holy Spirit’s help in prayer is the birth-right of every believer. If you’re response is “I don’t know how,” it is probably because you’ve assumed (or been told) that you have to know how. Nope. You don’t have to know how this works. I know there are some who claim to know and offer some formula or another, but just between us – they’re making that up. This works by believing it’s true. Believe, deeply, that the Holy Spirit is helping you to pray, and pray. Practice an awareness of his saturating, surrounding presence, and pray. Trust the Holy Spirit.

Second, every believer can have confidence in their prayers.  You are not praying alone. He’s praying with you. Trust the Holy Spirit. Also, and please re-read this part, your prayers are not being evaluated for accuracy. Go ahead, read that part again. Heaven isn’t measuring the content, syntax, or even the doctrine of your words. Heaven hears the Holy Spirit’s intercession from your heart. God knows what you mean. So, you don’t have to speak well, just release the longings of your heart. Trust the Holy Spirit.

Third, we should always trust the Holy Spirit (you might have caught on to this by now). He is our prayer partner; our senior partner. Truly, we don’t really pray – in a New Testament sense – apart from His active presence and influence. Trust the Holy Spirit. He’s here to help.

Spiritual Spontaneity in a Worship Gathering

living in the box

Every Thursday morning I meet the same friend for breakfast. We meet at the same time, and we meet for approximately the same length of time each week. I know pretty well what range of subject matter we’ll talk about. I am nearly certain what each of us will eat for breakfast. And yet, each morning we meet, our conversation is fresh, it is robust, it is encouraging, open and honest. We have cried (well, we’re dudes so we only got a little choked up); we laugh (without fail, every week). We don’t have a specific agenda to cover, though we may likely have thoughtfully prepared a thought or question or story for the other. Our meetings are the result of schedule, planning, and preparation. But when we actually sit down, no matter how much of our routine is…routine, our conversation and interaction is living. It is spontaneous. It is guided by good manners but stirred by great passion.

I reflect on this breakfast dynamic as I consider current (though ancient) discussion about the structure and flow of worship gatherings – of “church” – in terms of the freedom and movement of the Holy Spirit.  I read blog posts and articles and have heard posited from pulpitis cautioning against spontaneity or sensationalism, reminding the reader or auditor that The Holy Spirit can anoint thorough preparation and bless tidy presentation.  I have observed, too, the hazards and chaos and boundary-less worship gatherings that are blamed on the Holy Spirit (who evidently struggles with Tourette’s Syndrome or ADHD).

I would argue, not so much for one or the other, but for an alternative. Of course the Holy Spirit is planner and a preparer. It was He who hovered over the face of deep (Genesis 1) at creation before any creative word was released. It was He who stirred Samson (Judges 13:25) before any lion or Philistine tasted death-by-fist. It was He who filled and “flipped” John the Baptist in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 44) before any locust shared a plate with wild honey or anyone got wet with repentance. I deeply believe and depend upon His infilling and influence each week as I prepare to lead our worship gatherings and study for messages to share with the church. In fact, I believe that the Spirit prompts “previews” of needs that can be met, themes to emphasize, and specific actions to take to engage the congregation. I am glad and grateful for the partnership of the Spirit with regard to planning and preparation.

However, I do not leave the Holy Spirit in my study. I bring Him, or rather follow Him, into the auditorium. Much like my breakfast meeting, this occasion is planned for, prepared for, and even allotted a certain time-frame for completion. But also like my breakfast meeting, I anticipate a living atmosphere, a dynamic environment. Real people have gathered in this room. People with needs and opportunities, people with gifts and graces. Moreover, a Real Person is present to preside over and permeate this gathering. The Holy Spirit is fully, actively present with us. It more than just stands to reason that I should be ready for spontaneity, I should expect and accommodate it. Whenever you combine man’s passion and God’s Presence, you’d better leave some white-space in the margins.

Consider with me the role of some of the unplanned events in the NT narratives. Most of the individual miracle stories of Jesus, the ones where we have most specific details and the same ones that have inspired the hope and faith of countless generations, are the result of Jesus being interrupted. If Jesus had refused to accommodate spontaneity (as a result of man’s passion connecting with divine presence), consider the consequences. He would have never made water into wine (John 2). He wouldn’t have freed the grave-living demoniac (Mark 5:1-2). He’d have never told the lame man to take up his bed and walk (Matthew 9:2). He wouldn’t have raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Matthew 9:18). The blind men shouting for mercy would have remained “shushed.” In fact, the tendency to shush people and keep them from interrupting didn’t start with seeker-sensitive services. The disciples of Jesus tried to keep a tidy ministry from the get-go (Mark 10:13-14, Mark 10:42, Matthew 15:21-23). The list of things that Jesus would not have done gets very long if we don’t let him get interrupted.

Along those lines, I don’t believe that wind and fire and glossolalia were on the prayer meeting agenda in the upper room (Acts 2). Peter and John went to pray, and met a lame man on the way….(Acts 3). Things got real crazy during offering (Acts 5).

A living, dynamic gathering need not be characterized by and certainly not limited to specific manifestations or expressions. The Holy Spirit speaks to and through us in various and creative ways. People often see pictures, or feel an impression, or are made aware of specific needs in the room—the goal of which is all to minister grace to the gathered.

Nor is there any need for or benefit from rudeness or overt silly-ness. It seems reasonable to welcome people who have some established level of relationship in the community to share with the gathered what they feel the Spirit is saying to / through them for the benefit of the body. It also seems reasonable that they do so at a time that makes sense in the flow of the service (especially if white space is deliberately provided). Spontaneity need not be urgent; “when” we hear from or share something the Spirit has said is not nearly as important as how we respond. Furthermore, there should be a reasonable means for people to share – like having a microphone available for people to come to. There’s no rationale for hollering-at-will from around the room—no one needs to reach from the back seat of the car and grab the steering wheel. Great passion can function in the context of good manners.

But the largest issue is simply to remember, to celebrate and surrender to the reality that God, very God, the Holy Spirit is present with us. He is living; He is active; He is speaking and acting—through people, the community gathered for worship. The presence and activity of the Spirit in the life and functions of the church is important to heaven. His coming and activity are actually the final intention and plan of God for the planet (Acts 2:17-18). There is no replacement for His presence, no substitute for His activity. He should fill and flood our plan, our preparation, and our presentation. Ultimately, we, the church, are being built together in Christ for the singularly sublime purpose of being a dwelling where God lives by His Spirit (Eph. 2:22). I’m planning on it.