I just got back home after gathering with a few hundred fellow believers at Bridgetown: A Jesus Church. I love being with this church in the center of Portland, a community of people who are seeking God Himself, a family of missionary disciples. Currently, we're going through a series on the Holy Spirit, a much needed and neglected topic in much of the American church! You can listen to all the teachings on their website; I absolutely recommend them!
At AJC, we've spent the past few weeks really heavily discussing who the Holy Spirit is: God, a person, alive, in us, etc. This week, we began to study more of what the Holy Spirit does. Of course, this landed us in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4, each of which talk about "spiritual gifts" or the like. I've been familiar with the idea of "spiritual gifts" as specific qualities or actions that the Spirit gives us the special ability to do; maybe that person has the gift of healing, maybe I have the gift of knowledge (I hope), maybe he has the gift of mercy and she the gift of tongues. It was a simple concept, and you could even take a "spiritual gifts" test online!
Tonight, the pastor gave us some insights that I found extremely important. First of all, the term "spiritual gift" isn't really in the Bible. We may find it in our English translation, but in Greek, the word is πνευματικῶν, which he explained is almost like a noun form of "spiritual," almost like "spirituals." He said the best translation for πνευματικῶν that he could think of was just "stuff the Spirit does." So rather than wondering "which" of the spiritual gifts we'll somehow end up with, we should simply think, "This is the stuff that the Spirit of Jesus wants to do through me." He can do any of them, more than one, even things not listed. What are the things listed? In 1 Corinthians 12, we find:
- messages of wisdom (some wisdom from the Spirit to you for another person)
- messages of knowledge (knowledge about another person that could only come from the Spirit)
- faith (beyond saving faith, extraordinary faith to partner with God to do impossible things)
- healing (when God makes a person whole)
- miraculous powers (yep.)
- prophecy (a word, phrase, picture, Scripture, or other information for someone)
- distinguishing spirits (ability to determine what is the Spirit of God, or other spirits)
- tongues (speaking in a language you don't know in prayer or praise to God)
- interpretation of tongues (interpreting the language someone else is speaking that you don't know)
I don't know where you are on the spectrum of belief regarding these manifestations of the Spirit. Maybe you don't believe there is a Holy Spirit at all; that's a pretty important starting point, and I'd love to talk with you. Maybe you're a Christian, but you're closed off to the idea of the Holy Spirit doing anything crazy like those things I just listed. But I'd encourage you to open your heart to the Scriptures, and see the beautiful plan God has put in place to change the world through His Spirit moving His body, the Church. If you're like me, you want to see God's kingdom come however He brings it. I want to be full of the Spirit from top to bottom, whether it seems crazy or not. I want to be Spirit-filled.
And I am! God tells us that those who believe are sealed with the Holy Spirit. I am a saved, redeemed, believing child of God, so I know that not only do I have the Holy Spirit, He is my life! He is my new Spirit living inside of me. This I already know; now I'm learning what that looks like in real life.
My neck has really been bothering me. I was in a bit of a car accident last July, and the whiplash left my neck in rough shape. I asked some of my friends to pray for it last Monday, and literally as they prayed for healing, I felt a strange sensation in my neck, and then the pain was 95% gone. I was pretty dumbfounded, and far more skeptical that I should have been (I mean, hadn't we just been praying for healing?). For two days, my neck was better than it had been in a while. But then the pain slowly came back, and this evening at church I left the sanctuary to find someone on the prayer team to ask for more healing. Honestly, I felt weird going to ask for prayer again, especially for something so seemingly minor as a painful neck. But I remembered the command in James 5 to anyone who is sick: get the people to pray for you! God isn't limited in power, and He loves me. So I went.
Standing in the foyer area, I realized that there were a ton of people coming to ask for prayer for different things, probably twice as many at the people on the prayer team itself. There was no one available to come pray with me, much less the people around me who kept flooding in from the sanctuary. And suddenly, I realized I could just be the prayer team too! I turned to the girl next to me, and we began to talk, and prayed for each other. What a beautiful picture of the body of Christ: complete strangers, yet sisters who love each other. The Spirit spoke very softly to me about this woman, and as I prayed it out, she was brought to tears by what apparently struck true deep in her being. Thank You, Father. We are your daughters, your royalty, and we are amazed. Please be with me sister from church tonight, relieve her stress and anxiety, and fill her with hope and peace. Fill her with Your Spirit.
Walking back to my seat, my neck still hurt. But my heart was full after praying with my new-found sister. I knew that was probably a huge reason God brought me there tonight. Yet if my neck hadn't been hurting, if I hadn't been seeking prayer, I wouldn't have gone out at all. Returning to the songs of worship, I had a peace about the pain that was new to me, a surrendering of the pain to God in a new way. I know He has the power to heal it at any moment, but I know He has purposes for it too. I would rather see His best purposes fulfilled than my instant gratification. So while I will still keep praying for miraculous healing, I will trust His timing.
All that to say, I want more of the Spirit. I can pray in confidence, because I know the Father wants to give me more! I want to the Spirit to wake me up in the morning, to speak the words out of my mouth, to direct my thoughts, to guide my prayers, to write my blog posts! I know He already does all of these to an extent, because I am His permanent child. But I joyfully ask for more!
Ask, and it will be given to you. In the kingdom of God, everyone who asks receives. We have received power from on High, the Holy Spirit. And that Spirit, the one that raised Christ from the dead, lives in us. Now, He wants to heal, to speak, to prophesy, to understand, to work, and to pray through us, and I want it all.
Because that's the stuff the Spirit does.