Mark’s shares his experience

Rocky-Mountains“I was an evangelical intellectual. My Christian formation after making Jesus my Lord at the age of 28 was through the influence of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, an intellectual lot in the best sense of the word. I had no interest in, or understanding of, the Holy Spirit, beyond that He was the spooky part of the Trinity.

The local IV leadership had recognized a nascent teaching gift in me and had taken a chance on a very rough diamond – very rough. Today I doubt I would take a chance on me as I was then. They had already used me to teach kids at summer camps and now they were ready to loose me upon college students. They must have been very hard up for a speaker.

The retreat took place at a very beautiful place in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. The weekend went well, without surprises, until Sunday morning. After breakfast, I returned to my room to prepare myself to teach. I was quietly giving thanks to the Lord and asking Him to speak through me when I was overcome by His goodness. That is the only way I can describe it. I felt His love so powerfully that I just had to weep. This was at 9:00 am.

It felt so good I just went with it. I cried for 30 minutes then I thought, “Church starts in 30 minutes, I need to stop this now and pull myself together.” I began to “control myself”, but then I had this thought, “Wait a minute. This is God doing this to me. Do I have the right to stop this?” In tears, I wrestled with this question for a few minutes and then decided, “Lord, I don’t know what you are doing but I am certain it is You so go ahead as long as You want.” So, on I wept.

At 9:45 am I checked my watch and went through the same issue; do I “control myself” and shut this down or do I let it go? I again chose to let it go and on it went. At 9:55 am my friend opened my door to tell me it was time for church. He saw the mess I was in and I saw genuine shock on his face. He said, “What’s going on, church starts in 5 minutes and you have to speak, what’s wrong? Are you going to be able to speak?”

To be completely honest, I was not sure I could get up and teach. I pulled myself together and said to God, “I don’t know what You want from me. I know I am supposed to teach, but I also know this is real and this is You. I am going to go down and try to teach, but whatever You want to do, I will do. If You want me to get up in front of those kids and cry I will do that.”

I survived the worship without breaking down. I was barely holding it together when I got up to speak. The message began without incident. About a third of the way through the message, I hit the part about how much God loves us, and I began to speak about His all-powerful, overwhelming love. I started to cry, but I kept teaching as best I could through the tears. Soon several of the kids started to cry. Soon the whole room was crying. It was not what I had any intention of causing. It just happened. We cried for about half an hour and then it stopped. No one moved. We just sat in silence. I had never experienced anything like that. I had no words to describe it, but I knew it was God.

That afternoon I returned to the city and my band was scheduled to play a concert for a Christian charity. After the show, a girl I did not recognize came up to me and said, “I was there when it happened!” I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you are talking about.” She said, “This morning at the retreat, when you spoke, I was there when it happened, and it was the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced! What was it?” I said, “I don’t know, but it was God.” She said, “I know.”

I have never forgotten the way she described that experience as “it.” Neither of us had the words to describe what we experienced, but we both knew it was God. It was not until years later that I understood that it was the Holy Spirit that we were “in.”

God is emotional, and God is powerful. God expects us to be emotional in our response to His emotions and He expects us to move in His power.

That experience was the beginning of what many call the “anointing” of the spiritual gift of teaching. Tears are now a part of my life. Although it doesn’t happen every time I speak, it happens more often than Mark the ex-lawyer and intellectual would like. Fortunately, Mark the Christian lets it happen and never tries to stop it. I think that is because he fears that if he had “gotten control of himself” that Sunday morning at the retreat, that experience would likely not have happened, and he and they would have missed what for him was a life-changing encounter with God.”

God is emotional, and God is powerful. God expects us to be emotional in our response to His emotions and He expects us to move in His power. It is fine for us to be “out of control” as long as we allow Him to be the one who is in control. Do you really want to get to Heaven to find out that you missed so much of God’s power in your life because you were so worried about how you would appear if you got “carried away?”

What does it mean to be “in the Holy Spirit?”

Some time ago Mark got stuck on the harmless little phrase “in the Spirit” as it appears in the lives of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament. They seemed to throw the term around without ever defining it. To them it seemed self-explanatory. So, he decided to look up all the places where the term is found and do a word-study on the word “in.” We know, it sounds pointless, studying the word “in”, but what he found surprised him and gave us an understanding of the Holy Spirit that brought clarity both to our own experiences and to our understanding of scripture. Let’s take a closer look.

The phrase, “in the Holy Spirit” appears several times in the New Testament. Here are most of those verses that refer to someone being or doing something in the Holy Spirit:

1] Luke 10:21: Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.”

2] Jude 1:20: “… pray in the Holy Spirit.”

3] Rev. 1:10: “On the Lord’s day I was in the Spirit and I heard behind me a loud voice …” 

4] Rom. 14:17: “… the Kingdom of God is about peace righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

5] John 4:23: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In each of these passages something is happening; rejoicing, prayer, a vision, the experience of peace, the experience of knowing our righteousness and finally worship. Something is happening through people and to people and it is somehow “in” the Holy Spirit.

The key to what “in the Holy Spirit” means lies in the word “in.”  In each verse we’ve listed, the same Greek word for “in “is used. Here is how this word may be translated; “in, on, at, near, by, before, among, with, within, and into.”

Here are the three definitions that best describe an activity or experience happening “in” the Holy Spirit;

  1. a marker of a state or condition e.g. “in torment”,
  2. a marker of close personal association, e.g. “one with”, “in union with” “joined closely to”
  3. a marker of the means by which one event makes another event possible, e.g. “by means of” or “through.”

If we put all these definitions together we get this definition of the phrase “in the Holy Spirit”: “a state or condition of close personal association or union or joining with the Holy Spirit by which another state or condition, event or activity, is made possible.”

By way of example, what is made possible in John 4:23-24 is worship. What this means is that worship “in the Holy Spirit” is a condition or state which happens to us through the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that we can make happen. It comes about by union with or joining closely to the Holy Spirit. It is a different state or condition from that which we were in before we entered into “worship in the Holy Spirit.”

The same thing is happening to Jesus when He was filled with joy in the Holy Spirit. It means that something happened to him through the Holy Spirit which was different from what He was experiencing before the Holy Spirit brought the joy. Similarly, praying in the Holy Spirit is a different state from what may be prayed apart from the Holy Spirit.

When we are “in the Spirit” we are moved from one state of being to another which result in a union with Him which is not theoretical but experiential.

In all these events, there is an increase in the “personal closeness or association” with the Holy Spirit. There is an increase in intimacy and an increase in communication between us and Him. And finally, He [by His power] makes something happen which could not happen without His intervention [with spiritual power].

We really are carried away in the godly sense of the word. We are moved from one state of being to another which result in a union with Him, which is not theoretical, but experiential. And finally, some activity or experience is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit which could not have been possible without His power. In every case such an experience leaves us with a greater understanding of the nature of God, not because we read it or heard it in a sermon, but because we experienced it/Him.

Check back for the next blog post for Mark’s first such experience of his spiritual gift of teaching.

Bob’s Story

downloadIn the fall of 1964, after graduating high school the previous spring, I headed off to college in the San Francisco bay area. I soon found myself deeply immersed in the budding counter-culture that was emerging in that region. It wasn’t long before I was experimenting with drugs and the “hippie” lifestyle. This soon led to an increasing inquisitiveness about spiritual alternatives.  “Trips” on LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs caused me to encounter spiritual dimensions that I had never experienced before. I had attended various churches as I was growing up. But for the most part, I had remained unmoved by the typical “church-ianity” I came across.

One day in late December of 1966 I had an experience on LSD that shook my idealistic world. The supernatural suddenly became a very scary place. I stumbled upon what appeared to be the evil side of this drug-induced domain. You could say that I felt like I had a face to face with the demonic. One thing for sure, I came to believe that this realm was real, however, when I held up my “experience” in this dimension against what I’d found in church, the church came up sorely lacking.

Christians had been witnessing to me, but it all seemed like just words; kind and interesting words, but still, just words. By the fall of 1967, after an odyssey that had led me from Big Sur to the desert town of Joshua Tree California, I found myself back in my home town of Chico in a state of apathy. It felt like after all my “searching”, I’d come up empty. It was then that I was invited to attend a meeting in a home near the college campus. I was told that there was a 19-year-old preacher speaking that night. This in itself appeared as a complete anomaly to me. Most of the preachers I’d seen or heard had been old men that were for the most part completely irrelevant to me. I was fascinated and attended the meeting with more than the usual level of curiosity. This night my life was about to change forever.

I knew immediately that there was a God of power and knowledge that knew all about me, right down to the internal struggles that I was hiding from the world around me.

When I sat down with the other 25 college-age kids that night I was first stuck by the wonderful singing that filled the small apartment. Then something truly unusual happened. They all began to sing in another language. Later I was to learn that this was known as “singing in the Spirit”. Not knowing this language, I joined in, singing some made up chant of my own in English.  I was immediately overwhelmed by a tremendous peace. This didn’t last long. No sooner had I arrived at this new state of mind than I began to sense real nervous stress, almost, as if every nerve in my body was on fire. I sensed something very strange and new to me, something wanted me out of that room! The sense of discomfort was intense, and it took all my will power to remain seated. I was determined not to let on to those around me what I was going through. In the past, I’d practiced various forms of meditation. So, I fell back into the mode of peaceful contemplation, appearing to all around me to be in a state of “bliss.” I was confident that my real condition was going unnoticed.

Check out Chapter 3 to finish the story. If you haven’t purchased the book, fill out a comment below and we will send you the rest of Bob’s story.

Bob is also a published author of more books. Be sure to leave a comment and Bob will contact you directly with the list of his other books.