Still Burning Brightly
…And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved
It happened with no apparent warning!
The disciples were in Jerusalem, assembled together in a house. Praying? Preparing? Waiting!
Yeshua told them to wait for the Father to fulfill his promise. Without his power, all their man-made efforts to implement the adventure of worldwide witness would be sterile.
The Holy Spirit promised to the disciples would not be merely a surrogate for Yeshua, but the Lord himself! The Comforter would occupy an appointed place within his followers. Wherever those evangelists traveled, the Lord would be with them and in them. Now that was certainly worth waiting for!
Cecil B. DeMille could not have planned a more spectacular scenario for the debut of the Spirit of God: The deafening rumble of hurricane winds rocked the house, filling only this one house in the midst of the quiet reverence of the Holy City. But there was no hurricane!
A powerful, pressing, pervasive presence invaded their midst but didn’t come as an intruder or a guest but as the Presence of the Shekinah returned to Israel, or at least to these Israelites. The place was set ablaze with directed images of light. Dazzling tongue-shaped forms, which could only, and barely, be described as blazes of fire. These flame-like theophanies appeared above the heads of those believers, anointing them for the mission and adventure of service to begin in moments.
Yet the disciples didn’t see the flaming tongue-like phenomena hovering above themselves! Each could only see the Presence over the head of his fellow.
Each knew that the other was anointed by the same Spirit and ordained to preach the same message and in the same way even though each disciple spoke in a different tongue.
That coming of the Spirit forged a bond between the believers that could not be broken. A bond that united his followers in love, power and shared vision for fulfilling the last request of the Savior: to make the gospel known to every creature! Through the influence of the Spirit, the early Jewish believers found unity by focusing their attention on the work of world evangelism, and through this the world would see that the gospel was true.
This spectacular in-filling of the Spirit led to the first evangelistic street meeting recorded in the New Testament. Throngs of pilgrims had traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Shavuot; each was stunned as he heard the gospel in his own tongue from people who never learned the language. Yet they did not hear the roar of the Spirit which had descended moments before. The only sound the crowd heard was the preaching of God’s word, described by Luke as “the mighty deeds of God.” The sound of the Spirit was reserved for the disciples, but the message of the gospel was for all!
The primary sign of the Spirit’s presence is the proclamation of the gospel. The Spirit testifies to Jesus reality and the truth of the gospel message. Peter, empowered by his presence, proclaimed the Messiah to the crowds. He and a small group of unlikely Jewish disciples, ignited by the Holy Spirit, would soon turn the world upside down.
And that work has never stopped! Our messianic movement is still advancing! Mishpochah, we are continuing the work begun by our messianic forefathers and by his Spirit we will move ahead!
The “Good Old Days”
There are some who nostalgically wish they could return to the “good old days” of the Book of Acts. But why go back to being a baby? There’s nothing wrong with infancy, but who really wants to go through it twice?! Do we long for those early days because of the excitement? Because the gospel was new and fresh to the crowds? Because the Jewish people had not yet had thousands of years to build up defenses against the message?
Do you remember what things were like when you first received the Lord? Was there enough time in the day to be with other believers? Did you ever feel as though a Bible study was too long? Were you glancing at your watch during services? We were all caught up in the enthusiasm of a new faith, a new relationship with the God of our fathers. We were exhilarated with every new Bible truth and answered prayer (even when the answer was “no”)!
And God did not disappoint us! Do you recall some of the answers to even your most miniscule prayer requests? The ones that mature believers would never even utter? I was reminded of the good old days the other night when I took my family out to the annual Greek Food Festival in San Francisco. We could not find a parking place and my wife decided that it was time to pray. I come from the more practical school of spiritual thought and assumed that the Lord would give me the wisdom to find a place to park. Why bother him? He has a universe to run! But Jenni, our three-year-old, told her mother that she would pray. As soon as the words, “Jesus…give me a parking spot” came out of her adorable little mouth, a car drove away allowing us to park directly across the street! Just like the old days, I thought. When I told Moishe this story he smiled and said, “The Lord answers the prayers of his little ones and gives us crusty old believers seventy-five cents for each half hour of parking!”
Some aspects of the good old days were like this when I first became a believer. But along with the excitement of a growing new movement came the problems of youth. Many of those who became believers when I did are no longer walking with the Lord. Some were still sneaking off to use a bit of dope or for a forbidden tryst. Their faith was more of an experience than anything else and they never were grounded in the Word. We have Christian thrill-seekers today who are always looking for the latest and the greatest spiritual high.
Sometimes we all have trouble believing that the Lord is still at work through his Spirit because we do not see the same things happening now as we did when we were first saved or when the messianic movement was in its infancy. But we do have a growing movement which is on the move!
We should remember that the proclamation of the gospel is always new to those who haven’t heard it! This particular Day of Pentecost was unique, but the Power of Pentecost prevails today because the Holy Spirit dwells in our midst and the work we do is empowered by the same Spirit. The messianic movement is a sequel to the Book of Acts. We are writing chapter 29! The gospel has not changed, the Spirit has not lost his ability to anoint and appoint Jews and gentiles to be his servants to a lost world. The testimonies included within this issue of the Mishpochah Message are living proof!
The Lord is reaching people through a vast array of methods. From tract-passing to television to personal conversations and Israel’s Hope concerts…the Lord is using the many gifts and interests of his people to gather the lost sheep of Israel back to their true Shepherd.
If things look dark from your point of view then maybe you are not looking at the tongues of fire resting on the head of your messianic brother or sister. Do you see the Presence? For the gospel can only be proclaimed by those who have been filled by the Spirit of God! I hope that we can help you look around…for the flames still burn brightly after almost twenty centuries. A small Jewish movement changed the course of history. And by the grace of God, this movement continues on.… May the flames be fanned and cause the fire of the gospel to spread in the hearts of Jews and gentiles alike.
Enjoy these testimonies. Be encouraged and pray about how you might use your unique gifts and abilities to be part of the great work he is doing through the power of the Holy Spirit among our people!