Category Archives: Holy Spirit

Hunger and thirst

Hunger and thirst. That is what comes to mind when I think of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. These basic needs are present in every human being in order that we may stay alive.

As a baby, I had no conscious awareness of this. I made a noise, I cried because my body craved to be fed. My mother knew what I needed and she fed me. As I grew, I was given more solid food and after a while I even figured out that I could put things in my mouth myself. Some things tasted bad, could even be harmful, but bit by bit I discovered what was good and tasty. (As all children, I also had to eat some things because they were healthy, not because I liked them.)

I believe that God also has given us a hunger and thirst for a relationship with him. I don’t remember that I was aware of this as a young child. However, I am sure that I was prepared to have a conscious spiritual hunger by the fact that my parents fed me simple, spiritual experiences.

When I made a personal choice to receive Jesus, it was also the start of reflecting on what I saw and experienced among other believers. There were many who had a living relationship with God. To use the analogy, it was as if, through their personality and ministry, they were serving lovely, home-cooked food and drinks. There were also those who seemed to share cold leftovers.

This experience of constant learning has continued all my life. My thirst for Living Water and my hunger for the Bread of Life in Jesus have been stimulated by people I meet, by attending services of different church traditions and by reading the Bible and other books.

In my mid-teens I had a classmate who radiated joy in Jesus. She sent me a postcard with an illustration and the words of Jesus: “Whoever believes in me, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38). I got thirsty!

In the mid ’70s, many young people in The Salvation Army got a new experience of God’s love through the Holy Spirit. I began to read Catherine Booth’s sermons and found that the young Salvation Army was filled with this life and power. The words of Jesus in Luke 11:13 encouraged me: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” I asked!

When I was in my third year as an officer, I thought I had what I needed from the Holy Spirit. Through the ministry of an evangelist, God was doing special things with people in some corps. Many were changed and renewed while others were afraid. I was challenged to trust and go deeper with God – not just as a personal experience but in order to be equipped to serve with God.

However, it has not stopped there. Like the food that feeds my body, I need both daily intakes of ‘Life to the full’* in Jesus as well as the special Spirit-filled feasts of conferences and events.

Hunger and thirst for the Holy Spirit. Thank God, I still have it. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Jesus, in Matthew 5:6).

*John 10:10

This text has been published in the Heilsarmee Magazin #5 2018

Factors that makes growth possible

Have you seen the variety of bags of soil in a garden centre? There is the common soil with compost for most plants. There is the special mix for rhododendron and roses and something else for your herbs.

Healthy soil is a living material. It is full of bacteria, minerals and other ingredients that build up the plant. In order to keep a plant growing, blooming and bearing fruit you need to renew the soil annually. Natural additions like compost and manure will be healthy for worms and bacteria that cooperate with the plant. Beware of chemicals that might give a quick short-term result but in the long run make the soil sterile, unfit to produce new life.

The question now is: If we are going to “grow in Jesus” what kind of soil and environment do we need? Here are a couple of suggestions to answer that question.

The living word of the New and Old Testament.

We do well to reflect on the meaning of the Living Word of God. When we read the Bible there is always a process going on in our soul and our head which transfers the words into something that gives meaning. There is, for example, the cultural framework , such as understanding the Jewish lifestyle and religion. There is the historical and geographical context, which is the backdrop to the Apostle Paul’s travels and messages. Basic knowledge of these factors is important.

However, the main thing that transforms the sentences of the Bible into the Word of God is the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul puts it drastically in 2 Corinthians 3:6, saying that the letter of the law kills but the Spirit gives life. He is not suggesting that the Ten Commandments or the old Scriptures are not valid, but rather making the point that God has fulfilled them, given them a new life in Jesus. He goes on to use enthusiastic words like glorious, a surpassing glory, an ever increasing glory when we understand the will of God through the reality of Christ.

When Jesus talks to the crowds, (probably people of all ages, with various levels of education, men and women) he refers to the “word of God” as the active presence of God. It is like a seed that ends up in different kind of soils (Luke 8:1-15), it is about hearing God speaking through Jesus and putting it into practice (Luke 6:46-49; Luke 8:21; Luke 11:28). The common factor here is that the Word of God is more than the printed Scriptures or information that is passed on. It is the Living Word, and its message is communicated through the ongoing life of Jesus himself in me.

The pruning of the Father.

It is good to develop and grow. Every new thing we learn, every experience we have and all impressions that enter our personality continue to shape us. Not all web sites, workplaces or spiritual messages feed us with good things. In the same way as plants always grow in the direction of the sunlight, so we are also attracted to lifestyles that sparkle and shine. Some discover too late that behind the glitter and light there is the darkness of lies, of sin in its various forms.

Jesus gives the picture of himself as the vine, the trunk on which the branches grow. We, his followers, are the branches and it is on us that the fruit, the grapes grow. The role of our Father in heaven is to be the gardener. If we read John chapter 15 thinking of a God who is looking for our weaknesses in order to dismiss us, we can become frightened of him. However, the picture is more about a Father who is caring for and helping us to be the best we can be.

The bit about cutting off branches can actually be encouraging to us. If I am attracted to a light that will make me develop in the wrong direction, that will make me unable to bear fruit, I will find the pruning a good thing.

The water of the Holy Spirit.

In flower shops, I sometimes see artificially coloured flowers. It is mostly notable when there is an unnatural blue colour to them in order to match them with yellow flowers – giving the national Swedish colours (or Ukrainian for that matter). The change happens by putting white flowers in coloured water.

Flowing, living water is one of the symbols used for the Holy Spirit. We will grow in Jesus when the colour, the nature, the presence of the Holy Spirit is alive within us. While coloured flowers can look a bit unnatural, it is the reverse with a person filled with the Spirit of Jesus. The life of holiness is like having “a spring of water welling up” or “rivers of living water” within you (John 4:14; 7:38). That kind of life is attractive and actually the normal standard for a human being.

Just because the majority of people around us seem to lack the life Jesus gives, it does not mean that they have the best deal or that the majority is right on this issue. You are a person according to God’s original intent when the Spirit of God fills you.

The fellowship of the garden.

Many people, and I am one of them, are attracted to gardens. It can be something simple at the back of a house or a big tourist attraction. One thing these two extremes have in common is that there is a variety of spaces and plants within the garden. The botanical gardens with the right combination of blooming plants for each season is not better than the garden with just a lawn where the kids can play. They are just different for different purposes. That can be an illustration of the variety in a corps.

When Paul writes to the church in Corinth he also address this temptation of comparing ministries or ourselves with each other.

“For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:4-9)

God is unique in being who he is and doing what only he can do. Only from him comes the new life of salvation that makes it possible for us to grow in Jesus, so that we can be more than “mere human beings”. However, we also have responsibilities.

The folder for Vision 2030 2.0 describes four areas where we need to take initiatives and make things happen. They are:

  • We learn from Jesus and come to him in prayer.
  • We make holiness the standard for our lives.
  • We help people become disciples of Jesus.
  • We enjoy worshipping Jesus together.

How can that become a reality where you are? My suggestion for a first step is simple and possible for everyone to do. Find your copy of the vision 2030 2.0 folder (or open the link above). Open it in the middle. (See – not difficult!) There you will find some suggestions under each of the four headings. In the margin there are also other ideas.

When you have read a passage, stop and pray. Ask God to speak to you. What does this mean to you? What does it mean to your corps? When God speaks, he usually gives you a thought, a picture in your mind or some words that seem to repeat themselves in your head.

It is even better to read, pray, listen and have a conversation together with others. Some of the goals are a personal responsibility. Some of the goals need to be talked about in the fellowship.

Go and do the vision

To have a vision is to place yourself in a context where you wish to be in the future. I challenge you to see yourself having deeper roots and producing more fruit as a follower of Jesus during 2018. You can for example set the goal of having a deeper, personal understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus on Easter Day (1 April). What do you need to do to make that growth happen? You can go deeper into the Bible with commentaries. You can allow God to “prune” you from spending time on things that do not promote this goal. You can pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to you and you can serve more intentionally in your corps. By that I mean having the intention in your motivation to proclaim the new life of Jesus in everything you do (be it serving coffee, playing an instrument or playing with children) and not just seeing yourself as doing a practical job.

If you place yourself in the good soil of God’s Kingdom, growth is guaranteed to happen. That is a promise from Jesus. “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” (Mark 4:27-28)

“By itself”, in the good soil. That is such a hopeful word. Allow yourself grow in Jesus, and we will later rejoice together when the harvest is ripe. Do it all in the good soil of the Bible, being pruned by the Father, watered by the Holy Spirit and enriched by the garden variety of your fellowship.

This text has been published in the Heilsarmee Magazin #1 2018.

Hurray! Pentecost / Hurra! Pfingsten

What is Pentecost about? “People were confused because they understood what was said, not because they heard different languages.” (Egil Svartdahl) (Acts 2:1-21)

I will celebrate Pentecost with the people in Göppingen Corps. The message will be about the Holy Spirit helping us to understand… the Bible, the times we live in and our own personal calling. As Christians, we can be more confused when we understand what the Spirit says than when we live in ignorance.

This confusion can make us hungry for being filled with the Spirit of God or it can be an excuse for keeping our distance from God. What is your choice in the confusion about the work of the Spirit? Do you start making jokes about what’s going on in order to keep the Holy Spirit at a distance, as the people in Jerusalem did? Or does it awaken in you a longing for a presence and a power in your life that really makes you feel alive!

For me, there is no doubt about what I choose over and over again. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” says Jesus. That is not a longing for activity but to be filled with the Spirit of God.

Come Holy Spirit!

Pfingstrose / The name for peony in German is ‘Pentecost Rose’

Worum geht es eigentlich an Pfingsten? „Menschen waren verwirrt weil sie tatsächlich verstanden, was gesagt wurde, nicht weil sie verschiedene Sprachen hörten.“ (Egil Svartdahl) (Apg 2,1-21 )

Ich werde Pfingsten mit den Menschen im Korps Göppingen feiern. In der Botschaft wird es um das Thema gehen, wie der Heilige Geist uns helfen kann beim Verständnis von… der Bibel, den Zeiten, in denen wir leben, und meiner persönlichen Berufung. Als Christen können wir durch das Verstehen dessen, was der Heilige Geist sagt, verwirrter sein, als wenn wir in Ignoranz leben.

Diese Verwirrung kann uns hungrig machen nach einem vom Geist Gottes erfüllten Leben oder es kann eine Ausrede sein, um uns von Gott entfernt zu halten. Was ist deine Entscheidung in der Verwirrung um die Arbeit des Geistes? Machst du, wie die Menschen in Jerusalem, Witze über das, was passiert, damit der Heilige Geist Abstand hält? Oder erweckt sie ein Verlangen nach einer Gegenwart und einer Kraft in deinem Leben, die dir das Gefühl gibt, wirklich lebendig zu sein!

Für mich gibt es keinen Zweifel, was ich immer und immer wieder wähle. „Gesegnet sind die, die es nach Gerechtigkeit hungert und dürstet“ sagt Jesus. Das ist kein Verlangen nach Aktivität sondern nach einer Erfüllung mit dem Geist Gottes.

Komm Heiliger Geist!