home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > February 4th > The Surprising Places Moments & People Where When & Who The Holy Spirit Suddenly Transforms

The road to where he was going was hot and dusty. His mind was racing over what he had just seen. Never in his life had he witnessed anything like it. He knew this road well. From a young age he had first travelled it going in the other direction when his father had enrolled him into the tutelage of Israel’s leading professor and an expert in Torah Law. He had been taught well. Which was why, as an adult, he was now travelling north from the Holy City to the capital of Syria to track down and imprison — and if necessary — execute the members of this growing band of infidels who were seeking to destroy his beloved religion and to defy the God he had dedicated himself to. But something was troubling him. He had just overseen the execution of one of these renegades in his usual manner. But never had he seen a condemned and bleeding man so in control of a situation; and, never had he seen a man who was surrounded by an angry mob look to so calm so peaceful so confident and so … forgiving. In his final seconds of life he uttered those words. It was those words that had set his mind racing as he travelled with his two companions, each of them on horseback, as they neared Damascus. And then it happened! Boom! Knocked off his horse at the force of it. Blinded by the intensity of the light. And the voice that silenced everything else that spoke simultaneously into his “dream ears” and his “awake ears”. From this booming moment his life was ever changed. Few believed it, least of all those in Damascus who dreaded his arrival. But it was real. And it was but the first of a series of dramatic transformations wrought by the ‘boom’ of the Holy Spirit. And this ‘holy boom’ continues to surprise, in surprising places, at surprising moments, and with the most surprising choice of people!  

And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
¶ And Saul approved of his execution.
¶ And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Acts 7:60-8:3

 

BEHIND THE BOOM

When Saul began his murderous rampage against the Christ-followers, some of these believers began to pray for Saul to be blessed and to come to know Christ as Saviour, as Jesus had commanded His followers to do (Matt. 5:44). I wonder how many Victorian Christians are praying now in a similar way for Premier Dan Andrews? I wonder how many Tasmanian believers pray like this for that person who annoys them? Behind the ‘boom’ that the Saul of Tarsus encountered was a band of unnamed believers who were praying for him.

¶ But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.
Acts 9:1-3

We Christians have good reason for thinking that people’s conversion journey is often a step-by-step pathway leading to that divine appointment of new birth; but, we also need to recognise that the Holy Spirit can also ‘boom’ convert someone without this step-by-step process. This is evidenced by those people who once regarded God, spirituality, and especially Christianity, as nonsense or perhaps irrelevant, or maybe even something worse — then seemingly in a ‘boom moment’ of Holy Spirit transformation they are instantly converted to being passionate lovers of God, His Word, His people, and His Cause! Saul of Tarsus appears to be such an example but he is by no means the only one. This past week I heard two other similar testimonies of people who were suddenly converted to Christ. A few months ago I heard the remarkable testimony of Becket Cook who even used the word “boom” to describe his experience with the Holy Spirit when he was suddenly converted to Christ (I recommend subscribing to his Youtube channel).

And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing.
So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
¶ Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias.
The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
And the Lord said to him,
“Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”
But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to him,
“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight.
Then he rose and was baptized;  and taking food, he was strengthened.
¶ For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
Acts 9:4-20

  LET’S BE BEHIND ‘THE BOOM’

We can each be among the unnamed believers behind the Holy Spirit ‘booms’ that could take place right around Tasmania among those who currently give no thought to God, His Word, His Church, His Cause. As we pray and intercede on behalf of these hardened, indifferent, pre-believers, that Holy Spirit continues to do what He does often in a way that we cannot see. But when the boom takes place it was as Jesus told Nicodemus-

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
John 3:8

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

5 Comments

  1. Blair

    I am of the opinion that one doesn’t just believe by reason, it’s always the work of the Holy Spirit that brings about conversion

    Reply
      • Vanessa Dunkley

        Thanks Andrew for this week’s encouraging Pastor’s desk. I loved your positive words of “pre-believer” rather than “non-believer”. I feel it definitely helps to think these words when praying for loved ones that over the decades seem no closer to saying “yes” to Jesus.

        Reply
    • Vanessa Dunkley

      Thanks Andrew for this week’s encouraging Pastor’s desk. I loved your positive words of “pre-believer” rather than “non-believer”. I feel it definitely helps to think these words when praying for loved ones that over the decades seem no closer to saying “yes” to Jesus.

      Reply
  2. LYDIA

    Becket Cook. I’d read it before some time back, so thank you for refreshing my memory Andrew. Throughout our lives I would imagine that we either know or get to know of young men and women who for what ever reason decide that they are not in their right body. It could even be closer to home where family members might be lesbians or homosexuals. What springs to mind here is that we love the person not the pathway they are on. It is also a fact that those who have gone to church, gone to Christian schools and know or knew their Bible have lost their way into this lifestyle. Off hand I know of three.
    But now we come to what it is that many of us see every single day, the transformation of how God intended it in Genesis, of man and woman. TV these days is rampart with the ‘new’ – nothing NEW under the sun – way to accept all gender and cross gender varieties which needs some medical intervention to change a physical body in some cases.
    Seriously each is born either male or female. Yet, it is how these dear little ones are brought up or what they are taught, or what they see or read or hear or experience. The text comes to mind Matthew 18:6…that if anyone were to hurt these little ones then it would be better for a millstone to be put around their neck. Jesus was not thrilled one bit to have little children hurt physically or spiritually.
    It seems today that the attack is out to destroy not only the family but also the family structure till it takes pathways that make no sense. All these poor lost souls who truly believe its OK to be ‘gay’ were once small babies, tiny little children who were formed, shaped, influenced, hurt or confused and over time believed the father of all lies.
    Like all conversions it takes the miracle of the Spirit to change a heart, any heart.
    Often I have used the analogy that, one little toe nail over the line is one little toe nail over the line. In other words every person sins and every person needs forgiveness in Christ.
    So we praise the Father and the Son and the Spirit. We pray for those who need prayer. I’m glad our church does this weekly! and very graciously, which should encourage us to follow suit. With that mighty work of the Spirit moving Becket Cook and I am sure countless others, He can do and He will do it! Nothing will stop Him!

    Reply

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.