There is a children’s action hero named Buzz Lightyear. I watched the movie and loved the phrase he kept saying. “To infinity, and beyond.”
I confess that I am more than a little bit glad to be a Holy Ghost filled, tongue-talking, Born Again Pentecostal. I love the singing, shouting, singing, and dancing. I love the inspired and ecstatic utterances. I love the passion, and the excitement. In fact, one of my favour chapters in Holy Writ is Acts Chapter Two. I have preached on it many, many times. It tells how the Holy Spirit came, and how it will come again today when we too wait on God with open hearts. I no longer worship regularly in a Pentecostal church, but with its emphasis on the infilling of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost is wonderful. Sometimes Holy Spirit enlivened Pentecostal worship feels like infinity itself, like the ultimate you can experience in God. God visits the earth and time is kissed by eternity.
The Wind, the Fire, and the Earthquake
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1 - 4 NKJV
When the Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost it came first as a “rushing mighty wind.” It shook “the whole house where they were sitting.” Finally “divided tongues, as of fire” settled upon the heads of all who were present. They spoke in tongues and prophesied. They also acted so strange and unusual that the onlookers accused them of being drunk on new wine. Drunk they were, but it was the new wine of the Holy Spirit. The story concludes by telling us that this promise is for you, for your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Then, in their next recorded meeting it says,
And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 NKJV
While I must confess that I have never witnessed as physical an event as happened on the Day of Pentecost, I have known times when the Fire of God burned in our midst to purify; moments when the wind of God blew miraculously through an assembly of God’s children separating the chaff from the wheat; and services when everyone in a church building was shaken to the very core of their being, and only that which could not be shaken remained. Physically or spiritually, when these things happen it is wonderful to behold, and marvellous to experience.
So come, Holy Spirit of the Living God. Come as a mighty wind. Come as a consuming fire. Come as a mighty shaking. Come with a party, or a prayer meeting. Come that we may laugh, or cry. Dance, or be devastated. Come however you want Lord, but please come.
It is interesting to note that the flaming fire, shaking earth, and blowing wind were not unique to the Day of Pentecost. Many years previous the prophet Elijah fled from Jezebel and was hiding out in a cave when God decided to “show up.” (1 Kings 19: 11 - 13) He first came in a mighty wind. Then there was a consuming fire. Finally an earthquake shook the area. That had to be impressive. Who would not be inspired, and encouraged? Who would not say, “God is in this place. We have had a visitation of the Almighty.” Who would not be satisfied?
. . . And Not Enough
For Elijah that Pentecostal demonstration was wonderful, but not enough! The wind blew, the fire fell, and the earth shook. The excitement came, and the excitement went. But Elijah still did not receive what he fully needed from God. The prophet waited for it all to pass, and it was then that he had his encounter with the Almighty. In the stillness, in the silence, in the solitude and simplicity of that moment, Elijah heard the “still small voice” of the Almighty. It was not that the fire, wind, and earthquake were not manifestations of God’s appearing. They were. It was not that they did not do a work. They did. But in this instance, they were just not enough.
There are times when God manifests his awesome presence and we see the delightful sights, hear the amazing sounds, feel the overwhelming joy, and experience the awesome shaking but as wonderful as all of that may be, they are just not enough. We feel a need for something more. During those times our heart hungers to go beyond our very public experience of Pentecost, and come into the still, the quiet, the tranquil place of peace, alone before God. This is a place of His Presence beyond Pentecost where we are merely present to Him as He is being present to us.
The Secrets of the Silence
It is then that we may come to hear the secrets that are shared only in the silence. We receive strength in the stillness. We come to “know Him” in the solitude of Spousal intimacy. We enter “the secret place of the most High.”
But I caution you, this is not an either/or - the sensational or the sensitive, the exciting or the intimate. Both the awesome active power and the awesome still presence have their place. We need not sacrifice one for the other. In fact, there are times when one can lead to the other. We are in the Upper Room, full of excitement and power, and a holy hush settles in and we are suddenly transported to the isolated cave on the backside of the desert. Other times we are in a place of quiet contemplation of our Beloved, and He will suddenly take us in his arms and thrill our hearts and excite our emotions. It is then that we will dance the dance of joy!
God Knows Exactly What We Need
Sometimes we need to go with others to the Upper Room. Sometimes we need to go to the cave on the backside of the desert, or our inner chamber, alone. God knows exactly what we need, and when we need it. He is known one way in the meetings that shake and quake with the awesome release of power and passion. He is known another way in the place beyond sound and movement, in the wilderness wastes and the sublime silence. We can enjoy both.