I am a native Floridian and I have been through many hurricanes, but 2004 was by far the most active hurricane season I have ever experienced in my life. Although I am originally from Port Charlotte (a town in the southwest), I was living in Tampa Bay at the time.
In August we watched with nervous curiosity as a tropical storm off the coast of Africa began to gain strength and started barreling toward us. By the time it swept down into the Gulf of Mexico it was a full-blown hurricane with winds topping 100 miles per hour. All of the weather forecasts predicted that it would make landfall in Tampa Bay so we began to make preparations; buying water and batteries, barricading windows with plywood and bringing outdoor furniture inside. We became concerned when we saw that the winds were approaching 150 miles per hour as the inevitable moment of impact drew near.
Suddenly, while only about 100 miles away, hurricane “Charley” took an unexpected, unpredicted and abrupt easterly, 90 degree turn and made a beeline for Port Charlotte…the town where I was born. I called home to make sure that my family was aware of the danger they were in. Before the power went out, they had been watching the same news channels that I was watching and they also thought that Charley was headed for Tampa Bay. The whole city was taken off guard and it was literally a matter of minutes before the eye of the mammoth storm would pass directly over them. They had not made any pre-storm preparations. No windows were boarded. Provisions were not stockpiled. This category 4 hurricane devastated the town to such an extent that when I arrived the following day, places I had known since childhood were totally unrecognizable.
Some have scoffed condescendingly at the words of Jesus to Nicodemous claiming that his assessment; “you cannot tell where the wind is coming from or where it is going” is an outdated statement. Science, they say, has made this opinion invalid. Doppler radar, satellite imagery, fancy gizmos and computer gadgets have made the weather as predictable as can be in our day. But I remember that afternoon in August when every prediction was off by at least a hundred miles. And we all learned that the words of Jesus still hold true today.
The wind is unpredictable and it is untamable. You can’t confine it to a prescribed pattern and you can’t hold it to preconceived expectations. It does what it wants and asks no one for permission. And if you think you have it figured out, that is just when you will be terribly surprised that the wind is not your subordinate. It can turn and change direction on a whim and if you are not ready it just might catch you by surprise.
I heard of a man today who describes his church as “Charismatic friendly with a seatbelt”. He has apparently preapproved a way in which the Holy Spirit is allowed to move in his Church. He has issued a permit for a particular sort of spiritual activity but requires that it remained buckled in at all times. We wouldn’t want anyone flying out of their seat and going through the windshield. Everything must be done according to our definition of “decently and in order”.
Those who have become familiar with the Holy Spirit know that this is simply not the way it works. In fact the more we know about the Holy Spirit, the more we realize that, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. The moving of Holy Spirit cannot be prescribed or predicted. I have heard preachers encourage their members to “let God out of the box”, but I have news for those precious Christians. God was never in their box to begin with. If you have a box, the only one inside it is you. And if you have a seatbelt, you are the only one wearing it.
How dare we think that we can tame this mighty hurricane of God that has been blowing through the earth since the day of Pentecost! He is the sameSpirit that hovered over the primordial chaos before creation. He is the same Spirit that spoke to the fathers through the prophets. He is the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. He is God in action on earth.
Are you disturbed by abuses in the Charismatic church? So am I. But I am most supremely concerned about those abusing the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is not a water spicket to be turned on and off at will according to our preferences. He is the limitless ocean of God’s infinite power. A gnat is more formidable commanding a hurricane than we are commanding the Holy Spirit. Its high time we get back in our place and say HAVE YOUR WAY HOLY SPIRIT!
We don’t command you. We don’t define you. We cont control you. We don’t limit you. We yield to you and we honor you Great Holy Spirit of God!
Oh, see us on Your altar lay,
We give our lives to you today,
So crown the offering now we pray:
Send the fire today!