As I explained in part one of my story, the church that I had attended as a child was very traditional and as far as I remember there was little teaching, if any, given on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian and therefore I had no ideas of Him doing anything specific in my life. However, I was to find out that God had more of a hand on my life than I had expected! At the time of my finding faith again, I was a student at the Royal College of Music in London and very close by was the church of Holy Trinity Brompton. In late 1985 I began to hear of something called the Alpha Course, which has now become worldwide. I forget the exact details of how I got there, but very soon I was attending weekly classes on the basics of the Christian Life, and slowly I became aware of a dynamic that I had not heard of before; the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That was 23 years ago but I still remember the great anticipation and excitement I felt as I found book after book talking about this wonderful experience of being filled with the Presence of God and speaking in other tongues. One day whilst at my parent’s house my eyes fell on a book called Nine o’clock in the Morning by Dennis Bennett, which talked about how this experience of the Spirit totally transformed the author and his church. As I read this and other books on the subject, God gave me a strong desire to seek Him for this baptism of fire. John the Baptist said of Jesus:
I baptize you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to take off His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.Again, like my conversion, this awareness of the Holy Spirit’s power was a gradual awakening, but it did begin with a remarkable experience. After reading many books and seeking God, I realised that I actually had to ask God for this gift, and in order to speak in tongues I needed to open my mouth! So one day, late at night, I sat on my bed and prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I still remember the sense of quiet awe and anticipation. I opened my mouth and as I spoke just one syllable I immediately felt something light enter the top of my head and then for a second I felt I was actually being lifted up out of my body. In fact the experience so took me aback that I stopped and went to sleep! The next day I furtively tried to speak again, this time without the same feeling but sensing that the Lord had indeed answered my prayer.
A few weeks later I was on the Alpha Course Holy Spirit weekend when we all gathered to ask Him to fill us. Some fell to the ground under God’s power, others gently cried and others laughed. All the time we sang and worshipped. I was aware of the air being ‘thick’ with His Presence in a way I have never experienced since, and I was touched with a holy laughter. With my friends, I returned from that weekend absolutely full of joy and walking on air! I describe these things not because they are experiences to seek after in themselves, but simply to show that the Holy Spirit is a real Person and when He touches us, we react spiritually, emotionally and sometimes even physically, just like the day of Pentecost. This dynamic of the Spirit in my life has given me a joy in worship and a hunger for God that I believe I would not have had otherwise.
It was a while after this time when God taught me something more about how the Spirit wanted to touch me with healing and forgiveness. I was coming up to my final exams and had an irritating problem with my ear which, with my final recital looming, was causing me anxiety. One day, a friend from Holy Trinity Brompton invited me to a prayer group and as we were praying (there were maybe 8 of us), the lady on my right asked if there was anyone present with ear trouble. With amazement I admitted it was me and I was prayed for. After the meeting this lady spoke to me privately and said she felt I might be suffering because I was holding unforgiveness towards someone. I knew immediately that she was right as I was having a very difficult relationship issue at the time. There was someone I needed to approach for reconciliation. In the following days I was able to forgive this person and God gave me the amazing opportunity to talk to them. The very morning after this meeting I woke up and put my hand up to my ear to feel a discharge that had come out of my ear and run down the side of my face during the night. From that moment, my ear began to improve. This is just one example of how the Holy Spirit gave a word of knowledge through another that resulted in forgiveness and healing.
In 1994 there was a worldwide move of the Holy Spirit that originated from a small church in Toronto. That very year I had been in Israel and had been struck by the passage in Ezekiel 47 where the amazing image is given of fresh water flowing from the temple in Jerusalem down into the Dead Sea, bringing life in its path. Some believe that this will one day happen in reality, but as the year progressed it became evident that God was using this picture to show what He was doing spiritually from Toronto. His Spirit was being poured out bringing spiritual life and restoration to all who would receive. This move touched many churches in the UK and I was blessed to receive the Holy Spirit in a new way with some of the most intense experiences of His love and Presence I have ever had. It was also at this time that I was given a strong desire to study the Bible and I launched into a series of courses with great enthusiasm.
Some of my strongest experiences of God’s Presence during the Toronto Blessing had been of physical shaking and I believe, in retrospect that this was a sign of what God was going to do next. In the Bible we are told that when God comes He refines us like fire.
But who can endure the day of His coming? And who will be able to stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner's fire.
When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.
John 16:8 .
About a year following the time of the Toronto Blessing I went into one of the darkest times of my life that lasted about 3 years. I felt like a ton of bricks had landed on me. Absolutely everything was a huge effort. I was plagued by constant tiredness, feelings of guilt, desperation and hopelessness. By the classic definition, I was depressed. Although my work life was severely disturbed, it always amazes me as I look back, that I was actually able to continue working during that time. God had provided me with a wonderful counsellor and it seemed that one issue after another came tumbling out of me for healing. Events from my past, even from childhood, threatened to crush me, and the feelings of guilt forced me to make confession of things that I had buried long ago. All through this time I was aware of God speaking to me, particularly through scripture, and as time progressed I realised that I was a different person. I felt that I had being given a thorough spring clean! I share this because I believe that it was a work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Part of being open to the Holy Spirit is allowing Him to cleanse and refine us so that we can be equipped for greater service in His Kingdom. During this period the Lord also led me to a different church and has since given me a ministry in worship leading that has completely amazed me! And the story continues!
Led by the Spirit means many different things for me. It is essentially giving God the whole of ourselves and holding nothing back. This can be started simply, but not easily, with a prayer of relinquishment of all that we hold dear. As we pray; Lord , have Your way in my life, whatever the cost, He will respond and take us at our word. He will take us on a journey through difficult places if necessary, but in it there will be the most intense and unspeakable joy and the destination will be the heart of Jesus. For that is what the Spirit desires for us; an intimate and holy passion for the Lord Jesus Christ.