“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” ~Acts 1:3
Just over two weeks ago, I sat with a group of mostly new faces on a Tuesday night attending my first bible study outside of a small group. It is the first bible study for Real Life. I had missed the first of a 7 week study on Acts. I remember thinking, “It has been quite some time since my wife and I have even belonged to a small group.”My excitement about experiencing the planting of a church compelled me to join this study to learn about the beginnings of the church. On this day the group was going to cover Acts 2. As music was being played during worship, I read over Acts 1 so I could catch up from the week that I had missed.
I have never read the entire bible and I am not very comfortable trying to interpret scripture but here is some of what we were studying.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” ~Acts 2:1-4
As we read I was sitting there thinking, “Pentecost?? I wonder what that is?” Later I looked it up and here is what I found.
The Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter.After reading Acts 2 together, Pastor Jim asked a few questions before we broke off into groups to interpret the scripture. Questions like; “Has anyone ever seen a ghost?” and “Has anyone ever experienced the Holy Spirit?” Some of the attendees exchanged a few stories. I was not one of them.
To end the night Jim suggested what he called “an experiment.” He started prayer and wanted anyone who felt compelled to speak during the silence that followed to do so.I remember sitting in the silent moments between waiting for someone to speak thinking "I already know I'm not going to say anything."
Many people spoke and there were times when the silence between speaking was long. At one point someone across the room said something that I could not hear. I looked up at Jim as he gestured to someone to “go ahead.”It was the guy who led worship at the beginning of the study. He said something like, “Is there anyone here that has ongoing issues with pain and weakness in their left hand?” I cannot recall the exact words he used.
I was reluctant to speak up, but then I thought "lucky guess" and decided to mention I had such a condition.
In the moment of casually dismissing this coincidence while I looked over at him, I felt this intense warm energy start somewhere low in my body and work its way up through my body increasing in intensity. It felt awesome.I remember in that moment as the heat felt as if it were beaming from my face and chest I could not hear Jim very well because I was thinking how ridiculous I must look to him and anyone else around me. Was my face red?
It lasted for about 15 seconds and I have never felt anything like it before. My group prayed for me before the study concluded but the experience I had happened before I received prayers.
My hand was caught in a printing press when I was in my 20's. I have permanent swelling in the bone of my middle finger with permanent inability to fully extend it. It falls asleep quite often. Many people don't know that it is the reason that sometimes I do not wear my wedding ring. My hand just falls asleep or hurts. I have always had some pain which varies depending on how cold it is. My finger is disfigured but it is not outwardly obvious.
As I walked to my car I realized that I had no pain in my hand. I just kept thinking that it was just not bothering me at the moment. At first, I did not tell anyone about my experience. After about 3 days with no pain I told my 9 year old son the story. After telling him, he was just silent. I asked him, “What do you think?” He put his hands in the air waving them in an evangelical gesture while mimicking the familiar organ sound made when the clouds part or the the angels ascend. We both laughed. Good to know he has got his Dad’s sense of humor.
It has been over two weeks and I have absolutely no pain in my hand.
The Real Miracle
Over the last two weeks I have been trying to make sense of this experience. You see, I never asked or prayed that God take away the pain in my hand. It is just not something I would have thought to ask for. I have been dealing with the pain in my hand for so long that it has become part of my life that I have learned to accept.The events that shaped this experience were so unlikely.Someone sitting across the room during a bible study about the Holy Spirit feels compelled to mention a condition I have during a time of prayer without any knowledge that I have this problem. I am so used to the problem with my hand that I never even bring it up to anyone except for maybe occasionally to my wife. Then there is the fact that I no longer have pain in my hand. Why use this miracle on me? I know why.
I have been going to church regularly for about 12 years now. I was only an occasional attender for about 3 years prior to that.About six years ago I wrote a prayer for myself that I occasionally read.
The following is my prayer:“Dear God,When I was a kid I remember sitting in my room or lying on my bed in the dark at night. We would have our little talks. I could feel your presence. You were there. I know you still are. Please God. I want to have that relationship with you again. I want you in my life. I want to feel you. Open my heart to the frequency of the child I once was, when society and life experiences had not yet tainted the purity of my spirit. Forgive me for everything sinful I have done and forgive me for my inability to see what you see in me. Use me in the way you designed me to be. Bring me to the fruition of your vision. I am here to fulfill my role as one of many instruments of your opus. I don’t want to let you down anymore. I surrender.”
I believe that God used this experience to finally answer that prayer. I feel at peace. I feel reassured. I feel as if a weight has been lifted from me. I feel like that kid in that prayer.
12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” ~Acts 2:12-13
“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~Acts 2:78