The Times Are UrgentGod Is on the MoveNow Is the Moment to ...ask God to ignite his fire in your soul! Pastor Jim Cymbala believes that Jesus wants to renew his people--to call us back from spiritual dead ends, apathy, and lukewarm religion.Cymbala knows the difference firsthand. Thirty-five years ago his own church, the Brooklyn Tabernacle, was a struggling congregation of twenty. Then they began to pray ... God began to move ... street-hardened lives by the hundreds were changed by the love of Christ ... and today they are more than ten thousand strong.The story of what happened to this broken-down church in one of America's toughest neighborhoods points the way to new spiritual vitality in the church and in your own life. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire shows what the Holy Spirit can do when believers get serious about prayer and the gospel. As this compelling book reveals, God moves in life-changing ways when we set aside our own agendas, take him at his word, and listen for his voice.
Jim was thrown into the role of Pastor by the hand of his father-in-law. Jim had no formal ministerial training(and I suspect still hasn't), and make no mistake about it, he takes pride in that fact.
Preaching the word systematically isn't important to Jim—only giving the Holy Spirit time to work in 2 hour services with no thought put into them is. This mode of thinking is to say that the Holy Spirit could not inspire man's reason, could not inspire his writing, or a sermon. This goes against the essence of the Scriptures themselves. C.S. Lewis argued that reason itself was the supernatural element within nature, and I agree with him. The Charismatics though have made reason synonymous with the carnal mind. This is eisegesis and not exegesis. The carnal mind is not synonymous with the human mind. The carnal mind is biblically defined as the mind which is sinful, which is unrepentant. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind—we don't throw our mind out as being hopelessly carnal.
More than anything else, Jesus taught. The Word opens the way for the Holy Spirit. Prayer is vital, worship is vital, letting the spiritual gifts operate within the church are vital, and the preaching and teaching of the Word is vital. If a church comes to only focus on any one of these things, at the expense of the others, they are lacking.
"The New Beginning" for Pastor Cymbala and his church came when he felt that the Holy Spirit prompted him to begin a prayer service. The total emphasis of the book is on prayer. Within the book there are several stories about how prayer brought about action on God's part: Jim finds a mysterious envelop filled with just enough money so that the church's mortgage payment may be made. Jim's wayward daughter receives a visitation from the Lord, and returns home repentant, after his prayer team focused on her. These are impressive stories that I don't believe can be refuted—they show the Holy Spirit working on the heart of man, bringing man to action, to repentance. I only wonder why there are not more of them, and less railing against what Jim has never been familiar with. At times Cymbala seems to depolarize, with critiques of the chaotic weirdness which has gone on in the name of the Holy Spirit. He recognizes there is a problem in the Charismatic world, and that the lack of biblical doctrines being taught is the cause. Then on the next page he says:
"Does anyone really think that America today is lacking preachers, books, Bible translations, and neat doctinral statements?"
I would answer him, "No, but we are lacking in the use of those good materials, as people are lazy, and want a magical Christianity of expediency, which requires no use of their mind—and to excuse this, they have condemned the mind and head knowledge.
I don't disagree with Pastor Cymbala in that prayer moves the heart of God. The book is a wonderful testimony to that; however, the underlying theme that condemns learned expository preaching, that would condemn a series of sermons that a Pastor may have labored for months on, and says that because these sermons were not spontaneous, emotional, intuitive, and untaught, that the Holy Spirit could have no part in them—this is simply wrong. J. Vernon McGee said a man need not be educated to begin preaching; though he should wish to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Word, and hopefully Seminary is in his future plans. I believe if a man is proud of his lack of knowledge, something is terribly wrong with his doctrine—or un-doctrine rather.
There is such a bias in the Charismatic world against formal education, against reason, against science, which we call the general revelation of God. It's so sad. Pastor Jim Cymbala shows us there is no doubt at all that he is not educated in biblical doctrines by this statement:
"North American Christians must no longer accept the status quo. No more neat little meetings, even with the benefit of 100 percent correct doctrine." (153)
This is the underlying Charismatic theme: Biblical truths and the teachings of Christ inhibit the Holy Spirit. I would say that when a church is operating outside of biblical doctrines, THIS is what inhibits the Holy Spirit.
As you can tell, this highly irritates me. I could not enjoy the biblical truths that WERE in this book, for the glaring error in it. Perhaps someday I will come to the level of maturity where I can eat fish and spit out bones, as my friend Pastor Alex says. It angers me so, because other people are choking on the bones. Pray for Jim and I....
In sum, the book tells how prayer and praise, combined with a compassionate love for the unloved and the unlovely, provided the catalyst for a dynamic spiritual awakening and the resulting growth of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Anyone involved in any sort of Christian ministry can find something edifying in these pages.
“I discovered an astonishing truth: God is attracted to weakness. He can't resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him.”
“After all, people weren't hungry for fancy sermons or organizational polish. They just wanted love. They wanted to know that God could pick them up and give them a second chance.”
“Because I had been a basketball player, it never dawned on me to evaluate people on the basis of color. If you could play, you could play. In America it would appear that there is more openness, acceptance, and teamwork in the gym than in the church of Jesus Christ.”
“Each service is two to two-and-a-half hours long. We have always felt we had to give the Holy Spirit time to work; we couldn't rush people through some kind of assembly line.”
“Yes, the roughness of inner-city life has pressed us to pray.... But is the rest of the country coasting along in fine shape? I think not.”
“I have seen God do more in people's lives during ten minutes of real prayer than in ten of my sermons.”
“What does it say about our churches today that God birthed the church in a prayer meeting, and prayer meetings today are almost extinct?"
“If the times are indeed as bad as we say they are; if the darkness in our world is growing heavier by the moment; if we are facing spiritual battles right in our own homes and churches, then we are foolish not to turn to the One who supplies unlimited grace and power. He is our only source. We are crazy to ignore him."
"We are like the church at Laodicea. In fact, we have so institutionalized Laodiceanism that we think lukewarm is normal.”
“The apostles weren't trying to finesse people. Their communication was not supposed to be ‘cool’ or soothing. They aimed for a piercing of the heart, for conviction of sin. They had not the faintest intention of asking, ‘What do people want to hear? How can we draw people to church on Sunday?’ That was the last thing in their minds. Such an approach would have been foreign to the whole New Testament.”
“Spiritual ‘construction’ that uses wood, hay and straw comes easy--little work, little seeking, no travail, no birthing. You just slap it up and it will look adequate--for awhile. But if you want to build something that will endure on Judgment Day, the work is much more costly."
“People pay attention when they see that God actually changes persons and sets them free. When a new Christian stands up and tells how God has revolutionized his or her life, no one dozes off.”
“As we open up our church meetings to God's power, they will not always follow a predetermined schedule. Who can outline what God might have in mind?”
"Does anyone really think that America today is lacking preachers, books, Bible translations, and neat doctrinal statements? What we really lack is the passion to call upon the Lord until he opens the heavens and shows himself powerful."
“Anytime people get hungry to truly know the Lord, the Holy Spirit quickly puts a shovel and broom into their hands.”