Andrew K. Gabriel’s “Simply Spirit-Filled”: A Book Review

I am grateful to Andrew Gabriel for the opportunity to review Simply Spirit Filled: Experiencing God in the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2019).

Andrew K. Gabriel (PhD, McMaster Divinity College) serves as Associate Professor of Theology and Vice President of Academics at Horizon College and Seminary in Saskatoon, SK. He is a member of the Theological Study Commission of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (with which he is also an Ordained Minister) and the author of three books, including The Lord Is the Spirit: The Holy and the Divine Attributes.

Gabriel’s desire for his readers regarding the life of the Spirit in “Simply Spirit-Filled” is that they be: “Open, but not gullible. Discerning, but not cynical. Engaging, but not fanatical. My hope is that you would be simply Spirit-filled” (10). His style of writing is approachable and engaging offering an intelligent, but readily accessible read for persons from teenagers to adult with any concern for the Spirit (whether wrestling with basic questions, or just seeking a deepened engagement). Personal anecdotes, testimonials, and reflections permeate the chapters and offer pastoral insight in leading others alongside for living as those who keep in step with the Spirit.

After sharing briefly about his personal spiritual journey in chapter 1, he opens in chapter 2 discussing two experiences typical in many Pentecostal and charismatic settings: shaking and being “slain in the Spirit” (he refers to these two as “shake and bake”). Sifting through multiple Biblical texts which have been used for supporting such experiences, Gabriel helps the readers to discern ways of hearing Scripture more properly with regard to experience, but also to remain critically humble in enjoying what the Spirit may in fact  be doing.

Chapter 3 engages issues of hearing God speak to us. The interweaving of personal story and Biblical/theological reflection calls for readers to reflect more carefully along with Gabriel on the ways in which the Spirit is in fact already speaking. To become better listeners. To attune ourselves to hearing well. (This chapter bears many similarities to the ways I continually seek to counsel church-goers and students toward hearing what the Spirit is saying…an issue which often creates tremendous anxiety especially for young college students).

Chapter 4 broaches the subject of tongues. Here he specifically provides responses to three common challenges to speaking in tongues (tongues are only a sign of Spirit baptism, tongues are just for a few people, and it’s “magical” or it’s “just me”). In the end, he clarifies the spiritual gains of speaking in tongues and along the way offers some brief comments toward interpreting Paul in 1 Corinthians well with regard to Paul’s understanding of the place and function of tongues within the life of the Church.

Chapter 5 engages the health-and-wealth/prosperity gospel and “Word of Faith” theology in light of God’s plans to heal and bless. Here he even names numerous such preachers/teachers in order to at least highlight some specifics of what he is addressing before addressing a healthy (pun intended) approach to healing and wholeness. Gabriel’s discussion of “faith” and the many ways it gets abused (usually with regard to someone else’s “faith”) turns to pointing toward a trust in God when we do not understand or do not clearly see an answer as we might desire. Regarding praying for healing, he comments, “If you think you must use a specific technique or formula when praying for healing, you may have a hangover from prosperity teaching” (118). His response, ask for healing and trust God. It remains God’s gift to give.

Chapter 7 concludes this book with a portrait of what it might look like to be Spirit-filled. To be Spirit-filled is to be captured by the love of God…a love which answers in love for God and others. This is to be “spiritual” in the language of Paul…to be ones guided and in step with the Spirit as those who are yielded to the life of the Spirit among us making us to be more like Jesus.

As a tool for reflective devotional purposes, Gabriel provides a prayer in relation to the contents of the chapter along with numerous helpful pointed questions regarding the chapter’s contents. These provide a direct resource for making use of this book for a personal devotional reading, group study, Sunday School, or discipleship, thus adding to the overall value of the book for continued deeper consideration and application. Gabriel is to be commended as a scholar for producing such a work that may prove to bear much fruit for the wider Church should it gain its needed wide reading. Pastors and church leaders would benefit greatly from reading this volume and finding ways to either lead congregations through its contents or to preach and teach upon the topics laid out with specific attention to the Biblical texts discussed.

One notable curiosity from my reading, Gabriel does not discuss the Spirit at all in chapter 5 (on faith and healing) all the while the gifts of “faith” and “healings” belong as gifts of the Spirit given to the body of Christ. His discussion of the topic is pastorally careful and reflective, but seems to lack the integration of the role or function of the Spirit specifically in the processes of faith and wholeness here (though he takes up the gifts of the Spirit in chapter 6). While one will find him offering multiple engagements toward perceiving the life of the Spirit in the other chapters, this chapter could have used a clarification throughout toward faith as the work of the Spirit in us (as gift even) along with the life-giving enjoyment of the Spirit who purposes to make a world fit for our God and Father and His glorious Son, King Jesus.

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I was provided a complimentary pre-publication copy by Andrew K. Gabriel for review purposes only for this review and am offering my review freely.

Bruce Gunderson: The Passing of a Pentecostal Preacher

I have gone back and forth about writing up a blog post about the passing of my father-in-law, Bruce William Gunderson (Nov. 17, 1948-Dec. 16, 2018), who died at home Sunday morning. I had been by his side for nearly two weeks, but had returned home briefly Saturday evening to be with my four kids and preach in the morning before heading back to his bed-side. He passed before I could return. I received the call shortly before preaching. I write what follows simply as a reflection on a number of the ways in which his life and ministry were a shining example to me (and many others) of a faithful Spirit-filled preacher (not to mention the other relationships in his life).

I first met Bruce a little over 22 years ago while working at Lakewood Park Bible Camp. His daughter, Jenn, was also working for the camp on a ministry scholarship that the two of us had received. Bruce started up a conversation asking me about my calling to the ministry. I shared my heart for missions, Muslims, and Iran. Bruce took it all in with numerous questions (as was typical I would find), but eventually was satisfied by my answers sufficiently to meander elsewhere at the camp. I later discovered he had determined I would be a good fit for his daughter (without telling me this). We were not dating at the time, but it would be less than a year later that we would be married. Bruce welcomed me into his family of what would be seven girls and two boys.

Bruce was one of my all time favorite preachers to listen to: the power of his booming baritone voice, his cadence as he broke into an old hymn as he preached, his pointed prophetic calls to hear the word and offer obedience. Scripture would flow from his heart where he had committed it to memory. I have often found myself reflecting him in my own preaching and teaching ministry. He was persuaded of the simplicity of the good news making it accessible to all ages, but offering depth of thought and insight to fire up the imaginations of those willing to dig deeper.

Bruce had felt a call to ministry while a Catholic, but found few answers to the many questions he was asking. While he initially trained as a science teacher in Bismarck he would actually receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit by simply reading the book of Acts and asking the Lord to do for him what he read. It would be a while before he would have some Church of God folks speak to him about “tongues” to which he replied had already been doing in his prayer life. Bruce eventually graduated from the Church of God Bible college located in Minot, ND. He would eventually take his first pastorate at a non-denominational Pentecostal church in Watford City, ND. When he led this church into a merger with the local Assembly of God he ended up joining the A/G and pastoring several more congregations across ND (Golden Valley, Halliday, and Carrington). Bruce would hold revival services in several states, speak for a number of camps across the region, and serve on multiple ministry boards (such as Lakewood Park Bible Camp and Teen Challenge in ND). His commitment to rural Pentecostal ministry has been a remarkable demonstration of the faithfulness of the Lord. Many have come to know Jesus, to be healed, delivered, and baptized in water and the Spirit through Bruce’s faithful service.

Bruce inspired me to pastor. When I was unsure of myself to take a church, it was Bruce who prophetically drew the pastoral gifts out of me. He spoke confidently that the Lord had indeed called and gifted me to pastor. I took my first church the day after graduating Bible college because of his inspiring words over me. And when I faced difficulties and had questions, I knew I could call Bruce and he would offer wisdom that I simply did not hear elsewhere. I even remember once having my own dad (himself a pastor) call me asking for advice on some pastoral issue, and I told him, “Call Bruce. He will tell you things others won’t and even if you don’t agree with him, he will have provoked such new thoughts that you will be able to discern what you are supposed to do.” And that was exactly what my dad did. Dad called me later to say I was spot on about Bruce’s wisdom. I always knew if I asked Bruce about any passage of Scripture, theological or pastoral issue, that he would offer insights one did not find in books and commentaries. He always seemed to have a way of seeing things slant in a way that was both uplifting and positive toward a solution.

Bruce was passionate about living the kingdom of God in the power of the Spirit. He loved people and he loved telling people about the goodness of God and about life in Jesus. I can remember his ministry to Nicaragua where he looked to bring many dozens of glasses for those lacking proper vision care. I think of his making many (MANY) dozens of pizzas for a missions fund-raiser for his church in Halliday, ND (this may have been one of the reasons he was elected mayor as a write-in against an incumbent because some folks wanted him to run). Just about six weeks ago he returned from ministry in India where he was able to help train pastors, build a church building, and minister in preaching. He had been having great difficulty walking as he prepared to leave for this ministry trip enough that I worried how he might do. I asked him how it went when he returned and he told me he felt greater strength and health than he had in years in those two weeks of ministry. He was persuaded the Spirit had enabled him to do the work Jesus had called him to do. The renal cancer that took his life these weeks later would not keep him from declaring Jesus as Lord in India. And I praise the Lord for his vision and passion and obedience.

Bruce has not simply been my father-in-law these last 21+ years … he has been my friend and mentor. I have loved him like a father. He has given me an example to follow in following Jesus. And I am blessed to have shared life with him, to have received teaching, preaching and prophetic words from him. To have been encouraged, challenged and comforted. I am ever grateful to have spent the last two weeks holding his hand, praying with him, reading Scripture, and singing over him. I carry his passion for Jesus and people in my heart! Thank you Bruce for loving Jesus and loving people well!!!

A Brief Pentecostal Hearing of the Lectionary: Baptism of the Lord


Jesus baptism
The readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for this coming Sunday, January 7, 2018 offer an intriguing correlation for a Pentecostal hearing of these texts in harmony.
Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11.
The Genesis text describes the hovering of the divine Spirit over the waters at creation leading into the calling of “light” as “day” for that first day of creation.
The Psalm (being a Canaanite hymn cast into Yahwistic adulation) imagines Yahweh enshrined above the waters as king of all: in power and majesty.
Acts finds Paul leading the Ephesian water-baptized converts into Spirit inundation that Jesus might be demonstrated as Lord.
And the Gospel reading is Jesus’ water baptism leading to the Spirit alighting upon him with the Father’s blessings.
In each of these texts it is the Lord (as Spirit) who oversees the watery baptisms and leads from the abyss of cleansing into the life of the blessed Son who reigns supreme as the glorious light of Heaven. These texts intersect one another pointing to something which a Pentecostal hearing might enjoin as demonstrating the Full Gospel message of Jesus saving, sanctifying, baptizing in the Spirit, [and healing?] as king.
 

Baptism in the Holy Spirit from a Neo-Pentecostal Lutheran

I have been lecturing in one of my classes for a few weeks on the Neo-Pentecostal and Charismatic outpourings of the Spirit in the wider Church. Today I showed that class a 9 minute video of Harald Bredesen (a Neo-Pentecostal Lutheran minister) sharing about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is short, practical, simple and to the point. I followed this by closing the class session with a call to the students to both ask and receive the promise of the Father. It is my prayer to see the furtherance of the move of the Spirit throughout the Church regardless of affiliation. Come, Holy Spirit!
Harald Bredesen on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit