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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Fresh Air" (Jack Levison)

TITLE: Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life
AUTHOR: Jack Levison
PUBLISHER: Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2012, (218 pages).

How well do we understand the scope of the Holy Spirit's work in this world? Have we restricted the Holy Spirit to only fruit of the Spirit, or to tongues or great biblical signs and manifestations? Definitely not, says Jack Levison, a Professor at Seattle Pacific University. In fact, the Holy Spirit is present in more ways than one, in more people than we thought, and in more ways than we can even imagine.

This book is a breath of fresh air. Written by one who has one foot on a mainline Protestant denomination and another foot on the Pentecostal persuasion, the author hopes to share a fresh air of spiritual wisdom with both camps. The hope is that the attempt will share biblical, radical, and practical values for all. The Holy Spirit (Note: for reasons explained in the book, the author prefers to use small caps. I use capitalization to conform to common usage). Some of the "radical perspectives" that Levison has proposed in his book are:

  • The spirit being in EVERY human being, both Christians as well as non-Christians;
  • The spirit is present in all situations, including social upheaval and during our status quo
  • The spirit inspires whole communities
  • The spirit drives faithful people into hostile places
  • The spirit inspires both "ecstasy and restraint, study and spontaneity."

Key to the understanding of this book is our openness to letting the Spirit work as freely as He wants. Levison argues that the Holy Spirit manifests Himself through routine awakenings, our routine listening, as well as routinely encouraging us. With frequent biblical references to the Hebrew 'ruach' (which means spirit-breath) as well as the Greek 'pneuma,' the author prefers to use the English translation "holy spirit" in small caps because he does not want to constrict or restrict the nuances of the words in Scripture. Then the author shows readers how the Holy Spirit has been working in the lives of various biblical characters, and how the biblical characters have become inspired to live spiritually dynamic lives. Of Job, Levison shows us how this famous character of suffering manages to avoid idealistic optimism (like Elihu) or depressing pessimism (by Qohelet), by retaining a sense of realism, that complains of one's torment on the one hand, and yet retaining a belief in God's goodness. Of Daniel, we discover how the Holy Spirit is with Daniel for the long haul, throughout the reigns of King Nebuchadnezzar, King Belshazzar, and King Darius. The spiritual life is not a short-cut solution strategy, but a long journey of discipline. Of Simeon, we learn the importance of regular devotion, to a disciplined life and routine maintenance to train our senses toward three major things:

  • Routine awakening
  • Routine listening
  • Routine encouraging

In doing so, we grow beyond ourselves toward letting the Spirit move without any artificial borders imposed by the world. Of Joel's dream, we see how the Spirit stretches horizontally to become an outpour to all people, all nations, and all communities. Likewise, we also see how the Spirit reaches vertically through all echelons of societies, to be poured out "indiscriminately." This is also similar to how the Spirit speaks to Peter that the gospel is not only for Jews, but for Gentiles, and all people.  Then there is Chloe's complaint about some immoral matters happening in the Corinth Church, that let the Spirit leads the people toward a renewal and redemption of the community. Of Ezekiel, we see how the Spirit brings life to dead people, fully and totally. Jesus is a great example of how the Spirit has moved. Finally, in "Peter's Praise," Levison concludes with a call for unity, to all parties to see the Church or their version of Christianity beyond schisms and dividing lines. The Spirit unites. The Spirit brings people and communities together in truth. When that happens, there will be joy and ecstasy, peace and goodwill, Pentecost and Praise.

My Thoughts

While I appreciate Levison's stance of using the "holy spirit" in non-capitalized manner, I think there is some inconsistency in the book too. For example, in the front cover of the book, it is used in capitalized manner. Even the endorsements by Nichole Nordeman, Walter Brueggemann, William Willimon, and others, have used the Holy Spirit in its conventional capitalized fashion. Personally, I am not convinced of Levison's reason, but I can understand why he does it. Another special feature is the wide spaces on the sides of each page, that calls readers to remain open to learning and to write down inspired thoughts on the generous margins. This flows from Levison's conviction that the Spirit is in every person and can still speak to each one of us today.

This is not only a brilliant exposition on the work of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. It is useful for preaching, for teaching the expansiveness of the work of the Spirit. Far too often, we have hemmed down the possibilities on the basis of man's limitations. We have restricted the flow of the Holy Spirit on the basis of our own fear and insecurities. We have even used the name of the Holy Spirit in vain, thinking that we can form our individualistic enclaves, to mind our own business, when it is the Holy Spirit that is constantly prompting us to reach out, touch lives, and to let the Spirit unite. This book is powerful for three reasons. First, it gives us a fresh understanding of how the Holy Spirit still lives in us today. Second, it urges us not to be too fixated on worldly boundaries that can often quench the Spirit. Third, it can renew our own spiritual lives and lifts us up from spiritual mediocrity to a dynamism that only God can instill. We all need a dose of fresh air from time to time. For Christians, especially those who feels they have been mediocre, this is the fresh air that will revitalize your walk in Christ.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Paraclete Press without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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