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Friday, January 22, 2016

"The Face of the Deep" (Paul J. Pastor)

TITLE: The Face of the Deep: Exploring the Mysterious Person of the Holy Spirit
AUTHOR: Paul J. Pastor
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2016, (304 pages).

Why is the Holy Spirit so least understood? Why is it so difficult to grasp the significance of the place of the Holy Spirit? One reason is because the Holy Spirit has often been described in impersonal terms, like "it" instead of "he." That means it is hard to relate to a "thing." The other reason is because we tend to see the Holy Spirit more as a helper rather than a Full-Member of the Triune Godhead. This book sets out to put to rest the misconceptions.

Using fourteen essays to describe the Holy Spirit as a Person and Presence, author Paul Pastor makes use of the "seven stars" and "seven lampstands" in book of Revelation to help readers reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit in both Old and New Testaments. The Holy Spirit is best experienced rather than explained. It is not about one dramatic encounter but a constant awareness and the knitting together of different experiences. This is the approach taken by Paul Pastor, author, grassroots pastor, and contributing editor to Leadership Journal. In this fascinating book that contemplates on the Person of the Holy Spirit, Pastor shares about his exploration of how he got to know the Holy Spirit more intimately. Using the image of the Seven Stars and Seven Lampstands mentioned in the Biblical book of Revelation, Pastor hopes to guide readers on visualizing the work of the Holy Spirit as a personal God.

1) Seven Stars – The Workings of the Holy Spirit
The author uses the "seven stars" from the key passages from the Old Testament about the workings of the Holy Spirit.  The title of the book essentially comes from the first chapter, which is about experiencing the Holy Spirit who is Creator. Going back to the creation narrative in Genesis, he reflects on how the whole creation process stems from love. His infinite love produces in us an infinite capacity to love. When we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, we will also be sensitive about our creative calling. The Holy Spirit inspires. Our sinful disposition tends to break down our creative abilities and mar our participation in this world. We need to be inspired back to see God’s perspective in all things. He shares an example of a father teaching his son Jim about how a sticky chewed gum can be fashioned into a beautiful boat. Through that, Jim learns about how any medium can be used to see and know another medium in order to show ourselves that we have reached a state of understanding of our calling. Most importantly, the Holy Spirit inspires us not simply to do things but to know our identities. Through the Holy Spirit, we are able to speak the truth. Pastor shares the story of a false prophet from India, a sex guru who through his charm was able to deceive many people, even building a colossal compound in an Oregon town. This Indian prophet was eventually deported because of his trickery and evil deeds. Using this story, we learn about the dangers of false prophecy. True prophets will never bring glory to themselves. They direct glory to God. This is the Holy Spirit’s expertise. The Holy Spirit also meets us up close and personal. Describing how God meets Elijah on Mount Carmel, Elijah was basically asked: “Why are you here?” The Holy Spirit defies all human expectations and only when we the created are able to humble ourselves before God, and to be open to His leading and prompting, will we be able to listen to the still whisper of God. It is the voice that speaks into the moment; the moment that illuminates the presence; and the presence that ushers one into a holy encounter with Almighty God. Come to think of it, such an experience puts the flesh and blood into the skeletal structure of theology. In the Holy Spirit, we learn of the Spirit of the Messiah. Reflecting on the “stump of Jesse,” it is the power of the Spirit of the LORD that made David who he was. The Spirit made flesh in Jesus the Messiah. This very Holy Spirit is the same that will empower us. The Holy Spirit also sustains the earth and all that is within in. He sustains all things in love. With our imaginations stoked with the sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, believers will learn to notice more and more how much the world is sustained. As we observe the working of the Spirit in this world, we respond with awe of God and appreciation of people and things around us. The Spirit makes all things new. Whether it is the beginning of creation; the way we see the world; the choices we make; or the Apocalypse that is to come; we learn to see that all things will work out as a renewal, a new creation. Any thoughts of the world coming to an end toward total annihilation and destruction is “counter-Christian.”

2) Seven Lampstands – The Marks of the Holy Spirit
The author now uses the New Testament to share about the Holy Spirit. First, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Unconditional Love. Pastor narrates what it means to be God’s beloved; how the Spirit unites; and with the Holy Spirit, we are renewed in our understanding of what it means to be a child of God. Second, the Holy Spirit leads us to the wilderness. We all will experience periods of our lives struggling in the spiritual deserts. More importantly, we experience the Spirit in both times of scarcity as well as abundance. Third, where there is new life, there is also new grace. Reflecting on the coming of the Spirit like a dove at the River Jordan, there is the symbolism of baptism, of water, of illumination, and of holiness. Fourth, believers with the Holy Spirit expresses the presence of the Holy Spirit with joy. The Pentecost promise is one which enables pure speech with power from on high. It accommodates diversity while at the same time brings unity. Fifth, the Holy Spirit sanctifies. Using the metaphor of the English Ivy, this resilient weed describes sin very well. What is the metaphor for the Holy Spirit? Anointment with oil, to be made holy, sanctified in the blood of Jesus. A sanctified person will be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Sixth, the Holy Spirit unifies. Where there is true unity, there is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Seventh, the Holy Spirit invites. Like Rublev’s Trinity icon, the Triune Godhead despite being closely united as one, is also welcoming of others to join them.

The Seven stars show us the workings of the Holy Spirit while the Seven Lampstands show us the marks and how we can sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. This book is not a typical theological work on the Holy Spirit or a doctrinal description of who the Holy Spirit is. Instead, it is a personal journey through the Scriptures of what the Bible has said about the Holy Spirit, a piecing together of the Spirit’s actions through various narratives, and the personal encounters. The title suggests something mystical but the contents reveals Someone very personal. Pastor has managed to put a structure for readers to follow, to learn of the attributes and the personality of the Holy Spirit. A lot of literature tend to focus on either God the Father and especially Jesus the Son. Not much have been written about the Holy Spirit. This book is a good addition to the library of resources about the Holy Spirit.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of David C. Cook Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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