I wouldn't let this guy change the oil in my car, let
alone man-handle me. Yes, this is the dude who was
screaming at the "revival" in 2004. Then as now, I have a hard
time understanding the glasses....
I wrote this entry on Friday, June 1, 2007. I can't believe it's been nearly four years! I blogged it at the time; then deleted it because of the storm of criticism it drew. I am now re-typing my story, unedited and unaltered in any way, exactly as I wrote it back in 2007.
Part I - The Back-story
I've been thinking a lot about Jan Hus lately. Also William Tyndale, who shared his fate; and Latimir and Ridley...but mostly Hus, as he was the first. In 1411, the Czech reformer was marched naked to the stake where he was burned alive for advocating the Bible be made available for all people to read in their own language. What is so amazing about this man's execution - by no means unique among the great Reformers - is that he sang hymns of praise to God and prayed his tormenters be forgiven, even as the flames consumed him. And yet...some of my best friends would not consider him to be "Holy Spirit filled".
This disturbs me, as the Scriptures confirm that no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, forgiveness of one's (unrepentant) enemies goes against the "flesh", or carnal man. Lastly, I can only contemplate what kind of spirit it takes to allow one to sing praise to God while being tortured. If this is not what being filled with Christ's Spirit looks like on earth, I don't know what does.
None of the Reformers ever spoke in tongues or claimed an additional, mystical "experience" after conversion. (In fact, Wesley is recorded as saying he felt "uncomfortable" when outbursts of this mysterious behavior occurred in his meetings.) Without these men, Christianity would have stayed in the Dark Ages and the inerrant, inspired Word of God would have stayed out of reach from those who diligently seek Him.
One common denominator among these men I have mentioned, besides their love of God and desire to seek His Truth, is that they were not afraid to use their analytical minds and God-given powers of reasining. .When a church of any denominiation tells its flock not to reason; that God does not follow logic; to take whatever they tell you "on faith" and not hold it up to Scripture for comparison; when intellectualism is feared; and, when above all, the faithful are told not to question dogma or leaders, should we not be alarmed?
This is precisely what was going on in Europe during the Middle Ages. In addition, there was an esoteric, mystical branch of Catholicism which produced visionaries, stigmatists, bleeding Eucharistic hosts, and other "signs and wonders". Esoteric knowledge is that which is specialized or advanced in nature, available only to a narrow circle of "enlightened", "initiated", or highly-educated people. Human beings, from antiquity, have naturally been drawn to the supernatural. One naturally hungers for contact with the divine; something sensory and direct. An experience. Among the ancient pagans (and in some Eastern religions), people would put themselves into a trance, use narcotics or other means to acheive a sense of being "one with the divine". Translated to an out-of-body experience, this is the essense of transcendental meditation. TM has made its way into the Christian Church under the name of "contemplative spirituality" or "centering prayer" (Lighthouse Trails Ministry is a good source of information about this.) The desire for "something more" and a "higher level of intimacy" isa legitimate one that most Christians experience, but has roots in gnosticism and the "mystery religions". About the church in Corinth, John Macarthur writes:
"The problem wasn't that they lacked spiritual gifts: in 1 Corinthians 1:7, Paul said "You are not lacking in any gift." it was how they fouled them up. So a major segment of that first letter, 1 Corinthians 12:13-14, directs itself at this terrible, terrible misuse of spiritual gifts. The Corinthians, like the charismatics today, had tended to equate the Holy Spirit's work with ecstatic involuntary frenetic and mysterious activity. And of it was inexplicable from the human level, they would say it was the Holy Spirit, even to the point that some people were cursing Jesus and they were saying it was the Holy Spirit because the phenomena seemed so bizarre. The wilder and more agitated the person was, the more godly and spiritual he was supposed to be. They got to the point where in order for them to say it is the spirit, it had to be bizarre. Then there was the desire to be seen and the desire to appear as being spiritual. People were exploiting and perverting the gift of tongues particularly, and counterfeiting it with ecstatic babble that came out of their past paganism. They were confusing the work of the Holy Spirit with mystical practices they had known from their former pagan religion."How did I get, in my biblically-centered walk, to the point where I wanted this "infilling" so badly I would question my relationship with God? Why, on an emotional level, is it so hard for me to say good-bye?
Like all good stories, it starts with a "once upon a time". Once upon a time there was a shy but bright girl who didn't have a whole lot of friends, but loved to read books. More than that, she loved God - Jesus in particular. Some of her favorite books, as a devoutly Catholic youngster, were about the Saints. Some of them, her mother's pre-Vatican II fully-illustrated book said, were so holy that the Lord Jesus and His Mother loved to spend time with them. She read about Bernadette, she read about St. Agnes, the 12-year-old martyr. She read about Joan of Arc, the great visionary, and she read all about Teresa of Avila. Granted, the bit about stigmata freaked her out a little bit; but the very idea of Jesus coming to hang with her seemed like such a wild idea. She was never particularly enthralled by the idea of a visit from Mary, although that wouldn't have been too bad, either; mostly it was just Jesus she wanted to talk to. She could never seem to sense Him at the boring, stuffy mass her mother forced the family to attend each week. God was her out-of-reach hero; the One to Whom she turned for the approval and unconditional love (a term she would hear years later) her parents never supplied.
Years went by; she went to college and became a Chrstian...it involved Campus Crusade for Christ and a staff member with a "Four Spiritual Laws". By this time, she was no longer a child and had grown-up problems, like eating disorders and self-hatred. She was on her way to hell anyway, according to what she'd been taught, because she was no longer a virgin and hadn't been to confession. However, she took a leap of faith and Jesus washed her clean.
Except The Secret remained. As much as she wanted to repent, deep down inside, she could never stop the bulimia (which had been ingrained for years) nor tell The Secret to any of her Christian friends. She graduated and, much to her mother's dismay, went overseas on a short-term mission. All very Protestant, and therefore very embarrassing to mother. She stayed there for years, gradually sliding deeper into sin. Around this time, she met some Pentecostals who brought her to services at their clandestine church. The tongues and shouting and jumping up and down were overwhelming...but they seemed so happy. So full of...life. Something she lacked inside.
Several years later, married with 3 kids and attending a lukewarm UCC church in Massachusetts, she decided one day out of desperation to go to a new "Spirit-filled" church (conveniently located next to Wal-Mart) for intercessory prayer in their Healing Room. Try as she might, she could not seem to stop her daily purging, and now had added an alcohol problem to it, as well. The advertisement promised "free, confidential prayer for healing of physical, emotional and spiritual problems." She walked in fearfully, but was received compassionately. One of the women told her, "Marie, God wants you to know He's not angry at you. He's not disappointed in you. He loves you so much, and is proud of you..." This message, which she would later learn was called a "prophetic Word", spoke to her deepest fears -- and something she had worried about in the car that very morning. They then anointed her hands with oil, and prayed that God would set her free. All desire to drink left; the bulimia was completely gone, along with any thoughts concerning food, within 6 months. [my note, 3/16/11: freedom from this longstanding eating disorder followed an intensive period of repentance and renewing my mind with the Word. It was not an instantaneous or magical "deliverance". However, this intercessory prayer was the doorway through which I entered charismania.]
GOD HAD FREED ME.
This is how I came to be who I am today; he brought me that day to a deeper realization of who I am in Christ. He is within me; sin has no hold over me. This finally started to become a reality. I listened to every sermon on CD from that church I could get my hands on. I began attending a women's fellowship and felt I was being spiritually fed - boy, did these women love God! And how passionate and knowledgeable about the Bible their pastor was! I looked up to him and his wife greatly. I also began reading Joyce Meyer books, and nodded knowingly when they talked about "positive confessions" in the Wednesday morning group (and why we should avoid making "negative confessions".) I thought this was just the most wonderful church on the face of the earth. Often, I would go for prayer and have hands laid on me to receive "the baptism of the Holy Spirit". The pastor was perplexed as to why nothing ever happened, and I prayed fervently to receive it. I was told (or read?) that this "baptism" "opened the door to the supernatural" and it was the way to go deeper in God. Along with obedience and reading the Bible, of course; but that's a given.
Something was blocking it. Nothing was blocking it. I wasn't ready. God wasn't ready. My husband wasn't ready and it might freak his beans. All kinds of theories as to why the Holy Spirit left the building when I showed up. Maybe it was time to get out of my lukewarm church and REALLY start seeking God? One fateful Sunday in June 2004, I had convinced my husband to come with me to their church. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, that weekend they were having a "revival" with a charismatic evangelist.
Tommie Zito, a Rolexed and hair-gelled smooth operator, took the stage. Within a short time he was demanding that everyone who was (in essence) unsaved, uncertain, or back-slidden come forward, with their arms extended. Neither I nor my husband were in any of the three categories (although even if we were, isn't that between us and God?) so we kept our places. He began to scream more and more fervantly. A keyboardist played swelling music. Zito kept yelling. I had a sick feeling in my stomach. Amazingly, ALL of my new friends from the women's group were up there - hands in mandatory V-formation. The pastor was weeping and yelling out, but I couldn't hear him over the revivalist's screaming. He "sensed by the Spirit" that someone else was supposed to be up there. Finally, we walked out. My husband, who was raging with fury, has since then and forever after referred to charismatic/Pentecostal churches as "yelling and screaming" churches. We wasted the next two years listening to the social gospel of the UCC church, while I continued to suffer in silence (for the most part).
I was shaken by this "revival", but dismissed it as a one-time aberration. Besides, I'd been there on Sundays a few times when my husband hadn't been to church, and there were no excesses. It was livlier than our church; these people were "really worshiping" God! I learned many good things there - about radical forgiveness, dying to self, being totally sold out to God and what godly submission looks like. [my note, 3/16/11: I could have just bought the Martha Peace book and figured out submission on my own, without getting mixed up in charismania. Had to learn that one the hard way.] However, one thing started to concern me...the women at our Wednesday morning group struck me as a bit like "Bobble-heads" - instead of studying things for themselves, they just parroted whatever the pastor said. He tended to speak in spiritual-sounding cliches, so it wasn't too difficult for them. I also noticed that while their church didn't offer a Bible study, they had a "prophetic round table", frequently sent folks to seminars on "moving in the prophetic/how to receive prophecy" and hosted "prophets" from different parts of the US for week-long "presbyteries". I read the pastor's online teaching materials, and discovered their church believed in "restoration of the 5-fold ministry". [C. Peter Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation - total, complete, rank heresy.] This meant that Apostles and Prophets are a current Church office, and they looked up to these people (who, of course, heard directly from God.) Once, in the Healing Room, I was asking one of the prayer team members about something I don't remember what - and she grew impatient. "You can't have simple faith, but that's what God wants," she exclaimed. "No! You...you want to know what the word meant in the original Greek!" I thought her comment was funny, since I am an interpreter and get paid to think that way.
I soon learned that intellectualism and using one's mind to analyze Scriptural truths (or extra-biblical revelation, for that matter) is not considered godly. In fact, it can get you labeled as "prideful" or having a "religious spirit". I have read that this is common in charismatic circles.
Meanwhile, I kept trying to get "filled". I prayed. I tried to fast. On day two, I passed out with dangerously low blood pressure. My husband told me never to do that again. The pastor's wife (my mentor, who ran the women's group) told me I was "in the flesh" and my body had responded that way because I didn't have enough faith. [my note, 3/15/11: the fact that I had just given birth a few months before to Baby #4 might have had something to do with it. It takes a little while, post-partum, to completely get back to normal.]
In the summer of 2006, my husband and I finally left the UCC church and began attending a wonderful, doctrinally-sound evangelical church. Praise God for that! I continued to go to the weekly women's group at the charismatic church, however, and doggedly pursued Pentecostal "experience". In October of that year, my friend Kate told us that Jesus had appeared to her in the Healing Room, extended His hands, and told her He loved her. I was devastated. All I wanted was God, and He wasn't returning my calls (or so it seemed). I had heard that several women in that church claimed to have gone into heaven, conversed with the Almighty, and come back (such claims are common among charismatics). My depression deepened, and I felt alone. I cried daily, and begged to forgive me for whatever sin I had. I assumed it was pride, but when I went back to the Healing Room, hoping for a "rhema", the team praying said the Holy Spirit questioned them, "Why does she think it's pride?"
Very soon after this deep period of darkness began, my own pastor (a very wise, low-key and godly man), preached on Elijah the prophet. His theme was "renewing your mind with God's Word", and a comment he made was, "By the way, I have watched Christians slide into depression because they're waiting for God to show up in the earthquake, in the fire, in the flood....and they miss His hand in the day-to-day." I thought that was very appropriate to what I was going through. I dug into m Bible with new passion, begging God to speak to me that way. Very often, although certainly not daily, He would quicken a verse to me. One of my favorites was speaking to insecurity in my relationship with Him:
"About Benjamin he said:Although I am not "Benjamin", I reckoned I am the beloved of the Lord!
"Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12).
A few months later, the pastor at the charismatic church, whom I had idolized as being a great man of God, was forced to leave the church after a long-term sexual affair with a (also very godly and Spirit-filled) woman from their church. I started seeing much about this Kansas City group of prophets, and the International House of Prayer they founded on a site I frequented. I had done research into the Word of Faith movement, and frankly everything was starting to stink. Like the cliche about an onion, the more layers I peeled back, the more it stank.
My research into Pentecostalism intensified, and became more objective. In Part II, I will present more hard evidence that has turned me back to "sola scriptura; sola fide" and settled my convictions that this movement is not of God.