Ghosts and Ghouls

I was a nut, a complete nut.  What you see on the outside with a person is rarely what they are really like on the inside or in private.  I had been saved for decades, was a bible school graduate, held full-time pastoral positions…but I was still a nut.

In my childhood, the seeds were sown for this “nuttiness”.  We played with the ouija board.  It worked.  With amazing accuracy, it predicted things.  It was fascinating.

As a very young child, I watched a daytime talk show about alien abductions.  It too was fascinating and very frightening.

Fast forwarding to manhood, after my conversion in the Jesus movement, I was delivered from outright occultic practices.  However, I still held on to what was politically correct occultism.

I was intrigued with the paranormal world of ufo’s and aliens. The more I read, the more my life was filled with anxiety and fear.  I would be out in the country with friends and see alien craft.  Waking up in the night, I was often literally paralyzed with fear.  There was something in my room.  Invisible, possibly touching me, I couldn’t lift a finger or even begin to scream.

I hated lonely places.  I was sure I would be abducted some day.

One night we were camping on top of a mountain in a very secluded place.  Our family campfire was interrupted by two bright lights coming at us rapidly though the woods.  It was every man and child for themselves!  Neurotically, I led the charge up the hill and back to the cabin.  I was sure aliens were about to abduct us.  It turned out to be a tractor.

My children were not exempt from this spiritual nuttiness either.  They saw things.

Our girls would wake up in the middle of the night and see “little people” in the hallway.

The boys shared a bedroom in the basement.  Each night they lay frozen in abject fear.  Ugly ghoulish faces floated in the dark right in front of their eyes.  They knew enough to tell the ghouls to leave in Jesus’ name, but they were not obeyed.  The entities remained, taunting them, mocking them.

In desperation, they would play Carmen’s music.  Carmen was a popular Christian music artist who had a ministry of exposing the demonic and freeing people from it.  Carmen’s powerful music did not work either.  The terrifying, luminous faces would persistently visit night after night.

My eldest son would sit in the evangelical church where I was on staff and see the pastor’s face morph into a hideous demon before his very eyes.

When there is a genuine encounter with the Holy Spirit there is deliverance.  Many attest to deliverance from drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, etc.  We were delivered from “nuttiness”.

Here’s how it went down.

We were weeks into the renewal (see previous posts).  God was shaking us upside down and emptying us of crap and pouring into us His presence.  In worship and in ministry time, I was literally feeling myself being washed from anxiety, fear, and paranoia.  I no longer woke up in the night, frozen with fright.  Lonely places were no longer dreaded.

As His living water rinsed away the demonization, tangible spiritual power and authority would be deposited in its place.

Our boys divulged to us the nightly torment that was occurring in their basement room.  We felt led to confront the problem head on.  Joining hands that night in the basement, we invited the Holy Spirit to fill us and the room with His powerful presence.  The weight of His glory came immediately.  Debbie fell over.  Authority filled our beings.  We commanded whatever it was to depart in Jesus’ name.  Going from room to room, we went through the whole house commanding and renouncing the darkness.

All of us went to bed confident.  Surely, the problem was now solved.  It wasn’t.

In the middle of the night, the boys heard loud thumping from the crawl space behind the wall of their room.  Apparently, the demonic entities felt they had permission to remain there.  It was the one space we did not specifically deal with the night before.

We gathered in the basement again, addressing the crawl space.  It was done.  The torment was over.

The Holy Spirit was teaching us that words without power are useless.  We can command the enemy all we want but if we are not presently filled with Jesus’s presence and power, they will laugh at us just like they did with the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19:14.

Renewal is not about people falling down, shaking or having encounters.  It is about change, real change for the better.  The Holy Spirit is a powerful Friend.  He so wants to free us…even from our nuttiness.

The Spirit of God wasn’t finished with us in this arena of spiritual confrontation.  He wanted to export it.  Halloween had previously been a time of fascination and fear for our family.  Now, He would turn it into harvest.

Next – “Hell House”

 

24/7 Presence

Before the Holy Spirit’s grand entrance into our lives (see previous post), Debbie needed to surround herself with noise.  The television or radio would blare all day as if to drown out the torment in her heart and mind.  After the Spirit of God began to bring His peace and healing, she found that the electronic noise was unnecessary.  In its place, she discovered worship.

She bought almost every worship album the Vineyard produced.  The worship leaders in the renewal movement of the Vineyard were soaking in the same divine juices that we were.  They had their religion, pride, and ambition obliterated by the wrecking ball of heaven just like we were beginning to.

Most importantly, these worshippers had found the secret of intimacy.  When their music played, the manifest presence of God would predictably come and surround the listener.  In this cocoon-like zone of nearness, it seemed as if the arms of the Father would envelope us as His liquid love healed and drew us ever closer.

Debbie found herself walking through the house, weeping each day, all day to the sound track of intimate worship music.  She would carry her open Bible with her, constantly searching to see if what we were experiencing was true.

Our favorite part of church services became worship.  Sometimes Jim would declare a sermon-free night and we would pour out our hearts to Jesus in extended gut-wrenching intimacy.  The Spirit would take us through the stages of jubilation, adoration, and then consecration as He took us into a private secret place jealously prepared for only two.  The “gut-wrenching” was the hand of God literally reaching down into our pain and woundedness.  It seemed that the stronger the presence became and the nearer we got to God, the deeper He would reach and the harder He would pull the toxic weeds out of the garden of our hearts.  If asked to, we could point to many “snot spots” in the carpet where we had our “guts wrenched”.

The thick heavy manifest presence was like anesthesia as the heavenly Doctor operated.  After the wrenching came the most wonderful sense of cleansing and peace.

Grateful for my experience in Toronto, I was still hungry for more.  The encounters would come frequently at church and occasionally during the week.  Somehow there was the knowledge  that this tangible intimacy could be available 24/7, but how?

I attended a week-long, all day-long renewal meeting at another church in the DC area.  Skipping work to attend, I felt compelled to catch every meeting I could.  At each service, there was prayer for more of the presence of God for anyone who wanted it.  Each time it was offered, I would be inwardly compelled to get in line and receive.  Amazingly, by the end of the week, the constant hands-on prayer had resulted in what I had been seeking – habitation not just visitation.  I found that the Spirit would now fall upon me on demand.  Just a “Come Holy Spirit” prayer and the beautiful flow would begin, enveloping me head to toe.

I became strikingly aware when His felt-presence was not upon me.  His abiding presence inside would almost drive me to find somewhere quick to block out the world, lift my hands, and ask for more of Him.  Distance used to be the majority of my Christian experience with an occasional touch from God.  Now the tangibility of intimacy was the new norm.  It had to be.  He insisted on it – even if it meant going into a bathroom stall to privately receive a fresh infusion of His presence!  Deep literally cried out to deep in increasing persistence.

Hopelessly and happily addicted to this new found substance, I would daily pull my car over mid-morning and park.  Sales calls didn’t hold a candle compared to receiving another taste of this heavenly stuff.  Tilting the seat all the way back, putting in a worship CD, and breathing that prayer “Come Holy Spirit” there was never disappointment.  The Spirit would always and instantly manifest, taking me away into a secret place with Him.

He would usually insist on quiet and stillness on my part. If I tried to revert to my rote prayer lists and compulsive Bible reading, I would sense Him withdraw.

Then He began to talk.  The more saturated with His presence we would get, the more vocal He would be.  Sometimes He would talk for hours, to Debbie at the house and to me in the car.  We would frantically write what He was saying in notebooks, trying to keep up with the pace of His delivery.

Aways, He messed with our religion and tradition.  He constantly offended our minds and our theology.  Everything was there in the Book, though. Proof texts were always happily and plentifully supplied by the Holy Spirit each time we would ask.

People would talk to us.  My clients would suddenly and unpredictably open up to me about their life’s greatest struggles.  Debbie would walk into convenience stores and clerks would ask about the happy glow on her.

We joined an evangelism group at the Vineyard.  As we talked with people in the doorways of their homes, it was as if their feet were nailed to the floor and they couldn’t move.  Often we were invited in.  Many encountered the saving presence of Jesus.  We were so excited to be sharing our real life experiences and not just an evangelistic formula.

Our children too were being touched by His presence.  We would gather them in our living room and ask the Holy Spirit to come.  One by one, when we laid hands on them, they would receive another tangible dose of God.  Often, they would enter a place where He would speak to them in an inner-audiable voice or a vivid vision.

Peter’s prediction in Acts 2 was becoming a reality for our very own family.  “In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all mankind; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions.”

A face-off between darkness and our new-found light was inevitable.  Our children would be centrally involved in this confrontation.  Not only was Jesus intent on taking the garbage out of our personal “houses”, He was also concerned about our literal house…a house that until now had been haunted by occultic entities.

Next – “Ghosts and Ghouls”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toronto! Debbie Gets Run Over by the Holy Spirit Express!

Having the sensation of God all over me once more was amazing, well worth the mild persecution it earned me (see last blog). However, later the next day the sensation had dissipated. I SO wanted that intimacy back again.

During the 12 hour drive to Niagara and then Toronto, I was indescribably thirsty and expectant for another touch from the Holy Spirit.

We thought we were in the wrong place. We walked into the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church to the quiet strumming of a one man worship team. After the brief message, we were all dismissed. It was church as usual. No signs of some amazing revival.

Our disappointment turned to shock that Sunday night.

The joint was hopping! The sanctuary was filled with the hungry from across the planet. The manifestations were intense. People would try to give testimonies but were overcome by the Presence, rendered speechless.

One manifestation that particularly troubled Debbie was the “falling down”. She had not seen this yet in the Vineyard church back in Virginia. Here, people were falling like flies everywhere.

Regardless, I managed to get Debbie to the front for prayer at the close of the service. Despite the perceived chaos, Toronto was very organized. They had trained prayer teams. Colored tape was used to create lines for people to orderly stand on and await prayer ministry.

Debbie and I stood side by side on one of those tape lines. My eyes were closed. I was so desperate for God to touch me. My face must have had a grimaced look of desperation on it for no one stopped to pray for me. The prayer teams probably thought I was demonized and passed me up for easier cases.

I could hear Debbie’s conversation next to me. “You can pray for me but don’t push me and I DON’T fall down!” she was informing the prayer minister in front of her.

Wham!

I opened my eyes and turned around. My wife was flat on her back, red-faced, and very angry at what had just happened. Just like a “weeble” she immediately jumped back to her feet.

She explained to me later that all she felt was the prayer minister lightly brush his hands across her up-turned palms. Suddenly, it was as if a broom handle struck behind her knees. She found herself laid out on the carpet…and it hurt! There was no “catcher”.

The second night, we stood again on those familiar tape lines. Just to be sure, Debbie planted her feet wide and firm to resist any repeat of the previous night. Wham! It happened again. She sprang back to her feet, eyes filled with tears. The tears were not those of love or repentance but were tears of rage!

On the third night, I heard the dull thud of Debbie falling once more. This time she remained on the floor. After a while, she curled up into a fetal position and remained there for almost an hour. When she finally stood to her feet, I held her. She felt like warm jello in my arms.

Jesus had entered into a battle of wills with my wife. He won.

He had taken my religiously hard, anti-emotional evangelical wife and transformed her into a puddle of jello…jello that now worshipped and yielded to Him.

It was time to pick up our four children. On a whim, I asked if one of the prayer ministers would pray over our youngest child. Sarah was only five years old. She was a very active child, a blur of energy and activity. As we watched, Sarah immediately succumbed to the presence of the Lord. After being gently lowered to the floor, she laid motionless. Both of her little arms were extended straight up into the air. She remained in that exact position for half an hour!

That our busy little five year old would remain still so long under some unseen power was remarkable. What she told us when she came to was even more remarkable.

“Mommy and Daddy, I was in a big room. There were angels everywhere. I saw Jesus sitting on a big chair. There were four funny looking animals in front of Jesus. He had this stick thing in His hand and held it out to me.”

We were awestruck. Our little girl had literally been taken to heaven in the Spirit. Sarah had never been taught the book of Revelation. Her bible knowledge consisted of a few simple stories like Noah’s ark, yet she came back with this vivid account of the heavenly throne room!

As happy as I was about everyone’s experiences, I was still frustrated. We had driven a thousand miles and I had still not been touched. Each night the prayer ministers had mysteriously avoided me. I went outside alone to the parking lot and had it out with God.

After giving God a piece of my mind, I came back inside. I was ready to leave when Debbie suggested that I try one last time and ask prayer for myself.

I found a guy with a prayer badge idly talking with some friends. He agreed to pray.
Debbie told me later that he stood there, one hand on my head, cracking gum, and looking around the room as if bored while he prayed over me.

Afterward I felt very little manifestation, except for the slightest hint of His presence resting on the top of my head.

However, I possessed a new peace.

I was a very nervous, almost neurotic person. Things worried me easily and I was quickly irritated by small stuff. This nervous disposition of mine had been harmful to our marriage. With each “blow up”, there would be further distance created between Debbie and I. While divorce was never an option, my neurotic explosive anger made her threaten it at times. My children also suffered and walked on eggs because of my nervous anger.

I found, as we continued our vacation, that whenever the slightest sensation of His presence was upon me, there was a peace and calm that I had never possessed before. There was also a new ability to tolerate stress. My children might do something annoying or push my buttons but it would not make me fly off the handle when I was in this state.

I found that this presence of the Holy Spirit was sovereign. It would come and go as it pleased. It would be there automatically sometimes just as I needed it. Most of the time, I would have to seek it again to be tangibly aware of it and reap its benefits. When His presence wasn’t there in a manifest way, I would predictably revert to my old behavior patterns.

Yes, it was certainly worth the many miles that we had driven on this trip. Our whole family was beginning to be touched by a spiritual reality called the presence of God. He was turning each one of us inside out and upside down for the better.

Even so, we were all only at the start of our spiritual journey. The “fun” was just beginning…

Next – “24-7 Presence” and “Ghosts and Ghouls”

 

 

 

 

 

In “Deep Doo Doo” with Leadership

As Debbie composed her email of forgiveness to her dad (see last blog), I was impressed to lay my hands on her and pray as she wrote.

It had been weeks since that amazing morning in Jim Robb’s office when I had last felt the Holy Spirit. Now, suddenly, that same warm tenderness spread from the top of my head and across my entire being as I prayed over my wife.

She was finished with her email, but God wasn’t finished with me. The warm, tangible sensation lingered all over me.

We sat down to relax in our living room. The sensation made me feel so intimate with God. I said to Debbie, “I feel like God is right here in this room with us. It’s like we could ask Him for anything right now and He would do it”. So we did.

Prayer for me had always been a discipline of reading off a laundry list of requests into a great void around me. By faith, you believed that Heaven was hearing but there was no feedback, just dryness.

Now, as Debbie and I prayed, everything was different. The sensation would grow stronger as I prayed. It even seemed as if when I prayed about certain things, the weight of the sensation would increase. It was as if He was letting me know when a certain request was particularly important to Him.

Since God was so near, I wanted to somehow bring this nearness to our four sleeping children. We knelt beside each of their beds and layed hands on them gently as they slept. Requests for each of them flowed up from inside me spontaneously instead of in my customary rote fashion. Words of encouragement and prophecy found their way into my prayers for them like a sprinkling of heavenly spice.

I went to bed that night wondering what the next day would bring. Would this feeling of closeness still be there?

It was.

Morning came. The sun was up and this warm, sunny weighty presence was still all over me.

It just so happened that today was the day for my weekly meeting with the lead pastor of the church where I served. As an associate pastor, I was scheduled to meet with him regularly for encouragement and accountability.

This pastor had been brought into our church during a time of great upheaval. I was interim pastor for a season and presided over the selection committee for a new senior pastor. When this pastor candidated, he assured us that he would respect both the charismatic and non-charismatic attendees of our church. We chose him.

After taking over, he began preaching against charismatic phenomenon. He tired of my constant pleas for revival in prayer meetings and sermons on that subject. Once, in a church business meeting, he declared to us all “if I hear one more word about the Holy Spirit, I’m going to ….

Debbie and I were almost expecting lightning to strike as he said it. Debbie, at this time, was no charismatic. However, she did have a healthy respect for all of the members of the Trinity.

The pastor was out of town. This occurred a few weeks before I had my first encounter with the Holy Spirit down at Jim Robb’s Vineyard. As usual, I was the pulpit supply. I felt lead to preach on Eph 3:19’s “filled up to all the fullness of God”. Early Sunday morning, a young man walked into the pastor’s study where I was laboring over this message about encountering the God that I had not yet encountered.

He placed his hands on my head and prayed for me and my message. This young man, Steve, had recently been exposed to the Toronto blessing.

I experienced an unusual phenomenon as I preached that morning. Instead of my usual practice of spouting a carefully scripted and outlined message, I flowed in a new spontaneity. It was as if a Wall Street style ticker tape was moving before my eyes in the Spirit. I simply read off the words that I saw.

At the close of the service, I was impressed to have people from the congregation spontaneously share about their own encounters with God. One by one, many stood up. Some were tearful, but all were elated at the chance to actually share something precious to them in the course of a church service.

The pastor found out about this.

I was in “deep Doo Doo”.

“Don’t ever do that again” he commanded. “Church is not the place for the congregation to share. You can’t control it. Someone may say something off the wall”.

Fast forward now to my meeting with this pastor the morning after my fresh infilling with the presence of God while praying over my wife.

As we greeted each other, the pastor asked me “how are you doing?”

I felt led to honestly reply, “Wonderful! I feel God all over me right now!”

“You what?” The pastor was not impressed. I tried to explain this sensation and what a difference it was making in my life with God. As I explained, I found myself sinking deeper in Doo Doo.

My honest answer that morning earned me three “wonderful” three hour sessions at the Double T Diner. These sessions were one on one meetings with this pastor as he attempted to deprogram me. I let him get it all out of his system, but I was not turning back. I would die for this new found intimacy with the Holy Spirit.

A week later, Debbie and I were asking for time off to take a family camping trip. “Sure” the pastor replied. “Where are you going?”

“Niagara Falls” we responded. That was true. However, little did he know at that point that the full story included plans to visit the fountain head of the renewal movement – Toronto!

“Have a nice trip!”

The pastor had…and we had…no earthly idea of what would encounter us in just a few days!
Next – “Debbie Gets Run Over by the Holy Spirit Express”