My early days in the Lord were spent in a nearby church of Christ. Great folks, I honor them nevertheless for teaching me the information, and to live by only the things recorded therein.
So when I thought I had found something in that information that did not seem to be in accord with the training I had received, I felt forced to leave all behind and follow that truth.
I did not have to leave them, truly. As far as the ministry was concerned -and I had trained for it for four years – I was given the left foot of fellowship.
The “truth” I had found was in the whole vicinity of the gifts of the Spirit, the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit, the availability today of the same strength that was present at Pentecost. Spiritual gifts in particular.
That was what I believed. I had been troubled by it for years, seeing high school friends and neighbors who seemed to have something I did not have, regarding spiritual things. They spoke of Jesus confidently and with joy. My own expression had centered on the more cerebral side of the Bible. I wanted to get the facts right and proclaim those facts. A teacher was being born in me, and I wanted to teach people perfect truth.
All of that was shattered when I saw those other passages in the information. Of course, they had been there all along, but we were taught that they were for the first century. And I believed it.
But not now. I found the basic turning-point verse in 1 Corinthians 13:8. For me, everything hinged on the proper interpretation of that verse about gifts passing away. Paul spoke of something “perfect” coming along that would replace that which was uncompletely. I became confident that the “perfect” thing that Paul spoke of was the state of affairs that will prevail when Jesus comes again. consequently, since Jesus had not returned, the gifts would have to continue to survive until He did.
A bit shaky a foundation, just that one verse. But it had to do. It seemed to answer so much.
When booted from the church of Christ ministry I sought refuge in a standard Pentecostal church, the Assemblies of God denomination. This was a group whose umbrella was general enough to take in charismatics like me and old-style Pentecostals too.
I became a part of that church and others like it over the years.
After living a while in the city where I had studied, and had already started a church, circumstances brought me back to my home town. By this time, I had “matured” in these new teachings to the point where I had to concede that, if the Spirit’s presence in a person was the basis for fellowship with them, then anyone who claimed to be “filled with the Spirit” must be my brother or sister. What a jump of understanding!
I met such a “Spirit-filled” sister in a Christian home produced by Teen Challenge for persons who had no other place to go. I was in that category at the time, and was glad to find a place to live. This was Columbus, Ohio.
She was Roman Catholic. Anathema to me at one time, suddenly it was all OK. Within months, we were married. Only three years had passed before my monumental change had overtaken me. But it would get worse.
Not long into our marriage, we visited a Christian excursion-in movie. The film of the night was Billy Graham’s Shadow of the Boomerang. Over the months I had been seeking God for an experience. I wanted to have assurance of my salvation, but I also wanted to speak in tongues and consequently know that I was truly filled with the Spirit. Like millions before and after me, my heart was sincere. I believed this gift was out there, and necessary.
So, on this night, you will understand why I believed my prayers had come before God and gotten a positive response. Billy preached a message at the end of the movie. He preached about sin and our need to be forgiven. For the first time of hearing a Graham message – and I had heard many, already memorized some – I really heard it. It went thorough inside of me. I was a sinner. A great sinner. Tears flowed. Something was happening. A real spirit of repentance, not something I had cooked up.
There followed a huge joy, overwhelming, unspeakable. I became obnoxious, I am sure, to my wife and anyone who might have heard me. I was fairly glowing with the joy of the Lord.
Then I did something that had repercussions for many, many years to come. Since I had been trained that believers can be baptized “the same hour of the night”, as the Philippine jailer, and since I believed that now at last my other “baptism” would come, I took over the scene that was unfolding. I would call our new preacher friend, I would have him baptize me, and I would be filled that very night!
My plan was carried out without a hitch. Except… When I came up out of the waters of the Scioto River, thinking how this must be the moment, there was some serious hesitation within me. I had some syllables rattling around my brain, but there was no “outpouring”, no Heavenly visitation. I truly stopped the proceedings and asked the preacher if I should just say out loud what was in my head! Of course, he agreed.
And from that moment until, well, I am ashamed to put in print how many years passed, I lived with doubt about my experience. The first part gave me no trouble. I knew sin was being dealt with on that night. But the tongues part. Not so sure. I knew that I wanted a Pentecostal experience in the worst way, and that I was not above helping things along. Any of my readers done something like this?
But God was not seconding my motion on that evening. And thankfully so, I can now say. I have always wanted to walk in truth. I have wanted never to be deceived, or as a teacher, to deceive others. No, it was good I lived in doubt. For the fact is, I taught myself to “speak in tongues.”
And my experience is that of so many! I’ve seen special teachers come to a congregation, to invite those who do not have their “prayer language” to come forward. The teachers then proceed to instruct them in the tongues method. Move your tongue. Say at all event comes naturally. God won’t do this for you. You open your mouth, He will fill it. And so on…
Some methods are worse than others, but the bottom line is: no one in the New Testament had to learn how to speak in tongues! No one!
I’m guessing here, but my calculate is that ninety percent of the “tongues” audible in our generation are a learned behavior. And once you’ve learned it, you are forced to pass on your knowledge to others who are disinctive. Hence the indescribable growth of the occurrence.
I will speak more of tongues later.
Though I lived in doubt over the next years, I did not want to take a chance that I would “quench the Spirit”. So, in my private prayer time I would allow just any syllable that wanted to come out, to do so. Sometimes it felt good. Especially if I was out of English things to say. Just change gears, and your prayer time is filled up.
My wife left after seven years with me. Let me bear the blame for that as a non-nourishing immature husband. But the desire for tongues and fellowship with all the Body of Christ had led me to an unequal yoking. True Protestants and true Catholics will have a strained marriage at best.
Anyway, I had asked God to fill me with His Spirit. And to give me a gift. Over the years it became obvious that I was to teach and write. My very first book exposed Rome. I remember the thorough burnings of my heart as I examined the history of this religio-political system headquartered on the Tiber. The Spirit was teaching me things, in spite of of the things I was going after.
I delved thorough into prophecy in those days. Bible prophecy. Not the “prophecy” of our generation, most of which is not true, but comes out of human spirits. I discovered things about the future, from the information, that gave me great satisfaction and joy. The Spirit was nevertheless working in me.
But my conclusions expressed in those books always put me on the outside of the Pentecostal/charismatic people with whom I was fellowshipping. It was lonely being “one of them” but being true to the Scriptures too. Seriously.
When I got into the “doctrines of grace,” I certainly slammed the door to any meaningful fellowship with modern “Spirit-filled” folks. I truly believed in the election of God. Most Pentecostals do not. None in my course of action were with me on this.
thin is the way.
Then life came complete course of action. A simple John Macarthur teaching made it so obvious to me. Tongues will cease, said Paul. But when? Early, says history. Before the apostolic age was already finished, they had all but quit, not to mention other miraculous giftings. Do the study yourself. Until 1900, all “tongue” speaking was by heretics and pagans.
One thousand eight hundred years with no tongues in the church! And now God resurrects a gift that was originally placed in the church as a negative sign to Jews? Probably not.
I decided that I would have to leave Pentecostal churches altogether, though this could cause unimaginable pain to friends and family, nearly all of whom are Pentecostal/ charismatic/NAR. I would continue a love and respect for the many good and holy people I knew. But I could no longer promote tongues.
How ironic. When I entered the tongues movement, I left all behind. Now I was being called on to do it again, for the opposite reason.
And it wasn’t just tongues. Carried to a greater degree there are further issues that developed over the years. Like the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation). Before I knew all the New Age trappings that many NAR folks are a part of, which I will discuss in more detail later, I listened with great interest to men like Bill Johnson and Randy Clark. I went to a Randy Clark meeting and had him pray over me. I went To Rick Joyner’s operation in what used to be Jim Bakker’s headquarters. I traveled to Toronto to sit under the Arnott’s and his fellow pastors. Bill Johnson truly became my favorite online preacher. I loved listening to Furtick and Jakes and Todd White, all connected in one way or another to NAR.
If you don’t know the names, that’s alright. Few do. But these names are becoming mythical among a growing number of charismatics. I was really into this thing.
Much of my acceptance of these men and their teachings happened during a serious mental/nervous breakdown. In 2009 I had heart problems, a super stressful job, and I took a trip to Korea to write the stories of North Korean defectors.
Somewhere along the line, I lost it. I ran out of adrenalin. I was a very sick man.
I was desperate for answers, and for a healing. My wife took me all over Seoul looking for charismatic-like places that might be able to solve my problem. I cannot tell you how awful all of that was. Some were after my money, others displayed manifestations that are so beyond description I will not try. But none produced healing. None.
When I came home after seven grueling weeks, the problem persisted and was not healed for months, when l God graciously got me on the right medication.
Yes, God refused to grant a simple – for Him – healing by any of the Korean meetings or my favorite TV preachers. I was already prayed for during this time by Heidi Baker, for by now the concept of “women preachers” had become a possibility. Nothing “worked” until my medicine kicked in. I give God praise for healing me in this medical way, but no credit goes to the so-called apostles of our day
Thing is, already in the midst of it all, their teachings made sense. And they hit me at a time when I needed help. I grasped for them as a dying man will do. I was so wanting to be whole like them, and I thought I was in the pathway to that wholeness by hanging on to them.
But as I grew strong again, I began to examine the men who were making these inroads into the established church, upsetting ecclesial governments, dividing churches into the haves and have-nots.
Years later came quadruple bypass surgery, and another breakdown due, they tell me, to the medicines used to put me out during the operation. There followed more hopeless days and nights, calling on God, getting prayed for here and there. Again, nothing until medication kicked in again.
I am well again. The message is now clear. God is a great healer and will answer our prayers when given in faith. But He will do it His own way, in His own time. I am to trust no man – or woman – for anything.