Summary: I introduce this series of messages with a personal accounting of where I have been lately in things Spiritual.
Before we get started…
I recently overheard, on a webcast, two leaders in what is being labeled the renewal/revival movement discussing just when it is proper to raise people from the dead. I won’t share their conclusions, but simply note how astounding it is that the discussion is even happening.
But then, Jesus did tell one band of disciples to, among other things, “…raise the dead.” So why not discuss the issue? Could it be the same reason we don’t talk much about healing the sick, or casting out demons, and when we do talk about it, it is just talk? Why are so many means and methods out there for building great churches, but the one that really worked in Bible days -the power of God- is so absent?
What follows is by no means a defense of everything being done today in the name of Jesus’ Spirit. By the same token, never shall this tongue or pen come against the workings of that Spirit.
As I peruse the manuscript I realize that I have said nothing revolutionary, in New Testament terms. This is a 100 course as far as the things of the Spirit are concerned. If you have long been walking in the power of God, this treatise can only serve as a refresher. For others it will be an astounding revelation, as so many believers of our era do not subscribe to anything that seems Pentecostal or, shall I say, weird.
I have personal reasons for doing research of this nature at this time in my life. Last summer my world came to a screeching halt. My wife and I were in Seoul, working with North Korean defectors, when suddenly the stresses of the past year caught up with and overtook me. Hunger fled, nights were sleepless, fear controlled all. It seemed I was losing my mind. After seven of the longest weeks of my life, we returned to Chicago.
But the nightmare continued. And worsened. I skipped a full month of work. My life for many weeks was praise music, Christian meetings, resting, waiting, and sometimes despairing. The healing eventually set in, but I knew that God was not restoring me so I could return to business as usual. After my return to normal, which has come, I must go far beyond what I had experienced in Christ before.
A sudden hunger for the power of God and fullness of His Spirit has me seeking the Lord in the normal places, plus a whole lot of places I never would have considered before. The days in which we live combined with my own human frailty demand more of God. I must encounter Jesus. I owe it to myself and to those who will receive from me in the future.
Some would say, “Only believe”, you need no “encounter.” But faith is not opposed to personal and dynamic meetings with the Son of God. Paul had some of the greatest of these meetings, but certainly walked by faith. He obeyed what the Lord told Him in the encounters, by faith. He acted in faith when he performed miracles. Yes, blessed are those who have not seen the resurrected Christ, and yet believe. We must believe God before we can see His works, but I have believed these things since I was a child. I say again, I must encounter this Jesus I have heard of, and read of, and even written and spoken of.
It’s not that I’ve never experienced anything supernatural. It’s just been way too long between events, and I grow hungrier by the day for Divine moments when Heaven invades earth, and when I just happen to be there enjoying it all.
I well remember the early days of this life, about eight years old, parents both gone, and my home, with my sister and me in it, taken over by relatives. Aunt “Izzy” was an okay lady, but her son began to use me for a punching bag when she was not there. He invited a neighbor in to watch. He put boxing gloves on me and proceeded to pound me to the basement floor.
I had enough of that real soon, and started coming home late, to match the time my aunt got off work, since she could protect me. It was during this painful season that a neighbor suggested to me that I should try God. I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but I gave it my best shot. On one of those long evenings, looking for things to do before Aunt Isabel got home, I found a wooded area, dropped to my knees, and tried God. “God,” I said, “if you’re really there, I want to hear from my dad tonight!”
Dad was an alcoholic. The reason he was gone was that every once in awhile he couldn’t stand it any longer. He’d leave his place of employment, and his family, and go get rip-roaring drunk for weeks and months at a time. I knew all that, but missed him anyway. He was the only dad I had. But when he was gone, he didn’t call much. And if he did call, he talked to my sister or mother.