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Somewhere Between Dead and Crazy

Posted by admin in July 5th, 2021
Published in Uncategorized

A friend sent me a video two weeks ago of a church he absolutely loves to watch out of Omaha, Nebraska. I clicked on the link and in less than 30 seconds I knew exactly what I was up against. It.Was.Horrid. It was Jim Bakker horrid. It was Benny Hinn horrid. It was charlatan horrid. In a word, it was crazy! 

I was filled with the Holy Ghost and delivered out of darkness back in 1980. My brother-in-law and sister were filled with the Holy Spirit at the same time. Coming from an independent, fundamentalist, Bible-Baptist (IFCA) background, the three of us studied God’s Word together for four months. We kept one guiding principle: if it isn’t in the Bible, don’t do it.

We studied parallel translations of the Bible, read books, used concordances, and we found that indeed the Bible does teach a second act of grace–a separate work called, “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” We highlighted passages in the Bible as they related to what we had experienced. We’re so grateful for being brought up in a home that believed the Bible was God’s Word and that it was Truth. We are grateful to be brought up in a home that taught us to be discerning and, yes, spiritually skeptical. And we were. And we sought the Lord to find out what we believed and why we believed it. Those four months of soaking in God’s Word have served us well. They helped us lay a foundation that continues today as we discipline ourselves to bring everything through the grid of Scripture.

Within the next few years, the three of us were seeing things in the Church that were not Scriptural, or even inline with biblical principles. For example, Church leaders trying to teach people how to speak in tongues. That’s not in the Bible. Tongues is a gift from God. Some people got it; some people don’t. It’s up to Him. Yes, you can ask for the gift of tongues, that’s okay, but be prepared if God says no. He’s the Giver of gifts and He’s the Decider.

We saw a lot of crazy stuff in those days. There was a genuine move of the Spirit across the nation, and around the globe, but there was also a weird perversion going on. We attended Kenneth and Gloria Copeland conferences. Oh my! That was a whole bag of crazy. We listened to Kenneth Hagin, Charles Capps, and attended groovy Vineyard services with John Wimber. It was at one of Wimber’s services where we saw him trying to teach people to speak in tongues. I remember getting up and walking out of that meeting. I started experiencing crazy fatigue.

But I do think we were fortunate to live during that time. Now I realize it was a mighty move of God, but I didn’t know it then. I had no experience with Pentecostalism or the Charismatics. But God was indeed pouring out His Spirit around the world. The time range was not quite a straight line, but the Spirit started moving in the mid 1960s with the Jesus People Movement, hit a peak in the mid 1970s, and started slowing down by the 1980s–though there were pockets globally I found in 1986 (Spain and Finland) and 1988 (China and Hong Kong).

I often meet people who experienced this outpouring, though many are reluctant to discuss it openly to strangers. It’s like something people tell you after they’ve known you for a while.  In those days, I experienced first-hand churches (yes! more than once) that were caught off guard as the power of the Holy Ghost swept through their buildings and through their services and in the lives of Believers. It was phenomenal. But by the early 1990s churches decided that the Holy Spirit wasn’t gentlemanly enough to be a part of the Sunday morning service. So, for example, pastors across the United States prohibited the gifts of the Spirit on Sunday mornings. They decided Sunday evening or perhaps a mid-week service would better suit the gifts of the Spirit in operation. One pastor told me, “We just don’t want to scare people away.” Heads nodded. People agreed. And now, nearly 30 years later most traditionally Pentecostal churches don’t have a clue to what the Spirit of God looks like. Sanitized. Controlled. Well-ordered. In other words–dead.

Let me insert this here: I asked a co-worker to come to church with me one Sunday morning in 1981. She was Catholic, married, and had a small child. I loved her to bits and wanted to share my church with her. I was surprised she came with me! We heard a good message and she loved the singing (everyone loves the Charismatics’ songs). Just when the service was ending, an old woman that I didn’t think too highly of, started speaking in tongues. “OH NO!,” I thought, “This is going to ruin everything!” The pastor gave the interpretation, but before he could finish, my little Catholic friend was tugging on my sleeve, right at the elbow. “Oh my word,” I thought, “She wants to get out of here and I don’t blame her.” I cautiously and slowly opened my eyes (they’d been closed tight in prayer begging God to stop the old woman from speaking in tongues). “Teri,” my little friend said with tears running down her face, “that message was for me. I understood everything she said. Please go up to the front with me. I want to be saved.” And we ran to the alter. WE RAN! We hit our knees and the Spirit of God fell on us and she was miraculously saved and filled with the Holy Ghost. She was never the same. And there I thought I knew better than God how His gifts should work in the Sunday morning service. How arrogant. How prideful. How absolutely wrong I was.

But that’s what eventually happened across the nation. Assemblies of God churches so hygienized their services that you can’t tell them apart from Presbyterians anymore.

Daryl and I attended a Pentecostal church for five years in Lithuania. We had a group of college students in the car with us as we were travelling to a special meeting in another town. There were three of them. They had so many questions. First of all, none of them, though raised in this Pentecostal church, knew or understood the distinctives of being “Pentecostal!” AND none of them had ever heard a person speak in tongues—EVER. When I recuperated from the shock and gasping, they explained to me that no one in the church knew of such things. In fact, they wondered if the gifts were forbidden—in a PENTECOSTAL CHURCH! True story.

Restricting and prohibiting the Holy Spirit from moving in a church makes the church look better; appear normal and not so fanatical! These are safe churches because no doctrine of devils or stupid unbiblical junk is going to get into the services. They are decent and in order. Safe. Lifeless. Some might say cold. But they sure aren’t out of order.

But then there’s the other extreme--crazy. And even though Pentecostals and Charismatics have settled down over the past 30 years, there’s still some true humdingers out there. Like the guy from the Omaha church I mention at the start. One certain clue that you’ve got an over-the-top crazy on your hands is that they label themselves “prophet.” If you truly have the gift of prophecy, you don’t have to tell folks. And quite honestly, there are no prophets in the New Testament Church. Readers who know their Bible are scolding me right now because of Phillip’s daughters (Acts 21). But the Greek there is preaching or forthtelling, not foretelling the future.

Not once is the title Prophet used in the New Testament referring to New Testament Believers. The gift of prophecy is there and the Holy Spirit can move on a person to foretell with a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom, but there is no “office” of a prophet. The Spirit is now poured out on all people and the Old Testament style prophet isn’t necessary anymore.

I’ve known good men and women, godly people, who experienced the Holy Spirit outpouring in their lives and after a while were so discouraged with the mishandling of God’s Word found in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, that they abandoned the gifts of the Spirit and went what I’d call “mainstream.” Now they never even speak of what happened to them years ago when the Lord baptized them in the Holy Spirit. Some became complacent, others became hostile. It’s frustrating, because my sister, brother-in-law and I experienced the same disappointments as churches, once filled with the Glory of God and solid preaching, started inching toward either dead or supreme crazy.

Is there some place between dead and crazy? When it comes to the Holy Spirit and the Church today, it’s as if we have only two options. Isn’t it just like the enemy to trick the Church into believing one of these two extremes? I believe wholeheartedly that there is a way to move in the Spirit, function in the Holy Ghost power and NOT be inept at handling the Word of God. But these days I feel we have no leaders to lead us.

The Bible teaches that we should be alive to the Spirit in alignment with the Word of God and neither crazy nor dead.

Lord, please have mercy on Your people because we have a whole generation who wants to hear God’s voice, to know if God really makes a difference in people’s lives. They hunger to know Him personally and intimately. How can they do that without a church that gives space for the Holy Spirit to move as He sees fit?

We need leaders who will capture a balance between the two extremes: dead church and crazy church. It seems to me that the devil so hates the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit that he works within human frailty to bring about either death or abuse. It’s heartbreaking!

Recently I read 1 Corinthians 2 and I realized I’ve been doing the exact opposite of what Paul writes in this passage. For example, my life would read this way, “When I came to you, I tried to come with eloquence and human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God…For my message was an attempt at wise and persuasive words, not with a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power, so that your faith might rest on wisdom, not on God’s power.” (If you’re not sure what the original passage actually says, please take a look at it).

American evangelicalism as a whole has sanitized and tightly ordered Sunday services, but what we need is a demonstration of the Holy Ghost’s power. We need the fire of the Holy Spirit and we need to be willing to look foolish. Paul goes on to write in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

We need an outpouring of the Holy Ghost and Fire. We need to bring the gifts of the Spirit back into the Church and stop fearing them. There was once a time, in MY lifetime, where the Church allowed the gifts of the Spirit to operate and there were healings, people got saved, delivered, and people were set free. We had messages in tongues with interpretation and it was miraculous. Did some dirt get mixed in with the Divine? Sure. It always does, but now with our super-sanitized services and our orchestrated Sunday mornings there is absolutely no room for a Holy Spirit intervention. Please Lord, let there be revival in America and let it start with me! I need a fresh Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I need power from on High! Peace.

 

 

 

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