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By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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In Opposition Against The Power Of God, we broached the controversial subject of supernatural spiritual gifts. In many quarters of the Church, this issue has long since passed its sell-by date. Pentecostals will wonder why all the fuss. There is simply no argument any more. Supernatural gifts are fact!
Their modern day 'Pentecost' occurred in Azusa Street, Los Angeles in 1906, when an outpouring of the Spirit brought forth manifestations of speaking in tongues and other amazing phenomena. For ardent seekers of holiness, a spiritual thirst was satisfied.... in, of all places – a horse stable!
That was where this twentieth century outpouring of the Spirit began. Since then it has spread around the globe. The knowledge of and demonstration of the gifts was preserved by the Pentecostal churches. It was their 'baby'. They nurtured and promoted this wonderful truth. It was their calling to do so.
Gradually, the word spread. Other denominations and groups came to hear about these strange 'goings-on'. Through contention and controversy, the move of the Spirit which some have considered a major facet of the work of the end-time 'Elijah', gained ground.
Gamaliel, in the 30's AD, stated by divine prudence that:
...if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing (Acts 5:38, NKJV).
Well, the Pentecostal phenomenon has not come to naught. It is still thriving, and gaining ground over ninety years later! And the fruits bear testimony to positively changed lives. So, those who still want to find fault and dissent about the relevance of supernatural gifts for the Church today, should think again. Could it be that these Pentecostal 'things' are bona fide? Could it be that the critics who have not experienced such gifts might be the deluded ones, and not vice versa?!
Some thirty years ago, several non-Pentecostal churches – mainline denominations such as Episcopalian (Church of England), and Methodist – began to examine Pentecostal teaching about spiritual gifts. In some cases, this was not by voluntary investigation, but from an uninvited exposure. They had a rude awakening!
As Dennis Bennett relates in his humorous account of what occurred in the Episcopalian Church, an insignificant couple in his church began speaking in tongues. The church was challenged. What was this 'thing' of tongues? Why had it 'invaded' their territory? What was its origin? Was it of God, or was it something more sinister?
When tongues is outside your experience, it is natural to allow your prejudice to lead you to only one conclusion. It must be from Satan! Sadly, that was the conclusion many of the scribes and Pharisees drew from seeing Jesus cast out demons. They thought the very power at work in doing such good was actually from the arch-enemy of God!
To them, black had become white and white had become black.
Of course, there was more than just a lack of understanding at fault behind their reasoning. There were wrong motivations of the heart. This new thing detracted from their supremacy. Jesus was dramatically eroding their influence and power. They were rapidly losing credibility.
And so it is today, that with many leaders of traditional church groups, prime motivational factors which affect their behaviour are less than honourable.
God is still in the habit of doing a 'new thing'. He hasn't changed. And He's got more up His sleeve, too! He is still testing people's attitudes. He is still sifting out the hearts of men before His judgement seat.
At this time, there are two primary testers which are 'crunch' issues for Christians.
In the sector of the Church for whom gifts are no longer an issue, the Sabbaths are often the prime bone of contention, and will become increasingly so.
In the alternative sector, where Sabbath observances and memorials are not a major issue, the gifts are still dynamite.
That is a generalisation. I realise there are some Sabbath keeping groups who have no problem accepting the supernatural giftings of the Spirit – tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, casting out demons, etc., and even slaying in the Spirit. But for most – like the Pharisees of old – they are the most contentious issue possible. And contention will intensify!
Much personal correspondence has highlighted the difficulty some brethren encounter coming to terms with accepting the gifts.
Thank you for the videos, tapes and literature you have sent over the last few weeks and months. Although I myself find them personally encouraging and uplifting, I find there is still much resistance from others who are now UCG or ex-UCG regarding ministries which do not keep the laws of God (i.e. Sabbath) or ministries which basically endorse a trinitarian view of the Godhead. Another problem is that many people no longer trust ministries because of the betrayal of certain ministers in either the WCG or UCG and therefore basically have become independent and refuse to look elsewhere or at anything. The 'falling away' is really quite devastating and sad. R. Australia
Jesus did warn us to beware of men (Matt 24:4; Jn 16:2-4). We can only look to God. Reliance upon men – principally church leaders – is a compromise of true worship. Satan can then ensnare ones thus compromised. It is a tragedy which Jesus predicted:
If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin [to be ensnared] it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.... such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! (Matt 18:6,7, NIV).
It is well known how doctrine can be used by the devil to divide, and even ensnare. That should not be.
In the Church – among those who are truly seeking truth – it should UNITE! However, accepting pure doctrine is not easy. The hard part for most is swallowing our pride, admitting we have been wrong. Then, there is the added obstacle to hurdle of changing our way of thinking or doing things. Old habits die hard!
Human weaknesses prevent us moving forward. The devil knows how to exploit people's foibles for maximum effect!
The Biggest Obstacle – Prejudice
In 1995, on our way to keep the Feast with a small group in Wales, God spoke to me and said that the biggest obstacle preventing the spiritual growth of these people was prejudice. [For many, it still is!]
This small fellowship had just come into a basic understanding and experience of the gifts of the Spirit. My intention was to add more, to help consolidate them in this area.
Some were open, some were not. Some were breezing through, on a purely physical jaunt, without any awareness or desire for spiritual matters. But worse for those who had just come into their first experience of this wonderful phenomenon, there were hostile elements there who wanted nothing to do with tongues or 'tongues-talkers'.
They made their antagonism against the gifts amply evident. They left before the event was over, and left a note behind. It stated that they felt unwelcome because of those who had accepted these gifts. [It was not that they were unwelcome. They were made welcome. But they didn't want to accept God's spiritual gifts. They resisted His Spirit. They were of a different spirit.] The letter was a clever ploy of the enemy to cause division, and cast doubt on the gifts by making these new 'converts' feel guilty about their latest acquisition. Some people were taken in! Naive ones felt sorry for these tricksters! They could not see that they were false brothers.
Behind our backs, those who left in a huff circulated evil reports, exaggerating and falsifying what was actually going on! They spread their malicious gossip to all they could – preventing other true brethren from investigating such things. Their bizarre tales were believed by those already polarised against these gifts. Prejudice seemed to have won the day.
Others farther afield, who should have learned from the experience, were turned against it by the malicious slander. And in the group itself, other divisive things occurred to turn people against moving on in the Spirit. Two years later, that little group is still no further on than it was then. Their spiritual growth was stunted by spiritually deficient mouths.
The tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity... it defiles the whole body.... and is set on fire by Gehenna (Jas 3:5,6 NKJV).
They entertained darkness – just a little, and that compromised their spiritual walk.
Darkness does not want to dwell with light. That is the root of the problem. It is why those dissemblers departed. And prejudice is a powerful weapon of the enemy.
If a person will not humble himself to receive what God is offering, that's too bad. But it is foolish to try to accommodate such folks if they are intent on undermining a new work of the Spirit. Never make the devil welcome in your midst! The way to expel him is to turn up the spiritual heat. Accept all God is offering. Don't turn anything down. Humble yourself. And don't rely on human rationalism.
The first reactions to what God wants to tell us can be entirely wrong. Our prejudice will cause us to respond subjectively. We will miss what He is saying, as this letter illustrates:
We have received many of the items and tapes that you have sent. So much of what you have to say is indeed edifying. It was TW who sent us the article on the 10 virgins and that was very timely. We had just heard a tape on that subject and the parable was very much on my mind when we received the article from T. If ever there was a time for the church of God to wake up it is now! I can appreciate the title that you have chosen for your publication. [Actually, we did not choose it, exactly. We were led to Isaiah 52, and God highlighted the words "Awake! Awake" to us. He impressed upon us that that was to be the publication's title.]
....We have just lately received a video tape that you sent.... Moving Mountains, by David Carr. I have a real curiosity about the entire tape. I also noticed that you give some consideration to what I shall call the charismatic movement and I believe that this video by Mr Carr was along these lines. I am not very familiar with this type of thing and so to some extent it is very new to me and my wife. If I may speak very bluntly with you, [of course, please do] I must say that I do not see much value in this type of thing. I truly see it as a danger to God's anointed people to get so wrapped up in emotionalism.
God has given to us, His creation, the gifts of intellect and emotion. Neither of these are in any way bad or evil – they are indeed very good. But God clearly says that we who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. The emotions which spring from the heart are deceitful (Jer 17:9) and the intellect which springs from the mind is enmity against God (Rom 8:7). I heard a preach once say that the worship of God in spirit and in truth is worship with emotions and intellect [it is part of it, Mark 12:33]. But this is not so [you are right that it is not the whole story]. John 4 says that God is Spirit and He seeks those who will worship Him in Spirit. If we say that God in the Spirit is all emotions we have no knowledge of the God of all the universe. [I would prefer to say we have a very limited knowledge of Him, not no knowledge of Him.] We begin to create God in our image.
Again I know nothing of David Carr but I must make righteous judgement about the Spirit of God and I saw only "self" speaking from the stage. The first few minutes of his speaking came across as a "would-be" comedian and not of a preacher of righteousness. I will not judge the man himself but I did not feel the anointing of the Spirit in what he had to say. [The power of prejudice in colouring our impressions of others is astronomical!! David Carr IS a preacher of righteousness. He was so emotional and ebullient 'on stage' because Jesus had appeared to him! But the viewer couldn't see this because his judgement was coloured by his prejudice against 'Pentecostalism' and tongues, and anything which has more emotional expression than he is used to.] The emotionalism of the audience has nothing to do with the power of the Living God in His people. Praising God can be a very emotional experience but it must go far beyond this. We limit our praise of God by not correctly understanding the power of utilizing the Spirit of God in our praise of Him.
As a fellow believer of Jesus Christ and a brother to you Malcolm, I feel I must write to tell you this. I pray that you find my words edifying and not offensive. [No, they are not offensive.] It is from a sincere love of God and of His people that I write these words. Hope to hear from you again. B. USA
This person seems genuinely concerned. I do not want to doubt his motives. But the colour of his vision is affected by the prism of truth through which he views others. The Light of Truth has many component colours all combining to make up pure light. Since he has only ever experienced one end of the spectrum of the Spirit of God, it is not surprising that his appreciation is limited by his past experience. Prejudice is at the root of his failure to judge righteous judgement. I replied:
17th November 1997
Importance Of Openness
Thank you for your letter. No, I don't find your words offensive. Thanks for expressing what you felt you should. It is good when brothers express their thoughts even if they are controversial. Where there are differences, those views should be aired, unless of course, they are hostile or unnecessarily divisive. Otherwise, cant will reign and those in the wrong won't be able to reform their views and move forward spiritually. When brothers and sisters do not express their inner disagreements, resentment or other negative emotions will only gnaw away at their heart. They give the devil latitude to torment God's children.
I'm not sure which article on The Ten Virgins you received from T. Just in case you didn't get the earlier one, I have enclosed the former one from AA2-2.
One To Whom Jesus Appeared
With regard to the video message by David Carr. One reason he behaves in such an 'outlandish' manner is because Jesus appeared to him. He mentions this about half way through his message. He was so moved by the experience that he was perhaps to some, excessively 'un-normal' in his manner. He is that way to some extent anyway in his personality. Some people are quiet and reserved. Others are vivacious and extrovert. He is the latter. But he is a deeply converted person, as should be apparent to those who are spiritually discerning.
Charismatic Worship Not Emotionalism
I can understand your reaction, however. When we were first introduced to the charismatic 'side' of the Church a few years ago, almost fresh out of the WCG, it was like going from a Brahms piano recital to a country-and-western festival. Many things seemed bizarre and 'over the top'. Raising of hands in praise, often loud and highly expressive, spontaneous talking in tongues, and even outbursts of applause or religious phrases by members of the audience during sermons, all these seemed a bit much. But it was only because they were outward expressions we were not used to from our background. They may constitute culture shock to some, but for us, once we got to see underneath these expressions, we found many sincere and devout people who believe in full latitude of emotional expression in worship. It was not emotionalism. What we were seeing was emotional, yes, but uplifting positive emotions are not wrong. They are very right.
God is joyful. His being exudes so much love and joy that those who have been in His presence testify to being overwhelmed by it. It isn't wrong to express that depth of emotion in meetings if that comes from the depth of one's being. If it is put on, I concur with you that such expressions are merely phoney – useless emotionalism. It is true that some charismatic meetings have degenerated to that level. But we must beware categorising ALL such charismatic behaviour as charismania, because God has been very much IN that move of the Spirit. The Pentecostal churches kept alive the true gifts of the Spirit, when their exercise had all but died out in most of Christendom. Then, about 30-40 years ago, more mainstream churches began to learn from the Pentecostals and God moved through them, revitalising millions of individual lives in what has become known as the Renewal movement. This gave rise to the charismatic 'church'.
Indoctrination Against Spiritual Gifts
However, cults like the WCG indoctrinated their members against the gifts of the Spirit which the Pentecostal and charismatic churches perpetuated and promoted. Equally prejudiced, WCG offshoots, for the most part, continue to polarise their members against other brothers and sisters who accept and demonstrate these gifts today. Speaking in tongues and associated spiritual gifts do seem to appeal more to the 'emotional' type of person than the purely intellectual. You and I were more intellectual in our pursuit of 'truth' than those God reaches via the charismatic sector of the Church. But, our experience via that avenue was not complete. As Ron Dart says in his most recent newsletter, none of us can claim complete knowledge of God. There is always more to learn. ....coming to know God is a life-long process and has several aspects to it.
Intellectual Appreciation Of God Not Enough
We can know certain things about Him intellectually, but that is not enough. We should come to know Him emotionally, too. That alone is also not enough. Neither aspect is complete by itself. Each complements the other and should lead believers into experiencing God's sublime nature of love.
The gifts of the Spirit are incomplete by themselves, without love, as Paul said in 1 Cor 13. But so too, is knowledge OF God and His plan, as the Sabbatarian sector of the Church is wont to champion. Sabbatarians desperately need the gifts, and the charismatic church needs the Sabbaths. Both are from God. Gifts of the Spirit are from Him just as much as the Sabbaths. Both are good, although both can be abused. I do not subscribe to perversions of either. However, I am dead against criticisms of either by those who do not understand, and who criticise from a vantage point of ignorance and inexperience. It is one of the easiest things to do.
Emotions Should Express God's Nature
If I may, can I comment on your interpretation of Jeremiah 17:9? You said "the emotions which spring from the heart are deceitful." They may be sometimes, but it is not true in the blanket way you implied. When Mother Teresa felt pity (an emotion) for the poor and destitute who lay dying on the streets of Calcutta, was that deceitful? No. It was a virtuous emotion, and it promoted her to do a work for God (despite the fact that she had many biblical doctrinal misunderstandings). God is more concerned about true expressions of love than getting all our doctrine correct (an impossibility for most in this deceived world). You probably know this already. That good woman will have her reward. Jesus accepted her because she did what she understood to be right and wanted the love of God in her life. What Jeremiah condemned is the selfish (insincere) heart that doesn't want God's nature – His love (which can be expressed through right emotion). There is an element of that in everyone.
When a sinful woman (maybe a former prostitute) fell at Jesus' feet weeping, was that outburst of emotion wrong? Was it a sin? No. The opposite! (Luke 7:36-50).
When Mary wept outside the empty tomb, thinking Jesus' body had been stolen, was her emotion another vain show? (Jn 20:11.) No. Her deep personal love for Him was properly expressed in that situation.
When Peter and John raced to the tomb after hearing from Mary that it was empty, their response was an emotional one. Was that wrong? It was a natural response, but that didn't make it deceitful and wrong. God made us with emotions that we are meant to express.
When David danced in rapturous abandon was his expression of emotion wrong? (2 Sam 6:14.)
When the crowds welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem in a spontaneous outburst, cutting down tree branches, spreading their clothes on the road in front of Him, and crying out in praise and honour (Matt 21:1-10), was that the result of deceitful emotions? Not at all. These are expressions of joy and positive emotions.
God made us with emotions that we are meant to express. The Holy Spirit will heighten them, too, if we allow God's Spirit that much latitude. Tragically, too many from our background don't.
The negative emotions which Satan works on are the ones we should suppress: unrighteous anger, hostility, malice (Col 3:8) and envy.
Good emotions are encouraged by the Holy Spirit in us. And those good emotions will also gain greater expression through the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. To express joy and heart-felt praise towards God is impossible without emotion. The deeper it is, the more it is in the Spirit. In other words, the more it encourages the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us, merging with our spirit. And we are commanded to worship "in Spirit and in truth". "In truth" means in sincerity, not in doctrinal perfection (no one has that at the moment).
Tongues Can Be Emotional.
Many who receive the gift of tongues experience an emotional uplift through the exercise of this gift. They talk to God in the prayer language He gives them, and as they pray in tongues, the Holy Spirit prays through them and lifts them up. It can be an acute emotional experience.
It is a tragedy that so many have been turned off the charismatic gifts by wrong teaching which has labelled it all emotionalism and hype. It isn't. True praise begins with emotion and goes deeper into worship.
We enter His heavenly gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise (Ps 100:4). When we 'bless' His name as that verse says, a true expression is an emotional one. If it is devoid of emotion, it is devoid of what God means it to have.
True Repentance Is Accompanied By Emotional Expression
I had emotional experiences when God first called me. They were very much part of my repentance. That is not to say that all spiritual experiences since have been emotional. They haven't. But I have had some. On occasion, God has brought me to tears. I have wept as God has laid His feelings upon me for another person. He means us to 'feel' for others, and those feelings or emotions are expressions of God's compassionate, caring nature. So, emotional expression is not always wrong. What is wrong is when it is put on for show, when it is false and does not arise from sincerity. I do not judge 'charismatics' who express true emotional praise and worship. God is in them. And their emotions can be an expression of God's Spirit moving them.
God Demonstrates His Presence
I enclose a video of Benny Hinn on which you will see how sincere praise can lead to true worship and bring God's presence amongst believers in demonstrable ways. Spiritual gifts are demonstrated. People are edified (which is the purpose of meeting together). And lives are changed. This charismatic stuff is not a sham. It is for real. God is present and makes Himself 'felt' (sometimes in emotions, but also through spiritual gifts which edify). This is all scriptural (1 Cor 14:3,4).Sincere praise leads into true worship that brings God's presence in Spirit.
When we kept the Feast [of Tabernacles] in 1995 with a small group who invited us to be with them at that time, I spoke briefly on the subject If Any Man Thirst...
God quenched that thirst at that time and people also 'felt' various phenomena that they had never sensed before, such as tingling in the arms or hands, being 'weepy', invigorated inside, deep emotional warmth for another, etc.
One person even 'smelt' an unusual and beautiful scent. This was the fragrance of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation that many have experienced when God demonstrates His presence amongst us.
Why Some Experience Jesus 'Tangibly' And Some Don't
Jesus said that where 2 or 3 gather together in His name, He will be We enter His courts with praise.in our midst. He demonstrates that by various means. It's not always through a beautiful fragrance, or the phenomena I have mentioned. The reason few from our background have ever experienced this in 'tangible' ways is partly because of:
1) The low level of faith. Most don't expect Jesus to show up. They think He's so far away from them that to expect Him to manifest Himself to them is out of the question.
2) Another reason is that His main avenue of expression is through spiritual gifts, which most sabbatarians reject.
3) And thirdly, if He were to give most people these experiences, they would be scared and think they were being taken over by the devil! They are so fearful of Jesus' real presence.
I am not encouraging seeking phenomena. That is wrong. We are to seek the Giver. But I am trying to make people aware that it is not wrong to have them if God provides them. [If you want to know more about these amazing things, read John White's excellent book When The Spirit Comes With Power.]Fear of spiritual manifestations is of the devil.
What About The Dangers Of 'Charismania'?
I recently had to write to another about this same subject, and include a portion of that letter here:
About the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. You feel I am too one-sided in my approach, that I don't warn enough of the dangers you claim are inherent in an acceptance of the gifts.
Let me ask you, then, what spiritual gifts do you demonstrate? Tongues? Interpretation of tongues? Prophesying? Discernment of spirits and associated casting out demons? Healing? Working of miracles? You don't demonstrate any one of those gifts, do you? Then how are you in a position to judge when it comes to being wary of false manifestations?
Jesus spoke this prophetic word a few years ago for those who criticise Morris Cerullo and other charismatic/Pentecostal preachers: First rise up to the same level of power, then you will be in a position to properly judge.
It's the same with emotionalism. Of course there's emotionalism, but I don't foster emotionalism. I write to encourage people who have never experienced the gifts of the Spirit to rise up from their mundane level of spiritual inexperience and take on board all Jesus wants for them. He wants them to demonstrate spiritual gifts in meetings. Emotions are often heightened through the operation of spiritual gifts.
Wasn't Jesus emotional when the Spirit moved him to weep over Jerusalem?
Weren't the disciples emotional when the Holy Spirit descended with tongues of fire? Weren't they emotional when the place where they were praying shook?
When the Holy Spirit is allowed full latitude, of course there will be emotional scenes! Emotions are one of the most expressive avenues of the working of the Holy Spirit. If we quench good emotions, we quench the Spirit.
We need to get away from old-fashioned, staid, dry, conservative 'religion'. It is not true religion. True religion allows a complete expression of the Spirit through emotion.
I am aware of those who go too far. I don't advise anyone to go to Toronto for their 'blessing'. I have written articles against the over- emotionalism of some charismatics and what is encouraged as a result... (in the book Testing The Spirits). But, just because there are false manifestations, should they receive emphasis? We must beware throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Negativism About The Gifts Is From The Devil!
Your present highly conservative approach [which is actually a denial of truth] will have that effect on those we are trying to reach. They are so turned off to any supernatural gifts being demonstrated that an imbalance in teaching by accentuating the negative at the outset will erase any good which the positive teaching MUST accomplish.
Most of this negative stuff is based on a wrong fear engendered by the devil. Some of the arguments are very subtle, too. But you don't tell people to worry about getting a demon spirit when they are baptized for the receipt of the Holy Spirit, or when they go to God in prayer, do you? So, why undermine the gifts in this way?
There is nothing to fear from false manifestations. No true child of God will ever get a false 'gift' while they are truly seeking God. A pure heart is under God's protection and guidance. So there is no need to fear and warn so much about the charismatic hype which the devil enjoys getting involved in. Those from a WCG-type background will be streets away from getting the sort of things that detract in Toronto or similar places where many people really seek manifestations for their own sake. WCG folks need loosening up, not restricting by fear-based warnings.
Spiritual Gifts Are The Testimony Of Jesus In The Church
The reason there is so much flack against the gifts of the Spirit is because they are the testimony of Jesus in the Church. That is what He said about the Spirit of prophecy in Rev 19:10. Have you got the Spirit of prophecy? Is it active in you so you can speak forth words from God for others? The gifts of the Spirit edify, and should not be stifled (1 Thes 5:19,20).
Spiritual Gifts Edify
Another reason Satan has filled believers with distrust of the gifts is that they are the major tool for edification in the Church. 1 Corinthians 14 describes prophecy primarily. But the gifts of healing and working miracles also edify tremendously in the Church. They really lift people's spirits, and tongues lifts the individual who speaks in tongues (1 Cor 14:4).
Paul says we should desire EARNESTLY to prophesy (1 Cor 14:39). He didn't say to warn people that they might get a wrong spirit if they try. He did say that all prophecies must be weighed (1 Thes 5:21), but let's get things in perspective! The Church (the sectors which have not yet accepted spiritual gifts) is never going to move forward and embrace the gifts if negative doubt about being wary of the gifts is promulgated!
You say you see danger in a lot of it. Fine. But encourage people to receive the gifts first, then warn of excesses and abuses later. Otherwise you will put them off altogether because they are already prejudiced against spiritual gifts by their former teaching.
When bringing a new convert to Christ, do you warn him that there are false Christs lurking around the corner? Do you negate his confidence in Christ? Or do you tell him that Jesus is able to keep him from falling? (Jude 24).
Do you try and instil fear or faith?
When gifts are accepted, received and practised, that's when you can warn of dangers which come through self-seeking, and going over- the-top – 'emotionalism'. But until then, there needs to be a major effort of 'evangelism' towards promoting the gifts because those from an anti- Pentecostal or anti-charismatic background will immediately dismiss their benefits. They would rather stay put in unspiritual mediocrity. They don't need any encouragement to criticise or dismiss spiritual gifts because of abuse. Such folks are already polarised against their use!
I agree with you that a message about the centrality of the cross is correct. Without using those words, I effectively say that in much of what I write. But let's not leave the resurrected body hanging there. Jesus is actively involved in a life of the Spirit. We must crucify the illicit desires, but not those which encourage the power of the Spirit.
I hope this puts things in better perspective. Please take time to listen to the tapes enclosed, and if after hearing them you want anything clarified, do write back. Keep in touch. [He didn't.] Thanks. MBH
Coming out of darkness and into the full light of what Jesus has made available to us is not something that is accomplished overnight.
Spiritual gifts are meant to edify, uplift, enlighten and empower. They are also major tools to unify in the Church. No wonder the devil is so hot against them!
Gifts Gaining Acceptance
What God begins like a grain of mustard seed, germinates and grows. So, while there is a groundswell of negative opinion against this issue, here and there acceptance of the Spirit's gifts is gaining ground.
This letter recounts one man's experience:
I hope the Fall Festival season was joyous and spiritually rewarding. The additional tapes and books have been arriving. True to your word, it is very different than what we were taught in the Worldwide culture, and it has been difficult at times to put aside 14 years of indoctrination.
I'd like to share some impressions of the Festival spent at United's site in Snowmass Village, Colorado. It was very dismaying. Now that the "crisis" [of the breakaway from WCG to UCG] seems to be over, there is determination to get back to the way things were. One particular example occurred over dinner. There were a few younger men, two middle-aged couples and myself. One of the younger men mentioned he was studying the calendar issue and reading literature from channels outside United. The older couple admonished him, warning him that such literature would only "confuse you". A second thing I observed were numerous messages about what H W Armstrong taught and "honouring his memory". This trend gained momentum after the Feast. United is turning into a living mausoleum for HWA!
By the sixth day came a shocking realization: I have precious little in common with people in United. The sense similar to how you described your visit with a Seventh Day Adventist church. That evening (Tuesday evening) an unusual thing happened. Something from within told me, "Leave!" After some hesitation, I packed and left Snowmass Wednesday morning, spending the Last Great Day at United's site in Corpus Christi. The following Sabbath attendance was sparse at my local congregation. You see a sizeable portion went to Snowmass. A snowstorm struck Colorado late Thursday (just after the Last Great Day and a day earlier than expected). Two families from..... made it out, not without problems. The rest were stranded in Colorado until Monday. Was this the "word of knowledge"? [Yes!] By the way, I made the "mistake" of mentioning the incident where I left Snowmass to a local church elder. He made some small fun of it.
Another unusual event happened, this time during the Last Great Day. The morning sermon was given by a pastor who asked, "What is the source of your decision?" His answer was the Holy Bible, but something from within immediately said, "Incomplete!" A scripture came to mind and, after fumbling around for a few minutes, I found it in John 5:39. Another major point was his castigation towards "following our hearts" which brought Jeremiah 31:31-33 to mind. During the entire sermon scriptures came to mind exposing the incompleteness of the sermon. Having scriptures come to mind like this during any message has never happened in my experience. Anyway, the pastor did not once mention the Holy Spirit, without which is not the Holy Bible useless? A last scripture came to mind exposing the full irony of the situation: John 7:38-39. Neglecting mention of the Holy Spirit on the Last Great Day must surely "take the cake"?
The only reason I still attend United are some friendships I've made with people who know the Worldwide's history and have no illusion about its pretensions as a "loving church". The Last Great Day was spent with an elderly couple from my local congregations (who served as deacons for nearly 30 years). The wife went livid at the morning sermon. She kept muttering that she's heard the same stuff for 30 years and asked, "When do we graduate?" Over lunch, they confided numerous run-ins with previous pastors, demonstrating rather questionable spirituality on the pastors' parts. [Indeed! Rev 2:9 and 3:9 relates about the presence of the synagogue of Satan troubling the chosen ones. There are many UCG pastors who are not converted. Mind you, the same could be said of most church organisations.]
I am somewhat at a loss about "life after United", or "Where do I go from here?" I am coming to believe the validity of most of what you are saying regarding gifts of the Spirit and the bareness of our ritualistic background. What happened during the Feast and two vivid dreams, which I'll describe in a moment, is an indication of something.
Traditionally, I didn't pay attention to dreams. Even now, I'm not sure if the vividness of these two dreams stem from a greater awareness of dreams from reading your literature or a greater spiritual receptiveness on my part. It's not a matter of doubt, but simply the fact that all of this is new to me and the realization that you might have greater experience in these type of things.
The first dream came 3 or 4 weeks ago. I was driving an ambulance. The weather was awful, driving rain. Controlling the ambulance was very difficult. Cars were cutting in front of me and even turning onto side streets directly in front of me! It was exasperating! I reached an intersection which I recognised as near my home. I began to turn left only to discover that a railroad crossing gate was down. After looking carefully both ways, there was no train in sight. So, I managed to steer around the gate. Afterward the scene shifted. The rain had stopped, but I was riding a bicycle along a road leading to my house. There was a little girl (about 10 years old) riding a bicycle, but circling me. She was chastising me for crossing the railroad crossing. I tried to explain that I checked very carefully for oncoming trains and didn't see any, but she continued to chastise me anyway.
The second dream came last night. It was after dark and I was in a stadium with many other people. For some reason, I got the sense of attending a "crusade" (which I've only done once in my life). Police began arriving and taking people away. Some of us tried to get away, but were forced higher into the stadium seats. After a while, the police left, leaving a few of us at the top of the stadium.
Again, I'm not sure if they have any meaning and would appreciate help in figuring this out.
I do appreciate the literature and tapes that have arrived since the last request. The series about the gifts of God's Spirit... are particularly enlightening...
At a local Friends of the Sabbath Bible study before the Festival, Xxxx Xxxxx was our guest speaker. When I figured out you were in Bricket Wood at the same time, I asked him about you. He mentioned hearing that you had "some unbalanced ideas about tongues". He was honest enough to say that he had not read any of your literature and so couldn't draw any conclusions... A. USA
Isn't that typical of the ignorant prejudice in most people? They think they are so right, while they are so uninformed! And yet, they don't want to be fully educated. They would rather continue to sleep. (See Matt 25:1-6.)
Meaning of his Dreams
My reply to the above correspondent explained the meaning of his dreams:
15th December 1997
Ways God Speaks To Us
...Your experiences at the Feast were of the Spirit of God speaking to you. This is one major way He speaks – in thoughts and impressions. Yes, they were 'words of knowledge'. God doesn't have to whack us over the head and speak audibly in our ears to reach us. If He did so, He would unnerve us. It would have the opposite effect to what He desires. So, He often speaks 'softly' in 'couched' language, and sometimes cryptically so we take the effort to use our minds to fathom or search out the meaning, which causes us to learn more from His written Word in the process.
[I explained one of my experiences when new to receiving words of knowledge. I was introducing] the gifts of the Spirit to a small ex-WCG group. I did so by covering the subject of Hearing From God. Some of them weren't that open to this sort of thing. Their level of faith was very low and so the level of God's manifestation was equally low. But, after the message I did ask if anyone needed healing. About three or four hands went up, and as they did, I received a very feint thought in my head which was "bad leg". I thought, "That's just me thinking that. That couldn't be a word of knowledge." Then, I thought to myself, "What if it is and I ignore it?" "What have I got to lose?" So I asked, "Is there anyone here with a bad leg?" Immediately a lady put up her hand. I was a bit taken aback because it was the first time I had done this sort of thing. I didn't know what to say, so I merely said "I suppose God wants to heal you."
I expected another word of knowledge to know whether that was the case, but there was nothing. Anyway, the woman came forward and she received her healing. The leg was healed, there and then. Two others came forward for healing, but they did not receive healing at that time. One received it a few days later.
The gifts are wonderful blessings to the Church, but oh how few really believe! They are quenched by unbelief. We don't take Jesus' words literally enough: "I am with you always, even to the end of the world." He wants to converse with us more than we are prepared to believe it!
You asked about your recent dreams. They are significant in the light of your recent experiences. You are beginning to see what is wrong with the churches of our former association. They are operating mostly 'in the flesh', so to speak. Their level of spirituality is very low.
Many of these brethren are like babes, spiritually, which is why you saw the young girl encircling you on a bicycle, chastising you for going across the crossing. Their worship is not "in the Spirit" as Jesus said it must be. It has degenerated to the level of legalistic pettiness, engulfed in rules taught by men.
Here's a bit more that may be useful to you in understanding the meaning of the dreams.
1st Dream. You were driving an ambulance. Ambulances carry very sick or injured people to safety, or to a place where they can get better. You want to help take people on spiritually, away from the sick spiritual environment which holds them captive, into a new place of healing and spiritual health.
The weather was awful. Cars were cutting in front of you, etc. This symbolises the constant obstacles we all face in trying to help deliver these people from their negative environment.
You changed your mode of transport from a car to a bicycle. This may symbolise the change in your spiritual journey, but the main emphasis here is on the girl who is intent on finding fault with your conduct. The pickiness, legalistic pettiness, and fault-finding is typical of spiritually immature, self-righteous ones. But, they don't listen to reason.
Like Xxxx Xxxxx, he probably hasn't read any of my 'stuff' about tongues, yet he is sure I am 'unbalanced' about the matter. If he knew I don't speak in tongues on a regular basis (it is not a gift of the Spirit God has given me), that ought to make him wonder why I promote speaking in tongues so much. But would it? Whatever we say, they don't consider objectively, and least of all that they might be in the wrong.
2nd Dream. I believe this is a warning in allegory of what is to come upon the Church. After dark: We must work the works of Him who has called us while it is day, the night comes when no man can work (Jn 9:4). We are approaching the time of greatest spiritual darkness, the Great Tribulation.
Helena had a dream about darkness last week, too. She saw hills and valleys all enshrouded in darkness. God is saying that this is the state of the Church, not merely of the world. The Church slumbers at this time
You were in a crusade. The gospel is becoming more and more public. With crusades like those of Benny Hinn, millions are hearing about Jesus and, through the power of God demonstrated in those crusades, a lot of controversy is being generated. The end result of too much controversy is civil action by the government against the supposed instigators of it. This is what happened in the early Church. Persecution engulfed the Church and it was scattered.
In your dream, the persecution comes from the state. The police are the official arm of the state authorised to deal with insurrection and disturbances. They symbolise the organised persecution coming upon believers. God makes it possible for some to escape, depending upon His plan for them. The only escape is to move onto higher spiritual ground. To go downwards is to move into the grasp of Satan. By moving upwards, you will assure your spiritual safety. (It doesn't matter about the physical aspect; it's the spiritual which counts. The main meaning of dreams is the spiritual one which is conveyed in allegory.)
...I enclose some other items which we are sending to about 130 others still in the WCG, and to about 50 more who have left and joined United or some other groups... keep hammering away at the walls which surround these folks... make a big enough hole for them to see outside and get a glimpse of the spirituality that is there if they would only look!
Please feel free to copy anything which you feel you can send to friends. Personal challenges by friends are the most effective... [If we send it] mostly it just gets binned or ignored!
Such is the stupidity of a closed mind! Malcolm B Heap
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