November 24, 2017

Am I the Unbeliever?

A good and dear friend recently updated me on developments in her recent spiritual journey.

Let’s stop here. If you’re reading this, here’s a question for you: What do you expect to hear now?

Thought about it? Good. Let’s go on.

Most of what she told me about would go in the category of signs and wonders.

A prayer was answered with the sudden appearance of a rainbow, and so on. Mystical, personal stuff in the realm of answered prayers and personal experience. Her entire spiritual life is not studying scripture, but about what she describes as a “deep, personal experience of God” that includes His very real activity to show His hand in signs and wonders.

Scripture isn’t absent, but my friend’s journey is one where experience is leading and scripture is following. My friend is immensely happy, by the way, and closer to Jesus than ever before.

I had to immediately admit that this isn’t my journey and isn’t likely to ever be. I’m honestly afraid of anything in the category of “signs and wonders.” I’m very suspicious of any and all personal religious experience of this sort. I’m a skeptic when I hear most testimonies of miracles or signs. I tend to think that it isn’t true, is exaggerated or won’t last.

I’m ruthless to preachers in this regard. When I preacher talks off into a story of a miracle, sign or wonder, I’m wearing a helmet that says “Don’t try that stuff on me.” I’m kinder to regular Christian folk, but I’ve still got a skeptical attitude that the devil himself would admire.

I believe that religion, as a human phenomenon and by its very nature, creates a world where people believe that things happen that haven’t happened. The line between fact and reality goes very thin and takes a good bit of the week off.

I don’t find it at all unusual that a guy like Todd Bentley can say the last three rows at his meeting were all in caskets dead yesterday or that angels are tossing elephants around in the green room. And I’m not surprised that people believe him and defend him.

Now I won’t argue with you that there’s a problem with me in this area. (If you haven’t noticed.) Christianity is a religion of miracles that are essential to its existence. While I would stand by my frequent assertion that the number and frequency of miracles in the Bible is generally over-emphasized and exaggerated, I’m all signed up to affirm that the Bible is a record of miracles, signs and wonders.

I know that the Christian worldview is open to the intervention of God. I’m not a deist. I pray for God’s intervention all the time. I’ve experienced it. My family was once awakened from a sound sleep to discover our house on fire. How? By a noise in the street that I just happened to get up to check out….and thereby discovered the laundry room on fire. I’ve seen God answer prayer for my wife, my children, my mother and the ministry where I work.

But there’s no doubt that I have a bias in this area. Is it an over commitment to logic? An inevitable part of the Protestant use of the Bible? Residual damage from being a Calvinist?

There was a time, when I was a very young Christian, that I was part of a Charismatic prayer group that did little other than sing, pray for miracles and talk about miracles. When I left that chapter of my journey, I didn’t leave angry or hurt, but I wonder if I left feeling superior? Convinced I- at that time a dispensationalist- knew more than those kinds of people?

Have I spent so many years preaching, that I’m convinced God works by argument? By debate and verbal persuasion? How did I get so biased against the many other ways that God certainly uses to wake us up, draw us to himself and assure us of his presence?

Am I frightened by the unordered, uncontrollable aspect of God the Holy Spirit? Have I fled to the security of God working through chapter and verse so that I can understand him? Does my skepticism give me the illusions and delusions about God that keep my feeling safe and in control?

My friend’s spiritual journey hasn’t made her a raving loon. She doesn’t claim to hear voices or see visions. If she did, I don’t think it would turn her into someone bizarre and embarrassing.

My friend Pat had two heart transplants before he died a few years ago. When he came back from his first one, he was profoundly changed by a vision of Jesus on the cross, there in his hospital room. He told the story many times, with obvious and sincere emotion. It assured him of God’s love and salvation. After years of alcoholism and living far from God, he loved the cross of Jesus, and he believed he’d been taken to it that day.

I know a dozen explanations for what happened to Pat. Doctors can explain it to you. So can most psychologists and more than a few counselors. But the thing is, Pat didn’t see Jesus all the time, like Harvey the Rabbit. He saw the cross once, in a vision, and his life was changed. It was “outside the Bible,” but it was very much inside the Bible, too.

My friend’s journey isn’t an exposition of Romans. It’s a discovery that God is out there, beckoning her own to another chapter of loving God and loving neighbor. She’s sane as a judge. And she believes a rainbow appeared out of nowhere, just for her.

I’m the skeptic, and I assure myself that my skepticism makes me a believer in what God has said in scripture. (I mean, I have an ESV Study Bible!) But I have to face the fact that I’m often an unbeliever in the God beyond the page. I’m a skeptic about experiences happening today like those I read in the life of Abraham, Jacob and Moses.

Somehow, I sense that for all the theology I’ve imbibed, by faith and my connection with God are smaller. And while some will say that my friend and others have walked away from the Bible, I’m wondering if they have taken the Word into the Wild, where the God who surprises with signs and wonders still lives.

Comments

  1. I, too, am skeptical when others seem to look for flash-and-dash, oops I mean signs and wonders, rather than Word. Yet, I can look back through my life and point to numerous points when the hand of God came down and interacted directly in my life — saving me from death, providing help that I thought I wasn’t going to get, and other changes/services. None of these was miraculous — every one was done through the hands of a human person, yet every one was also a direct intervention by my Creator. Funny thing is, most of the time, I wasn’t aware of what was really going on until later. Where do these experiences fit in?

  2. IMONK: I love you..cuz your SO human 🙂 and SO honest!! >>>>Somehow, I sense that for all the theology I’ve imbibed, by faith and my connection with God are smaller. And while some will say that my friend and others have walked away from the Bible, I’m wondering if they have taken the Word into the Wild, where the God who surprises with signs and wonders still lives.
    Yip…the Wild….except instead of taking the Word into the Wild…the Word has taken me into the Wild. Imonk, you ‘know’ Eden happened. You ‘know’ God through the apostles healed and cast out demons. You ‘know’ Grace is real. The voices and visions I experience (I know you don’t really think I’m a ‘loon’) are all grounded in the Word. The Word has to reveal the meaning. Also, I ‘know’ His voice…like He said we would. He calls me by my name,Carolyn,just like He knew Peter’s name. But let me tell you…you may be much better off to have never had those experiences. God promised, ‘where much is given, much is required.’ These things are real because He is ALIVE. His Word is ALIVE. Experiences with Him and from Him are ALIVE. When I was very you, I asked my Mom, “Is speaking in tongues really from God?” Being a Baptist, I expected her to say, ‘No, just those Holy Rollers do that.” But that was not her answer. She simply said, “Honey, I don’t know. That has not been my experience.” So…there you go, Michael, you are not suppose to know about all that. It’s not been your experience. But, I’m prayer, if its God will, that He will BLOW YOUR MIND with His real presence. Something like, “Good morning, Michael!” Love ya lots.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I tend to be careful (as opposed to skeptical) of any feeling or awareness issuing from my inner core, having learned many years ago that feelings are inaccurate indicators of reality. That said, there have been times when I was later sorry I had ignored what seemed to be a prompting to do or say something at a particular moment in time.

    Concerning matters external to, but affecting my person (and life), I have had extraordinary answers to prayer (and intervention in times of extreme crisis) that I cannot describe as anything other than miraculous (in the supernatural sense). These events are also burned into my consciousness in a way that other events are not – years later, they are still vivid, even in detail. Happenings of this type have been few, but that they happened there can be no doubt.

    My theologically unsophisticated conclusion is that God is God, the sovereign of everything seen and unseen, and he can use whatever means he chooses (ordinary or extraordinary) to answer prayer, direct the believer or intervene in his/her life, according to his will and good pleasure, and ultimately, to the glory of his Name. This in no way diminishes the importance of Scripture; rather, events of this nature (when they are genuine) serve to remind us that the God of Scripture is the same God yesterday, today – and forever.

    When we pray, we should expect that our Father will respond – and then leave the means of doing so up to him instead of (unconsciously, perhaps) imposing limits on an infinite God. JMHO.

    Peace.

  4. Oh, by the way. I took your advice….started my own blog…..internetelias.wordpress.com

  5. As someone who grew up overseas, I have a different take on this. Westerners are children of the Enlightenment, and that rational streak is very strong in our history and tradition, coloring many of our perceptions. One of the results is that we tend to the extremes on both sides of the question when it comes to signs and miracles. In short, we’re a bit schizophrenic about the whole business.

    Many people on the other side of the world don’t have this history. Muslims (and many other religions also) put great stock in miracles, signs and wonders, and I believe this is one of the reasons they figure so prominently in many Muslim conversios to Christiantity; God in His mercy and grace communicates in ways we can relate to understand.

    And there are ways to discern the legitimate from the fakes. In general, legitimate signs and wonders will be unexpected; engender humility; glorify Jesus and build his kingdom, not anyone else’s; affirm the great truths of Scripture; bring a person closer to Jesus.

  6. Alan, to answer your questions:

    1. By what? We were enlightened by systematically investigating the world through our senses, which involved investigating the many stories and claims of supernatural events that people tend to make.

    2. To what? To the fact that faeries are not real, that witches do not steal penises, that the planets do not orbit the earth, that one cannot turn lead into gold, and so on.

    Yes, the Enlightenment principles got overzealous, but don’t knock it too much…it’s the reason you have a computer to be able to respond to this in the first place.

  7. Michael, I know it sounds like a complete cliche, but God is bigger than your box and bigger than my box.

    While I don’t hold with glitter and feathers and gold teeth, God could do that anytime if He wanted to. Only real things are counterfeited. No counterfeiter counterfeits a three dollar bill.

    I didn’t used to hold with tongues or gifts in operation today either. They weren’t in my box. “When that which is perfect is come” meant the completion of the written Scriptures, I was told. Now I read as “What that which is Perfect is come” and it means when the Lord returns. We have been in the church age for 2000 years now (although I’m no longer a dispensationalist) and everything that happened shortly after the beginning of the present age could happen again shortly before the end. Or anywhere in between. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

    I like the last stanza of the old hymn, “The Sands of Time”:

    The Bride eyes not her garment,
    But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
    I will not gaze at glory,
    But on my King of grace.
    Not at the crown He giveth,
    But at his pierc-ed hand.
    The Lamb is all the glory
    In Immanuel’s Land.

    Maybe God has turned our boxes upside down so that we will look elsewhere for Him.

    (I must sound like a fool. I can’t help it.)

  8. I’m back, but this will be short. On the subject of rainbows as signs from God – the evening I was to meet my eventual husband on a blind (but chaperoned by the matchmaker) date, I was so nervous that I was on the verge of a panic attack, and ready to cancel the date. The weather was stormy and kind of tornadic, which wasn’t helping my anxiousness as I drove home from work. I prayed about it–and to not get blown to Kansas–as I drove, and as I prayed, I rounded a curve and saw a perfect rainbow, right there in front of me, in the middle of a dark and story sky. Rainbows have always had a calming effect on me, not because I believe they’re a sign for something each time, but because when I see them I remember their original purpose-a promise from God, and that God keeps his promises. So seeing it got my mind off of my fears and calmed me down.

    Do I think God hung that rainbow in the sky right at that moment just for me? Not really. But I do believe he helped me be in the right place at the right time to see it when I needed it most. And I’m really grateful that I didn’t cancel that date.

  9. Jean…what a touching comment. ‘Peace’ is only from the heart of God. From my observations of friends of mine who have similar experiences like the early experiences of your life, it basically seems to be about physical…not spiritual healing. Christ came to redeem the soul of man….not just the ‘dusty’ physical body. Christ often asked them to ‘tell no one’ because He didn’t want to distract from His actual mission on earth, redemption of man’s soul. But, as the Word says, ‘He was moved with compassion.’ He just couldn’t help Himself. My personal visions and ‘voices’ from God…are for the purpose of equipping me with the work He has CALLED me to. I apply them to my life and they ‘do’ bring forth fruits. But even the ‘fruits’ are only usually known by those involved. Don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing…and all that. GOD BLESS YOU.

  10. Does Paul say in Colossians 2:16-19 that we shouldn’t listen to those who tell us about their visions?

  11. Michael, Josh is up there talkin’ about penises again!!

    Of course, that was a bit of a rhetorical question Comrade. Reason is good, m’kaay. But it is limited, and unaided by Grace, which to us at this point, is “super-natural,” cannot grasp God. That’s kinda what I was gettin’ at. Peace to youn’s.

  12. Does Paul say in Colossians 2:16-19 that we shouldn’t listen to those who tell us about their visions?

    Not necessarily, at least not totally, as if it were a universal prohibition – doesn’t seem like the context leans that way.

    Maybe more like – be careful about these folks who come at you who live only by visions and things on the fringe, who have no root in the Center, who is Christ. Something like that.

    Because, there are legitimate visions and prophecies and the like – things that the Holy Spirit works in the Body, for whatever reason here and there, for the building up of the same Body of Christ.

    So, we stay deeply connected to the Center, inside the boundaries, and open to God the Holy Spirit in us and in our siblings.

  13. As someone who grew up overseas, I have a different take on this. Westerners are children of the Enlightenment, and that rational streak is very strong in our history and tradition, coloring many of our perceptions. One of the results is that we tend to the extremes on both sides of the question when it comes to signs and miracles. In short, we’re a bit schizophrenic about the whole business.

    Many people on the other side of the world don’t have this history. Muslims (and many other religions also) put great stock in miracles, signs and wonders, and I believe this is one of the reasons they figure so prominently in many Muslim conversios to Christiantity; God in His mercy and grace communicates in ways we can relate to understand.

    And there are ways to discern the legitimate from the fakes. In general, legitimate signs and wonders will be unexpected; engender humility; glorify Jesus and build his kingdom, not anyone else’s; affirm the great truths of Scripture; bring a person closer to Jesus.

    Amen to all of this, John.

  14. “Does Paul say in Colossians 2:16-19 that we shouldn’t listen to those who tell us about their visions?”

    If so, several books of the Bible should be ignored, most noticably Revelation. Then there’s Peter’s vision in Acts, Paul talking about his vision of heaven and his encounter with Jesus etc.

    I would certainly say if you vision conflicts with what we acknowledge as the inspired word of God then you need to chuck the vision. Also, to those who think the Pentecostal view of prophesy is new revelation for the Church…eh, not so much. At least not in any church I’ve been in. We do believe that God sometimes has things to say to specific people or local bodies about problems (think Revelation 2-?) or guidance about what to do. Sorry, the Bible just doesn’t cover “Should we buy this land now?” or “Is this job right for me?”. Think Agabus telling Paul of his trip to Jerusalem. This doesn’t mean God issues special spoken memos for every need.

    DD

  15. “Does Paul say in Colossians 2:16-19 that we shouldn’t listen to those who tell us about their visions?”

    No, he doesn’t. He’s telling us not to be bothered by legalists (judging about meat and drink) and the only-outwardly-religious folk (who insist on observing holy days, sabaths, new moons) or advocates of the downright weird (self-willed humility, worshipping angels) and to keep our eyes and minds on Christ as we grow in Him.

    Good advice.

  16. I think that a certain level of sceptisism is a healthy default. Signs and wonders are out of the ordinary by their vey definition and we know that many people have made stuff up for one reason or another. How many times have we all told a story alittle better than it happened either to make a point or to look good?

    I also don’t think that we should be worried about your friend if they are indeed telling the truth. The point of the Bible is to grasp the content and to do what is required of us in it. If someone is able to do that through another means, then good for them. Most of the characters in the Bible managed without one.

    It seems that people who study scripture a lot tend to worry when they meet peole who don’t seem to need to do that and people who have more regular supernatural interactions with God see people who’s relationship with God is heavy on the study side, they worry that they are missing something as well. It could be true in both cases, but there is not necessarily something essential missing to knowing and faithfully serving God.

  17. treebeard says:

    Bob, I’m glad the story resonated with you. Thanks for the compliment. I agree with you, many young people need to hear this sort of thing, so they learn not to be falsely spiritual. “God showed me that cute girl who smiled at me will be my wife!” If only it were so simple…
    I neglected to point out that this sister was attractive, talented, and very flirtatious (in a naive way). It’s no wonder that several of us thought she was “the one.” That was actually a very painful time in my life, because my love for her was not reciprocated, and I thought I was so clear that we should be together. But the Lord taught me a lot through that whole experience, for which I’m grateful.

  18. treebeard, just wanted to say that I appreciated your post, and I hope you’ll publish the content of it elsewhere.

    Why?

    Well, one good reason is: that I was viewed as “the One” by someone whose feelings I didn’t reciprocate. It was a very difficult situation, especially because the guy was so convinced that he’d “heard from the Lord.”

    He’s married now, to someone who really *is* a good match for him. (Which I wouldn’t – couldn’t – have been.)

    I should perhaps note that neither of us were college students at the time this happened. In fact, we were both several decades past that.

    The kind of thinking you’re talking about might be more obvious in young folks, but we can get confused (even deluded) at any age. 😉

  19. Hey!
    I’m not saying that miracles and signs don’t happen.
    I’m saying that most of what has been told to me first hand seems to be BS or hysteria.
    We have all we need.
    John 20:29 (New American Standard Bible)

    29Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? (A)Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

    I Peter:8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

    Faith is better than sight.
    Sight is between you and the Lord.

    I’m mainly sick of the circus.
    I’ll take faith over tricks every day of the week.

  20. IMONK: >>> Does Paul say in Colossians 2:16-19 that we shouldn’t listen to those who tell us about their visions?
    No. He says you shouldn’t listen to puffed up pretenders who clearly know nothing of Christ and His Truth.
    I’ve not shared any vision with you and don’t plan to do so. They are sacred…not something I discuss lightly. They are for me. They are based on the Word. They give me understanding of the Word. They have brought comfort to myself and others in times of serious crisis. They under gird me with what I need to fulfill the purpose God has call me to. They are ‘meat’. They are very serious. They are truly ‘pearls.’

  21. Carolyn,

    Couple of questions:

    1) Can your visions be wrong?

    2) How do they relate to scripture?

    peace

    ms

  22. IMONK: I have shared many times and many places about hearing the voice of Elias. The Word tells me, ‘what I tell you in the ear..shout it from the rooftops.’ Also, how could I hear Elias, in an audible voice say loudly, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, math His paths straight’….and not share it? I love all of you too much to keep something like that to myself! But…listen..I’m not stupid. Most didn’t believe the prophets …and most are not going to believe me.

  23. Carolyn,

    It’s reasonable to assume that anyone claiming the kinds of experiences you report is going to have to answer some questions. Such questions are not expressions of unbelief unless your position is that people should accept anyone claiming a visionary experience of a Biblical person without question.

    If questions can’t be answered, then why should anyone except the visions as genuine?

    The pertinent questions are:

    1) Why is God speaking particularly to you? If this makes you a prophet, do you have prophetic authority and prophetic infallibility?
    2) How does these visions relate to the Bible in terms of authority?

    peace

    ms

  24. This post is right on target. Faith is not knowing, and never being absolutely sure – and if someone is absolutely sure, then something is wrong. I guess Jesus speaks to some people, but not to me.

    Working with sick people over the years I have been disheartened by the false claims of good Christians who cannot accept that a miraculous healing has not occurred and that their loved one is going to instead suffer and die like our Lord did. Many times I have heard people tell what exactly the Lord is telling them He will do – usually heal them of x, Y and Z. Only one man has told me “My grace is sufficient.” Skepticism is not popular, but it is healthy. But I wonder if I were living in the time of Jesus, would I believe those stories about Jesus? More than a Thomas, I would have been a scoffer.

  25. IMONK: Didn’t see your questions until just now, 8:48 am. I’ll take a little time for thought so I can answer you in a way matching the sincerity of your questions.

  26. This is in direct response to Michael. I’ve not read any of the other responses.

    Prior to a specific event in 2001, my thinking and approach to Christian experience of signs and wonders would have been exactly as described by Michael’s comments. After this event, it’s hard for me to think of faith outside of my experience. After Paul’s Damascus road experience, could he ever think about God the same again? Was there any part of his faith that was not charged and changed by the event?

    When I spoke and wrote of faith prior to my experience, it was always in rational terms. I tried to describe the Christian faith as if it were an architectural structure. Or I might describe it in a detached and clinical manner the way a physician does the surgical procedures performed upon a living human body. I now tend to do it as if I am the body upon which the operation is taking place. It’s become more personal, and harder to see with the same clinical detachment as before.

    What is truer? Is it the operation given by the physician, or the one given by the one under the knife? Surely each is valid, if insufficient by themselves. A surgeon who operates upon their own child will likely think differently than one who has never met their patient.

  27. e2c, thanks for your comment.
    One time, years after all this happened, I was driving home from work. For some reason all the frustration and bitterness of this time came back to me. So I started talking with the Lord about it, asking why I had been misled. It seemed like He had set me up to fall in love, and then given me “signs” to say that this was my future wife. I was very angry, and admittedly full of self-pity.

    Then it dawned on me. I suppose you could say I heard the Lord’s voice. For the first time I realized that I had put this sister through something very unfair. I had kept pursuing her long after she made it clear she wasn’t interested. I called her, wrote her letters, etc. And always with the feeling, which I’m sure she could pick up, “You belong to me. Some day you’ll know. The Lord has told me that you are mine. I’ll keep praying until it happens.”

    Anyway, it wasn’t until many years later, while I was praying about all this, that I realized how incredibly selfish I had been. I had been imposing my presumptions on her. If I had truly loved her (from a Christian perspective), I never would have been so demanding or controlling. Of course, I was very immature humanly and spiritually. In a way I was just doing what many people do, courting and pursuing someone despite the love being unrequited. But the ugly part of it was bringing God into it. “The Lord allowed me to fall in love with you” – that kind of thing. This put pressure on her that I assumed was from God, when it never really was. This was terribly unfair to her, and shows that my love for her was selfish and not sacrificial. All I could do, as I drove my car, was repent and tell the Lord I was sorry. And I prayed that He would bless this sister and that she would find happiness wherever she was.

    My point, e2c, is that I hear where you’re coming from. I’m sorry you went through what you did. For some reason we Christian men can be very self-deceived, and think we have the Lord’s voice, and even His authority. (Hence the reason I’m commmenting about it here, as an example of being misled by “signs and wonders.”) It’s a very dark thing, but it’s also human nature. Anyway, since I can’t apologize directly to that sister, I apologize to you for how that brother treated you. I hope the Lord can heal any wounds that remain.

  28. Imonk >>>> Q. Why is God speaking particularly to you? If this makes you a prophet, do you have prophetic authority and prophetic infallibility?

    I don’t know why God is speaking particularly to me. I’ve always felt in my heart it’s related to 1 Cor.2:27 “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty….”. Since my experiences began so early in my life, I, too, think its related to, “Joel 2.28 …I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will phophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” Concerning gifts of the spirit discussed in Corinthians, I believe mine to be a gift of knowledge…as well as the gift of Prophecy. Many of the visions give me pictorial explanations of scripture. A picture is indeed worth a 1000 words. Visions having to do with actual events…e.g. seeing my fourth-born child with God…fifteen years before he was conceived…came to pass on August 5th, 1983. In the same vision He showed me the failure of the Church in ministering to people just outside its doors. The end result was the spiritual death of those people. So I can prophesy that God is not pleased with those ‘called by His name’ who have no love for their neighbor. In a vision in third grade, I fell off a high bridge into the dark,cold waters below. Nobody saw me fall. I knew help would not come. I kept falling down, down, down..never short of breath..thinking..”I’m going to drown. And I don’t know what it will be like. When I calmly resigned myself to the inevitability of death…I calmly inhaled the water. But I felt nothing. No pain. No shortness of breath. No change had come to my physical body. Suddenly, I noticed, still falling spread eagle downward through the water…that the water was warming, becoming lighter, flowers began to appear, sunlight now is beaming through the water. By the time I floated like a feather to the bottom, there was no darkness. There was no cold. Everything was brightly lit. There was abundant and warm life everywhere. Because of the vision, I ‘KNOW’ we indeed pass from ‘death to Life.’

  29. Imonk >>>> Q. Why is God speaking particularly to you? If this makes you a prophet, do you have prophetic authority and prophetic infallibility?

    So after the vision, I can prophesy to all with authority…we indeed move from death to Life. In this earthy realm, the true Christian will NEVER see death. What we call death…isn’t death. This earthly existence we call life…isn’t Life. David said in the 23rd Psalm that his walk here is…. “the valley of the shadow of death.”

    Time won’t allow me to tell the many, many experiences…and much greater…than the ones mentioned. The greatest, was seeing the supernatural power of Jesus in human flesh…and knowing, without ANY doubt, that He gave Himself, willingly, to death. The Romans could never have TAKEN Him by force…had He not permitted it. But, I can tell you that because the many things He has shown me in vision…has come to pass, I ‘know’ in my heart that the ones not yet fulfilled…will happen just as He showed me. I have seen a nearby interstate with its pavement turned to rubble. I died a painless and fear-free death at the hands of soldiers of the anti-christ (‘fear not those who can kill the body’). I have seen the earth ‘pass away’ (Rev. 21:1 “…for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away…” I saw like it was a HUGE whirlwind erase the earth away like it was chalk on a chalkboard. So I can now tell you emphatically, ….there will be a new heaven and a new earth and Rev. 21:24 “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it…”

    CONCERNING INFALLIBILITY: Only time will tell. I know a prophet is validated as ‘of God’ if the things prophesided come to pass. I will share one troubling vison from more than twenty years ago. I saw bears…approximately twenty times taller than a house. In number they were about 5 per acre of ground. They were everywhere. They moved continually…walking with their bodies totally erect and their eyes looking straight forward. One toe of one bear could have crushed the house I was in as I watch them. Scripture teaches of the bear with teeth of iron that breaks into pieces. Those were the bears I saw. But their time was not yet. The most important thing about these bears …they were tromping American soil. I have seen 666…as they really are. But for the sake of ‘milk’ readers, it could be very upsetting.

    Visions are NOT dreams. Visions are ALIVE. You actually LIVE the event. And you never, never, forget a single experience. Romans 11:29 says God’s gifts and calling are without repentance. But, throughout my entire life, He’s given me a desire to ‘know’ deep things of God.

    I don’t see myself as a prophet. I see myself as a nobody….blessed of God to partake in the crumbs from His table.

  30. Anybody who knows: does Carolyn’s vision qualify as “special revelation”?

  31. OK, I’ve not read any of Todd Bentley’s “experience,” but if it’s really that funny, then I should. You had me rolling Michael. And I do love to laugh.

    I’ve thought about this a great deal, because as someone who is a “believer” and who believes the Bible, I figure I believe in supernatural events. I would love to have God-orchestrated supernatural experiences all the time. Maybe it would help me deal with the heaviness of life on this earth. But I don’t have them. And I’m forever asking God to help me not think of Him as some kind of magician. I think it might be easy to tip over into some wacky theology(speaking about myself, anyway). But then God can do anything. What do I know?

    I guess in “heaven” the supernatural will just be natural.

  32. Patrick:
    By special, do you mean “private revelation”? Special revelation includes Scripture and Tradition, as well as private revelations, any revelation outside of Nature.

    Were the Church to investigate a person’s claims and find them substantiated and orthodox, they would be considered “private revelation” and given the appellation “worthy of belief”. No one, even the visionary, would be compelled to believe them de fide. In the rule of faith, private revelation comes in pretty low and almost every other rule stands in judgment against it.

    Personally, I do not want any sort of revelation, sign, wonder, stigmata, etc… Experiencing the presence of God in prayer, I think, is the limit of my aspirations. “To whom much is given, much is expected” but also “Blessed are they who have not seen yet believe”.

  33. 1 John 4:1 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God:…….”

  34. Carolyn,

    I’m still wondering how your visions relate to scripture. Are they inspired in the same way scripture is inspired? Are other persons obligated to obey God by acknowledging your visions?

    Paul seems to have had a personal vision but he does not use it in an authoritative way. He calls his use of it with the Corinthians “foolishness.”

    peace

    ms

  35. I’m still wondering how your visions relate to scripture. Are they inspired in the same way scripture is inspired? Are other persons obligated to obey God by acknowledging your visions?

    Oh, Michael. I’ve not said anything to indicate that God, through me, is adding new scripture to the Word of God. Heaven forbid!

    My visions give me understanding of the one and only… already recorded …Word of God…the Bible.

    You are not supposed to understand. It has nothing to do with you. I was just responding, the best way I knew how, to the questions you asked.

  36. Imonk: Paul seems to have had a personal vision but he does not use it in an authoritative way. He calls his use of it with the Corinthians “foolishness.”

    Preaching the crucified Christ was considered by the Greeks..foolishness. Paul said the foolishness of God is still wiser than men. Also, Paul said the unbeliever cannot receive things of God…they are just ‘foolishness’ to them. But where in Corinthians does Paul say his being struck blind by God on the Damascus road….is foolishness?

  37. I was referring to II Cor 12.

    How can a vision that is Jesus speaking not be as authoritative as scripture?

    peace

    ms

  38. IMONK: When Jesus speaks..He only speaks the Word. He is the Word made flesh. (John 1:14)

    Concerning the 12th chapter 11 Corinthians: I see what you are referring to. There is no encounter that can more successfully reveal man’s weaknesses above that of encountering the Christ.

  39. IMONK..Now that I have you sufficiently confused, I’m going to let you move on to something else before you stand on your head and keyboard with your toes (ha)>

  40. Carolyn,

    I want you to understand that I am not unsympathetic here.

    I’ve had two experiences in my life where I believe God was speaking to me in an audible thought process. Not a vision or a “voice,” but a conversation that used my own mind’s sentence construction ability to “speak.”

    One of these experiences continues on a regular basis. But here’s the difference.

    1) I really never talk about this. I mean, I have talked about it, but I will go months without talking about it.

    2) Both experiences are intensely personal, and have to do with my most personal decisions.

    3) Neither are even remotely in the context of God talking to me about anyone else but himself and me.

    4) What God says about himself simply extracts and summarizes what I already know in a more personal form.

    5) God doesn’t answer most of my questions with anything more than “trust me.”

    6) Were I- and I am speaking for me here- to claim that I was receiving messages or visions, I’d really feel like I was lying. It’s simply a dimension of prayer.

    7) The second experience is directly related to reading “The Shack,” i.e. the idea of a dynamic conversation with God rather than simply prayer to God.

    thanks for talking

    ms

  41. One of the criteria recommended by RCC theologians in evaluating someone’s claim to be experiencing frequent visions and miracles is this: Is the person using these experiences in a way that results in attracting attention to themselves or in a lot of people telling them how wonderful they are? Or is the person free from any desire for attention, disinclined to think themselves “special” or exceptional, and continuing on the path of faith and humility?

    In my own life, I’ve certainly had experiences that I think were from God (nothing dramatic). To me, it seems that the best way to accept them is with gratitude coupled with a certain amount of honest detachment. If an amazing coincidence happens to me, my prayer tends — or at least aims –to be, “God, if this was You, thank You. If it wasn’t, I’m still grateful.”

  42. Chrissl, In the case of the Bible prophets, the things they brought from God to the people was very hard to hear. Most were rejected and killed. ‘Beware of those who men speak well of’ is still a pretty good gage of whether one is a true shepherd or messenger of God. Christ came with a ‘sword’…not ‘peace.’ Here, in my area, few know about my experiences. Basically, only those closest to me…even believe them. The experiences belong to God. They are His to do with as He purposes. For me, the end result of all my experiences…is a deep, deep, knowing….faith. For years now…the only prayer He has allowed me to pray is ‘Father, your will be done.”

  43. Imonk and others….We’ve had quiet a discussion concerning communications between God and man. But please know that I don’t consider myself a prophet(as in Isaiah,Jeremiah)…though…I do believe one of my spiritual gifts is prophecy (Corinthians). If one is considered a ‘prophet’ while using the gift of prophecy…the office still would not be like the prophets of the Old Testament. I do know that when God teaches scripture to me by showing me a ‘video-like’ episode of the related scripture….it has tremendous effect on me. It brings my spirit to its knees. As I read Revelations, I ‘see’ it like going to the movies and watching a big screen. And as I’ve said before, I am nothing…nobody…the least of the least. God Bless. I really enjoy all the posts and comments.

    For,maybe, a deeper sense of ‘me’…I spill my guts daily at internetelias.wordpress.com (internet elias).

  44. For guidance in both sorting these things out, and understanding, may I recommend a book.

    “A Still, Small voice” by Fr. Benedict Groeschel

  45. You re not an unbeliever. Sometimes the situation makes us skeptic and argument towards God, that mean we are not away from god. God is giving answer for our questions and doubt but it will be another person experience or situation or personal vision or dream. For example, I felt terribly about human because of growing in war zone. One day, I found an old woman carrying her own cloth bag for shopping. I saw her many times with that bag. She never use plastic bag. I asked why? She said that I like to protect the environment. I understood she give love to next generation through her lifestyle. I begin to feel there are some good people in the world, after that I knew there are lots of good people in the world. also I understand how important to protect the environment. In my viewpoint, God lives in that old woman heart

  46. I’ve seen one or two instances of Divine intervention. I’d be reluctant to share them, because they may not look as impressive on screen as they were to me in real life. But these experiences are a tremendous help to me now that almost everyone around me is an unbeliever, and I am having serious doubts myself. Theoretical knowledge turns out to be not enough in the face of doubts, and having a personal experience, however minor, helps. One thing I can say though, is that miracles happen when you expect them the least; and they are not always the exact thing you’d expect and pray for. In my case, I prayed and asked for one way out of my situation, and what I received instead was a completely different way out.

    I have something to share in response to Treebeard’s story. Something very similar happened to me, except in my case, I wanted to marry my boyfriend of two years, and he was all for it. External circumstances however, worked against us in every way possible. Once we made arrangements to get married in a church in my hometown where a close friend of mine worked, and the wedding had to be canceled at the last minute, because the church had been robbed. A Communion chalice was stolen among other things. This is just one example of things that got in the way of him moving to my town, finding a job there, and us getting married. It took me a great deal of effort to work through every single obstacle, we’ve been married 17 years and have two amazing kids. We do NOT however have a good marriage. I think that we shortchanged ourselves, and that we both would’ve been better off with other people or alone. I think we made a mistake when we pushed with all our energy against the circumstances… I think maybe they were not merely circumstances, if you know what I mean. What’s done is done, and we have to stick with the choice we made, but I want to warn young men and women facing the same choice today. It is so easy to confuse your own infatuation with God’s will. Of course I could be a mile off on this one. Who knows? One thing for sure, Treebeard should consider himself very lucky.