In this post I will relate some experiences that I have personally had as well as a few others related to me by those who witnesses of them.
Before writing this post I should mention that I by no means speak for all or even a few Pentecostals in this writing. A man's perspective and view of the world and his experiences are all personal. They may be generally shared with others, but yet are also as individual as a snowflake. I write this as a person who is inclined when his contemplation of a wrong action or unkind thought towards brothers or sisters in Christ is interrupted by stubbing his toe to thank God for the interruption. I view it as a mercy, if it happened more often I would have sorer feet but a better walk. Thus compared to many brethren I know I am a little peculiar. I think some of my somewhat peculiar world view may have to do with my ancestry, particularly the Kentucky Irish/Native American received from my mother. All I know for certain is that I firmly believe that the spiritual world is not only real, but more real than the tangible.
One example of what I mean comes from two visits I made to Rwanda. The first visit was last year and though I had heard of the genocide there I did not really know much about it. This journey was taken with my cousin who is also a missionary though in another country. The pastor we were visiting had wanted to take us to the genocide memorial, but the day we scheduled to do it was a public holiday and it was closed. The one night though I had a vivid dream in my hotel room there. In my dream I was a black man and I was running and trying to hide from men in the genocide. Waking up from this I panicked at seeing the mosquito net lying over me and gave it as stout a kick as possible, waking up, and probably scaring my cousin who was sharing the hotel room. He knew I had had a nightmare, but I wasn't able to talk much about it. The dream came before I had heard much about the genocide, but because of the dream I had more of an understanding of the trauma it inflicted in the country. This year I went on a second visit to Rwanda and went to the genocide memorial. Frankly I was a little scared because having a good memory, there are some things I'd rather not plant in my head. Still I felt I should go, if for no other reason than to know some of the burden carried by the church in that nation and the obstacles they face. The odd thing was, that though the photos and things shown were all disturbing, it didn't really drive home the awfulness of what had happened there. For me that happened when we went to the mass graves just outside the memorial. When I was there, I could sense death and the whole indescribable sadness of what had happened. For me while a picture may be worth a thousand words, an impression upon the soul is even more talkative. Of course with so many people buried there, many unsaved with their iniquity lying on their bones (Ezek. 32:27), I would be more surprised if I felt nothing at all.
If anything I write seems a little odd, eccentric or even foolish I only beg the prayer of the reader that I might by God's grace be found in the end to be a harmless eccentric fool. There are few experiences I have had which encourage me not to totally shrug off my feelings.
- Some Examples of Spiritual Sense
In one case when I was in Singapore for a 6 month stay, I had one night where my sleep was really badly disturbed my nightmares and I had a real sense that something bad was going on in the spirit. That morning I awoke to see that the night had inaugurated Hungry Ghost Festival, something I had never heard of, but consisting of basically a one month long Halloween where joss sticks are burned under most trees, paper effigies of gifts being burned and offerings of fruit all for people's departed relatives. Since I had no idea of any of this yet felt something was going on it confirmed me in trusting my spiritual sense.
The second case I will mention was a prayer meeting I was invited to attend at a certain place. It was a spur of the moment thing on my part, and I had no idea of anything except that it was an interdenominational prayer meeting. When the praying began, two ministers began by opening in prayer. The first man brought an immediate sense of the presence of God to my spirit and I knew he was a man of God and was heard of God. The second man also prayed and I felt a sense that it was all show for him. Without saying anything to anyone, one of my friends who was there told me who men were a little later. The first man was a man whom I had never met but was well respected among the churches of that area, confirming what I had felt. The second man was a pastor that had taken to performing card tricks (literally) and other antics in the pulpit to bring people into his church so he could preach to them. I do not usually consider, or even want to consider someone's spiritual state when they pray, but in this case without my having any possible prejudice one way or another, not knowing who these men were, my spirit bore witness with what the known facts of their lives also spoke.
- One Example of Someone Speaking a Known Human Language While Speaking in Tongues
I currently assist my parents in a work which they pioneered in Malawi, one of the main parts of which is a Bible School. For a few years I was absent from the work here, serving on other fields. During this time there was a student who when he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues spoke the praises of God in Shona. Shona is a language spoken in Zimbabwe, but not in Malawi. Of the class at that time of 20-30 students only one actually knew Shona and he informed the leadership that the man was praising God in Shona. There is no reason to believe that we are aware of that the man speaking in tongues had ever heard or learned Shona. I was informed of this incident by my parents and their testimony was corroborated by Rev. Mario Manyozo who acts as interpreter in the Bible School.
- An Example of a Word of Knowledge
In one case while we were praying for a certain pastor in the Bible school, my mother received a vision of a women hiding something. She asked him if that meant anything to him, and he said that it did not. Mom still felt it strongly and asked him if he was sure. He denied it again, but then as we were about to begin to pray for someone else he came forward and confessed that his wife was practicing witchcraft, she had been doing it openly, and then had stopped for a while before starting again but secretly. This is one incident I witnessed, but I know of another similar one. In our early days at the Bible school we had many pastors and elders from rural areas who were involved in witchcraft come to the Bible School. Some were delivered, some decided to remain in it. The Bible school has been going for 8 years now, and we see less of these sort of problems now.
- The Reality of the Enemy
There are many times I have experienced spiritual attacks during my life. Two are worth noting here.
When I was 16 years old and living in South Africa, I began to pray for the neighborhood I lived in and took regular walks while quietly praying. After I had been doing this for a short time, one night I was awoken by a very heavy knee pressing down right on my solar plexus. It was heavy enough I could not breathe. I could not see anyone, but I felt the evil presence. I managed to gasp out, "Jesus, help." Immediately, the weight removed, but the evil presence was still in the room. I continued to pray and after a while it left.
Another time on a trip out to a village in Malawi for ministry, me, my brother Justin, and my then-friend-now-brother-in-law were sharing a sleeping quarters. They were both soundly sawing logs, but every time I would shut my eyes, I would see a picture in my mind of a face leering at me or later a cobra rearing up. Feeling my fair share of self-pity since the others were apparently undisturbed I prayed through. It was more than an hour before I could sleep though I don't know how much longer. There was still some opposition in the service the next morning but we felt something got through. Later I found out part of the problem, this church was the one where the pastor's wife was practicing witchcraft. After this time she stopped, until later when she went back to it secretly as previously mentioned.
- Experience Involving a Young Man with a Tatoo
When I was in South Africa there was a young man I knew who had known the Lord but then had walked away. During this time he had gotten a few tattoos. When he got them they told him that they were African tribal symbols. After a time he came back to the Lord, and a few weeks after that he told us that the one night he woke up and he felt a burning where the tattoos were, and when he looked they had faded, not completely gone, but they were much less visible than before. We encouraged him to keep on praying that they would be totally removed, but unfortunately he later went back into the world. I firmly believe that had he continued following God the tattoos would have totally disappeared.
While on this subject I should just mention not only are tattoos forbidden by Lev. 19:28, but if you study the origins of it is often linked with spiritism, the designs being put on in accordance with a vision given to a shaman, or to the one receiving the mark. Also included in this would be ritual scarring like the Sioux did in their sundance and is done in a multitude of different ways in other religions as well. A mark is a symbol of ownership. Having a mark on your person that is a symbol of another spirit gives that spirit the right to you. That is the main reason pagan societies used tattoos, warpaint, etc… Indeed, among some tribes such as the Sioux warriors specifically saught a spirit guide in a trance prior to putting on warpaint. The paint dictated by the spirit enabled that spirit to enter and energize them. Similar practices were found among the Picts and among Viking berserkers. With berserkers they were known to become so enraged they bit shields and other hard objects, and after snapping out of it had long fits of depression, a clear sign of the demonic possession and bondage involved in the whole thing.
- An Experience Showing that God's Word Speaks to Every Situation
Once when I was in Bible School I was reading a book on Bible Archaeology, this particular one was by a skeptical man who tried to cast a lot of doubt on what the Bible said concerning certain events. As I was reading this it was as if a mental band came over my mind making it hard to reason against. I was very disturbed, put the book down, but still felt this band pressing in on my mind. Later that day as I was praying and reading Scripture, I came across Psalm 101:3, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me." Realizing that this was precisely applicable to my case, I repeated it several times out loud, especially the last part. The band broke. I have had similar experiences since. It is very important what we read and watch, especially if it is something made by one who has backslidden and forsaken God it can cleave to us and produce unbelief in us.
Those are some experiences I have had and seen. They will prove nothing to anyone who does not desire to see, but with a clean conscience I cannot pretend I don't feel things I feel or see things I see. Also if I am making a decision and weighing evidence and looking at Scripture to determine a course of action, I must consider all evidence I have before me, unless wish to make an ill-informed decision.
I should add in closing that sometimes we can be confused by things that happen to us, but if we cast ourselves on Christ He will show us the way out. Often we will realize that there are Scriptures applicable to our situation even if the situation is odd in itself. This is as it should be, if spiritual things are real , and the Bible is a spiritual book, we should expect it to have answers in any spiritual experience we encounter. Some must be rejected, as the Bible has a long list of abominable spiritual practices – necromancy, etc... Christ will give us victory over the enemy and can also impart understanding of our situations as we trust in Him. Praise God!