Close Encounters and Pinnacle Experiences

Richard DreyfusMaybe you’ve heard the phrase, “pinnacle experiences”, those rare moments in life when you feel like you’re on some kind of spiritual mountain and see things that are almost eternal, truths you almost never realized before. For many people, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience or perhaps a few times at most. You’re lifted above the mundane, the routine, the trivial, and you briefly glimpse eternal realities.

Moses on MountPerhaps not many in history more fully experienced that than Moses of the Old Testament. He literally was called up into a mountain to hear the very voice of God and to experience the very presence of God. We are told this went on for 40 days. Of course most of us have no way we can relate to that. But many of us have had “mountain peak” experiences, moments of clarity, purity, fullness of truth when we feel we see eternal things and understand things we almost never do.

And Moses was told, “See that you make all things according to how it was showed you on the mount” (Hebrews 8:5). And it’s still the same today. Those “mountain peaks” of truth the Lord lets us see glimpses of perhaps only a few times in our lives, those glimpses of how things can be, how things are in the hereafter through the Spirit of God, those are the ways of heaven that He wants us to emulate here on earth. I’ve had a few times like that and I’ve written about them in the category “Angels and Miracles“.

Dreyfus in truckThere’s an old movie that has become very famous, ‘”Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. One of the main characters, Richard Dreyfus, has a “close encounter” with a UFO which comes to hover over his truck as he drives around to fix power lines one night. His life is utterly changed. It’s like some kind of message or imprint has been made on his soul. He just keeps duplicating “what he saw on the mount”, what he experienced in those few moments with the UFO. He isn’t really the same person he was before, because of the mountain peak experience he had with the UFO.

This to me has always been a parallel of how it is and can be with our experience with God. Many of us have had a moment in the stillness, in the presence of the supernatural Spirit of God. It could have been a dream, it could have been in prayer, it could have been in reading His Word when the affairs of this life drop behind you, you are away from secular things and on the mount with God, even if for a moment.

And I believe that the same way God told Moses to do all things according as it was shown him on the mount, He says the same to us today. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Sometimes there are moments when we “see God”. It doesn’t happen all the time but it does happen. And if we hold on to that, if we retain and treasure in our hearts those moments with Him on the mount that He gives us, then we can bring that essence down from the mount, as Moses did.

It says that Moses’s face shown and glowed so much when he came down from Mount Sinai that he had to put a veil or covering over his face because he glowed with the light of God right then. That’s for us too. If we remember our paths to the mountains that He has taken us to, then we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need”. (Hebrews 4:16)

Glow with GodThose mountain peaks don’t have to be once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Maybe they aren’t everyday things. But the influence, the change, the glory, the infusion of His mighty Love and Light can remain with us and we come back to this world as Moses did when he came down from the mount. We can “go about everywhere doing good” (Acts 10:38), as Jesus did. We can be “instruments of his peace”, that Saint Francis prayed he would be. We can bring that imprint of the mountain back to this dark, sad world and be the light He has called us to be.

See that you do all things according to how it was shown you on the mountain” (Hebrews 8:5). May God help us to remember those mountain peaks of experience He gives us, to live in those moments, even if they’re now memories, and to let others see that heavenly realm in and through us. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men, they marveled and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

Strange, very strange. But true.

same day born flatAbout this time 15 years ago I moved back to Austin, Texas for a while. I wasn’t exactly backsliding but maybe I was “side-sliding”. I’d somewhat lost faith in myself as a Christian disciple. Frankly, it’s more difficult to have faith in yourself when it seems others don’t. I felt that my Christian service had plateau-ed for a long time. Anyway, that’s how it seemed to me and how I felt others saw me.

So I moved back to my home field, after living abroad for 27 years. I got a job, an apartment, bought a car and just starting being “normal”. But maybe a good verse that applies here is “Whether shall I go from Your Spirit or whether shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend up into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold You are there…” Beautiful, famous verses from Psalm 139. Perhaps I could apply the verse about the prodigal son who “took his journey into a far country and wasted his substance with riotous living.” (Luke 15:13) Maybe that doesn’t apply though. I think I was just discouraged about my life and needed a break.

One night I was over at a Christian get-together here in Austin. I was in the library of this friend’s house, some guy I didn’t know was talking and I heard him say that he was born in 19–. [I’ll leave out some of the specifics; not good to share all that stuff in these computer times.] So just to make conversion I said,

“Interesting; I was also born in 19–.”

So this guy said,

“Yep, September -, 19—.”

So I said,

“Wow! Really? That’s the same day I was born! September -, 19–!”

One or two times in my life I’d met someone who was born on the same day as me. What a surprise! But then this fellow said next, just out of the blue,

“Yep ——— Hospital; ——, Texas. September —-, 19–.”

I was dumbfounded! I said,

I was born in ——– Hospital, —–, Texas. September —, 19–!”

By this time everyone was quiet and looking at us. And I was really checking this guy out. This all just came out of nowhere. But then next he said,

“Yep, my dad and uncle worked on the ———– newspaper in —–, Texas.”

And I said,

“But my dad worked on the ——– newspaper in ——, Texas!”

This really happened; I’ve got witnesses. This guy is a friend now and still around. So we were beyond astounded and could hardly believe what had happened. We told the rest of the ones there that night and everyone was shocked and surprised. But for me, I was perhaps more than that. I’ve seen the miraculous hand of God in my life and in the lives of others. I knew this wasn’t just a coincidence; this was another of “God’s little miracles”; maybe not even that little. But why?

Why did the Lord let that happen? This guy could have said he was born in 19–; I could have said “So was I.” And then he could have smiled and left the room! But he just kept coming up with more info, without any prompting from me at all! I didn’t do anything; he just kept revealing more of his life that corresponded exactly with mine.

I told my parents about this experience later and my mom remembered his mom being in the same room with her in the hospital. My dad remembered his dad and his uncle who worked on the newspaper with him. What kind of odds would Las Vegas bookies give for something like this happening? One in a million? Probably more than that.

But why did this happen? Was there some message? Some purpose beyond just the “X-files” strangeness of the whole thing? I thought and prayed about that. I just knew it was the hand of the Lord, manifesting Himself at a time when I was not really aiming to follow His highest and best.

At length, I came to feel that the Lord engineered the whole thing that night to show me that He was still around. He hadn’t given up on me, even if others had and perhaps I myself had. He was still the God of miracles; He could do mighty things to show that He was God, still leading, if I was willing to follow.“If we believe not, yet He remains faithful…”  (II Tim 2:13) “He that has begun a good work in you will perform it” (Philippians 1:6)

filming 2003

Filming, 2003

And from those somewhat sad, secular times of around 15 years ago came the beginnings of the video ministry I’ve been working on for the last years. So many friends in Austin who I had classes with back then on the book of Daniel (including ones who were there that night) said to me, “”You should video these”.

And so, at length, hearing this three or four times from various quarters, I began to have the vision to make into videos the prophecies of Daniel classes that I’d taught abroad for over 20 years. But it was the Lord showing me that He was still present in my life, still willing to do miracles and set up a situation with someone I was born in the same hospital with, that helped to renew my faith again in Him. And perhaps, even more, in the calling of God in my life.

The lesson? Maybe it’s simply what the Lord told us all in His Word, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) I will never flatI guess in a sense I’ve had many lives, many endings, followed by new beginnings. That night in 2000 was like the dawn of a new day when I experienced that the God of miracles was still around, still able to come through, even when I’d more or less given up on myself. So? Keep the faith.

“The whirlwind and the storm”

tornadoYou may have read about the very severe storms in Texas over the last few days. Yesterday we had here in Austin one of the stronger rain events ever I think. Or maybe it wasn’t that much but it’s just that the ground has been so soaked already from the rain over the last month or two that the heavy rains almost immediately created a lot of flooding.

But with this I wanted to write you about another of “God’s little miracles”. Sometimes we don’t know what God does until after He’s done it. I read online today that there had been a tornado that touched down in Austin on Saturday night. So I looked up the info and it turns out that this was around a mile from where I live. And from the direction the storm was going, I was able to see that this tornado went over our house about a minute or two before it touched down.

It was not a real gigantic one like they can be; this one uprooted trees and tore off roofs a mere walk from where I live. I later remembered that Saturday night I was downstairs next to our fire place and it was making a whistling noise, not normal. So I figured the wind must be pretty strong outside. I went to the front door and it was not only raining hard, there was really a strong wind that was blowing the trees around. Bad, but not greatly unusual for Texas. But this must have been right at the time when this tornado cloud was going over us.

So it was a shock this morning to realize that we’d nearly been hit by a tornado, one of the stronger residual fears that everyone in this part of the world has somewhere in their mind. When I was a child, the city I was born in had an “F5” tornado that killed 114 people including my father’s cousin and the dad of one of my friend’s. So it’s just something that everyone in this part of the country knows you have to take seriously.

guardian-angelsI later thought about a verse I memorized years ago which I saw fulfilled in this deliverance and protection that we experienced here a couple of days ago, “The Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm”. (Nahum 1:3)

Our giants

One of the more interesting, and to me puzzling guys in the entire Bible is the patriarch Jacob. Probably some will chide me for saying so but he’s always seemed like almost an anti-hero among the pantheon of Biblical greats.

Jacob tricks Isaac, with Rebecca’s help

Jacob tricks Isaac, with Rebecca’s help

Jacob even means “deceiver”. He lied to his dad. He tricked his brother out of his inheritance. And he conspired with his mother to do these things. He ended up having to flee for his life and he never saw his beloved mother again. Did that really teach him a lesson and he was a changed man from then on? No, certainly not immediately it seems.

But then God had Jacob work under a more conniving and hard man than he himself was, his uncle Laban. It’s a long story but after some 21 years of work, growth and certainly some bitter lessons learned along the way, God spoke to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:4?)

“Oh, great”, you could say, “He’s finally going to be able to go home.”

Jacob and Laban

Jacob and Laban

In Jacob’s case, it was a good deal more problematic than that. By this time Jacob was pretty much a rich man, with vast flocks and herds, wives and children, servants and helpers. And his twin brother, Esau, who he’d so blatantly and subtlety tricked out of his inheritance, was a fairly major local warlord. One way we know this is because, when Esau heard that Jacob was on his way back, he gathered 400 of his personal troops to go out with him to meet his brother.

For what purpose? To get revenge? To give him a big hug? It seems Jacob didn’t really know. But most likely his conscience was still eating away at him because of the scoundrel/crook/rogue-like nature that seemed to be a part of his personality. And this is where it gets really interesting.

Did Jacob boldly walk at the head of his tribe and go forward to meet his brother? No, he sent almost everyone else ahead of him: wives, children, flocks, etc. And then, the night before he was to meet Esau himself, it turns out that the Bible says Jacob “wrestled” with an angel. (Genesis 32:24 & 25)

What a scene, what drama, what pathos. God had evidently softened Jacob’s heart through the years at least somewhat. It wasn’t just him alone anymore. He had a large family who he evidently loved very dearly. And now the possibility was strong that he would get what in most ways he deserved: judgment and destruction of himself and his whole family for the perfidy he’d worked on his parents and brother many years before. He probably knew that if that happened, he would only be getting what justice would decree.

Jacob’s giants were not like David’s hundreds of years later. Jacob’s giants were his own sins and his own evil inclinations. Had he outgrown the sins of his youth? Or was now the time when they would finally catch up with him and it would mean the death of himself and all he loved?

For most of us, our biggest enemy is not someone else, or even the Devil. Our biggest enemy is ourselves. “The devils are subject to us“. (Luke 10:17) But it’s our own evil spirit, our own ornery will that seems to constantly rise up like an ogre to defy God and to lead us astray, even without the devil’s help.

jacob and angelBut Jacob knew the jig was up. We don’t have the entire dialog of that night and all the details. But it must have been one of the most intense battles any man ever fought, pleading with God through the angel as Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Genesis 32:26)

What kind of blessing did Jacob need? Well the next morning he would face his brother and 400 armed men. He needed God to have his brother’s heart touched so that he would receive him as his long lost brother rather than as the trickster and villain he’d actually been. If ever someone had to get their heart right with the Lord and probably really plead with God for the cleansing and remaking he so desperately needed, it must have been Jacob right then.

It sounds like it went on for hours, hours of desperate prayer, wrestling not only with the angel but also his own sins that so easily beset him. But at last, Jacob found grace in God’s sight. The angel even gave Jacob a new name at that time, “Israel”, meaning prince of God and man, perhaps signifying that he was “a new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17) in God’s eyes.

Jacob and esau meetAnd although we don’t know all the story of that momentous night, we do know that, almost surprisingly, the next day Esau didn’t go forward to kill Jacob. It says, “And Esau ran to meet Jacob, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.” (Genesis 33:4) A heartfelt embrace of brothers, much matured and changed through the years who were just glad to see each other again.

Would things have been different if Jacob had not been so desperate in prayer the night before? I’ve always really thought that. Because Jacob really got down to desperate prayer with God, perhaps one of the most desperate in the Bible, most likely God was able to change Esau’s heart also to have mercy rather than justifiable judgment against his brother. God saw that Jacob himself was utterly desperate for God’s mercy and help and the Lord did a major miracle.

What a story. Our biggest enemy is ourselves. Getting the victory over “the sins that so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12:1) is our greatest challenge. And, let’s face it: a lot of us don’t always win that battle. May God help us all to fight our “giants” that defy us and will defeat us except for our desperate prayers for the Lord to “deliver us from every evil work and preserve us unto His heavenly kingdom.” (II Timothy 4:18)

Hell

The-devil-and-hopelessnessMaybe I should write more about hell. I’m tempted to say, “If anyone could write about hell, it’s me”. I wrote an article about my experiences which ultimately brought me to faith in God, called “Lucifer and the White Moths”. It was perhaps the seminal experience of my life, in which Satan came to claim my soul.

The seed and the eggBut when the Bible talks about hell, what the experience is like, it’s not as strange and foreign to me as it might seem to some people, perhaps many. But it’s hard to describe because it is such a different experience from what we have here. Another place I wrote about this is “The Parable of the Seed and the Egg”.

There’s the phrase that’s used in some places, “middle earth”. Although it comes from the fantasies of J. R. R. Tolkien, it’s a useful phrase because it is a little bit accurate. In this world, we are somewhat in a middle zone. We can be raised through faith in God and Jesus to the glories of heavenly experience and that has happened for some, recording in the Bible and other places.Lowest Hell flat But at the same time, we are susceptible to the magnetism of hell, the unutterable horrors, the hopelessness, the eternity, the indescribable remorse, the reality of eternity without hope of ever being able to undo the mistakes that you made and the damage you did.

King David said to God, “You’ve delivered me from the lowest hell.” (Psalm 86:13) Many of the preachers from years gone by really dwelt on hell. And it seems they actually scared a lot of people into heaven. We today look down on that approach. But it sure worked back then. And that was the only way that God could get through to me. As I’ve mentioned before, “others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23) has always been a verse that I’ve felt has described my experience.

“Oh, Mark, that’s so horrible! How could a “God of love” do such a thing to you! You poor, poor thing!”

Friends, how could a person so alienated from the life of God, so hard-hearted, so obstinate and continually in resistance of the Holy Ghost find pardon and forgiveness in the infinite mercy of God? Truly, I can find no fault in God.

first road picture-flattenedAnd then, as I wrote in “Lights on the Road“, even after He delivered me from my soul being seized and taken to hell by Satan, a few months later I was back doing my own thing on drugs in my sports car with my girl friend, utterly impudent in my returning to my vomit of my former druggy ways.

“So this time He’d had enough and He allowed you to have what justice would allow, a just reward for your foolishness and backslidden nature after He had kept you from death a few months before? Right?”

No, He was merciful again, when I really, really didn’t deserve it.

But what about hell? How bad is it? It’s so bad that I’m always hindered from writing about it because truly, words fail me. And also it’s just so unutterable and hopeless, so much a condemnation of my own sins, so clear that I deserved every bit of it and so final and complete. I just don’t write about it as it’s just no fun and utterly something else from this world of “middle earth”. But I do feel this is what the Bible has described and when I first read about hell in the Bible, I immediately related it to what I’d experienced and come out of.

In my first months as a Christian, I memorized a few verses from the Old Testament that most reminded me of my experiences in hell. Here’s one. “There is one alone and not another. (The utter, utter alone-ness of hell was so vast and complete. I was alone, in solitary confinement, with only myself) yea, he has neither child nor brother (just nothing, nothing. No one in your universe. You are cut off.) Yet is there no end of all his labor (you are constantly striving to get out of that situation, your very being is intensely trying to “find a way out of there”, as Bob Dylan sang) neither is his eye satisfied with riches (no matter what you had, riches, intelligence, beauty, potential, whatever, it’s all utter vanity in the hereafter without the salvation of God) Neither does he say, for whom do I labor and bereave my soul from good? (You know something is terribly, terribly wrong, but you just don’t know what it is. You are in utterly dazed and confused and perplexed, but you can’t find the answer. And that is your eternal state,) this also is vanity, it is sore travail”. (Ecclesiastes. 4:8)

It sure is. “There must be some way out of here, say the joker to the priest. There’s too much confusion here, I can’t get no relief” Amen to that. Even Bob Dylan somehow had some glimpse of the reality of hell.

Honestly, maybe I should talk more about hell; maybe I would help more people if I really dwelt on this subject. Even the Apostle Paul said, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”  (II Corinthians 5:11) It ultimately took a repeated series of experiences like this with eternity without God to finally get through to my hardened heart and reprobate mind that I was an utterly hopeless sinner, that life went on in one form or the other after death, and that I was ripe for “the grim reaper” of Satan to claim my soul, unless I turned in repentance to God.

I sure hope you’re not in that condition or situation. Friend, it is so utterly horrible that I may have failed to testify of its reality and its unspeakable horror. Get right with God. Even better, call out to Jesus; He’s the “mediator between God and men.” (I Timothy 2:5) Even if you just have a little faith and a lot of doubts, call out to Him. Hell is indescribably bad but you don’t have to go there. “Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart.”(Psalm 95: 7 & 8) Call out to Him now. “Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you know not.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

Suicide Bomber sees The Light

bomber dressingI received this letter from a friend in Europe recently. It was just astonishing. I’ll add it here as I received it; the English isn’t perfect but you’ll understand. Some names and places have been changed a little. Here’s what my friend wrote:

I know a man who lives in [West Europe] who used to be a “hodja”.  That is a Muslim priest (you know, those who serve in a mosque and sing in Arabic). He has a wonderful testimony of how he became a Christian.

saying goodbyeHe was very ill of a kidney disease and had pain all over his body and a terrible infection. He couldn’t get any help from doctors and finally decided to commit a suicide by blowing himself up at a public place and kill many others with him, especially people from other religions .

So, he prepared everything for this “kamikaze” they call it and went to kiss his little daughter for the last time. But when he left her room and was in the living room, he heard a voice, “Is there only one religion in the world that can help you?”at the door

He said to himself, “Of course not.” Since he was a religious figure, he knew there were more than 3,500 religions in the world. He had been praying to Allah to heal him but nothing happened. So, before going on, he decided to pray to another god from a different religion. “Who knows”, he said, “maybe I can get some help.”

He decided to pray to the Christian God because this is the second largest religion from their point of view, after Islam. So he prayed to Jesus and asked him to help him and heal him.

Immediately all the walls and the floor and the ceiling disappeared and he found himself in the middle of the universe and a great Light was standing in front of him. He knew that the Light knew everything about him but loved him so much. He felt like an empty bucket in front of the Light; he couldn’t give anything in return to this great love.

seeing the lightThe Light said, “I am Jesus who you called for help and I’m healing you.”

Then great light came out of the Light and came over him, flowed though him and he felt warmth and peace. Immediately all pain and weakness disappeared and he found himself well and happy in the living room again.

He changed his mind about killing himself and decided that there was point in living now since he was well and somebody heard his prayer. From that day on, he started proclaiming that Jesus Christ healed him.

At first his family and friends thought that because of his illness he had gone insane. But he was getting better and better. He was gaining weight again and strength and went on talking about Jesus. So they decided to kill him because he betrayed his religion and turned to the enemies of God.

Then he took his wife and daughter and escaped to [West Europe] where he found plenty of other people like himself from his country – converted Christians and joined a Christian church there. This happened about 10 years ago.

Now he is well and healthy, full of zeal for the Lord and weeps for his lost relatives to whom he went back again last year and gave them Bibles and urged them to read and get saved. When we prayed for his relatives in his country to be saved, he started crying dearly. He said, “You folks are happy. You have freedom and you do not appreciate what you have. Talk to the people, talk so that they get saved.”

It’s hard to know what I could add to that. This story affects me in so many ways. I’m thrilled and glad to hear of such a miracle like that. But I am aware that this kind of experience is something that is happening throughout the Islamic world. Not “en masse” but if you keep up with these things, there are many testimonies of Islamic men and women having incredible experiences in finding Jesus this way in recent times. Instead of fearing and hating Muslims, it seems far closer to the ways of God to realize that very many of them are turning out to be the “sheep” of God, rather than the monsters we are so often told that they are.

Many of us have known the verse, Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But the next verse says, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” And in these times, the preacher most likely to reach out to the millions of Muslims in western lands around the world is you and me.

Mighty Angels

mighty angels first scene-flatttenedWhat I’m going to tell you here is the truth. But it might be hard to believe. I’m pretty sure this is the most supernatural experience I’ve ever had, at least when I was wide awake and on my feet.

In an earlier blog post I told you about “That’s not how to talk about Jesus.”, during a time in the early 70’s when I was witnessing daily at or near the University of California at Berkley campus. This is something that happened during that time there. My friends and I would daily take our “hippy bus” that we’d converted into something like a mobile coffee house and drive to a place near the Berkley campus. witnessing Jesus Rev 1

We’d break up into teams of two, like when Jesus sent his disciples out “two by two” (Mark 6:7). Then everyone would be off with their guitars and Bibles, witnessing to the students as well as the thousands of drop-outs and travelers that were everywhere around there at that time.

Since I was already one of the “older ones” in the Lord, as well as already being into my 20’s, I was the one who stayed back with the bus to take care of it, as well as to pass out sandwiches to anyone who came up and asked for one.

So this “person” came up to me. He seemed to be around my age and size. He had long red hair and a red plaid shirt. So far, so good; right? No big deal. But next I’m going to have to do some explaining. Because things quickly got different from anything I ever experienced, before or after that.

guardian-angelsFirst, let me give you a verse that is important. We are “sealed by the Holy Ghost” (Ephesians 1:13). Someone may attack us physically and even hurt us, if God allows that. The devil can tempt us mightily. But the plain spiritual truth is that we are now the Lord’s, if you are one of His. We belong to a mighty God and no one can enter into our spirits and souls, except of course the Lord Himself. Or one of His messengers.

I started talking with this “guy” and rather quickly things got very different. I’ll try to explain it but it may not be as clear as you’d like. Of course we were speaking English. But what happened was that this being, also speaking English, had such weight, depth and significance in what he said that it was like I was quickly being taken by an elevator up into much higher levels of spirituality. I would say something and then he would respond. But each time, what he said dwarfed what I had said, leading our conversation into depths of spirituality that are hard to describe.

glowing angelI probably should have written down every single thing I could remember from the experience, immediately after it was over. Sadly I didn’t do that. But the impact of it all was so overwhelming that I might not have even been able to do that.

After our conversation went on for a little bit, basically it got to where it transcended language and English. I guess we were speaking English but our communication was on a higher, more heavenly level than normal English can transmit. And actually, this was all more than a little bit disconcerting. Basically I was facing a being that was much more powerful than me, which could get through any kind of defense or normal ways of man that I might throw up.

I had faced demon-possessed people before and I’d had some spiritual experiences of different kinds. So I was aware at the time that this was an extremely spiritual experience I was having there in the parking lot. There was some fear on my part. But at the same time I could tell and feel that this being was benign, not malevolent. And the fact that basically it was able to get past everything of me and to be speaking and interacting with my innermost soul and spirit was disturbing and a little scary. I guess if I’d wanted to, I could have run off. I was not forced to be there. But basically what ended up happening can only be described as some kind of energy transfer.

He didn’t look like this. But this is what he was.

He didn’t look like this. But this is what he was.

This angel was very serious and sober. It’s a shame I don’t have anything I wrote down from that experience but back then I didn’t know I should do that. But my strongest remembrance of the experience was that it was like he reached out, gripped my soul and spirit and just sent a strong surge of spirit and energy into me.

The message, if there was one, was that I’d been shown and knew a lot. And that I was very accountable. That I should be very sober and should very much “walk worthy” (Ephesians 4:1) of all that had been shown me and done for me. It wasn’t that this angel was mad at me. But it was just an extremely sober, serious moment and the presence of the fear of God and the knowledge of how important all of this is was just immense.

In many ways, words kind of fail me to be able to describe this experience much more than this. It was in broad daylight in a parking lot near the Berkley campus. I felt like that “being” could have tossed me 100 feet in the air or struck me dead on the spot if that had been his will. Also, I guess it’s like another blog post I wrote “Fear God“, where I talked about the verse “the fear of the Lord is clean”. (Psalm 19:9)

I was afraid. But there was nothing destructive happening with this. If anything was destroyed, it was my shallowness, wavering or anything other than just utter commitment to serving the Lord. I guess I wasn’t thinking that I was shallow or wavering at that time. But the Lord wanted to really strongly impress upon me the imperative of commitment and focus to put Him and His will first.

Actually I was in the first weeks of getting ready to move abroad, to Europe to be a missionary there. So maybe this visitation was a strengthening and sobering message and experience from the Lord to prepare me for the times and battles to come as I left my home country to be a missionary abroad.

It was almost like an umbilical cord. This guy never touched me but he didn’t have to. His spirit and words got passed my mind and my own spirit and just infused me with a warning, with power, with spirit and with thoughts I can’t even put into English. It’s a little like it was pictured in the movie “Matrix” where the Keanu Reeves character, Neo, got a link into his neck and got a data transfer of knowledge. Except in this case, it was real, it was face to face and it was like the angel’s spirit infused my spirit and soul with things of the Lord that I can’t really explain as well as I would like.

mighty angels second scene-flattenedAnd then he left. I was ok, very shaken up but all the better for it. I’ve never had an experience like that again. I’ve had one or two other angel experiences, I’ve shared some of those in these posts and I’ll try to tell about the others. I know, if I was someone reading this post, I might be tempted to think that guy is lying or just making this up. But I’m not.

Angels are out there. “The angel of the Lord camps round about them that fear Him and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7) They’re there to keep us on the straight and narrow for the Lord. But it’s all not even really easy to write about as it just is above our normal experiences so much that the words used don’t seem equal to the experience.

 

“UP AGAINST THE WALL!!”

UpAgainstTheWall_02-reworkedWould God do a miracle for an unbeliever? An atheist? Jesus said that God “sends the rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:44)  He certainly did a miracle for me that kept me out of 2 years of prison at a time when I was really not a believer. Here’s what happened.

While I was going to the University of Texas in Austin back in the late 60’s, I had a nice job, drove a sports car and I was an atheist. I smoked marijuana from time to time, used psychedelics and sometimes I sold a little marijuana and psychedelics. I never sold stuff on the streets, just to close friends. But after awhile I got a little careless. Friends would come with their friends, people I didn’t know.

I lived in an efficiency apartment near the campus and one afternoon I was ironing shirts in my tiny kitchen. Then, kind of out of nowhere, the idea came to me that I really should take my drugs and go put them away somewhere.

Ironing-fixedI hadn’t been thinking about that till then. But I stopped ironing my shirts, put my several ounces of marijuana and the various pills I had into a paper grocery bag. My thinking was that this would somehow make it look like I was walking around with groceries.

I walked out the door of my apartment and right there was a man on a ladder. That wasn’t normal but I figured he was a repairman. He looked down at me and the paper bag but I guess he just saw the loaf of bread on top.

Shoal Creek, near the University of Texas in Austin

Shoal Creek, near the University of Texas in Austin

I walked a few blocks down to Shoal Creek, a well known place that students and locals go to for nature walks. I found a secluded spot, put my drugs underneath a rock and walked back to my apartment.

When I got there, I was surprised because the lights were on inside and I always turned off the lights when I left. I unlocked the door. UpAgainstTheWall_02-reworkedAnd I was completely in shock to have two policemen with drawn guns coming out of my bathroom and kitchen, yelling at me, “Put your hands up against the wall!

They had a search warrant for my apartment. I sat on the sofa while they searched everything. In those days, if the police even found a stem, seeds or the tiniest butt of a marijuana cigarette, it would virtually guarantee that you’d spend two years in Huntsville state prison, even as a first time offender. As it turned out, they did find some tiny seeds or stems of marijuana on my carpet.

Evidence-fixed-flattenedAt last they talked to me and said, “We can take you in for what we found here, the seeds and stems. But we didn’t find what the search warrant was written for. So if we take this to a grand jury, we won’t win. But we’re watching you.”

So they left. And I sat there. Did I praise God? Did I say, “Thank you Jesus!” No. I was a hardened atheist. I believed in nothing other than evolution, chance and the law of averages. God-is-chance(This is what I wrote about in “God is Chance”.) I was convinced that’s all there was.

I can tell you, things like this can really be tough on atheists. All I was really thinking about was,

“Why did I get that idea right then, when I was ironing shirts, to go put my dope away?!”

I hadn’t thought about that before then.The guy on the ladder outside my apartment? Almost certainly a police stakeout. He looked at the bag of drugs but saw the loaf of bread and didn’t do anything. The time between when I left my apartment and when I got back was around 20 minutes. I missed going to prison for 2 years by 20 minutes. It was like I’d been run over by a big truck but somehow I ended up between the wheels. That was how I thought about it afterwards.

So next Sunday I was in church, right? Suit and tie, big haircut and had really changed my ways? Not at all. I was deeply “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). “Though mercy be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness” (Isiah 26:10).

I guess I just thought that I’d been really, really lucky. But the thing is, all the time, things like this kept happening to me, for good and for bad. Not every day. But these were things that atheism was having a real hard time explaining.

The-devil-and-hopelessness

From “Lucifer and the White Moths”

I guess the end of the story is what I wrote about in “Lucifer and the White Moths”. It was over a year later when it virtually took death itself and going to the eternal fires of hell to wake me up enough to turn towards the Lord. But He, in His infinite foresight and knowledge, knew that ultimately I would make that turn to Him.

At the bottom of my heart I was desperately looking for the truth and wanted to do something good with my life. I just really didn’t know there was a spiritual world. So God in His love chose that day to send an angel to probably yell in my ear to get those drugs out of my apartment immediately. I just thought it was my own thoughts. Thank God for His unfathomable love and mercy and power.

Direct Revelations

Direct Revelations- flattenedIf you never hear a voice, if you never see a vision, if you never dream a dream, if you never see or perform a miracle, if you’ll just believe, obey and follow God’s written Word in the Bible, you can have a wonderful life in Him. On the other hand, God often wants to enrich our lives and provide more power from His Spirit to us by using these other means.

I’m thankful that in my life there’ve been a number of manifestations from Him by His Spirit that have completely been supernatural and unexplainable except through an acknowledgment that God is still  a God of miracles. I’ve written several blog posts about some of the “little miracles” that have happened in my life, such as “Lights on the Side of the Road”, “the Radio Miracle” and something that happened 18 months ago here in Austin called “God’s Little Miracles”. It’s so inspiring when these things happen and I’m glad I now have this avenue to share these experiences with others.

God is a supernatural God. He’s not a theorem, an equation or “Mother Earth”. He’s not something that theologians are supposed to dissect in post graduate work. He’s the divine Creator and Guiding Power of the Universe. When I was little, the way it was explained to me is that God is way up there and we are down here. So be good, do good and things will be ok. Don’t bother Him and He won’t bother you. Boy, that sure didn’t help or hold up when things got really tough in my life.

But even in many evangelical churches today, it’s not like they really teach that you can get answers from God or that you can even expect miracles. Here’s a verse that I’ve held on to and claimed in prayer many times, John 14:21. Jesus said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him.” I’ve called out to the Lord many times in prayer to manifest Himself to me. King David of old even prayed to God one time, “Show us a token for good.” (Psalm 86:17) Some might think that’s like “seeking after a sign” (Matthew 12:39), which Jesus chiding the Pharisees for. But the truth is that God loves to manifest Himself to us, if we’re walking in the truth of His Word and following the truth He’s shown us already.

I’ll share a couple of things here where the Lord just totally punched through with something outlandishly supernatural when I really needed it. When I was young in the Lord and had already moved to the mission field of western Europe in the early ’70’s, I ended up in a place where there was a spiritually collapsed situation involving a body of believers I was working with. What should have been a group knit together in His love had been taken over for a while by some cruel, hireling types who were mistreating His flock.Jerimiah 10-21-flattened

I was in prayer about this as it was very disheartening and suddenly, out of nowhere I got the Bible reference quickened to me, “Jeremiah 10:21”. I had no idea in the world what that verse said but I opened my Bible and read it. It says, “For the pastors have become brutish and have not sought the Lord. Therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flock shall be scattered.

I was dumbfounded as that verse so encapsulated the situation I was in and also gave a promise that it would be resolved. And it was, by the hand of God. Within two months the “brutish pastors” had been exposed and the ones I was working with were able to find more loving and kind people to shepherd them. But the Lord had just quickened that verse to me out of nowhere, as a comfort and foretelling of what He was going to do.

Another time, even earlier in my Christian life, when I’d only come to the Lord a week or so earlier, I’d been invited to a Christian training camp for those preparing for the mission field and for discipleship. But this was in the States in early 1970 when there was still a very deep divide between the youth culture and the more conservative, establishment side of society. I was beginning to work with the Jesus Movement and at that time it was pretty youth oriented and even radical.

a sharp razor-flattenedI was told that I would need to cut my somewhat long hair before going to this training camp. It was off in a conservative, cowboy part of the States and it was literally dangerous to be in the area and look like a hippy. But the amazing thing was that the morning before I was told this, the Lord had quickened to me a verse, extremely obscure, Ezekiel 5:1. I’d only been a Christian a few days and I had no idea what that verse said.

But I found it in my Bible and here’s what it says. “Son of man, take a sharp knife, take a barber’s razor and cause it to pass upon your head.” So when a few hours later my friends told me I’d need to have a haircut, I told them that the Lord had already told me that was coming. I was just a babe in Christ and back then I may have figured this was just sort of normal.

It’s not like this kind of thing happens every day. Not at all. The Lord wants us to go by faith and to obey His Word in our daily lives. But also He wants us to know that He can and will do this kind of thing to lead us and guide us and show us what to do. Or sometimes just to rejoice our hearts and/or have a testimony of His love and power that we can share with others. So don’t knock direct revelations. They’re not mandatory. But they are there, they help and He may have one for you.

“God’s a monster!” he said.

Recently a dear Asian friend who was a missionary for years in Vietnam sent me a letter she’d received from a friend of hers there. Her friend had been sent a blistering letter from someone she knew, disparaging God. The antagonist letter against God was like this:

God is a monster-flattened“First things first: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  Are we talking about the same “loving” God who tormented Job just to show off to some guy named Satan which He actually created Himself? The same God that demanded all first born babies to be killed in one country because He didn’t approve what one guy was thinking? That doesn’t sound like a loving dude to me, more like a blithering a##hole. What’s your take on this?”

So my Asian friend was hoping I’d have some kind of answer to the letter. And when you’ve lived a life of Christian service, you end up hearing a lot of things, whether they are difficult questions or just things like this. So I wrote back to her:

For your good-two-flattenedIt’s a big subject and not a very original one since this kind of thing has been talked about and debated for centuries. As far as Job goes, it was very much an “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord” situation. (Romans 8:28) God certainly wasn’t “tormenting” Job to show off to the Devil! That’s a really dirty way to see God’s dealings with Job there.

The truth is that Job had some deep-rooted problems. He was “good” in many ways but also he was very aware of his goodness and boasted about it a lot. So God, in His love, was taking away nearly everything from Job. This (for one) ended up showing Job’s true, deep faith in God.

But at the last Job got to where he changed his views on what a great person he was. So it worked out to be something good in his life, making him a wiser, humbler man who loved the Lord even more and his story has been a witness to humanity for nearly 4000 years. “No chastening for the present seems joyous but grievous. Nevertheless afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby”. (Hebrews 12:11)

You told me the truth-flattenedActually Hebrews chapter 12 is the classic chapter about God’s dealings with humanity and how that at times He chastens us. Jesus said something similar, “Every branch that bears fruit he purges it that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:2) Anybody who has children usually knows that you can’t just let a child totally do their own thing without guidance and that usually means there has to be repercussions when a child does something they shouldn’t. This is just life and humanity and the world we live in. Even animals sometimes chasten their children in order to teach them and to protect them from danger.

It sounds like whoever wrote that note believes in God. They just don’t like Him. But if you’re going to blame God for those things he writes there, by the same token you have to also give Him credit for all the good and the beauty in this world.

Every sunset, every delicious fruit, every beautiful woman or handsome man, all the incredible beauty of this world that we experience every day was made by the same One that the person there is accusing of being bad.

All for you-flattenedGod is love but also He is a God of righteousness. This has to include not only reward for doing the wise, loving thing but also recompense for doing the cruel, hurtful thing. Some folks blame God for allowing Hitler. And then they accuse God for things like this person has said or written to your friend. For some people, when a cat catches a mouse or a sparrow eats a bug, they say, “Oh how cruel!”

Gods son dies-flattenedBut this is the world we live in, full of beauty but also at this time there are things like cruelty and even one species living off of another. But then, that’s what Jesus’ sample was to all of us. He said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) And then that’s what he did, He laid down His life for us all. But He was perfect, sinless and God raised Him from the dead. That’s why Jesus is so special and unique.

Yes, there is cruelty in this world and at times God has had to use some drastic measures. For those who want to focus on the cats catching the mouse or some of the more drastic scenes in the Old Testament, then they can compose a patchwork of pieces that would seem to make God to look bad. But then they have to leave so very many pieces of the puzzle out in order to force those few pieces into the picture they have come up with.

God is love. God gave His only Son. It’s a beautiful world and we have a wonderful life. And it comes from Him. People who chose to look at God as a cruel tyrant are really missing the big picture. All we can do is to witness to them, try to share the love of God with them and by our samples show them God’s love through our lives.

Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it takes many years. Sometimes people change overnight. But their negativity and accusations against God really shouldn’t have much effect on our knowledge of God since we know so much through the Word and also in His daily dealings with us.

God bless you, I hope this helps and perhaps helps your friend also. Great hearing from you, lots of love from Mark

And maybe this will be a help to you or someone you know. This type of accusation and/or question has been around a long time. It’s part of our battle of faith to know how to “be always ready to give an answer to every one a reason of the hope that is within us.” (I Peter 3:15)