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Personal Testimony through the Lens of Pivotal Spritual and Paranormal Experiences

Discussion in 'Prayer Requests & Praise' started by Deadworm, Nov 14, 2019.

  1. Deadworm

    Deadworm Member

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    My testimony provides sacred memories that provide me with constant motivation to praise God for His providential guidance and care. This thread will present the many pivotal moments of my lifelong spiritual journey with special focus on my spiritual and paranormal experiences. Next Thursday by invitation I will be giving this testimony at an interdenominational service:

    (1) I was born and raised in the first Pentecostal church in Canada. I was born with congenital glaucoma in my right eye. My distraught parents were impressed by a famous faith healer named William Branham, who held healing crusades around North America. What set him apart was his clairvoyance. Before he laid hands on people, he accurately described one of their recent past experiences in awesome detail and he did the same for my parents. Mom and Dad were poor, but they spent their savings on a trip to Elgin, Illinois to bring me to a Branham crusade there. When I (age 3) finally made it onto the stage, Branham looked at my introductory note that said, "blind in the right eye," and shouted, "This boy is blind!" He then laid hands on my eyes and waved them in front of me. When I blinked, he yelled, "This little boy has been cured of blindness!" The huge crowd went wild but my parents were sick. Of course I blinked because I could see out of my good eye. This fraud devastated and disillusioned my parents. All this attention to getting me healed made me feel like they regretted my birth and ultimately created a deep desire in me to justify being born! It also sowed the seeds of a lifelong determination to discover whether miracles and divine healing were ever real and whether the Bible was trustworthy. God used those events to shape my calling in life.

    LESSON: God can sow the seeds of one's spiritual calling and life destiny at an age so young that we can barely recall the details.

    (2) By the time I was 6 I had learned to hate church. There was no children's church or Sunday school for my age and Church bored me because I couldn't relate to much of the 1 1/2 hour services, especially the sermons. So I squirmed and protested in our pew and made myself a nuisance to my parents. My parents were weekly attenders, but one Sunday they stayed home for reasons I never understood. I suspect the nightmare of dealing with my hissyfits was part of the reason! I was so glad to escape church that sunny and clear July morning! God was the furthest thing from my mind. To celebrate I zoomed up and own the sidewalk to the ends of our block on my little tricycle.

    Then I noticed the big new blue Chevy with huge tailfins parked behind the Jewish shoe store salesman's building. Evidently he had just waxed and polished it and it just glistened as it reflected the brilliant sunlight. To me it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen; so I constantly road back to it to stare in wonder. Once, when I returned, I had my first life-changing God moment. For some strange reason, my attention was directed to a patch of blue near the sun. As I gazed at it, wave after wave of liquid love surged through my being. Suddenly I became acutely aware of the presence of a God who loved me and I just basked in that love!

    I told my parents about my experience, but they didn't seem very interested. That all changed a few days later when neighbors came over to tell my parents how impressed they were that I was excitedly sharing my embryonic new faith with my playmates. I knew little about God and the Bible and I have always wondered what I was saying about God and my experience to my little playmates.

    This experience didn't make me want to sit through church, though. Now Dad sang in the choir and my parents now let me sit by myself. This was fortunate because it allowed me to I sneak out of church to buy lifesavers at the little grocery store across the streets from the church. As I ate them, I browsed the comic books on the store shelves. The owner eventually got annoyed by my regular presence and shooed me out his store. So I ate my lifesavers outside and began to meditate on the meaning of my life.

    LESSON: God can initiate a relationship with a ;young child in a way that escapes parental notice.

    (3) At age 11, I realized that I should be baptized to please my parents and obey the Gospel. I had to attend a few preparatory catechetical classes and I was the only child among about 11 adult male candidates. The classes appalled me because the lecturer used poorly explained jargon like justification, propitiation, and sanctification which produceded excruciation in the mind of this young boy who couldn't grasp the meaning of these big words. Quoting Colossians 2:11 , the lecturer informed us that we needed to be "circumcised in spirit." That might have been helpful if I knew what physical circumcision was and if he explained this jargon.

    I would be the last of the 12 to be baptized by immersion in a large tank behind the platform before a crowd of about 1,400 people. I was petrified because I learned I was expected to share a personal testimony in front of that huge crowd and because, blush, the bottom of my baptismal robe seemed to float up, exposing my nakedness! All the men gave a formulaic personal testimony that I can recite even today. Then I nervously waded out to the pastor and he asked me, "Donny, would you like to share a word for the Lord Jesus?" I shook my head in the negative. So the pastor continued, "OK, let me ask you some faith questions." I felt publicly humiliated as the only one not to share a testimony and at that point I just wanted to get this ordeal over with to please my parents.

    But after the pastor dunked me, something amazing happened as I emerged from the water. I suddenly had a vision of Jesus, smiling at me, radiating love and conveying the feeling that He found my predicament rather amusing. I sensed His empathy for my confusion over all the poorly explained catechetical jargon and my groundless fear about my nakedness being exposed by the floating bottom of my robe. And years later when I became a theology professor, I reflected that Jesus must have found it amusing that a motormouth like me would be utterly tongue-tied at my youthful baptism. My first and only vision in my life transformed an unpleasant baptismal ordeal into one of the most sacred and treasured memories of my life!

    LESSON: God can bestow His Holy Spirit during baptism on a child with a hungry heart, even though that child has a poor understanding of the theological nuances of the baptismal act,.
     
    #1 Deadworm, Nov 14, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2019
  2. Deadworm

    Deadworm Member

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    (4) My Pentecostal pastor was well respected, but was criticized for never preaching sermons on the gifts of the Spirit, including speaking in tongues, during my 21 years of attending that church. Words of prophecy, messages in tongues, and interpretation of tongues generally occurred once a month during our Communion service after the sermon. Some of these interpretations from the Risen Lord were powerful general critiques of the spiritual condition of many congregants in a manner reminiscent of the prophetic letters to the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3. From the moment they began, these messages typically moved me to tears because of the glorious sense of Christ's presence in the sanctuary. But in most of the messages, the Risen Lord delivered general exhortations that often seemed like a pastiche of various Gospel phrases and texts. From the moment these messages began, I would typically freeze as if confronted by a cobra! My dramatically opposite reactions to these messages began when I was about 13 and continued throughout my teen years. In retrospect, I now recognize my opposite reactions as the gift of spiritual discernment in action. From the time of my baptismal vision, I was so very hungry for a fresh word from the Lord to guide my spiritual journey. So the fact that most of my instantaneous reactions were negative greatly disturbed me and after one of the infrequent interpretation of tongues that thrilled me to the core and spoke powerfully to me, I asked an elder why these messages were not recorded for later reflection on how to apply them to our lives. His response affected my attitude to garden variety Pentecostalism with devastating clarity: he replied: "Look, these messages aren't Holy Scripture. So don't take them so seriously! The messages just add a sacred tone and some inspiration to our Communion service." My reaction to his comments? "Either the source of these messages is the Risen Lord as they allege or they are of the flesh. If they are of the flesh, these messages should be banned. But if they come from the Risen Lord, they deserve to be recorded for later reflection, so that they can be obeyed."

    The general refusal of Pentecostals to subject their charismatic messages from Christ to spiritual discernment is precisely the reason why most of these messages are of the flesh. To accept negative discernment would be a most humbling experience, a real disincentive to risk unwanted censure, especially for pastors. In the Azusa Street Revival that sparked global Pentecostalism, William Seymour routinely exercised such discernment. So did Oral Roberts during his meetings. In the early 200s AD, Tertullian reports that elders would meet after the services to discern the legitimacy and practical application of their services' charismatic manifestations in compliance with 1 Corinthians 12:10 and 14:29. To refuse to permit such discernment is to value leadership authority more highly than modern guidance of the Holy Spirit apart from Scripture. As a boy, my doubts about these manifestations slowly morphed into doubts about biblical authority in general, especially when I was exposed to evolutionary theory and claims that the Bible was an error-filled book. Despite my earlier mystical experiences, I might have lost my faith, were it not for the experience I will recount in my next post, the most important and influential experience of my life.
     
  3. Deadworm

    Deadworm Member

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    (5) The major turning point in my life that I'm about to share is also by far the spiritual and emotional high point in my life. Even now, decades later, I constantly draw spiritual nourishment from the very memory of that fateful day I was "ambushed" by an experience of glossolalia at Manhattan Beach Camp in Manitoba. I was 16 at the time and felt I had lost my faith. I was determined to give it my best shot to find God real, but not to succumb to wishful thinking and emotionalism. That fateful, Tuesday, I went on a 7 mile walk towards Ninette, Manitoba, pleading with God to make Himself real to me. That evening, I did something I'd never done before. I fasted for dinner and put my dinner money in the offering plate. After the service, I stayed at the altar and prayed to be filled with the Spirit as I had previously done in vain. After almost everyone (about 1,000) left the amphitheater, my heart still felt like stone as I tarried in prayer. Then suddenly I felt a warm breeze, but it wasn't the wind from nearby Pelican Lake; it was the Holy Spirit first warming me and then possessing me. I was compelled to speak in tongues at the top of my voice. More importantly, wave after wave of liquid love surged through my being with ever increasing intensity until I feared it might kill me. My ego seemed on the verge of collapse into the divine presence. Oh, the indescribable sweetness of those moments, more sacred than the birth of your first child ! I can only metaphorically testify that that experience was a hundred times sweeter, more powerful, and more intimate than any of my experiences of love before or since!

    When it was over, a Lutheran pastor who had observed me, unseen, quietly came and knelt beside me. He told me he didn't believe in speaking in tongues and had only come to the camp meeting as an interested observer. But he added he could tell God was doing a special work in me and he asked me to pray for him. The moment I touched his forehead, he exploded into tongues! Another lady was sitting in the now darkened amphitheater and just staring at me. Self-conscious, I asked her why. She replied, "Don't you know? Your face is glowing in the dark!"

    When it was all over, I realized that God had said to me clearly: "Son, you long for answers to burning questions. But answers aren't good for you right now. They will make you live in your head, and I want to live in your heart. I want you to live your questions until they lead you to the center of my heart." That is the reason for my long educational pilgrimage from BA (U. of Winnipeg) to MDiv (Princeton) to doctorate in New Testament, Judaism, and Greco-Roman Backgrounds (Harvard). Interestingly, the experience made me a much better student than I had been. And like marijuana, that experience of glossolalia seems to have functioned like a gateway spiritual drug that soon led to other gripping experiences of other spiritual gifts, especially "the word of knowledge" (1 Corinthians 12:8-10).

    (6) Previously, I had not been a stellar student in school and was insecure about God's plans for my future. But shortly after the experience, I suddenly knew that I'd receive the highest GPA in Manitoba in my senior year. Decades later, my cousin, a psychiatrist, reminded me that I had shared "this word of knowledge" with him when I recounted my tongues experience. That experience evidently improved my mental capacity. When Premier Duff Roblyn publicly acknowledged that achievement at my graduation, I felt that my somewhat awkward attempts at Christian witnessing were rendered more effective and I became more confident in a calling to an academic life.

    But my next 2 experiences of "the word of knowledge" (premonitions) were as puzzling and disturbing as they were riveting. More on that in my next planned post.
     
  4. Deadworm

    Deadworm Member

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    "THE WORD OF KNOWLEDGE"

    (7) At age 19, I was a Winnipeg college student. About 5 years my senior, my friend Dallas was the leader of our church youth group of about 150. I had just been Best Man at his wedding and was now invited to the newlyweds post-Christmas dinner. After eating, we played table tennis in their basement. Dallas mentioned that he was going deer hunting in northern Manitoba the next day and I instantly felt a sense of dread. It seemed as if I saw his skeleton and was certain that he would be killed in an accident if he went on this trip. Horrified, I felt compelled to share my premonition with him. He was offended and blamed my so-called premonition on my anti-hunting views. I had no such views, though I’ve never gone hunting myself. What could I do? I had no evidence beyond my certainty. I guess I hoped God would confirm my premonition to Dallas.

    A few days later, we had a New Year’s Eve service at our church. What happened when I arrived at the church was straight out of a horror movie. 3 young girls in our youth group approached me, giggling, and said. You do know that Dallas was killed yesterday in a hunting accident. He was riding a snowmobile with his gun leaning beside him and hit a bump, which caused his rifle to discharge into his shoulder. He bled to death before his hunting buddies got him to a doctor. The girls giggled and one said to the other, “Wow, I guess we sure ruined his day!” It was as if Hell was taunting me for my friendship with Dallas. What was so funny about their youth leader’s death? I charitably assumed that their was just a nervous laughter. I later obsessed over what this tragedy meant. Why was I given this premonition if it would be useless to prevent his death? And was his death predestined fate?

    (8) In my senior year at Princeton Seminary, I was about to return home for Christmas vacation. My friend Ted had just been accepted in the D. Phil. program in New Testament at Cambridge U. and I also wanted to apply to that doctoral program. So I went to Ted’s dorm room and asked if I could borrow his Cambridge catalogue. As I did, I suddenly “saw” his skeleton and knew that his death was imminent. But what could I do? I didn’t know how he would die. So I tried to put this knowledge out of my mind and flew home for Christmas. When I returned, I learned from Ted’s friend Ken that Ted had been killed in a car accident. Ken was driving him home to Ohio, when Ken’s car slipped on an icy freeway onramp and the car crashed into a pole, killing Ted and breaking Ken’s arm.

    Paul tells us to "pursue love and strive for spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1)." But Paul offers little guidance on the methodology of this holy "striving." Why had my paranormal warning not been confirmed to Dallas by an inner witness? Perhaps part of the reason was that I had inadequately fulfilled Paul's companion command to "pursue love." In Ted's case, I had no idea when he would be killed: I just knew that his death was imminent. I told myself that I was simply being paranoid, but deep inside I knew better! In any case, God was slowly teaching me how to exercise this gift and thereafter an inner witness was granted to people involved in the pending incident. In any case, most of my premonitions ("word of knowledge") thereafter were confirmed by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit to the people involved. In my next planned post, I will first illustrate this by recounting 2 subsequent incidents of a "word of knowledge" experienced at Princeton.

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  5. Deadworm

    Deadworm Member

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    My next few experiences of "the word of knowledge" were bolstered by inner prophetic confirmations from parties involved:
    (9) The first of these messages may well have saved by live.! As part of Princeton's field education, I worked as a chaplain assistant at the Newark College of Engineering. The night prior to my drive to Newark, I had a nightmare, a premonitory dream in which I knew my life would be in danger and I cried out to God for mercy. On the drive home the next day, my car died in the dark a New Jersey freeway. I was fortunate to escape the fast-moving traffic and my car was quickly totaled by another speeding car. I called my friend Peter at my dorm and he and another friend, Mike, drove up to fetch me. Both of them had experienced nightmares of impending disaster the previous night! By these 3 dream warnings, God showed me that He was in charge and was my divine protector.

    (10) This next encounter with "the word of knowledge" is probably my 2nd most treasured spiritual highlight in my life. I had applied to Harvard's doctoral program in New Testament, Judaism, and Greco-Roman backgrounds, but my a fellow seminarian told me I'd be rejected just like he was. So where would I study next after my graduation from Princeton's MDiv program in the next few months? As I was worrying about this, George ( a godly fellow seminarian) knocked on my door one Tuesday night to say, "Don, I've been praying for you, and the Lord has shown me that you're going to be accepted by Harvard." George was not even a friend, but he must have picked up my dream from table gossip in the seminary dining hall. In any case, his warm assurance melted my fears and was transferred to me! What a blessing he was! The next night was absolutely surreal!

    The next evening, a seminarian, Ann, came to my dorm room and falsely accused me of calling her to tell her that she was too emotionally unstable to be in seminary! The guy's voice must have sounded like mine. Ann had just broken up with John, a frequent dining companion of mine, and Ann probably assumed that John gossiped to me about his reasons for breaking up with her. In fact, John never said a word about this. How does one defend himself when he is blindsided by a false accusation like this? I was actually quite fond of Ann for being a great comfort when my boyhood spiritual mentor, Nick, was killed in a car accident. In the midst of her harangue, there was a knock on the door, and I was summoned to answer a pay phone call down the hall. It was John Strugnell of Harvard, the professor who controlled the Dead Sea Scroll translation project at that time. He congratulated me on my acceptance at Harvard with scholarship assistance. Imagine how emotionally torn I was by joyful gratitude for George's "word of knowledge" and anguish over Ann's false accusation. When I returned to my room, Ann asked me, "Who was that?" perhaps thinking that John had called to tip me off about her accusation. She looked very puzzled when I shared my joy at just having being admitted to Harvard's doctoral program. Then she asked me, "Are you all right? You're right palm is streaming blood onto your pants an the floor!" I felt no pain, but I nearly freaked out when I saw all that blood! This is the first and only time I have experience the stigmata. Ann seemed to take the combination of this bleeding and the timing of my great news as a sign of my innocence, and so, she hastily left. I'm so grateful that God orchestrated these coincidences to vindicate me, encourage me, and let me know that His guiding hand was on my life. My only regret is that I can't recall tracking George down to let him know how grateful I was for his effective prayer support.
     
    #5 Deadworm, Dec 2, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019
  6. Deadworm

    Deadworm Member

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    (10) My next experience of "the word of knowledge" happened when I was a Theology professor at a Catholic university in New York state. I had just finished my 4-course teaching load and was exhausted. So I began to think about a much needed vacation. But that Friday night I became obsessed with the thought that someone was about to die and that death would affect my life and change my plans. I tried hard to put this depressing thought out of my mind, but the more I tried, the stronger it got! By Saturday I began to fear that someone in my immediate family would die. On Monday morning I decided to ignore this premonition by going out for breakfast to contemplate my vacation plans. But as I walked to my front door, an inner voice shouted, "Sit down! You are about to hear about the death!"

    The moment I sat down, the phone rang and it was Dr. Whelan, the chair of our summer graduate theology program. She told me that visiting Professor Corcoran had failed to show up for his summer class on Pauline Theology. Thinking he had slept in, someone knocked on his campus apartment door, but there was no answer. Alarmed, they opened the door and found him in bed, having died from diabetic shock! Dr. Whelan said the grad students were waiting in the lecture hall and that I was the only one around trained to teach that course with no notice. Would I teach it? I complied because the Lord had been preparing my heart for this news all weekend and I was richly blessed by my contact with those MA students.
     
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