WHAT'S HAPPENING HERE?
A Catholic woman reported to me that a priest with the gift of healing had recently visited her church. After mass, the congregation swarmed toward the altar as the priest laid hands upon the faithful to minister healing. The woman told me that people began falling once the priest touched them and were caught by ushers and laid gently upon the carpet. She said there were bodies everywhere and they had to step over people just to receive the priest's healing touch. Though she admitted that she could sense a "spiritual" presence, she also admitted that the entire episode was a bit scary and more than a little confusing, leaving her wondering why some fell and others didn't and concluding it had something to do with the recipient's level of spirituality.
What's happening here? What this woman described was her encounter with the phenomenon referred to by its adherents as being "Slain in the Spirit," "Going down under the power," or "Resting in the Spirit." Often, this experience is accompanied by another recent phenomenon, "Holy laughter." These occurrences are becoming standard fare within many denominations. Chances are, out of the many subscribers to this ministry's recent series on the subject, most coming from either America or the UK, you've either experienced this in your own congregation or have seen it exhibited on Christian television.
Are these people "in the flesh" when they fall? If so, who determines that? If an appointee is selected to determine "flesh" or "spirit", will they use the same "Flesh-O-Meter" to determine who was "in the Spirit" when they passed the offering plate? How about those who were singing in the choir, praying, or even preaching in the flesh? Who are we to say? After all, 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us, "Man looks at the outside but God looks at the heart."
The Church should ask the hard questions of itself and not put itself in a position of always having to defend against our many critics: What's it all about? What do the Scriptures say? If it's not Biblical, is it then demonic in nature? If it's not a manifestation of God's power, who IS displaying their power during these occurences? What exactly is our INDIVIDUAL responsibility as Christians?
Scripture offers the following warnings to God's people:
1 John 4:1: "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world."
2 Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
Though most of you reading this would probably agree that cults are backed by demonically inspired false prophets, too many Christians are unwilling to give an earnest examination of the spirit behind their OWN group's spiritual occurrences. Not to mention the LACK of anything spiritual; too FEW of us are willing to assess the reasons why there seems to be absolutely NO spiritual power exhibited in our own corner of the vineyard.
Author Nader Mikhaiel, in his book, "Toronto Blessing: "Slaying in the Spirit, the Telling Wonder," presents us with the following challenge: "What would your response be to the account of the following New York missionary?" During the 1800's, cripples, paralytics and the blind were healed "as in the days of old, by laying on of hands in the name of Jesus," under a New York missionary's ministry. Healing recipients, praising God, rushed to gather ill friends and neighbors who were also healed. Seeing the miracles, converts clamored to receive baptism and join the church...of a Mormon missionary.
A Mormon?! Did you know the central teachings of Mormonism are completely unscriptural? Yet, if this testimony were presented in many churches today, we'd be sure to hear a whole lot of shouting and praising afterward! Folks, God turned Moses' rod into a snake and the Egyptian magicians did the same. The devil is still using the same old counterfeit tricks. Satan is a master deceiver and the father of lies. We must become more savvy saints and beware of his false signs and wonders using Scripture as our guide.
There never HAS been a tidy move of God so we shouldn't expect one any time soon. We must not call evil good or good evil. We must not "kill" everything we don't understand either. Many are convinced that the "slain" phenomenon is demonic. Fact is, anything having to do with spiritual gifts is seen as demonic by some folks. On the other hand there are Christians who refuse to even believe in demons! Satan loves that! Does the "slain" phenomenon have any impact on the unity of the Body of Christ? Are we willing to evaluate the "slain" phenomenon according to Scripture and remain objective? While some believe that God no longer performs signs and wonders, others accept anything that raises a goosebump, a giggle, or a "Glory to God!" as being manna from Heaven.
Years ago, I was asked to visit Kentucky to see if God might be calling me to pastor a church there*. A friend had won more than sixty people to Christ in a short period and they were meeting in his home and desiring leadership.
The town was the very place where America's Second Great Awakening began in 1799. The camp revivals that took place in those days caused quite a stir. Their attendance, up to 15,000 in Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801, was incredible in view of the scanty population of the state at that time. "Their emotional pitch complete with ...sobs, shrieks, shouts" triggered no small controversy. In "The Cane Ridge Meeting House," written in 1910 by James R. Rogers, he wrote: 'The meetings often witnessed scenes of astounding manifestations. Shaking, jerking, shouting and catatonic (death-like) states were common. Laughter, barking like dogs and convulsions often preceded great conviction and conversion...." Such "emotional excesses," as some referred to them, also played a role in spawning quite a few new denominations, splinter groups and even cults.
To this day, there can be found small towns in the area filled with too many small, mostly empty churches and, in this particular town, as one local law enforcement officer divulged, a per capita crime rate that rivals Los Angeles. The high school had a huge problem with teen pregnancy but was quite proud of the new day care center they had built to tend to the babes of all their teen mothers. In other words, lots of religion with no impact on society. It's estimated, however, that over 10,000 people were swept into Kentucky churches alone between 1800-1803, even more nationwide as the revival spread beyond its Kentucky home. The camp meetings became better organized and eventually were looked upon as a legitimate means for mass evangelism. These meetings laid the foundation for Protestant church gatherings from then on as many new traditions were birthed. What many refer to as "old time religion" is actually fairly new in light of Christianity's 2000-year history.
I've learned that, whenever I go into any new region, the best place to go for recognizing which territorial spirits might be in operation there, is the local library. Much can be learned by examining history. The American frontier camp revivals were known for the "slain" phenomena as well as other unorthodox behavior. For example:
Some "slain" people unconsciously were "reported" to have stripped their clothing or exhibited lewd behavior.
Special patrols discouraged lascivious activities around the camp perimeters at night.
Some of those "slain in the Spirit" people writhed, barked and howled.
Azusa Street meetings (California, 1908) also had problems with mediums and familiar spirits controlling church meetings (I've encountered this myself - yes, Satan DOES attend church. Religiously!).
A contemporary movement mentioned earlier, the "Toronto Blessing," has exhibited some of these same manifestations. The Toronto Blessing is still taking place in the Toronto Vineyard Church which was actually ousted from fellowship by the Vineyard leadership in 1995. It was the product of South African Evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne's ministry. His "laughing revivals" included contagious laughter, spasms, "resting in the spirit," and even animal-like noises.
I attended one of Howard-Browne's earliest revivals in a church in downtown Fort Worth, Texas (a church that was later destroyed by a freak "city" twin tornado, incidentally). Attending these meetings was the "thing" to do back then. What a distraction from the Great Commission! As Howard-Browne preached, people all over the crowded sanctuary began to chuckle. He preached without hesitation as some began laughing hysterically, even falling onto the floor. The uproar was so loud and distracting that it became impossible to focus on anything the man was saying. In time, he began laying hands on people as they jostled for position in line. Then they fell.
In fact, I decided to jump in and start "catching" them and in an effort to protect them from injury (Over the years, I've witnessed several people hitting their heads on the floor as they slipped through the usher's outstretched hands, hitting their heads hard on the floor and hurting themselves). The lines formed down every aisle, into the foyer, into the halls, the classrooms, the kitchen. I "caught" so many people, I was soaked with perspiration. Very few others helped me, as I recall, most having squeezed into the ranks to receive a quick pat on the head by Howard-Browne. When it was all over, there I stood, hands on my hips, panting like a mule, sweating, amidst a sea of fallen humanity. They were trembling, laughing, resting. Only a few other ministers remained standing along with Howard-Browne and his entourage.
Note the parallels between these manifestations and those associated with the "shaktipat" of New Age gurus like Swami Muktanada. "Shaktipat" is defined as the "art of transferring supernatural Hindu powers from one person to another." Once the swami touched one of his followers, they would fall unconscious, shake, or laugh uncontrollably.
Hmmm. Were the people I was "catching" faking it? Were they demonically influenced? Were they REALLY "slain in the Spirit"? If so, was it the HOLY Spirit?
In his book, Mikhaiel devotes more than one hundred pages to a comparison between hypnotically induced behavior and "slain" behavior. After studying the phenomenon, he offers several thought-provoking conclusions. Here they are, right from his book:
Non-Christians can receive the Toronto Blessing yet remain unsaved.
Analysis is not conducive to experiencing the manifestations.
True prayer stops the manifestations.
The invoking of the Blood of Jesus stops the manifestations.
Manifestations may cause people to get out of line with Scripture.
Manifestations "may cause people to forget about Jesus" (and focus on the manifestation)
Manifestations allow people to experience supernatural power without devotion to Jesus.
Is his research true? He does claim to be a Christian and some very reputable people have appluaded his efforts as being a much-needed eye-opener in a time of potential confusion. I can only vouch for my own research and experiences.
*The reason I decided NOT to accept the Kentucky pastorate would AMAZE you ... it amazed ME! But I'm not at liberty to elaborate at this time. Perhaps one day God will give me the "go ahead." Suffice it to say that God gave me a blatant, undeniable miracle to spare me the agony of relocating AND He allowed me to see some critical things in an extremely brief period of time regarding some key leadership types. The evangelist who had won so many souls was later murdered. God is SO faithful!
I have personally prayed for quite a few folks who were seemingly "slain" as I laid my hands upon them. On several occasions, I actually felt "power" leave my body, causing a warm, tingling sensation in my forearms. In those cases, all were in church service altar calls, all were female and none of them fell backward. Some slumped forward, one shaking violently, and another held her midsection and staggered while a "catcher" stood at the ready
On one occasion, I can recall catching people after a charismatic service held by a Scotsman. When all who were needing prayer had either returned to their seats, went home, or were lying about on the floor, he looked at me and asked what I wanted from God. For an instant I felt like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz asking for a brain. I remember saying, "More Wisdom?," something I have often prayed for in accordance with God's promise that He will give wisdom liberally to all who ask of Him. But that night, after saying those words, in an instant, I was lying on my back, ten feet from where I started, staring at the bottom of a first-row seat! One friend with whom I had shared that story quipped, "Well, were you made wiser?" My response? "I'm one man, a one-finger typist, who now reaches thousands upon thousands of people each week from my computer where I used to reach them one at a time or in much smaller groups, face to face. I'd say that's using wisdom! If nothing else, I'm more efficient." Seriously, it's the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom. The word "fear" means a reverential respect; an awe. I am so much MORE in awe of Him with each passing day! Perhaps this causes my wisdom to increase accordingly. Perhaps it began that night
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