Last year I attended Hugh Osgood’s ‘School of Biblical Studies for Leaders’. The final module gave a huge overview of church history – from the book of Acts through to the start of the year 2000. Obviously, with such a huge topic, we only scratched the surface, but got enough of a taste for me to be encouraged to investigate further. To find out about significant people from church history in order to learn from their example and their mistakes. But more importantly, to see that God can use ordinary people, like me, in order to do extraordinary things!
Part of this research has brought me to reading a book called ‘ Defining Moments: God-Encounters with Ordinary People who Changed the World’.
In it each chapter is dedicated to significant people from church history whose lives were not only mightily impacted by God, but who also went on to make a significant contribution to church and world history. People such as Charles Wesley, Charles G. Finney, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Smith Wigglesworth, John G Lake, Evan Roberts (Welsh Revival), Aimee Semple McPherson and Kathryn Kuhlman – to name a few.
I am a third of the way through this fascinating book and already I can see a few patterns emerging.
The first thing that struck me is that manifestations of the Holy Spirit are nothing new. They have been happening throughout church history. This shouldn’t surprise me really – I mean, Jesus moved in amazing signs and wonders and demonstrated God’s supernatural power in a perfect and powerful way. Yet somehow I had lost sight of the marvellous fact that our God is a holy God of power and of might – and that he is not afraid to demonstrate this through his followers, even through us!
The second thing is that the stories of these evangelists and revivalist all came from a place of intense desire and hunger for more of the Holy Spirit in their lives. As they sought God, as they pursued the Holy Spirit, God was faithful and released his miracle working power to overflow their lives and splash out over those around them, bringing about revival, transformation and signs and wonders as a result. I need to hunger and thirst for more of God and to actively seek his Holy Spirit more in my life.
There was a time when this was so for me – and this brings me to the third thing I realised. The book is recalling and reminding the Church of past examples of when God moved powerfully and released amazing signs and wonders. Remembering when God has moved in the past can be a powerful catalyst to catapult us forward, to say ‘You did it for them, you can do it again for us!’ It has also caused me to think and remember moments in my life when I have experienced the Spirit of God in a powerful way – many of the people’s lives recorded in the book often point to significant Holy Moments when they recall how God moved powerfully, and this enabled them to move forward with power and conviction to fulfil the calling that God had put upon their lives.
So I thought it appropriate to try to remember and record some of my own personal Holy Moments that have been significant in my life.
A few years after I gave my life to Jesus at 13, the Toronto Blessing spread around the world like wildfire in the mid to late ninety’s. I was still a teenager and was at boarding school in Zimbabwe, Africa. I seem to recall that the first time I encountered such a powerful move of the Holy Spirit where people were falling over and other signs and wonders were taking place was at a Christian Holiday Camp for teenagers called ‘Youth Encounter’. I went forward for prayer and ‘Bam!’ the Holy Spirit came upon me. I fell backwards through no effort of my own – and I can guarantee that the person praying for me did not ‘push’ me either. I felt such a peace, almost as if my body was separate from myself – but is wasn’t as I was still aware that I was shaking and convulsing all over. I was laughing and crying all at once. This lasted for hours until finally the intense power gently lifted off me and I could stagger back to my feet.
I was ‘slain in the spirit’ a number of times after this. Each time was a little different. I remember on one occasion my hands felt as if they were burning hot and tingling – I did not know what this meant so I sought advice from church leaders. They weren’t too sure either.
Upon my return back to school, a couple of us had been at the holiday camp, so we started seeking God and praying on a Saturday evening instead of going to watch the weekend movie. Here we prayed for others and the Holy Spirit fell in powerful ways. On one occasion a couple of the guys were so far gone in the spirit that we had to pretty much carry them back to their dormitories, praying that a teacher did not stop or confront us as they seemed like they had been drinking all night. We weren’t sure how much our story of being filled with the Holy Spirit instead of alcohol would be believed.
The church I attended in the town was also experiencing Holy Spirit manifestations regularly. I arranged for a group of us from the school to attend a special evening service once and it so happened that we, the school boys, were praying and ministering to the adults as the Holy Spirit swept through the building.
A few years later, while at University in South Africa, I was on a leadership camp and the pastor was praying for everyone. I was determined not to fall down and instead to stand on my feet. So when my turn came, I braced myself, one foot forward, the other behind and leaned forward. He very lightly touched a finger on my forehead as he prayed and the Spirit of God hit me with force. It was as if I had bee rugby tackled by a huge rugby player. There was no one standing behind me, ready to catch me or anything – just some metal garden chairs. The force hit me so hard that it took me off my feet and I landed about three rows back on a pile of chairs. There I stayed for several hours being ministered to by the Spirit of God.
There have also been times when I have felt the presence of Jesus descend so thick and tangibly I could barely breathe.
A few times during and after the meetings at various Youth Encounters I have been on, as well as led at. The presence of God was so tangible and God’s spirit was moving so evidently. People bursting int tears randomly, or laughter – all at the same time. Others just on their knees in awe and reverence. During times like this I find it really easy to prophecy and often did.
I have also felt the presence of God very strongly, once when I returned to my high school a couple of years after I had left – during one of those Saturday evenings where a group of guys were still meeting to seek God more deeply. We sung a simple song and the power and presence of God descended in such a peaceful and beautiful way – no one spoke, we just sat there for a long time, just enjoying the presence of God.
Another time was when I was at university and I was invited to go and lead worship at a youth group at one of the high school’s in the town. I was ushered into a storeroom where various bits of sporting equipment were stored. Then a whole bunch of guys piled in for the meeting. It was not tong before the whole storeroom was filled with a real, tangible sense of the raw and amazing power of God. Most fell to their knees – some did not know what to do and left quickly. Others just stood wide-eyed, not quite believing what they were experiencing.
I have had several prophetic encounters over the years. Both giving and receiving prophecies.
One of the most memorable and significant for me was whilst at university a prophet was visiting the church for a weekend. I was desperately hungry to receive a prophecy and was really excited when during one of the meetings she picked me out and prophesied over my life. God was so evident and so present. The prophesy was amazingly accurate and it was as if she had known me all my life, the things she was saying. Some of the part s of that prophecy I am still waiting to come to pass – but that is in God’s hands.
What does this mean for you?
So what does this mean for you – and for me for that matter?
It matters because God is still at work. He is still holy and mighty. He is working and moving and he desires to work and flow through everyday ordinary people like you and me, people who will humble themselves and hunger and thirst after Him.
He has done it before – He can do it again!
I for one say – Come Lord Jesus, come! Here I am, send me!