Ichabod

3 04 2009

I remember the day that the Holy Spirit left Faith Chapel.  My first reaction was not awe.  No, in fact, my first thought was, “What the…someone is smoking in church?!”  A puff of smoke about six feet in diameter passed directly overhead from behind me, and I twisted and turned in my seat to see what fool lit up his cigarette.  No kidding.  The cloud reached the front of the church, did a stately left turn and made its way straight to the side exit, without dissipating.  The door was closed, but it went through, anyway.  I didn’t listen to the whole rest of the sermon.  I sat there thinking something along the lines of, “Dude, I just saw the Holy Spirit,” over and over to myself.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I first told someone.  Until recently, there were a grand total of four people I had told, though it happened many years ago.  The first person pointed out a detail that completely escaped me, that the Spirit was, in fact, leaving the church.  Until that point, I had assumed what I had seen was a good thing.  A guy can spend his whole life blind to the supernatural, only to see it when it abandons him.

The third person I told was my brother, several years later.  He reminded me of an instance that had occurred around that time, when someone stood up in church and read a passage of Jeremiah as a means of condemning the acts of the God that had been taking place in that church, namely prophecy.  As an Assemblies Of God church, it had once been common for people to prophecy during the service, at will.  Sometimes, one might speak loudly in another language, to be interpreted by someone else in the congregation.  By the time I was born, this practice had come to a stop.  The most spiritual thing people did at the time was what they called “singing in the spirit,” which could best be described as improvisational singing.  It sounded somewhat like wind chimes, with people hitting different notes at different times, all in the same chord.  In my early adolescence, someone stood up in the congregation and spoke loudly for all to hear a blessing from God.  This surprised me, greatly, but it multiplied and became a weekly occurrence.  Different people did it each time.  I never really knew what to think of it.  Most of it seemed to be general terms and words of love from God to the congregation.  It was not at all what I would have expected from prophecy.  The tongues and interpretation, when it happened, was even more perplexing, because one obviously did not follow from the other much of the time.  I was not the only one to notice that the length and nature of the unknown message did not fit with the interpretation much of the time, for my brother and sister both noticed it, also.

With time, I became more and more skeptical of these acts of the Spirit.  I wanted to believe, but I had more and more difficulty believing.  Then, one day, someone stood up and read a verse from the Bible.  His meaning was clear.  He was condemning the prophecies and tongues and interpretations as invalid, and he was using the scripture as a tool for his authority.  On the one hand, he was quoting actual scripture, which is hard for any real Christian to refute.  On the other hand, the application of that scripture was all his doing.  The pastor took the pulpit and did something that floored me.  He declared that only positive prophecies would be allowed.  Anything that condemned the church would not be allowed.  Now, I don’t know about the average Christian, because I’m not an average Christian, but if these prophecies were real, then no pastor could have the authority to tell God what he can say or not say.  What the pastor was really saying, without meaning to, was that he didn’t believe any of it.  It’s the only way his behavior could be explained.  Ironically, though he was speaking against the scripture-reader, he was actually, unintentionally, agreeing with the man that none of it was really from God.

And then it all comes together why the Spirit left.

What was the result?  The tongues, interpretations, prophecies, singing in the Spirit, the whole shebang stopped dead cold.  Now, I’ve never been one to prophecy or speak in tongues or do any of that.  My only claim to fame was that I saw a cloud march out the side door.  That’s it.  I don’t say this in defense of myself.  Several years later, that pastor resigned his position, saying that he did not believe in acts of the Holy Spirit and therefore did not belong in the pastorship of an Assemblies Of God church.

Years later, in another church of the same denomination, the tongues and interpretation happened again.  I began to understand what was being said in the other language.  The man was worshiping God, that much was clear.  An interpretation did follow, but it did not match what I thought I heard.

I wish I had more to say on the subject, but I don’t.  This event with the cloud stuck in my mind so strongly only because I was not expecting it at all.  I was not having some spiritual moment.  I was just sitting there, listening to a sermon, and that’s all.

I wonder if the Spirit of God ever returns once it has been flatly rejected?

arcticsig

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