God Encounter; or Not

Before getting into this part of my story I want to mention what a “third heaven encounter” is within the Charismatic and Pentecostal cultures, since this part has much to do with that.  The “first heaven” is the physical realm that we immediately see and experience now. The “second heaven” is the realm of angels and demons on Earth.  The “third heaven” is the realm of God, basically Heaven.  A third heaven encounter is an experience with the heavenly realm of God.  This would include visitations from angels, a physical encounter with Jesus or other Biblical characters, seeing and exploring Heaven as if you are really there, seeing God as if He is really physically there, etc.

My Charismatic phase began in July of 2007 after experiencing and becoming a part of a year long renewal at the church I grew up in.  Before the renewal I wasn’t really a hard practicing Christian.  I believed in Christ, but was starting to lean into agnosticism, because I wasn’t seeing the demonstrated power in my life that Christ supposedly can offer.  I was in a punk band that just got back from a 2 month U.S. tour.  I was getting burned out touring with the band members, because they were always very negative and angry and it got annoying.  I wanted to quit the band, but touring and putting out records was the only thing keeping myself from living an average life.

The last week of the tour I was in Austin, Texas when my dad called me to tell me about all the miracles happening at the church.  He told me about a pastor from Texas who has been speaking at the meetings that had a third heaven encounter with Jesus during a mission trip in Brazil.  After telling of his encounter with Jesus multiple people at the church started having visions of Jesus and angels.  My dad asked me to come to church after the tour to see everything that was happening.  I wasn’t opposed to going to church and liked the idea that miracles might be happening, so I told him I would go.  I have been to these type of meetings before when the church was going through another renewal around the same time  the Toronto Blessing was happening in the mid-90’s.  I was just expecting to see a lot of people drunk in the Spirit, falling down, laughing and crying.

The night after coming back home from tour I went to the church.  The church was packed to standing room only (The church, which is an old YMCA gym, holds about 600 people).  I learned the meetings that were happening started out as a weekend long conference that turned into a nightly meeting with the title God Encounter, after people at the conference were starting to have divine encounters never before experienced in the 40 year history of the church.  The church leaders and the congregation didn’t want to quench the Spirit by ending the conference on the second night, so it was turned into a nightly meeting.  Word got around to the other Charismatic and Pentecostal churches in the area, so people from all over the city were visiting to see what our Pentecost was all about.  The main focus of the meetings was to pray for the city, press into God’s presence and have a divine encounter.

The meeting started with the usual worship routine – beginning with fast energetic songs about the joy of the lord and ending with soft emotional songs about the love of God.  Being a music snob and mostly into punk and post-punk stuff, worship music never really played much with my emotions and influence my spiritual life, so I just sat in my seat and observed everyone worshiping.  It wasn’t until the pastor from Texas started to speak that I felt something in my spirit move. He talked about his visions of Jesus and how angels visit his bedroom at night on occassion.  He talked about how history will be changed.  I don’t know how I got caught up in what he was saying. Maybe it was because I was frustrated where my life was going, tired of negative and emotional vampire friends and wanted something new and exciting in my life. I wanted the visions he saw.  I wanted the miracles.  I wanted my life changed.  I wanted to change the world.  He called everyone up to the stage to be imparted with his spiritual gift of visions and prophecy.  I went up and I was imparted this gift.

I was unemployed at the time, so the day after this first meeting the church asked me to work at the meetings every night because there was no telling when it would end.  For the next year, 5 days a week, I worked at these meetings setting up, tearing down, stacking chairs, cleaning up after people and locking up the building after everyone had left. I became close to a lot of the people who attended and some of the church leaders from all around the city.  I couldn’t get away from the renewal.

These meetings became known all around California within the Charismatic and Pentecostal circles.  Over the year we had visitors from all over the state.  This was going on around the same time as the Lakeland Revival in Florida that Todd Bentley started, so it felt like God was doing something with America and getting ready to bring revival to our generation.  We had well known speakers come in to help kindle the fire like Bill Johnson and his Supernatural School of Ministries from the Bethel Church in Redding, Mark Dupont from the Toronto Blessing, Lance Wallnau came in with his New Apostolic dominionist ideas about the Seven Mountains of Influence and lots and lots of others.  I was surrounded by people speaking about pressing into the presence of God to have divine encounters.  The speakers were always talking about their visions and angelic ecstasies, third heaven encounters with bible characters, healing testimonies and prophecies.  People in the congregation would start seeing and having these experiences. One woman even claimed to see Jesus mounted on a white horse riding between the aisles.  Gold dust, and feathers were seen falling from thin air during worship.  People claimed to have gold teeth and feelings mysteriously appear in their mouth during the meetings.  It seemed like magic was happening all around me.

Dying for my own encounter with God, in the Fall of 2007 I enrolled in the churches Supernatural School of Ministry, where I can learn how to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit, learn to perform miracles signs and wonders and learn the ways the Spirit speaks to me.  I figured an enrollment in this school that Fall was the perfect time to learn how to be the hands and feet of Christ, since our church was going through a revival.  I wanted to see miracles, perform miracles and experience miracles in my own life, but most of all I wanted to see angels and have a divine third heaven encounter of my own.

At this school I learned how to prophesy, give words of knowledge, pray for healing, prepare sermons and speak in public.  We did a lot of street ministry on the weekends.  I did very well in healing and prophecy.  Some of the nights in class were spent in silence trying to hear God and sit in his presence.  This was always hard for me because I could never feel anything or see anything.  Most of my classmates would talk about how they felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and talk about their visions, but I had nothing. This frustrated me.

For months I would lay in my bed every night praying that I would have an encounter with the Lord.  I’d pray for my eyes to be open to see angels.  I’d pray that I’d see Jesus.  Some of those who have had these kinds of experiences would prophesy that I’d have divine encounters regularly.  I looked to those prophetic words as encouragement that someday I will have an encounter with the third heaven.  I’d try to sit in the Lord’s presence while working at the renewal meetings and it seemed the people around me were having these amazing experiences but nothing was happening to me.  I was getting tired.

The renewal meetings came to a quick end after about a year when the pastor from Texas was caught cheating on his wife with one of his assistants.  He was told by the church leaders that he couldn’t lead the meetings any longer.  This was brought up publicly to the congregation at one of the meetings.  The meetings were still to go on without him, but the attendance at the meetings dropped after that night.  I started questioning his stories about his encounters with Jesus and angels.  And I started wondering why people would leave the renewal meetings if they really believed they were experiencing God, with or without this cheating pastor. The meetings were originally about praying for the city and pressing in to have a God encounter. So wouldn’t God’s presence be all you needed to not be bothered by a man who cheated on his wife?  Didn’t the city still need prayer?  When the attendance dropped so did all the stories of divine experiences.

For a couple years I still tried to press on.  I still experienced nothing.  Not one physical manifestation of God, only the occasional dream I’d convince myself was from God.  I never fell down in the Spirit, I never felt drunk in the Spirit and I never cried or laughed or had any feelings take over me.  I wondered if anything was wrong with me.  Was I using too much of my head?

Yes, I was using too much of my head and that isn’t a bad thing.  I started to figure out that it was all just mass hysteria.  The reason the divine encounters stopped when the attendance dropped was because the excitement and stories of everyone in the congregation wasn’t there to make someone think they were experiencing something miraculous.  The other’s who may not have been taken by mass hysteria may have just been lying about their experiences.  The gold teeth and feelings that would appear were most likely always there; no dental records were ever shown.  When I cleaned up after the meetings I never saw any feathers or gold dust left over on the ground or chairs.  After thinking about all that I’ve noticed first hand working at a revival meeting, being part of a supernatural ministry school for a year and taking into account my lack of experience I came to the conclusion that miracles of this kind don’t happen and if I can’t experience God then there may not even be a God.

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19 thoughts on “God Encounter; or Not

  1. I did not have to read beyond the bit that talks about fast energetic songs at the beginning of a service.
    When one enters His presence, you do so with reverence, with repentance, a contrite heart, a heart of worship. Charismaniacs did not lose the plot; they never even had it. This happens because their pastors usually are not properly qualified. Churches run after phenomena because they do not have a solid foundation in the inspired Word of God, as is referred to the Old Testament in 2 Timothy.

    It is time that this very fake Paul Only and Signs Foremost Christianity make room for the real mccoy. I feel sorry for anyone who never had the foundations lain right in their lives as the charismatic withcraft and demonic powers in their services just remain to be a most apostate abomination wrecking the lives of many and gamble wildly with the eternal security of members and visitors alike. It comes nowhere close to real discipleship.

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  2. Reblogged this on Ai Kant Spal Kwit and commented:
    Conversion and De-conversion of a Miracle Worker – http://wp.me/p6gIFe-c

    Be sure to read the linked post, not authored by me.

    How charismania and fake churches lead people to become unbelievers, or prime them to become Muslims or Buddhists. I am friends with such people. One also now is a Buddhist who walk the real Christian life with integrity and she is a leader by example. I won’t judge her as she is not a Christian. The Bible teaches us to judge righteously but also says that anyone bringing a different gospel should be condemned to Hell. Too many churches preach Rome and its trinity and not the true four Gospels & Acts, which we know are right. And the Biblr in the days of the Apostles was the Old Testament of which we read in Timothy, was inspired writing.

    Get angry, try to ruin and destroy me like many had done, especially over the past week or two. I speak the Truth and tell you that the churches you so love are the synagogue of Satan.

    Oh, those who worship the homosexual King James 1, perhaps you need to be doing proper research as well. He was as pagan as Constantine. Your solid beliefs in his decree are unfounded. Get the facts, get a life with the True Yahshua aka Jesus.

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  3. I just read through all your posts. Thank you for writing all this! You inspired me to write about some of my experiences and I just posted about them.

    I wasn’t into the charismatic movement as much as you, but I crossed paths with it. The lack of interaction with God was a major part of my deconversion. After 29 years of silence, I came to realize the relationship was all in my head.

    Congratulations on getting out! Take whatever good you got out of it, throw out the bad, and move on. Enjoy every moment.

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  4. Fascinating. Thanks for that. Last year I looked at a video called ‘Finger of God’ that featured the types of meetings you mentioned, the gold teeth, gold dust, feathers and manna. It confused me why God would act in this type of way.

    Around the same time a team from the Bethel school of Supernatural Ministry visited my town (southern Australia) they were on some sort of field trip. I came away disappointed, because I wanted ‘experience’ and did not get it. A number of people claimed to be healed, but no-one I knew was healed.

    I am now of the view that personality type has a big impact on the ‘experience’. Some people are more ‘religous’ scientists can even measure it.

    Like you I eventually concluded it was all in the mind. I so desperately wanted experience. I went through a stage for about a year when I was part of a Pentecostal home group that my body would shake and tremble as I prayed> But I was never convinced about it, it did not seem ‘holy’ I eventually concluded it was psychological. As I said I was desperate for experience.

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    • Oh yes, Finger of God. I remember watching that one when it first came out. It was actually shown to the congregation during one of the renewal meetings and everyone started twitching and claiming to feel the power of God while watching the movie. I was inspired by it. I remember the night after watching it I had a dream of God turning into 3 doves and one of the doves landed on my finger. After waking up I actually believed it was God telling me I had the finger of God. Strange time in my life.

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  5. Thank you for taking the time to reveal just what often goes on in churches. I was a Christian and there was always lots of claims of miracles and experiences. My church tore itself apart because of such things. Then it became more than obvious that there weren’t actually any miracles and that any claims of personal experience was either a delusion, a need for attention or the desire to be part of the herd. If one claims a miracle, then the next must or be seen as less than Christian. I was sure that something was “wrong” with me until I realized it wasn’t me that something was wrong with, it was those who depended on lies. Heck, I was sure I must be the “Anti-Christ” since I must be the only person who didn’t receive this nonsense. Quite a thing for a 12 year old to imagine. That’s one of the reasons I find religion very harmful, to make people think that they might be evil when they are anything but.

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  6. Thanks for sharing, I found this very interesting. As a non-denominational believer I have always been appalled by what I was seeing coming out of the Pentecostal movement. Especially when looking upon the Toronto Blessing and the lake-land revival, I don’t know how anyone could have possibly allowed themselves to seduced by that, it just so obviously Satanic if you believe there is such a thing. I’m glad you didn’t get sucked into it. While Tod Bentley is an obvious fake and something sinister all together, I continually found myself perturbed by the likes of Bill Johnson and Rick Joyner as well.

    Personally I have had some minor incidents that I found to be somewhat extraordinary, nothing as far as meeting angels or Jesus or getting caught up into a third heaven. Most of them were actually encounters with something sinister, I always thought if you haven’t had the opportunity to see God, then hopefully you were lucky enough to see something evil, at least that way you know there actually is something out there as opposed to just living in between your whole life. But yeah these encounter based meetings are abominable in my opinion, it was interesting to get someone on the insides viewpoint. I hope this alone wasn’t the reason for you deconversion, being a reasonable person I understand if it was, but that would be a shame cause these movements were reprehensibly egregious.

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  7. I am so sorry you had to go through this…..you were in a false environment.

    God does not need men to “teach” you to prophesy. that is artificial…..a true word comes from the holy spirit and it hits like lightening….there is no learning because it is not YOUR mind doing anything.

    i have been in these churches……everyone is delusional with an egotistical need to show how spiritual they are….they divine from their own imaginations and call it god……

    they chase after signs and wonders when the bible says that signs and wonders FOLLOW the believer, so he should not have to chase after anything. he is the head, not the tail.

    people want sensational experiences….not god….although on a superficial level, they think want god.

    God is sovereign….he will give to each believer what He chooses…it is not up to us to assign gifts to ourselves.

    most people assign gifts to themselves out of pride, and a need to be important… this is wrong and sin…

    there still is a real god, and he does make himself personally available to those humble in heart

    all through scripture we see this.

    we might have to humble ourselves and accept that we are clay pots, not sliver vessels….let god make the decisions, and let us just humbly submit to him….glory belongs to him, not us…..

    one thing you did learn was the negative side of “religion” so the experience was still a valuable lesson in deception….

    now you are wiser, and will not be fooled again…

    be open to the truth, and be skeptical of any kind of “easy miracle” experiences

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  8. Coming from a Dispensationalist background like Augury (see above) seems to, we thought you people were crazy. In my bio I shared an incident where a group of us in a home study laid hands on a group member who was struggling with alcoholism and prayed over him. We didn’t even try to do anything magical to him – we were just praying and comforting him.

    The pastors shut that group down completely – dissolved it – because that was the slippery slope to feathers and gold dust.

    It amuses me when folks like Augury look at this story and try to make the case that your god stories were the wrong kind, while theirs are obviously the true foundation of faith.

    Congrats on getting out.

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  9. I enjoyed reading your article. It answered a question I was wondering about in regard to people who get involved with this drunk in the spirit and all that which goes along with it. That is, what is the effect of this encounter. The intent of this movement is to turn people away from Jesus Christ, away from the faith. Chasing miracles, signs, and wonders, Satan has appealed to the ego and self glorification to lead many people astray. Only God performs miracles, heals the sick, raises the dead, ..etc. In the Bible no one associated with such took credit for what God did. The idea of paying money to take a class so that you can be taught how to heal the sick is ridiculous and a rip off. I feel sorry for those who have been deceived.

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