A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook. The man seems genuine and I’ve heard these type of stories before at my old church. But like every other story that I’ve heard there’s yet to be X-ray proof.
I just created a Facebook page for this blog. I’ll be posting articles, sharing my blog posts as well as other things relating to the Charismatic and Pentecostal experience. Like if you will….
I was always told that the Ouija Board is a dangerous tool for speaking with the dead and it was a gateway into the demonic realm. I remember hearing stories from my cousin about how he played with an Ouija Board and started having visions during his sessions of his room on fire and furniture moving on its own. I heard stories in youth group about how people would throw their boards in a fire after having demonic experiences and the boards would start hissing and spitting out flames in an unnatural way. I’d listen to Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM show late at night on the radio and hear callers talk about their scary experiences with the Ouija Board. Even some of my non-Christian friends had bad stories. Hearing all these stories from different people it always seemed like the Ouija Board may actually have some power to it.
The first experience I personally had with an Ouija Board was really late at night at a friend’s house with a couple other friends a decade ago. We were all in our early-20s. My friend pulled out an Ouija Board, turned out the lights and put on a Robert Johnson record just for atmosphere. My friend’s were skeptical and were only trying it out for fun. I was a little more superstitious and decided to stand back and observe. They put their fingers over the planchette and started asking questions. The planchette seemed to move on its own as the spirit answered. Within 10 mins of their conversation with the spirit a cat started screaming outside the bedroom window and it freaked all of us out. They put the board back in its box and laughed. My friends took it as a funny coincidence but I thought a spirit spooked the cat. It was too much for me to blame on a coincidence. During my Charismatic Christian phase I would use this story as personal proof that there is a realm outside the experience of our own senses.
When I started questioning my Christian faith, I began looking into what Christians believed to be the darker sides of spirituality. I wanted to know if there were any other spiritual reality outside of the Christian belief in demons and angels. Inside and outside of Christianity it always seemed people had more experiences with evil spirits and ghosts than they did with angels and God. I suppose it’s because fear is a strong emotion that can make people exaggerate what they see and believe anything. I went through a short period looking more into occult practices and spirituality to see if I could learn something about the spiritual realm outside of Christianity.
It didn’t take long to see through the occult and New Age. I’ve experimented with the Ouija Board and most of the time it would answer with random letters and numbers. It wasn’t enough to convince me that there was actually a ghost or demon moving the planchette. By this time I was looking into a more psychological answer to my wonder about these Oujia Board experiences and found the ideomotor phenomenon. Like my spiritual Christian experience I found that there was a more natural answer to my questions than supernatural.
My last attempt at looking for a supernatural explanation of the Ouija Board I went to a seance in a supposedly haunted bar a few blocks from my house. Even with a medium on site asking the questions the answers were always still random letters leaving us to guess what the spirit may be saying. It wasn’t until she supposedly went into a trance and started conjuring up the spirits through her body and changing her voice that we started getting answers from whatever spirit was there. And I still wasn’t convinced. I couldn’t help but feel that everyone around me was being tricked into thinking something supernatural was really happening just like what I experienced in church. I gave the medium a $20 tip for the entertainment anyway.
Interesting article explaining the psychology behind Ouija Boards:
Science Explains Ouija Boards, Retroactively Ruins 1,000 Sleepovers
What Happens When You Blindfold Ouija Believers?
If you grew up in a Charismatic or Pentecostal church you may have had prophetic words spoken over your life. These prophecies would usually be given to you by your church family or by a speaker at the church. Nothing was more exciting than being called out in front of the congregation by a prophetic guest speaker and being told of the big plans God has for your life. Prophetic words usually encouraged you in your walk with God and gave you direction, because it lets you know God has a special plan in your life. I had lots of prophetic words spoken over my life.
Being a pastor’s son I always had people prophesying over me. A lot of the words were basic and vague like “you will have a ministry,” “you will be a missionary” or if they knew my dad was a pastor they’d give me a word about how I had the anointing of my father and I’d take up his mantle. But there were some words spoken over my life that were very particular and seemed to be just for me. The prophetic words that were more specific, had a common theme with other words given to me or resonated with my inner longings were the ones I paid most attention to.
Back in the mid-90s, a few years before launching The Call, Lou Engle laid hands on me and prayed. I remember him saying in his gravelly voice something along the lines of “You are going to grow up to be a man of God” plus a couple other things about my future – probably something about Joel’s Army – I wish I could remember. I was in junior high and this was my earliest memory of being prophesied over. It was simple, but enough for me to think he said something important about my life. Lou Engle speaks with authority and passion so whatever he says about what he see’s in your life you feel it may be coming from God; or at least that’s how I felt when I was 14 years old. Passion and authority play a huge role in the power of giving and receiving prophetic words.
During my God Encounter phase I was getting prophesied over more than I think it’s even healthy for a Charismatic. I have a lot of these prophetic words saved on cassette and CDR. The words that always seemed to be a common theme in my prophesies were that I’d be used in politics, write books and speak in universities using my intellect while performing miracles, signs and wonders. That sounded exciting to me. I wanted that to be my future and I started living as though that would be my future. I was encouraged that these prophetic words were given to me by well known Charismatic leaders I don’t care to name drop right now.
For a few years I prayed, fasted and meditated on God’s word trying to live in the destiny I was called into. I gave up friendships, job opportunities, interests and hobbies that I thought may be hindering my life away from my living fully in my destiny. I remember feeling at times that my calling in life was on track. Other times it was a struggle to see what God was doing in my life because things weren’t going as divinely as I imagined. I still pressed on believing that God had this great plan in my life. I felt secure in the fact that my life had meaning and I would live an extraordinary life.
Deconverting after believing in the things prophecied over my life wasn’t easy. It was depressing. I sometimes had panic attacks cause the reality would set in about the fact that I wasted a few years of my young adult life pursuing a destiny that was not promised. Added to that anxiety was my coming into grips that there may not even be a god. I regretted the years spent in pursuit of my calling. I wished I hadn’t dropped my old friendships, still played music and toured with my band. I wished I would have stayed in college and pursued an actual degree, instead of using up my time at the School of Supernatural Ministries. I felt like a fool and I was embarrassed of even looking back on the things I was beginning to not believe in. I felt wasted.
Since then I have come to accept this part of my life story. I still regret the things I have missed out on and the friendships I lost, but it no longer over takes me with guilt. I have found new meaning in life; not from a god, not from a prophet, but in myself.
I never really got into explaining my beliefs and influences that helped shape my personal theology when I was a believer. I won’t go into much history in this post, since I’ve already done that in my last few posts. I just want to talk about what I believed and who influenced my beliefs.
My hyper spiritual belief’s weren’t always there. Like I said in a couple of my earlier posts, I was starting to flirt with agnosticism before my conversion into the Charismatic side of Christianity. I grew up in a non-denominational house church that got hit with the Toronto Blessing in the mid-90s when I was in elementary school. Even as a child I was a little skeptical of all the charismania going on in my church at the time. But I trusted the people around me to think that it may be real Godly experiences they were having. Even though I didn’t have my own experiences as a child, I still looked to the Toronto Blessing as a big influence on what I believed God can do to a person.
The renewal meetings that got me involved in the Charismatic culture I talked about in my post God Encounter; or Not influenced me in what it may be like to encounter God. I started reading books like Bill Johnson’s Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind, Graham Cooke’s When Heaven Opens: Discovering the Power of Divine Encounters, John Crowder’s Miracle Workers, Reformers and the New Mystics and lots of others in that vein.
Supernatural stories I heard about Heidi Baker, David Hogan, Todd Bentley, Randy Clark’s Global Awakening, the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and some of the Kansas IHOP stories were an influence. As well as miracle stories I heard from missionaries I knew personally.
The Supernatural School of Ministry also influenced my spiritual beliefs in that God was a miraculous God and we, the Church, are Christ’s body so we can do the miracles, signs and wonders of Christ, plus more (John 14:12).
The Gospel of John, the Book of Acts as well as other mystical passages and stories in the Bible were huge influences on my belief in what it was to be a spiritual follower of Christ. I use to read John and Acts constantly for encouragement.
Coming out of a liberal punk scene before my conversion into the Charismatic culture I had a hard time finding anything I could relate to or believe in the more Conservative and Fundamentalist cultures of Christianity. So I found my inspiration in the social gospel. I saw the social gospel as more on the lines of what Jesus was all about.
I loved the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke. The stories of Jesus driving out the money changers in the temple, calling out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, feeding the multitude and his love and care for the “least of these” made me want to be more like Him.
I was inspired by books like Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution (even wanted to spend time at his Simple Way community in Philadelphia) and Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You. I read and listened to Tony Campolo.
Other inspirations were the Catholic Worker Movement activists like Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin and Ammon Hennacy, the Catonsville Nine, Christian Civil Rights and Labor activists. I also loved knowing that Bill McKibben, the environmentalist author and founder of 350.org was a Christian.
The early Jesus People movement in the 1960’s and early 70’s was also a source of inspiration.
During the Occupy Wall Street days I often imagined God had a place for me in that movement.
– I always believed in evolution. I thought evolution was God’s way of creating all the living things on earth. So even as a Christian there was no doubt in my mind that evolution was a reality. I just thought it was a mystery on when exactly God breathed his Spirit into the animal called Man.
– I was on the fence about Hell. I had a hard time believing that Hell was a reality with a loving God in control of the universe. I wasn’t sure what to believe about it.
– Homosexuality was another hard thing for me to put my head around. I had a lot of gay friends and had trouble figuring out why it would be a sin. I wasn’t sure what to believe about the nature of homosexuality with a Christian worldview. I tried to stay away from the topic. But would always end up siding with the homosexual community.
– The Rapture was a joke. I knew enough about the history of Christianity to know it was only a recent belief within Christendom. I believed the Church was the Second Coming of Christ, because we were the Body of Christ. And we were here to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth.
How I thought Christianity should be:
With my beliefs coming together I thought Christians were to live a radical life similar to that found within the Social Gospel movements while performing miracles, signs and wonders, because we are the Body of Christ. All of this together would bring the Kingdom of God to Earth.
And that was the fantastical Christian utopia I believed in.
This is the last of my more detailed posts about the experiences that started my deconversion from Christianity. This experience happened just as I was beginning to question everything around me. It was one of the last nails I driven through God’s coffin.
I was raised believing the supernatural was all around me. I believed God and angels were present in my life, but nothing seemed more real to me than demons. Fear is a powerful emotion.
In elementary school I remember laying in bed at night and I would sometimes feel my bed shake. I would get scared and cry out to my dad and have him pray over every corner of the bedroom. He would tell me that I had more power than demons because I had Christ in my life and all I needed to do was tell them to leave in the name of Jesus. This would give me a little more comfort at night, but the fear was still there.
Throughout high school I was fascinated by ghost stories. I spent hours online at night reading about true ghost stories and looking up pictures and videos of what might be spirits caught on film. I wasn’t sure if ghosts were the spirits of those who have passed on or if they were demons deceiving us into believing they are ghost. I only knew that there was something else unseen outside of the physical realm. I enjoyed the mystery and even enjoyed the paranoia I’d feel at night, but I feared I may have been inviting demons into my life.
I was in junior high the first time I experienced a person who was supposedly demon possessed. I was at my friend’s birthday party when her mom all of a sudden changed into another person. She started acting like a 5 year old little girl. My friend’s and I didn’t know what was going on. We just assumed she was just being funny and embarrassing her daughter. My mom was at the party and called my dad, who is a pastor, to come to the house and help ease the situation. My dad came to the house and took her into the garage and prayed over her with my mom. Later, when I was older, I was told that my friend’s mother manifested a couple of other personalities in her garage as my dad prayed over her that night and even attacked my mom with a sharp object, cutting her arm. Over the years the story of that night was explained to me by my parents as an experience with a type of Multiple Personality Disorder and demon possession, interchangeably.
Being a pastor, my dad would always come across situations like this. When I was in high school the youth group he was in charge of would bring in a lot of goths and punks from the high schools in the area. I remember seeing kids I went to high school with start acting out in wild manners while being prayed for. One girl would rip off her cross necklace while my dad prayed for her. One boy would growl and start acting out in the middle of my dad leading a meeting. I would later find out that some of these kids were just messing around with the church kids and my dad. I’d tell my dad about it so he’d know not to take it serious, but there were other experiences that would go unexplained (usually behind the scenes) that ended up reinforcing his belief that some of these kids were actually being bothered by demons.
Before I go on any further I want to mention that my parents are both very loving and caring. I have a lot of respect and love for both of them, not only because they are my parents but because they are genuinely good people. They aren’t very educated in mental illness or psychology, though. So their worldview is very much influenced by their personal experiences and the people around them. Keep this in mind as I go on, because the rest of this story is a lot about them.
Do to childhood trauma and some bad experiences early in her adulthood, my mother has struggled with anxiety. She has been in and out of therapy for as long as I remember. For over 10 years she wasn’t able to drive, ride an escalator or even write out a check publicly, because she would go right into a panic attack, start shaking and freeze up. My mom was never really receptive to the therapy she got, so she would give up after awhile. In fact, the last therapist she went to found out she was a pastor’s wife, they started talking about church and he told her all she needed to do was give her problems to God. The money and time spent on that therapist went down the drain.
I was living with my parents during the time my faith in God was beginning to deteriorate. I tried to hold on to my faith, but it was quickly crumbling between my fingers. One night I got up to use the restroom and heard my mom in her room crying, moaning and making growling sounds while my dad prayed out loud. I knocked on their door to see if everything was alright. My dad opened the door and stepped out into the hallway as my mom continued to growl in the bedroom and explained to me what was going on. He said that for the last couple years at night my mom would sometimes start manifesting a spirit and that only a couple people knew about it. He asked me to come into their room and pray with him over her. This was the first time I saw my mom possessed by a demon.
My mom was under her blankets growling between begging us for help. I pulled the blankets over to see her face and she started gnashing her teeth and hissing at us. It was really unreal to see my mom in this way. She was like another person. We laid our hands on her and prayed in the name of Jesus. She would start freaking out and contorting her body as we prayed. We tried to get her to pray with us when she would become more aware, but she would start growling again. The next day my mom couldn’t remember what happened. I believed my mom might possessed.
The next several months while living with my parents I was exposed to my mom’s manifestations. It always happened at night and she’d wake up not remembering what happened. It was bizarre. One night, while my dad was out of town, I was getting ready for bed when my mom started pounding on my bedroom door begging for help. When I opened the door she all of a sudden changed and started growling at me. I began praying for her and the same thing would happen; she would continue growling while gnashing her teeth at me. I’d pray for angels to come into the house, but nothing would change. I’d start to wonder why it is my mom would never change when we prayed and calling for angels and Jesus to protect the house never showed any difference. I began wondering about mental illness at this point and started looking more into the psychology behind exorcism and demon possession.
What I learned from looking into more reasonable explanations behind demon possession and exorcism was that it wasn’t completely unknown to psychology. A lot of different personality disorders, like Dissociative Disorder and even Multiple Personality Disorder, sounded a lot like my mom. Her anxieties may have triggered it since it was never dealt with properly by her therapists, or she gave up to easily while seeing a therapist. I can’t diagnose my mom cause I’m not a psychiatrist, but all the signs lead up to some kind of mental disorder, not demon possession. Looking into exorcism I learned it’s very similar to hypnosis. I already knew the power of the placebo effect and the power of suggestion, because of my experience in faith healing, so it was easy for me to accept that exorcism was a practice in hypnosis. Again my faith in God was challenged and it eventually led me into atheism.
I brought all of this up to my dad hoping he would try to give her real help instead of prayer. But he brought up the last therapist who said all she needed to do was give her troubles to God, as if that was the last resort. Then he mentioned how he sometimes got attacked by demons at night, which I have already learned to be sleep paralysis after my own experiences. I mentioned everything I learned to my mom but the experiences she was having was so real and scary she couldn’t see it as being a mental disorder. She also mentioned that last therapist she saw. To them, if a professional can admit that it may be supernatural, then it must be true.
My mom eventually was exorcized by some well known Charismatic exorcist and hasn’t had an episode in 2 years. I no longer believe this whole experience was supernatural, so I just take this as a sign of how powerful suggestion and the placebo effect is. How the mind creates your personal reality is very strange.
Seeing how anxiety has tortured my mom when it was left untreated I fear that her “possessions” will return.
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.