I oftentimes tell the humorous story of the first time Piper and I attended a small country Pentecostal church in Paradise, California near Chico State University where my fiancé and I were attending college back in 1973. Piper had already entered into the Charismatic experience the previous summer and I was open to it but had yet to receive it.*
Soon after we arrived on campus we began to inquire about churches and immediately zoned in on three potential opportunities. One was the “in church” (I don’t recall the name, but I think it was an Evangelical Free Church) that seemed to be the one that most Christian’s at school attended in downtown Chico. The other popular alternative for young Catholics was the on-campus Newman Center. But due to Piper’s growing excitement and new-found fire with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, we also sought to check out a church that flowed with a Pentecostal/Charismatic flavor!
To make a long story short, we checked out the ‘in-church” and just didn’t feel at home there. Then we heard about a church in a nearby town that was “on-fire” and took a trip one Sunday morning to visit the Paradise Assembly of God Church in the Sierra foothills a few miles east of Chico. Well, the church looked like it could have been set in a late 1800’s western. It was a simple, long and narrow white church with a steeple in the front. The people were very outgoing and friendly and all was going great until the service started.
We thoroughly enjoyed the praise and worship with their electric guitars, organ, piano and drums… you may recall that drums and electric instruments were NOT accepted in our home church at the time… except when Piper and I and our band sang a song from the musical I had written… and some people were so offended that they walked out…
At the conclusion of the music service, the Pastor’s wife got up to welcome everyone and then with a smile said, “Let’s pray.” It was at that point that everything seemed to go a little bonkers… at least for me! At the Pastor’s encouragement, everyone got up and started praying in English and in tongues out loud together.
I’m sure that Piper would tell you that my eyes must have gotten as big as saucers as I turned to her only to see my lovely fiancé burst into laughter at my reaction and then begin to pray in her beautiful new prayer language unto God. Whew! To be honest I will have to say that the experience was not scary and seemed to be in perfect order… but it did overwhelm me! Little did I know that some six years later we would start attending another small Charismatic fellowship and have that same lively, on-fire type of service to become the expected norm in our Christian experience!
We actually returned to that small church a number of times but ended up attending the Newman Center services on Sunday’s and the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship meetings during the week for the rest of our stay at Chico State. It just seemed to be the right spot for us at that time!
And so on to today… or rather yesterday! While we live-streamed the service from Rhema Bible Church, which we now consider to be our home church following our long affiliation through our church in Santa Rosa and our ensuing attendance at Bible School and involvement with the church while in Oklahoma, the Holy Spirit just seemed to take on an increasingly strong presence the further along the Pastor got into his sermon which revolved around 2 Corinthians 2:14 which boldly declares “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” (KJV)
As Pastor Hagin brought the sermon to a conclusion, he suddenly stopped and turned to his music leader and said, “play something!” The music team was caught a little off guard, stumbled a bit as they and the sound team worked to get them going and then blasted off into a song of victory that is well known at the church. As that song seemed to come to a conclusion the music leader Rich stopped the music and said “Wait… I’ve got another one!”
And with that he began to repeat in song, the proclamation: ♪ “No matter what the weapon is, I want you to know, I WIN!” ♫ It was amazing as we could feel the anointing flow right through the air-waves into our home… just like I remember the many times it happened when we attended various services at the church in Oklahoma! The church seemed to come even more alive than they already were and many folks just couldn’t contain themselves anymore and took off on a run around the room… and you know? I was one of them!
When Rich began to sing the second song I KNEW that if we were there that Piper would not be able to simply stand in the pew and would have been one of the first to take off… and so I grabbed the handles of her wheelchair, spun her around and began to shout the song and in cadence to the music, ran Piper all around our dining and living rooms!
You should have seen the look on the dog’s face… it was priceless! And you know… I didn’t care what the neighbors may have thought if they drove or walked by (as I had the windows wide open along with the front door!) We were flowing in the Holy Ghost anointing that seemed to be extended to our house at that very time!
It was kind of like when we had church in our first home back in 1986 and the neighbor would look in the living room window and enjoy our music service! Some things are hard to change!
But what’s my point to all of this? I guess it is about enjoying the presence and joy of the Holy Spirit. I know that some TV personalities may think that we’ve lost a screw or two… but what they think doesn’t really matter… especially once you’ve experienced the presence of God… All that matters is following HIM and His will for each and everyone of our lives!
Sometimes that isn’t easy… but at other times like yesterday morning… it is phenomenal! A few moments in His presence, wrapped in His love, embracing His joy and resting in His peace is simply indescribable! Think about it…
Have a wonderful new week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to enter into God’s presence today?”
--- And if not… why not? Remember: ♪ “No matter what the weapon (formed against us) is, I want you to know, I WIN!” ♫ - according to God’s proclamation in 2 Corinthians 2:14!
*I entered into the Charismatic/Pentecostal experience of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues the following summer upon our return to Santa Rosa. If you should have any questions or thoughts about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, check out my favorite resource on the subject written in a very practical and Biblically supported discussion in the book “Nine O’Clock in the Morning.” This book was written in 1970 and chronicles the personal experience and story of Father Dennis Bennett, a well-respected and established Episcopal priest and Rector of a thriving 2500 member church in Southern California and his journey discovering the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.