The Death of a Vision

Under Juniper TreeElijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It’s too much, LORD,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!” He lay down under the tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said, “Wake up and eat.” (1 Kings 19:4-5 GNB)
Have you ever heard of the death of a vision? God gives us a taste of what He has for us to walk in, even does the work of that vision through us for a brief season, and then takes it away. You see this pattern in Moses setting out to deliver the Hebrew people from the hands of the Egyptian slavery one task master at a time, only to learn that God had something far greater in mind. With the Hebrews he was trying to help turning on him, he high-tailed it for the back side of the wilderness in fear of Pharaoh. There he tended his father-in-law’s sheep for 40 years. So much for that vision—at least that was what Moses thought until he had an encounter with God 40 years later!

Then there was Joseph and his dreams of greatness as a young man. His dreams did not please his folks or his brothers when he told them that they would all bow down before him one day. The brothers did their best to make sure that this dreamer never ruled over them, and plotted to kill him! You know the rest. He was sold into slavery in Egypt, and thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Insult and injury seem to be his lot for being faithful to God. Twenty-three years after the brothers sold him into slavery, the dream was fulfilled.

How about the great apostle Paul? Everyone seems to think that Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road and “insto-chango,” Paul was a super evangelist on the mission trail! That was not the case. Jesus first put him in the Arabian Desert for three years where He taught him and stripped him of his Jewish traditions. It was a total of 14 years before he went out on his first missionary journey, only after the Holy Spirit spoke to the brethren at Antioch, where Paul was living as one of the brothers and said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

A lot of dying has to take place for God to get a purified vessel He can use effectively after He calls him or her. My case was similar. About 1978 He started to move by His Spirit in me through words of knowledge, prophecy, dreams and such. We had a group of people meeting with us in our home as well. It was a heady time for me. I finally had something from God that my own father never provided for me – a sense of identity. Like Moses, I did not know the difference between my soul and what was of the Spirit, and pride started rising up in me. Because of the accuracy of things He gave me and the resulting pride, I was dangerous. He showed me the mixture, and I started praying that He would purify me. One day I heard Him say, “Michael, if I quit moving in your meetings with my Spirit, will you try to fake it?” I replied, “No, Lord, if you quit, I quit.” After that that He pulled the plug on everything I identified as spiritual in my life.

About this time, I had what I felt was prophetic dream of a dear 35 year old friend of ours who had abdominal cancer. Sandy was prophetic and we shared a lot of things back and forth. In this dream I could see my hand reaching down to her where she was lying on her sick bed and I was praying that she would be healed. I was so startled I woke up abruptly, woke my wife and told her about the dream. I then went back to sleep and dreamed the second half. You know how we have those wonderful, feel good dreams and want to go back to sleep and have it some more and it never happens? Well, not in this case! In the second half of the dream her family and mine were all sitting around a large dining room table with the sunlight streaming through the windows. Sandy was now looking like a 24 year old woman in her prime, and she was talking about her healing from the Lord. This startled me awake again and this time I stayed up.

The next day I made an appointment to see the pastor about my dream. He told me to just sit on it and wait and see if God would confirm it. I waited and waited, and Sandy got sicker and sicker. Finally, for a brief time her cancer went into remission enough that she could come to church one Sunday. It was the first time in six months and when I saw here sitting there it was like an electric shock went through me! I got a chance to ask the pastor during the service if it was time to pray for her. At the end of the service, he had me come up and tell my dream, then invited Sandy and the church elders to pray for her healing.

We had given Sandy and her husband a large Chrysler station wagon. A few months earlier, the Lord had told me that the car was going to die when it turned over 103,000 miles. It had a six-way driver’s seat, so Sandy could adjust it to be more comfortable while hauling her kids from place to place. One day about a month after we all prayed for her, Sandy passed out, drove into a tree, and slid forward into the steering wheel. From that time on, her cancer went full speed and it wasn’t long before she died. I was heart sick, and felt like the worst false prophet that ever walked.

That was the beginning of the death of my vision. God shut down my home meetings as He had warned me. Soon the church was split by two cult leaders who came in with the pastor’s permission. Everything started falling apart all around me. I took a job on the other side of the state, sold our house and gladly moved away from all that insanity. That job died and other jobs dried up as well. I finally had to take a job on a remote Aleutian island of Alaska without my family. There I was surrounded by drug abusers and alcoholics and was about as spiritual as one of the volcanic rocks on that island. Little did I know that God was answering my prayer to cleanse me from the mixture of soul and His Spirit. In Hebrews we read:

 “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12-13 KJ2000)

Fourteen years went by from the time I prayed for Sandy in front of the congregation before I could feel the presence of the Lord again. Everything stopped. A sense of His presence was gone, the Bible quit speaking to me, and my prayers hit the floor with a thud. I had no meaningful fellowship with other Christians. He also stripped me of the pride of the work of my hands with long periods of unemployment. I was thoroughly dead by the time He finally showed up again in a way that I could recognize as Him. As I started to feel His presence once again, He spoke to me while sitting in a church service and said, “You have not been this way before.” These were the same words God spoke to the Children of Israel as they were about to cross over the Jordon at the end of their 40 year wilderness. He also reminded me that a seed that falls into the ground and dies doesn’t look like what springs up as a sprout. The idolaters that left Egypt 40 years earlier were not the ones that God took across the Jordon into the Promised Land.

About this same time, my wife and I started going to a home fellowship again. A lady named Kathy had been battling cancer in her abdomen (Yup! Re-runs). After what I went through 14 years earlier, I would never have volunteered to pray for her healing. I figured that God didn’t want me to do that any more. Because she was weak, the leader of the group decided to take the meeting to Kathy’s house so she could be there. That evening her husband carried her down the stairs from the bedroom and put her in a recliner in the corner of the living room. At one point during the meeting, the leader’s wife said to me, “Michael, I want you to stand in front of me and hold out your hand without touching me and pray for me.” I said, “Alice, I feel like a nickel waiting for change. I think you ought to be praying for me.” But she insisted, so I did what she asked.

Next thing I knew, Alice fell to the floor, thump! So Kathy said, “Michael, will you pray for me, too? My cancer is flaring up again and the doctors aren’t giving me much hope.” I thought, “Oh boy! Here we go again — more dying!” Her husband scooted her off the chair onto the floor so we could all get around her and pray. I held my hand above her torso about six inches and started praying quietly as the others joined in. All of a sudden I felt a strong magnetic buzzing in my hand, and as I swept it back and forth from her chest to her abdomen, the buzz got stronger over one spot. She had her eyes closed and said that it was like having an MRI–she could feel everywhere my hand moved. I started hearing the word “pancreas,” so I asked her if the doctors had told her that she had pancreatic cancer. She said that they had.

We decided to keep praying until that feeling left my hand. About 45 minutes later the buzzing stopped. At that point Kathy sat right up and said, “Okay, that is healed! Now pray for my kidneys. They said one of my kidneys is dead.” So I went around behind her, and without touching her again, moved my hand back and forth from the left side to the right. The buzzing in my hand started over the right kidney, and she confirmed that was the one. We prayed for about thirty minutes. Finally the magnetic buzzing quit. Kathy jumped up and said, “Okay, I’m healed.” Off to the kitchen she went to make us all a snack tray! Mind you just two hours earlier she had to be carried into the front room. The next day she went to the gym and worked out. God wanted me to know that He still loved me could heal my broken heart as well.

About a year later I was asked to pray for another woman, a widow with terminal cancer. She was also healed, but it was not immediate and there were no signs of power that went with the prayers. Do I think that I am a healer? NOPE! I believe that the one who receives the “gift of healing” is the one who is healed! But I have learned what Paul meant when he said, “When I am weak, then am I strong.”

I know that some of you have gone through similar circumstances, and I hope this has encouraged you. There has to be a death in us before the power of His resurrection Life can be manifest in and through us. Since God raised me up from my spiritual death in1994, He has used me in many diverse ways but told me not to put a label on what I am in Christ as so many people do, claiming a particular calling and title. The flesh loves titles! Most of what I do is write what I hear the Spirit saying here in our little home in the back woods of Idaho, then share it with the body of Christ over the Internet. I keep as low a profile as I can. It is no longer about me! I pray often that Paul’s words would be true, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” And, “I can do all things through Christ who is my strength.” Amen.

Oh, that car that Sandy drove into the tree? They had the auto body class at the local technical college fix it up. One night it caught fire and burned, and that was the end of it. Yup, the odometer read 103,000 miles.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24-25 RSVA)

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A Story of Deception and Deliverance

temptaton of Christ

And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:22-24 KJ2000)

Lie not in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place: For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall by calamity.
(Proverbs 24:15-16 KJ2000)

He who misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit; but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance. (Proverbs 28:10 RSVA)

I was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church as an infant and raised in it, so I didn’t have a lot to say about that until I was old enough to see that it was doing nothing for the hunger that God had put in me. Out of frustration as a young man, I finally went looking for something that could scratch my spiritual itch. Being steeped in religion, my next stop was the religion my wife grew up in, an Armenian type Bible church that at least knew about the scriptures pointing to salvation in Christ. The problem was that they did not believe that the Holy Spirit was needed to be a Christian, and that only the “ascended masters” (I jest) in the church got the Holy Spirit when they had “the very seed of sin” removed from their lives. The rest of the unwashed masses had to struggle along Sunday after Sunday, going up for the altar call and getting saved all over again because they sinned during the week. In reality, it was no different from my RCC experience there they told us that the sacraments were needed every Sunday for the same reason. As my wife put it, “They believed that Jesus had the power to save them, but not enough power to keep them saved, so they had to do that on their own.”

That church experience only lasted a couple of years until the itch to really know God in a personal way grew unbearable once again. He kept calling me to find His power that I needed to walk upright before Him as His son instead of groveling at the church altar every Sunday.

I became most miserable from some deep rooted issues that were hanging over and in me from the Vietnam War. I had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and didn’t know it. In 1969, nobody even talked about this mental disorder. I knew from what I was doing to my family that I needed help that I was not finding it in the churches. Finally, one Sunday in June 1970, I came out of my up tight little church and found a hand bill on the windshield of my car. It told me the Jesus People were holding park meetings. We went to check them out.

The park where the meetings were to be held was the local hippie hang-out park where local rock bands put on a free concert every Sunday afternoon during the summer. Imagine what this very straight laced couple thought as we saw hippies walking around with their wine jugs, toking on pot, and hippie girls in their long dresses and combat boots. The real shocker was a girl about 8 months pregnant wearing a bikini! But I was determined to see what these Jesus People were about, so we sat there in our Sunday best looking totally out of place.

Finally, a group of kids gathered that were not like the rest. They had the long hair and funky clothes (no bikinis), but they were different. Their faces shone with the presence of the Lord and I had never seen that in any church! I found out what they had that I didn’t–they had been filled with the Holy Spirit. By the end of a couple more park meetings, I found out what God wanted–an unconditional surrender of all that I had been, was and ever hoped to be, everything I owned and clung to on this earth, and even my family! One young man explained that if I was going to be filled by His Holy Spirit, I had to be emptied of myself. I knelt down after one meeting and did business with God. I confessed it all, sins past and present, and surrendered everything to Jesus without any conditions.

That was the turning point in my life. The next morning I woke up a new man in Him. I fully expected that God would take away everything and in time many things that had been so important to me dropped away as He put His order in my life. And yes, I got to keep my wife and kids. I didn’t speak in tongues and all that Pentecostal stuff, at least not at first, but for the first time in my life I had power over sin. I could choose not to sin or to cave into it and that was a real breakthrough for a man who was still a Catholic sailor in his mind. I was now a new creation in Christ!

As usually happens, the enemy could not allow a group of people to be running around in the freedom of Christ with shining faces. A man came in among all these new believers that were saved out of Hippie-dom and started to take the preeminence one small step at a time until he had total control over all our lives. He knew the Bible better than any of us and also knew how to twist it to give him the power he needed to take control. My wife and I were under this man for six years and by the time he was through, he had replaced Jesus in all our lives, His Spirit was quenched in each of us, and the voice of His Spirit was drowned out by this man’s cleaver arguments and teachings. Later we learned that the leader had studied the mind control books by Peale, Carnegie, and Napoleon Hill and was using them against us.

After escaping from that man-made hell, we tried some “normal” churches for a while, found them lacking, and ended up in non-denominational church that was small and personal and started to feel like family. They loved us back to life and we started to recover our freedom in Christ among them. That went well until the pastor resigned and the assistant pastor rose up and brought in men from outside the area that took over and started to shape the group into another cult under their control. We recognized what was going on quicker this time and got out, but not without some severe spiritual wounding in the process. If cults cannot control you they try to kill who you are as a person.

Don’t kid yourselves, even the so-called “main line churches” are guilty of these practices! They do this by bringing your salvation into question or even saying that you are demon possessed. Some dear saints have their faith destroyed by watching the church leaders fall into sexual sin or even being sexually molested by the leaders themselves. Satan is good at what he does and knows just where we are vulnerable. In my case the cult leaders used a brother in Christ I had walked with for many years, meet with me and ask me if I had ever been saved. After that I was gladly ready to go off into the wilderness for I had had all that “fun” with these Christians I could stand.

The next part of my walk–a spiritual wilderness–lasted 14 years. Part of the wounding from the cult was what I call “scape goat-ism.” They lay their hands on you and put all their sins (blame casting) on you, and send you out in the wilderness to die (see Leviticus 16:20-22). Many of you know what this is all about. I was angry and bitter most of that 14 years and that had a lot to do with it lasting so long. I was mad at God for what He let His people do to me, my wife, and my family! After about 12 years, I finally came to see my sin against God and confessed it to Him as sin. Then He started to slowly heal my heart over the following two years.

In 1994, I was totally released of all the pain and wounding and had an encounter with Jesus that restored my first love for Him. Since then, my church experiences weren’t any better, but I was able to see what was of Christ and what was of the flesh and not come under condemnation any longer. I knew who I was in Christ and that kept me clear of deceptions and condemnation. After that the Lord brought me into a writing ministry and put me in fellowship with George Davis. We have co-authored several books and articles on spiritual matters concerning God’s kingdom and what we have learned along the way. If you are interested, you can find them on our website at: http://www.awildernessvoice.com.

God bless you for taking the time to read all this. I hope it helps you see how “the very elect can be deceived,” yet overcome the wicked one by the power of God calling you to Himself as your loving Father and releasing others as He does.