“A man with an experience is never at the mercies of a man with an argument!” Pastor H Williams (Our old Pastor and proper top fella!)
I suppose one of my pet hates, (along with driving behind a guy who’s indicating to turn left and takes an age to make the turn,) would be my inner angst of watching someone with no personal experience of a certain matter offer a full and thorough explanation of whatever it is they have never experienced for themselves! Christendom seems full of this stuff. Amateur theologians, armed and dangerous with more Bible translations than common sense, ready at the drop of a hat to spill forth their extensive knowledge to anyone willing to take time out to listen! Just this week I saw a thread on Facebook where someone was asking a question related to ‘Holy Intoxication!’ Within seconds an extensive and thorough explanation was offered by someone who obviously had a vast array of experience in these matters! He easily qualified as the online Guru for the moment! Now I’m not against guys offering an ‘Understanding,’ neither am I suggesting that understanding is not important, I’m just wondering how truly blissful life is for someone who has all the answers but never actually tastes the reality? I honor ‘Understanding,’ I believe that understanding helps to sustain a lifestyle of bliss, I mean it’s good to have a ‘Good’ Idea that undergirds your experience! I guess the questions I’m asking are; How essential is understanding in order for us to enjoy and encounter a supernatural/natural life? Is it also possible that in some respects we can focus so heavily on gaining knowledge that we forget that Life is firstly to be ENJOYED, then maybe secondly – understood!? With all of our ability to teach on the ‘Spirit’ or the ‘Supernatural,’ to give a message full of how’s and how not’s, I sometimes wonder just how much people are actually experiencing themselves?
I remember a few years back reading the history of the 1904 Welsh Revival, where a young lad by the name of Evan Roberts helped to give shape to something totally new in the nation. Roberts’ lifestyle seemed to be one of continual supernatural encounter and experience. Throughout his life Roberts seemed to live in constant bliss and Divine Reality. As the moments ticked down towards the October of 1904 it seems that Evan’s life was one long trance like state, as the young lad encountered vision after vision of the coming manifestation of reality. When the revival eventually broke forth Evan was one of the main voices in the Church pulpits encouraging the congregants to drop their agendas and to enter into a life of heaven on earth. Although Evan’s ministry seemed powerful and effective, many seemed miffed and put off by his mannerisms and by the supernatural means which he used to communicate his message. Often young Evan would stagger around the chapel in a drunken like state and would spout out weird thoughts and suggestions offering with them no immediate understanding! At times Roberts would call out the names of individuals who were outside of the chapel and would highlight issues within their lives that seemed in need of change. His means were unnatural and unorthodox, his judgements seemed to lack reason and seemed full of mystery! As you can imagine it wasn’t long before accusations came from many, ‘was it possible that Evan was either mad or that he was using hypnotic powers and demonic means to captivate his followers?’ These days I guess he would just be accused of being ‘New Age or flaky! For several decades after the revival was over guys attempted to give an understanding of what it actually was that Evan Roberts manifested as he ministered to the masses! It probably wasn’t until 70 years later as the Charismatic Renewal hit that guys suddenly realized that Evans life was perfectly normal and that he had just been experiencing strong manifestations of ‘The Gifts of the Spirit!’ It took two generations of enquiring minds to eventually gain something of an understanding of what it was that young Evan had been living out many years before.
In about 2005 carrying just a ‘desire’ to walk in reality I started to pray some outrageous stuff! Looking back I now assume that I was obviously wearied in my own spiritual journey, but I can also see that maybe this was partly due to the spiritual climate manifesting within the Church of the day. You couldn’t visit anywhere in the UK where ‘Stuff’ was happening, so many ‘Believers’ were dry and lacked any true experience of the supernatural. Whenever anything started to break out it always seemed to be frowned upon and was quickly snuffed out by the powers that be! Sadly these were the same ‘Powers’ who offered us information, their sermons seemed powerless to help, each one attempted to encourage us that a great awakening was imminent and that change was around the corner but in reality nothing ever changed! It all sounded positive enough but for me what seemed obviously lacking was the definite lack of personal experience and encounter, not just in my own life but also in the lives of those offering us the answers! My desire led me into a season of meditation and prayer. Over that season my focus was turned towards the need for personal encounter, for a life of experience that not just transcended understanding but that just like Evan Roberts it would take guys 70 years for the Church to fathom out what had taken place! My prayer was not just for a life of sign and wonders but that I personally would become a ‘Sign and a Wonder!’ That the glory radiating from my life would not just ‘affect’ those who came in contact with me but would completely ‘baffle’ those around me! I remember that around that time I prayed for weeks; “God let your Glory so manifest through my physical body that I would be incapacitated for weeks at a time and that guys would need to take me around in a wheelchair due to my physical immobility!” That prayer was thankfully answered and that box well and truly ticked!! Listen, it wasn’t that I wanted to look like a total loon! I just realized that in a day where guys had an ability to explain everything that very few were actually experiencing reality and that something needed to change! I now have countless stories of outrageous fruit from that season. So many lives were transformed. In all of the foolishness, with very few being able to offer an explanation, life flowed powerfully!
I remember a couple of years back being with Kobus Van Rensburg in South Africa. We were at his annual conference which was packed out with 5000 pastors and leaders. The teaching was awesome, so much information, so much understanding was being shared. The only problem was it was pretty obvious that one main ingredient was lacking; The heavy drunken Glory! As I sat there I had an inner knowing; “You have come here to serve this nation a drink! You are not to take a single Rand from this nation, serve this nation the wine!” As I heard these thoughts suddenly Kobus says to the congregation; “You all look so dry, you need a drink of New Wine! Worship team get that song ready, you know which one, we need to serve this nation a drink!” Suddenly the worship team starts playing Godfrey Birtill’s song ‘Are you ready ready ready! Glory in the Kitchen, Glory in the Pub!’ The crazy thing is that Godfrey wrote that song after visiting Wales and hearing us relay the stories of breakouts of the Glory of the unseen realm we were experiencing all over the nation!! The song was Godfreys honest attempt to journal the experiences we were having throughout the nation in song! As the song was played in South Africa guys began to engage in the eternal party and the wine flowed powerfully!
Understanding what we are drinking and knowing how to drink is cool, what is cooler still is coming under the influence of the experience! This last week has been another crazy time of encounter for me. Yet again the wine of experience has flowed even as I’ve questioned some of what I thought I understood! A few days ago Donna and I were in the supermarket and the Glory broke out so strong that two queues of people were left buckling over in fits of laughter. It was a strong experience for several and one which I felt I had no need to explain! This wasn’t an isolated incident, our lives are full of such incidents! At times the ‘Incidents’ are so strong hitting public places that I’m left scratching my head wondering what on earth just hit! I love that realm of wonder, that place of being shocked by Divine reality breaking out all around me! I suppose I’ve always been shocked by God, I love that He/She/It shocks me! I love that I’m taken by surprise by him, it makes for every day being an encounter rather than an explanation!
As I said earlier, my one single pet hate is hearing guys talk as if they have all the answers YET there seems to be such a deficit with them in terms of experience! What I love about the life of Jesus was we see Him firstly ‘Doing’ and secondly ‘Teaching!’ Even when you look at his teaching you often see a man not ticking all the boxes with great understanding but actually talking in parables and riddles. He seemed to have no problem with manifesting crazy stuff and in return offering no understanding or at least sharing a story that left guys more confused than when He started! It seems that the God that He portrayed and the Kingdom that He lived from – manifested via mystery and tension. When he attempted to share with guys the reality of who he was, he used the analogy of the Manna that came down from heaven, saying that he was the ‘Living Manna,’ or you could say the ‘Living What is This?’ He had no problem leaving the question hanging without offering an immediate answer. He was happy with the tension of guys feeling uncertain, with them being shocked by awe and graced by wonder. I’m not saying that understanding may not be beneficial, but I suppose what I am saying is that in a day where everyman and his dog can give a concise and profound explanation to every mystery out there that it may be good to see something more manifesting before we offer all the answers!