This is the first of two posts about Wooded Hills Bible Church in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. This post explores a church that became engrossed in fighting demons for a two month period. During this time the church had demon deliverances in small groups, the hospital, and other places.
“Everything is possible, from angels to demons to economists and politicians.”
“There is no stability without solidarity and no solidarity without stability.”
Jose Manuel Barrosso
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
James 2:19 NIV
This following letter was given to people who entered into membership at Wooded Hills Bible Church. Trish Stern was the one who gave me this letter. Wooded Hills is outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I became a member of Wooded Hills in the summer of 2003 if I recall correctly. It was when Joe Jenkins was the Senior Pastor and Kevin Byrum was the worship pastor. Unknowingly I became involved in a church that had a history of Third Wave theology and charismatic issues. I decided to re-print this letter here as I journal about my theological past. This was written by the Senior Pastor at the time to his family. This is a long read, but I decided to publish this in one post. As you read this make sure you get a drink to read. This is the first of two posts exploring Wooded Hills Bible Church. The second post explores the church in more detail and asks the question how healthy was Wooded Hills Bible Church? In the next post I will write about its practice of Third Wave theology, and its embrace of Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer.
Dear Family Member,
I need to warn you. This might be the strangest letter you ever receive. After many months of deliberation, I have decided to write each of you to inform you as to what has been happening in my life. By that, I am not about to break news to you of a divorce or anything of that nature. I’m referring to the supernatural events that I only briefly informed you of via the phone call on Thanksgiving Day. It became obvious to me that my report to you all on Thanksgiving Day was either not presented as I intended or was not responded to as I had hoped. Confusion and concern has since been discerned.
My objective in writing this is not to convince you of some alternative theological possibilities. Neither is it my intent to showcase what God has done through me to propagate pride. Although God alone knows my heart, I believe my goal in writing this is twofold: First to speak of the might deeds of God (To not do so borders on irresponsibility), and second, to narrow any gap of separation between us that I have sensed occurred over these events. I have found myself in the weirdest spot. Longing to share my unexpected divine looking experiences with my family of origin, yet not knowing how to begin without either coming off sounding cocky or else being perceived as lunny, or worse deceived. On Thanksgiving Day, some of these remarkable experiences were so fresh, I couldn’t contain my excitement. If that offended or scared some of you, I ask for your forgiveness. And, if at any time you sense pride, I invite correction. If you think you’ve experienced difficulty processing what I’ve told you, then I invite you to consider the difficulty I’ve experienced processing the experiences themselves.
I guess this new dimension to my journey began about 2 1/2 years ago. After 8 years of ministry and counseling particularly, I was so frustrated with limited success. You remember how naïve I was as a kid. The kid who thought the goal in life was to keep everyone from discovering that I had a butt. I retain that naivety in my adulthood. I’m almost 43 and still as naïve as I am tall (perhaps that should be “short”). 2 1/2 years ago I was reading a book called “Surprised by the Power of the Spirit” written by a former Dallas professor. I happened to read it at this time because of my frustration at seeming to have such limited power to do ministry. I would read the Bible about how 5,000 came to Christ in one day when Peter preached, and we celebrate today the church that grows to 1,000 in a lifetime. I seemed to spend way too many nights away from the family futility attempting to solve personal problems and marriage/family problems in people’s lives with such limited sauces. I had just reached a breaking point in counseling. One couple who I spent 6 long agonizing months with, trying to get to the root of their marriage problem, I had discovered the root – by accident. He had had an affair, she knew it, and it was either too painful for them to mention or else they didn’t think that had relationship to their problems. Here I was WASTED six months of my life going on a wild goose chases, going no where but destined in ministry to perpetuate this pattern. The light at the end of my tunnel was growing dark, the hope was fading, and motivation had long before waned.
When I read this book, it suggested that God’s Power through His Spirit was more available in tangible ways than we dispensational cessationists have ever known, and had ever attempted to tap into. A cessationist is someone who believes that the gifts have ceased for today. Dr. Deere, through his own Bible study, confession of arrogance, and strange experiences, had transitioned from being of the premier theologians teaching against the gifts fro today to teaching their reality. I still haven’t come to a point of being 100% convinced they are for today or that what I have witnessed is indeed evidence of those supposed past gifts of the Spirit still being in existence. I’m not exactly sure what official theology category you would put my experiences in or what label you would give them. But I am convinced they are real and am almost certain they are from God regardless of what you call them. I lean toward believing they are the gifts still to be sought after and used for God’s glory today. But I can’t say with 100% certainty.
(This is a side note: After studying Joel 2, there is the possibility that the gifts became more dormant after the early Church, but Joel tells us they will be revived (or more likely elevated at the highest level yet), before the Lord returns. This section was hardly fulfilled in Acts 2. I am considering this end time “outpouring of the Spirit” with prophesy, dreams, and visions (power gifts) as a possibility to explain my/our experiences.)
Dr. Deere gave some theological arguments that I had no answer for. Among other convicting elements, he said that the Bible never speaks against the gifts, only their misuse. The only commands regarding the gifts in the Bible are these….(1 Cor. 14:39) “Do not forbid the speaking in tongues” (yikes), (1 Thes. 5:19) “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances,” and (1 Cor. 12:31 and 14:1 & 39) “Earnestly desire the greater gifts,” and “desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophecy,” and “Desire earnestly to prophecy.” Here I found five Biblical commands or strong exhortations to seek after greater spiritual gifts. Yet, I found none telling me to shy away form them. As a matter of fact the largest argument used the rational for the gifts today is 1 Cor. 13:8 where it says “prophecy, tongues, and knowledge” will at some point be “done away.” I think it is dangerous to conclude “since they will some day be done away, then that must have already happened.” As you read on in the text the timing of these ceasing rests in whatever the “perfect” is that is referred to. To conclude, as cessationists must, that the “perfect” refers to the Scriptures being completed, is to superimpose either one’s theology or lack of experience into Scripture. Whenever this “perfect comes, “we will know as we are known” according to vs. 12. I don’t know how knowledgeable you are, but I’m convinced I personally don’t “know as I am known.” Throughout the Old Testament, the coming age of “perfection” always referred to the millennial kingdom, and never is there a reference to the coming age of perfection of Scriptures. Sorry for this detour. I do appear to be lobbying for a theological reconsideration though I told you that wasn’t my intent.
I came away from reading this and counseling knowing two things for sure. First, if I didn’t get some supernatural empowerment for ministry from God, I was destined to a life of either non-productive or minimally productive ministry. And I didn’t know how long I could last straining so hard with such minimal results. I was in desperate need of a better return on my investment. Second, I was convicted very deeply with the reality that the very argument I used against Charismatics, I had been guilty of in the worst way. For years I accused Charismatics of relying on their experience for truth, more than the Word of God. That was the argument I was taught, so that was the argument that I used. What I had been relying on nearly broke my heart when I came to recognize my own diminishment of Scripture. I had been relying, not on God’s word as I proclaimed, but really on my lack of experience. Because I had never experienced hearing directly from God, or seeing someone sick healed, etc… I read God’s Word through my lack of experience lense, rather than believing God’s word for what it says. I asked myself the question: “I wonder if I would be a Cessationist if I came to faith in Christ, someone lacked me up in a room with only my Bible.” I concluded there was no way I could come out of that setting as a Cessationist. Which told me that my beliefs were based upon other people’s teachings rather than the Word of God. I have realized that most of us (myself still included) are no different from the Catholics. We would argue against them using the Sola Scriptura argument. We rebuttal their addition to the Scriptures. I have determined that we all do that. This was just one example of it in my own life. I’m sure I still do it. The main issue is what do we do when we see it’s existence? Change or dig in our heals and hold to our Biblically weak positions founded on traditions.
This season of frustration and conviction began a 2 month prayer commitment (approx.). every day, often several times a day, I would go to God in prayer saying something like, “Oh God, your Word commands me to earnestly desire the greater gifts, especially prophecy. I’ve been taught those no longer exist. God I am so frustrated in counseling, however. If the gifts that you several times command me to “earnestly desire” are for today, and if this prophesy will give me what Peter had (an ability to read Annanias and Saphira’s sin without wasting months of his life) then I confess my arrogance in not believing and obeying your word, and I ask you to give me this gift to further your kingdom in counseling.” Like most of my prayer commitments I started out dedicated, but soon forgot to stay committed to this plea. After about two months, with no results (no even knowing what it would look like if I got something from god), I ceased this prayer. I don’t even know if I believed in the gifts of God’s ability to show Himself to me in tangible ways, but I prayed it anyway because God said “pursue” and “earnestly desire.” I didn’t know what else to do but ask Him for it.
Five months passed with no prayer and no gift of prophecy. Then one night in April, the Elders were called into a most bizarre situation with someone in our congregation. This was a man that we had twice before dealt with in what he and his family referred to as “episodes” During these “episodes” (of which this was his 7th) he would usually strip himself naked, become spaced out and take on personalities that were not his, nor could he remember these occasions. He would usually go around destroying his home and everything in it. His eyes would appear to be wolf eyes, staring right through you. Once he reportedly spoke with different voices. Every instance would result in us calling the police and they would handcuff him and take him to the local psychiatric hospital for a week or two of drug therapy. But the problem never ended. This was the 7th episode since he became a Christian. He never had one before. He had been a Christian for 18 years, and on the surface appeared like a model Christian man. He even home schooled his children, was a loyal Awana commander for years, and attended church, Sunday school, and Bill Gothard seminars faithfully. I was uninvolved in this evening’s “episode” because I wasn’t able to be reached.
At approximately 10PM the Elders debriefed me on what they had seen and their utter frustration and feeling at a loss as to how to help this person and this family who were crying out for help to us. We felt totally helpless in suggesting a course of action. We decided to go to God in desperate prayer (and quite honestly I wasn’t expecting any more guidance after the prayer than I did before). We said, “let’s ask God for a pull down menu. Is the problem psychological, sin, demonization somehow, a thorn in the flesh he just might have to live with. God please give us a pull down menu offer this family some help.” No sooner did the chairman of the Elder board start praying, as best as I can describe it, three words entered the back of my neck, but immediately used my brain. These words did not originate in my brain but used it. The three words were “It’s unconfessed sin.” This was not merely a strong thought. It was so different from anything I had ever experienced before. It was so consuming that when it first occurred, I would guess 50% of my brain was consumed with these words that I could not focus. I can now understand Jeremiah’s dilemma when he said “I don’t want to speak your words but your words burned in my brain.” I tried to focus on other things but was unable to. I immediately went to testing the spirits because I knew was not me doing this but some outside spiritual force. My options were God or Satan, but I quickly ruled Joe out. Since I’d never experienced anything like this, nor known anyone who had, I didn’t even know what tests to apply. Regardless of my concerns, whatever this was it was growing in my head. The need to say these three words, while controlled, was growing from 50% consumption to 60%, etc… After about 15 minutes of the Elders praying (and I haven’t heard a word of it), and not knowing for sure the source, I was so consumed with these three words that had been implanted in my mind that I had to find relief somehow. I chose a one syllable word to first say, because I was afraid of what voice it might come out in. I chose the word “stop.” When the last elder in the circle was in the middle of the prayer, I yelled, “stop.” Needless to say they all looked at me in surprise. This is not our normal protocol in prayer. I simply said to them, “I’m sure we will talk about this in a moment, but I have three words to say lest I pop…it’s unconfessed sin.” As soon as I said those three words, it was like a wind going out of my mouth. Not wind that I could feel or others could see, but just that sense of release of pressure with my speaking those words.
Lest you didn’t realize, I was the guy who wrote a Through the New Testament manual with a strong bias against this stuff, and all my elders knew it. For the next 1 to 2 hours the Elders helped me process this. None of us were favorably disposed to these kinds of things, yet didn’t want to immediately want to conclude it’s my wackiness that is causing this. Without me knowing it, based upon the “two to three witness” principle of Scripture, they agreed to pray that if this was God’s message, and we should approach this brother about unconfessed sin, then they asked God to confirm it by some other source. This was Thursday. After the Sunday morning service 3 days later, as I remember it, the two most unlikely candidates to hear from God or get a sense from God approached me separate from each other. Neither of them knowing about this man’s recent “episode” nor any of the previous ones. This was so embarrassing to the family that we agreed to keep it very private and we had succeeded. These two people who had approached me after the service were unlikely because they were two of the strongest advocates of cessationism and God’s non-personal-speaking arrangement today. Both said something like, “Pastor for some reason God has laid Dave Smith (fictitious name) on my heart and I am concerned for him. For some reason I think He wants me to tell you, “It’s unconfessed sin.” You can imagine my shock when these people said that. I maintained a straight face on the surface, never letting on that they were confirming a message I had heard from God only 3 days before.
With this I knew I had to confront this man with unconfessed sin. I rationalized my delay with a calendar with no openings in it for the next two weeks. When I got home from church who should call me but Dave Smith. (He hardly ever called) He had just been released from the hospital and sounded 90% normal. I informed him that I had an experience (which neither he nor I believed in). Yet both of us were desperate to bring some resolution to this ongoing problem. After building a bridge to the message which took about 30 minutes, I started to tell him the message. As I started to, it was almost as if some other force or personality inside of him knew what my message would be. He almost immediately went into a state of controlling the conversation by taking on a prophetic tone. He was going to be the teacher, leader, and prophet. I couldn’t get a word in that was wise. This was a common manifestation during his “episodes.” I was shocked at what I did next. On the phone I raised my voice saying, “in the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come back to reality and tell me what sin you’ve been practicing for years as a Christian!” Immediately he became Dave again and began confessing some sexual sins he practiced his entire Christian life. Over the next 2 weeks, all kinds of sexual perversion which he had participated in all while creating the image of being a Spiritual man came to the surface. He confessed his sins to his wife, us, and the Lord. While he did not confess the specific sexual sins to his children, he did confess other sins of abuse to them that had resulted. (Anger, distance, pride, etc…) About a year later, his 17 year old daughter approached me twice and said, “I don’t know what you guys did to fix my Dad but I have a Dad for the first time in my life. I never really knew what one was before.” And, two years have passed, and he hasn’t had another “episode.”
Was that experience the gift of prophecy? I really couldn’t answer that question for sure. I have to strongly consider that as a possibility seeing I asked for that gift, God commands us to desire that gift, and after a time of seeking it, I received something that ended up pointing us directly to the problem in the person’s life. It could be a word of knowledge or just the most direct answer to prayer I’ve ever had. Although I will confirm this. It was on a level like no prayer I’ve had answered before. It was almost a case of the body snatchers for about 10 – 15 minutes. While I was in control, every minute that went by with me not speaking those words became miserable on my insides. The more I resisted speaking them, the more I felt like popping.
If you want to take a break, get a drink or water, or take a two hour nape, this would be a good time. Hearing this stuff I’m sure creates a level of anxiety or excitement in you. Either one can wear you out.
Since you have returned, I will continue the saga of my “experiences” (The dirtiest word in most of our Christian ears in the word “experience.”) I’m not exactly sure why “experiences” has become such a dirty word. It is the very basis for witnessing. Nothing has happened for about a year after that direct hearing from God. (Or His messenger or Holy Spirit). I continued to do ministry, including counseling, and on several occasions I asked God if he would be “the neck thing” in a counseling situation. He didn’t and he hasn’t since. He is God. I don’t control him, I do understand that. Its his decision when to answer and when to communicate at whatever level he chooses to. Almost a full year passed by, and out church had seemed to move toward some greater expression in worship. Many people, during worship were raising hands in praise. This made some people uncomfortable, even though it is described or prescribed in over 20 times in the Bible (including several New Testament commissionings). An Elder’s wife came to see me several weeks before our Women’s retreat in April of 1997 with her concerns about the direction our worship had taken. She was a 55 year old converted Jewish woman that was very conservative and doctrinally sound. So doctrinally sound, she was almost spiritually dead (her recent admission). As a matter of fact, her theme was teaching doctrine, doctrine, doctrine. I’ve grown to see a pattern that when doctrine gets out of balance with other Christian components, the fruit of the Spirit seems to diminish while knowledge of doctrine increases. She was a strong Dispensational Cessationist and was known for her derogatory view of anything resembling charasmatcism. She had been a vocal anti-charismatic. She made an appointment with me because she didn’t like emotionalism. She wasn’t an emotional person and while she couldn’t deny the Scriptural admonition to raise hands in worship to God she felt uncomfortable with it happening at an increasing level. Her argument was similar to that which I have used and often heard. How do you know if they are sincere underneath? My answer – “I don’t. But just as lifting hands cannot justify lack of holiness underneath, neither can the presence of holiness underneath justify lack of obedience to a teaching of Scripture.” My words bothered her. She faced a tension. The tension was between obeying God’s word and praising him with greater expression (“Heart, soul, strength, and mind…not just mind”), or complying with her negative feelings about emotions or lifting hands in worship to God.
At our women’s retreat, during worship, as hard as it was, she believed that God would want her to stop resisting giving Him praise by lifting her hands to God. Every woman I spoke to reported to me that something happened regarding the presence of God in a fresh new way during that worship time. Something they had never expected to happen before. That one decision changed her life. Something happened after obeying that prompting that none of us ever expected. God turned this critical cognate creature 180 degrees. Since that moment about 1 year ago, she naturally spends each day in private worship and prayer. She doesn’t have to, she wants to. Other former values have been removed, compared to the value of being with God. She has heard from God directly (or a messenger), felt his hand physically, and has entered into the very realm of experienced the very thing that she has criticized as wrong for so many years. She even told me that she experienced the very thing that she has hated about charismaticism and she was on a campaign for years to stop. She received tongues. She never asked for them. Never wanted them. She sees herself as an Apostle Paul type in the sense that she was turned completely around. Like Paul was one the road to Damascus to persecute Christians, he left that experience believing in the very Jesus he had dedicated his life to stop. She believes that like Paul, no one in our church would have been a least likely candidate to be doing what she’s now doing than her. I don’t know anyone who would disagree. Just as I had taken her into uncomfortable areas, now she was taking me into uncomfortable areas.
What I noticed after this was he beginning of an escalation of super-natural stuff. In July of 1997 a woman that has been at this church before me came forward after the service for prayer. We had some time before this just given an open invitation for prayer after the service. This woman had chronic neck problems for years, and while she was a devoted anti-charismatic, she had felt the calling by God to lift her hands and praise him. But with her neck problem lifting her hands was almost impossible because of the pain it generated in her neck. This was the request in prayer – that God consider healing her neck so she could express praise to Him more. As has become our custom, we laid hands on her for prayer. By the way, that too is a clear Biblical method that I believe God still wants us to honor. Heb 6 lists it as one of the “elementary principles” of the faith right up there with the need for repentance and the need for faith. As we prayed without is knowing it, this woman entered into a comatose type of state. She could hear us, but was unable to move or talk. At first she was scared of what was happening to her. But as we prayed, while she was immobilized by what we now assess to have been the Holy Spirit, she could feel re-alignment in her taking place in her neck. When we finished praying, I ran immediately to another appointment. I saw her neck was way back. I just thought she was still relaxed after we finished praying. The other elders informed me later that they could not revive her for probably 10 minutes. They thought something was wrong and were about to call 911, when they determined that she could hear them, but couldn’t respond. Within about 15 minutes she came out of it and described what had happened. We all now believe that God actually gave her an anesthesia while he was operating on her. Later that day, when she was at home in bed the same thing happened in a bigger way. For over an hour she was prevented from moving while she felt her leg being pulled and her body structure was realigned. This woman had gone to chiropractors for years because of a horrible bone alignment problems. Since this occasion, which was about 9 months abo, she claims to be healed.
Because of seeing this with my own eyes, and because we were having an increasing amount of people obeying the James 5 command to call for the Elders to pray over you “anointing with oil,” in August I began to praying privately and in Elders meetings that if the gift of healing was still for today and God would give me and the Elders that gift. Since I had seen evident effect from going to God and earnestly seeking the gift of prophecy, I decided to try that same strategy regarding healing. My main reasoning for this prayer was since I was encouraging God’s people to take risks and obey God where He commands, and trust him to be faithful, the last think God or I needed was for them to take these risks, obey God, and have nothing change. So I said, “God people are coming for prayer because you tell them to come to us. But if you don’t use us or empower us for healing, then after what you promise in James 5, you are going to have some pretty disillusioned people on your hands.”
After a few weeks of praying this prayer some strange things started to happen in our church (never in the service, but in home groups, private lives, or in the office). On occasion when I prayed over people, they would fall to the floor (a couple of times pretty hard) and be in a comatose state for up to 30 minutes. This scared the lift out of me. When they came to, some would say that either I pushed them, or some force pushed them to the ground. Some of them had their knees buckle under them, and described it as a sensation similar to drinking too much alcohol (pre-Christian memories). But they almost without exception claimed that they didn’t desire to leave the state they were in because it was perfect peace, and felt like they were in the arms of Christ. On a couple of occasions during a worship time in home group some would either collapse, go into shaking, or on two occasions, someone burst out into uncontrollable laughter. Yes, you heard right – what has been called “holy laughter.” This one really bothered me and many others. However, as I have closely examined the lives of these manifestations recipients, none of them were predisposed to this. None of them sought these things. All of them are embarrassed when it happens. But all of them are more in love with Christ today and display greater fruits of the spirit today, then they did before these things happened.
I didn’t know how to pastor what has happening. I had never been trained in this, I had never seen this, I had been trained to resist this and any form of experiences with God. But here it was happening to me/us/ At my hands, people were falling and going into comatose states and I was doing nothing or very little different than I had when praying over people for years. I went through all the considerations (I think). Was this Satan’s deceptive schemes? Might these people falling somehow be merely having a psychosomatic experience? Are these people who are falling or just faking it? Might this be the Holy Spirit showing up as we are asking Him to bless the person in a specific area? Whenever I thought of shaking before (spasmatic convulsing), I always filtered it through that demon possesd boy in Mark’s gospel that was being thrown into fires and being destroyed. Yet, as I study Scripture, I can now find I believe 20 examples of people shaking when in the presence of God, and only this one passage that reveals shaking when under the influence of demons. I kept asking myself: When did by filters become so non-Biblical, while I supposed them to be Biblical?
I was so desperate for God’s guidance. Many people were getting scared of what was happening including me. They were looking at me for answers and I had none. Around September/October 1997 I began desperately crying out for God to clearly reveal whether or not these things were from Him or not. Some people out of fear wanted me to ban all manifestations. My response was, “how can I ban them?” The best I could hope for is to manage them. If the person experiencing them claims they can’t stop it, how can we stop it? We will isolate the person if they are being disruptive. What I did decide was that better testing of the Spirits would happen when something strange did occur. The best offer I had was to say at the moment: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will only receive what is from God, and we will not receive any counterfeits. Therefore we command any unclean spirits that are causing this to depart now.” Do any of you have a better plan? I was at a loss. I didn’t anticipate having to deal with these issues, and neither did anyone else here that I know of.
Since these manifestations were so questionable in nature (falling, shaking, laughing) I went to God begging him to reveal to me/us whether they were from His hand or not. Based upon what I had seen, for the most part I had already ruled out other non-supernatural explanations. Some weeks after praying for God to let me feel his Spirit that was taking people down on their faces or knocking them over with his presence, a woman with her son asked me to pray for her strength in my office one day. I invited her to sit on my couch as I stood and put my hand on her. Placing my hand on her forehead, after a while of prayer I actually felt a force, almost like a cushion of air, developing in my hand. At first I considered it to be a circulation problem brought on by the way I was holding my arm. After a while, however, I realized that it was much more than a circulation problem developing. It was a force to push her down, not a force to push my hand away from her head. I don’t know how I knew that but I knew that with great clarity. It was as if my hand was talking to me or somehow communicating in some silent way. After a while of feeling the strong pressure, and her not going down, I thought I might be imagining the entire thing. But within about one minute of me concluding that no human could withstand that pressure, this woman went backwards on my couch. My hand was communicating to me that that this women was supposed to lay down on the couch to the left. Somehow I knew that through my hand , but she didn’t go any further than to layback on the couch. When we were done praying and she sat up, wanting to avoid the power of suggestion, I asked her some questions. First “did you go backwards voluntarily?” Her response was to inform me that either I forced her back or something became so heavy on her head she couldn’t stay sitting up. I then said, “I know, I felt it before you did.” Then I asked, “Did you fully obey the force?” She said, “No, I felt I was supposed to lay down to the left but I resisted that because I felt stupid.” Again I said, “I know” (not “I know that she’s stupid, but I knew she was supposed to go down to the left). I believe that God confirmed that it was Him through letting me feel it. This has been the only time I’ve felt anything, though people I have prayed over have stated strange sensations in the process (not all, just a few).
After this incident there was a couple more weeks of miserable praying for God’s confirmation one way or the other (regarding this package). I received a most interesting request from a woman in our church. Again, this was a woman I had gotten to know well, trust her character, and trust her Christianity. She had recently taken some major leaps of faith and growth in Christ. She was a committed Christian with renewed devotion to Christ. Her family, which had some previous problems was one the mend. Her marriage was growing due to her husband’s recent commitment to Christ and dedication to him. Her 22 year old son whom was sentenced by the courts when he was 17 to my counseling chambers for 6 months or face jail, had recently turned his life completely over to Christ and was moving forward toward full time ministry. This was the least likely candidate. This woman came to me with the strangest request. She said, “Joe, I’ve had addictions for most of my life that I know are not pleasing to the Lord. But every time I have tried to quit through serious efforts (smoking), it’s like something inside of me won’t let me.” She said, “with my recent higher commitment to Christ, I’ve had some things happen to me that leads me to consider that which I didn’t think was possible. I’ve considered that there are unclean spirits inside of me that is making it next to impossible to quit smoking and fully commit my life to Christ. Joe would you check it out and see if I have unclean spirits inside of me?” Can you imagine if you got that request? I had counseled people before who I wished had made that request, but never had someone actually done so.
Since I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but believing that demons didn’t die with the first century church, I asked four others to join me in that request. This wasn’t the time to squabble over demon possession, infestation, or influence on Christians. I’ve got a woman with what appears to be a serious concern and an equally serious request. So on Tuesday, early in November, in the office, five of us gathered around this woman with the goal of seeing if unclean spirits were indeed inside her and casting them out if we found any. I know it sounds weird. But how do you explain what was to follow?
We began by putting on some worship music, and praising God for about 20 minutes. This was probably more of a stall tactic than anything else. But it was also driven by a theory I hold to that says, “Satan and his demons hate worship to God.” Perhaps it was a stupid strategy but I was looking for any help I could get at succeeding at this task. If prayer and worship would help to drive these demons out (if they are even there) or even loosen their grip a bit, I’ll try it. It was interesting what happened. During this entire time, it was almost as if God gave me a great measure of confidence and faith. As I look back on the scene, there was an empowerment and faith that was supernaturally installed inside of me to deal with this. Everyone in the room commented on their surprise, yet thrill, at how confident I was in dealing with the situation. And I was. The only explanation I have is a supernatural empowerment and confidence.
For the next 2.5 hours we would talk to the woman in a counseling type setting to try and determine areas where Satan might have gotten strongholds in her life over the years. Once we determined a possibility, we would gather around her, lay our hands upon her, and say, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Spirit of Addiction (or whatever we were aiming at ) we command that you leave her now.” Within a minute or two of making this command, something inside this woman would grab her and begin to rise through her wind pipe making a horrible screeching sounds. The woman’s eyes would roll to the back of her sockets and the woman would rise out of her chair as if in a horrible pain (like she was being levitated), the women’s face would take a horrible contortion to it, and with our persistence she would gag and cough and dry heave. She would be exhausted after each bout, sometimes being taken to the floor and being so exhausted she could hardly get up again. Twice, in but one breath each, I smelled a horrible smell of vomit, but in the next breath it was gone. The Elder who was with me said he smelled the same thing once, while no one else did. It was unmistakable to me, but oddly gone in the next breath. Once I smelled horrible poop, but then it was gone in the next breath. As best as we can determine , we witnessed in this setting demons first hand. This was life changing experience for all 6 of us. None of us left that room with much of any doubt that we had witnessed demons being cast out right before our eyes. It was interesting that during the middle of this event the women being delivered looked at me and said, “Joe, could you take the lead. Whatever is inside of me is obeying your command at a level it isn’t obeying the others.” I believed her, and complied with her request (at the relief of the others) although I don’t know why this would be. Is it my position as a Pastor? Is it an “anointing” that God gave me for this occasion coupled by my faith and confidence that was evident? Was that a part of God granting me the gift of healing that I had been asking for? I don’t know. This would end up being the first of two group deliverances where the person having the demonic manifestations claimed a higher effect when I commanded departure, than when others did the same.
All of us were in shock at what we had just experienced. About an hour after it was all over, Gary and Kevin re-entered their office where this had all taken place. Seeing none of us had prepare for this, and not wanting to have whatever was in her jump into us, they stopped and prayed a prayer and then spoke something like this – “In the name of Jesus Christ, if there are any unclean spirits still in this room we command you to leave now.” At the identical time they said the word “now,” a picture on the wall crashed to the floor. Was that a coincidence?
Needless to say I had much to think about and process. The next week came with an unusual influx of people coming into the office for prayer for various ailments – neck aches, head aches, back aches, etc… All ailments that you can’t see if they are healed but you must rely on a person’s statement. They were also separate from each other. Since they were asking, I wasn’t going to turn down a request for prayer for healing. I layed hands on each, in the described location of the pain. Every one of them proclaimed the pain was gone after I prayed over them. In most of these cases, I was not the only one praying over them. Other staff members or church leaders were involved as well. I thought this was interesting piece to look at. I have prayed over people for years basically carrying a bating average of seeing healings about 0. Then in one week the batting average goes up to 1,000. Couple this with casting demons out the week before kind of gets your attention.
The following Tuesday (Nov 11th I believe), a friend who I used to hunt with came into my office with bad news. He said, “Did you hear about Carl?” I said, “No.” He told me that Carl a fellow hunting buddy, had a brain aneurism on Saturday. As of Monday the family was told there is no hope of survival. He was in a coma and his vital signs were basically non-existent. Because of the events of the two weeks preceded this my faith had gone through a rise. I had seen things I had never thought I would see. On Wednesday I had the strongest urge to go pray over Carl. When I got to the hospital Neurological I.C.U. unit, I found an optimal situation. Carl was in a private room with no nurses peaking in on him. I had about 1.5 hours alone with him. I was glad for this private setting as my inhabitations would have likely prevented the thing I tried that apparently was successful.
I layed my hand on him and began praying normal prayers requesting that God come down and heal my friend Carl. After about 20 minutes of doing normal prayers, I decided to cast out unclean spirits should they be present or the cause. Had he been awake or anyone in the room, I think my inhibition would have stopped me. But what was Carl going to do? He was in a coma. He’s been pronounced virtually dead. What did I have to lose trying? So I began by saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ, spirits of aneurism, I command you to leave now.” Is there a spirit of aneurism? I don’t know. I do know that when Jesus cast out demons, he often identified through the symptom they produced (Spirit of deafness or muteness or blindness, etc….) I had also discovered in the previous week that 1/3 of all physical sicknesses in the gospels, Jesus cast out demons of the person to bring about healing. I never knew that before, I thought, perhaps demons caused this. When I commanded a demon to leave Carl, I received the first physical response from Carl’s body. At first it was just his right arm jerking away from where I was touching him. The more I commanded, the more physical reactions I got from Carl. Soon, with his right arm jerking at my touch and command, his chest began to heave. After a season of these two reactions, then his face began to contort with the appearance of great pain. I felt I might be killing him. He looked in such agony, yet couldn’t respond to me seeing he was in a coma. For a while I wondered if I should continue or if I was hurting him. I even backed off for about 5 minutes praying silently. No physical response occurred. But the moment I broke that 5 minute silence, approached Carl and touched his right arm and said, “In the name of Jesus I command all unclean spirits to leave now.” Carl’s right arm jerked, his chest heaved, and his face agonized, and then foam started coming out of his mouth. With my persistence large amounts of foam came from his mouth and formed a large puddle that he lay in.
After a while of this most bizarre experience, I had no more physical reactions from my commands for spirits to leave. I assumed they were gone. The nurse told me that his left side was definitely paralyzed. They had no movement from the left side of his body. So I layed my hand on his left side and began praying that God would come down and fix what Satan had evidently damaged. After a while of praying this way I asked God to show me a sign if He intended to heal Carl. I said, “God please cause movement to the left side of his body for me to see if it is your will to heal him.” I kept intensely staring at his finger tips . This was probably due to my lack of faith. I didn’t expect what would happen next. I almost got hit by a flying arm. His entire left arm swung around almost in spams, and I had to jump or get hit in the face. His left arm was flying around. I was so shocked I actually said out loud as I recall, “God is this the sign?” Then Carl opened his eyes, but they were rolled back and he is in a zombie type state. Then he started to rock and tried to sit up. I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do. Carl started to pull tubes out which sent off the alarm bells and sent nurses running into the room. I was standing at the end of the bed moving backwards. Carl began thrashing violently around in the bed, nearly tipping it over. I honestly didn’t know whether to cast if out and say, “more Lord.” It seemed so violent and strange. I was processing everything that was happening , and had happened for the last three weeks, as best as I could but it was a fast track I was obviously on.
The nurses came in worried saying they had not seen anything like this before. They looked very concerned. I found out later that during this thrashing, Carl’s vital signs that were formerly nearly non-existent, went sky high. The nurses were afraid of losing him for the opposite reasons. They gave him a shot of some sedative (a huge dosage) and asked me to go into the waiting room. I left but stood outside looking at my friend thrash through the window for a couple of minutes, then went downstairs.
After about 20 minutes, they called the waiting room. I came to the call but so did an elderly woman and about a 60 year old man. It was Carl’s mother and brother. We went up together. I believe Mark’s first question to the nurse when entering the room (them not knowing any of this took place) was “when did his neck get better?” I didn’t know there was a neck problem. The nurse looked at Carl and said, “I guess now it became better.” Then Mark looked at the monitor and asked, “When did his vital signs become normal?” The nurse looked at them and said, “I guess now. We can probably operate to drain his brain tomorrow.” Regarding his neck, the entire time I was praying for Carl, while he was laying on his back his neck was laying way to the right. It seemed a little twisted to me but I thought they wanted it like that for some reason. What I later learned was that it was restricting his breathing and swallowing. But every time they tried to pull his head straight, it was like a spring loaded neck. It would spring right back to the disfigured position. But during this episode, both his neck and blood pressure became normal.
I visited him 2 weeks later, as I had been prevented from visiting him while he remained in the I.C.U. I was told that the family wanted no visitors. I later found out that really was just an off limits for me. I didn’t find out how scared they were of me until 5 weeks later. Carl was recovering nicely after less of 2 weeks of being physically incapacitated. But conversing with him was impossible. He ran about 3 subjects into every sentence.
While in the lobby of the hospital, Jane Carter, a neighbor ran into me. Jane is a Head Nurse/Neurological I.C.U. Administrator. She said she had visited Jill Martindale (who was in for some medication adjustments) and she was voicing her shock that Jane was still alive. Jane had given her 2 to 5 months to live after the original diagnosis. This was 1 year and 8 months later. Jane told me that there was no medical explanation for Jill surviving even 2 weeks based upon the tumor she saw. Jane had given the Elders permission to go into the I.C.U. to pray for Jill at the family’s request, but thought it to be more for moral comfort and support than for real physical assistance. But with Jill still being alive, Jane said something like “I cannot explain her being alive other than by either your prayers or positive thinking.”
Then I said, “I’m also here to see Carl Rolloph. Her eyes got big. She asked, “were you involved in that too?” I said, I prayed over him two weeks ago. She asked, “when were you here. When did you pray over Carl?” I said, “On Wednesday.” She said, “As of Monday there was no hope of survival.” She told me that she had seen hundreds of aneurisms and this was about the worst. She said, “According to the records I reviewed, he had the most shocking sudden turn around on Wednesday.” She said there was no medical explanation for the his sudden remarkable turn around. I described what happened in great detail, as she couldn’t believe what I was telling her, but couldn’t explain this man being alive and doing so well. She then asked if I would consider praying over a man in 501B. She was partially joking, but also considering it. It was a great witnessing tool for a number of people, but those naturalistic medical people, don’t have a place to fit this one.
I continued to get stonewalled by nurses when I was called in for information after this day. I had heard that he was making great progress. After 5 weeks had passed I went down hoping to see him. I worried about the family possibly giving me too much praise, and wondered how I would divert it to God should that occur. God went before me and solved the problem. His brother wanted to punch me. I walked into the room, seeing his family for the first time since the incident. I sensed a cold silence in the room. I leaded over to Carl’s mother and asked, “Did you share with Mark the things I shared with you on the phone.” Evidently the mother had blocked them from her conscious memory because they didn’t fit into her concept of reality. Mark piped in and said, “I don’t want to hear it. I’m so mad at you, I don’t know what I would do if I found out.”
Needless to say I was in shock a second time. Why is he mad at me? While God healed his brother, I was the agent of God chose to use, it appeared. While I don’t seek praise, neither did I expect it either. I gently tried to determine why I was a bad guy here. He then said, “the nurses told me all about you and what you did in that room to my brother.” I found that interesting because the nurses didn’t know what I did. I inquired as to what exactly they had told him. He said that this was their response to him. “We don’t know what this guy did in that room, but he almost killed your brother.” Because his blood pressure went through the roof for about a 5 minute period of time and because he was thrashing around, they suspect I did something other than pray – perhaps a home remedy injected into his veins or something. But rather than consider this might have been God’s way of fixing him, they were choosing to look at the 5 minute time period, rather than the long term effect. I cried most of the way back to the office because of the hardiness of all their hearts and the blindness in their eyes.
The next 6 weeks were filled with 10 more situations (as I remember) of casting out unclean spirits, and experiencing similar clear manifestations. The sequence is fuzzy in my memory, but the occasions are crystal clear. One 28 year old man came to Christ in the Fall from a life of deep perversion and sexual sin had been on a committed course with Christ. He showed up at my office looking possessed one morning, claiming that he was doing wonderful at managing his lusts, but someone at work had thrown a magazine in front of him and since then he hasn’t been able to stop thinking sexual thoughts. He said, it was like I couldn’t stop. He looked horrible and defeated. He said it was the worse he ever felt. He said, “I think something living inside me is hindering my commitment to Christ in this area.” He said, “Can you check for something inside of me?” Having a commitment I had to get to, I told him that I had about 1/2 hour max. I prayed for God to work powerfully, then I put my hand on his forehead and said, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ if there is a spirit of lust, I command you to leave him now.” Within a minute of repeating that this man began to shake violently while in his chair. Next his eyes rolled to the back of his sockets. I said, “Spirit I command you to look at me.” His eyes came back but they were not his eyes. They were physically his eyes, but they were different from before. They were like wolf eyes. just staring right through me with anger. I said “In the name of Lord Jesus Christ, based upon he blood He spilled to purchase this man, you have no right over him. I command you to leave him now.” This man yelled at me, “Leave me alone.” Once again I commanded the spirit’s departure in the name of Jesus. With these words this man shook violently, collapsed to the floor and then just layed there like he was dead. I sat back at my desk to continue to do some work. Another staff member came to see me, and nearly hit him in the head with the door. After about 20 minutes or so, this man gradually came to consciousness exhausted. I asked him what he remembered. He remembered almost all of it but said something took him over. I asked if he yelled or if the Spirit yelled at me to leave him alone. He said that it was he that yelled at me but something inside commanded him to.
We prayed twice over Jane before she died seeing if unclean spirits were involved in her sickness. This was at the request of her husband as we had never before considered this. We had some very clear evidences that unclean spirits were involved in her sickness as well. Whether they were the original cause or something that came afterwards, I don’t know. But there were some interesting manifestations. Once, she was so depressed and scared and was weeping all day and unlike anything that her family had ever seen in her before – angry, yelling, etc… We sat around her to pray and said, “spirit of fear we command you to leave her in the name of Jesus.” Within about 10 minutes of praying and commanding this, you could almost physically see it lift, while looking at the countenance of her faith change. Then Jane herself said, “It’s gone.” And it was. But her throat had been strangely tight all day. She had a hard time breathing, and swallowing was next to impossible. She could hardly talk to us with us being able to understand, her throat was so restricted. I grabbed her throat and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, if there is a spirit causing this throat problem, I command you to leave her now.” Instantly her throat was normal. We spent the rest of the evening praying, praising God, and laughing. I cannot explain her transition and these events naturally. There is a spirit realm that we haven’t even begun to understand as 20th century Christians. Remember the hippy song during the Viet Nam War that asked the question: “Where have all the flowers gone?” As Christians we need to ask the question: “Where have all the demons gone?” Did they die out with the gifts too? I don’t think so.
Early December a man who had just about killed his marriage with affairs and lust problems, came to me after my message on the possibility of unclean spirits still existing and infesting people, asking me to check to see if that might be escalating his problem. He knew he had made horrible choices in the past, but he declared that all of his natural self discipline efforts would always fail him once he got alone. He said that some of the thoughts would come unsolicited and out of no where. So we set up a date.
Kevin, Gary and myself were there, as was this man’s wife. We simply wrote down a long list of possible area wherein he had given license over to Satan in the past. Lust, pornography, immorality, pride, greed, materialism, etc.. After we worshipped for a while and we prayed for God’s help and healing we turned the corner to the casting out part. We simply went down the list. We were all sitting down. I don’t know which one it was but when we stated one name and commanded it’s departure, this man went crashing to the floor nose first. He was whaling and yelling. “It hurts, it hurts. Stop it. Let me go.” I couldn’t figure out why his nose was pressed so hard against the carpet. It looked like it hurt. Suddenly I had realized that I had been commanding demons to come out of him, but not commanding them to leave our presence and this room. So I said, “if there be any unclean spirits in this room, I command you to leave this room now in the name of Jesus.” Instantly whatever was pushing this man’s face to the floor, left and this man could get up. After we talked through what happened, this man thought it was Kevin that threw him to the floor. He couldn’t figure out why we would do such a rough thing. We all confirmed to him that no one was touching him. My best guess is that whatever came out of him (obeying our command) came upon him until we commanded it’s departure from the room.
Just before Christmas Ruth and I were at a home group pot luck. This was the first and only incident Ruth has ever seen. But she is a believer in demons as a result. It was a night for fellowship, not casting out demons. When the meal was over, however, one woman who came to Christ 2 years ago asked me to pray for her. Her ears had been killing her for 2 weeks and preventing her from work and hindering her Christian disciplines. (It was a pretty severe ear infection) This woman had been a cult leader for 18 years teaching people how to become God. I have seen such a remarkable turn about in this woman as she has wept in repentance for her arrogance and resistance to her Savior. I simply put my hands on her ears (I think) and began a normal prayer. Then I said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, if any unclean spirits be causing this I command you to leave now.” I repeated this a number of times. Not shouting, just normal talking. In the next room that same man who had a problem with lust was getting weak and angry every time I said the name Jesus. I only noticed this because an Elder’s wife who was standing between the two rooms noticed the pattern. I finally just asked for God to send a healing blessing on this woman, and as I reach up to put my hand on her head, her eyes being closed, as my hand was approaching her head (but about 6″ from it), this woman fell backwards and lay totally comatose for about 1/2 hour. A man tried to catch, but only caught her sweat shirt pulling it completely off. Fortunately she was wearing a t-shirt.
This Elder’s wife summoned me to this man who was by this time so weak, as he was sitting on a chair laying his head for strength on the women’s shoulder next to him. I thought, “Oh God, are you sure you want this to take place in front of all of these people who have never witnessed anything like this before?” “Can they process it? Will it scare them half to death?” I didn’t seem to have a whole lot of options. Everyone could clearly see that something very real in the spiritual realm was taking place in this man. Was I to run from demons or send the demons running from me through the authority given to me in Christ? Had I not done what I did, these folks would have likely left petrified. So I reached out, putting my fingers on his forehead and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, unclean spirit, I command you to leave him now.” This man’s eye’s rolled back, and they were evil and staring right through me with anger. It was those wolf eyes again. Everyone noticed the change. Right then this man lunged at me like he was going to kill me. But something stopped him when he was about 2 inches from mine. He was prevented from going any further and putting a hand on me. We just sat there nose to nose for what seemed like a long time, as he burned a hole through me with his evil eyes. Then I reached out one more time and said, “Now be gone in the name of Jesus Christ.” With that, the man crashed to the floor with his body being contorted and twisted in the strangest ways and then he finally stopped. We lay hands on him and asked for God to send his spirit to crowd out the evil spirit and give this man peace from this problem. Again, this instantly worked to bring a peace and calm to the man.
When it was done I attempted to process the people who were standing there with their jaws on their chests. One woman told me that she had always been scared to death to ever see something like this. But she said, to my surprise I wasn’t. She told me, and so did other’s echo this, that it confirmed to them that the power that we posses in Christ is so much bigger than Satan’s power. Is this all a grand deception by Satan? In Matthew 12:28, Jesus seems to make it clear that Satan will never cast out Satan. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” But if I cast out demons by the power of the Spirit, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” I have to conclude, I think, that some element of God’s kingdom with it’s power, touched down on me during this season. I didn’t expect it.
When I look back, I had asked God to confirm if those more spurious things (like falling, shaking, etc..) were from Him. Shortly thereafter comes a wave of the sick being healed and demons being cast out. Remember when John the Baptist was in jail and sent disciples to ask if Jesus was the promised Messiah? Remember Jesus’s response. I don’t have it in front of me but my memory tells me he said, “Go and tell John what you have seen. The sick healed, and demons cast out. I think that’s how it goes. That’s what I feel God has done here. I wanted a bill board, and instead God gave me the very evidences of His working that He foretold would authenticate His work.
I know that some of you may have concerns over these reports. I doubt if your concerns could ever come close to the one’s I had when these things were beginning to happen. I invite and encourage any and all questions or critiques. I know this is not Christianity as we have become familiar with. My question has been during this season: is it this new thing that is off, or the old way that was missing the component of the Holy Spirit and God’s power? Both are options that need to be considered.
I must also admit that since the first of the year, whatever “anointing” (for lack of a better word) was upon me, it seems to be gone now. Since that 2 month period of what I believe is 100% effectiveness in healing and casting out demons, for the last 3 months I have noticed no effectiveness in these areas. I’ve prayed over 2 people who shortly thereafter died. I’ve attempted to cast out demons on a couple of occasions with no manifestations or evidence or departure. Perhaps there weren’t any. I’ve been going to God trying to figure this part of the deal out. Is it just the spirit to remind me that it’s God doing and not me? Is this how the Spirit works in the “upon” mode? The Spirit, like the wind, blows where He wishes (as John 3 says)? Does the Spirit in some sense come upon someone for specific purposes and empowerment for a season of time (that is an extra dimension from merely the Holy Spirit within a person…the indwelling part).
Whereas at the beginning, I highly suspected Satan, I must admit that now I primarily suspect it;s God. I won’t dogmatically proclaim that everything that has happened has been God. I do recognize that Satan comes alongside of any move of God to create a counterfeit and cause confusion. However, I believe that every phenomena that has occurred in the context of either prayer or worship of Jesus and God. As I read scripture, I come away concluding that the least likely place to find a demon or have Satan deceive us is in the context of of worship and prayer to God. I am hearing some who seem to believe that the Christian shouldn’t love God too much, or worship Him too much, or pray too long too God, or chase too hard after God. Why? Because you might get a demon or something when doing that. What kind of thinking is that? Where are we ever warning in Scripture about hungering after God too much? If we are opening up some deceptive door to Satan through prayer and worship to God, then we have no hope or not being deceived. Those are the safest places to be, not the most risky. Jesus promised us in Luke 11:13 “If you then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children , how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” Asking God for help and depending upon Him with earnestness is the safest place to be. Jesus promises it.
If you read this far you deserve to be congratulated. I’m sure I’ve left pieces out. I have attempted to journal these events, and i haven’t referred to my journal once while writing this. I recognize that you may not even know what questions to ask. I can’t help you there. But I did want to just communicate these events to you in a systematic way because I was finding myself increasingly feeling the urge to only talk about the “weather” when a family member called. Whenever the question of how are things is asked of me by any of you, my mind naturally goes to these exciting, yet exhausting happenings. But to begin to tell you them on the phone, without context or bridge building, is sure to leave you feeling confused and concerned. Perhaps doing it this way doesn’t wipe out those feelings, but at least it provides a sequence and some context in which to filter the information.