Early one morning in May of 1971, I awoke with a sense of overpowering terror. But instead of discovering that I had had a bad dream, the fear persisted. In fact, it seemed to intensify despite my efforts to regain control of myself. My heart was pounding and I was hot and sweaty. Something well out of the ordinary was happening and I was growing increasingly alarmed with my inability to regain control of myself.
I pulled myself up into a sitting position. It was then that I noticed a large dark shape straight in front of me in the adjoining room. I thought I must have been dreaming, but short of pinching myself there was nothing more I could do to ensure that I was wide awake. As I focused on this shape it seemed to rise up and move towards me. Fear was emanating from this being, and as it approached, my fear actually increased. I felt as if I was suffocating in pure fear with no way out.
The only logical thing I could bring myself to do was brace myself against the backboard of my bed and hit this creature as hard as I could when it reached the foot of the bed. I brought back both hands and planted them firmly behind me. It was then that I realized that my wife was not in bed. I extended my right hand further and glanced to the right, but there was no sign of her. When I shifted my view quickly back at the doorway, the figure was gone, and the bed moved as if someone had climbed into it. My heart was now raging, but I noticed that my overpowering fear was gone. I called to my wife, and she answered me upon re-entering our bed.
I found the strength to pull myself together from down deep inside of me. When I surveyed the apartment, I, of course, found nothing; all was secure. When I returned to bed I was still shaken by what had happened. I recalled an incident that had happened at work earlier that week. My name is Michael and I was 22 years old when this work incident occurred. I was an enlisted man in the U.S. Navy stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Obedient Servant - The Persecution of Ralph Wells
I worked with both military and non-military government personal. I was a computer operator, and I loved my job. Prior to my military service I had completed my education in a computer-training program, and I was fortunate to have a job in the Navy that coincided with my personal career goals. I felt that way because the war in Vietnam was still raging and had already claimed the lives of more than 30,000 enlisted men.
The second group of employees that I worked with consisted entirely of civilian engineers who had built and maintained all of our special purpose computer systems. One of the managers within this group was a man named Ralph Wells. Ralph had something of a reputation as a quiet man. It was an average workday early in that long-ago May when the aforementioned incident happened at work. It involved Ralph and four of the engineers who worked for him.
I had completed a work assignment and was returning to my desk, when I just happened to pass Ralph and his men. They were engaged in a rather loud argument. Well, as anyone who knows me at all will tell you, I love loud, spirited arguments. I called them ĎDebatesí back then. But something seemed peculiar about the lone underdog in this argument because he was the other menís boss. In addition, the faces of two of the four men showed extreme anger, and Ralph had his head bowed as if he were in need of some support.
I was thinking about how I was going to approach this Ďother group,í when Gene, the biggest, loudest, and most angry of the engineers, asked me to join them. He was a large man, and at that moment all 6 feet, 3 inches of him showed he was dead serious. He asked me to agree with him that Ralph was wrong. I was astonished at this question, because I didnít even know yet what the argument was about. So I asked Ralph about it. Immediately Ralph raised his head and his eyes danced as he quietly recounted how Jesus was the Son of God, and that He had risen from the dead. When he finished he lowered his head as if in prayer.
What do you think about that bull? Gene asked me. His question took me be surprise. I was literally dumb. Forget arguing, I couldnít even speak.
What Ralph has said is the truth, I blurted out from deep inside of me.
And although I could see Gene yelling at me, I couldnít understand what he was saying. I tried to understand him, but I had to walk away speechless. And I discovered that when I tried to walk I barely had the strength to lift my legs. I looked at Ralph as I was walking away, and although he did not raise his head, I knew that he understood exactly what was happening to me. When I walked away Gene was still hollering things after me in protest, but I never understood one word of what he was saying. I was experiencing the ecstasy of Godís love for the first time and I was immediately humbled.
I retreated to the chair by my console and remained there in a sort of stupor for about an hour. Inside I was frantic to understand what was happening to me. I knew that something purely spiritual had blissfully confronted me, and I began to wonder why this was happening. Later, I was relieved to discover that when a co-worker asked me a question, I was now able to answer intelligently. I had become my normal self again, so I decided to question Ralph about what had happened to me.
Now I had been raised in a wholesome Catholic family, and I had always taken my convictions concerning God seriously. But I also believed that God had many important things to do. That is why God gave us religion. Religion was Godís way of keeping the faithful connected, intimidated, and busy. Catholics have their standards set very high, because we have many saints, all of whom seem much more superior and deserving of Godís attention than our own. Our saints intercede for us, and that is that. So I was left with the feeling that Catholics sent messages long distance, and always indirectly, through those who had proven themselves worthy of God.
When I joined the Navy I gave up on going to Church, because I worked a second full time job. That job also provided overtime hours, and I became so busy that I was unaware that I no longer attended church services. I worked hard, because I had to pay for much of my own wedding, and the Navy paid me very poorly. When I married, I was able to work fewer hours. My attitude quickly became, "if God is too busy, than I am too busy," and if I had any time for myself, I used it only for myself. However, arrogance never makes anyone happy, and all my life I have had to battle my own arrogance.
This then was the condition of my soul at that time, when I encountered Ralph and company. I had never spoken with Ralph before the day of the big argument, but now I was waiting for him to come back out of the managerís office, to talk to him about what had happened to me. Two or three days later I saw him walk into the computer room, and I pounced on him, concerning what Ďheí had done to me. Ralph put his head down and I said "Oh, no, heís doing it again." When I gave Ralph a chance to talk, he raised his head and smiled.
"Normally I donít come out of the office and socialize, but the Lord convicted me that day and I just had to say something about Jesus, and I never meant to provoke an argument, and embarrass anyone, Iím sorry", he said. His eyes twinkled as he spoke.
My emotions were completely stirred, but my anger vanished immediately. Ralph was not what I expected at all. It was very easy to speak with him.
"Why are you back out here so soon then?" I asked.
"The Lord wanted me to come back out here" he said, and I flashed a "why?" back at him.
"I believe things were left unfinished," Ralph explained.
Now I am thinking, "Is this guy a nut? Everyone knows that God is too busy, and too important for this." "What did you want?," Ralph asked me.
I suddenly remembered I was the one waiting for this shy, humble man so that I could give him a warning not to mess with me. I decided to come clean with Ralph. "What happened to me?," I asked him.
"The Lord touched your heart," he replied, and both of his eyes narrowed to near slits and twinkled as he smiled broadly.
Well, I could not give him this advantage over me so easily, but after I thought about it some more, I realized Ralph wasnít trying to control anything. "Something happened to me and your explanation of it may be right, so what should I do?," I asked.
He suggested that I come to church with him, and I became angry with the idea of him throwing more religion at me, especially from a Protestant, which is what I discovered about Ralph as I probed him further. "There was no way that I would ever go to church with Ralph or anyone else," I thought, but I also felt sure that I needed to do something.
I told Ralph that I had decided to research the Scripture and find out how to get Godís attention, then I was going to do whatever the Scripture says. I also told him that if (when I seek God out by myself) He answers me, then Iíll know what God really wants from me.
"What is it that you want?," he asked.
"Oh, that is just my point Ralph, no one will know but me and the Lord, and if God doesnít do anything than nothing needs to be done," I shot back.
Now, I thought I had Ralph right where I wanted him, but he clapped his hands once, said "Praise God," and abruptly left me.
"He will be back," I thought, but Ralph did not come back, and now I felt obligated to do what I had boasted about.
My Plan - 40 Days of Fasting
My pride was working. But within a few days, I had the aforementioned experience with fear. As a result, I committed myself to reading Scripture and I started attending the Catholic church again. I selected three secret prayers that I consciously laid before the Lord, and I wanted to do something that was completely wholehearted. What I discovered in reading Scripture was the idea of fasting. So, because I read about Jesus fasting for 40 days, I decided to fast for 40 days.
Now that my plans were made, Ralph appeared one day and asked me, "how are you doing with your plan?" I showed him my Bible, which I took to work with me, and I explained my idea about fasting. Ralph suggested that I should not fast for 40 days while working both of my jobs, so I agreed to take a leave of absence from my part-time job and modify the 40-day fast to include one meal a day with no meat. I had learned about this type of fasting from a Catholic brochure. "Mike," Ralph said as he patted me on the shoulder, "I have never known anyone who has ever fasted for 40 days." Now fasting also implies other considerations. You rest yourself, and shut out the world. You turn off your TV. You read Scripture, and you pray and meditate. You must become still before God. Yet, while I was doing all of these things, I never realized that I still had this angry chip of arrogance on my shoulder. However, as each day passed, I began to have my understanding opened to the living word. I was not just reading the scripture, I was being confronted with the living person of Jesus. His strength and compassion began to penetrate my pride.
Asleep at the Wheel
On the 38th day of the fast I was really weak. Every minute that passed seemed to be an agonizing struggle. On this day, however, a stranger walked into my life, who knew what my three prayers were. Her name was Betsy Tucker. When I asked how she knew these things about me, she told me point blank that the Lord had revealed them to her. Her introduction itself contained only the three answers. To anyone else alive, what she said would have made no sense at all, and do you know what she did? She invited me to her church, which was located in Silver Spring, Maryland. This time, I swallowed my pride and I went.
Betsy had come to Fort Meade to pick up her son, who was getting out of the Army. What had happened to her was spontaneous. I was so excited about going to this ladyís church that I arrived an hour early and sat in my car in the parking lot. "What kind of a church is this?" I remember thinking, when Mrs. Tucker showed up. I stuck to her like glue because I was afraid that I would do something to offend God. And from the time that I went inside until the time that I left, I could barely stand up. I could hardly even talk correctly, and the light seemed to glow everywhere. When the service started, I found myself slumping over, yet I wasnít tired. After the service Mrs. Tucker invited me over to her house. When she talked about the Lord, I could see her glow.
She explained many things to me about how God works in people, while I was seeing it happen in her. I was overwhelmed with what was happening to me, so I decided to head home. I could not take anymore, or so I thought.
Silver Spring is just outside of Washington, DC, and I had to drive to Glen Burnie, which is about 35 to 40 miles away. I left Mrs. Tuckers house around 2 oíclock in the morning and picked up the Baltimore Washington Parkway heading north. I donít remember falling asleep at the wheel, but I can vividly remember the thumping sound of my tires on the concrete highway. I had been traveling about 60 miles an hour, which was pushing it for my 1961 Plymouth Valiant.
The next thing that happened is more than just a memory. I was struck with something as powerful as a bolt of lightning. Living words were drenching themselves through my entire being as a Voice said clearly and powerfully, "Seek the Holy Spirit, Hunger and Thirst after the Holy Spirit."
I awakened, and slowly lifted my head. My eyes were open, but I could only see a white light with the living words that were now fading. I could feel the steering wheel and as I strained my eyes to regain my vision, I began to see the white divider lines, and almost at the same time the sign for the Jessup 175 overpass went racing by. I looked around to see who else was with me. My body was washed in love, as the memory of this experience was burned into the very depths of my spirit.
God can be Relentless
When I returned to my apartment, I took off my clothes and fell asleep immediately. At 4:24 a.m., the light exploded through me a second time. This time it struck me with such force that I thought that I was driven down through my bed into the concrete floor, and the light lingered deeply in me. The words "Seek the Holy Spirit, Hunger and Thirst after the Holy Spirit" washed through my being like a cleansing tide of clear, heavy water. When I realized I was in my bed, I savored the memory of this experience. I let it sink all of the way into my being. It came with the deepest experience of sleep and rest that I have ever enjoyed, and when I woke up the next day I was not the same, yet I was perplexed about what more I could do beside what I had already been doing. I spent all my energy seeking God and I was clearly being asked to "Hunger and Thirst" after the "Holy Spirit." I never expected that God would move so directly and powerfully in my life. I now began to realize that because I refused to fully humble myself, God did it for me. I wept, and I knew that as I finished the 40 days of fasting and prayer, that something wonderful would continue to happen to me. Every moment of the last day of the fast was a spiritual agony, yet I had completed the majority of the 40 day fast as a non-Christian.
I was physically weak from fasting and from overworking myself, yet now I felt empowered to make changes in my life. I decided to quietly rest in the strength of the Lord, and listen for once in my life. For the next few months, I repeatedly had experiences too difficult for me to put into words. Day and night I was in a protective spiritual bubble, which both strengthened and enriched my body, soul, and spirit. The Bible became the living word which was now opened to me so that I could understand it and experience it as the truth. I was beginning to understand just how spiritually powerful Godís Word is. I had made a public confession accepting Jesus as the Christ, and had decided to travel into Washington, DC and attend Betsy Tuckerís church regularly yet not exclusively.
"Now I am doing everything right!" I said to myself, and then the Lord stepped in to answer my prayer and start His work in me. Everyone with any religious upbringing knows what faith, hope, and charity are. I for one had read enough of the Scripture to know of it intimately, or so I thought. The only problem was that my Lord knew me better than I knew myself, and He also knew that in my heart I was committed to Him. I had two central experiences that were both profound. The first one was a lesson in faith, the second a lesson in love. Both of these experiences were characterized as great personal hope for me.
Victory Over Evil
The first experience was a literal deliverance from the evil fear that had tried to enter my soul. I thought that when my three prayers were answered, Christís victory was automatically given over such adversity. It was not. The reason that I had been repeatedly instructed to seek the Holy Spirit was of critical significance. The enemy of my soul had not been dispossessed of his claim over me.
I wanted to experience the power of God at a safe distance, but when you fast and pray earnestly to God, He knows what answer you really need. My own arrogance was such a part of me that I failed to see things clearly, but that soon changed.
One evening late in July when I had retired, I had fallen into a sound sleep. I suddenly felt a touch on my right hip, and the touch was a healing touch. It was full of peace, life, and well-being. It was a gentle experience, and then the Lord spoke to me and called me by my name "Michael." When he spoke to me, he was calling me to Him. I was pulled upward above my body and was turned over so that I could see my body laying below me in bed.
"What do you see, and how do you feel?," I was asked.
At first, I had great difficulty believing what I was looking at, but I was not distressed. In fact, I was undistressable. What I was seeing and what I was feeling were perfect questions at the moment. I was experiencing my spirit without my body. The real me was much different in spirit then I was in my flesh. My spirit is the real Mike Stein. What I was feeling allowed me to understand that when you are with God in the Spirit, all things are experienced in truth and in absolutes. You cannot lie, and you donít want to. You cannot flatter God, and you are certainly not concerned about political correctness. With God your spirit has no desire for such absurd things. At that moment, I was standing at the edge of a vast universe, which only God can fill, and His words alone brought me to the very brink of it in an instant.
The idea of absolutes can only be imagined by human beings, because of the limited sensual nature of our flesh. It is because of our fleshly nature that we are blind to spiritual truth. When you are with God in the spirit all experiences are absolute. When we decide something, we are compelled to experience an absolute, honest reality of truth and nothing else even makes any sense. Honesty, integrity, love, and the noble aspects of human nature are perfected in His presence. They are made new, yet our individual personalities survive and their uniqueness is amplified in Godís presence. Intellect is heightened, but becomes submissive to virtue.
Virtue means everything to God. When your spirit leaves your body to be with the Lord, true virtue not only survives, it is liberated, and in Christ it explodes into victory.
I was then taken to the edge of a vast and dark emptiness. It was like an immense black hole, and I was pulled into it. The darkness and fear of this place never ceased growing more intense. Hope was stripped away in an instant and fear became so real and intense that I could feel and see it squeezing my entire being tighter and tighter. This experience is worse than dying 1,000 times. The life in me was so hated that the darkness literally raged against me to utterly destroy all that I cherished so dearly - everything that is both life and light.
Then a thin line of pure light penetrated the darkness from an immense, hopeless distance away, and struck me, and I heard a calm voice clearly say "Yield to Me." In desperation, and with every ounce of what remained of my being I cried out, "I yield to the Lord." Then off in a great distance, that seemed to be a universe away, I saw a great wall of pure bright light surging towards me at a tremendous speed. When it reached me it was like a giant tidal wave.
That light was the living word of God itself, and it came to rescue me with a fury that nothing in existence can resist.
The darkness with all of its hate and fear could not withstand the light even though it held me firmly. But give me up it did, and when the wall of light reached me, it passed right through every fiber of my being. I was drenched in life that was indescribable and radiantly passionate. My spirit was carried along at an incredible speed and my spirit hit my body with a tremendous impact of pure life. When the light faded, I was back in my body looking up. God, His Word, His love, His light, and His Spirit were of absolutely no discernible difference to me. In response to one faith filled call my spirit was set free of this deceitful hate.
Scripture tells us clearly that the struggle between Darkness and Light is not just a metaphor of moral good versus evil. It is literally true, and our faith is mighty to the pulling down of spiritual strongholds that are real. I believe in the Scripture that says, "those that call upon the Lord, shall be saved." And again, "if we have faith the size of a mustered seed and say to the mountain, move, it shall be done."
The darkness and the light were both absolutely real. The darkness, in our life, will never give up. It is full of hate , deceit, and lies, and tries to destroy us all. Yet if we set our gift of faith in motion, God will move heaven and earth with the breath of his word to gain the victory and enrich our spirit and our soul. If our faith does not falter, His love will not fail to restore and enrich our life many-fold. Donít give God a chance to do what we think is important. Instead, give Him your body, soul, and spirit, and let Him do anything that He wants to do with your life as you reverence Him in return.
This is not the religion that most of us understand. The darkness is like a car wreak that always happens to the other guy, and this is why deceit is such a vicious evil. We simply donít know what is really going on in our spiritual life. The type of science that our culture relies on discourages belief in anything that we canít prove in a test tube. This leaves us confidently vulnerable to deception, when we are cocksure that we are right, even when, or rather especially when, we know nothing.
This was certainly a part of my experience. I didnít know I had a problem and just how dependent I need to be on Godís Word and His love. This is why Jesus the man was the out-raying of the divine. He came to offer himself for the spiritually blind like me who never knew him. We sit on our spiritual gifts and never even know that they are available to us. Like myself, we avoid them and rationalize them away. We become defiant, arrogant, and totally self-centered.
When our enemy attacks us spiritually, we wonít even consciously be aware of it. There is no one to defend us, and when our life comes to its natural end, what effective excuses will we discover that will work in our own self-righteous behalf? The answer to this question is clear to me. Who has paid the price to deliver me from the darkness that my own pride and arrogance inflict on me. This is why Jesus the Messiah came to save me. He is the one who pleads my case, and endures the punishment that I cannot withstand by myself.
The Power of Our Father's Love
This first experience was the one of faith, the second experience was the most profound, because it was one of His love for me.
When God completed His work in me, He came to me a second time late on a different night and touched me very gently on my back. Even though I knew it was the Lord, I pulled away. He touched me again and called me ĎMichael,í and I tried to convince myself that I was dreaming. When He touched me the third time the power of His virtue was so strong that when I sat up, I thought my spirit had been pulled right out of my body. I was surprised to find that I was still in my body. The room was pitch black, but the spirit of peace was so heavy on me that I moved to the edge of the bed, and put my feet on the floor. I then rubbed each of my feet on the carpet to make sure that I could feel them. I savored this experience for quite a few moments.
When I was sufficiently convinced that I was not alone, I prayed out loud, "Lord I know that You are here," and He said to me in an audible voice, "Why do you love Me?"
The sound of His words cut through me and laid my seemingly empty heart bare before Him. I was completely unprepared to answer this question, when up from my spirit the answer came, and I said, "I donít know who loves you Lord, but You know." My words were not framed by my mind. The words were from my spirit.
It was then that God filled me with His love. It wasnít love fit for any man/sinner like me, but He poured it out like an ocean of pure water in such vast quantities of pulsing life, that it seemed almost wasteful to be loved this much. The feeling of acceptance was so absolute that I could not describe it. He held my spirit close to Him, as if I were a lost son who had returned home to a Father that I never knew I had.
The quality of Godís love permeates and floods our spirits with the very essence of what God is. His greatest power is His love, and when we rend our hearts and not our garments, we lay our hearts bare, and His love can reach us anywhere and under any conditions. This is the power that the very gates of Hell itself cannot prevail against. This is the love that motivates the redemption of a blind and hopeless humanity, and framed it in a man named Jesus the Messiah of Israel. The price of my redemption alone was so extraordinarily great that to this day, I am still trying to comprehend it without success. There are so many wonderful people that I have been privileged to meet during my life that are so much more deserving of these experiences of love than I am, but I believe that God knew that I needed much love, so He literally wasted it on me so that I would know Him "absolutely".
After all, this was the size and scope of the challenge I had discussed with Ralph.
The greatest miracle of God is His love for each of us, but as I reflected on this Ďloveí experience, I needed to understand how to show God that I loved Him in return. Despite the power and the reality of these experiences, I had to show the Lord that I loved Him too. You cannot take love without returning it. Religion will never solve the problem of how to love the true God, if we donít know how to do it. I began slowly to understand that true love always requires sacrifice.
I began to look at Scripture in a new way. The life of Jesus was a complete sacrifice. It is the only example of its kind in existence that embraces the spirit of man with an act of complete sacrifice. "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." The entire life of Jesus was a pure sacrifice of love, and when He was asked what to do to please God he said "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as you love yourself." In each of these commandments Jesus was clearly talking about sacrificial love that clearly costs us something and very possibly everything. In His case it would cost Him everything, and remember He truly had everything to begin with. He had nothing to gain but the hope of our redemption, and He willingly paid the price himself that only He could have paid.
Since I was a young child I was always bothered and confused by the Stations of the Cross that line the walls of every Catholic church. The pictures vividly portray the hideous torment and execution of a perfectly wholesome young man. I wondered what did this mean, but never really got a specific answer until I began to ponder: "Why was the price for virtuous love set so high?"
The New Testament makes no sense at all without understanding the depth of Godís love, and the promise of redemption in the Old Testament is useless without the fulfillment of Godís love, which was expressed completely in the entire life of Jesus and His obedient self-sacrifice, which of course, included His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. The price was overwhelmingly high.
The Price was High
Little by little my insight began to grow as I studied and pondered the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It is hard to focus on it, as the truth often is. It certainly is not a pleasant experience. My experience with the darkness of a thousand deaths was nothing in comparison with the spiritual affliction and suffocation that Jesus willingly endured on our behalf during His crucifixion. His kingdom was not of this world and much of His torment was not of this world either. His spirit was a literal offering to the darkest, most evil Being that we could never conceive of. He suffered horribly both in and out of his body with no relief, and when He cried out to His Father, His words seemed completely empty of the life He so richly deserved.
Jesus became our sin and received a point-blank dose of all-consuming hate, which completely stripped Him of the very experience of virtue that God esteems so highly. However, as the Apostle John describes in the book of Revelation, He wept because no one in Heaven or on earth could open the book of life until the Lamb of God Jesus returned from Hell itself triumphant over all evil. Both of Jesusís spiritual and physical hands had been tied behind His back when He fought the greatest evil in the universe. He beat the evil that enslaved us with His love alone, and on the third day His Father said Ďenough!í and the same spiritual light that rescued me from my deserved darkness redeemed Him as a first fruit from a hideous darkness that He never deserved. And every time that we fail to please God and corrupt ourselves, Jesus stands in a position between us and our accusers and this time His hands are not tied. This time He will be heard, and when we behold Him we see a man of flesh and bone, whose spirit is perfect. He is both the sacrifice and the high priest and enters boldly into the Holy of Holies in our behalf.
Now, of course, I was pleased with what I had learned and myself. Jesus is my big brother. Given that the darkness is a deceitful reality, that we cannot readily perceive, a good set of commandments such as we have in the Old Testament would be of little help. Jesus said that He came to seek out and save that which is lost (in the darkness), and His light literally consists of His love, the fullness of which was bestowed on Him when He ascended into heaven.
This is Just a Dream
One night during this time of meditation, when I was pondering Ďthe Price,í I had a dream that I was seated in the second pew of a Protestant church. The church was dark, but the altar was dimly lit. The altar featured a large wooden cross that was empty. After a few moments a short, beefy Catholic priest walked up to the pulpit wearing black and white vestments. He began speaking with the greatest conviction that he could humanly muster on the biblical verses found in Matthew 4 verses 1 through 17, which he mentioned. He gazed out at the assembly.
I said to myself, "this is just a dream," and I looked around and decided that this dream wasnít even worth remembering. However, when I looked back at the pulpit, the priest was not there. I began to wonder what the priest had said, because I had already forgotten it. All of the sudden, a light came on brightly from the right side of the altar, and when I looked Jesus was walking out of the vestibule towards the pulpit. He was glorified and radiating a light that was so bright that the altar almost faded away. This light itself was very comforting to behold. It literally conveyed His presence.
You knew He was Jesus, and when He came to the pulpit, He repeated the same scriptural verses that the priest had stated. But this time His Words were alive and they rolled through me like the great tidal wave that had saved me out of the darkness. It was no longer just another dream soon to be forgotten. His light and His love flowed through every fiber of my being. He then opened both of His arms and extended the full measure of His love to me. I remember wishing that I had sat in the first pew. It was no longer just a dream; the power of His love alone made it an absolute reality.
His power to reach us when nothing else can is literally His love for us. This is why Jesus paid the price. There is simply no other way to reach us convincingly, because of the darkness, and only a perfected love can atone for us in a way that can reach into us and make us know it absolutely. Once again I found myself rolling in the vastness of the great tidal wave as it raced across the universe with me in it and I snapped back into my body with a perfect halt. I was filled with His love and this time I had the new challenge of His Word.
Now the dream ended without a sermon. What could possibly be recorded in Matthew 4 verses 1 through 17? Do you think that I can ever forget this reference? Even now, many years later, I find myself compelled to write about this experience in conjunction with these verses of Scripture. These words are the living words of God spoken to me. Other believers have received other verses of Scripture from the Lord. But these were mine.
These verses of Matthew show that Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where He prayed and fasted for 40 days. He was then tempted by Satan, who He resisted with the Word of God. Verses 12 through 16 describe an Old Testament prophecy, which He thus fulfills. Finally, in verse 17 Jesus began to "preach and say, repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." The age of spiritual warfare had now begun, and one-by-one satanic strongholds that had previously resisted the advances of Godís angelic forces will fall to manís faith and love for the greatest liberator of all time, Jesus.
Concerning this, even the angels wonder and marvel greatly. Verses 12 through 16 speak to me of my experiences, and the willingness of Jesus to seemingly turn aside into a gentile place of utter darkness and shine out to me as a great light. To me who was sitting in the land of darkness and in the very shadow of death. For as the Scripture says in verse 16, "Upon them a light dawned," as Jesus became the out-raying of the Divine, who personally accepted both my challenge and my faith and used them to achieve a spiritual victory that is much greater than just my own soul.
His Victory Occurs Now
Beyond personal redemption, it is our faith, and primarily our love of God, that brings the light of Christís sacrificial victory into conflict with the powers of darkness on a universal scale. Spiritually, our lives are not sacrificed in vain. Every time that we humble ourselves before God, we are literally born again into a new spiritual victory. When we submit to our spiritual affliction and yield ourselves to the Lord, and when we rend our hearts, it is then that God triumphs once again. His power is released, another stronghold falls, and all the angels marvel that this can be true. They are so willing to help us in any way that they can, because they know that Ďwho we believe iní makes a difference concerning Ďwho is victorious.í Jesus depends on us and our obedience to His Word to complete the kingdom of God with all of its diverse parts. Each part is essential for the ultimate spiritual victory. Beware of meek people who, in Christ, pray for Godís mercy, for they are the most empowered people on earth.
God doesnít need beautiful buildings, nor does He need to bless and prosper hearts that are not yielded to Him. Much of what we have of our religious experiences today consists of Ďgarment rendingí instead of Ďheart rending.í God wants to work His Spirit in us, and we want to either test God or put Him on trial again. The issue for Christians should be one of advancing Godís kingdom and gaining new victories over spiritual darkness. I personally donít like it if people think of me as religious. Being religious is only symbolic. The substance of true religion is always represented with our spiritual relationship with God. Spiritual things always have a life of their own. It is our spiritual life, in Christ, that we should share with others. No two people are alike in this regard. Each person is marvelously unique, in His spirit, so why should we even bother with the things of this world, which are passing away.
I called the next chapter of my life "Earth to Mike! Are You There?". It talks about how God worked in my life, and how this affected myself and other people around me. Some of these stories are amazing. And others are so subtle that it is hard to even see God's hand in the details. It is funny though, people always say that the devil is in the details, but it isn't true at all. God is in the details when we yield ourselves up to Him. He will seep into every fabric of our life, and bless us with many blessings and surprises.
Read more articles by Michael Stein or search for articles on the same topic or others.