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GIFTS FROM THE SPIRIT

Explanations of 'gifts' given by the Holy Spirit to committed
Christians, to be used by them to demonstrate
his actual presence in the Church
.

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1.    INTRODUCTION

When I wrote about these gifts of the Holy Spirit being applied right in front of us, or even to us, in the article Experiencing the Holy Spirit, I wrote that the events can occasionally take us even beyond the boundaries of our imagination as to what might be possible. I am confident that this was not an exaggeration. You can read that article mentioned above, to get an understanding of how these gifts from the Spirit fit within the greater Christian Church.

In effect these gifts provide tangible evidence of Gods presence to us individually, as they are manifested right there and then. Now, you cannot take words like those lightly can you? Yes, God may be invisible, but my golly he has the ability, when the time is right, to clearly demonstrate to us that he is indeed present in this world. So, all I can say is, just wait until you are placed in a similar situation.

This particular article then, describes these gifts and their outcomes.

2.    GIFTS AND BLESSINGS THAT FLOW FROM THE SPIRIT

As I have explained already, many people receive gifts miraculous healing, tongues, prophecy etc. from the Holy Spirit when being touched spiritually by him. What I mean is that after the event, these gifted individuals can then utilise the gifts they have received. They may, depending on what gifts they have been given, heal the sick, prophesy etc.  I have been blessed to receive my own gifts, and have witnessed some extreme examples of the manifestation of gifts that had been given to others.

The most notable and unforgettable example of the manifestation of a gift from the Spirit, that I have personally seen, was the healing of my wife, then a stroke victim of some six months or more. She had suffered from semi paralysis on one side of her body, a droopy eyelid, loss of peripheral sight in that eye and continuous, debilitating headaches as a result of the stroke. That stroke-damaged side of her body always appeared to be more pale than the other as well. Life on the whole was miserable for her, not that she complained much.

And there we were, in a packed church, attending a healing service. A Christian healer rested her hand on my wifes shoulder. I stood and watched as the white, weakened flesh of my wifes left hand, which was visible to me, turned pink and strong before my eyes. In that instant, brain cells had been rebuilt, restoring full blood circulation, sight and strength to previously afflicted body parts. And that headache was gone too.

Obviously, this sort of stuff is supposed to be impossible! Brain cells, once destroyed, cannot ‘physically’ regenerate within a second of time under normal circumstances. My wife, who was in her early forties at the time, is still free from symptoms twenty seven years later, therefore I definitely know it was all very genuine and the effects were permanent. Many witnesses, including friends and our fellowship of faith at that time, remember the incident well.

We had certainly believed in God prior to joining the Born Again/ Charismatic movement, but that event undeniably took our belief to a whole new level. Of course we have had many more experiences of the Spirits presence, some also quite profound,  whilst in that area of the Church. We had no idea really of what had awaited us when we joined the movement.

Yes, the gifts that may be made available to those of us in the movement, that flow to us through the Spirits touch, are (to use one of my grandsons favourite words) awesome.

Based on my own experiences, I have tried under the next few headings to explain the outcomes of those gifts previously named.

3.    SPEAKING IN TONGUES

The ability to speak in tongues’ is a common gift to those people in the movement who have been touched by the Spirit. In fact, it is seen as the only proof of being born again within some Pentecostal churches. In other words, these churches consider that only those people who can speak in tongues will be saved (with reference to verses John 3:1-8). Most Christians including myself disagree whole heartedly, seeing this as an inappropriate understanding. I write this because other New Testament verses indicate otherwise (1 Corinthians 12 included). I personally still havent actually spoken in tongues yet so, tongue in cheek literally, I hope I am right on that! Despite not possessing this particular gift, I know that I do thankfully have others.

As I see it, tongues is generally a spontaneous way of praying to God. To the outsider it sounds to be garbled gobbledygook. To the person praying in tongues, it is often a means of expressing devotion, adoration and emotion, which are beyond the limits of the spoken word. The words as such are not even chosen, and the sounds flow from one’s uncontrollably fluttering tongue without deliberation. The meaning behind tongues is sometimes not even known to the person uttering it. Others are gifted with the ability to interpret the sound of tongues when uttered within a congregation.

I do not normally report outcomes from gifts I have not witnessed myself, but I have been told by a close friend that on occasions people, with the gift of tongues, can actually speak in a language foreign to them (when the Spirit wants it to happen). That is the gifted person may speak in a language, unknown to them, but it is understood by another person fluent with that language who is present before them.

In itself, tongues, when seen in isolation, may not offer any tangible evidence of God’s presence to an unbeliever. But its manifestation in a genuine congregation within the movement normally indicates that other gifts, which can more readily demonstrate God’s presence, are available there.

4.    HEALING

Healing in this setting can occur in many forms, from psychological or emotional  strengthening, through an acceleration of normal physical healing functions, to complete and miraculous transformations (as in my previous example of instantaneous recovery from a stroke). Totally unpredictable healing events can also come out of left field.

In effect, the Spirit actually performs the act of healing as he sees fit, through a gifted healer or even just spontaneously. It is not up to the healer to choose the degree of healing that is to occur. The healer is, in effect again, a conduit’ of the Spirit’s power.

Major physical defects, illnesses etc can be eradicated in the blink of an eye. On the other hand, nothing outwardly obvious to the observer may occur. A gift of emotional strength for example wont be noticeable to observers.

When the miraculous does happen, however, can it be put down to some unknown law of physics? I really dont believe so. It is also obvious that particular people in the Church have the gift of healing (i.e. those who can indeed pass on the Spirits power in this manner), because they are always the common denominators in such events. Also I have noted that gifted healers known to me did not have these powers prior to them being anointed or touched by the Spirit.

I know that local clergy and lay ministers had laid hands on my wife, after her stroke, prior to her miracle healing with no noticeable effect to me. The actual miracle itself occurred at a well attended church healing service’ as I have already described. Prior to the service, she doubted anything would happen. BUT happen it did! It was of course the Spirits call as to what happened and when.

I can also positively say that when genuine healing occurs, it is not a ‘mind over matter’ thing occurring within the affected person. When healing does result from the placebo effect then the health of the person, who thought they had been healed, will eventually regress. The health issue will return. I am absolutely confident from what I have witnessed that genuine ‘healing’, when it does occur, comes from a source other than from within those of us on the receiving end. My wifes healing was an absolute testimony to that fact.

But as I have already indicated, nothing is certain to us before these events unfold. I will say that some level of healing always occurs when they ‘lay on hands’, anoint with oil etc. However, as I have stated, miraculous physical changes do not always happen on the spot; right there. Sometimes, an injection of personal strength to face circumstances may only come to pass. As I have indicated above, emotional healing; an injection of strength to cope with the situation, may occur. In such cases it appears to the casual observer, who may not follow through on outcomes, that miracles occur sometimes and yet other times nothing happens – which is usually not the case at all!

I, for example, received that previously described laying on of hands from a member of the clergy when first diagnosed with a life threatening health condition. Although I did not expect any special sensation at that time (I didnt know that he was a member of the movement, i.e. he had been previously touched by the Spirit), I felt that unique ‘infilling’ (the oil-like one), described earlier, strongly flooding through me. The strength of the experience led me to hope at the time that I had been cured, but it was not so, at least not at that stage anyway. The event did not save me from subsequent surgery, and the following drawn out treatment over many months. What came out of it though, was a sense of personal strength to cope with it all. And, of course, I am obviously still here to write these words more than ten years later.

No one can guess who will actually receive miraculous healing. Normally, when they do occur, they are timed to best suit building up the Church (termed “edification”): to bring people to Jesus.

Although I have never heard of really significant outcomes from my own laying on of hands, I know that I do at least have a healing gift. As one example, when performing a lay ministry role for my church in a hospital, I laid hands on a Christian woman who was having a powerful full-body seizure resulting from earlier brain surgery and requested the Holy Spirit to act. The seizure just stopped immediately as a result and I continued my ministry with the patient.

On another occasion, I called on the Spirit to again heal another Christian woman in the same hospital. I knew she was lay minister in a distant parish and a member of the movement, but she did not know me. She had been admitted to hospital as a result of a heart attack. She subsequently admitted she had enjoyed an ecstatic experience from the Spirit, as he touched her, as a result of my request to him for healing. She further described, after the event, that she recognised pressure being applied to her heart, in which she sensed a healing sensation. I know that she is still enjoying good health, many years later.

No doubt the lay minister would have informed her fellow worshipers, at the church she attended, of the details. She would have made sure that the event was edifying; used for strengthening the faith of others. Note that the lay ministers powerful and ecstatic spiritual experience again occurred spontaneously. Once again, emotions, hysteria etc played no part in the event. It just happened, there and then, totally unexpected by the lay minister.

You may wonder what the gifted Born Again/ Charismatic feels when he or she passes on the Spirits healing to another person? Well, in my small examples, I personally never felt anything at all when praying or laying on hands for the sick, no matter what the outcome.

5.    WORDS OF THE SPIRIT

Prophecy [1Corinthians:12] and other advisory gifts, such as so-called words of knowledge are quite commonly witnessed within the Born Again/ Charismatic movement. People who possess these gifts are used by God, again as a conduit, to provide guidance or advice to others. And again, it edifies the Church; is used in effect to draw people to Jesus etc.

I have also recognised evidence of Gods widespread love at times through some of the words of advice I have witnessed. It was very personal and heartrending stuff, at times directed towards other faithful Christians present. As a Christian I understand the Bibles message about Gods love for us. And Jesus life on earth, as described within the Bible, clearly personified that love for us. But when you see an actual verbal outpouring of Gods love for one of his faithful through the words of a gifted person, in REAL life like that, it certainly brings the Bibles message of love home.

Moving firstly on to the gift of prophecy, it is often although not always related to ministry and spiritual growth for both individuals and congregations as a whole. After the accuracy of the information ‘passed on’ has been proven (i.e. the prophecy is fulfilled) it offers clear evidence of God’s presence to the person giving the advice, the person receiving the advice and any other witnesses.

I have again a very special incident to share. Again it relates to my wife. This second example for her occurred about ten years after the previously described healing miracle, so now possibly 17 years in the past. Again, it related to a health issue.

My wife had on this occasion undergone abdominal surgery and had been left with severely painful intestinal episodes. She endured a couple of investigative surgical procedures as a result. This situation actually went on for years. Finally unable to identify any causes, the surgeon wrote the issue off to good old ‘it’s all in your mind’. The severe yet intermittent pains continued, seriously affecting my wifes quality of life and we really didnt know where to turn. We regularly prayed together for an answer.

The resulting healing rolled out in a completely unexpected manner. My wife and I attended a regular mid-week evening Charismatic service within our Protestant church without any expectations. The officiating clergyman, a bishop no less, began in the closing stages of the service to offer prophesies to individuals in the congregation. He knew absolutely nothing of my wifes ailment but he stopped beside her and offered these words, The doctors will find the cause of your pain shortly and fix it! My wife and I were certainly encouraged by the statement, but bearing in mind that her surgeon had written her off, we had no idea how the issue could be furthered. But thankfully the prophesy quickly came to pass.

My wife visited another health specialist, who had attended to her over the years, for a routine examination a few days after the church service. During the course of the consultancy she mentioned her health dilemma. The specialist knew my wife extremely well and stated that, as a result, he knew her pain would not just be in her mind, as the surgeon had theorised. Shortly after the consultation, the specialist contacted the surgeon. Begrudgingly the surgeon agreed to examine my wifes abdomen through an endoscope (a viewing tube inserted through a small incision). He told my wifes specialist that he (the surgeon) would only perform the procedure if the specialist also attended the hospital and assisted in the procedure. The deal was the surgeon would give the specialist a well aged bottle of scotch whisky if they found anything out of the ordinary. And the surgeon obviously felt he was pretty safe with that deal.

In short, during the operating room procedure the doctors noted a section of intestine that had been accidentally stitched to the wall of my wifes stomach. This had happened when the incision was closed after that first abdominal surgical procedure I referred to earlier. The stitch was snipped using an attachment on the endoscope, allowing the pinched section of intestine to drop into its rightful place. And that intermittent and severe pain was no more. The surgeon was subsequently too embarrassed to charge for the procedure. Indeed as the bishop had said, The doctors will find the cause of your pain shortly and fix it! The well intentioned specialist got his bottle of scotch whisky too.

You will note that the two examples of healing with my wife occurred in completely different ways. One, the healing of stroke damage, was effected in the moment within a healing service through a direct act of God. The other was clearly orchestrated through an act of Gods providence (his helping hand) after the offering of the prophecy.

I can assure you that it is quite amazing when you are actually on the receiving end of genuine advice from the Spirit. It really is potent evidence of the presence of God, and I am not exaggerating. The information, which is very pertinent and personal, will be quite clearly addressed to you. You will know that when it occurs. And, because it does regularly happen, it offers strong ongoing evidence that God is working away within your life and within his Church.

One is never embarrassed by God if these words are past on verbally in front of our community of faith. I was, for an example of words of knowledge informed through words from God, past on by a visiting pastor, that I analysed things too much (particularly the Bibles New Testament). That one was ‘spot on’. I have already highlighted my analytical nature in other articles on this website. My church friends laughed. They knew me all too well I am afraid. And I laughed along with them. The pastor went on to tell me that I needed to look at Biblical scriptures in a different way: to place myself in the stories to get a better understanding of the underlying messages. After that advice I did start to look at the New Testament with new eyes. I had never before met the pastor providing the words. He had been invited to our fellowship, on the night, by our own church leader to demonstrate his gifts.

I mentioned in another article (So, what is God?) how I received advice, through a pastor in the movement, that earlier mystical experiences of mine had indeed been genuine encounters with God. And it is that pastor whom I am referring to here. He continued with his words of knowledge, “You have known God in a way that others here have not!” It was made very clear to me that God was referring to my earlier mystical experiences.

During the course of that session I was also advised by God, through a prophesy past on by the pastor, that I would act as a “bridge to Christianity” during one-on-one ministries that would arise for me. A picture of a chapter heading, i.e. those exact words from a book I had read recently, appeared inside my head as the pastor spoke. The chapter was about bringing people from pantheist religions to Christianity via a bridge of knowledge.

Obviously, the chapter heading, that came from the mouth of the pastor, was intended by God to make that very connection. Because of my broad religious knowledge (again see So, what is God?) I could easily engage in conversations with people from pantheist and alternative religions. My knowledge of mysticism, and now thanks to Gods verification that it been him that I had recognised there in my own experiences, put me in the perfect position to encourage people to trial Christianity for themselves. My occupation at the time meant that I met and chatted one-on-one with hundreds of fellow staff members, in a large organisation, during a year. I never had to push the religion wheelbarrowin this personal ministry because God, through acts of providence, actually brought me into contact as prophesied, with people who were open to, and indeed enjoyed, such conversations. And I comfortably did as I had been directed by him. As I have stated, providence, or Gods helping hand, brought it all together. It was a case of no sweat for me!

The combination of personalised communication directed by the Spirit through a gifted person, and a flurry of neural connections again effected internally by the Spirit to relevant memories in your brain, really makes one take stock of the experience. Words delivered in this way are not easily forgotten I can assure you. They hit hard! I have heard of otherwise strong people reduced to tears by prophesies, guidance or reassurance, as intense emotional weight has been lifted off their shoulders.

Many years after that event described above I was given further advice from the Spirit: through another member of the clergy this time, the Protestant bishop (in the movement) whom I have already referred to. This time I was told, through a prophesy, that I would broaden my Christian ministry widely, to the masses, i.e. I was no longer restricted to one-on-one sessions or a narrow focus when promoting faith. And I now guess that this website is the result of that prophesy.

That advice from the bishop certainly came to impact me. I could see in hindsight that God would have had a forward plan for me, when he had directed at that earlier time that I should only minister one-on-one. The two clergy men, who passed on those words to me, could not have had a clue about what each other had said in the past or would say in the future.

Another, yet smaller, related example that occurred with me is worth sharing here, to demonstrate how God can enter into our day-to-day lives (as faithful Christians) to assist in simple circumstances. I was under a lot of stress, over twenty five years ago. I had taken on a new demanding job and was simultaneously building a family home. Ongoing deadlines for both were intense, and as a result I was in a state of continual heightened anxiety. God chose to intervene, even though he had not been requested by me to do so. He selected one of my old friends, also a member of the movement, who had not been in contact with me for some time, to act for him. He had absolutely no opportunity to know of my stressful situation. My friend confronted me at my workplace and, although unsure about its context, said that he had a message for me from God. The message was, “You dont have any need to be stressed. Hand over all your problems to the Lord.”

Truthfully, I should have known to do just that, but stress does strange things to our normal behaviour. I was quite taken aback. Knowing that my friend knew nothing of my ‘trying’ stressful circumstances beforehand made it clear that the message was genuine. A flush of relief seized me as I heard the words. That home building program fell into place, like a dream really, after that. Some prayers for assistance during construction were answered with incredible outcomes along the way I might add. (I think I could actually write a complete article on just those events.) Responsibilities, in that new job of mine, certainly became easier to manage as well. Events like that, although small in comparison to some other life experiences, have the capacity to create significant increases in personal faith and belief.

Like healers, those with this gift become very confident, through its use, in what they are doing. When God gives them knowledge to pass on, they do so!

6.    CONCLUSION

Now, a lot of the stuff in this article may have looked crazy to you. Man, oh man ... and dont I know it. And I am sure that there are events in these fellowships that are still even beyond the boundaries of my imagination as to what is possible. Yes, obviously my observations are my own, and they can merely open your mind as to what might be possible ... if you can even accept the events I have written about being possible, of course. If this sort of thing fits with your personality and/ or desire to see tangible proof of God's existence, through the person of the Holy Spirit, then you must try it for yourself. Yes, it is so belief building.

Continue to the next article, Joining the movement.