By Patricia Backora

It has been 32 years since I received the glorious Baptism in the Holy Spirit. I had prayed to receive Christ as my Savior as a youngster, but for years afterward had remained ignorant of my need to enter into a deeper dimension of the Life of Christ. I had drunk from the Well of Living Water, yet needed to be immersed more fully into the River of God, the Holy Spirit. As we live in the Spirit, we can more readily appropriate the power of Christ for victory in daily living, and His Presence seems so much more real. Up until the time of my spiritual Baptism into the Life of God, I had had only a superficial belief in the living Christ. I had never been taught about my rights as a child of God. Nor had I ever heard a sermon given on the spiritual gifts, which are available to those who are baptized in the Spirit, and crucial for lasting victory over satan. The devil rejoices when a believer does not know what resources have been provided for him or her through the atonement of Christ. It delights him when God’s supernatural gifts are either relegated to the scrap heap of past dispensations or “spiritualized away”.The enemy had me for lunch every day, my prayers were feeble, and my relationship to God dwindled to virtually nothing over the years, as the storms of life took their toll on me.

The most dramatic change I experienced from My encounter with the Holy Spirit was this: I learned the meaning of I John 4:7-8: Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God, and everyone who loves (with God’s love) is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. I gained a vital awareness that God is my loving Heavenly Father, not some slave-driver in the sky.

Yes, the Baptism of the Holy Ghost enabled me to receive love and to give love to God and to others. I had been bullied as a child in school, and my goal was to survive, rather than thrive. My ability to love and reach out had been damaged by the cruelty of my peers. It took a miracle to infuse new life into my wounded spirit.

In any event, human love is vastly inferior to the love of God in Christ Jesus. We must avail ourselves of His love. God the Father delights in using His children as channels through which the perfect love of His only begotten Son may be demonstrated.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s, there was a wonderful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in America, especially among young people who were disenchanted with the stiff, dry formality of conventional church settings. Millions of people like myself yearned for a real encounter with the Living God. This great revival began in Costa Mesa, California, and spread throughout the United States and even around the world. There was a resurgence of the supernatural element in the Church which had been suppressed for nearly 2000 years. I was particularly thrilled by the reappearance of the nine gifts (supernatural manifestations) of the Holy Spirit, which are enumerated in I Corinthians 12:8-10. Shortly after receiving the Holy Spirit, God graciously bestowed the the gift of prophecy upon me. This gift was always exercised in an orderly manner, usually during a lull in the worship service when everyone grew silent, waiting on God to speak to all our hearts. The number of prophetic utterances would vary from service to service. There might be one prophecy given, sometimes two or three; occasionally more, or none at all. In our church, there were no hard and fast rules restricting the number of prophecies, although I Corinthians 14:29 indicates that two or three occurring during any one particular service is the norm. On certain occasions, visiting Spirit-filled ministers would come and pray over individual members, and God would frequently impart an uplifting message of edification, exhortation, and comfort to these people, as described in I Corinthians 14:3. The goal of prophecy given over believers is three-fold: to edify, (strengthen a person in his spirit) to exhort him to faith and godliness, and to comfort (lend encouragement in his walk with God). These days, God’s children need all the help He can give them.

Sadly, I have noticed a sharp decline in the occurrence of the gifts over the past two decades; this, in spite of the fact that satan has reserved his very worst nuclear warheads for these last days, just before God takes His people home and unleashes a season of judgment upon this Christ-rejecting world. As a rule, services have grown shorter, and are kept within the confines of “good taste”.Sermons have lost their holy fire, for preachers are afraid to call sin sin anymore. Moreover, a vital sense of urgency has been lost in the church as multitudes die in their sins and go to hell. Many church members are bound by problems in their lives. They have been robbed blind by satan in their marriages, health, and finances. So many of these people are at the utter end of their tether, and don’t know which way to turn. Having rejected th power of God, their pastors wonder why love alone is not sufficient to resolve the crises in the lives of their parishioners, and why carnal methods cannot loosen the ironclad grip of satan on their lives.
Usually, big changes don’t happen all at once. The enemy steals from individuals or the entire church by degrees. I observed that prophecy occurred less and less often in the life of the average church. As the utterance (spoken) gifts were phased out, the power gifts (healing, miracles, supernatural faith) became all but non-existent. In recent years I endured some very dark days, and felt that no one on earth knew how to touch God on my behalf. No matter how long you’ve walked with the Lord, battles will come, and it helps to have someone who will pray with you, and truly care about you as an individual. When I could find no help within the context of a formal church situation, I found one ministry which cared.

One of the purest hearts I ever knew, (I’ll call him “Brother Bob”) did not conduct formal church services, but he did host small prayer meetings in his home. Many people, saint and sinner alike, came to him out of sheer desperation. Their churches had either lost the power of God or had never really wanted it in the first place. The Lord anointed him with the gift of supernatural knowledge and wisdom, and faith to pray for miracles. Graciously he ministered to those who came to him seeking prayer and “a word in good season” to overcome oppressive circumstances. The Holy Spirit would bring Biblical verses to Brother Bob’s remembrance and anoint them with divine power, and people would be set free from the works of the devil in their lives.
Time and again I’d phone him for advice or prayer. That old saying: “No man is an island” is true. Truly God’s people need one another. This kindly, unpretentious saint was always full of homespun wisdom. Patiently he’d take the time to inspire me with words of encouragement and faith. Because one man was willing to share the love of Jesus in the power of the Holy Ghost, many miracles came into my life to overcome the devil’s attacks. Through his ministry, I rediscovered the meaning of the true nature of Jesus, and acquired the ability to disassociate God from loveless hypocrites.

Now that Brother Bob has gone to be with the Lord, I feel more urgently than ever before about the restoration of God’s supernatural resources to His Charismatic Church. The word “charismatic” is derived from the word “charisma”, which refers to the supernatural gifts manifested by the early church.

In the Yellow Pages of many American cities, you’ll find a listing for “Charismatic Churches” under the general heading “Churches”. Can you see the supreme irony? In the beginning of the Holy Ghost outpouring, it would have been an apt description. But much of God’s church has compromised with the world. God is being robbed of His supernatural glory by religious spin doctors who transform Him into a benign Being of sentimental, powerless “love”. Why has satan succeeded in robbing Charismatic and Pentecostal churches of the very spiritual gifts which once distinguished them from the rest of the church world?

To sum it up: Fear of public opinion. A great many religious leaders fear that if they don’t cater to the prejudices and inhibitions of the vast majority of churchgoers, their attendance will dwindle, and they will preside over an empty sanctuary. Consequently, their funds will dry up.
Less controversial (and powerless) things now make up a typical ninety-minute church service. God’s spiritual gifts are vital weapons in the war against satan. The Kingdom of God ought to be manifested in power in the midst of the saints. This is what the devil which fears most, not some whimsical song or sermon on positive thinking. If a preacher is full of the Holy Ghost and fire, it will feel like a fire shut up in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9)., and he will not rest content until he delivers the message entrusted to him by God.

Precious manifestations of God’s power, briefly revived, have been subtly phased out, as they were in earlier church dispensations which substituted the wisdom of men for the power of God. So satan has snatched a measure of temporary victory from the jaws of defeat. His assaults on the Church now meet with much less resistance. He is due no courtesy, so I spell his name with a little “s”.

Because I can no longer receive the same type of ministry in church as I did in my youth, the Lord Himself has had to strengthen me inwardly by illuminating the Truths of His Word. He has promised me Paradise, and a place of rulership in His Kingdom once my mortal sojourn is over. This is not egotism on my part, for it is the King of Glory dwelling in my heart who gives me boldness to speak out for Him (Luke 24:49; Acts Acts 4:31). All faithful believers in Christ are promised such wonderful rewards (Daniel 7:18; Revelation 3:21). The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy (Revelation 19:10). The Holy Spirit will not be suppressed. If He is not permitted to get a word in edgewise in the churches, He will still find ways to convey Christ’s words of comfort to His people, in order that our King may be exalted and have the preeminence.

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