by Jeannette Haley
“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed:
blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” – John 20:29
Have you ever had a “close encounter” with God? I am not talking about those times when you receive a special revelation from the Word, or have some emotional experience, or even a “word” from a “prophet.” And, I am definitely not talking about having some sort of New Age type of “spiritual experience” that is rapidly gaining dominance in many churches these days, and which is nothing more than a demonic counterfeit.
What I do mean is a sobering, genuine, sovereign intervention of God where you have audibly heard His voice, seen Jesus with your physical eyes, or been given a vision or dream that brought fear and sobriety to your spirit. Does such a thing even happen these days? The answer is of course it can, and does, happen because God is not limited by man’s theology, creeds or doctrines. God is God, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable God Almighty regardless of puny man’s attempts to redefine Him into something “understandable” and “predictable” according to our limited idea of Him.
At this point I want to make it perfectly clear that not for a millisecond do we believe all (or any) of the so-called encounters with God that the popular TBN folks and their ilk claim to have had. Why? The answer is because the Majesty in the heavens does not show Himself to hireling shepherds, false apostles or prophets, or Satan’s “ministers of righteousness” who lust after “filthy lucre” (money) and who make “merchandise” of men’s souls. He does not step outside of who He is to carry on lengthy, silly, meaningless “conversations” with “professional prophets” that cannot, or will not, discern the holy from the profane.
Therefore, the question is, why does the Lord sometimes allow different people to have a personal, rare, “close encounter” with Him? Is it because they are somehow “special” or is there another reason?
First of all, God does not think as we human beings think. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. One general way of thinking among us humans is that some folks are more “special” than others in God’s eyes. The truth is, however, that God is “no respecter of persons.” (Romans 2:11; 10:12; Galatians 2:6; Ephesians 6:9). If God chooses to speak through a jackass (Numbers 22) or through a wicked priest (John 18:14) that is up to Him. He can use any vessel that He chooses, including demons (Mark 5:7) or even stones (Luke 19:40). Job said of Him, “Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number” Job 9:10.
Our finite minds cannot contain the knowledge of God; nevertheless, we still try to intellectually put Him in a nice little, comfortable “box” that suits our purpose, and which allows us to delude ourselves into believing that somehow we’re “okay,” and that we “know” what we believe. It makes us downright uncomfortable to think that God can intervene into our lives in any way, at any time, as He chooses. Like the terrified children of Israel who feared the presence of God on the holy mount, and who couldn’t bear to look upon the face of Moses reflecting God’s glory so that he was forced to wear a veil, multitudes of professing Christians today prefer to avoid a genuine encounter with God. Instead, they hide under a veil of “religious churchianity” and “pseudo spiritualism” that is designed to make them feel good about themselves regardless of the fact that such is lacking in Spirit and Truth.
In brief, Scripture records many direct interventions of God in people’s lives. In each recorded instance, beginning with Adam in Genesis to the Apostle John in Revelation, God had a specific purpose in mind such as judgment (Adam), warning and judgment (Cain), specific calling (Noah, and the Patriarchal fathers), encouragement (Hagar), giving of the Law and instruction for the Tabernacle (Moses), revelations and prophecies. God’s interventions in the Old Testament were to ensure the establishment of Israel and the Messianic lineage. In the New Testament, such close encounters with God, as experienced by the Apostle Paul, were for the purpose of establishing the New Testament church.
How do interventions of God as recorded in the Bible compare to the frivolous, fleshly, nonsensical and sometimes downright bizarre “new revelations” of today’s super stars in the religious arena? Bottom line—there is no comparison whatsoever. God is not in any of these so-called “new revelations.” It is all unprofitable, in this world and in the next.
But, when God in His sovereignty does so choose to intervene in a life, it will remain consistent to the biblical pattern. In other words, it will be for the purpose of warning, saving from disaster, calling (usually to make the right decision), or specific instruction to fulfill God’s purpose. Sometimes, when a person is at the lowest point, He speaks to give encouragement. This happened to me once back in the early 1980’s. I shall never forget it. I was at one of the lowest points of my life. His voice was totally unexpected, yet in four little words He spoke—and I broke. When He personally speaks to one of His own, it is like receiving the most priceless treasure in the Universe. It is a sacred gift, something to be cherished, not commercialized, or cheapened by flaunting it before swine so that it loses its sacredness and becomes polluted and perverted.
Around that same time in my life I also distinctly heard the voice of Satan. Who is to say that Satan can’t speak to us his lies and half-truths? The Bible tells us to not be ignorant of his devices. Never underestimate the enemy.
Two people in my family have seen the Lord Jesus. One was my great-grandmother (who went home to be with the Lord many years ago). She was then residing in a nursing home. An earthquake hit. While her room rocked and swayed, she saw Jesus standing at the foot of her bed. Great grandma had no reason to make up such a story. She was an upright, God-fearing woman. Soon afterwards, she left this world for the next.
The other relative who saw Jesus did so when Great grandma was still alive and living in her own place. Every time she told those close to her about seeing Him as clearly as seeing any other person, she would break down and cry. This woman is not an emotional person by any means, but a black and white factual person. Why was it given to her to actually see Jesus? I believe it is because He was calling her to make a decision to make Him Lord of her life. To this day, she is not serving Him.
When the Lord first put this ministry together, Rayola and I lived in a rugged part of Idaho. There was a certain woman who asked for prayer for her wayward son. So, we prayed. The Lord impressed upon me that within a week this young man would have an encounter with God. The next time we drove to town and I saw the mother, I began to ask her how her son was. Much to my surprise, she started weeping, grabbed my hands, and said, “He saw Him! He saw Him!” Then she explained that this young man, with a car full of other young men, had driven off of a 250-foot cliff. As the car plunged down the steep mountainside, her son saw the car fill with a bright light. He saw the hands of Jesus on the steering wheel. Not one boy was injured in any way, except her son had a scratch on his hand because it was hanging out the window. When he went back down the mountain to retrieve the stereo from the car, he saw that there was no space between the car seat and the steering wheel. This was most definitely a miracle. As far as we know, this man never sought God, or gave his life to Him.
Years ago I knew a man who attended church, gave lip service to Christ, and put up an image as a “good guy.” But, one night while on a road trip to Montana, in his motel room, he had a visitation from the Lord. Shaken, he spent the night on his knees, praying. But, his commitment was short-lived, and to this very day he is living in sin.
In another instance a friend and I were praying for a certain man who had great darkness between his “head and his heart.” He played the church games, but did not have the right spirit. Suddenly the power of God came down so powerfully that he began to weep. He was definitely having an encounter with God. Afterwards, he became baptized and confessed Christ. However, his heart turned away from the Lord, and he walked in his old ways again.
Some years ago Rayola was ministering to a young man who was wavering back and forth in his decision to surrender to Christ. Suddenly, God gave him a vision wherein he saw Jesus, followed by another vision of hell. This young man was visibly shaken by his experience. Whether he has gone on to follow the Lord, we do not know.
In another instance, a certain elderly man of financial substance related how God had spoken to him in a vision and told him to “help build Gentle Shepherd Ministries.” Sadly, he rebelled and, wanting a name for himself, took his substance and invested it into another local church that promotes psychology and other ungodly, liberal views.
A few years ago a man with great potential for the kingdom of God, was backpacking in one of Idaho’s remote canyons. When he returned from his time alone in the wilderness, he related with tears how the Lord God had spoken to him, warning him that he needed to make a decision to sell out all the way to Him. He kept putting off that decision until Satan gained a foothold in his life and heart. Eventually, he turned his heel against those who were fighting for his soul.
In recent times God spoke to another man that he needed to support and help build this ministry. However, this disobedient man can be likened to the rich man who built bigger barns to hold all his substance, yet lost his own soul that very night.
Finally, there is a young man who just turned eighteen, who has had more than one close encounter with God (and Satan). There is a fierce battle going on for his soul. Shaking in fear with tears of repentance, this young man has come for help on more than one occasion, only to return to his perverted pig pen life. He has heard God’s voice, and he has also had terrifying visions of demons dragging him to hell. And yet, he clings to his rebellion and sin.
Close encounters? How many Christians want to see Jesus or hear God’s audible voice? The question is, what for? As we have witnessed over the years, the majority of people who have had a close encounter with God have failed to repent and follow Him. They may experience a few hours or days of trembling and weeping, but then they soon allow their hearts to become hardened, as they run back to their carnal ways of thinking and doing, thus heaping upon themselves greater damnation.
A genuine, close encounter with God of this sort should cause us to fall on our face in fear and repentance. Any such encounter that God initiates must be considered in light of the cross of Christ. Dreams, visions, or visitations from God are not necessarily His “stamp of approval” on us, but rather should be a sobering reality check in which we must examine ourselves to see if we are truly “in the faith.”