In the past few years there has been an ever-increasing emphasis placed on spiritual phenomena in the churches, with particular reference to what became known as Toronto Blessing and the Pensacola Outpouring. What are we to make of these phenomena? Questions must be asked as to the validity of such manifestations.
When I witnessed the video footage of the Ward sisters’ testimonies at the Brownsville Assemblies of God church in Pensacola, USA, I was moved to examine what they said about their experiences. I was reminded of the fact that such phenomena are not new. There has been a steady stream of people that have experienced similar (if not identical) manifestations throughout church history.
As I watched Alison ward being gripped by uncontrollable spasms of shaking and jerking I recalled similar scenes that I had witnessed years ago in Northern Portugal, in the village of Ladeira do Pinheiro near Oporto. It was quite common to see scenes of people shaking uncontrollably and convulsing as they were overcome by the spirit!
In 16th century Spain the Catholic Saint Teresa de Avila reported that her ecstasies, came upon me with great violence and in such a way as to be outwardly visible, I having no power to resist them, even when I am with others. She is also credited with having visions of the wounded Christ, much in the same way as Alison Ward.
Giuseppe di Copertino (b.1603, d.1663) from Copertino near Lecce, in the Salentina Peninsula, Italy, had many such seizures. In his time he was a celebrated figure. His amazing manifestations are well documented having been witnessed by, and attested to, by kings, dukes and the noted German philosopher Gottfried Liebniz. In fact he was subject to outbursts of anger that would then be followed by long trances resulting in expressions of love and piety. Often he would suddenly let out a piercing cry, as he would be catapulted some two meters into the air. Sometimes he would be seen flying across the room, or even levitating. Amy Ward stated that on one occasion she felt herself being lifted up by the right arm until she was standing on tiptoe.
Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney (The Cure of Ars) (b.1786, d. 1859) was often lifted up to the point where he was reported as having been seen hovering above the ground. He too had visions of Christ and also spoke in tongues. As with Alison Ward he too could never speak of sin and sinners without shedding tears.
Catherine Benincasa (Sta. Caterina di Siena- born at Siena, 25 March, 1347; died at Rome, 29 April, 1380.) had ecstatic visions and was commonly reported as being rapt beyond her senses.
Jeanne la Pucelle born in the little village of Domremy, in the Barrois region (now part of “Lorraine”) on the border of eastern France in 1412, d.1431. She claimed to have received visitations of angels and the spirits of the dead.
Francesco Forgione (Padre Pio) born 1887, d. 1968 is probably the most celebrated person in the 20th Century for his remarkable manifestations. He was often reported to emanate the odour of roses, violets, lilies and even incense. He was even reported to have Bi-located himself (Been seen in two different places at the same time). The most remarkable of the physical manifestations began on 20th September 1915 when, aged 28, he was publicly marked with the Stigmata (i.e., manifest the marks of the wounds of Christ in his own body).
Forgione is by far the most famous of modern stigmatists. His bleedings have been featured in photographs and many articles. Even more spectacular was the fact that his wounds were seen to open up at Easter time, the medical profession attesting to this as fact.
Such manifestations are not the sole property of the churches, they also occur in other religions too: –
In Islam there are the Marabouts who are reputed to have the power to heal, to exercise divine intercession, to bring rain and even fly.
The Sadhus of the Hindu religion often fall into mystical trances, weep for hours at a time and are subject to seizures (which they claim God is doing to their bodies)!
At the Brownsville church we also witness the people being called to focus on banners for healing. This is a regression to the Dark Ages when Christians were subject to superstition and the use of amulets and charms for healing and protection.
The lives of the saints of the Catholic Church are being revaluated and even revered within the non-catholic churches.
Beginning with Vatican ll, through the rise of the Charismatic Renewal, Vineyard, House Churches, Restoration, Toronto and now with Pensacola we have seen greater moves towards Unity. More and more we see the Church of Rome influencing the affairs of non-Catholics. In the desire for Unity Christians are abandoning established doctrine for a common experience. When doctrines differ they are overlooked. The latest dogma appears to be, Have NO dogma!
Jesus taught us that, When the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth. (Jn 16:13)
The Apostle Paul railed against the Christians in Galatia ho were reverting to old ways that brought them into spiritual bondage and not into the freedom that is wrought by the Grace of God. For centuries the churches have been set free from the bondage of religion built around priests, asceticism, mysticism and superstition. Now Christians have become bored with the truth upon which these freedoms have been forged. In the hunger for the supernatural the warning of the Holy Spirit is ignored, To the hungry soul any bitter thing is sweet. (Prov 27:7).
The Bible is being treated as unreliable, obsolete and ineffectual for the needs of the modern Christian. More attention is given to the writings of todays superstars than those of the prophets and the Apostles who walked with God and sat at the feet of the Messiah Himself! This is trampling the memory of the many thousands of men, women and children who were, and still are being, martyred for their belief in the authority of the Bible under foot.
Men such as William Tyndale who was burned alive for daring to translate the Bible into English, and then smuggle copies of it illegally into Catholic England.
Men such as Martin Luther who denounced false teachings and the abuses of the Popes and clergy who had oppressed Europe for centuries!
People like the French Huguenots who were massacred on St Bartholomews day on the orders of the Catholic Queen Catherine di Medici!
People like the Pilgrim fathers who fled the persecutions of a Pagan/Christian Europe in order to live in freedom in the New World where they could practice their Faith in accordance with the Word of God!
Plus the many thousands who lay down their lives every year in foreign lands where they dare to uphold the Bible as the Definitive Word of God!
It behoves us to hold their memory in honour, and follow their example of faith. We must, as the Holy Spirit has said, Use Gods mighty weapons, not merely worldly weapons, to knock down the devils strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we CONQUER THEIR REBELLIOUS IDEAS, and we teach them to OBEY CHRIST. (2 Cor 10:4-5)
SAINTS the chosen few by Manuela Dunn-Mascatti.
Pub. 1994 by BOXTREE
PADRE PIO THE STIGMATIST by Rev. Charles Mortimor Carey
Pub. 1989 by TAN BOOKS
by Lord Longford
Pub. 1987 by HUTCHINSON
World famous CULTS & FANATICS
by Colin & Damon Wilson
Pub. 1992 by SIENA
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