Steve's Story: Ascending the Heights
Excerpt from Rescued from Hell, Chapter 6: Back on Planet Earth
Sensing what I needed, Eddy took me to the true heights, a “mountaintop experience” both natural and spiritual. That November Eddy, Barden, June and I were reunited at a charismatic Christian conference at Montreat College on Black Mountain in the North Carolina Blue Ridge. It was to be three days of resounding praise and worship, incredibly anointed teaching, powerful prayer times and vibrant fellowship with hundreds of other believers, who were just as excited about the Lord as we were. So, church isn’t just for Sunday mornings. It can actually go on for days and you don’t want it to end—another marvel!
More marvelous still was what happened after the service ended the first night we were there. An invitation had gone out for those seeking the baptism in the Spirit to come to a back room for ministry. Leading our group of twenty or so was an elderly Baptist deacon who positively seemed to shimmer and glow whenever he mentioned the name Holy Spirit. I didn’t know much about tribal identities in the Body of Christ at that time but I was pretty sure that Baptists didn’t believe in the gift of tongues or modern day “Pentecostal” experiences being available to all. Yet here was one who did. Not only that but he had such a kind and gentle way about him and such evident devotion that it totally disarmed my fears and anxieties. When he prayed for us my faith opened wide and I received a tantalizing sense of spiritual impartation.
Though nothing came out in that moment; fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long. As soon as I returned to our “holy huddle” in the residential quarters, everyone there turned to me and started worshiping the Lord in tongues. The presence of God among us was so strong! Something about their freedom allowed me to open wider, and my new prayer language began coming out on its own. Almost immediately one of our new friends returned an interpretation: “Son, this day you have surrendered to me. Always remember.” I have never forgotten that message or that moment in His presence. I sensed that the Father was not only affirming me, He was pointing me through this experience to a life lesson: The deep things of God only open for us through the pathway of entire surrender to His will. I was on top of the world!
Have you noticed that in the world of nature mountain tops and valleys always go together? It seems to be the same in the spiritual world as well. By lunch time the next day I was down in a valley, being hammered with my usual host of self-condemning thoughts and guilty feelings, which followed me around like a pack of flies. We were in the cafeteria hall at Ridgecrest, a Baptist conference center that was providing our accommodations. The “wilder” side to our meetings was happening over on the Montreat campus. Since Eddy was the only one at the table with me, I summoned up my courage and blurted out, “Eddy, I think I have a spirit of condemnation!” He said, “You probably do.” I practically shouted back, “Eddy, get it out!” He calmly replied, “No, I’m not going to.” You can imagine my consternation: “What do you mean? Eddyyyy!” Eddy simply said, “Steve, you can do it yourself.” I can? Well, OK let’s see how this goes. “Spirit of condemnation I command you in the Name of Jesus to leave me right now.” Right then and there in the cafeteria at Ridgecrest I was delivered of a very pesky demon that had been inside me for years. Oh, brave new world…
I wasn’t always so brave though. Riding down the mountain when the conference was over with Barden and June dozing off in the back seat I had opportunities to feel anxieties of a different kind. Eddy was playing a cassette tape of a teaching on “Brokenness” by Dr. Charles Stanley. I can still remember the teaching twenty-nine years later—that should give preachers everywhere reason to shout “Hallelujah!” from their steeple tops. The main theme was that God’s Spirit often works best through the places of our brokenness, since anything that is hard and resisting in us becomes a hindrance to His more graceful ways. Typically we build up self-protective walls around the unhealed parts of our past and these walls become obstacles that God has to break down in order to use us more fully. He cited Paul’s thorn, Gideon’s broken jugs, and the woman with the alabaster jar. I’m telling you it made quite an impression on me—especially since Eddy kept reaching over to where I was in the passenger seat to tap me on the arm and say, “This is for you. This is what’s coming!”
This worried me to no end; Eddy was my go-to guy for a word from the Lord. If I was under attack, confused or frightened, I would give him a call, he would listen, then pray in tongues and the interpretation that then came forth was right on the mark. Liberation always followed, always! Now, he was telling me about coming times that would be breaking me down, not building me up, at least not at first. Part of me was saying, “Lord, anything You say. I’m yours.” Another part of me was looking for the exit. Hadn’t I been broken enough? Didn’t those ten years in hell count for anything? Broken? I was pulverized! Come on, give me a break. No, I didn’t mean it like that…
It seems that we are the last ones to see our hardened places, but they are definitely there. We usually only see our wounds, sense our vulnerabilities and work at our coping strategies for keeping unresolved emotional issues under control. One day back home I was reading about Babylon and Nineveh, who were each in turn, the bully boys of the ancient Near East. As I reflected on their great walls which had to be torn down, I surrendered mine up to heaven: “Lord, wherever I have walls that are keeping You out, come charge my walls and break them down.” It took a while for the battering ram to be prepared, but a few years later it came. I will never forget that pounding. It has a name that usually makes me pause, and remembering it does weird and wonderful things to my heart even to this day: Honduras.
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