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The Sacred Theater of the Cevennes

A Secret Huguenot Assembly Captured

By Marv

Note: After nearly a century of peace, persecution of the Huguenots, the French Protestants, flared up again under Louis XIV, when he declared Protestantism illegal in 1685. Those who did not convert nor managed to flee faced death, imprisonment or condemnation to the galleys. One major pocket of resistance was the mountainous Cevennes region in the south. There believers continued to meet in secret “Assemblies,” sometimes in caves, literally “underground.”

As the authorities continued to hunt them down, open war resulted in this area between 1702 and 1704. These particular Huguenots became known as the “Camisards,”  and many testimonies have survived of signs and wonders among them. Many prophesied, even very young children. Often they were warned by the Spirit of impending danger from enemy forces, and were saved from death or capture.

From several of those who eventually escaped to England, a collection of testimonies of these marvels appears in a book titled Le Théatre Sacré des Cévennes (The Sacred Theater of the Cevennes). Here is an excerpt of one such testimony by a man named Jean Cavalier, recorded January 1707 (translation mine).

There was beginning to be a lot of talk around about the “Prophets” of our region, stories you’d hear. So when some friends invited me to one of these prayer “Assemblies,” though I was just a kid of 15 or 16 and  not exactly given to devotion,  I jumped on the chance, thinking that I might see there some of those “Inspired” ones who said such strange things. But no sooner had I entered the barn where everyone was, that I noticed a boy lying on his back going through curious agitations.  This started to freak me out and really put me off. But then he  started to speak, and he said among other things that there were some persons there in the gathering who had come merely out of curiosity, and in a mocking spirit, and that if they did not repent, God would point them out and they’d be  put to shame. He added some other things like this, so clearly painting a picture of me, that he could not have represented my state of mind better if he had access to the very depths of my heart. And this shook me up no small bit. In my limited mindset I figured these folks for some kind of fortune tellers, as some people said. But anyway, this little “soothsayer” has spoken of persons–plural–and so I imagined that I was not the only one in there who found it all weird. So I hoped I’d escape notice, being only one of many, and I wished at that moment I was thirty miles away from there. I was repenting–of my decision to come–and I determined to make for the door and get out of there as fast as I could. Not only was I upset and frightened at this little boy’s calling out my very thoughts, but I was scared that he would call me by name or something even worse. I had never in my life found my self in such a predicament.

But it got worse. With my only thought and desire to get out of there, I saw another very young boy–directly in my path–between me and the door–fall to the floor in even more violent agitations than his comrade, so to speak, and cry out loud that there was a person of ill will trying to leave, and that they should post people at the door to stop him lest he go and denounce the Assembly. Then this new “soothsayer” began to say out loud with the most perfect precision the things I had been saying to myself as the other one had begun speaking. Not only this, but he even called out my first and last names, and came and grabbed my arm, at which point he added several things to get me to humble myself before God, to repent, and to give Him glory etc. My inner trepidation turned to outright terror and I froze. I was cornered, because this last boy had spoken of one single person,–obviously me! As for the door–forget that. My God! I said to myself, who are these people? And who told these little boys everything that was in my heart? What am I going to do if they come at me? What will happen to me? What will my parents say? I was in a fix, for sure. And yet, I added, these people talk about God. Had they been Witches, they wouldn’t be saying all the good things they were. They wouldn’t be praying such fine prayers. They wouldn’t be singing Psalms and the two children wouldn’t have exhorted me to repent. These thoughts calmed my mind a bit and led me to pray to God.

Then, something particular happened, which I must tell here. The second “soothsayer”–or rather Prophet–or I don’t know what–continued to speak. As he rattled off endless things against the morals of this perverse century, against the  idolatry of the Papists, against all sorts of superstitions, etc. All of a sudden he stopped his discourse and speaking in a different tone, said that there were several believers wandering in the fields and forest nearby looking for the Assembly, and that to bring them in, someone had to go out and sing a Psalm. I’d had a mind to volunteer to go and sing with them, the perfect excuse to get me out the door, but I didn’t dare, out of fear for the “soothsayers” at the door. A group went out and began to sing. As for me, I continued to pray to God as best I could. I thought it would be a good sign if the singing actually did bring in more people as the little Prophet had predicted. We’ll see, I said, if what he said comes true or maybe it was all just coincidence–the things he’d said about me. As I stood there by myself, lo and behold, the people came back in with a bunch of others brought in by the Psalm-singing. That really got to me, and set my mind whirling, for at least a quarter of an hour, on such matters as a kid my age never had in his whole life.

My opinion of the people began to change, as I reflected on things I had always heard, that it was only God who searches hearts and minds, that it could not be Satan who declared war on sin or glorified the name of God as they were doing at this Assembly. These thoughts really calmed me down, and even gave me joy.

Then a third young boy fell down like the others. After some agitations, he got up, full of the Spirit, and said something like this: “I assure you, my child, you are safe here in this this Assembly. Never fear; I am with you. And I want now to put my Word in your mouth, so that you may console my people.” This moved me even more, and fortified my heart, seeing that they were no longer talking about me the way they were before. Whereas before I had only prayed in fear and trembling, gasping for breath, now I began to ask fervently that He would be pleased to let me know His will, so that He would fill me with horror for those things, if ever they came not from Him, and on the other hand, if they were Gifts of His Grace that he would imprint them on my heart.

The young preacher prayed a wonderful prayer, to which I was extremely attentive, feeling propelled with a great zeal. He said next that the text of Scripture which was to be the subject of the message the Spirit was putting in his mouth was was Isaiah 55:1-2: ““Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” etc.

He spoke for two entire hours with an amazing ease, saying things so moving and wonderful that everyone was in tears, including me. … And the two hours passed like two minutes. But what child has the ability to speak like that? Everyone assured me the little boy did not know how to read. But even if he could, surely he would not have the capacity in himself to compose such a message much less to deliver it or to have the boldness for public speaking–and in [standard] French no less. …

As for me, as he preached, as the young inspired boy spoke various things which particularly touched me and which I took closely to heart, I experienced an unspeakable contentment. I was thrilled when he said that the least and the simplest were of great worth in God’s sight. That it was those who were the most destitute that He wanted to enrich, since Jesus Christ Himself came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. But one has to feel the misery, has to know the spiritual poverty and then to hunger and thirst, so as to be admitted to the banquet, to receive the wine and the mild, to be quenched in the river of His delights. My soul was overcome. I was outside of myself. It seemed to me that all these great things were for me alone. I was no longer wavering; my doubts vanished; I felt in myself that hunger and thirst for God’s graces. Yet in the sense of my deep unworthiness, my eyes became fountains of tears.

Bill Johnson on Hearing God

By Marv

I came across something while listening to a Bill Johnson message, from Bethel Church, titled Extreme Living (part 2), recorded in 2007, and it so encouraged me, so specifically touched me in areas that I’ve been thinking and praying about, that I thought I’d share them with you. Actually, just about anything Bill Johnson is a supercharge of faith-building vitamins. But I especially appreciated these few paragraphs about how the Spirit speaks to us and we listen.

You can tell when someone’s been hearing from God. I mean hearing; I don’t mean reading. I mean hearing. Because they’re alive. I mean really alive.

I’ve got bread to eat, and I’ve got seed to sow. That’s my whole life: eating and sowing, sowing and eating. And I love eating. And I love sowing. And that mark of prosperity of soul is the sign that we’ve heard from God.

This whole countenance thing, that is sucked up in depression. Y’know. You just… Jesus had more joy than all his companions. Everyone around Him, He exceeded them all. And now that you have the same Spirit of Christ living in you… I have the same Spirit of Christ living in me. It’s the same prosperity of soul. My heart is linked to heaven. There’s an endless supply of life, of word.

He just talks. All I’ve got to do is sit down this afternoon and just listen. And it doesn’t have to be word for word. It’s the Spirit Himself who comes upon me. And if I come with, with… See, my job is to recognize when He speaks. His job is to talk. Sometimes it’s off the pages of Scripture. Sometimes it’s somebody else talking. Sometimes it’s the words of a song. Sometimes it’s the language of the Spirit–unusual coincidences. I have stuff happening constantly that is so encouraging to me that would be absolutely stupid to anybody else.

Walking on Water?

By Marv

So what about walking on water? I’m sometimes asked why this miraculous act is not repeated today if whoever believes in Jesus really will do the works that He did (John 14:12), as we repeatedly assert.

It’s actually a reasonable enough question, especially if you consider John’s admonition and take it rather on the literal side:

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.(1 John 2:6)

I do have an answer for this question. But first, let’s put the matter into perspective. An awe-inspiring miracle, this event without question defies both gravity and physics. What it doesn’t defy is the power of the God who made the earth and sea and everything in them. Yet, let’s be clear, it was never in the top ten of frequently-performed miracles.

As far as we are told, it was done by exactly two human beings: One who exectuted it flawlessly, and another whose showing can barely be called a success. Our Lord, the God-man had no difficulty whatever hiking across the waves. Still, the fact that Peter did it at all, however poorly, shows us that it is a case of divine power mediated through a human being. It’s what I call a human-level miracle (God’s power manifested though man).

What’s a God-level miracle, or display of divine power?

 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3)

He upholds the universe by the word of his power.  (Hebrews 1:3)

 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

A walk on the lake, then, is… a walk in the park…

No mere human is ever said to do what Christ does through His own divine power. This is rather obvious. Yet, during his time on earth, we do see Him performing amazing miracles, but like walking on water, something that a mere man can do as long as “God is with him.”

And this is exactly how Christ’s miracles are described:

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10:38)

This is what it means that He was “anointed,” though He Himself is the Second Person of the Trinity (infinitely powerful in His own Person), according to the divine plan, carrying out His mission as a human being, He is empowered through the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

This is entirely deliberate, since the plan entails rasing up many brothers and sisters who can likewise carry out their mission through the power of the Third Person. Unlike Jesus–again obviously–they have no innate divine power of their own. Thus He did what He didn’t have to–operate under the Spirit’s power, so as to later cause us to share in His ministry as His Body.

So, what are we saying? That when Jesus walked on water He did so through the power of the Holy Spirit. So did Peter, though his faith was weak: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

Aha! So it’s a faith deal! Clearly. So can we manage to do it if we have enough faith?

Herein lies a misunderstanding. It is true that Peter failed due to lack of faith. But he suceeded to the degree that he had a measure of faith. But we need to understand that one thing was absolutely indispensible or else Peter could have had no faith at all.

Faith is not positive thinking, pumped up self-confidence, banishing doubt from your mind. It’s not any kind of ego-quality. It is other focused. Specifically, it is reliance on the promise of a reliable person. That person says X, so X it is. We consider the person reliable, faithful, and so we trust, rely on what that persn says. And act on it. Apart from a promise, there can be no faith.

Our confidence in that person’s reliablity can be weak or strong, and this can make a difference. It did so in Peter’s case–and so the failure.

Of course this person’s reliablity can also be weak or strong. In the case of God, it is absolute–and so the measure of success in Peter’s water walking. He couldn’t do it at all, not a single step, if he didn’t have an absolutely reliable promise that it would work.

Did he have such a promise? Yes. Note the exchange:

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:28-29)

When it comes from our Lord, a command is a promise. Peter did not step out on the surface of the lake in bold self-confidence, thinking “if he can do it, I can do it.” He knew enough that if Jesus said it, he could do it. And that what He commanded, Peter could put his total confidence in, and do it. And so he asked for a command.

For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Matthew 8:9)

Excellent theory, and good practice for a few seconds, at least. Then he got weirded out.

But you and I can walk on water, too, no problem–if Jesus commands us to do so. That’s an industrial strength IF though. Because He apparently doesn’t work that kind of thing in very often. It would have come in handy for Paul, who otherwise mangaged raising the dead, inflicting blindness, handling snakes, that sort of thing:

Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea. (2 Corinthians 11:25)

So that the Lord will give us that particular command may be unlikely. Though if He ever does, your potential to water-walk is 100%, if you can believe it.

On the other hand, he commands us, instructs us, intends for us to do many, many other things–acts which are not uncommon in His Kingdom. But they all likewise flow from His particular communication to us. Understand, He’ll glorify Himself in many, many ways in answer to our prayers, even if we have no particular command. But to act in faith requires a promise which is a command or a command which is a promise.

This is how Jesus operated, during His ministry. He makes this crystal clear:

 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.” (John 5:19-20)

 And nine chapters later:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14)

This is why the reality of ongoing communication from Christ to us His servants, through the Holy Spirit, is absolutely vital to our carrying out His works and our mission. He has made us for works and prepared works for us to do (Eph. 2:10), and we are to do them in full confidence, faith, in His power. And if he tells us to, we can, and we will.

How do you know?

By Marv

The question is “How do you know?” We contend, based on the Scriptures, that God’s Spirit continues to communicate with believers today, as He has throughout history, and even more so, since Jesus prophesied and commanded his disciples to be led by the Spirit after He returned to the Father (John 14-16).

Okay, so given this instruction, how do we know when the Spirit is speaking? Does “speaking” equal an audible voice? If it is non-audible but internal, how it this communication to be distinguished from our own thoughts?

How do you know? The question comes both from skeptics of “modern-day” revelation–the classic “maybe it’s just last night’s pizza,” as well as a sincere learner, seeking practical understanding of the ways and means of this ministry that our Lord has called us to. It’s a fair question either way, and I want to touch on a few shreds of how it can possibly be answered. Largely, it depends on exactly what is being asked.

If “how do you know?” means “by what means does one arrive at absolute certainty,” I think the answer is–rather obviously–you don’t. If it is a matter of objectively verifiable assurance or nothing, then, I admit, we will be stopped before we begin. Very freqently a friend of cessationist persuasion puts this kind of chalenge to me.

It’s a strange notion though–because in no other area of life may we depend on this level of knowledge. I mean, I wish engineers and architects to have their facts and figures straight, and doctors and pharmacists to exercise care and precision every step of the way.

But for the most part, we go through our day, sensing and approximating and relying on unconscious recognition and “good enough” knowledge. When I was learning to drive, I recall my instructor asking how we know when we are in the center of the lane. I imagined some mental calculus about lines on the road and the position of the hood ornament or some other practical measure. His answer was none of these. Essentially, one learns just to know–to do it by feel.

Generally, we do the same with spelling and grammar, using the “sounds right” and “looks right” principle. These are far from fool-proof, of course, and accuracy varies from person to person, but unconscious awareness is a powerful tool, and we use it far more than we do conscious calculation.

Some people object to the notion of the Spirit speaking through an “impression.” What we experience as a “hunch” or “impression” is an extremely common mental phenomenon. That “I’ve forgotten something” feeling often happens when I’m walking out the door, and experience has shown me that I ignore it to my own regret. It usually reflects reality, though the specifics don’t rise above the surface of awareness. It is a very real, useful, and valuable part of our mental processes.

We perceive many things without that awareness achieving the precision of “knowledge.” Recognizing voices is another prime example. When my wife calls me from across the house–as she does not infrequently–though I cannot see her, though the sound is muffled, and though I may not make out the words–I know it to be her though I cannot begin to prove it. Likewise in a crowd at the park or at church, it is usually possible (though not infallably) to identify which call for “Dad” coming from behind is for me and which is not.

Recently our cat went missing. After several days, my presumption was that she had been accidentally killed and I was resigning myself to the idea that we would not see her again. But arriving home one evening, when the neighborhood was still and quiet, I heard the faintest sound of a meow. I would not have thought it possible, but instantly I “knew” it was our cat. Though I could offer no objective evidence, I also had no real doubt, and was convinced enough brazenly to wake my neighbor and ask him to open his garage door. I suspect she (the cat) knew the sound or our car, as we somehow mangaged to discern our pet’s voice from all the nearly identical sounds in the neighborhood.

So the answer, much of the time, is you don’t know–even if you do “know.” We are made to operate on perception and awareness that are perfectly elusive and hardly able to be objectified or proven. So it is, much of the time, with the Spirit.

Practically, then, once we are convinced that the Spirit of God does communicate to our spirit, we do ask ourselves the same question “How do I know” all the time. Frankly, I have noticed something about perceiving something prophetic for someone–my typical reaction is to feel fairly certain that it is “just me.” In this case I’ve learned–paradoxically–that when it “feels” as if it is “just me,” very often it turns out to be what I later conclude to be genuine communication from the Lord. I can be much more certain afterward, when my “word” correllates strongly with several others from other sources, ties in with, say, something the person was reading or what he/she was recently praying, or some other connection, and ends up giving significant upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation. These kinds of “impressions” are often well-verified after the fact, but all-too easy to dismiss ahead of time.

What is the Lord liable to use, to bring an idea to our attention? When I was still a cessationist, one day I was chatting with a missionary friend, a lady who struck me at the time as–well, rather “spacey” in this regard (though I changed my opinion and honor the memory of this saint who served the Lord even to martyrdom.) She told me once she was praying in a room where several boxes were stored. One of these had “chain saw oil” printed on the side. Her thoughts were immediately carried to a brother back on “the field” whose name was Chang So. “And oil represents the Holy Spirit” she told me. My first reaction was that the notion was a bit silly–the Spirit speaking by a play on words and a simple coincidence. I wish I had a great story of precise timing–the beloved national Christian being plucked from danger at the precise instant my friend’s prayer rose to heaven. But I have nothing to prove anything here. I just know that one way or another he came to mind and she prayed for him.

Was that the Lord? How do we know? We don’t know. But I’m pretty sure of a couple of things: it was sufficient to cause my friend to pray for the man. Why should the Spirit disdain to employ a “silly” method such as this, if it effectively brought the result it did, to one open to it? Second, given my disposition at the time, I would have missed it, the idea being altogether too “silly,” and it is I who would have missed an opportunty of service to the Lord.

But is this Biblical? Consider the Lord’s communication to Jeremiah, at the very beginning of his prophetic career, when he was just learning to hear the voice of the Spirit:

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.” (Jeremiah 1:11-12 ESV)

I’m afraid that the mechanics of what is happening in this brief exchange is obscured in translation. What Jeremiah sees (either in a vision or physically) is the branch of an almond tree, in Hebrew shaqed. Upon which the Lord replies with a pun: “I am watching (shoqed) over my word.”

Now, here’s a bit of something I definitely cannot prove, and even has the virtue of being a bit “silly.” Even the apostles would have had to know when the Lord was indicating He was about to act. Jesus Himself said He only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19).

Peter said to the lame man “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6) How did he know he had healing available for that man at that time? The text doesn’t tell us.

Paul “saw” that a man had faith to be healed (Acts 14:9). How did he see? How did he know? The text does not tell us.

Peter prayed for a woman named Dorcas or Tabitha and raised her from the dead. How did he know this woman would be raised? I’m not sure he did know, but someting about the circumstances may have struck him as almost déjà vu.

Once Jesus healed the daughter of a man named Jairus. Mark records the incident this way:

But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking. (Mark 5:40-42 ESV)

Now here is Luke’s account of Peter raising Dorcas:

So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. (Acts 9:39-41 ESV)

Now the Dorcas event had to recall the raising of the little girl by Jesus. But there is a “silly” coincidence of Dorcas’ Hebrew name Tabitha (both mean “gazelle”). It differs by one letter from “little girl”: talitha. Is this significant? Maybe. Maybe not. But, though Luke does not tell us the Aramaic, the words Peter spoke would have differed from Jesus words on that previous occasion by that same single consonant:

  • Jesus:  talitha kumi (“child, arise”)
  • Peter: tabitha kumi (“Tabitha, arise”)

Is it possible, that as the Lord was using Peter to continue the works of Jesus, and as Peter was learning to trust the voice of the Spirit, that He used coincidence and a play on words to direct Peter’s prayer? I don’t know, but it certainly looks to me as if Peter consciously imitated Jesus at that moment–building on the similarity of two words.

Doug Wilson interviewing Mark Driscoll

Doug Wilson talks to Mark Driscoll in regard to a recent blogosphere “dustup,” as he puts it. Yours truly was one who blogged on it. I don’t know if Doug Wilson encountered my little efforts along the way, but he uses some of the same imagery as I do in his title: Trying to Talk About This Without Throwing Chum in the Water. (Mine was Jaws).

Anyway the video is a worthwhile half hour of discussion between Cessationist Wilson and Continuatinist Driscoll, demonstrating the needed balance in this whole area. Driscoll gets to use some of his standard funny lines and gives, I think, some very good answers (and I think, reassuring ones).

A few high points:

Driscoll to Wilson: “When we hang out it’s hard for the bloggers to know which one is the controversial one.”

Driscoll recounts how God spoke four things to him long ago: agoMarry Grace, preach the Bible, plant churches, train men. All of which he did and does.

Wilson on prophecy vs the Scriptures. He gets it: “You test in a way that you don’t test the Bible.”

Driscoll to Wilson, on one particular episode: “You’re a Charismatic in denial.”

Driscoll on balance: “If you have the Charismatic, untethered, no brakes, you end up in demonism and spiritual abuse.  If you have Cessationism, untethered, no breaks, you end up in rationalism and deism.”

Driscoll also clarifies one of the stories from the controversial video, regarding revelation of physical abuse.

Doug Wilson Interviews Mark Driscoll | Part II – Spiritual Gifts & Cessationism from Canon Wired on Vimeo.