Cornelius and Bill and an Angel and Falling Out at Church
Cornelius wasn’t a Christian, and he wasn’t a Jew. He was a Roman soldier. He tried to do the right thing. He prayed sometimes. He gave money to charity. He was a good guy; he just didn’t belong to any established religion. He probably wasn’t that much different from a lot of folks who live in your neighborhood. One afternoon, of all things, an angel appeared to him. Now, if your neighbor told you this happened, you might tell the kids to stay inside until the men in white coats came to take your neighbor away. But we really have to be careful not to judge so quickly.
I remember, once, a good friend of mine named Bill got a job playing piano for a church. He was barely a Christian (not in terms of the quality of his faith but in terms of the quantity). He’d been a Christian for just a few months. But this church near his home put an ad in the paper, and he responded. He was to play for a mid-week healing service they held once a month. No big deal, play a few choruses and praise songs, noodle around as background music during prayers, stuff like that.
But, when he got there, something happened. They were short-handed that night and asked him if he would help them out in a different capacity. They wanted to know if he would be a “catcher”.
My friend has a very quick wit and said, “Sure. I played second base in high school, but, okay, I can catch!”
They put some instrumental CDs in the sound system and began praying for folks. Bill stood behind the people being prayed for and waited. At some point, most of these people would go down, some straight back as if they’d been hit in the forehead, others crumpling to the floor in a heap.
Bill said he could tell that some of them were faking it. But some of them…he wasn’t so sure. In fact, he didn’t quite know what to make of the whole thing.
When everyone had been thoroughly prayed over, the leaders of the service asked if Bill wanted them to pray for him. Figuring you can never be prayed for too much, he said, “Yes.”
So, the team gathered around Bill and began praying. And an amazing thing happened. Bill went down. He said he knew that if he wanted to, he could have stood up and walked away, but it felt really good to just go down. While he was on the floor, he shed a few tears, felt his body relax and spent some time physically experiencing the fact that God was totally in control of the circumstances of his life.
Oddly, when Bill talked to some of the people at his own church about this, they discouraged him from doing it again. They told him he was being indoctrinated into “one of those churches” where they speak in tongues and believe God heals people.
When he called me, he was confused. Did he do something wrong? Should he quit that job and find another one in a safer church? I asked him if he felt closer to God after it was over than he did before. “Sure,” he said. “It felt kind of weird, but it was good weird. And it made me want to read my Bible more to find out if some of the thoughts I had about God while I was ‘out’ are true.”
Now, you may be skeptical about what happened to Bill. I’m a little skeptical about what happened to him, and he’s one of my best friends.
But can something that makes you feel closer to God and makes you want to read the Bible more be all that bad?