“The first time I encountered God…” True stories of experiencing God’s presence

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By Alice Clarke

God can do what he wants, whenever he wants to. He has no limits as to where and how he will meet us and change our lives forever.

The Catch The Fire leaders recently shared some of their God encounter stories with our media team. I got to listen back to their stories, and honestly, they’re too good not to share! Here are some of my favourites.

Carol Arnott: “I thought I must be having a nervous breakdown.”

“I was in a horrible spot, I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I thought everything in my life was falling apart.

“I was in the bathroom, I had put the boys to bed because I was feeling depressed. I’m not a depressed type person, but this night I was feeling really down. I heard an audible voice, and I thought ‘Oh my gosh, it’s my ex husband, he’s breaking in to the house again!’

“...It started and stopped five times. I checked the house thoroughly; there was nothing. Finally, I thought, ‘I must be having a nervous breakdown, I’m hearing voices.’ I threw my toothbrush in the sink and said, ‘Alright, I’ll listen.’

“This voice, this audible voice, began to speak the 23rd Psalm from the beginning to the end, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…’ and it kept on going. About three-quarters of the way through, suddenly I knew it was Jesus.

“I knew that he loved me. All of the sin that I was in, and all of the pain, and all the anger, and all the problems, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he loved me just like I was, in that moment in time.

“I ran to my dresser where I had my confirmation bible in the drawer in its box. I got it out and I read that 23rd Psalm over and over and over. The more I read it, the more love poured into my heart, the more assurance poured into my heart. Did my circumstances change? Not for a while, but God’s transforming love, that encounter with his presence and his love, changed me forever.”

Chloe Glassborow: “Every single sickness left my body”

“The first time I encountered God was in Bath City church in 2003. I’ll never forget going into this giant auditorium. There were 1,700 people there. We went to sit at the back.

“I remember feeling, ‘What is this in this room?’ Then I heard John Arnott speaking about the Father’s love, the Holy Spirit, and who Jesus is. They invited us to come forward, and in the invitation to come forward I forgave my earthly father for a lot of things. Some unkind things, some things he shouldn’t have done, and some things he didn’t do, that he should have done as a father.

“In the midst of that forgiveness I had an encounter with God. In that moment the power of God hit me, and every single sickness that I was carrying back then, every single sickness left my body. Epilepsy left, arthritis left my knees, cystic ovaries vanished… The moment I felt God, my whole body was healed.”

Duncan Smith: “I hit the deck right there”

“The first time that I encountered God was in Colorado at Estes Park. When I heard the gospel preached, when the altar call came, instead of running up to the front, I ran outside the building. As I went stumbling up this mountainside, probably looking for an opportunity to have a cigarette, I literally walked smack into the presence of God. Although he was invisible, I knew I was standing face to face with Jesus and I was in his presence.

“I hit the deck right there. I just collapsed into the pathway and wept before God as I felt this incredible weight of all of my sin, and yet his incredible love, washing over me. Instead of killing me, he lavished his love on me, and called me his son and called me into his kingdom. I have never ever been the same since.”

Steve Long: “I saw a wave of emotion hit people”

“The first time that I encountered God through the Holy Spirit, I was at a Billy Graham crusade in Toronto. I was sitting at the top of the bleachers at Exhibition Stadium where the Blue Jay baseball team play. Billy Graham, he’s giving the altar call for people to give their lives to Jesus. I’m already a follower of Jesus, I’m there to watch and to see what is he doing and how is he doing it.

“At some point in his invitation of calling people to the front... he said, ‘Holy Spirit, will you convict people of their sin.’ From near the top of the bleachers, I saw a wave of emotion hit people and go up the bleacher stands and come towards me.

“Row after row, they’d just begin to weep. People would get out of their seats and head to the front, run to the front, and I remember watching this phenomenon come towards me, and hit my row, and go behind me. It was like, ‘Woah!’”

Kate Smith: “I didn’t want to move”

“The first time I encountered God, I actually didn’t know what had hit me. It just felt like there was this tangible love that came with a weightiness. It was just so silky smooth… My heart felt so much peace, I just wanted to rest… I didn’t want to move, just stay in it, to rest, to let this love that felt almost liquid come into my soul in every part.

“It was like a realization that God was doing something deep within my heart… I was giving him permission, just saying, ‘God, whatever you have for me, I’m here, just come. I’m so not used to this but I love it, so would you just keep coming and filling me with that liquid love and presence.’”

EncounterAnita Wing Lee