Chapter One"Can I Really Know You?"
It was three days before Christmas 1973. The sun was still rising on that cold, misty Toronto morning.
Suddenly He was there. The Holy Spirit entered my room. He was as real to me that morning as the book you are holding in your hand is to you.
For the next eight hours I had an incredible experience with the Holy Spirit. It changed the course of my life. Tears of wonder and joy coursed down my cheeks as I opened the Scriptures and He gave me the answers to my questions.
It seemed that my room had been lifted into the hemisphere of heaven. And I wanted to stay there forever. I had just turned twenty-one, and this visitation was the best birthday or Christmas present I had ever received.
Just down the hall were my mother and dad. They would never possibly understand what was happening to their Benny. In fact, had they known what I was experiencing, it could have been the breaking point in a family that was already on the verge of shattering. For nearly two years-since the day I gave my life to Jesus-there was virtually no communication between my parents and me. It was horrible. As the son of an immigrant family from Israel, I had humiliated the household by breaking tradition. Nothing else in my life had been this devastating.
In my room, however, it was pure joy. Yes, it was unspeakable. Yes, it was full of glory! If you had told me just forty-eight hours earlier what was about to happen to me, I would have said, "No way." But from that very moment the Holy Spirit became alive in my life. He was no longer a distant "third person" of the Trinity. He was real. He had a personality.
And now I want to share Him with you.
My friend, if you are ready to begin a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit that surpasses anything you ever dreamed possible, read on. If not, let me recommend that you close the covers of this book forever. That's right. Close the book! Because what I am about to share will transform your spiritual life.
Suddenly it will happen to you. It may be while you're reading. Perhaps while you're praying. Or while you're driving to work. The Holy Spirit is going to respond to your invitation. He's going to become your closest friend, your guide, your comforter, your lifelong companion. And when you and He meet, you'll say, "Benny! Let me tell you what the Spirit has been doing in my life!"
God's Power Revealed
A Short Night in Pittsburgh
A friend of mine, Jim Poynter, had asked me to go with him on a charter bus trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had met Jim, a Free Methodist minister, at the church I attended. The group was going to a meeting of a healing evangelist, Kathryn Kuhlman.
To be honest, I knew very little about her ministry. I'd seen her on television, and she totally turned me off. I thought she talked funny and looked a little strange. So I wasn't exactly filled with expectation.
But Jim was my friend, and I didn't want to let him down.
On the bus I said, "Jim, you'll never know what a tough time I had with my father about this trip." You see, after my conversion, my parents had done everything in their power to keep me from attending church. And now a trip to Pittsburgh? It was almost out of the question, but they grudgingly gave their permission.
We left Toronto on Thursday about midmorning. And what should have been a seven-hour trip was slowed by a sudden snowstorm. We didn't arrive at our hotel until one o'clock in the morning.
Then Jim said, "Benny, we have to be up at five."
"Five this morning?" I asked. "What for?"
He told me that if we weren't outside the doors of the building by six o'clock, we'd never get a seat.
Well, I just couldn't believe it. Who'd ever heard of standing in the freezing cold before sunrise to go to church? But he said that was what we were supposed to do.
It was bitter cold. At five I got up and put on every bit of clothing I could find: boots, gloves, the works. I looked like an Eskimo.
We arrived at the First Presbyterian Church, downtown Pittsburgh, while it was still dark. But what shocked me was that hundreds of people were already there. And the doors wouldn't open for two more hours.
Being small has some advantages. I began inching my way closer and closer to the doors-and pulling Jim right behind me. There were even people sleeping on the front steps. A woman told me, "They've been here all night. It's like this every week."
As I stood there, I suddenly began to vibrate-as if someone had gripped my body and begun to shake it.
I thought for a moment that the bitter air had gotten to me. But I was dressed warmly, and I certainly didn't feel too cold. An uncontrollable shaking just came over me.
Nothing like that had ever happened before. And it didn't stop. I was too embarrassed to tell Jim, but I could feel my very bones rattling. I felt it in my knees. In my mouth. What's happening to me? I wondered. Is this the power of God? I just didn't understand.
Racing through the Church
By this time the doors were about to open, and the crowd pressed forward until I could hardly move. Still the vibrating wouldn't stop.
Jim said, "Benny, when those doors open, run just as fast as you can."
"Why?" I asked.
"If you don't, they'll run right over you." He'd been there before and knew what to expect.
Well, I never thought I'd be in a race going to church, but here I was. And when those doors opened, I took off like an Olympic sprinter. I passed everybody: old women, young men, all of them. In fact, I made it right to the front row and tried to sit down. An usher told me the first row was reserved. I learned later that Miss Kuhlman's staff handpicked the people who sat in the front row. She was so sensitive to the Spirit that she wanted only positive, praying supporters right in front of her.
With my severe stuttering problem, I knew it would be useless to argue with the usher. The second row was already filled, but Jim and I found a spot on row three.
It would be another hour before the service began, so I took off my coat, my gloves, and my boots. As I relaxed, I realized I was shaking more than before. It just wouldn't stop. The vibrations were going through my arms and legs as if I were attached to some kind of a machine. The experience was foreign to me. To be honest, I was scared.
As the organ played, all I could think about was the shaking in my body. It wasn't a "sick" feeling. It wasn't as if I were catching a cold or a virus. In fact, the longer it continued, the more beautiful it became. It was an unusual sensation that didn't really seem physical at all.
At that moment, almost out of nowhere, Kathryn Kuhlman appeared. In an instant, the atmosphere in that building became charged. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't feel anything around me. No voices. No heavenly angels singing. Nothing. All I knew was that I had been shaking for three hours.
Then, as the singing began, I found myself doing something I never expected. I was on my feet. My hands were lifted, and tears streamed down my face as we sang "How Great Thou Art."
It was as if I had exploded. Never before had tears gushed from my eyes so quickly. Talk about ecstasy! It was a feeling of intense glory.
I wasn't singing the way I normally sang in church. I sang with my entire being. And when we came to the words, "Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee," I literally sang it from my soul.
I was so lost in the Spirit of that song that it took a few moments for me to realize that my shaking had completely stopped.
But the atmosphere of that service continued. I thought I had been totally raptured. I was worshiping beyond anything I had ever experienced. It was like coming face to face with pure spiritual truth. Whether anyone else felt it or not, I did.
In my young Christian experience, God had touched my life, but never as He was touching me that day.
Like a Wave
As I stood there, continuing to worship the Lord, I opened my eyes to look around because suddenly I felt a draft. And I didn't know where it was coming from. It was gentle and slow, like a breeze.
I looked at the stained-glass windows. But they were all closed. And they were much too high to allow such a draft.
The unusual breeze I felt, however, was more like a wave. I felt it go down one arm and up the other. I actually felt it moving.
What was happening? Could I ever have the courage to tell anyone what I felt? They would think I'd lost my mind.
For what seemed like ten minutes, the waves of that wind continued to wash over me. And then I felt as if someone had wrapped my body in a pure blanket-a blanket of warmth.
Kathryn began ministering to the people, but I was so lost in the Spirit that it really didn't matter. The Lord was closer to me than He had ever been.
I felt I needed to talk to the Lord, but all I could whisper was, "Dear Jesus, please have mercy on me." I said it again, "Jesus, please have mercy on me."
I felt so unworthy.
I felt like Isaiah when he entered the presence of the Lord.
Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts. (Isa. 6:5)
The same thing happened when people saw Christ. They immediately saw their own filth, their need of cleansing.
That is what happened to me. It was as if a giant spotlight was beaming down on me. All I could see were my weaknesses, my faults, and my sins.
Again and again I said, "Dear Jesus, please have mercy on me."
Then I heard a voice that I knew must be the Lord. It was ever so gentle, but it was unmistakable. He said to me, "My mercy is abundant on you."
My prayer life to that point was that of a normal, average Christian. But now I was not just talking to the Lord. He was talking to me. And oh, what a communion that was!
Little did I realize that what was happening to me in the third row of the First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh was just a foretaste of what God had planned for the future.
Those words rang on in my ears. "My mercy is abundant on you."
I sat down crying and sobbing. There was just nothing in my life to compare with what I felt. I was so filled and transformed by the Spirit that nothing else mattered. I didn't care if a nuclear bomb hit Pittsburgh and the whole world blew up. At that moment I felt, as the Word describes it, "peace ... which surpasses all understanding" (Phil. 4:7).
Jim had told me about the miracles that took place in Miss Kuhlman's meetings. But I had no idea what I was about to witness in the next three hours. People who were deaf suddenly could hear. A woman got up out of her wheelchair. There were testimonies of healings for tumors, arthritis, headaches, and more. Even her severest critics have acknowledged the genuine healings that took place in her meetings.
The service was long, but it seemed like a fleeting moment. Never in my life had I been so moved and touched by God's power.
Why Was She Sobbing?
As the service continued and I quietly prayed, everything stopped suddenly. I thought, "Please, Lord, don't ever let this meeting end."
I looked up to see Kathryn burying her head in her hands as she began to sob. She sobbed and sobbed so loudly that everything came to a standstill. The music stopped. The ushers froze in their positions.
Everyone had their eyes on her. And for the life of me I had no idea why she was sobbing. I'd never seen a minister do that before. What was she crying about? (I was told later that she had never done anything like that before, and members of her staff remember it to this day.)
It continued for what seemed like two minutes. Then she thrust back her head. There she was, just a few feet in front of me. Her eyes were aflame. She was alive.
In that instant she took on a boldness I had never seen in any person. She pointed her finger straight out with enormous power and emotion-even pain. If the devil himself had been there, she would have flicked him aside with just a tap.
It was a moment of incredible dimension. Still sobbing, she looked out at the audience and said with such agony, "Please." She seemed to stretch out the word, "Plee-ease, don't grieve the Holy Spirit."
She was begging. If you can imagine a mother pleading with a killer not to shoot her baby, it was like that. She begged and pleaded.
"Please," she sobbed, "don't grieve the Holy Spirit."
Even now I can see her eyes. It was as if they were looking straight at me.
And when she said it, you could have dropped a pin and heard it. I was afraid to breathe. I didn't move a muscle. I was holding on to the pew in front of me wondering what would happen next.
Then she said, "Don't you understand? He's all I've got!"
I thought, "What's she talking about?"
Then she continued her impassioned plea saying, "Please! Don't wound Him. He's all I've got. Don't wound the One I love!"
I'll never forget those words. I can still remember the intensity of her breathing when she said them.
In my church the pastor talked about the Holy Spirit. But not like this. His references had to do with the gifts or tongues or prophecy-not "He's my closest, most personal, most intimate, most beloved friend." Kathryn Kuhlman was telling me about a person that was more real than you or I.
Then she pointed her long finger down at me and said with great clarity, "He's more real than anything in this world!"
I've Got to Have It
When she looked at me and uttered those words, something literally grabbed me on the inside. It really got to me. I cried and said, "I've got to have this."
Now, frankly, I thought that everyone in that service would feel exactly the same way. But God has a way of dealing with us as individuals, and I believe that service was just for me.
Please understand, as a rather new Christian I couldn't begin to comprehend what was happening in that service. But I could not deny the reality and the power I felt.
And as the service came to a conclusion, I looked up at the woman evangelist and saw what seemed to be a mist around her and over her. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. But there it was. And her face was shining like a light through that mist.
I don't for one moment believe that God was trying to glorify Miss Kuhlman. But I do believe He used that service to reveal His power to me.
When the service was dismissed, the crowd filed out, but I didn't want to move. I had come in racing, but now I just wanted to sit down and reflect on what had just happened.
What I had felt in that building was something my personal life did not offer me. I knew that when I returned to my home, the persecution would continue.
My own self-image was practically destroyed because of my speech impediment. Even when I was a child in Catholic schools, my stuttering left me isolated with almost no one to talk to.
Even after I became a Christian, I made very few friends. How could I meet new people when I could hardly communicate?
So I never wanted what I found in Pittsburgh to leave me. All I had in life was Jesus. And nothing else in life had much meaning. I had no real future. My family had practically turned their backs on me. Oh, I knew they loved me, but my decision to serve Christ had created a gulf that was exceedingly wide.
I just sat there. After all, who wants to go to hell after they've been to heaven?
But there was no choice. The bus was waiting and I had to go back. I paused at the back of the church for one last moment, thinking, What did she mean? What was she saying when she talked about the Holy Spirit?
All the way back to Toronto I kept thinking, I don't know what she meant. I even asked a few people on the bus. They couldn't tell me because they did not understand either.
Needless to say, when I arrived home, I was totally exhausted. What with lack of sleep, hours on the road, and a spiritual experience that was like an emotional roller coaster, my body was ready for a rest.