June 22, 2012
By: Dr. Bruce R. Porter
Dear Friends and Supporters,
The following series of posts under the category of “My Journey into Grace” are excerpts from a book I am presently writing. I’m sharing the portions that deal directly with my personal journey into grace as a chosen follower of Jesus the Messiah. The impetus behind sharing these stories are two-fold. First, we were preparing for an important outreach to Italy in late July, 2012, and was part of an effort to raise financial support. Secondly, I thought that others might be encouraged and edified by my experiences in Rome as God mercifully drew me into His eternal family by His mercy and grace. Me, a wretched depraved sinner, and the most unlikely candidate for such love and grace. Perhaps others will find some commonality in my journey, and find the mercy I found.
As I contemplate the history of Italy, it is amazing to consider that this once-powerful area of influence for the gospel of God’s grace has been reduced to such physical and spiritual ruins. It was 41 years ago this summer that I first visited Rome. The impact that had on my life was monumental. It was in Rome that God moved powerfully upon my heart and drew me into His marvelous grace. To be sure, I struggled and resisted, for my flesh and depraved heart blinded me, and I was walking in great deception. I want to share a powerful encounter I had with the Spirit of Grace in Rome. This is rather long, so I’m going to break it up into several installments. I hope it edifies you.
Called from the Dead: Pt 1
The gravel crunched noisily beneath my feet as I stumbled through the portals leading into the ancient Roman Coliseum. At nearly 2:00 A.M., the dark shadows formed by the massive structures of this marvel of human engineering were stark beneath the meager floodlights. Taking another long swig from the jug of cheap wine I had been nursing for several hours, I felt a momentary sense of all-too-familiar danger as my eyes scanned the shadows for the presence of a thief or mugger. I dismissed the thought immediately, however, drawing upon a sense of false bravado afforded partly by the wine. More than this however, I had recently come from a year of military service in Vietnam and was hardened by it, having faced death and danger for so long that it felt familiar.Plopping down on some flat stones in the darkness, I began to relax. Questions swarmed through my wine-numbed brain like buzzing bees. What was I doing in this ancient place? Why was I wandering around this city in the middle of the night, stalking the streets like a restless spirit seeking peace? How did I end up here?An Awesome Revelation
Several months earlier, while serving in Vietnam, a vision came to me that would change the entire course of my life. That vision, so overwhelming and compelling, caused me to temporarily abandon my military post and set me on a trek that would take me through Thailand, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, and now finally Rome, Italy. I was searching for truth, stretching my mind and heart to the breaking point in a quest to make sense of what I had seen. One evening at Bien Hoa Air Base in South Vietnam, I had sat up on a tall water tower that afforded acommanding view of the countryside outside our base perimeter. On this night, while I was with some security buddies out on the perimeter, a supernatural revelation came to me that would steer my destiny for the remainder of my days. Our voices were hushed as we watched the incredibly beautiful sunset over the rice paddies and tropical landscape all around us. All eyes scanned the deepening gloom for the telltale flashes of 55mm rockets launched toward our base by the Viet Cong. When these nasty weapons fired off, we had mere seconds to sound the alarm so our guys could dive into bunkers for protection from the vicious shrapnel these things spit out in all directions, ripping flesh and bone. The most frustrating thing about these missiles was that by the time they launched, there was usually no one out there to shoot back at. The enemy used delayed fuses and were usually miles away when the attack occurred.
As the landscape grew darker, my mind began drifting. A question resurfaced that had continually nagged my thoughts for the previous months. “Who are these guys out there trying to kill us?” I knew them only as “gooks,” “the Cong,” and “commies.” On this night I could not help thinking about them as persons and wondered who they really were. This can be a dangerous way of thinking on a battlefield. To empathize with an enemy force trying to kill you can cost your life, and also the lives of others depending on you, if you hesitate to act in a critical moment. In spite of this, I couldn’t help asking the question inwardly. “Why are we all fighting?” Oh, I knew the importance of obeying orders, doing one’s duty, and even some of the political arguments, yet the question seemed somehow especially important to me at that moment. As I pondered this, a flash in the sky drew my attention upward. One of our troops had fired off a phosphorous night flare. The intensely bright light of the hissing flare, suspended by a parachute, illuminated the entire countryside with an eerie glow of phosphorescence, casting weird moving shadows on the ground as it descended. At that very moment, as I stared out across this ethereal landscape, a flash of understanding came over me. It is difficult to tell of it even now, for it shook me to the core.
Glancing back up into the sky, I had a vision of what I can only describe as ethereal, twisted, demonic beings. It was the stuff nightmares are made of, but I wasn’t sleeping. These creatures were flying through the air back and forth with what sounded like snarling laughter screaming from them. They seemed to be pulling strings of some sort, attached to points on the ground. Some of the strings were on our side, and some extended to the fields and valleys beyond our perimeter.
I was completely absorbed with this unearthly vision when a revelation crashed into my consciousness: These demonic beings were controlling people on earth! The strings I saw were like puppet strings, moving those attached to them on earth in ways that suited the hideous beings moving back and forth in the air above me. What amazed me was that there were strings extending down on our side of the perimeter as well as over on the “enemy” side. This was the first time in my life that I even considered the idea of “spiritual warfare.” Prior to that moment, I would have laughed at anyone who even suggested such a seemingly outrageous idea. However, the vision was so compelling, so overwhelming, that I nearly became unaware of my surroundings. I knew somehow in that moment that I was indeed called to be a warrior, but the battleground I was to stand upon was not exclusively the one on which men fought natural battles.
(To Be Continued…)