But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:13-14 NKJV)
That was us. You see, we were “Spirit filled” pastors that were poor in spirit. We were running “the race” tired and limping along, we were vision-casting in the dark, or so it seemed at times. The last thing in the world we thought we needed was an invitation to another religious feast. That’s when we got our invitation to the party in Toronto.
HOW OUR PARTY BEGAN
We first heard of the Toronto Outpouring, referred to now as the “Toronto Blessing,” in April of 1994. Pastor friends from Plano, Texas phoned several times encouraging us to join them in a trip to visit a church in Toronto, Canada. They said that revival had broken out and that the Holy Spirit was being poured out with manifestations of joy, laughter and refreshing.
Well who needs joy, laughter, and refreshing when you are pastoring a good full gospel church in Houston, Texas? Besides, we were pastors who rarely attended our own denomination’s conventions and conferences, and would not even think of going to Toronto, Canada. But to be polite, we told them we would pray about it on the outside chance that this invitation might be of God. After praying, and on the second phone call from our friends, we felt encouraged by the Holy Spirit that we were supposed to go.
The Lord actually smoothed the way in every aspect of preparations for our trip: airline tickets through earned miles immediately overnighted to us (unheard of), full coverage for our church calendar, everything necessary to take away any excuse for not attending. So off we went on our 1500 hundred-mile flight north into the cold, not knowing what to expect, only that God was throwing a party.
ARRIVING AT THE PARTY
We arrived only to find ourselves overdressed and definitely not prepared to party with the Holy Spirit. We saw people laughing, crying and “manifesting” all over the place. They looked like partygoers, not at all like religious folk seeking a genuine touch from God. As a senior pastor of a “Spirit- filled” church, this prompted an immediate, spiritual assessment, accompanied by an announcement to the Lord, “This can’t be You Lord, this cannot be You!”
Right after my smug proclamation to the Lord, a teenage girl ran up to John Arnott at the microphone and gave a prophetic word saying, “Why do you say this can’t be Me; why do you say this cannot be Me?”
My very words! The Lord was quick to bring the exact reply I needed, and while I still did not understand it, I was now able to accept that what I was witnessing was a genuine and very real move of God.
THE PARTY BEGINS
After Pastor John preached, he gave the invitation for those who were thirsty to come up for prayer. My wife and I asked each other, “Do you think we should go up?” To which we replied, “We might as well since we came so far.” We both received prayer and down we went on the hard, cold floor. That night Maxine received a new laugh which I had never heard before along with a new joy that came instantly.
The party began for her that night.
I, on the other hand, lay on the carpet not feeling anything but the hard floor and trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. I tried everything I could think of to feel God. I tried faith. “I believe, I receive, I believe, I receive.”
After that failed, I tried repenting for my sins, known and unknown, and still nothing. I was aggravated. Finally, I announced to the Lord that I would not be getting up from the carpet until I got what I came for, a touch from Him.
The Lord then replied to me saying, “You can’t get up” prompting an immediate but futile attempt on my part to do so. After several minutes of trying to lift my head, which seemed to weigh 500 pounds, I began to realize that the Lord was “playing” with me. Imagine that, Jesus wanting to have fun at a party. That thought had never entered my mind, and I also realized that He intended for me to stay on the carpet until He was through with me. Many things changed for me that night as I lay captive on the floor, but by far the most profound life-changing revelation that I received was that He loved me and wanted to spend time with me.
We spent five days of soaking, restoration and healing in the presence of the Lord, never to be the same again, forever transformed by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 13:14) And we were determined to party from then through eternity in His presence. On our flight back from Toronto to Houston, we discussed whether our church was ready for this — ready for the manifested presence of God?
Of course we laughed at the absurdity of wondering if our church was ready for God. The answer was so simple. Of course we weren’t ready for God, at least not a God that valued fun and had a sense of humor. But, ready or not, He was coming. Little did we realize that He was coming back with us and that the party was not over, not by a long shot. What we were desperate for and had prayed for was coming to Houston, “Revival.”
THE PARTY COMES TO HOUSTON
We returned to Houston on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday morning as we approached the platform to share where we had been, and what had happened to us, we experienced a “suddenly” moment with God. Suddenly, there was a noise like a sonic boom, and 80 % or more of the congregation was instantaneously touched by the Holy Spirit. We saw people laughing, falling over, rolling around and manifesting just like we had experienced at TACF! It was party time for us. I remembered the words of Acts 2, “Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” (NKJ)
You can’t imagine the joy we felt as we saw our congregation receive the life-giving touch of a loving God as He visited young and old alike. Some were laughing, some crying, others shaking, but all knowing that something very special was taking place.
God was in the house.
It’s been more than nine years since our first encounter with the manifest presence of God, and the newness has not worn off. Seeing lives changed, people restored, families laughing together and enjoying the fellowship of His Spirit is as fresh today as it was on April 10, 1994, when we first experienced His presence at Victory Christian Center. We have determined as a church that we will continue to welcome His Spirit, and continue to receive His presence, and continue to host the party, as long as He continues to come. So for us, the “Party” goes on!
SOME PARTY THOUGHTS
Through the years we’ve noticed several types of people that consistently show up at our “renewal meetings” or “parties” and would like to share some thoughts with you about partying with God. But first, let’s examine a few funny types of party goers:
The Self-Appointed Host
These dear people are very helpful in making sure that everyone under his or her charge gets ministry. They never seem to join in but can always point out the best place to get prayer, as well as those that need it most.
The Designated Driver
You know the one that feels a duty to make sure that everyone makes it out of the party safely. This person also never seems to join in but is constantly vigilant to make sure that none under their charge gets too out of control. They can’t be considered a participant because they are in the observation booth. Wow! If there is anyone that has less fun at a party it could only be the clean-up detail.
The reporter is the poor person trying to make sense out of the Holy Spirit’s party with His kids. They have such a difficult time at the party, because they are looking for a rational explanation of a spiritual happening. (However, we have noticed reporters, when off duty, begin to indulge a little.) Which brings us to our next type....
The Social Drinker
You know the type. They always appear at the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. Social drinkers are defined by their ability to just say “no”. They know when they’ve had enough, they drink only when its proper, and only when its fashionable, and they never, never, cross the line. Which brings me to our last type.
The Problem Drinker
This person has definitely crossed the line! The main difference between a “Social Drinker” and a “Problem Drinker” is very simple. A social drinker needs a crowd, while a problem drinker just needs the Source. We’ve identified a few characteristics of a problem drinker to help you determine if you have crossed the line.
You might be a problem drinker if:
1. Friends are beginning to worry about your drinking habits.
2. Or all your friends drink as much as you do!
3. You are having trouble functioning during normal events like work, shopping, or going to school.
4. You have trouble remembering where you parked your car, and you’re the last one out of the church.
5. You drink to relieve pressure, restore joy and feel better, or just because you can.
6. You keep saying, “More, Lord, more!” even when you can’t seem to stand up.
7. You can’t remember doing what everyone says you did at the meeting last night.
8. And most of all, you find yourself drinking alone and loving it.
One clinical definition of a Problem Drinker is someone who has developed a craving, or reliance, a need, or a dependency. This dependency constantly draws them into places or events where “the Source” is available. There is a constant craving for more and nothing can or will satisfy the problem drinker but more.
To our way of thinking, developing a good healthy dependency on God’s new wine is what faith is all about, and we feel a mandate from scripture to model this dependency to those that God has placed in our church. “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” (Titus 2:7 NIV)
It is a good thing to crave God’s presence, and it is a good thing to long for more of Him.
As long as someone will cry out for more, God will continue to pour out the New Wine of His Spirit. For He has promised, “I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” (Isaiah 44:3 NKJV)
As long as we remain thirsty, God will continue to pour out His Spirit and “The Party” will continue! If you’re ever in Houston, you are invited to party with us. Thank you, Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, for hosting the party of the decade, we cannot repay you!