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I read an interesting article a while back on CBN entitled Holy Spirit Outpouring by Vernell Windsor where she talked about a church service she attended in North Carolina with a friend.
During the service, she became so drunk in the Spirit, that she could no longer stand and was crawling around on her hands and knees.
But not only that she also experienced periods of weeping, where in her words she “got all snotty nosed.” And then she went through periods of intense laughter as the Holy Spirit fell upon her.
And this article brought back fond memories of the day people at the church my wife and I attended, returned from visiting the Toronto Blessing, a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit that took place at Airport Christian Fellowship in Toronto, Canada in 1994.
And they brought with them, a deposit of the Holy Spirit, that literally flowed out of them into our church. As they began praying for people, dozens were slain in the spirit. Others were experiencing contagious bouts of laughter and weeping.
When the Holy Spirit fell upon my wife, she was no longer able to stand and collapsed on the floor and began experiencing an intense travailing type of prayer, no words, just intense groaning.
And, it was not limited to church services.
I remember the time my wife was in our kitchen getting a cup of coffee. We were talking about something that was happening in our church and suddenly the Holy Spirit came upon her.
I grabbed her cup before she collapsed to the floor, and she went into an intense time of groaning intercession presumably about what we had been talking about. During these times she had no idea what she was praying for,
But it wasn’t just happening at the Toronto Blessing, it was also happening in the early church.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26 ESV)
Paul just casually mentioned how the Holy Spirit prays through people with groanings that were too deep for words. And then he provides absolutely no explanation on what he is talking about and just presumes that the Romans would know.
And it wasn’t until I saw this happening to my wife did I fully understand what Paul was describing in this verse.
This was normal Christianity for first-century church.
Paul also mentioned in his letter to the Galatians that he was experiencing similar birth pang prayers for the Galatians.
“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
And in our church, this outpouring of the Holy Spirit was happening to believers and nonbelievers alike. A couple had brought a nonchristian friend to the service and before it started they had introduced her to one of the leaders ministering that night.
He just started to pray for her and the woman collapsed to the floor. A few minutes later, she was finally able to stand up and the first words she uttered were “what happened to me.”
For years, I have oddly misunderstood a statement that Jesus made in the Temple on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Jesus stood up and said:
38 The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He said in reference to the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:38-39 NASV)
For some strange reason, I always presumed Christ was saying that if we believed in Him that rivers of living water would flow out of the Lord.
That is not what Christ actually stated, the Lord said that the rivers of living water would flow out of you. The rivers of living water would flow out of me. The rivers of living water, the Holy Spirit, would flow out of us into others.
And we saw this happening at our church when people who were going through intense times of laughter touched others, this spirit of laughter flowed out of them and whole rows of people ended up laughing.
It was so real, that I even experienced something similar to what Jesus did when a woman with an issue of blood touched his robe and was instantly healed. Jesus knew this had happened because the Lord had felt the power leave Him.
46 But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had left Me.” (Luke 8:46 NASV)
But mine was different I never actually felt the power leaving me, it was actually the exact opposite. I had laid hand on a man who hadn’t experienced an increase in the Spirit. He was a bit hesitant, even resistant to what was going on.
As I was praying for him, I felt a surge of power coming into me. It was strange, I had no idea what was going on. But suddenly I felt the Holy Spirit say to me the word ‘backwash’.
Backwash occurs when water is flowing in one direction, hits a shore or a wall, turns around, and flows backward in the direction it had originally come from.
As I prayed for this man, the Holy Spirit had flowed into him, hit a wall, and was now flowing back into me.
There was something inside this man blocking the flow of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know what it was made of, unbelief, fear, unforgiveness, resentment, but it was enough to block the Holy Spirit from flowing into him.
In fact, I had similar blockages in my life and it took several weeks before I personally experienced the flow of the Holy Spirit during this outpouring.
And this is why one of the major themes that the Holy Spirit focussed on during the Toronto Blessing was inner healing, focussing on the past issues in your life. The key is that we needed to forgive those who have hurt or offended us, particularly our parents.
God wanted to break down those blockages that were hindering the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
As those walls disappeared in my life, I experienced the Holy Spirit, and this included heaves or crunching in my stomach, similar to birth pangs.
Sometimes, it was so intense it actually got sore.
But there is one strange thing I have to mention. One of my family’s favorite movies at the time was the Sound of Music, which we watched several times.
Every time we did, I would get the heaves.
I had no idea who the Holy Spirit was praying for. Maybe it was the Von Trop family who are still around. Maybe it was the actors, I know Eleanor Parker, who played Baroness Elsa von Schraeder, was a Messianic Jews. Maybe it was for Austria or Austrian believers.
Who knows it was all a mystery, too deep for words.
But it was strange.
Though I personally never experienced the drunkenness that overcame Vernell, I witnessed it during one meeting, after the Holy Spirit fell upon one of the elders of our church, who, similar to Vernell, ended up crawling on the floor on his hands and knees, and completely incapable of standing. His speech was slurred. Even his eyes were bloodshot. Anyone looking at him would say he was completely drunk.
But he wasn’t. He was drunk in the Holy Spirit.
And while the naysayers may criticize and mock this, the early church faced similar accusations.
After the Holy Spirit fell on the 120 believers gathered in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost, they poured out onto the streets of Jerusalem speaking in tongues.
The streets were filled with Jews from around the Roman empire, who had gathered for the feast, and they were now hearing the gospel proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah in their own languages.
But there was more going on than just that.
Because some in the crowd mockingly accused the disciples of being drunk, which we read in Acts 2:13:
But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:13 ESV)
Would you accuse a person of being drunk simply because they were able to speak in your language?
Of course, not, so there must have been other things happening for that accusation to surface. What are some of the signs of drunkenness, stumbling around, and in more severe cases crawling around on the floor because you can’t stand. Slurred speech. These are the obvious signs.
This drunkenness was so widespread, that Peter was finally forced to address it saying:
“For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.” (Acts 2:15 ESV)
It was 9 am, Peter said, and too early for people to be drunk.
What a weak explanation, but understandable as this was undoubtedly the first time the Apostle saw people being drunk in the Spirit and he had no idea what was going on.
But by the time the Apostle Paul showed up, it was now better understood and Paul makes an unusual statement when talking about being filled with the Holy Spirit.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, unquote (Ephesians 5:18 ESV)
Why would Paul compare drunkenness with being filled with the Holy Spirit? There had to be a connection.
Obviously, it was because being drunk in the Spirit was a normal part of church life, as the Holy Spirit moved on congregations similarly to what happened on the Day of Pentecost.
This same manifestation of drunkenness showed up at the Azusa Street revival that took place in 1906 in Los Angeles, where there was a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that paved the way for the Pentecostal and charismatic movements we have today.
After the revival started, the Azusa Street Mission began publishing a newspaper called The Apostolic Faith, which contained testimonies, and teachings from the revival.
In its January 1907 edition, Myrtle Shideler shared how she was so overcome by the Holy Spirit, that she was drunk:
“By the time the chorus ended, the power of God was so heavy upon me. I could scarcely open my mouth, and every fibre of my being was trembling. Yet my feet felt glued to the floor and my knees stiff, so I could not sit down. I only got out a few broken sentences that I remember. (I never fainted in my life and was never unconscious, but God certainly took me out of myself.) . . . . I was under the power the remainder of the meeting, and for three days was as one drunken. . . . and I am sure if my old friends in California could see me, they would think I was indeed insane.“
We are living in difficult and chaotic times today, and we need the Holy Spirit, more than ever.
We need to have the Holy Spirit flowing through and into us as He did in the past.