Was I “slain” in St. Louis?
Before I get to my sharing more about our St. Louis gathering, I wish to explain the appearance of a Journal entry yesterday (November 1, 2011) called “The Story of the New Orleans Saints, part two. Some have emailed asking where is the rest of it. Actually, this blog was initially posted on March 13, 2010, but for some reason the link to it disappeared. So I reposted it.
My webmaster told me to simply repost it and she would then manually move it back to its original location in March 13, 2010. As of now, she has not gotten to it yet. If you click on the Archives in the left column, you can find part one of the story in the February 2010 archives. Both are well worth reading, or re-reading, in view of the fact we have now concluded our meeting in another city on the Mississippi River.
The remainder of this Journal entry picks up where I left off on my entry entitled “Father’s miraculous gift to me,” dated October 28, 2011.
…So prior to our St. Louis Conference, that was my experience in the pentecostal/charismatic realm. Here then, is my experience during Vinnie’s Sunday ministry. Vinnie spoke for a while. Then he went to the piano and began singing praise and worship as he played. (He is tremendously talented vocally and on the piano. He once played in Carnegie Hall.)
As I recall, many of the audience were standing during this portion. I was also. I did not know what to expect, but I was standing, singing praises to God (in English) to the tune Vinnie was playing. I sometimes raised my hands. (There are some brethren who criticize that, but worshipers often did exactly that in the Bible.)
I was also communing with Father in prayer as I worshiped. I was saying, “Father, I don’t know what is about to happen here, if anything. But if it is of your Holy Spirit, I want it. If it is false, I do not want it.”
As Vinnie continued playing, I suddenly realized I was singing and praising in tongues. I was not loud; kind of kept it to myself, but I knew that it was not any language recognizable to me. I had not been trying to speak in tongues, it just happened. I was not alarmed because, as I related in my previous Journal entry, it had occurred to me at various times, but usually when I was alone.
Then Vinnie asked his friend, Steve, to come up and take over on piano. (Steve, too, plays very well.) Vinnie then asked audience members to come to the front. I do not recall exactly what he said, but almost no one was going forward at first.
My thought was, well, if anything is going to happen to me, it probably won’t happen unless I go forward, so I began to move forward. Then Vinnie asked a second time. At that, many began to come to the front and form a line across the front of the Conference hall.
So many people came forward that by the time I got to the front we had to begin to form a second and third row. I was in the second row. I—and many of us—then witnessed things beginning to happen, some of which are strange and new to many of us: lots of speaking in tongues, lots of sobbing and weeping, one teenage girl was weeping quite loudly and seemingly uncontrollably for quite a long time. (As I have cautioned previously, do not judge too hastily on matters.)
Even during one of the other speakers’ teaching, one woman—who is a dear friend—experienced uncontrollable laughter for a number of minutes. I was told that this had happened to her in another conference, but I was not present at that conference.
Vinnie had previously explained about Jesus breathing Holy Spirit on the apostles and told us that he would be breathing or blowing on those who came forward.
Okay, I thought, this looks like it’s going to be that “slain in the spirit” stuff that made me want to spiritually vomit when I saw Benny Hinn and others do it on TV years ago. It just all seemed so fake and so showy on TV.
But yet, I had told Father that I was open to whatever was true and was of Him. That, therefore, was my mindset, my attitude, as I began to see men, women, and teenagers falling over as Vinnie breathed on them. Vinnie had a couple of (big) men as “catchers” and assured the audience that in all his years of ministering in this manner, he had never seen anyone get hurt.
So Vinnie went one-by-one to the folks in the first row. Many went down, but not all. Most stayed down for some minutes. Vinnie did not push them over in any way. He was using a hand-held microphone, and a couple times I saw him touch (not shove, merely touch) a person in the stomach (solar plexus) and they would (usually) go down.
Some went down before Vinnie even got close to them. I am not referring to only women, or to what scoffers might term as “wussy, wimpy, emotional men.” No, I was seeing friends go down who are very much men’s men: uber-logical, analytical, left-brained—what Vinnie terms “cerebral” guys.
When our second row became the front row, I was standing about three-quarters of the way down the line as Vinnie began again on his left and so I watched again as people were going down. I once more resolved that it this were of Father, it would be okay with me to go down, but I was not going to voluntarily fall over.
I certainly was not going to “please the preacher” just because he blew in my face, or scarcely touched me with the base of the hand-held mic. No, sir, I was willing, but it was going to have to be real; I wasn’t going to help anybody “fake it!”
On the other hand, I did not clench my fists and grit my teeth and tighten my jaw to be a supposedly immovable rock when he got to me. No, I just stood there, but I was sure I was not going down.
Well, as I can best recall it, when Vinnie came to me he just grinned a big smile and thanked me once again for allowing him to come minister to the folks. I recall that he also gave me a neck hug, which was fine with me—I am one who believes everybody deserves a hug a day—I believe they have real therapeutic value.
Anyhow, Vinnie then told me that he was going to skip me for now and just “let you soak in it, brother James.” He moved on to the next person, but then turned back to me and said, “James, don’t think; just drink.”
He then turned back to minister to the next person. So what did I do? I was thinking about what he just said, analyzing it, and realizing he must mean that I should be receptive to “drink in” the spirit and let my rational, logical, left-brained mind get out of the way.
At about the time I came to that realization, he turned again and come back to me and blew in my face. It wasn’t a powerful blow and in no way could it possibly send a man reeling. But my knees suddenly buckled (both of them), and as I was going down, I remember saying to myself, “This ain’t happening, but yet I cannot deny that I am going down!” Ron Oja was beside me and he (and perhaps another person, I don’t remember) helped me down without my getting hurt.
As I lay there, my first thought was along the lines of “How in the world could I have gone down? He didn’t touch me; just blew gently in my face!”
My second thought was…well, I don’t remember actually thinking at this point…but I suddenly started laughing, not hysterically, not very loudly—at least to my perception; but just a good belly-laugh. I was laughing at the irony.
I had been so certain I was not going down, because…well, I just don’t fall down. My knees just don’t buckle for no reason, or because somebody breathes in my face (and Vinnie did not have bad breath (chuckle, chuckle), so it was not a risk-aversion, self-defense buckling of the knees). But there I was, lying on the floor, laughing, …and strangely, I realized tears were rolling down my cheeks. But it wasn’t the kind of raucous laughter that can sometimes lead to tears.
I remember then thinking that I’m fine, I don’t need to lay here; I’ll just get up now. That was perhaps thirty seconds after I had gone down. But as I looked up, I became aware of the fact that among the crowd that had gathered around me, one or more were speaking in tongues over me and I felt it would be rude to get up in the midst of that, so I just lay there and gave thanks to God for whatever He had just done because I knew that I wasn’t faking it and I also knew that nothing Vinnie had done physically could have caused me to go down.
After a few minutes, and the tongues over me had stopped, I decided to get up. I stretched out my arms and Ron (and perhaps another person) helped me up. But as I stood erect, I suddenly realized I could hardly stand, let alone walk. So I quickly whispered to Ron to let me lean on him for a moment because, I told him, I didn’t think I could walk at the moment. That passed in a minute or so.
When Vinnie saw me up and about—as he was still ministering to others—he came over to me just beaming a grin from ear to ear. I said to him, “Vinnie, I did not believe in that stuff!” What I was referring to was not tongues or word of knowledge or interpretation of tongues, etc., but to this phenomenon commonly called being “slain in the spirit.”
(How and why it’s called that is a puzzle to me.) It was always fakery and showmanship to me. Yet, I had just gone down—and not voluntarily, but by some force so very gentle that the irony had me belly-laughing…and weeping (if ever so softly).
Vinnie and Steve (Vinnie’s friend who played piano, not Steve Jones) and Ron and I had breakfast on Monday morning before we all departed St. Louis. It was the first time I had the opportunity to actually have some semi-one-on-one time with Vinnie. It was a delight to get to know him and Steve. I genuinely like them both.
I also shared a few of my concerns about my experience; namely:
1. I went down but I did not feel anything with it. Some people report feeling a kind of mild electric-type tingle either all over their body, or localized to some part. I felt nothing like that…nothing.
2. I saw no light and heard no voices or sounds, other than the physical light and sounds in the Conference.
3. As of Monday breakfast, I had not felt “changed” in any way. Still true as of this writing.
Vinnie assured me it was not anything to be concerned about. I am okay with that. I have known for years that I am beyond the Passover stage—as are most striving Christians. We are in the Pentecost stage of salvation if we are striving to hear God’s voice and be obedient. I have no doubt of that in my life. (For more on this, read our Feed My Sheep from 1999 here. Also, the several issues preceding and following it will be helpful.)
What I still do not know is concerning this “other stuff,” these things that are said to be manifestations of the Holy Spirit, including what I experienced. Yes, I went down, but what now? How has it changed my life? As far as I can tell, it hasn’t. Is it supposed to? According to some of the testimonies that appear or will appear in this Journal, some are changed, at least in their hope and/or outlook.
So, I am okay with just waiting on the Lord. After all, when He put a check in my spirit circa 1993 to not “expose” the pentecostal-charismatic crowd as a complete fraud, it was six more years before He gave me the (perhaps one-time-only) gift of the interpretation of tongues with the Sylvia Pojoli experience.
I will ask and seek the Father for more of His genuine Spirit. I shall be patient and non-judgmental on this experience just as Father gave me the grace to be patient from 1993 to 1999. In regards to Vinnie and his friend, Steve, (now my friend as well), and that type of ministering, I am reminded of this passage of Scripture in which the apostles were being persecuted and Gamaliel had this counsel.
Acts 5:38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
That sounds like counsel which is appropriate for those of us who have doubts whether or not this “stuff” is of the adversary or of God. As for me personally, my doubts are not to the degree that I will “leave them alone,” otherwise I would not be corresponding with Vinnie and publishing his teaching essays on these matters. However, with benefit of wise counsel, I have concluded that I shall conclude for now with using this Journal as a forum for proponents and opponents of what happened in St. Louis.
I thank all of the many of you who have sent me emails and letters. (Oh, and for the photos of the St. Louis arch, as well!) I am making no decisions at this point as to future conferences.
I intend—and I encourage all readers—to pray for godly wisdom on all matters of doctrine and practice (including manifestations of the Holy Spirit). Let us all remember that none of us are yet perfected. We may have some disagreements, but let us all be striving to manifest the agape love of the Father to all who claim the name and blood of Christ our Savior.
That love is demonstrated by our fruit: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, etc. —for this is the fulfillment of His law.
I love you, Vinnie and Steve, my new-found friends and brethren in the Lord. I love those of you who have sent me your affirmations of what you witnessed at St. Louis.
And I also love you, dear ones, who have emailed me your heartfelt objections to what you witnessed in St. Louis.
For all of us, let us recall that one of the firstfruits of love is patience. Let us, therefore, be patient with one another until we all “come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Amen.