God’s Awesome Presence
by Dr R Heard
Dr R Heard led the Christian Tabernacle in Houston in growth from 250 to 3,000 members. On Sunday, October 20, 1996, a move of God exploded in the church.
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God’s Awesome Presence, by Dr R Heard:
An article in Renewal Journal 10: Evangelism
I felt the presence of the Lord come on me so powerfully I grabbed
the podium, the pulpit, to keep from falling,
and that was a mistake.
Instantly I was hurled a number of feet in a different direction
During 1995 the Christian Tabernacle in Houston had a strong emphasis on knowing Christ intimately. In August of 1996 Hector Giminez from Argentina ministered there with great power and many significant healings. Awareness of the presence and glory of the Lord increased during October, especially with the ministry of evangelist Tommy Tenney, who was to speak the morning of October 20. Dr R Heard was preparing to welcome him and had just read about God’s promise of revival from 2 Chronicles 7:14 when God’s power hit the place even splitting the plexiglas pulpit.
Powerful times of repentance, evangelism and healing came with this visitation of God. People are still being converted, often 30-40 a meeting. Pastor Heard commented that everywhere in the church the carpet is stained with the tears of people touched by God and repenting. He spoke by telephone in November 1996 with Norman Pope of New Wine Ministries in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, who put the transcript of the discussion on the Awakening E-mail. The following is an edited selection of Dr R Heard’s comments:
This is just a kind of a brief background about me. I spent 18 1/2 years in crusade evangelism, and I did not have a natural gifting for this kind of thing and God, at our conversion, really addressed the need for his empowerment in my life. I came from a very legalistic kind of background with a lot of condemnation. I was raised that way. . . . So at any rate, because of the background, the condemnation, and so forth, when I began an evangelistic ministry, we spent 18 1/2 years travelling and I prayed an average of 8 to 12 hours a day. But it was not for the right reasons. It was motivated because of my need to prove myself to God in hope that he, in turn, might minister through us and to us. But in spite of that, there was a measure of God’s anointing and blessing on our ministry. I think my motivation was wrong, but he in his infinite wisdom and in his grace, decided to bless us anyway. When I came here to pastor, I fell into the trap that so many pastors fall into. The demands of pastoral ministry become so large that your devotional time erodes away and you don’t even realize that it’s being taken from you.
Then about 2½ years ago, I experienced a heart problem, and I’m a very healthy person who was in the top 3% of the physically fit in the nation. I exercised regularly and ate the right things and I had about 45 or 50 episodes of ventricular tacordia. I should not have survived the first one, much less that many. But what happened after that is what set the stage for what God has been building toward here, I think, and that the church has grown dramatically during that period of time.
We started with about 250 members and we have about 3,000 now, but though I had built staff, the people of the church continued to do end runs around my staff to come to me, particularly those that were the founding members and that were here when I came. And I felt an obligation to them, and they had been here longer than I had. But after my illness they backed away and began to work with the staff and saw the quality staff we had, and that released me then to go back into the kind of devotion that I had cherished through the years, and God began a renewal work in me almost immediately, and that was in May of 1994 and during the rest of the year it was a very sacred time, and God began to address issues with me in terms of my relationship with him and knowing him.
Out of that, I spent the entire year of 1995 teaching. Every sermon I preached was on knowing Christ and intimacy with Christ. Our Church moved into a different dimension in their relationship with God during that period of time and began to truly hunger after God. We had all fallen into this American dichotomy of religion where you are a Christian and a Christian is what you do, not really who you are; where you have room for him in your heart, but not a whole lot of room for him, perhaps, in your life. He really addressed issues like that with us.
I’ve always hungered for God. Any time I heard about a fresh move of God I wanted to go and see and get prayed for, and receive impartation. We had been to Toronto and there was something wonderful imparted. I had heard about the revival in Argentina and had one of the pastors from there speak here for us and I went down and preached for him. He has the second largest church in the world. And I received impartation from those encounters as well. We were really hungering after more of the Lord.
I spent time in Zimbabwe in August this year , where I had a team of people with us, and was flying back across the Atlantic, and was scheduled to have Hector Giminez, who pastors in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was to start with me on a Friday afternoon at 2 pm and I was flying in late Thursday. As I was flying in, the Holy Spirit spoke to me over the Atlantic saying that because we had sown into an area of harvest and a field of labor that we would not personally receive anything back from, he was going to move our church into a new season and answer our prayers and reveal himself to us.
I flew in and saw Hector the next afternoon as the service was starting and just mentioned to him that God had given me a word that he was really going to bless us. He walked out and opened his Bible and pulled out his notes, and his first sermon was, “God is going to change the season.” Here in the last four months of this year God is moving us into a new season with him
I returned the latter part of August from Zimbabwe. And almost immediately things began to take place. He was with us through the rest of that week and we have begun to see a number of miracles happen. People being healed of cancer, a man burned over 85% of his body with third degree burns, severely burned in his lungs, recovered with almost no problems at all. There were no problems in his breathing. They gave him a 3% chance to live. Even his hair is growing back and his eyebrows and eyelashes and just a number of things. The church was pregnant with anticipation, and we’d been wanting to go to Brownsville and to be honest, when I decided to go a number of our staff didn’t really care to. We felt like we were having a great move here.
But I brought about 30 of our staff to Brownsville and did not feel that we had received all that much impartation, but saw what was very obviously a work of God in terms of the hundreds of people that came forward for conversion each night at Brownsville. . . . That was just a couple of weeks ago, and we returned back on a Saturday, and Sunday morning, we went into service.
To back up, two weeks previously I had an evangelist come to speak for us that had been a long time friend (Tommy Tenney). We had such a touch of God that I kept him, and he cancelled his meetings and came back the next weekend. And once more we had a great move and in fact we decided to have a church special prayer meeting the next night and our church has been in prayer for years and years for revival. But we called a special prayer meeting on the Monday night and had such a move that I felt we needed to bring him back that weekend, which I did.
Sunday October 20, 1996
So I flew in on Saturday and he drove in. We didn’t see each other, but at service the next morning I was getting ready to introduce him and there was a very great presence of God in the auditorium, and the Holy Spirit had really been addressing with me for several weeks about 2 Chronicles 7:14. I walked to the platform and over my Bible and read 2 Chronicles 7:14 and told the people what I felt like the Holy Spirit had been speaking to me was that we were to seek his face and not his hand. And that so many people were seeking manifestations and something from God without actually seeking God. And when I finished that, the Spirit of the Lord came upon me very powerfully. I’m not given to manifestations, and have told the people of our church, “If you ever see me fall, it will be because God put me down. I don’t do courtesy falls, and no one pushes me over.”
I felt the presence of the Lord come on me so powerfully I grabbed the podium, the pulpit, to keep from falling, and that was a mistake. Instantly I was hurled a number of feet in a different direction, and the people said it was like someone just threw me across the platform. The pulpit fell over that I had been holding for support, and I was out for an hour and a half. . . . I almost hesitate to tell you what . . . I literally could not move. I’ve heard about people being pinned to the floor and things like that, but to be honest, I came from a classical Pentecostal background and I’ve seen genuine moves of God and I’ve seen my share of weirdness. And if something like this happens, and it doesn’t happen to someone that I know, that is credible and a person of integrity, I don’t discount it, I just have a tendency to let the jury stay out until I know that this has indeed happened to credible people. But I could not move. And I saw a manifestation of the glory of God. . . . I saw a vision and I did not see the Lord. I saw his glory. . . . There were thick clouds, dark clouds, edged in golden white and the clouds would ‑ there would be bursts of light that would come through that would just go through me absolutely like electricity. . . . and that went on for an hour and a half.
I could feel his glory. There was literally a pulsating feeling, as though I was being fanned by the presence of the glory of God. And it’s still really difficult for me to talk about it. . . . There were angelic manifestations that surrounded the glory and I didn’t know how long I was out. They said later that I was there for an hour and a half. In the meanwhile, all across the building people, they tell me, were falling under the presence of God. That’s not something that has happened much in our church, but people were stretched out everywhere. And the altar. We have three services on Sunday and people would enter the hallways that lead to the foyer and then into the auditorium and they would enter the hallways and begin to weep. There was such a glory of God and they would come into the foyer and not stop ‑ they would just go straight to the altar ‑ people stretched out everywhere. There was all kinds of angelic visitations that people had experienced. And we’ve got professional people in our church ‑ doctors, professors. Their bodies were strewn everywhere. And when I felt the glory of God lift, I tried to get up and couldn’t. It was as though every electrical mechanism in my body had short‑circuited. I couldn’t make my hands or my feet respond to what I was trying to tell them to do. It was as though I was paralyzed. And I was able to slowly lift a finger, and one of the pastors saw me and I beckoned for him to come and he got some of the other pastors and they carried me into the office and set me down.
Well, the pulpit, they said, fell over, and it’s made of space‑age plastic. It’s flat in the front with rounded sides that go back; it’s all molded, so the pulpit is three‑sided. The sides go back at a forty‑five degree angle and then it has the base that it stands on, that is attached to it, and then it has the top that you set your Bible upon with your notes. And it’s made of a kind of plastic that, one of the businessmen here in the church ‑ he works in these kind of things and called a supplier in California – and they said it has a tensile strength of 57,000 pounds per square inch, but when he described the configuration, they said it would be double that, about 114,000 pounds per square inch. We have a number of engineers in our church that are working to give me the exact strength requirements that would be necessary to cause that to break. They have corroborated what was told by the supplier. The top didn’t break off. The bottom didn’t break off. It broke across the middle, not up and down the lengthwise portion. And our engineers said that the power required to do that is astronomical. They said you could drop it from a ten‑story building and that would not happen.
It just split like lightning had hit it across the middle. In fact it even jagged kind of like lightning. It didn’t split at any joint where anything was fastened together, it was just across the middle. They said that, given enough force, they could explain a lengthwise split, but they cannot even conceive of this.
I felt like the Holy Spirit showed me that was because there were two things that were happening. First of all, he did not want his church to just be pulpit‑led with a two‑caste system of clergy and laity, but that what he was doing was going to cause his church to be mobilized again back into the ministry that he’s called all of us to be involved in, and I’ve preached that for years, but you know how it is ‑ the people get involved in their stuff. The second thing is that he was changing the order of the ministry here in our church, and that we were moving to a different level. It was as though the old pulpit was no longer adequate for what God was going to be doing. And basically brother, that’s the story.
We had one service that day, and the service literally never ended. It went all the way through the day until 2 am. It had started at 8:30 am. We decided to have church the next night, and I didn’t want to be presumptuous, but we went on a nightly basis on that order, just announcing one night at a time, and as we got deeper into the week I could begin to see that God was doing something that was probably going to be more extended. So we took Monday and Tuesday night away and I added services Wednesday through Sunday. There have been numerous healings. The evangelist didn’t speak at all that Sunday. In fact, the entire week he spoke maybe twenty minutes. There’s been a really deep call of God to repentance. People come in and they just fall on their faces.
Manifestations of God
There have been angelic visitations. We have a school, and there’s a Catholic girl that teaches in the school. Her sister is a member of our church and her sister is Spirit‑filled. They had an angelic visitation, this Catholic teacher did, in her classroom, that was seen by both the teacher and the students. It frightened her so badly that she went home and got her rosary and it’s in the auditorium right now (she gave it up).
We know of four tumors that have completely disappeared. One lady had a tumor about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and was going to have to have surgery. It just ruptured, bled, dried up, and fell off. And there have been several others ‑ tumors just turned black and fell off and left little white scars. These were external tumors.
There was a man with a sleeping disorder that literally would go days without sleep and sometimes even weeks, and instantly he was healed. A lady with a digestive ailment that she’s had for 25 years since the age of five (she’s 30) and had to have special medical treatment, was instantly healed.
None of these are people that we had laid hands on to pray for these things to happen. We didn’t even know about it. They just started calling in. . . . God sovereignly moving, and we’ve had nothing to do with it. You and I come from similar backgrounds and can trace some of our history back to Azusa and I’ve often read about William Seymour, and I can understand him praying with his head in the apple crate. But I’ve read that when he spoke that he would sometimes put a bag over his head with two holes cut for his eyes, and for the first time I understand why. When God shows up, there’s absolutely no contribution that you could make. Any human addition is actually a subtraction.
We’re just having a sovereign move of God. They baptized for an hour Sunday morning and half an hour again Sunday evening and once again Sunday the services just ‑ they never ended. People are staying until 2 am in the morning on some nights and there are all kind of angelic visitations and healings and things that are happening. As I said, our church was not given to manifestations, but there are people that when God has been on them have been intoxicated for 10 days.
It started in our staff and then just from there just spread like fire. We’ve had altar calls where, it hasn’t turned completely evangelistic yet. There’s strong intercession and repentance now. But there was one service where there were a lot of unsaved people and the evangelist spoke maybe ten or fifteen minutes and gave an altar call and we had several hundred instantly surge forward.
Just to be honest, it’s the most disruptive thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve preached revivals 18 1/2 years. I know how to have revivals, but I don’t know how to handle a move of God. . . . They’re two different things.
I was supposed to have had a gospel singer this past Sunday night, and he was in town and I tried to reach him. He was scheduled to be at another church pastored by a friend of mine Sunday morning, and when he finally got in town I spoke with him and told him we could not have him, and explained why. I just was very candid and said if we were not having a sovereign move of God, and God was not doing anything that exceptional and you’re just having church, that he could have been a great addition. But with what God was doing, there wasn’t anybody that could add anything, and so I started calling around to try and place him, and I was astonished at how many churches in Houston had begun to experience something. I called one friend the same Sunday morning that this happened here. They had a similar invasion of the presence of God. . . .
William Seymour was from Houston and left our city because he was discouraged with the racism and the sectarianism, and at the invitation of the Nazarene pastor – the lady in Los Angeles – he went there. And we believe, and I’ve preached and taught, our church and our minister friends, and shared it with numbers in the area that we believe that there’s an unfulfilled mandate that God has for this city. Hebrews says when once God gives a promise, that promise remains until someone receives it or claims that. Isaiah said his word that is given ‑ it’s a created force ‑ it never returns void or empty. And we think that Azusa was supposed to have happened here. . . . And so we’ve tried to encourage our people to believe for a supernatural visitation, and we’re just absolutely thrilled.
That’s exactly where we are. I walk in, but there’s been absolutely no structure to the service. We had a great choir. We’re a multi‑ethnic congregation. A Brooklyn Tabernacle kind of sound, if you’re familiar with that. Great worship and praise. Sunday morning there wasn’t a choir member standing on the platform. They were all scattered like logs all over the platform. And we go in ‑ they begin to play, to lead us into the presence of the Lord, and they play very softly. Because of our background, usually our worship is very strong, very dynamic, a lot of energy. Not any more. It’s like you’re afraid to even lift your voice; even the notes on the piano they want to play very gently and then the Lord sweeps in. Five nights last week I wasn’t even able to receive an offering.
I mean, when he begins to move there’s not one thing you can do. You just get out of the way and let him work. . . . Billy Graham has said concerning Houston that he would rather preach in any city in the world than here, because the churches are so divided. But I’m seeing a tremendous hunger among God’s people. How this has gotten out, I don’t know. I have no idea, but immediately, we started having people from all over this place come in. There are pastors flying in now from various states. But people from our city, and not many pastors yet. Some have come. But I don’t know where the Lord will take all of this. When his presence has come so close, you’re afraid to even exert any preference and say, “this is what I want You to do,” you just back away and say, “whatever you want, God.”
We’ve cancelled everything that we had planned We have a lot of outside activities. We have 122 ministries within the church that have helped our church to grow, and these ministries were primarily either for getting people here or holding people once they’ve converted. . . . But we have at this point‑‑I was telling our staff‑‑they were asking, “are we going to have Christmas musicals and Childrens’ pageants ever?” And we do a big passion play every year that brings in thousands and thousands of people. And I asked them, “Why do we do all of this?” and they said, “Well, we want people to come here so they can encounter God.” I said, “Look at what’s happening. We’ve got people storming in here that we’ve never seen, never heard of, never talked to. And God’s doing it in a way that is so far superior to what we could do that whatever we’ve got going on. We’re cancelling everything,” and that’s literally what we’ve done. There hasn’t been a single objection. That’s what amazes me.
I think that this is probably going to end up ‑ whatever this season is that the Holy Spirit is bringing us through in terms of our commitment to him and the deep searching of our own hearts – it has the feeling at this point like it’s building toward even a greater evangelistic outpouring.
There’s a big difference in renewal and revival. You know, I had the same skepticism of the laughter. I was raised in a classical Pentecostal background. I saw that from time to time, but the latest thing ‑ I just ‑ something inside of me just had a difficult time with it. And [now, in our church, after this visitation] there are people that are laughing like crazy now, and, I mean, all of this stuff I said that I had reservations about and didn’t particularly care to see, I mean it’s just as though God has said, “This is My Church. It’s not yours.” And I see the reality of it now. I think it’s going to end up turning strongly evangelistic. It has that feeling and a lot of people are coming and being saved each night. There are many being saved, and there’s not even really an altar call made that distinguishes between people that are already saved ‑ that just need renewal and those that need conversion [because] it’s just so intense right now.
Rose Moon, from Christian Tabernacle, added these comments on the Awakening e-mail early in 1997:
God began moving us into a level of deep repentance and intercession for three months. The services lost most all recognisable form for that period of time. The preacher and the evangelist could not preach and the choir could not sing unless God allowed them. No one could ‘perform’ as before. The awesome fear of God came over most who experienced this. As they tried to preach or sing, they either would end up on the floor, rooted to their seats, laughing or crying as the Spirit moved. After three months God began to give new direction through the preaching of the word and the choir began to sing again, although there are still many times when the Spirit of the Lord moves in and changes everything that had been planned for that service.
Great changes in individuals have taken place in all those in leadership and most of the others that not only has lasted but continue to increase. The most pronounced changes are sincere humility, a love and a hunger for God and his Word, boldness, freedom and power to minister or witness from the pastors and staff through most of the rest of the church.
Our Sunday and Wednesday services are powerful. There have been many in every service who have been saved. It is unusual now if people are not being baptised at the end of those services. Thursday and Friday services are for worshipping and soaking in the presence of the Lord. Every service has been different but he always shows up and is continuing to bring deep changes, healings and deliverances. Many truly miraculous events have taken place from that first Sunday until now. Most of the physical healings have taken place with no one laying hands on those persons. They were healed by just being in God’s Presence during the services. I will share a few of them:
1. On the first Sunday, one woman had a cancer fall off her. Many since then have come to the pastor with similar stories. Some have been healed of internal cancers with confirmations from their doctors.
2. The week before Thanksgiving one of our members became very ill and had to be taken to the hospital. He had severe abdominal pains. His colon had ruptured in four places and his abdominal cavity was filled with infection. The doctors never expected him to leave the hospital alive. With the church praying, he improved enough to go home. He was scheduled for surgery the week before Christmas to replace 3 inches of colon. He went in for the surgery and was placed under anaesthesia. The doctors made new pictures of the colon before surgery. Then without operating, they went out to his wife who was in the waiting area. They were shaking their heads, causing her to fear the worst. Instead they said that the new pictures showed a completely whole, normal colon. There would be no surgery. Her husband was most surprised when he woke up with no pain or incision. God had healed him.
3. One 8 years old boy had been tested by a specialist the school referred them to for hearing because he was doing poorly in his schoolwork. Because of an early childhood illness, one ear had a 70% loss of hearing in one ear, causing the other ear to only have a 40% hearing capacity. They wanted him to be placed in special education classes and be taught sign language. He was scheduled to be tested by a hearing specialist the school had recommended. His mother asked one of the young men to pray for him during one of the ministry times. About a week later she thought she noticed a difference in her son’s responses. She took him to the specialist for testing. His hearing was found to be completely normal. Pastor Heard asked them to share in the 8:30 a.m. Sunday early service. After they did Pastor Heard asked those who had hearing problems to come for prayer. He had the boy and his mother pray for those. Of those who came forward, 3 had their hearing restored that morning.
4. About 2 weeks ago a man, whom the Pastor Heard knows, testified a skin cancer had fallen off his face. It had been there for about 2 years. He had been scheduled for surgery. One Sunday morning Pastor Heard shared that he felt there were cancers and growths that were going to fall off. The next morning the man felt an itching sensation and reached up to touch the area where the cancer was and it fell off in his hand. The skin underneath was pink and smooth.
5. About 1 month ago, Pastor Heard shared his story. In May of 1994, he fell to his knees while preaching a sermon. He was taken to the emergency room of a hospital. The doctors discovered he had a congenital heart defect that he would have to live with the rest of his life. He has lived with that until the latest check‑up in February. The doctor ran the dye tests and came in to tell him his heart was completely normal. Pastor Heard asked the doctor, “Do you mean normal for me or for someone without an abnormal heart condition?” The doctor replied his heart was completely normal as it should be. There was no longer a congenital condition. They did not even give him a stress test. No hands were laid on specifically for his heart condition. As others have been, he was healed by being in this Presence of the Lord. There have been many dramatic inner healings and deliverances of some who have been under a doctor’s care for a long time.
It is wonderful that our church is not the only one experiencing this. There are churches all over the greater Houston area that are experiencing this including Baptist, Assembly of God, Methodist, Church of Christ, Nazarene and many others. We are just praying for an increase of what God is doing.
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God’s Awesome Presence, by Dr R Heard:
An article in Renewal Journal 10: Evangelism
Renewal Journals: https://renewaljournal.com/renewal-journals/