PART ONE – Darkness to Light (cont.)
I liked George Lynn, and I cannot diminish the importance of his impact on my life, though the credit must go to Jesus Christ, where it surely completely belongs. I’d like to relate a side of George, however, that will be relevant when I speak of things to come concerning him. George, as any man, had his weaknesses – he had a self-righteousness that did not glorify the Lord. For example, he proudly displayed his memorization of Scripture and of the books of the Bible.
One day I questioned prayer in public (Matthew 6:5-6), and he said, “Victor, I went into a restaurant one day. Sitting there was a man who lit up a cigarette while he waited for his order. On the other hand, when my order came, I bowed my head and gave thanks. There he was, glorifying the Devil, and there I was, glorifying God.”
Such things did I witness with George. As time passed and I learned more of the Bible and the stories Jesus taught, I thought, “What is the difference between George comparing himself to that smoker and the Pharisee comparing himself to the publican (Luke 18:10-14)? Both George and the Pharisee prayed while looking down on the one who is not as good as they are (in their eyes).”
Years later, I would see things of George that were not pleasant to see, taking place not only in this world, but also in the next.
But I should talk about self-righteousness! One day my parents talked me into coming on a May long weekend to Ron and Barb’s to help plant potatoes. I was going to show them how a Christian helps out and works hard! I planted hard and fast. I was later to learn that I had planted too deep and packed the earth too solidly. None of my potatoes came up, while everyone else’s did.
We new believers can be such a self-righteous lot! It reminds me of how chicks are cute when first hatched, but soon turn downright ugly, until they grow out of it.
I paid Dora Hafichuk, my paternal grandmother, a visit. She was quite alarmed by my sudden interest in the Bible and my life being turned around so much that it divided me from family. Her greatest concern was my leaving the Catholic Church and the many things I was sharing with everyone that were so contrary to Catholic doctrine and practice.
In our visit, she gave it all she had to impress me with her Catholic devotion to God. She spoke of the horrors of how they treated Jesus so brutally at His time of death, mentioning the different aspects of His suffering, expressing great sorrow for Him in piteous, affected tones. I knew there was something wrong with her perspective, but I was too young in my spiritual development to understand.
I now realize that it is not about pitying Jesus Christ. In fact, to do so is an act of direct disobedience. Jesus Himself said:
“Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for Me. Cry for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28 MSG).
Mel Gibson’s The Passion inordinately focuses on His suffering. It is as if we could appreciate His sacrifice, in the very flesh that crucified Him. We are not saved by pitying Him; we are saved because He has pity on us. We are to be thankful for His sacrifice, but that can only happen if we have experienced the reality of the new birth made possible by His death and resurrection in us. (As you may know, Mel Gibson is an orthodox Catholic.)
Many years later, it would be revealed to me that my grandmother’s performance was an unwitting mystical reenactment of the weeping of Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14).
As I left, my grandmother pulled out her rosary and challenged me to kiss the crucifix. To prove that my testimony or new religious persuasion was not antiChrist, I reluctantly kissed it. I immediately perceived a mild grin on her face, not of thankfulness or relief, but of satisfaction that I had somewhat come her way.
I realized I had done wrong by honoring an image, something clearly condemned by God in the Second Commandment. I came to regret having succumbed at that moment, though the Lord never chided me for it.
I had conflicts with my new companions at the Alliance. I was reading my Bible avidly, and I discovered that few people in the church red theirs. While they had their pet verses to support their primary doctrines, it was about all they had. I found truths in Scripture, and in sharing these, I found myself at odds with others whom I expected to be knowledgeable and pious.
For example, when I found that God said He would bring sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beast to judge His people, they had a hard time with that. “He allows evil, but He doesn’t do it,” they said. I gave them passages, of which there were several, that proved He not only allowed, but also did. Somehow they denied the validity of those Scriptures, awkwardly explaining them away.
To them, it seemed to be all about love. Love is the thing, surely, and how could I disagree? But to me, love without truth was like refined, processed sugar – sweet, but lacking nutrition and even highly detrimental to one’s health.
Not only were there differences between me and the others in terms of interest and knowledge of Scripture (I saw some plain Biblical declarations, while they did not), I also came to discover that those I thought to be pious were not as pious as they appeared. For example, it seemed that most were not tithing to the church as I was and as was preached.
Another difference I found (and this one subtly and quietly poked at me so as to make me feel rather lonely) was that very few people I knew in these circles ever had division in their families. If they purportedly believed and their families did not, there was still not the division in most cases; they seemed to get along. There was a stark difference between their lots and mine. I had strong opposition from my family; there was no compromise, no “live and let live” scenario of any kind. It was all or nothing on both sides.
Not so with my new companions. They could visit about all sorts of things, perhaps occasionally even about the things of God, and get along just fine. I saw little division between apparent believer and unbeliever in their midst. Usually, their families were members of the same church or at least other evangelical denominations; they all got along quite well for the most part.
This made me wonder if there was not something essentially wrong with me and my relationship with God. Perhaps I was too zealous, demanding, dogmatic, legalistic, religious, ignorant, or too young in the Lord to know any better? I didn’t know, but eventually I found out the reason for this difference between us. It was a sobering revelation, and I would be alone again.
I also recall being very religious, and I have no doubt there were many who had to bite their tongues, having to endure my spiritual infancy. It could have done me some harm if they had expressed the contempt that I may have deserved, but I think it would have done them more harm than me. It seemed that men would not discourage me, but those who offend a young one, though a foolish one, have a conscience to wrestle with thereafter. I have offended in such a way, as you will see, and I was so sorry ever since.
“I have hurt and I have been hurt; it is easier and better to be hurt” (Proverb 1462, ThePathofTruth.com).
I was excited about my new life and freedom. One of the first people that came to mind to share with was Concept-Therapy instructor, Harry Roder. I wrote him saying, “Harry! I have the Answer! I have ‘cosmic consciousness’ – and Jesus did it! When I wrote telling you of all the problems I had, asking for answers, you told me I would get my answers the next year or the year after at ‘phase such-and-such’ seminar. Jesus didn’t make me wait! He answered my questions, all of them! I don’t need Concept-Therapy! I don’t have to pay a cent! Truth is free, here and now, and you can have it, too!”
Harry never replied. The wisdom of God is foolishness to men.
I had this contention with the Eidses, above others: “Why didn’t you tell me more about the Lord? Why were you not more persistent? Wasn’t the Lord more important to you than Amway, LOC, PV, or Rich DeVos?”
Lenore had tried to give me her witness of the Lord in various tactful ways, but I was now feeling like, “You should have told me straight out! Why did you beat around the bush? Where were your priorities? Why did you hold out on me? This is the very thing I was looking for and needed so badly!”
I also discovered that I had greatly let them down in Amway. They had hoped that I would be a promising breakthrough in their business. But it was not to be. God had other plans.
When I set Amway aside to sell mobile homes, the people in my downline were left to fend for themselves. Bert and Helen Huebner, Ralph and Lenore’s sponsors, were not happy with me. They said I had recklessly abandoned my downline, and they probably thought I also disillusioned Ralph and Lenore. The Huebners did not seem to know or care that I didn’t have a stable downline to begin with. Those in my organization were not motivated to continue. I was forever pushing them, and I was tired of it; I had had enough.
Though Bert and Helen professed faith in Christ, I didn’t appreciate their ways. Bert went to church, and he preached or witnessed to others, but his motivation was to sponsor them into Amway. They rationalized that they were giving a “hand up” rather than a “hand out.” From Rich DeVos’ inspirational leadership, they repeated the principle that rather than continuously give a man fish to eat, it was better to teach a man to fish, so he could be independent. Thus, they promoted free enterprise rather than socialism.
They were confusing free enterprise with salvation, however, and Jesus Christ with Rich DeVos. Their goal, it seemed, was more to sponsor people into their Amway distributorship network than to usher souls into the Kingdom of Heaven. As professing believers, the Huebners seemed unaware of the Lord’s words:
“No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24 MKJV).
“Do not lay up treasures on earth for yourselves, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up treasures in Heaven for yourselves, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 MKJV).
A tragedy would come for the Huebners that would prove these words of the Lord true:
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26 KJV)
Becoming a believer, I sought to break ties with those who were not believers, according to this Scriptural counsel of the apostle Paul:
“Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners? How can light and darkness live together?” (2 Corinthians 6:14 GNB)
When I was transferred to Prince Albert with Homes Canada, the year before I believed, Dave Miller, my partner in the house we had purchased, collected the rent from our roomers and lived in the house while I rented elsewhere. Except for making the mortgage payments, he didn’t allow for his advantages, which I felt was unfair.
When I tried to discuss this with him, he wouldn’t listen. When I realized I would likely not be returning to Winnipeg, I gave him notice that I had decided to sell my half. David, in great and surprising bitterness, pressed for a brutal buyout, while I was in the disadvantage of working and living hundreds of miles away.
I couldn’t understand at the time why he reacted the way he did. Bewildered by his attitude, chagrined that a friend should treat me that way, and not wanting to strive over financial matters as a Christian, I caved to a very unreasonable offer he made me for the house, wherein I lost thousands of dollars. It hurt, but I felt helpless, not wanting to fight him. I know that part of it was that I did not wish to bring shame to the Lord by an unChristian strife over money matters.
I had, however, once mistreated him in the situation with Ken Buehner and the Queen Anne cookware.
The cookware was worth $200 wholesale. It was only fair that I split that with Dave, but no, I had to be a selfish brute. As a consequence, Dave ended up taking all my furniture when we sold the house, paid no realtor fees to buy my half, yet charged me realtor fees for my half of the house in the event that he would have to sell it by realtor in future. What’s more, he forced me to sell him the house for about 20% less than it might have sold for on the market. My selfish gain of $100 cost me a possible $3,000 or more, not to mention the torment of being abused, which might be even more costly. Dave got me good, and I had it coming. We reap what we sow; don’t doubt it for a moment. God was in this all the way, dealing with me as He does with all men.
The lessons? Listen to the caring advice of your elders, especially of your parents (my father had cautioned me against going into a partnership). Also, understand what you are doing when you go into partnerships with others. Try to anticipate problems, prepare, and make allowances for them, not that you will foresee them all. If you mustn’t go into a partnership, don’t do it. The potential gains are not worth the heartache and frustration.
Having said this, there have been successful partnerships in the world, wherein the advantages outweighed the disadvantages, or so I am told. It might be wise to find out why or how, before assuming partnerships work.
But most importantly, here is the real lesson: Do to others as you would have them do to you. They will not be nearly so swift or inclined to reward you with evil. One can only reap what he or she sows. Had I not sown, I would not have reaped.
There are those who think that once one has repented before God, confessing oneself a sinner, it is finished and there is no need of restitution or amends of any kind. That is a false repentance. If one is not prepared to make things right where possible (it is not always possible), confession or “accepting Jesus as Savior into one’s heart” is not sufficient to God. On the contrary, it is a sham and a thumbing of the nose at Him. Genuine repentance brings fruits of love, justice, equity, and truth for all.
“The past is forgotten; the slate is wiped clean,” some argue. That is a false gospel, founded on lies. Shall I keep the watch I stole from my neighbor and wear it proudly, even in his presence, simply because I am forgiven and saved? Should I wear it while I witness to him of how God made my life right? Shall my neighbor be pleased? What do you think?
Or shall I wear it only when he isn’t present, perhaps at prayer meetings and Bible studies?
One who does not restitute is not saved.
Upon repentance, I had a great desire to make things right wherever I could, and it was a joy. I recalled taking a 3-hole puncher and something else from my office at the Bay when I had left two years earlier. I wrote Jerry Jellison, confessed my offence, and included a check in payment and then some, along with a testimony.
When I was at the Bay, he was courting a woman who was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I suspected that my act of repentance might have some effect on him, though that was not my primary motive for compensating for the stolen equipment. He replied with gratitude and wonder, for which I was thankful.
I then apologized to Frank Hickey of the Bank of Nova Scotia. I did not expect he would forgive me, because I had assaulted his dignity and person, besides committing a crime. I somewhat tried not to incriminate Homes Canada. He was gracious about it, though puzzled.
The people that bought the mobile home were very happy, and they thanked me some time later. The last I heard, they did not default.
I did not know it then, but sincere apologies would become a significant part of my life. I would be constantly offending and constantly apologizing for many years to come.
I then drove to Dauphin and went straight to the owners of the drive-in theatre. Working for them while in junior high school, I had stolen revenues at the ticket booth. I confessed this to them, willing to pay whatever they required (I did not know how much I had taken). They were surprised that I had stolen, thankful that I owned up to it, and gladly forgave me. I was thankful.
Recalling only a particular market gardener, but not the rest of the private gardens we had randomly raided, I went to the owner, Zenin Bilous, and confessed my sin to him and his wife, Sharon. I told them the cause of my change in heart, and I offered restitution. Their reaction was the same as that of the others, one of surprise, appreciation, and glad forgiveness of debt.
It was indeed a pleasant activity, this confessing and being willing to make things right. It would also have been good had I been required to pay, but not one person demanded a thing of me or would accept restitution. All were thankful, and my guilt was removed.
When I joined Amway as an independent distributor in 1971, I had gone to the Bank of Montreal on Broadway in Winnipeg to get a loan for buying Amway inventory. The credit loans manager, Chuck Wilcox, trusted me and lent me the money without collateral. I soon fell into uncontrollable debt, however, and defaulted.
When the Lord turned everything around for me, I returned to that bank nearly two years later to pay off the loan, which they had already written off. While Chuck was no longer there, the manager was. He marveled, and though he did not press me to pay, he happily accepted, thanked me, and I went my way. It was good to be able to do it.
I know the bank did not need to be paid, but I needed to pay.
In the first months of repentance and deliverance from my sins, I red a book by John O’Brien, The Faith of Millions. This book was a defense of the Catholic Church and its doctrines. I don’t recall who gave it to me, but I was moved by it and intellectually persuaded that, indeed, the Roman Catholic Church was the one true Church, and her doctrines and practices true and godly. I began telling people at the Alliance Church that I needed to go back to the Catholic Church. They were quite disturbed by the prospect.
Paul Dull owned a motel and trailer court near our Homes Canada office in Prince Albert. I was always trying to make business connections and alliances to improve and establish sales. Paul was sending business to Frank Scheller and Harold Duncan of P.A. Mobile Homes, my competitor. These were local people, while I was the stranger in town – life can be difficult and uncomfortable for strangers.
Paul was Catholic. We had agreeable conversations about Catholicism and O’Brien’s book. The thought of winning Paul’s favor and alliance was a comforting one. This comfortability of friend versus the uncomfortability of foe was another facet of the temptation to go back to familiar territory.
Did he send me any business? No, although I’m sure that if he thought to earn more referral fees from me, he would have done it, whether I was Catholic or not. Money is a mighty motivator.
One day, only months after my conversion and just days before I was planning to go forward at the Alliance to announce that I was returning to the Catholic Church, I became very ill. Late that evening, Murray and Ila, my landlords, saw my car uncustomarily home and found me in bed with a high temperature, vomiting green bile. They immediately took me to the hospital and contacted my young doctor, Lorne Rabuka, who was also the adult Sunday school teacher at the Alliance Church.
Dr. Rabuka had been treating me for heartburn in the past months when I complained of abdominal discomfort. At the hospital, he didn’t know what was wrong. An older doctor happened to walk by and saw me on a gurney in the hall. He came over, inquired, gave me a press in the lower abdomen that nearly sent me through the ceiling, and said, “I think you will find that he has acute appendicitis. We need to get him into the operating room immediately.”
This was around midnight. By two o’clock in the morning, they were operating. I was told later that I had been on the verge of a burst appendix, which could have meant death.
Was this an injury? Yes, it was and not an insignificant one at that. The injury was my doing by a prolonged lifestyle process, primarily through poor diet.
Whereas doctors for a long time believed it to have no use, now we are told that the appendix supplies lubricant to facilitate cleansing the bowel and supply the intestines with beneficial flora. How often have I suffered from constipation – though I can’t tell the exact cause! If what they now say is true, the missing appendix may be a factor.
A lesson: Don’t be too concerned about landlords and neighbors you may consider to be busybodies! Had Murray and Ila not checked in on me, it’s possible you wouldn’t be reading this. Nevertheless, God sent both them and the nosy doctor who successfully diagnosed me in time.
Another lesson: My doctor, a graduate from Prairie Bible Institute, Three Hills, Alberta, and professing believer in Christ, had set up practice on his own not long after getting out of medical school. I had gone to him because he was a Christian, and I didn’t know better. He had been treating me for a few months because I complained about abdominal discomfort. He gave me stuff to drink, and that was it. Though well meaning, he was not experienced or knowledgeable. I could have died because of his incompetence.
Every doctor who graduates from medical school should be required to work as an apprentice or associate with experienced doctors for several years. I know that some people professing Christ believe that they know better than those who don’t profess faith and that they ought not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, whether in business or even in consultation. They would prefer to be “led by God” rather than by unbelieving men. But Jesus said that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.
I may not be alive today had it not been for the older doctor present that night. Even as I lay on the gurney, Dr. Rabuka couldn’t identify my problem. Was that older doctor a believer? I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. He was sent of God to help, and help he did. God is over all and is no respecter of persons; each has his or her place. Christian doctors ought to be willing to learn from non-Christian doctors, and vice versa; that goes for every other occupation.
Within two days or so, I was out of the hospital and convalescing at home. I went home early because I had no medical coverage, being a Manitoban out of province and not having tended to the paperwork when I first transferred (Homes Canada had led me to believe the stay in Saskatchewan was temporary and that I would soon be back in Manitoba, but they changed their minds about a sales branch in Winnipeg). Dr. Rabuka was kind to have forfeited surgery fees on his part, knowing I did not have coverage. Perhaps he had misgivings about his incompetence?
When the hospital asked for my choice of minister or priest, I did not have Ernest Regier, the Alliance pastor, visit me; I had the Catholic priest do so, which disturbed my Alliance friends, though they faithfully visited me and did not argue or criticize. All they did was pray (I didn’t know of their prayers till weeks later).
I had many questions to ask of the Catholic priest. I found him amiable and persuasive, yet unobtrusive, but I found his knowledge of the Bible to be limited and his opinions of it not credible. I now look back and realize I was learning to use the Bible as my authoritative source to determine truth from error. There always seemed to be answers for questions and explanations of things in Scripture when I needed them.
Ila Garneau had a friend visiting her who also professed faith. One evening, her friend had some words for me that stuck at a time of need. The Catholic priest had said some speculative things of Adam, Eve, Eden, and the Trees – he said those things never really happened, but were an allegory. I repeated these things to the ladies, arguing that the Bible didn’t say those things were not allegorical, to which she replied, “Neither does the Bible substantiate them as allegorical.” That was true; in fact, the genealogies indicate Adam and Eve were real persons.