PART TWO – Pentecost to Israel (cont.)
In one session, I determined that much of what we were being taught wasn’t worth learning, if not contrary to truth. I decided to go home. Dal Fulford informed me that if I did so, he wouldn’t pay my wages. I changed my mind and stayed.
Was it for the money? I think so. Did I compromise principles of God? I can’t honestly say, except that if it had been a clear-cut decision between right and wrong, I believe I would have chosen, by God’s grace, to lose my wages without hesitation.
The turnaround did teach me that I needed to determine, as much as possible, the nature and degree of importance of something, and decide how far I am willing to commit myself, before making decisions and declaring a position on a matter, particularly if involving spiritual and moral matters. I was learning the necessity of wise assessment and counting the cost before taking a stand.
Satan knows his stuff, and by God’s grace, we must come to the place where he can find nothing in us, whether through wrath, praise, reason, affection, bribery, flattery, threat, or any other thing.
One day a woman from the Catholic Charismatics called us, suggesting we meet with Mary Jeffries, an alleged traveling minister in her sixties or so, who was passing through town. She sought out people who would receive her into their homes and support her. We decided to call Mary and see what she was all about. She came over, declaring herself a faith healer and intercessor. We visited for a few hours.
Mary spoke of a time when she was at a Morris Cerullo “crusade.” She said that during one service, God was publicly pleading with her through Morris to get right with God. She gloried in the thought that God or a famous evangelist would be so intent on her.
I thought, “You’re proud that God had to beg you away from sin? Ought you not to be ashamed of yourself? Obviously you don’t believe.”
I also thought, “Woe to those men, those so-called ministers of God, with whom sinners thrill to identify, not that they might believe, but so that they might glory in those who impress the world.” There seemed to be no fear of God in Cerullo or Mary.
Mary suggested we kneel and pray together. Reluctantly, we consented. She began to speak to God, and then she cried, pleaded, shouted, and finally, laughed – it was all a performance. She went on to explain that her tears, shouting, and laughter were part of the intercessory prayer procedure and then asked if she could lay hands on us and pray for us.
The Lord had taught us that we ought not to let people lay hands on us as they pleased, lest we be spiritually violated. We politely declined and she, of course, perceived that we were skeptical of her. She told us of other Dauphinites who had received her, people we didn’t know. We weren’t interested.
We soon ended our visit and she left. Marilyn immediately proceeded to clean house. Mary had worn unpleasant cheap perfume. We found her to be unclean physically and spiritually, and so did a “housecleaning” on both counts.
So many people are out to be ministers of God, serving themselves and the powers of darkness.
Ever on the watch for spiritual fulfillment somehow, somewhere, anywhere, Marilyn and I decided to go to Garland, Manitoba, about sixty miles north of Dauphin, where we heard things were happening. There we met Bill and Sally Burla, Nestor Rushinka, his brother, Eugene, and wife, Christine, a woman I had known as a child in the Catholic Church during summer catechism school.
John McMasters from Melita, Manitoba was preaching. He was a Pentecostal preacher with the Pentecostal energetic preaching style.
After the sermon, he looked at me and said, “God has His hand on you, doesn’t He?” I knew he was right, but not until now, as I write, did I realize more specifically what he meant by it. He meant that God’s call was on me to ministry.
Nestor Rushinka was a divorcee and a farmer from the Garland area; he was very religious. I think his wife left him because of religion and he was rather affected by it, as many men are when divorced. He would often come to visit us at the Thorndale Apartments and tell us of the many things he was doing to promote God’s Kingdom. He found that we weren’t running around doing a lot.
We shared many truths with him, which he wasn’t able to receive. We spoke of resting in the Lord and working only if the Lord was working. He couldn’t understand that; indeed, didn’t want to understand. He would spend much time in fasting and prayer, traveling, recruiting various preachers to visit Garland, arranging healing services, and witnessing to the community.
He asked if I would come and preach. I said, “Lord willing.” But he couldn’t accept our doctrines and was concerned that I might not be of God. He never called on me to preach. In any case, I knew I wasn’t prepared or led to do so.
We spent many hours talking, and I tried to get him to repent of his ways, to recognize Jesus Christ as Lord, not only in word, but in deed. He thought he was doing so, far more than we.
I finally said to him, “Nestor, you don’t believe anything I say to you. Why do you keep coming back? Your ways aren’t pleasing to the Lord at all. It can’t go well for you.”
It seems he found us entertaining, but also was there to try to save us from our error and spiritual indolence, as he perceived it. He quit coming. We would discover his end some years later.
We decided to go to a meeting in Winnipegosis, where John McMasters was slated to preach. The Utech family had invited him there. The Utechs were very religious, ever looking for something sensational. Before their desired church service, John, Len and Lillian Delafuente, Marilyn, and I were seated outdoors, and the Lord showed me Len’s heart.
Len was striving to be a spiritual minister, apparently trying to convince everyone of his worth as such. He wasn’t trusting and waiting on God. I told him that if the call of God was on him to be a minister, it wasn’t for the present moment. I was speaking somewhat from experience as well as discerning his spirit. I prayed for him and asked God to give him repentance and rest from his labors and healing of past hurts.
When we were done, Mr. McMasters confided and confirmed to me that Len indeed had been rather traumatized some while back. He had tried taking the leadership of some people, and they had rejected him. This embittered Len, and he didn’t seem able to get over it.
At that moment, Mrs. Utech came out, looking for John to begin the service. John pointed to what was happening, saying, “You’re looking for a church service. Here’s one right here.” It was a mild rebuke she was unable to understand or receive.
We did go in then and have a service, and nothing happened, which is the usual case with church services. Men’s efforts of worship are sterile, and while teasing with the promise of good things, leave people empty and disappointed. Continuing in those things, they get used to the disappointment and take it to be the norm, yet always hoping that, maybe next time, God will visit them in a special way.
We would bump into Len again in a few years in Winnipeg. Would there be any change?
Marilyn and I heard that Dennis Robinson was to preach at Bethel Tabernacle, a Pentecostal church in Dauphin. The pastor was Greg Rathjen, who billed himself as “Pastor Greg.”
In that Sunday evening service, Dennis was prophesying to several people there. Turning to me, he said, “The Kingdom of God comes without observation.”
I had been ever watching and longing for things to happen, not recognizing they were, and not realizing that if more was to happen, it would never be as I expected.
We saw Dennis in Melita at the McMasters once, while on our way back from North Dakota (more on that later). Dennis had the spirit of one trying to be pious in all things – table manners, dress, speech, countenance, everything. He was oblivious to others except where he perceived opportunity to glorify himself as a man of God.
I don’t know if it was visible to Mr. and Mrs. McMasters, but it was somewhat apparent to us that Dennis was laboring in his own righteousness. What a burden! We knew there was a rest of God that must be entered, if we were to please God. Failing that rest, we offend:
“Now, God has offered us the promise that we may receive that rest He spoke about. Let us take care, then, that none of you will be found to have failed to receive that promised rest” (Hebrews 4:1 GNB).
“For those who receive that rest which God promised will rest from their own work, just as God rested from His. Let us, then, do our best to receive that rest, so that no one of us will fail as they did because of their lack of faith” (Hebrews 4:10-11 GNB).
Harold McNab, a young man fresh out of seminary, was the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dauphin. We met in a restaurant to talk. I don’t recall why we met, but I do recall his great effort to be a wise, knowledgeable spiritual leader.
No matter what we talked about, he had to have the higher or more authoritative comprehension. He was compelled to fulfill his duty as a pastor, a spiritual superior. After all, who was I but a layman? What layman is equipped, trained, or educated to know more than the shepherd with papers from seminary?
Thus are the works and attitudes with which men of religious organizations burden themselves. Bible schools and seminaries pump out men who must presumptuously go in their carnal limitations. Their heads are filled with useless knowledge, while their hearts are entirely unprepared.
Their anointing is artificial. They don’t know the Lord and therefore don’t have His Spirit and power to do that which only God can do. And congregations are content to have it so. After all, who wants to be faced with reality?
They don’t stop to consider that the spiritual leaders in Scripture – the prophets of old, John the Immerser, the apostle Paul, and the other apostles – weren’t prepared in men’s formal schools of learning. And while men’s spiritual kingdoms and their kings may appear healthy and successful, the greater they are in the sight of the world, the lesser they are in God’s sight:
“And He said to them, You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15 MKJV).
Greg Rathjen tried involving us in his church. We shared with him and his wife at their home. His wife seemed quite unhappy. Politely he declined to accept what I was teaching, such as the doctrine of the reconciliation of all things, the baptism in the Holy Spirit being the new birth, and the formal churches being men’s, not God’s, works.
Of course, Greg Rathjen was by no means alone in rejecting these doctrines. We would hear more of his reaction later, from another direction, an unexpected one. We would also hear of the consequences of his stance.
We first heard of the doctrine of the reconciliation of all things in 1975, soon after receiving the Spirit. Jim Flynn and Carroll Vance shared it at the Calgary Christian men’s breakfast fellowship meetings.
I related how I reacted when Jim Flynn first proposed this doctrine to me. I denounced it. But I couldn’t discount the Scriptures he had left with me. Later, hearing that Vic Graham preached salvation for all, or as some call it, “universalism,” we went to hear what he had to say. Slowly, I came to realize the Good News to be far better than what we’d been hearing in nominal Christendom.
Think about it: God made the willing supreme sacrifice and perfect offering of life and blood through His beloved only begotten Son. Just how great a victory would it be for the Savior of the world, the Lord of lords and King of kings, to redeem 5% of humanity and lose 90%?
One could liken it to a poker game. Even good poker players walk away with more success, and Jesus wasn’t gambling! He was doing what He had to do, something He had planned from the beginning, something He had perfect wisdom and power to do, something the Bible declared He would succeed at doing, and something He said was finished when done. He won all that was in the pot. He brought down the house. He took all the winnings. He succeeded. There was perfect cause for perfect celebration for all of creation.
This truth gradually took hold of me, yet I was reticent to dwell on it overly much for many years. While Vic Graham declared that the message of the reconciliation of all men was the Good News, I preferred to believe that the Good News, more specifically, was that salvation was available through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who paid the price for our sins by His blood, His death and resurrection from the dead. He made a way for hope where there was none.
To me, that’s good news. Imagine a bunch of miners trapped miles underground, knowing no way out of their dark entrapment, having no hope of rescue, and then they receive notice to take courage, because help is on the way! That’s good news! I didn’t think it necessary to believe or know that all would be saved in the end; just that salvation was definitely available.
Indeed, I felt that if I were to emphasize the eventual reconciliation of all men, I might encourage people to continue to live in sin, assuming they would get away with it in the end. In the years to come, I would receive a fuller understanding that would make sense in all known aspects and serve others well.
Let me say this: If all men aren’t eventually saved, none of us has any cause for hope because we are all the same in every way, in terms of perfect need, and perfect inability and lack of desire to meet that need.
Lois Benson came to Dauphin in the summer of 1977 to visit her sister, Pat Yakimishen, and her husband, Hilliard. She also came to visit us at the Thorndale Apartments.
She said, “I’ve been hearing things from the family about you. They say you have really changed. You used to be the life of the party, and now they don’t know what to make of you, except that you’ve withdrawn from everybody and you’re poor and religious. And now I hear you don’t even go to church.
“You used to be excited about God. What happened? What causes people to believe and be on fire for the Lord, and then go cold spiritually?”
Lois wasn’t one to waste time getting to the point.
“What makes you think we’ve grown cold, Lois?” I returned.
“I’m told you’re not going to church.”
We then began to share with her about how the Lord spoke to me in the little log cabin in Prince Albert the year before and called us out of the church systems. I shared with her the truths the Lord had been revealing to us. I told her that rather than growing cold, we had gone on to more in the Lord.
When the visit was finished, Lois was excited and rejoicing. I drove her back to Pat’s, where she was staying the night, and returned home.
At that time, Marilyn received a Word from the Lord: “Lois doesn’t believe now, but she will later.” Though Lois clearly appeared to believe, we were not surprised at what Marilyn heard.
Two or three weeks later, we received a letter from Lois. She had spoken to her Pentecostal pastor in Stettler, Len Rosenfeld, who called Greg Rathjen in Dauphin, who told him I was a nutcase. Rosenfeld returned this report to Lois, advising her that we were heretical. Lois wrote us, using her pastor’s words and telling us we were deceived. She cut herself off from us.
We had heard from the Lord, however. And since the first part concerning Lois came to pass, we believed the latter portion would, as well.
Who else should come along to visit one evening but Bill Koster, the fellow we had met in Caroline, Alberta, who had prayed, along with Ernie Gouchie, for my first spiritual healing.
We were glad to see him and asked many questions, wanting to talk about the things of God. Bill spent the evening talking about himself and his interests. It wasn’t until this visit that we found out he was the man Len and Ruth Koster held responsible for breaking up their church in Taras, British Columbia with “Pentecostal doctrine.”
He spoke of “starting a work” somewhere; that is, he was thinking of getting a church going. When trying to share our convictions, he wasn’t interested. He was political, diplomatic, and, well, plainly man-pleasing.
After about four hours of visiting, he realized how late it was and started to close down. In the end, when he was outside the door, and we were bidding one another farewell, I saw a sudden look of shock on his face. The realization, it seems, had struck him that he had spent the entire evening talking about himself, and had learned almost nothing about us. It was as though I saw in his face, “What did I do? What happened?” But it was too late, unless he was to suddenly humble himself and repent. We never heard from him again.
I didn’t want that to ever happen to me. It wasn’t until days later that we realized he was testing the waters for those who might be interested in him as a spiritual leader, whether in Dauphin or elsewhere.
I wondered why the Lord put me in ARC Industries. By the time my term was up, I understood why. Working with the mentally handicapped, I had to learn to communicate. I had to learn to be clear in giving instructions, to speak plainly, and to repeat, sometimes several times, what I was saying, otherwise most, if not all, people just wouldn’t get it. I learned that I could take nothing for granted.
I learned that “normal” people are no different from those with whom I was working at the rehab center. In certain respects, everyone needed to be regarded the same way. In our sin, we are all, every one of us, “retarded” in varying degrees.
I came to realize that spiritual handicap was much similar, if not identical, to mental handicap, and that the condition was not a matter of the intellect, but of the heart. In fact the apparently intelligent and educated one can be more mentally handicapped, because of his spiritual condition, than a common laborer or street person with little education or intelligence. I’ve known wise housewives and very foolish doctors, wise children and foolish old men.
As important as effective communication is, I discovered that no matter how clearly one could explain or prove his case, intelligence wouldn’t win the day. The heart, not the mind, is at issue; the heart must be addressed and corrected, if one is to have understanding.
Religion makes stupid; it so darkens the soul. Try, for example, to speak contrary doctrine with a seasoned JW, Mormon, SDA, Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, or any other, and you find yourself running into a solid brick wall. Yet upon examination, while each is convinced he is right, all these differ dramatically with the rest. Is it then a matter of intelligence, seeing any of these can be highly educated? Obviously not.
I was at ARC, working with mentally handicapped people to learn, to receive a crash course, if you will, among other things, on this peculiar aspect of the nature and weakness of humanity.
Why ceramics? Ceramics had much to teach. For example, I saw that when clay was first formed in the mold, it was delicate and easily marred or spoiled. In that state, its identity was tenuous, and it could still be returned to slip (liquid clay), to be poured and formed anew.
However, once fired in the kiln, it was forever established, not only in its form, but also in its nature, never to be reversed. This was the effect of fire upon it.
I also saw that a piece could go through several firings, and the more firings, the greater the beauty and value. There are pieces, for example, that are fired to establish strength, then fired again with a glaze for beauty and utility, at which stage they might remain, or they can be adorned with gold and fired once more, this time at a lower temperature, yet adding much more beauty and value.
There are many truths expressed in ceramics, as is true of many things.
I found that when trainees made mistakes, sometimes their pieces could be a waste, and I had to determine if I had failed in giving clear instructions and overseeing responsibly.
On the other hand, there were instances when pieces, because not prepared as planned, would come out with unexpected, accidental, unusual artistic beauty. Many of the more revolutionary inventions have come this way, like the vulcanization of rubber.
I would learn that God is also in control of mistakes.
I learned that people are capable of much more than it may seem, if it is required of them. Much destruction has come by pampering and sympathizing, and much has been achieved by requiring more of people than they think they can accomplish. There is a place for hardness. Many are those who will perform only when compelled to do so.
I also learned that parents, or those more emotionally involved, are prone to baby their children, to their detriment. In the case of handicapped children, parents may harbor guilt for birthing them, and thus mistakenly try to make up for their shortfall by sympathy and showering their children with favors and gifts, spoiling them. Again, there is a place for hardness.
If not, why does the Lord separate people from families and friends, as He calls them to forsake all and to walk with Him in the light? Why did He form Israel as a nation in an “iron furnace,” through bondage to a harsh taskmaster?