PART TWO – Pentecost to Israel (cont.)
Marilyn and I were slated for transfer as workers from Henry Blackaby’s church in Saskatoon to Jack Connor’s Scarborough Baptist Church in Prince Albert. Arriving there within days after receiving the Spirit, we attended a Sunday evening service. Jack made a formal “altar call,” asking those feeling the call of God to work in the church to come forward. At this point, because we had arranged to work with Jack, we were expected to come forward, appearing to heed “God’s call.”
I was perplexed. With new spiritual perspectives and instincts, we knew that hearing God’s call, and obeying Him, was supposed to be spontaneous. Both Jack and we knew arrangements had already been made for us to work with him. That was why we were there. The invitation was orchestrated, yet Jack was making it look like the Spirit of God was moving us. I don’t believe he knew any better. As far as he was concerned, this was the way things were done in church.
I stubbornly held my place for a few minutes, but then after repeated calls, we reluctantly decided to go forward. Jack stood there with a quizzical and dissatisfied expression, wondering what took us so long to respond to a perfectly obvious call meant for us specifically. Already, as newborn babes, we knew the ways of the Spirit and the way of man. The two were in conflict.
We couldn’t help but speak about what we had experienced, and it wasn’t received at all in the Bible school or the Baptist churches. While staying with Jack and Bonna, until we found our own place, the Lord spoke one of the first things to me concerning others – it was of the Connors. He said, “They aren’t saved.” I was incredulous in mind, but immediately fully persuaded in spirit. This was my first experience of what I believe to be the spiritual gift of “word of knowledge.”
Things were getting awkward with the Connors. Within days, we found another home, a basement suite at Maurice Chalifour’s. This would be my nineteenth, our second together.
Well, we tried to share with the Connors and others, but none would listen. Jack told us that we should be very careful believing something if it was contrary to the counsel and understanding of the church, referring to our baptism in the Holy Spirit. I suddenly replied, with realization, “You’re no different from the Catholic Church. They told me the very same thing when I was converted!”
While I was yet with the Alliance people in 1973, they were building a new church, outgrowing the old one I had known. The old came to be sold to the Southern Baptists I was now with. During the building of the new, something died in the congregation. Friendships and fellowships cooled.
As usual, a few did most of the work and weren’t happy that the majority were content to attend and receive benefits, while not contributing to the effort. The task wasn’t an easy one, seeing they decided to build a relatively large complex without hiring contractors unless absolutely necessary. Occasionally, I would hear Pastor Regier subtly suggest that others ought to help with the work. I was one of those who helped very little. Right or wrong, I didn’t see it as my duty.
I began my converted life in the same building with the Alliance people less than two years before the Baptists purchased it from them, and here we were in that building again, but with different people. It was now Scarborough Baptist Church. It seemed a strange coincidence to me. There were many churches in Prince Albert, very few changing hands, if any others at all, and here I was back in this church again, right after the beginning of my walk in the Spirit.
I had known stability in the Catholic Church in Dauphin, having attended the same building all my life. That it would ever be anything but Catholic was inconceivable to me. While it really didn’t matter to me, I did find the change from the Alliance to the Baptist church a bit unsettling.
There were a few Baptists who tried to love us “Pentecostally-deluded” souls back into the fold, such as John and Pat Doucette, Diane Dingwall, and some of the students and young adults like Melvin Johnson and Dan Coggins. There were some who were sad (Kristoffersons – new members of Scarborough), and there were some who despised us, like the young fellows from Texas there to help Jack evangelize Prince Albert and ultimately Canada for the Southern Baptists (as if there was no other legitimate evangelical denomination, or nobody else in Canada to do the job).
As an unbeliever dating girls, I knew that in good conscience, I couldn’t tell them I loved them. I recall guys telling girls they loved them just so they could seduce and bed them. Even as an unbeliever, it seemed to me that love, as I understood it, was too serious a matter to fool with or pretend possessing.
Love of a woman to me meant I had a unique connection to one special person, knowing I wanted, or was destined, to spend my life with her in sacred, lifelong matrimony. I didn’t feel that way toward any of the girls I ever knew, when it came right down to it. I don’t have that understanding (or lack of it) of love now, but that’s what I believed then.
I proposed to two women. The first was Mary Jane Junker, who rejected me. I told her I loved her, but I knew (and most likely she knew) that though I was attracted to her, I didn’t love her in the truest sense.
When I became a believer, I wanted to marry Marilyn Paul and proposed to her, but we weren’t destined to be one. I seemed to love her, but by then I was learning there was more about love than I understood, imagined, or had been taught.
But what is love? Though love is arguably subjective, I came to realize that what the world calls love is not the true, most important kind of love. What Hollywood portrays as love is not true love; what worldly songwriters describe as love is not true love.
Love the way they define it is, “I love what you do to me, what you do for me, and how you make me feel. For that, I would do this, that, or the other for you – ‘swim the deepest ocean, climb the highest mountain,’ and so forth.” They are talking primarily receiving benefits, a willingness to give or pay something, as long as they receive. They are talking self-serving feelings and emotions driving the will.
When I hear people say, “I love you,” I have discerned that they often speak of feelings, of a condition of their being, and not of intent or willful commitment to the person they address. They may be temporarily moved by emotion – happiness, excitement, flattery, compliment, favorable impression, or sexual passion. They may be affected by intoxication or something they ate (like chocolate) that stimulates them biologically, mentally, and emotionally. That is not the love of God, the true and high love we all need. He is above all these things, and so is His love. (I don’t think He even eats chocolate.)
While there is not necessarily a problem with telling someone you love him or her, I believe that those who talk more do less; I have seen it time and time again. It seems as though they try to speak into existence that which they lack, but think they should have. On the other hand, I have seen those who don’t talk just do.
Hollywood has developed and communicated a definition of love that is one of the biggest and most hurtful lies ever told. Men and women fall in love with each other. Teenage boys and girls have crushes, and both sexes become almost irrational in their feelings for one another. But is that love? What is love?
Perhaps better to ask, “What is God’s definition of love?” This is not something to be studied or intellectually apprehended. One can have an understanding of true love only by His gift of understanding.
This is one of the first things the Lord taught me at the start of our walk as husband and wife with Him, when we received His Spirit. God taught me that love is not a matter of emotion or passion or feeling, but a matter of the will. His definition is different from what one learns in the world.
As a result, Marilyn was perplexed. “You never tell me you love me, and I don’t feel free to tell you I love you. Why is that?” she would ask. And when she told me she loved me, I would ask her what she meant by it.
Those depending on good feelings for happiness, and searching for relationships based on those passions, are as those focusing on riches, eventually “piercing themselves through with many sorrows.” They quickly grow disillusioned, and well they should, because a foundation on passion and good feelings is nothing but sifting sand. Even those in the world know that when the “honeymoon” is over (and it evaporates rather quickly), and reality kicks in, feelings have a tough time maintaining their original identities.
Faults, weaknesses, and undisclosed secrets surface; assumptions prove unjustified, and a growing lackadaisical attitude takes over. Guards are lowered, deodorant is forgotten, bowel movements smell, moods swing with nowhere to hide, private eating habits are unveiled, reactions are now less restrained, and a host of other unpleasant surprises make their debut.
Soon the theatre promoting perfect Hollywood love starts to empty, leaving behind paper cartons, squished popcorn, wrappers, and spilled drinks on the seats and floors. The movie is over, and the exit leads back to the real world many find difficult to face and navigate. The test of character and will resumes.
When one opens a can of tomatoes and sees what’s inside, who needs the label any longer? The contents tell the true story, and they alone matter. Could it be that the contents are lacking in the husband or the wife if one must constantly look at the label? Only the contents of the can will nourish and appease hunger, even if the label is tossed. True love will overcome all insecurity, as only a true, unselfish love can.
As believers, man and wife should know they love each other, without having to be told or reassured, unlike in the world where they don’t know the love of God, and nothing is ever sure.
The true “I love you” means, “I am here for you, even if it costs me; no matter what, I’m committed.” The true “I love you” is rarely spoken; there is no need for the speech. True love is manifest, and it doesn’t need to be labeled or proclaimed.
Jesus’ brutal death on the cross for our sakes is undoubtedly the supreme demonstration of true love. He didn’t die for us because He was feeling all fuzzy inside just looking at us, or because of how we made Him feel. He died because He chose to do so for our sakes. It didn’t make Him feel good. It wasn’t about feelings or about what we could do for Him. His love was a matter of doing something not fanciful, but needful for us, while we were His enemies.
“But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 MKJV).
God’s love is one of will in charge of passion. It is firstly a matter of what He decides and not what He feels. His love is unconditional and everlasting – it never fails or ceases. It doesn’t say, “Give me this and I will give you that,” or, “Let’s trade,” or, “I don’t know how I can live without you.” God’s love says, “I will give, period; no trade, no deals, and I will give not just much, or most, of what I have, but all.” His love says, “No strings attached.” His love is about unconditional giving.
And seeing His love is unconditional, longevity and quality are guaranteed; it lasts through thick and thin. It isn’t found in fleeting, changing emotion or passion, but in the will. He wills it, and He doesn’t change His mind. Furthermore, He does it, not just for His sake, but for the sake of the one loved. His love isn’t fickle, but firm and trustworthy. One can depend on it, because there is no selfishness in it.
Note that while Jesus spoke of having loved His disciples, we don’t find Him repeatedly saying, “I love you.” While Paul spoke of loving his flock, he didn’t repeatedly tell them so. Why not? It was common sure knowledge that Jesus and Paul loved their flocks.
I have witnessed prophecies at Charismatic and Pentecostal meetings, and on the net, where God was presumably speaking about how much He loves His “dear children.” I have known those prophecies to be flatteries coming forth from false prophets speaking from emotion (out of their own hearts) and trying to win attention, favor, and influence. God seldom speaks of how much He loves us.
Did Jesus go to the cross shouting, “I’m doing this because I love you!”? Wouldn’t that sound rather selfish and counterproductive? He is what He is, does what He does. There are recorded seven statements that Jesus made on the cross – “I love you all” wasn’t one of them. By what He is, did, and does, we learn what it means to be loved and to love.
Who is right? Are denominational divisions justified? I was experiencing the confusion and frustration as to what church was the right one. Was there a single true church? What made everybody think theirs to be the one? Competition and the resulting enmity between churches, particularly evangelical ones, perplexed me. I was asking these questions before we received the Spirit, seeing the churches battle each other for souls, though smiling at one another, doing it in “godly,” “Christ-like” ways.
Now having the Spirit, we soon knew the answers. The works of men building their kingdoms in the Name of God were wrong. God wasn’t involved. Their competitive works created division, confusion, bitterness, self-righteousness, pride, and cynicism.
Jack asked me to preach one Sunday, and I accepted. He asked, however, that I not preach on the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I told him that I would only preach what the Lord gave me, and he accepted. That Sunday, I preached on there being not one, but two crossings of miraculously divided waters. The first was the deliverance from Egypt, crossing over the Red Sea into the wilderness, which many talk about. The second was entering Canaan, the Promised Land, from the Sinai wilderness, crossing the Jordan River, which few talk about. My purpose was to give people cause to consider that there is a second stage of the spiritual, after repentance, to be sought and obtained.
I didn’t mention the baptism in the Holy Spirit in specific terms, and I was careful to preach only that which was clearly recorded in Scripture; however, that wasn’t good enough for Jack Connor. As the sermon proceeded, he was beginning to catch on to the implications and sat frowning thereafter while I preached, but he didn’t interrupt me.
Immediately after the sermon, he stood up before the people and told them to ignore everything I had said. I spoke nothing unscriptural or ungodly, even leaving it open to interpretation, and he interpreted it his way, according to what I had privately shared with him. Had I not said anything to him previously, he wouldn’t have known the difference or found fault.
With hindsight, I wish I had had the presence of mind to ask him to specify what I had said that was erroneous or anti-Scriptural. I didn’t have it to ask at the time. I simply was not the spiritual powerhouse I thought I was supposed to be. As for the people, they had no idea why Jack was censoring me.
I had been collecting books. I recall Marilyn’s father giving her $60 or so (not a paltry sum for us then), which I took and spent on “Christian” books before we received the Spirit. After receiving the Spirit, I suddenly realized the emptiness of the particular books I had purchased, along with Marilyn’s university textbooks, which included psychology, sociology, and other subjects.
We hauled around a huge box, nearly a cubic yard/meter in size, full of books. It was gruesome trying to handle it. Why didn’t we pack those books in smaller boxes? Who knows? But perhaps it was even more foolish reading them than trying to carry them all at once. What a burden either way!
In good conscience, I couldn’t sell Marilyn’s university textbooks; I perceived their falsehood. I realized they were the wisdom of man, valueless altogether, even harmful. I knew that the “Christian” books I had purchased were also empty, and therefore I couldn’t sell them, either.
We had a big fire in the landlord’s burning barrel. Maurice Chalifour, a schoolteacher, was appalled that we were burning them, rather than selling them to students, and tried to salvage some of them. Marilyn was also upset because I was burning the $60 gift her father had given us.
Around this time, Marilyn had a complexion problem on her chin. To try to counter it, she used Merle Norman cosmetics, but the pimples didn’t go away. I told her it wasn’t natural that we should put foreign substances on our faces, substances that do more harm than good, if synthetic. I advised her to stop using them and trust the Lord to take care of her problem. She ceased, and within a couple of weeks or so, her complexion was clear.
“Beauty is skin deep”? So many are trying to look good and cover up blemishes and aging. Aging is inevitable; it’s only a matter of time before the undertaker takes his crack at prettying you up, and for what? The worms don’t care; they’ll accept you as you are.
As for blemishes and other health problems, it’s no secret that lifestyle is the primary cause. Most cosmetics, like makeup, hair spray, and personal care products cover over and, with their carcinogenic compositions, actually accelerate aging and death. Most cosmetic manufacturers are not there for you, and they don’t have to reveal the toxic substances they put in their products or the harm they cause.
Sheila Ahenakew, her kid sister, Lonnie, her daughter, Holly, and her young son, Lee, attended Scarborough Baptist and were there when I preached the sermon Jack censored. She heard the message and wondered why Jack had a problem with what I said. Several times, we visited them and shared with her and her parents, the Howes, who often listened, though they didn’t believe.
Sheila came to confess Jesus Christ, we prayed that she would receive the Spirit (there was no confirmation that she received), and we baptized her at the river that year. Her husband, Willard, didn’t believe, but neither was he opposed.
One day when we got together with Sheila at her home, I was playing the guitar and singing some Scriptural songs we had learned in Charismatic circles. Her son, Lee, came out and started dancing and jumping around, playing the clown. Sheila was laughing. I thought she should be reining him in and teaching him that such conduct was sacrilegious.
Being young in the Spirit and greatly lacking wisdom, we didn’t know what to do or say, but I recall feeling like something seriously wrong was happening. Knowing God and His ways, it didn’t take two brains to figure that one out, though I wonder why we didn’t say something. One day, we would find out the terrible fruits of that event.
Eventually, Sheila went her way and we ours. While she always gladly received us into her home, there never seemed to be anything happening of significance. It seemed to be more about religion and entertainment than reality of spiritual life with her.
In the next week or so, I was in great turmoil. Seeing as Jack had not wanted me to speak on the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I decided that perhaps I had been unfaithful in preaching what I did, though not making specific reference. I learned that Henry Blackaby, speaking to others in my absence, had accused me of “desecrating the pulpit.” Still having high regard for Henry, I went to Jack and his congregation and apologized.
Looking back, I realize that I should have confronted them on their error. I had every right to speak the truth, more than they had to preach error, more right to preach more of the gospel than they had to preach less of it. I wasn’t ready to do spiritual battle, however, other than to remain undeterred from our course, upon which the Lord had launched us in giving us His Spirit.
Still attending the Bible school classes for a few weeks, it became increasingly difficult for us to tolerate both the spirit and the letter of what was happening.
One day, Henry Blackaby was discussing with Bill Bye, a pastor brought from Edmonton to Saskatoon to teach a class, what classroom would be used to teach a course on the Holy Spirit. Laughing, Henry pointed the room out to Bill, saying, “The Holy Spirit’s over there.” That immediately struck me to the heart. I was very uncomfortable with the irreverence, the lightness of their attitudes toward God. It had always been there; I just wasn’t able to see it before.
Daily, time after time, incident after incident, we were seeing that God had done something in us. Things were different for me. This was the first time I can identify the discerning of spirits operating, one of the nine spiritual gifts of the Spirit mentioned by the apostle Paul in First Corinthians, chapter twelve.
While the Baptist teachers were saying things and quoting Scripture, the Lord was telling us something quite different from what our teachers were saying. We understood in a new way the Scriptures they were using. It was exciting, but we began to realize that our time there was about up. One by one, we dropped courses on which we felt we couldn’t agree. Truly, the subjects weren’t the issue. We couldn’t be in fellowship with the people, or they with us.
Because we were talking to almost everyone about the baptism in the Spirit, Jack finally gave us three choices: We could 1) change our minds; 2) believe what we believed, but keep it to ourselves; or 3) leave.
We couldn’t deny what the Lord had done with us, and I couldn’t contain myself in expressing it or feel comfortable about suppressing it, so we knew the right thing was to go. We left the Baptists and returned to the Alliance church where I had first attended as a new believer nearly two years earlier.
If a sheep should stray away, is it up to the sheep to find its way back to the fold, or is it up to the shepherd to come and find the sheep? Jesus said:
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, does he not leave the ninety and nine and go into the mountains and seek the straying one?” (Matthew 18:12 MKJV)
Henry Blackaby never called; he never visited. We didn’t hear that he so much as inquired about us. Marilyn had been his star pupil and helper for nearly three years. Was she not worth some kind of attempt at rescue or reconciliation? We did hear that he preached a sermon in his church, saying something about their having to examine themselves, as a result of our departure.
There wasn’t one word spoken between us until we decided to donate what was left of our theological books to Henry’s Bible school library. He came to pick the books up, saying very little, except to cite some ignorant examples of false tongues and Pentecostalism. He asked no questions and wished to hear nothing. I think he was bitter and fearful.
Religion often doesn’t respect physical or family ties, but neither does the call of God. Leaving the Baptists in disagreement, I was somewhat hopeful that Marilyn’s mother, brother, and roommates would see things our way and come with us, but they didn’t.
Marilyn’s brother, Les Coles, not only remained with them, he became a bitter enemy. He began to turn their father, John Coles, against us. When visiting John, he showed us Les’s letters, full of bitterness and criticism toward us. John was beginning to show signs of being carried away by Les’s attitude as well.
In 1971 or 1972 (before we met), Marilyn dreamt that she and two of her Christian friends, Arlie Peters and Marlene Findley, were by a body of water. The Lord was offshore in a boat, beckoning her to come out to Him on the water. The others didn’t venture out, but Marilyn had no problem believing she could walk out on the water to Him, which she did. She wondered why they weren’t able to do so. It seemed a natural thing to her.
It was plain that she was being called out to walk on water, which walk would separate her from her family and friends.