PART TWO – Pentecost to Israel (cont.)
In that summer of 1977, we decided to go to a camp near Williston, North Dakota, where Marv Isum was having a retreat for a week. Driving through the Badlands on hot days with our Volkswagen and its air-cooled engine, we overheated the car, but we made it.
At one of the first evening services, a Sioux fellow began to prophesy. Marilyn and I were sitting in the seat directly in front of him. I knew the words were meant for me and, in talking to him after the service, he acknowledged that he knew those words were for me. While I don’t recall the prophecy, I do recall these words from Isaiah, which are also linked with the verses I received from Theo the year before at Canmore, Alberta:
“Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 41:15-16 KJV).
I received a Word to speak to Marv while we were there. One evening, just before a service, he was standing outside the hall entrance, making sure everyone was at the meeting. We saw him from our cabin because we were late. I saw an insecure man, trying to control everything.
At the last service of the week, he had the congregation line up to place offerings in the collection at the front of the chapel. He was essentially coercing them to do so. We weren’t free to contribute.
Later, we requested to get together with Marv and his wife, and I told him what I had seen of his spirit. I said he needed to learn to trust the Lord, Who was in full control.
Marv was offended and indignant. We would hear more of what his insecurity and rejection of the counsel of God would do to him not many years later… it wouldn’t be good. I don’t recall making the connection between his attitude toward our humble cash gift to him the year before and this present event.
We made it back home with a limping car. A fellow at the camp had prayed over it, to heal it. Perhaps that is what got us back, because we would later discover the engine was in need of a complete valve job.
We got to be friends with the Sioux fellow who prophesied, though I don’t remember his name. He later came to visit us in Dauphin, and I took him to ARC Industries. The moment Dougie Mondor saw him, he said to him, “You’re a Sioux, yes, mmm!” Dougie also mentioned the Sioux reserves in North and South Dakota.
Our friend was amazed. “How did he know?” he asked.
Dougie had been told nothing. Good question. How did he know?
One Sunday evening, Marilyn and I were having pizza at the local pizza place. In came a group of women and a man after a church service. As they sat there, the women were carrying on with laughter and silly talk. The man sat and observed them, while we observed them and him. The Lord gave me to discern his spirit.
Just before we left, I asked if I could have a word with him. I only knew him to be the father of an acquaintance in school, Bill Bremner. This man’s name was Bob, I believe.
I said to him, “You’re watching those people and you see the emptiness, the foolishness, the lack of sobriety, and the impiety. You see the lack of reverence. They’re one way in church and another when they come here. You are disquieted by their conduct.”
“How did you know?” he exclaimed. “That is exactly what I was feeling and thinking! You told me my heart! How did you know?”
“The Lord showed me,” I replied. “You aren’t wrong in what you see. Go on. God has much more for you. You need to come away from men’s religious works and serve Him with all your heart.”
I was a bit of a showoff and, by being so, provoked him to display his righteousness. He said he was serving the Lord with a full heart. I wasn’t convinced, but when it became apparent that there might be some sort of I’m-more-spiritual-than-you standoff, I decided to cut the visit short in a friendly way. I hope he went on to worship God in spirit and in truth.
In the fall of 1977, the Lord spoke to me, saying, “You’ll be going to Israel.” Marilyn agreed that I heard this from God, but she was disturbed to tears. “When?” she asked. The Lord didn’t tell me. It would be a while, and He would let us know.
While God was preparing us, He was also preparing someone else in the United States, someone we didn’t know, to meet with us in Israel. He would be crying out to God in his trouble around the time we arrived. God was preparing us to answer his prayer even before he prayed. As it says:
“Before they call out, I’ll answer. Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard” (Isaiah 65:24 MSG).
The neck injury I sustained while on a swing set, nearly two decades earlier as a kid, now often tormented me, sometimes for days at a time. I didn’t seek any medical attention, and chiropractic was foreign to me. I often prayed that the Lord would heal me, but it didn’t happen.
It affected my mood so that I was often depressed, fearful, irritable, and anxious. I thought it was a spiritual problem. I wouldn’t find out for years that my mood was affected by the three injured cervical vertebrae (C-2, 3, and 4) and consequent pinched nerves.
We decided to visit Harvey and Irene Wicks in Earl Grey, Saskatchewan, on Thanksgiving weekend in the fall of 1977. Marv Isum was there as well. Arriving, we found a power struggle in process. Gord Fuller, a former scientist (nuclear physicist?), who was more than a match for Harvey verbally and intellectually, was successfully vying for the leadership of their tiny spiritual community. Harvey didn’t like it, but seemed helpless to do anything.
During a prayer session, Marv Isum had a prophecy, but I don’t recall what it was. At that time, I had a vision wherein I saw the head, neck, and mane of a white horse and heard the words, “The Lord is a war horse.”
Curiously, it happened that Harvey now seemed to have a problem with us. We happened to be watching Star Trek on TV with their children for a few minutes when Harvey came in from outdoors. Why the show was on, I don’t recall; I suppose the children were watching it. He was visibly upset, feeling, I suppose, that we were wrongly influencing his children.
The Wicks had their preferred company for that weekend and firmly decided they wanted us to be at the Fuller home for the Sunday Thanksgiving dinner. This I mildly resisted because I had wanted to spend time with the Wicks, seeing it was with them that we had developed a relationship the year before. Also, Marv Isum would be dining with the Wicks, and I hoped to be where I expected the spiritual action to be.
But it is the Lord Who decides where the action will be, and it is seldom where one expects.
I was quite disappointed to discover that we had only ham sandwiches awaiting us at the Fullers’, while missing out on a sumptuous feast with turkey and trimmings at the Wicks’ (I have always had a problem with food). Fullers had only sandwiches because they believed that Sunday was the Sabbath and they were to prepare meals the day before, so sandwiches it was, and ham to boot.
At that time, we weren’t aware of the value in differentiating between clean and unclean foods according to the dietary laws in Scripture. We were still in with nominal Christendom and its false, compromising notion that, since the cross, all foods were now clean.
As I look back, there were the Fullers, “keeping the Sabbath” on Sunday, eating ham sandwiches, an unclean food. We didn’t have a problem then with keeping Sundays and eating ham sandwiches, but it’s interesting to look back and see the mixture of truth and error.
We discussed spiritual matters with the Fullers and shared the doctrines of the reconciliation of all things and of withdrawing from formal organized religion. They were quite opposed and mildly cynical. I don’t recall what else we shared, but there was no receptivity; however, I know the Lord gave us things to say to them.
I recall Gord Fuller saying something about false humility. He seemed to implicate us, or one of us, but didn’t say whom. I wondered about it, thinking that perhaps I was in false humility. I would realize the truth of what he was seeing and saying, but not until many years later.
On one of our trips to Winnipeg, we went to the planetarium downtown and to a museum. There we saw a middle-aged couple, cleanly but modestly dressed. Apparently, they didn’t have much. It came to me that they were from out of town and perhaps needed lodging, and though they could pay, it was difficult for them to do so. It also came to me that I needed to give them some money.
Having quandaries about giving, and as I was debating whether or not to give and how much, they disappeared. We couldn’t find them in the building. We prayed, saying to the Lord that if He was the One leading us to give to them, that He cause us to find them. I believe we recognized them as they entered their vehicle in the parking lot. We followed them into the streets of the city, trying to catch up to them somewhere in or near Chinatown.
A red traffic light halted them directly in front of us. I jumped out, ran up to their car, and rapped on the window, hoping they wouldn’t be frightened. Strangely, he didn’t open the window, but his door. I told him the Lord had told me to give them some money and handed him a $20 bill. (To give some idea of the worth, this could have rented them a cheap motel room or helped them to rent a better one than they could otherwise afford.) He and his wife seemed quizzical and surprised, and accepted the money.
The light turned green so he had to go. I think he thanked me, yet I wasn’t satisfied. I felt I should have given him more like $40 or $50. While I gave, I gave sparingly. I know I also reaped sparingly afterwards.
Marilyn and I went to visit my cousin, Brian Romanchuk, and his wife, Gail, in their home in Winnipeg and found it somewhat troubling. While they were friendly with us, Brian was jokingly belittling and tormenting Gail. It seemed to be an established custom. She tried to outwit him in response, but was ineffective and awkward about it. And he wouldn’t let up. It was embarrassing to witness.
I later wrote Brian a letter, advising him to treat his wife right, or there would be consequences. We tried to talk to them about the Lord, but they weren’t interested. We haven’t had news of them since.
Not His ways so much as Him! Yet “theologians” or “studiers of God” presume otherwise.
And how ingrained in our carnal natures is the thought or belief that somehow we are in control to some extent of our destinies and the destinies of others. How frustrated we get at our failures when we don’t understand that all things, great and small, good and evil, obvious and otherwise, are in His hands, that He rules over all. How unforgiving we can be towards others for the evil the Lord has sent our way by them for our good! How unforgiving we can be towards ourselves for the evil He sends to others by us for their good – not that we can justify ourselves!
We seek to do good as we learn. But we must also learn that even our mistakes and evils have served in their place for the time. Though these things are to be repented of, they are also to be recognized as purposeful, not to be retained in continual regret and self-condemnation.
And how fretful we are when we find certain circumstances and events entirely disagreeable to us and beyond our control! But if we know the Lord, if we know that He is in full control of all, and that all He does is for our ultimate good, we can forgive, forget, and rest.
Around this time, I wrote a poem expressing these truths:
The wisdom of God is unsearchable, His ways past finding out;
His thoughts and His actions high above ours, we don’t know what He’s about.
Moses He sends to save Israel and Pharaoh’s heart He hardens,
And both are found faithful in doing His bidding, both by His Son He pardons.
Nebuchadnezzar, a heathen king, was known as a servant of God,
Who was instrumental in binding God’s children, and removing them from their sod.
We hate the name of Babylon, for all that it is and for what it stands
Yet the Almighty Father, the Sovereign Supreme, is Maker and Breaker of lands.
The nation of Israel is cast away so that the road for the Gentiles is paved,
Then after the Jews have killed their Messiah, God declares all Israel saved.
Among the faithful there must needs be heresies, and Satan is loosed for a time;
Samson slays 3,000 in blindness, tasting honey from the corpse of a lion.
We think God cast Satan to Hell, but we read that he came to His throne
And received God’s permission to take on a mission
Of destroying the kingdom of Job.
When we are purged of our thinking, receiving the mind of the Lord,
We discover all things are with purpose… even famine, sickness, and sword.
To the pure all things are pure, and to God we give thanks in all things,
And know that the negative develops the positive, the evil goodness brings.
Rejoice all those who have the light, let joy reign in your heart!
For nothing in this entire universe can force us from God to part!
Closed doors to what we’ve had, open doors to better things still;
This is a law which one cannot break any more than stopping God’s will.
All things work together for good though at first we don’t understand,
But one truth must be understood: Our lives are in His hand.
On one of our trips, Marilyn and I were in Brandon, Manitoba, where we found a flyer on our windshield advertising Star Wars, about the time it was released. Though we hadn’t frequented theatres for years, we were moved to see this movie. It amazed us. We equated the use of “the Force” to going by faith, by the Spirit, believing rather than reasoning or going by our senses.
We perceived so many parallels in the story to the Gospel and God’s ways of working. It’s reported George Lucas had no intention of promoting any religious doctrine or the Gospel, but I have come to the conclusion that God used him, though he didn’t know it, to bring the Gospel to people in the outer fringes of the world’s consciousness of spiritual values, to those who couldn’t tolerate anything stronger or more direct. It was as though God was giving them a diluted remedy that had trace amounts of healing, which would have the desired effect.
Over a few years, we saw the movie a few times, and each time, found more in it of spiritual value. I later found a book at a garage sale that perceptively identified the parallels of Star Wars to the Gospel. I wish I had bought it or kept it, although with some attention, it wouldn’t be difficult to identify the uncanny similarities. (If anyone should find the book, let us know.)
As we continued our faith walk with God, we were disillusioned about our relationships with religious people and family. We discovered the value of true friendship, the cost of taking up the cross, and how few there were who were willing to pay the price.
The Lord gave me another song, portraying these things – “The Walk with God.”
(Click HERE to listen to “The Walk with God,” or to read the lyrics.)
We attended a Max Solbrekken meeting in the late ‘70s. He was pretentious, a phony like so many others. We listened to what he had to say, which wasn’t much. Many of these men speak of the work they are doing and for which they need money. They want God to provide, yet they ask you to provide for Him, or at least provide for them so they can help God. These are contortionists working distortions out of all proportions.
In his pitch for donations (which was almost all of the meeting), we got up and left. As we were exiting, he spoke up and said to all, “There you go. When people are asked to dig into their pockets, you find out pretty quick what their god is!” I stopped for a moment, wondering what to say. I had nothing to say, and we left.
When we got outside, we found the door of our Volkswagen kicked in. I wondered if God was punishing me because I hadn’t given money to Max, but that thought quickly disappeared. We knew Solbrekken was a false evangelist. When we got home, I took the door panel off, pushed out the dent, and it was as good as new in a matter of minutes.
Watching TV years later, there was a panel of ministers discussing abortion. There had been an event scheduled by pro-choicers for Mother’s Day. Max spoke up in his religious manner, decrying the fact that they should promote abortion on such a day.
As if that were the issue! Does it really matter what day one murders or steals or commits adultery? And obviously, Max doesn’t know that the institutions of this world, such as Christmas and Mother’s Day, are not of God’s making. So why does he, presumably a minister of God, glorify these events? Is it not because he isn’t a minister of God?
Still, it does seem incredibly stupid and self-indicting for abortionists to schedule an event on Mother’s Day, which has nothing to do with glorifying the day, but their own wicked arrogance.
The Lord gave me a song – “Up Is Down and Down Is Up” – as an expression of the many times I felt incredulous and scornful of the thinking of so-called “theologians.” They shape and size God, formulate the things they think He does, analyze, dissect, and figure Him all out.
From there, they put Him back together again according to their wisdom and desires, and put Him in a neat box, gift-wrapped and ready to be reproduced and mass-marketed the world over. They form Him in their image. And people swallow their doctrines as unsuspecting fish swallow bait and hook, except that man seems capable of also swallowing sinker, line, and rod.
By the way, God hates the term “theology.” How presumptuous is man that he should try to study God!
(Click HERE to listen to “Up Is Down and Down Is Up,” or to read the lyrics.)
I’m not sure when, but I had a vision in the late ’70s or early ’80s of Marilyn, well dressed, standing at a kitchen sink washing her hands and looking out a window over the sink. After that vision, we moved into a few rental homes we thought might be the fulfillment, but we were wrong. One day we would be right.
We have often heard about how husbands and wives need to work at their marriage. In our first years, I thought, “Why is that? Why should we have to work at something the Lord has put together?” Yes, we had our battles; yes, we had our infirmities, and yes, I was often an unreasonable, brutish jerk, but to me, we seemed to have a relationship that was labor-free, though we had personal problems to deal with, as did anyone else.
We would often spend hours talking, reading the Scriptures, and praying, trying to resolve issues, but we didn’t see these things as working at our marriage. Though Marilyn agreed with me, also commenting on how we didn’t need to work at our relationship, I didn’t know that she was quite dissatisfied. The day would come when that would be made perfectly clear to me.
In 1978, we decided to spend our two weeks of vacation driving to British Columbia in our VW, dropping in on some people, tenting all the way. We had barely begun the trip when the car died on us near Saskatoon.
The Lord provided a reputable, experienced service dealer who broke the news to us: The engine was burned out and needed to be overhauled (the effects of our trip through the hot Badlands of North Dakota the year before). Waiting two days and paying $300, we were on our way.
Now consider. We had problems with the car since the North Dakota Badlands trip, but there was no Volkswagen dealer in Dauphin. It was frustrating.
However, there was a Datsun dealer. Remember the Datsun car on which I should have kept my word and purchased from the fellow in Prince Albert in 1975? It wasn’t air-cooled and likely would have stood the test in the Badlands.
Had I kept my word in spite of the apparent problem with the Datsun, the Lord would have honored it. I paid the price for dishonor.
Do I know this for sure? Though I can’t say that the Lord told me this, I do know I have been regretful that I didn’t keep my word, especially while identifying with Him.