PART TWO – Pentecost to Israel (cont.)
We drove on to Winnipeg, where we decided to stay with Art and Doreen Beals, whom I had known in Amway, on Roblin Boulevard in Charleswood. They were involved in Charismatic circles, often witnessing to us about the gifts of the Spirit. It was their custom, as with many Charismatics, to frequently pepper their conversation with “Praise the Lord” and to speak or pray out loud in tongues.
They had been going to various meetings held in Winnipeg by itinerant preachers who seemed to excite people with music, revelations, preaching, prophecies, exorcisms, and healings, not to mention an oft ample dose of exhibitionism.
For a “home church,” the Beals attended Washington Christian Center in Elmwood or East Kildonan, Winnipeg, which was co-pastored by Willard Thiessen and Ernie (I forget his Mennonite surname). Willard and Ernie previously had a street ministry in north Winnipeg, prayed for healings for many, and allegedly witnessed some miracles. Today, 36 years later, in 2011, Willard and wife Betty host a TV show, It’s a New Day.
In those days, friends of the Beals – Neil and Kathy Wiebe – also went to Washington Christian Center. I had also known them in Amway.
While there in a “worship service,” I was struck with the clear conviction that though the people were singing hymns, praising, speaking in tongues, prophesying, testifying, waving hands in the air, and doing all the things one can find at a Pentecostal or Charismatic meeting, the general atmosphere was one of great irreverence. I was moved in my spirit to speak.
I testified to them that we ought to be falling down and humbly worshipping God “in sackcloth and ashes,” that He is a holy God, not one to be taken lightly. I said that we couldn’t be flippant and familiar in our conduct with Him, as the leaders and others seemed to be.
Some people noticeably took me seriously, at least for the moment, especially a couple, the Logans, who had been prophesying against the moods and attitudes of the people there, particularly the leaders, Willard and Ernie.
This was the gift of the discerning of spirits in operation in me again. Most call it a spirit of hatred, criticism, and condemnation.
There was a time or two when I tried talking to Willard Thiessen. It wasn’t easy. He was friendly, polite, and engaging in conversation; I found that he listened to what one had to say, as though he was hearing it for the first time, but I knew Willard had heard these things before. He seemed to pretend I was coming up with something new to him. Until recently, I saw him doing the same with his guests on It’s a New Day.
I saw Willard as a consummate flatterer. He seems to suggest that social camaraderie is what Christianity is all about (I think he would call it Christian love). He focuses on mental concepts, which he perhaps would call spiritual revelation, but it is nothing more than indulgence in mental exercise and entertainment. And why does he do this? I believe it is to promote himself, instead of loving and promoting the Truth. The cross was so foreign, indeed anathema, to him.
Art and Doreen seemed to agree with me concerning what I was seeing at Washington, but as I look back, they were not in agreement in spirit. They simply didn’t agree with what they saw happening there in other respects. For one, Art thought Neil Wiebe should be the pastor there, that he was the God-ordained one, not the two who were pastoring. It never happened. I thought, “If Neil is supposed to be the shepherd, would he not be so? Why would God not place him there? Who could stop God? Is it men who decide?”
Later, Neil and Kathy confided to me that Neil had heard God call him to be a pastor. I believe he was in his early thirties at the time of the alleged call. Having a young family, he asked God if he could wait until he was forty.
My immediate reaction was, “You can’t deal with God that way. Either you respond and obey immediately, or you go your own way, not likely to hear the call again.” When Moses heard the call, he seemed to have no choice but to accept. The same went for Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Daniel, Ezekiel, Jonah, Saul of Tarsus, John the Immerser, and so many others. I questioned if Neil did hear this from God.
At the point of relating this to me, he was close to forty and perhaps expecting that God would soon revisit him. As we went for a drive in north Winnipeg, he was looking at church buildings and commenting on their potential availability, location, size, and hoping for a bargain price. To my knowledge, he never did hear from God again (if he ever had).
Perhaps man can refuse a call; I have known of at least two men (Mr. Waschuk of Saskatoon and Mr. Winters of Ashville) who lived miserable lives after allegedly passing up a call of God. Whether they heard a call, I don’t know, but I do know that they thought they had and weren’t at peace about having disobeyed.
While Marilyn and I lived in Prince Albert in 1975, I felt like we were missing out on the “move of God.” The Beals had reported so many exciting, “filled with the Spirit” speakers with great anointing, performing miracles and healings. Why was God not with us, as He was with the Beals, the Wiebes, and so many others in Winnipeg? How could this be?
While it seemed He was with us, and certainly had done things for us, why was He not including us in the “exciting things” He was doing? Were we not good enough? We were to find out the answer.
Art and Doreen were still in the Amway business. I recall their adopted daughter, Andrea, complaining to them that all they cared about was Amway. Before our eyes, they basically ignored her pleas for attention. Now they were also involved in much religious activity in Charismatic circles, which left Andrea even less time. She was a very unhappy girl.
We tried to talk to Art and Doreen about it, and I even warned them that if they didn’t love their daughter and give her the attention she needed, there would be trouble. They completely ignored me, rejecting what I was saying, perhaps even slightly offended. We left it. Little did they know the terrible price they would all pay for ignoring the warning.
We spent some time in prayer together in their home. Art and Doreen tried to get me to pray in tongues, suggesting that unless I prayed in tongues, I hadn’t really been filled with the Spirit. I didn’t believe that to be true; however, while in prayer and asking for tongues, the words “Haleo Shemenah” came to me. Those were the only words I had, and this was the first time the spiritual gift of tongues was manifest by me since receiving the Spirit about six months earlier. I later realized those words to be Hebrew, meaning, “an anointing in the distance.”
It was in that prayer time that the Lord gave me two of my first visions, back to back.
Vision One – Art Calling Wiebes Out of the Church Systems
In the first, Art was driving up to a church building. This building was a conventional older-style church with large arched doors. Art had his window open and was waving others to come with him. “Come on, let’s go!” he was excitedly beckoning.
In the open doorway stood Kathy Wiebe, with her children (six or so) and her husband, Neil, behind her. They were all dressed in their “Sunday best,” Neil and the boys wearing suits, Kathy and the girls, dresses. Neil was standing “obediently” among the children, with hands hanging and casually clasped together in front of him. Kathy replied, “No,” to Art, and closed the church doors on herself and the family, shutting them inside.
Vision Two – Satan Slays Me on Altar
Then immediately came the next vision. The scene was a hilly pastureland with sheep scattered here and there, some white, some black, and some in between. I was a white sheep. In that field was an altar, about four feet high, five feet long, and two feet wide.
I was on that altar, and Satan was behind the altar killing me. He had a long knife, more like a short, slender two-edged Roman sword, and he was bringing it down on me. Facing the altar, standing and watching with pleasure, was the Lord Jesus (Satan and Jesus were facing each other). Jesus was about twenty feet away from the altar, relaxed, with arms hanging in front on him, hands clasped.
As Satan was about to kill me, I thought, “Lord, help! Do something! The Devil’s killing me!” But the Lord not only didn’t save or protect me, He was very pleased with what was happening. Down came the knife, and my soul left my body and, I think, “floated” up toward the Lord to become one with Him. (It either did that or I hoped that would be the outcome.)
I related the visions to Art and Doreen. Some months later, we took Neil and Kathy out for Chinese food in North Winnipeg Chinatown and shared the visions with them. I pointed out the aspect that Kathy, not Neil, was the head of the house, according to the vision. Neither of them had much to say.
I recall in a prior visit, Kathy perceived that I had a problem with trying to figure things out, or that I was trying to make things happen, working rather than trusting. She was right. I most certainly had that weakness, as Marilyn’s dream of the dinosaur showed.
Whether I received this precisely at this time, I’m not sure, but I now realize that the following little statement may have been the first obvious, literal prophecy I ever received (it is the first I remember speaking): “The Kenites must go.”
I had to speak this in Beals’ ears and none other. I knew the words applied to the Beals, but I had no understanding of how they applied or what they meant; I had not yet discerned consciously what the Beals’ true spiritual nature or condition was. They also had no understanding of the words.
The name “Kenite” comes from the root word, “Cain” (kah’yin), which is defined by Strong’s Concordance – #7013, as “a sense of fixity; a lance (as striking fast):- spear.” We know that Cain was the firstborn child whose sacrifice was not acceptable to God. We also know that he murdered his brother Abel. John says that he was “of the evil one” (1 John 3:12).
My understanding of the prophecy today is that our flesh is the first child, and it must make way for the spiritual, the second child by a new birth. The Bible says the child of the flesh is at enmity with God. The Beals were children of the flesh, counterfeit Christians.
I see now that Art and Doreen were worshipping Jesus Christ in the flesh, something totally unacceptable to God. Paul said:
“So as we now know no one according to flesh, but even if we have known Christ according to flesh, yet now we no longer know Him so. So that if any one is in Christ, that one is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 MKJV).
They didn’t understand anything about the things of the Spirit. It was all copycat play on their part. They were opposed to us at every turn unless we were in full agreement with them, which we just couldn’t be.
We left the Beals and headed through Ontario to join Operation Mobilization in New Jersey. On the way, we decided we would stay with any Christians we could find. We needed all the money we had for the amount OM required to join their work, which was around $1,200 for two persons. We had slightly less, about $1,070. These were funds they said we were supposed to have received by faith, however that was. I didn’t quite understand, presuming it was supposed to be money miraculously coming into our possession by willing donors who had no idea of our needs.
It was interesting to see the puzzled looks on the faces of pastors of churches when we knocked on their doors at night and asked if they could provide us with a place to sleep. We offered to sleep on church floors, but were not too welcome. Could anyone blame them? Could they entertain strangers by faith? Would they know if they were opening their doors to angels or devils? Might they be letting in sociopaths, or shutting out messengers of God? I think we ended up staying at a motel or two.
Passing through Kenora, Ontario, we dropped in on Don and Mary Lou Szmon, my mother’s brother and his wife. They graciously put us up for the night, even giving us their bedroom while they slept on the sofa. That evening, however, Uncle Don gave me a surprising reaction, one over which I scratched my head for years. I was having a talk with his oldest son in his room, sharing truths from the Scriptures. Don stopped by at the doorway, spotted the Bible, and blurted out scornfully, “Ha! What are you doing? You? A preacher? Whaa! Who do you think you are? You’re not a preacher!”
What an amazing event that was to me! I was incredulous that one should be accused of pretending or presuming to be a preacher, simply by reading the Bible with someone and sharing truths received. Don and Mary Lou were members of the United Church. That would explain it. Years later I heard that Don was occasionally substitute-preaching for their pastor.
Don’s father, my grandfather, Paul Szmon, had been a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. He had some kind of disagreement with them and left. Grandmother Jessie, Paul’s wife, soon started going to the United Church, while he remained at home, red the Bible, and listened to radio Gospel programs. None of their 15 children believed.
My mother was the firstborn of the Szmons and became Catholic when marrying my father. Recently, Lois, my mother’s younger sister, informed me that their father, Paul, was an alcoholic and drank away their provisions to the point where they were forced to accept social assistance, something of which, Lois says, they were quite ashamed. This was all news to me.
How bad was it? There was far more stigma about being on welfare in those days than today. Nowadays, people financially challenged seem to think it beneath their dignity to have to work, as though receiving welfare is more honorable. Some have the attitude that the government or society owes them. I would see much more of that kind of thinking and become quite disgusted.
On our trip, we decided to see the Canadian capital, Ottawa; we had never been there. While in Ottawa, we checked the phone book for Christian groups and found one. The pastor answered and invited us over; we visited with him, met his small flock, and joined them in one of their meetings. They had the usual “services” consisting of singing, praise, and message by the pastor.
The pastor insisted upon obedience and discipline with his people. His position was basically that if they didn’t wish to obey in all matters, physical or spiritual, they didn’t have the love of God. “He that has My commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves Me…” (John 14:21).
While we agreed with him, we were somewhat uncomfortable with the spirit of the people. They seemed subdued, which in and of itself is not necessarily bad, but the peace, joy, and power of the Lord was missing. The pastor seemed focused more on their obedience than on the Lord.
They put us up for the night in their communal residence. Everything seemed quite organized, strictly maintained, and immaculately clean. Curious about their meticulous ways, I checked behind the radiator for dust and found not a speck. Our room was pristine; there was order and hygiene everywhere, and the people treated us well.
I don’t recall the name of the group. I have no doubt they would be condemned by many others as a cult. Frankly, I would far rather see the order and discipline they had, rather than the “free-spirited” lawlessness and lack of direction one sees nearly everywhere in nominal Christendom, something they call “grace.”
The pastor’s point was that believers in Christ, if they are true believers, would appreciate the necessity of properly attending to the physical, as well as the spiritual, in everyday matters. He was right. One can’t divide the physical and the spiritual and prosper. Nearly every day, we see the consequences of those calling themselves Christians living otherwise.
We headed for Detroit where OM was first meeting. The host church was The Messiah Lutheran, pastored by Dick Bieber, a bombastic Charismatic preacher who claimed to be baptized in the Spirit. His church was in the slums, where his congregation was reaching out to druggies, street people, and generally those living in the neighborhood. It was quite active, but I found there a subtle pall of oppression emanating from a domineering shepherd; not domineering in terms of official policy (on the contrary, I think he would deny it, and his congregation with him), but by his spirit and personality.
I recall his indirect criticisms of Operation Mobilization and its founder, George Verwer. He said OM was preaching overseas when there was so much work to be done right here in America. Marilyn and I believed he had a point. In speaking to him personally, he made it rather clear that if we truly wished to minister, we ought to stay where the need was obvious, right under our noses.
He had done much writing, and his articles covered tables in the church for all to take and read. We were to have another experience with Pastor Bieber later.
Now I shall relate two of the shortest messages I ever received from anyone, yet powerful and abiding. While in Detroit, we were taken to the streets where we met two elderly persons working separately with drug addicts and alcoholics. One elderly man asked about me. I testified that we had received the Spirit. I thought I was relating to him something well worth talking about, until he kindly and gently said to me, “Go on; there’s more.”
The other worker was known as “Sister Lee,” and she delivered the second message. She was an eccentric lady in her late 70’s or early 80’s, dressed in black, and she wore what appeared to be a black Civil War soldier’s cap. She held little meetings in shabby abandoned store buildings in the old downtown area.
In those meetings, she would have someone testify, another preach, and there would be prayers and hymns, involving everyone. She would serve sandwiches later, which she personally made with painstaking care. She couldn’t accept anyone else making the sandwiches; they had to be “just so” for her little flock.
I once sat behind an alcoholic, who was in the front row, while Sister Lee was leading the singing. The man turned around and began to badger me persistently. I didn’t know why, but accepted it as his problem. Sister Lee gave him a swat on the head with her hymnbook and made him stop his disturbance! They respected and obeyed her. Although the free lunches may have had something to do with it, I believe God gave her grace and protection, giving these street people His fear of her.
Her message to me: “What the Lord wants is reality.” Being new in the Lord, I believe that I showed myself quite zealous and religious, and perhaps she felt a need to address my spirit. Those words stuck with me. Yes, reality is what it’s all about, and that would become a driving theme for us. There is much imitation, but little reality; much talk, but little walk; great abundance of religion, but little practicality. I continued to learn the meaning of her words in the years and decades to come.
Dick Bieber had some public praise for Sister Lee, as though she was greatly spiritual, yet he didn’t remark on the fact that she wasn’t attending his church. When asked about it, Sister Lee was diplomatic. Had there been opportunity to talk to her, I believe she would have spoken against formal church systems, ceremonies, hierarchies, and the like of which one finds in Lutheran churches and so many others where reality is invariably relegated to a back pew, if not escorted out the door, albeit with a pious smile.
So often I have thought I should have known better than to think, say, or do so many things. In retrospect, it seems we knew everything concerning our relationship with God from the beginning, but it was a matter of growing and developing in that which we had been given. I would liken it to a seed, which is the complete plant, only to develop.
The process is a battle against unbelief. It is the “good fight of faith” we must win. It’s not about knowledge, but about faith in God, trusting and loving Him.
The Lord has given me several songs and poems. I could never simply decide to sit down and just write one – it was either unexpectedly given or I wouldn’t have it. They were all born of everyday personal experiences, relationships with people, and revelations in our walk with God.
In the beginning, we knew we needed to come away from religious ways and carnal reasonings in order to walk with God. This first song I received, “Walk by Faith,” came while on our way to New Jersey to join OM in 1975. Nothing fancy, but as I contemplate the words, it amazes me how we knew so much while yet babes in Christ, things we seemed to forget or overlook as we walked in faith.
Most of the words came at this time, though not all – the last verse would be added years later.
(Click HERE to listen to “Walk by Faith,” or to read the lyrics. The page will open in another window, so don’t worry – you won’t lose your place.)
Arriving in New Jersey, all volunteers were farmed out to members of a hosting church, a large evangelical one. A lady received us for dinner one evening and a night’s stay. She seemed to be very worldly, yet was somehow interested in what we were doing and why we were doing it. She seemed to think that traveling as we did and going on OM would be too daunting a venture for her. She marveled at our faith. I didn’t feel like we were doing much at all, but she almost made us to feel as if we were saints facing similar circumstances to those of the apostle Paul.
In the night, the Lord convicted me of a critical attitude toward her, so the next morning at breakfast, I found myself apologizing to her. I expected she would be offended, but instead she was so thankful that I would do such a thing.
“God bless you for that!” she replied enthusiastically.
What a wonderful thing when people don’t get offended, especially when one confesses a sin to them that is against them!
Lord, bless that woman, whoever she was, wherever she is.
“Then two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Therefore watch; for you do not know what hour your Lord comes” (Matthew 24:40-42 MKJV).
This happened before our very eyes. We met a couple of fellows, Bill Hinderliter and Tim Herzog. We prayed for them both together to receive the Spirit. Bill received and was marvelously made free, rejoicing, changing right before our eyes as his burden was lifted. While Tim tried to believe that he had also received, we knew it was not so, and neither he nor we could hide it.
Tim was at least disappointed, if not somewhat resentful. Enmity seemed to set in with him, even as Cain’s countenance fell when God didn’t accept his offering.
Bill went on rejoicing, and though we tried to touch base with him later, we failed. I believe he was from Portland, Oregon.
I’ve often wondered if he only experienced the wonderful relief of confessed sin, or if he truly did receive the Holy Spirit. Some day we’ll know for sure.