PART TWO – Pentecost to Israel (cont.)
Young in the Spirit, we attended a couple of meetings at Al and Peggy Ryan’s home on Shellbrook Highway, west of Prince Albert. They were rather charismatic in personality, leading in song and praise, and they were big on Bob Mumford, the entertaining Charismatic champion of the day, playing his video tapes for those interested. Attending were several people from mainline denominations, such as Lutherans, Catholics, United, and Anglicans. We weren’t comfortable there, however. After a couple of meetings, we dropped out.
I was told that the Ryans once lived in Vancouver, where Al worked in a ministry with drug addicts on the streets. Because Al received threats on his life, Peggy wanted no more of it and urged him to leave his work, which I was told they did.
I couldn’t understand that. If a man is called of God to work somewhere, why would he abandon the work to the Devil, especially if he had the power of the Spirit of God, which is what these Charismatic meetings were supposed to be all about? Was his retreat an admission of the powerlessness of God against Satan?
Had Al ever been called to ministry there in the first place? Or had God, not his wife, led him out of there? Had God, in fact, abandoned those slums to destruction after all? I wondered about such things. What would the Lord be doing with us, and what should I expect of Him and of myself?
We decided to attend an Anglican Charismatic meeting led by a priest, Henry Roderick. I don’t recall specifically what I said, something about receiving the Spirit being the new birth, and suddenly he lost it with me, exclaiming, “Are you saying I’m not born again?!” He was very upset with me, in front of everyone. Others tried to smooth things over with him.
I was taken aback, having said nothing of the sort… or, in spirit and essence, had I? We didn’t return, and it wasn’t long before others weren’t returning, either. Many mainline denominations, particularly the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and United churches were trying their hand at being Charismatic, introducing the “latest fad” into their churches, trying to “catch the wave.” Fortunately for them and all, God doesn’t work that way.
Why was “Father” Roderick upset? I’m not sure. He obviously wasn’t born again or he wouldn’t have minded too much being told he wasn’t, not that I was even telling him so. Perhaps he thought he was born again simply because he was a priest with a seminary education and ordination and that nobody had the right to question his spiritual credentials. Perhaps he was losing church members to the Charismatic movement and other churches and was frustrated that he could do nothing to prevent his church’s slow demise.
How good it is to realize that God is in full control and to be able to agree with Him! How good it is to know we don’t have to be God to serve Him! How good it is to be satisfied with His work and judgment, not having to make things happen or try to be somebody we’re not.
We were always on the watch for a spiritual leader we could follow or at whose feet we could be taught. We heard tell of a Gordon Cole in Charismatic circles, so we looked him up in Saskatoon. Gordon turned out to be a young man, somewhat of a hippie, it seemed, who had reportedly received the Spirit only recently, as with us. He had a young fellow as an assistant. Gordon was affiliated with the United Church and associated with the Charismatic movement.
When we met him, we didn’t know exactly what we were looking for, but we didn’t find it. Gordon seemed to be into changing or saving the world. We had no witness that he had even received the Spirit, though it is possible that, in our spiritual youth, we weren’t able to judge.
Gordon and his partner weren’t interested in receiving anything from us, and they had nothing to give us. The visit was brief, and dead. He expressed “Christian” goodwill, with trite sayings like, “God bless,” but the substance wasn’t there. We were looking in vain for a man of God to guide us, and we would never find one, despite the thousands out there who presumed, or were presumed, to be just that.
The motto of the Charismatics, we would hear again and again, was, “Bloom where you’re planted.” The suggestion was that if you received the Spirit while a Catholic, you should remain in the Catholic Church; if while a Lutheran or United or Anglican, remain there.
But where was I planted? I was physically born in the Roman Catholic Church. My employer’s serviceman converted me to Christ and led me to the Alliance Church. From there, I went to a Baptist Bible school, where Marilyn and I met, married, and were baptized in the Holy Spirit, with no credit to the Baptists. The man who left the booklet at our place was a Mennonite, and I don’t know what religious affiliation R. A. Torrey had, who wrote the booklet, except that he was associated with D. L. Moody. Where should I be blooming, especially when none of the physical groups I was with accepted the changes God had wrought in our lives?
God says, “Come out,” but Satan says, “Stay in!”
“Bloom where you’re planted,” has no validity; it is a self-serving statement, and anti-Christ. It is just another device of men to retain their memberships.
We soon learned that the Charismatic movement, within denominational circles, was a counterfeit of the true work of the Holy Spirit. We learned that the true work of Christ was manifest when those persons called and receiving His Spirit were led into truth. They were then willing, indeed compelled, to come out of their home church systems and their darkened ways.
We simply didn’t believe that those who continued in false church doctrines and practices had experienced anything genuine from God. The Spirit leads into all truth, Jesus said. He therefore leads out of all error.
In 1975, we met Gordon and Mary Campbell at a Charismatic prayer and fellowship meeting in someone’s home in Prince Albert. They were members of the Lutheran Church. Gord was a former RCMP officer. They were building a home in the country, with an aspiration to help troubled boys, something along the lines of a boys’ ranch ministry.
One cold wintry night while driving out to their place on slippery roads, we slid into the ditch and all four tires deflated. Gord took them to a tire shop, had them repaired, and paid the bill. I asked, “What do I owe you?”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ll get it from you,” he playfully replied. It sounded ominous, but I accepted and thanked him for the gift.
The Campbells had two or three dogs, and they weren’t being fed, to put it mildly – they were basically left to fend for themselves. They were scrawny and sluggish, their ribs protruding. One day, I decided to pick up some meat scraps for them. When we and the Campbells returned from town, I proceeded to feed the dogs by holding out the meat. I quickly found I had to back off and keep a safe distance away while tossing them the scraps. The scene was almost scary; they ravenously devoured them.
I was dismayed. “Why don’t you feed your dogs? Look at them! They’re starving!” I exclaimed, with as much composure as I could try to muster, given the terrible spectacle before us.
Gord and Mary seemed somewhat alerted to something they hadn’t noticed or paid mind to till then, and seemed a bit sheepish. It was as if their mentality was, “Dogs? Who cares for dogs?” I hoped that from then on, they would provide food for their dogs.
I thought, “How can they be Christians and treat their animals that way?” A Scripture came to mind:
“A righteous one understands the soul of his animal; but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Proverbs 12:10 MKJV).
The time came for Gord to ask us to return the favor he had done for us. They were going to be away for a few days and their home and resident boys needed “babysitting.” They asked if we would do it for them, and we consented.
Whether it was at this time or another, I don’t recall, but while staying at the Campbells’ one night and fast asleep, we were suddenly awakened by loud and angry shouting. Some of the resident boys had “borrowed” one of the Campbell vehicles and went for a “joy ride” in the night. Gord had the RCMP search for them, and when they were found and returned, Gord flew into a rage, cursing and shouting things like, “Is this the thanks I get for all we do for you?!”
I didn’t expect his “boys’ ranch ministry” to last long. We think of doing great things, only to discover that great things must happen to us first, like having our true natures exposed and changed.
Gord and Mary held weekly Charismatic meetings in their new country home. Almost all those attending were Lutherans, dabbling in the alleged gifts of the Spirit and exploring potential freedom from the starchy, formal religion to which they were subjected in their church.
Glen and Bea Bradford came to the meetings for a while, until Glen had a vision or dream in which they were sinking a sand point for water at the Campbells’. The well was filled with snakes. The Bradfords interpreted the well of snakes to represent their meetings and concluded they should cease participating, which they did.
As I look back, had we heeded the warning (I believe the vision/dream was of God) and left with the Bradfords, we would have been spared some conflict, pain, and sorrow soon to come. But we remained; I needed it, having much to learn, and more needed to happen there.
One of the deeper discussions Glen and I had was about the doctrine of the new birth. In experiencing repentance over two years earlier, I was taught that I had been born again, but now I was having a struggle with the doctrine: How is it that one can be born of the Spirit and still need the Spirit to come upon him?
I prayed, asking the Lord to explain to me what had happened to me. I then had a vision. I saw a man lying on the ground, dead or unconscious. Suddenly, I saw him sit up. Then he was enveloped or immersed from above by the Spirit of Life. The first event, repentance, was an awakening, a coming to life or consciousness, and the second was the new birth.
I had not been born again at repentance, as so many others and I had been taught. The baptism in the Holy Spirit was, and is, the new birth. This new birth is what Paul refers to in this passage:
“For also by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, even all were made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13 MKJV).
When I shared this revelation with Glen, he was very excited at first. We enjoyed many truths in the Spirit together. Alas, he wouldn’t remain that way for long. He and his wife had a problem with much of what the Lord was teaching us, especially with the fact that He was withdrawing us from church attendance, as if we were turning our backs on Him. Actually, He was turning His back toward us and we were called to follow Him!
Bea Bradford once tried to tell me that by remaining within the church, they could bear witness of the Spirit to those who had not received. That was one of the first of many times we would hear that lie from those unwilling to take up the cross and follow the Lord “without the gate” (Hebrews 13:12-13).
The Spirit’s purpose and work is to bear witness of Jesus Christ. It is not our job as believers to bear witness of the Spirit. As I observed the Bradfords over time, I saw them growing cold (not to us only, but also to the things of God) and dying.
“Guess what?” Bea once said, months after we had come out. “Things are happening! Pastor Regier mentioned the Spirit last Sunday in his sermon!” As if this moldy crumb justified their refusal of a wedding feast fit for kings!
“Come out from among them and be separate, and do not touch the unclean thing, and I will be a Father to you and you shall be My sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).
But those who choose to ignore God’s call, quote Him as saying, “Stay among them, and mix with the unclean thing, and by you, I will be a Father to them and they will be My sons and daughters.”
God wants obedience, not accommodation, sacrifice, or substitute works. Furthermore, He is not in the business of saving anybody and everybody. His purpose is to save certain souls in this age, not all.
Satan is in the business of salvation as well, but salvation of the flesh. To receive his salvation, people can do as they please, staying in the system God abhors. Glen and Bea and their families, the Bradfords and the Hills, were locked in the system and unwilling to separate themselves. Come time, they would pay the sad price.
As I said, Glen and Bea Bradford owned The Way, a Bible and Christian bookstore. As we continued in our walk with the Lord, I began to realize that almost everything published and sold in such stores is not pleasing or acceptable to the Lord. Christian books, so called, are full of error and contradiction.
The Bradfords couldn’t accept what we were learning. Their reaction was that they would have nothing left to sell if they were to see things as we were seeing them. Bingo! They weren’t prepared to lose their investment in this world for the sake of treasure in the next. They despised the very cross they made a show of acknowledging and selling to others.
I was rather consumed for a time, trying to doctrinally understand the new birth. I talked and talked about it, until Glen could no longer handle it. He felt I was getting unduly preoccupied with nonessentials. At the time, I thought he might be right. As I look back now, I realize God was establishing knowledge and understanding in me concerning the nature of our birth and relationship and duty to Him, which understanding would serve us well in the days and years to come.
One day in the fall of ‘75, after returning to the Homes Canada office from a trip, Glen was very cool toward me. He and his wife avoided us like the plague thereafter. We sought to know the reason why, but they wouldn’t tell us. It hurt very much to be shunned by someone I was fond of, without explanation or consideration of any kind. It is times like these that are harder than anything else I know of in the Christian walk.
I always believed that Bea was preserving her nest, and Glen followed her, as is so often the case with husbands and wives. It was the repetitive manifestation of the “original sin” (read The Vashti-Esther Transmutation. We guessed that they couldn’t accept the conflict between those in the Alliance church and me because of my questioning, learning, probing, and criticizing.
Now comes one of the more joyous events of our lives, but which turned out to be one of the saddest. First, the very good news, and later the very bad.
We shared with Walter and Adeline Hlewka, from the Alliance Church, about receiving the Spirit at their home one evening. Walter was sorely plagued by depression and a constant compulsion toward suicide. He confessed that one day he would have taken a gun to his head in the basement, but the thought of his family finding him with his brains splattered all over the cement wall prevented him.
He and his wife had back problems, as well – neither of them could bend over to touch their toes. Their children were allergic to milk, reacting dramatically at the mere taste.
While confessing sins to prepare for receiving the Spirit, Walter had to openly confess adultery, with his wife present. Having done so, he was free to receive, but first a spirit of suicide was rebuked. Immediately, he exclaimed, “This dark, heavy cloud I’ve had as long as I can remember just lifted off me! It’s gone! I’m free! It’s not there anymore!”
He was overjoyed. The Spirit of the Lord came on him, and he was excited. Adeline was prayed for as well, but it wasn’t apparent that she received the Spirit.
Upon our praying for healing, both Walter and Adeline declared that their backs were healed. With ease and childlike excitement, Walter was able to touch the floor repeatedly, keeping his knees straight, something he said he hadn’t been able to do for a long time, if ever. Adeline revealed that since her pregnancy, she‘d also had back problems and couldn’t lie on her stomach. Suddenly, she had no problem doing so.
We prayed for their children. I told Walter and Adeline to give their three or four year old twin boys a glass of milk each. They took the milk and drank it, without the slightest symptom. The parents were amazed and praised God for these wonderful miracles of deliverance and healing.
Who says there is no God, or that the gift of healing isn’t for today?
This was the first manifestation by us of the Lord’s gift of healing.
An important note on drinking milk: Many who have problems with it are considered to be lactose intolerant; however, the problem is often not with the person but with the milk because of pasteurization and homogenization, which are both detrimental. The Lord healed these children despite the processing of milk, but I wouldn’t recommend drinking conventional milk. If you can, get raw milk or at least low-temperature pasteurized organic milk without homogenization, or do without dairy milk altogether. Pasteurization and homogenization render milk poisonous. (And if you avoid dairy milk, don’t resort to soy milk, which has major problems of its own.)
Days later, on Sunday, in the foyer of the Alliance Church, someone greeted Wally with the usual, “Good morning! How are you?” From a normally quiet, subdued person, they received a sudden burst of energy, a most unexpected and joyous, “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul! Praise the Lord!” Wally said he felt like he was four feet off the ground.
Were people excited to see joy suddenly replace his depression, and victory his defeat? They certainly were, but not for the right reasons. They were dismayed, even afraid. When he told them what happened, they immediately opposed him, condemning it as “Pentecostalism” and of the Devil.
I was surprised. “Who,” I thought, “could possibly rationally argue with the results – the joy of the Lord?” But I was beginning to learn that it had nothing to do with rationality; it was far deeper than that. It was spiritual warfare. My learning was about to take me into deep waters, indeed.
I asked Wally to come to the Campbell meetings and tell them what had happened to him. He came out and gave a charged testimony. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that something special had happened to Wally, whether or not they had known him before he received the Spirit. Others were deeply moved and wanted what he had.
There was a lady at the Campbell meetings who had heard us sharing. Pat Pellerin sought us out and asked to receive. She declared she wanted God’s will, she confessed sins, and we prayed for her to receive the Spirit. In days to come, she was water baptized (immersed) at the river. We didn’t see her again, however.
We were ever eager to see others receive the Spirit. Gord and Mary were two of those people. In sharing with them one evening, Marilyn, Mary, Gord, and I knelt down to pray. We began to pray through the conditions for receiving the Spirit, which R. A. Torrey had outlined in his booklet, “The Baptism in the Holy Spirit” (the wording of which has been changed, unfortunately, in more recent publishings).
When it came to the part of addressing inordinate affection for anything, (idolatry, that is), the Holy Spirit pointed to Gord’s smoking. At first, I thought he was addicted and therefore found it difficult to give up, but it was more than that. Gord wasn’t at all willing to give up smoking, even if the Lord was willing to take the craving away from him, and I was surprised. He didn’t argue that smoking was good, but he saw nothing wrong with retaining his pleasure.
Knowing that he couldn’t receive the Spirit when clinging to another god, we left it, telling him we could go no further. He was visibly displeased, but it wasn’t until the next meeting, a week or two later, that we experienced the full impact of his feelings.
There are those who will condemn or criticize professing believers for smoking. Wally was a smoker, about a pack a day or more. While he wished to quit, and we would have wanted the same, the Lord didn’t indicate it was an issue with him, as He had with Gord. We knew that if Wally continued in faith and obedience, his problem would be addressed, and he would be free in God’s time and way.
Gord and Mary had a son, Dean, a quiet teenager, who took a liking to me as I shared about the Lord with him. I later sold him my stereo set, for which he gave me only a partial payment, saying he didn’t have the money. I let him owe me, but soon found him making another cash purchase on something unnecessary. He never did pay the balance, which was about half the total.
It bothered me. What bothered me was the quandary I was in, trying to do what I thought was the “Christian” thing to do, to not let money matters rule me, to forgive the debt and go on, but I was bothered about being taken advantage of or abused.
I wrote Dean a year later, trying to be “Christian,” yet trying to collect, while trying to be spiritually encouraging. It didn’t work, and I didn’t hear back from him. However, I learned a lesson: Let them commit themselves to you before you commit yourself to them:
“And as He was in Jerusalem, at the Passover, at the Feast, many believed into His name, seeing the miracles which He did. But Jesus Himself did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all, and because He had no need that anyone should witness concerning man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25 LITV).
That lesson would serve us in good stead, but only if we heeded it, which often wasn’t the case.
In sharing Scripture at the Campbells’ weekly meetings, some of the people became quite upset, particularly two women whose doctrines and ideas were contrary to Scripture.
One of the women arranged for their Lutheran pastor to come and deal with me. She pressed me with questions in his presence, hoping I would reply. Rightly or wrongly I avoided conflict, replying circumspectly.
Everyone there was relieved; one woman even shared her thankfulness with me that no conflict resulted. The women who had hoped I would be corrected, as they saw fit, weren’t satisfied.
It is amazing how those who profess to believe in, and worship, the Lord Jesus Christ, and who sing and praise as though they are the very angels of Heaven, can turn so ugly on a dime, with so little provocation, particularly when the Truth is spoken to them.
There came a time at the Campbells’ when I brought up topics and Scriptures that enraged the whole group. I spoke of how one wasn’t saved until receiving the Spirit, that repentance wasn’t enough. Gord took advantage of the situation and bellowed and raged at me, along with several others. “You’re judging! You’re judging!” they angrily shouted.
I was devastated, while he and apparently his wife, Mary, and some of their friends were quite pleased with themselves. He was very offended that I had said he wouldn’t be receiving the Spirit when he treasured his cigarettes above God.
We returned one more evening, but things weren’t the same. I was subdued, they were unrepentant, and we parted ways.