WHY NOT NOW? Miracles of Faith in the Seventies
Faith Under a Big Tent: 1972
It's tonight folks And you have been well primed. The praise of the saints Fills this tent. The man of God has been Deep in prayer all afternoon With some of your pastors. The needs out there Are imposing, The expectation...electric. And Jesus knows, He knows your deepest need, And as many as touch Him Get their answer. 1
C. 2012, Doug Blair
Have you touched Him? Have you felt The pull of His Spirit In the songs? Have you smiled At gleeful looks Of excitement On faces of your neighbours? Have you waited long In faith's craning pause? Well get ready: Some are gonna walk Outa here on new legs. Some are gonna see That loved one for the first time. Some are gonna sense Tumours shift and dissolve. Some are gonna kick The needle or the flask. Or the back-alley's business. But don't look unto This speaker, Heavens NO. Look unto the Master. Touch Him. See what a prayer of faith can do. And your life has been Such a prayer...for years. Now's the time. And if you have committed Any sins, They may be forgiven you. (James 5:15) In the name of the Crucified One. Who is alive now. And for evermore. Come Lord Jesus. Work your work For these dear people. It is all of your mercy. We come like the leper 2
Wanting to be made clean And whole. And all the people said: AMEN.
Rag of a Man
"With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation." (Psalm 91) I can think of another story by that revivalist and master storyteller R. W. Schambach. He was conducting a crusade of several days in an assembly hall and he was approaching the end of the final service. Suddenly he could see a woman of middle age coming down the centre aisle with a look of grim determination and with a bundle in a blanket over her shoulder. She blurted out, "Preacher I got no more time! My man is dying of cancer! Here, look." With that she lay down the bundle carefully and unrolled it to reveal a terribly gaunt but tall man clothed only in his pyjamas. "Pray for him, that he might recover and soon. The doctor has given him only a couple more days. Now, man do what you've been called to do!" She added, "He is a Christian man." The ghostly shape in the blanket nodded and peered at Schambach through watery eyes. In telling the story Schambach interjected that it was one of those times when he had to determine whether he was sent of God "or just went". He applied the oil. The prayer was short although impassioned. He called upon the saints in the hall to add their agreement to the petition. He then added, "God bless you Brother. Woman, take your man home and believe God no matter what you see. I expect you both to come back to 3
another meeting and report." Schambach's ushers gentled the couple out of the hall and toward their parked car... I cannot now remember the interval, but another crusade occurred and a healing line was arranged after the praise and message. At one point a tall man approached Schambach, full and strong, and picked the evangelist up off the ground jumping around. "Put me down, put me down, man! What's gotten into you. I'm having a meeting here!' You've guessed it. It was the man in the blanket, whole and well, and serving in Gospel ministry. He briefly told his story. With that the broadly smiling evangelist interjected, "Pick me up, pick me up, man! We gotta dance!" Never underestimate the power of a stubborn, faithful, praying woman of God.
T.L. Osborn, missionary-evangelist tells the wonderful story of his wife Daisy after a tent meeting in the Far East. The crowds had been dismissed after a long session of praise, preaching and personal ministry, but Daisy could not leave the tabernacle because the presence of the Lord had been so rich. She walked the rows meditating until she noticed a young mother seated with blanketed baby in arms and sobbing quietly. When approached, the young woman could only blurt out, â€œShe has died.â€? 4
Daisy saw the limp form of the little girl and asked to take it from the woman. She began to walk around gently hugging and rocking the child, praying softly for the Father’s mercy and citing reasons why she believed that this innocent little one should be given back life. When prayer with the understanding seemed finished, she launched into quiet prayer in the Spirit, sensing an inner leading to continue. After several minutes the baby stirred and cuddled closer for warmth. Daisy returned the child to her mother, whereupon the woman let out an exhausted, breathy scream. “What was wrong?” “Oh, woman of God, assuredly my baby lives! But my baby was blind. This one sees!” Here we have it! An example of the Lord doing “exceedingly abundantly above all that we might ask or think.” This marvelous grace had been preceded by compassion, submission, courtesy, some uncertainty and the absolute acknowledgment that only God could work. By comparison, how brazen, insensitive and man-honouring some of our socalled revival or renewal meetings appear.
With God, Enough…
The stakes had been driven in Karl's field following a paltry yield of barley. The benches had come from the assembly hall down the town-line road. The posters had been tacked to the post office bulletin board. The preachers in no less than four denominations had announced the special week from their pulpits. And now Brother Fuller was in town, and the opening Friday night just hours away. That afternoon Fuller had brought together two dozen pillars of prayer in the tent and for 90 minutes they had importuned God's visit and power upon their struggling, recession-weary community. He said that the Master in Mark 6 had called His followers out of the everyday into a desert place, a dry place, and there He had performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. 5
Not in the city but out in the desert places. And this is where these faithful people of Oklahoma had found themselves for the last four years. Dusk with its cooling realization had come, and my wife and I, together with another young couple, had secured seats in the front third of the benches under the canvas. All of us felt the weariness of the day drifting away in the anticipation and good cheer of the gathering. The sawdust was underfoot. The banners on the tent wall: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Our friends were new to this experience, but it had not taken much courteous coaxing. A poor second crop. A part-time job disappearing with the closing of the lumber yard in town. A teen-age son in rebellion and mixing with some undesirables after school. The music began complete with fiddles, banjo, drums, accordian and trombone. The old favourites brought a comfort and an encouragement. "Got Any Rivers? You think are uncrossable. Got any Mountains? You can't tunnel through. God specializes in things thought impossible. He'll do for you what none other can do." And then the message from Brother Fuller. Parts of it remain still now, clear in the memory, filled with promise, and filled with the thrill of our young friends stepping forward in response to the call of Jesus: "Enough, friends, to be in His family; To relish in the engagement of real, caring prayer; To know that His Testament bequeathes us Life, unburdened conscience and new spiritual power. To sense foretastes of Heaven. Enough, to see His artistry at break of day; To hear His serenade in the turtledove; His optimism in a youngster's laugh. To thrill at His power in the thunderbolt, In the stinging wind over dry fields, In the deluge that fills the watercourses In mere minutes. Enough, to hear his words of rebuke To the Enemy, the Slanderer, And his underlings who whisper, threaten or foreclose; 6
To understand His assurance that no man, no devil Shall take a child out of His hand. This is our Father, As represented by our Elder Brother. This is salvation, and This is forever." The gathering and the ushering away of new converts. The singing of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee". The dismissal of the assembly out from the tent to the clarity of a sparkling late-summer night sky. The scenes remain vivid and awe-inspiring to us, some thirty years later.
Listen to That Dry Shoulder
Lake* had spent considerable time "preparing the soil" at this auditorium in Pretoria. He had focused on declaration and thanksgiving rather than praise in the early part of the meeting. His spirit was quick with the expectation of God's arrival in power. How different this night had seemed from other village engagements outside the City. There simple faith without distraction had reached out to "touch Jesus" and had been more than amply blessed. Restored hearing. Restored eyesight. Restored sense of smell. A stiff leg made supple and strong. Tonight things were going to happen. He knew it. Scriptures of healing had been shared in all sincerity. Mark. Luke. James' epistle. First Peter. These were promises of Almighty God without expiry date. Lake's references to the compassion of Jesus seemed to be saturated with love and expectation. But then he had noticed a half dozen men entering the back of the room. Smirking expressions. Furtive movements. Trouble perhaps? Probably coming from the levity of the race track down the road. But he would not stop. Not now. A silent prayer was offered in the Spirit. Lake could see at the rear left three individuals of middle age moving forward slowly. Much attention was being given to the woman in the 7
middle, apparently accompanied by sister and husband. Her arms were stiffened out to the front and around as if hugging a large barrel. Lake stepped off the podium to meet them and to usher them to the platform. He was informed that the woman's shoulders had been locked for a terrible period of time. Joints, bursa unworkable. He informed the congregation that Jesus was about to operate. He explained the extent of the poor woman's disability. "Has any one of you never heard a dry shoulder?" Lake looked directly at the men promising trouble. "You sir, come forward if you will. Put your ear by this woman's shoulder as her sister gently rotates it to the extent possible." Many around could hear the frightening grinding noise. The racing enthusiast registered genuine dismay and even sympathy. "Sister stand behind your loved one with your hands on her shoulders while we pray. At the end of praying release her that she might lift both arms without pain in joy and thanksgiving." And so it was accomplished. The hard casing of the meeting cracked open. Hearts were softened. Glory came down. (*John G. Lake)
Thinking again of Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) and a curious internet entry entitled, "The Sad Legacy of Smith Wigglesworth". Sad? What could be sad about a world-wide service for Jesus shining with episodes of divine healing, salvation experiences, deliverances, creative miracles and call-backs from death? [I remember one account in the book "Smith Wigglesworth Remembered" (Harrison House Publishers) where the author W. Hacking told of his first 8
encounter. He and friends were late for a meeting and walked in to find the message in progress. The evangelist was speaking of the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-9) and illustrated with both hands fingering above his head. Back-light from an upper window was giving this gesture a glorious effect. A little bottle of Smith's anointing oil was on the platform floor and in the speaker's wanderings in the heat of the message the bottle remained unharmed. The author was mesmerized by the bottle and Smith's feet. Was every movement and sentence of the speaker according to a heavenly plan?] But I digress. The curious internet entry above told the tale of some "fullGospel" youths with a sick friend whom they took to a crusade featuring healing. They ushered the friend to the fore-front. He received prayer. Nothing happened. They told him of progressive healings as an alternative sometimes to instant miracles. The friend went home and believed as he had been instructed. Over the weeks he was reminded that he had to press in harder, perhaps call a fast, recite the healing verses, "only believe" etc. His encouragers began to sound like his critics. The outcome was a disaster. The affliction remained. The youth came to doubt the faith in general and walked away from Jesus. He had tasted, but ultimately he would not enter in. So much for imitating what we see done by others. God will have original marks on each servant. Anointings will be different. Healings are not inevitable this side of Glory. God will be no man's errand boy just because a particular Bible verse is cited. Praise God for the wonderful fruit of Wigglesworth. Praise God that the Christian annals are full of the mercies of healing. But praise God even louder for the better outcomes of His sovereign will.
Focus of Faith
There’s a resource in the New Birth Which we must take time to feed. It starts slowly, and so humbly, As a small and precious seed. It is faith apart from logic, Over-reaching senses five. Will we dare to act upon it, Let it grow and bless and thrive? We were shown the fine example In true Abraham of old, Who urged Sarah, barren Sarah, To believe what they were told; That by faith their wizened bodies Would beget a healthy son, And would “father many nations”, And thus Israel was begun. Later Moses, shepherd Moses, Who had fled from Pharaoh’s court; ‘Til Jehovah named him spokesman To bring out the Hebrew horde; And to lead them through the desert, Finding food and drink in sand; Clashing with large heathen armies, ‘Til they reached the Promised Land. And Elijah, desert prophet, By whom God would stop the showers; For the crippling of a nation, And for humbling wicked powers. With a stern rebuke from heaven: ‘Your idolatry is wrong!’ And the man of God defeated 10
Priests of Baal, some hundreds strong. All of these had the assurance That the Word of God was true; That the things which He had promised He most certainly would do. And they treasured and they trusted In whatever He had said, From the saving of the nations To the raising of the dead. Now, for us, faith is in Jesus, Not a law or force or creed, But a living, loving Saviour Come to earth to bless and bleed; As the ‘logos’ of the Father, Living Word of God’s great plan To redeem, and reproduce The loving heart of God in man. And before he assumed glory Once again at God’s right hand, Christ assured disciples power To preach faith throughout the land. In His name to cast out devils, And to speak in other tongues; Laying hands on sick for healing, Winning souls, both old and young. Fellow Christians, we have access To His wonderful resource, And can touch the world for Jesus Before history runs its course. Will we dare to exercise it, And not leave it soft and dull? Or will faith again be hung up On ‘the place known as the skull’? HEBREWS 12: 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that 11
was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Move of God
I remember seeing a painting of George Whitefield (1714 - 1770) preaching to a crowd in an English village. The faces of those in attendance registered every possible reaction – mild interest, polite boredom, awkward smirks, heckling, distraction toward the activity of others and some in heavy conviction and mourning for sin. The face of the preacher showed only severe focus on the Word being preached. He was not scanning the crowd for their reaction or trying to tailor his presentation for sake of persuasiveness. He modeled the dedicated, humble messenger of the simple seed of the Word. I saw nothing of debater, salesman or distinguished celebrity. How often do we hear of the ministries of “great men or women of God” wielding some “mighty anointing”. It is as if the sweet ministry of the Holy Spirit and His fruit have been reduced to a commodity like baking powder available for better effect. I am convinced that we are seeing the eclipse of “great personalities” in ministry. God is jealous for His glory. One of a messenger’s greatest fears in service or testimony should be the fear of the praise of men and its debilitating effect. The sower simply, obediently and faithfully scatters the seed. God gives the increase. I am expecting a groundswell of grass-roots love and sharing to be in the next outbreak of revival. We must all be prepared to give the glad report and to offer hands of help.
No More Great Personalities 12
It appears to me that God is shifting. Big ministries and big personalities appear unable to stay out of trouble. Responsibilities get delegated inappropriately. The stroking and praises of men corrupt those once singleminded. The deceitfulness of riches gets in. Might there be a grass-roots rumbling in the neighbourhoods, work places, school yards and small chapels, where the "numbers count" will not get in the way of sincere Commission work (Matthew 28: 18-20)? The key word is compassion, not power. Compassion takes the low road, gets near the suffering and the doubt, and understands. It is not of ourselves. It is a deposit of Jesus into the willing and available. It will still work His work.
Oh, I’ll Be Awright Chile…
Recently I was reminded of all the good Gospel music enjoyed in the late 70’s and 80's with the signature of Andrae Crouch on it. It was a time when we lived close to Detroit and frequently went over for concerts or revival meetings. Names such as Swaggart, Copeland, Cerullo, Price, Bonnke, Jenkins, Grant, Schambach. Crowds were always of mixed colour and mixed expression. It was a learning time of comparative worship. We timid little Canadians were received warmly. Our teenage recollections of the race riots in the 60's evaporated under the sun of the Son. I remember one crusade in particular at Cobo Hall where the praise was rich and unashamed. Hilary and I could hear a delightful alto voice close behind us joining in all the songs without hesitation and with interspersed exclamations of "Praise ya Lode, Thank ya Jesus." At a break in the meeting we had a pleasant conversation with this black grandmother in her upper 70's. She was a frequent attender and familiar with many of the evangelists. Clearly she knew her Bible and she knew her Jesus. After the "seventh inning stretch" the meeting continued for another hour or 13
so and we lost sight of our new acquaintance until dismissal with the milling crowds exiting to the riverside streets of Detroit. She was standing by a pillar out front and "was jes goin' to wait for her grandson for a ride". All alone. Late at night. Dark city streets. Crowds of strange people. Clutching her purse. "I be awright. The Lode is here. Thank you for carin'. See you folks again mebbe. God bless." Her sort of testimony given wherever and to whomsoever, with that fragrance of love, calm, sincerity and faithful expectation beats all the hype that the mega-churches pile onto the record of Jesus to coax an altar call or enthusiastic round of worship.