One day, at my next home, I found that the rent of $70 for my light
housekeeping room was coming due, and I had no money. It happened
to be due on my birthday, April 1. In the mail, I found a $50 gift
from my mother, and Marilyn Coles, a university student from the
Bible school, came over for supper the night before and gave me $20,
which she said the Lord moved her to give me. She knew nothing about
my due rent or lack of finances. There was the $70.
Who says there is no God?
The Lord reigns over all things, unbelieving
mothers, friends, birthdays, timing, mathematics… everything.
Me, Not Man”
Now the Lord taught me another lesson, and that was not to ask for,
or expect, financial help or support from anyone at any time. I had
asked one of my former friends and home-owning partner, Dave Miller,
if he would be willing to support me in Bible school. I was refused,
fairly and understandably so.
When I first became a believer, my mother’s cousin Aunt Hazel
Chute of Dauphin expressed joy and thankfulness for it. She promised
me that if I ever decided to go to Bible school or seminary, all
I had to do was ask, and they would help me financially. She and
her husband, Melburn, professed faith in Christ.
Months later, I asked them, and they didn’t help me. They
didn’t offer any explanation other than not being able to afford
it. I quickly learned that my trust needed to be in the Lord. I never
asked for anything again, and as in the example with the rent money
due, He always provided, proving Himself faithful in many tight situations.
Particle –A Spirit of Control
As I got to know and observe Marilyn Coles, I noticed that she was
one to organize, direct, supervise, and control. I saw her younger
brother, Les, chafe at her requests and manipulations, as she compelled
him to pick people up with his Datsun and be involved in church and
social activities. She had only been at Faith Baptist for a couple
of years, but already she was Henry Blackaby’s “right
hand man,” organizing and directing many of the activities,
like Sunday school.
“Right hand man” was closer to the reality
than one may think. I noticed that Marilyn repeated Henry’s
phrases and mannerisms. As he was talking, he, in his peculiar way,
would put forward his right forearm and bob his closed right hand
up and down, with the end of his thumb pointed upward, and say things
like, “Goodnight! (as in ‘Good grief’ or ‘Goodness!’)
We need to (instead of the common ‘must,’ ‘can,’ or ‘should’)
share (not ‘speak’ or ‘declare’ or ‘say’)
some things (not ‘this’ or ‘that,’ specifically,
or ‘the facts’)….”
While Bob Bye (another student) and a few others were
somehow prone to copying Henry’s personal idiosycrasies, expressions,
and mannerisms, Marilyn would mimic both his words and his motions
and robotically. It seemed like a personality
cult to me. I
wondered of them, “Don’t you have personalities of your
own? Must you borrow? Get a life, already!”
Back to the control (from the being controlled) aspect.
once had a Bible discussion with about five of us,
was leading. A girl spoke and then I spoke. I don’t know that
I interrupted; I might have; I don’t recall. Immediately Marilyn
put her hand on me to prevent me from speaking so the girl could
continue. Call it wisdom on her part or social etiquette for the
girl’s sake, I don’t know, but Marilyn was always manipulative,
not only with me, but with all. I didn’t like it, but you wouldn’t
know it by what I did.
Particle –Not Jew-bilant
I had a little insight into my new landlady, Resie Korber, a Jewish
widow. We had talks and she bitterly expressed something she said
many Jews would say: “We Jews are called ‘the chosen
people.’ We say, ‘Let God choose somebody else.’”
I had some knowledge of how Jews had suffered throughout history,
and having lost my family and friends because of my faith, I could
somewhat understand why she said that; however, I felt bad hearing
it. I expected that, one day, Jews would be thankful for having been
chosen of God.
Particle –Students at Christian Training Center
Some of the students I recall at the Christian Training Center were
Bob Bye, a proud and pretentious perfectionist, son of Bill and Grace
Bye, pastor of a church in Edmonton; Randy Wilson from Kelowna, BC,
someone we knew as a “health nut”; Al Niebergal of Vernon,
BC, former addict, cleansed by God’s grace, I am told; Dan
Fishley, a former addict, also cleansed by His grace, and his wife
Dale - Dan was forever striving to have everyone understand things
his way; Pat Martin, a long-haired Catholic hippie from the same
area, the Okanagan Valley, who had done drugs, still drank, and though
religious, was not repentant of his ways; Jean Johnson, daughter
of Baptist pastor Bert Johnson of North Battleford, Saskatchewan
- Bert was also an eccentric inventor; Larry Rempel, a troubled former
Mennonite who became bitter and rebelled (I would see him in that
state three years later at Randy Wilson’s wedding in Steinbach,
Manitoba); Warren Mackenzie, a young zealot who had also been on
drugs in the Okanagan Valley area - he would later despise me for
something God did with me and others (more later); Lane Koster, son
of Len and Ruth Koster (Len was an outreach minister at Faith Baptist);
and his younger brother, Reid, troubled and argumentative, but more
honest and real.
Particle –The Introduction to Organic Food
Harry Roder of Concept-Therapy was one of the first people who alerted
me to eating for health as well as pleasure. Fellow Bible student
Randy Wilson was the first to play a dominant, lasting role in my
life, making me more aware of pollution and corruption in the production,
processing, and marketing of food, and of the consequent necessity
to seriously exercise discretion and discipline in diet. In no uncertain
terms, he encouraged me and others to eat organic. Though we gave
him a hard time and initially did not take him seriously, his words
eventually bore fruit.
Particle –People at Faith Baptist Church
When I moved to Saskatoon, I started attending Henry Blackaby’s
church – Faith Baptist Church. Here are those I recall: John
Doucette (addicted to Coca-Cola) and wife Pat (newly married at
the time); John Lobur, an elderly Ukrainian immigrant and widower
who was quite lonely; Ludwig and Pat Teichgraber; June Schmidt,
who died of cancer years later, we heard; Noreen Workman; Les Coles
(Marilyn’s brother, who later married Noreen); Diane Dingwall,
who later married Bill, a young American zealot on mission to “convert
Canada to Christ”; Paul Johnson, older brother to Jean, who
aspired to be a minister; Joe Pfeifer, who later married Jean Johnson;
Gail Koster; Jan Green, a defensive, if not cynical, woman; her
future husband, Richard Bellamy, who was greatly offended with
my coercive witnessing approach with him (I don’t blame him);
Mrs. Bates, the eldest person there; elder Jake Bergen and wife
Ruby; their sons Gary and Greg Bergen; elder Ken Eagle, who was
greatly offended over my sermon on sacrificing superfluous physical
possessions and comforts to advance evangelism (more on that to
come); elder Lawrence Ashton and wife Jean; Ken and June Fowler,
and their children Rick and Debbie; Harry Strauss and Judy Linton,
who later married; Wayne Andries, an enthusiastic, friendly, young
prankster; Dan Coggins, of Catholic background; Larry Sveinbjornsen,
whose parents we met in Humboldt or Wynyard, whom we tried to help,
the father being alcoholic, Larry being mentally handicapped and
on medications, and the mother, hurting and bitter, seeking help
and not finding it - Henry spent hours and hours with Larry, to
no apparent avail.
Particle –“I Know You Believe You Understand What You
Think I Said…”
One day I gave a lecture, and Harry Strauss, a newcomer at Faith
Baptist, took to heart my call for uncompromising commitment to Jesus
Christ, but it didn’t turn out as I had hoped or expected -
you will hear more of the direction he took. It would be one of the
first examples of how people would take my words, but not my directions
or intentions, which left me wondering what I was doing wrong.
Many have taken the Bible and made up diverse doctrines and religions;
they have taken the apostle Paul’s words and twisted them (2
Peter 3:15-16). So should it be surprising if people interpret my
words in a way other than I intended? Birthing Ishmaels seems to
be a fact of life!
Particle –Fruits of Frustration
Henry spent hours and hours counseling Larry Sveinbjornsen (a bachelor
on medications) without any apparent success. I wondered how Henry
justified the time and energies spent in this way.
Larry smoked and was violently defensive about it. One day, I barely
mentioned smoking in a sermon, and Larry was incensed about it, complaining
to Henry and desiring that nobody in the church ever have the opportunity
or freedom to say anything against smoking again. At one point, he
even physically attacked Marilyn, accusing her of stealing his cigarettes,
which Henry had taken from him and handed to Marilyn.
Baptists and members of formal church structures can only think
and move in externals. It was not his cigarettes, but Larry that
needed removal, either by life-changing repentance or dismissal after
sufficient effort and warning. We would hear more on Larry later.
School – School without the Bible
To my chagrin, I came to realize that in this Bible school, I studied
church history, denominational history, homiletics (the art of preaching),
Sunday school and church administration, pastoral counseling, choir
directing, evangelism, and Greek, but very little of the Bible. I
wanted Bible! Nevertheless, God was dealing with me.
Here again, I came into conflict on some issues in the church, because
I found discrepancies between what they practiced and taught, and
what I found in the Bible. How little I knew the extent of the differences!
Particle –First Sermon Foundational
I recall my first sermon in homiletics class. As a zealous student,
I had fervently prayed that God would give me a message, and He did.
The message was that it was not our circumstances, but our
attitude towards our circumstances that was the issue. It was about accepting
our circumstances and giving thanks in everything. In effect, it
was an acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God, or if you will,
the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
I look back and marvel at what He gave me. It was not common for
one at my stage of spiritual progression to think in terms of giving
thanks to God for everything in all circumstances, acknowledging
that He is over all things at all times. It was a sermon that fellow
students appreciated, one that described a foundational principle
of a walk by faith.
Particle –Marilyn Manifests a Marvelous Might
In the summer of 1974, Henry Blackaby sent Marilyn and me to minister
to students in their mid to later teens at a youth retreat near Lloydminster,
Alberta. Marilyn gave a prepared speech one day, and the students
were quite moved. I don’t know if it was because of a demonstration
she used during her speech by having the lights turned off for a
few seconds to give the people an illustration of spiritual darkness,
or because she had a rapport in spirit with them, as she often seemed
to have with people of all ages, or both. I suspected she had an
anointing of the Spirit of God, at least for the occasion. She manifested
sincerity and care, if not compassion, which they thirstily received.
I was envious and tried to preach to the kids that which I had prepared,
but all it seemed to do was stifle their spirits. It was doctrine
rather than life, the letter without the spirit, the Bible without
love, religion without reality.
Neither of us had the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Future developments
and revelations would serve to teach me the difference between power
of the flesh and power of the Spirit, and the difference between
carnal, human, social, emotional love and godly, willful, spiritual
love. At this time, I had little understanding or knowledge that
these two opposites or separate kinds of love existed, or that one
could be mistaken for the other.
Particle –Down I Go Again
The Southern Baptists believe that the local church is the Body
of Christ. They teach that one is not really part of the Body of
Christ universal unless committed to a local church congregation,
sealed through total immersion in water. Seeing that I had been baptized
in the Alliance Church and not theirs, they did not consider my baptism
Because I was not baptized into “the Body of Christ,” that
is, the local Baptist church, I was not permitted to partake in the “Lord’s
Supper.” Therefore, in order for me to be in true fellowship
with them, I was required to be baptized again. According to them,
it was not “again,” because the Alliance Church did not
believe in being baptized into a local congregation; besides, it
was not Southern Baptist.
Doctrine – Water Torture
I did not think for a moment that my faith or relationship with
Christ was dependent upon being rebaptized (or perhaps even being
baptized once). I knew where I stood on the matter, but I submitted
to their will, believing it was not an issue with the Lord either
On this matter, Marilyn Coles and I had a revelatory experience
while working with the youth in Lloydminster. We were reading the
Bible at 1 Corinthians 12 when we simultaneously realized the truth
of the 13th verse which said:
“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).
We suddenly realized, marveling, what I had suspected in spirit,
that the Southern Baptist doctrine, suggesting that one is not part
of the Body of Christ unless water baptized into a local church,
was error. We were at that time given some subtle notice that our
days as Baptists were numbered. This truth would divide me from the
Baptists, and it would divide Marilyn from them as well, if she embraced
Particle –A Primer on Denominational Division
Opinion is what denominationalism and religious divisions are all
about. One man disagrees with another on doctrine or on how things
ought to be done, so he goes his way and starts his own church. “We
believe in… whereas they believe….”
Henry Blackaby sent us out to “start a work” in Lanigan,
Wynyard, and Humboldt, Saskatchewan. In one of those towns, as
we began Bible studies, word got out to an evangelical fellow who
was already there “starting a work,” reaching out to
the youth of the community, which seemed predominantly Catholic.
He requested a meeting with me and was quite upset.
“We are trying to reach these people for Christ,” he
told me. “I have this youth center set up and kids are coming,
but there isn’t enough work to split up between two or more
churches. It’s going to hurt the cause of Christ. We are
both working for the same Lord. Why should we compete? What are
the people here going to think? It’ll confuse them. Start
a work where there’s nothing happening. You’re going
to spoil everything and waste all the work we’ve done.”
I believe the fellow was of a nondenominational organization, which,
in many cases, is a denomination without a name, essentially the
same as any other – structured, formal, and by concept and
nature, necessarily self-righteous. (Is self-righteousness not
the cause of these gatherings?) I saw his point, yet being a Southern
Baptist, we had some doctrinal differences, which I was erroneously
taught to be important enough to defend and promote. Therefore,
I rejected his argument.
But this situation never left me entirely. There was something inherently
wrong with the divisions in nominal Christianity and what we were
doing to maintain them. Where was the unity of the original believers
at Pentecost? They were one:
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart
and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things belonging
him was his own, but they had all things in common” (Acts
“Now all who believed were together, and they had all things
in common, and they were selling their possessions and goods, and
were dividing them among all, to the degree that anyone had a need.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking
bread from house to house, they were sharing food with joy and
simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the
people. And the Lord was adding to the church daily those who were
being saved” (Acts 2:44-47 EMTV).
Particle –How Can I Learn It All?
I began experiencing a painful dilemma of a peculiar sort. I would
walk into the Christian Training Center’s tiny library, with
no more than maybe two thousand books at best. One of those was Strong’s
Systematic Theology, a large, thick book in fine print, filled with
doctrine and discourse.
I thought, “How in the world will I ever have enough time
to wade through this one book alone, much less all these other books,
and much less all the theological books in the world? Do I not need
to search all things out to conclude what is right and true? I am
not capable of such a thing! Is Calvin right? Is Luther right? Are
any of these men right in all they teach? If so, which ones? Where
shall I go? Who can I truly trust?” This consideration was
very perplexing to me.
Particle –No Man to Help
Nobody, not even the pastors, Henry or Jack, could help me, and
nobody else seemed to mind too much. They seemed quite satisfied
with the direction and schooling they were giving or getting there,
apparently confident that they had the truth (or careless as to whether
they had it). My problem, however, would be solved shortly and in
a most marvelous way.
Particle –Okanagan Excursion
Henry decided to visit some Baptist churches and hold meetings -
have a “revival” of sorts - in the Okanagan Valley in
British Columbia. He took Randy Wilson, Marilyn Coles, and me through
the Rockies in his car in the winter with bald tires – and
I mean baby-bare-bottom bald. There were times we literally had to
push the car to get it up a hill or two. We had originally thought
of taking my new Challenger, but the gas would be more costly, and
the car wasn’t big enough to accommodate all of us comfortably.
We spent a week with a variety of people. One pastor was involved
in interdenominational Charismatic meetings, which Henry and Southern
Baptists considered delusion, if not anathema. The pastor tried so
hard to be loving, patient, and joyful, but he did not venture to
bear witness to Henry or the rest of us, likely expecting to be expelled
if he did so.
We met with another family, the Carmacks, who were struggling with
personal and spiritual issues, not having leadership. The father
(Vern) was a bit of an independent thinker, the children were confused,
and the grandmother was in a terrible state of bitterness.
She once taught Sunday school, and she tried hard to prove herself
knowledgeable to us. She was quite critical and combative. Not a
word came out of our mouths without her confronting us on our great
lack of knowledge, knowledge she thought we were supposed to have,
knowledge which gave her claim to superiority. I hoped I would never
come to be that way.
One of Vern’s boys, a young teen, became somewhat attached
to me. I was sorry to leave him behind. We corresponded for a while
thereafter, but soon lost contact.
Particle –Timothy Two
On this trip, Henry proposed I be his personal disciple, as Timothy
was to Paul. I was flattered to tears, having admiration for him.
Knowing I was someone recent in his life, I wondered who I was, that
I should receive such an honor. I looked forward with excitement
to the prospect; however, my reaction seemed to disquiet him somewhat.
Particle –Banff Young Adults Sunday School
I very much enjoyed the work with the Southern Baptists and relished
the opportunities their work seemed to afford, particularly with
Henry. They had a conference at Banff National Park in 1974, and
Henry asked me to lead the Sunday school class for young adults,
which I did. There were about a hundred attending. There was significant
diversity of thought and perspective, but I was prepared, accustomed
to spending hours on a lesson for classes at Faith Baptist, having
enough material for a full day, never mind a half hour to an hour.
Some there were quite opinionated and not shy to express themselves,
while others were quiet and withdrawn or disinterested. Somehow,
I managed to control the aggressive and draw the reticent to participate.
I was greatly refreshed in that experience and received compliments
for it, comments that were genuine and not the usual polite encouragements
one often finds, especially in evangelical activities.
I mention this event to express that I had great hopes with Henry,
enjoying every minute of it. I aspired to be a Christian ministerial
star some day. Why, I even dreamed that I might become another Billy
Graham, or greater!
Particle –An Uncle Confides
Once when Uncle Fred Molnar drove me somewhere in Calgary, he pulled
over, broke down, and cried, speaking of the insane jealousy his
wife, Delores, had. He said he could go nowhere without her suspecting
that he was eyeing some woman. One day she openly scolded him in
church, claiming he was looking at another woman. He said he was
so embarrassed he never wanted to go to church or anywhere else with
his wife again. Who could blame him?
I could feel Fred’s pain, and I felt badly. The only thing
I could tell him at the time was to look to God, to have faith in
Him. Apparently, Delores was consumed with jealousy and insecurity.
Particle –Challenger Challenged
Al Niebergal was a rather legalistic fellow who criticized me as
a believer for owning my sporty canary-yellow Dodge Challenger. I
did not see it his way, especially when I knew the Lord had given
me the car when I wasn’t looking for it. But because I decided
to work with the Southern Baptists and perhaps further my education
to become a minister, I needed money and not the car, so I sold it.
After using it for a year, I sold it for nearly as much as I had
paid for it, approximately $4200 (I think I paid $4350). I had lived “expensively
at the bottom” with my old Chevy Impala, and “inexpensively
at the top” with the new car I wanted – a principle God
would speak to me about years later.
Particle –Buying Souls out of Hell
Henry asked me to preach one evening while he was away. I chose
to speak about commitment and sacrifice in light of (or darkness
of) eternal damnation. I reasoned with the congregation that if people
were really going to burn in Hell forever, how could we possibly
sit around doing the things we did, enjoying the things we enjoyed,
wasting immensely precious time with so much at stake?
I advised that we should be selling all, including the lamp on our
end table, buying tracts, and handing them out at every spare moment.
A $50 lamp could buy a thousand tracts, I argued, and if but one
person came to know the Lord by those tracts, would it not be worth
it? I also pointed out the tragedy and consequence of not doing all
we could to save a perishing world.
I saw a lot of glum faces. The elders were indignant, and a visiting
young Southern Baptist from Texas, Robert Cannon, could not help
but indirectly take several opportunities to severely criticize me
for imposing “such guilt” on people. He was very upset.
When Henry heard about what happened, he was, as usual, in good
humor about it. “You sure got them worked up!” he laughed.
(I suspect he was rather frustrated that the congregation was generally
passive about reaching out to win souls, and glad someone was stirring
them.) What I said was certainly true, at least in logic. Did the
people really believe most were going to burn in Hell forever? They
certainly did not act like it. Did I believe it? There would come
a day when I knew what I believed.
Particle –Why No Unity of Heart and Soul?
I preached one evening on the Beatitudes, when Henry was away. I
prayed first that the Lord might give me good understanding on that
passage. Then it came to me that there was a sequence; one thing
led to another to another.
Fine to be poor in spirit, but it isn’t enough – one
has to mourn; fine to mourn, but it isn’t enough – one
has to be meek (open); fine to be meek, but it isn’t enough – one
has to hunger and thirst after righteousness. One must also have
mercy and purity of heart. At this point, one is a peacemaker who
will be persecuted.
After the service, Ken Fowler came to me and fairly bubbled over
with enthusiasm. “I never heard the Beatitudes described that
way before! It sure made sense to me!”
But when Henry heard of it, he was visibly annoyed. “I’ve
never seen the Beatitudes that way,” he objected with an apparent
sense of disappointment. He didn’t seem to agree, or at least,
he felt left out and was not happy about it; he didn’t elaborate.
It didn’t occur to me that I should perhaps run my planned
sermon by him before I preached it. He hadn’t said a word about
For one thing, he was away and that is why I was preaching – I
was taking his place. For another, he never asked me to run anything
by him, and third, I believed God gave me that understanding. Did
I need to check it out with him even if he was around? It just did
not occur to me. I was excited about what I had learned and was eager
to share it with others.
The situation made me wonder. What if I was right about my understanding?
What if Henry was wrong? Why were we not in agreement? How do individuals
within a group unite in understanding and be in agreement on their
doctrine? Where was God? Where was the Spirit of Truth, Who was supposed
to lead us into all truth, even as Jesus promised?
Particle –A Hurt Boy
I recall with regret a moment when working with the Baptists, having
been sent by Henry to help Bill and Grace Bye in Vacation Bible School
in Edmonton. A lady and I were gathering children in the city and
bringing them to church for classes. Our front seat was full of kids
sitting beside us and in my lap.
One boy of about eight years (I think his name was Jeremy) was very
hyper, jumping around as we were driving. I tried to calm him, but
words failed, so I secretly grabbed him by the sides of his rib cage
and squeezed his flesh. He immediately quieted down, though he did
not look at me or acknowledge in any way what I had done.
While I did not injure him, I certainly gave him some discomfort.
I am sorry for that. Perhaps it was the right thing to do at the
time, but I feel I broke an unspoken trust and did damage to his
soul, in the Name of God, that he might carry for the rest of his
days. I simply pray that God will take care of him and the spiritual
injury I caused.
I am guilty of so many travesties, I can’t count them, and
they have all pained me. Why, oh why, I ask, did I do, speak or think
such things? Why can’t we realize in advance the implications
and potential consequences of our actions, be right and good and
a blessing to all at all times, and not react as we do in so many