World Youth Day 2008

My Filipino Catholic friend Bobby shared an interesting insight last week – prompted to him by the World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. That occasion proved to be a significant meeting of Catholic and Protestant youth. He watched the broadcast of the Pope’s mass at Randwick Racecourse, where huge crowds gathered on Sunday July 20.

What he came out with surprised me and tied in with a revelation I had back in 1978.

He noted that Protestants place the emphasis for salvation on faith alone. Catholics, he pointed out, believe that faith must be accompanied by works, as is indicated in several places in the Bible.

But, he added, the Bible suggests that neither the Protestants nor the Catholics are right.

Hmmmm ?

He took me to the teaching of Jesus at the end of His Sermon on the Mount.

“Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23

The faith profession of calling Jesus “Lord” is what many Protestants consider to be all that is needed to be saved. They are sure that no works are needed, only faith.

The Catholic position involves both faith, expressed by these people who say “Lord, Lord”, and works. Jesus points out that these people who come to Him have both! They have faith (Lord, Lord) and works (done many wonderful works).

Yet what would suit both the Protestant and the Catholic positions proves to be less than Jesus is looking for. “I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”

Wow!

Bobby saw in this text the fact that God looks on the heart. What God is looking for is not a faith confession, nor appropriate works to affirm the faith. But God is looking at our hearts and looking to see that we have a right heart toward Him.

Way back in 1978 I was standing in the foyer of a small church, during the opening songs, desperate for God to give me a message to preach. I was on a travelling ministry tour, as a Bible College student in New Zealand. The Apostolic church which I was about to preach to included many learned and experienced people. I wanted to bring them a message which would be more than just a rehash of my college lectures.

As I prayed, desperately, for a message, three quick images flicked in my mind. One was of the huge brass laver used in the Tabernacle. That spoke to me of my evangelical roots and the emphasis of being washed clean of our sins. The second image was of the golden lampstand from the Tabernacle. This spoke to me of the filling of the Holy Spirit and all that goes with the Pentecostal experience. To my way of thinking at that time, Pentecost built on all that evangelicalism gave us, thus giving greater power to the gospel and Biblical faith I already had.

The third image, however, completely challenged my respect for both the Evangelical gospel and the blessing of the Holy Spirit. I saw a beautiful young bride, dressed in white, ready for her beloved’s embrace.

The impact of that quick sequence of images, which became the basis of my message that night, was that Christianity is all about ‘Relationship’. The end of our life is not a celebration of our faithfulness to the old time gospel, or our exploits in the power of the Holy Spirit. The culmination is a wedding, not a show and tell session. It’s all about Relationship.

When Bobby shared his insights I saw in Jesus’ words the subtext of relationship again. “I never knew you”.

Christianity is not about fulfilling the religious expectations of our brand of Christendom, but it is all about being in wonderful intimate relationship with God and Jesus Christ, through our faith in the finished work of the Cross and through God’s salvation in our lives.

Sister Etter and the Miracles

This is the day that … Maria Woodworth-Etter was born in Ohio, in 1844.

Roberts Liardon refers to her as “the grandmother of the Pentecostal movement” (God’s Generals, page 47).

In her autobiography she tells how she was converted whilst “going under the water” at her baptism. She was 13 years of age (page 7). Almost immediately she says she heard God’s call to preach – and this in a day when women preachers were frowned upon.

Marriage to P.H. Woodworth resulted in six children being born, five of whom died in childhood. Nor did her husband share her desire for ministry. She divorced her first husband (1891) and married Samuel Etter in 1902.

Sister Etter, as she was known, preached to thousands, sharing the gospel and praying for the sick. Significant for hundreds and even thousands in her meetings was the experience of falling in a trance, akin to the frontier meetings of an earlier time.

In her preaching ‘holiness’ was her initial emphasis. By 1885 she claimed 500 were converted every week at her meetings. Then she began to emphasise ‘tongues’ and ‘healing’. Thousands flocking to her 8000-seat tent meetings.

She wrote many books – including one that foretold the destruction of San Francisco by a tidal wave in 1890! “Thousands fled to the hills because of her prophecy” (Dictionary of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements, page 901). Her book, Acts of the Holy Ghost, impacted many who held it as one of their most treasured texts. One of the Cambridge Seven missionaries, Stanley Smith, gave such testimony.

And most odd were her trances. Sometimes during a service she would “stand like a statue for an hour or more with her hands raised…” (ibid, page 901). To her, “lack of physical manifestation was a sign of apostasy!” (God’s Generals, page 55).

Healing people by “punching them in the stomach” or “whacking them in the neck” was one of her methods (page 73). It is believed Smith Wigglesworth adopted this method from her. He preached in her Tabernacle in Indianapolis after her death.

Whatever one’s theological leaning, Maria Woodworth-Etter must be regarded as one of the most interesting and influential figures in the history of Christendom. She proclaimed the Pentecostal message before Azusa Street and the emergence of the organised Pentecostal groups. Her miracles, preaching and impact did much to open people’s eyes to the restoration of New Testament manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

For a more detailed account of her life and ministry visit: http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/199901/086_woodsworth_etter.cfm

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Donald Gee – Pentecostal Pioneer

This is the day that …Donald Gee was born in London, in 1891.

He was converted at the age of 14, under a Welsh revival preacher, Seth Joshua, who also influenced the young Evan Roberts. When a missionary lady asked him if he would be a missionary when he grew up he was troubled by the question of total surrender to God.

He attended Pentecostal prayer meetings and there met a Baptist minister in need of an organist. Gee offered his services and enjoyed seven years of tutoring under this man of God. During the first world war he had opportunity to preach in a country hall. He promoted the Second Coming of Christ and the Pentecostal experience, which people “tarried” for in those days.

At the age of 29 he became pastor of a Church in Edinburgh, and in 1924 was “one of the 15 foundation members of the Assemblies of God in Great Britain”.  Eventually he was chairman of its board.

His Bible teaching ministry took him around the world.  He founded and edited World Pentecost magazine on behalf of the global Pentecostal movement.

Initially seeing no need for “teachers” in the Pentecostal experience he later came to realise the deep need for clear doctrine and effective instruction. In 1951 he was appointed principal of the A.O.G. Bible College in Surrey, England, where he practiced his conviction on a new generation of ministers. He did much to promote the ministry gift of ‘Teacher’ among Pentecostals.

The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements describes him as “renowned for his judicious counsel and the thoughtful care with which he avoided extreme positions on issues of contention within the Pentecostal movement”.  He was known as “The Apostle of Balance” (pages 330-1).

Lester Sumrall, who knew him personally, tells how Dr Gee “often said, ‘What we need is balance’” (Pioneers of Faith, page 77).

This man of God died in a taxi on 20 July, 1966 – returning home from the funeral of one of his best friends.

At his own funeral John Carter, his friend for over 40 years said, “A gifted writer has laid down his pen. An eminent Bible expositor will teach no more. A distinguished editor has vacated his chair. A renowned author has concluded his last volume. A veteran leader has left our ranks. A great warrior has fought his last battle. Our friend Donald Gee has fallen asleep.” (from Pentecostal Pioneers Remembered by Keith Malcomson)