The Charismatic Showers Today
It is always encouraging to look back on the wonderful blessings which the Lord has bestowed upon His people. But the past can be a trap. While we should properly rejoice and thank God for the past moving of His Holy Spirit, our major concern should be for the present day, and, indeed, for the future. For the Second Coming of the Lord is nigh, and the Holy Spirit is preserving and preparing His Church for this marvellous event.
When the Lord led His people Israel into the Promised Land, He made them a wonderful promise. However, this particular promise was conditional. The condition was continued obedience to Him. "I will give you the rain of your land in due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn and thy wine and thine oil". (Deut. 11:14).
God honoured His promise. When the Israelites sowed their seed, they awaited the first rain. The first rain softened the earth, and helped in the germination of the seed. It was critical. Without the first rain, the earth remained hard, and the enormous potential locked in the seed was not realised. But the first rain did not, by itself, ensure a bountiful harvest. The latter rain was essential. Rain immediately prior to the harvest ensured a bumper crop.
It might be thought that this "latter rain", the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our day and generation, is particularly a New Testament topic. But in fact, the "latter rain" is a fulfillment
not only of New Testament prophecies, but of old. The patriarch Job yearned for the latter rain. "And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain". (Job. 29:23).
The prophecies of the prophet Joel are now being fulfilled. "Be glad then ye children of Zion", says Joel in Chapter 2 verse 23, "and rejoice in the Lord your God: for He hath given you the former rain moderately, and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month."
The Church as we know it came into being on the Day of Pentecost, with the advent of the Holy Spirit. On that very day, no less a personage than the apostle Peter himself interpreted these events as being a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. This was undoubtedly the initial outpouring of the "early rain". The Divine seed had been planted and nurtured, to be germinated at the time of harvest.
One of the amazing characteristics of Holy Scripture is the dovetailing of the Old and New Testments. The "illustrations" and the "types" of the Old Testament come to life in the New Testament. Under the Old Testament Law, the Jews were instructed to meticulously keep the seven Feasts of Jehovah. In order of celebration, these feasts were:—
The Feast of the Passover
Ancient history, some would say. What could possibly be the relevance of these archaic rituals to the modern Charismatic outpouring? We now know, as the children of Israel did not, that in the keeping of these holiday feasts, they were enacting the whole plan of the dispensation to come; the dispensation in which we are now living.
I have never really expected that my knowledge of these old feasts would provide an opportunity for witnessing. Yet such was the case. A young English girl, newly saved and filled with the Spirit, was attending my Church. She had an enormous love and devotion for God, and was blessed by an extraordinary joyful and happy personality. She was in the employ of a certain Lady Isaacs, the widow of the late Governor-General of Australia, Sir Isaac Isaacs. Sir Isaac, arguably the most famous of all Australian Jews, was the first Australian-born Governor-General.
This young girl's name was Rose, and she was a maid, living-in at the residence of Lady Isaacs. She astonished me one day by informing me that Lady Isaacs wished to meet me, as Rose's Minister. But one doesn't just bowl up to the house of the Governor-General's widow and introduce oneself. I could visualise a very embarrassing situation arising if I turned up at the doorstep on the say-so of the maid. My immediate thought was that Rose's enthusiasm had run away with her. "Rose", I told her, "If Lady Isaacs really wants to see me, get her to send me a note". I then forgot all about the incident, not expecting to hear any more about it.
Not long afterwards, however, I received the requested letter, on Vice-Regal notepapcr, from Lady Isaacs. She invited me to call at her Potts Point address at a specified date and time. In my calling as a minister, I have been called upon to meet hundreds of people. But my usual circle of acquaintances most definitely did not include Vice-Royalty, and my nervousness can be imagined.
I was pleased that Rose answered my knock at the door. She ushered me into the sitting room, and then I met Lady Isaacs. In physical terms she was just a very small old lady, dressed very simply. Yet she radiated a quiet dignity, an authority. Her first question concerned my status. "Are you", she answered, "a minister or a layman?" I assured her of my credentials, and she began to talk about our common acquaintance, Rose. "I've had many maids in my employ over the years" she began. "Some have been a
positive joy, others have been unsuitable. Many have come and gone. But I've never met anyone like Rose. She just lives to please, and nothing is ever a bother to her. She is very respectful, and always has a little spiritual ditty on her lips. I've noticed the scriptures in her room. She has really added something to my life because of the cheerful atmosphere she has brought to the home." I couldn't help reflecting that if all of God's people gave such a witness in their daily work then we would have permanent revival. "I wanted to know the reason for her happiness", continued Lady Isaacs, "and I knew it had something to do with her faith. So, I asked her what Church she belonged to. I was shocked to hear her say 'Pentecost', because Pentecost is a Jewish feast. So I requested your presence to explain this to me." Today 'I am Charismatic" is a common expression. Years ago, "I belong to Pentecost" was the phrase often used to explain one's faith to someone who may not be familiar with the names of the different Churches which make up the Pentecostal Fellowship. Lady Isaacs, as a devout Jewess, was unfamiliar with the word "Pentecost" in any context other than that of a Jewish feast.
"I'm very concerned," she continued, "that this girl should be associated with a good, solid, well-known Church. If she had said she was Methodist, or Anglican, or Baptist, I wouldn't have been •concerned. But I would like you to explain what "Pentecost" is.
This was a great opportunity. I asked her if she would let me explain in my own way. I informed her that my response would centre on the person of the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour whom the Jews did not recognise. "Well", she said, "I'll listen, and form my own judgment, for the sake of my maid, Rose."
I knew that Lady Isaacs was quite familiar with the Jewish feasts. My task now was to explain to her their significance in New Testament terms. For a solid hour I talked, as this fine lady listened intently.
Christ, I began, came to be the Passover Lamb for all mankind at Calvary. Just as unleavened bread contains no yeast, which is a fungus, so Christ was without sin. He was laid in the tomb to
carry away and bury the sins He had paid for in His death on the cross. On the third day, He fulfilled the feast of the First Fruits; rising from the dead as an indication that all who accept Him will one day rise from the dead even as He. Then came the harvest time, as the Holy Spirit fell on the anniversary of the ancient Feast Day of Pentecost. The Day of Pentecost marked the start of God's Universal Church; a new dispensation had been instituted which was to include everyone, both Jew and Gentile. The spreading of the Christian Gospel parallels the Feast of Trumpets; trumpets are a portent of truimph and victory, as the good news is preached to all the world. Those who would hearken to the trumpet call of the Gospel would receive all that the ancient Feast of Atonement implied; they would be reconciled to God and forgiven of sin by the shedding of blood. Under the Law, the blood shed was that of a dumb animal. Christ's sacrifice, His shed blood is a propitiation for all sin, no more are animal sacrifices required. Finally, the Feast of Tabernacles, the last feast in the Jewish calendar, informs the righteous that one day Jehovah Himself will fulfil the prophecies made by godly men, and come from Heaven to make His home and His tabernacle with men.
My exposition concluded when Rose came in to serve afternoon tea. Lady Isaacs had lived a life that was by no means amenable to the message of the Gospel. She had received an orthodox Jewish education, and was completely at home in the rarified atmosphere of politics and the aristocracy. But God loved her, and had arranged for her to hear the Gospel through the lovely and delightful witness of her maid. She agreed to allow me to pray for her. When I had done so, she concluded our meeting with this remarkable statement. "If only my people had known that Jesus was the Messiah, what a history we would have had". Never were truer words spoken. The New and Old Testaments are not two separate books, totally divorced from each other. The New Testament complements and fulfills the Old.
It is vital to note that only in the time of the "early rain", in the time of the initial outpouring of the Spirit upon the early Church, was authority given to complete the Word of God by the
addition of the New Testament to the Old. After the Apostolic I days, no further Divine revelation or instruction was needed for I the budding Church. The "early" or "former rain" was for the sowing of the seed, the completion of the Word of God to guide the Church. The completed Word (the Old and New Testaments) I was the true text book, the only Book of Rules for the Christian.
The Gospels give the Christian a blue-print for his life. He had already made the first step, that of accepting the Christ of the Gospels as his personal Saviour. He must then follow the example of the Apostles, as detailed in the book of Acts, then, and only then, is the Christian able to comprehend and maintain the practical experiences which are detailed and exhorted in the Epistles. And here, a fascinating fact emerges. Without exception, those men of God who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to take part in the writing of the New Testament were men who had been filled with the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal way, the evidence of which was speaking in other tongues. The Biblical blue-print instructs us quite clearly in this area; the evidence of the Baptism is the speaking in other tongues.
Tragically, however, the "early rain" was followed, very gradually by a period of spiritual drought. The sacrificial first love of the early Church began to wither and to die, until it was
represented in Scripture as the prosperous, popular but pompous Church of Laodicea; a Church that was nauseous to the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rev. 3:14-17). But even for this "dead Church" there was hope. "I counsel thee" says the Lord, through John in Rev. 3:18 "to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed . . . and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see". This was the Lord's recipe for the return to spiritual experience, the restoration of holiness and for renewed vision, with charismatic power.
How inspiring then is the prophecy, for us, of Zechariah in chapter 10, verse 1: "Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds (i.e. lightning)
and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field." Wherever Christians are asking and looking for the Lord throughout the whole world, they are being rewarded with the "latter rain" of the Holy Spirit.
THE LOCAL SCENE
In recent years, I have cut down my international responsibilities and activities and I no longer move about the World Fellowship as in times past. So my attention has been focused on the Charismatic scene in Australia and the Pacific. The "latter rain" has begun to fall in many parts of our region.
New Caledonia is an example. During 1975, I was privileged to witness a tremendous revival among the French speaking people of New Caledonia. Many souls were saved, and many were filled with the Spirit. I recall vividly the case of a little old Vietnamese lady who was wonderfully filled with the Spirit. She could speak only Vietnamese, she knew no French, and only her married daughter could understand her. The married daughter was filled with the Spirit in one of the 'great revival meetings, and the old mother began to seek the Lord for the baptism. Suddenly she began worshipping God in an unknown tongue, as the Spirit gave her utterance. Or should I say that it was unknown to her; it was not unknown to the congregation around her, for she was speaking in perfect French. In 1976 we visited the enthusiastic and energetic fellowships of Spirit-filled Christians in Japan and Hong Kong. In 1977 we had fellowship with believers in Singapore. An unfortunate sidelight of that trip was being shipwrecked outside Djakarta harbour, our ship "Fairsky" strayed from its proper course and collided with a submerged wreck. We praise the Lord that no lives were lost.
My own church at Petersham has played a useful part throughout the years. It was from this central Church that the Italian and Yugoslav Assemblies were fostered and formed. From small groups in our Church they continued to increase until they were able to build and secure their own Ethnic Churches, while still remaining part of our own Fellowship.
The Lord is no respecter of persons, nor is He of denominations. Many interested observers from other denominations have attended our services in the past. The Lord, after all, is interested in souls, not in denominational tags. Such an observer, not many years ago, came and went almost unnoticed. What his reaction was to our ritual-free mode of worship of the Lord Whom we both serve I really cannot say. Suffice to say that not long after, I received a phone call from a young Methodist Minister, the Rev. Alan Langstaff. I invited him to my office for a meeting. I had no idea at the time that this young man was to be the instrument whom God would use to open the floodgates of the Charismatic current to many lives. All I knew of him was he had the oversight of a lively Methodist Church in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. As we talked, he revealed he had a God-given burden, and a vision for youth. It was my suggestion that he should visit New York to see for himself the marvellous work being performed there among the teenagers by Rev. David Wilkerson. God really seemed to place His seal of approval on this venture, and it was my pleasure to write a letter of introduction to Dave Wilkerson for him. Alan Langstaff has subsequently provided the leadership which has interested thousands, regardless of Church affiliation, in the Charismatic experience.
At that time, the Reverend Bob Bartlett, an Assemblies of God Minister from Philadelphia, U.S.A., who directed the work of Teen Challenge in that city, was holding meetings here in Sydney. Alan Langstaff, with a hunger for God in his heart, attended some meetings and was impressed by the ministry and message of Bob Bartlett. Alan decided he would like to meet the Rev. Bartlett, but discovered that he was leaving for the United States the next morning. So their meeting was eventually held at Mascot airport, before Rev. Bartlett's plane left. Alan's desire was to visit Teen Challenge in the U.S.A., and Bob Bartlett's advice was to talk things over with me, and then to really find the mind of God on this matter. It was clear that God was going to use this man in a mighty way.
While en route to the U.S.A., Alan was able to be present at a
"Fountain Trust" Convention in England, and afterwards conferred with the Rev. Michael Harper. From this initial contact, Alan organised a Charismatic Convention in January, 1973, at the University of New South Wales. The keynote speakers, Dr. Kevin Ranaghan, Dr. Robert Frost and Rev. Michael Harper adressed large congregations, and enormous interest was created. In June of that year, Alan was called of God to give up his pastorate and take up the running of a trans-denominational organisation, the "Temple Trust". He has taken Christian groups overseas to revival centres. He has organised Conventions which have united all Pentecostal believers. In 1975, he was invited to Rome as an official Protestant observer at the International Catholic Charismatic Leaders' Conference. The "Temple Trust" was founded with the aim of restoring and renewing the Christian Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. A revived and alive Church can then present a mighty impregnated Gospel to a world in desperate need. I am in contact with many Charismatic leaders. All agree that Alan Langstaff has the calling and the qualifications acceptable to all of us. He is a graduate in Architecture from the University of N.S.W. and holds a bachelor's degee of divinity from the Melbourne College of Divinity. Add qualifications to his Methodist Ministerial training, and you have a man who is competent to represent the Gospel of Christ in any interested Christian society. He was converted in 1952 under challenging Gospel of the Open-Air Campaigners, and was ordained as a Minister of Christ in 1969. He is fortunate to be blessed with a wife who shares his concern for spiritual matters, (together, they run the busy central office of the Temple Trust.
It is my firm belief that Alan Langstaff and people like him, Spirit-filled and dedicated to God, represent the spearhead of Charismatic renewal in this country. Australia, it is well known, has a "dead heart". Tragically, this is true in the spiritual as well the geographical sense. But I can sense that the tide is turning. Eventually, the Charismatic wave will sweep over the spiritually dead heart of Australia, making the desert blossom like the rose.
Unfortunately, denominational suspicions do not die out easily. A man seeking to bring all groups together has to be, like Caesar's wife, purer than pure, completely "above suspicion". Consider then, Alan Langstaffs background. A Methodist Minister, baptised in water while visiting the Assemblies of God preacher Don Wilkerson in U.S.A. baptised in the Holy Spirit during March, 1971, while worshipping with a Catholic Charismatic group at Sydney University! Such an ecumenical background gives Alan the credentials for arranging ecumenical meetings. We can only marvel at God's wisdom and timing. I suspect that it would be all but impossible for a Minister from a Pentecostal denomination, however talented and willing, to earn the respect and trust of all Christian leaders. Brother Langstaff, a most unassuming and modest person, is acceptable to all. He is doing a marvellous work for God.
Throughout Australia, other young men are being entrusted by the Lord with great responsibilities and large congregations. Rev. Reg Klimionok has a large Church in Mt. Gravatt, a suburb of Brisbane, and has a promising future in the Charismatic world. His ever increasing Assembly has already begun to outgrow the church building. He has several full-time Pastors to meet and minister to the needs of the people. Reg himself is a tireless worker; intense, watchful, resourceful, insisting that those who profess fellowship with the Lord practise the highest ethical and spiritual standards.
Another young Australian preacher, Andrew Evans, now the Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, has a vibrant church at Klemzig, a suburb of Adelaide. The Church is linked with a number of associated Assemblies, all dedicated to the spreading of the Charismatic message Andrew too has a large panel of fully ordained ministers assisting him in the outreach of the Gospel. Many other young Christians are giving sterling service for the work of the Lord. I have already mentioned the Rev. Don Baker, with his splendid Church at Greenacre on the outskirts of Sydney. I admire these outstanding Pentecostal leaders. I have watched
them develop and mature spiritually since their schooldays. They are backed by more prayers than my own. Of them I say, "Well done", before the Master will welcome them with His "well done". Praise God, who has not forgotten our land "down under".
THE FULL GOSPEL BUSINESS MEN'S FELLOWSHIP INTERNATIONAL
The development of the ministry of the Full Gospel Business Men was like a gushing spring of sparkling water into the Charismatic tide. Mr. Demos Shakarian, the prosperous Armenian-American Californian business executive with many Spirit-filled business associates, felt the prompting of God to make use of their considerable influence. Here were men who exerted a powerful impact on their communities. Why could not the influence of Spirit-filled business men be channelled into the mighty Charismatic tide? Why could not these men be used to bring about a revival?
Demos Shakarian commanded respect because of his sincere dedication to the Lordship of Christ. He gained recognition by the leading and outstanding evangelical leaders. His testimony was eagerly sought, and he was seen and heard on the platforms of the great revival Charismatic gatherings.
I have observed him with Oral Roberts and in the mighty meetings where Kathryn Kuhlman ministered. It was his vision to see the business community so immersed in the bargaining of the world's markets and in keeping the wheels of industry turning, enlisting its consecrated acumen and know-how into the enterprise of the Full Gospel.
Brother Shakarian's vision was that Christian academics, authors and merchants should make their resources available in the great spiritual tide surging through the Church of Jesus Christ. From this busy nucleus, the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International came into being. In America the Fellowship caught on and the newly established Central Administration began to issue charters to the newly established groups.
My Sydney Church was the first to promote interest in this Fellowship and in due time received charter to organise under their auspices. Our City Full Gospel Book Depot distributed "The Voice", which is the official organ of the Fellowship, which soon created interest. Functions and meetings were begum; breakfasts and luncheons were addressed by local and visiting speakers with the up-to-date message.
In the United States the gatherings inaugurated by the Full Gospel Men's Fellowship began to boom and the best speakers and preachers were procured. I was able to attend some of these conventions which were held in the best of hotels, which had spacious auditoriums to seat thousands of businessmen with their wives and invited friends. The glorious presence and the heavenly atmosphere had the approval of Almighty God. These meetings, overflowing with rich blessing, became one of the remarkable features of the Charismatic challenge to the nation.
In Australia the organisation has been consolidated and is functioning in each State under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It has the leadership of Bernie Gray, Ron Oastler and Harold Lawrence, who constitute the International Directors.
A forum on the Holy Spirit held at the University of Sydney with preachers from various Christian groups became the forerunner of the Seminars which today have become a vital part of the Charismatic scene.
It would not be amiss to mention the prowess of the Full Gospel Men's Fellowship in arranging an interview with our Australian Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser, to acquaint him with the objects of this great Christian Businessmen's organisation. He gave them a hearing.
With their earnest forthright presentation, they are a valuable adjunct to the Charismatic promotion of the Full Gospel.