Shut in my closet of prayer today, with my Bible and the Spirit, my Guide, I muse a while o’er its pages, then pray for the world with its throngs who, in teeming millions, walk through this life in need of “The Great I AM.”
As I ponder and pray Jn the stillness, I dream as a dreamer of dreams. A steepled church stands before me a church with open doors. Within it I see the preacher stand; hear his voice in earnest call. But ’tis the throng that flows through the street outside that holds my anxious gaze.
“Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-Pat!”—say the hundreds and thousands of feet, surging by the church doors of our land.
“Pat! Pat! Pit-a-pat!”—hurrying multitudes, on business and pleasure bent.
From out the church door floats the voice of Pastor and Evangelist in an effort to halt the down-rushing throng in their headlong race toward destruction and attract their attention to the Christ.
“Stop! Stop! Giddy throng, surging by like a river, take your eyes from the bright lights of the gilded way,” they cry. “Leave the paths of death, enter our open door and listen while we tell you the sweet though ancient story of ‘The Great I WAS.’
“Eloquently, instructively, we will tell you of the wonderful power Christ ‘used’ to have, the miracles He ‘used’ to perform, the sick He ‘used’ to heal. ‘Tis a graphic and blessed history of those things which Jesus did almost 1900 years before you were born. They happened far, far away across a sea which you have never sailed, in a country which you have never seen, among people you have never known.
“Wonderful, marvelous, was the power that ‘used’ to flow from ‘The Great I WAS.’ He ‘used’ to open the blind eyes, unstop the deaf ears, and make the lame to walk. He ‘used’ to show forth such mighty works, and even manifest them through His followers that the attention of the multitudes was arrested and gripped in such an irresistible way that thousands were brought storming at His door of mercy, to receive blessing and healing at His hand.
“Of course, these mighty works Christ ‘used’ to do are done no longer,— for some reason. Perhaps Jesus is too far away, or is too busy making intercession at the Father’s throne to be bothered with such little things as the physical infirmities of His children, else His ear may have grown heavy or His arm be short, or maybe these mighty works were only done to convince the doubters in that day, and since we have no doubters (?) in this civilized day and age, the miraculous has passed away and is no longer necessary.
“At any rate the fact remains that the signs and wonders which He once declared should accompany His preached Word (Mark 16) are seen no longer. The power He once displayed, till the glory of His majesty and love in coming to destroy the works of the devil, flashed and played through the gloom like the lightnings around Mount Sinai, is now dark, cold, dead. And, as for the visible manifestation of His power, we are left desolate as though the light which once shone in the darkness had gone out.
“Come, come to this attractive feast, unheeding sinners. Turn now from your Sunday golf, fishing, theatres and novels! Come enter our doors that I may tell you the story of ‘The Great I WAS, ‘ and the power that ‘used” to be.” But—
“Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat!”—On go the thousands of feet; on to the movie and on to the dance; on to the office, the club and the bank.
“Pat! Pat! Pit-a-pat!” “Why don’t you stop your wayward feet? Do, you not know that you are headed for sorrow? Why is it that the theatre is o’er-flowing whilst our pews are empty and bare?”
“Pat! Pat! Pat! Pit-a-pat!” “Oh, stop a moment, the maddening, ceaseless, pattering of multitudinous feet and tell me why you take such interest in the world about you and show such lethargy, carelessness and lack of active interest in my story of ‘The Great I WAS’ and the power He ‘used’ to have and the deeds He ‘used’ to do? Why is it that people grow enthusiastic over the ball-game, the boxing-ring, the movies and the dance, while we see no revival of interest or turning to the Christ?”
On and on they go, paying no heed, neither turning their eyes from the glittering baubles beyond.
“Why is it, dear Spirit of God,” I ask, “they do not listen to that dear Brother’s call? They do not seem interested in the power Christ ‘used’ to have. In a steady stream they pass by the church and on into the world of grim realities and the problems which they must face.
“Pat! Pat! Pit-a-pat!”—there are young feet, old feet, light feet, heavy feet, glad feet, sad feet; joyous feet, tired, discouraged feet; tripping feet, lonely, groping feet; straight feet, sick and crippled feet; eager, searching feet; disillusioned, disappointed feet; and, as they pass, a message is somehow tangled up in their pattering, which rises from the cobble-stones like a mighty throbbing from the heart of the world.
“‘Tis not so much what Christ used to do for the world in answer to prayer in bygone days,” they seem to say, “but where is His power NOW? And what can He do TODAY?”
“Ah yes!” sigh the crippled feet from the pavement, “we are not so vitally interested in the sick He ‘used’ to heal, the limbs He ‘used” to make straight and strong. (Of course, we are glad to know that somewhere, sometime, in the distant past Christ healed the sick in far off lands). But we live in the great today—and Ah me !! We are very worn and weary! We yearn for healing, hope and strength today. We stand in need of succor NOW. But you say these mighty provisions for the healing of the body, (as well as the soul), which Christ promised in Psalms 103; Isaiah 53; Matt. 8; Mark. 16; Jas. 5; were not at all lasting, but were mainly for the Jews who lived in other days. And in reality your teaching says Christ’s healing of the sick, when He walked this earth, was not so much for the demonstration of the tender Saviour’s love and sake of relieving the sufferers’ pain and a pity for the sick themselves, as to build up His own cause and make the world believe and, accomplishing this, He withdrew the life line of hope and coiled it up again. So, as the church cannot supply my need, I must pass on in further search of help from another source.”
“And we,” say the tired, discouraged feet, “are also glad that in a far off land, He gave the weary rest; and they, who had well nigh lost the faith and trust in their fellow-man, found truth and grace in Him.
“But you say He is afar off now? That we live in a different dispensation? His promises were largely for the Jewish people anyway? Then there’s not much for us here, so we walk past your door seeking elsewhere a haven of rest and hope.”
“And we,” the glad, young, joyous feet, send up a rippling echo from the pavement, “we are in search of something that can give us joy and happiness today. You say God ‘used’ to make His little ones so happy that they danced and shouted for joy. We, too, want joy! Not the joy that ‘used’ to be but joy of heart today. As it is taken away from the church, we seek it in the world.”
“And we,” say the heavy, groping, lonely feet, “are bereaved and seek comfort and rest. For us the shades of night are falling. The knowledge that Christ ‘once’ dried tears and bare the heavy load is blest indeed, but Oh!, we of today need succor now. Preaching ‘The Great I WAS’ can never satisfy our longings, WE NEED ‘THE GREAT I AM.’
“The Great I AM”—why yes! That’s it exactly! That’s what this old world needs. A Christ who lives and loves and answers prayer today. A Christ who changeth not but is the same today as He was yesterday, and will be evermore. A Christ whose power knows neither lack nor cessation. A Lord whose Name is “I AM” forever, even unto all generations.
When the Lord bade Moses go, call the children of Israel from the flesh pots and bondage, sin and sickness of Egypt, Moses inquired of Him, “When they shall ask who sent me? and What is His Name? what shall I say unto them?” and He said, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. This is my Name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.”
Oh, what a wonderful Name! What a wonderful promise! Glory! Glory! to God!
Moses did not need to go about apologetically and say, “‘The Great I WAS’ hath sent me unto you, His name is ‘I WAS’ because He ‘used’ to do great things long ago. He expended the last of His power in creating the heavens and the earth and all that in them is. He is quite far off now and the necessity for this miraculous manifestation of His power is no longer needed, seeing that all things have now been created. He does not do mighty works today but please come, follow and obey the message of ‘The Great I WAS.'”
Why, I doubt whether they would have followed such a call. The message which Moses bore rang clear and firm — “I AM hath sent me.” He walked with assurance. The solid rock was under his feet. His God was a living God — a miracle-working God. Moses knew his business was to preach and deliver the message God had given him. “The Great I AM” had contracted to back up that message with signs following. “I AM—I AM—I AM!” rang in the ears of Moses every step he took.
Ah ! It gives a servant of God some heart to know that “I AM” hath sent him. No more apologizing. No more hanging the head and resorting to earthly means; no more trembling and fear of failure, no dread now that the crowds will not follow! Head erect, footsteps firm and full of assurance, earthly temple clad with a robe of the majesty and tenderness of the Father, hands pointing unhesitatingly to the way, voice ringing clear and authoritative—”I AM, I AM hath sent me unto you”!
‘I AM’ lives today. He will tabernacle in our midst. ‘I AM’ will deliver us from our enemies. He will guide us by His hand. ‘I AM’ will feed us with the bread from the heavens and give us water from the rock. ‘I AM’ will deliver us from the sickness and the diseases of the Egyptians, saying, ‘If you will walk in My ways and keep My statutes none of the diseases which have been put upon the Egyptians shall come nigh you. ‘I AM’ will lead us into the promised land—”
Oh, the blessed assurance, the authority, the majestic glory of the name “I AM!” No wonder the children of Israel left the flesh-pots and the bands that bound them. No wonder the weary eyes of the toiler looked up with new interest and hope. No wonder that hands which had hung down were lifted and the feeble knees made strong when Moses could promise them that when the Lord said unto those which were weak, “Be strong and of good courage, for the Lord will do great things,” He meant just what He said. He did not have to say, “The Lord ‘used’ to do great things,” but could triumphantly declare, “The Lord ‘will’ do great things; for He is ‘The Great I AM,’ and though heaven is His home, the earth is His footstool where He answers the prayers of His people.”
During Moses’ ministry, the sick were healed, the lepers cleansed, the plague stayed.
Oh, Moses — how we envy you, the great commission, GO! call my people out of bondage into liberty; out of darkness into light; out of sin into holiness; out of sickness into health! But tell us, just when did the day of supernatural, miraculous manifestation of the power of God end?—When did “I AM” become “I WAS?”
Why, little children, “I AM” hath never changed! His power is just the same in this thy day as it was in the days of yore. Did He not say, “This is My Name forever even unto ALL generations”? They who have faith shall see the lightnings of His glory flash in power of answered prayer today, as in the days of old. Elijah and Elisha lived in a day when doubters said the miraculous had passed away and “I AM” had become “I WAS.” But through faith and prayer they proved His name to be “I AM” unto their generations. After the ascension of the Only Begotten of the Father, Jesus Christ, the disciples proved that “He who was dead is alive forevermore”—the Great I AM, who saves and heals and baptizes with the Spirit’s power.
On and on through the centuries, though surrounded by unbelief and skepticism; there have always been the Elijahs and the Peters who have proved that “I AM” is His Name even unto their generation. John Wesley believed that Christ was not only to save but to heal the sick in his day. In his biography he tells of the lame made to walk, cancers which melted away and even a lame horse made whole through answered prayer; thus proving “I AM” to be the Lord’s Name even unto his generation.
Then surely He has not changed at this late hour! Surely, He is the same today. Elijah, Peter, John Wesley and an army of others who had heard and obeyed the message, “Thus shall you say—I AM hath sent me,” were ridiculed and persecuted by those they loved the best. Even so today, though it means being despised and misunderstood, get alone in the wilderness of quiet and stillness before God. Seek His face till your soul is kindled with the flame of love from the burning bush. Get your authority from God. Inquire of Him, “When they shall ask who sent me and what is his name? what shall I say unto them?” Hear His reply, “Thus shalt thou say unto them, ‘I AM’ hath sent me” and let it ring in your soul forever, louder, clearer, more wonderful in its revelation of the ever-living Christ with each new step and turn of the way. Victory is assured and the only solution to the problem of drawing the multitude is to lift up, not the dead, but the living Christ; not the Great “I WAS” but the Great “I AM.”
Thanks! Thanks! for that message, dear Lord. The clouds of uncertainty are dispelled—the shades of night rolled back. We see Thee in a new and glorious light, even as the Sun of Righteousness with healing in Thy wings. “I AM” is Thy Name today and shall be evermore!
“I AM the Lord, I change not.”
“I AM the Lord that hath chosen thee and called thee by thy name.”
“I AM come down to deliver thee and to bring thee up into a good land and a large; unto a land flowing with milk and honey.”
“I AM (not I WAS but I AM) the Lord that healeth thee.”
“I AM He who was dead but am alive forevermore.”
“I AM Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”
How the “I AMS” of the Lord come rolling in, like the billows of a full, o’erflowing sea, whose tide rises higher toward down-bending heavens.
Glory! Glory! My own poor heart is running over like a tiny cup that would seek to hold the ocean! God is speaking in my ears, “I AM THAT I AM.” The earth resounds with His voice. The eternal hills and the mountains swell the song, “I AM shall be My Name forevermore.” And away up yonder the glorious stars of the heaven echo back again “Even unto all generations this shall be my Name.” Angels and cherubim bend low over heaven’s balustrade and sing a new song of inspiration — “Go forth, my child, and this thy cry shall be, ‘I AM I AM hath sent me unto thee’.”
Again. I see the steepled church. But now the scene is changed.
“Pat! Pat! Pit-a-pat”—The street that lies before it is still with people filled. But they are no longer passing “by”—The crowds are passing “in.” They fill the pews and the galleries. They stand in the aisles and climb to the window sills. They pack the doorways and stand on the stairs. The streets and the lanes are filled. The Gospel nets are full to the bursting and there is no more room to contain the multitudes that throng the place.
And out o’er the heads of the people I hear the message ring:—
“Awake! thou that sleepest, arise from the dead! The Lord still lives today. His power has never abated. His Word has never changed. The things He did in Bible days, He still lives to do today. Not a burden is there He cannot bear nor a fetter He cannot break.
“Here bring your sins, He’ll wash them away. Here bring your sicknesses He’ll heal you today. We serve not a dead but a living God—not ‘I WAS,’ but ‘The Great I AM.’
“Come young, come old; come sad, come glad; come weary and faltering of step; come sick, come well! come one, come all unto ‘The Great I AM.’ There is food for the hungry, there is strength for the faint; there is hope for the hopeless, and sight for the blind.”
“Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat!” Faster and faster they come! The church is o’erflowing; they are filling the streets. Their faces are shining; in their eyes the light of hope has been kindled by the taper of faith through the preaching of “The Great I AM.”
They are reaching out their hands for forgiveness, for the healing of the crippled and sick. They are thirsting for the joy of salvation; hungering for the Bread of Life. They are seeking the power of the Holy Ghost and something practical which can meet the immediate and pressing need of the great today, and fit them for the morrow. And they have found the source of sure supply in the church—the house of God from under whose altar and o ‘er whose threshhold runs the ever deepening stream of life. They seek no further, through the briers of the world—they have found “The Great I AM” and sing:
“Wisdom, righteousness and power,
My redemption full and sure,
Christ is all I need.”
Burdens are lifted, tearful weeping eyes are dried, the sick are healed, the crooked made straight. Sin-guilty hearts are cleansed and made holy. Empty water-pots are filled with wine. And the cold, worldly church has risen from the dust in garments glistering, white. With oil in their lamps and sheaves in their arms—they worship “The Great I AM.”
Aimee Semple-McPherson (October 9, 1890 – September 27, 1944), also known as Sister Aimee, was a Canadian-American Los Angeles based evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s. She founded the Foursquare Church, and was among the first to bring the relatively new Pentecostal movement to the forefront. She is considered to be one of the first “celebrity” pastors, and had a broad appeal among the social elite in Hollywood and around the world.
Today, she is a viewed by many as a divisive figure, even among Pentecostals. The fact that she was a woman is a problem for many, and her pair of divorces are even more problematic. However, God blessed her ministry in many ways, and the Foursquare Church continues to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Sister Aimee is one of the most intriguing ministers in modern church history. Whether you have a favorable opinion of her or not, her effectiveness for the Kingdom of God cannot be disputed.
For more from Semple-McPherson, you can visit her author page on our site.