The Great ‘I AM’ or ‘I WAS’?

The reality of God’s power today. /

Aimee Semple McPherson—known popularly as Sister Aimee—was a Los Angeles-based evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s. She founded the Foursquare Church and was a pioneer in her use of modern media, especially radio. She was a master of rhetoric, as this condensed sermon excerpt shows. The sermon is grounded in her Pentecostal theology; it’s stylized and certainly a period piece. But it still wonderfully conveys the promise of God’s ever-present care.—The Editors

As I ponder and pray in 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 rushing throng in their headlong race toward destruction and attract their attention to the Christ.

Eloquently, instructively, we will tell you of the wonderful power Christ used to have.

“Stop! Stop giddy throng, surging by like a river, take your eyes from the bright lights of the gilded way. 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 1,900 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.

“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!”

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 cobblestones like a mighty throbbing from the heart of the world:

“Ah yes!” sigh the crippled feet from the pavement, “we are not so vitally interested in the sick Christ used to heal, the limbs he used to make straight and strong. We live in the great today. We are very worn and weary. We yearn for healing, hope, and strength today. We stand in need of succor now. 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 AMyes! 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. Whose Name is I AM forever, even unto all generations.

Moses’ Assurance

When the Lord bade Moses to 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 namewhat shall I say unto them?”

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.”

Moses did not need to go about apologetically and say, “The great I WAS hath sent me unto you. 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. He does not do mighty works today. But please come, follow and obey the message of the great I WAS.”

“I AM (not I WAS but I AM) the Lord that healeth thee.”

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.

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. Moses 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.”

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.

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.” 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 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 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.”

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 hath sent me unto thee.”

Thronging to the Great I AM

Again. I see the steepled church. But now the scene is changed.

“Pat! Pat! Pit-a-pat”

The street that lies before 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 over 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.

Burdens are lifted, tearful weeping eyes are dried, the sick are healed, the crooked made straight.

“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 overflowing; 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 over whose threshold runs the ever deepening stream of life. They seek no further, through the briers of the world they have found the great I AM.

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 glistening white. With oil in their lamps and sheaves in their arms they worship the great I AM.

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Also in this Issue

Issue 3 / August 21, 2014
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  2. The True Man

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  3. Why the Moon?

    It appears that beautiful orb in the night sky was not an irrelevant accident. /

  4. The ‘Spiritual Music’ of a Beautiful World

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  5. Wonder on the Web

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