Reprise Brother Cardinale: ONLY BELIEVAH!

By Fred Pruitt

To listen to an audio of this article, click here: Listen to audio

(I wrote this originally in 2000, then rewrote it completely in 2010, and today when I found it again it struck me that this was a good time to send it out again … )

(Author’s note 2010: The other night on Facebook some of us who all went to church together in Monterey CA in the 70s, were commenting with each other over some pictures of us in those days. Someone brought up Brother Cardinale, the object of this article below, and it pricked my mind because I remembered writing something about him a while back. Looking through some old files, I found it. I started just to do a little simple editing but ended up pretty much rewriting the whole thing, from top to bottom. This is a much added to and much edited version of this that I wrote some time in early 2000, I think. This simple man, an Italian immigrant in the 1920s who came to the Monterey Peninsula to work in commercial fishing boats, had a very big impact in my life. I appreciated him back when I knew Brother Cardinale in the mid-70s, but I appreciate him much more now as the article below will tell.)

In our old church in Monterey, CA during the 1970s, I was part of a crop of young new believers who had come to this church in the era of the “Jesus freaks,” becoming mixed with the old-time Pentecostals who had been there for years. Some of the old-timers were not well-pleased with this invasion of their church by many former street hippies, dopers, etc. Therefore some of them were not very friendly to us. Brother Cardinale and his wife (I don’t remember her name, only “Sister Cardinale), however, were very giving toward us and always having little groups of us over to their little house for supper. We all respected Brother Cardinale because we could tell he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord. But we could hardly understand a word he said because of his thick Italian accent.

At the time he was in his late 70s and had been in the US since the 20s, 50+ yrs, but his accent was still so Italian he was difficult to understand. Janis and I got to know him because he and his wife invited our family (our three were all little then) to dinner several times. They always served pot-roast or spaghetti and Brother Cardinale always wanted us to eat far more than we could. We’d be full to bursting but he would still stand over us and say “monja, monja (eat, eat)!” We never left Brother and Sister Cardinale’s house feeling hungry.

In services he stood up to testify a lot and he always had the same testimony. He told the story of being a terrible sinner in his youth. You could only pick out bits and pieces of it, but he would always come to the climax of his testimony and say how Jesus said to him, when he was passing by a Pentecostal church, “Git in dat chuch!” So he listened to the voice and went inside. There he met Jesus and began his life-long walk with Him. Then Brother Cardinale would end his testimony every time with the sum total of all that he’d learned over the 50 or so years of his walk with God, “ONLY BELIEVAH” (in Italian accent), ONLY BELIEVAH, ONLY BELIEVAH!!!! …. ONLY BELIEVAH!!!!”

After a decades-long walk with the Lord, Brother Cardinale’s sum-total testimony to the rest of us newbies, who at the time were just beginning to learn the ropes of walking in Christ, was simply, “ONLY BELIEVAH!”

It is many years later that I have realized that Brother Cardinale’s lesson has in some way been the pivot anchor point that has brought me through my whole life. Every day, including this day, there are moments of, “Why are you so fearful? But following quickly after comes the Word, “Be not afraid, only believe!””I have a way ye know not of.” And over and over and over and over and over through these past four decades the Lord has proven the absolute certainty of Himself. Just as He proved Himself in Abraham who against sight believed God, not “in” Him, but Him. Believe Him.

Abraham caught the vision and believed the One Who gave it. The LORD had said it, and He could not lie! This was not something he learned at class. How did Abraham so “know” that God would bring His word to pass? Because Abraham knew HIM. He knew Who He was. If you know Him, then you know He cannot lie. What He says IS.

Abraham learned this through the circumstances of his life. It is not something tangible or something that can be described. Instead, it is like looking into the face of all Goodness, Love and Forgetful Forgiveness, and seeing That which we are seeing. Our eyes see! Our ears hear! Once the vision overtakes us, we become part of the vision (because that is what it means to “know”), i.e., our lives express what we have seen there. And then there is no question of any kind. The everlasting arms answer all the questions. Lies, subterfuge, hidden agendas, betrayal cannot exist in that Vision. Because the Vision is not a sight of this world, but an inner consciousness. It is not something “out there,” nor something “for later,” but rather a gift of the Spirit, bringing us into full height. That is how Abraham knew God would bring him through and bring to pass the line containing the Abraham’s Seed which blesses all nations. Then after all those years of believing, yet not seeing, the child of promise whom Abraham had seen in his faith, Isaac, Laughter, is born in the world in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.

Abraham had learned his obedience of faith through the circumstances he walked through all his life. He had been well-schooled by the Spirit, learning over and over through his wanderings in Canaan that the Lord God fulfilled His Word, even though it was a human impossibility.

Because Abraham had misstep or two, he had learned that even if he faltered in some self-fear, as he did twice with Sarah, that not only would God hold him up and walk him through it, He would also be there on the other side to meet Abraham in one more witness that He is The Faithful One – “even if we believe not He abideth faithful, for He cannot deny Himself!” (2 Tim 2:13).

Preachers are quick to point out Abraham’s “errors” and slips into the flesh, but proper behavior is not the point of these stories. The point of all these stories is to see two things: first, how God brought the Seed through the line of humanity from Eve, brought to birth again in Abraham and passed through his progeny down to David, and then finally to the Redeemer, where the human physical line ends. Jesus had no physical offspring in order to point out that His inheritance was not of this world. He had sons of the Spirit, not of the flesh. Flesh cannot beget spirit. Therefore there is no physical hereditary line because it was cut off at Calvary.

The other point of the stories is to see the manifestation of Christ in us and the issues that bring us to our Christ-expressed humanity. That is why we cannot just dismiss Abraham’s forays into Egypt and to Abimilech just as errors to be avoided. There is much more than that to see in the stories.

Because on both of those occasions, when Pharaoh had taken Sarah, and again when Abimelech had taken Sarah, even though Abraham was probably reacting humanly to self-fear, it is not Abraham who is judged. Pharaoh and Abimelech are judged, and out of both situations Abraham left with gifts and an increase of goods. And when they left Abimelech after the wait of the lifetime, Sarah conceives and becomes pregnant with Isaac. What does that mean? What goods?

Of course in the story it is tangible things like cattle, goats, manufactured things, etc., but the real point of the story is that Abraham departed both circumstances on top and increased. Increased with what? The Holy Spirit is not primarily interested in our earthly fortune. Though it may be a sign of blessing, many cattle and goats is not what the Spirit is after in our lives. Abraham went out from both of those instances with an increase of the goods of Christ in Him! The substance the Spirit feeds on is our faith toward God. The reward is not necessarily earthly goods, but instead an opening within us of a new consciousness of Christ, a new seeing, a higher clearer seeing, than before.

Because like Paul, Abraham knew Him Whom he had believed, and because he “knew Him,” Abraham could also testify that he was persuaded that God would keep that which he had committed unto Him against that day” (2 Tim 1:12).

What have we committed unto Him? Ourselves, all that we are. Committed into His hands to use it as He sees fit. By the Spirit we see we are not our own, having been bought with a price, and that all that we are and have now we have received out of Christ and it all is Christ expressed in our lives. Our lives are His business and He manages His Business quite well!

We also see that in this new birth the true source out of which our life pours is heaven, just as Paul said, “Our conversation is in heaven” (Phil 3:30), meaning that all the business that we conduct in our new birth comes out of heaven in us. We are part of that citizenry, and therefore all our affairs are affairs of heaven. Boyd has told often of the sign over Billy and Ruth Graham’s kitchen sink, which proudly declared, “Divine Services Held Here Three Times A Day.” That’s it, isn’t it? Certainly Ruth caught it! It is God co-washing dishes with us, and it is the same God co-standing on the platform with Billy bringing in the sheaves. And everything in between.

These are the true goods, the real Substance, that the Spirit bestows as a gift, as He walks us right into something He knows is going to trip us up a bit. That’s ok. He’s the leader. We don’t know where we are going. We don’t know what the next moment will bring. Except that every step is Christ. Every moment is Christ. We come to “know” this, and keep “re-knowing” it through the daily exercise of our senses, because with each fresh knowing Christ raises us by our consciousness into those heights that we only imagined before. Each “re-knowing” increases the clarity of the vision a little more. This is the way the Spirit brings us along to the “forming of Christ” as us.

Abraham so knew in his inner self the verity of God’s Word spoken to Him, that he also knew he could obey God’s command to give up Isaac for sacrifice, and at the same time he knew would be walking back down the mountain WITH Isaac, alive, when he returned. How the Lord would do it, he did not know, but He knew anyway. In many years’ lessons Abraham had discovered that what is committed and given to the Lord God, the Lord increases and returns it ten times. He knew by his bouts with fear that he could trust the Lord and His upholding even in his slips. And even though his brain was screaming “not true, not true,” because he knew this, he could utter these prophetic words to the servants with the inner certainty of the Spirit, I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” (Gen 22:5)

From the gift of hindsight, I can see that was what Brother Cardinale was testifying to. I didn’t know much about his life, nor would I have understood it if I did. When I was twenty-one I had only an imaginary idea of the world and could not comprehend the experience of those who had gone before me. I didn’t know the things these old saints had lived through to get to the simple wisdom of Brother Cardinale. They “learned obedience by the things they suffered,” (Heb 5:8), and were trained by the Spirit even as the Spirit trained Jesus in Who He was. They had been around long enough to see, not just from a “hopeful belief,” but by living experience, that God is faithful, and in that faithfulness He is Love, mercy and grace, “exceedingly above all we ask or think.”

Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.(Jn 6:28,29)

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (Jn 7:38)

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (Jn 20:30,31)

BELIEVE BELIEVE BELIEVE …. BELIEVE BELIEVE BELIEVE …. ONLY BELIEVAH ONLY BELIEVAH ONLY BELIEVAH ….

Brother Cardinale’s favorite song was “Victory in Jesus.” He might testify in service if we didn’t sing the song, but if we did sing it, was a given that he would stand up and shout and start testifying of the love of God, his eyes closed but looking upward with his hands raised as high as they would go.

I HEARD AN OLD, OLD STORY

HOW A SAVIOUR CAME FROM GLORY

HOW HE GAVE HIS LIFE ON CALVARY

TO SAVE SOMEONE LIKE ME

HEARD ABOUT HIS GROANING,

OF HIS PRECIOUS BLOOD’S ATONING

THEN I REPENTED OF MY SIN

AND WON THE VICTORY

OH, VICTORY IN JESUS,

MY SAVIOUR FOREVER

HE SOUGHT ME

AND HE BOUGHT ME

WITH HIS REDEEMING BLOOD

HE LOVED ME

ERE I KNEW HIM

AND ALL MY LOVE

IS DUE HIM

HE PLUNGED ME TO VICTORY

BENEATH THE CLEANSING FLOOD

Before the congregation would be through singing the song, Brother Cardinale would be on his feet with both hands raised and eyes closed, praising the Lord and shouting and then he would launch into his almost unintelligible testimony ending with, every time, the Lord saying to him ,“Git in dat chuch,” and, “ONLY BELIEVAH, ONLY BELIEVAH” ….

Thinking about this some thirty-five years later, I realize that I have now, what I didn’t have then, which was the experience gained through a life-long walk with God in Christ. Brother Cardinale was nearly 80; I was in my early 20s when I knew him. We were separated by a time-gap of 60 years. Nothing in the eternal but pretty darn long around here. I came to realize that Brother Cardinale didn’t get up and shout when they played Victory in Jesus, as great a song as that is, just because he was moved by the music. The man had lived 78 years! Who knows what he had experienced in the struggles and pains of life in family and out in the world? No matter what we do, success or failure, it beats us up!

So here’s this old Italian man, who had been with the Lord all his adult years, standing up and shouting, “Only Believah, only believah!” not because it was just something theoretical to him, but because it had been proved through the experiences of his life. In the struggles he no doubt endured daily in his life, Brother Cardinale had found the Living God faithful to uphold Him and keep him, and an Everlasting Friend.

Brother Cardinale went unexpectedly to be with the Lord in 1976. We lived in a two-room house at the time and our bed was near the front door. Janis and I were taking a nap one Saturday afternoon while the babies were asleep when the pastor’s wife knocked on our front door. She told us that Brother Cardinale had died and asked if we would sing, “Victory in Jesus” with some others, at his funeral. There was no more fitting song. It was a really rousing funeral for all of us, too. Brother Cardinale had won the victory!

Every day at work [in 2000], one of my jobs at this little café is to wash the dishes that we have used all through the day at the end of the shift. By that time of day I’m always inwardly embroiled in the issues of the day, so my dish-washing time is often also my time of meditation and concerns of faith. It had been especially hard one particular week, and while washing the dishes of that day, in a moment the memory of Brother Cardinale and his testimony of “ONLY BELIEVAH,” came crashing into my consciousness. It brought tears to my eyes to remember him and his love for Jesus, as well as all of us. And made me want to dance as well, because in seeing Brother Cardinale summing up his whole life of 78 years with, “Only Believah,” I saw surely the same had become true in and for me. Haven’t we heard that some place before: “Be not afraid, only believe.” (Mk 5:36)?

What can WE do, to work the works of GOD???? “Believe on Him whom he hath sent!”

Believe on Him whom he hath sent!” “Believe on Him whom he hath sent!” “Believe on Him whom he hath sent!”

And where is HE whom HE hath sent??? Here it is – right now, pay attention! – He is in the midst of THEE, in your thoughts, in your heart, in your mind, in your pores, in your skin, in your hair, in your clothing, in your fingernails, in your whimsies, in your sight, beyond your sight – everywhere you are is the Holy of Holies, because He is the Holiness and He is His own Heaven right in your middle. God is in you and because of that you are no longer of the earth, but having been joined with Christ as an heir of God in His inheritance, the life you live streams out of this heaven in your center.

Do not judge by what your physical eyes and ears tell you. If you are His, then you live a Spirit-led life, often without even knowing it. Even the stiff-necked children of Israel, with whom God was displeased because of their unbelief, led a 40 years Spirit-led life in the desert of Sinai. God led them by a cloud in the day and a pillar of fire in the night. When the cloud or fire moved, the people struck camp and in an orderly well-defined manner, tribe by tribe, family by family, followed the leading, whether it turned left or right, or back the way it came. When the cloud and fire stopped, the people set up camp and carried on in the camp in their business until the next time there was divine movement. Why were they so sustained and led even though God had “cursed” the whole generation to die in the wilderness for their unbelief? It is because they are still God’s chosen. Their unbelief did not undo that eternal proclamation that little Israel, the least of the nations, would be the apple of His eye.

But Israel still had much to see before he could move into his inheritance and possess his possessions. By the time they came again to the Jordan after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, all that had been of Egypt had been discarded in the desert, and it now was a purged nation, a pure nation, a new nation, ready to cross over Jordan on dry ground and move into its divine inheritance.

What does that mean, He is in my middle? It means that He is at the center of everything. He is love at the center of everything. He is life at the center of everything. He is joy at the center of everything. He is holy laughter in the center of each and every thing. He is death and resurrection in the center of everything.

And where this goes on is in you and in me. Whether full or hungry. Whether abased our abounding. Whether rich or poor. All of it is our continuation of the “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our lives” (2 Cor 4:10-11).

And HE IS the victory – now — in this current present moment! Do you hear? “Victory” is not an event, but a Person! Do you see it? “This is the way of the Lord, walk ye in it!” How do we know the way? “I Am The Way.”

Not because we are faithful, but because He is faithful, we have been taken in our consciousness (understanding) by the Spirit from “believing it,” to “knowing it.” What is the difference? Quite simply it is the gift of consciousness, moving us from one consciousness to another.

But because the Spirit inside us has caused us inwardly to be fixed in our knowing, we then trust Him to walk us through whatever it is, even if it is a field full of landmines and we cannot tell where to place our feet. He is our steps! (“I AM the Way!”) He HIMSELF is the victory in us right now, regardless of present circumstances. No matter what those circumstances are, once our vision penetrates through and behind the tough hard-shell temporal reality of whatever it is – whatever it is – we see God in His love right in the middle of every single thing that appears in our universe. No matter how far or great a thing we consider, even something so big as the supposedly infinite universe, or whether we consider things so minute that we cannot even see them, we will find the same mysterious answer. That mysterious answer is that from east to west and high to low, everything lives, moves and has its existence in the Living God. It is all in Him and He is in everything.

Be not afraid. Only Believe.”

And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2nd Kings 6:15-17)

To bring it down to daily life, Paul gives us the full answer:

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”(2 Cor 4:10-11)

I have learned that the meat grinder never turns off in this life. As Jesus said, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt 6:34), so we get a daily dose. However, it is precisely in that daily dose of temptation and difficult situations, etc., that the real truth is brought out. And the real truth is that God is faithful, and He lives that faithfulness in us and through and as us out to other people. That is because we have this Treasure, the Life of Jesus, the manifestation of the Father, the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, in the earthen vessels that we are.

ONLY BELIEVAH!!!!!!

All things are possible to him who believes.” (Mk 9:23).

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