A Calling Without Repentance
By Fred Pruitt
That’s when Phase Two of the Lord’s perfect training course began for us. From then on, we no longer had an outer director for our spiritual life, because this next period of our lives was all about learning to hear the Inner Teacher for ourselves, learning the difference between soul and spirit, and walking in the Living Word.
Those were the exciting Union Life Magazine days, when people were coming out of the woodworks from everywhere to drink of the Lord’s union reality. The air was almost electric in those days. Our conferences sometimes had attendees in the hundreds. During “conference seasons,” which were normally in Spring and early Autumn, there were conferences almost every weekend it seemed like, in various parts of the country, from California to New York. There was a camp every summer where numerous people went with their whole families for weeks at a time, to hear and learn the union message. Where there were no conferences, groups and isolated individuals rose up, desiring the small group of teacher/sharers who were traveling at the time, to come and share with them.
Then that “calling” came rising back up in me. I HAD to be a part of that. It BURNED inside, that I HAD TO get out and share this glorious liberation of our union with Christ. Surely, this was my time, I thought. Then in 1985, after having worked in a yarn mill in Rome for a few years with nothing but “this” on my mind, I left my job and with the folks who eventually became ‘Zerubbabel’ and my friend, Brian Coatney, we started another union-oriented magazine. We began to travel the US together by car sharing everywhere our union with Christ. We went to England, Canada, and almost every state in the union. (Except Hawaii – which I would like to make up for.)
In June, 1985, I left my yarn mill job and we stepped out on the Lord alone for our living, believing first that we were called and therefore God always takes care of His workers, and secondly that we could take Jesus’ words literally when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” And we saw it! We saw the hand of the Lord time and time and time again, as He continually took care of our every need. Even though we were in an organization at the time, we took no pledges, made no financial appeals, had no salary, but trusted in the Lord’s perfect provision through His people, and He was unfailing. Sometimes, actually lots of times, it was very lean, but we always made it through. Other times there were overabundances; there was never a dull moment.
But many will also remember that was a time of tremendous conflict among our little group. For various reasons we began to splinter into factions. One bunch went this way, another that way. Differences arose. Trouble, arguments, disagreements, splits, differences in doctrine, differences in application all began to rise up and be at the forefront. For a couple of years it seemed like it was more that than anything else. Just continual argument and controversy. And I was in the middle of all of it, as vocal for my cause as anyone else. No one wanted to get one of “Fred’s letters” in those days!
But eventually it broke me. I couldn’t keep it up. I began to hate the conflict. I didn’t know then that conflict was part of that sword Jesus came with. (Matt 10:34-39). I knew there had to be a cross to bear, but I didn’t know the conflict was part of it, or at least I didn’t want the conflict to be a part of it. I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, so I fled.
I didn’t really mean at the time to go all the way away, so that I had no contact with anyone from those union days. But that’s what happened over time. We moved first from Hopkinsville KY to Nashville, TN, then back to Rome, GA, finally ending up way down south in Macon from Spring 1994, through October, 2000. All together we were gone from our union friends, with almost no contact during that time, for almost eleven years!
The Word fell silent in me. I never denied Him, but I thought I had failed Him. I thought I had had my chance and blown it. My first pastor had drummed into us that the worse thing one could possibly be was a “John Mark,” about whom Paul and Barnabas had such a controversy, because he left them in the middle of the work. It was tantamount to “taking up the plow and looking back.” (Luke 9:62). I thought I was toast as far as the work of God was concerned. I didn’t think He’d have me back. I thought I was John Mark and that I had taken up the plow, and looked back.
Jesus had other plans, though. And of all things, He used Y2K and our son, Andrew, to open my eyes to Him again. Because, no longer having the testimony of Christ in me in my conscious consciousness, I fell into who I thought I would be now that I was back into being “just me.” Condemnation and fear became my moment-by-moment companions, and in my weakened state that was all I could see. I had lost the joy of my salvation and the inner comfort of the Lord for a time, and it seemed that failure in everything, had become my only reality.
Then in mid 1999, Andrew came like a whirlwind into our house for another stay. He came carrying with him fear about Y2K, and what would happen afterwards. He was convinced we might be at the end of time and was very disturbed for a while. I was so dim in the Spirit then, I had nothing to offer him for comfort. I had no comfort myself, so what hope could I offer him?
But then something started stirring in me. I didn’t work it up. I didn’t look for it. I still remembered the conflict and the pain, and I wasn’t keen on experiencing any of that again. It was like the Lord, who Himself was the instigator and not me, was revealing Himself in me again. It was just a little spark, but I could feel the fire starting to burn again.
I got a spur of the moment thought, and called the Buntings in Louisville, whose annual September (1999) conference was going on at the time. I still remembered their number by heart after not dialing it for ten years. DeeDee Winter answered the phone. She immediately knew my voice – I didn’t even have to say who I was – and then Luli got on the phone. It was like we hadn’t been apart a day! John came with the Kenyan pastor, Jared Mutsembi, to visit us shortly after that, and then all this stuff, all these words, all these concepts, and the Spirit of God, began to rise up in me all of themselves. I began to consciously know again, after I had forgotten it for so long, that it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
By the time the next September rolled around, in 2000, it had all come back. We planned to go to the conference in Louisville, but didn’t have the money and our car was a ramshackle loose questionable frame of rickety nuts and bolts. The CV joints were crackling and Janis asked me if we should make the trip. I said, “We’re going if we have to hitchhike. I don’t care what it takes to get there, we’ll do it.” Somehow the money was provided and we drove the nine hours to Louisville (and back) without mishap or breakdown in our rickety, axle-joint-popping car.
It was almost magic to me to be back with our friends again. I had forgotten the main ingredient in all this, during our days of disagreements and conflict. I had forgotten how the “brethren love one another.” O what a breath of Life it was to be loved again in the Lord. We had dear friends all the days we were gone, but we had not had fellowship in the depths of the Lord in all that time. The water of Life is unmistakable and unable to be duplicated. There is nothing like it, and how gracious of the Lord to fill us again after our wanderings! How wonderful to slake our thirst in that eternal well again!
At the end of the conference, we had our nine hour drive facing us, and as is always the case, I was sitting in the car with the engine running while Janis was saying thorough goodbyes to half the world. Janis was talking to Linda Bunting at the top of their driveway, and when she got in the car she said, “You know what we were talking about?”
“No,” I replied, “What?”
“Luli and I were talking about the possibility that we could move up here and stay with them a while, and you could start traveling with John.”
It’s amazing how one sentence can sometimes change everything. To make this long story short, we did just that, and poor Buntings, they put up with us in their home for six months. And there could be no more gracious hosts than they were to us, and the proof of that is that after we lived with them for six months, we’re all still friends!
Which almost brings me to the present moment. All who get this should know that after we had been here in Louisville for a few years, in 2005 I heard the Word again, that this was the time to step out again into the Lord’s provision for the work He had called me to do.
John had been traveling for the previous couple of years with our precious Dan Stone, who went on to be with the Lord in 2004. That left a vacant spot in John’s car. I couldn’t possibly fill Dan’s place, but the Lord graciously put me in the seat anyway, and for nearly 13 years John and I, often accompanied by Boyd Williams or others, have been traveling and sharing everywhere we go the sufficiency of Christ in our present moment lives, along with the almost unbelievable but true fact, that we living are Christ living.
But this time, it wasn’t as I had remembered it from my previous days in the 80s. It had been so electric then, and there weren’t enough of us “teacher/sharers” to get around to everybody, because so many were coming up and wanting to know. Now there seemed only a few who were interested. Many from the old days had gone on to glory, and some had lost interest and were into other things. Not a few were willing for us to come by, but weren’t especially interested in getting into the depths with us. Many remembered the conflicts from the past, and like me, weren’t anxious to repeat all that.
John and I were glad for the ones and twos here and there who were interested, but it seemed so slow, and I wondered how it had gotten like that and what should we do about it. Where had the crowds gone? Why were so few interested enough to have us come visit and share with them and their groups?
We kept talking among ourselves, wondering why we were doing this. We knew we were willing to drive anywhere, anytime, at the Lord’s bidding, to see even one person if that was what we were to do. And more than once we drove hundreds of miles to see one person. I kept thinking of the story John told about meeting the missionary in the mountains of Kashmir. This man, named Irshad Dudah(?), (I know I’m spelling that wrong), was in his 90s. He had heard a commission from the Lord in 1950, when he was getting out of the Indian military, to preach the gospel and live by faith. He had gone back to Kashmir to do just that, and for the next fifty years he walked the mountains for only handfuls of converts, living only by the gifts the Lord sent him through His people.
John met him in 2000 when he went to India, after he and Linda had corresponded with Irshad for about 20 years by mail. John described meeting Irshad like this: “The first thing I saw was his feet. Then I looked up into his eyes, and I saw Jesus.” In his 90s he was still hiking those mountains of Kashmir, and still had only handfuls of converts throughout the region, a region filled with war and conflict and religious controversy, because of the rivalry between India and Pakistan, and between Hindus and Muslims. Everywhere he went, Irshad was respected by the locals as a “holy man,” but I couldn’t get over how he’d walked and labored all those years for only a handful of folks.
I thought, “Lord, if that is what it is to be for us, then that’s ok. You’re in charge of this. Numbers mean nothing. You call who You will, and speak Your Word through us. That’s all we can do. You give the increase and whatever increase you give we’ll thank and praise you for.”
Then the Lord showed me something else.
It’s all about fruit. All that “electricity” that we felt thirty to forty years ago, when things were happening so much and everybody we knew was abuzz about “the message,” was the fruit of a previous generation’s labor. In our group, it was mainly the fruit of Norman Grubb’s labor, and all the rest of us, including the teacher/sharers who went out during that time, were Norman’s fruit either directly or indirectly. Though he had headed the WEC for years whose primary goal was world evangelism through missions, Norman’s personal commission had always been to share our union with Christ. He felt it was a special commission “to the whole church in the whole world,” and we all joined in with him in his commission. For years and years before the 70s and 80s when all this stuff began to flourish, he had traveled the country and met with ones and twos and groups and churches here and there. People hardly understood him. Only handfuls here and there. But he kept on and on. Whoever would have him, wherever they would have him, he would go. He used to take the Greyhound or train or whatever means of transportation he could find. Lots of times his friends drove him around. (Norman never drove a car.)
When I came on the scene, it was all his labor coming to fruition. All of us were basking in the electricity of the Spirit as He brought Norman’s life work into view of all of us, and let us share in the bounty of God through it.
Now the Lord has said to me that what is happening now, is this generation’s time, this generation’s labor, and the time for this generation’s fruition. A tree has fruit, and the fruit falls to the ground and dies, and then a new tree grows, which has its own fruit. God works from generation to generation and is completely new in that generation. We build upon what we have been given from the past. In our case we feel strongly the DNA of D.L. Moody, C.T. Studd, and Norman P. Grubb. Their blood and spirit are coursing through our veins.
But now they have gone and passed the torch to us. They planted us as a new tree of the Lord, which comes to fruition in its own time and way. We cannot rest in the fruit of the past. If we try to we find it rotten on the ground. No, we take the seeds of that fruit, from that tree, and when planted in the ground in the invisible, it becomes soon a new tree, with new fruit, for a new generation, which will repeat again and again.
Now I understand. Nothing is wrong. All is as it should be.
Which brings me to this present moment. We are in the beginning of a new day. This is what I sense. Everyone knows my propensity to draw from the stories in Genesis – Deuteronomy, and this is no exception, except the Lord has now begun to take me across the river into Joshua. For me personally the word is, “You have eaten the manna of the wilderness until now. You have been sustained day by day in heat and cold, hunger and plenty. But the day has come to possess the Land. From now on, the manna has ceased, you will eat of the fruit of the land, even as I told Joshua and the host of Israel.” (Joshua 5:12).
We are trusting, as always, in God’s provision through His people. To share in other people’s resources is a sacred matter, and we are greatly appreciative when anyone shares with us.
People have asked me how they can help with that, and here’s how. Let me start this with a little revelation about the truth of the truth.
I have testified over and over through all these years that God meets all our needs perfectly and on time. Every time I “give” that testimony, I have a little inner tightening in me, a cringe that maybe I’m walking a fine line between truth and untruth. I suppose it’s all about how one would define “perfect.” To me, “perfect” is how everything comes to us, since everything comes to us via the Father. There may be other intermediaries, but the Father is always the ultimate source of everything there is. So, when I say, “our needs were perfectly met and God is always on time,” I don’t mean that in a “flesh-understanding way.” Because to me, it’s “perfect” whether the money comes or not. It’s “perfect” if we get to stay where we live and it’s perfect if we have to move because we cannot pay the rent. (That’s happened four times since we started this in 2005.)
Sometimes the “miracle” is the money not coming, or the car not starting. I don’t mind standing in line with God’s precious hurting ones and being one of them myself. I have had to live many of the “words” I’ve spoken over the years – one of them being Paul’s statement of Phil 4:11,12 – “I have learned to be content in all things …” John Collings is my great helper in pointing out the Lord’s work in me in this. As I came to the realization that like Jesus, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work,” (John 4:34), John Collings told me once when he told me nothing had showed up for me at the storehouse, God was giving me the opportunity to walk what I spoke. Amen, thanks be to God!
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve had actual, real, financial “miracles” many many times over the years. Stuff has come “out of the blue” when necessary, and certainly more than once. Norman said when we live a life of faith, stuff just “turns up.” He was right. It does! (Everything you said about living this life of service, Norman, so far I have found to be true!)
So, please, allow me this little indulgence to give this information below, and we’ll be done with that for now. Thanks to you all for everything!
There are three ways to communicate God’s gifts for our living and work:
For tax deductible receipts, as usual send earmarked gifts in to
2931 Ridge Rd., Ste101-141
Rockwall, Texas 75032
(Make check out to “Apostolos,” and put my name on the “For” line. It goes to General Fund if not earmarked.)
There are some who prefer to send to me directly and that is fine. Please note that we cannot issue a tax receipt for anything sent directly to me. The funds must pass through Apostolos as a designated 501C non-profit organization.
To mail a check to me:
107 Fenley Ave
Louisville KY 40207
For Instant Gratification
I’ve set up a little website with access to Paypal, for the more modern or adventuresome who would like to help online. One DOES NOT have to join Paypal to send to me this way. Just click this link.