The Great ‘I am’ or ‘I was’?

The Great 'I am' or 'I was'?

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 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 the 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' . …"

"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' . …"

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."

By Aimee Semple McPherson

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #58 in 1998]

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