Awesome — and getting better!

That’s how I’d have to describe the past 26 years (OK, I’ll go ahead and admit it – that’s the last half!) of my life. Twenty-six years ago today, I made a decision that changed everything about what living for God meant to me.  In spite of being happy with my church at the time, not mad with anyone, heavily involved in what was being done there, trusting God to help with things that required more of me than my own efforts would produce, I began to feel that knowing God and walking with him could be more in-depth, personal and real than what I’d experienced.

Thinking the answer was to be found in deeper and more full-time service to him, I applied to be a foreign missionary.  Though my credentials seemed to be the type they needed for providing social services through their missions in other countries, at that time I hadn’t found a social work job here that really felt like a good fit, and the prospect of trying that in a foreign land just didn’t seem inviting (those were the only conditions under which I could serve full-time).

Unable to fill the hunger to have more of God through my own efforts, or my understanding of options, I cried out to God in my own way, that if there was something more beyond what I had and knew at the time, then I wanted it. That is the prayer that, if sincerely prayed, will always move God to draw near to you, and show you steps to take in reaching what you have said you wanted.  I must say that I haltingly walked the path at first, for when I stated the desire to have more, I had no idea that “more” would lie outside the bounds of what I was accustomed to in the church I was familiar with.  That may sound like a contradiction, but my point is that I wasn’t unhappy with my church or my denomination at the time, only with what felt like a “ceiling” I had reached in my walk with God.  When (within a week of my asking him for more, if it was available), a woman with the apparent  garb and hairstyle of “holiness” people entered my office building on her first day of work , my response was “Oh, no, not one of those!”

After weeks of her failing to meet my expectations of being pushy about her faith, and badgering me to come to her church (which she never once even hinted at), I relaxed enough to only observe what she was doing:  quietly letting her faith in God and daily encounters with his presence and his power show through in her life.  In that way, she did what the “salt” Jesus spoke of his followers being was supposed to do:  created a thirst in me for more of what was creating the peace, love and joy and power with God I was seeing manifested in her.  Her accounts of praying about something and Jesus so immediately and undeniably answering her exceeded the things I’d felt or heard related in my own childhood (and adult) faith.  I wanted to hear more.  It took my insisting on lunch together for her to open up to me more about her faith, because, as she told me later, the Holy Ghost had not allowed her to feel the liberty to try to invite me to church with her – God knew my heart, and how that would have put me off.  He drew me by her casual sharing of what he was doing in her life.

Well, needless to say, I was much less than anxious to make any big changes, and months actually went by before I, through much study of God’s word, prayer on my own (and for me from other people) and visiting her church (invited by another co-worker who’s attended) to hear the pastor and evangelists preach, that I concluded that what was being evidenced to me was indeed what I was hungry for.  On this date in 1986, I was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of my sins, which is what was told to the first congregation that heard the gospel preached after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension as being necessary for salvation (“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For the Promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:38-39). Before I was only baptized by one who repeated  Jesus’ “Great Commission” commandment (Matthew 28:19-20).  This day, I was baptized by one who obeyed  the commandment, as Peter, Paul, Philip and the others did in the book of Acts.

Though others would try to say this whole phenomenon that was evident in the first church was something that ended after the Book of Acts closed, I say they came too late to tell me that “as many as the Lord our God shall call” didn’t include us today, because he included me.  After being baptized on April 28, I prayed and continued to seek God for the Holy Ghost, and on May 15, I received the “like gift” as Peter, James, John and all the Apostles, as well as thousands of other Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles in the books of Acts.  God filled me with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking with other tongues, and that prayer still works and moves today when I seek God and reach out to him.

The daily walk of prayer that begins in normal everyday speaking voice and attempts to focus on God — who he is, his goodness to us — while shutting out the thoughts of worldly cares, worries, etc., then begins to progress toward feeling God’s presence come into the room as I’ve called upon his name, whether alone or with a group of others praying, then having God’s Spirit speak through me to him in a language unknown to anyone but him, as the Holy Ghost gives utterance (Acts 2:4 ), is something I cannot begin to fully describe to those who haven’t experienced it.  I have no doubt there are many who will read this who have experienced some degree of feeling the presence of God – he draws us to himself and as we respond, we feel more of him.  But I can tell you the feeling of having the Spirit of God flow through a person in prayer and worship, will make the glimpses of him you’ve had before feel like simple sips compared to the river of living water he promised those who believe on him, “as the scripture hath said” (John 7:38).

Anyone gets excited about a “new thing” when they discover it.  I even suppose some had expected my “new religion fever”, if that’s how they saw it, to be about as long-lasting as “new car fever” is for folks, once the reality of new car payments sets in.  But coming to know the realities of the need for daily prayer, for studying the Word of God, for living a holy lifestyle by the power of his Spirit in us (the only way for anyone to live above sin), and for obeying his commandments of faithfulness to him and to his house of prayer, has only added to the fullness and joy of walking with him. Twenty-six years is a long time for anything to keep getting better and stronger, but I assure you that is exactly the way it’s been and still is!  Praise God for his unspeakable Gift.

Are you walking in what your inner-most being longs to have?  Call out to God for what he wants you to experience, and follow as he begins to lead you into his marvelous light! For a free personal Bible Study, or for more information on where to visit the church that I call “home”, contact or visit us at:

First Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ

Bay Springs, MS

Church the way it was meant to be…

So if I feel good about where I am with God, I’m OK…right?

If our emotions are God-given, and God works through them to allow us to feel both joy and sorrow, are they reliable indicators of how we stand with him? Does the Bible teach us to trust everything we feel to signal that we’re in right standing with God? We are emotional creatures, and feeling Godly conviction (sorrow) brings about repentance that’s necessary for salvation. Repenting (turning from our sins because we want to be obedient to God and draw closer to him) certainly allows us to feel better about ourselves than we did when we were carrying the guilt of all our sin. It’s exciting to know we are moving closer to the life God has for us.

On the other hand, people who once were stirred to seek God can sometimes become satisfied with their present states of mind or spirituality, and begin to grow colder and less fervent.  Evidence from the Word of God indicates that these people, too, begin to feel comfortable and good about where they are with God.  Being out of God’s plan is a very dangerous place to be, yet it is exactly where the Enemy of our souls, the Devil, wants us to feel very comfortable.  His job is to influence us not to seek God and obey the Word, and he uses a variety of strategies, including feelings of complacency (“I’m OK where I am; no need to get carried away with this”), smugness (“at least I’m not out there committing murder or drinking up my paycheck”), condemnation (“I’ve messed up too badly; God wouldn’t want me now”), fear (“I’ve known people in churches who were out for their own gain – I don’t want to get mixed up with that bunch!”) and a host of other subtle thought processes to gently move us away from whatever conviction or stirring we have felt about our spiritual condition.

What does the Word say?

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:” 1 John 4:1

“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12, Proverbs 16:25 (Both passages record the exact same statement.)

We are complex, emotional creatures, influenced by all that is around us: what we see, hear, read, and the actions of others.  No man is an island, and often our experiences influence how we perceive God, how God wants us to approach him, and how likely it is for us that our seeking him would pay off for us the way it seems to have for some people.  Most everyone, at least in our area, seem to acknowledge that Apostolic Pentecostal individuals who are really living what they believe have some “special connection” with God, that often they admire (or at least seek out if they really need prayer for an urgent need, which is fine with us, because we really believe in prayer). Few people believe they would be able somehow to meet some requirement they perceive must go along with having that relationship, but not realizing God intends it without respect of persons.

Since God doesn’t force anyone to serve him (which wouldn’t be service at all , but something more like slavery or robotics), he works to draw people to himself.  He said “Draw nigh to God, and he shall draw nigh to you…” (James 4:8), and admonished us that seeking him needed to be “with all our heart” (Jeremiah 29:13) in order to find him.  He promised, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).  The process of seeking God can bring rewards of feeling more of him, generating more desire to seek him. In much the same way as we reward our children for beginning to do what we were trying to show them to do, what we feel in trying to draw closer to God is one way in which we are encouraged to continue learning and reaching for more.  This feeling of having God closer to us because we’re drawing closer to him is wonderful, but must not be mistaken for assurance that we’ve gone as far in him as we need to.  In this case, feeling good about where we are with God is only OK if we continue doing what got us there: seeking for more of God.

It’s a process much akin to falling in love. The process is supposed to work like this: two compatible people meet, a “spark” fires between them, igniting the interest and intense feelings that drive them to draw closer and to know more about one another, to spend time in each other’s presence, and to hardly be able to stand the wait until they’re together again.  Ideally, this begins a process that works itself out in a balanced and continuous manner, where the two build a sustainable fire from this spark: a relationship that will last, even after the initial intensity of the first few weeks or months has died down, as it is destined to do.  Sometimes, though, people mistake the fire and fury of initial attraction for all they are going to have in the relationship, and fail to build a real foundation for their lives together. Others linger too long in the slower-paced phase after the initial attraction: content just to enjoy the company of the other person without following through with a real lifelong commitment.

As God very often in his Word relates our knowing him to our knowing one another as husband and wife, the comparison here is entirely valid.  Many people feel some inspiration when encountering Godly people or when seeking God to some degree, and decide that’s a great place to build a life: even if the feeling wanes and never returns, they stake their spiritual heritage and well-being on a feeling they had years ago, but never continued to follow on to completion.  Others follow a flame for awhile, but grow accustomed to being around Godly people or reading God’s word or going to church, and find that this is sufficient to quell their hunger for God altogether, never following on to a commitment that keeps the source of that initial feeling flowing for them.  I submit to you that although God promised to feed the hungry, he never intended us to stop hungering; he gives drink to those thirsty for righteousness, but he never wanted us to stop thirsting.  What did he promise the woman at the well?  Not a drink of water, but a well springing up into everlasting life.  He died to bring a well, a river, to each one who wouldn’t quit seeking him until they found that source of living water; and I’m proud to say, having found the well, we can still seek him to our heart’s content, having that well spring up within us over and over again!

Feeling good about where you are with God can be a good thing, if it’s signifying you’re looking for more and excited about that process; but if it means you’ve become satisfied with what you have, and you’re not willing to compare where you are, honestly, with a fresh look at the scriptures (never be afraid to peer honestly into the Word of God), then the feelings of being OK are not good, but in fact, are dangerous.  In my own walk with God, I have often found that when I pray more and seek God more, I feel that I need more of the same, not less.  But when I have, for whatever reason, allowed myself to slack off on those things, I actually felt able to be very content with where I was in God.  Fortunately, God has given  pastors and teachers and evangelists to preach to me that this is a very dangerous place to be, and that only in a continuous loving desire to know God more and more, and to allow him to shed forth his love in my heart more and more by the Holy Ghost, would I find the peace and real safety in God that I needed.

So, what kind of “feeling good about where you are with God” are you experiencing?  I urge you to find out for yourself by honestly asking God to show you, and taking steps to find out.  Reading his Word (especially the book of Acts where the birth and establishment of the church  is recorded, and the original plan of salvation being preached by the Apostles is recorded as well). Seeking God where this Gospel message the preached,  of repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38) is preached in love, as is the necessity of living a Godly, holy life, will give you a truer sense of what you are seeking, and of where you are in the process.  I invite you, as always, to seek him with us at:

First Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ

246 Hwy 528 E

Bay Springs, MS

How can I know I’m ready to meet God?

God intended for you to know, though it’s not so “one size fits all” simple, as some would have you believe.

In last week’s blog, I went into detail about scriptures that are not compatible with the doctrine known as “eternal security” or “once saved always saved” (Are you “eternally secure”?). As I said then, this was something I grew up believing, but now no longer can agree with because of what I see in the Word. What I remember thinking, during the time I did believe it, was that not believing it would leave a void that would produce more anxiety than I could deal with. How could a person abide the idea of “not knowing”?

I have found the opposite to be true. When I was in the denomination I grew up in, my understanding of the Godhead, salvation, faith, and assurance of eternal life was actually rather complex. There was so much that I was told. couldn’t be understood, but had to be taken on faith. As noted in a previous blog, What’s up with those Pentecostals?, my belief in what the Bible says about salvation today is much more simple – the Apostles got it right when they baptized in the name of Jesus, and people got the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues, and when we do what they did, we get what they got. That’s a “back to basics” theology that doesn’t rely on someone’s degree in Greek and Hebrew to explain. In God with His skin on?, the simplicity of the concept that God is One and his name is Jesus, which explains why baptism in Jesus’ name answers the commandment of Matthew 28:19-20, was addressed.

The fundamental difference in the two views on assurance of salvation begins with the process of getting “saved” to begin with. As noted above, salvation comes by repentance (being sorry for, asking forgiveness of, and actively turning away from sin), being baptized the way the Apostles commanded (in obedience to the Great Commission, they baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission, or removal/forgiveness, of sins) and then receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (which always comes with the evidence of speaking with other tongues), as preached in Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 10, and Acts 19 to Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles and some disciples who’d only received John’s baptism. Note that the first two elements, repentance and baptism, require us to act in obedience to God’s Word, and receiving the Holy Ghost requires action on God’s part: no one validly receives this gift without the action of God’s Spirit coming, and the evidence of tongues when his Spirit comes in to them. We obey by doing the first two steps, then God completes the process by putting his seal on our hearts, and filling us with his Spirit.

As for our ongoing walk with God, he left a plan in place by which saints, who have obeyed the Gospel could make it all the way in. Consider these scriptures:

1) 1 Corinthians 1:21 (KJV)
21For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

2) Ephesians 4:11-12 (KJV)
11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

3) Hebrews 13:17-18 (KJV)
17Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

4) Ephesians 5:25-26 (KJV)
25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word…

God gave the ministry, including pastors, the burden and the calling to preach the Word of God that will save and perfect the saints given to their charge. When we hear preaching, with a heart to receive it (which is under our control), we feel convicted of sin if it’s in our hearts.  When we pray about what we’ve heard, repenting and asking God to cleanse us and keep us from committing that sin again, His Spirit washes us clean and fills us all over again with the Holy Ghost, as we speak in tongues again, with all the joy and peace only he can give.

If we submit ourselves to the plan of God and the ministry God gives us (that is, those who preach the message the Apostles preached) and then we obey what is preached (not being a forgetful hearer of the word), we can be ready to meet God when he comes back or calls us to come home. What will be preached that we need to respond to after we’re in the faith?

5) Hebrews 12:14-15 (KJV)
14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

6) 2 Corinthians 13:5 (KJV)
5Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

7) 2 John 13 (KJV)                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward

There is following to be done (of holiness and peace with all men), diligent looking to ourselves (that we don’t fail the grace if God or let bitterness spring up in our hearts, or lose the things we have wrought or done for God), examining and proving ourselves whether we be in the faith, among other things.

This salvation requires maintenance, like our human bodies (we have to feed them, keep them clean, give them rest, exercise them, etc.) or any other living thing or mechanical thing that’s going to continue to be useful. If neglected, it dies or breaks down. If diligence is given, it will last a lifetime, and in the case of our souls, be ready for eternity.

God wants us to be saved and to be right with him on an ongoing basis and he made a way for that to be done. Keeping a right spirit toward God and his Word and a having made up mind to live for God, no matter what it takes, hearing the preached Word and obeying it, will keep us “in the  faith”, and ready to meet God.