What do you see when you zoom out?

Wouldn’t it be really great to have the viewpoint on things we get by using Google Earth (for the uninitiated, that’s the free app for your phone or computer that zeros in on any address your give it to look up, or on your current location, showing the “satellite’s eye view”). I love the experience of “going” to a remote location, then clicking the icon which brings me back to my current location. If the other site is nearby, the transition is like lifting off in a helicopter and landing a few seconds later. It’s even more exciting to play with locations on other continents (like the address of a group of missionaries we love in Brazil). Then the feeling is more like hitching a ride on the space shuttle. It is truly amazing to me to be able to view roads we ride on, or where different individuals’ properties appear to join, or transitions from areas covered with timber to those replanted after harvest, crop formations in Africa or the varying depths of the oceans between continents, and then “land” back home, where the blue dot sits on my own roof at almost exactly the spot where I am typing on the couch!  A few weeks ago some family members and I were walking in a cut-over (for those not from the country, that’s a LOT of pine trees growing back where trees were previously cut), down a road that led to some seldom-visited family property.  Everything looked different from the last time we were there, and confusion arose as to which fork of a road to take.  We split up, and I began to look from above (via my trusty phone app) at the road that appeared to be the best shot for finding our way (OK, I didn’t look it up until we had walked quite a ways without success!).  I was able to determine that the road we’d taken actually began to circle around and double back toward the way we had come.  No way I could have determined that just by walking on, until I wasted lots of time by coming to the end of the road.

Ok, so you know me and that I’m not just blogging about a cool app I like, right? No, I’m not. Just thought about how it parallels something that’s come to my mind recently about the scriptures, and people’s accustomed ways of looking at them. Often our view is “myopic” (looking that up would yield the definition “nearsighted). Would our perspective still seem as balanced and utterly true to us if we zoomed out, pulled back, and looked from a different vantage point?  Got the “big picture” of the events in the New Testament?

There’s one aspect of what is true that is particularly interesting to look at with this end in mind: how do we get into the body of Christ – the church? What does the Word of God tell us to do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Believe in our heart and confess with our mouth? Is that all? Many would adamantly say, “Yes, that is all!” Where did that argument come from? Does it represent the only truth available in scripture?

If I haven’t already lost you, zoom out with me for a moment. What’s the most quoted verse in the Bible, at least among mainline denominations? I don’t have stats on it, but what I seem to hear most is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That verse is as true today as it was when said over two thousand years ago. But to whom was it said, and what was the intention of its being stated? Did God intend it to be the entirety or even the summary of the plan of salvation?

In the third chapter of John, a ruler who was curious about Jesus, but feared the retribution of the Jewish leadership if he came to Jesus openly, had come to him by night. Jesus did not rebuke Nicodemus for this, but addressed his questions fully and boldly, telling him that unless he was born again of water and the Spirit, he could not see or enter into the kingdom of God. Nicodemus had trouble understanding this, and Jesus went on to elaborate about the plan of God, including the assurance of verse 16 which included the reason for the plan (God’s love) and who it was open to (whosoever believeth, which later would be understood to include Gentiles as well as Jews). The foundational blueprint for the plan of salvation — a birth of water and spirit — was laid down in this conversation. But remember who it was given to: one Jewish ruler in the middle of the night. Many years later (possibly 50 to 85 years later), it was written into a book and circulated among existing churches. It wasn’t printed into tracts to be distributed to lost people until many, many years later. No sermon recorded by an Apostle of Jesus who was preaching to people who needed to be saved ever directly quoted the words of Jesus in John 3:16 as giving the way to be saved.

Well, what about Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”? Is that true or not? Of course it is true, but in what context was it written: to whom was it said and what was the intention of it being stated? According to the author, the Apostle Paul, he was writing a letter to “all that are in Rome, called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7). So this wasn’t written to sinners needing to be converted? It was written to people who were already saints? And when was it written? Some scholars say over 50 years after Christ, which would sound reasonable. What was the context of what was being said? Was he telling these saints how to convert sinners? If you look at the previous parts of the book and surrounding information, the themes being addressed are whether both Jews and Gentiles can be saved and whether the Old Testament Law was still required for the Jews’ salvation, or whether faith in Jesus Christ was the way to be saved. Of course, that is how salvation comes, because faith is the spark that begins the process of salvation.

Are these the only places where salvation is discussed? Are these statements about faith, and others like them in similar contexts, the only words God left about how to be saved? Are there other places that specify the elements of salvation to be obeyed and followed? Well, as a matter of fact there are. There was the time after Jesus died, rose and ascended, that 120 assembled believers (which included all the living Apostles as well as other men and women who followed Jesus — one of whom was Jesus’ mother, Mary), were praying together. A sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, filled all the house where they were sitting, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Peter was anointed to preach the Word of God to thousands of people who were already in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts chapter 2 (Jesus had set this up by giving the keys to the kingdom to Peter as recorded in Matthew 16:13-20), and when they heard Peter’s preaching, they were pricked in their hearts and asked him and the Apostles, “Men and brethren what must we do?” Peter replied, “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, unto your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” (Acts 2:38-39) Again, who was this said to? To thousands of people who were convicted of their sins and asking what they needed to do about their condition. Where was it said? From an upper room in a very crowded city to those listening below, who in turn could tell thousands of others. Who was it said to apply to?  To the people who were hearing it, their children, all that are afar off and as many as the Lord our God shall call (sounds like every generation to come, all over the world, doesn’t it?). Did anyone respond? Verse 41 says about three thousand souls who gladly received Peter’s words were baptized and added unto them. Does this account contradict what Jesus said in John 3: 1-21? No, it completes it: being born again of the water (baptism in Jesus’ name) and of the Spirit (receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost), and it further confirms the statement in John 3:8, “the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof…so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (every one that is born of the Spirit has an accompanying sound – speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance as in Acts 2:4 and all through the Book of Acts).

Now tell me, honestly, if you were going to put out a message that would be saving to all that heard it, and would mean the difference in where they spent their eternity, which method would you use? Saying it to one man in the middle of the night, so others could write about it many years later? Waiting for more than fifty years to have an Apostle write it in a letter to people who were already in church? Or shouting it from an upper room (a “rooftop”, if you will) to everyone you could get to hear you? That’s the way I would choose to do it, by the grace of God. Is that the only time that message was given, though? What does the Word record? The next chapters, Acts 3-4 record a message by Peter, when a lame man was healed and a crowd gathered, that contains the same essential elements of repentance, blotting out of sins (remission) and times of refreshing/sending Jesus Christ to the believers (Holy Ghost) and 5000 received the Holy Ghost that time. Acts chapter 8 records the message going to the Samaritans with the same elements included (they were baptized in the name of the Lord and when Peter laid hands on them they were filled with the Holy Ghost). Acts chapter 10 records the coming of salvation to the Gentiles, who were filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with tongues while Peter was preaching to them in the home of a devout Gentile named Cornelius. Peter then commanded that they be baptized in the name of Jesus. Paul echoed the same message when he found disciples at Ephesus who had only heard the doctrine preached by John the Baptist, and their incomplete experience of salvation was addressed by admonishing them to be baptized in the name of Jesus, and when they did so, they also received the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues.

Ok, I know, you’re waiting for me to address the Philippian jailer (Acts 16). Are you ready to negate everything just noted from the accounts in the book of Acts by the response to a man who had already drawn his sword to take his life? The long answer might not have been very effective in that case, if the man didn’t delay his intended action until they finished. So in that situation, in the context of preventing a suicide, they responded to the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” with “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and all thine house.” We could dissect that, including the fact that no one I know would reasonably assert that his believing alone would save all those in his house. But the best answer to it is to zoom out to the full context. What happened next? The jailer took them to his home, where the Apostles “spake unto him the word of the Lord, and unto all his house”; then he rose up, washed their stripes and “was baptized, he and all his, straitway”. What do you think they talked about when they spoke the Word of the Lord — the rest of the story — to him, once they were sure he was no longer in danger of ending his life immediately? Where would this heathen man have gotten a concept of baptism from, if not from their preaching to him? Why would he be so bold as to take that step if they had only presented it as an afterthought, or a good idea if one wants to identify with the cause of Christ? This man, and all his household, risked their lives to obey the Gospel in this way (remember the story started with these Apostles locked in prison for this message!). Take that for what it’s worth, but that account doesn’t make any case for standing the rest of what the Apostles preached on its head or throwing it out.

Who got saved in John chapter 3?  It doesn’t say that anyone did.  A foundation for salvation was laid. Jesus had not yet suffered (been glorified) and the Holy Ghost had not yet been given (John 7:39).   How about Romans chapter 10 (or anywhere else in that epistle or any of the other letters to the churches)? Was anyone saved in that account? Nothing like that was recorded, because this was a letter teaching Christians how to understand their faith and live for God successfully. Where were people recorded as being saved in the New Testament? In the Book of Acts?  Acts chapters 2, 3-4, 8, 9, 10, and 19 all record salvation experiences. So where’s the most likely place to find the plan of salvation taught?

A chance to zoom out on the scriptures allows us to get the perspective that the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are historical accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus: how he taught the people and his disciples, the miracles he did, and then his death, burial and resurrection.  After his resurrection, he spent 40 days with the disciples (whom he later named apostles), opening their understanding to the scriptures (Old Testament teachings and prophecies) to see who he truly was, and to get the message they were to preach to the world.  The gospels are followed by the Book of Acts (full title being “The Acts of the Apostles”), which begins by detailing again his final instructions and ascension into heaven, then begins to describe his filling the believers (not 12 believers, but 120) with his Spirit, and the launching of their ministry to change the world.  Their salvation message was consistent:  repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ name for the remission of sins and the in filling of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance.  After the events of the Book of Acts, these same apostles began to write letters to the churches that were started during that time, encouraging them to live “soberly, righteously and godly in this present world”, and helping to flesh out more of their understanding of faith as the fulfillment of the law and the bringing together into one body both Jews and Gentiles.  Events to come at the end of the world were described and a multitude of other things comprising a sort of owners’ manual for this new Christian life were outlined: facing persecution, contending for the faith, continuing steadfast in that form of doctrine that was once delivered to the saints, specifics of holy, godly living, the certain rise of false prophets and false doctrines to war against the simplicity of the gospel, and the pronouncement that anyone bringing another gospel should be accursed. Not one time do you find a timeline for how long this message of Acts 2:38 would be relevant or that it was to be succeeded by another gospel:  what do you find are repeated references to false apostles, false Christs, false doctrine and warning after warning to not accept anything but the original (Matthew 7:15, 24:11, Mark 13:22, 2 Cor. 11:13-15, 2 Peter 2:1-22, 1 John 4:1, Gal. 1:6-9).

So–what do you see when you zoom out? Does what you’ve always been taught as the only scriptures relevant to being saved stand up to a broader look at the Bible’s teachings in perspective? Are you content to just look at what’s in front of you? Or do you begin to think the Word of God may need another look from you, to insure you’ve clearly seen what God intended you to see — and to obey — about salvation?

I’d love to hear from you, whether as a comment here, through Facebook message or email. It would also be great to see you in service at:

First Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ

Bay Springs, MS

By the grace of God, we’re getting to experience a taste of

Church the way it was meant to be…

and glad to know there’s more where that came from!

Worship that moves God

I suppose the best-known trademark of who we are as Pentecostals is the way we worship God openly and vocally and actively. It’s the most immediate indication that something unique is going on with these congregations, but what is the reason for it? Are these folks who just have fewer inhibitions, like the guy at the ball game who just won’t sit down and be quiet? Do they disregard the sacred, quiet moments of reverently approaching God and just “blow right past” the benefits of calm, peaceful singing and quietly listening to the preaching?

Having been part of the more traditional style of congregational service, where an “amen” was an event, those who know my background and choice for these last twenty-plus years could easily assume that the worship services I encountered when visiting the Pentecostal church initially were the reason I’d wanted to change in the beginning, or at least a big part of it. In actuality, not much could be further from the truth. I remember, in fact, being somewhat concerned about that before going for the first time; as the service got underway, and the lady I knew who attended there, (and who I was sitting beside!), began to vocally express herself, I recall my thoughts of “Well, God, you’ve sat me down by the loudest one here!” I was not at all attracted by the individual involvement in their expressing their thanks, praise and the openness with their voices, raised hands and standing to their feet at times, but I did feel respectful of their choice to do so.

The ability to let my voice be heard, to physically engage in worship that was obvious to those around me, and to let tears flow freely when the Lord moved that way was something that came over time. It’s still a choice: to push through the things that pull against the mind and compete for the attention, to press in to where God is moving and is waiting to be worshipped and his presence enjoyed. Does the expression that’s put into our praising God in this way automatically bring something different into a service, or is there more to it than that?

What is worship, anyway? Is there a difference in worship and praise? Psalm 65:4 says, “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts…” This begins to show a separation, a pulling away from the generality of all the world — of all creation that can praise God (Psalm 148:7) — to draw near to him for more than the act of praising him. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” II Corinthians 6:17-18. “I will receive you” shows an action on God’s part, a choice he makes based on actions of people seeking him. If praise is an action on the part of all creation, of “everything that hath breath” (Psalm 150:6) — the only appropriate response to the glorious acts of the God of love, mercy and truth, who is the source of every good and perfect gift, who causes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust– then isn’t worship an interaction of those who’ve approached God in the way that he’s pleased with and the One who they were approaching? A receiving of their sacrifice of praise?

In our church, there’s a precious “just learning to walk” baby boy, who I’ve had the opportunity to spend time around the past months.  There were a few times I got the opportunity to play with him, or help him off to sleep with his bottle for a much-needed nap.  Without any coaxing or encouragement on my part, for whatever reason, he began to bond with me to such a degree that he would see me walk by at church and begin to protest loudly until I came over and held him a few minutes. When he later began to reach for me from the arms of one of his favorite aunts or cousins, my heart did absolute flip-flops! Keeping all this in perspective, of course, and knowing it will be a passing thing, I still can’t help feeling there’s a parallel to what God feels when we choose him over other things that compete for our attention.  Could I have somehow forced or required the child to come to me in those circumstances?  Probably not (it would have been sick to try to force that), but even if that could have been done, that could never compare to the joy of having been chosen by him for that moment!

What does God get out of our worship? Could it be that the degree to which we choose to separate ourselves from the world, to obey his word, to attend to the things of our lives in order to insure they’re in accordance with what matters to him, before we come into his house to worship him, has more to do with how he responds than what we do when we’re there?  A godly, repented life filled with prayer daily for God’s wisdom and guidance and power or overcome sin and the flesh and the pull of the world show a holy God we’re serious about worshipping him when we show up in a service designed for that purpose.  Obeying the initial message of salvation in Acts 2:38, and then receiving the admonition to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14) are the beginning.  It matters to God that we make choices not to look at, listen to or be a part of things that are “not of the Father, but…of the world.” (1 John 2:16). We can’t fake that when we come into his presence.  We can repent when we’ve failed him in some area, but we can’t hide if we’ve willfully chosen the things of the world and wish to continue to do so. (Beware of those who say they have some “lively” form of worship, but their teachings and practices tolerate wilful sin and ungodliness.)

So what kind of worship moves God?  Worship that springs from a heart that’s chosen him in every area of life, and that shows admiration for him in ways that are not compatible with pride.  Now we’re getting into why our worship looks and sounds so different from the “mainstream”.  Are the people who leaping to their feet, dancing for joy, raising their voices and their hands somehow trying to be noticed by others or to have the distinction of being the most animated in the service?  Not likely; in fact if you were to get inside their hearts and minds, there’s actually a humility that has to accompany that type of worship: a sense of “God, you’re worth my pride being ‘busted’ to show you how awesome I believe you are.”  David experienced this conflict when dancing before the Ark of the Covenant when it was returning to Jerusalem; his wife, Michal chastised him for laying aside his kingly garments in worship “as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself.”  David removed her from her role of honor in his kingdom, and she had no child for all her days, as his demonstration of how strongly he felt about her condemnation of his worship, but more importantly, how deeply he held his conviction to worship God openly, physically and with his own self abased, saying, “And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight…” (2 Samuel 6:12-23)

Do we worship this way because we have to or feel it’s required?  No, but because we can.  Because coming to God with a heart that has been kept for him, with a will to lay aside any semblance of fleshly pride and press into his presence, brings his response:  the glory of God moving into a service or a personal time of prayer.  People begin to weep or to shout with joy, and God’s work is done in the hearts and lives of those present.  They know they have truly been where God is.  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of the worship that moves God?

If you’d like to see more about it, come visit us at:

First Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ

Bay Springs, MS

By the grace of God, we’re getting to experience a taste of

Church the way it was meant to be…

and glad to know there’s more where that came from!

Where’d I get that idea…?

Can we always trust what we see? How about what we hear? I remember the old adage: never trust what you hear, and only half of what you read (these days, I think it’s down to less than half!).  How are our perceptions influenced? By our experiences? By long-held traditions? By our admiration for prominent people in our lives who hold a certain view?

Today we celebrated Mother’s Day, and one quote we often hear is “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”.  I so fully agree, because even as our physical characteristics are shaped in the womb and our life is sustained by what we receive through our mothers, usually our first experience with anything spiritual comes through the person who nurtures us in our younger years.  The same is true in any culture, whether oriented toward Christianity or other religions altogether. An aspect of maturing is the reaching a place of determining what from our childhood fits with our individual lives and what won’t be compatible with who we are now.

We’re not intended to be clones of our mothers (or fathers), of course, and as the mother of a sixteen-year-old daughter, I can say that I’m thankful for that!  As I see developing character traits that are of necessity emerging (and have been for all of the sixteen years), I know they reflect not only what I’ve taught her, but what she’s chosen to test and keep for herself.  I expect her to do that; and feel it honors me as a mother for her to do so, showing she has learned how important her faith is.  Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living”, and I agree. Faith-related choices on earth lead to eternal destinations, and making them our own can mean they will stand under pressure, vs. being just what “Mom and Dad believed.”

I realize this doesn’t constitute the “norm” in the religious world, and I guess, understandably so.  The things we know shape our world, and they are comfortable to us. Self-examination and reflection aren’t things we come to easily when there’s no crisis brewing or some confrontation that requires us to evaluate who we are, where we’re going and what we believe that’s brought us to where we are.

OK, warning:  this thought line is about to take an odd twist.  Reading is an influence to our thinking, and often provides examples of ideas, word pictures that illustrate thoughts we have, or perceptions of how something works in the world.  Though I haven’t been interested in science fiction for many years, as a pre-teen (a very long time ago!), it was my favorite category (“genre” for you serious reading aficionados).  A couple of stories I read way back then (and my apologies to the authors – I have no idea at this point who wrote them or even the titles after this many years) expressed similar concepts.

In the first, a post-apocalyptic culture had developed in some underground shelters that were sophisticated enough to sustain life for generations, and that’s what they had done.  Lights had long since become unavailable, and adapting to total darkness had become their way of life; for so long in fact, that they had no recollection of it having existed, and their eyes were of no value at all to them.  Unknown to them, life on the “top-side” of earth had resumed many years before, and there were those who attempted to reach them and re-integrate them into the life they were made to have.  The visitors were considered devils (they carried “lights” which were painful to the tunnel-dwellers).  As might be expected, a couple of young people whose drive for more, if it existed somewhere, were bold enough to begin to get closer to the outside, and eventually found the joy of living as they were intended to:  in the light that had seemed dangerous to them only a few months before, because they didn’t understand what it was.

In the second story, a group was commissioned to journey to another star, which of course would take a really, really long time in the real world.  Since this is fiction, it was actually “possible”, but took many years to do so, and families were born, lived, had families and died during the journey.  Generations came and went, and finally the voyagers arrived at a solar system with a planet capable of sustaining life.  There, however, they faced an unexpected problem.  Their whole existence, and that of everyone they’d known of for generations in the past, had lived all their lives within a few arms’ lengths of a wall.  No one had ever been outside of something as confining as their space-going vessel.  The open spaces of the planet were overwhelming, disorienting, and almost debilitating to them.  Some chose to stay in the ship, but a few realized this is what they were intended to do, and began to grow accustomed to life in the open air that they were seeking for to begin with.

What do these stories have to do with spiritual truths?  Not a lot, I suppose, except that they build a picture of how sometimes the things we are so certain of and comfortable with are not the ultimate things we were intended to experience from God and his word.  Nice stories (if you like that sort of thing), but let’s talk about whether that concept is reflected in the Word of God: our only source of truth.

What does the Bible say about truth being obvious? Jesus compares finding truth to finding a goodly pearl of great price, and to finding a treasure hidden in a field – both of which, when found were worth selling everything one had to buy the pearl or the field. (Matthew 13: 44-46) Neither were scattered across the ground, as worthless stones are.  They were only found by those willing to sell all to find them. He says “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13). If it were obvious, why would “searching with all our heart” be necessary?

Does the Bible speak of people who believe they are right, and are not outright sinners who know they need God, or atheists or others who shun godly living? People who are pursuing spiritual things? Many times, actually, he does:  Paul spoke of the Jews who had a “zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:2).  Is that phenomenon limited to the Jews?  He also spoke of Jewish people who “made their boast in God” and were confident that they were a guide of the blind and instructors of the foolish, but were in fact falling short of what God had provided for them to walk in spiritually. (Romans 2).  The judgement scene described in Matthew 7:21-23 portrays a group of people who thought they were living for Jesus and had done many wonderful works in his name, but were utterly wrong when it came down to it.

Is the Gospel hidden, then?  According to the Bible, for some people it is hidden.  2 Corinthians 4:3-4 says, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”  Jesus said in Matthew 13:15, “…their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes…and should be converted and I should heal them.”  Jesus did not fully reveal to his disciples all they needed to see in the scriptures until after his resurrection: “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures…” (Luke 24:45)

It’s a pretty scary idea to know that one could believe they’re fully right and be less than right. How do we know for sure?  Does God make provision for knowing where we are in this?  None of us has a heart that can be fully trusted.  That’s why God instituted the preaching of the Word to save them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).  He so vividly describes this role of the Man of God in our lives in Ezekiel  33:1-10, where we see him as the watchman on the wall, required to warn the people of what he sees so they can flee the danger.  He has a higher vantage point than the people below, and sees more than they can see.

You can, however, find any idea out there expounded on in a pulpit these days, so just sitting o a pew hearing the message come across is not sufficient, unless you’ve done due diligence to insure you’re hearing one preach who understands and preaches the same doctrine as the original Apostles: First of all that salvation comes through repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ name and the receiving of the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38), and teach that living holy, godly lives in obedience to the scriptures is necessary to be ready to see God in peace when the Judgement comes (see the post,  Who do you believe? for more insight on this). If I’m attached to a certain idea, how likely am I to view a scripture I read as challenging to that idea, to the point that I’m really willing to repent and turn to what God’s saying in his Word, just on my own?  It’s essential to hear preaching, and eternally necessary to know if we’re listening to a true Man of God, or to one of Satan’s “ministers of righteousness” (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

(Note: Most of the main ideas for this post came in the during a power-packed move of the Holy Ghost where people were seeking God, and praying in the Spirit, and the power of God was evident, moving individuals to cry out to him. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. What kind of prayer meeting will you be having when your response to what you’ve read here is formed?)

Are we there yet?

There’s just nothing like those endless desert landscapes, intolerably vast stretches of frozen tundra, and unbroken strings of mile-high mountain ranges (all lying, of course, within five miles of home) that cause children worldwide to cry out in desperation, half-way accross town to Grandma’s house,  “Are we THERE, YET?!!!” Didn’t change a thing or make the journey any shorter (doubled it for our parents!), but no doubt we’ve all uttered those words at some time or another. Once we’ve grown older and somewhat wiser, our “Are we there yet’s” become much less visible – the nervous looking around an unfamiliar neighborhood, straining to spy out a landmark we’d expected, some sign that we’re about to bring our family safely in for the “landing” we’d hoped for:  that vacation spot we saw in the brochure — the one we’re praying is as easy to get to as it said!

Now, understandably, none of us would strike out on vacation without thoroughly researching the spot, making reservations, and getting our GPS updated, as insurance against the unpleasant opposites of happy endings.  But I truly wonder if all of us research a much more important destination with the diligence it deserves.  The information that’s crucial to making sure we arrive where we’re intending to is readily available to all of us, often with a copy on the coffee table or a bedside stand, though sometimes with about as much wear as the map in a real man’s glove compartment (you know, the “maps are for wimps – I know where I’m going!” men in our lives).

I’ve been blogging for just over a month, now, and for you who’ve read a post or two, you know I usually talk about the most important thing to me, being the faith that grows more precious each day, but also the foundational basis for that and where it contrasts with ideas that many around me consider foregone conclusions.  Each time I write a post, I search myself and my motives in prayer, because, although I love to write, and am passionate about the Word of God, I certainly want to never be callously fielding “potshots” at people just for effect, or to try to sound as though I’m the only one who cares about what is right.  The effect of doing a blog, tagging it to Facebook, etc., is that I’ve gone “inside out” for all to really know the down-to-business specifics of this faith that those who’ve known me for any length of time have seen from mostly from the outside.  I’ve been a die-hard “the last thing I’d want to do is offend anyone or push someone away” type of believer, because I don’t want to be offended or pushed away by others.  That’s what clicked with me about the blog idea.  I’ll never know if you read it or not, unless you comment, or mention it in conversation, and it won’t be a problem either way.  I get to put a plate of thoughts on the social media coffee table and you’re all welcome to take them if you’d like or keep scrolling.  Works for me.

On the other hand, I am aware that readers who are near and dear to me may be put off to a greater degree than I had considered when starting, because the things that are said aren’t compatible with others’ beliefs and that fact leaves some decision-making to be done:  A) She’s over the edge this time; B) She’s brainwashed – I knew it was coming out one day ;C) She’s making this up (o.k. lying) or D) She’s saying something I can’t truly get on board with, but won’t write off just yet, in case there’s something there I haven’t thought of or known before — but may just realize I need.

Back to the analogy about vacationing and maps in glove compartments, please remember that the only references I’ve given are from the King James Bible – no new book, no tract, or new version of the Word or rising star mega-church leader who’s now gotten the answer you’ve been looking for.  I refer to the documentation of the early church’s beginnings and teachings and insist that the things they said they did were what they really did, the things they did were what Jesus intended for them to do, they worked for them, and they were not intended to be abandoned by later adherents to the faith of Christianity. Of this fact I am a first-hand witness, because by doing what they did, I got what they got. So, that’s the map: the Bible, which of course, everyone claims to be fully following in any belief system that embraces Christianity.  I’m astounded sometimes that people who so strongly defend their beliefs as being right and worthy of their following to the Throne of Judgement, (where all that is done here will be rewarded whether right or wrong) seem weak in the scriptural basis for their views. I don’t intend for that to sound harsh, for I know that no amount of Bible study will allow anyone to support a belief system that is contradictory to what God established. But very often there appears to be little or no in-depth personal Bible study to “see if these things be true”.  Point being, STUDY.  We’re going to be judged by the Word of God (John 12:48, Rev. 20:12), and we’re staking our eternity and that of our families’ on our understanding of God’s plan for us to be ready to meet him:  do we dare sit on what we’ve been told by someone else or scriptures we’ve heard quoted,  or reading we’ve done only where we were directed by someone else to read?

Ever gotten bad directions?  As a Social Worker, I’ve had to find a place or two in my career, and have been amazed to find how often people said turn “right” when they meant “left” – somehow they thought I’d figure that out I guess, and a few miles and most of my gas later, I did exactly that.  Then there’s the ever popular shortcut.  Aren’t they entertaining?  You can see a lot of scary interesting countryside that way, beating yourself up for not sticking with the original plan, being off course, losing time, and facing darkness in a neighborhood you’d never get near in the daytime! Can we afford to assume we haven’t been the victims of bad directions, or possibly taken a “short cut” in our walk with God?

A few months ago, heading out on a first-time home health visit, I had excellent directions from the gentleman I was scheduled to see on a Medical Social Work call. But instead of turning where he said turn (very explicitly warning me to wait for that road), I first came to one that I had been on before, and was more familiar with, and without really taking time to make sure it was what he meant, felt like it had to be what I needed. I happily sped off to view pretty countryside and chickens for awhile, slowly beginning to suspect something might be wrong here! I had, in fact, never gotten to the road he was talking about, because I so naturally turned onto the one that I remember travelling on as a kid several times, and noticed often whenever  driving that direction on the highway because of some familiar landmarks that are beside it.  I’d never even noticed the road he was talking about existed, in all honesty.  The poor man (who fortunately was not terribly ill, and thank Goodness,  was waiting for the social worker and not the ambulance!), had to be consulted by cellphone (with a battery dying from my desperate use of the Maps app!) more times than I’d care to admit, about the landmarks he told me to watch for:a church and a water tank.  I actually was seeing a church and a water tank, but not the turn I needed.  Finally, he thought to ask me about the original road I’d turned off the highway onto, and then I realized I’d gotten off the highway too quickly, and instead should have waited for the road I was intended to take.  Without doing that, I could see all kinds of landmarks that I tried to make be the ones I needed, but they weren’t the real ones that lead to his house.  Once my tracks were retraced for the ??th time, and I got to the right starting point, I was amazed at how well he’d directed me and how little trouble it was to get there.  I would have never seen it from where I was, though, no matter how long I drove.  It’s easy to make a wrong turn, especially when you think you already know where you’re going.

When trying to explain why I could be so utterly bold as to say that it matters what you believe, even within the Christian-belieiving religions, and that the only thing that is solid and right is the actual message of the Apostles, as described in the Book of Acts, the response often (understandably) turns toward the fact that there are so many notable groups/churches/denominations in the world, all telling people how to be saved, and millions of people following those ways of believing..  It’s assumed that this group of Apostolics is just, at heart, another branch of the same vine, and has it’s own way of looking at things.  Why get all exclusive, alienating people and even making them think you believe that somehow, someone they (and you) loved could be lost, based on a doctrine they didn’t grow up believing in?  I must stop and say here that the Throne of Judgement will be occupied by One, and it will be his Words that will judge us all; not mine, yours or anyone else’s.  What I do or what I believe, or what you do or believe will not make that any different for anyone else on that side of life.  My belief in what the Apostles preached does not dishonor the memory of any loved one, nor is it a comment on what wonderful people I knew them to be or how I loved them.  We all will face the same Throne, and we will only be asked about our response to his Word, not anyone else’s. My willingness to risk being misunderstood in that, or any other, way and even to risk the loss of closeness with ones I love (though that is not my desire) is completely based on the fact that I am, back-to-the-wall-to-the-death convinced that this matters enough to risk it.  I picture the emotions I would feel if I were in your position at this point, and I only ask that they result in the pricking of the walls of your heart, with the other challenge I have for you:  PRAY!  Ask God, sincerely, repeatedly, daily, (not just once, but until you know you’ve been heard) to lead you into all truth because you want to obey it – not to win a debate or discussion about scripture, but to fall more deeply in love with Jesus than you’ve ever done or believed you could do, and to know without a doubt that you’ve fully obeyed the Gospel.

Are we there, yet?  I know this is a longer blog post than usual (and that’s saying a lot!), but one further observation.  In determining whether the Apostolic message, as contained in Acts 2:38 and a host of other places and supporting scriptures, is just another version of the same thing, or is truly unique in the world, consider this:  for the majority of Christian denominations, the experience is about the same.  Some may venture to talk about repentance, and people do make some changes when they repent, and that really feels good.  For the most part, though, outward appearances change very little (I know, God looks on the heart, but man only has the outside to look at, and it needs to reflect God’s power working on the inside as well).  They have in common for the most part, that their services differ only in the types of songs that are played, the order of service and how or how often they observe Communion.  However, when you’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb through baptism specifically in his name (Jesus), after truly repenting and turning from sin, then have the Holy Ghost come in (and only God himself can cause this to happen) with the evidence of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance, followed by a truely different manner of living and outward appearance, as evidence of obedience to God’s Word, you know you’ve arrived at a destination that’s not a part of the norm.  When you’ve stumbled to an altar,  so stirred over the annointed preaching you’ve just heard that you’re racked with weeping at the feet of Jesus in a prayer meeting that is shaking the gates of hell, you know you’re not at the crowded “church of the what-time-do-we-get-out-of-here-the-restaurants-are-filling-up” destination.  Please note that I am not trying to belittle anyone’s experience, but to only say that there really is a difference in more than just the words we use to describe what we believe. Trust me, I wouldn’t go this far out on a limb for just another version of the same thing.  The experience of walking in the Spirit gives evidence that something has  to be different about the Apostolic doctrine. Please don’t blindly trust the beliefs you’ve gotten from your forefathers, or from someone you met who cared enough to give the best directions they had at the time, or from any other source.  Study (especially the book of Acts but all the Bible supports what is said there), Pray (like you’ve never prayed before – with fasting if you’re able; it’s that important, and helps insure that God knows how serious you areabout knowing what he wants for you), Seek (go see what’s going on and compare it first hand to what you think or believe).  Thanks for listening/reading/putting up with my blog.

I’d love to hear from you.  If you see this on Facebook, feel free to post a comment or to message me (a little more private way to ask) if you have a question.  Blog comments are always welcome, as well.  If you get really hungry to learn more about what I’m referring to, come visit us at:

First Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ

Bay Springs, MS

By the grace of God, we’re getting to experience a taste of

Church the way it was meant to be…

and glad to know there’s more where that came from!