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!

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

www.fpcbaysprings.com

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.

Are you “eternally secure”?

 

Do you really believe the doctrine that one prayer could save you forever – no matter what?

Let’s take a look at a doctrine I can speak to from the point of having believed it for my first twenty-seven years (or from whenever I started listening in Sunday School, at least). If it’s clearly taught in the Word of God, then it’s a viable doctrine. If it isn’t, then it’s a dangerous one, no matter how popular it is.

Matthew 18 records the story of a “certain king” (notice Jesus didn’t say this was a parable, but a story about a certain king) who would have sold a debtor and his family to pay his debts, but instead spared him and forgave the debt when he pleaded for mercy. The forgiven man then showed no mercy to another who owed him a small amount, and the enraged king, upon hearing of the wicked servant’s actions, delivered him to the tormentors until all could be paid. Jesus then warned, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” He’s talking about being delivered to the tormentors, which sure sounds like hell to me, and saying it would happen to his followers. Now, I don’t know about you, but all the situations that resulted in me needing to forgive someone didn’t happen before I came to God. As a person who has experienced his saving power and obeyed his word to be saved, I still have had major instances of needing to forgive. I believe I’m on safe ground in saying you have as well. So if you don’t forgive, and you die, knowing you’ve harbored unforgiveness in your heart, are you saying you should be able to stand before a Holy God, who robed himself in flesh and died on a cross to make a way for your sins, and expect him to let you in to his heaven, rather than to do what he said he would do, and deliver you to the tormentors? Isn’t it safer to believe that one has to repent of sin and forgive others that we might be forgiven, before we meet him face to face?

There are dozens of scriptures that could be used to challenge you to think about what you’re saying when you try to explain why “believers” are “eternally secure” after they pray a prayer to ask Jesus into their heart (which, I must say, though I’m not just writing with the intention of offending people, is not ever recorded as happening in the Bible). I know if you believe that, then my merely bringing it up is inflammatory. But if that’s what the Bible teaches, you have nothing to worry about. The question is, does the Bible teach that?

Consider these scriptures:

• 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
•1 John 2:24-25
Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. [And this is the promise that he hath promised us, ] even[ eternal life.]
•Colossians 1:20-23 (KJV)
20[And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, ] I say[, whether ] they be[ things in earth, or things in heaven.] 21[And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in ] your[ mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled] 22[In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:] 23If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

There are others, to be sure, but notice the common thread here: “if”. It’s being used to denote salvation at the end of life, if the faithfulness of the believer continues to the end of life.

Now, certainly there are those who argue that these scriptures mean something else, and faithfulness doesn’t count as a requirement for salvation. Revelation 17:1 says: These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.  I believe everyone gets a call; people are chosen based on their response (obedience) to the call; being chosen isn’t enough without being faithful to obey until the end.  Matthew 10:22-23 says: And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

I certainly agree that no man can pluck me out of his hand (John 10:28-29), but he never said I couldn’t walk out. No man can separate me from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39), but an example is given of Demas, mentioned two places as a fellow laborer and as working beside one of the most faithful laborers, Luke. In another scripture, however, he is later said by Paul to have forsaken him, “having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:2). Now, 1John 2:15 says, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Do you believe taking the same path Demas took would put me in a safe position to stand in judgement before a God I had shown I didn’t love, by choosing my love for the world over serving him?

1 John 2:3-5 says:
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. [He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.] [But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.]

Galatians 6:7-8 says it very plainly:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

God is love, and he will always love us; but he is also holy, and requires that we live holy lives as well (“Follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14).

God’s word clearly teaches that we are responsible to continue in obedience to him after we come to know him, if we hope to hear him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”. (Matthew 25:23).

Who do you believe? (scriptures)

Who do you listen to? Everyone claims to be telling the “truth”, from the vile people who say it’s alright to practice abominations, such as homosexuality, and still fill their spineless pulpits, to the real men of God who preach what “Thus saith the word of God” without fear or favor, week in and week out.

So much goes under the banner of “Truth”these days that it’s no wonder many people believe it’s best to carve out some set of ideas they’re comfortable with and stick with that: Don’t dig too deeply, don’t rock the boat, just be good, decent people and the rest will work itself out. People all too often have been stung. They are jaded, and they try clinging to what they know, even in times when it seems not to work that well for them at all.

One major intent of this writer is to point readers to the word of God for the answers to questions about faith. Does the Bible itself speak on this question? Were we intended to “do the best we could” when getting the answers that matter most in life? Or did God leave a clear plan for how to live our lives and to know what he expects from us? What gauge can be used to know who’s telling the truth about God’s word?

Let’s start with some basics:
• God’s word is truth (Psalm 119:142,151, John 17:17)
• we can know truth (John 8:32)
• God rewards those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6)
• God had a plan for insuring that truth would be passed on to future believers undiluted.

Let’s look at that plan:
• God spoke through the prophets from the time of creation until he robed himself in flesh to be born of a virgin, and he then spoke through his Son — Hebrews 1:1-2
• he gave the disciples his word — John 17:14, often explaining to them privately about things the multitudes could not understand — Matthew 13:10-17
• he gave the keys to the kingdom to Peter — Matthew 16:13-19
• Jesus prayed for his disciples before his crucifixion and for all who would believe on him through their word. — John 17:20
• Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples after his resurrection , speaking unto them the things pertaining into the kingdom of God — Acts 1:3
• during those 40 days, Jesus opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures — Luke 24:45.
• Peter preached the first message of salvation to 3000 souls who gladly received and obeyed his word on the Day of Pentecost, the day the church was born — Acts 2:14-41
• from that point on, God manifested his word through preaching by the men to whom he had given his word — Titus 1:3
• the Apostles instructed those they taught to commit the things they heard from them to faithful men who would teach others also — 2 Timothy 2:2

Follow the pattern here: God’s word was given to faithful men throughout time, who would bring it to the next generation through preaching. The legal system uses a concept known as a “chain of custody”. This involves the process of taking vital evidence from the beginning point where it’s collected, then transferring it to those who are to analyze or detail the facts on it, and then delivering it to those who store it until court convenes, while tightly copntrolling access to it along the way. Courts require strict documentation to verify where evidence has been, and to insure no one has tampered with it or altered it in any way at any stage of the process.

God’s word has been preserved by a divinely designed chain of custody, insuring you and I have access to the original information, undiluted and unaltered. What the Apostles preached is the same from the time of the birth of the church after Jesus left the word with them, as documented in the Book of Acts (2:38), to the confirmation of this word through letters addressed to established churches in Romans through 3 John, to the book of the prophecy of the end of all things, where God sternly warns in Revelation 22:19,
“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”, to this present time.

There is a group of people who continue to preach the original Apostles’ Doctrine that requires repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (forgiveness and cleansing) of sins and the required infilling of the Holy Ghost, first preached by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38), and confirmed by the other Apostles and the men they taught the word to throughout the remainder if the Bible as well. These people continue to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost as the original church did.

The problem is that all along the way, groups of people who were not able to change the original message have offered copies which they claimed were even better than the original. These generic alternative gospels teach that those who are baptized shouldn’t be concerned as to whether this is done by calling the name of Jesus over them as the Apostles always did or the titles Father, Son and Holy Ghost, as they say it means the same thing. They teach that speaking in tongues as the evidence of salvation ended with the early church, or they confuse it with the “gift of tongues” that God uses to speak to the church. No wonder people don’t know who to believe. To make matters worse, this generic form of religion was institutionalized by Constantine at the Council of Nicea, and the Catholic Church continued the copy and attempted to stamp out the original. History confirms that, despite this effort, there was always a group of people who continued to teach Jesus’ Name Baptism and the infilling of the Holy Ghost, despite persecution from the Catholic Church (recorded in older versions of the Catholic Encyclopedia of History). Martin Luther “reformed” aspects of this doctrinal copy, but fell short of returning to the original doctrine of the Apostles.

The problem is that most people grew up learning about the copy, just as I did. My personal struggle to reconcile the differences was monumental, but in the end, the power of God won out and I was baptized in the name of Jesus and received the gift if the Holy Ghost with the evidence if speaking in other tongues and have witnessed the power of God that comes with the original for over 25 years.

What does one do when there dawns a suspicion that what had always been held by them to be truth has trouble standing up to a clearer presentation of the Word of God? Some will, predictably, shrug off the discord that brings and cling to what they know, slowly forgetting how it felt to get uncomfortable thinking about what they believe, adding layers of insulating explanations for why what they’ve seen can’t really be what God meant for them. A few, however, will begin to look more and more into the perfect law of liberty, diligently searching the scriptures to see whether these things be true, and most importantly, having sincere hunger for truth that wants God to lead them in the way He is pleased with, and showing that they are willing to obey whatever He shows them, no matter how different it is from what they had once believed.

God deals with people as individuals. It is not unusual to see one person in a family or circle of friends to be stirred for more of God, and be faced with the choice of whether to seek God for more of what he’s showing them or stay where they’re comfortable. What will you choose?

Ever learning? Or knowing the truth?

When do we come to the “knowledge of the truth” that the Apostle Paul speaks of in 2 Timothy 3: 7?

I used to find that an unsettling question. I loved learning new things, and prided myself on being open to reading books and listening to people teaching about the Bible. I felt that was a good thing to pursue.  And yet, when I heard or read that passage of scripture, which says more completely, “Ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”, I felt almost agitated, as though there was something there that challenged me, and if I were honest with myself, made me more afraid than I wanted to admit. The passage was part of Paul’s description of people who were not right with God in the last days.

I didn’t want that to be me, but wasn’t sure how to know if it was or not. There was a haunting feeling that it could be: that even though I believed in Jesus, had “made a profession of faith”, and had been told that was all I ever needed to go to heaven, that there could still be something God was expecting of me that I didn’t yet see or understand. This sense of questioning, prompted by this scripture, was very real to me and persisted over a period of several years.

“Ever learning” is a description championed by the world today. Seeking truth is championed, but claiming to have found truth that is exclusive of what others believe is considered to be suspect. Yet I knew God’s word says, “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

The amazing thing is that for me in my search for truth (although at the time I didn’t realize that it was actually Truth searching for me) life brought me into contact with some people who believed that what the Apostle Peter said on the Day of Pentecost to people who were asking “Men and brethren what shall we do?”, was God’s plan for this day as well.

Peter said, quite simply, that we must repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38). You can’t begin to know the joy that filled my heart when, after praying and carefully counting the cost, I repented (gave up any claim I thought I had to “hold on” to some parts of my life while trying to give God the rest), was re-baptized in the name of Jesus (because his name wasn’t used in baptism in the church I had been a part of) and God gloriously filled me with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues (his design is to leave no doubt that his Spirit had come into an individual, so there is a “sound” when one is born if the Spirit -John 3:8).

After this experience, and all the wonderful days of walking with the Lord over these past 25 years, I have never again felt concern over the scripture that warns of those who are ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Jesus said, “And Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) When I stopped settling for the idea that “there are lots of ‘truths’, and you should never give yourself fully to any one of them, God was able to fill me with the Truth (“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”, John 14:6; “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none if his.” Romans 8:9), and to give me “the love of the truth” as spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:10. It took action on my part, to obey what he had shown me, as opposed to simple “mental assent” that his word was true, for truly believing anything requires acting on it (as the Word said, “faith without works is dead” in James 2:26).

The Holy Ghost message of Acts 2:38 is for you. Don’t settle for anything less, or find yourself “ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Come visit us at

First Pentecostal Church of the Lord Jesus Christ

Bay Springs, MS

Church the way it was meant to be…

God with His skin on?

God with his skin on? What in the world is that about?

 

The Apostles, whose actions and preaching are recorded in the book of Acts, obeyed Jesus’ Great Commission (which says in part, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost…” Matthew 28:19) by baptizing exclusively in the name of Jesus. How was this obedience? Most churches today teach that the repetition of Jesus’ statement in baptism is the correct response to the commandment, saying “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” when baptizing someone. This was never recorded as being said during an actual baptism recorded in the Bible. So what accounts for the difference?

I was raised in a church that taught a concept of God as being in “three persons”, known as the “trinity”. For anyone to challenge that doctrine to me created great suspicion regarding their background or teaching. After coming to a point in my life being stirred to seek God more deeply for the truth in His word, I encountered a group of people who taught this differently, and God was very evident in their lives. After receiving an understanding of how the Apostles baptized people in the Bible, I obeyed the gospel message of Acts 2:38, by repenting, being water baptized in Jesus’ name and was filled with the Holy Ghost, but still did not fully understand the difference in what my original denomination had been saying about the Godhead, and what Apostolic Pentecostals taught.

When God opened my understanding, I realized that when my denomination had said “Jesus is God”, they essentially meant that is what He is – that He is divine or has a divine nature. When the Pentecostals said “Jesus is God” they were referring to His identity – God is who He is.

Think on the following references:
1) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,… (2 Corinthians 5:19)
2) …God was manifest in the flesh…(1Timothy 3:16)
3) No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18)
4) God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person…(Hebrews 1:1-3)
5) Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.(Colossians 1:15)
6) I and my Father are one. (John 10:30) …he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; (John 14:9)
7) Wherefore, when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body thou hast prepared me: (Hebrews 10:5)

Jesus told the woman at the well (John 4:24): “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” He told his disciples after his resurrection, “…a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.”(Luke 24:39)

There had to be a sacrifice for sin — a death. The Spirit of God could not die, so in the plan and mind of God, there was the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) born of a virgin, “conceived of the Holy Ghost”. In other words, God didn’t have flesh and bones, so “a body he prepared” that could be tempted, hunger, thirst, bleed, die, be buried and raised again. As one child put it, when asked who Jesus is, “Jesus is God with his skin on“.

Around Christmas time, we hear Isaiah 9:6 quoted frequently: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” We have no problem agreeing this scripture refers to Jesus, but do we also agree that it plainly calls him The mighty God and The everlasting Father? How many can there be? Paul said in Ephesians 4:5-6, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Sounds like one to me.

” If any man confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh…”

The Apostles knew fully well who Jesus was: God in flesh, and they had no problem whatsoever understanding that the name of Jesus name satisfied the equation of one name to fill the commandment of Jesus regarding baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (“there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby you must be saved” Acts 4:12). That is why, in all the books of Acts (where all the accounts of baptisms being performed after the birth of the church are recorded), there is no reference to anyone being baptized the way my former denomination baptizes, by repeating the commandment. Look for yourself – it isn’t there.

Now, is this just “Bible trivia”? Or does it matter? The Word will judge us at the last day. Do we dare take for granted that “there must be some other explanation” or that if your preacher says it’s ‘different now’, then you can trust that?

If this stirs you to seek for more truth in God’s word, I encourage you to request a personal Bible study to look at the scriptures more closely, and to ask God to guide you as you seek for Him.

(All scriptures above from the King James Version).

Come visit us at

First Pentecostal Church of the Lord Jesus Christ

Bay Springs, MS

Church the way it was meant to be…

What’s up with those Pentecostals?

If you’ve ever wondered, “What’s up with Pentecostals?  What is they believe that they’re so fired up about? Is there really a difference in them and the rest of us who are in church every Sunday, besides the way they worship and the way they look?”

Here’s a little overview of what we believe about salvation:

1) Jesus’ teachings and ministry are recorded in the 4 gospels, where he laid the foundation for the church that would not start until after his death, burial, and resurrection, saying “Except a man be born of water and spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” John 3:5

2) The men Jesus taught and trained to carry out his plans for the church got it right when they obeyed the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-18, Luke 24:45-49) by preaching one gospel message: “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of  your sins (birth of water) and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (birth of Spirit).” All the accounts of people being told how to be saved and obeying the gospel are recorded in the book of Acts (2:37-42, 8:14-17,10:44-49,19:1-7, among others).

3). The letters to the churches written after the book of Acts were addressed to people who had already obeyed the gospel, and were not intended to be the place to find out how to get saved (because the people they were written to had already done that), but they support the message preached in Acts, saying, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you…let him be accursed.”(See Galatians 1:6-9)

The church Jesus died to purchase started on the Day of Pentecost, Are you part of a church that is still preaching the gospel message preached that day? 

Don’t settle for a “no-name” gospel (many churches only repeat Jesus words in Matt. 28:19 in baptism, rather than obeying them by using the name of Jesus as the Apostles always did when they baptized).

(There are many other scriptures that could be given, but these were used for the sake of being brief. )