Friday, December 25, 2015

What exactly are we celebrating on Christmas?

Isaiah 9:6King James Version (KJV)

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.

John 1:14King James Version (KJV)

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Merry Christmas to you all! This is the day that the majority of believers in Jesus Christ celebrate his birth. While some say, "there's no record of the early church celebrating Jesus' birth," I say, "there's no record of them celebrating their families birthdays or anniversaries either. Are you going to say that it's a sin to do so when the Bible clearly does not say that it is?" Incidentally, when the Angels sang on the day of his birth, wasn't that a celebration of his birth? When the Shepherds went to see him, wasn't that an acknowledgement of his glorious birth? When the wise men brought gifts (probably 2 years later) on his birthday, wasn't that a celebration of his birth? 
Some say, "Christmas has pagan roots and we shouldn't celebrate pagan things." If we were to cut out every pagan thing in our culture, we'd have practically nothing left. By their argument, why don't we go back to the Jewish calendar? After all, even the days of the week on the Gregorian calendar we use in the western world are all named after pagan gods. 
Finally, some say, "Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, so we shouldn't celebrate his birthday on that day." To these I say, "we don't know his birth date, so December 25th is as good a day as any other." 
Why cannot we Christians just except the good in some things instead of saying everything short of breathing is a sin? Relax! Jesus came, in part, to bring us joy everlasting and life eternal! Isn't that worth celebrating? 
But here's the most amazing thing to me. 
In the Old Covenant, before the first temple was built, the Jews worshiped God at a glorious tent called the tabernacle. It was at the altar near this tabernacle that the sacrifices were made by the priests for the sins of the people. It was in this tabernacle that this blood was taken, by the high priest, into the Holy of Holies, to sprinkle it onto the mercy seat in the midst of the ark of the covenant. 
The Holy of Holies was also where the presence of God dwelt. God is holy! No one unholy could enter there. In fact, they tied a long rope with bells on it to the ankle of the high priest when he went in. Why? Because if he had not repented right, if he had not sacrificed right, if he had not used the right amount of sacrificial blood on himself and his clothing before he entered the presence of God within the Holy of Holies, he would be struck dead by the holiness of God! 
For centuries, between the tabernacle and (later) the first temple, God was pretty well inaccessible to the vast majority of human beings. The laundry list of requirements to the people, the priests, and for the high priest himself, is astounding to read (found in Leviticus-Deuteronomy)! If a man had a small blemish on his skin, he could not be the high priest. 
If anyone tried to enter the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, they would be struck dead by God himself! 
The people lived in fear and wonder of God. Yet, they were separated by sin from the one thing both God and man desired- a close relationship with almighty God! 
Then, an amazing thing happened. Mankind could do nothing to fix the situation, but God could. 
God himself became a man!
Read Isaiah 9:6 above. This baby that was born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago was God himself! He was "the everlasting Father" in human flesh. He was the "wonderful Counsellor" (Holy Ghost) in a human body. He was "the mighty God" in a frail, human form. 
John puts it in an even more amazing way in John 1:14: "the word was made flesh and DWELT among us..." The word for "dwelt" there comes from the Greek word "skenoo", which means, " 
  1. to fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle
  2. to dwell                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So, "on that first Christmas morn" (as some folks word it), GOD made his own tabernacle- his own Holy of Holies, and dwelt there!
Now, for the first time since Adam's day, common men and women could walk and talk with God! They could touch God! Shepherds who could never have come into his presence before, were able to actually touch him! Even the wise men would never have been able to give gifts to and touch and interact with God before this day. But, now they could! 
This was God reaching out to a lost and dying world in a magnificent way. He touched people now that he could never have touched before the incarnation. He talked with common sinners and forgave them (without requiring them to kill a sheep)! He showed love and compassion where he couldn't do it before. 
Why? Because he knew that soon even THIS new tabernacle's veil (his own flesh) would be torn on a cross on a hill called Calvary and HIS OWN BLOOD (ACTS 20:28) would be shed to cover the sins of these (and every person) people he was now touching. 
God made a plan before time began to buy us back! And that plan (his word) was made flesh and put into action on that "first Christmas morning."
What an amazing God we serve! 
Jesus Christ, not just the son of God, but the God of the whole universe all by himself, made flesh in order to purchase a people with his own blood.
Oh, what a savior! 
That's why I celebrate Christmas. It's not about the gift giving (though there were gifts given on Jesus' birthday). It's not about the family time so much (though we do enjoy that and thank God for the blessing he has given us in each other). 
It's all about the ultimate gift that God almighty gave by tabernacling himself in a human body to pay for the sins of us all! So, I will celebrate Christmas because it's the one day a year that nearly everyone celebrates him. AND I CHOOSE TO USE THIS DAY TO TELL THEM JUST HOW SPECIAL THIS DAY REALLY IS! And, they need to know how special they are in his eyes: so that they can see his nail-scarred hands reaching out to them in the hope that they will obey his plan of salvation (Acts 2:38) and come to him. 
The God of the universe became man, so that man could have a relationship with him. 
Won't you respond to him today? 
Merry Christmas to you all!       

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Work in progress

Philippians 1:6King James Version (KJV)

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth notyet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Romans 8:20-23King James Version (KJV)

20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
In Apostolic Pentecostal circles, we put a lot of emphasis on holiness, much of it misdirected (albeit well-intentioned.) While it is true that holiness is necessary, many paint holiness out to be a long list of rules and legislation. Indeed, to hear some tell it, we can work ourselves into heaven simply by going to church, paying tithes, obeying the leadership, dressing and acting in certain ways, etc. 
This week is Christmas, where we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Stop and think about it. Why did he come? Why did he robe himself in flesh and become a man? Consider this powerful answer: 
Isaiah 64:6 [Full Chapter]
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

The word "filthy" here comes from the Hebrew word, "idda." It means, "menstruation." And the word "Rags" here comes from the Hebrew word, "beged," and it means, "treachery, deceit, garment." 

In other words, for all our worship, for all our praise, for all our effort, for all our giving, for all our towing the line of standards, our righteousness is as worthwhile to Jesus as a used Tampon. (Yes, I said it! But, God said it first through Isaiah.) 

We can be the most accomplished and seemingly successful Christian leader in the world, but for all our accomplishments in the eyes of mankind, we fall so very short of what God himself calls righteous. 

But, he became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. Therefore, we can stand before him washed in his blood as his children, enjoying the full love and devotion of God towards us.

Yet, when we declare to the world that we are the children of God, they begin to nit pic us to death.
"I thought you were a Christian, Christians don't do that."  

In our flesh we can do nothing. However, WITH GOD LIVING THROUGH US, we can do all things. Just as humans have different levels of development, so do children of God. Just as we don't expect a new born to walk, or a toddler to iron their clothing, neither should anyone expect a Christian to be perfect. 

Over time, we will "grow in Grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." But, will we achieve sinless perfection? Not in this life. But, the trick to being Holy is not following standards and being religious. The trick is in allowing Jesus to live through us. The more we allow him to, the less sins we will commit and the more like him we will become. 

But, for all the fruit inspectors out there who are investigating "God's people," looking for signs of sin:

Please bear with us, we are, after all, truly a work in progress. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The trouble with the "Apostolic Pentecostal" movement.

First of all, I'm sorry for having been away for so long. We've had a lot on our plates and our minds. Life is hard. Life is frustrating. I work 60+ hours a week. I am a full time college student. I have a wonderful wife, two grown daughters, a grand daughter, and 4 animals at home to care for. Granted, they do as much caring for me- if not more- as I do for them.

Yet, we live in a fallen world. We live in a world that, in Paul's words, is "wax(ing) worse and worse." 2 Timothy 3:13

Terrorism is on the rise. Entertainment is where people hide. "Me first," is the people's cry! Politics, for the most part, has become a push to give out "candy" to people in order to gain votes and stay in power. We are on the brink of WW3, as ideologies war for control of the world, and our politicians don't seem to want to stand up for anything at all.

What's worse, people are looking to Government programs and education to fulfill their inner needs. They jump from bed to bed, trying to find "the love of their lives." When all that fails, they turn to drugs and alcohol and sex for the sake of fulfilling their own desires.

In the midst of all of this, stands the church. An entity that is supposed to care for people in every way. We are supposed to care not only for the souls of people, but for their physical needs, as well.In the heart of every true believer is a desire to worship the one true God in the midst of a gathering of our fellow believers. So, we get in our cars and take our families to buildings where "the church" is supposed to meet for the glory of God. And the vast majority of the time, we wind up leaving disheartened and discouraged. Why is this?

Rather than being encouraged to operate freely in the spirit of God- and as part of the body of Christ- God's people are told to sit down, shut up, and let the real ministry (translated as titled preachers and singers) operate. Rather than being challenged to go deeper in the Lord and let him teach us through the power of the Holy Ghost, we are told to "be on the same page as the church leadership." In other words, get our beliefs from the professionals who are better than we and just blindly obey.

We are told that God loves everyone. But yet, in practice, we are shown that God seems to love some of us more than he does others. The rich, or well off, are allowed to get away with things that those of us in the poor masses would never be allowed to get away with- and still stay active in "the ministry" by virtue of their "giving heart". When people are sick, they don't even get a phone call, much less a personal prayer- unless it is a big tithe payer.

Preachers now are either spiritual cheerleaders who tell us that God is a spiritual Santa Claus who can't wait to bless us from his bag of goodies- thus eliminating God's judgement from the scriptures, or they are so hardcore that they add to the word and make everything- including wearing certain colors- a sin. Some are too educated for us common folk and only speak with high sounding words that few can comprehend. Others only know four sermons and go back and forth between these four from differing angles to the point where people leave because they're spiritually starving from lack of getting all the spiritual nutrients needed to feed their spirit man. Some pastors are egomaniacs. Some are control freaks. Almost none allow the spirit of God to have full reign in a service. much less the lives of their flocks.

We are told that God is a forgiving God. We are told that when we are born again, ALL things are made new. Yet, in practice, if a man doesn't have a family Pentecostal pedigree (or a large bank account), the "leadership" of the church will use their past sins to keep them out of the calling God is laying on their lives.

We claim to be the book of Acts church. But are we really?

While it is true that the early church taught and practiced Acts 2:38 salvation (as we do), and they taught and believed in only ONE God (as we do), yet, we are not having the same world changing results that they did. Why is that?

The early church reached out to the lost and the hurting- going so far as to sell all they had and trust the spirit's leading of the church leaders to care for the needs of everyone. We, on the other hand, take up special offerings to fix up a perfectly good bathroom so that it looks pretty to the upcoming conference goers- while at the same time, talking down to the folks in the church that are in need of food, rent, utilities, and a good friend.

The early church stood up to political leaders and spoke the word without fear or favor. We kiss up to political leaders and push our convictions under a rug, all so we can keep tax free statuses and favorable zoning for our properties.

The early church gave their lives to Jesus and their all to people. We can barely push away a plate, much less spend hours tarrying at the altar for the sake of lost souls.

The early church cared for the needs of others. We seem to care only for the needs of the building and the privileged few.

The early church practiced holiness by getting as close as they could to Jesus and allowing him to live through him. We "practice holiness" by proclaiming man-made and barely if at all scriptural rules.

The early church practiced a definite leadership structure that lifted up the family structure (God-husband, then wife, then children). We tell people that Structures were a cultural thing and not for our now enlightened society.

The early church had men preaching and teaching to all and did not allow women to preach at all, while they could teach other women. (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:12, Titus 2:1-5, etc)

Rather than encouraging Sunday school teachers to pray and seek God to tell them what to teach their classes (thereby letting God use their gifts), they are given programmed books that skim the surface and make it "easier" to teach. Many preachers now would rather download a sermon from the internet than seek God for a fresh word to help their hearers.

If we are ever to see the results that the early church saw. If we are ever to actually BE what we say we are, then we need to hit our faces, repent, and make wholesale changes to nearly everything we do. We need to study out and learn the principles and actions of the early church and then let God use as (as HE sees fit- not as religions says) to reach out to a very lost and very dying world. Then and only then, will we have a book of Acts revival.
                                            Image from