Tuesday, February 22, 2011

#225-Not the 21st Century

(Picture of Egyptian Revolution)
Here is "Judas" by Depeche Mode...it's so apt for a good listen right now. (Also when is someone going to put 2 and 2 together and realize the album "Songs of Faith and Devotion" by Depeche Mode is stock full of songs worthy of being turned into worship songs)...

I heard about a church service Sunday wherein the preacher preached that the revolution that occurred in Egypt was described as a result of the curse of Pharaoh as described in the book of Exodus. The sermon apparentely went on to talk about what happened in Egypt was at the heart of the ever emerging New World Order because the newly democratic Egypt was allowing Iranian ships into it's canals. Obviously I am missing some gaps in information, but at one point the preacher did rail on the new government which came about from the revolution. And allegedy the "new democracy" was against God's Will. The bottom line of the message seemed to be the tying in of the event of Egypt with the End Times.

I don't even know.

I'm just glad i wasn't there. Had I been, it would not have been out of the realm of possibility to leave the sanctuary, get in my car, and drive it headlong through the church walls to interrupt the sermon in the name of the Egyptian Revolution.

But isn't it just like us to take a revolutionary act of freedom, overthrowing a fascist dictator, as they did in Egypt and put some End Times spin on it?

Instead of celebrating one of the first wars ever in the middle East that had nothing to do with religion, and rather was simply over the freedom of the people themselves (kinda like the American Revolution), we Biblicized the event to something that will make us live in more anxiety as the preacher pointed to the revolution and presence of Iranian ships in the canal as evidence of the Last Days.

And yet more, instead of living in the present and engaging it, we find ourselves twisting the present events (such as the Egyptian Struggle) as an indicator of the future coming doom of Revelation if one is not saved?

Is this not the state of many Apostolics who want to ignore the commands of acting now in the state of things as they are and trying to militantly overthrow the powers of evil that Paul talked about in Ephesians and instead choose to "maintain and conserve" as the holy people we are in order to be prepared for when God comes back?

In other words, in our inability to fully be "in this world but not of this world" we choose to resign ourselves and opt to look forward to some horrible time in the future where 1/3 of mankind will die according to the book of Revelation.

So what Being Apostolic has come to mean in some sense is "look at the past for our Identity" and look to the future where "we will be proven right," and in the mean time preach against anything that tries to do anything in the name of God outside of preaching holiness, the Oneness of God, going door knocking to witness, reading your bible, and praying?

Yes, I am exaggerating this point, but is it not a bid odd that to Be Apostolic means looking ahead to an Apocalypse, and looking backwards to the early 20th century, but hesitantly looks to what we are doing now (of course, we do have missionaries abroad, but that says nothing about us here in America)?

How much do we have to hate people outside our "Full Truth" to prefer to "preserve" ourselves for the rapture that could come at any moment than risk our lives for the people in need right now?

Let me restate that: I will grow out my hair, and wear a skirt, and willingly go to hell if it would somehow save 5 people for heaven. Of couse that is not realistic, but my point is, if holiness standards are keeping people from believing the Acts 2:38 message, then i will forsake my own Identity of holiness standards for the sake of others. This is what I mean when I say An Apostolic Identity should be Identityless: We should be more hungry to redeem that which is broken and lost than we should be to "maintain" our Identity and the distinctions that implies. It's not that I am saying we need to lose standards at all, but rather if our distinctions are causing us to "be saved" but at the same time are putting us in a state of complacency to which our witness is not acting with urgency to recover the Lost during this "time that remains" then I would argue forsaking that which causes us to be complacent in our proclamations of the Full Truth is entirely what it means to be Apostolic.

As one teacher I highly respect remarked, "Being holy does not mean simply to be taken out of the trash of sin and made clean and then to remain clean until judgment day. Rather, being holy means to be taken out of the trash of sin and made clean then to go right back into the Garbage Dump to pull others out of the same trash heap you came from."

Being Apostolic to me then is not about who we are. But rather what are we doing. This is where it may get uncomfortable. But if someone says they have the "Full Truth" and Jesus inside their soul, then the active urgency to redeem and save that such a declaration implies ought to be present.

This is why Christmas Card pictures of smiling preachers with their smiling familes in lavish homes makes me nauseaus. Their example of being Apostolic is that one can make a nice living being holy, and running around the country preaching to other APostolics about us being Apostolic. Because if their identity is defined by the Apostolic Movement's past, and Acts 2:38 says we can be saved later on in the future for eternity, we mind as well enjoy ourselves here on earth in the present with no worries other than having some good messages to preach and some good anointing along with it...

But I will take the drunkard who finds himself at the altar twice a month on his knees crying out to God with tears rolling down his face, knowing he isn't good enough yet before I will take such an Apostolic Evangelist.

Give me the Acts 2:38 man in the midst of the mess finding himself amidst controversy for his "compromises" as he tries to witness than a man with a nice, freshly mowed lawn studying the book of Psalms for his message on Sunday.

We aren't in Kansas anymore. This is a certainty. So how dare some of us live in a miniature Kansas amidst such chaos?

Prov. 14:4-"Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox."

As this rant ends, let's go back to my original point....how much of our message is focused on the past and the future, and doesn't look to the "Now" and the world around us (so much so that present day news events are only paid attention to if we can fit it into some awful interpretation of Revelation)....

Is not such past/future mentalities a symptom of our inability to keep up with today's world? So much so that we have to live out a sci-fi fantasy or live in the tombs of those who have died before us in order to cope with ourselves and the world around us.
This scene is eerily similar to an episode of the old Twilight Zone, called "Walking Distance" wherein a salesman is down on his luck and can only find his escape of joy in the nostalgia of his past. In this episode the main character is somehow transported back to the time when he was a child, but he himself remains the adult. While he takes joy in this miraculous opportunity to live in the age of his innocense, the "past" is not so ready to accept him. Simply put, the man doesn't fit in and causes disturbances amongst his family and the townspeople (and even his own childhood self that he encounters).

The following scene is the conclusion of the episode where we will see the dad talk to his son as an adult encouraging him to leave the land of "cotton candy and merry go rounds." I think it is very apt representation of what I think we should take to be the voice of our Apostolic Pioneers (the Dad) talking to us Apostolics who are transfixed on maintaing the Identity of a time and culture that has passed us for several decades now (you only need to watch the first two minutes)-


  1. Ouch. This hurts most because we are admittedly very out-of-touch with the here & now as an organization. I understand that the UPC as a whole does not have a "community outreach" approach, and to some extent I can agree with that. However, when this mentality seeps into the local church (which I'm so grateful that it hasn't in my local church), we recreate "Noah's Ark", and close the door. The whole world around us is drowning in sin and hurt, and pain and suffering of not being able to meet and know Jesus, and we have forcibly removed ourselves from that environment in an effort to live out our 'holiness'. Shame.
    The flip side of this is that we as individuals MUST take on the role that is neglected in the organization as a whole. If we don't, it will not be done. I'm not saying that the UPC or any other Apostolic organization will never have an outreach division that is more than just "witnessing-but-not-helping". I'm just saying that WE must act in the love that Christ has shown to us. Shame on US.
    By all means, work with your pastor, under his authority, with his support, and fulfill the needs of your community, your city, your county. Feed the homeless, mentor the fatherless, help the needy, visit with the sick and the widows, and show that "true religion" that Paul wrote about. At a certain point, all of the belly-aching about our organization kind of fades away when you're doing what you should be doing at a local level to leave an impact.
    The biggest question is this: If your local church closed down tomorrow, would anyone miss it? Would people come to the site, and lament the fact that they won't have any help any more? I'm not just talking about their spiritual needs (which are terribly important), but if we're not meeting the root/core/elemental needs of people who are hungry, hurting and lost, how in the WORLD will we ever get them to understand the amazing love that Jesus is ready to share with them?
    Joel, you pushed my button. this is where I stand, because too often we've let the denominational world show us up in our giving, service, and true shows of compassion. No more, at least not in my local church.

  2. I started out with a lot of these same frustrations and questions in my quest for truth. The end result was me leaving the Acts 2:38 message.

    I now attend a church that has to turn people away hundreds of people every Sunday. There is no hype, no altar calls, and no screaming preachers. Just three songs and the preached word. There is peace and a holiness like none I have ever experienced in the "true" church. My sin is confronted and I am convicted by the word.

    I sometimes look around and wonder, "why are these people here?". Then I realize, they are there for same reason I am. They are looking for Jesus and and love the word and want to serve in Biblical community. They are truly hungry to see lives changed and not just see their beliefs validated by claimed miracles.

    Does anyone ever wonder if standards, oneness of the Godhead, and being stuck in the past is really the problem with the apostolic movement? Is it possible that the Acts 2:38 message is not the answer? The movement is dying, the great end time revival never happened, and I wonder if people will ever believe me twenty years from now when I tell them about the church where I grew up.

    I know God can use any group to bring people to Christ but I sometimes wonder if the good outweighs the bad. I have many friends and my family is in the movement and my heart breaks for their lack of understanding of the gospel.

  3. I personally do believe that Acts 2:38 indicates the way of salvation. Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost. But that's only one verse, the whole bible points the way to those three things and tells us what to do afterwards.

    My church is in an interesting situation - one that I've never been in before. Less then a year ago our Pastor retired, he was well into his 70's and I personally believe he held on for too long in his role as Pastor. He'd always said "I'll retire and ___ age" And he held out. The last 5 years of his pastorship were extremely difficult...imagine having a pastor who has outstayed his welcome?! With our old pastor it had been years since someone received the Holy Ghost in our church, they always received it at camp or other special services. The baptism water was literally stagnant because people would offer to clean it and he would brush them off. But let me tell you...he would preach those holiness standards. Skirts!! No Makeup!! No facial hair!! All with stagnant water in the batpistry behind him. We could have voted him out I suppose, but he literally built the church when he started out all those years ago. All we could do was pray. He didn't give in and held out until he'd reached what he deemed an appropriate retirement age.

    We have a new pastor for only a few months, baptistry is cleaned out, one has been baptised and filled with the Holy Ghost already and people who had left church are coming back. Seems there is somebody new every single service. Our new pastor certainly believes in standards, but he preaches more on holiness of the heart.

    I'm really not certain myself what the point of me writing all of this is. Except maybe to say that it's very important for the older generation of preachers to be willing to step aside and let the next generation come in and lead. Holding on to it out of fear isn't going to do anybody any good...and might cost souls. I know, I've watched it happen.

  4. The church isn't a place for social handouts. The church is a refuge, and a place where like-minded people are gathered together, perfected, and strengthened. How do the following scriptures fit into your perspective of the church? Why do you generalize and base the entirety of Apostolic people on ONE message regarding Egypt?
    "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
    Eph 4:24 "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
    "Follow peace with all [men], and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble [you], and thereby many be defiled;"

    Change is required. Inside AND out. No, we AS SAINTS have no right to judge, criticize or condemn people who haven't changed. God will deal with them, and through the word of God perfect them. New converts NEED to change, and put away the things of the past. Sorry, but this sounds way too much like we are watering down God's truth. We have the responsibility to teach and disciple new converts. Our Pastors have the responsibility, as guardians of the gate, to put up barriers and set guidelines. That is the responsibility of leadership. People MUST realize their need to change, their need for repentance. You aren't going to find a message in the emergent church that requires change the same way a good old-fashioned, anointed preacher will convey. The same week a message on baptism NEGATING the Trinity (YES it is still wrong) was preached, 5 people (in a relatively smaller congregation) were filled with the Holy Ghost, and 6 were baptized. Your writing questions the anointing of God, and it really reveals a lack of trust in God, because if He is really in control of what is going on, then your church will be sorted out. I think, more than anything, the same Phariseical attitude that is criticized in this blog is present throughout the writing.
    Sometimes it takes years for a harvest. It is seasonal. And you have to sow for many years, reaping the occasional one, until you, your church and your pastor are prepared to receive a harvest. These things are Biblical, and changing our message to get attendance up is not going to benefit anyone's soul.

  5. Joel, I'd suggest removing the ability to respond anonymously... this is confusing trying to refer to a specific person when you don't know who it is...
    @Anonymous: I think that there's a unique 'lumping together' that happens when you assume that helping someone in need with food, water, money, supplies of any kind is only akin to "social handouts", and that the people who are receiving such help are anything less than human or trying to take advantage of a church.
    (Yes, I'm taking issue with one particular part of your comment in order to make a larger point in response)
    Social responsibility and helping those in need is EXACTLY what the church is, IN ADDITION to being a place of refuge. Further, I'd say that without having a strong balance between meeting your neighbor's physical need as well as his spiritual need, you're only hamstringing your potential impact in your area.
    Read Isaiah 58 (which I'm sure you have), but think about what God's saying here: "Fast, do your duty, but don't forget to provide help to the weak, and I'll bless you". Is this so contradictory to the message of the Gospel, and the rest of the book of Acts (not diminishing the importance of Chapter 2 by any means)? Aren't we as Christians (i.e, Christ Followers) supposed to be more than just secluded, enshrouded, and isolated 'members' of a church body?
    Yes, our pastors set up the watchtower, the perimeter of our souls. However, if that perimeter is keeping us from going out into that lost world and sharing this wonderful Love, are we truly being "salt" or "light"? I'm not criticizing any particular pastor, or the role itself, but rather, asking what makes us think that "coming out and being separate" really means? Does it mean that we disconnect from the hurting, lost, and broken world? Or rather, does it mean that we disconnect from the sinful nature, and in doing so, meet and fulfill a higher purpose --- WITHOUT BEING TARNISHED OR DIRTIED?
    Jesus, as our example, lived a perfect life. Not because he isolated Himself, but because he knelt to the level of the lowest man or woman, healed, comforted and helped them, but was not dirtied by their sin. That's holiness, and it didn't have ANYTHING to do with how he was dressed or how he appeared. It was holiness that was in action and deed.
    Don't fall temptation to cloistering yourself into your four walls and think that you're fulfilling your duty here on Earth, just waiting for the Rapture (which, yes, I do believe is coming soon! Even more the reason why I must compel those who aren't knowing Jesus to "come see a man who knows..."!).

  6. @Josh I am entitled to agree about the ANONYMOUS thing (names please). If I may add to your comment and point out the Book of James in regards to good works, as it pertains to social justice. People often take this book out of context thinking James it speaking of works of salvation (which would contradict Paul's writings in Romans), rather James was speaking of having faith, yet doing nothing to help those in need.

    We often hear people make the cry for SEPARATION, but 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 is one of the only places where we see this call of separation (unequally yoked with unbelievers). In context Paul was speaking about being allied with believers who were rebelling against Paul within the church and he labeled them as the unbelievers. Paul wasn't telling us to stay away from the lost or even to complete disassociate ourselves with life. Its clear that we are called to think differently than the world and change our hearts and minds. Ancient Rome had its share of organized sports, games, festivals, books, education, politics and yet we are given no rules to refrain from being apart of any of this, in fact the opposite is true - Colossians 2:16.

    Josh you are right on, Jesus socialized with unbelievers (the lost). Jesus was criticized for being with tax collectors, called a glutton and a wine bibber, speaking to women, prostitutes and children.

    We cannot be a witness if we do not allow people to witness us. The great commission is for us to go into the world and share the gospel and the 2nd greatest commandant was to love others, and we cannot do that sitting in a religious corner afraid of our own shadow - 2 Timothy 1:7-9.

  7. @Joel: ummm... sorry for hijacking your post/blog/etc. I'll try to restrain myself better next time.

  8. I was the first anonymous poster lol I only posted anonymously because I mentioned my church specifically and I wanted to hide my name...normally I do post by name. Next time I'll just make up a name as opposed to being "anonymous". Sorry about that!

  9. I have a longer comment coming on the post coming. But first on the topic of anonymous commenting. Will anonymous posts are annoying there are two reasons I would like to disagree with the other comments wishing to remove the ability.

    First there are times that anonymity is needed for the commenter when there comments could have personal repercussions, ie a UPCI mister disapproving of the ban on TVs which would be grounds for dismissal, or could identify a person or group of people that are being used as a negative example, ie the other church in my city does X and if you know me then you know the church I am speaking of.

    Second many of the anonymous commenters have held an opposition view and we need that view else we tern into cable news.

  10. @ nonameatall/the first anonymous.

    You give me hope. My former church is in the same situtation -- pre-new pastor. It is sad, so very sad. I held on as long as I could, then for the sake of my family, I had to move on. Fortunately for me, there is another Pentecostal church close by. But it's not "my" home church. How I wish I could be in the place you're in! To be experiencing the revival that WILL come.... You are blessed.