Tuesday, April 3, 2007
posted in 2004
Leeches are one of the beasties in this world belonging to the class of parasites. Parasites are creatures that cannot exist without drawing shelter, nutrition and in some cases actual hosting within the bodies of other living things. Fleas, lampreys, tapeworms .. yecch .. they are all parasitical things.
The Body of Christ is covered with these damnable things that are dragging so many in the Christian world down with them. They've been there so long, we've come to accept them as part of the scheme of things. The Bible makes no room for them, however, and roundly puts them in their place. Yet we welcome them and even ring the dinner bell for them:
- Cults cannot exist without the Church: too many Christians are fat targets for their wiles and groups like Remnant Fellowship to the Unification Church to Mormonism et al ad nauseum (Mt 24:4) seduce so many who could do well without them to their eternal ruin.
- Hireling church leaders who couldn't make a living any other way and who feed upon the flock to rip them off, milk them dry and steal away their livelihood (Ezek 34) by magnifying their authoritarian "anointing" through fear, intimidation and hardfisted politicking.
- The menagerie of opportunists (Mk 11:17) whose cottage industries based upon warped appeals to the pride, greed and weaknesses of the Church (like the fund raisers, so-called "Christian" TV, etc.) would collapse without the "widows mites" they shill mightily for.
- The amazingly well entrenched consolidation of aberrant, good-ol-boy leadership which is seen often at the helm of many a church movement dedicated to "the Kingdom of God" but who exist only to perpetuate their foul lineage of cronies and sons (and daughters) who have no business in the ministry at all (Mark 7:1-13).
I could go on. But they are there. We see their loathesome presence all the time. But we tolerate them so well. We are told just to "pray" for them, to "love" them, to "accept" them, to "not gossip" about them .. by those whose spiritual vessels have long ago been breached by the bloodsucking probosces of the parasites they defend so ably (in some instances, reckoning them as the Only True Defenders of the True Faith whose dictates are the very breath of the Spirit, "fresh words" that only stink of their decay). So they live on to this day, undisturbed, eating away at the Body with scarcely a concern.
And Jesus said it would be like this before He returned. But hey, we're in revival, right? Billion Soul Revivaltime, right?
But just because He noted their ilk would be on the hunt for us doesn't mean we automatically needed to just surrender and let them fasten on us like some alien thing ready to invade our temples of the Spirit. Far too many of us do so. Some of them are the loudest mouths on this board who defend nothing they truly understand, who cherish heroes and doctrines and practices that do nothing but sap the Church. It might be interesting to see what those red patches around their ears might actually be caused by, and what might be lurking beneath those darker ones around their hearts.
But we can deworm the Body of Christ .. these things can be sent packing if we would do but ONE thing .. STOP FEEDING THEM!
posted in 2005
How I love that old Pentecostal confession: "I thank God for saving, sanctifying and filling me with the Holy Ghost." You never hear it anymore. The old confession of faith. How wonderful .. !
I will someday publish my own testimony of how I came to Christ but for now, I will just say that I came into the Church of God in 1980. My first pastor preached that confession and preached it well while he was still serving in the pastorate. Some of the older saints in the church were from Churches of God in the South (my homechurch was in Chicago Metro) and would still stand up and testify that they were saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost .. I would often wonder at what they meant, as a young babe. Glory to God, through His Spirit and Word I know better now.
Thank God for these wondrous Bible truths that the Spirit has laid on us to confess! Because they so wonderfully summarize what I have always believed has been the rock solid foundation of Pentecostal doctrine .. and what gets the job of true Christian discipling done. To follow that way isn't glamorous - never has been and never will be. It will always cost true disciples their blood, sweat and tears. It will demand a separation and a price to be paid that the flesh will not give up easily. But it gets the job done.
I learned this, thank God, very well as God's Spirit drew and dealt with me as I struggled to live "right" without quite understanding what "right" was. You need to understand that my struggle as a naive ex-Catholic pagan to first of all UNDERSTAND what in the world this "tongue talking" stuff was all about was never answered to my satisfaction during the two and half years after I came to Christ in February 1981. You need to understand that without anyone telling me so, without any Pentecostals slapping hands on me, I just felt a profound hunger and desire to embrace this bizarre, weird, otherworldly reality sought that involved physical manifestations and speaking in tongues that were completely alien to my Catholic background. I both feared and desired it enormously. There was an intuitive longing for what we now know as "the baptism" after I was first touched by God with saving grace back then.
I could never explain it, but something just drove me to seek an encounter with this frightening, unknown reality. There was something there I knew I just HAD to touch, but I could never ever put it in words. But at every juncture, no matter how many times I wept, cried, pounded the altars, "nothing happened."
I remember one night at the Jacksonville Beach Church of God (when I was attached to a ship in the Navy homeported in Mayport, Florida only a couple miles away)how I literally saw, with eyes shut tight during a worship service, a honest-to-God vision: an indescribable blaze of flaming glory before me beckoned me to embrace it. But as shaken to my core I was to see it, that overwhelming compulsion to spring upon it seized me, and as I sought to rise to my feet to walk to where it seemed to be in the front of the church, a literally tangible blackness arose before me and blocked my view of it and yet again froze me solid.
To make a long story short, I later learned what this meant for me (and I haven't had many visions like that since, I guarantee) .. the Comforter was ready to pour upon me, and yet there was one little matter that needed to be dealt with .. my SANCTIFICATION. The darkness was - I would realize later - a very bitter hatred of my father that I had for his absolute and utter failure to be any kind of meaningful presence in my family's lives, and this sinful attitude simply had to be confessed, repented of and renounced before my vessel could be meet for the Master's use.
It was what was keeping me cut off from the living water I thirsted for .. and until that was dealt with, He would not bless with His Baptism. That is why, I think, many are not baptized in the Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues .. because they have not yet become completely yielded vessels to Him. That is partly why I am such a strong advocate of the preaching of the graces of salvation, sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues.
Later, the Spirit dealt with me about this bitterness, which I repented over, forgiving my father in an unforgettable moment of death to my self aboard my ship. And two days later, a brother Archie Webb called me out in a Family Training Hour in mid December 1982, by the word of knowledge indicating that I had been seeking the Baptism, and THAT night, I would receive. I was skeptical, weary, but I obediently sought the Lord. And through a stammering lip and another tongue, not ten minutes later, the Shekinah poured into me, and my life was never, never, the same ... Later, as I studied the Bible I found the Scripture that explained what happened to me and found them literally jumping off the page into my heart. Oh, praise GOD!
All of this so radically changed my life! I never looked at the world, nor walked in the Spirit the same again.. I learned from the Bible that the Baptism of the Spirit was given to empower for Christian service, to be a witness for Christ, and was a divine visitation of the fulness of the Godhead within our weak human vessels! GLORY! what a truth! It still makes me dizzy ..
I am afraid that this precious Biblical blessing is a priceless spiritual legacy that we are losing in the Church of God (Cleveland). The tenuous balance the COG (and other Pentecostal denominations) once had in trying to apply these concepts to a practical Christian lifestyle is fast teetering over the brink of extinction. We have always historically preached that three fold confession but have never historically well articulated it to the people in our movement. Without that, the process of distinctively Pentecostal spiritual formation (read that DISCIPLESHIP) has been almost terminally choked by our full gospel traditions and outright errors.
Sadly, we never, as a denomination, have ever come to a Biblical unity over what sanctification is, so - IMHO - we have seen the trend today of preaching salvation .. then "getting the Holy Ghost". Sanctification has been relegated to the dusty file cabinets behind the church parsonage as a messy, sticky tangle nobody wants to talk about anymore since it cause SO MUCH DIVISION (part of the cultural LIE we have swallowed which demand that we don't Make Waves but be "Moderate").
And unfortunately this is a trend that is all too easily discernable. When is the last time ANY of you heard the doctrine of sanctification CLEARLY spelled out, proclaimed, and consistently applied in a Christ-centered, sensitive, yet uncompromising program of Christian discipleship ANYWHERE?
When I left my church in 1986 to come to the Holy City (Lee-bound), I honestly can say that I never heard one single sermon on Sanctification in all the dozens of Lee college chapels (and four convocations) I attended until the Spring of 1988, when Mark Rutland visited and in love pinned our ears back. "Amazing, brothers!" I kept saying all the way back to homiletics class, unable to hold in my own astonishment any longer .. "amazing! It takes a Spirit filled Methodist to tell us Holiness people what living right MEANS." And it took 9 more years for me to again hear a sermon on the subject at my home church (and I have since lost the tape of it I bought, but I assure you that as soon as I find it, I'm going to lock it in a vault).
In my humble opinion, the present day Pentecostal movement still has yet to fully grasp what holiness really is and is perilously teetering between the two extremes of legalism or license. With all I have seen go on in the Pentecostal and Charismatic worlds in the past 20 years, I can only further submit that we might not be able to right ourselves anymore. I seriously question if passion for holiness still is what's behind the "passion" of much of the church today. But without it, the Bible says, no man will see the Lord.
In that case, Christians, follow the direction of the first altar call in the Bible, from the first herald of Pentecost, brother Peter:
"SAVE YOURSELVES FROM THIS UNTOWARD GENERATION."
As if anyone cares? We shall see ..
This blog, entitled "Spiritwatch Unchained", is designed to be an outlet for me to expand upon various hot potatoes and subjects raised by the work I've done on our ministry website, "the Spiritwatch" .
As one of the facilitators of a countercult ministry outreach, we've all seen some pretty unbelievable things concerning the fields of faith, religion, spirituality and culture. And having myself become a born again believer in 1980 and a Pentecostal minister in 1983, I've seen more than my fair share of metaphysical melange in my 47 years. Spiritwatch Unchained will be my own personal outlet to comment on things. This will include and is not limited to the spectacles of the mundane and the mystical found in Evangelicalism, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, and of course, the Cultworld itself. Some of my postings will be from an old forum I used to post upon and which I felt I needed to leave (with no hard feelings) for several reasons, not the least of which was just a desire to explore life outside it's hothouse.
A little about myself?
I came to faith in Christ out of a licentious life as a pagan Catholic after living on the streets of Chicago and finding the love of Jesus Christ touching me at the Pacific Garden Mission on St. Patrick's day, 1980. I joined the Navy, left it in June 1983 and began to learn what it was to be a disciple of Jesus at my first little Pentecostal homechurch, which is affiliated with the Church of God - Cleveland, TN. In 1983, that same Jesus called me to the ministry and my life has never been the same.
After a maelstrom of spiritual growth and development that sadly was punctuated by parental divorce aftermath, the death of my first pastor and the tragedy of a church gone wrong, I left Chicago to prepare for ministry in the buckle of the Bible Belt, Cleveland, Tennessee (the Holy City). This was in 1986 and the time at Lee College (now University) provided for me another furnace of spiritual testing and personal growth (that would take too long to really fully explain).
After getting my Bachelor of Science degree double majoring in Biblical Education (Pastoral sequence) and Christian Education (with ETA certification) in 1991, God orchestrated things seriously to ensure I remained here. I was ready to blow town and head out to Wheaton College graduate school for Intercultural studies in preparation for missions work when out of the blue, He sent me the princess I am in love with and am passionately married to (a Clevelander, of course). Talk about change - it's a change I've never regretted and Joy Lynn Robinson has truly been a joy in my own journey, someone through whom God's grace and character has been part of my continual growth, edification and even chastening. Good Christian women will do that for you.
I finally became a licensed minister with the Church of God (Cleveland) in 1992 and then, a few months later after Ms. Robinson became Mrs. Martinez, Jesus then bestowed upon us a calling to evangelize those in cults and to help bring healing and restoration to those wounded by them. Our membership in the Westmore Church of God was part of how He spoke to us, and through Westmore's encouragement, we entered a vast and almost unexplored galaxy of ministry I call the Cultworld in our first efforts to win Jehovah's Witnesses in 1993.
14 years later, and after several other seasons of transformation, outreach and ministry, the Holy Spirit has set us apart to be among the many serving the Remnant Fellowship cult by trying to arrest its' madness, confront its' practical and theological errors, and try to help those ground into the dirt by it. Joy earned her degree in Psychology from Lee in 2004 and that is where we are up to this point, and , we now are members at the South Cleveland Church of God, where I am an elder.
Although I am a man of God, I am also a man .. and a Christian who has grown enough to learn three important truths that never escape me:
I am still a man in need of a Savior
God is Love but he is also Jealous
I will always need His grace and the End of all things is still at hand
I hope the postings on this blog, as funny or serious as they may be, communicate some of that amazing Grace God has imparted to me .. as I wander through this vale of tears ..