Wednesday, July 31, 2019

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" Is An Oklahoma Song

Armstrong Academy (1861 Civil War Map) in SE Oklahoma
Many people don't realize some of America's most colorful history occurred in what was formerly called Indian Territory, but now the State of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is a Choctaw Indian word which means "red people."

The U.S. States government removed 5 Civilized Indian Tribes to Indian Territory during the 1830s through the Indian Removal Act.

Christian, caucasian missionaries moved with the Indian tribes from the east to Indian Territory, risking life and limb to continue their evangelical work among the Native Americans. Some of the most moving missionary stories throughout world history occurred within Oklahoma.

It is a little known fact the 5 Civilized Tribes brought with them black slaves during the 1830s. The 5 Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, and Chickasaw) were called "Civilized" because they had begun to farm, educate their children, and obtain occupations typically associated with civilization; giving up traditional Indian culture.

Living in southern states throughout the eastern portion of America, the Civilized Tribes used slaves to sow and harvest their crops. Those slaves came with their Indian masters to Oklahoma.

In my home office, I have an Indian Territory Map from 1861 (see picture upper left). Circled in red is a place called Armstrong Academy.

This Choctaw Indian school was established by Christian Missionaries in the 1840s to educate Choctaw children. In 1845, the Domestic (Home) Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention took over the operation of Armstrong Academy.
Spencer Academy (Indian Territory)

Just a few miles south of Armstrong Academy, sitting near the Red River, was another Christian
school for the education of Choctaw Indian children called Spencer Academy.

Wallace Willis and his wife Minerva were two African-American slaves working at Spencer Academy before the war.

"Uncle Wallace" and "Aunt Minerva," as the Choctaw students liked to call them, lived in a little cabin near the school.

During the pleasant evenings, Wallace and Minerva would sit at the door of the cabin and sing songs that they'd composed about slavery and deliverance, going home to heaven, and eternal rest. Uncle Wallace composed the words and Aunt Minerva would sing along with him, using melodies they were familiar with from their old days on Mississippi plantations. Sometimes the Indian students would come to their house and listen to the singing. The songs composed by Uncle Wallace became well-known "negro spirituals" (as they were later called) including, "Roll, Jordan, Roll," "Steal Away to Jesus," "I'm A-Rollin', I'm A-Rollin'," "The Angels Are A-Comin'" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

Many believe that Wallace Willis' song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" may have been inspired by the sight of the nearby Red River which reminded him of the biblical Jordan River and of the Prophet Elijah's being taken to heaven in a chariot (2 Kings 2:11). Some sources claim that this song and "Steal Away" also composed by Wallis Willis, have lyrics that referred to the Underground Railroad, the freedom movement that helped black people escape from Southern slavery to the North and Canada

In 1849 Rev. Alexander Reid came to the Spencer Academy from back east to serve as a missionary to the Indians and superintendent of the school. Shortly after his arrival, Rev. Reid heard Uncle Wallace and Aunt Minerva singing one evening from their front porch. He stopped and listened to the beautiful music. Then, the superintendent came to sit with Wallis and Minerva on the porch and asked them to sing their songs again. This time, Rev. Reid pulled out pen and paper and wrote down the words of the songs he heard. He would later say he'd never heard songs from the soul as beautiful as he head that night.

Rev. Reid and his family grew to love Uncle Wallis and Aunt Minerva and their music.

When the Civil War began in 1861, John Kingsbury, son of Rev. Cyrus Kingsbury, took Wallace, Minerva, and some of their children to nearby Old Boggy Depot for protection.

Later in 1861, Rev. Reid's wife died after bearing their third child. In 1869 Reid and his two surviving children returned to Princeton, New Jersey

In 1871 Rev. Alexander Reid was at a performance of the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in Newark, New Jersey. Rev. Reid thought the songs he had heard Uncle Wallis and Aunt Minerva sing back in Indian Territory were better than the songs sung by the Jubilee Singers.

After the concert, Professor White (program director of the Jubilee Singers) asked the prominent Rev. Alexander Reid how he liked the songs he heard that night, Rev. Reid remarked,

“Very well, but I have heard better ones.”

When asked where he'd heard these "better" songs, the former superintendent of Spencer Academy told the story of Uncle Wallis and Aunt Minerva.

Professor White asked Rev. Reid to write down the words to some of the songs he'd heard and teach the Jubilee singers how to sing them.  Rev. Reid agreed and later met the Professor and the singers in Brooklyn to teach them. They spent an entire day learning and rehearsing the songs which included:

“Steal Away to Jesus.”
“The Angels are Coming,”
“I’m a Rolling,”
“Swing low, Sweet Chariot.”

The Jubilee Singers of Fisk University made the songs of Uncle Willis and Aunt Minerva traveled the world during the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s, singing the Indian Territory slave songs they'd learned, even performing a concert for the Queen of England.

Today, many Americans know the songs, but don't know where they originate.

Next time you hear "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" or other spirituals written by Uncle Wallis, remember that God is able to use people in the lowest circumstances to get a message heard around the world.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

"I'm a Racist" Is a Poor Choice of Words by Dr. Hall

Dr. Matt Hall, Southern Seminary
Twitter and social media is abuzz over a recent statement made by Dr. Matt Hall, the provost and senior vice president for academic administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

It seems Dr. Hall said, "I am a racist" in a video now scrubbed from Southern's website.

That was a poor choice of words on Dr. Hall's part.

This post is a short defense of Dr. Hall and serves as a request from those who would make him out to be "the enemy" to pause before attacking him.

Dr. Hall is transparently confessing to his struggle with the sin of racism in the video.

You have to admire any Christian with the grace and humility to confess his or her sins to others, much less to do it within a public video.

Unfortunately, Dr. Hall used poor wording in his personal confession.

A better way to phrase it would be:
"I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with the sin of racism." 
The statement above is straight from Celebrate Recovery.

Matt Hall is not a racist. That's not who he is.

He may struggle with racism, but Matt's sin doesn't define his person.

A believer's past is not the marker for the believer's future.

Failures and faults aren't permanently tattooed into a Christian's character. 

Jesus defines us, not our sins. Jesus is no racist, and neither is the believer in Jesus Christ.

I've been attending Celebrate Recovery for quite a while now, and it's refreshing to hear people identify themselves as "a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with _________."

Give Dr. Hall the benefit of a doubt.

All of us misspeak at times.

Dr. Dwight McKissic, my friend who's personally experienced the negative effects of the sin of racism, writes of Dr. Matt Hall.
"Dr. Hall is a treasured asset in the SBC and SBTSS. Please don't let naysayers convince you or the trustees that he is a liablity. Dr. Hall revealed a heart of gold on this video. There could be no better promo piece for the heart of SBTS on race than this video." 
I agree with Dwight.

Dr. Hall's heart is gold; his choice of words was not.

The Kingdom needs more transparent leaders. We can forgive slips of the tongue, but we can't transplant hearts.

Keep the guy with the heart of gold.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Power of Christ to Transform Our Broken Lives

Ricardo Cortez, 31, will be baptized during the Bridge Service at Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma, this Sunday, July 28, 2019, publicly professing his faith in Jesus Christ.

I first told Ricardo's story with his permission a year ago.  Because he was a former gang leader in Los Angeles, I changed his name at that time.

Today, I retell Ricardo's story using his real name and issue you an invitation to join the celebration of Ricardo's baptism by either coming to Emmanuel Enid to attend the 9:00 am Bridge Service in person, or by watching it online.

On Father's Day, 2018, Ricardo was at Emmanuel for only his second time. He came with his girlfriend and their infant daughter.

After the service Ricardo sought me ought and said, "That (the message) hit me hard." He asked if he could talk to me.

I sat down beside this man I'd met only an hour earlier as he entered the building.

On the front row, with tears streaming down his face, after being assured that God's love extended to even him, this massive man bowed his head and asked for the Father's love to enter his life. Ricardo prayed, receiving Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.

Ricardo would later come by my office and tell me of some nightmares he'd been having since surrendering his life to Christ.

I asked Ricardo to tell me his story.

Ricardo told me that he never knew love as a child. "The only comfort I ever received was through my grandma. But she died when I was eleven."

It seems Ricardo's parents were in the habit of tying Ricardo to a chair with a belt and beating him with a hockey stick. "I know when I was nine, ten, and eleven, I did some things that made my parents mad. But the beatings I took were awful."

Ricardo was born and grew up in South Central Los Angeles.

To find acceptance and a sense of belonging to a family, at the age of 11, Roberto began hanging around older boys who were part of a gang called Florencia 13 (F13). The number 13 represents the 13th letter of the alphabet (M) which stands for Mexican Mafia.

Florencia is the most dangerous gang in Los Angeles.

At the age of 12,  Ricardo "jumped in" (gang slang for "joined") Florencia 13 by enduring 30 seconds of a massive beating by fellow gang members.

Usually, a person is given gang nickname when joining Florencia 13 (e.g. "Whiskey," "Trinny," BullsEye," etc.), nicknames that memorialize something about the gang member.

Ricardo was too young to have done anything notorious, so F13 didn't bestow a nickname at the time of Roberto's initiation.

But two weeks later that changed.

Ricardo was involved in a fight. "I don't remember much about it, but when it was over, I was on top of my victim, and when the gang members pulled me off I was covered in blood." Roberto said his fellow gang members said, "Dude, you went crazy. Your eyes turned red. Nothing could stop you."

They gave him the name "Demon."

He was 12 years old.

During the decade from 2000 to 2010, F13 was at war with the East Coast Crips. "It was all about drugs. South Central Los Angeles was a war zone."

At the age of sixteen, Ricardo got his girlfriend pregnant. She and the baby both died during delivery. "The deaths of my child and my girlfriend shook me. I understood death from gang wars, but why would a baby and a first-time mother die?"

Ricardo told me that a local Baptist church would often send "street evangelists" down to Florence Avenue to preach. "I would sometimes hear them say 'God loves you. God loves everyone.' After the death of my girlfriend and baby, I thought I needed to find out about this God who loves."

Ricardo went to the local Baptist Church in South Central Los Angeles that next Sunday.

"When I went up the steps to enter the building, one of the street preachers, I think they called him a 'deacon,' stepped up to me and said, 'Where do you think you're going?'

"I'm coming to church."

"The deacon told me, 'We don't want your kind here.' I couldn't believe it. They'd been preaching on Florence that 'God loves everyone,' but they didn't want this one."

Ricardo told me he didn't have clothes to dress up for the church, and looking back, he probably looked like a gang member, and the deacon was only trying to 'protect' the church. But Ricardo was searching for God, and having been turned away by the people he thought could tell him about God, he determined to plunge even deeper into lawlessness.

Ricardo told me that a few months later he met the street preacher on Florence Avenue, and this time he put a gun to his head and told him had had to the count of three to leave the neighborhood or "I'll put a bullet in your head."

When Ricardo was a senior in high school (2005), devil worshippers who dressed in hoodies and all-black clothes told Ricardo he was "a vessel" and that their lord had Ricardo forever. "I'll never forget the strange coldness I felt and the voices in my head every time the Satanists came around me. They would always call me by my nickname "Demon" and told me I was "a vessel."

Ricardo climbed the ranks of F13. The United States federal government stepped in and through a series of raids to clean up South Central Los Angeles, Ricardo and several other F13 leaders were arrested and charged under the federal RICO crime act. Ricardo went to prison for several years.

"When I got out, I knew I had to leave Los Angeles, or I'd soon be dead."

When Ricardo got out of prison, he came to Enid.

He'd heard of a job opportunity at a local food manufacturing plant.

He met his girlfriend while working in Enid. They had a child together, and that's what precipitated the desire to attend church on Father's day.

"For the first time since I was sixteen, I thought I'd try to go to a church. I was a new father, and we couldn't think of a better time than Father's Day."

It was at Emmanuel Enid on Father's Day 2018 that Ricardo came to know Christ as his eternal Father.

Ricardo's life since becoming a Christian hasn't always a bed of roses.

As mentioned above, he's had terrible nightmares. He dreams of his friends who were killed in the streets of Los Angeles, three of whom died in his arms.

 He's had nightmares of the occultists telling him "You're a vessel." He wakes up during the night thinking about all the people he's harmed.

At times, as Ricardo has shared some of the details of his life, he's wept.

On one occasion in my office, I went over to Ricardo and hugged him before I prayed for him and with him.

I told Ricardo that "Christ who is in you, is greater than he who is in the world." I shared with him that Jesus has made him a promise that "the work I've begun in you, I will continue to completion."

Ricardo told me that the unconditional love he's felt at Emmanuel is difficult for him to accept.

Emmanuel Enid has purchased a Bible for Ricardo.

We had our local Christian bookstore engrave a new name onto the cover of Ricardo's Bible.

Before I tell you the new name on the Bible's cover, allow me to share Emmanuel Enid's new focus since 2015.

Some of the changes that have occurred have been tough for some traditional church members. Traditions have ended. Church began looking different.

But it was intentional.

We decided to focus more on culture in need of a personal Savior instead of church members in need of pleasurable satisfaction.

We determined to reach sinners in need of Christ more than saints in need of comfort.

We decided to become missional.

Instead of begin a church that says "come and see," we are doing our best to be people who "go and tell" the Good News to a community and show people our love by what we do to enhance our community.

Oh sure, we do have one modern service on Sunday morning (REFUGE) where people dress down, the lights are left down, and the speaker doesn't talk down.

But that's not an important change.

We have other services that look and feel like a traditional church, but the spirit is just as warm and accepting as in our modern style worship services.

What we're seeing are changed lives.

We've seen women trapped in prostitution come to know the love of Christ. We've seen meth addicts turn their lives around and become greeters at our Refuge service. We've seen men who dress up as women and women who dress up as men. We have prisoners coming every Sunday, and some are bringing their families to Enid after they get out of the Department of Corrections to be a part of Emmanuel.

We love people and trust Christ to change people. 

We're sharing the love of Christ because we believe only "the love of Christ constrains us." 

Nobody changes to get God's love, but everyone changes after experiencing God's love.

This Sunday Ricardo will be baptized. He's asked us to introduce him by his new nickname.

The new name engraved on his Bible.

Ricardo will not long be known by his street name Demon.

Ricardo's new nickname - the name engraved on his Bible - is "Petros."

Petros is the Greek word for Rock.
"Upon this Rock, I will build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail."

Welcome to the family, Petros.

You told your story to the clerk who engraved Petros on your Bible. Her husband contacted me and told me that he and his wife will be in the service when you are baptized. 

That's the way to tell others of Jesus. 

You'll still make mistakes in life, but remember 
"We are confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until  the day of Jesus Christ."  (Philippians 1:6).
By the way, if anyone chooses to ride one of the golf carts that bring people from the furthest reaches of Emmanuel's parking lots, be sure to check and see if the nice young man driving you is Ricardo.

He's joined our Welcome Team at Emmanuel. 

We love taking people who once worked in the kingdom of darkness and making them servants in the Kingdom of Light!

Tis truly amazing grace. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Those Who Rule with Authority Fall by Authority

A DEA officer stops at a ranch in Texas and talks with an old rancher.

He tells the rancher, "I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs."

The rancher says, "Okay, but do not go in that field over there," as he points out the location of the field.

The DEA officer verbally explodes saying, "Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government behind me." 

Reaching into a pocket, the agent removes his badge and proudly displays it to the rancher.

"See this badge? This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish. On any land. No questions asked. Have I made myself clear? Do you understand me? "

The rancher nods politely, apologizes, and then goes about his chores.

A short time later, the old rancher hears loud screams and sees the DEA officer running for his life chased by the rancher's big Santa Gertrudis bull.....

With every step, the bull is gaining ground on the agent, and it seems likely that he'll get gored before he reaches safety.

The DEA agent is clearly terrified.

The rancher throws down his tools, runs to the fence and yells at the top of his lungs...

 " Your badge. Show him your BADGE! "

Moral of the Story for Christians: The religious "authority" of pastors, priests, and church leaders is an institutional authority and should never be the basis for controlling others. There is greater power in the field of true religion. The Spirit of the Living God cannot be contained by denominationalism, religious authoritarianism, or institutional elitism.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

5 Reasons Why New Covenant Baptism Is Spiritual


From the Greek word baptizo which means "to immerse or completely dip."

When a person hears the English word "baptism" (a word only transliterated - not translated - from the Greek word baptizo), the mind will typically\ think "water."

Few know that baptizo simply means "to immerse" but the substance into what one is immersed must be defined by the context of the word's usage.

For example, you can be immersed (baptized) into work. You can be immersed (baptized) into school. You can be immersed (baptized) into video games. You can be immersed (baptized) into sports. You can be... well, you get the idea.

It's amazing how many Jesus followers fall out of fellowship over water baptisms in the church. 

Some denominations sprinkle water as their baptismal rite. Some pour water on the one baptized. Some submerge in water for religious baptism. Few Christians are agreeable with those who disagree with them on water baptism.

Some baptize infants of believing parents into the church. Some baptize believing parents and all their children (regardless of belief) at the same time into the church. Some baptize only believing persons into the church.

Astonishingly, literal wars have been fought among "Christians" over disagreements on water baptisms.

How can Scripture teach "there is one body and one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:4-5) when there seem to be almost as many different kinds of baptisms as there are different religious denominations?

Answer: The "one baptism" referenced in Ephesians 4:4-5 is "the one" baptism experienced by every true believer of Jesus, and it occurs when God the Father baptizes the believer "into" the Holy Spirit.

I believe the very nature of New Testament Christian baptism is mostly misunderstood by Christians

New Covenant baptism is God immersing Christ believers "into" the Holy Spirit upon them hearing and believing the proclamation of God's good grace through Jesus Christ.

19th-century New Testament Greek scholar James W. Dale believed and taught that Christian baptism is "into" the Spirit, and not water. Dr. Dale taught this in his superb books on baptism which were based on the Greek New Testament text.

Greek scholars Phillip Schaff (History of the Christian Church), A.H. Strong (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance), and Joseph Henry Thayer (Thayer's Greek Lexicon) all praised James W. Dale's seminal works on baptism.

As a reminder, here is the inspired text telling us what Jesus taught about Christian baptism.
“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:18,19)
Here's what Dr. James Dale said about what Jesus taught in Matthew 28:18-19:
"The language of inspiration announces a real baptism as distinctly as can be done by the use of words; (but) there is absolutely no evidence of a ritual baptism (of water) in connection with Jesus' words, either in this passage or elsewhere in the Scripture.”
This wonderful baptism (Matthew 28:18-19) into the Trinity... has no direct or designed relation to a ritual baptism of water.
Baptism was, however, very soon after the times of the Apostles, connected with the administration of the Christian rite. It is admitted, both by ancient and modern expositors, that the practice of the Church is not the practice of the Apostles.
The only question, therefore, on the merits of the case, is this question: Have the Apostles, or has the Church, since the third century, more correctly interpreted the Great Commission?”
Dr. Dale's says Matthew 28:18-19, commonly called the Great Commission, teaches disciples of Jesus that the baptism required is God's baptism of them into the Holy Spirit.

5 Reasons that New Testament Christian Baptism Is Into the Spirit, Not Water 

1. Baptism of water and baptism of the Spirit are contrasted in the New Testament.

Water baptism was a Jewish ritual immersion into water representing repentance toward God. Baptism into the Spirit is something that Jesus' work accomplished for those who trust Him.

And (John) preached, saying, "There comes one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit...” (Mark 1:7-8)

Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit—not many days hence. (Acts 11:16)

John's baptism of water for repentance was a call to God's Old Covenant Jewish people to repent and turn back toward God. Just like other Old Testament shadows came to an end as the eternal age of grace dawned (e.g. The New Covenant), so Old Covenant water purification immersions foreshadowed the eternal reality of Jesus follower's from every nation being baptized by God the Father into the Holy Spirit at the moment faith in Christ occurs.

2. God the Father immersing Christ's disciples into the Spirit is required before the Great Commission begins.

Before Jesus' disciples "went into the world" to make more of His disciples, they were told to "wait in Jerusalem" as His disciples. Waiting before going.

Waiting for what?

They were to wait for God the Father to baptize them into the Holy Spirit.
"Jesus gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:4).
The New Covenant Church began at Pentecost.

For 40 years after Pentecost, the Gospel went "to the Jews first." Why "Jews" first? Because the New Testament prophets announced to them the end of the Old Covenant with Israel and the inauguration of the New Covenant to the world (Hebrews 8:13), an Old Covenant that officially and finally came to an end in AD 70 at the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

3. Our baptism into the Holy Spirit at the time of faith in Christ is how we become disciples.

John's water baptism (like modern church baptisms) may make people outward disciples of churches, nations, or religious movements.

But it is biblical baptism into the Holy Spirit is the qualifier for making more disciples of Jesus and His Kingdom.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into the world to make disciples of Him through teaching and proclaiming everything they learned from Him, but to only go after being baptized at Pentecost with the Spirit.
Then, the disciples were to...
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19).
Henry Alford in his Critical Greek New Testament and ExegeticalCommentary writes:
It is unfortunate that our English Bible does in Matthew 28:19 give us the force of ‘eis.’ (translated "in"). It should be 'into' as in Galatians3:27.

The Greek preposition eis means“into." The Greek word en, means “in." The use of eis in Matthew 28:19 means that this baptism is actually the placement of the repentant believer “INTO the person of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

This is the only baptism that matters.

4. As we teach and preach what Christ said and did, the Father immerses new believers into the Spirit.

"All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:18,19
It has been pointed out by many biblical scholars that the above passage from Matthew does not say the disciples directly do the baptizing.

The disciples of Jesus Christ commanded to do only one thing—“disciple all nations.”

“Baptizing them” stands as an adverbial phrase modifying the words "make disciples."

In other words, the making of disciples of Jesus Christ by the messengers of those things Christ taught will result in the “baptism” of true believers in the message.

But baptism into what?

Answer: The Holy Spirit

Those who go to fulfill the Great Commission of making disciples of Christ from all nations through preaching and teaching the Good News will find the Father“baptizing believers (into the Spirit), saving believers from the punishment of their sins, changing the heart of believers from hearts of stone (hard hearts) to hearts of flesh (soft hearts), and converting the minds of believers."

Salvation is a work of God, including the baptism of the Holy Spirit, for He is the direct administrator of the Spirit's baptism.
Those who share the gospel (men and women) indirectly administer the baptism of the Spirit through their proclamation of the gospel which is “power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16).

But God baptizes believers in Christ into the Spirit.

In John 14, Christ comforts His early disciples by promising that the Holy Spirit would come to take up His residence within them while they remained on earth to fulfill Christ's Commission of making new disciples.

Only God the Father baptizes us into the Spirit.

Our job as disciples of Christ is to proclaim Christ and what He's done to other sinners.

Christ gave all believers “the Promise of the Spirit” in John 14:26 and this promise is the equivalent to “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 1:4-5.

It is through the Father's baptism of us into the Holy Spirit that the very Life of God takes up residence our souls.
“...the Comforter (or) the Spirit...will abide with you, I (Christ) will come to you...and my Father will love him, and We will come unto you...” (see John 14).
Our immersion“into Christ” via faith in Christ (Gal. 3:27-28) and “into one body” via that same faith (I Cor. 12:13) are identical to and simultaneous with God's “baptism of us the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1:7-8).
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). 
This baptism in Mark 16:16 is the believer's into the Holy Spirit as the life of God begins to indwell the soul of that believer.

5. The baptism of Cornelius is the transition from Old Covenant water baptism to New Covenant Spirit baptism.

Read Acts 10:43-44 and Acts 11:16.
"All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
Peter would later say that “hearts” of the Gentiles who heard his message (Acts 10) had been “purified” from sin “by faith” (Acts 15:8-9). The baptism of the Holy Spirit brings evidence of the Spirit's indwelling presence: 
"The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited,provoking and envying each other" (Galatians 5:19-26)

Some might object, "But didn't Peter later command these Gentile believers to be baptized in water?"

Yes, but allow Dr. Jack Langford to explain why Peter, the Apostle to the Jews, commanded water baptism, and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, did not.
"Peter's command for water baptism was only the temporary continuation of John’s baptism which, from the beginning of its inception, was also performed upon Roman soldiers who desired to identify with the Messianic hopes of Israel (see Luke 3:12-14 and the Gentiles coming to John the Baptist for water baptism). This (water baptism) is its purpose for Cornelius and his household. They are merely ritually purified unto Israel’s Messianic Kingdom hope. They were saved under Peter’s ministry, who was an Apostle to the Jewish people (Gal. 2:7-8), and still anticipating their national hope (editor's note: a hope which disappeared in AD 70).
Between Acts 10 and Acts 15 many thousands of Gentiles were saved under the ministry of Paul, who is called—“The Apostle to the Gentiles (nations).” At the conference of the Church in Acts 15 it is clearly decided, by Paul’s distinctive revelations (Gal. 2:2) and strong determination (Gal.2:5), that the Law with its “meats and drinks and variety of baptisms” was not to be imposed upon the Gentile converts—see Acts 15:5, 19, 24, 28; 21:25 & Hebrews 9:10. This included John’s water baptism, which was the last act of righteous purity under the Law system—see Matt. 3:15. The Jewish believers would continue to observe the Law until the close of the book of Acts (Acts 21:20-26 & Heb. 8:13).
According to the judgment by the Spirit led counsel in Jerusalem, the Gentiles were totally free from the Jewish ritual Law system. All the Law’s “meats and drinks and variety of baptisms” (Heb. 9:10) were not to be imposed upon the Gentiles—Acts 15:24-29. As the national Kingdom hopes of Israel were gradually diminished, then this water baptism would cease as well. The book of Acts is the history of the transition out of Judaism into pure Christianity. As new revelation progressively unfolds, then the ceremonial and ritualistic Law system will fade away until it “vanishes” altogether (Heb. 8:13).
In New Covenant global Christianity, the one baptism of the New Testament is God the Father immersing believers in Jesus Christ into the Holy Spirit, thereby receiving the power of God to make other disciples.


As we make application of this "one" baptism for the New Covenant, an immersion into God's Person and character, this baptism of the Holy Spirit is directly administered through God's power and is indirectly administered by His messengers through their proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Every person who places their trust in Christ receives this baptism of the Spirit.


1. The important baptism in your life is Spirit baptism for that is the "one baptism" of the New Testament.

2. Show concern for those church members without the "fruits of the Spirit" even though they've experienced water baptism, for the former is the entrance into the eternal Kingdom of Christ, and the latter is only entrancing the institutional church.

3. Water baptism can be a wonderful testimony of conversion, but the mode may represent different aspects of the work of the Trinity:
a. Pouring water over one's head can represent the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
b. Immersion into the water can represent the "death, burial, and resurrection" of Christ the Son..
c. Sprinkling water on to the head can represent hope in God the Father bringing covenant grace.
Disagreeing over "modes" of baptism is a waste of Kingdom time in our age. Cooperate with all who've been baptized in the Spirit through their faith in Christ and evidence of God's presence within them.

4. Listen to the testimony of one who has experienced the water ritual but as you  think about fellowship, remember "One faith (in Christ); one baptism, (in the Spirit), one LORD (over all believers)."

It was this principle that drove John Bunyan to "open communion" and to include into full fellowship and membership at the Baptist church he pastored professing Christians who had experienced different modes of baptism (immersion, pouring, sprinkling, etc.)

5. Nothing wrong with an institutional church requiring a certain kind of baptism, but heaven itself requires Spirit baptism. Therefore, when we get to heaven there will be no separate rooms partitioned by different water rituals.

There is only one eternal Church and all who enter there 
must be baptized in the Spirit of the Living God. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Compare House Churches to Institutional Churches

I often receive correspondence from people who've read my book Fraudulent Authority, asking me questions about how an institutional or traditional church can operate if there is "no authority" vested in the office of pastor or in "male elders who rule over God's people."

First, I explain that there is a difference between spiritual authority and legal authority.

A police officer who stops you has legal authority, but he or she is not your spiritual authority. So too, in any church that petitions the government for 501-C3 non-profit status (incorporation status), there are people that the state recognizes as the legal authority of that church.

It's not the pastor. It's not the people. The state recognizes the trustees of the incorporated church as the legal authority.

Most Christians don't realize that if a traditional church faces a lawsuit, the trustees of the church are the ones who go to court. Insurance policies cover the church for liability, but trustees answer to the court on all legal matters.

Emmanuel Enid has a leadership team that is composed of the chairpersons of our seven standing committees (Finance, Personnel, Missions, etc.) and five trustees, plus the Lead Pastor. No person on this Leadership Team, including the pastor, has spiritual authority over anybody else.

But we recognize that the state places legal authority in the trustees, and civil authority in the pastor (e.g. marriage ceremonies, special exemptions on taxes, etc.).

There is no spiritual authority over anybody in the church except Jesus Christ.
Jesus called them aside and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave." Matthew 20:25-27
Half of our Leadership Team is composed of females, and the other half is composed of males. The best leadership decision we've ever made as a church in the last 50 years at Emmanuel Enid is placing gifted, humble women of character in positions of leadership. 

All business decisions between quarterly church business meetings are made by the Leadership Team. But no one person on the Leadership Team considers himself or herself greater than, lord over, or ruler of any person in the church of Jesus Christ. 

We leave rulership to Him.

House Churches vs. Traditional Churches

Once people begin to understand that all spiritual authority is invested in Christ, and His Spirit becomes the sole ruler in the hearts of His people, then the next question that arises goes like this: 
"Well if that's the case, wouldn't it be better for Christians to meet in homes and do Kingdom work than to waste money on traditional churches where preachers act as if they are God's vicar on earth?"
It's a good question.

I pastor a fairly large church, but I'm sympathetic toward house churches.

I also understand more than most that the church where I pastor can do far more to impact nations and people groups cooperating in massive mission efforts than a local house church. But, truth be known, house churches can participate with other large 501C-3 non-profits and participate in some of the same humanitarian and gospel work that we do at Emmanuel Enid.

So let's talk about the pros/cons of house churches vs. traditional churches.

Graeme Cooksley of Australia has read Fraudulent Authority, and he is involved in a house church. He also has leadership experience in a large, traditional church which possessed a good understanding of proper servant leadership (e.g. pastors or elders who refused to rule over or control people).

Graeme has given me some insight into the pros and cons of house churches vs. insitutional churches, and he's given me permission to share it with you.

It is assumed that house churches (HC), function with small numbers, often 20 or less. Institutional churches (IC) may be from 20 up to mega size in numbers.

The Meaning of "Church"

The HC concept is that the Christian is ‘being the Church’, (as opposed to ‘going to church’), wherever he/she may be. The follow on from this is that one’s whole life is seen as ministry. This can empower too, as any part of life is seen as missional.
The IC is seen as its members finding their identity in ‘going to church’, often with tribal undertones, and the church often functions along business (think hierarchical tree), or association paradigms. Often, whatever the member wants to pursue, is controlled from “the Top”, both within and without the fellowship. (Note: this last characteristic can be found in HCs too, if dominated and controlling leadership is present in them.)


The HC is more relational with the smaller numbers. Good personal relationships between attendees are often the normal, which helps build a sense of community, or family feel.
The IC lack good relationships between attendees, and rather, may provide the anonymity that some may like or prefer, but, it may also leave people feeling alone/lost “in the crowd”.


The HC is often structured to include a meal (start or finish), and if not that, then some form of refreshment and fellowship “around the table” that involves all participating.
This may be more difficult in the IC, and refreshment may lead to friends/cliques meeting (to catch up!), that tends to be isolationist, and often tends to leave others out.

Prominent Personality 1

The HC may have a dominant vocal person that makes group participation difficult. This person may too, be a bully. 
The IC church setting, because of traditional program or culture, does not see this so often, although the ‘leader’ (pastor), may be prominent, even to the stage of gaining a following. It may be evident too, in the IC’s small groups setting. The leader or others in a small group may be a bully.

Prominent Personality 2

 The HC setting generally functions in an “all expected to participate/contribute” setting. Often someone will share or teach, and it tends to be dialogue rather than monologue. Often someone is asked to share “next week”, this is a jump off point. All the attendees are encouraged to be participators, ask questions (nothing out of bounds!), discuss, or challenge any teaching or statement. Duties tend to fall on the persons gifted in that particular area, i.e. functional ministries.
The IC often has a prominent person, generally the “pastor”, and there is a traditional program format that tends to inhibit open individual participation, particularly with ordinances and sacraments, which may require “qualified” ministries. The attendees tend to have a passive/spectator role, apart from corporate singing, and rostered and appointed duties.

Theological Error

The HC may face erroneous teaching, and it often depends on the maturity and knowledge of the others, to detect error and bring correction. Error or suspect matter can often quickly be confronted in a small group. On the other hand a heterodoxical view, or alternative interpretation of text(s) may cause a problem in a small group, either by division, or total acceptance and focus on that theme/topic, thus leading to unbalanced teaching.
The IC may also face erroneous teaching that may not be so easy to correct, especially if it come from a controlling, authoritive pastor, with no or little accountability to attendees, or other leadership. Often IC constitutions or rules may be more man-made than Scriptural, and the IC “cultural inertia” may make change/correction almost impossible, especially if it is a top-down doctrine/teaching.

Meeting Content

The HC setting allows flexibility/spontaneity, not only in meeting together times, but in content, and the opportunity to be led by the Spirit, but in a small gathering, people with certain Gifts of the Holy Spirit, may not be present to contribute to and/or encourage the others. (cf above in Prominent Personality 2: )
Generally, everyone can make a contribution in the meeting, or share gifts and ministries in other ways.
The HC meeting may tend towards topical sharing, and may even be unbalanced by emphasis in one area.
The IC setting tends to be program driven, which may be restrictive, especially to individual gifted attendees. Some may never get opportunity to exercise their gifts/ministry in the congregational setting.
The majority of those in a meeting will be spectators, with only a few participating. Often, in Pentecostal/Charismatic fellowships some of the Gifts of the Spirit may operate, involving a few people (sometimes, even, in an allocated program time span!).
Some ICs often follow a prescribed lectionary program (over, say, 3 years), and preaching/teaching is often linked to those texts and church calendar themes, which can lead to more expository rather than topical teaching/preaching.
In both settings a lack of preparation by participants may affect the gathering.


The HC generally has little overhead expenses and salary costs for staff. Giving can be utilised fully for external purposes. Giving is not a strong topic or raised very often. (My view is that giving should be Spirit-led, not mechanical, or obligatory tithes. GC)
The IC, often with property, buildings and salary overheads, means that a substantial part of giving is for self-supporting purposes. However, by combining with other IC churches (in the denomination), giving may allow larger money sums be provided for substantial expenditure items, e.g. missional projects.


The HC fellowships tend to be autonomous, and may not be open to accountability by others, if error or problems arise. The autonomy may cause a disconnect with other parts of The Church in a city.
The IC may provide a means of oversight and accountability. However, if the IC’s denomination moves into error, then so does the IC, which then may give rise to constitutional problems, if it wants to disassociate with that denominational stand. Likewise, an IC may, or may not, connect with and relate to other parts of The Church in a city. In some cases, the IC may actually be autonomous, and if part of a denominational group, control or relational pressure from that group may not be possible, e.g. the SBC.


The HC situation may vary: 1. often authority is carried by the fellowship, in that, some decisions are consensus voice, and at other times it may be vested in a person, depending on their giftedness (functional), and the situation. Overall there is a recognition that Jesus is the ultimate authority. This authority is supportive of others’ ministries and callings. 
2. On the other hand, some HCs have a controlling person(s), exercising authority, that tends to brook no dissent and conformity.
The IC tends to have authority vested in those in positional (office) places, and like 2., of the HC above, the authority is authoritive, controlling, and may not be accountable to others. It can lead to “my way, or the highway” scenes with others. The structures tend be hierarchal, often with the hierarchal line extending outside the local congregation, or even outside the geographical boundaries of area and/or country. The IC often has a “corporation” feel about it, and the authority may be exercised more in a CEO manner rather than out of servanthood.


The HC measures strengths of relationships, between one another, and more importantly between the individuals and God. The latter is presumed in the (oft asked) question, “What has God been saying to you today? Is there something we need to hear, or act on?” Relationship building occurs outside of the “regular fellowship”, with social get-togethers, 1 on 1 coffee, meals etc.
The IC metrics seem to be around, as a friend was want to say at his leaders’ meetings, “What is the discussion about tonight? Is it the ABC?”, i.e. Attendance, Buildings, Cash-flow! (Some ICs are using facial recognition/computers to track attendance!!) Many ICs are performance driven, numbers/buildings growth being a huge measure of the" success” (of the leader).

Leadership (Touched on in part, in paragraphs above.)

The HC leadership styles vary from group to group, from true servants, to dominating and controlling leaders. Some are in networks or linking, and may even have a hierarchal structure. In the 2 groups I am closely associated with, the leader is more in a facilitator role, and serving. If asked, “who is the leader?”, the response is often, “Whoever is speaking at the moment!”
The IC leadership is generally a dominant model, often a “one man band”, with total control of the meetings, and what attendees can do or not do. That leadership may be moderated by a board, or committee, or elders, depending on the IC’s constitution, culture, and/or tradition.

Growth strategies

 The HC movement looks for growth from the locality, by going out to engage the community. Some may use a prayer walking strategy to facilitate this. Many encourage the building of long term relationships with neighbours with hospitality, or engagement in local activities, and this is seen as missional. Often a local “information” meeting is arranged, and an opportunity is offered, to inform and encourage people to consider HC.
When it comes to church planting, it is relatively easy for a group from the first HC to move to a new locality and start, often with no expense, as all that is required, is in the new house setting. The “plant” may start with only a few people, and in a very simple way.
Personal growth is encouraged, and facilitated, often by a personal discipleship program. Often a “teach a disciple today, let them teach that to someone else tomorrow”, is a growth approach. Also, development comes by encouraging participation (both inside and outside), by asking attendees to bring a word, devotion, tell what God is doing/saying in their lives, present a communion word, or ask questions, with dialogue encouraged to add-to material presented.
The IC looks for growth from the locality, too, but often in the way of inviting people to “come”, to an existing church building. Ministry is seen as specialist (ordained), and often a clergy/laity dichotomy precludes development of personal ministries, or limits what may be done, often the “growth” strategy is to invite non-believers to ‘the church”, for ministry. Growth of persons is often facilitated by a “Bible Study” night, often presented in a monologue, with little interaction, or a topical programed study guide.
A church plant is often a carefully planned, budgeted and implemented strategy. Traditional thinking often requires a suitable building and facilities, musical instruments, a team with the leader, and often 10s’ of thousands of dollars finance for the materials required, and the staff salaries.

These are some good comparisons of the pros and cons of house churches vs. institutional churches.

My personal conclusions is that one ought to be wary of anyone who categorically rules out house churches OR institutional churches.

Both are beset with traps, and both have advantages.

The main challenge for both types of churches is for those participating to focus on Kingdom work and stop trying to rule others or gain advantages over others through Fraudulent Authority

Friday, July 05, 2019

Welcoming Without Affirming Yet Transforming

For those of us who believe in truth and live in grace, we sometimes find ourselves misunderstood.

Because we welcome and love all the people in our lives,  we are sometimes wrongly perceived as "compromising" the truth.

On the other hand, because we say that adulterous, homosexual, bi-sexual, and transexual behavior is sin, some wrongly perceive us as judgmental.

There is another way.

A Christian can be welcoming and loving without affirming.

It's similar to welcoming into your home for Christmas your 6-pack a day cigarette smoking and pint daily Scotch drinking father into your house without smoking cigarettes and drinking Scotch yourself. You also do not feel the need to affirm to anyone how smoking that many cigarettes and drinking that much Scotch is simply an alternative way to enjoy life.

Loving without affirming is possible.

But navigating LBGT issues as Christians who believe that God's Word conveys eternal truth is not easy.

I have a friend who has written a book that gives superb guidance.

Travis Collins has written a book entitled What Does It Mean To Be Welcoming? Navigating LGBT Issues In Your Church.

Of all the books I've read on this subject, Travis' book is the hands-down best book on the subject!

Travis writes:
"The way of compassionate morality means extending our arms and hearts to people who are making bad sexual choices whether they are straight or gay, but not endorsing those choices.”
The book is divided into three sections. In the first section, Travis asks the difficult questions and shows the importance of having this conversation. In the second section, Travis takes us to the Scriptures and shows us the relevant passages on issues of sexual morality and provides insight into differing viewpoints. And in the final section,  Travis encourages the read through sharing testimonies of people helped by these conversations and challenges the reader to continue the conversation because it's important.
"To love God is to keep his commandments as best we can understand them. To love people is to extend grace. We cannot falter on either.” Travis Collins

Outreach Magazine recently awarded What Does It Mean To Be Welcoming? the 2019 Outreach Resource Book of the Year. 

Travis Collins is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Huntsville, Alabama, and has served as a pastor and missionary for more than three decades.  He holds a Ph.D. in Christian Mission and is a member of the Fresh Expressions US Team.  

I highly recommend What Does It Mean To Be Welcoming?

It will be a lighted path toward welcoming without affirming yet transforming.