We were beginning to feel that our previous church home was headed in the wrong direction, we had been married for about two years and expecting our first child. We didn’t know that our unborn child would have Down syndrome. When she was born we were expecting support that we did not receive. This is when we started searching.
Not only did we need support for our daughter but I was finishing up my education and was looking for a healthy church to learn and grow. Each church we tried had a similar look and feel to it. They were all missing something; each one was more focused on the comfort of the parishioner rather than the truth of God’s word. We were looking for something more, something more fulfilling for our family. We had been Christians for some time and wanted a closer and more intimate walk with God.
That’s when we found Angle Lake Neighborhood Church. From the first time we walked in the doors we felt as though we had been a part of this family of believers for our entire lives, it was like we had grown up there. Not only that but everyone truly loved and accepted our daughter for who she was. When we started attending Angle Lake Neighborhood Church I was completing my internship and plugged right into Children’s Ministry.
We have experienced miracles, and had an intimate encounter with the Holy Spirit since we came to this place. This is a praying church! Our daughter has been healed many times and is a walking display of God’s mighty power at work in a human life. Our faith has grown, and our ministry legs have been stretched. We have never seen a church so supportive and loving. Not only have we been blessed by the relationships we have become a part of but we are now serving as Children’s Pastors and are experiencing the most fruitful part of our walk with the Lord yet.
We love Angle Lake Neighborhood Church and are proud to call it home.
Tyrell and Christine Welker
2 Peter 1:3-4
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
A few years ago, Han and I lived in a nice home with a great backyard that was landscaped to look like a park. People enjoyed walking by our home just to look at the backyard. Now this backyard had a very steep incline as it moved further back in the yard and leveled off on top. Although the yard was very nice, the top needed some work.
One day Han announced that it was time to do something with this top portion of the backyard and she went and bought several shrubs to plant. On the day of the project we gathered all the stuff we need; shovel, potting soil, fertilizer, and hand tools. We put all of these things in the wheel barrel and I grabbed hold of the handles of the wheel barrel and looked up the side of the knoll.
My thinking was that I would get a running start and with my strength and momentum get to the top of the knoll without any problems to do the job. I took off as fast as I could and hit the hill at top speed. Everything was fine at first, but then suddenly both my feet shot out from under me and while I was still holding on to the handles of the wheel barrel, I fell flat on my face. The shovel flew out of the wheel barrel and hit in me on top of my head. Dirt flowed out of the wheel barrel on top of my head and filled in the space between my glasses and my face. When I opened my eyes I thought for a minute I was blind.
Once I realized that I was not blind and that for the most part I was alright, just embarrassed; I looked around to see if my lovely wife was running to aid me in my predicament, only to see her rolling around on the ground laughing as hard as I have ever seen anyone laugh.
We realized later that although I had strength, speed, and ability I lacked the correct shoes to tackle the hill. In life we are always remind that to be successful in the things we do, we need the proper resources. God has given His church everything they need to escape the evil desires of this world and at the same time be productive and effective in reaching this world on His behalf.
Overwhelmed. Tired. Angry. Uncertain. Depressed. Desperate. Defeated. This was a short list of emotions that overtook them daily. They didn’t feel like themselves; No one in the home did.
Eric, at the age of 29, suffered a life changing back injury. A trial that would take over 5 years, 2 major surgeries, dozens of procedures, chronic pain, a wide array of therapy; it was an endless battle. A short 2 weeks later, Eric and Kimberly learned they were expecting their first child, a son. Soon to follow, Kim’s Father dies (who was unlikely saved). Afterward, baby Eric was born. Thirteen months later, baby Austin. Kimberly’s Mother, a severe alcoholic who was being fueled each day by depression over the loss of her late husband of nearly 35 years, never left the safety of her home. Eric’s Mother passes suddenly. Kimberly, trying to complete her Fathers dying wish: for her to get a college degree. While living at poverty level with a broken back, the rearing of children, continuing education, constant fighting, impure thoughts, marijuana, alcohol, even some gambling; typical lifestyle of those living away from the Lord. Things seemed hopeless – But not for long!
Kimberly, pressured by having these 2 children and living with their Father, felt convicted to marry. You see, Kim wasn’t raised this way; she was raised with a very strong sense of morals. During her teen years, she had found that these guidelines weren’t just of her parents, but instead God; the way He expects his children to live. And now, it wasn’t only her soul to worry for anymore. God had given her 2 little blessings to watch over for Him.
After a serious argument, Eric, the self acclaimed devout atheist, decides something isn’t right. He missed his Mom, and was afraid he would never see her again. Realizing there was a possibility that he may see her someday, and realizing that his family could benefit, he finally admits there is a God. At this point, he turns to Kim, and asks about going to church, expressing his need for something more. Her heart lights up, and she knows where to go. The following Sunday, they walk into ALNC – Angle Lake Neighborhood Church.
Most of the congregation was the very same people she remembered from nearly 10 years earlier. Some even remembered her! Big hugs, bright smiles, it was very uncomfortable. She felt so broken, hardly able to communicate with those around her. She wanted to be filled with joy again, like everyone else walking through the courtyard. It hits like a ton of bricks: God. Eric and Kim couldn’t fix it. They couldn’t love each other. They couldn’t love their children correctly, not without loving God first. Placing the Lord in front of their struggles, and each other, meant they would have to learn to love His way. It also meant a lot of sacrifice. This sacrifice would take the Lords strength, patience, and time.
Week after week, they attend a Wednesday night bible study with Pastor Tom. Eric begins asking questions; questions that most Christians get frustrated with. The teaching Pastor remains patient, and answers him.
Sunday morning services would come and go. Some they would attend, and some they wouldn’t. One day, a comment is made during a service: “Do you want your family to remember going to Gods house once in a while, or do you want them to know that He is the center of your lives?” Not a Sunday thereafter went by, that Eric and Kim didn’t get those kids to church. Well, for the most part, aside an overnight trip here and there.
Eventually, becoming members is something that seemed important. The conviction of getting baptized was to follow. Making a public announcement that this is how they plan to spend their lives – Serving the only true God, our Lord Jesus Christ; The only one who can be trusted to guide them, and their children.
Love grew. Eric started to pray. Kim started to read her Bible. They started to develop a relationship with the living Savior. They rebuilt their relationship with each other. Eric and Kim realized that those trials served a greater purpose. Look at how they endured, and look at the triumph. The odds had been stacked so high, but with Jesus they overcame. The trials had turned into blessings. Satan lost.
Kim was blessed with work, and eventually came home to serve the family. The Lord utilized her small education to begin homeschooling her children. Eric, unable to work for others due to his back injury, was blessed and permitted by the Lord to start a small business. Kim’s Mother through God’s will, starting taking baby steps by leaving their family home here and there. Their kids grew to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Glory to God, and praise the Lord for every plan He has! Every situation, every day, every incident, is all known and allowed by God. His plan is mighty, and powerful. His plan is what is righteous, and what is good for each individual. His plan is filled with glory. You see, through using their hardship, their children, their parents, and one another, the Lord saved them. HE SAVED THEM! Hallelujah. Everything and every life serves a purpose for His greater cause.
“For I know the thoughts I have toward you saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11
We don’t always need to know what the Lord has in store, or why He asks us to do things. It is His holy plan and His plan only. We need to listen, submit, and obey. He can make anything a blessing.
Wednesday night Bible study became Friday night Family night, a potluck event. From a small group study, to a family filled night that was the highlight of every week. The study grew from a few 5 people or so, to several dozen people gathering for fellowship. The very place that Eric got most of his hard questions answered. After some time, Eric and Kim took over this ministry, in hopes to make it a special place where others can seek, ask, and find the Lord also.
No longer was there uncertainty, depression, or feelings of being defeated. They found themselves again, and it was directly where God wanted them to be. Satan lost.
Do they still suffer some trials? Yes. Do they still have human emotion? Yes. Do they slip and fall from time to time? Yes. We all do. Even when we don’t realize we are slipping, or sinning. No one is perfect, only the Lord is perfect. This is why it is important to ask Jesus to reveal these things to you, and allow you to grow more Christ like, and to live a Christ centered life.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
Praise God! Being perfect would be too much responsibility for us.
Eric and Kimberly Rutherford
It is the judgment of this writer that historic Pentecostal theology and its standards of righteousness are undergoing a gradual process of erosion among its professed advocates. Assault toward the traditional beliefs of Pentecostalism at this present time is coming not so much from those without the movement, as from those within. The defense of the apostolic faith as defined by historic Pentecostals must now be directed towards particular groups who claim to believe in the baptism in the Holy Spirit as an experience apart from conversion, yet at the same time are not firmly committed to fundamental Biblical truths. Those who would modify or reject the historic Pentecostal faith are many Charismatics both Catholic and Protestant, as well as an increasing number within the historic Pentecostal denominations themselves.
Historic or Classical Pentecostalism arose in the early 1900’’s. Among its advocates were the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), the Church of the Foursquare Gospel, the Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Church of God in Christ, and the Assemblies of God. Their theology was committed to a firm belief in the full inspiration and authority of the Bible, the absolute importance of the fundamentals of the faith, N. T. apostolic doctrine, and speaking in tongues as the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, they were committed to a life-style of separation from the world, sanctification unto God, and a witness of righteousness worthy of the name of Christ. However, in recent years there have appeared alarming signs, that historic Pentecostalism is experiencing a lessening in commitment to its once strongly held faith and standards.
Signs of Change in Traditional Pentecostalism
A recent indication of decline in loyalty to the historic Pentecostal faith is the distressing number of Pentecostal pastors and prominent leaders who have failed both spiritually and morally in their faithfulness to God, the church, and the faith they professed. These tragic events should alert us to the fact that there has occurred a serious drift from our adherence to historic Pentecostal faith and standards of righteousness.
Weakening of Commitment to Pentecostal Faith
The abatement of commitment to the historic Pentecostal faith by some of its own advocates has been recently noted by Charismatics. This was made clear in a news report appearing in Christianity Today, November 21, 1986, entitled “Signs and Wonders in New Orleans”, which enumerated many changes that have occurred within traditional Pentecostalism. The article points out certain doctrinal beliefs and ethical practices, which the writer, Julia Duin, states, are no longer of critical importance to historic Pentecostals. The article implies that due to the weakening of beliefs and ethical practices once cherished by those of the Pentecostal denominations, there remains no longer any major obstacle to their unity with Charismatics, whether they are of the Protestant or of the Catholic faith. The article either implies or states that the following historic Pentecostal beliefs are in a process of disintegration within the movement itself.
A Rejection of Biblical Prophecy
The Christianity Today article implies that Pentecostalism is beginning to reject the Biblical teaching that a widespread apostasy will occur within the professing church preceding the return of Christ. Some Pentecostals and Charismatics now maintain that it is quite possible that a “majority of the world” will be Christian “by the millennium.” This is affirmed despite Christ’s teaching in Matthew 24 concerning the last days before His return to earth. Christ clearly warns that among believers “many will fall away. . . and many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many . . . and that most people’s love will grow cold” (Matt. 24:10-12). This rejection of Biblical prophecy is gaining ground through the “Kingdom Now” theology, which teaches that soon Christians will be a majority in the world and that Satan and his kingdom will cease to have major influence. This theology ignores not only the words of Christ, but also the constant warnings of the Holy Spirit concerning the predicted last day falling away from the faith (see I Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1,3-4). The apostle Paul explicitly warns concerning such teaching, “Let no one in any way deceive you” (2 Thess. 2:3), “the day of the Lord. . . will not come unless the apostasy comes first” (2 Thess. 2:2-3).
A Toleration Towards Alcohol and Tobacco
It is stated in the article that the drinking of intoxicating beverages and the use of tobacco by professed Christians is no longer considered by Pentecostals to be as evil as they once thought. The article states “Pentecostals looked askance at Charismatics who drank wine or used tobacco.” The “looked askance” is in the past tense and implies that some or many Pentecostals have abandoned their past moral convictions related to these evils.
A Questioning of the Fundamentals of the Faith
The article maintains that Pentecostals are changing their basic position with regard to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as well as their thinking on the worship of Mary. The article implies that there has taken place a moderation in their belief in salvation solely through Jesus Christ, His atoning death and forgiving grace. Because of this some Pentecostals now believe that Catholics can achieve salvation and gain great spiritual benefits through the rosary, Catholic Mass, worship of Mary, and the authority of the Catholic Church. It states, “Pentecostals. . . were shocked at Catholics who claimed their baptism in the Spirit deepened their experience of the rosary, the Mass, and increased their devotion to Mary and the church.” The article states, “were shocked”, indicating that Pentecostals are no longer “shocked” at such beliefs and there indeed has taken place among Pentecostals a questioning of former beliefs with regard to the basic fundamentals of salvation in Christ, their affirmation that there is only one mediator between God and man, and their opposition to prayer and worship of the dead (i.e., Mary and Catholic saints).
Speaking in Tongues No Longer Vital
The Christianity Today article affirms that Pentecostals are relaxing their position on the crucial importance of the doctrine of speaking in tongues as the essential evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The article states “Pentecostals generally maintained [again the verb is put in the past tense] that the baptism in the Spirit must be accompanied by tongues.” The article states that belief in speaking in tongues as the evidence of the Baptism in the Spirit is no longer thought to be so vital by Pentecostals as to stand in the way of organizational unity with many Charismatics who oppose the belief.
The Achilles Heel of Pentecostalism
What has brought historic Pentecostalism to this tendency to accommodate its faith and doctrine? Although there are always several reasons for any movement’s decline, I would like to suggest one very important reason for the impairing of our faith that if left unchallenged and uncorrected will result in the death of historic Pentecostalism. It has to do with what I call the Achilles heel of Pentecostalism. It is the inherent assumption of many that religious experience and spiritual manifestations are more important than N.T. apostolic doctrine for validating truth or determining God’s will for His people.
Historic Pentecostalism and N. T. Truth
Historic Pentecostalism began in the early 20th century with a doctrine and not with a religious experience. The early Pentecostals believed that in order to experience the fullness of God’s kingdom they had to return to the apostolic faith of the N.T. They believed firmly in the fundamentals of the faith, Biblical standards of holiness and righteousness, and that the N. T. promised a Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. It was this belief and a return to the N.T. truth that led them into a Book of Acts experience.
The Beginning of Error
However, as the movement gained momentum, some fell into the same error as the N. T. Pentecostals of the church at Corinth. There developed an unscriptural approach to religious experience, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and miracles (I Cor. 12-14). This led to a devaluation of the importance of love for truth and righteousness (I Cor. 13:4,6). In other words, religious experiences and spiritual manifestations began to take precedent over revealed Biblical truth and were considered, therefore, as valid for determining the will of God for His church as was apostolic teaching the New Testament. Within Pentecostal, circles there arose a tendency to validate teaching, doctrine, new theologies, as well as the ministry of individuals not on the authoritative word of God, but based on professed religious experience or spiritual manifestations. Thus, prophecies, miracles, healings, speaking in tongues, a professed baptism in the Holy Spirit, inspirational preaching, ministerial success, and even church growth became the ultimate test of truth rather than authoritative Scripture. Many Pentecostals ignored the warnings of Christ and the apostles that certain religious experiences, spiritual manifestations, miracles, and successful ministries can and will be produced through powers other than God. We were told by God Himself to take heed lest we be deceived by various kinds of supernatural occurrences (Matt. 7:22; 24:5, 11,24). Christ and the apostles continually pointed to only one ultimate, final source of authority to validate both doctrine and experience – the inspired word of God (Matt. 4:4; John 15:7; I Tim. 3:15-16). The tragic irony is that it was love for the word of God and N. T. truth that brought us into N. T. spiritual experience. Now it is our distorted love for spiritual experience that is leading us away from the same N. T. truth. A growing consequence of this error is a lack of respect for doctrine and theology, and, in particular, a little desire to defend, explain or even define the historic Pentecostal faith. The disastrous consequences of this failure to love the truth as we should has resulted in the following conditions:
1. Tolerance of False Doctrine. There are those in the Pentecostal movement who feel no need to defend the Biblical faith as did the N. T. apostles. Rather, they glory in their tolerance for all kinds of doctrines so long as those doctrines are accompanied by a professed experience with the Holy Spirit. They are attracted to successful preachers who openly scorn the apostolic faith. They lack sympathy and affection for the true spirit of the Bible, which rebukes and reproves false teaching. They seem ready to accept without challenge or protest nearly anything for the cause of “unity” or the success of their own ministry. It is tragic that their inability to recognize that the distortion of the Pentecostal-Biblical faith will result in millions of souls being lost for eternity.
2. Man-Centered Theology. A further result in emphasizing religious experience over N. T. doctrine has been the development within Pentecostal circles of a man-centered rather than a God-centered theology. The God-centered theology of Scripture emphasizes the truth that were created and redeemed by God to serve Him for His glory and that in doing this we are to enjoy His fellowship and love for eternity. The man-centered theology advocated today stresses those things that we can get from God, and what He is to do for us upon this earth. Preaching is centered not so much on the cross, self-denial, sacrifice, and the forsaking of sin, but on health, wealth, prosperity, happiness, self-esteem, positive thinking, and the satisfaction of human and even carnal desires. I am not saying that all of these things are wrong, but that we have failed to first love God, His kingdom, and His righteousness above all else. We have turned the gospel into a means of selfish personal gain and claim to have now found the way to save our souls and at the same time gain the whole world. Among the tragic consequences of this man-centered gospel is that some will no longer “endure sound doctrine” but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). The man of God who faithfully follows the ministry of the Holy Spirit and preaches sin, righteousness, and judgment finds himself rejected by some of the very Pentecostals he tries to serve.
3. Inability to Identify Biblical Christianity. The lack of a sufficient understanding of N.T. apostolic spirit, attitude, and teaching led more than a few Pentecostals (even dedicated and sincere believers) into a tragic inability to discern when Biblical Christianity was being distorted. The classic example of recent days is the now discredited and fallen charismatic P.T.L. television program. There were those among both leaders and laymen alike who did not recognize that the program was in many ways not of the Spirit of Christ nor loyal to N.T. apostolic faith and Biblical standards of righteousness. The program portrayed permissiveness towards deviation from Scriptural truth and a conspicuous lack of concern for moral righteousness and holiness within the church. There was seen little manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of conviction concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. Pentecostalism was reduced to soap opera entertainment, and the fear of God and reverence for the sacred was destroyed in the process. The Pentecostal acceptance of the materialistic, worldly life-style of its leadership, as well as its tolerance of the unbiblical elements of this program, has resulted in shame, discredit, and untold harm to the Pentecostal cause around the world.
4. Accommodation to Charismatic Theology. A fourth consequence of the Pentecostal predisposition to value religious experience above N.T. doctrine resulted in its inability to sufficiently meet the challenge and need of the Charismatics in the 1960’’s and 70’’s. Many of them came into Pentecostal churches or established independent fellowships. They had received an experience with the Holy Spirit, but often fell short of a deep commitment to all the truth of Scripture, as well as a clear understanding of Christ’s demand for a life of holiness. Due to Pentecostalism’s lack of desire to adequately and forcefully define a Pentecostal apologetic based on Biblical revelation, it failed to guide the Charismatics into a more Biblical faith. Instead, historic Pentecostals themselves began to conform to the unscriptural theologies and lack of Biblical standards of some Charismatics. Consequently, old-fashioned Pentecostal theology, along with the Biblical cry against sin and worldliness commonly fell into disrepute. All types of theology, both old and new, which could not be validated by close examination of the Biblical text, entered Pentecostal fellowships.
What Can Pentecostals do Today?
It is my conviction that God still has a primary place in His kingdom for the historic Pentecostal faith. What can we, who are yet committed to the beliefs of our forefathers and the apostolic Pentecostal faith, do to guard what has been committed to us?
1. Acknowledge Spiritual Decline. We need to admit and recognize that within the Pentecostal movement there is now occurring a slow process of departure from our unique, historic, theological heritage. Furthermore, we must see that we also, to some extent, have departed from a life based on Christlikeness and Biblical righteousness. If this process continues, it will be a matter of time until our place of election in the history of redemption will be in grave peril and God will take His kingdom and His glory from us and give it to those bearing fruit worthy of righteousness. The words of Paul in Romans 11:20-22 apply to Pentecostals as well, “You stand only by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.”
2. Rededication to Apostolic Pentecostal Faith. There must be a renewed and deeper devotion to all the truth of God’s word and to a life of Biblical righteousness by those who claim the name of Pentecostal. The Pentecostal faith and movement cannot endure unless it is based on the foundational pillars of truth and righteousness. The “truth” involved commitment to the fundamentals of the faith, i.e., complete inerrancy of Scripture, salvation of faith in Christ and His blood atonement, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the Scriptural, doctrine of sin, the return of Christ for His church, etc. The “righteousness” involves a clear separation from the ways of the world and a seeking for godliness in all our ways. We must see again, as did the first Pentecostals of this century, that the Holy Spirit who fills us with His presence is first and foremost a “Spirit of holiness” (Rom. 1:4) who leads us into “all the truth” (John 16:13).
3. Love for Historic Pentecostalism. We must glory in the worth, value, and truth of historic Pentecostal faith committed to us by the Holy Spirit. We must feel as did the apostle Paul when he declared, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). Concerning these words of Paul, it is my firm conviction that the historic Pentecostal faith represents the true apostolic gospel of which he spoke. This gospel was committed to our fathers and to us. We have been brought into God’s kingdom and baptized in the Holy Spirit in order to be preachers and witnesses to the world concerning the faith and promises of this N. T. gospel. I consider it the highest honor to be allowed to proclaim its faith. I believe it is still God’s message to this lost world. As a foreign missionary with the Assemblies of God serving Christ and my church, I have seen what God’s power can do through the simple old-fashioned Pentecostal message. Around the world missions have been saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit and brought to a life of Christlikeness because of this message. In Brazil alone, the country in which I serve, more than 10 million Pentecostals have been born into God’s kingdom through the preaching of the truth of historic Pentecostalism based on apostolic revelation. I believe no other message can do as much to cast back the forces of evil, and bring men and women into Christ’s kingdom as this Pentecostal message when proclaimed in love, from a pure heart, and sincere faith.
4. Contend Earnestly for the Faith. We must understand that contending for the faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints is not an option, but a matter of life and death (Jude 3). The eternal destiny of the souls of many will be determined by our devotion or lack of devotion to the Pentecostal faith committed to us. We must see that we are under a solemn obligation to remain loyal to Christ and His word and apostolic doctrine. This means taking a direct stand against all those who would weaken the authority of God’s word and accommodate our message to the shifting new theologies of today, or the prevailing spirit of this evil age. We must pray for the same spirit and heart of the apostle Paul who defined his life by the words, “I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:16). Paul was talking about the very same gospel that has been committed to us. May it be that we, too, might love and cherish the like precious faith entrusted to us? In these last days, Satan will seek to do his worst and some in the church will abandon the apostolic faith. Yet, I am convinced that there will always be those who have the courage to believe and act in the fullness of the Holy Spirit upon the truth of our message. Their allegiance will be to Christ, the full N. T. faith and its Pentecostal teaching. It is these faithful who will never abandon its message by either accommodating its truth or compromising its standards of righteousness.
This author, Rev. Don Stamps, an Assemblies of God missionary, died in November 1991.
It was late summer. The threesome entered the church from the front steps, was greeted in the foyer, handed a paper bulletin and given directions on how to cross the courtyard to enter the church sanctuary. The three year old girl with long blond hair was the first to attract attention as her blue eyes alertly scanned the interior of the sanctuary taking in all the colors and shapes and noting that there were other children present. The adult couple was quieter, dressed in professional attire, clearly a couple. The man appeared more comfortable throughout the service than the lady, but both were engaged in all the proceedings.
Regular attenders warmly greeted the threesome throughout the morning – before church began, in the break during the music time and at the end of the service. The children’s director introduced herself and offered instruction on service options for the child. The lady was asked if she would be interested in singing in the choir. All three were asked how they liked the service and were invited to return.
When the threesome left they privately commented on how warm everyone was and how it appeared that people cared for one another in this church, but the lady wasn’t sure that all the people did during the service was okay. While it was clear that here the Bible was being taught and that the denomination followed “The Apostles’ Creed”, the service was much freer than other churches she had actively attended. Here people raised their hands and clapped at times throughout the music and people spoke “Amen” and “Yes” during the sermon. And they spoke of recent healings and receiving the power of the Holy Spirit and of active spiritual forces in the form of angels and demons. While none of this was “weird” it certainly was different than her evangelical upbringing. The couple agreed to visit other local churches before making a decision regarding where to become actively involved. The couple was unanimous in desiring a church that was physically near to their future home and liked that this church included “Neighborhood” in its name.
The couple went on to visit four other area churches and found nothing so warm and inviting and so returned to the church with the courtyard again and again. In time the couple shared their individual stories with the regular attenders. The man and the lady had met at work in another city after each had experienced marriage failures – one due to drug and behavioral addictions of two former wives and the other due to violent behavior brought on by brain damage, memory loss and dependence on steroids after treatments for brain cancer experienced by her former husband. The little girl had experienced physical abuse at the hand of her brain damaged father. All had wounds in need of healing and other churches had not known how to address these wounds.
After a period of courtship, the couple married and the new family moved into a home near the Neighborhood church. The three continued to actively attend the church as they learned to become a close family. Then a Children’s Department Sunday School teacher warmly invited the little girl to attend Sunday School where other children were working towards earning Bibles and bookmarks and other items. Shortly thereafter the threesome began actively attending the Sunday School classes. Then the lady joined the choir and was told that she could bring her three year old with her to practice even though there was no childcare. The three year old loved being there for practice as she was allowed to quietly run barefoot up and down the rows of chairs while the choir practiced. Subsequently the child described one of the choir members as “You know, she’s one of the grandmas in the choir who love me, the tall one” and the mother knew exactly which grandma she was referencing. Next the child was invited to attend Family Night and the parents joined an adult class while the little girl participated in the children’s program.
After two years of marriage one of the grandma’s in the choir learned that the couple wanted to have a child. She grabbed the lady’s hand near the kitchen and asked if she could pray specifically for this. The grandmother explained that she had had multiple children of her own and had learned that God hears her prayers for children. The lady said “Yes”. The grandma prayed and within a year a little girl was added to the little family. In recognition of God’s response to a grandmother’s prayer and a father and mother and big sister’s desire for a baby the meaning of the name given to this child was “God has been gracious” and “Compassionate one”.
After a few years the couple joined the church. Husband and wife had attended the church’s classes regarding spiritual warfare and denominational beliefs and both were satisfied that they understood and agreed with the church’s core beliefs and order of service. In addition, although Sunday morning service rarely reached more than 175 in attendance, people in this church seemed to know how to walk alongside those who were suffering and how to turn people to a closer relationship with God. Over time the couple learned that this ability to love and help people grow came from the experiences of the attenders. It seemed that no matter what crisis a person might suffer, there was someone in this body of believers who had been through that specific type of crisis. How comforting to know that there were those who could love a person through their personal crises while also pointing them in the way that God would want them to go.
The family went on to experience more blessings and struggles and the church was right there with them. Another baby girl was added to the family. The mother served in the children’s programs and music ministry. The father became head usher. All three girls became active participants in children’s and youth programs and the church celebrated with the girls as they participated in missions trips, furthered their educations and found their true loves.
The family continues to be actively involved in the Neighborhood church loving both the leadership of the church as well as each participant. They spend more holidays with their church family than with their extended blood families and they are thankful for how each person in the church has enriched their lives. They know they could not have weathered all the storms of life without the love, support and teaching provided by their church family.
They encourage you to plug into your Neighborhood church so that you can experience healing and growth as they have done. God is good and His plans for us are perfect. He uses the fellowship of believers to spur people on to spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health.
I am that lady who entered the church with her daughter and sweetheart that late summer Sunday 26 years ago. And while our church has changed leadership several times and has seen regular attenders come and go, that love that was there on our first day of attendance is still active today.
Thank you church family!
If you are looking for a church home in the SeaTac area, please come check us out at 18617 42nd Ave S SeaTac, WA 98188.
1 John 4:16-21
16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
God loved us so much that He left the beauty of Heaven to come to the darkness of this world. He not only came and dwelt among us but He died a cruel death on a cross. Not for anything He had done but for everything we have done and will ever do. A propitiation for us; when we sin He looks down and says paid in full.
He loves so much that He is going to prepare a place for us. It took Him six days to create the earth and He has had over 2000 years to make a place called Heaven. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Work for the Lord, the pay isn’t much, but the retirement plan is out of this world”.
Let’s not lay up treasures on this earth. Let’s love one another. For some of us, that is a pretty hard task.
There once was a guy who had a horrible week. By Wednesday he was looking forward to Friday. As work ended on Friday he fought the worst traffic the city had seen in years. All he wanted to do was have a nice relaxing evening at home. Much to his surprise when he arrived home, he found his wife getting ready for a diner engagement for that night. She explained that they had to go, they had already canceled before.
He told her to start the car and pull it around to the front and he would freshen up a little and be right there. After a quick clean up, he exited out the front door only to see his wife standing outside of a running car. She explained that she had accidentally locked the keys in the running car. That was it. All of the tension from the week exploded upon the mistake of his wife. He told her he did not know how in the world that God could make her so beautiful and yet make her so stupid at the same time. She simply replied, “Well I guess that God made me so beautiful so that you could love me and He made me so stupid so that I could be in love with you”.
God loves us, we ought to love Him, and we need to love others.
We abide in Him and He abides in us. It is a relationship that requires the participation of two. Just as a good marriage requires two, our relationship with the Lord does also. No one has ever seen God and yet I can hardly look around without seeing wonders.
I’ve never seen God but I’ve witnessed His presence. As you abide in Him you find Him revealing Himself to you so clearly that it is almost as if you can hear His voice. If you have not done a lot of the abiding then you might have a hard time distinguishing the voice.
You see when you accept Christ, Christ abides in you with the Holy Spirit according to verse 13. It is the abiding in love as found in verse 16, that refers to us abiding back. That love is both experienced and expressed through the proper relationship with Him.
Did you ever think that you (if you have accepted Christ) might be the only Jesus someone might see; that you might be the thing that is keeping them from an eternity in Hell? Are you living the life that others can see Him through you? Do they see something that makes them thirsty for that living water?
People need to see God thru us, because someday whither you are saved or lost, we all will stand before Him one day. And that brings me to my last point.
A person who abides in Christ’s love will not be ashamed when He returns. When we are right with God then we have no fear of God’s judgment.
If you know anything about the courts system, or if you watch Judge Judy, the guilty ones show fear. That is why Judge Judy always wants the people to look her in the eye when they talk to her.
So if you were to be taken right now, would you be able to look God in the eye and listen to Him say, “well done”. Or would you be afraid of what judgment you are about to face.
The truth of the matter is, you don’t know when you will stand before Him. It could be today. There is no guaranty of a tomorrow or even this afternoon.
There will be no Doctors excuses. There will be no justification of all your good works. You can go to church, you can give to the poor, you can be a better person then most of the people who proclaim to be Christians, but He says in John 14:6, Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, except through me.
If you are not abiding with Him, as you should. You’ve have some sin in your life that is being a hindrance to your relationship with Him. You have something in your life that you are not ready to appear before the Lord on Judgment day. You might be thinking, well I’m saved and I’m not going to have to be judged. I’m redeemed; the debt has been paid. You said it yourself. We all will stand and be judged and any unconfessed sin will be judged.
2 Corinthians 5:10, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
He seeks and desires a relationship with you. You can make things right with Him today.
Last night at prayer someone brought to me a church’s advertisement and in the headlines this statement was found, “No Weird Stuff.” We just finished our Spiritual Life Conference where the Holy Spirit ministered in such a special way. People were revived and refreshed; there were salvations, healing, speaking in tongues with interpretation and several were baptized in the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues. What a blessing to still be in a church where the Holy Spirit is allowed to have His way. I recently read this by Jim Cymbala;
“I’ve noticed that church services and conference gatherings are increasingly (and proudly) governed by ‘tight timelines’ as we try to imitate corporate America. A song here, announcements there, move on to this, and keep with the timeline, please. Above all, let’s avoid downtime with no one at the mike. Heaven forbid that we’d ever dare to entrust the service or conference to the wind of the Spirit and not know what we’re going to do next! The Bible cautions us not to grieve the Holy Spirit-offend, distress, vex, or sadden Him.”
For those who think that this postmodern age is not changing the Pentecostal church in its core beliefs, this should be an eye opener. Listen to Thomas Trask;
“A Pentecostal church that does not have what we call altar services, does not lay hands on the sick, or does not listen to the voice of the Lord in messages in prophecy or tongues and interpretation really isn’t committed to being Pentecostal. We may fear that such things will drive people away, but experience has shown us over and over again that live Pentecostal churches grow, and dull churches fade away.”
This is the “NO WEIRD STUFF” the church above is talking about. Healing lines, altar calls, singing and speaking in tongues, prophecies, and interpretation of tongues; these are now considered WEIRD STUFF by the postmodern church.
I was lectured to not long ago by an Assemblies of God minister who told me, “Young people are not going to accept this anymore. We have moved into a new age where these things are no longer acceptable.” There is this idea that Pentecostal expression is going to be different in the Twenty-First Century. My response to that is, really?
Did God not have the ability to look forward in the Twenty-First Century and know enough to give us what we needed to have expression that would see a world impacted and changed for Him?
1 Cor 14:22-28
22 Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 23 Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. 26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.
“All of these must be done,” speaks volumes to me and tells me that God’s plan for strengthening and equipping His church is the same as it was in the First Century. At Angle Lake Neighborhood Church it is my hope and desire that people will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, that the sick and lonely hearted will find the healing that they need, that those who are bound by life controlling issues will be set free by the power of the Holy Spirit, that the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be present as God equips and empowers His people to set the world on fire for Him and that the fruit of the Holy Spirit will help each and every believer to grow to full maturity in Him. If that is WREID STUFF, then Lord come and mess us up in Your glory and mercy!
1 Cor 1:18-31
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. 10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.
There is a certain person who is going around talking to people who attend ALNC telling them that I am a false prophet and that I am not preaching the gospel. I have confronted this person several times and have asked them to stop stirring up discord in the church, but they refuse to.
This is nothing more than the devil trying to destroy the work of God. I may make mistakes and sometimes I say things that may need to be corrected, but the Scriptures are clear; God has appointed me to be the under-shepherd of this body of believers under His divine guidance.
1 Thess 5:11
And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.
One of the things that we must keep in mind is that God absolutely hates division. Listen to how King Solomon says it;
16 These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look,
A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
This is strong language, but we must understand that God hates the one who brings discord to the church. In fact, God calls them a false witness and a liar. Even if a person believes that they are doing the right thing, division is never God’s plan for His people. You can never accomplish God’s plan or His purpose for your life by stirring up dissension.
Stirring up dissension in the church puts us outside of God’s will! The God who is perfect unity cannot accept those who destroy unity within His body; He is opposed to them! Usually people who stir up trouble set themselves up as the fount of all wisdom and knowledge; they are the one who is always right. It is a tragic place to be, and frustrating!
The pathology of division is nothing less than sinful selfishness which breeds a large variety of attacks on the body of Christ, and damages the witness of the Gospel itself! Arguing and quarreling becomes a way of life to the one who encourages dissension among others. Christians should never develop these characteristics; these will quickly separate us from God’s Spirit because they are contrary to God Himself!
God’s plan for His people is that they come together in unity and be bond together with cords that cannot be broken.
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing — life forevermore.
There is such great power in unity, such rewards, such refreshment, and such a wonderful witness to a world that is easily prone to disunity and deeply desires to be a part of something that is united. There is something about unity that attracts people, being a part of something bigger then ourselves is so appealing. God wants His Church to be healthy, loving, and united so we can be all that we can be in Him! It is truly amazing how much we benefit from being part of a united Church, in so many ways we are made strong in this kind of unity.
I love you Angle Lake Neighborhood Church, you are my family and it causes me great pain and concern when I see a struggle going on and an attack of the enemy upon the work of God. If someone comes to you with a complaint about me or the church, please do not entertain what they are saying. Have them come see me; this is the proper way of handling disputes.
My friends if you ever have a question about something I have said or something I have done, my door is always open. I will make time for you to talk about what may be brothering you.
God Bless You!
“Be holy, for I am holy.” For most people this can be a very intimidating statement. The Lord God says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” The issue with that is, well God is God and I am not. It is easy for Him to say be holy, but John just has way too many faults. However, we love the Lord and we are committed to His word and so we go about trying our very best to be holy, because He is holy.
We enter into this overwhelming challenge under our own willpower and determination vowing to be holy even if it kills us; unfortunately trying to achieve holiness through our own power will kill us! This is the reason why so much emphasis is placed on how one dresses and where they go. These things can be measured and judged. However, is this what God meant by “be holy, for I am holy?” I could spend a great deal of time explaining what I believe is the correct answer, but simply for me it is about the Treasure in this jar of clay that helps me toward that great goal of holiness; the Holy Spirit.
We put the emphasis on the wrong part of God’s command, we focus on the “Be Holy” part, but the real power is in the “For I Am Holy” part. I can’t be holy without God’s holiness. When I was in the Army I worked as a mechanic. One of the things I loved to do was teach others. (I still believe that my greatest talent is teaching.) If I took a new recruit and told them, “I am the world’s greatest mechanic and because of that you better learn everything I teach you or else.” That guy is going to be a nervous wreck by the end of the training cycle, because I have placed the entire burden on him.
Now let’s look at it another way. A new recruit comes into my shop ready to learn and I say to him, “Listen, I am the world’s greatest mechanic. Since I am the world’s greatest mechanic all you need to do is pay attention, let me guide you and prepare you, I will give you everything you need to be successful and productive, and if you forget something or make a mistake I will be right there to help you every step of the way.” After listening to that, the recruit now knows that he too can be a great mechanic, because the burden is not on him; but on the teacher.
Please do not get me wrong, we do have a part in being holy. Our part is to be obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He gives us direction. Our biggest failure, when it comes to holiness, is our disobedience to God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Although holiness may seem out of reach, when we allow the Holy Spirit complete control of our lives we will see God’s holiness. “Be Holy, For I Am Holy.” Yes Lord!
As I reflect on this Thanksgiving it is a little hard considering the break-in we had this last week at the church. Sometimes it is hard to find things to be thankful for. However, even though we live in a fallen world and life can be so very hard; I need to give thanks. I am so very thankful that God loves me, thank you Father for your divine hand that rest upon my life and my family’s lives. I am thankful that you loved me enough to send Jesus Christ all those years ago to pay the penalty for my sins, Thank you Jesus for saving my soul and being Lord over all I do. I am so thankful that you saw the need to leave the earth and return to your place in heaven, but You knew that I would need a helper; and you sent the Holy Spirit to reside in me to enable me to be an over comer in this world. Thank you Holy Spirit for walking with me and showing me the way; for being my counselor, helper, partner, companion, and divine friend; Life without You would be hopeless! I am eternity grateful for The One True God, the Trinity that loves me enough to care and help me in all situations.
I am so very grateful for Han; she is so precious to me. For 38 years she has been my best friend and my companion through this walk we call life. I loved her the very first time that I saw her and my love for her has grown steady through the years; in fact I think I love her now more than ever before. Thank you sweetie for going with me through the years and I look forward to many more together! I am thankful for our daughters Luci Stafford and Tammy Hoover, I am thankful for the women they have turned out to be. I am proud of you both and your many accomplishments and successes. I am thankful for two strong men who I call sons-in-laws; Tom Stafford and Brady Hoover, I love you most guys because I see your love for my daughters and my grandchildren; thank you. I am most thankful for my four wonderful grandchildren, James, Alex, Sidney and Ketscher. It is hard to explain how my heart swells every time I am with them. They each have their own personalities and I would not change that for anything. Papa loves you guys very much and I am thankful that you are in my life
I am thankful for extended family and friends across this nation and around the world. I am hoping that this Thanksgiving finds you all well and full of hope. Remember to give thanks for what God has done for you and your families. I am grateful for my church family, those whom I share a connection because Jesus is our hope and support. I am thankful for your prayers and your care. Many of you I miss because of distance or business, but I pray and think of you often. May God’s hand always rest upon you and keep you. I am thankful for my mentors and spiritual fathers, thank you so much for taking the time to impart to me those things that have made me a good pastor and shepherd.
Finally to my immediate church family, Angle Lake Neighborhood Church, Han and I wish to thank you all for loving us and making us feel like we are the best pastor in the world. I would like to thank my staff for all you do. Guys I could not do this without you, you are very important to me, please thank your staffs on my behalf for all the hard work they do. I am thankful for a great group of guys the Board Members of Angle Lake Neighborhood Church, thank you guys for your sacrifice and care. I am thankful for every person who calls ALNC home and please know that Han and I love you all very much. May God’s hand rest upon you, may His countenance shine upon you, may His peace be with you, may His grace give you strength, may His power flow through you, may His providence keep you and may His presence always be with you.
Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!
Pastor John & Han