October 19, 2013
Sandra (Lopez) Lemus was with our
fellowship for several years, teaching the youngsters. Her dad, of course,
(Cesar Lopez) is a pastor and has a local Spanish-language fellowship. It was a
joy to be involved in Sandra's wedding to Valdemar Lemus a couple summers ago. We just learned that Valdemar's family has been in the coffee-growing business
in Guatemala for many years and is a big supplier of Guatemalan coffee in this
I share all that to say that Sandra and Valdemar
have opened up a coffee business here in Sunnyside. Sandra will fix you an
espresso, or an Americano, or a latte (or whatever your heart's desire is) and Valdemar will sell you different fresh roasts of Guatemalan
coffee beans and explain the coffee-growing process. Take your pick! Their
business is right downtown on 6th Avenue, and is called, Finca
Margaritas! Stop in and grab a goooooooddd cup of
the last couple of weeks, I've done a commentary in our local newspaper in the
"Religious Reflections" column with the above title. It is the
byproduct of many years of observations and revelation by Holy Spirit. My
purpose isn't to raise a lot of sand in sharing the following, but rather to
awaken God's people to an issue that has plagued the body of Christ for
up in classical Pentecostal circles allowed me to see what began initially as
several different "fellowships" of folks who had experienced the
moving of Holy Spirit as it exploded at the turn of the 20th Century with the
Azusa Street Revival. Watching those "fellowships" degenerate into
"denominations" was both disheartening and revealing. I'll explain that
later I had the privilege of being involved in the early days of the
Charismatic Renewal as Holy Spirit once again began breaking down
denominational barriers and pouring out the gifts of the Spirit across
denominational lines. In my early youth I had heard evangelical and Pentecostal
leaders speak disparagingly of Roman Catholics and grew up in an era when
Catholics "couldn't possibly be saved!"
being a solidly entrenched Pentecostal, Dad often said to me, "Pay no
attention to the name over the door, Son! You're not going to see Catholic
Square, or Presbyterian Avenue, or Methodist Blvd., or Pentecostal Circle, or
Baptist Street or Nazarene Highway, or anything remotely like that in Heaven!
The ONLY thing that counts is where people stand in their relationship with the
Lord Jesus Christ."
the years went by I realized the truth of what Dad was preaching, and when I
met other Christians it never occurred to me to ask them whether they were
Catholic or Baptist or whatever! If they knew the Lord, there was an immediate
witness by Holy Spirit and there was no need to ask what label they wore on
their forehead. Having the experiences at age nine and ten of going to Heaven
and spending time with the Lord made labels all the more irrelevant.
late 1970 I was able to participate in a pair of Charismatic conferences; one
with the Episcopal rector of The Church of the Redeemer in Houston, and one
with a Roman Catholic Bishop from Los Angeles. We shared together as members of
the same family -- the family of God! As we ministered together we saw the
Spirit of God poured out on people irrespective of their denominational
background. Lutherans and Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians, Mennonites
and Amish, Seventh Day Adventists and United Brethren -- you name it -- were
speaking in tongues and moving in the Gifts of the Spirit, laying hands on
people, seeing folks get healed, delivered from evil spirits and made whole.
you see God move like that, you very quickly realize that He is no respecter of
persons, no respecter of race, no respecter of gender, no respecter of
denomination -- and certainly no respecter of doctrine! It all goes out the
window! It gets worse, folks!
a major portion of my extended family being Mormon, and having grown up in a
culture of hearing that Mormons were all part of a cult that needed to be
avoided like the plague, it was both eye-opening and rewarding to spend five
years in Salt Lake City and watch God move among Mormons exactly as I had seen
Him move among the so-called "denominational groups." In the summer
of 1971, I called Andrae Crouch (with whom I had done
concerts and recorded with in the mid-1960's), Charles McPheeters
and other friends in the Christian music realm to join me for a three-week
"Jesus Festival" on the Salt Lake County Fairgrounds.
that three-week period we saw various Mormon bishops, members of the Council of
Twelve and Mormons by the hundred receive healing, deliverance from evil
spirits, and (for others to whom Mormonism was simply another "religion")
genuine salvation through Jesus Christ. There were miracles by the hundred with
blind eyes opened, deaf ears unstopped, the lame made to walk again, etc.,
Gotta tell you! You want
to be delivered from religious bondage? Just watch God move among those whom
you've avoided because they have "strange doctrines" and "really
odd beliefs!" It was still a process for me but the Lord wasn't done with
the festival had ended I spoke with a number of people who had consecrated
their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and asked them where they were "going
to go to church" now that they had been "saved." A few said they
weren't sure, but they were going to find a new church to attend. Some looked
really puzzled at my question as if it really made no sense. Others boldly
said, "we aren't going anywhere! We're going to stay where we are."
religious prejudice suddenly got exposed.
can you stay in the Mormon church when you've been saved?" I asked,
absolutely puzzled at their response. After all, one couldn't remain in
the Mormon church with its doctrines and still be saved and know the Lord --
so I thought. The answers I received hit me between the eyeballs.
you evangelized in many places where people were religious and didn't really
have a relationship with Jesus Christ?" asked one lady. "Don't those
people need to remain where they are so they can lead their friends or
acquaintances to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?"
fellow said, "Have you ever been in a smoke-filled bar and talked to
people who were drinking themselves silly in an effort to lead them to
Jesus?" Had to admit that I had, all the while feeling guilty about being
in the bar in spite of the fact that I wasn't drinking.
lady really nailed me, though. "I thought you left your denomination
because the Lord both opened an opportunity for you to leave and instructed you
to do so. Did you leave before God told you to leave, or after He told you to
continued. "I don't know how long I will remain in the Mormon church, but
this is where the Lord has me. I have no intention of leaving unless and until
He instructs me to do so, and then opens the door to leave."
now you are getting the picture, I'm sure. I know some of my Pentecostal
brethren who have used exactly the same routine on Baptists or Methodists or
Episcopalians after they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. And they got the
same answer I got from that Mormon lady. "We're staying where we are
unless Holy Spirit instructs us to leave."
describing to you a prejudice and a religious bias that has existed throughout
the body of Christ for many centuries. It is the underlying foundation of all
racism, no matter by what name it is called. All racism has religious
one is ensnared by spirits of religion they tend to look with certain jaundice
at those who are a part of a different denomination. Consider for a minute
something that Paul wrote to the Ekklesia in Corinth.
"Now this I say, that every one of you saith,
I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul
crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
"I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had
baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any
"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the
gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of
none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish
foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is
written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the
understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise?
where is the scribe? where is the disputer of
this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?"
is specifically rebuking the Christians in Corinth for "denominating"
themselves "of Paul" or "of Apollos"
or "of Cephas" or "of Christ."
Get it? Some of the Corinthian Christians were denominating themselves as
"Pauline." Some were "Apollonian" and some were "Peterites." Then there were those who looked down on
the "Peterites" and they were "just
speaks to the racism of this kind of separation and addresses the root of it
"For it is written, I will destroy the sophistry of those
who are wise [in the ways of the world] and I will disannul and neutralize the
mental analysis and intellect of those who assemble facts in order to arrive at
a conclusion." (my translation and amplification from
the Greek text)
you seeing the picture? Within the body of Christ for centuries we have had the
tendency to judge one another based on our analysis of circumstances, events,
upbringing and associations. What we've been doing is eating from the Tree of
the Knowledge of Good and Evil and spreading the death among ourselves that
comes from eating of that tree.
selection and inclusion into the Bride of Christ is not reckoned by the
Bridegroom -- Jesus Christ -- based on our looks, our associations, our
intellectual capacity, our education or our family heritage. Let's take it
another step farther. Our choosing by the Lord is not based on the color of our
skin; it is not based on whether we belong to a certain "church," or
denomination, or fellowship, or adhere to a particular set of dogmas, doctrines
or beliefs. We are not included into the Bride of Christ because we are rich or
poor or because we have certain skills or lack thereof. We are not chosen
because we have great abilities or are articulate in speaking.
are chosen by the Lord because we choose Him! We choose Him above all else. No
doctrine matters. No upbringing matters. No church label makes a pig's feet
worth of difference. Whether we've lived on the streets and in the gutters of
society, or whether we've lived in the most prestigious mansions and have been
regarded as "the upper crust of society," everything -- and I do mean
EVERYTHING -- becomes as a pile of horse puckey so
that we can win God's best!
see, how was it that Paul put it? "If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh,
I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe
of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a
persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found
"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have
counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to
be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for
whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that
I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my
own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in
Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of
faith." (Philippians 3:4-9, NASB)
I noted in my recent newspaper column, the racism -- mmmm
..... the denominationalism -- that has separated God's people over the
centuries is the direct root of the racism we fight with in the world today.
That same denominationalism is the underlying core of the racism we see in
America and globally. Think for a minute about the unadulterated malarkey we
have to put up with in our society today.
Latino! Mexican-American! Arab-American! Really? What utter rubbish! Because of
denominational racism, we have "black churches," we have
"Hispanic churches," we have Korean or Chinese churches, etc., etc.,
son-in-law, Anthony Picasso, would feel like he'd been slapped in the face if
you called him a Mexican-American. From his perspective, he's an American --
Period! Danielle and Anthony's two sons don't even begin to think of themselves
as Mexican-American, or Hispanic, or Latino, or any of those racist terms.
have two black grandsons, Cyrus and Travon. Not once
have they referred to themselves as "African-American." The term
wouldn't even cross their minds. They are Americans -- Period!
have two adopted daughters of Eskimo heritage. Despite the popularity of the
terminology in today's culture, not once have I ever heard Debbie or Ariella refer to themselves as "Native-American."
They are simply Americans.
heritage is Cherokee Indian, but you'll never hear her refer to herself as a
"Native-American." You get the picture, I'm sure.
me wrap up today with a final illustration. I was raised in a classical
Pentecostal family. When the Charismatic Renewal began in the 60's and 70's, I
was very much a part of that movement. Nevertheless, I do not call myself a
"Pentecostal." I am not a "Charismatic." Though I have
ministered in Pentecostal, Charismatic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran and
Presbyterian churches, I never describe myself using those terms.
will tell you what I am -- and this is how every believer in Christ should
speak of him/herself. There is no division in this terminology. There is no
separating between who or what I am and what other believers are. There is no
racism or denominationalism in this phraseology.
how Paul put it in his letter to the Romans (see Romans 8:16-17): "The Spirit itself beareth
witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
"And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs
with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also
said, I am a son of God. I am an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus
Christ! Period! Got it?
A reminder: If you are in need of healing you are welcome to
join our prayer conference calls. The number to call is (805) 399-1000. Next,
enter the access code: 124763#.
Sunnyside, Washington 98944
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