Friday, July 31, 2009

Atlanta West Pentecostal Church--Doctrinal Conference--General Session 3--David Bernard

NOTE: I realize I am out of order with this post. . . I will post the second general session later today.

Pastor David Bernard
began his third session with “Baptism of Water and Spirit.” What follows are my scribbles from this session.

-He pointed out that in the OT there is much typology particularly in the Tabernacle that is an expression of NT salvation. He noted that sometimes we have been accused of beating only one drum—Acts 2:38. If this is the only thing that we can identify as a point of NT salvation, then the burden is on us to find out exactly what the Scriptures are stating.

-However, the whole of Scripture emphasizes the New Birth (John 3:3-5; Acts 2:38) and every man who has an experience with God must come under the auspices of what Scripture has to say. Acts 2:38 is addressed to “every one of you.” This is all inclusive to every man, to every nation, to every race, to every tribe, and to every tongue. This is the job of the church, to evangelize the world.

-Every man at some point will have the drawing of God on his life although he may not recognize exactly who the voice belongs to.

• Romans 1 mentions the witness of nature.
• Romans 2 determines the witness of the conscience.

-Both are calling for a response from man. He must respond appropriately to the call of God and if he does not, he will be lost.

-In Acts 2:14, Peter standing with the Apostles spoke the message of the church concerning salvation. As they all stood with them, they were endorsing this message. Acts 2 presents the Gospel because it goes through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:38 is the response of the people to the message they had heard.

-What is the action of response?

1. Repent.
2. Be Baptized in Jesus Name.
3. Receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Spirit).

-Peter was speaking to a group who knew exactly what water baptism was all about. They had heard the message of John the Baptist who had baptized by immersion unto repentance. Comparatively speaking the group at the jail in Acts 16 did not even really know God.

-Paul and Silas spoke to them at the basic level. Believe on Jesus! Turn your attention away from all the pagan gods (Zeus, Diana, etc.) that you may have embraced up until now and believe on Jesus. If Paul would have recommended that they go down to the river and be “dunked” in the water, these people would have not understood what he was trying to accomplish. However, as he instructed them to believe on Jesus, it was not long until they were ready to be baptized.

-Our salvation is by grace through faith. . . we are stirred by the grace of God and then our faith has to encourage obedience. Obedience as a response to faith leads to repentance, then baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost.

-There are nine historical examples of baptism in the book of Acts. Other times it is inferred. It is also presented as essential to salvation. Consider again Acts 16 where they baptized in the middle of the night. There was no delay to this. In Acts 8, the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized in the desert.

-Five of the nine historical examples involve directly the converts being baptized in Jesus name: Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:47-48; Acts 19:4 (note re-baptism in this instance); and 22:16.

-In our western culture, we divorce faith and obedience. This causes a huge disconnect because some believe that baptism is a “work.” How can baptism be a “work” when it is in response to a command given by God? Being baptized by immersion in the proper formula is an expression of obedience on the part of the seeker.

-Brother Bernard told of a woman who came to their church in the initial stages of its inception 16 years ago. She saw a small ad in the paper concerning “miracles” in association with the church. Her whole reason for coming was because she had a son who was involved with drugs and in desperate need of God. However, she was a member of a large church that did not believe in the speaking in tongues. But her desperation caused her to come to church that Sunday afternoon and she ended up receiving the Holy Ghost. There was such a dramatic change in her life that her husband noticed as did the employees who worked for her (she was an executive with a large company in Austin). When she told her husband what had happened, he then admitted that he had grown up in an Assembly of God church and as a kid had received the baptism of the Spirit. Not too long thereafter, Brother Bernard baptized this lady and then the domino effect began to work and many members of her family came in. She and her husband are now in leading the singles ministry at New Life UPC in Austin. This is an amazing testimony of what happens when desperate people are willing to be obedient to the Scriptures. God is faithful to transform their lives.

Five Examples of People/Groups receiving the Holy Ghost in Acts:

1. Acts 2—The Jews. Much time was spent on this last PM and Brother Bernard chose not to spend much time with this again.

2. Acts 10—Cornelius and the Gentiles. The Jews believed that people had to embrace God through Judaism. They would be required to fulfill the aspects of the Law, circumcision, sacrifices, etc. before experiencing the New Birth. They were inferring that entrance into the church meant embracing the Old Covenant. When the Gentiles received the Holy Ghost, this shattered their paradigm. Cornelius had an open heart, an obedient walk and God sent Peter with instructions. (Note Acts 11:16 when Peter defends the work of the Holy Ghost.) To believe on Jesus as did Cornelius and his household, they expected to be baptized and to receive the Spirit.

3. Acts 19:6—A strong precedent in that this was not a large group (as the Jews in Acts 2) or another nationality (Gentiles). There was no “big” reason for them to speak with tongues. They were simply a local church (disciples of John) who wanted to be obedient.

4. Acts 8—They received the Holy Ghost but in this case the Bible does not state clearly they spoke with tongues. However there is a betraying factor in the passage with the appearance of a shady magician named Simon who wanted to buy the ability to lay hands on people. Why would he want to buy something that was merely an expression of joy? This is not what he wanted. He wanted the ability to lay hands on people and then they would begin to speak with tongues!

5. Acts 9—Saul’s conversion. Again no specific reference to speaking with tongues. However when we look to 1 Corinthians 14:18 it becomes obvious that Paul spoke with tongues frequently.

Some have sent me e-mails requesting how to get the materials from this conference.
The address:

Atlanta West Pentecostal Church
c/o Jonathon Copeland
2960 Skyview Dr.
Lithia Springs, GA 30122
770-944-3522 (ext. 129) or jcopeland@awpc.org

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Atlanta West Pentecostal Church--Doctrinal Conference--General Session 1--David Bernard

Several weeks ago at our Alabama District Family Camp, Pastor Darrell Johns of Atlanta West Pentecostal Church, mentioned to me a doctrinal conference that would be hosted at church he pastors the last weekend in June. Immediately when he invited, I felt like it would be beneficial for me. My only regret is that more of our Dothan folks could not make it. As it stands Brother Patterson along with Charlie and Patty Joyner made the trek with me.

On arrival we received a 1st class notebook of some 30 pages or so of very good notes that are going to be very useful in the future. The notes alone are worth the price of registration. From reading Brother Johns’ welcome in the notebook, this whole endeavor was apparently created by Jonathon and Missy Copeland who attend AWPC. Again, my hat is off to them for such an outstanding effort that is going to serve many very well.

After a brief time of good-spirited music, Brother Johns introduced Pastor David Bernard of New Life United Pentecostal Church. Brother Johns mentioned how their friendship went back to the early ‘80’s when he was on staff at the United Pentecostal Church in Jackson, Mississippi and Brother Bernard was on staff at Jackson College of Ministries. During that time, Brother Bernard wrote his first book on personal holiness which was the beginning of a very prolific writing career that now boasts of some 30 books or so, along with many articles and booklets. Brother Johns also mentioned how extremely disciplined that Brother Bernard was with his time. More and more I am coming to think that talent is not so much the key as is just raw discipline and a matching work ethic.

Brother Bernard opened up the General Session I by taking his text from Acts 2:42:

Acts 2:42 KJV And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

His assignment was “The Apostolic Faith.” What follows are my scribblings during this session:

-Doctrine is of crucial importance in our times. Doctrine can only come from the Word of God. This is where our authority comes from. The Word has to be our only authority.

-We cannot err from the Scriptures, they are timeless and without error. Creeds, councils, etc. hold no equivalent to the Scriptures.

-I have a personal responsibility to fulfill what the Bible commands. It cannot be a matter of preference but it solely rests on a matter of obedience.

-Apostolic (defined)—Like the apostles. Following their practices, teachings, and methods.

-The Gospels tells us who Jesus is. Acts gives the birth of the Church in a story form but it is more than just history. It serves as the game plan or blue print of an Apostolic church whether 1st century or 21st century.

-The Epistles are doctrinal in content yet practical for living for God.

-If you accept the Bible then one will have to take the Apostle’s doctrine as the supreme example.

-Jude 3 mandates that we contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. Faith is not a maturing thing. Faith defined for the 1st century will have the same definition for the our times. The “faith” is a once for all men. The creeds from the 4th century and the councils from the 7th century does not clarify or perfect what the Bible specifically states.

-What is the “faith”? The “faith” is what the Apostles taught. They followed through with Matthew 28:19-20 and made converts.

-No man has the right to create his own personal theology. From church history it is clear that Luther stood and fought against 1000 years of tradition and declared that our faith must come from Scripture alone (sola Scriptura).

-Throughout church history we find that there were those who spoke with tongues. However it was not until the early 1900’s that Pentecostalism arose as a whole. Charles Parham in Topeka, Kansas challenged his students to find out what the initial sign of being Spirit-filled was. When they returned, from the Scriptures their answer was that they spoke with tongues when they initially received the Spirit.

-The Pentecostal movement did not start with emotionalism, creeds, etc. it started with a look at the Scriptures.

-William Seymour, who had some association with Parham, continued this trend on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California and experienced a vibrant revival also.

-One of the precedents that one finds in the Scriptures is the Apostles baptizing by immersion in the Name of Jesus (Acts 2, 8, 10, 19, & 22).

-Made reference to History of Christian Doctrine—Volume 2 where that it is documented that Luther actually defended those who baptized in this manner. (I got lost in this section trying to take notes and now my notes are so scrambled, I don’t know what Brother Bernard said nor what I wrote, but suffice it to say, he said something and I wrote something. We will cipher it out when I get the CDs!!!) Ulrich Zwingli, a contemporary of Luther, also knew of Jesus Name Baptism. John Calvin, the successor of Zwingli, fought it (he also fought and had Michael Servetus killed.) Karl Barth comes along and declares that in the interest of the ecumenical spirit that we should ignore this model of baptism and stay with tradition.

-What we do is always a matter of obedience. . . !!!!

-Brother Bernard concluded with a summation of “The Five Elements of The Apostolic Church.”

1. The Apostolic Experience—Acts 2:1-4—The Wind. It blows where it listeth. . . Jesus stated this to Nicodemus. The Cloven Tongues of Fire—It touched each of them. This is symbolic that this Holy Spirit experience was for each individual and not corporately for the Apostolic Church. Filled—They spoke with tongues. This was not gibberish because the multitude recognized languages. This continues today (Acts 10:46; 2:16; 2:33; 2:38; Titus 2:11).

2. The Apostolic Message—Acts 2:16—Peter is reaching back to Joel 2:28 and affirming this is a work of God.

3. Apostolic Fellowship/Unity—Acts 2:42, 44-45—Fellowship and unity promoted giving so that they were able to get involved in evangelism.

4. Apostolic Prayer/Praise—Acts 2:47—We are to love the Lord with everything (Deuteronomy 6:5). We are to have passion in our prayer and also in our praise.

5. Apostolic Miracles, Signs, and Wonders—Acts 2:43—Miracles can take place in this kind of setting. Go back to the apostles in all of these things and it will breathe life back into the Apostolic church.

I will try to continue to blog as time permits. . . . I have placed some pics on Flickr also. . .

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Culture in Limbo


On Tuesday morning I was out and about doing some errands that I had put off for longer than I should have. One of the things that I had sorely neglected was changing the oil in my little ’05 Honda Civic. In fact I am not even inclined to tell you how long it has been since my last oil change. So as I sat and waited in the large comfortable waiting area at one of our local Firestone stores, I was confronted by American culture. Head-on, in-your-face, unapologetic American culture. . . at least that is the impression I am getting from a lot of voices these days.

It was delivered to me in crisp-clear, digital, flat-screen TV. I had a comfortable chair in a comfortable room and yet my heart was very uncomfortable. I encourage you not to think of yourself as strange and “old-fashioned” if your heart is uncomfortable with a lot of what is going on in our society these days. There are a lot of unspiritual voices who think they are providing good spiritual advice to our world when it is nothing more than a lowering of the bar of what is really right.

So dealing with this uncomfortable feeling in my heart, I chose to over-ride it for two reasons. First, I did not want to go outside and wait. Secondly I thought that I would do what most Americans do, just sit and watch, don’t change the channel, don’t think, don’t do anything, just let Hollywood unscrew the cap on my head and pour the drivel right in on my brain. What is also interesting or alarming was that no one else in the room even remotely appeared to be uncomfortable with the plot that will describe for you. That just tells me how desensitized our culture has gotten to sin.

I also need to tell you that this was between 9:25—10:00 AM, not PM as in nighttime but broad daylight, apparently this was daytime television at its finest being broadcast in HD. It was on the FX Network and I have no idea what the name of the show (or movie) was. The plot which took about two minutes to figure out was very ignorant. Compare that to Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Christo and it is going to take you at least a couple of chapters to even begin to figure out what is in store for you in this great piece of literature (but that is for another day).

This young man was apparently involved in an extortion scheme that involved blackmail. He carefully had entered a plush 5-star hotel and through nefarious means breaks into one of the rooms on the umpteenth floor. He bursts into the room with a digital camera and begins yelling and snapping off pictures at a couple in a bed in the back of the suite. Just so happens that the couple is two men in an apparent homosexual tryst and while one might argue that nothing explicit was shown enough of the situation was shown to lead the thoughts into knowing exactly what was occurring.

This fellow doing the detective work continues to take pictures while one of the men is begging him to stop that it was all a mistake and so on and so forth. Suddenly the intruder makes a deal with the man about getting his girlfriend back to which he agrees to help if he will just delete the pictures and not tell anyone about the compromising place he has been found in. The rest of the time was given to this young man’s sexual pursuit of a quite immodestly dressed (and acting) young woman to which he accomplishes before the “show” was over.

I can already hear the shots being fired around the world about how I should have gotten up and said something or at least asked for the channel to be changed. Which I have done before, one time was in a packed out restaurant and suffice it to say I did not win friends and influence diners on that day. In fact quite a howl was raised by those at nearby tables. The reason that I asked for the channel to be changed is that I did not want my kids exposed to some soul-killing content.

However on this day, I over-rode that quiet, convicting voice of the Spirit within and found myself in the plight of a sinner simply because I chose to expose myself to something that America feeds on every day. For you see, I don’t have a television, never have had one and probably don’t foresee getting one anytime in the near or distant future. Furthermore, I grew up without one because my parents did not own one either (thanks Mom and Dad!!!). How deprived I have been not being exposed to that kind of fare! Or have I really been deprived? I shall do some writing on that at a later time.

One of the great challenges facing pastors in our times is contending with the voices of the world that feed people this kind of content every day. A pastor, if he is lucky, has the ability to preach to people about 30 minutes on Sunday morning, 50-60 minutes on Sunday night, and 60-75 minutes on Wednesday evenings which totals around 2 ½ hours a week out of a total of 168 hours. What is very sad is that I know men who can sit and watch a 3 hour ballgame but when a sermon starts hitting the 30 minute mark, they feel violated. It is all a matter of what you are feeding your soul!

Sadly spiritual life during the week is sorely neglected by the majority and only a very few spend time alone with the Bible and with the God of the Bible in a place of prayer. If you are going to make it through this world successfully, you must prayerfully ransack the Bible, it cannot be hit and miss! I have one more shot at 1st John which will be next Wednesday night and a lengthy series will be concluded. I have spent close to 60 sessions with our church and it has been soul impacting for me as I hope it has been for them. But in totaling the hours that I had a Word document open, I have spent 188 hours and 51 minutes working through this book. This total doesn’t include other time spent reading commentaries and scribbling notes on legal pads or times that I found myself either convicted and driven to prayer or exulting in the grace of God which also put me on my knees. I might add that 1st John 2:15-17 was clanging in my soul Tuesday morning when I took a little bit of American “life” in.

Many can help their pastors by getting rid of their TV and getting all the soul-numbing images and thoughts out of their minds so the Word can literally be grafted to the soul as a skin-graft would. Our hearts are worldly because of what we put into them. The bigger question for me is how can we “dine” on the same fare the world does and still be called saints? How can we watch shows that exalt sin, glorifies the creature more than the Creator, and drags our soul through violence, sex, and vulgarity and it not affect the spiritual life of a man? If I put the Philippians 4:8 test on this “show” how will it fare?

From the book by John Piper (which you can download free at the link), Don’t Waste Your Life, chapter 7:

Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, the Internet is running to catch up, and may have caught up. You can be more selective on the Internet, but you can also select worse things with only the Judge of the universe watching. TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you're watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels. Neil Postman shows why.

What is happening in America is that television is transforming all serious public business into junk. . . . Television disdains exposition, which is serious, sequential, rational, and complex. It offers instead a mode of discourse in which everything is accessible, simplistic, concrete, and above all, entertaining. As a result, America is the world's first culture in jeopardy of amusing itself to death. (Neil Postman, "Amusing Ourselves to Death," (Spring 1985): 15, 18. See his book by the same title, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Viking, 1985).

Sobering thoughts for those who are alarmed about the spiritual state of our nation and its churches and there are more than just a few “redneck” preachers who are concerned about it.

So for those who will not hear my heart cry. . . .Go ahead. . . sit back. . . watch. . . waste your time. . . waste your mind. . . waste your life. . . waste your soul. . . but while you sit back and watch in the so-called stream of “entertainment” there are a few militants out there who are going to rage against the system and plead with you and beg you not to waste your soul on the ignorant, baneful, and trivial. . . I am going to be one of the few! By the way, I need some help. . .

Monday, July 06, 2009

Book Recommendation -- Horse Soldiers -- Doug Stanton

If you enjoy summer reading, you are in for some good recommendations here in the next several days. Stories about the war on terror are beginning to surface by various soldiers who have been actively involved in the battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. A new book that has just come out is entitled Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton. It is a very, very interesting book about the role the Special Forces played in the very early days of the American attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Special Forces faced overwhelming odds in getting their high-tech equipment up and down the sides of the mountains on horseback. The word pictures that Stanton uses to describe the 6-foot, two-hundred pound plus warriors riding horses that were meant for 130 pounders, is almost hilarious. You will almost picture an adult trying to ride a three-year olds’ tricycle, knees to chin sort of thing. His account of the SF having to ride their horses on rain-soaked trails that had cavernous drop-offs of thousands of feet will make you consider the dangers they endured that were not combat related.

Finally, the description of the use of GPS to work with the jet bombers and missiles was quite intriguing. For those involved in ministry, you are going to find a number of illustrations to pull from these books and actively use them in sermons.