Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Acts 2:38 ... At Last

Well, I've been totally distracted from my original research into Acts 2:38 by a great number of topics that are related to each other and stem from the study of this verse. Because I want to post on those other topics though, I feel I need to get Acts 2:38 dealt with. In the context of this blog, namely to disseminate the heretical teachings of cultist, legalistic organizations, this verse is important in that it is the absolute basis of ALL UPCI, salvational teachings. It is used to state that God is modalist and that His name is Jesus (period), that baptism in that name is mandatory and required for salvation, and that the believer will receive the Holy Ghost the same way and with the same manifestations the Apostles did earlier. Of course, as any student of the Bible will tell you, you simply cannot use one verse of scripture as the fundamental basis of your doctrine. You absolutely MUST use the entire canon of scripture to support your belief.

It should be mentioned here that I do not deny the accuracy, potency, and efficacy of Acts 2:38 in reference to the audience that heard it. However, I also ascribe it no greater value than any other scripture in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16).

Acts 2:38 is an answer to a very specific question by a very specific group of people. In Acts chapter 2, Peter is delivering a sermon to a group of people composed (arguably) exclusively of Jews. There is no reason to believe or state that there were gentiles present at this "conference". This is important because it sets the stage for Peter's entire address, and he even makes reference to it when defining his audience in verses 14 and 22. This passage of scripture is the first time post-resurrection that the Disciples of Jesus appeared as a unified whole before the Jews. Up till this point we read where they were scattered and fearful, but with the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, they gained the confidence of belief and experience. Peter stands up (with the rest of the Disciples) and begins to expound to the incredulous Jewish multitude that this is, in fact, of God. He then gives a scriptural history of Christ, and then (very politely really) tells them they murdered the Messiah.

It is at this point they become "pricked in their hearts". When the question is asked in verse 37 "Men and brethren what shall we do?" (emphasis mine) they are asking as a NATION which is evidenced by their askance as a whole, exclusive group: Brethren. They were not asking simply as humanity, they were asking as the chosen people of God. The laws of Biblical exegesis and hermeneutics require that context and audience be included in all understanding of scripture, and this is no exception. The Jews understood (rightfully) that they were a nation set apart and chosen by God. To them, there was no reason to believe or expect that Peter was talking to Gentiles, nor would Peter have felt a need to discuss the requirements for Gentiles with the Jews present.

It also bears mentioning that Peter was not necessarily thinking about the Gentile nations at this point. When the Holy Ghost was poured out on Gentiles later in Acts, Peter was a bit surprised himself. He knew that God had promised it, but he still seems to have not been expecting it. So when he was speaking to a group of Jews mere minutes or hours after the Holy Ghost was first given, there is absolutely no way to support a belief that he was speaking to the entirety of humanity throughout thousands of years to come.

Legalistic organizations use the reference to repentance in verse 38 to say that you must give up all your sinful ways, and then go on to define what is sin...often with absolutely no regard for scripture or, more specifically, a complete lack of scripture to support their definitions. For instance, you can't drink even a drop of alcoholic beverage because the Bible says so. But wait, you can't smoke a nice cigar either...and God Forbid you wear a pair of shorts!!! However, they use cough syrup when they're ill (I assume they discourage robo-tripping though I've never heard it specifically taught on), they commute on major freeways through large cities where the toxin level in the air far exceeds that of a cigarette or cigar...and they even inhale while they drive (you don't inhale a cigar...that would hurt a fair bit), and they allow their women to wear skirts that are below the knee in length but are so tight they leave absolutely nothing to the imagination...except maybe the colour of thong underneath).

What does all this have to do with repentance in Acts 2:38? Peter was telling an entire nation that they needed to call on God for repentance and forgiveness of the sins of murder and unbelief. He had already told them in verse 21 that if they called on the name of the Lord (he was quoting OT scriptural prophecy) they would be saved. In verse 38 he reiterates it at their request, and gets more specific.

What legalistic cults never see, is that these were DEVOUT JEWS (verse 5) that lived according to the law of Moses, and as such, were not given to hedonistic lifestyles and practices. These were Jews that were against all manner of sin and abhorred what the other nations considered common. The reason they were upset was because they realized they had broken two of the greatest commandments of the OT: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and Thou shalt not commit murder. To them, these were incredible breaches of the scripture, and they were saddened and fearful. Peter told them they had to repent of the old ways of living by the law, and of the old thought patterns that led to their disobedience.

Does repentance still apply to the believer today? Of course! We still must repent of our old thought patterns and selfish ways of life, and we must accept our own responsibility for the death of Jesus as we are sinful in nature. Does this mean that Acts 2:38 applies to us? Not necessarily.

The Jews had just crucified Jesus Christ less than 2 months prior to the events in Acts 2. It was fresh enough in their collective consciousness to be remembered with clarity, but distant enough that they could look on it objectively. They had believed, up until this point, that they were right in what they did, and had most likely begun to rationalize and justify the action. When confronted by the miraculous works done by the Disciples in Acts 2, as well as Peter's assertion of Jesus as the fulfillment of the OT prophecies concerning the Messiah, they were shocked into a place of receptiveness. It is at this point that Peter tells them they must be baptized in the name of the very person they had crucified. There is more to this seemingly simple command than meets the eye however.

To the Jews, being baptized in any name other than that of Jehovah would be sacrilege or blasphemy UNLESS they identified this other name as being of God. Jesus said that if any were ashamed of Him before men, He would be ashamed of them before His Father in heaven, and thus implies that any who are ashamed of being identified with Him on earth will not live eternally with Him in heaven. When Peter told these devout Jews to be baptized and therefore publicly identified with Jesus, he was putting them in a position where they couldn't sit on the fence and play both sides. They were required to prove that they believed and had repented by doing something that went against everything they had believed prior.

All this DOES NOT make baptism a requirement for everyone. It was only required of the Jews, and can be argued that it only applied to those present. To make it a requirement of salvation requires other scriptures that simply do not support it as an absolute. Jesus said "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned." This scripture would appear to place far more emphasis on the necessity of belief than that of baptism. Further, in Acts Chapter 10, the Holy Ghost was poured out on the Gentiles BEFORE they were baptised, and in Acts 15:9 Peter says their hearts were purified by FAITH, not baptism. In Acts 10, Peter commanded them to be baptised after they received the Holy Ghost, but did not preach it as a commandment or a requirement for RECEIVING the Holy Ghost. So we see that it is a proper WORK of the believer, but does not in any way affect salvation, as salvation is not procured through works. If someone receives the Holy Ghost and dies before they can be taught about baptism or before it can be performed, there is no scriptural evidence to support the belief that they are lost.

So back to the text: Peter was making it a commandment to those hearing the sermon, and, by extension, to the Jewish nation. He did not preach it to the gentiles as a requirement, only as a post-salvation work of belief.

In verse 39, Peter says the following: "For the Promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Many modalist, legalistic cults use this verse to justify the universal application of the preceding verse. To do so however, you must ignore two very important grammatical constructions in the sentence:
-1st, it starts with the word "for"...this word means "because", not "because of". He is saying that the Jews have been given the opportunity for Salvation because the Promise is universal...not that the Promise is to everyone because of the preceding sentence.
-2nd, the word "Promise" is preceded by the definite article, not by the word "this". The distinction is very big, because "The Promise" refers to the universal promise of Salvation, where "This Promise" would refer to the preceding verse as the Promise, which we know grammatically is not correct.

Acts 2 does not require baptism for Salvation in any permanent way. Ignoring the arguments about the usage of plurals and tenses in the original greek, it can be easily shown that verse 38 is not setting a pattern of required WORKS for salvation, but rather outlining what Peter felt led to tell the Jews present. Yes, baptism is a correct thing for a believer to do. Yes I believe that if you refuse to be baptized after the scriptural evidence is presented, then there are obvious questions as to why you would refuse. But No I do not believe or agree that you go to hell if you are not baptized. It simply cannot be shown. Even Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 states he baptized only three people. In that case, how could he be fulfilling the duties and requirements of salvation for those people? The answer is that he didn't consider baptism essential. I'll take his word and example over that of a legalistic, cultish dictatorany day.

God Bless You

PS I encourage you to check out the references when I include them because they often contain additional info and other points of view. I want people to discover the Bible for themselves, and the only way to do that is to study and discover things. I also sometimes include opposing viewpoints (such as the christiancourier.com one) so that the differences are easy to identify and refute.



Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Hypocrisy of Cultist Authority

I was at lunch with my wife today and two things came to mind that were said and done in a previous cult we attended: 1st, the "pastor" got up after a conference and stated "Shepherds don't beget sheep, sheep do. If a shepherd did, it would be an abomination." on the face of it, he's right. But in the context he said it, he's wrong. What he was teaching on was outreach by the church, and likening himself to the shepherd and therefore stating it isn't his calling to convert everyone, but rather the "sheep" in his cult. I'll examine that a bit later.

The next thing that happened was he started having everyone in his church watch a series of DVDs that were recorded of and by a "pastor" in the USA that has apparently (I have no reason to doubt this claim) converted thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of people to the UPCI in different cities. The series was on how to teach a Home Bible Study using a specific study guide.

The problem with this is that our former pastor states that it is an abomination for a "shepherd" (read pastor in the UPCI allegory) to beget sheep, then commends another "pastor" for doing just that and holds this man up as an example. Now, I agree that a single person converting thousands of people to a belief system is impressive and takes a lot of work. I even grant an amount of admiration for the man's dedication and passion. I disagree with his fundamental doctrines, but I admire the Mormon missionaries as well for giving a portion of their life freely, but I disagree with them too.

But admiration for passion does not change what was said and done. So I have to ask the question: If it's an abomination to do something, then why would you commend someone for doing it? There's many things labelled as abominations in the Bible, but we don't commend those things. So then I started thinking about why he would do these two things, and I believe I came up with the solution: In the Bible, there are places where the calling of Pastor/Deacon/Elder is synonymous with things like Shepherd and Doctor, but it isn't stated that they are literally those things. The problem that arises in a cultist atmosphere is that the "authority" takes on themselves the authority and position of God, rather than the actual position they are to be in, namely, a fellow laborer with ALL of God's people, not just the other elitist authority figures.

Growing up in the UPCI, it was always weird to me that when we went to camp meeting, the ministers all ate in a separate room in the cafeteria with a closed in door. As well, they were to be ushered to the front of the line when it was meal time etc. Now, I know the Bible talks about honour where it's due and all, but Jesus made it clear that the apostles were to wash each others feet, and that commandment was extended to the rest of the brethren as the Church grew. Jesus also said that the greatest among the brethren was to be a servant. How then do you justify the elevation and segregation of the "ministry" to a place where they are not ministering to people, but rather being worshipped as greater than the rest of the Church? I was at a conference about a year and a half ago (UPCI), and there was a special dinner for the ministry and their families. It was not open to the rest of the church, and when I went in to ask my now ex-pastor something rather urgent regarding his children and a youth event, I was informed by a bystander that I wasn't supposed to be there. This person didn't know me or why I was there, and yet was arrogant enough to tell me to leave. What if I was a homeless person desperate for a meal? I was just kicked out of a meal where, supposedly, a whole bunch of "ministers" would have had an opportunity to minister to someone.

Many of the so-called ministry in cultist organizations are hell-bent on living a higher standard than the people "below" them, and even justify this by saying that they have a right to so that everyone knows they're "blessed" (one man apparently said that he should have TWO CADILLACS to prove God's blessing on him...wow), and that because they spend time in prayer and fasting and Bible study to preach, they should be honoured. But wait, there's more: Paul said that they have a right to be sustained by the offerings of the Church. So now, they want to be sustained by your tithes (see a previous post on that one), eat separately because they are apparently above you (seems a lot like what God condemned Peter for regarding eating with Gentiles), and not be required to convert the lost as they are "Shepherds" (many still do which is hilarious in light of the statement about abominations).

Let's turn it around: If a sheep goes and finds a goat (or any non-sheep animal), and brings it back to the flock and makes it look like a sheep, is it a sheep? Heck no! It's a goat! So then now we have sheep deceiving the shepherd!!! The only one that can beget sheep is Jesus Christ, the Lamb. It's our lifestyle and testimony and freedom that will witness to people, not our status in a cult.

A true Elder/Shepherd/Pastor/Deacon would never want to be elevated and honoured in such a way. He would be embarrassed and refuse the attention as the only one worth honouring is God. Even Jesus Himself said there is none good but God, deflecting the statement made by the rich young ruler. Paul, the greatest apostle, said that "in me dwelleth no good thing". The Bible says to pray for our leaders. It does not say they are to receive preferential treatment.

If you are in an organization like this, you are in nothing more than an elitist, Pharisaical, un-Biblical cult. I hope this helps you understand why so much seems wrong in many UPCI "churches".

God bless you

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Ten Commandments and Cults

About 8 months ago, I realized that I was praying for the wrong things in life. I was in a pattern of breaking the legalistic rules of a cult I was in, and then getting down on my knees and asking for forgiveness from God, and getting up only to inevitably fail again. I was always confused as to why it was impossible to keep all these rules that were set when it was "obvious" that everyone else was keeping them. Then I learned the truth. I found a forum online where ex-UPCI (for the most part...there are people from other legalistic organizations on there as well) members talk and post about things that bothered them while in the UPCI, as well as what they have learned from leaving and so forth. It was quite enlightening to realize that I wasn't the only one on the planet that had this problem.

Upon realizing and seeing all this, I went through something that I had always talked about but never experienced...I thought I had experienced it, but nope...sure hadn't: My eyes opened. I began to see some things that simply didn't add up. I was in a legalistic cult that didn't obey the Ten Commandments, and most certainly didn't obey the commandments Jesus gave, namely, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." and "Love your neighbour as yourself." (Matthew 22:36-40 is the reading for this).

James said that the law was a yoke that our fathers couldn't bear, and then proceeded to state the four things that the gentiles were bound to. This passage states several things:

-First off, James states that we are not to be bound by the laws of the "religious elite" because we couldn't keep up with them before Christ and we won't be able to now. So he makes it clear that the phariseeical attitude is not welcome in God's kingdom.
-Second, he states 4 things that are common in that day and age, and that are unacceptable to God. 2 of them are still pretty common nowadays, but the blood and things strangled aren't in our culture. There was a practice in those days of drinking blood in pagan religious ceremonies that we don't face a whole lot of today. I am aware that there are some small satanist cults in North America that practice this, but it is not mainstream and, for the most part, goes unnoticed by society. James also sets a constraint against strangled meat as the blood is still in it and this is another of the pagan witchcraft practices.
-He then states that Moses is taught in the synagogues everywhere as it is, and the new converts don't need further condemnation brought on them by people that are well-meaning but wrong.
-Lastly, the apostles condemn and disown those that told the newly saved gentiles that they had to keep the law. It is clear from the original text that the gentiles were saved by faith in the blood of Jesus, and the grace of God. Therefore, the apostles had no wish to cancel out the wondrous work of God in the gentile nations. It is important to note that the law was only given to the Israelites...not to other nations. As well, it was not given in the beginning to Adam and Eve, therefore is not incumbent upon all humanity. We must always remember that the Old Testament is mostly a history of the Israelites and points to the Cross as the place where the old would be replaced by a new and better covenant.

With all this in mind, I woke up this morning with something bothering me in no small way. 8 months ago I asked God to show me the truth about Him, and about right and wrong. Well, He is. The Ten Commandments are fairly well known, and the one that really bothered me this morning was "Thou shalt not steal". The reason it is bothering me is because of software and music piracy by people claiming to be living for God. Software and music piracy are defined as "the taking and using of copyrighted or patented material without authorization or without the legal right to do so" (http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_/piracy.html). In short, software and music piracy are the THEFT of the intellectual property of someone else. I brought this up once while still attending a UPCI cult, and was scoffed at by a member of the "pastor's" family. The attitude was that "we are not of this world and not bound by it's laws". The actual statement that was made is: "It's only spiritual jaywalking so who cares?" Well let me put this in perspective: If I write a book, then someone else plagiarizes it, they cn be put in jail as well as sued civilly. If I steal your car, then I'm going to jail. If your neighbour comes over and takes your lawnmower out of your shed without your permission, and uses it to cut his lawn, he can be charged with trespassing as well as theft. Theft is theft.

The FBI actually had to create an entire task force dedicated to the fight against the piracy of music, motion pictures, and software. The RCMP has a parallel task force. In Britain, the police have a similar setup. This isn't "spiritual jaywalking", it's a flagrant breaking of one of God's moral standards, and even goes against what He said in person in Matthew: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:39) and likens to the commandment to love God with all your heart soul and mind. This puts great emphasis on what we call the "golden rule". As well, the Bible tells us to obey the laws of our country as long as they don't break the laws of God. So if you break a law, you just rebelled against the Bible.

I guess in summation I will say this: I don't pirate software, music, or motion pictures. I have in the past, and this morning I repented of it. I am deleting and destroying anything I find that is pirated, and I suggest that you do the same. I thank God for His mercy and love.'

God Bless you

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Thieves On The Cross

I was reading about baptism today specifically relating to the thief that asked for eternal life on the cross versus the one that didn't. I was reminded of a statement made by a former pastor of mine over the pulpit: "Was Jesus stating that the thief would be saved? or sarcastically throwing it in his face?" The argument was that because the thief had railed against Christ, that Jesus may have been scorning this man and that the verse could have been a rhetorical question based in sarcasm. If you end the verse with a question mark, it becomes a question that would seem to indicate that Jesus was telling the man that He (Jesus) would be in paradise, but He wouldn't be seeing the thief there.

But let's examine the scripture: Luke 23:32-43
"32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.
33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. 35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.
36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.
38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."

If you notice, the thief doesn't rail on Jesus, but in fact REBUKES the other thief. Then he makes an honest confession and acceptance of responsibility. Also notice that he doesn't ask for earthly deliverance as the other thief demands as a sign, but rather asks for eternal hope...something requiring faith in Jesus as God. Also notice that the signs that accompanied Christ's death on the cross that so affected the Centurion have not happened yet, so the thief has no earthly sign to motivate him.

Thus, Jesus accepts the prayer as sincere and honest and grants the fellow forgiveness...something He had done in the past with others and SOMETHING HE HAD JUST FINISHED PRAYING THE FATHER FOR IN REGARDS TO THOSE THAT CRUCIFIED HIM. He doesn't ask the thief what his theological views are, whether or not he's been baptized, or even whether he understands God. He simply says YES. This is the God of mercy that died on the cross.

I read a paper on a website that deals with whether or not salvation can be had without baptism, and this was one of the scriptures they used. They basically said that the man MAY have been baptized by John, and so had that part of the "Plan of Salvation" covered. But I ask this: if, as according to them, he was baptized by John, and John's baptism was temporary and only in effect during his life and the life of Jesus (they set two different limits depending where they are in the article....typical), then the thief would have been lost the instant that Jesus died on the cross as John the Baptist was already dead and beheaded. The baptism would have been out of force.

However, if we recognize that this apparent vagueness only exists in the English as a cultish, fear mongering, power hungry attempt to induce people to believe a heresy regarding water baptism, then we can see that the original Greek never has this problem. Those verses in the original Greek do not offer the possibility of changing punctuation to fit your mood. It's just another example of UPCI buffet Bible church mentality that is so damaging to those seeking the true God.

Rightly divide the word people; don't accept some self-proclaimed "pastor's" nonsense and let him put questions in your mind about the abundant mercy and grace of our Lord and Saviour.

God Bless you

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Leavng a Cult

I am not posting on a specific scripture today, but, rather, a collection of thoughts I've had and statements made by people both in and out of the UPCI. I don't honestly think that someone that has never lived, breathed, and absolutely believed in a belief system created by, and propagated by a cult can ever truly understand the complexity of emotions and feelings that a person leaving such an organization feels. Having been born and raised in a cult, I was indoctrinated from the very earliest possible days, with teachings and beliefs that go against everything the Bible says. Yes the Bible is the reference that was used, but in a twisted, non-Christian way.

As children, we were taught that we were going to hell (which is true) and that we had to receive the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance (absolute perfect statement of what the UPCI teaches). The problem with this is that we were taught the judgement and fear of God before we were taught the mercy and grace of God. This, coupled with the constant repetition of the impending return of Christ, creates a spirit and feeling of abject terror in the mind of a young child. Instead of fearing the monster in the closet, a child fears Jesus Christ Himself as the harbinger of eternal damnation. I can remember waking up in absolute terror that the trumpet had rang because we lived beside a highway when I was young and, occasionally, a truck would blow the air horn at an animal in the road.

Even church wasn't a pleasurable or exciting experience to be looked forward to, because I knew that I would be reminded of what was waiting for me when God came back. The UPCI pastor would talk about repentance and damnation without ever mentioning the word mercy. I can count on one hand the times I heard messages by UPCI preachers that were about God's grace and mercy without the inevitable stick of God's wrath and judgement. God was inevitably portrayed as the line in the movie Dogma says: a guy that lives thousands of miles away and is just waiting for us to do something wrong so He can spank us.

When I finally experienced the "UPCI" salvation, I was 14 years old, and I can remember thinking only hours later "there has to be more". I had been given an expectation of exceeding joy and peace and absolute empowerment that didn't click at that point. I spent the next 3 1/2 years attempting to live the teachings, standards, and beliefs of the UPCI, but without success. I was always on this never ending treadmill of sinning-repenting-sinning-repenting-repeat ad nauseum. To top it off, doctrines would change, standards would be loosened in some areas, tightened in others, and the pastor's family did things that were obviously against scriptures in the Bible (gossip, tale bearing, railing accusations without evidence, all out hypocrisy). In a situation like that, how do you know what's right and wrong?

My wife was raised LDS and she once said to me (about that cult): "If new revelations to the prophet do away with other revelations and scriptures, then how do you ever have assurance of salvation because the standard can change at any time?" The same can be said about the UPCI in that the "standard" changes from church to church, minister to minister, and even year to year under the same pastor in a church. I can give names of UPCI licensed ministers that set standards of dress as heaven or hell (everything is heaven or hell in a UPCI church because the pastor is the law and if you disobey him you are rebellious etc) and then changed those standards when their children grew up, when their wives put pressure on them, and even when circumstance forced them to do something against their own standard. These men then ended up looking silly and the people in their churches were still expected to obey and take everything they said as gospel truth. I can talk about men that preach that we are to hold fast what they teach us as "their" saints using the references of 1 Corinthians 11:2 and 2 Timothy 1:12-14, but who also hold teachings contrary to what they were taught by their own pastors. If we are supposed to believe everything we are taught by these men, but they can't keep their family in line with the Bible and don't teach what they were taught (the UPCI claims to be the original church but their doctrines change from generation to generation...), then how do they justify even getting in the pulpit?

So being raised in this with the fear of judgement and the belief that we have to hold all the standards of men has left a very bitter taste in my mouth...especially when the organization I was raised in can't even agree among themselves as to what the standards should be. Since leaving, my wife and I have tolerated the comments and judgements of wilfully misled reprobates that refuse to acknowledge the Bible as the ultimate authority, preferring to accept the word of man as larger than the word of God. It's funny that people who have never attended a UPCI church are far more tolerant and Christian (in the true sense of the word, not just self proclaimed) than the people that claimed to be our spiritual "family". These people my wife and I proclaimed as wrong and misled and deluded while we were in the UPCI have been incredibly kind and forgiving even when we were still saying they were going to hell. They have shown incredible grace and compassion to us in spite of the judgement we heaped on them.

I was recently accused in a text from my ex-pastor's son (pray for him, he's a very nice young man) of having a very "critical spirit". I had sent him a couple texts trying to be friendly and was rebuffed. It's funny that a member of a UPCI church would accuse me of being critical in light of what goes on in their "services" every week. It's true, I am very critical of the UPCI. I have been for quite some time, even while I was still attending one. I had planned on leaving back in January/February, but my wife wanted to stay for a couple conferences and I was hoping that the one conference we went to would renew my faith and show me where I was wrong. So we waited till May to leave, but I was already studying and preparing for the day we left. I learned the critical attitude (one that I now have to pray about almost constantly) from listening to my pastors and other UPCI ministers at conferences and in "revivals". They constantly belittle and deride every other non-Jesus-only organization on the planet as deluded and false. I agree that there are many organizations that are heretical, but there are many many more within the Christian body that aren't. So when that critical attitude was turned against them and their extra-Biblical standards, why were they so upset?

I use scriptural exegesis and logic to show what is wrong with what they teach. I don't just spout off, but I actually examine what scriptures they use in light of the context and other parallel passages. My grandma called me the other night (she's been a huge mainstay in all this for me, and she reads all my posts so HEY GRANDMA, I LOVE YOU :D) and left me a message that said "criticism is the price we pay for moving out of mediocrity". It's true. Whenever someone leaves a false church to find God for real, they have to endure (pretty easy once you get past it) the criticism of people still in that false belief. There are snide comments, arrogant remarks, and the attempt to put down where you are in life. It's funny because they often refer to a "backslider" as a prodigal son, but instead of eagerly looking for the return of that person like the dad in the story, they criticize and attack them.

I was once asked by a member of a UPCI church how I "jump into God's lap so easy". As far back as I can remember, I have been totally in love with God and He is everything I want in life. I have always found it easier than some people seemed to, to talk to God and spend time with Him. There is really nothing more satisfying to me than to talk to God and know He is near. So many times I have been in tough situations in life and just talked to God while going through my day and seen those situations completely resolved within days. It's awesome. I have been so grateful over the past many months that when I asked God to show me the truth, He took me on a roller coaster ride of discovery to bring me to where I am now.

My grandma's pastor said something to me on Sunday when we were passing by about not finding fault. He's right, and I am trying to find the line between finding fault with people, and pointing out and proclaiming hypocritical false doctrine. If I cross the line sometimes, please forgive me in a Christian spirit as my intent is always to point out the wrong doctrines and practices rather than judge the people. The fear that was built into me as a child by the UPCI cult is the reason I sometimes lash out. In reading my Bible and praying, I have found that God really is love and that He doesn't give us a spirit of fear. I believe God will judge the wicked and sinful one day, but in this life I believe we are all called to serve Him and He leaves grace and mercy to lead us all into truth.

Tomorrow or Friday I intend to post on why Acts 2:38 is not the New Testament plan of Salvation, but a statement to the people that crucified Jesus Christ. It will be a pretty strong indictment of the UPCI fundamental doctrine, but it really goes to the root of why they believe they are superior to other organizations. {{{EDIT: I was studying a part of the argument against Acts 2:38 and have been distracted by another topic dealing with the Jewish law and the different sects of Judaism specifically related to John 1:1. I will be addressing Acts 2:38 at some point in the near future, but I intend to continue with the Godhead first as understanding Salvation is foundationally linked to the Godhead before everything else. For those of you that are looking for immediate gratification concerning Acts 2:38, I direct you to the following link for some of the info: http://www.biblebelievers.com/jmelton/acts2.html}}}

God Bless you