Sunday, September 29, 2013

Garth Young: Are You Good Enough?

A guest blog, by Garth Young.

If you could communicate something to those you care about most before you die what would it be? Surely there must be something important you’ve learned that’s worthy of passing on to the next generation—something that’s meaningful and valuable. What would you say is most important? What would your story be about?

Having been brought up in the Oregon City Followers of Christ group, I was taught mainly with stories. These weren’t stories that would point to the gospel but mostly stories from within the group about healings, miracles, things Walter had said, things the elders had taught and how the FOC in Idaho was wrong, etc. The stories were mixed with biblical directives but always pointed to the group in Oregon City as being a special place, the place to be for a chance at salvation—if you were good enough. The following story is one of many that haven’t left my memory after all these years (probably because it seems to be at the core of FOC theology).

I must have been in my late teens when this older man lay sick on his deathbed. As far as I know this man had always been a church member, he was a father and husband, and the son of an elder. From my teenage perspective, he was the kind of man that should be able to speak of real hope and wisdom. As he lay there in a room with his brothers by his side he said this: “I’ve never been drunk, I’ve never committed adultery, I’ve never killed anyone, and I think I’ve got a real good chance of going to heaven.” The brothers all seemed to be in agreement that their brother was on good ground because of his own record. As the story was retold to me at home by one of the brothers of the sick man, he built upon the story with his own comment: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could say the same things before you die?”

Somehow this story affected me. As I recall the impact of this and other stories there is a realization that I liked stories like this because they fed my misguided notion of being spiritually advantaged because there was something good in me and something extra-special about my church. Having a head start on everyone else in the world outside of my group, now I just needed to earn salvation, so I listened for the instructions of going to heaven. When I messed up in my pursuit of being righteous, I would simply start over, and I started over a lot. Even when I could control the words and actions, there were the thoughts to deal with everyday. With this heavy task of self-achieved righteousness ahead, questions often arose in my mind about real hope, purpose and happiness. I continually wrestled with that deathbed story.

What the dying man said sounds right if you read the scriptures merely as a compendium of instructions. But if you read the story in the scriptures and see the hero of the story, it’s shocking. There is no place or people group that can save me and I can’t be good enough to make myself right with God. But there is one story that can bring light out of darkness, it’s a story of the innocent dying for the guilty, the strong standing in place of the helpless, the righteous one suffering and dying for the unrighteous -- that is the good news. If it doesn’t shock you then you haven’t really heard it. If the story of Jesus doesn’t rattle your very core and change you, it will become an offense that forces you to stand upon your own record.

And on the last day, when it matters most, your own record will be contrasted against Jesus’ perfect one and then you’ll see there has ever only been One who was good enough to earn salvation. Will He be your Hero?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

An important portion of Scripture that refers to the filling of the Holy Spirit is Ephesians 5:17-21:

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

In these verses being filled with the Spirit is contrasted with being filled or drunk with wine. The idea is one of being controlled by God's Spirit rather than by other forces. When we are filled by the Spirit, we see a resultant attitude of joy and thanksgiving. We also see a relational posture of humility toward God and of submission to one another.

So how can a person be filled with the Holy Spirit? To be clear, there is an important difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit. All believers in Jesus Christ have God's Spirit living within them, or dwelling within them (John 14:16,Ephesians 1:13,2 Corinthians 1:22,Ephesians 4:30); but not all believers live filled or controlled by the Spirit's power. Some Christians describe this distinction by saying believers have all of the Holy Spirit but the Holy Spirit may not have all of them. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the time of our salvation but we are filled by Him when we submit to Him.

The filling of the Holy Spirit, then, can vary in the life of each believer. Negatively, a believer in Christ can "quench" or "grieve" the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19;Ephesians 4:30). Sinful actions can hinder the work of God's Spirit in his or her life. In contrast, when a believer in Christ lives in obedience to God's will and commands, he or she should expect to see God's Spirit living through them.

Some suggest that the filling of the Holy Spirit is an emotional experience that takes place at certain moments, but the concept of "filling" in Scripture is one of being controlled or influenced by the Holy Spirit. At times living a Spirit-filled life may include emotional or mountain-top experiences. But the idea of being filled by the Spirit is more about an ongoing sense of God's Spirit working in a person's life, not a one-time experience. As the believer lives out his or her faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit increasingly controls or fills his or her life; this leads to joy, thankfulness, and right relationships.

This article was reprinted with permission, and first appeared at

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Next Sunday: another guest blog by former FOC member, Garth Young.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What Makes Us Different? #BeingAChristian #FaithHealing

I am called stupid and blind; ignorant and closed-minded for believing that the Bible is true and Jesus is real. And yet I believe. I have faith that God is real. 

When someone is sick or hurting, I pray. I don't know what happens to my prayers. I don't know if they're heard anymore. What has happened to faith healing? Does it happen anymore? I have no doubt that it occurred in the past. What makes us, as believers and followers of Jesus, different?

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Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have I give thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.

And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

Acts 3:6-8

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Dear Readers: have you experienced miraculous faith healing in your life or your family?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The 10 Commandments of the #Kissers #Myths

When I was a senior in high school (1990-1991 school year), some worldly boys created a pamphlet titled, "The Ten Commandments of the Kissers." During lunch one day, they distributed these pamphlets around the cafeteria. I never saw the document, but I heard about its contents - including some indecent drawings. Here are a couple of the myths that circulated when I was in the group about Follower practices:

  1. "You have to marry your cousin." In truth, that is not a requirement, but if the group continues, there may eventually be no other options. The group does allow second cousins to marry (this is legal in Oregon, while many states allow first cousins to marry) - and some do choose a second or third cousin.  
  2. "Everyone gets a free car on their 16th birthday." I thought this was a funny one. Most of the boys worked hard and saved up to buy a nice car when they turned sixteen. Therefore, most of the teens from our group had nice cars. Someone started a rumor that there was a lot of cars in the back parking lot of the church and when a kid turned sixteen, they got to take their pick.
There were far more rumors - but many are too risque (and also untrue) to reprint.

Readers: do you have any "myths" to share? Share them in the comments and see if other readers say they're true or false.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What's with you people in Oregon? Is there something in the water?

I've been getting questions from people in other parts of the country this week about another national news story involving faith healing here in Oregon. Parents, Travis and Wenona Rossiter, members of the Church of the Firstborn, are in prison after their daughter, Syble, died from diabetes. The couple used prayer to treat her, rather than seek medical care. You can read more about their story here.

So, the questions are coming in - what's up with Oregon? Faith healing does not only occur here in Oregon. The national stories coming out in the past fourteen years may indicate this is a new phenomenon here, but it is not. Walking through the Followers of Christ private cemetery, there are countless children who died before the late 1990s, but there was nothing authorities could do about it because faith healing was protected here in Oregon at that time. It was only in the last fourteen or so years that laws have been changing to protect these children.

For those who have been reading this blog since its inception, this will not be news, but the two church groups who make the news here in Oregon are actually related. The Church of the Firstborn and the Followers of Christ are splinter groups. 

In February 2012, Darren Russell, an active member of the Church of the Firstborn, wrote about the history of the groups: Monikers of Our Faith and What's in a Name?  

Darren has written several interesting guest blogs about church history and faith healing here. Two of his more controversial blogs were: Why I Choose Not to Use Physicians and his follow up story Why I Choose Not to Use Physicians, Part 2.