UPC…a Code or a Church?
“And Elijah…repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down…And…he built an altar in the name of the LORD…Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice… And when all the people saw it they said… the LORD, he is the God” (I Kings 18:30-39).
I grew up with a traditional Baptist background, with my father being a Baptist pastor. Not being too familiar with many other religions up until high school, when I heard the word UPC from my older sister Deborah Stephens (Cleary) who introduced us to Pentecost (Apostolic Faith), I had always thought UPC…was just a code. In this context, the Universal Product Code (UPC) is a barcode symbology that is widely used for tracking trade items in stores. I was glad to later discover another connotation of UPC, as a church. Indeed, we are “bought with a price” and I am glad that God can keep track of His children in churches (I Corinthians 6:20).
Retrospectively, a college classmate in the Chemical Engineering department invited Deborah to church. And the very first time she attended a UPC Church…she accepted the invitation to come up and pray after the preaching and…it was at “THE ALTAR” she repented and was filled with the Holy Ghost. She was baptized later in the name of Jesus. Then she brought the Good News to the rest of the family and said “I will find a local UPC church for all of you to visit.” So, most of the family, including myself, did visit…and the rest is history!
Later, I stepped into the greater arena of the church world when I found the UPC church’s organizational affiliation, the UPC…I. God has blessed us with a great fellowship through the UPCI! In fact, the 2015 UPCI General Conference was awesome in every aspect…from the services, to the seminars, to every event! The Plowing Before the Planter event that convened on Friday at conference was also awesome! WNOP-NAM was privileged to have Evangelist David Smith from Eastwood Pentecostal Church, Lake Charles, Louisiana, serve as the speaker. Evangelist Smith has expertise in altar working, and has seen hundreds filled with the Spirit/baptized. He powerfully spoke about “THE ALTAR,” (I Kings 18) and emphasized the importance of prayer and evangelism!
Evangelist Smith shared phenomenal miracles! He exhorted “If the altar is not prepared, the prayer will not be sent up,” as he elaborated on those in the Bible who built an altar! Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, and Elijah…all built an “altar” unto the Lord (Genesis 8:20, 12:7, 35:7; Exodus 17:15; Joshua 8:30; II Samuel 24:25; I Kings 18:30-39)!
There were many in the Bible who built an “altar” unto the Lord, and today He still expects for us to build a spiritual altar unto Him! I believe that many at Azusa Street made themselves a living sacrifice upon the altar, believing for the presence of God, believing for the fire of God to fall. No sacrifice on the altar means no fire! The fire of God never falls on an empty altar!
Many of your answers to life’s problems can be found at an altar of prayer. So remember, “Don’t leave your problems at the door, bring them to the altar.” I’m so glad my sister found THE ALTAR; I’m so glad that we found the altar; and I’m so glad, as a result, we can help others to find their altar…and they too may discover that UPC is not just a barcode, but…a church!
Year of Release
In sharing some thoughts on the Shemitah in regards to the book, video and written material produced by Jonathan Cahn, as for myself, as well as some other ministers I have consulted with, we have not had the same sense of urgency surrounding the Shemitah, but do believe we are in a season of events that are leading toward difficult times, judgment and possible war, and our place is to hide ourselves in the LORD according to Zephaniah 2:3.
What is Shemmitah? As soon as the Jews settled in the Holy Land, they began to count and observe seven-year cycles. Every cycle would culminate in a Sabbatical year, known as Shemittah, literally “to release.” The Sabattical year, or Shemittah in Hebrew, provides a year of rest for the farmer and the land, since God commanded that no agriculture activity occur during the seventh year. The observance of Shemittah also includes the waiving of all outstanding debts between any Jewish debtors and creditors.
As for a word during this Shemitah season, the Lord led me to the Deuteronomy 15:1-9, which speaks of the end of the Shemitah being the “season of release.” “At the end of seven years you shall make a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor that lends to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbor, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD’s release. Of a foreigner (someone not of the household of faith) you may require the debt: but any debt that you hold with your brother you shall release it.” Deuteronomy 15:9 gives a word of caution admonishing us to not have an evil eye and hold onto the debt – lest your brother cry unto the LORD against thee, and it become a sin unto thee.
Deuteronomy 31:10 gives us an even more precise time of the release and that is during the Feast of Tabernacles. Why the feast? The feast of Tabernacles is a memorial of the time when Israel dwelt in tents (Sukkot, Tabernacles) in the wilderness. For forty years they lived completely by faith and the LORD provided for all their needs. This leveled the playing field for every believer, poor and rich alike. So much so, that God put in place the laws of release. His laws would release blessing and bring every believer to the same place of being debt free every seven years. And for those who acted upon His word and released anyone from a debt owed them, a three to ten-fold blessing would be imputed upon them.
Righteousness is imputed upon us because we believe the LORD, and if we believe His word we will act on it. On the other hand, if we do not release a debt at the end of Shemitah year, it will become a sin to us and we will lose our blessing.
I have personally released every debt owed to me, it is my sincere belief that this word is how God wants us to handle our debts toward one another, thus producing unity, practicing the principle of forgiveness and restoration, and in turn, allowing the LORD to release unprecedented blessing and restoration upon us. Consider the following in Esther 2:18. “Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther’s feast: and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king.”
We are now in the Feast of Tabernacles during a Shemitah year and with the signing of the Iranian Nuclear Deal, could it be that the body of Messiah is being positioned for such a time as this? And that our King is making a release and giving gifts to the citizens of His kingdom?
Cooper City, Florida