November: A “Year” to Remember
“Memory is the treasure house of the mind wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved”
– Thomas Fuller
Do you remember speaking your first words as an infant? How about walking for the first time? …Fast forward a few years. Do you remember losing your first tooth? Falling off your bicycle upon removing the training wheels?
If these memories escape you, do not fear. You are not alone.
In life, our memories are like the building blocks of time. We use them to determine our past; we reference them in our conversations, on job applications; we value them more profitable than gold. Some memories hold great significance; others are meaningless. Even others can bring emotional pain, sorrow, or regret.
The Bible speaks a great deal to the memory of God.
“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalms 137:5-6, KJV).
The greater nation of Israel, even Jerusalem, is spoken of as God’s portion or inheritance. The children of Israel were, and are, the “…apple of His eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10, KJV). When we speak of God’s memory, we are talking of a God who remembers His people—a holy nation. He is also a God who lovingly forgets and forgives the sins of a repentant people.
1917—Israel in Action
November is a very important time for the nation of Israel and the Jewish people, especially so in 2017. It commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a political initiative supporting the Zionist movement to establish a home for the Jews. In a letter written by foreign secretary of Britain, (Arthur Balfour), to British Parliament member for the county of Aylesbury, (Lionel Rothschile), the declaration brought the needed momentum to usher the formation of Israel nearly 30 years later in 1948. So also, this November commemorates the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ decree to establish the state of Israel, the perceived home for Jewish people worldwide.
Surely, November 1917 was a “year” to remember. In the midst of looming hopes for the Jews, earlier in 1917, the United States declared war on Germany; in December, the U.S. declared war on Austria-Hungary.
The “state of the world” in 1917 was one of chaos and cataclysm; it was also a year of creativity and yes—church growth.
The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail
Meanwhile, in the United States, the aftermath of the Azusa street revivals brought the Apostolic Movement into the crossroads of decision. Formal organization was rarely embraced by revivalists of former years, at least not prior to an overwhelming widespread revelation of the salvific necessity of baptism by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ. Unorganized religion marked a clear distinction between denominationalism and the true church.
Perhaps one of the more recognizable Pentecostal organizations was the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church (CCAC) started in 1900 by John Alexander Dowie. As a believer in the Spirit-baptism experience, he began a work in Zion City, Illinois. Dowie preached on holiness and divine healing, attracting thousands of people who were hungry for God, including Daniel Charles Owen (D.C.O) Opperman, a man who was an important figure in the Apostolic Movement. In spite of Dowie’s zeal for the kingdom of God, the (CCAC) became increasingly removed from the truth of God’s Word. The perils of false doctrine brought about the decline of his ministry and organization.
However, in 1917, something remarkable occurred. A large group of ministers were exiled from the Assemblies of God fellowship regarding ongoing disagreement on the nature of God and revelation of baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. On January 2, 1917, the General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies (GAAA) was formed, the first formal organization to represent the oneness of God and Acts 2:38 salvation doctrine. Comprised of members such as D.C.O Opperman, David Lee Floyd, and Howard A. Goss, these notable men were elected to lead this large group of ministers.
Although the Spirit-baptism experience at the Azusa Street revival united people from all races and beliefs, the years following tested the grounds of Pentecostal Christendom. Out of the fire, the Apostolic church separated from the world, as the battleground over doctrinal truth in the Word of God brought distinction and identification. As brother Rev. Larry Booker declares, “What a Difference a Line Can Make!”
WWI brought hardship to the newly formed (GAAA). The military draft was inescapable. For this reason, this group only lasted a year. In this same year, Rev. Andrew D. Urshan married Mildred Harriet Hammergren and began publishing a periodical entitled, “The Witness of God.”
A Shaking We Will Never Forget
Our Bible speaks illustratively of Israel as a fruit tree—both as an olive tree and a fig-tree. Historically, God would often shake and sift the nation of Israel due to their transgressions, rebellion, and disobedience. The writer of Hebrews goes a step further in explaining the spiritual dynamics of this type of “shaking.”
“And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:27-29, KJV).
John the revelator writes of a future time in which stars would fall from heaven, likened unto premature figs falling from a shaking fruit tree.
“And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind” (Revelation 6:13, KJV).
The nation of Israel, as well as the church, were violently shaken in the early 1900’s. Once again, more so now than ever before, the nation of Israel and the Apostolic church are being shaken.
The church must remember who she is in God. If the root is holy, the vine is also holy. If God be holy, the church ought to be a holy church. If God be for us, who can be against us?
Memory plays a great factor in our endeavor for the riches of God’s Kingdom. Bible quizzing is powerful, but without the exercising of one’s memory, what profit is it? Driving a car for the first time may be exciting for a 14-year-old, but without memorizing the instructions from the Driver’s Education class—great danger lurks around every corner!
Perhaps, from time to time, we ought to look upon the victories of the past, to our “Exodus from Egypt,” and to our arrival in God’s promise land—the abode of a Spirit-filled church. If we look around, we can authoritatively declare:
“Look what the Lord has done!”
As the prophets of ancient days’ foretold thousands of years ago, we are feeling the winds of false doctrine divide the remaining fruit from the untimely figs. May we remember the words of Jesus in each passing day.
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:7-8, KJV).