"Nothing more impressive than an intellectual and spiritual approach to seeking truth and a willingness to embrace it unconditionally."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

My Health Journey

I think it was March of 2016 when I started my weight-loss journey. When I began I weighed 350 lbs. Just saying it now is embarrassing. It’s even more embarrassing as I look back at pictures from that era. On April, 20 I weighed 236.2 lbs. To keep you from doing the Math, that’s -113.8 lbs. While that is a great accomplishment, it is one that should have never been needed. I am proud to say that I have succeeded in my weight-loss journey without any weight-loss supplements or surgeries. However, I have not accomplished this without help. It has been a work of grace. In typical grace fashion, it required repentance and a change of behavior. But grace always comes with empowerment from the Spirit. 
The approach I shall take in this blog is two-fold: Firstly, I shall share my personal testimony, and secondly I shall share a theology of health. I will be as discreet as I can on the personal testimony portion and still make my point. And I shall be a humble as I can on the theology side portion and still make my point.

Personal Testimony

            I have battled with my weight my entire adulthood. I have rarely been fit. It has always been a matter of how out of shape I was. And for much of my life I have I was obese to the point of embarrassment. However, I was never able to reach the place in my mind and will to where I could make long term choice for health.
            I was very sensitive about it even though I always laughed it off. If people joked about my weight I would externally laugh with them, but it made me feel horrible inside. It led to depression and extreme insecurity. And no amount of shaming me resulted in me losing weight. This makes for the perfect opportunity to say if you have a loved one that is overweight do not try to shame them into losing weight. It will not work. It makes them feel worse and they will eat more as a coping mechanism. For me I would be depressed about my weight and appearance and so I would eat to drown the depression. You can see how this becomes a vicious cycle.
            For anyone to decide to lose weight they have to find something in life that means more to them than their appetite. Sadly, in many cases this is a life crisis. For me it was divorce. Becoming coming physically healthy was one of the ways that I responded to tragedy of losing a 19 year marriage. I will talk about systemic health later. My point is this: you can’t make up anyone’s mind for them. They will have to come to that conclusion themselves—however that is.
            For me it was shortly after deciding to get emotionally healthy from my divorce that I decided to get physically healthy. I shall suggest that in most cases emotional/spiritual health and physical health go hand-in-hand. Obesity is almost always a reflection of a mental or spiritual dysfunction. I willingly confess that this was the case for me. I needed healing a grace that could only come from my Father. I shall explore this idea further in the Theology of Health section.

The Theology of Health
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23 KJV)
My journey to systemic health began with emotional health. It then flowed out into physical health and continued into my spiritual heath. Every part of man (spirit, soul and body) is connected. The goal is systemic health. I will not be able to discuss this fully here, but I will give you the big picture.

            It is important to note that the God of peace must sanctify in order to realize systemic wholeness. Why the God of peace. Paul is drawing from the Hebrew idea of shalom. And shalom (peace) is not just absence of conflict, but rather wholeness or to be set at one again. The God of wholeness wants to make us whole. The way that happens is to create in us health I spirit, soul and body. This is peace. And we lose peace when we lose health and any one of these three areas. It is our responsibility as spirit filled believers to allow the God of peace to sanctify us wholly—including our bodies. I will do a Facebook live video about this later. But as Christians we do not glorify God when we do not allow the Holy Spirit to produce physical health in us. Yes God is concerned about your body. After all it is his temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). I am writing this to encourage my fellow Christians to take care of your bodies for the glory of God. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Perspective on Preaching: Why I Got that Sermon!

I was speaking with Pastor Todd Nance and in passing he commented that God gives us preachers sermons to address a need in the body of Christ. It is easy for preachers to think that we got a good sermon because we are brilliant or spiritual. In reality, it has little to do with either. God desires to speak to his people. So out of love for them, he reveals a word to us. 

God does not reveal his word to us for us to be known as great preachers. Rather, God reveals his word to us so that we will edify and feed his church. If at any point we get it twisted, then we have lost sight of what ministry and preaching is all about. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

MDR: Easy on Adultery

I was reminded again tonight in a conversation about divorce and remarriage how often people misrepresent the other side. This is going to appear self-serving as I will be pointing out how the other side misrepresents my side. I do this with full awareness that my side does it's fair share of misrepresenting too. Now that we have that out of the way...

I hold the view—as I have for a long time—that there are valid reasons for divorce and remarriage. The no divorce and remarriage advocates equate remarriage after divorce with adultery (Luke 16:18). Consequently, they say about people who allow divorce and remarriage that they allow adultery, they are easy on adultery, or their churches are full of adultery. 

Obviously I find this absurd for several reason, But allow me to flip the table and frame it in the following way. There are scores of women in no remarriage churches who have lived with abusive, serial cheaters for years as a consequence of that doctrine. They tolerate the abuse and cheating with all of its consequences because they think they can never remarry. And in many cases, the cheating husband will continue to cheat because they know the wife won't do anything about it. 

I suggest the view that judges the adulterous spouse by divorcing them is the one being strong against adultery. And the view the makes someone feel like they have to tolerate adultery or live alone is the view that facilitates adultery. That's the view that is more conducive to adultery thriving. 

Admittedly this does not prove one way or the other whether the Bible teaches that a divorced person may remarry. But it is a good response to an extra-biblical argument. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Perspectives on Preaching: Feel the Burn

When God gives you a word, it never comes alone. It always comes with a time and a place to speak it. God always speaks to his preachers so he can speak through his preachers. But God doesn't always release us to speak it immediately. Sometimes he wants it to burn in us like his word in Jeremiah (20:9). When we allow the word to burn in us until we cannot contain, then it makes us a willing vessel to speak all of what God has spoken. Because his word is like a fire, it will burn out impure motives, fleshly ambitions and carnal wisdom. 

Some words are too big for us to grasp the magnitude of what God is wanting to say the moment he gives it to us. When we let it burn in us, then it consumes every detail of our being (body, soul and spirit). We don't just preach it from the head; it will explode from the heart. So, don't become impatient if God has given you a word and you have no place to speak it at the moment. God knows how to let it burn in you for the right amount of time until he prepares the right place.

Young preachers don't try to force out a word before its time. If you do, then it will not have maximum effectiveness. God has your best interest in mind by giving you a word and letting it burn in you until you feel like you will explode before you get it out. Just rest in the fact that if God gave you the word, then he will make the appointment for you to speak it. In the meantime, Feel the Burn!

Perspectives on Preaching: Preaching in Another Man's Pulpit

As an evangelist—even as someone who has been preaching over twenty five years—there are topics that are off limits for me to address as a guest speaker. This is especially true of a young man at the beginning of his ministry. I made the mistake of addressing issues beyond my experience and knowledge when I first started preaching. And it cost me valuable relationships that I never regained. 

Just because something is in scripture doesn't mean that everyone is qualified to address it in every congregational context. Yes, every preacher is to "preach the word" (2 Timothy 4:2), but not every preacher should preach every word. There are some biblical topics that it takes experience to be able to effectively communicate them. One example for me was the doctrine of "trusting God." I was raised to not go to doctors or take medicine for any reason. I am not bashing that, I am simply making a point. But as an 18 year old preacher who had barely been sick a day in his life, I was not the person to be preaching to seasoned saints who were struggling with serious diseases that they were not "trusting God" because the sought medical help. There are plenty other applicable examples, but this will suffice. 

Also, there is a relationship with people that is required in order to be able to address certain issues in their lives. There are some church topics and issues that only a pastor is qualified to address. For example: if I preach against something that a pastor allows, then I have helped no one. I undermine the spiritual authority of that congregation. I cast doubt on the spirituality and judgment of that pastor in front of his people. I alienate myself from the congregation. No good can come from it. If God wants to use me to affect theological change in a church I do not pastor then he will open the door for private discussion with the man who is the pastor. If in private conversation the pastor asks my opinion and his view changes, then he will communicate that change to his congregation. It is not my responsibility to sabotage him in his own pulpit. 

Young man if God blesses you to speak in any pulpit, then speak basic doctrine, faith and life. Encourage and strengthen the congregation and pastor. If you have something deeper to say, then trust God to provide the proper relationship and maturity for you speak it.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Perspectives on Preaching: His Sheep Know His Voice

Where I came from there was very little personal training of young ministers about how to approach preaching. We just learned as we went. We knew we did it wrong when we got corrected. I have been preaching 25 years now. I feel that I have learned a few things in those years that will be helpful to some younger preachers. 

Every preacher needs a personal philosophy about preaching that guides his approach to the pulpit. He needs to pray it and speak it into his mind an spirit until it becomes part of who he is. I am still working on mine, but the Holy Spirit has help me greatly over the years. 

In this particular blog, I am going to discuss my philosophy about audience response. So much of Apostolic Pentecostal preaching is about saint "gettin' with the preacher." And when they don't, many preachers leave the pulpit feeling like they have failed. Or worse yet, feeling like the congregation has failed them. We judge preaching too often by audience response. We say things like: He rocked the house tonight, He knocked it out of the park, or that was a conference message. I have never heard those comments about a sermon that did not solicit significant audience response. It may have been tears rather than triumph, but audience response non the less. 

Young preachers hear and witness these kinds of ideas about preaching and formulate a philosophy about preaching. They seek to build sermons designed to solicit response. I have seen older preachers driven by this immature philosophy to the point that they rebuke congregations for not "getting with them."This is a sad and tragic way to approach preaching. 

So what approach should a preacher take when the sermon or Bible class does not resonate with God's people? For me it is always self reflection based on principles from John 10. The sheep hear the shepherd's voice, and the porter opens the door of the sheepfold for the shepherd to come in and speak (John 10:1-3). As ministers, we are undershepherds/porters whose job it is with our preaching to make the voice of the Chief Shepherd heard. So when His sheep do not hear His voice when I preach I always ask myself, what did I do or say the prevented the sheep from hearing His voice? If I assume that the congregation to whom I am preaching are God's sheep, then if they don't hear the Shepherd's voice in my preaching then something is wrong. 

My first response is to reflect on my prayer and preparation. I pray over my attitude and treatment of the flock. Most of the time the Holy Spirit will reveal a fleshly attitude or motive in me that was the problem. Preachers it is your sole responsibility to make the Shepherd's voice heard. The sheep will not recognize your voice, but they will recognize His voice. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Building Principle

Luke 14:27-30 gives a building principle that if all a builder does is lays a foundation, then he will become a mockery. I know that the context is not about building theology, but I am going to borrow the principle and apply it to theology. The exegesis Nazi's are are to judge me harshly for me my textual sins, but I am willing to accept the punishment for my crime.

My mind will not allow me to read this building principle and not apply it to theology. There seems to be a move among many to only teach foundational doctrines. However, as our text suggest, just having a foundation is a mockery and not a glory. It is true that the foundation is of primary importance, but it is not the only part of a building that is essential. Walls and roofs are also essential.

Likewise there is an hierarchy of doctrine. The shema is the "first commandment" (Matthew 22:38). Yes, there are doctrines that are foundational. But there are other essential theologies that are like walls and roofs. We must not forget those. If all your theology has is a foundation, then it should be mocked. Theology needs more than a foundation to be the full, strong theology that provides a shelter  from every wind of doctrine. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Theology is not Theoretical

In Galatians 2:3 Paul put a face and a name to the topic of Circumcision—Titus. Paul would not allow the Judaizers to compel Titus to be circumcised. He was forcing them to apply their theology. If you say that you must be circumcised according to the Law of Moses to be saved (Acts 15), then tell Titus they HE is going to hell to his face. When most people discuss their theologies they resist bringing names and faces into it. Paul had no problem making preaching personal. Theology is never theoretical. It is always practical. Part of the way that you test the truthfulness of a theology is how it works in real life. You know a tree by its fruit (Luke 6:43-45). What practical fruit does your doctrinal tree produce? The dimension to which you really believe something will be determined by your willingness to allow the consequences of your view to have faces and names.