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

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.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Eschatological Essentials

There are many eschatological views within the Apostolic movement. I would think that pre-mill, pre-trib, dispensationalism is the predominant view—by far. The second most popular view would be some form of post-trib. But these views do not make up the sum total of end-time views among Apostolics. You name the eschatology and there is a self-identified Apostolic who will espouse it.

There are Apostolic who are pre-trib, mid-trib and post-trib. There are Apostolics who are a-mill, post-mill and pre-mill. There are all forms of preterism that exists under the Apostolic label also.

So how much room should we allow for diversity of opinion? Some post-tribbers think that all other eschatologies are heresy. And there are some pre-tribbers who think that all other eschatologies are heresy. A certain post-tribber used his Facebook page to encourage everyone in non post-trib churches to leave those churches and find a post-trib one. I also heard a tape of a pre-trib pastor calling post-tribbers heretics. Both sides demonstrated wrong spirits and wrong thinking. There is nothing about pre-trib or post-trib that is in conflict with the gospel.

So what are eschatological essentials? To answer that question, one must ask how it affects the gospel. I think any eschatological scheme that distorts the biblical teaching of resurrections is problematic. I think hyper preterism does just that. It denies corporate, future, literal, physical resurrection of the dead and second coming of Christ.

When an eschatology messes with the resurrection, it messes with the gospel (1 Corinthians 15). When one denies bodily resurrection of believers, they deny the bodily resurrection of Christ. Christ's resurrection is the model of believer resurrection. And nothing is more essential to the Christian foundation than the resurrection (Hebrews 6:1-2). There is a lot of room for differences of opinions on eschatology. But the doctrine of bodily resurrection is non-negotiable. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

You are Not My Brother

I recently talked to a friend who was involved in another conversation in which a group guys were placing a mutual friend of ours outside of the body of Christ because of his views on "second covering." Our mutual friend teaches that women should wear an artificial head covering. Brothers and sisters, of all the things in the world over which to place someone outside the body of Christ, this must be at the bottom of the list. This would especially be true of my friend in that the majority of his friends (including me) disagree with his position. He does not make it a test of fellowship. My friend preaches for, and has many men preach for him, who think that his position on second covering is wrong. By the way, this is not the only issue with which I disagree with my friend.

To make the claim that "You are not my brother" is synonymous with saying "He (God) is not your Father." You better make sure that a person is in serious violation of the gospel when you declare that they are not a brother. 

What makes this situation even more humorous (or ignorant), is that my friend is independent, and those placing him out of fellowship with the body are U.P.C.I. Now, I am in no means oppose to the U.P.C.I., but the U.P.C.I. has churches within its fellowship that also teach the "second covering" standard. I want to further state that not only am I not opposed to the U.P.C.I., I am very appreciative of it. Furthermore, I am a YUGE  fan of Superintendent, David K. Bernard, that I can tell you (in my best Donald Trump voice). I wonder if the good union brothers have the same sentiment about their fellow card carriers who also hold the view of my good independent brother on the issue of "second covering"? 

If not, why not? If they do not, then why do they hold someone outside of their fellowship to a different standard than those inside of their fellowship? This is religious partisanship at its best. Perhaps, if they truly feel that "second covering" theology is such a grave error, they should seek to ad an amendment to the manual prohibiting "second covering" advocates. In other words, they should seek to clean their on organizational house before they seek to clean someone else's independent house. 

Or perhaps, the true solution is to admit that the "second covering" issue is not a matter of orthodoxy, and especially fellowship with God the Father.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

We Persuade Men

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; (2 Corinthians 5:11a KJV)

I want to make a plea—hopefully a persuasive one—to my fellow ministers for us to consider how we interact with those with whom we disagree. I will be honest, I have seen some very poor examples in the last few years. I have seen examples of how not to interact with people with whom I disagree.

We have all had friends in the church (parishioners and preachers) that have taken directions with which we have disagree. Some of those friends have been more notable than others. Regardless of their position or notoriety, there is a proper, Christian was to do it. If we really believe that someone is going the wrong direction, our first responsibility is to persuade them. Our blog text reminds us of this sober responsibility. If we believe someone is straying from the truth, and knowing the terror of the Lord, we should seek to persuade them of their error. 

Brothers and sisters, the goal is to persuade. It is not to belittle or betray. I know that there is a natural impulse to be angry and disappointed, but we cannot allow those sentiments to control how we react. I must insist that we persuade no one—either the person themselves or observing outsiders—with condescending and demeaning speech. This kind of response is unbiblical an off putting. IF your goal is to persuade people with the truth, then do not blog or preach with anger and vitriol. IF your goal is to persuade people with the truth, then do not make your response emotional or personal. IF your goal is to persuade people with the truth, then you will be more effective if you argue your point scripturally and limit your comments to the issues. I have seen very few stick with the issues. There are a number of reason why they don't, but that is a blog for another time.

If you think you have the truth, then use it. The truth, not anger and condescension, is the only effective weapon you have against error. Any weapon other than truth will be weak and ineffective. 

Don't be petty; be persuasive! 




Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Value of Debate

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. 
Proverbs 18:17 ESV

My last blog I discussed three reasons why I think Apostolics should engage in intramural debates. At the conclusion of that blog I stated my intention to blog about why I think that Apostolics do not debate. I still intend to do that. However, while listening to a debate, one of the speakers used this verse to demonstrate the value of debate. 

It is likely that the context—strictly speaking—is referring to taking a matter before a judge. The lawyer that presents their case first seems like they have an air-tight case. That is until the other lawyer presents their case and answers the first lawyer's arguments. The truth in such cases can only be discerned after both sides have presented their cases. A strong case does not mind questioning. When a strong case is questioned it only becomes stronger for it.

One ought to be aware of the person who refuses to have his argument questioned. This means that person is fearful that their argument will not hold up to intellectual scrutiny. Truth is never afraid of questions. Few things frustrate me as much as someone who launches a public, personal or theological attack against someone and refuses to answer any one's objections. If you are going to argue for something publicly, then be man enough to field the questions that come along with it. Don't hide behind moderated comments and pulpits!

Why?

Because if truth is what you are really after, then you won't mind both sides of the argument being heard. People who refuse to field questions are only interested in "seeming right;" they are not interested in "being right." There is a way to have healthy and productive debate on any issue. It's not divisive; it is unifying if done properly.

The early church and the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 are an awesome example how coming together to discuss issues that are controversial can lead to consensus. Avoiding controversial issues does not produce unity, it only hides the conflict beneath the surface where it festers and grows. 


Friday, January 22, 2016

The Impact of Inconsistency on One's Argument Part II

I wrote Part I of this topic two blogs ago. I am following up on this post due to something I read in the last couple of days. It never ceases to amaze me how selective we are with our judgments of others. An former friend of mine once made the statement that, "If I condemn in my enemies what I condone in my friends, then I make myself the ultimate hypocrite." This is a true statement indeed. I must also add to this statement one of my own:"If I condone worse behavior in my friends that what I condemn in my enemies, then I am a malicious hypocrite."

It is so easy to condemn people against whom we are politically aligned while going to great lengths to condone people with whom we are politically aligned. We see it all the time in the political battles in our country. Republicans will condemn Democrats for a little of nothing, but will defend fellow republicans for the same thing or something greater. The same goes for Democrats to Republicans. This also happens often in Pentecostal fellowship politics. And it is more frustrating when it happens in the church—I might add. 

This is precisely why so many young men are disenchanted with certain segments of our movement. Brothers, I am not saying that we should start judging our friends the way we do our enemies. I am saying that we should start showing mercy to our enemies the way we do our friends. Furthermore, we should start showing the same mercy to both our enemies and our friends that we show to ourselves. The worst of the hypocrites is the person who condemns in others—both enemies and friends—what he condones in himself. 

I must confess that I have at some point in my ministry been guilty of every one of the above hypocrisies. I find myself having to repent repeatedly for this sin. Thankfully, I am having to do it less and less these days. The Holy Spirit is revealing me to myself and is causing me to become more self-aware. I am grateful for this, although it has been very uncomfortable.

So what does this have to do with inconsistency? It makes one wonder if you believe what you say you do when you condemn in your enemies what you condone in your friends. It appears politically motivated and it hinders your message. This may not always be fair, but it is the way others usually perceive it. I pray that the Lord will help me to show grace to everyone equally, and not just my friends.