Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jesus, Savior of the World

"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). What a proclamation the angels made on that day in the fields of Bethlehem. The good news being proclaimed was that a Savior was born. The shepherds reacted like any other human would, they were scared. I mean think about it, you are out working and suddenly the mundane, quiet, and otherwise normal evening is interrupted by an angelic being! Not what one would call a normal night at the office.

This very important announcement was made to shepherds. Shepherds in that day were not what one would call blue collar workers. I mean these guys were not very high on the social ladder in society. As a matter of fact, they probably were at the bottom of the ladder. I have to ask the question, "Why would God choose the lowest of low in society to make this very special announcement? After all, does it not make more sense to make such world altering announcement to nobility? What about the local town crier? What about the local gossip club? I mean if this very important news was meant to be spread throughout the country, shouldn't someone other than shepherds be told?

These shepherds were different. As William Hendriksen notes, "They were devout men, probably acquainted with Messianic prophecy. . ." (NTCLuke pg. 149). This can easily be seen from the reaction they have to the angelic announcement as well as the reaction of those they tell. Although they were shepherds of a different type, they were still shepherds.

So the most important announcement in all of history was given to shepherds. Just like the shepherds in the field, we too have been given an important message to give to the world. That message is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ - Jesus saves today. Although many may feel that they are not worthy to tell the good news, we must tell others that Jesus saves today. No doubt, we will have many different reactions to this message just like the shepherds. However, we must not allow those negative reactions keep us from proclaiming the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

During this wonderful season of Christmas, let us never forget that we as Christians have been entrusted with the greatest story ever told - Jesus Saves! Let us proclaim this message from the rooftops. May God richly bless you during this most Holy season! Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is The Pentecostal Church Pentecostal?

Recently, I read an article on the Patheos website titled, "Rick Warren's Surprising Advice to Pentecostal Churches". Naturally, this article demanded my attention as I pondered what a Southern Baptist pastor would have to say on the subject of Pentecostal churches. Much to my surprise, I found the article to not be a rant about the Pentecostal church but an encouragement to the church. The basic point of the article written by Robert Cosy on November 8, 2011 seems to be the change in the contemporary Pentecostal church from its foundational roots - our Pentecostal distinctives.
Being a Pentecostal pastor myself (Church of God, Cleveland, Tn), I have found myself asking some of the same questions that Crosby raises in his article. Namely, has the Pentecostal church lost its distinctives? Have we as a movement so desired to be accepted that we have lost our distincitve Pentecostal worship all under the guise of relevancy? How can we maintain our Pentecostal distinctive and yet attract visitors to our churches? All of these questions and many more I have pondered through the years. This article awakened my thougths on this and I thought I would write a brief reaction to this article.
First of all, let me say that I am extremely thankful for the academic advancements we as Pentecostals have made through the years. In my denomination (the Church of God, Cleveland, TN) we have Lee Univeristy that is educating young men and women in their faith. We have the Pentecostal Theological seminary with some of the best academic minds in the Pentecostal faith training men and women for ministry. Some of the most renowned scholars in the Pentecostal movement are on facutly at our seminary. Men such as Dr. French Arrington, Dr. Hollis Gause, Dr. Steven Land, Dr. Rick Moore, and Dr. Chris Thomas are just a few of the scholars that teach at our school. Also, Oral Roberts University is another academic institution that employs some outstanding Pentecostal/Charismatic scholars. Men such as Dr. Robert Mansfield, Dr. Tevor Grizzle, Dr. Larry Hart, Dr. Dan Thimell, Dr. Brad Young and Dr. Thomson Mathew to name a few. There are several Pentecostal authors that have written renowned academic books. These authors include, Frank Macchia, Roger Stonstand and Veli-Matti Karkkainen along with some of the professors already mentioned. All of this to say, the Pentecostal church has now been taken seriously in the academic world as well.
Now, let me begin by saying how much I appreciated the article writtne by Crosby on Rick Warren's comments to the Assembly of biennial council in Phoenix. Warren is quoted as having said, "You don't need to change any of your Pentecostal practices. Do not compromise what God has called you to do; simply make it explainable." If you have ever been apart of a Pentecostal worship experience, you know that many things occur that from the perspective of a non-pentecostal and/or a non-believer may be hard to understand. The gifts of the Spirit should be not only that which makes us distinctive but should be in operation in our services. According to this article, sadly, this is not the case in the contemporary Pentecostal church.
The article notes a marked decline in the operation and manifestaion of the gifts of the Spirit in the Pentecostal church. Crosby states, "In many cases, churches and mega-churches have relegated glossolalia and other charismata [gifts] to the Sunday night services or small groups." Although there is nothing wrong with the gifts being operational in these services, they should be operational in our morning services as well.
Crosby notes several reasons as to why this change may have come to the Pentecostal church. I would like to add my thougths on why I feel this has occurred. Let me begin by saying as a Pastor I place some of the blame square on the shoulders of our Pastoral leadership. As the pastor, our job is to feed the sheep. To teach them doctrine. We must educate our people as to the proper public demonstration of the gifts as instructed in 1 Corinthians 14. Paul explains the proper demonstration of the gifts in this passage of Scripture. We as church leaders have failed to educate our people in the proper operatioin of the gifts in the public worship setting.
For years, many things that we have labeled as "spiritual" have only been manifestations of the flesh in our churches with the label of spiritual thrown on it. The proper operation of the gifts of the Spirit will always bring honor and glory to Christ. They should never bring attention to the one who is operating in the gift, but should always point to Christ. The gifts were not given to edify the one being used in the gifts, but they were given to bring glory and honor to Christ. They were given as signs of the power of the indwelling Spirit in the life of the believer. They were never intended to showcase the flesh!
The only way I see to reverse this trend of the decline of the operation of the gifts in the church is to educate both the pulpit and the pew. We need to study the Word of God so that we will be workman that does not need to be ashamed as we rightly divide the word of Truth. Then once the pulpit is ready, we must train up our people in the proper administration of the gifts of the Spirit in the worship service.
Crosby quotes Warren as saying, "Don't lose your Pentecostal distinctive." I too will reiterate this same thing we must not lose our Pentecostal distinctive. Several things can be done to help explain the public demonstration of the Spiritual gifts. For example, one can have literature available that explains the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. One can post on their church websites explanations of the working of the Spirit. Finally when a public demonstration of the Spirit occurs in our services, we can take that as an opportunity to Biblically explain what happened. This can be a very brief explanation but giving the explanation may help people understand better what happened. The Holy Spirit is not the giver of fear and our guests should not leave our services being fearful of what they experienced.
Finally, I would like to publicly say to Rick Warren, "Thank you for your timely message and your admonition to us to maintain our Pentecostal Distinctive." Let us begin to reclaim our Pentecostal heritage and encourage our people to seek after the gifts of the Spirit.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Should We Preach with Authority

I found this article and although I normally don't post someone elses writing on my blog, this was very good and conveys my thoughts well. Enjoy the article written by Shane Idleman. I hope several of you will comment.

A few years back, I listened in astonishment as postmodern leaders talked about replacing “preaching” with “having a conversation.” At first, I thought that maybe they were confusing individual conversations with how we should speak to the masses, but I was wrong. They felt that we should stop “preaching” from the pulpit, and start being more passive and less confrontational. Never mind the fact that Jesus said, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43). But according to many postmoderns, it’s time to replace... preaching with conversing.

Don’t get me wrong... I’m not questioning cosmetic issues such as styles of worship, ambiance, lighting, and mood. I’m challenging the dangerous practice of removing foundational principles — Spirit- empowered preaching is foundational.

I’m also not suggesting that we never converse with people; quite the contrary... We must be slow to speak and quick to listen, but when we are called to preach, a whole new dynamic takes place…the Spirit of God speaks, convicts, draws, heals, breaks, restores,wounds, and rebuilds. In the book, Spirit Empowered Preaching,the author said, “It must be understood that the preacher does not share, he declares… Preaching is not a little talk. It is not a fireside chat. To substitute sharing and discussion for preaching is to risk the integrity of the gospel itself.”

“What does this have to do with me; I’m not a pastor, or a preacher,” you might ask. It has a great deal to do with any Christian regard-less of his or her calling. Let me explain. There is a very troubling trend in the evangelical church, as a whole. Foundational doctrines such as the cross, sin, judgment, and repentance were declared openly in the early hours of church history, as well as in American history—when revivals and awakenings spread across our landscape.

Today, these foundational truths are often neglected, watered-down,or avoided altogether in the hope of “not offending,” “securing an audience,” or being “user-friendly.” Judgment is never mentioned;repentance is never sought; and sin is often excused. This leaves people confused and deceived because they believe in a cross-less Christianity that bears no resemblance to Jesus’ sobering call to repentance. Even though you may not be a Christian leader, we all are called to share God’s Word with others—especially the difficult truths. Then we are also able to offer hope.

“To convince the world of the truth of Christianity, it must first be convinced of sin. It is only sin that renders Christ intelligible”(-Andrew Murray; 1794-1866). In other words, the crucifixion only makes sense in light of the consequences of sin. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15), yet, we’re not suppose to mention sin, repentance, or judgment?

Again, the good news about Christ can only be appreciated with the bad news as the backdrop. There are times when the saints must be fed, and there are times when the sinners must be warned (-C.H. Spurgeon). Preaching, witnessing, teaching, and so on must be done with God-given authority to truly be effective. When we fail to proclaim God’s Word faithfully, we run the risk of “encouraging sin” and “perverting the words of the living God.”(cf. Jeremiah 23).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

False Teaching

There is no doubt that the Bible is explicit in its warnings regarding false teaching and false prophets rising during the last day. These warnings were placed in the Word for our benefit. They were given as "warnings" and it would be in our best interest to heed these warnings. We need to be so very careful in what we are listening to and allowing into our spirit. Many deceptive teachings have been espoused throughout church history. So, false teaching is nothing new. The Bible tells us that there is nothing new under the sun.

Some of those teachings include inclusion theology which says that everyone goes to heaven and that repentance is not necessary, the teaching that we are all "little gods", the teaching that there was no virgin birth, the teaching that God was not fully human and many more. I found an interesting discussion by Pastor Crawford Loritts in a lecture he gave titled, "Truth Matters". In this discussion he gave seven pieces of advice on false teaching that I thought was great. I have posted them below:

1. Be careful of people you don't know who want to go immediately into intimate communication with you.
2. Be careful of people who want you to disclose more about yourself than they are willing to disclose about themselves.
3. Be careful of those who use experiences, special insight and new kinds of information to control you.
4. Be careful of those who promote a teaching or an emphasis not widely accepted by the church or mature believers.
5. Be careful of those who try to isolate you from family and friends through their contacts with you and their new circle of associates.
6. Don't give control of your mind and thought to anyone but the Lord - Loyalty should never be considered to be blind obedience.
7. Never stop seeking true, honest fellowship with healthy and mature Christians who do not practice any of the above.

What I found to be interesting is how the enemy uses "interpersonal" relationships to lure us away from truth. Certainly this should be no surprise since relationships are so important in the body of Christ and that Jesus Himself wants to have a relationship with each of us. I hope you found this to be as interesting as I did. God Bless!!