Centrality of the Resurrection (11/2015 for New Testament Theology)

In approaching a topic of such magnitude as the resurrection of Christ, many areas must be addressed. It is obvious that without a death there can be no resurrection. It is also equally pertinent to explore the time in history the resurrection places mankind. An exploration of such topic would be incomplete without also looking forward, to that which the resurrection points mankind. It is of the author’s opinion that the resurrection should be more central to our gospel message than the cross. The cross brings images of a beaten, bruised, and forsaken Savior; a Savior that is more a slaughtered Lamb than the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The resurrection is more central to our hope, salvation, and empowered service as Christians while the cross is more central to a past event leading to the present power. History cannot be overlooked, or shuffled aside. It must be examined to understand the role crucifixion played in bringing the church to the current point in time. The role of the cross is important, but the resurrection is often overlooked. A theology involving the resurrection as a centerpiece is a theology of hope, empowerment, and victory. It is also a theology with many implications, including the separate entities of body and spirit, eschatology, pneumatology, and Christology. The Trinity cannot be ignored, nor can the implications beyond a resurrection of Christ, which points to the eschaton. Also, to avoid making room for presuppositions in terminology, resurrection, ascension, rapture, and second coming of Christ will be clearly defined as used here.

As a starting point, consideration will be given to 1 Peter 1:3-5. This scripture points to all areas previously mentioned, and serves well the purpose of a full exploration of the resurrection. Presuppositions must be addressed first, and then a chronological order will follow the path to the cross, the death of Christ, the time between the cross and the resurrection, the resurrection itself, and finally the eschaton. Throughout the role of the Holy Spirit will be addressed. Scripture will be from the NRSV, unless otherwise stated.

Central Text

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1:3-5

An immediate reading of the text reveals the thought of Peter concerning the importance of the resurrection. While mention is made of the death of Christ, it is the resurrection that brings us the hope of salvation, and a hope for future residence with Christ. This is the look to history that sets an “unfading” future. Also expressly stated is the benefit of the resurrection by the mercies of God, and our faith in that salvation. Missing is a plain statement concerning the Holy Spirit, but when concerning God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son space must also be given to the work and power of the Holy Spirit. Finally, Peter ends this statement with look to the last times in history of man.

Presuppositions

  1. The Bible is the infallible, inspired Word of God. It is the final authority.
  2. There will be a pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture of the church
  3. The terminology “second coming” refers to a physical return of Christ to reign on earth for a literal 1,000-year period. This is a distinct second event from the rapture.
  4. Resurrection is the raising of Christ’s physical body from the grave, while ascension is the final ascension to heaven witnessed in Acts 1:9-11
  5. The world, meaning all of creation both on earth and in the heavens, is a temporary creation that will be replaced at the end of times. Creation as we know it has a definite beginning seen in Genesis and a definite end seen in Revelation.
  6. God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all distinct persons and personalities yet all one. They are separate yet inseparable.
  7. All 3 persons of the Triune God-head are infinite. They were, are, and always will be.

This is the framework to begin exploration of the centrality of the resurrection to our point in time, the necessity to understanding we have moved from life, to death, to life. The resurrection is central to a fulfillment of God’s word that He has a desire to see all people saved and enjoy life eternal.[1] This move from life, to death, to life can also be seen in the expression from Christ that we must be born again.

The Cross

The cross is a universal symbol of Christianity. It is the symbol we use in salvation, the symbol that says to the world “I am a Christian”, and the symbol we strongly defend. Perhaps the reason lies with the fact we cannot display an empty tomb? The image of the cross is displayed as a violent death, a form of suffering death reserved for the worst of society such as slaves and criminals.[2] This was the death given to Christ, and it was a death He faced in the power of the Holy Spirit, just as He had faced temptation in that same power. [3]The death of a criminal, and often the very instrument of His death becomes our power to endure suffering of our own. Christ stated in John 15:20 that we would be persecuted. This is proven true throughout history, and indeed is true today.[4] The common association with the cross is one of suffering and persecution. This was the path that Christ took the final week of His life on earth. While there were examples of persecution before the so-called Passion Week, it was this week that seen a violent culmination on the cross. The path that led Christ to the cross was one of righteousness rejected by the religious leaders of the day. It was the High Priest that leveraged his influence in both religious and political circles to reach the desired outcome.[5]

The crucifixion was the sacrifice of our Passover lamb, as prophesied by Isaiah 53:7, with types that can be seen in the blood marks on the door posts of the lambs slaughtered in Egypt many years before. Perhaps this is where the imagery of crucifixion skews our view of Christ. We still view Him as beaten, bruised, battered, pierced, and worn down.[6] David also foretold this image. Psalm 22 is a vivid foretelling of the crucifixion, down to Christ’s garments being parted, His hands and feet being pierced, and his legs remaining unbroken.[7] The crucifixion was a necessity to fulfill prophecy, to make a way for our atonement, and to set in motion a new age pointing to the eschaton in which a final fulfillment of all prophecy will come.

Perhaps one of the most questioned times surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is the time that lay between the two events. 1 Peter 3:19 details that Christ preached to the “spirits in prison” during this time. It is also Peter that is quoted in Acts 2:25-31 that references Psalm 16 in defense of this idea. The idea that prison is Hades, or hell, is presented with this text in conjunction with the text from 1 Peter 3:19.[8] It is sufficient to note that scripture states Christ preached in some area within the earth during this time, however the debate of whether this was to all people of times past in hell, or simply the Old Testament saints to be found in Abraham’s Bosom is unimportant at this juncture.

The Resurrection

The suffering of the cross, while necessary, points to things ahead. In this instance it is an immediate pointing to a resurrection, a resurrection which Peter calls a “new birth into a living hope” in our key text. The two are intrinsically linked. Suffering is the process; hope is what pulls us forward to our eternal reward. Without the resurrection this would not be possible.  The resurrection would not be possible without the work of the Holy Spirit.[9] This resurrection of Christ is a scene we can well rely on to understand our own resurrection.

While certainly Christ’s body was laid in the tomb as a physical body this is not the body the apostles and others seen during the 40 or so days Christ walked the earth before His final ascension. The body lain in the tomb was from His earthly mother, but the body that was resurrected was glorified for His heavenly existence.[10] We are no longer left with an image of a lamb led to the slaughter, but a glorified, resurrected, living Christ. We can now begin to see hope instead of only suffering. We can now begin to see the reward for the persecution faced day to day. It is an image that shows a Jesus that has defeated death, and placed the roadmap

before us to lead to victory. Taken in context of the key text, this hope leads directly to the inheritance in verse 4 and salvation in verse 5.[11]

In addition to the hope brought about by the resurrection, there is a clear picture towards the eschaton (to be more fully discussed in the following section) shown in the ascension detailed in Acts 1:9-11. This return referenced here is foretold by Christ in His own words in Matthew 24:30. Throughout the New Testament, and particularly the popular passage of John 14, points to a theme of a returning Christ. It only serves to reason that to return He must first go away, or ascend to Heaven. This is the hope referred to by Peter in verse 4 speaking of an inheritance, for one day we will reside with a resurrected, ascended Christ.

Perhaps the most vital part of the resurrection is not within the resurrection itself, but within the promise of the Holy Spirit. Christ stated plainly in John 16:7 that He must ascend before the Comforter, or the Holy Spirit, could come. In context, this fits with the overall theme of 1 Peter. The Holy Spirit is a necessity to daily life now just the same as in 1 Peter to live holy lives under duress and persecution. This promise offered in John 16:7 was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. This outpouring would have never happened without the resurrection. Without the resurrection we would still be waiting for an empowerment to work. Without the resurrection we would be serving not the Living God, but a dead god.

Eschaton

In speaking of the eschaton it must be realized that it is the end of times, times which cannot be reached without the cross, without the resurrection, and without the Holy Spirit. It is a time that will stretch at least 1,007 years.[12] It is a pointing to this time that is most likely spoken of when Peter speaks of an incorruptible inheritance in 1 Peter 1:4. This is pointed to both in the following verse (verse 5), as well as commentaries.[13] It is clear that the resurrection, while significant for many reasons, clearly point to the eschaton.

The beginning of the end times start with the rapture. While there is much debate on this topic, it will not be debated here as the presupposition is a pre-tribulation rapture, first of those dead, then of those which remain as expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:51-54[14] and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.[15] With a hope of salvation, not only of our souls, but also of our bodies “to be revealed in the last time.”[16] The resurrection of Christ showed a greater resurrection to come at the rapture. Indeed, a picture of this is seen within the closing of Matthew’s Gospel. Tucked neatly away in Matthew 27:52-53 we see that a resurrection has already occurred. The Old Testament saints rose from the grave and went into the city. This is an emptying of Abraham’s Bosom, no more a holding place, but an indicator of being forever with the Lord in Heaven just as the thief on the cross was promised.

It is after this point in which the tribulation period documented in Revelation occurs, and is followed by the second coming of Christ to rule and reign on the earth for 1,000 years. Again, without a resurrected body this cannot happen. This is a hope, this is an inheritance, and most importantly this will be the fulfillment of Revelation 20:6. We, the church that is part of that first resurrection, will reign with Christ for a literal 1,000-year period on earth.[17]

The final point in the eschaton is the final fulfillment of all things, a new heaven and new earth as spoke in Revelation 21. The final hope, the final salvation, and the inheritance; all the things spoken by Peter in conjunction with the resurrection of Christ. The finite is no more, and within a new heaven and new earth we have infinite presence. Within the infinite God we find the eternal love, mercy, kindness, and glory of a living, resurrected Savior.

Conclusion

Peter points to the resurrection as a powerful point in the ministry of Christ. Luke points to no less importance. Luke shows the place of resurrection as the place of Christ’s victory and the subsequent empowering of the church.[18] From the cross to the eschaton the central feature is the resurrection. The cross is a symbol of suffering, the eschaton a period of perfection, but it is the resurrection that forever links the two. The resurrection erases the suffering and offers eternal hope. The resurrection should be our hope…and empty tomb, not an empty cross. The cross emptied to fill the tomb, and a filled tomb does not conquer death or offer salvation. Looking to the eschaton with hope of salvation is pointless with a full tomb. It is the empty tomb, the symbol of resurrection, which points to the victory of the cross and the hope of the future.

Our centrality must shift, we must never forget the cross for that is where we find our sacrifice once for all, but we must also keep firmly in our sight that Christ is no more the lamb led to the slaughter. He is, and will be the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is risen, He is alive, and he no longer hangs on the cross. We must embrace the hope, salvation, and empowered service of the resurrection.

[1] The desire for God to see man worship Him, and display loyalty to Him as Creator and God is seen specifically in 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9. This same concern and desire is expressed numerous times throughout both the Old Testament and New Testament.

[2] Ray H. Hughes, The Cross: Love’s Necessity (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 2000), p. 13

[3] Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1996), pg. 90

[4] Steven J. Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom (JPTSup, 1; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), p. 22

[5] The passage of John 18 highlights the interaction of political and religious circles.

[6] Isaiah 53:4-6, Zechariah 12:10

[7] New Testament references to this are found in the crucifixion narratives in the Gospels

[8] French L. Arrington, Christian Doctrine: A Pentecostal Perspective, Volume 2 (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 1993), pg. 84-86 – This section contains a more complete discussion on the time between the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, as well as addressing different interpretations

[9] Veli-Matti Karkkainen, Pneumatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), pg. 157

[10] Yung Chul Han, Ed., Transforming Power: Dimensions of the Gospel (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 2001), pg. 280

[11] Rebecca Skaggs, The Pentecostal Commentary on 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2004), pg. 18 – Full discussion here on objective vs. subjective use of hope

[12] This is taking into account the period of tribulation (after the rapture, a seven year period) and the literal millennial reign of Christ on earth.

[13] Skaggs, Rebecca, The Pentecostal Commentary on 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2004), pg. 19

Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1992), pg. 745

[14] This is the culmination of the victory over death as stated in verse 54.

[15] The combination of these two passages from Paul strengthen the eternal hope to which the resurrection points, and that which Peter speaks of in the key text.

[16] Taken from the MEV

[17] Gause, R. Hollis, Revelation: God’s Stamp of Sovereignty on History (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 1998), pgs. 253-254 for a full discussion of distinguishing between resurrections and the millennial reign of Christ

[18] Arrington, French L., The Spirit-Anointed Jesus: A Study of the Gospel of Luke (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 2008), pg. 385

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To Know Jesus (Getting to the Truth)

In the Gospel of John 8:31-32 we see Jesus tell those “who had believed in Him” that if they continued in His word then there would be the progression from disciple to knower of truth to freedom. Now, it doesn’t read exactly that way but that is the idea presented. It reads as follows in the NRSV:

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

The first “key” here is believing…but James 2:19 tells us even the devils believe and temple, yet without faith (believing) it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). That is often all that is quoted of Hebrews 11:6…you must have faith to please God. How does that reconcile with the devil believing also; is he pleasing to God? The part that is often left out is that it is impossible to please God without faith AND “whoever would approach Him must believe he exists and that he rewards those who seeks him.” That second part of Hebrews 11:6 is critical, and what is I believe upheld throughout the Bible. We must do much more than simply believe, for even the devils believe. We must work…faith without works is dead…we must spread the good news, we must live out a life that is entirely based on the premise that God is a rewarder to those that “endure to the end”. This word, rewarder, holds a different meaning than we think of today. Today we get a reward for stumbling across something, for turning someone in…a reward is a “get rich quick” idea to us today. The writer of Hebrews paints a very different idea both in word choice, and by that which the word is paired. The reward is paired with the idea of seeking diligently. This implied some effort, some work. It is a word that implies a craving, a demand, an investigation. And for that work, we are remunerated….much different than our modern rewarding…we are payed for work done. Our reward is not based upon faith in the sense of just believing God exists….we must also work towards the end. We must be active in our faith. This doesn’t mean everyone must preach, evangelize from the pulpit, teach Sunday, School, and the like. We all have different callings, but that is another topic. The idea, though, is that we must all be active in seeking out God…continually. This is not a one trip to the altar does it idea of remuneration.

Jesus suggests as much in John 8:31-32. As previously mentioned, there is the progression:

  1. Believe
  2. Continue
  3. Disciples
  4. Know
  5. Truth
  6. Freedom

There are several points within this text that jumps off the page, nearly shouting that we have cheapened Christ and cheapened the Gospel message of freedom in our postmodern societal search for truth and instantaneous gratification.

Continue implies that we must tarry…we must abide. This is something that takes time. And it is a walk that is to take place among the sin-sick world in which we live. There will be mountains, valleys, heartache, burden, and strife along with the joy, peace, happiness and hope of Christ in us. The same tension that exists in the “already/not yet” of the coming of the Kingdom of God very much exists internally for believers. We have already received Christ, but we are not yet fully receiving/experiencing Christ. As Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 13:12, we only know in part, but then we will know fully. We must continue, abide, tarry, endure to the end…to “then know fully” the glories of God.

The other portion that jumps out to me is “free”. Again, I think we have lost so much in modern/post-modern society. The idea behind this word is a liberation, the implication being liberation from bondage of/slavery to sin. This is carried further when you understand the implications of the word as an exemption from moral, mortal, and ceremonial liability. Ponder on that…free from all of our past sin…we are morally exempt from everything before the altar. We are mortally exempt…we will find an eternal life in Christ…and we are ceremonially exempt…no more sacrifices of bulls and goats by an imperfect high priest because we have found a more perfect Hight Priest in Christ Jesus.

But…we must re-learn to tarry, to abide…we can no longer continue with our microwave mentality of expecting a fully known, fully prepared Kingdom work for us as we get up from the altar of our salvation. We must, must, MUST work the process. Jonah had a process, David went through a process, Joseph faced a process, Moses endured a process…are we greater than these giants of faith? We also must follow the process.

  1. We must believe
  2. We must continue to diligently seek, tarrying and abiding
  3. We must be disciples…we must learn
  4. We must come to know, but not the modern “know”, rather we must experience, feel, be part of, Christ. We can’t just know who He is
  5. We must find the Truth..the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the author and finisher of our faith, the Way, the Truth, and the Life
  6. And finally, that Truth, that Life, that is Jesus will set us free…we will have liberation, and exemption from moral, mortal, and ceremonial liability.

I will end with this from Psalm 34:8 (NRSV)

O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in Him.

How Long Did Adam Walk in the Garden of Eden?

I have spent considerable time contemplating this title question…how long was Adam in the Garden of Eden before the fall? I know Jewish tradition places their calendar start at the creation and we know from Genesis 5:3 that Seth was born when Adam was 130. Cain and Abel would have been ( I would think) adults before Cain killed Abel, and Seth was born after this point. Conservatively guessing, Adam was maybe 110 at the birth of Cain and/or Abel?

Were they born immediately after the fall? Going deeper, is it possible that Adam’s counted days started after the fall?

That is the position to which I lean. Why would a man in a perfect state, having never known the temporal pleasures of sin, walk away from God? I personally believe there would also need to be an account for a time frame of the fall of the rebellious angels, and then the seduction of Adam and Eve…but that is another topic altogether on dating the fall of the angels as opposed to the fall of man.

Either way, I feel that the dating of Adam’s days would have began with his fall, not his creation. I don’t believe God created Adam to die; I feel Adam was created perfectly in the image of God, and death was only a possibility upon entering into rebellion/sin. Adam lived 930 years according to Genesis 5:5. Each of his progeny through Noah (except Lamech) lived exceptionally long lives as well. Even Lamech, at 777 years, is exceptionally long, but shorter than the rest. Consider this list of ages through Noah:

  1. Adam – 930
  2. Seth – 912
  3. Enosh – 905
  4. Kenan – 910
  5. Mahalalel – 895
  6. Jared – 962
  7. Enoch – raptured/taken at 365
  8. Methuselah – 969
  9. Lamech – 777
  10. Noah – 950

All of the ages are in Genesis 5 except Noah, you can confirm that in Genesis 10:29.

Are we to believe that which is created by the seed of man is equally long lasting as that which was handcrafted by God? Possibly. I do not find a clear answer to the question.

Looking at this from a logical view it makes sense that Adam’s lifespan as recorded at 930 years would have been from his entrance into a sinful world. As a side note, I feel this would explain much in the world of science if there was an indeterminate time frame in which the earth existed, with Adam and Eve, before the fall and the current biblical dating of a world at some 5,000 years old.

Too much fits together for Adam and Eve having spent a substantial amount of time in the Garden of Eden, on earth, in the presence of God, before their fall and a dating of Adam’s life at that point forward being 930 years.

Please leave your thoughts, comments…I’d love and appreciate dialogue on this perplexing to me topic.

Random Thoughts This Morning

Last night I was blessed to have one of my few true friends in service with us at church. He preached a wonderful message that blessed the congregation on David and waiting for your promises and gifts to come into full maturity. I find it amazing how God works and moves. This is a similar theme that I have been on for some time with my church. i have preached on Joseph and his ordeal before his dream become reality and on Habakkuk’s progression of faith. Now, without coordination on our part, my dear friend comes in and preaches a well-received message that drives home the point I have been trying to make. God is wonderful, and wonderfully timed!

Friends in ministry…true friends, not acquaintances, are few. This man is a true friend, and I am blessed to call him friend, fellow minister, and brother.

Changing direction, I am excited personally about the times ahead. I am nearing completion of my undergraduate degree in biblical studies and theology with Lee University. I anticipate graduating May, 2017. I am entering my final two classes on Tuesday. Part of the excitement is that I will have a degree. This is something I have lacked in my years on earth. I was a poor student in my youth. I seen little to no need for education or school. My concerns were far more social and much less focused on anything productive. I dropped out of high school and have lived life the best I knew how. God changed my heart on this, as well as my passions, and now, for the first time I look forward to finishing something. What is funny, ironic, whatever word choice you prefer…I do not see this as an end or accomplishment. I have realized just how much I do not know and the need to continue my education. To that end I am already enrolled at Pentecostal Theological Seminary.

Part of my excitement also lies with (I hope) more time to renew some online efforts in ministry. I have a YouTube channel that has been sorely neglected for far too long (YouTube Channel) and I intend on getting some sermons recorded to post. I am also investing in some inexpensive equipment to start a podcast, which will be on this page and hopefully pulled over to Apple Podcasts.

The way to reach people has changed in method. That is my driving force…people love the immediacy and lack of intimacy in finding something online. My hope is that through YouTube I can simply spread the message of Christ. The Podcast I envision being a little more in depth on studies and theological questions, but we shall see.

I may also start a new YouTube channel to highlight a hobby of mine. I have come to love fountain pens. Here is my favorite (and an early graduation gift to myself):

IMG_6428.JPGIMG_5031.JPG

This is a Montegrappa Copper Mule, based on their Fortuna line. They are not a “low-end” manufacturer, they produce some very fine Italian writing instruments. (You can pick one up here) I purchased mine in a medium nib and absolutely love it. Writing is a little different; it requires much less effort…except this particular pen, when writing with the cap on the back (or posted) feels like you have a brick in your hand! The pen is solid copper, as is the cap, so it certainly has some weight to it. Other than the weight, which is very nice not posted, the pen is such a dream to write with if you still use pen and paper.

I have been rather rapidly transition back to paper and pen for sermon preparation, school notes, etc. I just find that I retain the information much better if I take time to actually write rather than type. The professor for my one class at PTS this semester even commented that he had seen a study that writing helps with learning much more than typing.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

Reading Recommendations

I must confess, before beginning my educational journey I never ventured outside of my Pentecostal tradition in my reading. My boundaries have been pushed, expanded, ripped away, and rebuild within a safe area of higher learning. Through this journey I have encountered a few new authors and books as well as relied on some tried and true favorites. Here is a list of 10 (#1 is #1, the rest are in no particular order) items in my library I would highly recommend to all, with links provided:

  1. God’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology by Elmer A. Martens (Buy It Here)
  2. Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit by Clark H. Pinnock (Buy It Here)
  3. The Creative Word: Canon as a Model for Biblical Education by Walter Brueggemann (Buy It Here)
  4. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Buy It Here)
  5. Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective by Veli-Mati Kärkkäinen (Buy It Here)
  6. Conflict & Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians by Ben Witherington III (Buy It Here)
  7. Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer by J. Oswald Sanders (Buy It Here)
  8. Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom by Steven J. Land (Buy It Here)
  9. The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary by Walter Brueggemann (Buy It Here)
  10. Transforming Power: Dimensions of the Gospel by Yung Chul Han, et. al. (Buy It Here)

As a bonus, here are the two Bible’s I consistently use out of my many:

  1. Life in the Spirit Study Bible in King James Version (Buy It Here)
  2. The New Oxford Annotated Bible w/ The Apocrypha, 4th Edition in NRSV (Buy It Here)

In addition to the difficult choice of only 10 books and 2 Bibles, I do have some authors (and a journal) I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone serious about theological or biblical studies. Here are a few:

  1. Walter Brueggemann
  2. French Arrington
  3. Ben Witherington III
  4. John Christopher Thomas
  5. The Journal of Pentecostal Theology (and any of the Supplement Series monographs)

The lists are not all inclusive…I have at least 700 books not to mention journals, printed articles, etc. in my office. This encompasses hundreds of authors across a vast range of denominations, backgrounds, theologies, and the like.

I welcome feedback and suggestions here…please! I always love finding new gems to add to my library.

Journey with God

I have seen many times people say to a new convert, “You’ve got it made now…the hard part is over.” They could not be more wrong, or more dangerous. There is this old myth that life with Christ at the center is an easy life. The fact is, life is still life. Bills mount up, people are still people, and you are still in the flesh. Life is still going to happen, but now it is in fact a life with hope…a hope upheld in the resurrection. In other other words, our hope is eschatological, not immediate.

My journey has very much reflected a progression of growth, progression of frustrations, and yes, a progression in understanding. Today, I simply want to share some of my journey in hopes that it may speak to people at paths along their walk. My journey is no where near the end…and neither is yours.

My journey could go back to birth, but lets flash ahead to when I was 19. At that age I first went to the altar, but it was at the urging of others. This turned predictably into a prompt backsliding and even some bitterness. Life continued on, and in 2003 I finally dropped not at an altar, but at my seat in church. I wept, cried, and sincerely desired a different path than that which I was on. I didn’t understand a lot, but I knew this time that instant change wasn’t going to happen. Perhaps I was a little more aware from my past failures and I simply wanted a future hope. I wanted to live right and I didn’t want to go to hell, and I knew that Christ was the only way for that to happen.

In 2005 I received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and in 2006 the call to ministry. This call to ministry is where I will focus, not because of lack of information, but because a personal story sometimes relates better.

My call into ministry was met with resistance…from me. I had watched my dad in ministry, I seen some of the pressures and heartache…and churches trying to starve out a pastor. I wanted no part of it. I tried everything to avoid preaching. And it wasn’t just the things I had witnessed in dad’s ministry, it was equally if not more so the weight of carrying forth the Gospel. That is a very serious call and I shrunk back instead of embracing the fact that God can and will equip those that are called. I tried writing for a website, running my own website; each with the purpose of spreading the Gospel, but both to avoid spreading the Gospel the way God called me to be a minister. It wasn’t until 2012 that I finally accepted the call fully, accepting a position as Youth Pastor with a church. This led to me becoming a credentialed (licensed) minister. Actually, that started a path to which I have no idea where it leads in terms of ministry and Kingdom work.

From Youth Pastor I transitioned into a Sr. Associate roles another minister took the Youth Pastor position. Ultimately, the youth were still my responsibility, though I now had other areas of responsibility as well. Things were going well, but little did I know what lay ahead. It is not that difficulties had not arose prior to this, but I just expected difficulties. They were learning experiences…from dealing with people as well as learning from my own mistakes. But the time was just ahead in which I was forced to deal with mistakes of others. After some time as Sr. Associate Pastor I was forced into a role of Interim Pastor in a most tumultuous time in a  church. Never mind the dirty details, but the church was torn, hurt, angry, bitter, and more. I was in a place to either overlook the dangerous issues and let others deal with it while keeping my hands clean…or I could do what was right and face the most difficult, hurtful time in my ministry to date. And Lord willing I will NEVER face something of that level again. I chose to do what was right, regardless of the hurt.

After this transition period was over I honestly left that particular church with a deep sense of rejection and a good case of the “church hurt”. That was the end of August/first part of September 2015. In a period of 3 years, 8 months I went from scared but trusting to bitter and hurt Pastor. That is hard to admit, but it is the truth. Less than 4 years and I had run the gamut of ministry that often takes years to experience. I have often asked, Why? But that is not for me to know fully, however I do know God has a backdrop of eternity on which He works, and somewhere all this fits into His plan for things I must pass along in due time to help others. It may be to learn and grow so I will better handle explosive church issues in the future…I simply do not know, but I know that looking back now I am thankful for my experiences. I am thankful I faced what a Regional Bishop in my state said no minister ever wished to face…I am thankful because with God’s Grace and Mercy I come out the other side with a church completely intact, moved on at the appropriate time, and now have the opportunity to serve as Pastor with a fantastic congregation with two budding ministers just answering the call. I now am in a place to serve not only a congregation, but to serve as mentor to other ministers. This has been a vision of mine for quite some time.

I have other desires as well, some are more personal in nature, such as a strong desire to move. I desperately want in a larger, more prosperous area with an academic center.  Cleveland, TN would fit the bill nicely as I have just enrolled with Pentecostal Theological Seminary as i finish my final classes with Lee University. That first weekend of May will be very welcomed as I receive a degree in Biblical Studies and Theology. This educational pursuit dovetails nicely with my journey in ministry. As I have advanced in my studies it has been simultaneous with my ministerial growth…and they have both led to one conclusion…I have much to learn. From my little town in Southern West Virginia I have enjoyed studying under some of the greatest minds in Pentecostal scholarship today such as Dr. Terry Cross and Dr. Rob Debelak. Now I am down the same with PTS, having Dr. Roebuck this semester for my one class there.

The past 4 years of my life have prepared me in ways I would have not chosen, nor expected. Some days I set back and feel a little like Joseph in Egypt. God has given me dreams…two specific dreams, that have not come to pass as of yet. In the midst of all that has happened I wonder at times if they will. Somethings have fit in with what I have seen…others are totally off the path of anything that makes sense. Joseph had a dream…and his entire path must have forced him to a spot of being thankful for where he was, but wondering if his dream was dead.

In the end, if I remain faithful, I believe my dreams will come to pass. Perhaps not as mightily exceeding as Joseph’s dream, but perhaps so. Either way, to live is Christ and to die is gain….I am thankful today for all the Lord has seen me through, for all that He has blessed me with, and for all the experiences He has allowed me in ministry and life.

Life is a journey…I may be young, and young in ministry, but I have experienced much more than would be expected. And I am here to be a help. Consider that an open invitation…

Reflections and Forward Looking

This week I purchased a cassette to mp3 converter. I have multiple years of West Virginia Church of God Camp Meeting cassettes that I desired to explore. Such great leaders and ministers as Dr. Oliver McMahan, Dr. Mark Williams, Dr. Steve Land, Daniel Hampton, Billy Claypoole, and others are on tapes in my office. CD’s are much easier to deal with, and I have those as well. William Lee, Chris Moody, and others are on CD.

We have an amazing heritage in the Church of God, and within this state. There are a great number of fantastic men of God that have never been privileged to preach camp meeting gatherings. Many have labored faithfully, week after week, winning souls and making disciples wherever they may be. They have not desired to rise through the ranks of leadership, preach to the great crowds of camp meetings, or see their name on a sign. They simply desire the Kingdom.

There is nothing wrong with either…or both. I think our leaders have been faithful in what the Lord has given them, and I sincerely believe their desires have been only to serve the Lord wherever He may lead. We are a blessed denomination.

For my own heritage my paternal Great Grandparents (both sets) were instrumental in the foundation of a local Church of God congregation, and my dad was a retired Pastor and Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. I have now served in ministry for a few short years within the Church of God, and my time has been blessed. Not without troubles, but definitely blessed. I have been privileged to preach a homecoming at the oldest Church of God in West Virginia, serve as Youth Pastor, Associate Pastor, Interim Pastor, and Lead Pastor. I am also putting the finishing touches on my degree from Lee University, and also have started my Masters program with Pentecostal Theological Seminary.

I am simultaneously looking back at the wonderful heritage and looking forward to my own future. Kenny Hinson once did a song titled “Put Something Back”. That is my desire. God, and the church, have been so very good to me, my family, my heritage, and preparing me for the future that I simply desire to “put something back”.