In 2001, God sent me to serve Emmanuel Baptist Church and Christian School in Hartsville, SC. There was a widow named Myrtle who was one among many who loved us and took us in like family. My first impression was that she was very prim and proper and did not joke around. I had the […]

via A Tribute to a Class Act — Matthew Winters (Comeback Pastor)

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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.

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):

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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.

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”.