Sexual Harassment and False Accusations

We must be careful…in both directions. To be absolutely clear, sexual harassment is not ok under any circumstances. It is a problem, but it is also equally a problem that false accusations occur. They are not ok, either.

We have biblical foundation for both, and in ministry I have seen both. I have seen people become jaded by repeated false accusations only to have very real accusations overlooked.

Folks, we are in VERY dangerous times. I do not know how to be more clear in this. Discernment is needed in this time. There are many “cultures” simultaneously existing that can destroy a society and shatter a church. Patriarchy is one, wrongfully placed feminism is another. The over-sexed culture from both sides rank highly, as does vengeful behavior through utilizing all of the above to destroy character.

Simply put, we have become one of two people…we have become the wife of Potipher…we want what we cannot have and do not need in Joseph, and we make false accusation to destroy their character when they stand firm. Or, we have become the David of 2 Samuel 11-14…the one that has skeletons in our closets and refuse to speak for fear of our own sins being uncovered…even at the cost of our daughters and sons.

We still have men and women of character in our churches and in our society…but how do we go forward?

I do not know. I pray for answers, I seek direction. Yet I look around and I feel lost. The accusations, both right and wrong, continue to fly. Good men are harmed, bad men are destroyed without a path of reconciliation. Women are destroying young lives in the process, but this has taken a back seat it seems. Teachers seducing young students is still an issues, but this is an issues that seems to not know boundaries of gender. Men and women are predators in this realm.

I suppose it all boils down to this…we have a very real problem and no one is offering a real solution. We continue to toss about so carelessly terms of patriarchy, feminism, harassment, pedophilia, liberalism, conservatism, etc. We label issues with societal tags, even within the walls of our sanctuaries, our safe places, and never get to the root of the problem…hearts that have not been transformed.

The road ahead is surely long, and I do not know the path. What I do know is this…amidst the false accusation Joseph stood strong and was restored…but it took years and the hand of God.

David, in the midst of all his sinful behavior, that he could not live without God. He lost his son from the adulteress affair with Bathsheba, and another son that raped his daughter. He lost a lot through his life. Through our sinful behavior we may indeed suffer loss in this life, but…David realized that through it all, in Psalm 51, that he could not afford to continue. He sincerely repented, and sought the Holy Spirit and joy of salvation. It was a long road.

Whatever lies ahead, whether false or true, if the church will act as the church we will come out ok. If we will remove societal name tags, focus upon true transformation of heart, stand firm in the Lord…then we can find discernment, wisdom, love, restoration, and joy in our salvation…no matter long, rocky path ahead.

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Church and Prescription Medications/Medical Marijuana

I just,this very minute, looked at a story on Fox News…here is the link: Story

On eline in the story startled me, set my mind in motion, and confirmed one thing; the church is very much in need of education and firm doctrine regarding the interference of pastors in medicine. Here is the kine, then I will share some thoughts:

Jamie Tull — who was told by a pastor her medicine was a “gateway drug to the devil” —  was discovered Friday morning in a field near where she crashed in Merced County, Calif.

Please tell me why a pastor would interfere with the medical treatment of a congregant? Was the pastor also a physician? A pharmacist? Was he/she medically trained in ANY area? Or were they simply interfering in something that has not probably ended in much more harm than good. Days of family trauma, personal trauma, spiritual trauma…for what?

This leads to a bigger question…what should be our position on certain addictive drugs? Specifically, what I am questioning is medical marijuana. Too me, there is little question of the effectiveness and need for certain medications to treat various mental conditions, as evidenced in the above mentioned story.

The bigger question is the prescription of opioids which have devastated my family, my wife’s family, my community, my state, and destroyed countless lives. We, as a church, think nothing of someone taking mind altering substances in the name of pain control when prescribed by a physician. When that same person takes the same substance for the same reason, minus the prescription, it is a crime and a sin. Something is wrong with our thinking. Especially when we adamantly fight the passage of a natural plant for the same purposes, and much more.

Let me be clear in saying I am not an advocate of marijuana or any drug use. But what if…

What if marijuana as a controlled substance could bring people off of opioids and other synthetic pain killers? What if a natural substance could treat not only pain, anxiety, PTSD, Parkinson’s symptoms, and much more. What if…

We have accepted much more harmful things into the church in the name of inclusion.

I do not know the answer. But II am thinking, my wheels are turning. We need, and perhaps I will start on, a definitive look at/position on, medical marijuana and the church. We accept Fentanyl, Morphine, Versed, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and more. Should we also accept medical marijuana?

My initial thought is this; I would much rather be surrounded by potheads than the mess that surrounds me now with those addicted to prescription drugs. The end-game HAS to be better. There will be no need to steal and kill to get a joint…they can grow it. There will be no need to rob and beat your elderly mother to get a fix. This happens…it has happened. Plus there is the aspect that maybe, just maybe, that plant was put here for those purposes, while we have ignored natural medicine in favor of something to make the pharmacy industry billions.

I sincerely hope for some dialogue on this topic. I need to flesh this out with intelligent, informed people. I am not looking for low-level thought and knee-jerk reactions. I am seeking high thought, informed material, and educated people across a variety of fields to examine deeply this topic. It is coming, whether we agree or not. State after state is legalizing marijuana outright, or for medicinal use. It is high time the church and Christians thought the subject through with much prayer and study.

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Where is the Outrage?

I am upset. Not at homosexual marriage, abortion, antifa, Russia, Trump, or Clinton. I am upset with the state of our “disciples” that supposedly follow Christ and the churches they attend. I am upset that we are so easily swayed from the depths of the Word of God to focus on societal hot-button issues. I am upset at the lack of discipleship. I am upset that we have a serious epidemic on our hands of Christians that have no idea/concept of the whole Word of God rightly divided, or studying to show yourself approved, and Pastor’s that are more concerned with numbers than souls.

You are free to disagree, but here are some personal observations that trouble me. Large church or small, there is no difference…Sunday School is failing, small groups focus on a 2 second devotion and an hour of fun and games, and there is the Sunday morning worship service that is more theatrical production than reverence of a Sovereign God. I have seen it in churches ranging from 1800 on Sunday morning down to churches averaging barely 40. And the result is the same…preach the truth, take out the social fun time, show reverence to God and your attendance numbers will drop…

That leads to the original reason for this post…I am upset. It is ok to rail against homosexuality in the modern Pentecostal church. We all agree this is a sin. It is ok to go on a tirade about abortion and cast blame on the girl that couldn’t keep her urges under control. But…

Lets flip the script, so to speak, and delve deeper. Get up and preach that the ones shacking up are just as much in sin as the homosexual and see what happens? Or perhaps you could preach that the boy involved in the pregnant girl seeking an abortion is equally at fault for not keeping his desires in check. Maybe you should preach that the adultery committed on an all too frequent time schedule by the masses is grievous sin against God, body, and spouse. There won’t be too many amen’s from the amen corner on that…

What do we pick social hot-button issues? Because they are safe within the confines of our sanctuary. Locally, and I am sure in many areas, there are “street-preachers.” Some are ok, most are antagonistic and abrasive, doing more harm for the Kingdom than good. They Preach the same thing over and over because they know they can find support. Homosexuality is an abomination and sin, abortion is taking a human life. Both true, but both are the result of much deeper issues that in many cases started long ago. Some comes from abuse started at an early life, and some is simply beginning on a path of sin with no direction. Yet we ignore the root sins, the perpetrators that pushed someone into a life they truly did not chose, and we bash them over the head with “turn or burn” theology that entirely misses the healing of their soul.

I want to relate a story that shows what can happen when we are truly sensitive to the entire Word of God, and the patience and gentleness of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit can and is gentle and patient…else we would not be where we are today.

I previously worked in a secular job, and part of that job was training new hires on some equipment used in the facility. At one point I was off for a month with health issues and came back to find several new hires that had to be scheduled for training. One in particular caught my attention…she was abrasive, truthful almost to a fault, and something was broken. I could see it, but I didn’t know what it was at first. As a matter of habit and position I introduced myself to her and the rest of the new hires as I encountered them throughout the day. In speaking with this young lady our conversation turned somewhat casual and she learned I was (at the time) working towards my bachelor degree in theology and biblical studies, and that I ministers in my local church (a Church of God, Cleveland, TN). Her response was simple…I’m gay, and in a long-term, committed relationship with my “spouse.” I literally could not say a word about it other than “ok.” Which was odd…I did not understand.

What I found out over the next two months was a terrible story that showed a clear path this girl did not chose. We became friends, and she divulged more information than I will ever share with anyone…information that opened my eyes. I KNEW this girl was not happy, but I also knew she seen it as the lesser of the only evil’s she had as options in life.

Fast forward to trying day…I knew I was going to be fired. She approached me before class and asked if she could speak with me at the end of the session. I knew what was coming, and told her I could only speak the truth…if that is what she wanted I would gladly speak with her. I also gave her the option to leave things as they were and ask at a time when she was ready. She opted for the end of the session.

The time came and the questions exactly what I expected to hear, “Is homosexuality wrong?” And I could only answer one way. Yes.

I laid out, beginning in the New Treatment and moving to the Old Testament, why, and why certain passages are already fulfilled within the Levitical laws. She simply said thank you and walked away with a heaviness. About 2 weeks later she came in to work with a different look. She joyously told me she left the relationship, but then quickly said she didn’t know what she would do now. There were mixed emotions of joy, pain, isolation, and others. Some 6 months later a guy swept her off her feet…and later I was asked to perform the rites of matrimony.

The point…had I shown outrage at one sin on the surface, the sins of many others perpetrated against God and this young lady would have been ignored, the door never opened, and a soul lost.

We need to be outraged…at the abusers, at the ones committing adultery, at the pedophiles, at the ones running people away from the Kingdom because they refuse to dig in, chasing instead to focus on one or two items out of 66 books. They lack depth, compassion, and care. They/we forget that Jesus died for us even when we were lost and undone. He didn’t bash us, antagonize us, show outrage at us. He showed outrage to those in the Temple supposedly following His Father.

Is it time we focus our outrage within the confines of the sanctuary at those supposedly following Jesus, yet not understanding His ways nor desiring to learn? Maybe that should be the focus of our outrage, and turn our patience, care, compassion, and gentleness outward to those that need their soul healed by the Sovereign Savior, Jesus. Just as He showed us mercy and grace, we should let that light shine….

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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):

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.

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”.