I grew up in a very conservative Pentecostal home. We lived by many rules called “standards”. The hope was that these rules would instill some kind of deep spirituality in our children. As my generation grew up, many of the children who lived among so many rules could only see “the rules” and not the spirituality that the rules were meant to inspire. There were a small number that found the rules to to be a “fence of security” from a world they could not embrace but feared and they became the next generation of the modern day Pentecostal. There were also a group of survivors that fell victim to the “unyielding law” of the rules where injustice was found in the immediate forgiveness of the passive personalities that readily apologized and conformed while those who questioned for better understanding were never given a place of acceptance at all. Continue reading
Jesus of Nazareth, who would later become known as Jesus Christ, had humble beginnings. He was born in a small village in the Roman-occupied land of Palestine to a poor carpenter and his wife. Despite his humble circumstances, Jesus was destined for greatness. From the moment of conception, He was seen as a special and unique individual, the son of God. Angels announced his birth to shepherds, and wise men brought him gifts fit for a king, yet still he was born in a stable in a tiny town near Jerusalem. Humble beginnings for the most influential figure who ever lived. Continue reading
When we begin to perceive God as a programmer, scriptures that may have eluded you in the past regain clarity. What used to be mysteries of the Bible will become answers. Questions that used to ‘stump’ us as Christians, become opportunities to provide witness and a fresh perspective to skeptics and atheists.
A few weeks ago, I was preparing to do my Sunday Sermon on the Mustard Seed. Surprisingly, in my years of teaching and preaching, I have never focused on the parables concerning the Mustard Seed. I may have mentioned it in a sermon that touches on faith but I have never truly studied the parable or tried to analyze the profound analogies in which Christ used the amazing Mustard Seed.
I have been teaching a Bible Study to my son in law, Alex, who was born and raised Lutheran. His walk with God started many years ago and the faith he has shared has been excellent in it’s witness of God’s greatness for God is not a respecter of persons nor does He allow organizational labels to hinder His mighty hand from reaching out to all those He has wonderfully created. I was raised Pentecostal and there was a time when my small mind believed that only our group had the ear and hand of God in it’s midst. At age 23, God began the process of humbling my arrogance and revealing His love for ALL the world. The scripture in John 3:16 is non exclusionary. “For God so loved THE WORLD….”. Unto this day, I am ever learning, for only a fool is hindered in his capacity to grow in understanding. Our ability to grow in wisdom and knowledge is likened unto Christ who also reflected this attribute when He walked in the flesh ( Luke 2:52). Without this ability, we become stagnant and spiritually die. For faith is likened unto the Mustard seed… it GROWS. The worst feature of the Pharisees was their inability to grow their faith to a perfect understanding of the Law, it’s purpose and it’s eventual fulfillment in Christ.
a name of power that invokes reaction, not only in our own souls, but also in the spirits that surround us. Yet, there are many more titles that He goes by. I’d like to explore some of them here.
I have been a Christian since my birth. I have studied with most denominations including those that are considered cults. Among those are the Jehovah Witnesses, and the Mormons. My family’s denomination is Episcopalian. I was born in White Earth Minnesota, a 40 square mile Indian reservation. My family, on my mother’s side, the Rocks, were the priests for our local township, Pine Point (population 300). There, as a baby, in 1955, I was baptized using the formula in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. As a boy of eight years, I visited a Baptist church and was saved by accepting Jesus as my personal savior. Then as a teenager, I was baptized again in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of my sins. When I was a young adult, I received the gift Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues with the Pentecostals. I was a preacher and pastor in a Pentecostal denomination for fifteen years. I left my organization because of their perspective on grace. I became convinced that our legalism was taking from God’s glory as we established our own righteousness. I am saved by Grace through faith. I now pastor a nondenominational church. We are independent from organizations of men, but we are very dependent on God. I say this as a testimony of my sincerity in seeking the truth. Having covered the full gambit of denominations and their various beliefs, I feel compelled to speak on the subject of baptism. This question of baptism cuts to the very foundation of the Christian church and marks a division that is nearly two thousand years old.
I knew a speaker that always used this analogy, he said something like this “You can tell me how great Ice Cream is and I may or may not believe you. But once I get the cone and that cold, creamy, sweet delicious flavor is savored in my mouth, only then can my experience give me the revelation of what your description so pitifully tried to convey.” In the same manner, I may tell you ice cream is wonderful but if you happen to get a flavor that creates a horrendous experience for you, you may never find yourself a fan of ice cream.
Several years before my husband and I became ordained ministers, we were home pastors and this required us to hold a Bible study in our home once a week. Each week, I would carefully clean, pray, study the Word, and cook a meal for all the attendees. Through this study, we had several people consecrate their lives to God and get baptized. It was such an exciting time because I could see the fruit of our labor in this ministry. However, nothing can remain this simple.
Let’s talk trials.
Yeah, I mean those hard times that seem to be weighing down on you like bricks, laid one after another on your back until you feel you’re about to be completely crushed. Trials is often accompanied by the word tribulations, a fancy and almost poetic word that means “grievous trouble; severe trial or suffering”.
We could spend all day (and probably all night, and forget about the rest of the week) sharing our problems with each other, and complaining back and forth, wondering ‘why me?’, but let’s be honest folks; the only reason you listen to other people vent is because you know you’ll get your turn to unload.
I’m not trying to be a downer on anyone, but I’m trying to make a point. Trials and tribulations (in our day to day lives, often referred to as bills, issues at work, family troubles, etc), are a part of our life, and sometimes, it can feel like you’re going to be overwhelmed.
Fear not, brothers and sisters; for ours is just a small part of the big picture. Continue reading