Book Review – Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Worship

Bryan Chapell’s book, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice, is divided into two sections.  For the purpose of this blog we will be reflecting upon the first section titled, “Gospel Worship.”  During the time of the Reformation the structure of the gospel was re-identified in one symbolic way, as Luther placed the pulpit and altar among the people in the first Protestant church in Torgau, Germany.  According the Chapell this was more than an architectural preference on Luther’s part.  It demonstrated that the people were not ruled by the church leaders but lead as the leaders were among them.  This symbolic structure is still used today in our church buildings and it is important.  Similar in importance is the worship service (liturgy).  It is the structure that tells the gospel.  When discussing liturgy one cannot ignore the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.  Much of what is in the traditional worship service in the Western Culture has its roots in Rome.  We are reminded that Luther did not intend to leave the Roman Catholic Church but to reform it.  Luther’s work proved to be a pivotal point in worship history as he promoted participation of laity in the liturgy.  Calvin for the most part was in agreement with Luther’s liturgical understanding.  However, Calvin used the Old Testament readings and brought a clear focus upon the Word at the onset of a service.  Among other things Calvin saw collecting alms, saying the Lord’s Prayer, Apostle’s Creed and participatory singing important parts of a service.  By the time of the Westminster Assembly the liturgy of worship had began to be hammered out upon the anvil of experience.  It is clear that many of the modern movements coupled with the influence of secularism affected the traditional liturgical style of worship.  Many churches have escaped from the very structure that not only told the gospel story but helped hold the centrality of Christ among His worshippers.  Chapell shares that worship should always honor the gospel, communicate the gospel, and shape the worship of the church (100).

It should be noted that the gospel does not find its dependence upon the symbolic structure of a building or in the structure of liturgy.  The dependence of the gospel is upon the Word and the Holy Spirit which has the power to change lives.  Without the presence of the Holy Spirit our worship is nothing but a finite attempt to reach infinite God.  A traditional order of worship is in jeopardy of becoming merely “canned” repetitions of words without embracing the power of the Word of God.  As Chapell states, “Worship is our love response to his loving provision, so nothing is more honoring of his grace than making its themes our own” (117).  Chapell does give us the vital ingredient, provision.  Because God has provided for us we can recognize our need of Him and respond to His provision from hearts that worship.  Criswell offers a more lengthy definition of worship, “To worship is to quicken the conscious by the holiness of God; to feed the mind with the truth of God; to purge the imagination by the beauty of God; to open up the heart to the love of God; to devote the will to the purpose of God” (Criswell 1980).  Even still we see that God is acting on behalf of the worshipper to enable him or her to worship.  If the structure of the liturgy tells the gospel story as Chapell presents, then we should be able to hear the story every time we worship the Lord.

Today the church faces many challenges in its effort to remain Christ-centered in worship.  Cultural, theological and personal preferences are so diverse that one needs to choose what style of worship is right for him or her.  What is essential is that in the decision process one does not lose sight of the true meaning of worship in giving glory to God.  And the church’s mission is to present the gospel through its worship.  The mission is the safeguard that ensures the unity among the church as a whole.  Identifying and defining the Christ-centered values of the church ensures the centrality of grace.  We can conclude that keeping those values in focus allows the components of our worship to remain as fresh as the Word itself.  Chapell’s book to this point is informative and challenging.  He captured the value of liturgy through his detailed presentation of the structure of historical worship.  Certainly this book is a gem and should be placed within hand’s reach of every pastor for reference and appreciation.

Chapell, Bryan.  Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice. Ada, MI:
Baker Academics, 2009.

 Criswell, W. A.  Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors.  Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press,
1980.

Book Review – Robert D. Dale’s “Leadership for a Changing Church: Charting the Shape of the River”

This is a book for today’s leaders in the church.  If the last decade has taught us anything it has taught us change is inevitable.  Change is the ugly word which every pastor must constantly war with as he or she leads.  We are living in a Postmodern world and things have drastically changed in the business world and within the church.  Third millennium leaders are different and this is a good thing.  Yesterday’s leadership strategies will not work in today’s world.  According to Dale, our values help determine our leadership stance.  We must know where we stand and how we stand in this generation.  The ones we are ministering to in our churches are techno savvy and have at their fingertips information, which took us years of study to obtain.  With a few clicks on a smartphone they could get up and read a sermon on any particular passage.  What we must do is demonstrate how to apply the information.  According to Dale, having the information is not as important as knowing how it should be applied.  Herein, is where today’s leaders must dig in and “charter the shape of the river.”  In my opinion this little book is excellent and I recommend every pastor read this book with his or her church leadership.  This is what I plan to do in the upcoming year if time allows.

PPT “A Seminar Based on Natural Church Development: Charting the Course toward Healthier NC International Pentecostal Holiness Churches”

(Denning) A Seminar Based on NCD - Charting the Course toward Healthier NCIPHC Churches

It was such a blessing and honor to teach on church health during the NCIPHC School of Ministry on 11-14-2015.  I am posting this primarily for the students that participated in the seminar.  If you would like more information on Natural Church Development please visit the following website:  http://ncd-international.org/public/

Please contact me if you are interested in hosting and/or attending a future presentation of this seminar.

Please click on the photo above to download a pdf of the presentation.

Book Review – Bishop B. E. Underwood’s “A Portrait of the Pastor: A Biblical Description of the Role of the Pastor”

This is a very practicable book for pastors.   Underwood was a former pastor and General Overseer (Bishop) in the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.  This was one of the main reasons I chose to read this particular book.  It was refreshing to hear the view of one who has traveled the path I am now upon and to glean form his experience.  Underwood’s book is divided into twelve chapters with each chapter focusing on a particular role of the pastor (Leader, Bishop, Student, Prophet, Hero, Father, Evangelist, Equipper, Provider, Healer, Person, and Shepherd).  This was very helpful because as a pastor I have discovered there are many hats that must be worn.  Often times the hats are interchangeable and sometimes the hats must be worn by themselves.  It is difficult to place the roles in any particular order.  What surfaced during my reading is all the roles are important and if one is missing then it would take away from the pastor’s productivity.  This is a great little book for pastors, especially those serving within the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.  It would have been nice if Underwood would have discussed the importance of marriage and the role of a covenant partner.  He did discuss this some under different roles but this is a huge subject which a whole book could be written.  This is the only negative thought I have regarding Underwood’s book.  Great servant of the Lord, may he rest in peace and enjoy his eternal reward with the Lord.

Book Review – Andy Stanley’s “Visioneering”

This is a book for leaders in the church who dare not become complacent in service to the Lord and His church.  In my opinion this is an “on-time” book for those who are serious about leading the church into the future.  Andy Stanley is the founding pastor of North Point Community Church a large church outside of Atlanta, Ga.  He is also the son of Charles Stanley, the popular pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga.  Andy Stanley demonstrates the importance of vision not only in ministry but in the business world.  Therefore, his target audience is not just ministers but business professionals.  Though this book is good I would not consider it a must read.  I do think it was useful for my ministry in that it probably has a few sermon seeds.  But the question that kept coming my way as I ready was, “I wonder how much money Andy Stanley is making off of this book.”  These are just some of my honest thoughts which did hinder my digestion of the book.  It would be a good book to take along on a vacation and read for fresh ideas as one dreams and seeks a fresh vision for ministry.

Autopsy of a Deceased Church – Thom S. Rainer (Notes taken from Bishop Danny Nelson’s Fall Leadership Summit Presentation)

In the United States there are approximately 400,000 churches…

10% Healthy           40% Symptoms of Sickness                   40% Sick                10% Dying

Top 10 Reasons for Death

1) Slow Erosion

Refusal of Self-Examination
Physical Facilities
Lack of Vibrant Ministries
No Outward Focus
Lack of Community Connections
Hopes, Dreams Dying
Resources Shrinking
Haggai 1:2-4

2) The Past is the Hero

People Couldn’t or Wouldn’t See Decline – No shifting past became the focus.
Conference Office Building – Unseen rotten wood revealed with storm damage.
When Someone Introduces Change – Response in anger and/or rejection.
“Good Ole Days” – The way it was
Failure to celebrate the past and build on it.
“We” become the focus.

3) Refusal to look into the community

A time when the church rejected the community
People die out, they move and a different community arises
Fortress; no penetration
Us in and them out
People don’t feel welcome
Dying Churches are pre-occupied with self-preservation.

4)  The Budget moved inward

Where is the $ spent?  Inward focus.
Staff: spend majority of time visiting, counseling, attending functions w/the members.
Expenditures keep the members comfortable.
Cuts are made in outreach ministries.
Dying Churches “spend” their way for “doing” church.
Dying Churches exists for its own needs.

5)  Great Commission becomes the Great Omission

Past – Hero – Symptoms – Sickness – Death
Methods become the focus rather than Great Commission
Remember when is fun and blessed; but don’t park there.
Matthew 28:19-20 Dominate word…. “GO”
Dying deceased churches somewhere cease to act
Somewhere they chose not to do and chose their own “comfort”
They want Great Commission to happen without prayer, sacrifice, or work.
They want new people to look and act and behave like them

6)  Preference – Driven Church

Me, Myself, and I
Focus: others to themselves
My music, style length, order
Philippians 2:5-11
Emptied Himself
Church membership is not a country club

7)  Pastoral Tenure

Pastor comes, a few changes are initiated, resistance, leave, cycle continues.
We “want” change if it fits “our” definition.
8)  The Church rarely prays together

Everybody prays, corporate, intentional, specifically, and meaningful?

9)  No Clear Purpose

Going through the motions.
“Doing” Church
No burning passion
It’s just the way we’ve always done it
Philippians 1:3-5
Forgot their purpose
“a church without a Gospel-centered purpose is no longer a church.”

10)  Obsessed over Facilities

Protecting the facilities
Protective over rooms
Memorials
Jesus on things…  Matthew 6:19-21

Book Review – Richard J. Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline: The Pathway to Spiritual Growth”

Celebration of Discipline could be described as a book in recipe form about spiritual growth.  Within, Foster outlines twelve spiritual disciplines under three headings: (1) The Inward Disciplines (Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study), (2) The Outward Disciplines (Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, and Service), and (3) The Corporate Disciplines (Confession, Worship, Guidance, and Celebration).  These are basic disciplines of the Christian faith which are easy to list but much more difficult to put into practice.  A disciple is a follower and a disciple of Christ is one who follows Christ.  These principles are presented in such a way to facilitate growth as a disciple.  There is little doubt in my mind that Foster has provided his readers with a challenge to get serious about one’s relationship with the Lord.  This is the takeaway for me from the book which I believe will help solidify my own practice of the disciplines.  However, there are a few concerns with regard to his interpretation of Scripture and perhaps some inclusion of outside sources.  This might be from his Quaker background.  Even still this little book is a must read in my opinion and provides a simplistic approach to applying the disciplines of the Christian faith.  Well worth the study and should be revisited often as one continues the journey.

Eternal Security vs. Eternal Insecurity: Can One Lose His or Her Salvation?

First, we must understand this is a very controversial subject among believers.  We are called not to dis-unty but to be united as one body of believers “in Christ.”  When we arrive in heaven we will not see denominatinal camps spread abroad.  With this being said the aproach I take in this discussion is one of respect for all Bible believing Christians.  I do not post this in an attemp to solicit a doctrinal argument.  We can get nowhere by arguing our doctrinal beliefs but there are no boundaries as we agree in love that we do not all understand or interpret the Scriptures the same.  In this blog, I am going to present my personal understanding of Salvation.  In doing so, I am in no way stating that I do not appreciate other positions.  I write primarily in response to someone who asked me what I believe on this subject.  Included are my thoughts and notes which are not meant to be an exhaustive study on the subject.

What I have discovered along my journey is that there are basically two extremes.  First, some believe it is impossible for one to ever lose his or her salvation after truly being saved.  When someone is in apparent sin and refuses to be reconciled with God those of this extreme usually are quick to say, “the person must have never truly accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.”  That is a very easy position to take and in my opinion puts to much responsibility on the person who seeks to be saved.  Also, it seems to throw the unrepentant sinner “under the bus.”  Second, there are those who believe the extreme that if the person who has been saved does not live a “holy” life he or she can lose his or her salvation by any sin.  This seems to promote fear instead of faith.  One final comment on these two extremes before we move on to a more positive thread of thought.  I do not believe in eternal security, nor do I believe in eternal insecurity.

The Bible teaches that salvation, being born again, is necessary for a person to see the Kingdom of God, receive eternal life, forgiveness of sins, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and to become a child of God, and joint heir with Christ.  It is also clear that salvation is to be received by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the atonement of the individual sins, including a turning from sin and the self-centered life (repentance) and turning over the Lordship of one’s life to Jesus Christ.  Salvation is also totally by God’s grace.  He elects, predestines, calls, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies every true believer (John 3:3 and 3:23, Romans 8:29 and 10:13, Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 John 1:9 and 1:12).

Yes, one can lose his or her salvation.  This is not God’s desire.  He is not willing that any would perish but all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  The subject of losing one’s salvation is often referred to as “backsliding” or “falling from grace.”  Backsliding is when a believer turns back to sin and ignors the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  In doing so he or she is reversing the repentance and turning his or her back toward God.  Backsliding is closely aligned with carnality in that one’s desires and devices are acted out as oppossed to God’s will (1 Corinthians 3:3, Proverbs 14:14).  There is often much deception from the adversary (devil) to the point where the backslider may actually believe he of she is in right standing with God.  The outward actions of someone who is in a backsliden state are just symptoms of a heart problem where he or she has alienated himself or herself from God.  God never abandons a believer.  However, a believer can abandon God (Isaiah 55:7, Hosea 14:4, Luke 15:17-18, 1 John 1:9, Revelation 2:4-5).  God does not condemn us; our own wickedness and backsliding do that (Jeremiah 2:19).  Neither did Jesus come to condemn us as He came to save that which was lost and give life abundantly (Luke 19:10, John 10:10).

Personally, I have experieced grace beyond measure.  The Lord has never walked away or has ever cast me away.  Time after time, I have experienced the love of Jesus as the Holy Spirit has drawn me closer during seasons I have strayed.  How do we keep from being decieved and backsliding.  The answer for me is prayer.  Paul taught that we are to pray at all times.  I don’t believe that means we are to be knelt down on 24-hours a day as religious fanatics but I do think it means being in the presence of Christ at all times with an attitude of prayer.  It is an ongoing conversation of which our lives are dependent.  One of my favorite studies is the Old Testament Tabernacle.  Those who have sat under my teaching of the Tabernacle realize the importance I place on being inside the Tabenacle.  There is no substitute for being “in Christ.”  I choose to continue abiding in Him (Luke 15:6).  Therefore, I believe one can lose his or her salvation but it is a matter of his or her choice and not the will of God.

My hope is for you to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and teach you.  Here are a few  Scriptures for consideration:

2 Chronicles 30:9 – Grace assured at repentance
Psalm 32:1 and 145:14 – Blessed and upheld in the Lord
Isaiah 43:18-19 and 44:22 – Old things are gone the new redeems
Matthew 3:1-2 and 10:32-33 – By repentance and confession
John 3:17 – No condemnation in Jesus
Romans 6:23 – gift
Ephesians 2:8-9 – gift
2 Timothy 1:9 – gift

Book Review – John C. Maxwell’s “Developing the Leader Within You”

This is a book which contains many leadership principles which are condensed into ten topical chapters.  Maxwell defines leadership as one who has influence.  Anyone who has influence on others is a leader.  Furthermore, in order to be a leader one must first lead him or herself before he or she can lead others.  It is impossible to lead someone where the leader has not been.  That would not be leading but rather pushing or encouraging.  The principles are very practicable and well explained.  What I have gained from this reading is some leadership points which after putting them into practice will help one grow as a person.  According to Maxwell people follow people and not positions or titles.  This means integrity is essential for successful leadership.  I had often heard of the 80/20 rule but Maxwell seemed to shed light on the necessity of setting priorities in order to be productive.  About 80 percent of the work in ministry is done by about 20 percent of the people.  I would even go as far to say this is applicable to tithing in many churches as well.  In order for an organization to grow it must change.  In essence, growth is change.  Many in the church today do not embrace change and Maxwell acknowledges this struggle.  In order for people to accept change they must first see the change in the leader.  Otherwise it would be “do as I say” and “not do as I do.”  We all want to rise to the next level whether in an organization, maturity, or spiritually.  Maxwell shares that our attitude determines our altitude.  As a pastor, I am concerned with church growth.  I want to see the numbers increase as numbers represent souls for the kingdom of God.  According to Maxwell, the numbers are not the big concern but raising-up other leaders.  This nugget I have heard before but this time it hit home and I am glad I read this book at this particular time.  It will definitely help me in my refocusing my values as a minister.  I want to see the church I serve and focusing on the leaders is a good starting point in my ministry.  I concur with Maxwell revitalized on many of his points.  I re-read this book after I read “Failing Forward.”  I was much more impressed with this book.  In my opinion this is a great book.

Marriage is a Biblical Institution not a Supreme Court Institution

WeddingRingsMarriage was instituted by God at creation.  It should be noted that the family is God’s plan for humanity and it is a creation ordinance.  Unlike, Mosaic ordinances or other redemptive ordinances, creation ordinances apply to every individual.  That being said, there is therefore no distinguishing between a biblical marriage and a non-biblical marriage.  Marriage is a biblical institution and not a U.S. Supreme Court institution.  I join with many who are disappointed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.  It is with this premise that I speak on the subject of marriage.  From the beginning marriage was a relationship between one man and one woman that brought mutual companionship, procreation, and pleasure.  Yes, I said pleasure.  God created marriage and it is meant to be a holy estate which brings glory to God.  Sadly, there appears to be much self-seeking, vainglory concerning marriage today.  This is evidenced by the recent action taken by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Please do not misunderstand me…  I love my country, all the people in it, respect our leaders, and I believe it is still the best country in the world.  I am proud to be an American!  It is as a God-fearing American I speak.

How did marriage come about?  After God created man, all the other created beings were brought before the man, Adam. He named each of them.  After a survey of all the created beings Adam found none that were after his kind.  No suitable help meet was found.  God had created man uniquely “in His image.”[1]  So, God caused Adam to sleep and from his side God took a rib and made woman.  This was the very first marriage which was God’s gift to humanity and originally meant to bring glory to God.  Because of sin marriage has been tarnished and it is recognizable that not everyone that enters into marriage is in right relationship with God.  For our theological understanding it is imperative that one understands the centrality of Christ in the marriage.  Christ is essential!  The essentials of a healthy marriage are a relationship with Christ, communication and commitment.

Genesis records the following: “And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24).  Man took one wife and they became one flesh.  Adam was given a companion after his own kind.  Thus we see, marriage is an institution that was created by God that was primarily meant to provide companionship.  This companionship would grow and be the means by which God meant to reproduce humanity through procreation.

After God created Adam and made Eve from his rib and the dust of the ground He gave them a commandment to procreate, have children.  “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).  This dominion mandate was given to the man and the woman.  One of the joys of the marital relationship is the fulfillment of this mandate.

When the marriage is consummated through intercourse the bond between husband and wife takes on a new and exciting aspect as sexual emotions have been allowed to manifest within the will of God and the boundary of holy matrimony.  God’s gift of human sexuality should not become an idol and risk diverting one’s affection from the gift-giver to the gift.  God’s desire is for the husband and wife to have pleasure and to recognize that it is God’s blessing upon their union.  It should be noted that God created sex and therefore it is good.  To withhold sexual relations with one’s spouse is unbiblical unless it meets certain criteria as Paul addressed the Corinthians:

“Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.  Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.  Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment” (1 Corinthians 7:1-6).

When a person’s God given sex drive is given over to sinful living the ramifications can far exceed one’s control.  Marriage should be the safeguard for an individual to utilize his or her sex drive in a godly manner within the bound of marriage.  If physical intimacy is withheld the temptation for adultery will soon appear and apart from the grace of God, the marriage covenant can become tarnished by impure thoughts.  Such impure thoughts are the seedbed of which adultery may spring up and its bad fruit may destroy the marriage.  When adultery takes place it is a violation of the marriage covenant made between husband and wife and God.  Certainly, the gift of sex has been tarnished through sinful humanity’s abuse.  And as a result there are often emotional and psychological challenges that couple face.  However, procreation is a vital purpose of marriage and sexual intercourse is essential in a healthy marriage.  Even if the couple is not able to have children the roles of husband and wife are actualized through sexual intimacy and given opportunity to manifest God’s love from the heart.

Communication is essential when it comes to marriage.  Lack of communication gives room for problems.  There should be mutual respect between the husband and wife.  The husband is the functional head of the home but he may not be more spiritual.  The woman brings to the marriage certain qualities just as the man brings to the marriage certain qualities.  Good communication enables the couple to meet each other’s needs and desires.  If there are problems within the marriage good communication is the means by which problems are addressed and resolutions discussed.  Paul taught the following concerning marriage:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.  Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.  For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.  “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:22-33).

In conclusion, everything a Christian does needs to be bathed in prayer, especially the consideration of marriage.  As Scripture teaches, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).  Marriage is a covenant between one man, one woman and God.  Vows are made not only to each other but also to God.  As is often mentioned at weddings, Jesus blessed marriage Himself with His presence and performing His first public miracle of turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11).  Physical intimacy is only biblically acceptable when it is within the bounds of the marriage covenant.  Marriage is a holy estate, instituted by God at creation.  It is meant to be a life-long covenant between one man, one woman and God.  Its purpose is to provide companionship, procreation and pleasure to the husband and wife as they seek to glorify God through the holy estate of matrimony.

As a licensed and ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ within the NC Conference International Pentecostal Holiness Church I will not change nor accept any other definition of marriage than that which is recorded in God’s Holy Word, the Bible.  I am grateful for the leadership of the IPHC and especially our presiding Bishop Dr. A. D. Beacham, Jr. who states the following:

“I join with millions of Americans in expressing my disappointment in the U.S. Supreme Court decision. They have made law something that is contrary to God’s will. The IPHC position on marriage is clear and we will not abandon revealed truth in God’s Word. As our society experiences the increasing problems that will unfold in our rapidly decaying moral foundation, it is our opportunity as followers of Jesus to be His light and salt in our society. We will not respond to this in fear, but in holy boldness to re-consecrate our lives to Christ, showing His love to all and manifesting the blessings of His righteousness to all.”

For more information regarding the IPHC position on the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on marriage please visit:  http://iphc.org/gso/2015/06/26/iphc-response-to-us-supreme-court-ruling-on-marriage/

[1] (Hebrew: צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים‎‎; tzelem elohim or Latin:  imago dei).

Tragedy in Charleston

AME1

This week has been very troubling to my wife, Teresa, and I as we heard the news of nine worshipers of Jesus being killed in cold blood at Emanuel African American Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.  My wife heard the news first and told me.  Then she said, “I remember when we went to that church and were amazed at its history.”  Among those killed was the beloved pastor Rev. Clementa Pinckney who was dedicated to reaching ones such as his assassin with the love of Christ.  Sadly, a new page has been added to the church’s history and it is a very tragic one.  It is my hope churches will pause this Sunday morning and pray for the families grieving and for healing of the wounds caused by this and countless other hate crimes which have occurred in this great nation.  It has been said that time has a way of healing many wounds.  Perhaps there is some truth to that way of thinking.  However, if the massacre at Charleston teaches us anything it is the healing that is needed in regard to the wounds created by the travesty of American Slavery amidst the African Americans cannot be expected to happen just with the passing of time.  True, as generations come and go, we are being further removed from the horrors of our past.  However, the scars are still visible and the pain continues to linger.  Just ask one of the family members who lost their loved one due to a racial hate crime.  All Americans are not racist!  However, racism still exists in America and we must acknowledge there is much work to be done.  I do not write to outline an answer to this dilemma.  Nor, do I claim to know the extent of the pain associated with American slavery and its ongoing effects on African Americans.  However, I cannot remain silent on an issue that I feel so strongly about.  I have many friends who are African American and the thought of one being targeted in such a cowardly act of violence like that which occurred at Emmanuel AME Church because the color of his or her skin is very upsetting.  Over the years, I have heard African Americans labeled, referred to as, and called by many different derogatory names.  Some of the names might appear to be appropriate and accepted in society as politically correct.  However, many names for African Americans have been used in a derogatory fashion or in an outright demonstration of hate.  Jesus taught against such hate and discord.  Let’s recall His instruction, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”  The question arises…  “Who is my neighbor?”  Is an African American the neighbor of an Anglo?  Is the African American the neighbor of the Hispanic?  Is the African American the neighbor of the Oriental?  The answer is, absolutely!  We live in a day that celebrates our differences and yet many are still being affected by racism.  One cannot deny that America is a multi-cultural and multi-racial society.  My hope and prayer is we will see one man’s dream lived out in every American neighborhood!

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Book Review – John C. Maxwell’s “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success”

This is a book about the redirection of defeat toward victory.  The key appears to be the changing of one’s perception and response to failure.  Failure does not have to be complete defeat.  In fact, our failures are not defeat but rather lessons on how to succeed.  The more we fail is an indication that we are still in the lesson mode.  The experiences we have in life help shape who we are and who we will become.  Therefore, we can utilize the experiences of failure for pathways to succeed.  Maxwell proves his thesis by sharing real life experiences of people who later became famous.  He believes their failures helped pave the way for their success.  He mentions people like the Wright brothers who after several failed flight missions mastered gravity and took to the air for the very first successful flight.  They had many lessons but eventually the lessons paid off!  Thomas Edison is another who after many attempts finally succeeded and we certainly would not think of him as a failure.  Overall, Maxwell makes a good point but he does seem a little insensitive to the hard fact that failure is painful.  It is easy for one who is very successful to promote a change of attitude or perspective as a solution.  Is it really that easy?  I do not think it is easy but if one can then failing does not have to be backward it can be forward.  Perhaps, this is best seen in reflection of one’s successes and not during the pain of one’s failure.  This book is helpful to me in understanding that failure is not necessarily a bad thing if I can utilize the experience for my life and ministry.  I would recommend this book for those who have experienced failure in business or even ministry.  However, I would not suggest this book for one who has lost a loved one to a terminal illness or a failed marriage.  In my opinion this is a good book but not a great book.

Online Learning vs. Traditional Classroom

The traditional classroom has been a sacred environment for many students.  It is understandable that many students might not welcome online learning especially if he or she has never experienced online learning.  I write to shed light on the subject of online learning in hope that those engaged in online learning might excel.  When there is understanding and order online learning can be as systematic as in the traditional classroom.  Within the traditional classroom there is interaction among classmates as well as useful dialog between student and professor.  Both the group discussion and open dialog is helpful on a collaborative level as well as individually.  The traditional classroom provides a tactile environment where the participants can jump into and actually experience in the physical the synergy of group involvement.  The inner-action with others is vital.  We are relational beings and online learning does not remove our need to interact with others.  On the contrary, online learning releases us as Christians to share with more people the gospel and to be used to bring glory to God.  If we as learners do not engage others online we will miss one of the greatest opportunities to advance the Kingdom of God.  One’s concept of learning might be simplistic and limited to a structure that people meet weekly for a lecture, encouragement, fellowship, etc.  However, in our post-modern culture the concept many have accepted is the church is constantly evolving and the internet is vital for promotion.  If the church is evolving and accepting the opportunities online then church leaders must embrace the change head-on.  One of the ways this is possible is through online learning.  We can find comfort in that God does not change but humanity continues to advance technologically and socially.  As a result we must not only accept the challenges ahead but fully embrace the opportunity to engage in online learning.  One of the ways colleges ask students to engage online learning is through what is called “Blackboard.”  “Blackboard” is the name of a portal of learning made available to students enrolled in a specific course.  This online experience allows the student to work according to a professor’s timeline or if allowed at one’s on pace.  Today, a combination of “Blackboard” and modular week classroom time is made available to many masters and doctoral students.  This combination allows the student to gain the benefits of online learning without abandoning the formal classroom experience completely.  The modular week classroom experience is essential not only for the transfer of information gained through lecture but because relationships are solidified to the point of a more personal level of online sharing.

Thoughts on Prayer: Hearing God’s Voice

It is vital that we pray for our ministries and those in leadership especially those serving on the mission field.  It has been said that prayer is when we talk to God and meditation is when he speaks to us.  I suppose that makes sense to a point.  I would like to suggest prayer is dialog between God and his own.  If so, then we could say the conversation we have with God is our relationship with him.  Some skeptics might question whether or not we can actually hear the voice of God (either audibly or inaudibly).  The Bible teaches we can hear the voice of God.  When the Jews were trying to get Jesus to prove that he was the Messiah he responded, “…How long dost thou make us to doubt?  If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.  Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.  But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.  I and my Father are one” (John 10:24-30 KJV).  If we are his sheep we can hear the voice of our Good Shepherd!  To go a step further for our consideration of prayer we can examine how this actually takes place.  If we are “born again” we have the Spirit of God living within us and therefore we are his.   As Paul teaches, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:9-11 KJV).  If the Holy Spirit resides within the regenerated believer (and he does) then it makes sense that the voice of God would come from within and not externally.  However, God could speak internally or externally because he is God!  God speaking to us does not necessarily have to be heard from our outer ear and travel inward.  We can hear the voice of God from within.  The key is to be able to discern his voice.  As sheep we should be able to recognize his voice.  Here is a hint…  It is the voice of love, grace, and forgiveness.  I do believe it is essential to apply Paul’s teaching on prayer in Ephesians 6 to our lives and pray on “The Whole Armor of God.”  Jesus is everything we need and without him we are doomed.

Book Review – Efrem Smith and Phil Jackson’s The Hip-Hop Church: Connecting With the Movement Shaping Our Culture

The urban church in America is faced with many challenges but at the top of the list is the challenge to be authentic.  Without authenticity there is no trust and without trust there is no effectiveness.  It is apparent one is not granted trust just because one wears a badge or is serving in public office.  On the contrary, it usually means that one will have to work exceedingly hard in establishing a level of trust.  It is not hard for us to understand this reasoning when we examine historically how people in urban America have been treated.  It was echoed by former President Ronald Reagan when he shared his nine most terrifying words to hear, “I’m from the government and I am here to help.”  In 2006, we witnessed and experienced the beginnings of a national recession which sent major shock waves throughout urban America.  Foreclosure and bankruptcy gave rise to an increase in demand for assistance.  Many people were looking for some type of “bail-out” and many were outraged because many had fallen trap to predatory lenders which promised them help.  To make things worse, not only did the housing market bubble burst but so did people’s dreams as our government provided the banks of the predatory lenders “bail-out” funds.  Throw in the horrors of war and terrorism it is understandable why one would need to prove to be trustworthy.  In the midst of our changing culture and poverty there is a vital need for the church to bridge the gap and establish trust between the church and the unchurched.  In order for the urban church to be missional it must understand the culture, namely hip-hop.

The definition of hip-hop is more than a musical genre because hip hop has become the main voice of the people living in urban America.  Because of its historical roots, hip-hop cannot be limited to just one generation.  Therefore, when defining hip-hop one must take into consideration the overall culture of urban America.  Some equate NYC as a modern day Corinth which was known for its wide-spread sinfulness.  However, I would not leave out other major cities with this equation.  I would extend this “Corinthian” description to all urban America.  For this reason, the church cannot stand idle waiting for converts to enter in.  The church must be missional!  We can expect challenges as we seek to build bridges out of the church walls and into the culture.  One challenge is the perspective of hip-hop being evil.  We must be real and admit not all of hip-hop is evil.  But we cannot unequivocally say all hip-hop is good.  Trying to decide if hip-hop is good or bad is not the main point.  Such judgment would only feed conflict and set us on a collision course with the ones we are called to love and disciple.  Smith and Jackson state, “The collision position on the church and hip-hop works only if you see the church as good and hip-hop as evil rap music, the church as godly and hip-hop as worldly” (Smith and Jackson 2005, 24).  The collision position is harmful and does not reflect the ministry of Jesus.  We must accept hip-hop is here and it is here to stay because it is a culture.  Therefore, the culture of hip-hop is the larger concern for which the church must wrestle if she is to be effective.  Smith and Jackson state the following: “The main point is that hip-hop is a culture and within the culture there are philosophers.  If the church wants to engage hip-hop culture, not just be provoked in spirit by its idolatrous negative side, it must build bridges with the culture so that theologians, church members and hip-hop philosophers might reason together” (52).  Urban pastors must seek out lead ways to be relational and missional.  One method is to help their neighborhoods by investing time, labor, and yes, tears.  Handouts alone are ineffective.  A handout or bailout is a like a bandage to a seriously infectious wound.  Healing of urban America will come about only by the church becoming incarnational.  Hip-hip needs Jesus in the neighborhood not inside a building known as the institutional church.  Lupton states, “When a church has made a commitment to partner with a community to more past betterment, beyond handouts, and toward sustainable development, volunteer involvement takes on increased meaning” (Lupton 2011, 184).

When ministering to an urban people one must become urban and embrace a coexistence mentality.  We live together, we can express our feelings together, and we can worship God together!  Smith and Jackson state, “The coexistence position sees hip-hop not just as music but as a culture, a milieu in which we are the living and growing up” (Smith and Jackson 2005, 25).  One of the first things we need to do in order to be effective in urban ministry is learn the culture.  Lupton says, “Be an interested, supportive neighbor for at least six months before attempting to initiate any new activity” (Lupton 2011, 160).  Secondly, we need to engage in order to penetrate the culture with the gospel.  This means we have to do more that learn about hip-hop we must embrace hip-hop as our culture.  If not, we will not be viewed as authentic.  Hip-hop has been a tool of the enemy but hip-hop is not our enemy!  Smith and Jackson state, “Our enemy has used hip-hop for evil, but we can ‘spiritually hijack’ it for evangelism, discipleship, justice, and missions” (Smith and Jackson 2005, 35).  This can only be accomplished through earnest prayer stemming from a compassionate heart that empathizes with the hip-hop culture.  Smith and Jackson state, “True hip-hop is not just about being heard; it’s about being felt” (Smith and Jackson 2005, 113).  Let us not forget hip-hop has deep spiritual roots in liberation theology.  Long before the enemy began using hip-hop for evil God was using it in its embryonic stage to provide hope in Him.  The Exodus motif gave hope for African Americans during the time of slavery.  The Negro spirituals not only gave the slaves hope it provided a way to release emotion and to communicate through embedded “shout’ messages.  As Smith and Jackson confirm, “Like the Negro spirituals, hip-hop is concerned with liberation from bondage” (Smith and Jackson 2005, 95-97).  Jesus came to set the captives free!  The culture of urban America can be liberated from sin By grace through faith” in the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  And as redeemed people engage the urban culture, even hip-hop can truly glorify God.

Bibliography

Lupton, Robert D. Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It), (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers), 2011.

Regan, Ronald. YouTube: The Nine Most Terrifying Words, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhYJS80MgYA (Accessed April 26, 2014).

Smith, Efrem and Phil Jackson, The Hip-Hop Church: Connecting With the Movement Shaping Our Culture, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press) 2005.

Take-Away Notes from Dr. Joseph Umidi’s “Confirming the Pastoral Call: A Guide to Matching Candidates and Congregations”

Introduction: The Whirlwind Romance

Pastor Steve had resigned his church of sixty-five members.  After months of praying and seeking a new pastorate hope came in an invitation to preach in a country church.  The church had experienced a sudden loss as the pastor accepted a mega church position.  The church attendance was weekly declining.  The former pastor had helped the church grow from 80 to 320 almost overnight.  However, the attendance had now dropped to 120.  When Pastor Steve received the invite he was elated.  He went and preached two anointed sermons, one on Sunday morning and another that evening.  The board met that night and voted unanimously to extend the call for Pastor Steve to come as pastor.  Pastor Steve was energized the next morning and like “a bucket of ice water on a summer beach” Dr. Umidi brought to his attention an important truth.  “… long term relationships are not built on infatuation.  The relationship between a pastor and a church is built upon the bonding of common values” (Umidi, 7).  It takes patience but it is necessary to wait for God to confirm the call.  The call from a church is only an invitation.  It is essential that a pastor has experienced a “divine call.”  Without a “divine call” from God the pastor will not be able to withstand the demands involved in kingdom advancement.  One cannot be self called or others called.  Sometimes it is assumed that the associate pastor will step into the role of a vacated pastor.  This can sometimes be a “serious mismatch.”

The pastoral candidate needs confirmation before accepting any new role.  Umidi states, “… an honest look at how your experience, personality, abilities, and expectations fit a particular organization and role it the most fundamental step you can take to protect yourself and your family from being ‘eaten alive.’  State in a more positive way, a deliberate and thoughtful consideration of your ‘fit’ within an organization and position increases your chances of finding a church where your gifts and vision can soar”  (Umidi, 9).  Confirming the call takes effort, time, and patience.

Part 1:  A Time for Relationship Renewal

Chapter 1 – Matches Not Made in Heaven

One is six Protestant ministers quit each year.  This equates to the number of men that attended the historic 1996 Promise Keepers Conference in Atlanta, Ga. (approximately 50,000).  Umidi makes the case in this book the reason for many short-term pastors is because of “mismatching” pastors and congregations.  There are both toxic churches and toxic pastors.  Some churches are unhealthy and have conflict issues that are unresolved.  When a new pastor arrives at such a church he or she may find difficult days ahead because conflict is already present.  Some pastors are poor leaders and bring to the church problems.

Chapter 2 – Leaving and Cleaving

When a pastor unexpectedly resigns it can be very difficult and emotional for the congregation.  Before a search for a new pastor can begin in a healthy way there needs to be a healthy closure to the former pastor’s leadership.  One of the ways this can be done is through an exit interview.  This is a meeting between the outgoing pastor and lay leaders.  Prayer, praise, and scripture reading are essential for this meeting and it helps sets a positive tome.  When the pastor is gone it is important that the lay leaders lead in regular times of corporate prayer and that the congregation is informed of the search for a new pastor.  This can provide assurance to the congregation that the church is one the right track.

Part 2:  Models and Methods for the Church

Chapter 3 – Search Committees: Choosing the Right People

Questions for Selecting a Search Committee:

1)  Who in the church has a worthy track record in recruiting the right workers, lay leaders, or staff members?

2)  Who in the church has experience in hiring, managing personnel, or consulting in the business or educational community?

3)  Who in the church has experience counseling or mentoring clergy and their spouses?  4)  Who understands the unique pressures and dynamics in a minister’s family?

5)  Who in the church has demonstrated spiritual sensitivity and giftedness in prayer or discernment?

6)  Who in the church is gifted in setting priorities, managing time, and attending to details in the collection and preparation of information?  These skills will be important for collecting and evaluating reports from denominational leaders, other church search committees, past church references on candidates, and other sources of important data in the committee’s search.

7)  Who in the church understands the need and methodology for developing a church profile that articulates the church’s core values and expectations?

Having a seasoned interim pastor is beneficial but there should be a clear understanding between the church and the interim pastor in regard to this position.  Normally, the interim pastor is not considered as a candidate.

Chapter 4 – Your Church Profile: Clarifying Core Values

Core values answer the question what are we doing?  Pastors often spend more time marketing that defining the church’s core values.  Some pastors do not take the necessary time to discover and define the core values.  It is hard work that is sometimes replaced with church planting.  In church plant the leader can define the core values in the beginning.

Chapter 5 – Heart Issues:  Determining Your Church’s Readiness for Change

There is often resistance to change and when a new pastor comes to a church that is a major change.  As a new pastor in a church it is important to find out how new proposals are generally handled.  We cannot pour new wine into old wineskins.  Only new wineskins will be able to hold new wine.  Understanding who the key influencers are is essential because they are the ones who folks will follow until the new leader becomes influential.  Conducting a truthful self-study will enable the pulpit search committee to look for the right person.  This is a foundational point that should not be overlooked.

Chapter 6 – Integrity: Confirming the Candidates Character

Key Issues That Every Church Must Examine in a Potential Leader:

1) Look for Character Signs That Reveal the Issues of the Heart

Character Signs that Reveal a Leaders Heart:

  • Family
  • Speech Patterns
  • Money
  • Suffering
  • Time

2)  Assess the Candidate’s Vitality in Key Areas of Spiritual Health

  • Worship
  • Prayer
  • Word of God

3)  Check References Thoroughly

According to Umidi, “Glossing over the reference process can be a disastrous mistake.”   Robert W. Dingman suggests several reasons why we fall into this trap:

  1. Christians are inclined to believe the best about other people – especially
    spiritual leaders.
  2. The search committee and the candidate both put their best foot forward
    and tend to conceal their flaws and limitations.
  3. Good reference checking takes time, courage, and some skill.
  4. Search committee members often place too much confidence in their ability to ‘read people’ or to get spiritual ‘impressions’ about the candidates (Umidi, 57).

Further Elaboration Concerning Reference Checking Points from Dingman:

  • We have produced a culture of gullibility within the church.
  • Someone must initiate transparency and vulnerability so we can ‘get everything on the table.’
  • Recruit someone on your committee who will have the courage to ask probing questions, and who has the time and skill to follow up on all references.
  • Committee members should avoid ‘Thus saith the Lord’ proclamations to one another.

Chapter 7 – Relationships: Identifying the Candidate’s People Skills

The pastoral search committee should inquire about the candidate’s people skills.  Conflict is inevitable in church leadership.  How does the candidate handle conflict?  How important is mentorship in the candidate’s life?  What are some of the specific benefits the candidate can expound upon regarding his or her relationship with a mentor?  Finishing well is a challenge for many leaders.  What are some the ways that the candidate has finished well in the past?

Part 3:  Models and Methods for the Candidate

Chapter 8 – Dangerous Dating Delusions

It is important that the pastor and the search committee keep realistic expectations in mind.  The temptation is for the pastor to be impressed with the first glimpse of a church like “Cinderella.”  Likewise, the church can easily be swayed by the pastor as he or she appeals to them like a “Prince Charming.”  The temptation might be for the pastor to seek ways to impress the church because he needs the job.  Likewise, the church may want to impress the pastor in the attempt to lure him or her into the position.  It is vital for the pastor and the search committee be devoted to prayer and that each remain open to the leading of the Spirit.  Otherwise, it maybe infatuation or lust which drives their decisions.

Chapter 9 – Know Thyself: Lust or Love?

Whenever a pastor is considered for a church he or she should “bring his or her life before the Lord – as His servant.  And pray, pray, pray!”  It is important that one know his or her temperament, personality type, and skills.  The pastoral search committee will most likely want to know about these and they will be key to a successful match.

Chapter 10 – Interviewing: Getting Past the Mating Rituals

Some churches would reject the most qualified leaders because they are not willing to be realistic.  Umidi humorously brings this to light when he mentions a pastoral search committee that rejected leaders in the Bible from Noah to Jesus.  Some search committees will not even consider candidates who are not currently in a position.  Having a resume’ is essential.  Having one’s experience and skills listed will help the committee see what the candidate has been doing up to the present.

Chapter 11 – Leadership Matching for the Twenty-First Century

There are many qualified and gifted pastors/leaders.  However, there also exist some who are not qualified applying for and being interviewed as pastoral candidates.  With all the resources available there are still some unqualified pastors that make it through the “cracks.”  Umidi states, “As we step into the new millennium in ministry, we propose five structural solutions to help the body of Christ increase its number of successful, healthy church leadership/ministry partnerships.  These will require shifting the standard training paradigms and empowering the pioneers who are willing to explore unchartered territory” (Umidi, 101).

Five Structural Solutions:

  • Start Ministry Before Ministry training.
  • Link Emerging Leaders with School and Church Partnerships During Training and Matching.
  • Link Matched Leaders with Area Wide Co-Mentors During the First Year.
  • New Strategies for Churches to Raise Up Their Own Leadership.
  • The Case for “Arranged Marriages.”

Five Principles of Discovering God’s Will – My notes from Paul Walker

I.   God has a plan for each one of us.
II.  We can know God’s plan for us.
A.  Our problem – We want to know ALL instead of “today”.
B.  Usually we have a problem finding out what God’s will is for our lives                                         because we are so busy telling others what God’s will is for them.
III.  God’s plan will keep us in perfect peace.
IV.  Where God guides He provides.
V.   God only shows the way / we have to walk in it.

The Five Stage of Grief

At some point in our lives we will all face the loss of a loved one or something dear to us. Grief does not always have to be related to a death of a human being.  It could be the loss of something dear to us (i.e., loss of a spouse through divorce, a prodigal child, or when a child leaves the nest/home) which causes us to enter into a period of grief.  Sometimes grief seems unbearable, but grief is actually a healing process.  Grief is the emotional suffering we feel after a loss.  Certainly, the death of someone, the loss of a limb, even intense disappointment can cause grief.  The following is what is referred to as the Five Stages of Grief:

Stage 1 – Denial and Isolation:
At first, we tend to deny the loss has taken place, and may withdraw from our usual social contacts. This stage may last a few moments, or longer.

Stage 2 – Anger:
The grieving person may then be furious at the person who inflicted the hurt (even if she’s dead), or at the world, for letting it happen. He may be angry with himself for letting the event take place, even if, realistically, nothing could have stopped it.

Stage 3 – Bargaining:
Now the grieving person may make bargains with God, asking, “If I do this, will you take away the loss?” 

Stage 4 – Depression:.
The person feels numb, although anger and sadness may remain underneath.

Stage 5 – Acceptance:
This is when the anger, sadness and mourning have tapered off. The person simply accepts the reality of the loss.

During grief, it is common to have many conflicting feelings. Sorrow, anger, loneliness, sadness, shame, anxiety, and guilt often accompany serious losses.  Having so many strong feelings can be very stressful.  Grief passes more quickly, with good self-care habits.  It helps to have a close family, church and friends.  It also helps to eat a balanced diet, drink enough non-alcoholic fluids, get exercise and rest.  Most people are unprepared for grief, since so often, tragedy strikes suddenly, without warning. If good self-care habits are always practiced, it helps the person to deal with the pain and shock of loss until acceptance is reached.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) was a Swiss-born psychiatrist, a pioneer in Near Death Studies and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), where she first discussed what is now known as the Kübler-Ross model or the five stages of grief.  She named theses as five stages of grief people go through following a serious loss. Sometimes people get stuck in one of the first four stages. Their lives can be painful until they move to the fifth stage – acceptance.

Sources:
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. On Death and Dying. New York: Macmillan, 1969.
Gill, Derek L. T. Quest: The Life of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.

Easter Reflections

Two weeks before Easter, on Sunday, April 14, 1991, I felt the Holy Spirit’s invitation for me to repent and accept Jesus Christ, the risen Son of God as my personal Lord and Savior.  A year later I began experiencing the call to preach God’s Word.  Surrendering to that call was not easy.  For over a year I struggled.  I knew nothing about the Bible and was not raised in church.  That was my argument and it was totally focused on my works and not God’s power.  In 1993, I did surrender, accepted the call to preach and began my studies at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia.  Since 1993, I have come to know the One that I call Savior better each day as I have follow Him through the pages of the Bible.  During my studies at Emmanuel I ran across a small paperback book written by the late Bishop Joseph A. Synan.  Each year around Easter I pull Synan’s book from my bookshelf and reread a section that helps keep my focus on Him.  I hope that you will be blessed as I have been by these words:

I trust that all of us have had experiences similar to what I am going to speak of briefly, and I’m sure that we have.  I have followed Him from His manger in Bethlehem to His cross on Calvary, and to the tomb in the garden, and to the morning of resurrection, and to the tomb in the garden, and to the morning of ascension, and have loved and admired and appreciated Him all the way.  I have seen Him seized by lawless men after having been betrayed by a friend.  I have seen Him spit upon, blindfolded and smitten by slaves.  I have seen Him scourged with cruel thongs until His back was a maze of bruises and stripes and blood.  I’ve seen Him crowned with thorns and mocked by the soldiers.  I’ve seen Him driven along the cobble-stone streets of Jerusalem, out through the gray stone gate and up the hill of Calvary.  I’ve seen Him lifted up on the cross, and mocked and jeered by the passing throng.  I’ve seen Him when the sun was draped in darkness and the mountain trembled and the graves were opened, and the veil in the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom.  I’ve seen Him forsaken of men and outcast by the world, and I’ve heard His lonely agonizing cry in the dark: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”’

And as I’ve seen Him, the embodiment of absolute purity, innocence, holiness and goodness, thus treated by men, I have felt in my heart drawn in an affinity of love and loyalty that made me feel as I followed Him through all those scenes of suffering that I wanted to love Him and be loyal to Him forever.  And I reached this conclusion that, if this life were all, if the grave marked the end of Jesus of Nazareth, and if it should mark the end of me, I would still rather be indentified with a man like Him than anybody else that I have ever met or read or heard or known of in this world.

But I’m thankful that the grave didn’t mark the end for Him, and that it will not be the end for us; but that He has gone through and come out on the side of immortal glory, and that He will lead us through and bring us out into worlds of life and strength.  And that, in the meantime, having been here and gone away, He is just as truly our friend and our Savior yonder in glory as when He was here, and He will be coming back again.  We can’t preach anything greater; we can’t preach anything more fascinating, anything more winning, than to preach Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

Synan, Bishop Joseph A. The Good Minister of Jesus Christ, (The Publishing House Pentecostal Holiness Church: Franklin Springs, Georgia), 1950, 49-50.

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