I could recount all the miraculous times the Lord rescued me from danger over my brief military career. However, let me conclude that it doesn’t take a “rocket scientist” to discover that there was purpose on my life. So in Anchorage, AL in 1969, my spiritual journey got a boost from a little red cover book I was introduced to titled “The Spiritual Man” by Watchman Nee. The impact of the insights I gained from this series revolutionized my thinking for years to come.
By the time I returned from the military I was a changed man. I had developed from the boy preacher, I left as, into a developing teacher with some life experience. Somehow I managed to maintain the nick name “rev” throughout my military career. However, various bible schools and self-study materials was now answering questions for me, while my prayer life was blooming.
When I returned to Baltimore I also returned to my Dad’s church as an organist and later assistant pastor of the church. I knew by then that “Bible-Teaching” was going to be my passion. The church atmosphere I found myself in though was more conducive to preaching instead of teaching. It didn’t take me long to figure out people were more interested in having their emotions stirred than their minds caressed. I was often branded “dry” and “slow” in my presentations, so I retreated to my music while secretly increasing my personal bible study.
This is Part 8 of the series “My Personal Journey”
Today marks the official memorial of my first public sermon, July 28, 1963. My first sermon title was “Saved by Hope – Romans 8:24-25. Although I have had a media library for the last 30 years, I haven’t been one to log my sermons, so I couldn’t tell you how many sermons or lessons I taught over the last fifty years. For me the point is not how many, but how many have been effective and productive.
You see when I finally did get my GED in the military and got to my first bible college experience, I failed “Homiletics.” My professors tried to get me to write my sermons out and I wanted to just talk them out. When I started in the ministry I was under the impression, “You just open your mouth and God would speak for you.” However, I did learn structure in college and eventually how to outline my sermons.
However, my journey is just that. My journey. Of course with the triumphs there were many mistakes and failures along the way. That is the beauty of survival and longevity in ministry. You learn from mistakes, repent and move on to teach others the wisdom you learned, if you learned and they will listen.
Even though I was only fifteen, going to church for me meant a lot more than the music, the preaching, the devotions, and the activities. I wanted so much to gain an understanding of what I believed and why. I had no mentors or spiritual fathers to guide me, so with a hunger that was eating at my insides and a poem that filled my mind, my spiritual journey began. It wasn’t so much the peer pressure that made me leave school as the need to not socialize and be alone that was consuming me.
Learning to navigate around the bible was instilled in me early. I learned the books of the bible, the divisions, the authors, and any basic bible knowledge I could retain. My mother taught me the importance of prayer and that it was those private times with God that were more important than the information I was trying to ingest.
I haven’t spoken much about my spiritual encounters that I guess began as early as when I was 8 years old. I would have strange dreams of the future and see ghostly figures come to my room at night. It was not the normal nightmares of children because with most of these I was fully awake. They didn’t frighten me just disturbed me. For the next few years I got used to nightly visitors to my room. But by the time I was twelve, they suddenly stopped. Now before you think I am crazy, let me interject that my childhood development sat the stage for my later spiritual maturity.
This is Part 4 of a series. Part 1 can be found at –
We are in a war between “rights” and “morals” and it obvious who is winning. America has a history of making what Christians have called in the past “vices” legal. When gambling became legal we got the lottery. When alcohol became legal we got state run stores. When churches became legal we got tax exempt status. What do we do when sin in general becomes legal? Constitutionally, we are enforcing the very core of this country’s real purpose. We were not formed to make a Christian nation, but a nation of individual rights. Everything in between we owe God praise and honor for the breathe He allowed us to experience. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. A melting pot of culture, religion, and the right to live my life my way. If institutions interfere with my rights then we just have to change the institutions.
We really can’t expect the world to comply with what they have not embraced. Jesus command was to “Go make disciples.” The Church needs to return to evangelism. When was the last time you heard the terms “repent”, “sin”, even a call to salvation in churches? We have become so self-absorbed in marketing our empires all we worry about is getting enough money to, as they say. “Advance the kingdom.” But don’t we really care who is populating the kingdom as long as they have a contribution to make. Have they been discipled or merely celebrated because of their contribution? We even have this attitude in churches and congregations are running the vision and mission of the church in the name of the people. We have rights – yes – the right to live and die. Everything in between we owe God praise and honor for the breath He allowed us to experience.
The “Light” is getting dim in America. Who has the courage to flip the switch back on to the “Light” of God’s Glory? Who is on the Lord’s side, let them come forward and pray not fight.
A Christian is determined simply by how one worships and what one believes. How we live in light of these two pillars is the issue. What is needed today is an investigation into what is the scriptural norm for defining a Christian. We are divided regarding what is essential for a person to be called a Christian and what is the correct way of expressing this. Personal temperaments and traditional upbringing play a greater part than perhaps we realize in determining our view of what is a real “Christian” faith. In order to be a real Christian, one must have a proper Theology of God and a commitment to serve what we believe. To be a progressive Christian one must constantly evolve or mature our perception of God. But our understanding of God is revealed as we become more holy and sanctified in our thoughts and character, rather than our gaining information about Him.
I discern that at some point, we have to stop going outside the present Church and starting new churches. We have to step back and stop reinventing and start maintaining. Churches are not man-made but God-given, and they are God-given through an actual historical tradition of faith and order. In fact, The real Church is hidden under, a mass of social, cultural and theological debris. To rediscover this ‘one true church’,which is there in all the three traditions of the Church, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, one must bathe in scripture, prayer, and tolerance for other expressions of worship pursing toward the same goal.
The only way the church is going to achieve power and strength in the world today is by making a united stand against the kingdom of darkness. Not a militant stand against physical forces, but a spiritual stand against forces that are desperately trying to influence our worldview through the impact of our minds. This has taken shape in our educational institutions; in our businesses; in entertainment; and yes, even in our worship. Turning what is ultimately sacred to us into a praise party, rather than awe for God. We are under attack by adopting changes in our values, ethics, and character causing personal defects not to be viewed as sin any longer but merely mistakes. All of this, while the glamor of the doctrine of fame and fortune intoxicate us and we party with the spoils of battle before the war is finally won.
The media attention Christianity is getting lately might cause many to believe what they see rather than what they know to be true. In fact the best way to administer poison is to hide it in something good. So, false teachers are not standing up waving a flag saying they are teaching false doctrine. No, they are mixing truths, lowing standards, and secretly denying canal doctrines of the faith while we celebrate their greatness and are deceived by their glamor.
We talk unity but practice division every day. The practice of Christian unity is a difficult task for the church. Many things divide Christians from other Christians—gifts, doctrine, church government, mode of baptism and so on. Whether we like it or not, divisions have occurred, and we must live with them. But we must be inspired and guided by Scripture and prayer to do better or things will only get worse. But real unity is not unity in sameness but unity in purpose and function. We must all be united in the fact that God is God; that Jesus Christ is Lord; and that the Holy Spirit is present today in the believer’s life. How that works out in every day practice is the struggle of sameness, not unity. What we believe ought to be consistent. How we practice what we believe is the question.
Our culture today urges us to seek our identity in our possessions, our personal achievements or some lofty title to impress others. The Church has brought into this false sense of self-worth and is not sounding the alarm while society is decaying. Yet Scripture tells us our identity is not derived from these things. It depends not on how others see us, but how God sees us. But a proper understanding of basic Christian beliefs helps one wrestle with questions that have baffled people for centuries. In our day there is a wishy-washy relativism that masquerades as faith. “It doesn’t matter what you believe, just as long as you believe.” “All roads lead to God.” “The important thing is to be sincere.” If we know what we believe, we will resist such shallow claims. God is personal. He has told us about himself and what he requires of us. All the rich knowledge of God is expressed through our Christian beliefs. Christian beliefs not only guide our thinking but also direct our behavior. In our day we desperately need leaders of integrity, people who are living examples of biblical values. As we learn these basic values, the Holy Spirit gradually transforms us into the likeness of Christ himself. Christian beliefs build Christian character.