Growing Up Pentecostal

holy ghost revival
Photographer: Trey Ratcliff

There’ll be singing, there’ll be shouting
There’ll be sorrow, there’ll be pain;
There’ll be weeping, there’ll be praying,
When our Lord shall come again.

Words to hymns like these filled the air every Sunday morning, and every Sunday and Wednesday evening. In those days, we didn’t have to wait for our Lord to come again hear singing, shouting, weeping, and praying. In those days you never knew what was going to happen, what songs were going to be sung, or who had “the key to the service.”

We would be in a worship service and the pastor of the church (usually) would stand up in the middle of the service and say, “Someone has the key to this service! All you have to do is obey God!” And then sure enough, someone would spontaneously shout, dance, pray for someone who was sick, share a testimony of their salvation, or sing a song, and the whole atmosphere be filled with the peace of heaven.

As much as my hardshell Calvinistic theology would like to inform me that this goes against the “regulative principle of worship” or that “things simply don’t happen like that,” I’ve seen an entire congregation come to life with godly joy over someone simply coming down to the altar for prayer.

There wasn’t a “repeat this prayer and you’ll be saved” kind of rhetoric (most of the time). There were genuine, Jesus-loving people who want to help you communicate with God in prayer.

Tim Challies wrote an article about a well-known leader the early Pentecostal movement, and someone who commented on the article was disparaging their own Pentecostal upbringing (they are Reformed now). I am also Reformed now. I’m a Calvinist, and I hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith (with some minor caveats), I can’t disparage my roots. Maybe their experience was bad, but mine wasn’t. Granted, I’m not going to say that everything I witnessed go on in a Pentecostal church during a worship service was right and biblical because it wasn’t, but overall, I feel as though my upbringing helped me more than hurt me.

My grandparents taught me the Bible. By the time I was in my teens I could quote more Scripture from King James Version of the Bible than anybody my age, and it wasn’t because I participated in Bible Quiz Bowls or sword drills. My grandparents didn’t pressure me to memorize verses or play with Bible flash cards. They didn’t do in-home discipleship, family worship, devotions, or anything like that. They simply lived godly lives at home in front me, and as a result, I learned the Bible by watching how much they valued the Bible. I learned hymns by listening to my grandma sing while she was doing chores around the house. When she taught me to play piano, she taught me to play hymns and southern gospel because that’s all she knew.

When other people talk about their bad experiences in Pentecostalism, I have to sigh and unfortunately say, “I know.” I’m all too familiar with the legalistic horror stories of young women being called whores because they had a little blush on or because they wore a pair of knee-length shorts that might cause someone “to stumble” *eye rolls* …whatever.

In those moments, I can only wish they had had my experiences. My experiences weren’t completely free of legalism and unwarranted insecurities, but those things didn’t matter when the worship service would start (or at least, those things didn’t matter to me).

I was free and somehow, I knew it.

Fighting the Same Battles (Yes, We’re Still Talking about Sanctification…)

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[Just as a disclaimer, not everyone here at LNT will agree with every jot and tittle of what I’m about to say, but that’s the beauty of LNT, we are proud to be a theologically eclectic bunch.]

I know I said I was taking some time off from LNT, but I felt the need to crawl out of my hidey hole for one more article.

I left the world of Pentecostalism because I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that no matter how much “do more, try harder” religion I crammed down my throat it wasn’t helping me do more and try harder. (Go figure!) I started reading the Bible for myself and sure enough, I realized that my grandparents’ worst nightmares were coming true – I started to understand eternal security or as they called it “Once saved, always saved.”

Now, I feel like I need to stop here and explain something. A lot of the Reformed community (particularly Piper’s side) will say, “We don’t believe ‘once saved, always saved,’ we believe in ‘Perseverance of the Saints.'” They say that they want to make that distinction because they don’t want to be accused of “easy believism,” and after the recent Desiring God/R. Scott Clark Sanctification debate, I can see why. I mean, if I didn’t believe what the Bible is actually saying about salvation and sanctification, I wouldn’t want someone saying that I did.

So, as I said, I left Pentecostalism and found a home within the Reformed ranks because I thought I was safe. I thought I was free to explore the Gospel and see that it really was everything that I was reading about in Paul’s writings, and that I really was interpreting Jesus’ words in John 10 correctly when He says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” For once in my life, I could actually take what Jesus said to the bank, I didn’t have to rely on the weird ‘if’s or ‘but’s that Wesleyan Pentecostals tend to add in there just so they don’t feel uncomfortable. (Fun Fact: In this camp, I was told, “Yes, no one can snatch you out of His hand, but you can jump out of His hand if you want to.” So, basically, I was taught that God was powerful enough to make someone speak in tongues, but not powerful enough to keep someone’s soul.)

As I settled into the Reformed community, I knew nothing about Federal Vision or Norman Shepherd. I would occasionally read Douglas Wilson’s books and articles (and still do), but I never really saw anything troubling, other than his hyper-conservative ideas of complementarianism, but finding someone whose Reformed and not complementarian  is finding a needle in a haystack so I just did what I was do when I eat fried chicken, I took the meat and threw away the bones.

In spite of all of this, I never thought in my wildest dreams there would be such controversy over something that is so clear, and so freeing. I’ve read the arguments, I’ve read the quotes, and I’ll provide an abridged list of articles on both sides, but the fact of that matter is that there are those who claim the Reformed banner who want their works to count for something so badly that they need to hold to a Romanist view of the book of James in order to feel like they’re ‘doing enough.’ They are more deceived than our Roman Catholic friends because they’ll at least admit that works contribute to their salvation, and they’ll say that Sola Fide is false. Our Reformed friends who side with Piper on the other hand, will say ‘faith alone’ out of one side of their mouth and ‘works are necessary for salvation’ on the side. They are the true double-tongued serpents.

I don’t believe the False Prophet of Revelation is one specific person or group, but if I did, then it wouldn’t surprise me to see that person rise from ranks of Christendom claiming the Reformed banner and paying lip service to Sola Fide while saying that our salvation hinges on what we do for Christ rather than what He has done for us.

So, in conclusion, I didn’t jump ship to fight the same battle. I’m here because this is where my reading of Scripture and my study of theology has taken me. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that God doesn’t see my works as something that allows me to be one of His, and I’m not turning back. Call me a heretic. Call me a backslider. Call me an antinomian. Go ahead and tell me that I’m not really Reformed. I’ll gladly wear those labels as long it means that I’m sticking with what the Bible has said. I’m in the same company as Paul whenever he felt that he had to qualify the Gospel when he wrote the beginning of Romans 6, and if you don’t like it you can straight to… my Father in Heaven, and take it up with Him.

Piper’s Side:
Does Faith Alone Really Save? – John Piper
John Piper Compromising Sola Fide? – Mark Jones
The “Means and Way” to Salvation – Mark Jones
How to Train Your Dragons – Greg Morse

R. Scott Clark’s Side:
Salvation Sola Gratia, Sola Fide: On Distinguishing Is, With, And Through – R. Scott Clark
Resources On The Controversy Over “Final Salvation Through Works” – R. Scott Clark
The Marrow of the Matter: The Sanctification Debate Returns – Jay Sawrie
Keep Looking: A Response to Greg Morse and Desiring God – Jay Sawrie
Dressed in His Righteousness Alone: The Sanctification Debate, Round 3 – Jay Sawrie

Late Night Theology, Episode 5: Come to the Dork Side… We Have Jarritos

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In this episode, Logan and Tom talk about Star Wars, Monks, New Heavens and New Earth, and more! Logan goes on a couple of rants and Tom gives some Rogue One spoilers. You don’t want to miss it!

Links//
Heaven, Hell, and the End of the World – David Platt

A Year with God – Richard Foster and Julia Roller

Morning and Evening – Charles Spurgeon

The Life with God Bible

Late Night Theology Audio Archive

T. Austin-Sparks

GoFundMe

Exegesis and the Small Church Mentality

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“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” – 2 Timothy 4:2, NIV

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” – 2 Timothy 4:2, KJV

It was exactly 4:30 PM on a Thursday night, laying on my bed, listening to Radio Free Geneva where he was talking about how politics not impacts exegesis, but determines exegesis in Southern Baptist congregations and when I heard these words come from Dr. James White’s mouth, and I instantly gave him an audible “Amen.” Actually, it was more like an “A-f***ing-men.”

White said that you shouldn’t underestimate the power that politics plays in determining exegesis of Scripture in the Southern Baptist Convention. I resonated so well with his comments because I saw this first hand, but not in the SBC. Let me stop here and explain. I spent 3 years in a reformed (lower case ‘r’) Southern Baptist Church where the politics wasn’t necessarily an issue, but they definitely had some horror stories to tell from the SBC church that they came from before planting their church. Where I mostly saw politics play a role in exegesis was these small, non-denominational, Pentecostal, and Free Will Baptist churches. So, that told me that this wasn’t a problem that was limited to any denomination or any particular theological movement. This is something that’s going on in smaller churches, and not all smaller churches either, but I’m willing to bet about 90% of all churches with an active membership of 50 people or less.

Most of the time (not always, but most of the time), if you see a small church there’s a reason why it’s small – hardly anybody wants to go to a church where the sermon is about “the evils of socialism” every freaking week. We, as Christians, believe (or should believe) in a fundamental separation of church and state. Now, to what extent you believe in that separation is up for debate. Personally, I believe in an absolute separation of church and state because I don’t think God needs the assistance of Christians in the government to rule and reign over the earth that He’s created, but that’s just me. I guess if you don’t think God is doing a good enough on His own, you can keep voting Republican. “Hey God, I saw that the world was to hell in a handbasket so I thought I would give you some help by voting for Trump. No need to thank me, I’m just doing my civic duty.”

Going back to the subject of exegesis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer hit the nail on the head when he said, “The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events.” Now, if this were true in Bonhoeffer’s day how much more true is it now? Now, like I said, it’s not just small churches that do this. Cornerstone Church in San Antonio is the worst. John Hagee preaches week after week that the government is going to start lobbing our heads off any minute now so we need to start keeping an eye on our dispensational timeline charts to see what chapter of the book of Revelation we’re in this week. Now, I haven’t heard a single Hagee sermon since the election, but I’m willing to bet that since Trump is the President Elect, Hagee is ready to convert to Post-Millennialism even as week speak. There seems to be a trend among dispensationalist to read into the text of Scripture what isn’t there. They do this by comparing Israel to America. They tend to take Old Testament passages of Scripture concerning Israel and saying that those passages apply to America when, in fact, they do not.

This is a common habit among pastors in smaller churches. They tend preach that the physical nation of Israel is still “God’s chosen people” so we should pray for Israel and honor Israel. Then they start preaching about how “evil” it is to not show political support for Israel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for supporting Israel, but it is solely for political reasons. My reasons for supporting Israel have nothing to do with my faith or my interpretation of Scripture. But, these small church pastors are, for the most part, uneducated. They get their learning from watching guys like John Hagee and Perry Stone instead of actually cracking open a reasonable Bible commentary over the book of Revelation. (As far as commentaries go, I would rather a pastor use Wilhelm Brakel’s commentary over Revelation than for them to go by what John Hagee or Perry Stone is teaching, and that’s saying something because Brakel is Postmillennial and I hate Postmillennialism with a fiery burning passion. The only way Postmillennialism makes sense is you’re either a Universalist or if you’re in favor of a Christian version of Sharia Law.)

But I digress, the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines “exegesis” as “The act of interpreting or explaining the meaning of verses or passages of Scripture.” So, if this is the true meaning of exegesis, then can we say that a lot of our smaller churches are really exegeting Scripture? I say with a resounding voice, “NO.” When you tell your congregation that America (and the Church) is Israel then you are completely ignoring Romans 9 and you are ignoring the promises of God to His elect people in Ephesians 1 and 2, and there’s no telling how many other passages you’re ignoring.

That’s not even the tip of the iceberg. You’ve got so many other exegetical problems in these smaller churches that it’s unreal. In a lot of churches that aren’t Southern Baptist, you’ve got pastors telling their congregation that they can lose their salvation at the drop of hat. They offer little to no comfort to those of us who struggle with assurance, and they completely ignore every promise of assurance that God gives to His people and say that it only applies to people who “live right.” They make no distinction between law and gospel in their preaching. RJ Grunewald says, “Christians, including preachers, routinely confuse the Law and Gospel, misapplying both. Confusion results: Some needlessly suffer under a burdened conscience as they live under the crushing weight of the Law, while others dismiss the Law (unrepentant sinners) and ignorantly bask in grace they find outside of Christ’s work on their behalf.”

When you step into the pulpit you carry a very weighty task of explaining a text in the context of the whole Bible, and distinguishing between law and grace.

“Rightly distinguishing the Law and the Gospel is the most difficult and the highest art of Christians in general and of theologians in particular. It is taught only by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience.” – CFW Walther

If you’ve been able to sit through this angry rant, let me know what you think and let’s talk about it.

Blessings, Logan.

Undeserved Grace

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,” – 1 Corinthians 1:4, NRSV

The purpose of First Corinthians was for Paul to correct some problems in the church. They had allowed the world to corrupt their morals and they were compromising their character by conforming to the secular society around them. I grew up in an old-fashioned Pentecostal culture where there were red-faced and loud-mouthed preachers griping and complaining about how much of the ‘world’ we’ve gotten in our churches when the reality of the situation is that they never saw the church at Corinth. They had no idea what a worldly church looked like.

And I personally think if they had seen the church at Corinth they would have joined right in with the church’s debauchery, and who knows? Maybe I would have too. I don’t believe any of us are as good as we say or even think we are. Charles Spurgeon said, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” You might read that and think, “That’s horrible. That’s not encouraging at all.” But let me tell you that it should be.

As you go through 1st Corinthians and read all their immoral and sinful behavior go back and read chapter one, verse four. Through all their messy sinfulness, Paul still thanks God that he pours His grace out on them through Christ Jesus. As you and I continue to allow the Holy Spirit of God to work on us, mold us, and make us, we’re going to encounter some sinful, messy things about ourselves that we don’t like, but O Child of God, be encouraged for He pours His grace out on you through Christ Jesus.

In the words of Steve Brown, “Now, you think about that.” Amen.

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 2

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In the last post, we left off talking about the nine things that God has done for us through Christ’s blood.

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Before we get started on Predestination, I want to finish up my thoughts about being chosen. We’ve already established that this word ‘chosen’ is an active choosing. It implies that God has chosen us out of a group. We know that the elect are chosen. What find interesting is the word for ‘chosen’ is an active choosing and the word for ‘church’ is ekklesia is ‘ones who are called out’. This is an active calling. Think about it. God has His thumb on you and He’s calling out to be separate from the influence from the world, separate from the negative influence of the culture, separate from the negative influence of society, but even an even greater scale than that, I believe that this is referring to your divine destiny. You are called and chosen to do something great for thing Kingdom of God for such a time as this. What a profound thought that everything that has happened to you whether it is good or bad has been setting you up for great things in God. You might ask me, “How can you say that something bad that’s happened to me has been setting me up?” In Romans there is a promise that all things will work together for good.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – [Romans 8:28 KJV]

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” – [Romans 8:37 ESV]

I like where Paul says at the beginning of verse 28, “we know”. He’s saying that “we are confident; we are fully convinced that God is always working and operating for the good of His people.”

I don’t mean to go all Joel Osteen on you or anything but sometimes you’ve just got to determine within your heart that everything is going to be good in the end because God loves you and He might allow bad things to happen but in the end it will all be good.

3. He has predestined us. (Ephesians 1:5, 11)

Again, this is a touchy subject for Calvinists and Arminians alike. After all of the research and studying I’ve done on it I feel like I should side with Finis Jennings Dake on the issue:

“It is God’s plan that He has foreknown and predestined, not the individual conformity of free wills to the plan. He has called all people and all are free to accept or reject the call (Jn. 3:16; 1Tim. 2:4; 2Pet. 3:9; Rev. 22:17). All who do accept, He has foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son that His Son might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). Those who reject the plan, He has foreknown and predestined to be consigned to eternal hell as an everlasting monument of His wrath on rebels (Isa. 66:22-24; Rev. 14:9-11; Mt. 25:41,46). This is the sum of foreknowledge and predestination.” – Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible

For me, personally, the issue of predestination and election is something that I keep in the open hand. I can take it or leave it. What I mean by the closed hand and open hand metaphor is this: if someone were to put a gun to my head and say, “Do you believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins?” I said “Yes” and take what was coming to me. If someone were to put a gun to my head and say, “Do you believe that man can choose whether he is saved or not?” I’d say, “Wait a minute. Let’s talk about this.” I’m willing to die for Jesus but not over my position on predestination and election. Moving on…

4. He has made us accepted. (Ephesians 1:6)

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” – [Ephesians 1:6 KJV]

I absolutely love Scofield’s position on this verse.

“Adoption (huiothesia, “placing as a son”) is not so much a word of relationship as of position. The believer’s relation to God as a child results from the new birth John 1:12, 13 whereas adoption is the act of God whereby one already a child is, through redemption from the law, placed in the position of an adult son. Gal 4:1-5 The indwelling Spirit gives the realization of this in the believer’s present experience Gal 4:6 but the full manifestation of the believer’s sonship awaits the resurrection, change, and translation of saints, which is called “the redemption of the body” Rom 8:23; 1Th 4:14-17; Eph 1:14; 1Jn 3:2” – Scofield Reference Bible

I don’t care if you’re Pentecostal or not, that ought to make you want to shout and run laps. We are not just adopted but we are made to know that we are accepted by God’s Holy Spirit that causes us to cry ‘Abba, Father’. Sometimes in families where the child is adopted they can’t sense that they don’t belong. Their adopted parents might treat them well and love them dearly but the child knows that there is something different. It’s like they have an innate feeling that those are not their biological parents but with God there is no vacant feeling. He makes feel wanted and when we become saved he plants the Holy Spirit inside to make us know that we are one of His own.

I hope this has helped you an encouraged you today. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed!