Recovering Proud Pentecostal

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Denominational titles have defined people for decades. We take pride in our religious heritage. I realized several years ago that there is a major difference in honoring my spiritual past, being thankful for my heritage, and being arrogant about the stream of faith I am flowing in.
I LITERALLY used to believe that because I had certain gifts, and believed/emphasized certain things more than other denominational or religious circles, I was “better” or “more spiritual” or “more enlightened” or “more right” than the other church down the road.  I held my heritage and my background in higher regard and saw it as superior to others. THEN, I studied some church history. I realized that for hundreds of years, the style and fashion of church that I grew to love and be proud of, didn’t even exist. I realized that long before my group arrived, God had used evangelists, pastors, teachers, ministers and lay members around the world in great and mighty ways, who didn’t necessarily ascribe to all of what we did and believed. I began to study out how God used various denominations and circles to bring about radical reformation in areas. I saw where ministers from other circles revolutionized ENTIRE COUNTRIES for Christ. And I was embarrassed for my actions and the actions of many in my circle.
I realized that “our way” wasn’t THEE WAY and it humbled me greatly. I have known people who “speak with tongues of men and angels but have no love” and I have known people who do not possess these supernatural gifts, but yet display the fruit of the Spirit in ways I never have. In the same way, I’ve known people strike the delicate balance between spiritual gifts and spiritual fruit, and live their lives so grace-filled that no one would doubt their devotion.  I have witnessed the lives of people who were totally dedicated to the will of God, the word of God, and the way of God, yet they did not see theological, scriptural, or spiritual issues through the lens that I saw them through. I have seen hypocrites and saints, on both sides of the proverbial aisle, in all of these various tribes of Christianity.
I used to sing songs about what “I believed” and how it was essentially, “better than what they believed.” I preached sermons that placed my group on a pedestal l and their group in the basement. I lived my life as a proud Pentecostal and dared anyone to question it.
But not anymore. Not now. I’ve learned, THE HARD WAY that God isn’t interested in your heritage nearly as much as he is your heart. I refuse denominational titles that put walls up between others and I. Sure. I have a Wesleyan Holiness heritage. I am licensed by the Nazarene Church. I identify as a Charismatic believer with Nazarene/Ariminian leanings.I do have a “circle.” But, that’s not what defines me.  I  simply want to me known as a follower of Christ. A lover of people and a lover of God. A man of integrity who leads his family with faith, passion, and love. A person who is wholly devoted to following Jesus, no matter the cost. A person who doesn’t know it all, nor do pretends to. I am not saying I have this all together, or that I am never prideful. I am saying that I am dedicated to pursuing God with my whole heart, while simultaneously refusing to question whether or not the people at the church down the road is doing the same.
To my Baptist, Methodist, Wesleyan, Episcopalian, Presbyterian friends, or any other denominational group, I apologize for thinking I was better than you. I apologize for looking over your history; how your denomination made drastic impacts on the lives of countless souls; For acting like because we emphasize “These gifts” over “Those gifts” we are more spiritual or deeper or had more of God’s favor.  I am truly sorry.
Before Jesus died, he prayed, “Lord, make THEM one as you and I are one.” If you are a follower of Christ, we are all the “them” that Jesus was praying about. Let us be ONE IN HIM.
One Church. One Faith. One Baptism. One Lord.
(scriptural references)
1 Cor. 13:1
John 17:22
Eph. 4:4-6
Romans 12:3

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Racism, My Buddy, and Me…

mybuddy

 

My parents made a great decision when I was just a little boy.  Somewhere in the 1990’s the “My Buddy” doll trend started.  My mom and dad decided to buy me one and I LOVED it; however, the one they got me was a little different than the others. He was black.  They could have simply bought this doll because it was the one on sale, (I really don’t know their intentions behind it), but I believe this doll opened up my mind and heart to the reality that not everyone in the world was just like me or the people in the predominately white town that I lived in.  This reality settled into my soul and caused me to look at the world differently.  Yes. That is what I am saying.  A dumb little doll created a cultural awareness in my mind and heart.  I was unaware of the reality of racism until I was older.

My first “wake up call” pertaining to racism came while working at a JC Penney store in Corbin, Kentucky as a teenager.  I was helping a customer at the register who was buying a pile of University of Kentucky basketball clothing.  At this time, Tubby Smith (a black man) was the coach at UK.  We began to talk about the losing that had been going on and just like all the know-it-all Kentucky fans, myself included, I was opining on what Tubby could do to fix it.  The man looked at me as straight-faced, cold-blooded, and emotionless as he could and said, “The real problem is that our coach is the WRONG COLOR.  Black men do not belong in positions of leadership; they are our hired hands.”  I nearly dropped to the floor.  My heart began pounding.  Sweat began to pour from my forehead.  Rage, anger, passion, fear, wisdom, along with grace and forgiveness were all shouting at me at the same time to make a quick decision.  I looked at the man and replied, “I happen to strongly disagree with you on that sir.”  I then turned around, logged out of my computer, and asked an associate to finish the transaction.  I simply could NOT look at this gentlemen anymore and I knew that punching him was not an option.  TALK ABOUT A WAKE UP CALL.

This situation was more than just me waking up to the reality that people were really racist in this world.  It was a wake up call to the reality that somehow, someway, my parents had found a way to instill in me a respect for all races.  That little doll may have very well been helpful in raising a non-racist, but exposure to the gospel of Jesus was the key ingredient.

I sat in my car  that evening and asked God to help me to always have the mentality that I am no better than anybody else because of the color of my skin.  I asked God to help me, as  minister of the gospel, to always see people through the eyes of Christ, who, by the way, is completely color blind.

But what about those racist people?  How do we approach them?  What do we do about guys like Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was recently caught on audio tape denigrating minorities, and has a long-standing history of being a racist?  Here are 3 small steps we can take that could possibly make a big difference.

1.) We pray for them.  Never underestimate the power of God to change a wicked heart.  We must realize that this battle is more than just cultural or national, but it is SPIRITUAL and only GOD has the power to transform a heart of hatred.  Prayer is a weapon in the arsenal of the Christian that can break strongholds and mentalities that have been dominating the thought-life of people for many years.

2.) Challenge them lovingly.  There is NO WAY that we can (in a conversation) change a person, but our job is NOT to change people. Our job is to LOVE people enough to challenge their way of thinking; not with OUR OPINION, but with the word of God.  We cannot fall into the trap of fighting fire with fire, or returning hatred with more hatred. As Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

3.) Be the example.  Be intentional about inviting people of different races or cultural backgrounds into your inner-circle.  You can show others how to be open by being open yourself.  What we simply cannot do is point our fingers at others for having a racist mentality and then look at our lives and see that we have never made ourselves available for relationship with anybody other than our own race.