Leadership

The rise and fall of societies and institutions has depended almost exclusively upon the quality of their leadership. George Barna, who has spent years researching the church in America, claims that the most serious weakness he has found within the church in the last fifteen years is the lack of leadership. Few would disagree that strong, bold, innovative, and godly leadership is in short supply.

During the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee said, “I believe our army would be invincible if it could be properly organized and officered. These men will go anywhere and do anything if properly led. There is the difficulty of proper commanders.” Lee knew that ultimate victory rested on the quality of leaders who led the troops. He wanted men with administrative skills, diligence, imagination, initiative, resourcefulness, and the ability to elicit the best in other men. Like Lee, people everywhere are looking for leaders. So, what does one look for in a leader?

Don’t put too much stock in outward appearance. Externally leaders often appear very different. Hitler, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and General George Patton would all be excellent subjects for a study in contrasts, except for the one thing they had in common—they were all leaders. God has used uncultured farmers, crude fishermen, and simple shepherds, as well as gifted scholars, astute politicians, and military tacticians to lead His causes. While most of us look at the outward appearance, God looks at the core of the person’s character. He looks for certain inner traits that will turn a lad into a leader. As a matter of fact, research shows that internally leaders have certain characteristics in common. Let me list them for you:

Leaders have clear-cut objectives. Leaders know what they want to achieve, why they want to achieve it, and how they are going to achieve it. They know that you will only achieve what you aim for, and so they keep focused on their goals and objectives.

  1. Leaders know themselves. Leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. They lead from their strengths and bring the right people around them to help where they know they have weaknesses.
  2. Leaders are persistent. They have staying power. They will sometimes give a lifetime of dedicated service just to see their objectives fulfilled.
  3. Leaders are learners. They never stop learning and growing. They have an insatiable appetite to expand their knowledge and learn how to lead more effectively.
  4. Leaders have the ability to attract and energize people. Leadership is influence. Leaders have the ability to influence others to accomplish a common goal.
  5. Leaders are risk takers. They don’t fear failure. They are willing to fail if they can learn something from it. They aren’t afraid to take risks with resources, ideas, and change if they believe good can come from it.
  6. Leaders are followers. No true Christian leader is a law unto himself. He asks others to follow him only as he follows Christ. He lives in obedience to the Word and those to whom he is accountable.

Some who are reading this right now are looking for a leader for your church or organization. Look for these core traits. Don’t be too caught up in outward appearance, or you may miss a David, Israel’s greatest king. Don’t be deceived by a hesitant speaker, or you may miss a Moses, Israel’s greatest leader. Don’t be turned off by a “thorn in the flesh,” or you may miss a Paul, the church’s greatest missionary. But look inside. Look for the right kind of heart. That’s where you will find a true leader.

Kingdom Economics

I think it is safe to say that neither the Chairman of the Federal Reserve nor anyone on Wall Street is going to look to the teachings of Jesus to find the secret to personal calm during these days of financial storm. But for those of us who truly believe in Jesus and are committed to obeying his word it ought to be the first place we turn. A vital part of good stewardship is to care for what God has given us so that we might care for those who are dependent upon us. But we should not let the passing treasures of this world consume us with fear and anxiety. Unfortunately, we have in many areas blindly and unwittingly embraced values and ideas that are common in our culture but are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus – none more than money.

Jesus knew the subtle snare that money can be despite the amazing fact that He owned very few earthly possessions – “the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” For all practical purposes Jesus was homeless! I can’t say with absolute certainty but it appears that he never actually possessed any real money of His own. When He needed to pay His taxes He sent Peter to the sea with a line and hook to catch the coin ladened fish to get the bill paid. Yet He spoke abut money more than He did about heaven or hell.

Jesus recognizes that we need material things to live. The drive and desire to acquire a certain amount of material things (food, clothing, shelter, etc…) is not only proper but it is a vital part of caring for ourselves and those we love. To save and plan for the future is good (Proverbs 21:20). Actually His words are not condemnatory toward the possession of money but rather a strong warning against the power and influence it can have over us. To place your trust in it is to embrace a false security that will cause you to live in a state of fear and anxiety. To let it captivate your heart and mind is to turn you away from the true God. In all four gospels, it is the only rival god that Jesus mentions!

Whether you are one of those that just worries about money or one of those that worships it, the cure is the same – believing and obeying the teachings of Jesus. I call it Kingdom Economics!

Kingdom Economics doesn’t store up or value the wrong kind of treasure (Matthew 6:19-21). A treasure is what we value and protect. Jesus teaches us not to value (set your heart upon) the wrong kind of things (things that rust, fad away, or can be stolen), but to value those things that are eternal. When Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to “sell everything” that he had and give it to the poor, he did so in order that this young man might have “treasure in heaven.” Jesus was not trying to strip this him of all pleasure and happiness He was trying to loosen his hold on the lesser in order to give him something greater – something infinitely more satisfying – treasure in heaven! It was not just good for the poor that he do this, it was good for him.

            Kingdom Economics is living live with an open hand rather than a closed fist. It practices generous giving (Matthew 6:22-23). The passage speaks of a bad eye and a clear eye. This is a cultural idiom that we understand better when we change the illustration. The bad eye is a person with a “tight fist” or a closed hand – a stingy person. The clear eye is a person with an open hand – a generous person. Jesus is teaching us to practice generosity that results in systematic giving. God knows that we will potentially have an ongoing struggle with materialism and as such we will need an ongoing antidote. The antidote He has given is generosity. By prescribing generous systematic giving, God isn’t turning into the IRS but a physician. He knows that by telling us to give our money freely to others we will break the control that money has over us. And so while we are experiencing individual freedom through our generosity, the money we give will fund the things that God is passionate about: making disciples, changing lives and caring for those in need.

            Kingdom economics trust in God rather than the things that He made (Matthew 6:24,32). The child of God can trust in the benevolence of his Heavenly Father who, “knows that you need all these things.” As we seek Him first and put Him first all “these things will be added unto you.”   Real freedom from anxiety is found in simply trusting God for our needs. Yet there is the ever present temptation to trust in money. Why? There is because money has some very dangerous “god like” qualities. Money can outlive us, it has a wide circle of influence (everyone respects it), and it pretends to give us what only God can give – security, comfort and happiness. But money is only a false god. It gives false hope, false security and false happiness. To bow down and worship the god of money is to live in fear, despair, and emptiness.

Kingdom Economics embraces not poverty but simplicity (Matthew 6:25-32, Luke 12:15). The Kingdom solution is not to live in poverty. Nor is it stinginess or carelessness. Rather its solution is to embrace simplicity. Simplicity is an attitude of the heart that will ultimately result in an outward lifestyle. Simplicity is adopting the right narrative about wealth and earthly treasure. It is a conviction about how to live rather than a set of rules that I use in order to gauge my life and to judge others. Simplicity ask questions like: Do I really need this?; Will it bring me real joy or just momentary happiness?; How much of the money I would spend on this particular item can I free up to invest in heavenly treasure if I choose this other less expensive item?

Living in this world as a citizen of another requires great wisdom. Being submerged in a culture whose values are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus, mandates constant carefulness. Having need of the “coin of the realm” while storing up treasure of a different sort in another kingdom is challenging. Yet it is something Jesus asks us to do. I have not perfected all of this yet, but as I grow in Christ I am improving. I understand better what Paul meant when he admonished , “. . . buy, as if it were not yours to keep; use the things of the world, but do not be engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away” (I Cor. 7:30-32). The more I embrace Kingdom Economics the more I am liberated from the slavish fears of the financial storms of this present world!

A Call to the Conservative Holiness Movement

by the President and Faculty of the Division of Ministerial Education,

God’s Bible School and College, Cincinnati, Ohio

INTRODUCTION. Deeply concerned for the future of the Holiness Movement, and especially of the Conservative Holiness Movement of which we are a part, we issue this call for the full and vigorous recovery of our heritage as Christians of Wesleyan conviction. We share the distress of those who warn of “historical drift,” spiritual apathy, and surrender to the depraved secular culture that surrounds us. We submit that a renewed commitment to the essential principles of scriptural Christianity which we have received in classical Methodist belief, piety, and mission will prepare and strengthen us for the challenges that confront us. We appeal, therefore, to our entire movement to unite with us joyfully in this commitment, pledging uncompromising faithfulness to God’s Word and to creative relevance in our ministry. Upon the original foundations of our movement, therefore, we must build determined, effective, and contemporary witness to God’s unchanging summons to holy hearts and holy lives.

Implicit in this recovery are the following specific themes:

A CALL TO BIBLICAL FIDELITY

As Wesleyans we affirm that the Holy Scriptures, as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, are the basis of authority in the Church, normative for all our faith and practice. We declare with the English Reformers, “Holy Scripture contains everything that is necessary for salvation, so that whatever is not stated in it, or cannot be proved by it, must not be required of any man as an article of belief or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”

Yet we have often focused on issues and made demands which we cannot legitimately establish from the Scriptures. As a result, trivial notions and speculations at times have marred our witness. We call, therefore, for renewed submission to the absolute authority of the Bible, not as a revered icon, but as the touchstone for both our personal lives and our public proclamation. For in every age, the Church must submit itself unconditionally to the Word of God, interpreting it in harmony with itself, in keeping with the best insights of historical and literary study, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and with respect for the historic understanding of devout Christian scholarship.

A CALL TO HISTORIC ROOTS AND CONTINUITY

 We gladly affirm our allegiance to the classical Christianity of the centuries, confessing its faith, sharing its historic witness, living out its godly discipline, and claiming all of its treasures as our own. We give God praise for our legacy of evangelical Christianity magnificently set forth in the heroic lives of ancient Christians, the faithful witnesses of the Middle Ages, the stalwart testimony of the Reformers, the biblical proclamation of the Wesleys, and the earnest piety of the early Holiness Movement. We rejoice in the lives and ministry of earnest followers of Our Lord from every branch of orthodox Christianity.

But too often we have smugly disconnected ourselves from our Christian past; and in so doing we have become theologically shallow, spiritually weak, and blind to the work of God in the lives of others. We have withdrawn ourselves into protected enclaves, congratulating ourselves on our superiority over other Christians, sometimes refusing fellowship with them because of our disagreement in doctrine or in practice, and ignoring the continuing work of the Holy Spirit throughout all the universal Church. At best, this is lamentable ignorance, and at worst, sectarian bigotry. We call therefore, with John Wesley, for a “league offensive and defensive with every soldier of Christ,” reclaiming the richness of our Christian heritage and our essential unity with all who truly confess Him as Lord.

III. A CALL TO CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

Union with Christ establishes membership in His Church, the community of the faithful, in all times and places. It is founded by Our Lord and established upon Himself, and we claim His infallible promise that the gates of hell shall never withstand it. As we live out our faithfulness to Him, we must also live in faithfulness to the Church, which is His body and bride, living and dying in its communion. We affirm the traditional Protestant insistence that the visible Church is the congregation of the faithful in which the “pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance.”

Too often, however, we have adopted a narrow and individualistic approach to our Christian Faith. Sometimes we have so emphasized personal spiritual relationship that we have forgotten that relationship must be realized, strengthened, and advanced within the company of God’s people. At other times, we have imagined that we were the Church, or at least that the Holiness Movement was its most significant component rather than only a tiny segment of its fellowship. We call, therefore, for renewed understanding of the biblical doctrine of the Church as “the pillar and ground of the truth,” reverence for its orthodox confessions, submission to its holy discipline, and faithfulness to its common life. As a coalition of holiness believers within its communion, we gladly but humbly offer our gifts to the universal Church—gifts which center in our historic focus on holiness of heart and life.

A CALL TO CHRISTIAN HOLINESS

Holiness of heart and life flowing out of love for God, as we believe, is the “central idea of Christianity,” for this is God’s redemptive purpose for our fallen humanity. Holiness is both His gift and our pursuit, and as the writer to Hebrews reminds us, without it none of us shall ever see the Lord. Negatively, holiness is separation from all that is sinful and unlike Chris; and positively, separation unto godliness, righteousness, and full Christlikeness. It begins in regeneration by the Spirit, flourishes in the work of entire sanctification, and advances throughout our lives. As Wesleyans, we reassert the biblical passion of our forebears “to reform the continent and spread scriptural holiness over these lands.”

We confess, however, that our passion for holiness of heart and life has sometimes been reduced merely to external codes and prohibitions, and “holier-than-thou” attitudes toward those who differ from us. As such we have become shell without substance, and betrayed the Scriptural mandate to be holy, because the Lord our God is holy. We therefore call our movement to a renewed love for God from which will blossom consistent and winsome lives of holiness, first in motivating purpose, and second, in outward conduct. This means that we must continue to accentuate both of the definitive moments we identify as works of divine grace, conversion and entire sanctification, all the while giving proper attention to the progressive growth in grace by the Spirit and the increasing separation from the world which our Methodist forebears so firmly stressed.

A CALL TO METHODIST PIETY

Our Methodist heritage has underscored the necessity of devout personal piety grounded in sincere love and profound reverence for God. This implies binding and lifelong covenant with Him, living faith in Christ our great sin-bearer, allegiance to the inner principle of “jealous godly fear,” commitment to disciplined discipleship, faithful obedience to His holy Law, dynamic growth in grace, and faithful use of the means of grace. All holiness of heart and life must be grounded in sober and steadfast love for God.

Sometimes, however, our emphasis on external regulation and dutiful performance has ignored the principles of authentic piety. Our appeals to holy conduct, which are both legitimate and necessary, have often been based more in the impulse to preserve the taboos of our religious subculture than in allegiance to the Word of God and its demands. The heart of all Christian obligation is loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and then “to fear Him and keep His commandments.” Not only are we called to do what is right but also to love what is right, for this reason abstaining from all that He condemns and embracing all that He enjoins. We will never stop the “historical drift” among us merely by enforcing traditional legislation but by vigorous and renewed insistence upon authentic relationship with God and passionate pursuit of Him. Gladly we reaffirm our traditional emphasis upon simplicity, modesty, stewardship, separation from the world, and conscientious lifestyle, but all this must be within this warm and gracious context of loving what God loves and hating what God hates.

As Methodists, therefore, we call our movement to return to our originating commitment to principled covenant with God, which, according to the General Rules of 1743, demanded these commitments: (1) the renunciation of all known sin; (2) the embracing of all positive virtue, and (3) the faithful practice of the means of grace, especially “the instituted means of grace,” defined as the Word, prayer, fasting, Christian fellowship, and the Lord’s Supper. This demands disciplined life within the community of the Church, a renewing of our historic pattern of spiritual formation through small accountability groups, such as the class meeting, and faithful submission to healthy and holy discipline, while at the same time we are altogether dependent upon the gracious work of the Spirit who changes us “from glory to glory” into the likeness of Our Lord.

A CALL TO AUTHORITY IN THE CHURCH

Christ Our Lord has delegated the powers of government to duly-appointed officers in the Church, and we are mandated to obey them faithfully. All Christians are to be in practical submission to one another and to these designated officials in the Church. The edifying and equipping of God’s people and the administration of church discipline are committed especially to faithful pastors who are called not as “lords over God’s heritage,” but as examples and as shepherds of His flock.

We therefore deplore the spirit of autonomy and even anarchy which so often has marked our movement. Too often in our congregations and denominational life we have exhibited rebellion against the authority structures which God Himself has established, boasting our independence of them, and refusing to submit to their godly discipline. This has been evidenced by continuing divisions among us, often over matters unconnected with allegiance to Scriptural truth. As the heirs of classical Christianity, we have not so learned Christ. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable to you” (Heb. 13:17).

We call therefore for renewed exposition of the Scriptural qualifications for leadership within the Church, corporate exhortation to beware the deceitfulness of sin, and biblical obedience and submission to those whom God has made under-shepherds over us. God grants no Christian autonomy from mutual submission and accountability within the Body of Christ. We must therefore repent of our oft refusals to exercise the Scriptural means of restorative discipline within the Church and commit ourselves to loving one another even as our Father loves us in chastening and scourging every son whom He receives.

VII. A CALL TO CORPORATE WORSHIP

Corporate worship is the exalted glory and central pulse of every Christian congregation. At its core, worship is the adoration of God, Holy, Blessed, and Undivided Trinity, and by apostolic mandate, it is to be conducted with decency and order. In the public worship of the Church, as the old Methodist communion service reminds us, we join “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven [to] laud and magnify” the Lord of hosts, joining in their eternal hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.”

As Wesleyans we have a two-fold heritage in Christian worship. On the one hand is the warmth and earnestness of fervent and joyful devotion. On the other is the sober restraint of form, dignity, and tradition. Both are essential. Too often, however, we have emphasized the first and neglected the second. We need not neglect the subjective emphasis so characteristic of our services, but we must ground our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving in the great objective acts and truths of God Himself.

We call therefore for the renewal of our corporate worship, based in the mandates of Scripture and in the tradition of evangelical orthodoxy, centered in the faithful ministry of Word and Sacrament. Our preaching must be based in conscientious interpretation and earnest proclamation of the Holy Scriptures, and our administration of the sacred ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper must be meaningful and faithful. We lament our neglect of baptism and the Lord’s Table, for this is to slight the Saviour who so kindly has established them to fortify our faith, calm our fears, and nourish us with grace.

VIII. A CALL TO CONSISTENT DISCIPLESHIP

Christ commissioned His followers to make disciples through Trinitarian baptism and instruction in all His commands. The early church responded to Our Lord’s call to aggressive evangelism by taking the gospel to every corner of their world. Yet they realized that the central thrust of the Great Commission was discipleship accomplished through baptism and teaching, so they largely invested their time and energy in systematically teaching new converts the whole counsel of God and equipping them for ministry. This same emphasis elevated Wesleyan Methodism to towering stature in the kingdom of God, while without it Whitefieldian Methodism proved “a rope of sand.” We confess that, despite our heritage, evangelism has languished among us. We have largely abandoned our Methodist system of spiritual formation and forgotten how to fulfill our Lord’s command to make disciples. We have sought revival without preparing to preserve its fruits. We have emphasized spectacular conversions and neglected the biblical necessity of disciplined growth in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. We further acknowledge that where evangelism is taking place among us, a systematic plan for incorporating new converts into the visible Body of Christ through baptism and instruction is largely non-existent.

We call, therefore, not merely for a reaffirmation of the importance of evangelism and discipleship, but for a commitment to equip our laity for the work of the ministry, for the establishment of solidly Wesleyan curricula for systematic discipleship, and for the implementation of these training methods in all our churches. This will necessitate a concerted effort on the part of our leaders to reclaim the skills of discipleship, reinstitute regular systems of accountability and affirmation, and to resume obedience to Scripture’s mandate to teach faithful men who shall be able to teach others also. We shall begin again to bear much fruit when our disciples themselves become disciple-makers.

A CALL TO CHRISTIAN SOCIAL WITNESS

Our Lord’s call to take up the cross and follow Him is a call to Christian social witness, for everywhere the Master went He ministered to both the spiritual and physical needs of people. We have been created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10), indeed, saving faith works through love (Gal. 5:6), first in meeting the needs of fellow believers, and second in doing good to all men. Love for Our Lord and passion for holiness should impel us to minister compassionately to the sick, the suffering, and the forsaken, and to resist courageously societal structures that oppose divine purpose and degrade human dignity. “Whenever the Christian lives an authentic life, the world around is permeated with God’s presence…,” as Dr. Leon Hynson has written. “[He] raises the quality of life, makes social justice, equity, and integrity work. The pure in heart not only ‘see’ God, but become the letters through which society sees Him.”

Unfortunately, we have sometimes withdrawn from that society into the cloistered walls of a narrow and narcissistic piety. But this was not the pattern of our spiritual forebears who raised Christian consciousness in all the forums of public life and who filled their land with works of grace and mercy. Their stated mission, “to reform the continent and spread scriptural holiness over these lands,” asserted God’s sanctifying purpose to transform lives and in consequence to transform culture.

We call therefore for renewed commitment to Christian social witness. This means that we will lovingly and forcefully proclaim Christ’s power to liberate from sin, both public and private, asserting the claims of His Kingdom against all that militates against it. This commitment will also lead us to minister compassionately in His name to the imprisoned, the needy, and the oppressed.

A CALL TO RESURGENT HOPE

All Christian life is centered in the resplendent hope that we have through Christ’s victory accomplished in His incarnation, atoning death, and resurrection. The sure and certain anchor of the soul, this hope has given gladness and assurance to faithful believers all throughout the centuries of the Church’s struggle with the forces of entrenched evil. It assures us of present victory in our personal lives and corporate ministry, but it also points to the final triumph when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Never have we so needed a renewed sense of the hope that we have in Him. We know the power and devastation of sin, and we acknowledge the increasing degradation of our culture. We are Wesleyans, however; and as our theologians have said, the keynote of our theology is not the “pessimism of [fallen] nature” but the “optimism of grace.” We therefore call our movement to the joyous expectation of victory which so motivated our spiritual forebears to claim the American frontier for Jesus Christ. We cannot cower before the darkness, paralyzed by “the encircling gloom” which continually we must confront. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” The same power which brought the Roman Empire to bow before the cross, renewed the Church in the days of the Protestant Reformation, and reshaped the culture in the Wesleyan Revival is also ours as we encounter the moral depravity and sneering secularism of our times. Let us be joyfully faithful, then, creatively relevant, and utterly confident that Jesus’ victory is our own. With gladness we do the work which He has given us, even as we await the consummation when all the earth shall echo with the song of conquest, “Alleluia! The Lord God Omnipotent reigns!”

 

The Incarnation

Famous radio and television personality, Larry King, was known for his ability to ask the one question that would not only define the interview but the one being interviewed as well. On one occasion King said that if he could land an interview with God he would ask Him just one simple question, “Did you have a son?” King, who is Jewish, understands that the answer to that question carries with it profound even eternal ramifications. It has to be one of the most significant questions any seeker of truth could ask. If the answer is yes (and of course it is), then all history, all reality and all true faith come to focus in the incarnation of Jesus Christ – the eternal Son of God!

The word incarnation means in-flesh” and denotes the act whereby the eternal Son of God took to Himself an additional nature, humanity, through the virgin birth. The result is that Christ remains forever unblemished deity, which He has had from eternity past; but He also possesses true, sinless humanity in one person forever. The purpose of the incarnation can be expressed in three key ideas:

Explanation – John 1:18

he hath declared him” (KJV); “He has explained him” (NASB) “he has made him known” (ESV)

The Greek word (translated by the words declare, explain and made known) is the word in which we get our word “exegesis”. It means that Jesus came in human flesh to explain God or make Him known. Though God has revealed Himself in various ways, only the Incarnation of Jesus Christ clearly revealed the essence of God. So now when we “see” and “know” Jesus (read the divine revelation about the Son in scripture) we can “see” and “know” the Father.

Redemption – John 1:29

“behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”

Without the Incarnation we could have no redemption. Sin requires death for its payment. But the one dying had to satisfy the demands of God’s holiness and justice and that required a sinless sacrifice – one which only God Himself could provide. Since God does not die, the Savior must be human in order to be able to die. However, the death of an ordinary man would not pay for sin eternally, so the Savior must also be God. We needed a God-Man Savior, one without sin, who could die for our sins. That is exactly what we have in the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:1-10).

Identification – John 1:14

“became flesh and dwelt among us”

Dr. H.C. Morrison spoke about this aspect of the incarnation like this,   “God created man but had never been a man. He had seen men suffer but he had never felt pain. He had seen men bleed but he had never bled. He had seen men toil but he had never blistered his hands with carpenter tools. He had seen men die but he had never spread his omnipotent shoulders on the bottom of a cold sepulcher”. So He became one of us! From the womb of His mother to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, he identified with every aspect of our lives. He was hungry, weary, needy and fearful. He has faced every battle and felt every temptation that you and I face …yet without sin. This means that we have a God who fully identifies with us and can help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

A father put his four-year-old son to bed. Having finished prayers, stories, and all the little bedtime things, he kissed his son and turned off the light. The boy started sobbing, “Don’t leave me. I’m scared and don’t want to stay here alone.” The father tried to encourage the little boy by reminding him of God’s presence that was always near. The little boy said, “I know that but I want somebody with skin on.” What God could not accomplish through any other method, He was able to accomplish through sending His Son as the God-Man. This is the great message of the Incarnation!

 

High Places

Mention the name “High Place” and God reaches into His vocabulary and uses a word that expresses His most severe moral disgust – “abomination.” Mentioned over a 100 times in the Bible, the high places were originally centers for Canaanite idol worship. Located on mountain tops or elevated pieces of ground (hence the name high place), some of the most detestable things imaginable took place in the worship of false gods. Even before the children of Israel crossed the Jordan into Canaan, Moses commanded them to demolish all the Canaanite high places … “or they shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (Numbers 33:52, 55). Yet despite Joshua’s passionate destruction of such places, these pagan worship centers continued to plague the nation of Israel (Judges 2:12-13, 17; 1 Kings 14:22-24).
Tragically, it was Israel’s leaders who allowed worship on the high places to continue. King Solomon actually built high places for gods such as Ashtoreth, Milcom, and Chemosh (1 Kings 11:6-7). King Jeroboam established high places in Bethel and Dan so the northern tribes would not travel to Jerusalem to worship the true God (1 Kings 12:25-33). In their time each leader in Israel and Judah had to decide what he would do with the high places. When a good King would come to power, he would rid the land of idols and demolish the high places (II Kings 18:4; 23:4-20). Evil Kings, like Ahaz and Manasseh, would give full support to the high places and even offer sacrifices on them (II Kings 16:4; 21:1-3).
Over time the scriptural record notes that even among the good Kings “the high places were not taken away” (I Kings 15:14; 22:43; II Kings 12:3; 14:4; 15:4; 35). The surrounding cultural pressure to be like the other nations was so strong that most of Israel just “winked” at the remaining high places. Eventually, these high places became so entrenched in Israel’s culture that they seemed normal. They were so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things were, that even the best of Kings did not think to remove them. So the old high places that were an abomination to God became the “new norm” for the nation Israel.
Is there a lesson here for today’s Church? Have we accepted things into our lives (the way we behave and think) and into our culture (the values that we embrace) that at one time were considered an abomination to God? Are there issues we have grown so weary of opposing that we have simply yielded to the surrounding culture and subtly accepted them as the “new norm”? I believe the answer is yes and I believe these things are our “high places”.

“Sensuality” is one of our High Places
If we could transport Christians from the past into our present day, I think the thing that would surprise them most is how much at home we are and how tolerant we have become with the pervasive sensuality of our culture. Sexual perversion is not new to the Church. To be certain the church has always had to fight against sexual sin. It is on every list of vices in the Bible. It heads the list of things the Apostle Paul says are not fitting for a Christian. Yet today, mainline denominations are on the fast-track of accepting, even celebrating, homosexuality, same sex marriage and all other manner of sexual perversion. Even though most evangelical Christians still oppose these more blatant sins, they are far too accepting and tolerant of the sexual crudeness, vulgarity and carelessness of today’s world. Even worse, many entertain themselves with movies, television programing and novels that celebrate homosexuality, marital infidelity, fornication and nudity while often mocking purity and abstinence. This has become so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things are, that many Christians have ceased to cry against it. This has become the new norm!
One of the most visible indicators of the churches acceptance of this “new norm” is the immodest dress of America’s Christians. Actually the two are tied closely together. Whenever a sense of modesty is lacking, human sexually becomes fatally trivialized. And when human sexuality is reduced to consumer merchandise, the display of the body becomes the main billboard to advertise its sexual value. Even though the problem of immodest attire is widely acknowledged, few church leaders (men or women) offer guidance and biblical instruction. Their fear of becoming legalistic or offensive keeps them silent while the voice of a fallen world has no such inhibitions. This is one of our high places.

“Spiritual Mediocrity” is another High Place
With the proliferation of electronic media the average Christian has available to him more preaching and teaching – more information about the Bible and Christian living than ever before in the history of the world. We are clearly the most informed Christians that have ever lived! Yet one leading American pastor was forced to ask himself, “Why is today’s church so weak? Why can we claim more people with more conversions but have less and less impact on the surrounding culture? Why are our Christians indistinguishable from the world?” Dallas Willard’s response to this dilemma is interesting. He claims that it is not in spite of what the church is teaching but precisely because of it! He goes on to say that the church has pitched its message too low! It has offered a form of “miserable sinner” Christianity that tells believers we are but miserable sinners and that moral failure is expected. Hence we offer a gospel of “sin management” where the essence of the gospel is simply the forgiveness of sins – a message that neither offers nor expects any real transformation of life and character. As a management expert would say, “This system is designed to yield the results it is getting.”
This low level of spiritual living has become so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things are, that many Christians have ceased to expect anything else. This has become the new norm! But you can be assured of one thing; this is not the true gospel! The gospel not only offers the forgiveness of my sin but the real transformation of the heart! It clearly teaches that through the power of the Holy Spirit and the abundances of God’s grace we can live in full obedience to the commands of Jesus – “not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor. 15:10).

“Worldliness” is a High Place
I am using the term “worldliness” in the Biblical sense as to how people “think” and subsequently “behave” (Rom. 8:5-7; 12:2) The word for world (kosmos) means an order or an arrangement of things. Hence we can define the world as “Human ability organized historically and socially into a system where humans use natural ability (their own resources) to achieve what they want and to promote what they value, a great deal of which is in active hostility to God.” The Bible defines “living in the flesh” in much the same way. When the New Testament speaks of those who live in the flesh it speaks of those whose lives are oriented around themselves and who know only their own resources. A “man of the world” or someone who “lives in the flesh” is someone who thinks and acts from a point of view that leaves God out of the equation. To them the only reality is the temporal – what they see, touch and know.
True Christian living is the antithesis of this. Christians place the eternal over the temporal. They live from an alternate reality. Their life is drawn from divine resources. This way of living is in significant contrast to the world and has two major implications for the Christian. First, he thinks differently than the world thinks! His thinking is not limited to the confines of mere human understanding. He doesn’t determine his course of action by what Godless men say, no matter how brilliant it sounds (Psa.1:1). Second, he behaves differently than those who are of this world. He doesn’t seek after the “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes” nor is he controlled by the “pride of life.” To him the world is “passing away” and lacks permanence. Hence he “sets his affection on things above” and “stores up treasure in heaven.” This makes his life recognizably different; distinctly unique from everybody who is not a Christian (Matt. 5:47). He is in the world but not of the world.
The only problem here is that the description I just wrote of the Biblical Christian is not recognizable, much less acceptable, to the average Christian today! Our obsession with the material, our addiction to more, our love of the good life and our captivation with this modern day Sodom hardly receives a slap on the hand by even the most radical of prophets. Worldliness has become so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things are, that many Christians have ceased to it see as a problem. This has become the new norm!
The high places of our lives may be varied and unique but they are all equally despised by God. We may have changed the words we use for them but God still uses that same old word from long ago – abomination!

Echoes of Eden ~ Reflections on walking with God

If there is one person mentioned in the Bible who has always intrigued Christians, it is Enoch. His biblical importance is such that he is mentioned by four of the inspired writers, yet the personal information given about him is scant. What is given can be summed up in just four simple words – “Enoch walked with God”. One might be tempted to overlook such a brief simple biography but, in the estimation of heaven, these four words speak more completely of a greater life and character than could ever be ascribed to the most renowned warrior or statesman by the whole voice of history.

Enoch’s story is remarkable for not only what is said about him but also for what is not said about him! This bit of silent but important information is tucked away in a genealogical list found in Genesis 5. This list is composed of the descendants of Adam through his son Seth. The scantest of information is provided on each firstborn male and then each descendant’s life is concluded with the same three words, “and he died.” The writer uses the technique of repetition to remind the reader that the dire judgment pronounced in Eden “you will surely die” did indeed come to pass with unfailing certainty on every son of Adam. Every one, that is, but one – Enoch! The sobering phrase “and he died” is never used of Enoch. The writer says it like this, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him”.

His story is even more remarkable when one remembers that he lived his life and raised his family in the antediluvian world. Genesis 6:5 tells us that during this time the wickedness of the human race had become so great on the earth that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time”. Yet it was in this setting that Enoch walked in such harmonious fellowship with God that he was graciously exempted from diluvian judgement as well as the universal end of all men – death. Enoch’s life proves to us that a man can live pleasing to God in whatever circumstance he may find himself. This has been true of all the saints. They have shown us that the Christian life can be lived!

Echoes of Eden

Enoch’s wonderful account of walking with God tells us as much about God as it does about Enoch. Enoch’s story repeats for us what we learned in Eden that God desires man’s fellowship. He desires a “walking relationship” with man that involves companionship, dialogue, intimacy, joint decision-making, mutual delight, and shared dominion. This is clearly stated in the creation mandate (Gen. 1:28) and beautifully illustrated by the walks God took with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Further on in Genesis we learn that God walked with Noah and Abraham. It is in these two accounts that we learn something else about God. We learn that God needs to walk with us before he can work through us. Or to say it another way, God works with his friends. When God can establish a friendship with us, then His divine activity can and will accelerate in our lives.

Reflections on Walking

Enoch’s life models for us the three simple components that are crucial to walking with God.

Faith
This is, in fact, the basic requirement for walking with God. The Hebrew writer informs us that Enoch had this level of friendship with God by faith and faith alone. “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6). Now the writer of Hebrews simply asserts that faith embraces two basic convictions: First, that faith holds the firm belief that God is and that He is who He says He is. Second, that faith is confident that God will reward those who seek Him. (Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17)

Fellowship
Enoch’s walk of faith was one of fellowship God. When two friends walk together, they do so to enjoy each other’s company. But they are only able to enjoy the fellowship because they are in agreement one with another. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The word used for “together” gives the idea of two people moving in rhythm together, as in riding a tandem bicycle. Enoch was in perfect harmony with God’s will and way.

Obedience
The apostle John tells us “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:6). One cannot walk with God and live in rebellion against Him. The overall pattern of Enoch’s life was one of obedience toward God while staying away from sin. Such obedience left Enoch with the commendation that “he pleased God.”

Enoch a Model for Today

Someone has said that if there is a crooked stick, and you want to show how crooked it is, you need not waste words in describing it, just place a straight one by the side of it. This is what Enoch did. His simple daily walk with God spoke powerfully to the world around him (Jude 14-15). We also know that such a walk has generational implications. It was his great-grandson Noah that also walked with God. Oh, let it be said of you and I that we “walked with God!”

It’s Been Great!

In this issue of the God’s Revivalist you will read about my decision to step down as president when my term ends in 2017. This information is not completely new for a lot of people since I have freely shared it with the campus family, alumni groups and some friends of the school. Almost invariably when I talk about it there are three responses: First, why are you leaving? Second, who will ever take your place? Three, what do you plan to do next?
Why are you leaving?
For twenty years I have always asked myself a group of questions before making any administrative decision of consequence, “Is it in harmony with God’s will and Word and is it good for GBS?” Those are the same questions I have asked about this decision and the answer that I have come to is YES. It is time to step aside and allow fresh leadership at the top. No one is asking or even wanting me to leave – not the Board, not the faculty, not the students. I don’t really want to leave! But I am leaving because I know it is the right thing to do. The average tenure for a college president is 8.5 years. There is a reason why the tenure is relatively short in comparison to other positions of equal significance. To succeed as the president of a small Bible college like GBS, you must be willing to invest large amounts of time in both the people and the processes that make a school great. You must willingly give huge amounts of physical, emotional and spiritual energy – this is doubly true if you are concerned about the spiritual development of your students. Your creativity and vision must be fresh, relevant and forward looking. You must be willing to live with a constant eye toward friend making and donor development. We have made wonderful progress on all fronts in the last 20 years and I do not want the pace to slacken so I know it is time for a fresh set of hands on the wheel.
Who will take your place?
When people ask me this question I smile both outwardly and inwardly. I know it is a way of passing on a subtle compliment to me and I really appreciate their kindness. However, I know that God already has His hand upon the next person that will follow me. God is forward looking. He is not contemplating the last twenty years but rather is looking toward the development of the next twenty and He already has someone in mind to do the job! And in my opinion, it will be someone who can lead GBS in the fulfillment of its mission in ways that I never could! As a matter of fact, I am quite excited about the future of our school!
The school has an outstanding Board that is well equipped and well prepared for the task of selecting the next president. The entire Board has been praying and fasting and will continue to do so over the next two years. I am anticipating a smooth transition and a great future for GBS!
What do you plan to do next?
Great question! I just don’t know the answer to it yet! But I do know that the God who has led me in every major decision of my life will lead me as to what I am to do next. I do know that I am not retiring (I will only be a young 60 when I leave). I want to give the remaining years of my life to Kingdom work of some sort. I love preaching, teaching, solving problems, helping people with strategic thinking and planning and mentoring. I hope that God will allow me a chance to influence another generation of Christian workers and leaders. The Kingdom needs leaders desperately and those developing leaders need a mentor and a life coach like no other time in the history of the church.
As the clock ticks down to 2017, I will be sharing things with the Revivalist family that I hope we can accomplish together before my departure. I will also be sharing articles that reflect my thoughts and burdens for the church and the holiness movement of which we are all a part. The days head are exciting and filled with promise. I can hardly wait to see what He has in store for GBS!