Prayer of Adoration

Father, we humble ourselves before you today in the name of Jesus. We praise you because you’re worthy of all glory and honor. You’re a good Father. You’re a God who makes all things possible. You make miraculous promises that always flow from your goodness and grace. We praise you, Father, because you provide love, joy, and peace that surpasses our ability to comprehend.

Father, we praise you that you’ve made us citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. We are not of this world. You promise a life ruled by a King who loves and cares for every person, everywhere, all the time. Your love is so expansive, beyond our ability to grasp. We adore you, Father.

We praise you that you’re faithful in fulfilling all of your promises. We praise you, God, that you have the power to ensure that not one word of your promises ever fails to accomplish your purposes. We praise you that even when we frustrate your intentions toward us with our sin, distractions, and waywardness, that you love us anyway. You love us so much that you cause all things to work together for good for those who love you and are called according to your purposes (Rom. 8:28).

We praise you for Jesus; He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. He is Emmanuel, God with Us. We praise you that we can have complete confidence in your promises through Christ, including the promise that one day we will see our Lord face-to-face in all His glory.

We praise you, Father, that Jesus is our everything and our all. He is the Rose of Sharon, the Lilly of the Valley, the Bright Morning Star, and the Fairest of Ten Thousand to My Soul. Jesus is the Righteous Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, and the Second Person of the Trinity enthroned in eternity.

We adore Jesus. He is the Great “I AM.” Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door to the Sheepfold, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the only True Vine. We praise you, Father, that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the One who was, and who is, and who is to come.

We praise you, Father, that Jesus came down from Heaven on the first Advent, lived His life fully human, yet fully divine. He was tempted in every way just as we are; yet lived a sinless life and paid a debt on the cross that we were unable to pay. He took the sin of the entire world upon Himself.

We praise your holy name, Father, that the veil was torn from top to bottom. Direct access has been granted. We can come boldly before the throne of grace and obtain mercy, and discover grace to help in our times of need, which is continually (Heb. 4:16). We glorify you, Father, that on the third day Jesus rose from the grave, He ascended to heaven, and continues to make intercession for us even now. We eagerly anticipate the second Advent of Jesus and we honor you in advance for the eternal reign of His Kingdom.

We praise you, Father, that though we like sheep have gone astray, rejected your plan for our lives, and refused to give thanks for your provision, you’ve promised us an eternity under your perfect rule where justice and mercy will reign forever. We praise you that we are promised the hope of an eternal destiny where we will abide in the manifest glory and presence of Jesus forever.

We praise you, God, that you’ve done everything necessary for the promises of your Word to come to fulfillment in tangible ways in our lives. We praise you that you’ve sent Jesus to seal the covenant of your promises in His own blood, so that we may have confidence that, though our sins are scarlet, you will wash them white as snow.

Father, we praise you for the presence of the Holy Spirit. We praise you for the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit as they manifest themselves in and through our lives. We thank you that the Holy Spirit still sanctifies and instructs us toward a life of holiness. We praise you, Father, that every blessing we receive from your hand stems from the overflow of your grace and goodness as displayed in the life of Jesus and made known to us through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God!

We pray all these things in the most holy and precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and for His eternal glory.

Amen.

Jake & Emily.png

My heart is full! After gathering with the pastors and spouses from across the Kentucky District for our annual ministry retreat, I’m overflowing. The Lord made Himself known to us as we prayed, worshipped, and was ministered to through God’s Word. It really was an inspiring time of spiritual revitalization.

I’ve heard back from several pastors expressing a deep sense of renewal since our time together. I am very grateful when we are able to come together for times that’s been set apart to meet with Jesus. We always leave better than when we came. To walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit we must seek intentional times of Sabbath. It’s not an option; it’s a command.

I am also thankful for Rev. Tim and Jamie Kellerman, and Rev. Terry and Melissa Wright for making this time together very meaningful. These ministers led our retreat and were very sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God!


Walking Out.jpgThe day after I left the retreat we celebrated our son, Jake, joining Emily Elizabeth Monterroso, as they united in marriage. It was a beautiful gathering of family and friends. Once again, God made Himself known. Dr. Gustavo Crocker, General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, performed the ceremony (he is Emily’s uncle). He did a wonderful job describing the significance of the covenant made between a man and a woman as they unite in Holy Matrimony.

It was an honor to be Jake’s best man. I was nineteen when he was born, too young to have a kid, yet ready to be the very best dad I could be. Today, I can honestly say that Jake is my closest friend. He has taught me more about myself than anyone I know. He’s helped me become more patient and understanding. I’m a better man today because of my son.

Saturday, October 72017, marked the beginning of something new for the Powell family. We didn’t lose a son; we gained a daughter in Emily Elizabeth. Not only did we gain a daughter, we united with another family: the Monterroso’s.

During the ceremony, Dr. Crocker pointed out that four unique cultures were merging: a North Carolina culture (Powell family), a Hispanic culture (Monterroso family), a northern Kentucky culture (Kimberly Monterroso’s family), and an Asian culture (our two adopted daughters, Kacey Xing-Yu & Lilah Shu-Nu).

He also spoke of how marriage between a man and a woman is the foundation of civilization. In fact, the first thing God did when He created mankind was performed a wedding ceremony: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Dr. Crocker elaborated on Jesus’ first miracle at Cana of Galilee when the Lord Himself was a guest at a wedding celebration. At that gathering, Jesus turned water into wine after the host ran out. He illustrated that when a couple first gets married the “wine” of attraction, romance, excitement, etc. is overflowing. Then, after some time, we tend to “run out of wine.” However, if we keep our commitment and invite Jesus into the marriage He will produce “better wine” as we grow old together. In fact, when we are faithful, the best comes last.

As I interacted with everyone at the wedding the Lord reminded me of how much we need one another. We need each other more than we’re willing to admit. We need our families, and it’s a blessing when they grow. We need old friends and new ones. We all need the connection that comes through genuine relationships.

We really are better together, and the more the merrier.

Today I thank God for my new extended family: the Monterroso’s. I thank God for my North Carolina family. I thank God for my Kentucky District family. I thank God for my wife and kids. I thank God for the connections He’s allowed me to make throughout my life, and the ones I’m making now.

I’m reminded of the words of the Ecclesiastes writer:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Hank & CashOne Sunday evening on the way home from church Heather and I noticed a sign at the local animal shelter advertising “Puppy Adoptions,” so, we pulled in (mistake number one). In the past we’ve owned larger dogs, but had not owned one in several years due to our ministry assignments and living arrangements.

We stopped thinking “if” they had a boxer maybe we would be interested. They didn’t have a boxer; however, they did have a litter of Lab/Shar-Pei mix puppies that were absolutely adorable. Two of the brothers looked almost identical. Within a few minutes of being there, we found ourselves in a room spending time with these two pups (mistake number two).

To make a long story short, we ended up adopting one of them. We named him “Cash,” yes, after Johnny. From the beginning, Cash was a very affectionate puppy; he really enjoyed being with us. He was such a happy little guy that in his excitement he peed a lot. After about a week with Cash, we started wondering if his brother had been adopted. So, I called to inquire and discovered that he had not (mistake number three).

You guessed it! We ended up going back to the animal shelter and adopting Cash’s brother, too. We named him “Hank,” yes, as in Hank Williams. It didn’t take but a few days to realize that Hank was very different from Cash. Cash thrived on our affection. Hank didn’t seem to care if we were around or not. He was sweet, but he was also very distracted and a bit mischievous.

Part of the schedule for Hank and Cash included waking up early and walking them every morning. One day, after several weeks of establishing a routine, I decided to walk them without a leash (another mistake). Since I’d spent over a month training them I figured the bond was strong enough for a short “pack walk.” Besides, surely I had worked with them long enough to establish myself as the pack leader… Wrong again.

Within the first few minutes of our “pack walk” Hank darted off after another dog. After running to retrieve him, I put him back on the leash. Cash, on the other hand, didn’t need the leash; he walked very close to me the entire time. Within a short distance, things had calmed down enough that I thought I’d give Hank another chance. I took the leash off and he did okay for a couple of minutes. Then he spotted a bird and immediately went after it. Again, Cash stayed with me.

I attempted the pack walks several times over the course of a few weeks. Each time Cash stayed right by my side while Hank was continually distracted. Some days Hank would do better than others, but most of the time it was a similar result. While Cash was only concerned with walking close to me, Hank kept wandering off the path chasing birds, exploring people’s yards, and running off after other dogs. My conclusion was that Hank was going to need a lot of extra work to learn to be obedient.

One day I sat down in the cul-de-sac at the end of the street with Hank and Cash. My neighborhood is rather secluded and this particular cul-de-sac doesn’t have any houses on it. It was just the boys and I spending time together in the quiet of the morning. Cash sat by my side on the road while Hank stayed about twenty feet away staring off into the woods.

It became obvious that Cash loved being close to me. It was also apparent that it made him very happy when I displayed affection toward him. On the other hand, Hank’s lack of connection with me was frustrating, and even a bit hurtful.

I had worked with these guys day and night attempting to train them; one was responding and the other was not. This caused me to develop a burden for Hank. His lack of response to those who wanted to care for him was troubling. If he didn’t bond with us he would be more susceptible to getting lost, being hit by a car, or wandering off into a dangerous situation. These thoughts caused me to work harder with Hank, but even after another month or so, there wasn’t much change.

The Lord taught me some valuable lessons during those early months with Hank and Cash. I believe God feels like I did when we respond to Him the way Hank and Cash responded to me. One was a source of happiness; the other caused me a lot of grief and frustration.

God showed me that the same kind of heartache Hank caused me is how He feels when we stray away from Him. He reminded me that He always has our best interest in mind; He wants to lavish us with goodness. The Lord longs to bless us, show us the way to abundant life, and walk in intimate fellowship with us all the days of our lives. However, while we may profess Jesus as savior, if we’re honest many of us would have to admit that we are often very distracted.

Like Hank, we have the tendency to get sidetracked, always looking for the next big thing or chasing dreams that aren’t God’s best for our lives. When we do this we communicate through our actions that intimate fellowship with Jesus is not that important to us. This grieves the presence of the Holy Spirit and hinders our relationship with God.

Cash, on the other hand, represents an attitude that’s pleasing to God. Cash loves me to love him; he enjoys the connection with his family. He is affectionate, obedient, and loyal (although he still gets excited and pees). The Lord has shown me through Cash that “God loves us to love Him to love us.” Read it again, because that’s not double-talk: “God loves us to love Him to love us.”

Cash loves it when I show him affection, and I love the fact that he values my affection. I love it when Cash loves me to love him. It’s frustrating when Hank ignores my love and affection. In the same way, God is heartbroken when we don’t value His affection, or when we overlook His presence, or when we disobey His instructions. On the other hand, God loves us to love Him to love us. And that, my friends, is an astonishing fact!

At various times in my life, I’ve been Hank and Cash; I think we all have. As a pastor, I’ve noticed that almost everyone who calls him/herself a “Christian” is a lot like either Hank or Cash. Over the years I’ve spent a great deal of time rejoicing over those who respond to Jesus like Cash. However, I’ve also spent a lot of time praying for the “Hanks” of the world. As a spiritual leader and one who instructs people in their relationship with God, I’ve noticed that I spend a lot more time reeling in the Hanks than I do worrying about the Cashes.

What about you? Are you more like Hank or Cash?

Are you distracted? Is your life a source of frustration and sorrow for the Lord? Is God always trying to reel you back in from chasing something other than Jesus? Do you often neglect the grace and goodness of God? Or is your life characterized by joy and gratitude in your relationship with the Father? Is intimacy with Jesus a significant part of your everyday life, or are you distracted?

Since those early months, Hank has come a long way. He’s actually sitting by my side right now with his head on my lap. He’s beginning to understand how much I love him. When we truly grasp the fact that “God loves us to love Him to love us,” it changes our perspective about everything else. So, learn to enjoy His presence, bask in His goodness, and let Jesus saturate every part of your life. You’ll be glad you did.

 

prodigalDialogue is important. It’s healthy to discuss issues, express convictions, and voice opinions prayerfully. However, when dialogue leads to continually questioning biblical truth it becomes problematic. The reason for this is there are certain teachings that are so central to Christian faith and practice that there’s no need to debate them. In fact, we shouldn’t debate them according to scripture.

The biblical expression for those who keep debating sound biblical doctrine is “morbid questioning.” This phrase appears in the New Testament as a sign of false teaching infiltrating the church (1 Tim. 6:4; 2 Tim. 2:23). There are several passages, but 1 Timothy 1:3-11 illustrates this point well. These verses provide a list of “strange teachings” that directly oppose sound biblical doctrine concerning a right relationship with God.

The list in 1 Timothy 1 includes lawlessness, rebelliousness, ungodliness, sinners (e.g. justification of willful and habitual sin), the unholy and profane, killing of fathers or mothers (e.g. hatred and rejection of authorities), murderers (e.g. hatred of our brothers/sisters), sexually immoral, practicing homosexuals, kidnappers (e.g. the basis of the slave trade), liars (e.g. those who intentionally deceive) and perjurers (e.g. those who distort the truth).

What I have experienced among people who want to “dialogue” is it usually means they want to spend time specifically debating the things 1 Timothy 1:3-11 says not to debate, or even question for that matter. You don’t have to spend much time in certain online “discussion groups” to find ordained pastors debating these very issues. Essentially, it’s an endeavor that undermines scriptural authority. This should concern us, especially when it’s allowed to continue without accountability.

The church needs to lovingly stand firm on these biblical issues. We should absolutely refuse to allow cultural shifts and human reasoning to sway us in our doctrinal positions. Sound biblical doctrine is not up for debate; it never has been and it never will be for those who are sincere about following Jesus.

“Love” is the very thing we keep hearing will be gained through this ongoing dialogue. The irony is 1 Timothy 1:5-6 teaches that “love” is what we lose when we compromise sound doctrine. In fact, minimalizing the effects of sin is the most unloving thing we could ever do. According to 1 Timothy 1, minimalizing sin reduces one’s ability to grasp the fact that God is our only source of hope and deliverance.

The following is a true story that gives us a glimpse into the far-reaching consequences of the ongoing debate of sound doctrine and biblical truth.


A True Story

In January 2016 Crossroads Tabernacle in Fort Worth, TX began praying for prodigals to return to faith in Christ. Much to their surprise, within a few weeks of focusing specifically on prodigals, a young man walked into the church that hadn’t been seen in years. Unfortunately, he was in very bad shape. He was mentally unstable, drug addicted, HIV positive, and desperately lost.

The good news is that in a very short time God rescued this young man, delivered him from his sin and shame, set him free from his addictions, restored him to his right mind, and healed his body. Today, he is pursuing a call to full-time ministry. Pastor Corey Jones and the people of Crossroads Tabernacle celebrate the miracle that God has performed in this young man’s life.

In October 2016 at The Awakening: A National Prayer Conference, Pastor Corey shared his church’s burden for prodigals and invited others to come forward and pray for their lost loved ones. More than 800 came forward out of the over 1,000 in attendance. Over the next three days, people wrote the names of their lost loved ones on a canvass portrait representing prodigal children that had abandoned the Christian faith.

Since the conference, the prodigal portrait has had numerous names added by people all over the nation. Beyond the sadness of the many names covering the portrait, an even more painful truth is that a large percentage of these prodigals are pastor’s kids. We’ve discovered that we are literally fighting for the sons and daughters of countless pastors, evangelists, and leaders in the Church of the Nazarene and beyond. While this reality is sad enough, the consequences are even more profound.

Most of these prodigals aren’t simply struggling with their faith; they’ve completely abandoned it. In the last few years, Pastor Corey has kept a written record of these pastors and their lost children so he could pray more specifically. Of the pastors who have openly shared, the majority goes on to explain the nature of their kid’s choices after walking away from their faith. Specifically, large percentages of these prodigals currently profess to be atheists and/or practicing homosexuals, and the list continues to grow.

You can imagine the heartache of these pastors. Many have shared that they feel demoralized, defeated, and are contemplating leaving ministry altogether. One pastor indicated that every time he preaches he feels the taunts of the enemy harassing him and telling him that the gospel he preaches has no power to save even his own kids. Most of these ministers have no idea that this same attack is affecting so many other pastors and their families.

It’s actually even more disturbing. Another aspect of this battle is that a large percentage of these pastor’s kids had a call on their life to full-time ministry before turning away. In fact, when the data is compiled we’ve discovered that many of them attended one of our Nazarene universities to prepare for ministry. One pastor shared that his son, who went to a Nazarene school to be a pastor and is now an atheist, won’t allow him to mention Jesus’ name in his home.

This is not an attempt to place blame on anyone; it’s simply an effort to demonstrate that this isn’t a random obscure occurrence. Rather, it is more systemic and systematic than we realize, revealing a calculated scheme of the enemy against the church.

Why share this so publicly? Several reasons: (1) To let pastors know they’re not alone in the battle; (2) To call the church to pray for a revival that reaches the hearts of prodigals and restores them to faith; (3) To identify the schemes of Satan to destroy a generation; (4) To call for accountability for the “strange teachings” in our pulpits and universities; (5) To offer hope to all who are praying for their children to return to faith in Christ.

Over the past few years numerous prodigals, who had once abandoned the faith, have been restored to a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ! There are also a growing number of people who walked away from the faith and identified as homosexual, who are now testifying to experiencing complete deliverance through an encounter with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

In Isaiah 49 there is a promise that many of us are claiming as we pray for prodigals. We invite you to join us in this battle: “Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives be rescued from the fierce? But this is what the LORD says: ‘Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save’” (Isaiah 49:24-25).

We are contending against a culture of “morbid questioning” and the Lord is contending with us! Strange teachings are causing our children to turn away from the faith and be taken captive by idle talk and continual debate (1 Timothy 1). We live in an age that believes nothing is settled and truth is relative. Nonetheless, we rejoice in the midst of this unbelieving generation over the fact that God is still calling prodigals home.


(Sources: Pastor Corey Jones of Crossroads Tabernacle, used with permission; 1WordSword Blog, adapted with permission)

 

Static - Dan Bohi

Growing up, on Saturday mornings my brother and I would pour ourselves a gigantic bowl of cereal and lay in the floor in front of the television watching cartoons. We had the rabbit ears antenna on our television set; if they weren’t aimed in the right direction static interfered with the signal. However, we were usually enjoying our cereal too much to actually get up, walk over to the TV, and adjust the antenna. Thus, we grew accustomed to watching cartoons with static.

Static distorts our ability to see clearly. It’s the same in our relationships with people.

There’s a name in Nazarene circles that elicits a lot of relational static. People hear the name and typically either respond with endearment and support or with opposition and skepticism. I’ve heard the conversations, followed the online discussions, and been privy to the criticism that undermines this man’s ministry and defames his reputation. Until recently, I have largely remained silent because for many years I too was a skeptic.

Let’s back up a few years… In February 2011, he was one of the plenary speakers for the Church of the Nazarene’s M11 Conference in Louisville, KY. Up to that point, he had been preaching around the country, but the M11 Conference was the first time many of us heard him. The word on the street was that God was using this man in a mighty way. Therefore, the leaders of the denomination asked him to speak at M11.

I was in attendance at the now infamous Tuesday morning service. In fact, I was a presenter at a workshop at the conference. I remember him preaching a bit long that day. His sermon was too “Pentecostal” for some of us well-versed Nazarenes. He talked about a baptism of fire, a fresh anointing, miracles and healing, signs and wonders, and spiritual breakthrough. He even had the nerve to say that his sermon would probably interfere with the afternoon workshop schedule. That really got under my skin… Who did this guy think he was?

I remember standing at the back of the auditorium as people went forward to pray after the service had already exceeded the hour and a half mark. I watched high-level leaders, including District and General Superintendents, fall to their knees crying out to God. In fact, the front of the auditorium was filled with people praying for the Holy Spirit to fall fresh on the church.

As for me, I just stood there… and I wasn’t alone.

There I was, in a room full of church leaders praying for revival, yet I was offended because the service was infringing on the workshop schedule that afternoon. I thought to myself, this guy isn’t even a licensed evangelist; he’s just a layman. Who gave him the right to speak with such authority?

There I stood, sorting through my feelings about this “strange occurrence” at a Nazarene conference. Then my attention turned to the back of the room. While the front was filled with people on their knees weeping and crying out to God, the back of the room was filled with skeptics. These folks were sitting in the bleachers with folded arms and disgruntled looks on their faces.

Then something else caught my attention.

One of my closest friends was about thirty feet away from me on his knees with his hands in the air and tears streaming down his face. We had traveled to M11 together. There we were in the same room; I was conflicted and he was worshipping Jesus. The image of my friend worshipping so freely brought tears to my eyes; however, my pride quickly stepped in and dried them up for me. Although I was standing in the aisle, in my spirit, I was sitting with the disgruntled folks sneering from the bleachers.

When the service finally ended, my friend and I walked out of the auditorium together. He was overflowing with joy, saying, “That was so good! This is exactly what we’ve been praying for. Praise the Lord.” While he was rejoicing, I was trying to hide the fact that I was annoyed.

I left M11 confused about the direction of the Church of the Nazarene. I felt like I wanted revival as much as anyone. I’d been reading a lot about the beginning of our movement and praying for the spirit of our forerunners to be unleashed in this generation. In fact, I’d been praying for another Great Awakening for over a decade; I longed for that kind of spiritual revitalization. Nonetheless, I thought I knew what it would look like when it arrived, and I’d determined that what we experienced at M11 wasn’t it.

Fast-forward… In 2013 while sitting in my office I received an interesting phone call. On the other end of the line was none other than the guy who’d caused so much controversy at the M11 Conference. I remember feeling anxious about talking to him. This was the guy that messed up the workshops and irritated a lot of people back in 2011. This was the guy that many were calling a “false prophet.”

As we talked, God began to reveal some things to me that I wasn’t even aware of. In those moments my heart began to soften toward this man. I didn’t realize it, but I was harboring resentment toward him and his ministry. I was still upset over the events that transpired three years prior. While we were on the phone tears began streaming down my face.

This guy shared stories about how the Holy Spirit was moving in churches all over the country. He shared the vision God laid on his heart to wake up the church. As I listened I found myself agreeing with him. I began to realize that I had judged him based on a religious spirit of offense. After that conversation, we spoke on the phone several more times over the course of a year. Each time we talked God revealed more about how I had allowed feelings of resentment to distort my perception of someone that I was beginning to consider a friend.

After the third or fourth conversation, I fully recognized that I’d sinned against my brother. Although he didn’t know about the negative feelings I’d been concealing, it was weighing heavy on my heart. My ability to see this man for who he really was had been impaired by spiritual “static.”

I judged Dan Bohi without knowing Dan Bohi.

Over the years I’ve taken the time to get to know Dan. Today, I consider him a dear brother. In January 2016, I was at a retreat with about forty other leaders. One evening God provided an opportunity for me to publically confess how I had allowed gossip and offense to influence my perception of Dan. I repented openly in front of the entire room.

Although I had never spoken poorly of Dan, and although he didn’t realize I’d dealt with feelings of offense in the past, God showed me that I needed to take another step and openly admit my resentment. I had allowed religious static to impair my vision, and up until that point, I had been unwilling to adjust the antenna. That day, the Lord provided an opportunity for me to move the rabbit ears and clear up the signal.

Since then God has revealed that I hadn’t gone far enough in validating my friend, Dan Bohi. This is a man who has been terribly misrepresented by a lot of people in the Church of the Nazarene. So let me say this, if you don’t know Dan Bohi, you should take the time to get to know him. If you’re not willing to get to know him, you should refrain from ever saying another word about the man.

I’ve heard people slander his name who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. I’ve read the threads in the online discussion forums where people literally spend hours, and even days, picking his ministry apart when they’ve never even had a conversation with him. I’ve also seen the people who say, “I’m staying out of it.” These are the ones who genuinely want revival but are too afraid of what people might think to actually connect with those on the frontlines.

Listen carefully; if you really want revival, “staying out of it” isn’t an option.

I’ve heard all the excuses: “He’s not a licensed evangelist,” “He has no accountability,” “He’s too charismatic,” “He’s a neo-Pentecostal,” “He makes his living doing revivals, but isn’t ordained.” I could go on and on with the ridiculous commentary that’s based on nothing but conjecture and gossip.

Dan Bohi is more Nazarene than most Nazarenes I know. The man’s father, Rev. Jim Bohi, is an ordained minister in the church. His wife, Debbie Owens Bohi, is the daughter of a former General Superintendent. Dan was a longtime member of College Church in Olathe, Kansas: a church that’s produced more General Superintendents than any other church in recent history. His son, Chad Bohi, is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Church of the Nazarene in Santa Maria, CA, where Dan is now a member. Beyond that, Dan recently received his local minister’s license and started the process of ordination.

Dan has been a committed layman his entire life. He served on the church board, sung in the choir, taught Sunday School, went on mission trips, and a whole lot more. He reads the entire Bible through every two months. He goes wherever the Lord sends him and tells people about Jesus. He has a board that oversees every aspect of his ministry. In fact, Dan has more accountability in his life than most leaders I know. I wish every church I’d ever pastored had ten lay leaders like Dan Bohi.

Did I mention that Dan’s ministry is fully funded? He has a team of ordained Nazarene ministers that travel with him fulltime, including Craig Wesley Rench, Hal Perkins, Dave Flack, and Jay Jellison. God has provided a way for his team to travel together with a vision to “wake up the church” a no cost to the church. In fact, if you would like to host an Awakening/Revival, Dan’s team will come to your church or district without charging a dime. All they ask for is a love offering. What God is doing through this ministry is absolutely amazing.

You may ask, “How do you know these things, Brian?” I know because I, along with several other leaders in the Church of the Nazarene, currently serve on the board that oversees Dan Bohi Ministries.

For those of you that have interacted in the gossip circles about Dan, maybe God is speaking to you about the need to repent. That doesn’t mean you have to book a meeting with Dan. However, maybe you need to simply call him and have a conversation. Maybe you need to adjust the rabbit ears and clear up the relational static.

We need revival. It isn’t going to happen sitting on the bleachers with our arms crossed. It isn’t going to happen standing in the aisle between the bleachers and the altar like I did at M11. The only way it’s going to happen is if we fall on our faces, admit when we’re wrong, and cry out, “Come Holy Spirit.”

Dan Bohi.jpg

DanBohiMinistries.com

 

 

 

Remember the methodists

The call to pastoral ministry is often depicted with the metaphor of “Shepherd and Sheep.” The shepherd is one who leads, serves, and protects the flock. In every church I’ve pastored I have taken that call very seriously. I stress the word “protect” as it relates to the shepherd’s staff. The staff was used to ward off predators and get the sheep out of precarious situations.

Since coming into the role of District Pastor (Superintendent) there have been times when I’ve been very vocal about what I perceive as “dangers” lurking in the shadows. No differently than I would have confronted those dangers in the local church, I’ve confronted them as they’ve influenced the network of churches that I’ve been called to serve. I suppose it’s my shepherd’s reflex responding to what I identify as threats.

My concerns have largely been informed by recent developments in the United Methodist Church. Many people are heartbroken over the harm caused by the lack of accountability among their clergy. The unfaithfulness of some UMC pastors and bishops has caused damage that will be difficult to ever repair, which is why groups like the Wesleyan Covenant Association have been established. I am encouraged by such alliances. Revival is breaking out in many pockets of the UMC because of the faithfulness of a few. All it takes is a remnant.

In the midst of my efforts to “protect the flock,” God recently reminded me that He doesn’t need me to defend Him. He’s shown me that making a statement and arguing a point are two very different things. So, while I’m not going to stop speaking (I’m a preacher for goodness sake), I am going to stop debating as if there’s a fight to win. This battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of this dark world and the forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6).

I’ve been very loud at times over these issues. Not debating is difficult for some of us; it’s how we process and learn. However, in the age of social media, we lack the relational equity to have difficult conversations without constant offense. Sometimes volume isn’t nearly as effective as simply handling matters in a way that isn’t seen or heard beyond the boundaries of the people we’ve been called to serve. Nonetheless, in my opinion, a higher level of accountability is needed across the board.

Accountability for ordained ministers has been a topic frequently discussed as it relates to these issues. Ordination has traditionally been understood as a sacrament (i.e. “Holy Orders”). That means the covenants taken by ordained and licensed members of clergy matter greatly. Remaining faithful and striving for unity is a big part of the job for those who’ve been entrusted to serve the church.

When I think of ordained ministry, and especially the call to preach, I’m reminded of the sacred charge that many of us carry. Think about it, preaching is a form of public speaking unlike any other. The preacher is one who has answered a divine call to proclaim eternal truths from God’s Word to a gathered group of listeners. There are serious implications involved with preaching; we are liable for shaping people’s lives with our words. The words we speak foster an ongoing Christian worldview among those we shepherd. This is an amazing honor, but an even greater responsibility.

With unorthodox teachings increasing in popularity they’re becoming more commonplace among pastors and leaders in every denomination. These issues are infiltrating our university classrooms, making their way into our pulpits, and taking center stage in many forums (remember the Methodists). Personally, I think we should put a stop to it. Every member of clergy should be accountable to the covenants they’ve made a promise to support. If they can’t they should surrender their credentials; it’s not difficult.

Some people believe I’m overreacting. Again I say, “Remember the Methodists.” We’d be naïve to think it couldn’t happen to us. Of course, I realize that nothing will ever destroy the Church; the gates of hell won’t prevail against Her (Matt 16:18). However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a great price to pay if we’re not faithful with what we’ve been entrusted to steward.

Most of the conversations that I’ve engaged pertaining to biblical unorthodoxy are with faithful pastors who feel extremely misrepresented. These pastors aren’t looking for a fight; they’re just serving faithfully and bearing fruit. Yet many are struggling with spending the rest of their life at odds with the people they’re supposed to be partnering with to advance the cause of Christ. I’ve spent hours explaining “why” the unfaithful among us aren’t held to a higher level of accountability.

The mission of Jesus is something we should be willing to die for; it’s the difference between life and death. Getting sidetracked with negotiating biblical truths in light of cultural shifts does nothing more than taint the mission of making disciples. Maybe I’m too extreme. One thing I’m certain of, however, the Kingdom means too much to forfeit a single minute debating with unfaithful co-laborers.

Bottom-line: we need a higher level of accountability. Actually, I believe it would lead to greater unity, church growth, and denominational revitalization. Yet, I concede from responding out of “protection mode.” While there are many who share my concerns, I also understand the wisdom of not speaking so loudly.

With all due respect, at times it seems like pastoring has become synonymous with “being a nice person” and “not offending anyone.” Interestingly, that’s not the model of Jesus, the disciples, or the prophets. Pastors are called to represent a Kingdom that’s not of this world, not get in bed with the world. It may be more important that we start taking a stand instead of going with the flow. Remember the Methodists.

holy-spirit

In the late 90s on our way home from visiting Washington DC in mid-July, Heather, Jake, and I were traveling I-95 southbound headed back to North Carolina. Lunchtime had passed and we were all hungry. Jake was around seven years old and he wanted to eat at McDonald’s. However, for some reason, I was set on eating at Denny’s. I’m not sure why; maybe it was the “Grand Slam.”

When traveling our nation’s highways one doesn’t have to look far to find a Denny’s; sure enough, a few miles down I-95 and we spotted the big yellow sign. We exited the highway, parked the car, and went inside. When they brought our beverages to the table the first thing I noticed was a long, black, crusty hair hanging out of my drink and flowing down the side of the glass. Then we noticed what appeared to be a couple of eyelashes (we hoped they weren’t nose hairs) floating with the ice cubes in Heather’s beverage. We decided to pay for our drinks and leave. Jake said, “Dad, can we just go to McDonald’s?” “No,” I said, “We will find another Denny’s.”

A few exits down, and sure enough there was another Denny’s. No sooner than we had walked through the door a very loud, brassy, gruff voice yelled out, “We’re short-staffed and out of ice. So, if you want a cold drink you’d better go somewhere else!” Without a word, we walked back to the car. Jake again asked, “Dad, can we please go to McDonald’s?” Most people would’ve given up on Denny’s at this point, however, we’re pretty resilient. “No Jake,” I said, “We will find another Denny’s.”

Another ten miles or so and what do you know, there was another Denny’s. The sign in the lobby said, “Seat Yourself.” This Denny’s appeared to be abandoned; we didn’t see anyone. We sat at the first booth we came to and within a few minutes, I noticed someone walking toward us with a slow swagger and a long, blonde, badly styled wig that was so bright that it glowed in the dimly lit room. It was our waiter.

His fingernails were so long that they curled under a few times; he was actually having trouble holding the pen to write down our order. Finally, we noticed the massive amounts of cat hair matted to his apron, which made me wonder what they were cooking in the back. Beyond that, he smelled and sounded like he’d been chain-smoking stale cigars. I ask him to give us a minute. As soon as he walked away I looked at Jake and said, “Let’s go to McDonald’s.”

I’ve never been to Denny’s again. Whatever it was I was craving, I’ve since forgotten. It was so bad that the memories of this incident will forever be branded in my mind. It wasn’t a food issue; we never made it that far. So what was it? Our problem with Denny’s had everything to do with hospitality. Plain and simple, Denny’s was a bad host. This occasion has caused me to think a lot about the importance of being a “good host.”

Have you ever been to a gathering that wasn’t hosted very well? Ever been in someone’s home who wasn’t very welcoming? Maybe they were rude, or messy, or obnoxious, or a bad cook? One thing is certain: hospitality plays a significant role in our relationship with others.

No doubt, there are many churches that need a lesson in hospitality. Beyond that, as Christians, we should strive to be good hosts in every situation. And while all of that is important I think the most important thing for us to realize is that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be “hosts” of the Holy Spirit. Think about it: the Sovereign Lord, the Most-High King, the Creator and Sustainer of all things dwells in you. Walking in the fullness of God requires living with a sacred awareness that He’s always present.

Inattention to the Holy Spirit is a sure sign of misplaced affection. Without realizing it we tend to compartmentalize our lives. In doing so, we put God in a box and only take Him out when we need Him. Far too many people’s relationship with Jesus remains out of sight and out of mind. They go about their lives never giving a second thought to the fact that God is with them, every second of every day, He is present.

We like our faith to be categorized instead of personalized. We enjoy buying stuff, taking it out of the box, plugging it in, and using it. We like three-point outlines, PowerPoint presentations, and systematic theology. While these things may inform our faith, they lack the power to transform us into His image. Transformation comes in the form of continually encountering a Person.

While Scripture offers a standard for practicing faith, and Christian tradition certainly informs our faith, and reason helps us make sense of our faith, experiencing the Person of the Holy Spirit offers something the above mentioned do not: an intimate encounter with a Person. We would all agree that nothing impacts our lives like our experiences. My experience at Denny’s has forever altered my perspective.

Experiential faith worries some people because of its expressive nature. While I share their concern for the televangelist types that manipulate the masses and stir up emotional frenzies, we must not write off experience as an important part of our spiritual journey. We need to look no further than the Book of Acts to identify how the Holy Spirit came upon people and radically transformed their lives. This happened before the New Testament was complete, before the traditions of the Church had been established, and couldn’t be reasonably explained by those caught up in the movement.

If one examines what’s happening in the southern hemisphere today he or she will identify people encountering God in supernatural ways. There are reports of supernatural healing, intercessory prayer that’s changing entire cities, and revival that’s stirring the hearts of multitudes of people. Beyond the southern hemisphere, there is also a growing unrest among congregations in the United States that are experiencing authentic glimpses of revival. In fact, there is a grassroots remnant that believes the church needs revival more than anything else.

We are a church that believes in the infilling, overflowing, sanctifying power of God at work in and through us for the benefit of the world. He dwells in us for our sake, but He flows through us for the sake of others. When the Holy Spirit rests upon a person, a congregation, or an entire denomination, it’s because He’s been made welcome.

Sadly, it seems fewer and fewer people live consciously aware of their responsibility to be a good host. In fact, today the Holy Spirit seems largely forgotten, which grieves the heart of God and quenches His ability to flow through our lives. I believe the church’s greatest days will come when she rediscovers the power of hosting His Presence. We must realize that there is an experience that goes beyond emotions. It’s the atmosphere that is created by the manifest Presence of God. When He shows up it changes everything.

gotcha-day

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11

“Gotcha Day” is a term used in the adoption community. It refers to the day when adoptive parents finally get their child. It’s the climax of months of praying, waiting and preparing to bring a child into their life, of which they’ve usually never met. Imagine deciding to adopt a new son or daughter and working for many months toward bringing him or her home. Finally, the day arrives when you wrap your arms around that child. That’s Gotcha Day!

September 15, 2014 was “Gotcha Day” for Kacey. We committed to adopting her eight months prior. We spent thirty-five weeks praying, reading about her, looking at pictures, preparing her room, and filling out paperwork, and more paperwork, and more paperwork. But mostly we anxiously awaited the day we were going to fly halfway around the world and bring her home. We did all of this because we felt like God said, “rescue her.”

We flew out of Chicago in the early morning hours on Saturday, September 13, 2014. Once in Guangzhou, we spent a day adjusting to the time difference, then another day receiving final instructions for what the process would entail. On Monday morning we boarded a bus with eight other couples and headed to the civil affairs office to meet our daughter.

There were over fifty couples picking up their children from all over the Guangdong Province that day. We walked in with the group from our agency. Once inside, everyone found a seat, and family-by-family they called people forward alphabetically by last name. When your name was called you proceeded to the center of the room and your child came from another room. In those few seconds, families were united with their children.

It seemed like forever before they got to the “P’s.” Finally, they called our name. From behind another door, Kacey emerged. There she was, scared to death, yet trying to smile. The picture at the top of the blog post captures this moment. Most families were adopting younger children who really didn’t know what was going on. However, Kacey was thirteen years old, and although she wasn’t that old emotionally or physically because of her blood disorder, she was old enough to know that her life was about to change forever.

She came out of the door with her orphanage director and one of her caregivers. None of them spoke any English; we knew minimal Mandarin. She was being very polite, but it was obvious that she was afraid. Who wouldn’t be? She’s lived her entire life in an orphanage. She’s been told that she wants to be adopted, but she really doesn’t know what it means to be adopted. She has no context for understanding what a “family” really is. She’s heard the words “mother” and “father,” but doesn’t understand what it means to have parents.

As the room started clearing out, Kacey became more apprehensive. Finally, her caregivers told her goodbye for the last time. Remember, these are the only people she’s ever known and they’re leaving her with two Americans with whom she can’t even communicate (other than with the iTranslate app on our phone).

A few minutes after they said their final goodbyes tears started streaming down her little face. She was trying so hard to hold them back. Her effort to smile was causing Heather and me to cry. After a few more minutes Kacey was sobbing. Then she walked away from us and began roaming the hallways yelling out for her orphanage director.

Eventually, she found him. As they spoke in Mandarin we had no idea what they were saying. Our director told us that he was explaining to her that she had to go with us for at least one night. The law in China says an orphan over ten years old has to ‘agree’ to be adopted. That means they have to sign their name in front of an attorney stating that they willfully choose to become the child of their adoptive family. However, even though they get that choice, the law also requires that they stay at least one night with the family seeking to adopt them. Kacey was fighting even going with us for one night.

The director of our adoption cohort, who also translated for us, took Kacey by the arm and gently tried to explain the rules. However, she wasn’t having it. Eventually, they begin forcing her to walk out of the building with us. They literally pulled her down the hall, onto an elevator, and out into the parking lot kicking and screaming. Along the way, our director kept trying to explain to her that she had to go with us for one night.

In the parking lot, Kacey spotted her orphanage director’s car. She ran toward it, but the leader of our group wouldn’t let go of her arm. Kacey is relatively strong and extremely strong-willed. She was hard to manage and would’ve been very difficult to drag for two city blocks. The fatherly instinct rose up inside me. I looked at our director and said, “Can I pick her up and carry her?” She said, “That would be the best solution.” So, I swooped her up and carried her kicking and screaming, against her will, for two city blocks.

All the people in our group were crying for us, we were crying, and Kacey was squalling and fighting simultaneously. It was quite the scene. As the others in our adoption cohort carried their toddlers and infants to the bus with no problem, I was literally forcing our little teenager to go. It felt strange. People on the busy sidewalks looked on with concern as this white man carried a little China-girl down the street against her will.

In all of the confusion, Kacey didn’t realize that something very important was actually taking place. In the midst of the struggle we were literally trying to save her life; this was a rescue mission. You see, at fourteen she would have aged-out of the adoption program. The China government doesn’t care if you show up at midnight on a child’s fourteenth birthday; they will not let you take them when they reach that age.

She was aging out of the adoption program soon. Beyond that, she was very sick and needed a lot of medical attention. I wanted to give her a life she’d never experienced. I wanted to take her from the orphanage to the castle, so to say. I wanted to treat her as a good father would treat a much-loved child, but fear was standing in the way.

When we finally got to the bus, I carried her straight on, down the aisle, to the very back seat, and sat her in the corner. I blocked the aisle so there was no chance of her getting up and running. She crossed her arms, looked up at me, and if looks could kill, let’s just say I’d be a dead man. I felt terrible, however, I did what needed to be done.

The ride from the civil affairs office to the Garden Hotel was over an hour long. On the way Kacey saw things she had never seen before; her countenance began to change. Once we arrived at the hotel she was astonished. The Garden is a five-star hotel that provides special deals for adoption agencies. Many adoptive parents stay in the Garden while they’re in China. As Kacey walked through the doors of the Garden she was amazed. She kept saying, “woooow.” It was literally a rags-to-riches story coming to life.

When we got to the room on the 15th floor she looked out over the city in amazement. Then she discovered a jetted bathtub; she had never had a bathtub. She wanted to know if she could take a bubble bath (she ended up taking one every night of our stay). I had brought some beef jerky on the trip; she loved it. In fact, she ate the entire bag. We took her to eat at a fancy restaurant. She wanted to know what she could order. I told her “anything you want.” Soon the table looked like a banquet fit for a queen. She had never eaten that good before.

That night, Kacey Xing-Yu Powell fell asleep on a king size bed between a mom and dad on the 15th floor of the five-star Garden Hotel after taking a bubble bath and eating a fine meal. She fell asleep lavished with the love that only a mother and father could give. In one day her entire world literally changed. What a difference a day can make.

We got up early the next morning. After breakfast, our adoption cohort loaded the bus to return to the civil affairs office to sign the legal documents for the adoption. Once we arrived everyone was again sitting in the same room as the day before. We were apprehensive that once she got back in that element she would become anxious again.

The process included going to two different offices, sitting before attorneys, signing documents, and promising to take care of the child for the rest of her life. Again, once a child is over ten years old they have to agree to go with their adoptive parents. Therefore, she also had papers to sign.

While in the attorney’s office Kacey began to have a conversation with the official. It was in Mandarin; we had no idea what she was saying, but it was obviously serious. Our director came over and joined the discussion. The attorney sent us out of his office to work out whatever it was Kacey was talking about. After about five minutes of conversing with Kacey, our director filled us in.

“She’s negotiating,” our guide told us. I smiled and ask, “What’s her terms?” The guide smiled back and said, “Kacey says you have to promise to take her back to visit the orphanage before you leave China or she will not sign the papers.” I almost laughed. “Deal,” I said, then Kacey signed the documents knowing there was no turning back.

We made plans to visit the orphanage the next week. I paid a driver to take us back to the little village where the orphanage was located, which was a couple of hours from Guangzhou. In the days leading up to the visit, Kacey kept asking to buy small items, mostly snacks. When the day came to visit the orphanage she had filled two large bags with all kinds of food, snacks, and toys. We quickly realized what she was doing. She wanted to give these gifts to her friends before leaving them forever.

When we arrived at the orphanage, I followed her with the bags. She walked into the main office, gave specific instructions as to who got what and left the bags with the workers. Then we followed her up the stairs and through the halls of this building where she had lived. We passed so many children on that short walk, many crying and reaching up to us. Heather and I were again in tears.

We arrived at Kacey’s room. Her friend that she shared the room with was there; she had aged out of the adoption process and was now looking for a job. Kacey started collecting items that were stashed in various places. Once she gathered all the things that were important to her, she placed them in the luggage bag we had bought her, then she looked up at me and in plain English said, “Let’s go!”

I can hardly type this without tears. The rest is history. Kacey now has a family and a future, but most importantly, she has a Savior. You see, a few months after she arrived back in the United States she watched the “Jesus Film” in Mandarin. In our driveway, using the iTranslate app on my phone, I led Kacey to Jesus with tears streaming down her little face.

Fourteen years before, Kacey Xing-Yu Powell had been left on the steps of a hospital at eleven months old. She’d lived her entire life with a life-threatening blood disorder that had never been properly treated. She resided in a poor orphanage in an obscure village in southern China. She would have aged out of the adoption process five weeks after we arrived. However, that didn’t happen.

Everything changed because eight months earlier God said to two strangers on the other side of the world, “rescue her.” Kacey was an orphan for over a decade, but now she’s a princess for life, and will forever be a daughter of the King!

i-believe-literally

The Bible… It’s been a source of lively discussion for centuries. It’s a shame when it moves from being a source of healthy dialogue to a form of division, especially among those who claim to represent what is contained therein.

I love the Bible. I trust the Bible. I believe the Bible is reliable. I believe God has preserved it so that His children can use it as a source for living the life He’s called them to live. How we read the Bible, however, is another topic.

There are those who believe it is nothing more than a collection of ancient documents. There are also those who believe it’s merely a compilation of sacred stories meant to reveal divine purposes. Someone who views the Bible primarily as a collection of metaphoric fairytales likely does not believe Adam and Eve actually existed, but that they only symbolize the creation of mankind. Those who write off Adam and Eve as supernatural fables also likely deny other biblical miracles such as “Moses Parting the Red Sea,” “The Fiery Furnace,” “Jonah and the Big Fish,” and many others.

Then there are those who are literalists in the strictest sense, meaning they refuse to recognize allegorical language in scripture. I’m uncertain as to what they do with hyperbolic passages like: “If your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out…” We certainly don’t see very many Christians walking around looking like patch-eyed pirates. Metaphor is used as a literary device throughout scripture. For example, Isaiah 64 teaches us that we are like clay in the hands of the potter; this is metaphor. Matthew 5 teaches that followers of Jesus are the salt of the earth and the light of the world; this too is metaphoric language. We are not actually clay, salt, or light; we are human beings. These metaphors serve as literary devices to reveal deeper meaning pertaining to our relationship with God and His call on our lives.

Personally, I believe the Bible is it’s own best interpreter. If one can understand the difference between literary genres, the Bible isn’t overly difficult to read. While it’s certainly not a mindless task, scripture is organized in such a way that assists the reader in understanding if they’re reading poetry, history, prophecy, allegory, theology, etc.

So what’s the best way to read the Bible? Through the lens of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify Jesus on every page and in every story. In fact, I believe we read the Bible irresponsibly if we’re not recognizing the salvific message of Christ throughout. Everything in the Old Testament points forward to Jesus. Everything in the New Testament builds off the foundation of Jesus.

So much for the introduction, let me tell you what I believe.

I believe in the beginning was the Word, literally. I believe God spoke the universe into existence, literally. I believe God created man and woman, and placed them in the Garden of Eden, literally. I believe God destroyed the earth with a flood because mankind had become extremely wicked, literally. I believe Noah really did build and Ark (can you imagine how much faith it took to cut down the first tree?). I believe God actually scattered people all over the earth at the Tower of Babel. Yes, I believe these things actually happened.

I believe God literally made a covenant with Abraham. Part of that covenant was to make His children like the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea, metaphorically speaking. I believe Jacob literally wrestled the Angel and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. I believe Moses literally led the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, not a few inches of water, but ground as dry as a desert floor. I believe God led the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years with a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.

I believe Joshua and the Israelites marched around Jericho and the walls literally crumbled to the ground. I believe Gideon actually defeated the Midianite troops numbering over 100,000 after God reduced his army to only 300 valiant men. I believe Elijah literally left this earth riding a chariot of fire in a whirlwind and never experienced death. I believe Daniel spent the night in a Lion’s Den, maybe cuddled up beside them, and lived to tell the story. I believe Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego hung out in a fiery furnace with Jesus and not a hair on their head was singed.

I believe everything in the historical books really did happen. I believe the books of poetry provide great imagery and give us deeper insight about the nature of God. I believe the prophets received visions from God that reveal His plans and desires for His people. And yes, I believe Jonah really did spend three days in the belly of a fish!

I believe Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. I believe He lived a perfect life. He healed the sick, raised the dead, performed miracles, and preached with authority. I believe Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, shed His blood and died on a cross at Calvary for our sins. I believe the Cross works and nothing else does!

I believe Jesus defeated death, hell, and the grave. I believe He rose from the dead on the third day and the tomb is still empty. I believe He literally levitated into the sky when He ascended to the Father. I believe Jesus is at this very moment making intercession for anyone who expresses faith in Him.

I believe everything described in the Gospels and the Book of Acts actually happened. I believe the Book of Acts provides the model we should strive for as the New Testament Church. I believe God gives us a picture of how the Church should proceed theologically through the writings of the Apostle Paul and the other NT authors.

I believe Heaven and Hell are literal places and that every person will end up in one of those two destinations. I believe Jesus will return, literally. The dead in Christ will rise first and we who remain will be called up together with them in the air, and from that time forward, for all eternity, we will forever be with the Sovereign Lord of the Universe.

I believe God still saves, sanctifies, and sets people free, literally. I believe God is omnipresent, but that He also manifests His presence in unique ways as He has throughout history. I believe we should strive to walk in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, literally. I believe we can know Jesus personally, literally. I believe we should be diligent and relentless at reaching people with the love, power, and presence of Jesus, literally. Hope that clears up any confusion.

1908hallelujahmarch

Passionate, mission-minded, revivalistic, evangelical, Spirit-filled followers of Jesus that started in a Glory Barn believing in the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit… That’s who we are. It’s who we’ve always been. It’s what makes us unique.

For some time it seems we’ve been struggling with an identity crisis. Some within our tribe lean toward Pentecostalism, others toward Anglican traditions, and many are left somewhere in-between. As we wrestle with diversity I hope we’ll remember what makes us distinct. If we ever lose our distinctiveness, we’ll lose our identity altogether. If we lose our identity, the Church of the Nazarene as we’ve known it will cease to exist.

In the early 1900s, visitors of Dr. Phineas Bresee’s congregation in Los Angeles, CA often testified of the powerful expressions of God’s glory. It’s been said, “You never saw anything like it. The people sang and shouted and stood up and said they were sanctified, and it was the greatest thing you ever saw.” These holy encounters empowered early Nazarenes to go into the world much like the believers did in the Book of Acts.

Dr. Bresee and other founders believed the Methodist Church had moved too far away from the message of holiness. They considered the Church of the Nazarene a faithful return to this essential calling. Their vision was to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the experience of entire sanctification to all of society.

Now that we’re four generations in, it may be a good time to take inventory. Pastor Corey Jones of Crossroads Tabernacle provides the following generational descriptions. Although I’ve expounded on some of these portrayals, if you’d like more information on Pastor Corey’s original accounts you can contact him through his website at www.ctgiveshope.com. Now, let’s talk about the generations of the Church of the Nazarene.


First Generation: The Pioneers

Early Nazarenes were pioneers: revolutionary leaders who pushed forward like Israel out of Egyptian bondage to Mount Sinai (Exodus 24). They were prophets: catalysts of the holiness movement. They experienced God’s Shekinah glory and were consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Like Isaiah in the temple, the pioneers had a holy encounter with a Holy God (Isaiah 6). The sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit inspired them to take the gospel to the world with passion and courage. Like the early believers who waited in the Upper Room, the pioneers experienced the manifest presence of God. Like the prophets of old, the glory burned in their bones.

The first generation began in the desert of desperation. They sacrificed everything. They lived with a holy discontent. The corporate cry of their heart reflected the desire of Moses toward God, “Show us your glory.” They were relentless in their pursuit of an ongoing encounter with the Holy Spirit. Holiness was not merely a message to be preached, it was a reality to be experienced.

One historian wrote the following about Phineas F. Bresee: “For Bresee, the only thing of importance was the Shekinah, the indwelling presence of God among the people. Shekinah, in Jewish literature, referred to the direct presence or glory of God, as in the Tabernacle, the Temple, or in Jerusalem. It is the word underlying Revelation 7:15, ‘He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.’ One of Bresee’s oft-spoken exhortations was ‘Get the glory down.’” (Carl Bangs)


Second Generation: The Propagators

The second generation of Nazarenes grew up in the glory like Joshua in the Tent of Meeting or Samuel in the Temple. They treasured it like a precious possession. Holiness of heart and life was their soul’s deepest desire. They were propelled by the vision of the first generation and believed everyone should encounter the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Steadfast in their call to proclaim the experience of holiness, they believed it had the potential to transform all of society.

If the first generation were pioneers who spoke prophetically, the second were propagators devoted to expanding the message at all costs. This generation also lived with a holy unrest. They proclaimed holiness from coast to coast, border to border, and beyond.

The second generation witnessed a numerical explosion of people and churches. Along the way, the need arose to organize and perpetuate the message of entire sanctification. Therefore, pastoral and biblical training schools began to surface across the country. Schools like Peniel were founded to prepare holiness preachers.

Toward the end of this generation, General Superintendent, J.B. Chapman shared a message called, “All Out for Souls,” at a district superintendent’s conference in 1948. This message warned of declines being experienced in the church. Chapman called the leadership to come back to the altar of prayer and fasting.


Third Generation: The Perfectors

The third generation saw glimpses of God’s presence. They heard stories about the Glory Barn, but most never experienced it in the same way as the first and second generations. The third generation spoke largely of what they had heard. They received the holiness message as a heritage to be preserved.

This generation produced some of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church of the Nazarene. By default, with a new emphasis on perfecting the message, scribes replaced prophets. Increasingly, they spoke of what they had read more so than what they had experienced. The Holy Spirit became a doctrine to be articulated more than a Person to be encountered.

This generation shifted away from holy encounters toward intellectual understanding. Incidentally, the need to develop new strategies on how to grow churches began to materialize. Until the third generation, there had never before in the history of the movement been a focus on church growth.

During this period the Church of the Nazarene began to decline. The Department of Evangelism was renamed the Department of Church Growth. Ironically, when a movement has to start talking about growth, it typically means it’s stopped growing. When the church shifted away from focusing on God’s presence to methods of perfecting the doctrine of holiness and how to attract people to a building, it went into decline.


Fourth Generation: The Protestors

This generation, by and large, has never experienced the manifest presence of God. They have only heard whispers. The stories of God’s glory resonate like folklore with the fourth generation. Sadly, they have increasingly departed from the church. Many of those who have stayed have resisted the notion of a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit.

The fourth generation could easily be called one of protest. Although that’s not indicative of all, it’s not a secret that they often dispute the very things the first and second generations fought for and believed in. They also contest much of what the third generation wrote about, especially as it pertains to the experience of entire sanctification.

I’ve personally engaged conversations where some from this generation have called revivalism a “failed experiment.” They say that the American Holiness Movement has done more harm than good. They often leave me scratching my head. I wonder what Bible they’re reading that leaves them void of considering the manifest presence of God? It seems the primary convictions of the first generation have become the main points of debate for the fourth.

Generally speaking, this generation grew up with very little manifest presence of God. Thus, they protest something they’ve never experienced. They’ve heard messages about holiness without evidence. They’ve been told about entire sanctification devoid of an encounter with the Sanctifier. There is a form, but it denies the power.

This generation is hungry for an encounter. They’re desperate for God’s glory whether they realize it or not. They’ve sought his presence out of tradition rather than experience. Tradition has left them wanting. Sadly, we have lost the vast majority of this generation, not simply from the Church of the Nazarene, but from Christianity altogether.


How do we become a Holiness Movement again?

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it…” Phineas F. Bresee preached this message from Jeremiah 6:16 as it related to the early Nazarenes. For Bresee, holiness is the ancient path. For the Prophet Jeremiah, the call to prayer is the first step.

So, here we stand, but what will we do?

Return to the ways of the pioneers. Become prophets that proclaim the possibility of an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Pray for an uprising of visionary leaders that are willing to do the hard work of blazing a new path in the spirit of the first generation.

I’m not calling for some irrelevant form of old-fashioned religion. In fact, I don’t think any of us have experienced God the way the first generation did. Yet, I believe it’s possible. Call me crazy, but I think we need the power and presence of the Holy Spirit more than we need anything else. Maybe we need to pay more attention to what’s happening in the southern hemisphere.

I’m advocating for something as new to us as it was to the first generation. If we get a glimpse of God’s glory we’ll never have another conversation about church growth. However, for this to become an authentic movement we must return to the abandoned altars of corporate prayer. We must unapologetically preach the experience of holiness and believe that the manifest presence of God has the power to change absolutely everything.


(Sources: “The Generations of the Church of the Nazarene and How We Lost the Glory” by Pastor Corey Jones; “Phineas F. Bresee” by Carl Bangs; “Our Watchword and Song: The Centennial History of the Church of the Nazarene” by Floyd Cunningham, ed.)

(Background: Rev. Corey Jones provides these generational descriptions. They are based on a vision he received in October 2010, 70 miles south of Pilot Point, Texas, 102 years after founding of the Church of the Nazarene)