Jake & Emily.pngMy heart is full! Thursday evening and Friday morning I gathered with pastors and spouses from across the Kentucky District for our annual ministry retreat. 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.jpgThen on Saturday, 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, performed the ceremony, as he is Emily’s uncle. He did a wonderful job describing the significance of the covenant of marriage.

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 7th 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 & Lilah).

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 also 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 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 walking them, I decided to walk them without a leash (another mistake). Since I’d spent over a month training them and figured the bond was strong enough for a short walk off the leash. Besides, I had worked very hard to establish myself as the “pack leader.”

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 accustom 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 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 forth 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 one’s 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 a 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 minster in the church. His wife, Debbie Owens Bohi, is the daughter of a former General Superintendent. Dan was a longtime member at 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