Friday, July 23, 2010

Being Reformed and Charismatic

I was listening to an interview by Adrian Warnock of Sam Storms, senior pastor of Bridgeway Church in OKC, where Adrian asked Sam why he was a reformed charismatic, a label that I take for myself. Sam's response explains it perfectly. He said, and I paraphrase, that being reformed and charismatic are both Bibilcal (here is the interview).

Since I wrote about my conversion a few days ago I want to give a fuller view of my beliefs so I will explain why I am a Reformed Charismatic. There isn’t time or space to go into each in detail now, maybe I will sometime in the future.

I want to give the history and reasoning behind my charismatic beliefs first. My wife Katrina has attended Open Door Church of God in Shawnee, OK most of her life. That is the church she was attending when we met; we were married in that church and still attend it to this day. Open Door is a member church of the Church of God, Cleveland, TN which is a Pentecostal denomination. I had little understanding of Pentecostalism when I began attending and was immersed quickly (I did attend an Assembly of God church in college, which is a sister denomination to the Church of God, once or twice but didn’t know what they believed). As the members of Open Door exercised the spiritual gifts I was hesitant to believe what was taking place. But as I read Scripture (I Corinthians 12:8-11) I found that the gifts that I was witnessing in this church were the very gifts that are clearly laid out in God’s Word. From Christ, to Paul to the early church you can read of specific gifts that were used under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

One major area I disagree with many Pentecostal’s is in the doctrine of initial evidence. That doctrine teaches that when a believer is initially filled with the Holy Spirit they will initially speak in tongues and may or may not do so again. I don’t hold to that belief for two reasons: one, I don’t believe that Scripture teaches it and two, I haven’t had that experience, yet I believe that I am filled with God’s Spirit.

Now as for being Reformed, that took much more time and careful study of God’s Word. I have to admit that once I came to the Reformed faith I found much peace and excitement.

To give the shortest of background on the Protestant Reformation: most of us studied about the Reformation in high school. We studied men like Martin Luther, Zwingli, John Calvin and others who attempted to reform the Catholic Church. Through careful study of Scripture they discovered that many of the important doctrines of the Catholic Church were counter to God’s Holy Word. Luther famously posted his 95 theses on the church door at All Saints in Wittenberg, Germany the 31st of October, 1517. That marked the beginning of the Reformation. The main differences the Reformers had with the Catholic Church are laid out in what is called the “five solas of the reformation” (sola is Latin for alone). These are the pillars of the Reformation. The five solas are as follows: Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone), Sola Fide (by faith alone), Sola Gratia (by grace alone), Solo Christo (through Christ alone), Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone). Each of these doctrines the Catholic Church did have and still has issue with even though each is clearly Biblical.

Another aspect to being Reformed is Calvinistic theology (better called the doctrines of grace) named after the reformer John Calvin. Calvinism seems to be what most people associate with being Reformed and know little about the five solas. Calvin wrote and taught on the sovereignty of God. His most famous work is titled the Institutes of Christian Religion. Calvinism is a theological system that goes by the acronym TULIP. This system also is called the five points of Calvinism. The letters represent the following: T - total depravity; U - unconditional election; L - limited atonement; I - irresistible grace; P - perseverance of the saints. These may not be the best titles to describe each doctrine but they are what they are famously named.

As a side, James Arminius taught that man had free will to chose or abandon God (this doctrine is better known as Arminianism) and used five points to explain that belief. The five points of Calvinims are in response to the five points Arminius used.

I do disagree with some of the Reformed beliefs, namely on their view of infant baptism (I believe in believers baptism), among others. But as whole I agree with them and name myself as one of them.

Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of my beliefs and background into my writing. As I mentioned earlier this has been the briefest of descriptions to the Charismatic and Reformed faiths. I may in the future write about each of these in more detail.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my beliefs. I know how divisive each of these doctrines can be. Hopefully any conversation we have on these will be for our mutual edification. I write about them not with pride but with deep humility knowing that I am a sinner saved by the grace of God.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Conversion

I have gone to church most of my life. During my school age years I was a faithful member of First Baptist Church in my hometown of Okmulgee, OK. A dear couple, Dola and Ina West, would pick me and my sister up each Sunday morning and take us to and from church. One of the highlights each Sunday was when we were dropped off Mr. West would give us each a stick of gum, simple I know but to kids that was awesome. I would occasionally attend Sunday nights and most Wednesday nights. I went to Falls Creek three consecutive summers during my high school years in the late eighties. It was while attending my last year at Falls Creek during an altar call that I felt the call of God to be involved in some type of ministry in His church (more on this call later).

My time at FBC was good. We had good Bible teachers in the pulpit and caring people who always were there to help. But something was missing specifically something missing in me. That something was a strong desire to serve God. I served myself first and foremost, God a distant second. Even though I knew I should be obedient to Him I didn’t.

After high school I attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK and earned a BS in Math Education. It was during my time at NSU that I fell further away from God. I stopped attending church all together. There was a Christian group that met each week that I attended just once in five years there. I attended church maybe once a semester. I visited most every evangelical denomination in town. The church I attended most was the Catholic church across from campus. I attended mass a total of three times (that will give you an idea of how little I attended church) for the simple reason that a girl I was dating was Catholic and to be with her I went to mass with her.

During these years I never drank, did drugs or curse but I wasted opportunities that God gave me to serve Him and I ignored Him. I found ways to live for myself and did just that. Yet if you were to ask me if I was a Christian without hesitating I would say yes. I think that my friends at the time would agree with that statement. Yet I wasn’t living for God anymore than the atheist living in the same dorm as me. I prayed when I needed God and for no other reason than that - I used Him when I should have been letting Him use me. I didn’t read my Bible. I never worshiped God. I was living a lie.

I was hired by Moore Public Schools five months after graduation. I was on my own, never dated, did what I wanted, never read the Bible, attended church just once and my selfishness grew. Still never drank, never did drugs, didn’t curse but didn’t obey God. To be honest God became smaller in my life and I became larger. I used my time for me not for Him. But like in college I prayed when I needed God. If you asked me or others if I was a Christian the answer would be yes. Like in college I lived a lie. I was a sham.

Six years after I became a teacher I began to date my future wife and she asked if I would attend church with her so I did (sound familiar?). During the time we dated I began to read the Bible. As I read it I wanted I found that I wanted to read it more and more. I began to get a hunger for God’s Word that couldn’t be quenched. During my reading I wanted a deeper understanding of the text so I found a Bible study program (e-sword.net) that had a wealth of information and study resources. During my study I found that I was not living for the Lord as He commanded me and all of us to. I realized that my high school, college and teaching years were wasted. I lived for me and not for Christ. I can’t pinpoint the day that I surrendered to the Lordship of Christ; surrender is something that I do daily and have since that time.

Since God changed my life I have answered His call to be involved in the ministry. I teach and lead in my church. I preach occasionally. I am involved in outreach and assist in many areas in my church. I love serving the Lord. I only wish that I would have been doing this all along.

As I look back on this path I can see God’s hand working in my life to bring me to Him. No matter where I was He kept me safe, and on the path to redemption. I am constantly reminded that I am a sinner saved by the grace of God.