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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A WORD TO THE ANGRY PREACHER

 I have always been tenacious; if I believe something, I will stand for it no matter what it costs me; I will fight until there is no fight left in me. Over the last twenty-two years, God has refined this quality (as much as I have allowed Him to) and used it to win souls and steer men to the truth. It has helped me to fight the good fight of faith; to keep on the firing line. For this I am thankful. However, at times, this trait has been a thorn in my flesh; a stumbling block. When coupled with pride, anger, bitterness, or resentment it has been very dangerous.

To my defense, I have had to do a lot of fighting to get to where I am today. I was raised up to believe many false doctrines and my departure from them wasn't easy. My family, friends, and acquaintances did not want me to leave their churches and the doctrines they held so dear. For some, it was because they loved me and didn't want me going astray. For others, it was the pride and arrogance of their hearts. After years of arguing and warring with them, I became frustrated, hardened, and even angry. I started fighting with them in ways that did not represent Christ well. And I did it so often, it became a part of who I was; I started thinking it was proper and even God's way. Because I had war in my heart, I assumed everyone else had war in their hearts. If someone approached me in any manner other than approval, acceptance, or agreement, I immediately assumed they wanted to fight and I would start swinging (verbally or with written words). And, please, don't get me wrong, I wasn't that way every time I dealt with people. If I felt the person I was talking to was sincere, I would be extremely careful with my speech and the demeanor in which I approached them. I would soften my voice; I would be respectful, gentle, and patient, but if I thought they wanted to fight . . . it was on.

It was very easy for me to win the debates; I had the Word of God backing me up and they did not. And, typically, I had a much vaster arsenal of Scripture verses to use in the warfare than they did, so I would try to humiliate them. I would try to smash them. I would try to destroy them. After all, they were the "enemy". The louder they got, the louder I got. The louder I got, the louder they got. The angrier they got, the angrier I got. The angrier I got, the angrier they got. It was a never-ending cycle and was almost always counterproductive.

When I wrote the book Absolutely Trinity! and uploaded the teaching series to youtube.com it happened on an even larger scale. I was engaged by hundreds of angry Oneness adherents. When I responded to their emails, phone calls, comments, etc., I almost always used my "righteous indignation" against them! And very seldom did that approach bring good fruit. It was pretty much a repeat of what I had done my entire life. On a side note: God has used the Absolutely Trinity! book and teaching series to bring many Oneness adherents (pastors and laity) to the truth of the holy Trinity, but I wonder how many more I could have won if my personal encounters with them had not been so aggressive and disrespectful?

Several years ago God began dealing with my heart about this subject in depth. He didn't tell me I shouldn't defend the truth of His Word. He didn't tell me that I shouldn't confront false prophets and teachers. He didn't tell me to stop trying to expose false doctrine, in fact, He has placed a very strong calling on my life to do just those things. He told me there was a more Christ-like manner to do it. He showed me how I had allowed past hurts and conflicts to open the door to anger and bitterness. He showed me that it was the SPIRIT and truth that breaks the hearts of men, not ANGER and truth. He did this by showing me 2 Timothy 2:24-26:

2Ti 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

The word strive means to "war, quarrel, dispute, or fight". It speaks of the spirit and attitude the minister possesses when approaching those he is trying to minister to. God told me to be gentle, patient, and meek when I dealt with people that opposed me because it wasn't really me they were opposing, it was themselves and sometimes ... Him. He reminded me of Proverbs 15:1:

Pr 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

He also brought 2 Timothy 2:23 and Titus 3:9 to my attention:

2Ti 2:23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.

Tit 3:9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

God used these verses to show me that I need to try and discern those who want to engage in a productive and godly discussion about the Scripture from those that merely want to fight and "prove a point". Those that want a godly discussion--those that I feel can be won to the truth--need to be dealt with in meekness and love. Those that want to fight and argue merely to prove their point need to be ignored and prayed for, but also treated with meekness and love. This is the way of Christ.

I said all of that to lay some ground work for the testimony I want to share with you now.

Several years ago I posted a blog entitled "Do You Desire a Desire?" A pastor friend of mine contacted me, telling me of a fellow evangelist who had gotten very aggravated at my blog. He had previously shown interest in attending a revival I was going to hold in his area, but, after reading the blog, said he would never come hear me and made some pretty cutting remarks about me (to his defense, he did not submit my name). He didn't know me, so when he read my blog he understood what I was saying to be a slam at the denomination he belongs to. I am from an independent Pentecostal background and he had had some terrible experiences with independent Pentecostal people. He assumed I fit the stereotype and cut me off.

In the past, I would have just shrugged him off and labeled him as a hypocritical devil, but God is changing me. I felt the Lord would have me pursue this brother. God showed me that he, too, was dealing with issues of the past, so I contacted him. I told him that I did not appreciate the things he was saying about me because they were not true. I told him that he was equating me with those that had hurt him without even knowing who I am. He responded. I responded. He responded. I responded again. We went back and forth for hours. We both spoke straight, plain, and openly, but I did not use my "righteous indignation" against him like I always had when engaged in conflict. I was getting weary and felt like I was wearying him, but I knew he was worth any effort I may have had to put forth.

The conclusion of this story is we are very good friends now! We are ministry partners, helping each other carry our burdens. We pray for each other and have made each others' life a little better (at least he has made mine better).

Kindness and patience won me a life long friend. I said a lot of the same things I would have said years ago, but I said it with meekness, patience, and gentleness, and it worked. (My brother also overcame much and learned a great deal about himself, but that's his testimony).

I'll be honest, I have a long ways to go. These engagements aren't easy for me. I have to weigh every word. I have to take a deep breath and think every response and action through before taking them. I have to go very slowly. If you see me engaged in a mindless debate, pray for me. I am a work in progress. 
I am so glad that God is merciful and patient with preachers like myself.
 (Walt Disney - Donald Duck - Self Control)

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