DON’T YOU DARE LEAVE!

43 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

Matthew chapter 12, verses 43 thru 45; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Don’t you dare leave the United Methodist Church! You heard me right! Don’t you dare leave the United Methodist Church! Did I just upset some of you? Are you thinking: “This Preacherman has either gone bonkers or he’s been drinking the Kool-Aid of the Bishops!” Neither of these are true. My ESPN just kicked in and at least one of you are thinking: “But Preacherman! Aren’t YOU leaving? Then why tell me not to leave??? I’m confused!” Put your hackles down and hear me out. OK? Thank you!

With the slovenliness that is permeating our leadership, it is easy to want to get the heck out of Dodge. And who can blame us Traditionalist/Orthodox Folks for hurrying to abandon this thing that looks more like the Titanic than John Wesley’s vision for the Body of Christ. But then…there’s this parable of Jesus. It’s about a man who got rid of one demon, cleaned up his house, got it in order–but that’s all he did. That demon knew this, so he went back to check things out. Sure enough! It was all clean and in order–but that’s all. So he goes and gets 7 of his friends (who are also demons; I mean, who would be a friend to a demon but another demon, right?) and moves right back in. And that’s when things got a lot worse for that man. Comprende, my friends?

Sure we could just leave the United Methodist Institution and believewrongly believe, I might addthat we are finally free from this detritus and onerous thing. We might think we will be better off. But take into your considerations this thought: Where Will You Go? Oh, one more consideration: What are you going to do once you get there? If your only desire is to get away from the United Methodist Institution, you can achieve that desire. But what’s next? If you just leave without knowing the what’s next you are leaving the door open for even worse of the same-ol’-same-ol’. Remember this guy in Jesus’ story. He got out of one mess only to end up in an even bigger mess.

My fellow Wesleyans, this season of discernment is another one of God’s blessings to us. We have the opportunity to do more than just leave, we are being gifted by God’s Grace to become a part of renewal and revival across our land. To use an old term: Another Great Awakening! Whether you choose to become part of the Free Methodist, Wesleyan Methodist, Global Methodist, or become independent–do so with the faith, hope, and conviction that it’s because God’s Kingdom is on the move and YOU get to be a part of this mighty movement! And please understand that it may require you to let go of a lot of ideas, opinions, and other stuff–so that you can step into what God is doing right now.

Friends, not every generation and age has had this rare and beautiful moment of stepping out of the old and into this fresh movement of the Holy Spirit. But we do! Step away from what was–AND step into what God is doing right now! Don’t dream about leaving! Please don’t! Instead, dream about what God is doing and where He is leading us. I am applying to transfer my credentials to the Global Methodist Church–not because I’m sick and tired of the United Methodist Institution; even though I AM sick and tired of it. No, my friends. I stepping into a fresh and new movement of the Holy Spirit! I have been doing more than just discerning about leaving the United Methodist Institution! I’ve been discerning what God is wanting from and for me and where that is going to happen! I’m getting in on the ground level and am excited to be a small part of seeing this movement form and grow! You can just leave, or you can step into another Great Awakening! Your choice!

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WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING???

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.

Romans chapter 8, verses 6-7; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Recently I had a conversation with a fellow United Methodist clergy on Facebook. It was focused on a post this individual had made. It was surprisingly civil (up to this point)–still, I couldn’t help but think: What are they teaching now in United Methodist Seminaries? Here’s the screenshot of that comment:

This person compared understanding Scriptures to a 3-legged stool. The top is the Scriptures and the 3 legs are tradition, reason, and experience. Thus, without tradition, or reason, or experience, one cannot adequately understand Scripture. The primary (and often times “sole determining factor”) way to understand Scripture is through tradition, reason, and experience. Now, before you call me that dreaded “fundamentalist”, hear me out. We do not study the Scriptures in a vacuum. There are traditions. We all have experiences. And God created us to be able to reason, or think if you prefer.

But it seems that many of our clergy are using reason as the final determining factor. In other words, if it doesn’t make sense to us, or if the culture tells us something contrary, then we are free to change or ignore what the Bible clearly teaches. This is what many seminaries are teaching. Not all of them, mind you; but enough of them are and the result has been the dilution and devolution of the power of Scripture to guide us and form in us the life of Holiness demanded by God for His Image Bearers. Go back to the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool.

The writer is correct in stating that for a three-legged stool to be secure enough to sit on, it needs all three legs. And, by implication, those 3 legs need to be the same length. Otherwise it is unstable. But do not overlook the other implication–that Scripture (the seat of that three-legged stool) cannot safely support us until all three of those legs are the same length. In other words, Scripture is to be formed by OUR traditions, experiences, and reasoning.

Can I be frank with you? I know, my name is Randy. But I need to be FRANK with you this morning. Using the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool, when those who are supposed to be our Spiritual Leaders are taught that human reasoning overrides the Scriptures and that we need to change our beliefs about anything in the Bible, then the result is the chaos and soon to follow destruction of the United Methodist, and any other church that follows the same primrose path. And to my fundamentalist friends, if you allow your traditions to determine your beliefs about the Bible, then your three-legged stool is just as unsteady.

Hear me out! Yes, reason, tradition, and experience are helpful tools when it comes to understanding Scripture! But they do not determine what is THE TRUTH! The Truth is set by the Bible for all matters of faith, life, and conduct. But none of them gives us the permission to change The Standard clearly set in The Bible! From my perspective, many seminary professors took a bite of that apple Satan offered Eve and Adam, and unlike Eve and Adam who recognized the shame and mistake, they “reason” that the apple is good, and that Satan was right. Is there any doubts now as to why the United Methodist Tribe is imploding? It looks like that three-legged stool analogy doesn’t work after all.

SPIRITUAL EUNUCHS

1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 through 5, from the New Living Translation

Just the other day I was reading what a fellow clergy from my Tribe was writing about some things written by John Wesley. He took a snipet here and there, and concluded that the word “eunuch” really mean effiminate–not someone who had been castrated. Another one of his conclusions was that Wesley would have accepted homosexuals as “ministers of the Gospel”. In other words, homosexuality isn’t actually a sin. And this is not an isolated view unfortunately. Claiming to be inspired by The Holy Spirit, 2,000 years of Orthodox teaching about God’s designed Sexual Ethic, as well as the Old Testament, has been flawed.

And now, our Tribal Leadership is declaring that they are being inspired by The Holy Spirit to lead the rest of us down a path that was described by Paul in his last letter to Timothy. The result for our Tribe, and other Tribes as well, is an institution that has denied the true work of The Holy Spirit. Now, I don’t doubt their sincerity; but since when has sincerity been exclusively tied to The Truth? They have a “spirit” leading them, for sure. But it’s not the Holy Spirit! Why say this? Because The Holy Spirit will never lead us to something that is outside the boundaries of The Bible. The Bible is the Boundary Lines for us in all matters of faith and conduct. Some are denying this to be true; but they are wrong!

The prophet Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah chapter 17, verse 9: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” This is exactly why we need The Bible. Notice the words Jeremiah used: most deceitful and desperately wicked. Without The Holy Spirit we are powerless to change this! AND without The Bible as The Truth, the result is spiritual eunuchs. They are incapable of reproducing Followers Of Jesus, just as a literal eunuch doesn’t have the balls to reproduce another human being. We can be led by The Holy Spirit or we can be led by spiritual eunuchs. The choice is ours. One will lead us into a spiritual awakening that hasn’t been seen in a very long time. The other will lead us into–NOTHING! I close today’s musings with one of John Wesley’s thoughts–thoughts that are truly prophetic within the United Methodist Church leadership:

“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.”

John Wesley, August 4, 1786

BUT ARE ALL SIDES EQUAL?

How can we understand God and what He wants of us and from us? This is, call it, The Quest of the human heart. Some call this the purpose of religion. Me? I hate religion! So I call it being a follower of Jesus. My Quest has placed me firmly in the tradition of this radical man known as John Wesley. John Wesley’s Quest for God radically changed after he finally learned to accept and believe in God’s Grace revealed in Jesus. His primary (and most important) source in his Quest was The Bible.

But Wesley understood that The Bible cannot be studied in a vacuum. In his Quest he used his experiences, his traditions, and reason to help him. Now, the late Albert Outler, a Wesley historian and theologian, recognized it and coined the phrase: The Wesley Quadrilateral. (See the above pic) But now, some are using–make that MISUSING Outler’s phrase. Later on Outler expressed regrets for creating that term. And here’s why! Many have chosen to make all sides of the Quadrilateral equal in importance; even though they are not equal. If one follows the entire life of John Wesley they could see that even he did not see they were equal. By the way, John Wesley never used the phrase The Quadrilateral.

Many today want to use this tool and device in ways they were never meant to be used. By saying all 4 sides are equal creates that moment when one or more of those sides will disagree with the others. And the result, at least in the United Methodist Church, has been chaos and division. Reason and Experiences have concluded that Scripture and Tradition has been wrong. Now, if all 4 sides carried equal validity, then let’s follow our Reason and our Experiences. And the result should be no chaos nor division. Everyone agree to set aside for the moment Scripture and Tradition and run with Reason!

But all 4 sides are not equal! One side of this Quadrilateral must be more powerful than any or all 3 of the other sides. Look at the side of Tradition! When Tradition has the power the result is Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters who are stone cold dead; spiritually speaking. Or if Scripture is left in a vacuum, then we end up with Fundamentalists and New Breeds Of Pharisees; and they are not cold, but definitely spiritually dead. If Experiences are given the nod, the result is a quagmire of pain and disinformation. And if Reason is the only source? Well, look and listen to the gibberish that is being espoused by those who are using only Reason in the United Methodist Church.

The Quadrilateral doesn work because it doesn’t have a single and final source of authority. John Wesley used Experiences, Traditions, and Reason–but he always weighed them against one single authority in his life: The Scriptures! Look, sometimes Experiences do not point us to God. Sometimes Traditions do not point us to God. And dear Lord, most times Reason never points us to God; but that doesn’t meant it never points us to God–for it does.

Remember that The Quest is to understand God and what God wants of us. Experiences, Traditions, and Reason will sometimes–maybe often times–lead us away from God–whom our hearts long for. But Scriptures will always point us to God and what He wants of us. Our experiences, our traditions, and our God-given ability to reason are valuable tools to help us discover The Truth. They are NOT The Truth. That’s what Scriptures Are For: The Final Authority Over Our Lives.