“The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. ” Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever. Also, the sun rises and the sun sets; And hastening to its place it rises there again. Blowing toward the south, Then turning toward the north, The wind continues swirling along; And on its circular courses the wind returns. All the rivers flow into the sea, Yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, There they flow again. All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us. There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.”
Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 NASB
Never forget who you are. Wise advice given by many who have been around the block more times than others. Over the years, or generations, cultures change as well as political and social atmosphere. Yet as was found stated in the 1st chapter of Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
Indeed, life may not be the same as it was yesterday, last year, or in our early days, but this is the way the sand flows through the hour glass. I too have found myself looking at the world and the events in it with great concern,sorrow and even anger at times. Regardless of my own personal worldview, beliefs, and political stance which all contribute to my own reaction. Which by the way is true for everyone.
The core of the problem is that people, all created equally by God, simply cannot find peace among ourselves. It seems that every people group, nationality, religion, political party, and even individual have some feeling of oppression, or persecution from most of the rest of the world. We scream out our complaints throughout social media until they pour out into our homes, workplaces and community streets. This goes on and on until we get distracted by the next offense or wrong doing against us.
In the middle of it all, we all are fighting for the freedom to be who we are. Sometimes the problem is that most of us have forgotten, or at least from time to time forget, who we really are. For example, I just read an article titled: “Even ‘Sons of Belial’ Can be Saved” written by Christian Post Columnist Rev. Mark H. Creech. I will quote this article as follows;
“Antifa (Anti-fascist) are the very opposite of what they claim. They are the fascists – radical authoritarians characterized by despotism. These groups are like the “sons of Belial” described in the Old Testament, a phrase used for characterizing worthless, wicked, lawless, godless, idolatrous persons. They speak out against hate but personify it in their words and actions. They argue for equality, but marginalize, silence, and persecute anyone who differs with them. They are “scoffers,” hardened and at ease with their sin. God is not a part of their thinking. They believe his sovereignty is a kind of slavery from which to be freed.”
The statements made by Creech in this article some will agree with and others will not. I share this article to show that people often begin with a passion for what they believe and associate themselves with a mission accordingly, only to become something different.
I am using Rev. Creech’s comments to point out Antifa as one example out of all the many. The entire article is about that group and how they are not presenting themselves according to who they say they are. This is the point of my quoting him in this blog post.
No one, or group of people, have ever been able to truly stick to who they present themselves to be, not 100% of the time. No, not even the church! From Adam and Eve to Abraham and all throughout the New Testament accounts of the church there have been failure after failure when it comes to presenting who we are in Christ.
That is not to say that the Body of Christ has failed, I am simply pointing out that people fail from time to time. Every kind of people in every generation, nothing is new under the sun!
All of this to bring me to this point. The question must be for all of us is how do we do a better job at being faithful to who we are? Christian or not, this is the question we should all ask. However, since I am a Christian, I can only answer for myself and offer advise to other Christians who may believe the way I do.
I have recently started teaching through the book of Acts at the church. Although we are only in the 4th chapter at the moment, one major theme has demanded the attention of my mind and heart. As I study these people, who filled with the Holy Spirit, begin to function in their world in a way that they never had before, I am convicted as always.
These people, Peter and John as well as others, actually lived what they believed. Not because they tried real hard, but because they believed and submitted themselves to the Holy Spirit, they were able to BE the Kingdom of God in their world which was not unlike the wold we live in today.
Chapter 4 of Acts stands out at this moment due to the reaction of Peter and John as they are confronted by the powers that could have them thrown in jail and possibly killed. Yet they were bold as lions and wise as serpents when preaching Christ even to those who hated them the most! They did not stand firm in who they were, they stood firm in who Christ was and still is!
Sometimes, those of us who believe what Peter and John believed forget what they preached. Many times we find ourselves engaged with the rest of the world in an effort to prove that what we believe about Jesus is true and that what we believe is right. When that is not at all who we are in Christ! When this happens, we surely have forgotten where we started.
We find ourselves in the same shoes as the likes of, to use Rev. Creech’s example, “Antifa”. What we present to the world is not at all who we believe we are, or are supposed to be! The sad part of it all is that who ever is guilty of this, usually cannot or will not see it as truth about themselves.
Rev. Creech’s article is simply making the point that was made by Peter and John in chapter 4 of Acts. Jesus died for all. Every person we come in contact with is who we are to somehow “preach” to. Even those who are given over to the ways of the world. Especially those who are given to the ways of the world! The key is to remember that Peter and John, and the others, did so while filled with the Holy Spirit!
“When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?””
“But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”” Acts 4:7, 19-20 NASB
That is who the Christian is. According to our faith, we are those who are saved by grace. Filled with the Holy Spirit with a task of sharing the Kingdom of God with the world. When we are true to that, we then can be guilty of allowing the Holy Spirit do great things in the world!
One of the most difficult things for human beings to do is forgive. Many might agree that it is in fact the most difficult thing for people to be able to do. Often time’s people will carry burdens in their hearts for many years, sometimes for an entire lifetime. Many families, friendships, churches, and businesses have been totally destroyed because of the lack of forgiveness.
Also there have been many who have suffered unnecessary physical, mental, and spiritual illness due to not being able to forgive. Why is that? What makes forgiveness so difficult? Why is it that something so healthy to the human life and so beneficial in the hearts of human beings is so difficult to do?There are many people in the world today that are holding on to bitterness and resentment or even anger simply because they fail to understand what forgiveness really is.Most people’s understanding of forgiveness is not a very good understanding and some even are simply completely wrong in their understanding. You see, the key to being able to forgive is first being able to have a good understanding of what forgiveness is!
to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgivean insult> to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt> to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon<forgive one’s enemies>
God’s definition or explanation of forgiveness is simply love. Just as we saw in the Webster dictionary, God seems to want us to know that forgiveness is a choice between demanding what is owed or deserved and choosing what is good and right. Choosing love.
What forgiveness is NOT
Now that we have taken a glimpse of the definition of the word forgive, that means that we might come to the conclusion as to what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not and “easy button” you can pick up from your local office supply store. Forgiveness is not a tool to be used to go back and act like nothing ever happened. It did.
Forgiveness also is not a tool for leverage. Those who believe that if forgiveness is extended to others that somehow the forgiven now owe the forgiver is inaccurate and only contribute to the already serious problem. This is “mafia” mentality and this type of thinking is not in any way true forgiveness.
Many times we have questions about forgiveness or certain situations get in the way ofbeing able to forgive. It is important that we seek the wisdom of God’s Word for the answers that we seek.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who goes to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 (NASB)
The Problem with Un-forgiveness
Holding a grudge or harboring bitterness toward another is sort of like when a person seeking revenge sneaks to the another person’s house in the blackness of night, setting their house on fire, killing all their livestock, and turning donuts throughout their harvest field with a monster truck and walking away laughing sinisterly while eating the last Klondike ice cream bar from their freezer. All of that only to find out as the sun rises that it was his own house, livestock, fields, and Klondike ice cream bar.
Un-forgiveness can make the most beautiful person become one of the ugliest and ill- tempered people. Not only does it affect self, it affects everyone connected to self. Un-forgiveness is also destructive to relationships, more importantly it is lethal to a person’s relationship with God. Un-forgiveness is sinful. Jesus said to the disciples in Matthew chapter 6 as he was teaching them how to pray,
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, you Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”Matthew :14-15 (NASB)
Much can be written about the topic of forgiveness, and much has been written. I myself have put together a small book about forgiveness, it is titled “Forgiveness-An In Depth Look”, in hopes that it will be of help to some who may be struggling with and suffering because of un-forgiveness. Forgiveness plays a crucial role in the relationship between each one of us and God.
There are so man questions surrounding this very complex and difficult topic. I only scratch the surface of a few of them in this book. Topics like:
Why is Forgiveness so Difficult? Why is Forgiveness Necessary? How Do I Forgive? Does Forgiveness Include Forgetting? How Can “THAT” Be Forgiven?
I hope that you seek wisdom from God through prayer and bible study for the true understanding of forgiveness. There are plenty of books and articles out there which can be very helpful as well. If you choose to read my book, I pray that it will be a blessing to you. (You can click the photo to find the book)
What I know to be absolute truth about forgiveness is that if what a person understands or believes about forgiveness does not agree with what God Himself describes as forgiveness, well it just simply is not and cannot be forgiveness.
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority:whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority,or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”
1 Peter 2:13-17
I have been Preaching now for over 10 years. The early years of my life were spent like everyone else, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I had done everything from bagging groceries, back when employees did that for you, to working in factories, warehouses, construction, and even driving tractor trailers.
After getting into full time mission work, youth ministry, prison ministry, men’s ministry, and various other aspects of ministry, I found myself in Eastern North Carolina as the Preacher of a church in Martin County. After a few years there, I found opportunities to volunteer as Chaplain for the local Police Department. I had already been involved with the local fire department so this seemed to just fit in with my desire to be connected with the community.
Most people who know me well, will acknowledge that I am a person who rarely will do things the way most people would do things. This would prove to be true even in this case. I mentioned that I learned some things along the way in life, and in the ministry opportunities I had experienced. One of those lessons is that it is impossible to minister to people if you do not know them or understand what is happening in their lives.
So in this case, I decided that if I am to be the Chaplain of the Police Department, as well as the Fire Department, I needed to know what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. Most importantly, I wanted to know the effects of all of those things on them and their families. The only way to do this was for me to become a cop!
To make a long story short, and get to the point of this blog post, I enrolled in the B.L.E.T. (basic law enforcement training) program at Pitt Community College, I was an over 40 male in a class with 30 some 20 something men and women. After about 4 months, a lot of hard physical work, sleepless days, and awesome support from classmates, I was sworn in as a Police Officer with Williamston Police Department.
Just like every other officer, I went through field training and then began filling in shifts when needed for the department. I did not work full-time, I simply volunteered my time so that I could stay committed to my duties as the Preacher for the church. By doing this I found myself smack in the middle of the lives of some of those who protect the public from harm day and night!
It was not what I expected, however it was challenging and exciting and stressful at times. Not only do I get to contribute to helping these officers when they are doing their almost impossible jobs, but I also get to help the community in a way that I never could before. To top it all off, I often found myself being able to talk with the officers in the county and be available as the Chaplain. Which was the main goal in the first place.
So what did I learn after becoming a police officer? Well, out all the many things I learned about people, Law Enforcement, and myself, the one thing that stands out quite often is what we were warned about during the first day of B.L.E.T. class.
“You will lose friend, and people will look at you different.” That is what we were told by our instructors about becoming police officers. At first I did not believe it. But after I was sworn in and especially after people saw me wearing the police uniform, I found that it was true. It could not be ignored.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, looked at me in a different light. I do not believe that I “lost all my friends” but everyone treated me differently. Most of the time in what seemed to be a negative way. Most, do not even realize that they are doing it. Some do.
What I had not noticed so much until then was that this same thing was true after I was ordained to become a Preacher. Especially after I accepted a position with the actual title “Preacher”! Even then, everyone I knew suddenly had a different perspective about who I am, and it showed in how they behaved around me.
I have found so many similarities in being a Police Officer and being a Preacher. To give you a short list; There are times when everyone loves the Police. The same is true for the Preacher. There are times when everyone hates the Police. The same is true for the Preacher.
Everyone wants to say they are friends with the Police. The same is true for the Preacher. Nobody wants the Police invited to their parties. The same is true for the Preacher. The Police officer has one of the most stressful, disrespected, thankless and in the trenches dirty jobs. The same is true for the Preacher.
When society as a whole feels happy and safe, the Police Officer is praised and celebrated. The same is true for the Preacher. When the Police Officer does his/her job and exercises authority, the offender resists and fights back. The same is true for the Preacher. The fact is that there are good and bad Police Officers. The same is true for the Preachers.
So what this Preacher has learned by becoming a Police Officer is that people have a deeply rooted problem with authority! We have had it since Adam and Eve, and we always will. That is why we need God’s solution, Jesus on the cross.
Oh, one last thing I have learned that Police Officers and Preachers have in common, they both get up everyday and prepare to do it all over again, regardless of how the day before went. Because it is who they are!
Here it is October of 2018. As I had wanted to get up earlier than usual this morning, I found myself hitting the snooze on the alarm a few times. Eventually, my wife and I were up and going for the day. Naturally, I blame her for letting me sleep longer than I wanted to. Which she naturally denies any fault in the matter. Jokingly, we carry on this discussion throughout each day about something minor, who is to blame for what, all the while knowing that we are not serious.
However, there is a well established rule between the two of us which is simply that who ever is falsely accused by the other of anything, whatever that accusation was, the accused now is allowed to do or not do what was accused.
For example, if my wife accuses me of eating the last three cookies in the cookie jar and I then show her that those last three cookies have been moved into a bag in another place and I did not eat them, well then those last three cookies are now mine! This rule is intended to cause us to consider what we accuse each other of and limits the accusations.
So, my son shared a news article with me on October 1, 2018, which told the story of a Mother of a young man in high school. The Mother has filed a federal law suite against the school claiming age and gender discrimination.
Articles from News websites; click links
Apparently her son tried out for the varsity soccer team and did not make the team, the school has a rule that once that happens the player cannot return to the junior varsity team. ( click the links to see the news articles.)
I will not give an opinion or thought on the details of that situation, however I will quote my son when he said, “Welcome to America 2018”.
This case along with countless others which seem ridiculous to some and warranted by others, including such cases like the Kavanaugh case. One of the underlying issues seems to be more about the ability to bring accusation against anyone so readily and aggressively regardless of the magnitude of the situation or the consequences of all involved. Understand that I do believe that there are certain rights afforded to each of the citizens of this United States of America and support those rights.
The issue at hand is not so much about who has the right to do what, the issue is more about how society as a whole and individually are becoming so soft, or so sensitive that any sign of friction or hardship in life triggers this knee jerk aggression that demands restitution, and demands it publicly!
At first I think to myself, “has it really come to this, are we really that spoiled, selfish, and sensitive?” And then I remember Jesus wondering how long he must endure the people. I remember Moses getting advise to appoint good men to help take the complaints of the people. On and on we see this same way of life throughout recorded history.
So, what instructions do we Christians have to guide us in living in this world and not of this world? The answer to that question which I find in scripture is simply to not participate in it. I do not mean that we should not participate in life and interaction with others, I mean that we should not participate in the ways of the world.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when yo were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians4:1–6 (NIV)
This past Sunday our congregation studied how Adam and Eve were called out by God when they sinned against Him. Adam blamed God and Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. And since then, people have been playing the blame game until today.
In fact, we are getting to be masters at the game! The instruction given and what is expected by God through the scripture is that we are all found above reproach or blameless against accusation.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,”
Living “above reproach” or “blameless” does not mean living perfect. Most understand the impossibility of that. The intended understanding should be that the people of God would live in such a way that when, not if but when, accusations come, the accusations cannot stand. Most of the time making the effort with the help of Christ to live according to what we read in Ephesians 4 and Philippians 2 will produce this effect.
However, let us not be naïve about it. It is quite apparent to anyone who is paying attention that one does not have to be actually guilty of committing an offense to be accused. If Daniel were here, we could ask him about that.
We probably could study the life of Daniel in the light of the idea of living above reproach and blameless. We can not only see what it looks like to be faithful to this way of life, but we also can see the results of living a life above reproach.
What makes it hard is that this way of life, the Christian way of life, often times means that we do not get to be paid restitution for the offenses committed against us. Nor should we even demand it. After all, is that not what forgiveness is all about? Shall I point out what should be obvious?
If we all get what we deserve, well let me just say that Jesus would never have been in this world and would not have given His life in the manner in which He did. Because we all deserve what He spared us from! Separation from God for eternity. But for His mercy and grace!
To conclude, let me say one thing about this mother and her federal law suite against the high school. Aside from what anyone thinks is right or wrong, and who has the right to do what or who is offended about what, what about this young man? What must he be experiencing through all of it?
What are going to be the long-term consequences for him as he goes into the world in which everyone knows about this incident? What is this action teaching him about life in this world? And then there is the ripple effect it is going to have throughout the school, community, and so on. I do not presume to know the answers to those questions.
What I do know is that we all live in a world in which we are only in control of how we act and re-act. For those of us who have committed ourselves to the Kingdom of God as ambassadors, that is we who believe and are being saved, we have an obligation, an expectation demanded of us by God to choose not to participate in the things of the world which do not honor Him! Even if it means we suffer. As we read in Philippians 2 earlier, we are to be lights in the world. To do so, we must be different. Ponder on these words found in Matthew10:16.
“Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.” (NASB)
Like most Americans, I too have been paying attention to what is going on with the Senate Judiciary hearing in regards to Judge Kavanaugh. I am not going to go into the right or wrong of any of the many aspects woven into this situation. I want to bring attention to something bigger than the United States Government. Something bigger than all of us put together. That is the Kingdom of God.
I, like many others, constantly offer prayers to God in regards to those who are our representatives and Judges, etc. However, I am also in prayer over the many Americans who are expressing emotional responses to what is happening via social media as well as other means of communication. As they have the freedom to do. In fact, that is the very thing I am doing with this blog post.
For those of us who consider ourselves to be Christians, who have committed our lives to the Kingdom of God through the blood of Christ, we have an obligation to conduct ourselves in a way that brings honor and glory to God. That does not mean we have to agree with everything, nor does it mean we cannot do things to try to participate or influence what goes on in this nation. After all, we are the people.
So how do we do that? As always, we find our guidance in the scripture. We are instructed to recognized that all governing bodies and the people who re a part of that body have been allowed by God Himself. This is apparent in teaching found in Romans 13; 1-2,
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. “ (NASB)
Also we find similar teaching in 1 Peter 2: 13-14,
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers nether praise o those who do right.” (NASB)
There are other places in scripture that will guide us in how the Lord would have the Christian represent His Kingdom. The previous texts gives insight as to how each of us should respond to governing authorities as well as the governing authorities should respond to their authority.
Each person who truly seeks wisdom in what is “right” would take not of Jesus Himself as He taught His disciples that whoever wishes to be great should become a servant. (Matt. 20:25-28) We can also see Jesus’ example of submitting to what God has allowed when He instructed the disciples to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21 (NASB)
So, as we all watch and listen to the exchange of words within congress and participate in the exchange of words in our society, I would like to point out that the entire World is watching. Not only watching America as we struggle to remain the “UNITED” States of America, but more importantly the Wold is watching the body of Christ!
How are the Christians reacting to all of the many things that are going on in the United States of America? What does our behavior say about the Kingdom of God? How do we as citizens of this nation participate and yet maintain a witness for the Kingdom of God which is above reproach? The only answer I can offer is prayer.
The the Christian will pray before speaking, acting, re-acting, accusing, judging, defending, arguing, and so on. The Christian must pray about everything, and or everyone. Yes I said everyone. Whoever is doing or not doing whatever becomes the hot topic of the nation, they are created by the same God as we all are. They are all loved by God just as much as we all are. So much so that the same Jesus shed the same blood so that all of us, “they” and “us”, would have opportunity to escape the madness of sin’s captivity!
Many people, Christians, often say that we need God back in the White House or the Senate. No matter how much I could agree with that happening being a positive, I must point out that it is more important that God is allowed in the hearts of “the Church”! We cannot demand that our elected officials follow the will of God in their working life and their personal life while at the same time presenting a witness for the Kingdom of God which cannot be discerned from the rest of the world!
The times we are living in are uncertain and the future of what God has blessed this World with are also uncertain. The fact is, there is no guarantee that the “UNITED” States of America will ever be what it once may have been. What is guaranteed is that whatever has happened, is happening, and will happen, God sees it all. He sees the doings of those which He allowed to have responsibility, as well as the behavior of those who whisper and murmured and hide behind social media and claim salvation through Christ while acting as if God does not exist.
I will finish this somewhat “rant” by quoting the Senator from South Carolina, Mr. Lindsey Graham as he spoke during the Senate Judicial Hearing on Sept. 28,2018. “God Help us All”! So as I spend the rest of this day celebrating the 21st anniversary of being married to my best friend and wife, I say to God be the glory and “God Help us All”!
Because I am a Preacher, many people have approached me with questions about smoking marijuana. Usually, people ask me what God thinks about medicinal use of marijuana. However, there have been quite a few who have come to me to ask about what God thinks about recreational use of marijuana. When this happens, the motive behind it is that the person is seeking permission to smoke weed and still be in good standing with God.
This is not unusual behavior when it comes to people in general. We all have spent our lives trying to figure out how we can be in good standing with God while continuing to do the things that we like to do. The problem is, we cannot have our cake and eat it too! At this time, I will set aside the use of medicinal marijuana because that in itself will be an entirely different discussion.
The latest form of the question today refers to the legalization of recreational weed use in some places in the United States of America. So, the question now is presented as follows;
“If smoking pot becomes legal, would it be OK with God?” or “If weed becomes legal, would it then be considered sinful by the church?” or even, “Can a person be saved if they smoke marijuana after it becomes legal?”. There are so many ways that this question comes about. All are the same question.
The problem here is, and it always has been, not so much the questions, but the answers and the conversations that follow the question. Yes, I am talking bout the response from the church. When I say, “the church”, I mean the Christians. The standard answer from the Christian is that smoking weed is sinful.
Back in 2013 Christianity Today published an article about what the church should do when pot is legalized. Ben Tertin, the author, brings attention to the failure of the church to properly address this topic. I will attempt to not copy his statement here. However, there may be similarities in the response.
Most people, who don’t use pot, look at anyone who does as a person who uses drugs. In a general sense, that is true. Marijuana is a drug. Not only that, in most places as of 2018, it is not a legal drug. These are the two issues that most Christians tend to focus on or notice. So, when the debate comes about for them, they immediately turn to scripture such as Romans 13 referring to Paul’s teaching on obeying the governing body of the land.
Not to mention how that same chapter gives instructions about not getting drunk. That’s it! That is as far as most Christians will go in the debate! Mostly because they really don’t know what the scripture says about the issue. The fact is, few Christians really know what the issue actually is!
The issue of marijuana and the use of it or the legalization of it is not really the core issue. Understand this; when man makes a law, in any part of the world, it in no way, shape, or form changes alters the stance of our Holy God about smoking weed!
Yes, it is true that obeying the laws of the governing body is there in the scripture. But that is not the issue. If it were, then the conversation would not only be about smoking pot, but speeding on the highway, texting and driving, or even fishing without the proper license and so on.
The other argument that is offered by the Christian is that since God does not permit drinking alcohol then smoking weed is similar and therefore should not be done. Hog Wash!
First, the bible never says, in any translation, that drinking alcohol is sinful or forbidden. What it says is that being drunk is frowned upon and looked at as debauchery by God (Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 5:17-18, 1 Peter 4:3-5, 1 Tim. 3:3, Titus 1:7).
Another fact is that people can consume alcohol without becoming drunk. Which would lead us to question if people can smoke weed without becoming high. Still the problem is that we are focused on the wrong thing.
As Christians, we are given the responsibility of introducing the world to the Kingdom of God. Nothing in the Bible instructs the believers to make people stop sinning. It especially does not instruct the believer to pass judgement on others for any reason!
So then, what is the issue, the real issue? The real issue is just this; The church has for way too long missed opportunities to love their neighbor because of their own judgmental approach to taking a stand against marijuana, and any other drugs for that matter.
The issue is that the church, those who profess to be Christian, continuously depend on the laws of man to force people to “act right”! The issue is not at all whether marijuana is legal or not, the issue is that neither side of the debate is talking about what the Bible really says about getting high on weed!
What the church should be focused on is the people. Not the actions of the people. The Christian, who believes that the Bible is truth, should focus on what the Bible talks about. There is some scripture that does apply to the activity of smoking pot, drinking alcohol, or any other drug activity.
“Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” Ephesians 5:17-18
“So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” -1 Thessalonians 5:6-8
“The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. -1 Peter 4:7-8
These are just a few parts of Scripture that instruct against drunkenness. No scripture speaks against consuming alcohol. Nor is there any part of Scripture, in any translation or interpretation, that speaks for or against marijuana! However, we can see that the Bible does teach the expectation of soberness. Being in our right mind in fact being filled with the Holy Spirit!
All of this should answer the question about the Christian who wants to smoke pot. It is in fact considered by God to be sinful to intentionally do something that would cause one’s self not to be of sober mind. Drunk, high, or otherwise.
As far as those who are not Christian who want to smoke weed recreationally for the purpose of getting high, as if there is another reason to do it, it really doesn’t matter. Oh, it is still look at the same way in the eyes of God, but there is a bigger issue in the hearts of these.
Deciding what a person believes about Jesus being the Son of God who was born in the flesh and died on a cross for the purpose of bring forgiveness to all who repent and believe. If the person never understands, reacts, and submits to this demand for a decision, well it doesn’t matter if they get drunk, get high, or anything else they desire. Smoking pot or doing drugs is the least of their worries!
If the Christians will focus more on talking about what the Bible really says, and less about how to make people stop sinning, it would be drastically obvious to everyone how God would deal with all of us when it comes to matters such as legalizing marijuana.
So even though I personally believe that legalizing pot would be the wrong thing to do, I would like to think if the laws do change that my approach to making disciples would not change. So, I say that it really should not matter to the church whether this activity is legal or illegal. What matters is what the Bible does talk about. Sober mindedness, that is what pleases God!
When the struggles of life are really real, that is when the true colors of humanity become evident to the world. Often times we fall into this trap of building this false presentation of control and self-sustainment of our own lives to the world around us. Naively believing that we have created this life in which we have little worries of danger. All the while chasing after more and more luxuries and pleasures of the World.
Most of us, when we hear things like that, we automatically think of others or even reject the idea that it is even true, especially about self. However, the proof is found when it all hits the fan.
When this world and everything that God created shows itself to be bigger and stronger than anything that we can build on our own, such as we just witnessed with Hurricane Florence, that is when we are forced to deal with the reality of our frail and insufficient abilities to obtain or even sustain personal and spiritual security for ourselves.
The fact is, and we all already know this, we are not in control of much in this world. Sure, we have the free will to make decisions that chart the coarse of our lives, but that is all we are in control of. We cannot control anyone else, we cannot control the rest of God’s creation, and we cannot control Satan and his wickedness. We certainly cannot control God and His Kingdom. In many ways, we are along for the ride.
The ride I am referring to is life itself. This life we live in the flesh. The time we spend living in this world until we no longer exist in this world. Another fact is that life is short.
“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:14
Hurricane Florence has claimed lives and devastated many who may have thought that they were secure from all harm, some believers and some not. In the middle of it all, it is those who are making choices to be involved in bringing relief to the suffering and comfort to the distressed who are taking what little they can control and making a powerful impact.
In the middle of the disasters in life, it is always the Kingdom of God that prevails. The people who have chosen to be a part of the Kingdom of God are the ones who may or may not be directly affected by the storm, drop everything and share time, effort, money and supplies to help a neighbor. Sure there are many people in the world who participate in this out of the goodness of their heart, but it is the Kingdom of God which leads the way.
This is what the church is all about, this is the framework of the body of Christ. Each congregation of believers serving the Lord where ever they are yet ready to respond to a neighbor. This is classic Acts 2:44-45,
“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have needed.”
When I see evidence of the many congregations and other groups from around the country and the world heading toward the needs of the suffering, I see the Kingdom of God at work. This is who we are in Christ, this is the witness for the Kingdom of God!
“Bear one another’s burdens,and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
We all have control over what kind of legacy we will leave behind. We all have control over the choices we make and what our lives will be about. It is important to realize that all of our decisions in this life are rooted in the most important decision that no one can avoid. Are we going to live our lives committed to being a part of the Kingdom of God? Or are we going to live our short lives building our own kingdoms?
Aside from what I would think is the obvious benefits or consequences of choosing one or the other of these choices, eternal life with God or without God, it is important to see the results of each. After all, if this is all we are really in control of, surely we do not want to get it wrong!
Making the choice to enter the Kingdom of God and live this short life experiencing and representing the Kingdom of God, now that produces real joy, and blessing! Those who use their free will to choose to be a part of this Kingdom are beginning their eternal life of serving and enjoying the biggest, most powerful entity in all of existence!
This choice is not all about going to heaven after we die, although eternal life in the presence of our Holy God is an awesome part of it, it is about being restored to and participating in the greatest community of all communities! The family of God!
Making the choice to live life outside of the Kingdom of God is an option. Beware, the consequences are great! Sure, success in this wold is possible, joy and happiness may be experienced, as much as this world can offer.
At least until the storms of life become stronger or when the vapor call life vanishes away. At which point anything good will also vanish. Leaving only misery and pain for eternity. Because the motivating factor behind this way of life is to take care of self.
The choice is yours, either way the Kingdom of God will prevail!
September 2, 2018. That is the day that my wife I and woke in the morning to a foggy Blue Ridge Mountain morning. Why is that special or note worthy? It is because we had just moved from the East Coast area of North Carolina to the Western Mountains of North Carolina. Little did we know, that just a few short weeks later, we would be watching our friends and church family back East deal with hurricane Florence.
I can still remember the times that we had to prepare for hurricanes over the past 8 years of living there. I could not help but feel glad that my wife and I did not have to deal with the struggles that were still happening almost a week later. At the same time, I have a longing to go there and do what ever can be done for those who cannot help themselves. As I think and pray about ways that my wife and I along with our new church family here in the mountains can get involved, I am once again seeing the greatness of our Holy God.
I am not sure if we are always aware of the fact that our God is a God who is always multi-tasking. Effortlessly multi-tasking I might add. Some may be asking the usual question, “if God is such a great God, then why, why does He allow such hardship and suffering?” It is a valid question. One which I believe God wants us to ask and ponder over.
I believe that this question is what allows us to seek more of God. How else would we know how great our God really is? Just ask Job? I mean, it is always in the middle of the storm that God really has our attention. I do not mean to say that God purposely puts hurricanes in the path of certain areas or people, I am saying that we live in a world created by God. Nothing happens without Him knowing about it.
This world has also been contaminated by sin and wickedness. The fact is, bad things happen. Bad things happen to “good” people and guess what, bad things happen to “bad” people also. God is God and “God does not show favoritism” as Peter realized in Acts 10:34.
Just as all the great attributes of our Holy God are available to all people, so it is true about the mighty authority and wrath of God. This is NOT to say that any natural disaster is part of God’s wrath. It is only to say that God is never surprised nor is He out of control of His universe and it is those who know Him who experience the peace in the middle of and in the aftermath of the storms of life.
Having pointed all of that out, I would simply like to point out that God has made it possible for us to be a part of His Kingdom even while we live in a world that sometimes makes us feel like something is wrong. However, for those who will continue to seek Him in the fair weather days, will take comfort in Him during the storms of life.
During this time Psalm 23 comes to mind. Not really the entire Psalm, just the first verse. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (NASB) I heard it taught many years ago by a preacher who’s name I cannot recall. He explained the verse as follows, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. – another God! You see if God is our Lord, what else could we possibly need in any situation that we do not already have? If God is my shepherd, I do not want another God!
So, while we pray and help our brothers and sisters who were affected by hurricane Florence, let us remember and help others know that God is still God and that He is fully involved in what is going on in the world.
God has been leading people to travel the world and make disciples since the resurrection of Jesus and His ascension to be with the Father. Making disciples ultimately leads those new disciples meeting together as we see in Acts 2:42. From then until now as far as this preacher can tell is the way God has been leading people, not everyone, to plant churches. The key is in the disciple making.
With that being said, I would ask the question that seems obvious to me. Are we making disciples or are we planting churches? I think that the general response to that would be yes to both. Yes we are trying to make disciples and yes we are planting churches. Therefore, the real question must be, are we making disciples hoping to start a church or are we starting a church hoping to make disciples? Hopefully, those led to plant new churches in this world are truly led by our Lord or that work.
I do believe that starting a new church can have many different faces. God can start a church in the wilderness of some vast region of some country in someone’s home. He can start a church in the basement of a building in China or Korea and such places. Our Lord can also start a new church right in the middle of a dying congregation located in any city, town, or other type of community.
If there were a “problem”, so to say, with the church plant movement, it does not seem to be within the idea of planting or starting new work and calling it a church. After all, who are we to second guess or question what the Lord is doing with His faithful disciples? The truth is that every ministry or mission assigned to a human being is going to have issues or flaws. This is due to the fact that God is using His created human beings as tools to get the work done. As we all know, where ever there are people involved, there will be “problems”. Thank God for Jesus!
“But if we wal in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:7
Our Training Grounds
Because I have not attended all the Christian Universities and Bible Colleges, I cannot speak for or about them all. I will however say that the following comments are formed from my own experiences while studying at the Christian Universities to which I have been a part of. First, I will say that many great ministry workers have been trained at these Universities. Decades of God honoring disciple making has been gleaned from the work done in these places. I too have gleaned many tools and much wisdom from my experiences with them. The obvious fact is that God is and has done great things throughout the world as a result of the faithfulness of our fine Christian Universities. To Him be the Glory!
When it comes to church planting, I have noticed that these Universities as well as the Christian conferences seem to focus a lot of energy and emphasis on church planting. Many of the conferences are promoting the church plant groups who are very helpful when it comes to starting a new church. While everyone is doing great work together for the Kingdom of God, I wonder if there isn’t something missing. Many of the classes offered at the University have to do with starting a church or growing a church. Although these classes are beneficial to the student and can be helpful in future ministry, could it be that there are too many sides on the plate and not enough meat?
Simply what I mean is that much of the classes that have to do with church growth or church planting lead in the same direction and do not allow the student to have options when it comes to application. I mean really, what young aspiring Preacher or Worship Leader would sign up for classes about how to minister to the small church of 20-50 older members, or better yet, choose to earn a degree in small church leadership? It is simply a matter of following the Lord when it comes to applying what the Lord has done to get us prepared.
The Fruit of Our Labor
As I am sitting here putting these words to print, my mind ponders over the ministry that I have been assigned. I also reflect on the time I spent before hand preparing for this work. Honestly, I did not know what to expect as I entered the arena of the preaching ministry. Sure, I had ideas and thoughts, some naive and some reasonable. The point is this. I have seen many young people come out of school on fire for serving the Lord in their heart felt area of calling only to burn out within 2-3 years. Although I realize that each circumstance is different and that one explanation will not apply to all, the concern from my perspective is that in some cases if not many, the preparation does not match the actual application or situation.
Many of the churches already in existence are small to mid sized congregations. They also come with history and with history comes tradition. Although these things are not necessarily a negative element, they will sometimes hinder the application of the ministry skills and ideas which are being taught. I guess the simple way to say it is, that the young disciple makers being trained in the Universities and Colleges seem to have their own vision of mega churches and concert like worship or at least contemporary style worship, as well as being a part of or actually leading a five person ministry team. The reality of just the opposite slaps them in the face and almost immediately discouragement sets in. This sometimes causes the person to leave ministry all together and for others it can instigate a calling to “start a new church”.
Let me be clear. There is a difference between a person being called into a mission field or the purpose of starting a new work in any part of the world, than a person who out of discouragement or even ill feelings deciding to start a new work for the sake of doing things the way they dreamed it would be. I personally support what God is doing in the church planting area of the disciple making arena. However, I have difficulty with the idea that God would call anyone to abandon the old for the sake of reaching new. When I say the old for the sake of the new, what I really mean is people, disciples.
The Bottom Line
Bottom line is this. It is not my desire to point fingers an say what or who is wrong or right. I simply am trying to point out that we all are supposed to be doing the same thing. Making disciples. The great part of that is that God would use each of us with our many differences to end up at the same goal. Making disciples. I may one day be preaching to a larger crowd of people than I am currently, only God knows that. I think it is a mistake to allow current disciples, as well as teach future disciples that picking and choosing or catering to one or the other generation is acceptable. I have seen and read about many church plants that are full of diverse disciples of various ages. At the same time, I see and read about new church plants only focusing on the younger generation at the cost of putting up a big “not welcome” sign in front of everyone else.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.” – Acts 2:42-44
Weather we are assigned to small congregations, large congregations, or to start a new work, we need to put the main thing first. That is disciple making. If we are encouraging healthy disciples in our circle of ministry, they will multiply as one of my awesome mentors once told me. You see, all the music, style, building type, atmosphere, and ministry tools do not amount to a hill of beans if we are not being disciples and making disciples. Most of the things that seem to divide us are really often times a difference in what type of fruit is being produced and what it looks like. There are many disciples now in their senior years of age that are serving well and honoring God with their lives, while singing hymns and wearing suits and ties. At the same time there are plenty of amazing young people who allow God to do some great work in their lives or His glory. In the end it does not matter. I believe what honors God is that the body o Christ be united while embracing our differences as well as using them as a tool to make more disciples.
Sometimes I wonder if we are “doing” church backwards. Instead of creating a ministry that appeals to peoples muse buttons, maybe we should all just focus on making disciples first and allowing God to reveal the face of the ministry to the world!
Spiritual depression has everything to do with where a person is in their spiritual journey. Many times, a spiritual depression leads to doubts about God and His faithfulness. This kind of depression is often dealt with by a heavy prescription of prayer and fasting along with time spent in scripture.
Mental depression on the other hand, is of a physical nature. There are many different causes of mental illnesses and emotional instability. Some are side effects of other illnesses or medications. Sometimes there can be some chemical imbalance. It is even a possibility that some of those can be hereditary. Regardless of the source, many times the answer to mental depression is medication which is prescribed by a Family Medical Doctor or Psychiatrist.
I want to talk about the mental depression and its effects on the Preacher.
Depression has the same effects on the preacher as it does on any other person. The struggle to get motivated. The low self-esteem. The frustration of wanting to be productive but just cannot force it to happen. All the negative thoughts and feelings are there. All of this creates somewhat of a spiritual battle within the heart of the preacher. The pressure the expectations, on and on week after week, day after day.
There are felt expectations from the congregation and others in the community that add-on pressure. Some of those expectations are there and some are simply by products of the depression. Many church goers and community members look at the preacher and hold him to a standard. In some ways that standard is appropriate and other ways it is way too much of an expectation. It is true, preachers need to practice what they preach. It is also true that preachers are just men.
Oh, and let us not forget about the expectations from God. Yes, we all have expectations from God. If we truly believe what we say we believe then we should be living according to it. However, this creates a major problem in the mind and heart of a preacher who is dealing with depression, especially if there is a need to take medication. He will begin to question if he trusts God and at the same time remind himself that the medication is God’s answer to his prayer for relief. The battle in his mind and heart continues to go back and forth like some never-ending game of tug-o-war. Soon, the expectations that God has for the preacher seem overwhelming.
Ultimately these things are thrown in to the slow cooker known as his life. These variables mingling together battling for position in the heart of the preacher. He then begins to feel discouragement and failure at times and other times is praising God for giving him the strength to overcome and succeed each day. Sermon after sermon written and preached, all a product of the battle in the darkness. The battle between his faith and defeat. All the while doing his best to serve God and the people to which he has been given charge to care for spiritually.
Preachers are simply human beings assigned by God to a task
It is true that preachers and church leaders are held to a higher expectation by God and even the people in the church as well as the community. However, that in no way means that the preacher is better than anyone else or somehow should be more spiritual than anyone else. The fact is simply this; the man who is preaching in your church is no more than a man. A human being. That man has emotions, struggles, problems, temptations, and short comings just like the rest of the world. Mental depression is one of those things that many preachers struggle with daily. It does not mean that the call on their life should change. It does not necessarily disqualify the man from being a preacher. It just means that he is human. After all, it is God working through the man, He is the one who called him to preach.
Because the preacher is simply a human being, he has the same needs as anyone else. People who deal with depression are prescribed medication and sometimes go to counseling sessions. There are many people who can manage this kind of depression from day-to-day. Some good and some bad days. If your preacher is dealing with depression, this struggle is real for him. So just because he may be on medication for depression, or maybe in counseling, does not mean that he is incapable of preaching and doing what preachers do. After all, it is God who is working in him and through him, and it is God who called him to preach.
What if your Preacher struggles with depression? What will you think of him? Will it change your opinion of his Ministry?
Many times, when people find out or hear that their preacher deals with depression, they seem shocked. At first, most people would never have known. Usually, because many preachers have become experts at putting on a good front. Sometimes, it is because some have already place the preacher in the category of not being a good preacher. Everyone, once knowing that the preacher deals with depression, has a need to process. After the processing moment, then what? Some lose faith in that preacher. They see him as spiritually weak and maybe sometimes even a hypocrite. They may not leave the church or ask for the preacher’s resignation, although they might, but they have less of an opinion about him as a faith filled man of God. Also, there are some who see the preacher as a man. Those are the ones who will surround the preacher with love and prayers. Those are the ones who God will use to minister to the preacher.
What you should do if your preacher is dealing with depression?
First, you should know this; the preacher who struggles with depression and continues to stay in the fight, he is the one who is like Job. He is the one who is fighting to be faithful, he is the one who, beside the fact that there is a massive daily battle going on, continues to press on. He is the one who is just like anyone else in the world who is living life trying to honor God with his life.
Second, think about being that person who prays daily for that preacher. Ask God what you can do to support him and help him in the ministries of the church. Make sure you are not using his struggles as an indicator that he lacks faith in God.
Finally, be on his side. After all, he is your preacher, he is on your side. Do not allow others to bring him down because of his struggles. Build him up and help him overcome so that he can serve the lord as the preacher, and do it well.
Every now and again something will continue to catch my attention. Not really button pushers for me, just something that I cannot let stand.
In our culture and society, people have been building up common phrases and figures of speech since speech began I assume. I too have been one to use a figure of speech from time to time. However, I often wonder how much thought goes into the words that come out of our mouths. I mean, are we really thinking about what we are saying with the words that we are using?
Many times certain words or figures of speech may seem harmless or even simply something silly to say, when if researched, one might find the origin a bit offensive and the original meaning rude or even vulgar. Let’s take for example the seemingly popular style of men’s pants for example. The particular style I have in mind are most of the time really nice clean pants. The problem is that either the fitting room mirrors are broken or the manufacturers are not capable of making a size that covers the rear end of these gentlemen who purchase said pants. Yes I am aware that men and boys who wear their pants this way do so because of some cool factor or style. Not willing to accept the true origin of that particular style as coming from prison inmates making a statement to other inmates that I won’t go into at this time.
I digress. Also, I will get to the point. Often I notice on social media or even in person, believers attributing some event that happened to karma. Each time it makes me wonder if the person even understands what karma is and how it works. Do they know that it is a huge part of the belief system of the Hindu and Buddhist religions?
(in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.
destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.
So on the surface level of these conversations, there seems to be a basic understanding with most people that karma is simply, what comes around goes around. For example; if I do something bad to my neighbor, something bad will be done to me at another time. Sometimes, this idea is even tied to “the golden rule”. You know, treat people the way you want to be treated. Although this seems like a nice thought, and makes sense on the surface, what is really being said?
Notice the actual definition from the dictionary. It states that the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences. That means that the reality of karma is rooted in the belief in re-incarnation. Meaning basically, the way a person behaves now will dictate what will happen to them in the future and in other existences. Now if a person is a Buddhist or Hindi, well then karma is what it is all about.
However, for the Christian I don’t see how this idea of karma fits into who we are and who God is. After all if we believe in the creator God who is Lord of all and King of all, then how can we put so much faith in a person’s past actions to dictate or even have authority in any part of our lives. Sure, there are consequences and rewards for good and bad behavior and the whole cause and effect theory has some merit. Most of the problem lies in the idea of “previous states of existence.”
“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – James 4:14
” Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,”– Hebrews 9:27
Karma is all about getting what is coming to you based on your previous actions. Christianity has something called grace. Grace is escaping what you have coming to you because of the actions of Jesus. We cannot live in the grace of God and accept as truth the ideas of other religions whose beliefs are drastically different from that which is found in the truth of God’s word. God will not be mocked.
“yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” – 1 Corinthians 8:6
I conclude that irresponsible use of words and phrases, although possibly used in jest but most of the time not, if they do not honor God are in fact sinful. I say that because even in James’ writings we see that the tongue is a double-edged sword. Guard your words that you do not harm yourself.
The truth is, words have meaning. None of us have the right to change the meaning of a word. We must accept the meaning of the words we choose and then choose the words we mean. In other words, say what you mean and mean what you say. Especially if you say that you are a Christian.
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. The wise prevail through great power, and those who have knowledge muster their strength.”
New Year Resolutions or Commitments
Many of us each year have some things that we would like to be different or better in our lives. Therefore, we try to use the beginning of a year as a re-start button or an agent of momentum.
For example, some plan to read more or spend more time with family. Others may desire to go to church more or make God more of a priority in life. Let us not forget time-tested classic, getting in shape or losing weight. The list is endless and some are successful and other not.
Whatever it is for you, a resolution should be considered a commitment. To be resolved is to have made up or mind and to be committed to a thing. Just as Daniel while in captivity was resolved not to defile himself by eating what God said was unclean, we too should be that committed to our resolutions. After all, if the commitment is not there, then one is not really resolved now are they?
I want to point out just 2 things to focus on as the idea of being resolved. As we look at them, keep in mind this fact. If you continue to do the same thing you did in 2017, 2018 will be the same.
1 You are making a commitment to yourself.
You owe it to yourself to be honest with yourself. No one likes to be lied to so why would you lie to yourself. The only way changes are going to be made is if we are honest with ourselves. There is a reason that this resolution is on your heart. This desire to make the change or improve or stop something is there because you have a desire for things to be different. There is nothing left to do now but commit.
As we commit ourselves to these resolutions, we must keep in mind that without the commitment, (resolve) failure is inevitable. Not only will you fail yourself, but possibly even others who are close to you. This is why as a Christian I try to make all my commitments while asking the Lord for His strength and discipline.
2. As a Christian, you are not only making a commitment to yourself but also to God.
For those of us who are Christians, we need to understand that not only are we making these resolutions because we desire changes in our lives but we desire to honor God. We are not only making commitments to ourselves but also to God.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” Colossians 3:23
It is often time commendable when a person commits to a task and then works hard to be successful. In doing so, they stay true to themselves and represent themselves well, but what about God? Where does God fit into all of this? The point is this. We can all work hard on the first point made here. We can stay true to ourselves and even be successful. We may even feel proud of ourselves for the success achieved from all the hard work and commitment. But what about God? Where does He fit in?
As Christians, our main goal is to glorify God with all things in our lives. When we make promises to ourselves and others, the World is watching to see if we follow through. It is not sinful to fail nor does it even dishonor God. We must keep in our hearts and minds how our commitment level affects our witness as Christians. If we are not honest with ourselves, the World will assume that we are not honest people period. This is why we should work at everything as if we are working for the Lord. After all, we are.
Let me finish by saying this. We are all but human beings. We have strengths and weaknesses and good days and bad. There is never a time that we do not need God involved in what we are doing. My advise this year would be to commit your works to God and ask for His strength and courage. He will be faithful.
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3
When the weather causes church service to be cancelled, what is your reaction? How does it make you feel? Are you excited that you now have another free day to do other things, or are you disappointed that something important is now missing? Maybe both. Either way, here are some thoughts you might consider.
Do not forsake meeting together!
Hebrews 10:25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Let me just say it, NO you are not going to hell if you miss Sunday morning church service. If going to church on Sunday morning is about putting in your time so God will be happy with you or so that others will see how great of a Christian you are, well then you have missed the purpose of Sunday morning gatherings.
Yes, God intends for His church to gather to worship and serve together on a regular basis. In fact, no one can be part of the body of Christ without being a part of the fellowship of believers. But the thought that “cancelling” church service due to bad weather and safety issues is somehow wrong or even sinful is simply ridiculous!
It is not so much about the act of attendance as it is about the hearts desire to attend. In fact, if our hearts are truly in tune with what we read in Hebrews 10:25, a feeling of disappointment would be evident in our hearts more than that of excitement of suddenly having one more free day in our life!
If gathering together is “cancelled”, is our worship “cancelled”?
Job 1:5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.
NOTICE! Just because church service is cancelled does not have to mean that our “worship” is cancelled. That’s right. Look at Job or example. We can see in Job 1:5 where Job took responsibility or making sure that he and his family were in good standing with the Lord.
The question that this verse hopefully brings to our hearts is one that is challenging and necessary. The question, am I and my family in right standing with God? We see that Job offered burnt offerings early in the morning and that it was his regular custom.
What is our regular custom? Do we escort our family before the Lord in prayer and worship early in the morning? Is our regular time of corporate worship on Sunday morning all there is? And, if it get’s cancelled, oh well.
Let’s face it, if we cannot worship with our family members or alone, are we really worshipping when we go to church on Sunday morning?
Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Luke 5:16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
We can see in these verses that Jesus often slipped away and prayed. I have to believe that this should be a hint to us that time with God in prayer and worship is vital. After all, if Jesus who was human and yet God had a need to worship the Father in prayer, who are we to think that we can get by without it?
The bottom line is this. If we are unable or choose not to participate in personal prayer and worship, we are certainly not going to be able to genuinely worship Him at a Sunday morning church service.
Furthermore, if we are unable to genuinely join our own household in worship and prayer in our homes, we are certainly not going to be able to genuinely worship Him at a Sunday morning church service.
If we have forsaken the meeting together with God on a personal level, we also have forsaken the meeting together as a congregation.
I we have forsaken the meeting together as a family/household with God, we also have forsaken the meeting together as a congregation.
Simply said, just because a church worship service has been cancelled does not mean your worship has to be cancelled.
I could write out everything I believe and teach about what the Bible teaches about Baptism but I chose instead to share with you a writing that was produced by a fellow Preacher. Kurt Honican of Lexington, KY who happened to be used by God to usher me into the ministry along with a few other brothers is now preaching in Eastern North Carolina at Christian Chapel Church of Christ. Since he produced this document about what we teach about baptism it seemed silly for me to re-write the same things so with his permission, here it is.
What Does the Bible Say About Baptism?
Personal Response Inventory:
Realizing that God loves me and created me to have a personal relationship with Him, and that my sin makes me guilty and separates me from God– I have responded in the following ways:
I BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for me upon the cross.
I have REPENTED of my sins, turning from my old way of living to God.
I have publicly CONFESSED Jesus to be the Lord (Leader) and Savior (Forgiver) of my life.
I have been BAPTIZED (immersed) in obedience to Christ’s example and command.
Commonly Asked Questions about Baptism
Many of the people who come to our church come from backgrounds where baptism was not taught or emphasized. Several questions seem to surface repeatedly. Some of the most common are dealt with below:
What is the meaning of Baptism?
*It illustrates Christ’s burial and resurrection
“Christ died for our sins… He was buried… and He rose again.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
“For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ.” (Colossians 2:12)
* It illustrates my new life as a Christian
“By our baptism then, we were buried with Him and shared His death, in order that , just as Christ was raised from the dead… so also we may live a new life!” (Romans 6:4)
* Baptism does not MAKE you a believer– you are baptized because you are a believer in Jesus Christ. The act of baptism alone doesn’t “save” you. Christian baptism is preceded by personal faith/trust in Christ and is coupled with confession and repentance.
“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved. But he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
“Repent and be baptized… for the forgiveness of you sins.”
“As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the man said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?’ Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ The man answered, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God.’ And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the man went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8:36-38)
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10: 9-10)
* Baptism is like a wedding ring: it’s the outward symbol of the commitment you make in your heart. It is the pledge of a covenant relationship with God.
“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also– not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)
2. Who Should Be Baptized?
* Every person who has believed in Christ
“Those who believe and accepted his message were baptized…” (Acts 2:41)
“Simon himself believed and was baptized.” (Acts 8:13)
“But when they believed Philip as he preached the Good News… and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women.” (Acts 8:12)
3. Why Should I Be Baptized?
* Because you want to follow the EXAMPLE of CHRIST.
“At that time, Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the river.” (Mark 1:9)
*Because Christ COMMANDS it!
“Jesus said, ‘Go then, to all the people everywhere and make them disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28: 19-20)
* Because it demonstrates you are a BELIEVER.
“…many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)
* Because OBEYING Christ’s command shows you know Him.
“We know that we have come to know him, if we obey His commands.” (1 John 2:3)
* Because it is the appeal to God for a CLEAN conscience.
“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also– not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves yo by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)
*Because it UNITES me with Christ in a very special way.
“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 6: 26-27)
4. Why do you baptize by immersion and not sprinkling or pouring?
The original language in which the New Testament was written was Greek. When Paul and others wrote with reference to baptism, they always used a word in the Greek that meant, “to dip, submerge, or immerse” which was “baptizo”.
When Jesus was baptized, the Bible uses the Greek word baptizo to describe that event. When Jesus commanded that His disciples be baptized, he used the Greek word baptizo to instruct then how to do it. Every baptism recorded in the New Testament was by immersion, consistently using the Greek word baptizo to decscribe the event.
Example: “then both Philip and the man went down into the water an Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water…” (Acts 8:38-39)
Other words in the Greek language mean, “to sprinkle or pour.” If the writers had viewed these as acceptable modes of baptism they would have chosen the appropriate words. Instead, they specified immersion.
Immersion was the commonly accepted form of baptism in the church for hundreds of years. It was only in later centuries that men began to substitute other modes.
Jesus was baptized –by being immersed in water.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, He came up out of the water.” (Matt. 3:16)
· Every baptism in the New Testament was by immersion.
The Apostles, consistent with Jesus’ example and command, instructed new believers to be immersed into Christ, using the Greek word baptizo to describe the action.
Example: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
It is the best way to picture a burial and resurrection!
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead… we, too, may have new life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
Consider the statements from the founders of three denominations:
Martin Luther (Lutheran Church): “I would have those who are to be baptized to be entirely immersed, as the work imparts and mystery signifies.”
John Calvin (Presbyterian): “The word ‘baptize’ signifies to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church.”
John Wesley (Methodist): “Buried with Him, alludes to baptizing by immersion according to the custom of the first church.”
5. Do you baptize Infants?
In order to address the question of infant baptism, one must first ask about the nature of human beings in general. The question is this: is each of us bourn with the mark of sin already on our lives? … or are we a “clean slate”, and not viewed by God as “sinful” until we are old enough to personally choose to act in opposition with what we know God has commanded?
We believe that the Bible teaches that we all have a “sin nature”. That is to say that we all have a “tendency toward sin”. However, we believe that a just God does not hold us accountable for sin until we are old enough to understand that we are in rebellion against Him. When one reaches the age where he or she is old enough to realize that he/she is a sinner, then we call them to accept Christ who paid the penalty for our sins on the cross.
In the Bible, we find parents bringing their children to Jesus. He held them, prayed for them, blessed them, and told His disciples to welcome them. But he did not baptize them, and he did not tell any else to baptize them. Biblically speaking, baptism is appropriate only for those who have a made a personal decision to trust in Christ alone for their salvation.
At this church, we will not baptize a child unless they are mature enough to place their faith in Christ and understand the true meaning of baptism and receiving Christ as their Lord and Savior.
We realize that many parents have had their newborn children baptized for reasons of making a public declaration of their intent to raise the child to know God. Some churches practice a “baptism of confirmation” for children. This ceremony is intended to be a covenant between the parents and God on the behalf of the child. The parents promise to raise their child in the faith until the child is old enough to make his own personal confession of Christ. This custom began about 300 years after the Bible was completed. This is different from the baptism talked about in the Bible, which was only for those old enough to believe and make a personal and informed decision to accept Jesus Christ. We think this is admirable but unnecessary in that we do not believe that an infant is a sinner; therefore an infant is not in need of obeying the Biblical command to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). The purpose is to publicly confess you personal sinfulness and give authority of your life to Christ. At this church, it is expected that every member must have been baptized the way Jesus demonstrated, even though a person may have been “confirmed” as a child.
6. What about those who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior but have never been immersed?
The difficulty in answering this question is the silence of the Bible on this subject. In the first century, where the events and doctrine of the early church were explained, there was no one in the situation of accepting Christ without being baptized. In fact, there was no one like this until recent times. In the early church everyone who gave his life to Christ was baptized.
The closest example we might find in the Scriptures of a man to whom this question applied was Apollos (Acts 18: 24-26). Apollos was a very spiritual man who had a great fervor about his relationship to Jesus. He had been taught incorrectly concerning baptism. He knew only John’s baptism, which was a baptism of repentance and preparation for the coming Messiah. He was not familiar with Christian baptism as it was taught by the Apostles and early church leaders. When Priscilla and Aquilla taught him, the Bible says he was willing to change his ideas and submit to Christian baptism-baptism into Christ.
Perhaps the crucial question is, “Why NOT be baptized?” What does one have to lose by doing so? Some feel that baptism after years in the church indicates that they were not really Christians previously. This does not seem to be the attitude of Apollos when he realized more accurately the way of the Lord. We have no record that he concerned himself with the past at all. He was simply glad to move ahead.
7. Does Baptism actually save a person?
The Bible teaches that Christ alone saves. Acts 4:12 states that salvation is found “in no other” than Jesus Christ. However,, receiving Christ necessitates some response on our part. The Bible makes it clear that our response should include faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. Each is important. None is more important than the other. These are the ways we express the fact that we have trusted Christ for salvation. They do not save us, Christ does, but each is mentioned in reference to salvation in the Scriptures.
When people accepted Christ as Savior in the New Testament times they BELIEVED in HIM (Acts 16-31), they REPENTED of their sins (Acts 2:38), they CONFESSED Christ as Lord (Matt. 16:16-18, Romans 10: 9-10), and they were BAPTIZED (Matt. 28: 19-20, Acts 2:38-41, Acts 8:36-38).
We feel that our role as Christians is to teach people to do the same things that the Apostles taught people to do. Some argue about “at which point” are you saved? Instead we simply repeat the command of Scripture that people who would accept Christ should: BELIEVE, REPENT, CONFESS, AND BE BAPTIZED. Throughout Scripture, we see that these were immediate responses to the Gospel and so they all happened within moment of each other. We encourage all who seek the Lord to follow the pattern set by scripture and in doing so we can say that we followed the instructions set forth in Scripture. Any judgment about anyone who has followed a different pattern belongs only to God. We believe that we will all give an account to God about our response to His teachings.
8. Isn’t baptism just a “work”? And, doesn’t the Bible say that “we are not saved by works”?
Baptism is not a “work”; it’s a response of one’s faith to Jesus Christ. It is a demonstration of one’s commitment to the Lordship of Christ and obedience to His commands. Again, we are saved by TRUST IN CHRIST ALONE, HOWEVER, THE Bible has given us clear ways to “act out” and demonstrate our faith. Baptism is one of them. We don’t baptize into membership. We baptize into Christ. Baptism into Christ makes it an act of faith. The only “work” happening in the baptistery is the justifying “work” of God.
9. Are you saying that those who are not baptized are not Christians?
According to what we read in the Bible, there is a plan of Salvation that by both direct command and precedent is clearly stated. We are simply teaching the Scriptures. Again, God alone judges and to Him we are accountable. We preach through believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized.
10. Why can’t I be a member of the church and not be baptized?
The elders and preacher of our Williamston Church of Christ are responsible to God for the doctrine we teach. Our interest is in leading our people to lives of godliness and growth in Christ. The position we have taken is that baptism was an ordinance in the New Testament church. Everyone seeking to return to Biblical standards, we feel that we should simply “do what they did” and “teach what they taught” in the Scriptures. Baptism is too important a doctrine for us to compromise. We realize that not everyone agrees as to its importance, but again, as leaders we are called to shepherd as the Bible instructs us. Thus we believe that members of our church should hold an elevated view of baptism and not take it lightly.
11. When should I be baptized?
As soon as you have believed.
“Those who accepted his message were baptized…that day.” (Acts 2:41)
“Then Philip began with the scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water, and the man said, ‘Look, here is water! Why shouldn’t I be baptized right now?’ Philip said, ‘If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So they went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8:35-38)
There is no reason to delay. As soon as you have decided to receive Christ into your life, you can and should be baptized. If you wait until you are “perfect”, you’ll never feel “good enough”!
12. Can my family be baptized together?
YES! If each family member understands fully the meaning of baptism, and each one has personally placed his/her trust in Christ for salvation, we encourage families to be baptized at the same time. It is a wonderful expression of commitment. Young children who wish to be baptized are asked to meet with the preacher.
However, it is important to remember that baptism is a personal decision, not a family tradition. It is not Scriptural to delay your baptism while waiting on other family members to make their own decision to accept Christ, particularly children. This puts an undue pressure on them, and delays your obedience and response to Christ.
Written by: Kurt Honican of Christian Chapel Church of Christ
I hope this article has given you a better understanding of what baptism is all about. If you have any questions or comments feel free to ask. Also feel free to share this with friends and family as well. God bless!
As I was browsing through my Facebook feed, I came across a meme that caught my attention, which is not surprising because that is what memes are supposed to do.
However, this is my response to the post simply because it provoked a need to respond with my thoughts. The following is the meme posted on Facebook.
There are a few statements being made in this meme. Although the overall statement that is being made here is one that I will disagree with, there are one, maybe two that I might agree with or at least not reject totally.
Before I talk about the overall statement, first let me break it down into a few smaller statements that are intended to support the overall statement. I will break it down into three statements and then finish with the overall statement.
“Open minded people don’t care to be right, they care to understand.”
Within this first statement there are two ideas that I will focus on. The first idea seems to address the type of person that everything said is directed toward. Because open minded people are mentioned and then proceeded to be described, this meme is intended to make a statement about people who are not open minded.
The first problem is that not everyone agrees with what in fact is an “open minded” person. It is obvious that this meme makes a general description of an “open minded” person. The actual definition of an “open minded” person is as follows according to Merriam-Webster dictionary.
“:a willingness to listen to or accept different ideas or opinions”
Therefore, I will conclude that an “open minded” person is one who can be described by the definition. This would cause me to agree with the latter portion of this sub-statement. It must be true that an “open minded” person would “care to understand”.
Notice that within the definition that it states that an “open minded” person has a willingness to “listen to or accept different ideas or opinions.” It is important that the word or is not ignored. Just because an “open minded” person listens, it does not mean he or she must accept what is heard. This is contrary to the viewpoint of this meme.
The problem lies in the first portion of the statement. If “open minded” people “don’t care to be right”, then why would they “care to understand”? It seems to me that the only people who really care to understand anything are the ones who genuinely care to know what is right and what is wrong with anything.
After all, if a person simply does not care about right or wrong, it would only be logical that person would not spend the time it takes to understand anything because it would not matter. Which leads me into the next sub-statement in the meme.
“There’s never a right or wrong answer.”
Here in this sub-statement, the word “never” is used. This word is one that has a deep meaning to it. Never is a long time. This word has a value that is absolute. This word leaves no room for change in what it is attached to. In this case, “right or wrong”.
What I mean is that once the word “never” is attached to something, the value of that word is attached to the statement being made. In this case, “a right or wrong answer”. Therefore, I can only conclude that this sub-statement in this meme is making an absolute proclamation that there is “never a right or wrong answer”.
The problem here is that by using the word “never”, the statement being made is one of factual information. In other words, by stating “There’s never a right of wrong answer.”, one is stating that this is true.
If in fact that this sub-statement is “true” then it would also be “right”. Now you see the problem. By proclaiming as a fact that this statement is true, then it would be “right”, therefore proving itself to be false, thereby proving it to be “wrong”. That is if, “There’s never a right or wrong answer”.
“Everything is about understanding.”
As I consider the last sub-statement in the meme, the first word pops out like a neon sign in the desert darkness. “Everything”, wow that is a lot. In fact, that word is all inclusive and leaves nothing out. Therefore, I can conclude that this statement is about what “everything is about”.
The statement says that “understanding” is what everything is about. Now, before I agree or disagree with this sub-statement, first let me consider what is being said in order to understand. After all, I do want to be open minded.
Let me say this. If the word “understanding” is used to mean to comprehend, then I can more than likely agree with this sub-statement. Everything at least can be about what we comprehend. How a person “understands” something dictates their comprehension.
Having said that, I do believe everything “can” be about our understanding and/or comprehension. However, if the meme is using the word “understanding” in a way that means accepting, well then I will have to disagree. Going back to the definition of “open minded”, I believe it said “listen to or accept” whatever is there to understand.
For example, I do understand that people murder other people, however I do not accept that it is an action that is “right”. In fact, based on my understanding of what it means to murder, I believe that it is “wrong”.
So, if this sub-statement is saying that everything is about “accepting”, which I believe that it does, then I open mindedly disagree.
After having carefully considering each of the sub-statements that make up the overall statement, I will briefly go over the overall statement.
The overall statement is simply that if a person is “open minded”, that person will accept everything and not consider anything right or wrong. Thus insinuating that a person who will not accept everything and does acknowledge “right and wrong” is not open minded.
Before I go any further, I would like to make it clear that I am in no way intending to be aggressive or hateful with these thoughts. I simply am responding to a statement that, in my opinion, represents the view point of many in our society today that I disagree with. I do not hate anyone who disagrees with me or understands different than me. I am simply expressing my thoughts.
To wrap this up, I would say that I am an open minded person. I also would say that there are many that would disagree with that. This is a conflict of understanding and/or comprehension between myself and some in today’s society.
According to the dictionary I could be “right”. But according to much of society, I could be “wrong”. And then again, if I am “wrong” and this meme is “right” then the meme is actually “wrong”, wait, what?
As we all watch our par of this world become full of hate and chaos, some fully immersed and yet others knowingly participating. It seems that suddenly this volcano of hatred and wickedness has erupted in society. I mean this is not the world I grew up in. Sure there were always some people who were not pleasant, and of coarse there have always been criminals in the world. Maybe I was a bit naive but I don’t remember such disrespect for authority or each other when I was being brought up. Today it seems that any type of authority is under attack, from Law Enforcement, Government, Church, to even parental authority. What is going on?
I would be willing to say that most people in The United States know about what happened between the years 1863-1891. Yes, that’s right, the Hatfield- McCoy feud. This feud could be the “poster child” for promoting hatred. It is a shining example of how bitterness, unforgiveness, and jealousy can fester into full grown hatred in a person’s heart. Not only in one person’s heart but can be extremely contagious. You see, there has been much written about this feud and the hatred that gave it life for so long. There have been documentaries, and movies made about this sad and terrible display of broken humanity. What they all have in common is that they never can pinpoint how the whole thing started. Some say it was over a stolen pig. There are several different guesses as to how it all started but the fact is no one really knows. Why is that? I’ll tell you why, it’s because these two families were so full of hate for one another that they themselves couldn’t even remember how it got started. And there it is! The truth about hate. We need to understand that hate needs no foundation. Once it takes it’s place in a person’s heart, it no longer needs a reason to exist. This is why somewhere around 18 members of these families were killed, and several others spent their lives in prison. You see hate is like rabies, once it infiltrates the heart of a person, it is tremendously difficult to treat. The only antidote is love.
So, as we all are not only witnessing but participating in the ramped epidemic of hatred sweeping across our society, let us not continue to foolishly make the mistake of repeating history. The truth is, hatred has been around since Cain and Able. Only when Jesus returns for the final time will hatred be completely snuffed out. But until then, the only way to combat this wicked environment that we all now live in is simply to love. Love even when you are being hated. Especially when you are being hated. Jesus taught us in Matthew chapter 10 that we who are disciples of Christ will be hated because He is hated. So why should we be surprised when we are caught up in this whirlwind of hatred? The real question is this. What should the body of Christ do about what is going on in our society?
Well, I believe that there is a simple answer to a simple question. I believe that the body of Christ, The Church, should continue to do what The Church has always been doing. Love God, and Love people. I admit that sometimes The Church hasn’t been very good at that but if we are going to be The Church, we must love. Love God, Love your neighbor, and yes even your enemy!
After receiving a request from my father to write a short article about dialysis and faith and how they both affect those dealing with kidney disease.
He is writing a book about dialysis and wanted the perspective from a Christian Minister on these topics as it pertains to dialysis and faith. a response to this subject, I was able to share a few thoughts.
My prayer is that this will be helpful to anyone who is facing dialysis or has a loved one facing dialysis.
How dialysis can affect one’s spiritual life.
As a Christian man and a Preacher in the Christian church, I have been alongside many who were facing the end of life. Some because of Illnesses that were known about well in advance and some that were sudden and unexpected. Either way each comes with its own difficulty as well as tough decisions. We all live in this World with the general scents that the average life span is 80 – 90 years. When it is a bit shorter than that. Life coming to an end is something that most people generally are uncomfortable with and therefore seem to tuck it away in the back corner of their mind. By doing so, we have been created this false understanding that we have plenty of time to deal with it later. Any person who is in their right mind would agree that none of us will live forever yet many days we all live like our lives will never end. Because of this many who experience a sudden incident that shortens their life will go through the process of dealing with what we have put in the back of our minds in a short amount of time. This can be very stressful for the individual as well as the family. Just recently I was informed of a Preacher at a nearby church who was in his late 50’s who suddenly passed of a heart attack. Dealing with those kinds of events can be shocking and traumatic as would be expected. But when a person is informed of a life ending sickness that can be treated but not healed, well that’s something a little different. Yes, both situations are shocking and traumatic for the individual as well as loved ones. But there is something very different about receiving any type of time limit on a person’s life. When a doctor informs a person of something such as kidney disease and the road to come, the reality of limited time inevitably sets in. Suddenly that which was hidden away in the back of the mind is forced to the front and demands to be dealt with. There definitely is something different about knowing and waiting for the inevitable.
For the person who has a relationship with God and has understood the arrangement that God has put in place so that anyone who chooses could have life after we leave this World, well I won’t say that it would make things less shocking or traumatic but I will say that there can be hope and peace in the middle of it all. Many who trust God and believe His Word will know that God has promised to never leave us and that we can rely on His Spirit to give us the courage and strength to do whatever we need to do in this life. There are many difficult things that happen during a person’s life. If a person has been living life as a believer well this situation, although is quite real and seriously permanent, should be no different than any other challenge that God has led the believer through during life. So, to put it plain, everyone will come to the end of life but not everyone will have hope and peace through it.
How to Cope
There are many people, professionals and non-professionals, who can advise a person how to cope with dialysis or any other end of life experience. I personally will offer advice from a Christian Pastor’s perspective.
As like anything else in the Christian life, prayer and fellowship with God is the key to living with dialysis. Of course, seeking out friends and loved ones to share thoughts and desires will always be helpful. Human beings were created to need other human beings. It is always helpful to seek others who are living through the same situations. Many people who are dealing with dialysis can help each other along the way. It is much easier to talk with others who understand and have been experiencing what the struggles are with being on dialysis.
I will say to the person who is a Christian, everything that happens to us is another chapter in the testimony of our lives. We are instructed by Jesus Himself to go into the World and make disciples. Everything we are about and everything we believe points to helping others to get to know God. Sure, not everyone on dialysis is a believer but that is exactly the reason that it is important to allow God to use you even during this time in life.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 talks about how there is a time for everything. This part of God’s Word talks about the fact that there is a season for everything. And as we see in verse 2 it tells us that there is a time to be born and a time to die. So, what is happening to us as we come to the end of life is not outside the plan that God has laid out for each of us. It has always been God’s plan that we spend eternity with Him. Living in this World in these bodies has always been a temporary situation. We must trust that this World is not our true home and that our Father in heaven has a place prepared for each of us.
Hope in the middle of Suffering, Dialysis without God.
As was stated before, hope comes from believing that no matter how difficult, stressful, or fearful a situation becomes we believe that God will have His way. Many throughout the history of man have suffered in many ways. Some suffering comes due to our own choices. Other suffering comes due to choices of others. And frankly, a lot of suffering happens just because we live in a World that has been contaminated by sin since Adam and Eve. Therefore, there is sickness in our World today. So, the question really comes down to this; how is a person going to live through this part of life?
The answer to this question will mean the difference in living with dialysis with hope and peace or pain, suffering, and misery.
The choice is this, we either believe that Jesus is the Christ who God sent to live in this World for the sole purpose of being crucified to pay for our sins, or you do not believe that. That’s not all, once a person decides whether that is true, a response is necessary. We read in Acts.2:37-39 where Peter made this clear to all the people in Jerusalem. After telling them this, they then replied in verse 37, “what shall we do?”. They believed this about Jesus and responded. So, if a person believes this about Jesus, the same question should be asked, “what shall we do?” To that question I will point out Peter’s answer in verse 38, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” You see, without repentance, there is no forgiveness. Without forgiveness, there is no hope of eternal life with God. And without hope there will only be pain, suffering, and misery now and for eternity.
presence of God living in peace and Holiness or will it be at a place called Hell where God is not and no chance of ever hearing from Him again?
Refusing treatment, is it selfish? Are there spiritual consequences? What does the Bible say?
There are many questions that we all ponder over that we really do not have the answer for. There are some things that only God knows. So, when it comes to the decision of whether to be on dialysis or not, well there really is not a cut and dry answer that would apply to everyone. What I do know is that there is nothing in scripture that specifically forbids a person to refuse dialysis or any other medical treatment. In fact, I would go so far as to say that God has answered many prayers by way of the use of the skills of Doctors and Nurses and the like. We must remember that God is greater than anything and everything in existence. God also know the hearts of each man, women, and child. I personally do not believe that a person who willingly takes his or her own life is something that God intends for us to condone. Although, each situation in people’s lives are unique. Each person dealing with dialysis has different variables contributing to the thoughts and circumstances that would lead a person to consider receiving or not receiving the treatment. In fact, I believe that the comparison of refusing dialysis to committing suicide would be not only an inaccurate comparison but would contribute to adding even more undue stress and anxiety to the decision-making process.
My advice as a Christian Pastor to the believer would be to make sure that all decisions are made prayerfully. Honestly consider what God is doing with you and your life. What might be His plan in all of this. Prayerfully consider loved ones and others. Ask God to lead you and give you peace about each step along the way. If in fact a person is a believer, then God’s will be done will be the goal.
The bottom line when it comes to deciding to receive dialysis or not to receive it, I believe it is no different that deciding to turn off life support for a person who had already made decisions about the quality of life he or she desired. I do not believe that God would look upon a person’s decision to refuse or stop treatment as sinful. I personally believe that for the person who is a Christian, what God is looking for is if the person brings glory to God as they go down the road of being on dialysis or not. For the person who does not believe in God or chooses not to receive the salvation extended to them through faith in Jesus as the Christ, well, this decision would seem to be a little easier or less stressful.
Once again, we can see in Ecclesiastes that God had ordained a time for everything. For those of us who are believers, although we may have struggles and suffering during life in this World, there is a promise of eternal peace that we can look forward to. So, for those on dialysis as well as the rest of us, let’s live life to the fullest until there is no more life to live here in this World.