“God Help Us All” And I Mean All

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.

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

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!

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Photo curteousy of FoxNews17onlin.com

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”!

A Look at How the Church Deals with Legalizing Marijuana- and I don’t mean medicinal use!

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.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2013/november-online-only/what-would-jesus-smoke.html
Click on this image to see CT Pastors article

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!

Florence vs. The Kingdom of 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.

Photo Courtesy of Two Rivers Church Facebook page New Bern NC

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

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Photo courtesy of Two Rivers Church Facebook Page New Bern NC

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!

God in the Aftermath of Hurricane Florence!

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. 

Photo Credit: https://disasters.nasa.gov/hurricane-florence-2018

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.