Faith Beyond the USA

Each time I write about topics involving the United States of America, I feel it necessary to begin with sort of a disclaimer about myself as a citizen United States of America. I will say that I am a citizen because I happened to be born in Lamar County Alabama.

49C6A344-E574-4A09-8B4C-CF96122B1515Having grown up in the USA, I am proud to be a part of this great nation. Since 1971, I have experienced many freedoms and been allowed many rights that many others do not receive around the world. I love my country and believe I would die for it if need be.

When I write thoughts for this blog, they are intended to be those that offer words from a Christian worldview. Realizing that not all of my fellow citizens hold to the same faith or values, I do not hold anything against those who disagree with me. There are many issues in our world today as well as right here in the USA.

Times, from my perspective, are sometimes scary or concerning in terms of the future. I wonder about my son and his future or his children, should he have any. What will these United States be for them. I am certain that things will not be the way they were for me. Time has a way of changing everything.

Sure, there have always been battles, political, moral, religious, and social. In the middle of it all, I cannot help but think about the fact that their has never been a nation, kingdom which has lasted. What I mean is that all great nations and kingdoms eventually met their end over time. Will that be true for the United States of America?

Not too long ago, I would have adamantly said, NO, it’s not possible! It would never have been possible, in my mind, that the USA would not exist with all it’s greatness and freedoms it affords it’s citizens. And then, 09/11.

It seems that everything changed after the attack on that date, 09/11. Suddenly, there was a glimpse of vulnerability here. Don’t get me wrong, I still think we are a powerful nation and it would take a great force or forces to change that, if even possible without ending the world all together. No, I am much more concerned about “self destruction”.

Many things have happened over the years since the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The latest world event that causes these concerns is the thousands of people who are walking toward the southern border of the United States with the intent to simply walk into this country without regard to any laws or respect for our fellow citizens. All the while waving flags representing their native country.

Whether or not this news event is really happening the way it is being reported or even happening at all, it still causes me to ponder. Without getting into the details about that situation, I will point out that it does create quite a moral dilemma for some. Sparking debates across the nation and even the world.

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Photo: Fox News

A person in our church asked me what my thoughts were about what should be done about the matter.

Should the USA protect our border from invasion? Should we consider the people who are in the group which is coming? What is right and what is wrong? The truth is, being an American and a Christian comes with great challenges. Not that Christians from other parts of the world do not have their own challenges.

For the American Christian, it would seem that there is a real moral dilemma at hand. But when pondered on and prayed about, it really is not that difficult to sort through. The USA is my home. What would most people do if people came into their home uninvited? My answer to what I believe is the right thing to do for the American, as well as the Christian can be found in a prior blog post, “Violence and the Kingdom of God”. 

I brought all of this up because I really think it is important for every Christian who is a citizen of the United States of America to think about the possibility that the nation could one day be no more.

God forbid this should ever happen, but the question should be, what does it mean fo the Christian if it does? Will it change your faith? Would your relationship with God be any different? Does your Christianity depend on your citizenship in the USA? Will God be you God with or without these “United” States of America?

The fact is that most people do not think about how the world changes and how it might affect who we are in Christ. Most people go about their day expecting that their world will be the same as it was yesterday, after all, it is what we believe that we “deserve” right?

All the while, there are those in the world that would just as soon destroy this nation along with those who are standing guard against our enemies, here and around the world that keep our freedoms intact.

The reality is this. There are many great people who are what we call decent. Not all are Chrisians by the way. There are also many people who are not nice, rather wicked and evil in fact. People will not be forced into peace! The very thought of that is absurd.

No, if there is to be peace, it must be chosen by all. This is why God does not force anyone to accept His love. Forced love is not love.

”Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 NASB

That scripture reference in Colossians is mainly speaking to the believers and how they are to live at peace with one another. However, Paul gave instruction to those in Rome;

”If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Romans 12:18 NASB

The point being with this entire post is that being a Christian ought to be the first priority. Yes, being a citizen of the United States of America has it’s responsibilities, but the Kingdom of God is greater!

Yet at times, we seem more concerned with protecting this great United States of America than protecting and standing firm in the Kingdom of God. Can we do both? Yes.

Are we doing both? I’ll let you answer that.

“COEXIST” – My Two Cents for What It’s Worth

We do not have to travel far down the road to find the familiar bumper sticker which would seem to encourage people of all religions to “COEXIST”. For the record, I do not own nor display one of these bumper stickers or signs anywhere. However, I am in favor of getting along with all people, as far as it is up to me.

Now, having pointed that out, I will say that there seems to be some confusion about this “COEXIST” bumper sticker. Not only on the part of those who do not display it, but for those who do as well.

Where to start? Let me start with my own basic understanding of what this statement is about. I am sure that someone will correct me if I am in error. Nevertheless, my understanding is that the idea is that if people of all religions would simply get along, there would be world peace. I know it is much deeper than that, but that is the general idea.

The real thought behind the statement to “Coexist” is that no one religion has exclusive rights to “truth”. This comes from the worldview rooted in “relativism”. What is true for you may not be true for me, is how that looks. This idea seems to be an effort to create a world where everything is happy, fair, and all-inclusive for the sake of world peace.

There are two main points I would like to address, my two cents. First, I would like to submit to the world that we already coexist. If we look at the definition of the word;

1 : to exist together or at the same time
2 : to live in peace with each other especially as a matter of policy

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coexist

The fact is that we do exist together at the same time, all of us, whether we like it or not! However, I will admit that the second offered definition, “live in peace with each other”, we have yet to master. But in a general sense, I say we already coexist.

As for my second point, I will submit that it really is not possible to “live in peace with each other”. The fact is that each person is only able to control or manage her/himself. No one can force any other person to live at peace with any other person or people! The very idea of that I would liken to North and South Korea hugging it out and then acting like nothing ever happened! I mean to force another to do something that they are not willing to do seems to be the opposite of living in peace with each other.

The idea that people of different belief systems, which many times stand in contrast with each other, submitting to the idea that every religion or belief system can be right would require everyone to compromise their belief system. I will be the first to say, as a Christian, I will not compromise what I believe to be the truth nor do I expect anyone else to. Yes, I will share my beliefs with others for the purpose of allowing them to decide for themselves if they agree or disagree.

I do however, believe that it is always an option for an individual to offer respect and kindness, even love, to their neighbor. I for one do not demand that anyone believe what I believe about truth, God, or any other worldview or idea that I hold. I do my best to treat everyone that I meet with respect, like a person who has ideas, opinions, and beliefs. It is ok, it is ok to disagree! It does not always mean hate or dislike.

The real problem with the “COEXIST” bumper stickers is that there is an insinuation, intended or not, that those who display it are the ones who are “right” and anyone who disagrees or does not function within their idea of “COEXISTING” is “wrong”. This my friends, is the epitome of hypocrisy and flies in the face of everything that it says it stand for! No one can stand and say that they are “right” without saying that someone else is “wrong”.

“”But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:27-28‬ ‭NASB‬‬

 

 

Can you love your church too much?

Most, when asked about the church that they attend, would say great things about their church. I would hope anyway. Well, there is always those who are never happy with anything. However, most might even say that they love their church! Sometimes people feel this way because it is the only church they have ever attended, and some may be fairly new to their church. Regardless, everyone who says that they love their church also has their personal reasons for loving their church.

Not long ago, I preached a sermon series about getting excited about church and helping others do the same. Now, as a Preacher, I think that it is vital that the Preachers and church leaders lead by example here. But first, they and the members must all answer one question, and answer it honestly.

The question is not, “do you love your church?” That question is simply a part of the real question by which an honest answer has the potential to set the church on fire for doing the work of the Kingdom. The real question, the full question is; “Do you love YOUR church, or do you love THE church?”

The truth is that some love their church too much. That’s right, too much! You may think that it is not possible to do that. I will submit that it is very possible and in fact has happened and is happening way too often. Even to the point of contributing to the demise of many congregations around the world! Sadly.

What does it mean to love your church too much? First, the question itself gives away the answer if we are paying attention. Some do not realize that the church belongs to God. The church is not mine, nor is it yours or anyone else’s! Far too many people have staked some kind of claim to ownership in “their” church building presume to have control over the what, when, where, why, and how much of what goes on at the building that facilitates church.

Second, because some love “their” church too much, evangelism turns into an effort to get others to join them at “their” church for the purpose of encouraging the visitor to become more like them as well as loving the church for the same reasons that they do. The sad part about people loving “their” church too much is that the result is missing out on what God is doing in the world through His Kingdom work!

As we read instructions given to husbands in Ephesians;

”Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”     Ephesians 5:25-27 NASB

Although, this teaching is speaking about the relationship that a husband should have with his wife, there is more to see here. If the instruction is for the husband to love the wife as Christ loved the church, then there should be and is explanation about how Christ loved the church.

Let us notice that it shows there in Ephesians chapter 5 that Christ “gave Himself up for her,”. It continues by using words like sanctity, wash, and that she, “THE Church”, would be made Holy and blameless. The fact that Christ Himself willingly gave Himself up for the church should give all believers a clue as to what it means to “love THE church”!

If the believers, those who surrender by faith to the gospel of Jesus as the Christ, are the body of Christ, and they are, then they/we ARE the Church! Furthermore, if we who are being made blameless by Jesus offering Himself up for us, and we would call ourselves “Christian”, “like Christ”, then how can we not give ourselves up for “THE Church”?

You see, it is very possible to love “YOUR” church too much! Yet know this, it is impossible or anyone or group of people to love “THE” Church too much! It all comes down to one thing. How do you view church? Have I/you somehow confused the church with other organizations which allow members to take ownership and positions of control? Or have I/you been able to see “The” Church and grow into loving God with all our hearts, minds, and souls as well as loving first “THE” Church as we love ourselves and then even others in the world?

We must realize and continue to be reminded that buildings, furniture, money, and any other thing in existence is NOT “THE” Church! It is those who believe that Jesus is the Christ and by faith, repentance, and baptism for the forgiveness of sin, anyone can become part of “THE” Church! It is “THE” Church that IS the Kingdom of God!

So, I ask. “Do you love your church too much? Are you slowly choking the life out of the congregation of believers which God has included you to be a part of? If so, I pray that God will help you to repent, and begin to see “THE” Church, His Church. And when you do, I pray that you fall madly in love with “THE” Church!

To God Be the Glory!

Progressive Christianity- It Cannot Be!

Every now and then, more often than not, something that someone says or writes grabs my attention. Sometimes in a great way and other times in a disturbing way. This past week, a blog was shared on social media that did just that. This particular blog post was written by Alisa Childers. Although I do not know her and have never met her, I found her blog post about what is called “Progressive Christianity” very interesting.

As I mentioned, I do not know her except what I read on her blog page. On this particular topic, I find myself in agreement with her. She wrote about how some churches have headed toward or are in danger of heading toward “Progressive Christianity”. I find myself wanting to not only suggest that everyone read her blog post, but I wish to bounce my thoughts off of her statements.

First, I will quickly summarize the points that she makes in her blog post. She offers a warning or at least a notice to the churches about what it means to be “Progressive Christians”. I will only give you the 5 points that she talks about, you should go read her post if you want to know what she says about them.

Childers points out that there are 5 things to look out for in a church to protect against falling into “Progressive Christianity”. Unless that is your desire, then it is probably already too late.

  1. A Lowered View of the Bible.
  2. Feelings are emphasized over facts.
  3. Essential Christian doctrines are open for re-interpretation.
  4. Historic terms are re-defined.
  5. The heart of the gospel message shifts from sin and redemption to social justice.

After explaining each of these points, Childers goes on to explain a little about each of them. Read her blog post! All to conclude that there are some churches out there who are leaning toward this, have given over to it, or at least are in danger of it.

I point out all of this so that I can say this;

Christianity according to what I read in the Scripture, the absolute truth, can only be one thing. That one thing is what God says it is! No man has the authority to change even one word of God’s truth. Many in this world, over the history of man, have tried and delivered a message that is inconsistent with the truth of the Bible. This is nothing new.

The idea of something called “Progressive Christianity” is a contradiction in and of itself! The fact that God is Holy and has never changed should give the clue that His Truth would be the same way.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”   

2Timothy 3:16-17

So, to use the word “progressive” with the word “Christianity” would be likened to using the phrase “NO LORD”.  If God is to be our Lord, we would not ever say “NO” to Him. If we did, then he would not be our Lord.

The word “progressive” means “happening or developing gradually or in stages;” it is also defined as “(of a group, person, or idea) favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.” (MW Dictionary)

I will submit that what God has put in place is a finished product and is a perfect product! There is no need to add to, take away, or change any part of it. God is a Holy and perfect being who is the creator of all.

He has put in place a master plan of reconciliation of Himself to His creation. The only thing that changes, develops, or progresses along the way is man! You and me! We are the ones who will be changed.

For anyone to presume that the gospel is something that is an evolving or changing thing is one who is still living in the darkness, trapped in the snare of the lies of Satan.

The truth is simply this:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; on God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  

Galatians 4:4-6

 

There is only one Christianity. There cannot be various kinds of Christianity. The only one and true Christianity in existence is one that consists of Jesus as Lord and Savior, as well as an acknowledgement of sin and the consequences that come with it.

To Alisa Childers, I say thank you and God bless you for sending out yet another warning to us all! To those of us who are living the Christian life, I say God help us to cling to the truth in the Bible and stand firm in what God has put in place!

I have always believed that the ones who are in the most danger of being separated from God for eternity are those who believe that they are saved, yet for what ever reason do not truly know God!

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,’ did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”   

Matthew 7:21-23

Violence and the Kingdom of God: What would you do?

An ethical and moral situation was presented in a college course as follows;

You wake in the night to hearing the loud crack of splintering wood. Thieves are breaking into your home. Your children are sleeping right down the hall and you can tell that the thieves will gain entry at any moment. You have a shotgun in your bedroom that is there for hunting and killing snakes. What would you do?
More information: A rebel group has become active in your area that is resorting to terror tactics in expanding their influence. They have begun the practice of attacking small villages. Raping women and children and randomly cutting off the arms and legs of their victims. They have even been known to force children to cut off the hands of their parents. Now, what would you do when you hear the people breaking in? Would you do something different?
What are some biblical passages that address the issue of the people of God resorting to violence when confronted with violence? Is there any situation where Christians would be justified in using force? Do you have any biblical support for your position?

The following was my response:

First things first, what is at the core of this ethical dilemma? The bottom line for all in this issue is how God sees the act of one person taking the life of another person. A secondary issue may be that some people demand a cut and dry ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

As with every ethical or moral issue, we must find the core of the issue. I have come to stand, and now submit, that at the core of the issue is the difference between the meaning of the word ‘kill’ and the meaning of the word ‘murder’. If we do the work, we can find that the majority of Bible translations show the word ‘murder’ in Exodus 20:13.

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“You shall not murder” Ex. 20:13 NIV

You shall not murder”(NIV)Thou shalt not kill.” (KJV). Most other translations agree with the NIV and a few agree with KJV. The point is that there is a difference in meaning between these two English words. I once heard a professor inform his students, me being one of them, that we do not get to define nor re-define words.

The meaning of the word is crucial. The following definitions are found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Kill- “to deprive of life: cause death of”
Murder- “the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought”

If we remain in research mode and open to the details of the facts, we can see the difference plainly. Both words mean to deprive of life, but they both do not mean the same thing. Most people, if not all people, have killed. All of us have deprived something of life at some point or another.

Even to eat vegetables is depriving something of life. Killing spider or a bee, or even taking cold medication to kill a virus has to be included. However, plenty of people yet not many have deprived of live in the form of murder. The difference is the word malice.

The dictionary defines malice as “the intention or desire to do evil; ill will”. Now we are getting to the heart of the issue. God is and always has been one who looks at the heart of man. That is why there will be plenty of ‘good’ people who end up separated from God for eternity. When God looks, He will see what is in the heart of every person who ‘kills’.

What He will notice is whether or not there is or was malice in the heart. This is why the translations use the word malice, because it is the more appropriate word of what was written. Moving forward, I will be assuming that it will be understood that I understand the scripture to say “ You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13 NIV.

January 2014, I had been 4 years into my first preaching ministry. I found myself presented with an opportunity to become the Chaplain at the local Police Department. It is not a requirement for a Chaplain to go through police training. However, after much prayer and thought over this very subject. I elected to go through the same training that the officers had gone through.

I felt that if I were to be riding with these officers, I wanted to know first hand what they do and why they do it so that if needed, I could better understand our conversations and hopefully offer the best help. Also, I felt that if I were to be with them on duty, I did not want them to be distracted by having to watch out for my safety, as well as having a desire to want to assist them should situations become life threatening. So I became a law enforcement officer.

Why am I bringing all of this up? Because many people did not understand what I was doing and questioned whether or not the preacher could be a cop. The simple answer and most direct is to point out that if a cop can be Christian, then a Christian can be a cop, even the preacher. The debate includes everything from physically fighting criminals to lethal force. It is true, any cop at any moment could have to use deadly force.

Many people refer to Romans 13:1-14 as it refers to the relationship between the believer and the governing authority and how that authority represents what God has put in place. Verse 4 particularly talks about this relationship as it applies to our debate.

“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4 NIV.

For the record, yes there are some “bad” cops out there. Also, this same application applies to military personnel as well. Oh, and for those who may disagree, just know that if we read all of Romans chapter 13, we find that the scripture instructs the believer to pay taxes that are due. Keep in mind, it is taxes that pay these men and women to do what they do so that the public will be able to live with less of a chance of facing the answer to our debate on a daily basis.

Having put all of that on the table, let me point out that about 97% of the time, when a threat is present, the police are not there. After all, they do not live in our homes or follow us around. Usually what happens is that people do bad things to other people and then the police are called. Sometimes they get there in the middle of it but usually the wrong doing is already done.

Therefore, each person should be responsible for defending themselves. Keeping in mind the core of the issue, the heart of men and women, we can come to a conclusion that the same would apply to the individual as it pertains to how God views it. It still comes down to the difference between killing and murdering. Since, as we concluded, the proper translation is “you shall not murder” Exod. 20:13, we can say that if one finds themselves in a threatening situation he or she could defend themselves against the threat.

The fact is, the Bible does not prohibit a person from acting in self-defense against any and all physical threat. In fact, I have spent much time in thought and prayer over this matter. I have concluded that what ever happens to those in my household, spiritually, mentally, or physically, I will stand before God about it.

I can say with confidence that should anything such as anyone breaking into our home to do us harm or a group of terrorists destroying communities, I will respond in whatever way necessary to be able to stand before God about how I protected my wife and child. I, my wife, and every other believer has been bought with the price of the blood of Christ.

Therefore, there is a responsibility to stand against this type of threat, the threat that is presented by the professor, or any like it. We can see in Luke’s gospel chapter 22 that Jesus sent out the disciples out and instructed them to obtain a sword before they went. It was not just for looks, it was because they were about to go into a place which exposed them to threats.

However, after saying all of that, I will present what may in fact be the exception to where I generally stand. As I read about Jesus and His arrest, trial, and brutal beating, it is impossible not to notice that as He was being physically assaulted, to say the least, He did not even say a word. Although He had all the power of the Kingdom of God at His disposal, nothing, even unto death.

So if we are to be like Christ, that must mean that there are times when physical, or even verbal defense of self is indeed not the way to go. What is the difference? The difference seems to be found in the motive of the aggressor from which the threat is coming.

These questions come to mind; Am I being attacked because of my faith in Christ? Or, Am I being attacked because I live in a world that has people who do wicked things and has nothing to do with me being a Christian?

Generally, people do not experience the threat of persecution unless they are presenting the Kingdom of God to the world. In other words, I would like to believe that I am willing to die without a fight for the sake of the gospel, yet I am not willing to die without a fight so that someone can just invade my home and rape my wife and murder my child.

To conclude, I think it is obvious where I stand in this ethical and moral dilemma, yet I will say in answer to the question, it depends. What I mean is that since the Bible does not forbid the act of self-defense, we then must conclude that every situation is different and there is not one answer that can be applied to all situations.

This is why we need the Holy Spirit to provide wisdom and knowledge as we live our lives. Ultimately, God knows the hearts of people. None of us really know what we would actually do until the moment presents itself. I think it unwise to wait until that moment to seek the Lord about how to react.

Oh, and by the way, I do not believe that there is a right and wrong answer here, except for the interpretation of scripture. What ever the Lord leads each of us to do, that would be best.

Same World, Same Conflicts, Same God!

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.

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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!

Forgiveness, One of the Greatest Stumbling Blocks of Man

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.

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Click the pic to get book

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!

What Forgiveness is

Using the Merriam Webster Dictionary online, (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forgive) we can find the definition of the word “forgive”.

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 of being 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.

What the Preacher Learned After Becoming a Police Officer

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.

Officer A.L. Gilmer
Chaplain/Officer A.L. Gilmer WPD

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. 

Officer Gilmer
Chaplain/Officer A.L. Gilmer WPD

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! 

God’s Speed.

Above Reproach in a Blame Game World

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.

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 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.)

ABC Action News 

New York Post

Yahoo

YFF4.com SC

USA Today

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.” Ephesians 4:16 (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,”

Philippians 2:1415 (NASB)

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 Matthew 10:16.

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)