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)

“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.  

Are We Doing Church Backwards?

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!

 

How can the Preacher be depressed? I thought he was a man of God!

What is depression

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God sometimes answers prayer with medication!

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.

Do all of this for the glory of God!

Karma and Christianity- Oil and Water- Just Words

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?

 

karma

ˈkärmə

noun

 (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.

    • informal

      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.