May 30, 2006

Pastor, how many are you running?

In my many years of visiting churches and speaking with pastors, I have repeatedly heard this figure of speech "Pastor, how many are you running"?

Some pastors use this phrase to let others know the number of members they have in their congregations.

I don't like this particular figure of speech and never have. Sounds like we men and women are reduced to a herd of cattle when we are referred to in this way.

But pastors don't seem to get it that this way of speaking is offensive to those being referred to - their congregations.

So I have an idea, why don't you pastors use a better one.

How about, "Pastor, how many souls do you have the over site of?"

We are told in the bible that shepherds (pastors) are those who are given the tremendous task of looking after our souls. I see many references to this in the bible, here are a few:

A charge from Paul to the Elders at Ephesus:

Acts 20:28

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

1 Peter 5:

2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

We are men and women, not a herd of cattle.

Ezekiel 34:31:

And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.

And just for the record: The only references to "herd" in the new testament are those pertaining to a "herd" of swine running down a steep place into a lake, and being choked after the evil spirits that were cast out of a possessed man had went into them:

Luke 8:33

Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.

Now please understand that I didn't say that the pastors are intending to be offensive if they use this term, but nonetheless many don't appreciate hearing it.
I have offered an alternative, at least I am not complaining without offering suggestions.

May 27, 2006

Loving your brother and loving God

There are those who say they love God, yet they don't love those he created. This issue is a most serious one in regards to Christianity.

To clear up any misconceptions about Christianity, let's get one key issue resolved right now:

Those who say they love God, yet hate their brother, are living in a deception they must be delivered from by way of the truth - The word of God:

1 John 4:20

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

1 John 2:9

He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother is in darkness even until now.

1 John 2:11

But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

The longer you have anger and malice toward someone, the more callous your heart gets. That malice, if allowed to continue will fester and eventually reach a level that you now hate your brother.

Who is my brother?

I came to the conclusion years ago that my "brother" includes everyone in this world. From scripture you can easily conclude this.

Whether it is a stranger off the street or your blood relative, they are all our brothers.

It matters not their age, skin color or language. All are equal in God's eyes and we are never to raise one above the other in regards to stature. The wealthy of this world are not above the poor, even though that's the idea we get from listening to the media and the movers and shakers of this world. As a matter of fact, the rich of this world have more of a responsibility to help those less fortunate because they have the ability to do so where others do not.

Those of this world who are not God's people believe that a man's financial soundness makes him of more worth than those who are less financially sound. This is respect of persons. If we are Christians, We are not to have respect of persons:

James 2:1-9

1My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

8 If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well:

9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

If you cannot love those who you SEE, how can you say you love God who you CANNOT see. Jesus said to us:

The Greatest Commandment:

Mark 12:

28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

John 13:34:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

1 John 4:21

And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Let this thought burn deep into your heart: Those who love God will also love those he created.

May 26, 2006

Learning patience from the bullies of life

Jesus was subjected to suffering, pain and trials. He was acquainted with grief. He knew sorrow.
He understands what we go through.

While Jesus walked this earth he felt pain, betrayal, loss and many more emotions that we all commonly go through. He endured, and we can too.

One secret is in knowing that our current pain and trials are only temporary. We must endure these bullies of life and run with patience this race set before us, as Paul said:

Hebrews 12: 1, 2 and 3

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God

For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

While caught up in trials and problems of life, it is hard to think about the need to be patient in these struggles. I know all too well. We are a "now" generation.

We want results and a way out of our current unpleasantness. If we always had our way and things went well for us at all times, we would never gain patience. We would never grasp what it means. And one cannot live a fulfilled life without patience.

James 1:

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Just as the wind changes directions and we have NO control over it, the circumstances of our lives will change from time to time but what are those things that we hold close to our hearts to keep us grounded no matter what direction our life takes? The word of God, our relationship with God, what we know in our hearts to be true.

We can be shoved around by the bullies of this life, whether these bullies are harsh circumstances or literal bullies - other people, but we must not let them push us over. We will get disoriented and dizzy at times because of them. There will be times we may think we've been destroyed by them but we're not quite.

1 Corinthians 10: 13

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

I have not went through more than most people have. But I have learned to humble myself and I've also resolved myself to learn from these bullies of life. And that's a good thing. It makes me stronger the next time one of them comes around.

May 24, 2006

Train up a child in the way he should go

Are there parents that:
have been positive roll models to their children
have given their child much love and support
have provided a safe home for their child
yet their child still rebels and is overtaken by drug addiction? The answer is yes.

There is a verse in the bible that many quote, yet they overlook five very important words contained in that verse:

Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

We gloss over "and when he is old", and key into the "he will not depart from it " portion.

There is a time in the life of our children between childhood and old age in which they very likely will rebel and be led astray to some extent, they may depart from the right way, even IF you raise that child well.

But based upon how this verse is worded it shows me that we have a promise from God. Even though rebellion will come, sometime during this phase of youth and old age, the soundness and godly morals that we as their parents instilled in them will return to them and win out in the end.

You train him or her in the right way, and when he is old, that right raising will stick with him!

It won't leave him!

The teen years are never easy on any parent. During these turbulent years, our children are a handful. But don't get so worn down by these years that you throw up your hands and take a pause on training them in the ways of the Lord. Don't let them do "their own thing" so easily. We have to allow them to grow up and take responsibility WHILE we are watching over them. This is what God has given us to do as their parents.

This tells me that our efforts to train our children in the right ways - The ways of the Lord - are never in vain, they are never useless. We and our children will be tested and tried in this journey of life, but his word and truth will never come back lacking or useless no matter what our current situation is.

May 16, 2006

Drug Addiction: Shattered Dreams, Wasted Lives Part 7

Every Day is a Surprise

When you have a drug addict in your life, you never know what to expect.
They survive on drugs and the flip-flopping emotions the drugs produce.
One day all is well with them, the next day you could find out that they
have committed a crime.

But all of this would be somewhat manageable if you could ever trust what the addict tells you.
But instead, you learn to take what they say with a grain of salt. You can never take what they tell you at face value because with the addict, everything they say is tied to what is "best" for them and this most usually always equals up to their ability to use again.

They don't see what relevance there is in being honest with you. You are threatening their existence if you threaten to force them into rehab or to get them help of some other sort.

Separating a User From His Drug
Trying to separate a user from his drug will turn your life upside down.
I have known addicts that have purposefully attempted to get their spouse mad at them so that they can then have a reason to leave the house and get high. They simply pull this bull because they want to have an excuse. Seem incredible? It may be, but it is true. I've seen it happen.
They don't seem to have the guts to just say "look, this is too hard for me, so I am going out tonight and I'm going to use". They prefer to blame someone for doing something they didn't do, get into a fight, and then exit the premises.
They don't care to look within themselves long enough to get to the root of their problems. They would rather lay blame off on some innocent bystander such as their spouse so they can have a REASON to go use again. It matters little to them that this entire projection fiasco is a farce. Projection and blame reigns supreme with the addict anyway. An addict separated from his drug behaves as a small child who cannot abide having his favorite blanket or pacifier taken away from him.
But here's the thing you must get: You cannot babysit an addict . Even if you successfully keep them
from using for a period of time, there will come a time in which you won't be around him or her and that is the critical time for them. We were never meant to babysit another human being. It's not in us to "control" another.

The Friends who are not Friends at all

Users want to spend most of their time with their addicted "buddies".
But they find out quickly that when they get into trouble and need a trusted friend
that none of their buddies are available. This would make a non-user come to the realization that those buddies are not true friends at all. But not the user. He will always come up with an excuse for these buddies of his for not helping him out of a jam. But if you or I are unavailable to the user, he would never let us hear the end of it!
So here it is: The buddies get off the hook for not being a true friend and the relatives or other ones who DO love the addict are blamed when they don't come through for him. Family members of addicts who don't jump to attention when the user needs them are the target for grudges that have no end.