Entertain Us

Impressive lights. Fog machine. Seamless sequence of events. Musical precision. Perfect audio quality. Large screens with images and videos. These are all elements one might expect to find in a typical entertainment production, whether a concert or simply some kind of live show…or your local Sunday morning worship service. By way of disclaimer, I will say first that I don’t have any problem with these things in general. But I do think we need to explore the purpose of them in our worship gatherings. I think perhaps they are somewhat symptomatic of a problem with the current Christian generation. Continue reading

The Walking Dead

I don’t understand the fascination that so many in our current society have with books, shows, movies, and/or other media related to zombies. I’ve joked around about this for years. For some reason, I have a strange and definitely irrational fear of zombies. I actually scoured the web one day (just for fun) looking for a word that encapsulated this definition. I found one: ambulothanatophobia (click here for definition of ridiculous word). If you’re still reading this, you’re likely wondering why I would be writing about this subject on a forum such as this… Continue reading

Does Everyone Go To Heaven?

Of all of the questions that come from discussions related to faith and/or religion, one of the most central and critical has got to be the one about everyone’s eternal destination. As I mentioned in a previous post, Francis Chan wrote in Erasing Hell that it seems as though everyone goes to heaven if we look at the subject through the lens of what is said at funerals. I couldn’t agree more. It would appear as though one of our ways of comforting the grieving is to make sure they believe that the one they lost is now in heaven with other loved ones. (As an aside, let me say that it’s hard to know how to address this subject and this especially true when dealing with someone’s death.) So what does the Bible say about this? Is there legitimate evidence in Scripture to support the idea that everyone will go to heaven one day…whether they believe in Jesus or not…or whether they are part of an entirely different belief system, such as Islam, New Age, Hinduism, satanism, or any other? Continue reading

I Cannot Be A Christian

I grew up in the south. My grandfather was a minister for most of his life. Until my parents split up (when I was 7 years old), my dad taught Sunday School and my family was active in the church. Christianity was in our DNA. Church was inherited. It had been established in our minds and hearts as something we were to be a part of. In my teenage years and my very early 20’s, I had abandoned any belief in the Bible and in Jesus. I had certainly abandoned my belief in the church. However, there was always this nagging tug in my mind that I should be going to church. Even though I didn’t believe in it, I had learned this as an activity from early on in my childhood…and non-participation felt like a betrayal of my identity. We attended church nominally throughout those years and I would sometimes participate with my friends in a few activities…but it felt so foreign…so wrong…so fake…yet so important.  Continue reading

If I Was The Devil…

We see the cross everywhere. It is one of the most ubiquitous symbols in the world. It’s so pervasive that we may well have forgotten what it means. Worse yet, we may have become totally numb to what it represents. It’s possible that by putting this symbol in front of our eyes constantly, we’ve desensitized ourselves to the effect it should have on us. It’s a symbol of death. It’s a symbol of pain and suffering (I have written about his before more in depth, so if you would like to read that ===> CLICK HERE ). Being desensitized to something as important as the cross is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to us…and if I was the devil…It’s exactly the kind of thing I would want to see happen. Continue reading

Life After Trauma

A lot of people ask me how I’ve been doing. I know that it’s a question asked out of concern and compassion. I appreciate it. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for asking it. I usually answer by saying, “I’m getting better. Day by day. I’m steadily improving. Good days and bad days.” It may not be the exact response I give, but it’s something like that.
 
Overall, that is true. What is also true is how exhausting and lonely this process really is. It’s exhausting because I’m constantly trying to figure out a vocabulary to precisely communicate what is going on with me. The problem with this is that our vocabularies are very experiential. If you’ve never been truly lonely, then the word only has a dictionary-based definition to you. Only once you’ve felt it can you properly understand what someone means by saying it. It’s been said that head injuries are unique to each individual. Due to this, it’s truly impossible to properly express my experiences and feelings. For this same reason, it’s a lonely process. I have a wonderful family. My wife and daughters have been truly amazing. Everyone else in my family has also been supportive. This is not a moment for anyone to feel pity or sorrow for me. That’s not the point of what I’m writing.
 
Why am I writing this…
 
I think maybe just to process how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking and perhaps someone out there needs it as well…because many of us likely feel totally alone in our situations…but the truth is that we are not.
 
Every morning, I wake up and go straight into the bathroom to start my morning routine of getting ready for my day. When I turn on the light, there is the initial shock that sends my brain into immediate panic. I don’t adjust to light as well as I use to. When the light comes on, there is a reflex inside of me that wants to curl up in a ball and hide. Weird. I know. After the “fear of light” passes, I look in the mirror…and there it is…the demonic smile-shaped scar atop my head…laughing at me…grinning at what it’s done to me. For that brief walk to the bathroom…perhaps 5-10 seconds…I have not thought about it. Then when light hits the room…the mirror reminds me of everything that has happened in the last several months. I shrug it off…shake it off…and keep going.
 
Anytime I look in a mirror, I’m reminded of what happened. Anytime my head hurts, I’m reminded of what caused it. Anytime my scalp smarts…and I rub it…and I feel the scar…the tight skin…I’m reminded of a terrible moment…and sometimes it’s jarring. Sometimes, when I look in a mirror or feel my head, I have a flash of vague memory about this incredible, sledge hammer-like impact on my skull. At times, it will produce a bit of anxiety…and I tell myself, “this will all get better with time…”
 
The pain isn’t really the issue. I can deal with it. The issue is and always has been this thing that I wish I could really communicate. At the same time, I’m glad I cannot. If I could, then that would mean that someone had had the same experience. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Anyway…the thing I’m referring to is that I “lose myself.” No…that’s not it…let’s see…HOW ON EARTH DO I EXPLAIN THIS?!?! If I woke up right now and my life for the last several months had been a dreamlike state while in a coma, then things would make more sense to me. I often feel like I’m dreaming…and there are times when I can’t distinguish between a memory and a past dream. I feel so insecure about sharing this because it makes me sound insane…well…perhaps more insane that I may have already been (wink, wink). I want my thoughts to slow down. I want to be able to be in a noisy environment and be able to block out non-essential information. Instead, I hear everything at once. I hear every conversation around me and process every sound. It’s maddening. It’s exhausting. It’s inexplicable.
 
Brain injuries are weird because the brain is still so mysterious. For example, I get headaches at times deep inside…like in the middle of my brain…but there are no pain receptors there…so how am I feeling pain there? “They” don’t know. My docs and therapists explain what they can and don’t make up answers about what they don’t understand. For that, I’m really grateful.
 
This has been a true test of faith. I wish I could say what I’ve heard so many people say during or after traumatic events. I’ve heard people say that in those dark times, God was more “real” to them than ever before. They “felt His presence,” or, “Heard His voice.” (Honestly, if I hear voices at this point, I’m going to the doctor.)
Perhaps others have experienced incredible moments with God during such times in their lives. I won’t say I haven’t had any. I will say that those whom have said that their greatest time of suffering turned out to be their biggest time of blessing…well…I just can’t totally connect with that.
And then…I’m reminded of the essence of faith. It’s going forward with something you are unsure of. It’s deciding to follow when doubt is all that remains. It’s following when you aren’t sure what to believe. 
Sometimes, life hits hard. How we respond determines what we truly believe…
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Image taken from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonkoh/3433315527

God Doesn’t Love Me “Very Much…”

In my life, I’ve made many mistakes. Actually, if I’m honest, I’ve not made as many mistakes as I’ve made terrible decisions. These were not decisions that were made without knowledge of consequence, but in spite of it. Decisions were made with self serving interests…sometimes to the detriment of someone else. I wish I could say that I made those decisions before becoming a Christian so as to be able to avoid the label of hypocrite. However, I think I’ve made more of them since being a Christian than I did before. Having said all of this, I’ve spent much time in stir over whether or not God could really love me. If He could…then how much could He possibly love me? I mean…let’s be honest…If he’s really a holy and perfect Being…He couldn’t love me a lot…especially since He would know my every thought…my every action…the deepest, darkest recesses of my heart and soul… Continue reading

The Hell Of The Ark

For years I’ve thought about something relating to the story of The Great Flood and Noah’s Ark. Whether you accept this as history or myth, just consider what I’m going to present. I will go ahead and express that I hold to an historical interpretation of this story, although I’m not interested in debating it. I’m no expert on it. I simply believe it to be true, as did Jesus. So, please just grant the premise and consider something very grave… Continue reading

Judgmental Jackass

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I know the title of this post is a bit jarring for some. It’s not intended to be anything short of how raw this is. The intention isn’t shock…but instead it is just being honest about something I’ve learned and feel strongly about. There’s this guy I know who’s had a history of being incredibly severe in his tone. He has hidden behind “just being real and/or honest,” as an excuse to say whatever he thinks about others or the world around him in general. He has done great damage to his relationships with this problem. Ironically, two things that he always claims to hate are judgmentalism and hypocrisy. Who is this person? Dare I call him out publicly? I think I should…although it won’t be an easy thing to do… Continue reading

Not My Best

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I can’t count the number of times that I’ve gone throughout my day feeling like either a failure, an idiot, a disappointment, or a just plain guilty. These feelings come from lots of different causes in life. How many times have you felt that way? Have you ever felt like such a screw-up or disappointment that you just wanted to walk away from the world, become a total recluse and hope to never have to face anyone again? I have. I have had days where I just wanted to hide. I wanted to hide from the world…from family, friends, co-workers…even God. Continue reading

Lies Christians Tell #6: “We Will All Be Judged”

final judgment

How often have we heard this phrase? How often have we thought about standing in front of God after we die…in a courtroom type of setting…and often with a great degree of anxiety? We are fearful of what kind of punishment may await us…worrisome over the sins for which we may have forgotten to seek forgiveness. Many believers and non-believers alike harbor this same fear. The fear of actually receiving the just recompense for our actions…penalties for our rebellions…retribution for our ways. This fear lurks in the hearts of many…and it  may drive some to seek mental or emotional escape…only worsening the problem. Where does this come from? Why do we live in such fear? Continue reading

Lies Christians Tell #5: “Forgive And Forget”

forgive-and-forget

How many times have we heard this phrase? How many times have we heard that the best thing to do in a relational conflict is to forgive and forget? What I find VERY interesting is that often this is said within the context of the Gospel. Many people believe that the Bible tells us to forgive people for how they have hurt us and act like it never happened (forget) because it reflects how God forgives us and it also contains God’s statement, “…I will remember their sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25). What if I told you that this is a misunderstanding of what the Bible says… Continue reading

Lies Christians Tell #4: “Happy”

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I’ll never forget feeling completely lost and let down when I had done all that I was told that I was supposed to do…and still things in my life weren’t perfect. I know that sounds ridiculous, but bear with me. Over and over again, I had been lead to believe that if would just “give my life to God,” or, “trust Christ,” then all of my problems would go away. All of a sudden, I would never worry again…never have heartache again…never have financial struggles again. Overall, my life would be “blessed” and as a testimony to how real God is and how much He blesses those that follow Him, I would be rich, comfortable, and healthy. However, I soon found out that this was a big, fat lie… Continue reading

Lies Christians Tell #3: “Judge Not”

dont-judge

Probably the most widely quoted Bible verse in our nation is Matthew 7:1. It’s the verse that says, “Judge not.” Interestingly, if one simply keeps reading they will find that there is a much broader context. However, our culture doesn’t keep reading. Instead, it takes the first two words as the whole command…interpreting from these that we are never supposed to tell anyone that they are wrong about anything. Ironically, to tell someone that they are wrong for telling someone that they are wrong is absolute hypocrisy…yet we tend to miss that point. So…while discussing the “Lies Christians Tell,” it is imperative that we talk about one the most widely spread lies: “We’re not supposed to judge…” Continue reading

Lies Christians Tell #2: “A Better Place”

Citizen_-_Everybody_Is_Going_To_Heaven

I was performing a funeral some years ago (one of the many I’ve done over the years)…and something interesting happened beforehand. I don’t know if this is true for most pastors, but I had often been asked to perform funerals for people whom I’d never met. Often, it was because the individual was not a church-goer of any sort and had no affiliation with a minister. Usually, a family member or a friend of a friend that knew me would suggest my services. Well, such was the case this time, and the family member, whom I’d also never met, pulled me aside to inform me of the person’s spiritual condition. They let me know in no uncertain terms that this person “loved the Lord,” and then they gave me a very stern gaze…and said, “You understand what I’m telling you?” As he leaned in…I knew he was trying to intimidate me…I realized that this man either wanted me to make sure the man was in Heaven (which no preacher or priest can do), or to lie about the man… Continue reading

Lies Christians Tell #1: “Believe”

lies

Christians tell lies. We tell them to each to each other, to ourselves, and to non-Christians or “outsiders.” The lies I’m referring to are not the intentional deceit or malice that we see in the world around us. They are not “stab-you-in-the-back” lies. (Yes, I’m well aware of the fact that many Christians do offend others with these types of lies at times. Those are simply not the ones I’m writing about.) The lies I’m referring to are actually worse…because they have a larger impact on the world…and what is really alarming is the fact that we buy into them and believe them ourselves… Continue reading

Religion And Politics

Religion VS Politics

This is an election year. Every election year, a big discussion comes up about how a candidate feels about religious faith. Then there is a plurality of citizens that are offended by this. “Separation of church and state!” they cry. “Don’t mix religion and politics!” Are they right? Are they wrong? I don’t totally know…but here’s what I think… Continue reading

What I think About Gender Identity

transgenderism

I have to say…I would have never guessed that this issue would be an issue. Perhaps I’ve been too narrow-minded or too sheltered. I don’t know. If you would have told me 5-10 years ago that we would be debating over this issue on a national level, I would have laughed out loud and told you that you’re going a bit too far. But here we are…and in my home state of NC…we are right in the thick of the discussion. So…I’ll tell you what I think…and maybe it will surprise you…and maybe not… Continue reading

Mad At God

angry-with-god

Consider a reality that we sometimes feel uncomfortable with…consider the reality that sometimes we have really awful things happen in our lives or the lives of those that we care about and we have a lot of questions. Then we pray…we ask God why this happened. He gives no answer or gives one that we do not understand at all. We may ask Him more questions…only to have Him go silent. At this point, we feel an array of different emotions. We may feel hopeless, abandoned, confused, panicked, anxious, doubtful…and that’s just to name a few…and then…perhaps the one feeling that is stronger than the others is angerwith Him. We find ourselves mad at Him. Can you relate? Have you ever been angry at God? I have…very recently. As a matter of fact, I’m still processing through my feelings… Continue reading

Abandoned

soul-searching

I haven’t posted much of anything in some time due to an accident that happened recently. I was working at my part time job a few weeks ago and had an accident that resulted in a concussion. Apparently, recovery from such an injury has no real schedule. Each person is quite different in the way they respond to this. My response has been somewhat discouraging at times. It’s no fun at all to not be able to trust your memory or even your thinking at a given moment. And there are some other symptoms that linger for a while causing discomfort and inconvenience. However, I didn’t write this to complain and cry. I wrote this to express something else that’s been going on during this process…and maybe you can relate…to a feeling of abandonment…by God… Continue reading

Ouch

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I’ve not been active lately, either on the blog or on social media. I was injured moderately on April 7, and have been kind of out of commission with a concussion and post concussion stuff. Please keep my family and I in prayer as I/we recover. Also, look forward to what the future brings. God has led us away from the church leadership positions we were in. Pray for Antioch Baptist Church as well as us during this transition. We’re not really sure what is next, but we know that we are following His lead.

Thank you all for reading my posts and passing them along.

I’m really hoping to expand the readership of my writings, so please share them on social media and forward the emails to those who may benefit. Also, you may have missed something I’ve posted in the past. There are several pages of archives of the writings on the home page: http://stirringsofthesoul.com. Peruse through them during the downtime and see if you’ve missed any. Once again, forward on anything you like or even want someone else’s opinion about.

Thanks again.

stephen

The Hell Of Jesus

cross and hell

During WWII six Navy pilots left their aircraft carrier on a mission. After searching the seas for enemy submarines, they tried to return to their ship shortly after dark. But the captain had ordered a blackout of all lights on the ship. Over and over the frantic pilots radioed, asking for just one light so they could see to land. But the pilots were told that the blackout could not be lifted. After several appeals and denials of their request, the ship’s operator turned the switch to break radio contact–and the pilots were forced to ditch in the ocean.

Can you fathom the feeling of that type of abandonment? That had to have been the scariest and most helpless feeling one could ever have… Imagine the panic…imagine the anxiety.   Continue reading

The Devil Inside

The-Monster-Inside-Us-the-joker-23617459-1280-800

As long as I’ve been a follower of Jesus, there seems to have been a list of things we aren’t supposed to do. As I’ve written before, one of the main questions that people ask when coming to a church or becoming a new believer is about “the rules.” Christians have a reputation for keeping kind of a tally of the things of this nature. I’m not referring to civil law so much…as in the law of the land…but to a moral code of conduct. Then…when we fall short within that framework…when we break one of the rules…when we cross over into “worldliness,” we feel dirty… impure… guilty… ashamed…hypocritical. Eventually, we arrive at a mindset wherein we believe that if we could simply NOT do those things anymore, then we would be better off…and we could not be more wrong. Continue reading

My Problem Has A Problem

Problems

“The first step in overcoming a problem is admitting that you have one…”

One of my objectives in writing this blog has always been transparency. I believe that people appreciate it and I can’t tell you how many times people have responded with a word of approval for the blunt honesty that they’ve seen. It is sometimes a bit scary…it is sometimes a bit unnerving…and right before I hit that “publish” button…I think and pray. I concern myself with how it’s going to be received and the overall tone…but then, eventually, I hit “publish,” and then I pay attention to how it goes. The reason I get nervous is that I often speak about my personal weaknesses and battles…about my failures and my intentional struggles. As I stated at the beginning…the first step in overcoming a problem is admitting you have one. Continue reading

Struggling with Scripture

Bible

I wrote this two years ago and never published it. I have been thinking about it today and decided I needed to go ahead and put it out there. Some may label me a heretic, a liberal, apostate, or a false teacher. What I really hope is that perhaps this connects with someone who struggles with questions about Biblical inerrancy. Please don’t misunderstand my tone or my intent. Patiently read to the end. I’m fine with disagreement…but please keep conversations civil and let’s stay FAR away from the arguments about current or contemporary translations of the Bible.

Here goes:

I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with a gentleman that grew up as a Roman Catholic. He grew up accepting the general beliefs about the Bible and creation and so on. Then when he went to college, he majored in archaeology and he told me that now his beliefs from the faith he had growing up were in conflict with what he had learned in college. As we continued to talk, I mentioned that at one time I accepted the idea of evolution and that I had done research on it and found it to be very wanting as a theory…then in the middle of me stating my position, something happened… Continue reading

Humble Pie Tastes Terrible

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The past week and a half of my life has been an incredible journey…and not necessarily a comfortable one. It began with a post on this blog: Why I don’t Like Your Church. Upon publishing an article, it usually takes a few days for it to have a few hundred views (if it gets that many). That article hit a few hundred within a couple hours. I was actually pretty surprised that it did because I didn’t think it would interest that many people. I thought that it was something they would see and perhaps gloss over. Within the next day or so, I had some individuals contact me about what I had said. None of it was negative or critical. All of it was quite supportive. People wanted to get together, and I quickly agreed. It was during those conversations and a couple others since then that I’ve come to a stark realization: humble pie tastes terrible. Continue reading

My Chameleon Faith

blend_chameleon

On many occasions, I have heard preachers ask a particular question (I’m pretty sure I dropped this chestnut before as well). They ask, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” We obviously understand the meaning of this to be about whether or not our verbal professions of faith are lining up with our behavior. When we are asked about how our journey in faith is going…we always have the same answer…something like, “I’ve got a lot of growing to do,” or, “The Lord’s working on this area of my life or that.” While it is true that God is always working in our lives (when we let Him), I have found that I love to play those “get-out-of-jail-free” cards way too often. I love to have such an excuse. I love to be able to say, “I’m only human,” or, “I’m not perfect.” But…I find myself using those more as excuses than I do as statements of reality anymore…I find myself being the thing I HATE. I find myself being a hypocrite. Continue reading