Forgive So You Can Be Free

I didn’t write any of the following. I’m not that gifted. But this sister is. Her name is Teresa McMillan. Look her up and follow her on Facebook. The rest of this post is hers:

They say ‘don’t get bitter…get better’…I’m working on switchin’ them letters ~Lecrae

It’s so easy to get bitter.

To not forgive.

To be a victim. Continue reading

Faith Isn’t Always Happy

How many times have we heard platitudes purporting ideas about giving your life to Jesus and everything will be better? Looking back over my years of preaching and teaching, I know I said that and taught that very thing frequently. So…someone does that…they give their life to Jesus. They pray the prayer, walk the aisle, bow at the “altar,” and begin to identify themselves as “born again.” That’s all well and good… except for one possible unmet expectation. We often present faith in a sales-type fashion. It’s a product that you need. It’s a deal too good to pass up. Once you have this product, your life will be totally complete, secure, and content. If only that were true… Can we talk about the reality of all of this transparently for just a few moments, please? Continue reading

The Problem With Prayer

Prayer is one of the most enigmatic subjects to consider. Everyone talks about it. When something bad happens or anxieties arise, we often say, “keep me in your prayers.” When a public official speaks after or during a tragedy, there is always an encouragement to keep those that have been affected in our prayers. They don’t necessarily mention whom we should pray to…but just to pray however we pray to whomever we pray on behalf of these individuals.  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

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 #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 #1: “Believe”

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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

Mad At God

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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

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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

Struggling with Scripture

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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

Fear Of Man

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This is one of those times where I have to admit something that I really don’t like to admit… I have to admit that I struggle with fear. This is not the normal type of fear…not about monsters under my bed or being alone in the woods at night. I’m not worried about those things (except zombies…for some reason I have an irrational fear of a totally fictitious creature…don’t judge me). No…my fear runs much deeper… Continue reading

I Am A Christian

Christian

 

I meet people in all kinds of settings. A few days ago, I was in a situation in which I was in a waiting area. There was only one other person waiting there with me and she started a conversation. As we spoke, I quickly became aware that she was not a local. She eventually asked me where I was from, and I responded by telling her that I grew up just down the road. She then asked what I did for a living. I responded by saying, “I’m a pastor.” Her facial expression changed…and the conversation then went in an interesting direction… Continue reading

Humbled

Humbled Man Pic 2

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my personal journey in faith. As I have walked this path, I’ve messed up so many things, and hurt some people along the way as well. I have some acquaintances that are more atheistic in their beliefs, and in many cases, are such due to the way Christians have treated them. This makes me wonder about those that I’ve had contact with over the last 16 years…about my affect on them…with my jackassery (yes that word is necessary for this description)…with my arrogance…with my ignorance. Continue reading

Dry

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I hesitate to write this because, invariably, when I speak to others about this subject, they worry. I appreciate the concern, but I want to assure everyone that I’m okay. Having said that, let me just share something that maybe you can connect with. I’m dry. What I mean is that I am having a very hard time hearing from the Lord right now. My wife tells me that every time for a month or so preceding our vacation time, I get like this and I start to voice what one might call “ministerial despair.” To be clear, I’m not speaking of depression…but something different…

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I Don’t Know

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I can’t count the number of times people have sought out my counsel in order to get some answers to the questions of life that are troubling them. When a major event comes along in their lives that shakes the foundation of not only their faith, but also their existence…they ask me questions due to my position as a pastor. When this first started occurring, I had some canned, worn-out phrase to use on them. I would say things like, “God works in mysterious ways,” or, “God is in control,” or the favorite, “This is all a part of His plan.” As I would say such things and look them in the eyes…I could see the absence of hope…the presence of total confusion…and the reality of rage. As those words rolled off my tongue, their countenance changed…hardened…and their belief in a God that loves them wavered. Continue reading

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

When I became a Christian, I entered the process we call “sanctification.” For those who may not totally understand the meaning of this word, it refers to the ongoing process of our being made holy. Essentially, this is what Paul was referring to in the 8th chapter of Romans, specifically verse 29. It mentions that we are being changed into the image of His Son. In other words, we are continuously going through a process wherein God is making us like Jesus. Of course, according to Scripture, this is not our doing but God’s. He saves us, and then sets us apart for this process. Throughout this process, I see a continual struggle in my life between the good that God would have me do and the evil that I have a tendency toward (This is also mentioned by Paul. See Romans 7.).

Logically, what this means is that as life goes on we should become more and more holy. It should get easier and easier to turn from sin. It should be more and more of a reflex to shun sin and embrace holiness…right? Now…I don’t know about you…but this is not really the case for me. It has made me wonder about a lot of things…like, “am I really saved?”…or, “is God going to get sick of me?” Continue reading

At the Funeral of a Hamster…

In the month of December, we celebrate Christmas, which seems to have become quite confusing within the world of evangelicalism/consumerism. I’m sure that to many, especially outsiders, it is unclear what exactly this celebration is about. We must admit, with all of the “stuff” and commercialization of this holiday, it has become somewhat difficult to focus on the object of celebration. Continue reading

…so now we can eat bacon…

One of the most interesting concepts to me in the Bible is that of dietary laws. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were given a law from God that forbade them from eating certain types of meat. For land dwelling animals, the animal had to have “split hoofs,” and “chew cud.” A cow is a very commonly thought of animal in relation to this subject. It chews cud and has a split hoof. These animals were considered clean and others unclean. A pig, for the most obvious example does not chew cud, thus making it unclean, although it wouldn’t take much thought to realize that a pig is a pretty disgusting animal anyway, comparatively speaking. The reason I’ve been intrigued by the concept of clean versus unclean animals is that God doesn’t really give a reason as to why He made this distinction. I know there are many people out there that speculate on the various reasons, ranging from health reasons to philosophical issues. However, any reason we give is speculation, because the Scripture isn’t clear as to why these distinctions are made. God never said, “I have deemed them unclean for ____ reason(s).” Therefore, we have spent a lot of time trying to figure out this mystery…but maybe we missed an interesting point in the big picture… Continue reading

Compromising For Connection

hypocrite

I have something to admit. Sometimes (probably more often than not) I will be involved in a conversation with one or more person(s) and the subject will become…somewhat…how should I say…less than righteous. Perhaps it will be that there are off-color jokes being told, or perhaps some crude humor, or maybe even gossip…but nevertheless the conversation would not be something I would be comfortable with a lot of people hearing me involved in. It was said about the basketball legend, Bill Russell, that he did not like coarse humor or inappropriate discussions, and that when he came into the locker room, the language would clean up. So here I am…the pastor of an evangelical Christian church…and people don’t necessarily do that when I come into the room…and I wondered, “why?” Let me be clear…it’s not that I’m offended by these things usually, and it’s not that I think I’m anything special…it’s just that it makes me wonder if people are reacting this way due to the fact that they believe I’m not judgmental or due to the fact that they don’t think that I’m any different.

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judge not…except when you should…

i think perhaps the most often quoted saying of Jesus in modern culture is His, “judge not, that you be not judged.” (matthew 7:1)  anytime an absolute moral position is taken on a given subject, people are likely to throw this verse out. then we hear the Christian compliment to it…”we are called to love not to judge.” those that usually quote this verse most often do so in defense of themselves or of someone they love…or at least intend to and believe they love…but according to paul…we are supposed to judge those who call themselves believers:

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”   
(1 corinthians 5:11-13, esv, my emphasis added) Continue reading

alive

when i became a follower of Jesus, i immediately had multiple questions about the ways i was supposed to engage the world from that point forward. what i mean is that i wanted to know about “the rules,” for lack of a better word…or perhaps the “how-should-we-act-when,” types of questions. this pertained to various avenues in my life…language, attitude, money, marriage, public appearance…and the list seemingly goes on ad infinitum. i wanted the guidelines and for someone to tell me how Christians are supposed to act…i literally wanted the rules…and believed that if i had them and followed them that i would be bringing a degree of happiness to the heart of God…like a proud Father of a son that has been obedient. this is how many of us view our faith, and it’s not a bad thing to want to know how to make the Father proud (albeit that is the wrong question)…but i’ve learned something about my faith…it cannot be contained within a set of rules that have been fabricated using materials and concepts from an existence to which my faith is not bound…did you get that?

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the doomsday distraction

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today is the the 20th of december of 2012…tomorrow being the 21st…and there are many people in the world that are certain that on the 21st there are going to be major cataclysmic events that may bring an end to the world as we know it. let me start by saying that i don’t have any idea what the future holds nor will i spend much energy debating that subject. the only thing i will say is that Jesus told us that He would return someday and that would mark the beginning of the next age. i believe in that, and therefore i don’t put much stock in the predictions of mankind. something may happen tomorrow…who knows…but i refuse to be distracted and carried away by that debate. Continue reading

The Church Adrift

adrift

I have come to believe in a certain concept that I would call a deep truth. I believe that in any given culture, the direction of the spiritual/religious philosophy will directly affect the direction of the culture itself. In other words, as goes the church, so goes the culture. What’s very interesting about this is that we as the church and culture, seemingly, are on opposite ends of the spectrum…or are we really

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