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Monday, September 30, 2013

Answering Questions

I recently received some questions on my Facebook page I cannot properly respond to these questions in a line or two and the answers might be of interest to the community as a whole so I decided to respond via a blog post. I want to thank Tru Saunders for asking these questions and I encourage others to please feel free to do the same.

 Question: Why do the churches have pastor appreciation day, women's day, men's day, etc? Is this biblical and if so then why didn't the apostles have a day? The bible say God will not share his glory with no one and the things that we as believers do it is our reasonable service unto God so why is this so?

 First, I am certain that many congregations and churches mean well having a Pastor Appreciation Day wanting to thank their Pastor for all his efforts. I can only speak for myself but I can tell you I would be embarrassed if anyone had such a day to honor me. What I accomplish is accomplished only because of God's grace and His blessing. All the honor and glory belong to Him.

 As far as a women's day or a men's day for me it would depend on the purpose of the day. If the day is used to reinforce God's teachings as to how women and men should live their lives on this earth then I believe such a day could be a good idea. If you celebrate groups of people who do a reasonably good job at living their lives that can be acceptable if the motives are correct. Correct motives would be to celebrate what God has done in their lives and to use their actions as an example. If the purpose is to honor and glorify the individual instead of God then the church might want to do some self examination.

 Now to the question is it biblical. I don't recall any instance in the bible where humans were celebrated. However there are many occasions when God's work is celebrated. So if we use these occasions to honor and glorify God and not the individual I believe it is biblical. The key here is we need to examine our motives very closely. We should all humbly go about our work in a manner that honors and glorifies God and not seek the glory for ourselves. I agree all honor and glory belongs to God.

Question: Also the bible say that adultery is a sin so tell me this, why are there men in the pulpit professing to be Pastors and Prophets that have divorced there wives for other reasons then defiling the bed and Jesus said that is not lawful as well as some even divorcing their wives to remarry but yet professing to be shepherds to Gods people and mouth pieces of the TRUE LIVING GOD! Why is this being allowed and why are the true leaders not speaking up? Did not Jesus say to stand up for holiness and righteousness?

 This questions hits home and is one I have given much thought to. I have been ordained since 2001 but I was divorced in 1994. I feel in certain respects this has helped me in my ministry because I have seen in a very personal way how a divorce harms the entire family including the extended family. It is a part of my life I regret and wish I could turn back the clock but I can't. Often people ask me if I will ever remarry. I respond that I have another marriage left in me but not another divorce. If I do remarry it will be with God at the center of the marriage and there will be a life long commitment.

 We also must remember that we are all sinners including every Pastor. The only sinless person was also divine and that person was the Son of God, Jesus Christ. If a church is looking for a sinless Pastor they are not going to find one. If a Pastor claims to be sinless, the very statement makes him a sinner because he is lying to you.

 When we examine the bible we find that God has used sinners to accomplish some of His greatest works. Moses was a fugitive when God called him. He had committed murder but God chose him and He accomplished much. King David committed both adultery and murder. God did punish him by taking the son conceived as a result of the adultery away from him but God did continue to use him. Matthew aka Levi was a tax collector and a cheat when God chose him. Paul aka Saul murdered Christians before God called him. Paul went on to be arguably the most successful missionary who ever lived and wrote two-thirds of the New Testament.

 I think when looking at a Pastor we need to examine not his past sins but rather how and if he rebounded from that sin. How he is living his life now? Is he using his past errors to help others? Is his current work glorifying God? No Pastor will ever be perfect or sinless but a Pastor should try to live a Godly life, be willing and able to stand up and admit his faults and to be accountable. Pastors must do their best to honor and glorify God in how they carry out their current ministry.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Battling the Blues

Battling the Blues

In the Gospel of John, Jesus reminds us that in our life on earth we will have trouble.  The one thing I have learned is Jesus keeps His promises and He has certainly kept this one. In accordance with this promise we all have those bad days where it appears that nothing is going right.  I recently had a week of those days and it prompted me to write this article. 

First, let me share a little about myself and make a disclaimer or two. 

Despite my ever present smile and gregarious nature I have battled the blues. I am a recovering alcoholic and have struggled with major depression.  Through the grace of God, fellowship with others, the twelve steps and some great health care professionals I have not had a drink in over twenty one years and have been in remission from major depression for over three years.  

Now for the disclaimers. I am not a medical professional.  I am a Pastor. I am writing this article from a Christian  prospective not a medical one. Because the article is short it is not an exhaustive analysis or study of anything. It is just what I have learned from my personal experience. 

Christian  and medical resources working together have been valuable in my recovery. If you are battling the blues or face any mental health challenges I encourage you to seek out both medical and Christian resources. 

I know when I start to feel the blues my initial inclination is to have a pity party and feel sorry for myself.  The last thing I want to do is pray or read the bible.  How do I overcome that?  Well, I am fortunate in that God has blessed me with a super best friend who is also a Christian and is really understanding.  I did not always have her but I am glad she is here now. So before I start my pity party I just tell her I am grumpy or feeling blue. We do not get into a long discussion, I simply let her know how I am feeling and she says something encouraging. It is usually a quick conversation but I get my feelings out in the open and acknowledged.  I then begin to pray. It is not always easy and might take some warming up. I always begin with the short format of the serenity prayer. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change. The courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. "

Normally, at this point I still need a little more warm up before I have that personal conversation with God.  To warm up  I begin with some of the traditional prayers I learned growing up such as the Lord's Prayer and the Glory Be. I may repeat them a few times before I begin my conversation with God. 

Once I am ready to have that personal conversation I usually pray something like "God open my mind, soften my heart and settle me so that I am open to Your message ".  I then ask for the Holy Spirit to descend upon me to help me understand God's will for me.  Then I talk to God as I would a friend. I share my feelings and frustrations. I sometimes share my anger and doubt.  I have never heard God respond in a thundering voice from above or seen a burning bush but God has always responded. Sometimes through another person, often through a bible verse and sometimes by just laying the answer in my mind and on my heart.  There are times I do not recognize that He answered me until well after the fact. After a few events have played out it occurs to me that God did respond, I just did not understand it right away.  I also realize I may never understand why God responded the way He did but I know I must accept it.

I have found that while God tests me He never leaves me.  During the most trying tests I turn to the Book of Job.  I then realize that God knows more than I do and He has a plan a perfect plan and I do not need to understand it. I just need to be open to it.  In the twelve steps fellowships there is a simple saying "Let go and let God".  That is what I try to do everyday. I don't always do it perfectly as I sometimes still think I am in control. When that happens the blues are not far away.

One final reminder God has gifted health care professionals with the skill, talents and knowledge to treat mental health issues from a medical perspective.  If you are suffering from any mental health issue it is important to seek help from all the resources God has provided which includes Christian resources and the medical community. Make no mistake mental health issues are life threatening and need to be treated as such.

This has been my simple story I hope you get something out of it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Three Most Important Words: "I Love You"

When I was just a young boy I asked my Grandma Ryan how her marriage lasted so long.  She told me that it amounted to three words "I love you".  She said each night whether it was the best night in their marriage where they loved each other like newlyweds or it was one of those days where nothing went right, they had been fighting all day and at bed time they kind of still loved each other but really didn't like each other they made sure to always say "I love you".  She said there were 2 reasons for that.  First, if the good Lord called one of them home that night the other would find comfort in knowing that their last words on this earth were "I love you".  But she said the second was the more practical and more common.  If they had been fighting the night before very often when they woke up in the morning they often did not remember what they were arguing about because the disagreement paled in comparison to their love for each other.  If they did remember what the disagreement was about they were able to resolve it at the breakfast table over a cup of coffee.  Never go to bed without saying I love you.  If you are separated by distance please use the phone and convey those three most important words to one another.  I once spoke to an Army officer who had been  deployed and on deployment did not always have access to a phone. He said each night he would find a star and whisper the words "I love you" knowing the star would make its way back to his wife and she would know that he sent it to her with his love.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?

 Where Where You When The World Stopped Turning?


September 11, 2001, a day that is embedded in my memory for eternity.  I was in the United States District Court House in Baltimore with a client for a hearing. The Judge was called from the bench, when he returned he announced all cases would be continued and told us to leave the courthouse with no further explanation .

As we left the courthouse we saw armed U.S. Marshals surrounding the building.  It was then I heard of the attack on the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.  My first thoughts went to my brother who is a firefighter on Long Island.  I tried to reach him on my cell phone and all lines were busy.  I kept trying while I walked back to my office.  When I arrived my secretary informed me the Pentagon had been hit.  I responded with a very solemn "we're at war" and walked quietly to my office.  I closed my doors and prayed the most sincere prayer of my life to let me get through and speak to my brother. I picked up my phone and tried one more time.  Miraculously he picked up on the first ring.  He was on an Engine responding to Ground Zero. He wound up working with a rescue and recovery team.  He was one of the lucky ones, he survived without physical injury.  I remember speaking with a friend through out who had a brother who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald.  She was not so lucky, she was one of many who lost a loved one that day.

I remember leaving my office going to be with my daughter and former wife, whose husband worked for the airlines and was flying that day.  He was safe.  I remember speaking to my son who was in college.  All of a sudden I realized how important family was.  How blessed my family was and how thankful I was that God answered my prayer and let me speak to my brother while he was responding to this tragedy.  What were you doing that day?  I will never forget, will you?  God Bless America !!!