Saturday, January 15, 2011

Church Hurt: The Damage

They say nothing hurts more than church hurt.  I have recently been referred to a site that was created by someone who has been hurt or new someone who was hurt by the pastor of a local assembly here in Orlando.  The site displayed records of testimonies from people who were hurt by this pastor.   There is an area on the site where people can post about what they have read.  These comments disturbed me.  There were people who agreed with the author of the site and there were of course those who did not.  So what you had was people going back and forth with each other via the comments section of this site.  Terrible words were used even to the point where the author of the site got involved.   After seeing enough, I attempted to offer a word of reason by commenting on the importance of remaining spiritual.  It did not go too well.  The owner of the site let me have it, but later retracted after continuous communication with me, which remained spiritual.
What we have is a case of scattered sheep that are angry, confused, and open to the enemy all because of this particular church.  The members of the church made up majority of those who disagreed with the site.  They behaved in this manner because they accepted foolishness and rejected what was right before their eyes.  They were in this state because the leaders were not leading by example, and the leaders were like this, because of their spiritual head, their pastor.  The result?  A divided church, broken families, scattered sheep, and the lost of hope. 
The bible states "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?   "You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.  "The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.  "So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.  "My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them." (Eze 34:2-6)  You have no good pastors who feed themselves by way of weak women.  You have no good pastors who eat the fat and cloth themselves with ridiculous tithing demands.  You have no good pastors who are able to identify with those who are sick and broken but can’t send up prayers of healing because their hearts are not right.  People have left the church only to return back to the foolishness they were in, and many have lost their lives.  All because of these no good pastors and the inner circles they have gathered around them.
God said “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them." (Eze 34:10)  He said he is against the shepherds.  GOD IS AGAINST THESE NO GOOD PASTORS!!!!!  And just as God did it for the children of Israel back then, he will do it for the children of the new covenant today.  Pastors are being exposed and honest and sincere men of God are being raised to pastor the hurt, torn, confused, used, talked about, and shunned flock.  There is hope family.  Just hold on a little while longer.  Instead of using your eyes, exercise your ears.  God’s word cannot be seen, but heard, and that is how you will be able to tell the difference between the shepherds who will feed themselves from the shepherds who will feed you.  Amen!

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Tit For Tat: God Forbids

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.  Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate...Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.  Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that."
 --Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

When I was under my first pastor, prior to me seeing his true colors, there were people in the church and the community who had an unjustifiable resentment towards him.  These were people who just wanted to see chaos, and rejected any form of truth that would intrude on their darkness.  Since I was fresh from NYC, with a minor chip on my shoulder, it was not difficult for me to put my hands on any of these individuals if needed be.  There was an incident that really upset me, to the point I wanted to put these individuals in their place once and for all.  Pastor called me into his office and began to address my feelings.  He said “son, people will always respond to truth in a negative way, but for your own good, do not reciprocate.  I am telling you, if you just learn Christ, you will be fine.”  I look back at the conversation and find it hard not to laugh at the irony, but what he said was the truth.  To me, those people wanted to disrupt what I held dear, and I wanted to respond back to them in like manner.

We have become a people that praises “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” or the sweet taste of revenge.   What will be the makeup of our character?  How closer are we to God if we continue down this path?  The bible states “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.” (Rom 12:17)  Christian living can be difficult but not impossible.  We have to be willing to break the condition of old, and truly cling on to the new.  If we are new creatures after learning Christ, why is it that we cannot shake the feeling of getting back at someone who tried to hurt us?  It may not be in a physical way.  It could be via slander, confiding in someone only for them to spill their guts, a co-worker stabbing you in the back to get a promotion, etc, etc, etc.  The Apostle Paul expressed in Romans that we are to meditate on the things that make for peace.  The theologian William Burkitt wrote “Corrupt nature is very prone to return wrong for wrong, one ill turn for another, but Christianity sets a nobler pattern before us, even the example of him, "who when he was reviled, reviled not again, when he suffered, he threatened not," Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”  Simply put, it is the will of the enemy that we keep the cycle of ill will towards one another going.  However, Christ set a standard that is different, that we must meet if we truly love our Creator and desire to be with Him in eternity, and that is to love continually.
The Apostle Paul further stated “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Ro 12:18)  He was not naive.  He knew that some people will quarrel, and it is barely possible to keep upon good terms with them.  In their case we must do our best, and if, after all, we cannot, then we must remove ourselves. Dr. King wrote “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that”  Love must be at the core of our thoughts so let’s put this wonderful idea into practice.  My wife shared with me yesterday, that we as Christians must put our feelings in check.  We are not to allow our feelings destroy our witness.  Thank you wife.  Amen!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Doing Something For Nothing

A friend of mine is struggling with an issue.   He had this very good job that paid extremely well.  He was not one who squanders, but he was one who never shied away from purchasing the finer things in life.  He is faithful, and knows all that he has was by the will of God.  Another friend of ours has been struggling.  He is not faithful, and always feels he has the answer.  So not to confuse the friends, let’s give the one who is faithful the name Kenny and the one who is not Lewis.  One day the three of us were hanging out, and Lewis shared that he was just tired of scraping to get by.  During our conversation, Kenny started to lay down some heavy words of encouragement.  I was truly impressed.  He gave testimony after testimony.  If I did not know him, I would have asked what church he goes to so I can come too.  By the grace of God, Lewis was moved. 
It was not immediate, but Lewis decided to let God be the driver in his life.  Lewis was faced with a financial strain and came to his friends for assistance.  Kenny and I decided to go 50/50 to help him out of his predicament.  Lewis was never in it again.  Blessings after blessings after blessings began to shower this man.  I was in the front row seat of this show directed by God.  It seemed like Lewis and I were talking more with each other about the goodness of God while Kenny just listen, and say amen every now and again.  Now let’s go back to the issue I shared.  Kenny had lost his very good paying job.  He was able to find another one, by the graces of God, but the money was enough to cover the bills and have some left over to put into savings, but not enough to be pampered.  This was really an issue for him, but not the issue I am referring to.  Kenny asked me a question.  Kenny asked if Lewis paid me back for the money that I partially helped him with.  I reminded Kenny that we did not loan Lewis the money, but gave it to him because he needed it.  Kenny said “yeah, but… least do something”  At that moment I thanked God for the understanding.
There is a similar story in the bible regarding a Shunammite woman but different outcome.  She sees a prophet who travels through her town.  She considers his journeys and has him come into her home for food whenever he passes through.  She feels she can do more for him, and consults her husband to set up a place for him to lodge if he so chooses.   Elisha, who is the prophet acknowledges her kindness and want to return the favor by speaking highly of her to the king or captain.  Her response is recorded as “I dwell among mine own people.” (2 Kings 4:13) Meaning she is blessed where she does not need help or relief from the powers that be.  This can be a story about contentment, but this woman did something out of the kindness of heart, and was not seeking anything in return.  She did something for nothing.  Elisha still wanted to repay her for her kindness and it was expressed that she never had any children, so Elisha petitioned the Lord to grant her a child, which God did. 
Kenny’s heart may not have been in the right place and God had to deal with it.  The tables have now turned.  In fact, Lewis was in a far worst condition that Kenny is in now.  Lewis was robbing Peter to pay Paul.  At least with Kenny, the only thing he can’t do is pamper himself.  He is still able to pay bills and he has some left over to go into savings.  The blessings from God became his God and God had to wake him up.  He sees Lewis on top, and now wants the money back.  So he did something for something.   Now what I did not share was the many times we went out to lunch that Lewis covered the tab.  Come to think about it, if I was to add up the times he did this, it was more than what I gave him.  Kenny’s situation clouded his vision, and if I was not present to remind him, or, if his situation was worst, he may have said or did something that he would have ended up regretting.  The bible says “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2Co 9:7)  If we are going to help someone in need, let us do it because it is pleasing to us.  Let us do it because we know God blessed us and we would like to be a blessing to someone else.  Do not do it out of obligation, and surely do not do it expecting anything in return.  Amen!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Never Forget Where You Come From

Who is Oprah Winfrey?  LOL, what kind of question is that?  We all know who Oprah Winfrey is.  She is the leading daytime television host.  I must say I really do not watch her because in my opinion, I believe her audience target women.  There is nothing wrong with that.  As a man, I just can’t see myself sitting down and watching Oprah, but I must say I watch General Hospital though.  That is another argument.  I also do not hold her in high regard on her stance regarding Jesus not being the only way to God.  I admit that it can be seen as biased, however I have a strong faith, and anyone who opposes my faith….well, our conversations will be very limited.  What I respect about Oprah Winfrey is her philanthropy. 

Philanthropy defined is a goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially : active effort to promote human welfare.   Oprah Winfrey takes the cake on this one.  It is evident on some of her shows.  She has given members of her audience apparel, jewelry, make-overs and even cars.  It is reported that she donated $50.2 million to the Oprah Winfrey Foundation and Oprah's Angel Network to support the inspiration, empowerment and education of women, children, and families around the world and to encourage people around the world to make a difference in the lives of others.  She gets kudos for that because she was raised poor and despite her sordid past involving sexual abuse, when she made it she looked back where others would have been pleased to keep it moving.  She remembered what she went through, and because she has the means, she helps as much as possible so that others wouldn’t.  She never forgot where she came from.

In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah never forgot where he came from.  The bible states that Nehemiah, a descendant from the tribe of Judah was a cup bearer (Neh 1:11) for a Persian King.  A cup-bearer was an officer of high rank in royal courts, whose duty it was to serve the drinks at the royal table. On account of the constant fear of plots and intrigues, a person must be regarded as thoroughly trustworthy to hold this position. He must guard against poison in the king's cup, and was sometimes required to swallow some of the wine before serving it. His confidential relations with the king often gave him a position of great influence. The position of cup bearer is greatly valued and given to only a select few throughout history. Qualifications for the job were not held lightly but of high esteem valued for their beauty and even more for their modesty, industriousness and courage. 

Nehemiah an outsider was in this high position, but prior to that he was in exile, a survivor of the Chaldean siege.  A past that was behind him until recent news fell on his ears.  Nehemiah over heard men talking about his fellow brethren, and hearing of their plight and their poor conditions, he was moved.  He did not consider himself lucky.  He did not say, “oh well, to each his own.”  The bible states “So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (Ne 1:4)  He prayed and prayed and prayed, and when God answered him in a form of an opportunity (Neh 2:2-4) to do something about what he has heard, he did it without hesitation.  He left comfort to go back to discomfort, for the sake of his brethren to help rebuild Jerusalem.

Too often we who have grown up and were able to leave a poor condition, refuse to look back and help in some way our family and friends left behind.  We have this “the town is in my rear view mirror” attitude.  We use excuses of moving to another state as though that state do not have ghettos similar to yours.  Then we have those who would have busted hell wide open if it was not for hearing and hearing the Word of God, only to keep it to themselves, and not share it with the family and friends they left behind, as though they are not worthy to receive it.  There is a saying  that goes Always be nice to people on the way up; because you’ll meet the same people on the way down”  I would like to add that you never forget where you came from, because it is not guaranteed that you will not return.  Amen!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

You Depend On God

Many of you have heard the terrible story that took place in Arizona.  Are the details important?  Yes and here is why.  We have a young man who is the age of 22.  This is someone’s son.  He is around the age of someone who would be finishing up a Bachelor’s program.  This young man is the shooter.  There were 20 victims that were shot by this young man.  Out of the 20 victims that were shot, 6 of them did not make it.  They died.  One of the 6, was a 9 year old girl.  A terrible and horrific crime committed by a citizen of mankind to other citizens of mankind.  At this time we fully do not know what led this young man to do such a thing.  We may never know the thoughts of the five who died, but we can imagine what may have been on that little girl’s mind.  You see, she was born on 9/11/01, and according to her family and school, she showed interests in politics.  In fact, her interest in government was the reason why she attended the event on Saturday where the shooting took place.  Can you imagine how happy she was?  She was possibly living her dream.  How many times do you believe she pretended to be a politician?  She was an innocent little girl who just wanted a chance to be amongst adults in an adult setting, discussing adult matters.  Why are these details important?  The shooter’s intended target was one person.  One!!!!  His sole purpose was to assassinate one person, and yet 20 people were shot, 6 died, and one of them was a 9 year old girl. 
This is just one event out of many that happened to make the front page because of the political nature.   I’ve heard of stories where a child was in his room playing video games and a stray bullet came through his bedroom window hitting him in the neck, killing him.   Another story is of an older woman waiting for a bus to head to work on her last day before she retires, only for a car to spin out of control and crash into her and pinning her against the wall, nearly severing her upper body from her lower body.  Or a young baseball league player, where a ball was hit straight toward him, and he missed the catch and the ball hit him in the chest, killing him.  Stories like these and the Arizona one is a clear sign that our lives are not in our control.  At any time our lives can cease to exist.  It points to our dependency on a force that can see the unforeseeable and possibly protect us from the unpredictable elements like above.  The force I am referring to is God.
            People pray to God before they lay their head down to sleep.  People pray when they wake up.  People pray before they leave their home.  When traveling, people pray for traveling mercy, and arriving grace.  People pray before an operation.   People pray for healing.  People pray for their spouses, their children, their friends, their fellow parishioners.  If someone was walking down the street and see a bunch of men coming toward them, they pray to God that they will pass without incident.  People pray for protection.  People pray for covering.  People pray.  People pray.  People pray!!!!!!!!!  The reason why people pray is because they realize the need of God to come between them and danger.  They pray because they recognize the power of petitioning God to move on their behalf.  They pray because they heard about others who prayed and received their desired results.  These examples point to a need.  The bible states “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;   and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Php 4:6-7)  We pray because we want the assurance that our worries will subside, and that our minds will be at ease, knowing that God got us covered.  Remember it is not about God knowing we need Him, but about us removing the distractions and realize that we need God.  Amen!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Integrity Not Hypocrisy

If there is one thing that frustrates me the most, it would be a hypocrite.  The person who says one thing, but does another.  There is no synchronization present.  Their words and actions are not aligned.  It speaks volumes, and I mean volumes, to the character of that person.  They would not be dependable.  They would not be trustworthy.  Every time they open their mouth and words escape from their lips, it will always be a mystery.  You would always wonder if the content of their words will lean one way or the other.  Yes I said lean.  It is as though they may need a V-8.  What’s worst than a hypocrite, is a hypocrite who is also a Christian.  We are to be good examples whenever the opportunity to arise.   In a world where the love of money have been the focus, continuous violence, politics have taken front stage over the will of the people, and a host of other issues, it is a Christian whose behavior should display that contrary to the world’s way, there is still another and better way to live.  However, when a Christian displays behaviors that mimic the world’s view, it lessens the importance of the necessity to follow Christ’s teachings.  This is even worst when Christian leaders are on the front line of this hypocrisy.
The Apostle Paul has also shared this sentiment.  In Gal 2:11-17 Paul had to address some behaviors that came to his attention by way of the church of Galatia.  One of the Apostles, one of  the twelve men that Jesus Christ has chosen for his campaign to preach the Gospel to the nations, the eldest of them all, and the one who Jesus said “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18) fell victim to this hypocrisy.   Peter was the leader of a behavior that was complete contrary to what his teacher taught.  Paul stated he addressed him openly indicating although Peter may have been the elder, when it comes to the Gospel, he is inferior to no one and did not hesitate to call Peter out on his wrong.  Verse 12 explains the hypocrisy.  When Peter was around the Gentiles (non-Jews), he fellowshipped with them, as though they are one in Christ, however when certain Jews came around, the ones who have not fully converted and still hold on to the law as means for salvation, he removed himself from the Gentiles.  His behavior was unacceptable and Paul made sure he made it known.  He reminded Peter that Christ came to remove the wall that separated the Jews and Gentiles.  He reminded Peter, that you followed this same man, and even taught the same things, but because certain men were in his presence, he forsook what he have learned and taught.  Paul showed Peter, that his behavior caused men to follow in suit and now put a stumbling block before the new converted Gentiles. 
Some Christians behave in similar manner.  Take a look at Bishop Eddie Long.  For years he preached against homosexuality, yet reports show he sent young men photos of himself in tights.  When his darkness was revealed, he claimed that he will fight this for the accusations are false, only to seek mediation to settle out of court.   That is a prime example of hypocrisy.  You have some Christians who do not want to be around this or that person because of life choices, and have family members who make similar life choices, and will curse you out if you say anything bad about them.  You have Christians who will live sinfully Monday through Saturday, and put on their holier than thou hat on Sunday.  You have Christians who sit in church and praise God, and receive a message on treating others good, or warned about entertaining strangers with hostility, and will leave church and curse the man who wants to wash their windshield for a dollar.  You have some Christians who preach love and forgiveness, yet they wish Michael Vick was banned from playing football forever for what he did to those dogs.  It is amazing how hypocrites seem to always point fingers outward and not inward.   They are being watched.  They are being watched by those who truly desire to come to church, but cannot deal with the hypocrisy.  Their behavior has now put a stumbling block before a soul who needs saving.  And make no mistake about it, God is watching as well.
Everybody should behave in a manner that is consistent, but for a Christian the standard is higher.  Christ did not come to free us only for us to return back to our bondage.  We are to display integrity.  We are to display a behavior that is attractive.  We are to display that there are differences between a Christian, and a non-Christian, and it starts by remaining true to the Word.  Amen!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

God’s Word Equals Courage

I love to watch movies, don’t you?  I not only watch them for the obvious entertaining element, but I also watch and search for hidden messages.  I am about to show my age, but a good movie, at least at that time was the Karate Kid.  You know the one with Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi) and Ralph Macchio (Daniel), wax on, wax off (smile)?  This is a story of the weak conquering the strong.  I want you to focus on a dialog between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi during the last fight of the tournament.  It goes as follows:
Daniel:  It’s over Mr. Miyagi!  Let’s get out of here!  It’s over!
Mr. Miyagi:  DANIEL-SON!  DANIEL-SON!  It okay to lose to opponent, must not lose to fear!
Daniel:  Well, I’m afraid!  I’m afraid alright!
Mr. Miyagi: Aye! Aye! Aye!  Daniel-Son, your best Karate still inside! Now time let out!
This dialogue took place after continuous and brutal blows delivered from Daniel’s opponent.  Daniel was unable to defend.  He was unable to counter attack.  The pain began to compile.  He was no longer able to remain focus and the courage he entered the tournament with has transformed into fear.
It is similar events that plague both believers and non-believers today.  Life’s circumstances cause us to lose focus.  We are hit with trial after trial, tribulation after tribulation.  We take one step forward only to move five steps back.  People are losing their jobs, their homes, their savings, and it hurts.  The media continues to remind everyone of their circumstance and now fear has developed.  People no longer want to fight.  They do not want to continue.  They just want to give up and whatever happens,  happens.  They say “it’s over.  Let’s get out of here!”
Do not let what you see with your natural eyes determine your outcome.  Do not allow the fear that is mounting up via the media cause you to lose focus.  There is a God in heaven whose word speaks contrary to what the media dishes out.  His word states that we must be strong and courageous for He goes where we go, and He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6).  We need not worry what the world throws at us because we have an advocate in He who overcame the world (Jn 16:33, 1Jn 5:4-5, Rom 8:31).  We need not focus on our inability, but focus on God’s ability to address all of our concerns.  I encourage you to study God’s word.  Meditate on His promises.  Apply it to your life and see how it is false reporting that the media is dishing out.  Mr. Miyagi told Daniel that his best Karate is still inside and that it was time to let it out.  You have a Spirit that is in you that you have allowed it to be stifled because of fear.  The word of God states “God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Eph 3:21)  It is time to tap into that power and let it work for us.  Be encouraged,  Amen!