The Glamorous Life Of A Pastor

If you are considering a call of God on your life to be a pastor or Christian leader, I would encourage you to count the cost and then remember that Jesus is worth it all.

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If you are wondering if God is calling you into a vocational ministry role then maybe this will help you.

I had a lot of dreams growing up of what I wanted to be. As a small child I wanted to be a professional football player.   Size and skill would not make that possible. Then, I set my sights to be an artist or a comedian. I loved to draw and make people laugh. That didn’t work out either, but there was one career that was never on my radar.

I never wanted to be a pastor.

Not that being a pastor was a bad thing, I just saw pastors as people that weren’t real people. They had to live differently than everyone else. Growing up, my pastor was well known in the community, a strong leader and a wise sage all rolled into one.  His career was not like other people who had normal jobs. He was set apart. He was my pastor. He was an honored man. The calling to be a pastor would have been like the calling to go to Mars. It just wasn’t something I saw myself ever doing. It wasn’t something I could ever see myself as worthy of doing.

It’s really interesting how God has a way of guiding your path. Growing up I went to church because my mom and dad loved Jesus and that’s just what we did. We never missed. I didn’t particularly like going to church, but when I was around 15 my Sunday School teacher, who was also one of my high school football coaches, told me one day out of the blue, “Hermann, you going to be a preacher one day.”

The seed was planted.

I had never once thought in my life about being a preacher but that little statement would be a mustard seed planted in my heart that would be watered in the coming years.

When I was 16, I begrudgingly went to church youth camp at my mom’s request.

It was at that camp that God really captured my heart.

It was during that week of my life that I gave God my “yes” to whatever He wanted from me.

It was at that camp that I heard that still small voice of God watering the seed of faith that was planted a year earlier from my coach.

I talked to my youth pastor and told him I thought God might be calling me into ministry.   He committed with me to pray about it. I spent a year praying and asking God if that was what I was supposed to do. I returned to High school with a new passion to honor God with my life. I became friends with a guy I had known all my life but never really liked.   His name was Carson. That summer Carson had a very similar experience at a different youth camp and was committed to being a pastor.   Carson and I played football together against each other and we became inseparable friends. It’s neat how God does that.   We helped lead our local Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Youth group, and we even started a morning bible study at the local McDonalds for other students to attend.

As time went by we went to junior college and Bible College together. Now I am 20 years down the road since those days in high school.   Thanks to God’s mercy, Carson and I are both still Pastors. Carson is the pastor of a church in Wrens, Georgia and I am a staff pastor at a great church in Flowery Branch, Georgia.

Ministry is not at all what I had in mind at age 16. When I said yes to the call to ministry I thought I was saying yes to be a preacher.   I wanted to boldly proclaim the word of God, like Billy Graham, and see thousands of people respond in faith to my great preaching. Well, it didn’t take long to find out that ministry is much different than what I had in mind. I have always loved to preach but preaching is a very small portion of what happens during the week.   Preaching is what every pastor is passionate about and would do for free.

The ministry is so much more than preaching.

It’s hard.

It can be brutal and not many people last.

The average tenure for a pastor in America is less than 2 years! Ministry is not for the faint of heart.

Here are some things I have learned over the years of what ministry really looks like. If you are contemplating a life of serving Jesus in vocational ministry then you should take time to read this list and see if God has gifted and wired you to represent Him in vocational ministry. This is what they never told me.

No one told me that I would have to visit the house of a 12-year-old boy whose mother had just been murdered and try to help him find some kind of comfort.

No one told me that people would appear to love me and my family but would turn to despise us because I might do something that they didn’t agree with.

No one told me that Church people are mostly loving and amazing but there is a small pocket in every church that are mean as angry snakes and they will spew their venom towards the pastor. You still have to love those people.

No one told me that I would get to name a baby on a mission trip in India.

No one told me what it would be like to preach at churches in Haiti that were overcrowded and dark and dusty.

No one told me about having to beg a customs agent to let the mission team I was leading into Canada because of a misunderstanding.

No one told me what it would be like to be in the room of a person who is dying and looking to you for comfort and words of peace.

No one told me about how hard it would be to preach the funerals of those you deeply love.

No one told how much joy I would feel when I got to marry young couples that I had known for years.

No one told me the joy of watching those couples I married start families and teach their children about the love of Jesus.

No one told me about the endless phone calls, visits and emails to try to help plug people into the church.

No one told me how ministry would affect my family. No one told me that when people spoke ill of me it would hurt my wife twice as much as it hurt me.   No one told me that my children would always have unrealistic expectations set on them by others simply because their dad was a pastor.

No one told me how hard it would be to visit a couple that I love who just delivered a stillborn child.

No one told me what it would be like to be sick in India and try to preach through sickness in a foreign country with an interpreter.

No one told me how hard it would be to see friends who you went to Bible College with become a statistic of pastors who didn’t make it.

No one told me how it would feel to know of 1000 needs and only be able to help a few.

No one told me what it would feel like to be robbed while on a mission trip in a third world country.

No one told me that my life would consist mostly of meetings to further the work of the ministry.

No one told me that my best work would not be done in the pulpit, but in the trenches of having hard conversations with people who needed someone to be honest with them.

No one told me of the heart wrenching conversations I would have with so many couples who were on the brink of divorce that were looking to me to help them keep it together.

No one told me how hard it is to deal with suicide, how hard it is to help a family that is so destroyed and broken and angry all at once.

No one told me how hard it would be to know the words to say to comfort broken people when I was the first on the scene after tragedy struck.

No one told me about the joy I would experience to see middle school students that I had the chance to invest in grow up and serve Jesus.

No one told me about the frustration and helplessness you can feel in a church business meeting.

No one told me of the joy I would receive when I would go to the hospital to meet new babies that were born.

No one told me about how much fun it would be to work together with people I love to see a big vision come together.

No one told me about the satisfying joy of seeing a family changed by the power of the gospel.

No one told me of the countless hours of study and continuing education it would take to be a pastor.

No one told me how I would wake up each day energized to go to work knowing that the Gospel I carry can change a person’s life.

No one told me that I would get to work with some of the world’s most awesome people.

No one told me how much the church would love and embrace my family and meet our every need.

No one told me how amazing it is to baptize a new believer.

There was so much I didn’t know…I couldn’t know.

I could go on and on for days about the up and downs of this hard calling to ministry.   I was told not to get into ministry unless God would allow me to do nothing else.   I was told not to do it unless I was sure I was called. The life of full time vocational ministry is not always easy, but it is always worth it!   I would not trade it for the world.

I am so grateful to be called Pastor.

If you are considering a call of God on your life to be a pastor or Christian leader, I would encourage you to count the cost and then remember that Jesus is worth it all.

I have had many people ask me, “What is it that you do during the week?” Well, come spend a week with me and I will be glad to show you.

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Maybe A Tweet Won’t Solve Mass Shootings

As everyone else in our country, I have been heartbroken and burdened over the latest school shooting in Florida that has left 17 dead. One of the most heartbreaking things in regards to this shooting was the lack of shock I felt. There have been so many mass shootings in the last few years that it has made me somewhat numb, almost expecting another one to happen.

To match heartbreak with frustration, enter social media. In a matter of minutes there is no lack of political pundits and celebrities chiming in with simple solutions to a complex problem. The answer to ending mass school shootings is gun control, they say.   With emotional pleas from broken hearted parents who have just lost their children they say if you just ban “assault rifles” then all of this will stop.

I wish it were that easy. I wish congress could just pass a law that bans a certain type of firearm and then all the killings would end.   However, if you grew up in the country, like me, then you know a semiautomatic weapon is what the media is referring to as an assault rifle. Pretty much every hunting rifle could fall under the category of assault rifle. The AR-15’s that the media likes to show pictures of just look more menacing because of the tactical shell in which they are cased.   Wood hunting rifles that look less ominous can carry the same magazines and shoot just as many bullets in just as fast a time. To ban ‘assault rifles’ would mean that you ban pretty much every gun but a single shot, and I don’t see that happening.   But if it would end children getting killed in our schools then I would be for it.   If that were the simple solution…but it’s not.

The problem is much more complex and the answer to solving it much deeper than a law.

Young deranged white men do most mass shootings. I am sure all of these young men have some level of mental illness, but mental illness, like a cancer to the body, can be fed and fostered in a number of ways.

I think the problem goes deeper than just these young white deranged men.   I think it flows broader into frustrated and angry young men in general. The man crisis in our culture is hitting critical mass and the fall out is not pretty.

We are reaping the harvest of a fatherless generation and I am afraid we are not yet at the tipping point.

As University of Virginia Professor Brad Wilcox pointed out back in 2013: “From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s ‘list of U.S. school attacks’ involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.”

It’s not just these young white men who are struggling, they just find a way to show their angst against the world in a very public way by hurting as many innocent people as possible.

The effects of fatherlessness are epidemic in most communities in the United States.

I found this interesting, “Two of the strongest correlations with gun homicides are growing up in a fatherless household and dropping out of school, which itself is directly related to lack of an active or present father. There’s a direct correlation between fatherless children and teen violence. It’s no coincidence that, much like the number of fatherless children, the number of mass shootings has exploded since the 1960s. Throughout the entire 1960s, six mass shootings took place. That number doubled in 1970. Heck, 2012 alone saw more mass shootings than the sixties did.”

Without a father young men have no direction. When young men have no direction and purpose they move to extremes. They cut ties with what is traditional masculinity. They embrace a homosexual lifestyle or become transgender. There is a clear correlation with the rise of both of these lifestyles to the rise of fatherlessness.   They grasp for their need to fit in and they don’t know how. The other extreme is to become violent, join a gang, become a criminal, or in extreme cases become a mass shooter. When men grow up with no father for an example they fill in the gaps on their own.

Everything in culture tells these men that they no longer have a place.   In fact, for young white men the message is clear, you are the enemy. They are told that they are the problem. They are told they are part of the white patriarchy that oppresses everyone else. For fragile unguided minds that are already inclined to mental illness, they start to believe it, then they learn to hate the world, hate themselves, and hate being. They are full of anger and rage and instead of just ending their own lives they want to hurt others in the process. They want to be remembered as they feel they have been marginalized all of their lives.   So they hurt others. They hurt as many as they can.

Fatherlessness is not the only factor involved. There are a number of other factors that I think we would be foolish to overlook:

Games – Most young teenage boys (especially white ones) spend countless hours shooting people virtually in very realistic games. It becomes second nature to them to pull the virtual trigger.

Movies and Shows – Have you heard of this little thing called Netflix?   Countless hours of watching shows that have become increasingly more sickening, brutal and graphic.   Young men are drawn to these shows about death and murder. There are tons of programs out there that actually show how real crimes were committed.   Again these are fertilizers to a sick mind.

Social Media – Tells young men they do not measure up and allow them to connect with extremist groups that will fan the flame of their sickness. The rise of ‘alt’ left and ‘alt’ right groups has only increased the evil and hatred in the world.

Atheism – Atheism says you are the source for your morality. The Bible teaches that every person is born as a sinner. At our core we are not good, but evil. The cure to evil is repentance and faith in Jesus. As Christians we live in pursuit of a holy life as defined by the life of Jesus. He is our model and example. For the Atheist he is only accountable to his on set of morals, whatever he chooses.   These morals are shaped by whatever he is putting into his mind (I.E. Games, movies, shows, social media) and deems as moral. We took God out of schools and have warned teachers not to mention faith.   I imagine there are so many kids who could have found a better way, if only schools were allowed to offer it.

The devaluing of human life – We live in a culture that legally kills almost 400,000 babies a year.   This permeates a society that says the highest value is whatever I desire, even if it means taking the life of others.   If a mother can take her own child’s life then why should anyone else be limited?

Radical Feminism – This ideology teaches men that just for being born they are to be hated and despised.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. I am sure there are a number of other factors that contribute to each mass shooting. I am sure each case has many individual nuances.

In my opinion the one big smoking gun is not the gun, it is the absence of a loving and guiding father in the home.

How do we stop mass shootings?

The answer is pretty simple, cross cultural, and long term.

This is a simple Bible answer: Don’t have sex until you’re married (this ends the need for abortion). When you are married, love your spouse.   Stay married even when it’s hard.   Raise your children to love God first and love their neighbors as themselves. Don’t leave when things get hard!

The answer may just be the family!

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 5.21.29 AM.pngI can remember maybe 15 years ago hearing Dr. James Dobson saying something to the effect of, “when you destroy the family, you will destroy society as we know it.” The prophesy is unveiling before our eyes.

Why Change?

I’ve been fortunate to experience many cultures in the world. Most of the places I’ve been were on mission trips. It’s a humbling and frightening experience to go to a place a long way from your home and meet people you’ve never met before that think very unlike you.

I think the most dissimilar place I’ve been is India. The smell is the first thing you notice when you get off the plane. There is always the smell of smoke in the air (this is also true of Haiti). All the food is very spicy with tons of curry powder.   The people of India have a head bobble that is not up and down but kind of all around and it can mean a number of different things.   The people are so humble that few of them look you in the eye. Most of the people I met lived in extreme poverty. Many of the people had actual physical idols that they worshipped in their homes.   There are millions of gods that are worshipped in India. The roads are chaotic, filled with cars, bikes, people, cows and anything else you can imagine.   It’s hot, really hot.

In all of the diversity of this place the thing that stood out to me so clearly is all the things I had in common with the people of India. Finding common ground was not hard and when I met the people face to face I felt a great love for them. In order to tell them the message of Jesus I had to contextualize it.

I had to figure out a way to explain the Gospel message in a way that they could understand.

When I was preaching I couldn’t use the same American jokes. Those jokes didn’t make sense to them. They have a certain way to dress that is not like how I would normally dress. Our team prepared for months in advance learning little things about the culture so that we would not offend our hosts when we were there. At first it was uncomfortable to me because I had to change my preferences in order to connect with these wonderful people. I never really liked the food in India, but I ate it because our hosts, who had little to eat, gave it sacrificially. In the end, the value of the relationships I gained and the souls that were saved far outweighed the light and temporary afflictions I faced as a result of changing things that were preferential and normal to me.

This is really just what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9: 19 “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”

When we think of change in the context of being a missionary then it seems obvious that a change in our behavior and approach is needed. When we think of change in the context of the culture in which we live we cling to our preferences.

Why?

I can think of a couple of reasons:

First, we know that when we go on a mission trip it is usually short term so we endure change for a small season knowing we will go back to what is normal. 

Second, and maybe more telling, we don’t see where we live as a mission field.We stop contextualizing and we just live. We stop reaching out to our culture and we start cursing the culture for being lost.   We want them to be like us. We see our American Christian subculture crumbling before us. This frightens most long time Christians who’ve grown up in the south.   Because of this we see our changing culture and the people in it as the enemy instead of the reason for the church.

I don’t like change unless it’s change I like. That may sound a little funny but here is what I mean.   There are some changes I like but all the changes I like are the changes I dictate in my life. I usually don’t like change when I feel like I am losing something that is out of my control.

I have heard it said that people don’t fear change they fear loss.

I work at a church and I see this pretty often. Our church has been in a season of change and some people don’t like the changes. These are good people, many of who I look up to. These are Godly people but they like what they like and sometimes changes are just hard.

It is hard to like something and have it taken away. (certain traditions, musical style, buildings, programs, musical instruments, lighting, even names, etc…)

It is hard when the church is the central hub of your spiritual and social life and it changes on you.

It is hard when your preference is no longer the church’s emphasis.

These are all hard things, so…

Why Change?

The answer is pretty simple. We change in order to attempt to better reach people for Jesus.

Changing to chase a fad is a reckless.
Changing to copy someone else is shallow.
Changing out of personal preference is superficial.
Changing to water down the message is sinful.  
Changing to upset people is wrong.

When it all gets down to the simplest level we change in order to honor God and reach people. As a Christian when we come to Christ we enter a season of change called sanctification. It’s the process of us becoming like Christ.

Less of me, more of Him.
Less of my wants, more obedience.
Less of my plans, more of His.

This whole process is very uncomfortable. Like the caterpillar struggling to free itself from its cocoon, we struggle to be more like Christ.

We change in order to reach people but where is the line?   When is the change too much? When do we need to be afraid that the church is just becoming like the culture instead of reaching the culture? These are very important questions that church going Christian people should be asking.

I believe there are at least two simple lines.

The first is the scripture. Churches must never compromise or violate the scripture in order to reach people. The message never changes. If the church begins to water down the gospel then the church is in trouble.

The second is sin. Churches must not engage in sinful activities in order to reach sinners.Jesus modeled this perfectly.   He was constantly around sinners yet without sin. Jesus preached to all who would listen, but only those who repented in faith became children of God.  The church must open wide the doors for the message to be heard, but only those who repent and believe become part of the church.

The Apostle Paul was a man that knew about changing. He went from a Jew of Jews to a man called to reach the Gentile (Pagan) world.   I am sure he had to do things that he never thought he would have to do. His life was constantly changing as he went from one area to another.

He was willing to do whatever it took to reach people for Christ. I know he was often criticized. Paul himself said, “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.”

It is hard for all of us to accept change but we must be willing to ask the question of ourselves, “Am I struggling with the change because it is a deviation from scripture or leading our church to sin or am I struggling with change because I am losing my preference?”

It is ok to be upset that you lose something of the past that was precious to you, but remember that to live in the past prevents a better future.Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 6.16.21 AM

Let’s struggle together as we see God’s church reach more people with the Gospel.

 

My Daughter Rides The Short Bus

People who ride the short bus are strong. They have to overcome challenges that typical children do not have to overcome.

The short bus is the bus that carries children with special needs to and from school. It’s short because each person on the bus needs some individual attention so the numbers of students on the bus are limited. When I was a kid growing up we made jokes about the short bus. When someone would do something senseless we might say they rode the short bus.

I never thought about the actual people on the short bus.

This week my daughter started riding the bus…the short bus.

You see as a kid I just did what all the other kids did. I made fun of those on the short bus. Those with special needs and those who are disabled are easy targets for ridicule by foolish young children.   What we don’t understand we fear or mock.

Oh how my perspective has changed. Now I am a dad who has a daughter that rides the short bus.   The short bus is different for me now. It is not filled with people to be made fun of; it is filled with treasure, the treasure of precious lives.

You see my daughter is ‘special.’   My daughter, Joy, has Down syndrome.  I feel like Down syndrome is such a misunderstood word in our culture.   Joy is so much more alike than different.

She is so wonderful I can’t adequately explain her. She wants to sit in my lap every morning and eat little bites.   She brings books and puzzles to me each night to read and put together. She loves to sing and loves to dance. She loves when her sisters chase her around the house. She loves piggy back rides from her big brother as he runs as fast as he can with her on his back shouting, “Yay!!” She wakes up early before all of her siblings and she knocks on the door (because is has child lock that she cannot get out of) and she will yell, “DADDY!” until I go and let her out. She is very independent. She’s beautiful and loving. She is sooo loving. Last year in her preschool class she won the award for, “Best Hugger.” When her preschool class performs she steals the show with her sparkling personality. Parents of other kids her age that are in her class tell me often how their child loves Joy and constantly talks about her. I wouldn’t change a thing about Joy (well maybe her obstinance).  She is so much more than a rider on the short bus.

Having a daughter with special needs has really taught me to look deeper into people then what is on the outside, or what diagnosis they have.

Having a daughter that rides the short bus has opened up my mind and heart to see the incredible people inside the short bus.

People who ride the short bus are strong. They have to overcome challenges that typical children do not have to overcome. Some of their challenges are physical, some are mental, some are emotional, and some have all three.

Mrs. Judy drives our short bus. She is a kind and loving woman. She has tried to get Joy on her bus for over a year, but truth be told, I just didn’t want to give her up. The bus would make my life easier but it means I don’t get mornings in the car with Joy. She told me she would put off retirement another year if I would give her Joy.   Wow! Mrs. Judy gets it!   She sees such value in each and every life that she carries on her “special” bus.   She gives her heart and soul into investing into those little children. The first day Joy rode the bus Mrs. Judy had new clothes for her that she bought her (not your typical bus driver).   Judy is a gem, but I believe she would tell you that those children give her more than she could ever give them. They give her their love.

I am so thankful for the Short Bus.

Can I give you a challenge today?   Will you be careful to see every person as valuable?

The Bible teaches us that we are all made in the image of God. Every person has so much value and worth…if we would just take the time to see it.

 

The Theology of Emotion

I feel like…

I don’t think it’s fair that…

I don’t feel like God would make someone unhappy…

Christians are saturated by thousands of blogs, articles, and thoughts about what is ok and not ok to do and be in our day.   One of the more dangerous false teachings I see creeping into the American Christian world is what I want to call the Theology of Emotion.

Theology simply means the study of God.   Our culture is increasingly a generation of Christians that are basing their beliefs about God more heavily on how they feel than what God has revealed about Himself through the Bible.

If you need examples of this just go talk to most young Christians and ask them if they think living together before marriage is wrong.   Or ask them if they think homosexuality is wrong. It seems that many who claim Christianity today are more concerned with how they feel about something than what God has said in the Bible about it.

Don’t get me wrong emotions are a great and powerful driver.   Emotions are the great catalyst to actions. I love so many passionate movements going on in the Christian community such as the “End It” movement to end sex trafficking.   I love the pregnancy care centers that are all over our nation that provide options to mothers who feel like they have no options. I love the push for Christian families to be involved in foster care and adoption. These are great pictures of how God uses our emotional heartstrings to rally us around causes that are close to His heart.

If we do not feel then we do not care and we are never moved to action.

Emotions are great motivators but bad decision makers.

When we allow how we feel about any certain issue to supersede what God has revealed we become our own god and no longer trust Jesus as the authority.

One recent example I read was in an interview with popular Christian author Jen Hatmaker.   I know many women in my church that love her books. Most of what she writes is helpful and beneficial. But when I read her recent comments on the homosexual community I was taken back.

Here is what she said, “From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not. Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.”

I find her statements very disturbing.   The Christian community has the biblical mandate and responsibility to love and minister to every person, red, yellow, black, white, male, female, straight, gay, confused or other. But what she says takes this to another level.   She is taking people who embrace a life and identity that God clearly defined in scripture as a direct rebellion against Him, and associates those who embrace that lifestyle as a fellow believer in Christ.

This is anti-biblical to the core.   Jesus is so clear that when we become His followers we sign away all of our personal rights. We become willful slaves of Christ.   Here are the words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Those selfish acts of rebellion no longer characterize our life.   We willingly choose to deny what may seem pleasurable and best to us in order to follow what Jesus says is best.

The Apostle Peter said it this way,

“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.” (1 Peter 4:1-3)

Dietrich Bonheoffer said so clearly, “the call to follow Christ is a call to die.”

My goal is not to throw stones at Jen Hatmaker or even those who identify as LGBT. The goal is to expose a larger problem that is a bitter root in the tree of American Theology.   It is the idea that we can change our theology to match the spirit and feeling of the day. The beauty of the scripture is that it is unchanging. No matter how we feel about an issue we yield to Christ.   We do not seek to make the scripture fit our feelings. This applies to all of us!   This is no indictment on any particular sin.   It is prerequisite for all of us.   I make my kids take off their shoes before they come in the house.   We must shed ourselves of all of our sins when we come to Christ.

When we come to Christ we do not have the option of holding on to any sin.   Our identity is no longer found in our activity but in our Savior.   The sex addict can come to Christ, but he must repent and turn away from his sex addiction.   The thief can come to Christ but he is no longer a thief, he now seeks to look like his Savior. He goes from taker to giver. The idol worshipper can come to Christ but he cannot bring his idol with him. He must destroy it. The homosexual can come to Christ but he no longer identifies as a homosexual. My point is not to say that Jesus followers will no longer struggle with their sin but that they will STRUGGLE. They will embrace the internal battle that is going on inside of them. They will not give themselves over to the sins of their past. The Holy Spirit inside of them will no longer allow them to be happy in their sin.

Adrian Rogers once said, “Our feelings are the most shallow part of us. God does not do His deepest work in our most shallow part.”

If you are a follower of Christ I would challenge you to read your bible more than you read the latest Christian book.   Remember that if something has been true for 2000 years of the Christian faith then God is not going to suddenly change His mind because the culture now embraces some particular sin.   The call of the Christian life is a call of self sacrifice. It is a call to lay our sins down and lay our lives down for others.

Let’s not make a golden image of god in the likeness of the American culture of our day. The world says that we should be happy and we find happiness when we do what makes us feel good.   The word of God teaches us that we should seek holiness.   When we seek to be holy, only then do we find happiness. Happiness in the Christian life is not the goal but the by-product. It’s not found in sin but often found in service.   Happiness can be briefly experienced in the passing pleasures of sin, but that kind of happiness will quickly leave you empty again. Real happiness can only last in the conscious surrender of ourselves to Christ and His calling on our lives. Get your theology from the Bible and not from your heart.

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“Is She A Down Syndrome?”

Recently, my wife and I packed up the family for an afternoon of hiking and exploring in Helen, Ga. We could not have asked for a better day. The kids loved the hike, the weather was perfect and memories were made.   After our hike we had dinner in Helen and we walked around the quaint little mountain tourist town.

My children are Ty (8), Karis (5), Katie (5), and Joy (22 months).   Joy has Down Syndrome(DS).   To be real honest this last detail about Joy is mostly irrelevant in our family.

To us she is just Joy.

She is a great blessing to all of us and rarely does her genetic condition affect us. This is so true that most of the time I forget she even has DS.

On our trip I had forgotten…

I walked with my older children, held my wife’s hand, and pushed little Joy in her stroller.   As we ate ice cream and waited to get our balloon animals, a well meaning young lady looks at Joy and smiles and says to Charyl, “Aw, Is she a Down Syndrome?’’

It doesn’t take long to come back to the stinging reality that our little girl is different and when other people see her they notice Down syndrome and not Joy.

As we walked back to the car that afternoon I had some big old crocodile tears well up in my eyes. As a parent nothing hurts more than when you feel like others do not see the value in your children in the same way you do.

While the conversation was innocent and the young lady was kind, I could not help but feel pierced in the heart by her words, “Is she a Down syndrome?” To a person who does not have a child with special needs this question may seem completely innocent and appropriate but somewhere in the last 22 months I have become one of those overly sensitive parents. Please forgive me. This is not like me.   I am not a particularly emotional or sensitive man.   I rarely cry, in fact I see this as a flaw in my character that I do not feel things as deeply as others, but I have become very sensitive about Joy.   I almost cry as I type this…because I can’t help but desire for people to see Joy as I see Joy. I want them to see HER and not her “Syndrome.” I want others to value her as I value her!

So, NO! She is not “A Down Syndrome.”

She is JOY!

She is made and crafted in the image of God.

She is valuable.

She is beautiful.

She loves to follow her sisters.

She loves to give hugs.

She has a smile that lights up the world.

She has siblings that can’t wait to get home from school to play with her.

She claps and cheers for everyone.

She wakes up happy.

She likes to help her daddy cook.

She is very opinioned and will not eat her carrots no matter how you try to sneak them in.

She is resilient.

She brings hope.

She is her mama’s heart!

She is her daddy’s heart!

Every life God creates carries the stamp of divinity. If we will take the time to get to know people we will be shocked by the beauty we can find in each soul.

I did not ask for, nor did a want to have a child with Down syndrome.   It will always hurt my soul that Joy will struggle with simple things that typical children take for granted.

In spite of my desires God knew better than I did.

I am so thankful that God knows what is best for me when I don’t know how to ask. I am so thankful He brought JOY into my home.

God’ s greatest gifts are often disguised as presents we think we don’t want or don’t need.

When you see a family that has a child with special needs, if you desire to interact with them, ask the person’s name.   Every person is more than their disability.   Say an encouraging word. The family probably needs to hear it.   Find something good you see in the person with disabilities and complement their ability.   It may be as simple as saying, “You have a beautiful smile.” It may mean the world to that family. Be kind and considerate.

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“A Person’s a Person No Matter How Small”

“A person’s a person no matter how small.”   This is the line that kept reverberating in my brain this morning as I read a number of gag worthy news articles about the murder, dismemberment, and sales of aborted babies.   You can watch the footage here if you can stomach it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjxwVuozMnU

I was trying to think of where the quote came from and it finally dawned on me that it came from a Dr. Suess’ book that I used to read to my children called, “Horton Hears a Who.” This little line from this children’s book written in 1954 embodies what we have all known to be true since we were children.

EVERY LIFE MATTERS!  

This is what the Bible says, “for YOU formed my inward parts. YOU knit me together in my mother’s womb.   I praise YOU for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   Wonderful are YOUR works and my soul knows it very well.”

The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Your conscience bears witness. No matter what your belief system, inside every person is a core belief that life has value. This is what we know in our hearts and minds to be true. People…Human beings are the pinnacles of Creation.   We are made with intrinsic value and worth.

What do we do? How do we respond?

We weep!

James 4:9 “Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.”

We weep for the children who are the victims of these murders.

Our hearts should break. We must not become so numb to the wicked acceptance of killing babies in the womb that we no longer feel it. This dismembered child could have been your child. These are not clumps of cells but people. These are little people full of potential to love, dream, hope and have families of their own. They are future neighbors, friends, and co-workers. They are the future businessmen, farmers, teachers, and mothers, fathers, and leaders that will never be.   They are a picture of potential that has been stolen, destroyed, and extinguished. We weep for the babies.

We weep for the mothers!

We weep for women who are so scared and so fearful that they feel abortion is their only option. Our hearts should break for the young girl who is 15, 16, or 17 who has lost her virtue and has been left alone. We weep that no one is there to support her and help her raise the life that is within her. She has no mother or father with sense enough to tell her to do what is hard and right instead of what is quick and easy.   ‘Quick and easy’ is a lie she will have to live with for the rest of her life. We weep for the woman who has had multiple abortions. We weep for her because she is so lost that she does not value herself or the babies within her body. We weep that she has not been taught that she is valuable, that God loves her and God loves her babies that she is choosing to abort.

We weep for the men.

We weep for the men that view women as objects to meet their sexual needs. We weep that they do not understand that sex is designed to be tied to accountability. We weep that they will not know the joy of being a responsible father to the child that has been aborted. We weep because they do not know that true joy is not found in taking from others but giving of yourself as a protector and provider.

Jesus wept over a city in Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

I wonder if He is looking over America today He might say, “O America, America the nation that kills its children and mocks God’s messengers. How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

Those of us who believe in the value of human life must speak up.

Use your voice.

Use your voice in social media. Be loving but truthful in this area.   The truth is that social media is so much more fun when it is birthday cakes, summer vacation selfies, and pictures of what people are eating for dinner. But if you have a voice you need to use it for good.   Talk to people about the value of life.

Use your actual voice. Call your Senators and Representatives and tell them that this must stop!   Beg them to pass legislation that will end the brutal practice of abortion.   Plead with them to not allow any more taxpayer money to go to Planned Parenthood and other abortion industries.

Use your pen. Write letters to you political and church leaders and ask them to stand up for these children.

Use your parenting. Raise your children to value life. Tell your little girls that abortion is never an option. Let them know that even if they make bad decisions you will be there to support them and their child if needed. Teach your sons to be responsible men.   Talk to your children about the value of waiting till marriage to have sex.

Use your prayers.   This is the time that every believer of Jesus Christ should be calling out to Him on behalf of these children.

Share your faith. Your neighbor next door or your coworker down the hall may be contemplating abortion. You need to know them. You need to share with them the hope of Jesus Christ.   It is only in finding hope that you can erase hopelessness.

Use your pocketbooks. Give to agencies that seek to help women that have an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. These places are called Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Thousands of children every year are saved because of organizations like these.

Proverbs 31:8 could not speak more clearly, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”

In the book “Horton Hears A Who,” these powerful words are given, “Don’t give up! I believe in you all. 
A person’s a person, no matter how small! 
And you very small persons will not have to die 
If you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!

God, help us to make these little people heard.

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