Sunday, January 8, 2017

Opiates killing the pain or hurting me:

          Just over a year ago I had both my knees replaced within three months: (the first one in August and the second one in November: (AND NO I WOULD NEVER RECOMMEND HAVING THEM REPLACED SO CLOSE TOGETHER).  However, following the surgeries I was given Opiates (including Morphine, Oxy-condone, and Vicodin) for the pain. Now please understand this is not the first Pain medication I have ever taken. Since I was 13 years old I have had no less than 12 knee related injuries, in addition I had Achilles tendon repair, kidney stones, and some other pain related issues.  So I know what pain medication is and what it can do.

          First, let’s define an Opiate: Merriam – Webster defines it as a “Narcotic: a drug (as morphine or codeine) containing or derived from opium and tending to induce sleep and alleviate pain”   This can include pain medication of various strengths, like Tramadol, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Morphine, and street drugs like Heroin.

          Individuals that take Opiates are at a very high risk of building up a tolerance to the drug, therefore requiring higher doses to get the same relief or feeling. As addictions counselors we also look at the individual’s family history, and social interaction.  In my case there is a history of alcoholism within the family, and this has given me cause to be more cautions than some folks that have no prior family history.  The key is to know your limits and be very careful to keep help handy.

          I share my story hopefully to help folks understand that despite the pain and the use of medication there is hope for not becoming addicted.  For the past 25 years I have worked as an Alcohol and Drug counselor, and have worked with individuals that abuse and even become dependent on Opiates to help them function in their daily lives.  I’m fortunate that I have not become one of them.  However, I realize it is by the Grace of God, and the encouragement and support of family and friends. It is also very important to have honest and caring doctors. 

          What has kept me from abusing or becoming dependent on the Opiates, I believe there are three factors that play into this.  Please believe me I’m NOT attempting to over simplify sobriety or addiction.

1)    My personal relationship with God:

·        I believe that God is able to help with the pain. However, believe me when I was waking up every hour or two prayers was not cutting it. However, through that time of pain and prayer I was able to cut back each day to the point of not using on regular bases.  And today I very rarely have to take a pain pill, and that is generally only when I do something stupid like over extend the knees.

2)    My personal relationship with family/friends:

·        I learned a long time ago I have to give individuals permission to ask the Question.  “How much are you using and why?” for those of us that use Opiates for pain this may seem like a stupid question, they should already know it because of the pain.  However, when you think about it, maybe it is not a stupid question after all; there is a recommend dose for pain medication and a time frame in which you should use them.  If you continue to use beyond the recommend dose and time frame you are on the virtue of a serious problem.  Let them ask the question, and be accountable to them for what you’re doing, it is time to be honest not only with them, but with yourself.  When you start lying about the amount or reason your using, it is time to seek addiction treatment.

3)    My personal desire to not abuse them (for me and my family):

·        I share with my clients that there has to be a reason to get up in the morning, something that gives you a since of purpose in life.  I can’t accomplish that Purpose if I am HIGH on pain pills or running into the dope house shooting up Heroin.

When will I know it is a problem? The simple way is if you give a yes response to anyone of these following four questions’:  (1) Has it caused me problems with my family and friends? (2) Has it caused me legal problems? (3) Has it caused me problems with finances? (4) Has it caused me problems with either my mental health or physical health?

I recently read several articles where it becoming easier to buy Opiates (Pain Killers) over the internet from countries like China, India, and other third world countries that don’t have regulations over what is in their drugs like we do here in America.  As a result we see a number of people dying from the use of these mail order drugs.

Opiate addiction is a very serious issue, and one that has to be monitored not only by the individual that is taking the drugs, but by your doctor, family, friends, and anyone else that is important in your life that can and will hold you accountable.

Honestly the thought of becoming dependent on Opiates scares me, so for me accountability is the only clear choice.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My thoughts on the Open Letter to Tullian Tchividjian's:

               I recently read an article where several pastors were calling for repentance of the former pastor of Coral Ridge Church. Over a year ago Tullian Tchividjian's resigned due to a moral failure that he admitted too, after the affair was exposed on the church’s computer.
                Please understand I’m not challenging the thought or need for repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God and family. However, I’m challenging pastors that feel it is their responsibility to make their call public.  When I look at the greatest sex scandal recorded in the Bible, yes, I’m talking about the King and the Fox (or better known as Bathsheba). When the prophet Nathan came to call for repentance he did not take out an article in the Jerusalem Times, he didn’t stand on the King’s front porch, nor did he call the great council. He went to King David and told him what God had laid on his heart to say, repent and get things right with God.
                Repentance is a noun: meaning “the action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse,” or as one person put it, “it is turning your back on sin, and going the other direction towards God.”  I have been in ministry for 35 years, and watched many pastors stand and demand someone repent for something they did; at the same time wondering is there something they should be repenting for as well. The pastors that have called for Tullian Tchividjian's public apology remind me a lot of the Pharisee that brought the women caught in adultery.  In my opinion they felt like they needed to set the example. When I think of those events in the Gospel my question is, where was the man caught with her? Why did they pick this woman? I have a dozen questions. However, the best one, how many facts do we have?
                I’m thinking back and it has been nearly 30 years since someone of Pastor Tullian Tchividjian's status has fallen. I was pastoring in the 80’s when Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart both fell, and watched the Pastors of American come un-hinged. I preached a message following those events entitled the “Day God’s man fell.” I used as my text the events of the Apostle Peter, and his fall denying Christ three times the night of prior to Christ death.  My points were simple:
  1. Repentance is a request asking Christ to forgive us of our sin. (I John 1:9)
  2. It is a change in our behavior and attitude.
  3. It is a rebuilding of trust with those we have wronged.
  4. It is submitting to accountability of either presbyter or accountability (men’s) group.
I guess my question is, did the gentlemen that wrote this letter see this as the method of calling for repentance done Biblically according to Matthew 25? 
Please understand I’m not condoning Pastor Tullian Tchividjian's sin, his divorce, his re-marriage.  Sadly those things happen and I for one will continue to preach on the destructive consequences of sin. However, I find myself very concerned when pastors or individuals call for Public Repentance. It sort of reminds me of seeing men put the stocks in Boston, and other parts of New England in the early 1700’s, we were going to make everything about us public.
From what I have read in several other articles and even the excerpts from his recent book he has repented and is making things right with, God/Christ, his ex-wife, his children, his grandfather, parents, and the church he hurt. However, I’m not one of them; yes I’m hurt to hear an awesome pastor fell. However, I’m happy to hear that he has re-established his relationship with God/Christ. My job is very simple; pray for Pastor Tullian Tchividjian's, and every other pastor (famous or not) that God will help prevent from falling into sexual immorality, and for those that need help rebuilding their relationship with Christ; not to continue to demand more from them in public than I do other sinners.
Remember our job as Christians is always the same …. Love the Sinner, hate the sin!

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Lord’s Table …

          I have become very heart broken over the years as I have attended church after church and sit in the pew while they serve the LORD SUPPER or COMMUNION as it is often called. 

As a Christian we would not ever think of inviting Christ to dinner at our house and serving HIM supper the way some of us serve his Supper in church.  We would never allow our children to simply stand or sit where ever, talk throughout the meal, and not truly acknowledge the guest in the house.

I guess I’m one of those old fashion preachers/teachers that spent a lot time studying Pastoral or Applied Theology and in doing so I remain frustrated.  I think every aspect of the service is important. However, I see pastors and worship leaders put an emphasis on the music, preaching, and half dozen other things which maybe important at the time, but not when it time to serve the Lord Supper.  Then the speaker stands for the Lord’s Supper and fails to take us to the understanding that the Bible clearly sets the stage for the Lord’s Supper, it is a time of REMEMBRANCE, it is a time of REFLECTION, and most importantly it is a time of REPENTANCE.  

As I view the Bible and history I see for key elements of presenting and sharing the Lord Supper, in my opinion if you can’t do these every time.  Maybe it is time reconsider the priorities of the church and coming to the Table.

1)     Introduce the Lord Supper/Communion as a part of the Worship Service. (This is not a part of the offering, announcements, or invitation)

2)     Explain fully that it is time of Remembrance, Reflection, and Repentance.

3)     Give them a chance to do all three (It is not time to quickly rush the Lord Supper, you don’t rush dinner at home)

4)     Eat and drink it together, understanding this is a Communal Meal that is shared by the family.

         Pastor/friends I realize that there are dozens of things happening during any given Service. However, Christ stated to his disciple “Do this in remembrance of me” I don’t know about you, if you rush me through something, I really don’t remember. I guess what I am really doing is asking; “Is it time to slow down, and remember what Christ did at the Cross?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Persecution is not a new concept!

               Persecution is not a new concept, nor is it one that can be ignored. The Christian news media outlets are full of stories of persecution, killings, and other acts of cruelty against Christians. Let me say from the outset I realize that Persecution is happening around the world of different religious groups as well.

               Emperor Nero of Roman blamed the believers of “The Way” those followers of Christ, as they were known throughout the First Century A.D., their belief in the teaching of Christ undermines the very fabric of the society. Throughout history Kings, dictators, and even individuals have been involved in persecution. Yes, even Christians themselves have been involved in some of the greatest persecution of other believers, we can go back to the Spanish Inquisition, where the Catholic Church persecuted those fellow believers that where not a part of the church as they deemed it.

               Persecution can take on many forms; the simple definition in my mind is “simply stopping one from believing what they believe, either by force or threat of force.”   I remember back in 1974 while attending McKinley Junior High School a teacher found some Gospel Tracts that fell out of my pocket in class.  I have never seen a teacher so enraged by a simple piece of paper, he didn’t ask whose they were he simply waved them around and said “Don’t bring this trash into my classroom, and if you do I will have you kicked out of this school” I was 14 years old.  When I told my parents they told me not to make waves and you better listen to him.  Honestly, I felt persecuted by the teacher and definitely felt threaten. He would probably have totally freaked out if he knew I had a New Testament in my back Blue Jean pocket every day. However, my parents expressed the belief of many Christians of the time and even today, it not worth the fight, don’t make waves, and don’t buck authority. Now look at the public schools, and colleges Christians organization are banned from most campuses, teachers can’t even say they are a Christian in fear of losing their job, and if they see a child with a Bible they want him kicked out of school.

               The Apostle Paul dealt with persecution; just like the other disciples in fact all of the original 11 (not including Judas who committed suicide) were persecuted. Ten where killed, and one was boiled in oil then exiled to an island for criminals. Persecution that the Apostles faced in the first century, and that Christians face today is a result of a state of fear, from those that don’t understand the believers in Christ. Atheistic countries like North Korea, China, Russia, and Muslim nations that outlaw Christian expression do so out of fear.  Atheist would rather believe and force others to believe there is No God, than have individuals have a choice to expect or reject, just like Muslim nations they have come to the conclusion that their belief system is right and the others are wrong. As I stated before I know Christians have had their times of persecuting, and it was wrong then and it is wrong now.

               God is righteous and just, he set his standard of values found within the Scripture (Bible). People that struggle to live up to those standards will become enraged when they are told they are wrong, or the statement that they are a sinner comes up. Persecution isn’t limited to governments, individuals can persecute as well by stopping people from practicing their faith. People have a right to beliefs, and I should have the same right to stand up and say that is not a Biblical view.   It has become acceptable to criticize or demean a believer in Christ for his believing in these biblical principles, and stating them. To the point of destroying his career and his family, this is persecution. 

               Ironically, there is one interesting fact about persecution that folks often overlook … When individuals and nations rise up to Persecute the church and God’s people within in it, God shows HIM self-faithful, and lives are changed and hearts touched, and revival sweeps the land.  You can tell Godly men NO, but Godly men will always worship HIM and share their faith despite the persecution. Simply, take a look around.  Look at events throughout the Middle East, Africa, China, India, and yes even Russia where there are reports coming out daily of believers being hunted, put in prison, and killed for their faith. However, there are also reports that thousands of people trusting Christ around the world despite the threat of death and prison.

               More than one individual has made a bold prediction that Christianity will come to pass (end), stop existing and it will be proven that Jesus does not exist.  Sorry to report that those skeptics and persecutors are dead, and Christ is remained seated on the right hand of his Father is heaven.

               I believe that America and the world are at the crossroads of history; the 21st Century is not going to determine the future of Christianity.  However, the 21st Century is going to determine what it is going to look like around the world.  There was a recent report that tens of thousands of folks trusted Christ as savior in one night service in India, and individuals in Africa are reporting the same results.  Now individuals will question the accuracy of those numbers. However, what we can’t deny is despite the persecution around the world people still believe.  The church in America is caving to the persecution of the liberal beliefs, and pressures from within to change it beliefs. However, we continue to see outpourings of God greatest and lives changed through a belief in Christ.

My view of the reality of Christianity and Persecution is simple …

               Persecution is coming to the world like we have never seen. However, at the same moment Revival is coming to the world that will scare every atheist and non-believer to their very core.  Some Christian believers will die; some will be injured, and some will be offended verbally. However, be certain of one thing Persecution is not a new concept, and throughout history God has always got the GLORY!



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Premier Preacher fall’s from grace!

               I recently read several Facebook posts and articles that stated Rev. Perry Noble the former senior pastor at NewSpring Church, a mega-church located in Anderson, South Carolina had been removed by his board over Alcohol related issues.

               I have been an Alcohol and Drug counselor for over 25 years, and involved in pastoral ministry for over 35 years, I have seen dozens of pastors stumble for various reasons. Alcoholism is one of those things that have destroyed many pastors’ ministries, and marriages.  However, with the changing culture I’m totally surprised that they didn’t come up with another reason.  When I did my doctoral dissertation several years ago, and asked pastors about the perception of alcoholism and alcohol use, I was amazed at the number of pastors that thought it was OK for their members and themselves to drink.

               The question that we all must answer is when does it become a problem? I ask four questions of my patients. (1) Has drinking affected your family and friends (2) has your drinking affected your finical situation (3) has your drinking affected your legal situation and lastly (4) has drinking alcohol affected your health, either your physical health or psychological health. If you answer yes to anyone of these then you need to take a serious look at your drinking habit. Why people drink alcohol has as many answers as people who drink. However, the reality is that alcoholism (or drunkenness as the Bible calls it) is a problem that needs to be addressed.  There will remain a debate of the various views of the sin concept of drunkenness verses the disease concept of alcoholism/addiction.

               How the church responds to Pastor Noble and others in the church will be an interesting lesson in love, forgiveness, and helping.  I see the church from both the pastor’s side and counselor side, and I believe that there are three things that must happen.  Keeping in mind these are my own opinions!
  1.  The church must be willing get their head out of the sand, and to accept their role in this problem. I feel that role will be to have an open discussion of our views of alcoholism. This includes the stress factors we place on pastors, what we are teaching the individuals within our churches, and how we view alcohol consumption both privately and at social events around the country.
  2.  The church must be ready to help! I have watched too many churches condemn alcohol and drug addicts, without as much as a prayer for the individuals suffering from the illness or problem.  Sadly the likely hood of most churches providing treatment or in most cases even supporting the person going to a recovery 12 step program is out of the question.  The church has turned this problem over to the Para-church ministries like rescue missions, teen challenge, and secular counseling agencies. Without a doubt we have missed some of the greatest opportunities for ministry.
  3.  The church must be willing to not judge, but support individuals that need help. Let me be clear I’m not saying that alcoholism/drug addiction or any numbers of other addictions are not bad and out of the will of God for individuals lives. However, as a church we have come to make exceptions for a number of sinful or as some simply put bad judgment until it comes to alcohol/addiction and other peeves.

I can hear the critics now of this blog post, your making this all about the church.  As a pastor, alcohol and drug counselor, and having grown up around alcoholics in reality in some ways is it all about the church.  We have failed society but changing God’s word to mean what we want it to say, we have allowed sinful behavior to be accepted as just poor judgment, and we have failed to hold each other accountable for our actions.  Then when an individual’s world starts coming apart, we rip them a new one.  Some individuals have embraced us, and our self-righteous position. 

Folks, I don’t know what Life Spring Church did or didn’t do to help Pastor Noble prior to his being asked to step down.  I hope and pray that they did more than make demands. However, that doesn’t excuse us from showing love, support, encouragement, and providing a loving shoulder for him and his family through this difficult time. I have learned the hard way from church members, patients/clients, and family we are only one crisis or problem from being an alcoholic, drug addict, physically sick, or maybe even mentally ill.  It is time to get our head out of the sand and start being a part of the solution and not continue to be a part of the problem.

        While reviewing the blog post with a colleague and friend, he shared some unique insight that I had not thought of at the time of writing this post.  One of things that we often overlook is the number of pastors that have grown up in alcoholic and/or dysfunctional families/home’s and were able to find an escape through the church and their personal relationship with Christ.  However, if a person has not truly addressed the root cause of the addiction in themselves and their family they are destined to repeat the patterns themselves.  This could be in the form of using Alcohol or drugs, or other compulsive, sinful behaviors such as sex, food, drugs, shopping, pornography, gambling, and etc.

Remembering the sin of the father affects the child, and as a church we need to provide a safe and loving place for people to heal and find emotional support when addressing the physical illness, but when addressing the addictive destructive of the use of alcohol.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Wow, what a week it was and isn’t even over yet!

            Four young Black Men killed by police officers, 5 police officers killed, and at least two innocent bystanders and demands for justice from all sides. In each case there are already accusations that it was about racism, political leaders have made up their minds and are calling for various outcomes. Some will demand the prosecution of police officers that are involved; others will demand stricter gun control.  Some will hide their head in the sand. Across America this same week dozen of people died as a result of violent acts of individuals. Some of it is was self-defense, other was premeditated murder. Regardless of the outcome individuals are dead.

            Before preachers, social activists, and politician, and the guy of the street starts re-acting and saying things that could incite others to make unhealthy choices we need to STOP and ACT,  I believe that there are three things we can and must do using the Acrostic of ACTS.

1.     Ask Question … We will only find the facts when we ask questions, as a Alcohol and Drug counselor I teach my patients there are three sides to every story, your side that you believe is true based on your facts or perception of the event; the others person beliefs based on their perception or facts of the event; and then there is the TRUTH based on a clear overview of the events from a discussion and observation of what happen. 
a.      What happen?
b.     Why did you do what you did?
c.      What did the other person do?
d.     What did you see?
e.      What do all the videos that are available show?
f.       What do the other witnesses say?

2.     Challenge … I have to challenge my thinking, realizing that my pre-determined assumptions of the events may not be accurate.  I remember listening to friends in the past when there was officer involved shootings, the assumption from the minute the news broke was that the officer did something wrong.  No investigation, no facts, no questions, just an assumption. However, let’s be clear there are those on the other side of the fence as well, the assumption that the person being shot did something to deserve it.  Growing up I was taught by my father, a retired Air Force Sargent, don’t assume anything.  “When you assume, you make an Ass-of-u-and me”
It is time we lose the assumptions, and time we rely on the facts.

3.     Talking it out … Several months ago I heard a prosecutor in a case belittle and criticize an officer involved in a shooting of an unarmed black man. Over the years I have had the upmost respect for that particular prosecutor, around where I live. However, that day it went out the window. He watched a video, and has assumed he had as all the answers. He didn’t allow the investigation, he didn’t hear the facts, and he assumed he had all the answer.

How are we going to stop the stereotyping of black men as being criminals and police officers being corrupt and trigger happy. That every white person that disagrees with the African American community is racist, I’m going to step on a limb here.  It is time for the Pastors and other religious leaders of America to quit acting like selfish self-center brats, promoting a personal agenda that is destructive, and step up and be the man of God, you have been called to be.  Sunday morning at 11:00 remains the most segregated time in America, I realize that some communities this is due to the population being overwhelming one group of people. However, have you ever sat down in your community and talked with the other pastors, or are you assuming you know what he thinks.

When the church as a whole steps out of the business of condoning sin; including the sin of racism, only then will we see the heart of America change. When pastors, preach the love of Christ for all mankind then America will have a chance to change the course of our current history.  Some would argue this isn’t a pastors or church issue, and I would argue that clearly it is as throughout history the church has been the moral compass of the nation, how the church goes the nation goes.

There is an old children’s’ song “Red, and yellow, black and white they are all precious in HIS sight” … WE NEED TO STOP THE HATE, ANGER,  AND VIEW HOW PRECIOUS WE ARE FROM GOD’S LOVE.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

When tragedy strikes hearts are broken!

               We have heard two heart breaking stories out of Orlando, Florida in the past week. One involves the senseless deaths over 4 dozen individuals and wounding of dozens more. The second involves the loss of a child to an alligator right in front of the parents.  I’m not sure how as a pastor and counselor I could help anyone make sense of either of these events.  

               I learned a long time ago that I’m not the sovereign God of the universe, I’m not all-knowing, nor do I have the understanding of why he allows such horrors to happen.  I believe scripture gives a clue when it talks about the fall of man, and how that we have stepped into a sinful world from birth.  When we think of those parents that have suffered such loss both in the shooting in Orlando, or the parent of that small child, my mind thinks of Adam & Eve in the garden what was the realization for them like the day they learned that Cain killed his brother Abel with a rock. Remember prior to this no individual had died.

               Sadly, death is going to happen!  Doesn’t matter the age, race, religion, or even sexual orientation every individual is going to pass into the next life.  The question is are we ready?  Christians, Muslim, Atheists, and people with any other religious choice are eventually going to die. As a believer in the Bible and as a Christian I believe we will stand before a loving and just God. However, I also believe that based on scripture that we will stand before a God that set certain standards; the most important is a belief in his Son Jesus Christ as our personal savior.

               For those of us that have walked through or are currently going through the loss of a loved one maybe for you it is a family member, friend, or co-worker it is imperative that we work through the Grief Process. We cannot stay stuck in the Denial, Anger, Depression, or Bargaining we must each move on to Acceptance.  Acceptance is not the forgetting of what happened, and assuredly it is not that we forget the individual, it is embracing the reality of the loss, and moving forward to accomplish the goals that are before us living out the remainder of our life, bring honor to theirs.
If you are currently going through the grief process or struggling with a loss … We would like to direct you to my workbook entitled:

Christians Coping with Grief, A Workbook for Finding God's Truth in a Time of Sorrow!