With this ring, I thee wed

IMG_20180222_220648

I don’t wear jewelry with the exception being my watch and my wedding band. The wedding band doesn’t come off my finger for much of anything, so you would think that when it fell off I would notice. Nope, not me. As a matter of fact I don’t know how long I was missing it. I noticed Sunday morning in church that it was gone. My wife was just as surprised as I was and commented that it has been a few days because there isn’t a pale white circle where it was. Once we got home she dug around and found our original rings I bought while stationed in Japan. To her surprise they fit her better than the ones we bought when we reconciled our marriage.

This struck me in a couple of ways. When we reconciled I told everyone we were not putting an asterisk by our anniversary like Mark McGuires home run record. November 2017 was 20 years not 20* ( see comments below ) or some such mess. As a symbol of starting new, a fresh start we got new rings. My thought when putting the original ring back on was this is truly a symbol of the lifetime commitment with no asterisk.

Another thought was how we put so much emphasis on an inanimate object to symbolize our commitment in marriage. A thin piece of metal with a rock or two shaped in a ring and placed on a finger is held as an eternal symbol of the commitment between two people. In truth the symbol is worth no more or less than the character of the person wearing it. We seem to put more emphasis on the ceremony and symbolism then we do the character and true meaning of marriage. This can easily explain divorce rates over 40% ( depending on the study ).

We view marriage as a legal contract between two people with set expectations. Some of these expectations are never put on paper nor verbalized, but expected non the less. I’ve heard more than one lawyer and legal expert opine that contracts are written to be broke. When we look at the institution of marriage as an agreement between two parties that was written to be broke it cheapens, it devalues the institution to the point that we now openly talk about starter marriages.

This is not at all how marriage was designed. When we go back to God’s design you see that two people come together as one, not in a contract, but a covenant agreement. A covenant agreement is something lost to us today. This is never to be broken without severe consequences to the offending party. In Genesis we get a clear picture of what took place in a covenant agreement. An animal is split in two and both parties to the agreement walked through the entrails & blood, between both halves of the body. In doing this they were saying if I break this agreement, let it be done to me as to this animal. Then it was common for both parties to exchange cloaks so they would be identified as the other.

In a covenant blood is shed. This is why the original plan for marriage was based on abstaining from sex until marriage. This did several things. One, if one held true to this principle they would not get a venereal disease nor get pregnant. Second it saved a lot of emotional and spiritual ties to however many people you engaged in any kind of sex with before marriage. Third, sex for the first time shed blood. This was one of the ways a groom knew his bride was a virgin because her hymen would break leaving blood. When the two consummated their marriage, blood would be present sealing the covenant.

According to Psychology Today, during intercourse a flood of chemicals bombard the brain that forge emotional attachments to the person your with, feelings of attachment and even love. Each time you engage in sex these feelings become stronger. You are essentially giving a part of yourself to your partner. When you have done this with numerous partners you don’t have much left to give to the one you finally marry making the bonding experience less likely. The weaker the bond, the easier it is to break.

Sex is literally a spiritual and physical act. In 1 Corinthians 6:18 it tells us that sexual immorality is a sin against the body. It’s a sin against the body because the act itself causes, not just the emotional connections mentioned above, but it causes the brain to behave like someone who is on heroin. When you affect the body and soul you also effect the spirit of a person. When sex is engaged in marriage, as God designed it, you are not sinning, but strengthening the marriage when done with honor to your spouse.

With these ties, is it any wonder that divorce is so devastating! When you divorce, even have an affair, you are literally tearing apart another persons soul. The stress, grieving and healing that has to take place to restore the other person is on the same level of the death of a spouse. That level of trauma not only affects the spouse but the children and every member of both families. It tears apart friendships, causes turmoil in the workplace and pushes churches to pick sides. There is nothing “better” or “good for the kids” in any of this. It’s purely a selfish move that our society has rationalized as acceptable under the term “contract” to make our sins acceptable.

Next time you consider marriage, the next time you put your rings on, before you say “with this ring, I thee wed”, consider the value, the importance and the spiritual, emotional and physical implications of what you are doing. If you are not prepared to make a life long faithful commitment, do not put the rings on, wait.

Andy

My thoughts on the Florida school shooting and surrounding commentary.

IMG_20180220_090447

I have had plenty of thoughts on the shooting and the media and the lefts response to the this tragedy, but I’ve held my peace until more facts came out. The first is the left and the media should be ashamed of their selves. The first political statement was by a Democrat and plastered on every main stream media outlet. This wasn’t a statement of sorrow but a statement dividing the nation between groups and calling for more gun control.

Lets explore the gun control argument. Banning guns will not stop people from killing people. The first recorded murder in the Bible was with a rock and it’s been downhill since then. In China, where guns are banned for private ownership, there has been numerous knife attacks that have killed scores of people in each incident. In Great Britain where private firearm ownership is illegal acid attacks are common, using trucks to run people down in crowds then jump out with a knife or an illegally obtained firearm to finish the job has made headlines and violence since the gun ban went into effect has risen so much that knives and baseball bat sales went through the roof. Now you can’t even carry a small pocket knife there. We know that pipe bombs and truck bombs have been used to kill as well as Kool – Aid.

In Africa many countries don’t allow private citizens to own firearms and it has been mass slaughter by Islamist’s against non-Muslims. There has been genocide perpetrated by the government and rival factions against other factions and clans. Look no further than Rwanda, Sudan, Kenya and Somalia. In Australia guns were banned and violent crime sky rocketed.

Here in America we have some states and cities where firearm ownership is severely limited if not impossible to exercise. These cities are New York & NYC, Any where in CA, Chicago, Washington D.C, Baltimore and the state of MD, New Orleans & Boston. What is interesting is when looking at gun violence statistics the U.S. is high on the list world-wide, but taking the above cities out the U.S falls to near the bottom. That says a lot!

In regards to schools we removed God from school. When there is a power vacuum something will fill it. Since God was removed and increasingly shunned evil has moved in to fill the vacuum. Note the rise in sexual assaults, assault against teachers and students, increase in school shootings, gang violence, the need for metal detectors and police stationed at schools. In 1990 Vice President Joe Biden, then a senator, introduced the Gun Free School Zone Act. Both houses of Congress passed it and President Bush ( 41 ) signed it. Since then schools have been an easy target that statistics bear out. Criminals, when interviewed in prison, ask why they attacked or robbed this place vs. that the answer has been nobody was their and we were less likely to get shot.

What we have seen in regards to school shootings is the FBI has known ahead of time in several instances but failed to take action. Truthfully they have been an abject failure in recent years on multiple fronts. Another key ingredient has been mind altering drugs that the shooter has been taking as prescribed by a doctor. Drugs to treat mental illness, personality disorders and hyper activity. Thirdly the shooter or the parents were or are Democrats. Party affiliation with the Democrat party has been a common thread in shootings from 1975 – 2016. That’s 19 incidents I can think of off-hand and doesn’t include the shooting in D.C at the congressional baseball practice field.

Now a renewed ” Assault Weapons ” ban will not work simply because a weapons ban will be no more effective than the war on drugs. Banning alcohol didn’t work, banning Cocaine, Marijuana, Meth, Crack, Heroin, etc… has not worked and will not worked. Where there is a will there is a way. Criminalizing the ownership of something will not stop someone from breaking the law. The school shooter already broke the law by bringing the weapon to a school and making terrorist threats in his YouTube video that the FBI was informed about. We had an assault weapons ban with a sunset provision scheduling it to expire during the Clinton Administration. Prior to it expiring Bill Clinton admitted that the ban did nothing to reduce crime and was a drain on law enforcement resources trying to enforce it, therefore letting the ban expire.

Secondly there is not an ” Assault Weapon “. That is a term made up by politicians to make a firearm seem scary and threatening by its appearance alone. An AR-15 chambered in .223 fires the same round as a Ruger Mini-14. The difference is the appearance. One looks military and one looks like a simple hunting rifle. We had to come up with a class of weapon to distinguish assault weapon from the firearms you can buy at Cabela’s. That distinction is the assault weapon has a selector switch that lets you choose rates of fire from single shot to three round burst or full automatic on some. You can’t just walk into a store and buy a weapon with a selector switch without a lot of money, investigations, taxes and waiting periods.

The call for a ban on ” assault weapons ” by the left is laughable in that they actually want us to believe they care for people and children in particular. They care only about an agenda and that agenda is power and control. If they truly cared they would have done something when they controlled the House of Representative, The Senate and the White House. Like with DACA, they needed the issue to campaign on. They didn’t call for gun control when an illegal immigrant shot and killed Kate Steinle in San Francisco with an illegal firearm then let the guy go. The left praised the move by the CA court that let the immigrant go. If they were true to gun control they would have demanded he be hit with the max penalty under law for violating gun laws. Instead out government routinely plea’s the gun charges down to a lesser charge to obtain a quick conviction.

If the left, this includes the media and all social media platforms, were truly concerned about saving children’s lives they would not support abortion. They say abortion is not murdering a child, but then talk about harvesting the organs of the baby. If it’s not a human life how can you harvest organs? If they truly cared about children they would ban Planned Parenthood who makes billions off of killing them. They would ban doctors who kill far more patients due to mistakes than guns ever will. They would ban alcohol and/or passenger vehicles as they have killed exponentially more people than guns.

We have a FBI and Justice Department that has been actively trying to overthrow a sitting president. They want to stage a coupe, but they have been caught and are now trying to cover it up. When faced with such corruption and potential for tyranny why on earth would Americans want to give up their only means for protection? We have the left that increasingly calls for death, violence and jail for anyone who disagrees with them. That’s a real incentive to give up any of my Second Amendment rights said no informed and concerned American ever!

We have the argument that the founding father’s could not have foreseen anything other than the single shot musket. This is a complete ignorance of history at best and an outright lie at worst. It’s also indicative of a failed public educations system. Years before the Constitution was drafted there was a Puckle Gun that was a multi shot weapon. We had cannons and mortars. None of which were banned by the Constitution. Each state in their own constitutions mandated that people have weapons and sufficient shot ( ammo ). Do a little research people. Don’t believe what the media tells you, especially CNN.

The problem is we live in a society that glorifies violence. Cartoons have over 5 times the acts of violence as prime time T.V. We have celebrities that make hundreds of millions of dollars off of movies with gun violence as the theme, yet they rant against the very same thing they make money on. Talk about extreme hypocrisy and why so many don’t take them serious! We live in a time when right is wrong and wrong is right. A day and age where there is no personal accountability, it’s someone else’s fault. A time when morals are not absolute but what makes them feel good. A time when we are so afraid to step on civil liberties that we don’t call bad bad, but ignore it and hope for the best. We live in an age where it’s so common for the media and politicians to lie to us that we joke about it and then re-elect them! We have shunned God and embraced any deity that does not have moral absolutes that might infringe on what we want to do, but then embrace a religion as peaceful that instructs it’s adherents to kill non-believers and homosexuals.  We then act surprised and outraged when bad things happen.

Folks, it’s not guns, it’s not trucks, it’s not alcohol, knives, bats or anything else but human depravity. We live in a world where sin and violence is embraced and celebrated to the point that those who speak against it are shunned, ridiculed and threatened. Things will never change until the nation changes, turns back to its roots and honors God. The further we as a people stray and turn our backs on God the worse things become. We are seeing the fruits of our behavior.

Andy

Be a man of GRIT

IMG_20180212_182008.jpg

Men of grit are becoming a rare commodity, hard to find and misunderstood by modern society. In a time when morals are relative and personal accountability is considered judgemental, youth and young men have no idea what grit is. We have the John Wayne movie True Grit which was remade with Jeff Bridges. We have the T.V series American Grit with John Cena, but neither explain what grit is.

Chuck Swindoll describes the Apostle Paul as follows – ” He was a man of real grit, with a firmness of mind and spirit and unyielding courage in the face of personal hardship and danger. Tough, tenacious, and fiercely relentless, Paul pursued his divine mission with unflinching resolve. And God used him mightily to turn the world upside down for Christ in his generation. ” Dictionary.com defines it as courage, fortitude and stamina. Mirriam-Webster defines it as firmness of mind or spirit, unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.

Of these three definitions we see that ” grit ” is having a firmness of mind, unyielding courage, tough, relentless, resolve, fortitude and stamina. This describes a certain type of man who elements of our society want to relegate to a bygone era. It’s a kind of man who is successful, loyal, hardworking, true to his personal ethos and often considered to be an intimidating individual. To those taught that these are dangerous qualities for a man to have I suppose it can be intimidating. To someone who knows that men of grit were essential to the founding, building and continual security and well-being of this country and the church I see grit as essential.

Some men that have real grit are men like the one pictured here, Chesty Puller. He is one of the most iconic and celebrated Marines by Marines. He’s a legend with exploits all over the world that saw him awarded more Navy Crosses then any other Marine or Sailor in history. He not only faced adversity from the enemy in multiple wars, but from fellow officers. In spite of some trying to derail his career he persevered with dignity and character. He is most well know for his leadership in the Korean Conflict at Chosin Reservoir and his unquestioned and unshakable courage. His leadership inspired the men, brought many more out alive than thought possible, caused tremendous losses to the enemy and left an immortal legacy.

Better known men to the general public would be Generals Mattis and Kelly. Both faced tremendous challenges and hardships in their careers. These hardships didn’t make them slink away but face them with resolve and courage. The adversity and challenges made them better men, better Marines, better leaders. They serve under a man, Donald Trump, who has grit. He faced many challenges in business that ruined more than one business man, but Trump persevered, learned and grew stronger.

Steve Jobs had grit. Yes, a frail looking man with an incredible mind that dropped out of college and changed the world. He was kicked out of his own company then asked to come back to save it. He never gave up, but instead got smarter and persevered through setbacks to create a company envied and hated by many for its success.

Men of grit change and shape nations. They impact the world. These men leave indelible impacts on their families and do more to spread the gospel then a hundred timid pastors. With out these men things aren’t built, non-profits for third world countries aren’t opened, children with medical challenges aren’t cared for, marriages aren’t saved, those stuck in the slave trade never get rescued.

Nothing big was ever done without men of grit at the helm. Such a man not only faces adversity with courage and steadiness but grows stronger each time he has a setback. He doesn’t cast blame on someone else and slink away. He moves forward and becomes a better man.

The thing that needs men of grit the most is our families. Our wives and children need you to be a man of courage. A man who will face challenges and adversity with a steady, unflinching hand. A man who will be loyal regardless of how hard it gets. For this is what teaches the next generation of men what it means to have grit. They learn through our example. This example will bleed over to our churches to advance a strong, stable, courageous church. No one exemplifies grit like the one we claim to follow, Jesus. No one has faced the adversity and hardships like He and He never wavered.

Be strong, be courageous, be loyal, be a man of grit.

Andy

The importance of being “Equally Yoked”

plough1

The term equally yoked comes from the days when fields were plowed and wagons drawn by animals. It was well known that the animals had to be equally yoked to effectively plow or pull. If they were not equally yoked, like the animals in this picture, the work would be infinitely harder if not impossible. One animal would be stronger, one would be more compliant, one would be more prone to the task at hand while the other was the opposite.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that they were not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. This is most often discussed in relationship to marriage and dating. The implications go much further than that. The instruction was not specific to just marriage and dating, all though that is great wisdom, but to all partnerships. When a believer in Christ, a Christian, enters any kind of informal or formal relationship with an unbeliever there will be strife. There will be times when their world views and moral ethos will collide in conflict resulting in the believer having to decide on the partnership or religious conviction.

Imagine if you will if Truett Cathy entered into a business agreement with Yum Brands. Yum Brands decides to broaden their advertising and wants to advertise in Playboy. Truett Cathy says ” no way “, but Yum Brands says we are and you will as we are the larger of the partnership. Due to the contract Truett Cathy would be forced to have    Chick-Fil-A advertisements alongside Yum Brand in Playboy, a publication that does not at all exemplify the core values of Chick-Fil-A. The same could be said of the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, signing a contract with Target stores. The Green’s would then be contractually obligated to sell, promote and provide services that were contrary to their core values and religious beliefs. Keep in mind, these are examples only and have not happened.

How would that play out with a small business owner? What if one partner wants to do something that violates another’s code of conduct? Can he refuse? What if the other issues an ultimatum of do it or buy me out? Are you prepared to violate your spiritual convictions for profit?

Now to the dating and marriage relationship aspect of being equally yoked. I am very tired of hearing pastors and commentators stopping at saying this means only marry a fellow believer. It means much more! That’s a good start, but can still lead to a lifetime of regret and misery if that’s all the more weight we put on the subject.

A young lady has a desire and a calling to be a missionary to Central America. She knows that she knows that she knows she will be there for years at a time. She believes that being equally yoked means that your spouse only has to be a Christian. She meats a young man who is Mr. Perfect and a Christian that believes in missions. BUT, he has no plans on going his self nor allowing any wife of his to go for an extended period. She will never fulfill her calling and dream of missions due to her husband.

A young man has an anointing for inner city ministry, that’s his passion. He meets the perfect woman who loves the idea of inner city ministry…for someone else to do. She will certainly pray for them and donate money, but she has other things to do with her life. This young lady refuses to allow her husband to spend the time required, let alone live in the neighborhood he ministers in.

A young couple meets at church, grew up in church but didn’t really notice each other before. The families know each other and believe the other is a fine Christian. One wants to serve in children’s ministry, which takes a lot of time and commitment. The other wants to spend time at the lake in the summer, take weekend trips to Florida in the winter. Golf doubles in the fall with another couple from work. This individual is still a Christian, by western standards. Goes to church once or twice a month and major church holidays like Christmas and Easter. The other spouse is now pressured to not be so serious a ” holly roller ” and let someone else handle the kids. They have a life to live.

In each one of these scenarios both parties are Christians. By the nice, friendly, barely scratching the surface of American Christianity they are considered equally yoked. A pre – marriage counselor from the church would even say that because of both of their confessions of faith they are equally yoked and get the churches blessings. This is a huge disservice and downright spiritual malpractice! Individuals in these scenarios are no more equally yoked than the animals in the picture. You’re going to have one that works and one who wants to wander off to whatever distraction comes along.

Before marriage, before engagement both people in the relationship must determine what the other sees in their future. Both need to be chasing God with the same intensity with the same desires. Both must be equally committed to the spreading of the gospel and service in the church. This is the only way to be equally yoked. The soon to be missionary will be far happier if they don’t “settle” for the first ” Mr. Right “, but holds out that God has the real Mr. or Mrs. Right that will complement their calling. The saddest thing is to talk to someone who had a calling, but forfeited that calling for the person who is now their spouse. You will NOT change them after your married. Only God can change a person if they are willing.

Do yourself a favor and ask the hard questions about each others callings, values and desires before marriage. The short-term heart ache of ending a relationship is far better than the long-term regret of missing your destiny.

Andy

Valentine’s, what’s a man to do?

IMG_20180208_072738.jpg

OK guys, this is your reminder that Valentine’s Day is less than a week away. I know some of you will not have a clue until Wednesday the 14th when you notice your social media feed is lit up with sappy love posts. Maybe you’ll hear your favorite morning show talk about it or someone at work will get flowers. By then it’s really too late. 20 years of marriage has taught me it’s better to plan.

There is a bit of mystery surrounding Valentine’s Day and it’s origins. Some say it’s to celebrate one of three saints named Valentine that were martyred. Some say it was the Catholic Church’s attempt to distract from the ancient Roman custom of sacrificing animals to Lupa . This entailed cutting the goat hide into strips, dipping them in blood and smacking single woman with the blood, putting their names in a bowl and letting the bachelors pull names and live with the woman for a year. These two sound decidedly male in origin. In all honesty I can’t think of a woman who would link a day of romance to death and no strings attached shacking up with someone they didn’t know after getting smacked with a blood soaked strip of flesh.

The third thought is Valentines was place in the middle of February because that is what was thought to be the beginning of bird mating season. I can see a woman going down this road thinking that was romantic. The question is, how did it get to be a multi-billion dollar holiday that gets countless men in trouble if they forget? Thanks Hallmark!

Seriously though, what’s a man to do? There is the usual box of chocolates that she’ll thank you for, although she worries they will pad her hips that she already thinks are too padded. You can get the roses, or other flowers, that will be dead in a week. You add a card to each of these options then still end up taking her out for a romantic dinner. That’s a lot of money for something that will be gone and in the trash by the next Monday. You can always buy nice jewelry that she may or may not like, but there again a bit of money has to be shelled out that you may not be able to afford.

In the past I did the usual & expected, traditional gifts. I always thought it was a bit silly but knew better than to not do it. Now mind you, not because I would be sleeping on the couch or my wife would throw a fit, but because I knew if I didn’t want a cold butt all night or a woman in a funk because her man forgot I had better get something. It’s what all loving husbands do. Now if you are not married, especially if you’ve only been dating a few months or less, save yourself some trouble and don’t throw around the ” L ” word ( love ). You don’t know her well enough for that, you’re just in lust. In time that can change to love.

This year things are a bit different. We are having some considerable health challenges with our daughter that no doctor has yet been able to diagnose and treat. We are now in the process of getting her seen by either Duke Children’s, the Mao Clinic pediatric hospital or Johns Hopkins. All three require a good sum of money up front due to we do not have health insurance. Couple this with the multiple doctor and E.R visits already that have been fruitless we have thousands of dollars of medical bills on the very near horizon and thousands already coming in. This is on a single income family. This has caused two things. The first I am home less because we frankly need the extra income. Second, because we need to save every last penny we can. The extra expenditure for Valentine’s is not in the equation.

Men, first off, if the woman you are dating is hung up on material things and won’t understand a thought out and thoughtful gift that’s out of the ordinary due to your current and temporary financial situation, you are in for a life of misery if you keep her. Cut your losses and run. I’m very thankful I married a woman who understands and is grateful for what I thought up…well after praying about it and it came to me. I’m not romantic enough to think this up on my own.

Several years ago I bought my wife a new Bible, Woman Thou Art Loosed by T.D Jakes, and in the front I wrote the reasons I love her. It was a time of battling with depression and guilt. She later gave that Bible to another woman we mentored who was dealing with some of the same issues and a similar background. This year, due to the above financial strain, after praying I am making a short video each day. Each video is about 1 – 2 minutes long and I tell her a different reason each day why I love her. Some days the video is what she means to me, the importance I put on her. When you start honestly looking at the woman you are married to it shouldn’t be hard to come up with at least 5 different reasons.

It turns out she absolutely loves the videos. They are easy to make. I back them up in Google photos then share them with her. She is able to see them within a few minutes after I finish. You can do the same thing. She can keep the videos until Google loses them or she accidentally deletes them. They last and can be viewed time and again. You can do one video, you can do a hundred videos, you can do something totally different that costs very little or nothing. The most foolish thing to do is spend money you don’t have, charging a credit card or financing jewelry in the store, and adding more of a debt burden. Why add more stress to the number one thing that causes arguments in marriage, finances, on a day you are expected to celebrate romance?

Guys, use your imagination. Don’t be shy or timid. You were created to lead, give identity, pursue and fight. Don’t let Hallmark dictate how you show your love and affection.

Andy

A city united through a Gathering of Believers.

IMG_20180206_213003

This blog is for those in Rocky Mount NC who remember the Gathering of Believers meetings and for those who wish to see the city changed. Anyone, anywhere can start the same things you’ll read here. I encourage you to do so as it is the only way to truly change a city.

Rocky Mount and the surrounding cities have faced many difficult challenges. Much of the “Down East” region shares the same struggles while Rocky Mount’s stands out more so due to its population. The issues found here impact the tri-county area at large. We have drug abuse, poverty, gangs & gang violence, shootings and stabbings are common. The drug trade is robust which brings the problem of addicts and their actions trying to get just enough to score. We have law enforcement agencies that do not want to assist another. We have a city council that by all appearances has been corrupted. We have religious leaders dividing the people by income and ethnicity. The schools are in the bottom one hundred in the state. The city is divided by one of the poorest counties in North Carolina and industry just does not seem to want to make the area their home, despite several companies having looked at the area.

What happened? Why has the city fallen to such a state? It wasn’t always like this. Sure, there was always the racial and economic divide. There was always the attitude by some of those of the people on “that side of town”. There was a time not long ago that the city was not in the dire straits it is in now. When we were involved with an inner city ministry in town it was safe being anywhere. The people knew who we were and what we were doing. Nobody bothered us. There was a lot of hope for the direction of the city when we moved to Texas in 2012. When we moved back in 2015 the city had gone off the rails. At first we couldn’t figure out what happened, what changed to cause such a dramatic turn?

The answer to that lies in some recent history. Prior to 2012 several churches in town would meet once a month at the Gateway Convention Center. These gatherings were called “Gathering of Believers Meeting”. It was here that each church that was committed came with many members and we all worshiped the Lord as one and prayed with one heart and one mind for the city. Each meeting had a different pastor speak and a different worship team lead worship. There were people who went that received physical healing , my wife is one, while praying for the city and not themself.

After some time the decision was made to move the gathering to the individual churches on a rotation. This marked the beginning of the end of the gathering. Now instead of meeting on neutral ground we were meeting in churches that brought out the denominational, theological and racial divide. There were whites that didn’t want to go down town to the black church. There were blacks that didn’t want to go to the white church. There were Pentecostals that didn’t want to go to the Methodist church and so on. There were no Hispanics or Asians at any of the meetings. I believe that once the movement was disrupted and brought into the individual churches the movement died, but the pastors who worked so hard to try to bring this unity didn’t want to admit it.

By the time we move to Texas the meetings had stopped, at least as far as we know. There were, and still are, small groups of people doing prayer walks and meeting each morning at a local hotel to pray. There are still small groups who say a quick prayer for the city, but we no longer have the Gathering of Believers that opened so many doors through prayer. We are still a divided church.

Prior to this the Peacemakers Family Center in Rocky Mount was barely a dream. It was a group of people who went to South Rocky Mount and ministered to the children and their families. They distributed food to the poor and elderly. They would pick up the kids in minivans and pickups and bring them to the community center where we has access to a couple of rooms, the track and ball field. Through the open doors of prayer another ministry called Redeemer’s Inn was started. If it wasn’t for the doors being opened through prayer and contacts made in this endeavour it is likely that these two may have never got off the ground. Now Peacemakers is an outreach with unprecedented  cooperation with the city and county social services. Something not done in the city before.

The Bible is clear that there are principalities. In Daniel 10 the angel tells Daniel that he was held up by the prince of Persia and Michael had to come help. In Ephesians 3:10 & 6:12, Romans 8:38, and Colossians 1:16 and 2:15 speak of principalities and spirits of the air. This gives us a clear picture that they are assigned territories much as a general in an occupying army. Think of MacArthur in Japan after WWII, not that he was a principality, but he was a commanding general over an occupied region.

The Bible makes clear that we are in a war and we are an army. As such we must understand that there is an enemy who is also an army with a mission. The mission is to steal, kill, deceive and destroy as much as possible with the resources and time it has available. No army that loses territory will sit back and let the enemy keep it without trying to take it back. If they can’t take it back the enemy will try to make it extremely costly to hold onto it in the hopes you will let go of the newly gained territory. A great example is the bloody battle for the Chosen Reservoir in the Korean War. The Americans and our allies marched to seize the Chosen Reservoir and surrounding areas. The Chinese and North Koreans didn’t want us there and made us pay dearly for it. Even though they lost untold thousands they eventual unseated us causing a withdrawal. The next spring it was tried again but the Chinese and North Koreans learned if they sacrifice enough of their soldiers and kill enough of ours we will abandon the area and withdraw.

That is what has happened in Rocky Mount. The church came together and prayed. She took ground the enemy had and the enemy was mad. When the church abandoned what was working in favor of what was more economical it opened the door for the enemy to gather its troops and start waging war in people’s minds first. Now that the church has abandoned the concept all together the enemy has had free rein to wreak havoc on the city and surrounding areas. The only way to stop it and tip the balance of spiritual power is for the church to come back together with a long-term commitment to pray and worship together.

Make no mistake, the battle will be hard. The enemy will not go without a fight, but we have God on our side. We claim it’s the city on the rise, but the only resurrection from the dead was done by Jesus. Without Jesus the city will not rise but quickly become a Grand Rapids MI.

I urge the church to come together on neutral ground, on a committed and regular basis to worship and pray for the city, the schools, the county, the economy and a spiritual awakening. For this is the only way to bring the city back.

Andy

 

The comparison of salt and light to the church has more significance than you might think.

IMG_20180119_204902.jpg

The comparison of the church to being salt and light has more significance than just preserving flavor. Being the light is pretty easy to understand, but what did Jesus mean by being the salt of the earth? What is it about salt that is so important to us?

Salt is one of the most stable, yet simple compounds known to man. It has many uses besides preserving or adding flavor. Salt can be used to preserve food from going bad. It’s used to add flavor to foods. It’s often used to melt ice or prevent ice from forming on our roads, walkways and steps. When making home-made ice cream you use salt. You use salt for all kinds of things.

According to phys.org when ordinary table salt is put under extreme pressure it changes to other stable compounds that science calls ” forbidden forms “. These compounds break the rules of established textbook scenarios. They do things that are not explained by science.

Salt from the ocean is deadly to those that drink sea water. it is also very corrosive if left on metal. Think of the damage to vehicles in Northern states or ocean-going vessels. In time the salt will completely corrode the metal and eat it away until it’s worthless and dangerous to use. It will totally compromise its structural integrity.

Let’s apply this to Christians, anyone proclaiming to follow Jesus. Not only are we to add flavor to the earth, but also preserve, be stable, become more stable and transform under pressure, confound science and logic, defy text-book behaviors and not be corrosive and deadly.

Adding flavor, to me, would be our attitude and outlook on life. We should remain upbeat and positive. We shouldn’t run others down or be demeaning in our language. We should add joy everywhere we go and everywhere we work. People should not dread you being around. They should definitely know you are a follower of Christ, but not overburdensome about it.

We are to preserve the integrity of the gospel, the church and Christ. Our actions should be reflective of these things regardless of the political and cultural fads at the time. If we are to be salt we are not to compromise the gospel for anything.

We are to transform and grow into stronger and more stable witnesses as we have pressure applied to us. We call this trials and troubles. Sometimes they happen for no apparent reason, other times it’s because of something we did and we are suffering the consequences for our actions. Either way it is pressure that should transform us in such a way as to defy normal human response. We have the power of the Holy Spirit backing us to make this possible.

We should be stable, the most stable person non-believers know. Regardless of the situation we should not be swayed or tossed around like a leaf in the breeze. In the worst of circumstances and the best of circumstances we should be the rock that others look to. We shouldn’t be on emotional roller coasters with constantly shifting moods. This wears you and others out. Nothing speaks more to inner peace through Christ than being the steady rock in every situation.

We should defy text-book norms in our lives. We should be so devoted to the Lord that when we pray over people miracles are expected, not unexpected surprises. Those around us should be coming to us for prayers of healing. Our finances should be such that no one can deny a divine supernatural blessing on them. We should defy the norms of debt and unresponsible spending in favor of being a source of blessing to those in need.

We should not be corrosive, toxic, in our actions. We should not be the gossip, the one always being negative, the one always complaining about things that tears every organization apart. This will compromise the strength and integrity of everything you are a part of. It will always be a hinderance requiring correction. Much like a ship at sea requires the sailors to scrape rust and apply paint to keep the ship see worthy. Like someone in the North has to frequently clean the salt off their car to keep it from rusting and having more frequent wiring and suspension issues due to the salt eating away at it. A person like this does more damage to the gospel message than any other person. This individual is deadly to the church and the kingdom.

As Jesus said, once it loses its flavor, who can put the saltiness back in it? You can’t, you discard it and trample on it because it’s worthless. This is exactly how so many in Western society see Christians and the church. As worthless, not of any use, negative, judgemental and not very much fun to be around. You can be a joy to be around with out always being Mr. NO!

I don’t know how many people I have worked with who are always talking about doing this or that at church. Wearing their faith on their shirt sleeve, yet are always on an emotional roller coaster, the worse gossips or the most negative. They make me cringe and make the job of being the good, beneficial salt that much harder. Once the bad salt has been spread around and starts its corrosive effects it’s very difficult to reverse the damage.

Which salt are you? Are you the salt the benefits those around you while being a faithful ambassador for Christ or are you the dangerous and deadly salt that spreads discontent and a bad image of the Kingdom?

Andy

The Jonah mentality in our churches.

IMG_20180120_145338373.jpg

The Jonah mentality, also sometimes called the Jonah spirit, is an interesting thing. This attitude is extremely common and easy to spot. To better understand it we have to look at who Jonah was and what he did.

Jonah was a profit to the kingdom of Israel around the time that King Jeroboam II. God had placed Jonah as a profit to minister to the Israelites and to speak His word to the king and the people. Jonah loved Israel and wished to protect her. Because of this he was not willing to go to Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital region, not just one city but a region, of the Assyrian empire. They were not only wicked but ruthless. They were well-known to burn the teenagers of the kingdoms they conquered so there wouldn’t be anyone to have children and rebuild a kingdom or people with a grudge seeking vengeance. They would stack the dead bodies of their enemies and pile the heads up. Assyria was also an enemy of Israel. So when God told Jonah to go to Nineveh to proclaim the word of the Lord, he wasn’t willing to go.

Jonah knew if the people of Nineveh repented and God had mercy on them they would eventually present a problem for Israel, a known enemy. Jonah, as a nationalist with great love for Israel, was not willing to  bring the message of the Lord to these people in the hopes that they would stay wicked and God would snuff them out thereby sparing Israel future trouble. To avoid this task he tried to hide from God, but God made things so miserable that even the sailors who didn’t believe in the One True God knew God was angry and wanted to know why. They rightly woke up the profit to find out why. Even after Jonah spoke the word of the Lord to those in Nineveh, and they repented, he still sulked outside the city lamenting how they didn’t deserve it and he wished death on himself.

You might say that his attitude was pretty harsh to not only wish death on Nineveh, but also on himself instead of seeing them blessed. I would say the Christian church, especially the western church, embraces this attitude. We not only embrace this attitude towards nations, people groups and other religions but we embrace it against fellow countrymen living a life we don’t agree with. Living in a ” sin ” that we prescribe as more heinous than another.

We’ll start with nations. During WWII it was common to invoke God & Christianity against the godless heathen Nazi’s. Instead of praying for them and sending missionaries to  spread the word of the Lord we waited until only war would save the Jews. We, as a nation and a church, wished death and a lifetime in hell on the Germans. This is exactly what Jonah wished for the people of Nineveh.

During the Cold War we did the same with the Soviet Union and the Soviet people. We did the same with the North Koreans and the Vietnamese. How different might things look in Asia and Europe had we focused our energy on sending the Good News instead of wishing death, destruction, curses and hell on them?

Christians are quick to wish an eternity in hell on abortion providers and those who have had abortions. They are told they can’t be saved and will rot in hell for their actions. We say they deserve to be punished by God for even seeking information on abortion. What if we shed the Jonah mindset and extended love and understanding on them? What if sharing the Good News, without condemnation and guilt, changed their minds? Currently we pile so much guilt and hatred on them that they want nothing to do with Christianity, the church or the god that Christians claim to worship. Rightfully so and I don’t blame them.

The church is quick to condemn homosexuals, bisexuals and the other 70 + gender and sexual identifiers to a lifetime in hell. We tell them they are dirty sinners and even go so far as to not allow to worship in our churches. We call them ” those people ” or ” that kind “. We extend hate and curses of death and hell, but rarely extend the hand of mercy and grace that God extended to Nineveh. It’s like we know better and are more righteous.

The church looks at single mothers, drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, etc… as too low a human to worship with them. When they do venture into a church it’s common for them to be told to sit in back and be quite. They are scorned and boldly judged for their life choices, but never extended the hand of grace, mercy and Love that Christ gave us and Nineveh though Jonah. We then wonder why they don’t turn from their ways.

We are so petty as to judge the worthiness of a person on how they dress. If they don’t dress how we think they should they should not bother coming to our church. After all, God is looking at your clothes to decide if you are worthy enough to be extended His grace, mercy and salvation.

How arrogant are we! When we do ” let ” these people in, because Lord knows they need some Jesus, things start to change. Their conversion is complete and radical. Their devotion to Christ and eagerness for His word are far beyond those of the ” normal ” church goer. Then the members get self-righteous and uppity about it. You hear things like ” I can’t believe they worship so hard. Don’t they know that’s distracting? “, ” Can you believe they brought so and so with them? They should know we don’t want that kind here shaking things up !”, ” ever since those people started coming things have changed and not for the better. “. There is anger at the changes and the people who brought the change.

Consider God’s conversation with Jonah about his anger over the people of Nineveh receiving God’s mercy and grace in Jonah chapter 4:  This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry.So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”

Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.

But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed.

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”

“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”

10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness,[a] not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

The Jonah mentality or the Jonah spirit is a very selfish thing. It demands that things don’t change and people who we deem as not worthy don’t get to hear the gospel message. It demands that people who are different from us, live in a manner we dislike or from a nation & religion we abhor are not afforded God’s grace. This is a complete opposite mindset and honestly the mind of those who are anti-Christ.

Those who are for Christ will go to ” those ” people and share the gospel. They will create an atmosphere where they are not feeling rejected by man, but convicted by the Holy Spirit. You are not the Holy Spirit, just a conduit to creating the atmosphere needed for conviction and truth. If you are not living a life devoted to Christ 6 days a week, on the 7th you can’t expect to have enough of the Holy Spirit present with the lot of you to create the atmosphere. That is why it’s common practice for the worship leaders to have to ask the Holy Spirit to come, the people didn’t bring Him.

We must change this mindset and be welcoming of all, regardless of their lives, views, sins or religions. We are the representation of Christ and the way that most people will meet Him.

Andy

The Incredible Power of Hope

IMG_20180116_230248

Faith and hope are two words that are forever tied together. They go hand in hand. Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for something to happen. Faith is the complete trust in someone or something. Without one it is very difficult to have the other. So difficult in fact that they are tied together in the famous ” faith book ” of the Bible, Hebrews. In Hebrews 11:1 it says ” Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen “. In 10:23 it states ” Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful “. The old definition of hope was a feeling of trust. Over the years it has changed to a feeling of expectation. If you combine the two definitions you would have something like a feeling of trust and expectation and a desire for something to happen or a trust that something is going to happen. This is virtually what faith is.

Hope is a very powerful thing. We see people do some amazing things due to hope. We also see them do foolish things because of hope. We never know what will give someone else hope and faith that the future can and will hold something better. It can be a story of your life, the things you have overcome. It can be a simple positive word you speak to someone that is the spark that ignites life into an otherwise hopeless situation. It could be the trials in someone else’s life that when retold brings hope and faith for the future.

Sobriety can be a powerful story of hope for someone wanting to be sober. Simply putting your story out there can be enough. There are a couple social media pages I follow centered solely around sobriety. Many people comment on how they struggled with sobriety and getting clean, but the story posted with the struggles and successes was the thing that gave another hope that sobriety and a new life was possible.

Lives can be saved by simply sharing your victory over trials or your faith. I listen to Family Talk on Sirius/XM a lot. I can’t count the number of times a caller to one of the shows spoke of being in that last stage of hopelessness and suicide was looking like the best way out. They ” by accident or randomly ” , I don’t believe it was either, tuned into one of the broadcasts and through the faith and hope of something better being shared on the radio the person abandoned the thoughts of suicide. Regardless of your likes or dislikes for Joel Osteen, his radio and T.V. ministry has been the one ray of hope for many that were on the verge of suicide. Through his apparent genuine happiness and speaking of a God who wanted something better for them they sought out help and Jesus.

Marriages can be saved by your testimony of overcoming the hard things. Others can see that divorce is not the answer, that the marriage vows are important and doing the hard work is worth it. We’ve personally seen our testimony be the thing that gave people hope that their marriage was able to be saved. Through our story they said ” if God could save yours, He can save ours “. Even if you don’t believe in God, the witness of your marriage story can be the inspiration for someone else to save their own.

Rebuilding your life after bankruptcy or being laid off. Many people stare down the barrel of these life events and feel lost with no hope. What if they heard how you found hope, how you dug your way out, rebuilt and reinvented yourself? Just knowing that someone else was staring down the same barrel and successfully came out the other side better off is all they need to find hope in a hopeless situation.

Hope has driven people to pack up all their belongings in move across countries and around the world for new opportunities.

Hope has inspired countless boys and young men to ask that girl out.

Hope has driven untold number of people to rehab.

Hope has saved countless marriages from divorce and children untold amounts of heartache.

Hope has brought millions into the church. It has inspired people to do great acts of faith in the hope ( faith ) that somehow things would work out.

Hope has encouraged oppressed people to overthrow the chains of tyranny and seek liberty.

Hope has encouraged countless men & women to enlist in the military in search of something better than their current circumstances.

Hope of a better future has inspired people to invent new things and go back to college.

To give someone hope you don’t need to be on Forbes’ Fortune 500 or 100 list. You don’t have to be a famous motivational speaker or well known pastor and author. All you have to do is be honest and willing to speak life into someone else’s life. Often a simple testimony of where you were and where you are. A friendly acceptance of them as they are with no judgement attached will do more to open ones eyes to the hope of a better future than a judgemental remark will.

Almost nobody knows who persuaded Billy Graham to go to the Billy Sunday crusade. That one person gave Billy Graham hope. That hope turned into salvation and that salvation gave one man a hope of seeing millions saved. That hope turned into a reality. Look beyond yourself and you will see a world of people who need hope. You never know what they will become and accomplish if they just had a little hope.

Andy

Fitness & Health Tips for Truckers From One.

IMG_20180112_115833.jpg

I’ve been in the trucking industry since 1997. In that time I have been behind the wheel for 16 of those years while the others were working on them, insuring them or in safety & training. One thing is sure, it’s a challenge to stay healthy and in shape on the road. For this reason I used three pictures of myself from the previous six years. I’ll share with you my vitals just to show that I do practice what I say. I’m 43, 5’10 & 171 LBS with a BP of 116/78, pulse pressure of 38 and a pulse rate of 68 at last check.

There is nothing worse than an advice article from someone who doesn’t live it or doesn’t work in the industry and does not understand what drivers face. Given what I’ve told you so far I’m very comfortable sharing what I know works.

The eating healthy tip holds true, but we know it is pretty difficult with the selections offered in the truck stops, the growing number of Wal-Mart stores & grocery stores that will not allow you to park and the ELD Mandate that makes it difficult to find the time to stop. In a perfect world your company will allow time for you to stop and stock up on groceries. They will provide the inverters or refrigerators in the trucks to keep perishables from spoiling. They would provide you with access to gyms like Planet Fitness where you could get the truck cloose to. The truth is we don’t live in a perfect world and despite lip service most companies just don’t care.

For this reason I take the approach of everything in moderation. This is also due to my personal faith and finding this in scripture. If you want to drink a soda, drink one, but keep it in moderation. Nobody is denying that soda is bad for your health, but one here and there won’t kill you nor make you fat. The same with chips, candy bars, coffee, buffets, etc., keep it in moderation. Don’t over do it. Your body only needs a certain number of calories a day and it’s extremely easy for a driver to blow past that number before lunch.

Although eating healthy is difficult at times, it’s not impossible. Most chain truck stops sell fruit and salads. Most fast food restaurants have healthy choices. You can stock up on food when you leave home and if your lucky enough to find a place that you can park while on the road you can restock your supply. It’s as much to do with moderation as it is about choice. Choices like instead of eating out of boredom you squeeze a stress ball. Instead of refilling your cup with Mt. Dew, add drink mix to a bottle of water. The dietary choices are really and truly a mental thing. Once you determine to do it, do it long enough to make it a habit and your desires and tastes will change.

The next aspect is physical fitness. This is seriously overlooked amongst drivers. When we stop for our ten-hour break, sitting at the dock or doing a reset at the truck stop we tend to hang out inside or sit in the truck scrolling through social media, watching T.V., reading or napping. There’s nothing wrong with any of these, but if you have time to do these you have time to do a 30 minute work out. Again, it’s all mental. Once you determine to do it, do it long enough to make it a habit and your body will actually become addicted to it. This addiction is much cheaper than a soda or cigarette addiction and will do more to relieve stress than the nicotine will.

For myself I do the work out before I start my day. If I find myself waiting at a dock I’ll throw in some extra sets. I do this with no weights on the truck and without a gym membership. It’s a matter of routine and breaking up the routine. I do keep push up bars or handles, that you can find at Wal-Mart for $20 and are easy to store in the truck. This way if the weather is such that I don’t want to be outside doing the push ups I can do them on the bunk. If the weather is favorable I can use them instead of putting my hands on the nasty parking lot. You all have smelled that on a hot day, I’m not putting my hands on it!

I usually start with push ups. as follows:

  • At least 3 sets of 20 with each set having my hands in different positions. One set will be normal with hands shoulder width apart. The next set will be with my hands turned from the 12 o’clock – 6 o’clock position to the 3 o’clock – 9 o’clock position. The third will be with my hands close together almost like you’re doing pyramid push ups.
  • Two or more sets up 20 leaning forward against the edge of the bunk and feet by the gear shift, hands shoulder width apart then less than 12 inches apart.
  • Dips – put your hands on the edge of the bunk, the hard part – not the mattress – and lower until your butt almost touches the floor then back up for a minimum of 3 sets of 25.
  • Arm twirls a minimum of 20 circles forward and the same number backwards for a minimum of three sets.
  • Squats – feet shoulder width apart. Squat until your thighs are at 90 degrees to your shins with back as straight as possible. I do a minimum of 3 sets of 20.
  • Toe raises – feet shoulder width apart and raise up on the tip of your toes like you’re trying to see over something. I do at least 3 sets of 20.
  • Lunges – Stand straight and step forward with one foot and bend the rear leg until the knee almost touches the ground, stand back up and bring the forward leg back alongside the rear leg. I do at least 3 sets of 20.
  • Toe raises – same as above but feet together for the same count. This works a different muscle group in the calves.
  • Planks – I do 2 sets of 30 seconds ( minimum ) in the front leaning rest position with forearms on the bunk ( or towel if outside ). Then the same count each on the left side and right side.
  • Flutter kicks at 3 sets of 30, hello dollies at 3 sets of 30 and crunches at 3 sets of 50.
  • Mix up the rotation. Don’t train your muscles to a set routine everyday. Mix it up so you aren’t always relying on the same muscle groups to do the same things at the same time.

If you don’t want to body weight only exercises you can buy work out bands at Wal-Mart, Dick’s, Dunham’s, on – line, Academy Sports and a multitude of other stores. You can carry weights on the truck and even a bicycle if you want. I don’t want to take up limited storage space with these things so I chose not to. I also keep in mind that if I quite, move trucks or the company goes out of business I want to be able to move all my stuff in no more than 4 bags, what I can carry.

I don’t run or walk laps around the parking lot. I do the above exercises close enough together to keep my heart rate elevated. I park towards the back of the lot and walk fast everywhere and often take the long way to get inside & back to the truck, unless it’s raining. Before you say that’s easy for a freight hauler or door swinger, I do pull flats and have to sling straps, chains and pull tarps. This routine makes this easier.

For those that are overweight and haven’t exercised, don’t lose heart or think you can’t based on what I posted here. You can start anywhere. Even if starting is 1 set of 3 and build your way up. Even before joining the Marines I was keen on staying fit and exercising. Life on the road has not diminished that, it just changed the way I do it.

If you have not exercised in a while I do encourage you to ask your doctor if and how much exercise you can do to start. Truckers have a stressful enough job as it is. A job that takes its toll on the body to a degree beyond most other professions. It’s known that drivers tend to have a shorter life span than others, but it does not have to be that way. You can change the trend and be an anomaly in the statistic. You can do something to improve the chances of seeing your kids have kids and see those grand kids marry and have kids. If you do nothing the chances are great that they will not know you.

Andy