Your current situation is not your final destination.
How you treat the Church reveals how you think about Heaven.
Let's all show up with our hearts ready to hear a Word from the God of Heaven, our creator, Savior and sustainer. He is speaking each and every week, but are you listening?
Let’s choose purpose over preferences. Look to serve not to be served in every way from style to preferred aesthetics to non conventional methods to the many mediums the message and the media travel through and so forth when purpose is priority. Use your attitude and gifts to build God’s Church not tear your faith down and the people around you. Remember, it’s His Church not yours or mine.
Let's not come alone. Bring someone. People are going to Hell in a hand basket when it's our responsibility to populate Heaven. It's on us to lead them away from the fire of Hell to experience Heaven on earth here and now and forever.
Let's all come expecting God to move. You get what you expect. Come with a heart that is anticipating a move of God for you, your family, your friends, and everyone around you.
Let's all come prepared to give something. We are called to invest in what is investing in us. We are commanded to tithe to God through the local church - storehouse - the place we grow. Giving time is not tithing. So let's give God our very best in response to Him giving us His very best - Jesus Christ.
Let's all come ready to start a revolution with our lives. The world has yet to see what God can do through a man or woman who is fully submitted to God in every way. You can be the next Martin Luther, Billy Graham or Beth Moore.
Surrender. Sacrfice. Submit. Serve.
IT'S TIME TO GO PRO FOR ETERNITY.
I can’t stand holier than thou people. You? They use to push me away from God not closer to Him. They were all about do’s and don’t. I did need dos and don’ts but I could not receive them or find God in all the religious rules hedged around authentic Christianity.
Church was the last place I wanted to be 16 years ago. Many churches I knew of were infamously known for two words: “You Should.” Someone made note that those two words were often followed by the word, “not.” So you should NOT drink or you should NOT smoke or you should NOT dance or you should NOT curse or you should NOT steal. “You Should Not Churches” have made God out to be a killjoy or party pooper when God is more permission giving than anything else.
I struggled with sex, drugs and rock & roll and everything in between in my teens. Sin was fun for me and if you don’t think sin is fun than you have not found the right one. Although it was fun, it was foolish but holier than thou people and you should not churches isolated me from Jesus' saving grace.
I could not get past my struggle with addiction being preached too by people, pastors, parents, teachers, counselors, law enforcement, prosecutors and judges.
I could not connect with people who were not identifying with my pain and in my struggle. Call it what you want. But that is the truth.
I did not need a magic pill to change me as much as I needed someone to come around me with the gift of empathy. I needed someone to say I struggle just like you. I needed someone to just sit with me silently in my struggle and not try to fix me. I did not need 7 keys to a brand new you first. I needed someone to say: me too.
I heard it said before that “Me Too” are two of the most powerful words in the English language.
I did not know how to say this when I was in active addiction and leading a life of crime but I know now. We all struggle with the same thing but it manifests itself in different situations. You might not be addicted to drugs but you struggle with another addiction. We all struggle from with in. You might not be chained to a prison cell like the Apostle Paul was or even me but you might be imprisoned emotionally in a dysfunctional relationship.
When I am struggling through life, I don’t need more principles as much as I need someone to identify with my struggle. Ultimately, the empathy of others attracted to the suffering of Jesus Christ. He struggled and suffered too. He not only sympathizes by sharing how to overcome your struggle but also empathizes by entering into your struggle.
Jesus said ME TOO on the Cross, when He suffered for us so that His followers can lead Me TOO Churches to share the gift of empathy with the hurting and hopeless world. This will create a platform to sympathize with the people who make up our world so that they will receive the principles of Jesus not push them away.
Always say ME TOO before you say YOU SHOULD.
#RestoreChurch #MeToo #Emphatic
>>> You don't ever arrive. You will always be in process.
>>> You can't have the prize without the process.
>>> Don't judge someone who is going through something different than you.
>>> The process is painful but pain produces purpose.
>>> God is patient with us during the process so be patient with others who are in process.
>>> You might never stop struggling but you can struggle at different levels.
>>> Don't hog up all the grace of God for yourself when others need it just as much as you.
Christmas is crazy on steroids.
And when you think it can’t get crazier, it shifts to a new level of crazy. Someone says something. Someone does something. You don’t like something. You get something you don’t want. You don’t get something you do want. Someone else’s craziest gets too close to you. Your craziness sets someone else off...and I am just getting started.
To make sure you don't start 2017 full of regrets or end up in the psych ward with more crazies, you have to learn how to manage the "crazies" in December.
1. Don’t make any big decisions. Emotions are running at an all-time high during the Christmas season - especially the closer we get to December 25th. You don’t want to make any big decisions about life when you are in the midst of the craziest season of the year. It's not fair to you or others. Expectations are often not met or even exceeded because of emotional highs and lows. Busyness takes away from connecting. Everyone is everywhere. Balls are dropped. Miscommunication takes place. It’s not the normal pace, but it’s part of life during Christmas. So don’t quit. Push through it. Pray hard.
2. Don’t spend more money than you have. Your stress in January is the result of your mismanagement of money in December. You do it to yourself but you don’t have to. Spend less so you can have more peace. Money can’t buy peace, but peace can buy true happiness.
3. Don’t criticize others. You don’t know what others are going through. Others are expecting a lot during Christmas too. Friends and family are secretly hurting. It’s hard to always be at your best, especially during the Holidays. They might let their emotions get the best of them and not see the big picture at times. You don’t have to let anyone’s crazy get you crazy. A wise person once said, “Be positive or be quiet.” Make that the rule for the crazy seasons in your life.
(I recently wrote this letter to me as a High School student before I tried drugs for the first time.)
Life can be deceptive. Friends can be misleading. And your destiny can be derailed.
First, you might think you found a purpose in life in that dream you have to become a professional BMX rider, but your motives are missing something. You are only thinking about your own happiness, your own success and your own fame. You could care less about the people around you in your selfish pursuits.
You are going to be left unfulfilled if you put yourself before others when you reach a high point. It will send you on a downhill spiral to pursue satisfaction in all the wrong places. You will do all those things you swore you would never do. Excessive drinking, intravenous drugs, attempted suicide, and illicit sex are just the beginning.
Second, your friends are going to destroy your life. You are not going to see it coming and when it happens, it’s going to be too late. They are clueless to the meaning of life, yet you look to them for direction more than your real family.
Your friends think purpose is found in popularity and the party. They will present you with drugs. They will lead you to open doors in your life that will take years to close. You are almost going to die. You will see many of the people around you go to jail for long periods of time, fail out of school, destroy promising futures and many will end up in your local cemeteries.
You will fight for your friends through all of this and defend them and in the end they will turn against you and your brother causing your brother to do life as a juvenile and you to develop a heroin addiction that will lead you to being arrested 15 times over a 3 year period.
Third, destiny is the result of your decisions. You have more potential in you than you realize. You have an idea of what is possible but you are going to wander off the path of true purpose. You are going to be talked about as the best that 'never' was. People are going to call you 'wasted potential.' You are going to be shunned and find yourself isolated from everyone in a heroin addiction.
You are going to hit rock bottom over and over and over again. When you think you are at the ultimate low in life, the bottom is going to fall out. You are going to believe you have hurt too many people to ever find help, and think you are too broken to be fixed and too hated to be loved.
But know this, what you go through is going to uncover your true purpose. You are not going to waste any of the pain you experienced. Everything has reason, meaning and place in your future. The very thing that almost killed you is going to save you and others. The very poison in your life is going to be used to heal the world. You are going to achieve ultimate success in life because you are going to make your purpose the purpose of others. And one day you will stand before thousands of people on a regular basis and tell them everything they need to know, that you ignored, in order for them to be more successful than you.
It's so easy to fall out of love and not even know its happening. Right?
Without seeing the signs, we can treat Jesus and His church like a new car. If you ever had a brand new car, there is a part of you that wants to tell everyone about it. You want to invite people to drive in it. You respect it. You honor it. You treat it like the most prized possession on earth. But then the car begins to age, you lose your passion for it. You start to eat in it. It loses its new car smell. You take it for granted. You don't tell anyone about it anymore. You fall out of love with it and even start looking for something new.
So if you have fallen out of love with God and His church, there are 5 steps to take to transform your perspective of the car you are driving without trading it in for a new car that you might regret sitting in.
1. Remember Where You Came From.
Not that long ago, you were lost as could be. It's easy to forget how lost we were after Jesus helps us find our way. After a while, we begin to take what He did for us for granted. What you don't appreciate, you will eventually violate. Appreciate what Jesus did for you. You don't deserve it especially when you stop appreciating it.
2. Repent Of Your Sin.
Sin separates us from God. When we allow sin back into our lives, we step back from church and hide from God. We blame the church and God's people for our problems in order to hide our sin from people. Remember, the same God who freely forgave you before will freely forgive you again. Humility is the first step in reviving your relationship with God. Take the step so that you can step back into your love for Jesus and His church.
3. Revisit What You Loved To Do.
Do what you did in the beginning that gave you joy and satisfaction. Keep it simple. Step back into the role you were passionate about through whatever process you need to take part in. Do whatever it takes to fall back in love with Jesus and His church. Don't let little offenses cause you to build a fence around you, keeping you from what you know God has called you to do. #dropit
4. Reconcile Ruptured Relationships.
When we wander from God's purposes, fall out of love with His church and hide from people because of sin in our lives, we hurt relationships both intentionally and unintentionally. It's never too late to seek reconciliation with the brothers and sisters you once respected and cherished. Set up a meeting. Pick up the phone. Say, "I'm sorry." Talk through the offense. Admit your wrong. Give up your right to be right so you can get right with God and His church.
5. Re-commit Your Life To Jesus' Cause.
There is only one cause Jesus died for and that's The Church. Therefore, it's the only cause worth living for when it comes to making a mark on Earth for eternity. Reprioritize the mission of the local church in your life so that you find true fulfillment in life. Put your money where your mouth is. Set up your habits so they cultivate a heart after God's heart for His church. Follow through on the commitments you have stopped fulfilling. Start showing up again like you use to. Get back in the groove of serving and giving because if you are not serving, you are swerving, and if you are not giving you can become greedy.
There is never a day Jesus and His church are to be treated like anything less than the most prized possession on the planet. Honor Jesus and the church He died for. Respect God's people enough to love them where they are just as God loves you where you are. You can begin to experience revival by walking out these five steps to fall back in love with God and His church again.
You can’t make this stuff up! Five years ago Restore Church was just an audacious dream. It was an ambitious dream to become a church not only defined by its Sunday morning worship services but by its community service, and to become a church that reaches people faraway from God and raises them up to new life in Christ - with a vision to start 10 churches in 10 years. So, we started believing BIG.
In the beginning, there was 616 Ontario Street in Havre de Grace. Although it was a free space for us to meet, it was nothing to brag about. It was hidden. There was no parking lot. It was very limited in space, making everyone feel like sardines. Not to mention, we barely had the funds to keep the lights on but we did not stop believing BIG.
In the beginning, there were very few people on board. We had about 10 families initially committed to the process of starting this new church. It was barely enough people to host a community outreach event or pull off a single Sunday morning worship experience. But we pushed through and did not stop believing BIG.
In the beginning, was a heart to serve our community with a radical love. We started a nonprofit called Good Cause to meet unmet needs in our community with events like feeding 100 families with a week’s worth of groceries, baby showers for single moms, spa days and giveaways. We were rookies when we hosted our first Movies at the Park. We didn’t know how to get the projector working properly, so we had to call the movie off because of an incoming rainstorm that never happened. Our first EGG HUNT with 10,000 eggs lasted a grand total of 7 minutes. Even though we were the new kids on the block, our heart to serve people in Jesus name was uncontrollable and became contagious to everyone around us who never stopped believing BIG.
In the beginning, we started our first campus in Perryville High School. We were out of space in Havre de Grace so we crossed the Red Sea, otherwise known as the Hatem Bridge, to bring a life giving church to Cecil County. We didn’t know all the details about operating two locations but we knew nothing was impossible with God so we didn’t stop believing BIG. Since then we have added campuses in Bel Air, Elkton and our fifth location in Towson is in the works.
In the beginning was you. We knew you would eventually come. We prayed for you. We prepared for you. We planned for you. We exist for you. And that is why we are here today. The new buildings in both Havre de Grace and Port Deposit are for you. Everything we do is for you to see how God can change the world through you. Don’t stop believing BIG for the next five years. God is not done with us. He is just getting started. The best is still yet to come.
Well, not really but we just finished filling our last dumpster. Over the last 16 months, we filled just about 30 dumpsters to complete the renovations of both the Office Building & Worship Center on Earlton Road. That’s A LOT of trash!
But, before I get into the lesson I learned for all that trash, I have to thank Maryland Concrete Foundations led by Mel & Sue Braun who paid for all expenses connected to the dumpsters. WE LOVE YOU GUYS!
Everything went into these dumpsters from sheetrock to wood to old furniture to broken equipment to painting supplies and everything in between.
I did not realize it until we completed the project but every dumpster filled was a milestone in the construction process. Taking out the trash properly and regularly was more part of the project than I could have ever imagined.
We had to demo, rip out, take down, break off, cut back, sand, seal and take out the trash to prepare the facilities for the implementation of the vision we had for the future potential of them.
ISN’T THAT JUST LIKE LIFE?
Without even knowing it, you can accumulate 30 dumpsters of negativity, toxicity, brokenness, hurts, habits, debt, shame, guilt and so forth.
Like the building project, we did not allow the trash to get between the treasure of a vision we had for these two buildings.
You can’t allow the trash around you to define you. We didn’t when we were remodeling. Never did we put trash in the dumpster just to put it in there. There was always a greater purpose for disposing of the trash. We believed God had more for us so we had make room for it.
Remember, only God is worthy of defining you, because He made you. What you picked up along the way was not designed to accurately define you. Your worth is found in the price that someone is willing to pay for you. Jesus paid for you with His life.
YOU NEED TO MAKE ROOM FOR IT BY TAKING OUT THE TRASH IN YOUR LIFE.
For God to fill you with His treasure of a plan for your future or a person He is to bring on your path, you have to take out the trash.
It’s time to make room for what GOD wants to do. He is not done with you just because of all the trash you need to take out. The debris is a sign He has a greater destiny for your life.
Start now, one piece at a time, so you can fill one dumpster at a time. If you do that long enough, the trash will be gone and you will have all the room you need for God to bring out the best of what is already there.
The Church is God’s changing room. It’s not the room that changes you, but why you are in the room, who you are in the room with, and what you do in the room.
So why are some people changed in the same church that others aren’t? Why do some people celebrate success and others admit failures in the same room?
Reason #1 :: Unchanged People Blame the Church for their Problems
When people or things don’t grow, someone or something has to be responsible. Many blame the church or the pastor for their lack of growth. Should I blame the company Planet Fitness or its CEO if I choose not to use the equipment placed there to make me stronger? It’s not the gym’s fault I did not use a personal trainer to show me how to get the most out of working out before creating bad gym habits. It’s not the gyms fault I decided to lift more than I should and hurt my body. It is my fault. I am the one responsible for my growth and change.
The church is not responsible to change people. Never has and never will it be its duty. The role of the church is to point people to the one who can change people—Jesus Christ and Christ centered people, processes and programs that keep you changed. The church is commissioned by Jesus to provide the roads for people to travel on as they take responsibility for their own faith. Like the bathroom, you can only go for yourself. I can tell you how to use a toilet and I can even show you how, but I can’t go for you. It’s the same thing with your spiritual growth. The church can show you and tell you how but the church can’t do it for you. Only you can do what it takes to grow and change.
Reason #2 :: Unchanged People Connect to Disconnected People
As we know, people are like elevators, they will either take you UP or DOWN when it comes to committing your life to the local church—God’s changing room—the only entity on the planet Jesus died for.
Many people connect loosely with churches whereas few people commit fully and faithfully to God’s mission through the local church. I am not talking to “not yet and new believers” that fill the pews all around the world. I am talking about Christians who have been in church for a long period of time. I have heard every excuse you can think of as to why he or she does not commit and only connects. Fact is, none of them will make it past the fire God will use to test the work of your life on Judgement Day.
Connecting does not take any investment. You show up like it’s some form of entertainment. These kinds of people don’t have any regularity in the following: giving, serving, mentoring, investing into long term projects, sacrificing, and committing to moving the mission forward at any cost. They want full benefits for working part time.
Churches are full of people who appear to be connected but are not truly committed to the changing processes God established in the operations of a church for you. Someone who treats the church with low priority can lead you to a place of disconnection from your connection to Jesus without even knowing it’s happening. But how? You pick up their loose connection posture and never adopt to fully being a committed participator.
But then there are the committed people who have skin in the game. This smaller group makes the church work. They invest, serve when it’s hard or not cool, come early, stay longer, don’t complain, lead their families well, take care of their spiritual health, don’t just show up when church starts and leave before the offering is taken but do anything short of sin to create an environment where lives can be changed.
Reason #3 :: Unchanged People Hide from Accountability
Accountability is sharing the necessary information before its necessary. Many people call someone after it’s too late and expect the same results as if the information was talked about before a disaster resulted.
Sharing the last 10% is where life change happens. Anyone can talk about the weather, sports, work, children and the next vacation. That is called sharing the 90%. Very few people share the last 10%. That is what the real you thinks about, struggles with, messes up in and so forth. The last 10% is what will make or break your marriage, your calling and your future. Connecting your life to someone who keeps you accountable to what can destroy you will change you.
“Iron sharpens iron as one man or woman sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) You will only be as sharp in life as the people you keep around you. Make sure if you take the average of your five primary influences in life, you are the lowest of the five. Build your life around and on people who are allowing God to change them, people who have truly committed their life fully to the only cause Jesus died for—the local church and people who have someone watching their blind spots, protecting them from an accident in life.
Spiritual growth is not guaranteed as a result of consistent church attendance. Here are 5 reasons that people don’t grow while those around them do. If you want Biblical support, read the book of Jonah. He was placed under enormous pressure in his environment yet without excuse produced a diamond out of his spiritual coal.
1. Effort :: You get out of it what you put into it. If you don’t invest into what or who is investing back into you, then you won’t grow. Your growth is determined by your level of investment. You won’t grow in how you use your time unless you invest your time in a useful way. You won’t grow in how God can transform your finances unless you allow God to use your finances. Many people never experience the true blessing of financial peace yet attend Financial Peace classes because they do not strive to grow in the spiritual component. Your emergency fund won’t save your soul.
2. Environment :: Your environment is not the reason you are not growing - your excuses are. You can grow wherever you don't make excuses. Jonah grew spiritually in a whale. Paul took next steps in his growth in a prison cell. It’s easy to make excuses about the people, the processes and the programs around you as the reason you are not growing. But before you look outside, look inside. I was working out at Planet Fitness for 6 months without any significant improvement in strength or endurance. I started to blame my environment, but then I started to work out with someone who really knew what he was doing. Implementing a new workout plan changed everything without changing the environment.
3. Encouragement :: Discouraging people will discourage you from your next step without directly derailing you. They do it through negativity, doubt and self-deception. You don’t even know it’s happening. Be careful who you camp with. What’s in their tent will get into yours eventually because of your proximity. Camp with people who encourage people. You will find yourself moving forward and advancing to new levels without even knowing it at times. Why is that? Because people are like elevators. They will either take you up or down.
4. Equipping :: You don’t know what to do next because you don’t have a map in your hand. Resources are key to spiritual growth. Read books and blogs that equip you for your calling. Study the Bible. Attend Conferences. Practice Spiritual Disciplines. For every problem you face and spiritual growth plateau you reach, there is a resource to equip you to get unstuck and move forward. When was the last time you were changed by a book? When was the last time your mind shifted because of a conference?
5. Energy :: You have to take care of yourself. Self-care is not selfish. Eat. Sleep. Exercise. Those things and more contribute to your energy level. I can conquer a mountain when I wake up refreshed but I can barely walk over a hill when I am tired. Everyone’s energy levels are different but you need to maximize yours to be focused on your growth.
My step mom, Huei Mei Bousa, passed away after discovering she had cancer too late.
As a result, I had the honor and privilege to participate alongside her pastor in the most memorable and meaningful memorial service in my life this past Monday in New Jersey.
This is what I shared about her life.
VERY FEW PEOPLE WILL HAVE SOMETHING OF THIS CALIBER SAID AT THEIR FUNERAL & IT BE TRUE…
1. Purpose :: She activated my purpose in life. She was the key player in God setting me up for my future as a pastor and church planter. She was one of the primary influences that caused me to go to rehab after battling a 3-year heroin and cocaine addiction. Even after the torture I put her and my father through as a result of my life of crime and addiction, she always believed God had a plan and purpose for my life. I would not be where I am today without her being faithful to God’s purpose for her life.
She had a purpose too though. Her call on her life from God was to be a preacher and teacher of God’s Word as well as an author. She knew the Bible better than I ever did even with my 6 ½ years of higher education in the Bible.
She had no clue that when she took part in activating my purpose, she was going to fulfill hers through me. Every time I preach and everything I write, she is speaking at some level through me. We decided that together the last time we talked her dreams were to be fulfilled through me.
2. Purity :: Many people know the Bible. They can quote it. But few know the God in the Bible like Huei Mei. There is a massive difference. Huei Mei did not just say she loved you. Actually she almost never said it. But she showed it in a way that it was unmistakable and unforgettable. Her commitment to the God in the Bible is second to none. She lived out a purity in her relationship with Jesus that you felt Him when she was around.
How do I know that? Because the Bousa’s put her relationship with Jesus to the test. She was part of my family when we were at the lowest and worst. I do not even want to go into detail here because it’s very sad and full of regrets. But let me give you one example: I was 19 and selling drugs. I sold drugs to an informant without knowing until the last minute. It was too late. The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office raided my house one night while I was in the basement using drugs with a friend. My dad and Huei Mei were clueless at this point of what I was into. They were watching TV that night in the living room when all of a sudden 19 masked police officers with guns, dogs and everything else busted through the door. They detained my dad and Huei Mei before they got to me with serious force. They hurt her because of me.
Guess what? She remained faithful to my family because of her relationship with the God of the Bible. Many people would have quit because they only know God in principle but not in a personal way. If I was her, I would have left. She should have because that was just the beginning of the Hell she would experience. But if she would have left I would not be where I am today. I most likely would not have went to rehab because of her significant influence in that part of my story. I would not have started multiple churches. Thousands of people might not know Jesus because of what God is doing around me if she did not know Jesus intimately like she did.
3. Perseverance :: We put her through Hell and she got Heaven. It’s hard to understand that statement unless you lived in her shoes during the unending seasons of trials and tribulations my family went through. Despite everything she went through as my brother and myself were finding our way in life, she remained faithful to us and loyal to her marriage to my dad. She was committed to her marriage because the God in the Bible told her to be even though life was more difficult than delightful. It was never easy yet she did not let her circumstances dictate her beliefs. She always defined her circumstances with her beliefs about Jesus and what He wanted her to do. Therefore, she was able to persevere to the end without wavering and wandering in her faith.
There was never a conversation that she did not weave love and forgiveness into. Those were the two words she left as a legacy for everyone who knew her. That’s why when I think about her today I can’t help but think about Jesus.
Huei Mei did something few people do with their life. She didn’t leave us money, stocks, boats or houses but something money can’t buy. She marked deep in our hearts a testimony of a life well lived even though it was cut short with purpose, purity and perseverance.
Without a doubt, these words were spoken over her life by Jesus when she breathed her last breath on earth and took her first in Heaven: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Until we meet again Huei Mei, you will keep preaching through me.
As a former addict with 14 years without a single relapse, I was a master at hiding my addiction from my family and friends. It was right in front of their faces and they could not see it or they saw it and made excuses to themselves why I was not on drugs when I really was. I was able to hide it for a long period of time as well as convince them I was clean after they found out I was addicted to heroin.
I hope this helps. These 10 areas people had to overlook when I was addicted so that I could use in front of them.
1. You ignore the significant behavioral changes.
2. You disregard missing possessions and money as they are lost or some mysterious person took them.
3. You write off he or she isolating him or her self for many reasons like she does not like girls or he is misunderstood.
4. You become fine with long periods of not knowing where he or she is.
5. You are not in tune to the repetitive car accidents and traffic issues.
6. You blame others for him or her not having a job or advancing in life.
7. You don’t let them be responsible for their bills.
8. You give money to him or her here and there yet they might work and never seem to have their own money.
9. You continue to say good things about him or her to others even when you know deep down in your heart he or she has not done anything good for him or herself or anyone else in long time.
10. You make excuses to yourself why he or she is losing weight, not healthy, always sick and so forth.
Look harder. Knowing the signs of denial can save a life. Don’t ignore what is right in front of your face. Embrace where you are as a parent of an addicted child so that you can help your loved one embrace their recovery.
I can’t stand “holier than thou” people. You? They used to push me away from God not closer to Him. They were all about “do” and “don’t”. I did need “do’s” and “don’ts” but I could not receive them or find God in all the religious rules hedged around Christianity.
Church was the last place I wanted to be 15 years ago. Many churches I knew of were infamously known for two words: “You should.” Someone made note that those two words were often followed by the word, “not.” So you should NOT drink or you should NOT smoke or you should NOT dance or you should NOT curse or you should NOT steal. “You Should Not Churches” have made God out to be a killjoy or party pooper when God is more permission-giving than anything else.
I struggled with sex, drugs and rock & roll and everything in between in my teen years. Sin was fun for me and if you don’t think sin is fun than you have not found the right one. Although it was fun, it was foolish. However, “holier than thou people” and “you should not churches” isolated me from my saving grace.
I could not get past my struggle with addiction being preached at by people, pastors, parents, teachers, counselors, law enforcement, prosecutors and judges.
I could not connect with people who were not identifying with my pain and in my struggle. Call it what you want, but that is the truth.
I did not need a magic pill to change me as much as I needed someone to come around me with the gift of empathy. I needed someone to say I struggled just like you. I needed someone to just sit with me silently in my struggle and not try to fix me. I did not need “7 keys to a brand new you,” first. I needed someone to say, “me too.”
I heard it said before that two of the most powerful words in the English language are, “me too.”
I did not know how to say this when I was in active addiction and leading a life of crime, but I know now. We all struggle with the same thing but it manifests itself in different situations. You might not be addicted to drugs but you struggle with another addiction. We all struggle from within. You might not be chained to a prison cell like Paul was or even me but you are imprisoned emotionally in a dysfunctional relationship.
When I am struggling through life, I don’t need more principles as much as I need someone to identify with my struggle. Ultimately, the empathy of others attracted me to the suffering of Jesus Christ. He struggled and suffered too. He not only sympathizes by sharing how to overcome your struggle but also empathizes by entering into your struggle.
Jesus said ME TOO on the cross when He suffered for us so that His followers can lead Me TOO churches to share the gift of empathy with our hurting and hopeless world. This will create a platform to sympathize with the people who make up our world so that they will receive the principles of Jesus not push them away.
Always say ME TOO before you say YOU SHOULD.
As we know there is nothing new under the sun. Martin Luther King, Jr. felt the same pain we are feeling today. Racism, hate crimes, protests, demonstrators, police brutality, riots, innocent polices officers murdered, and so forth would not be new news to Dr. King or us. Tragic events have been part of the human race since its conception with the first murder of Abel by his brother, Cain. But how we react to recent events will determine how we shape the world we live in for the next generation.
If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would say something along these lines:
1. Don’t Minimize the Pain :: I am heart broken over the recent current events as you must be. I do not have any theological clichés to offer in these moments that will help or justify the pain we are experiencing. I do know pain is part of the growth process in life. It is a human emotion that reveals to the human hurt something is wrong in the world. What we do with the pain is up to us? Life happens. We can lose hope because pain hurts. But God heals and is the control ultimately of humanities destiny. Pain sets us back but God uses what sets the human heart back for an eventual comeback. There is hope today. Eventually something good grows out of bad soil when it’s cultivated.
If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today he would remind us:
“We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”
2. Don’t Universalize the Particular :: Not every police officer is evil because of the few who step over the line. You and I are protected by the sacrifice the men and women in blue make each day as they willingly put on their uniform. I am very thankful for the police officers I personally know who serve and protect me, my family, my church and my community. I stand with them today. Not every black person is bad because of the few who stepped over the line. The same is true for white people as well. Some of the people I trust the most in my life are black. Will that change now? No sir! I refuse to raise my children with hate in their heart for those who are different color than them because of the brokenness of humanity revealed through any color person.
If Martin Luther King were alive today, he would remind us:
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
3. Don’t Cause more Problems :: You are not defined by life’s easy moments but how you handle life when its hard. It’s easy to make a statement on social media out of the initial hurt we feel when recent videos go viral. Every post with hate in it will add fire to the fire. God has called us to put water on fire not gasoline. Definitely don’t be silent if you feel led to speak up because your silence can be deafening. But remember in challenging times when we are out of our comfort zone like now, your remarks and comments have the potency to bring peace to problems or magnify them. I refuse to allow the un-comfortable waters of life compromise my Christ like character. Actually, when I am in those waters I believe God is calling me to deeper levels of grace and mercy for my fellow brothers and sisters no matter the crime committed or accusation made.
If Martin Luther King were alive today, he would remind us:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”