1 Corinthinans 13…Remixed For Today


Originally posted on sevennotesofgrace:

Thanks go to the folks at Blazing Center for this insightful application of 1 Corinthians 13:

If I status update with such insight, hilarity, godliness, or profundity, that I get a thousand retweets and likes, yet have not love, I’m a cellphone that won’t stop ringing, or a car alarm at 2 AM.

If I understand every nuance of every complicated doctrine, including eschatology and predestination, and am a constant defender of orthodoxy, and if I am renowned for my ability to communicate truth with passion, but have not love, I’m nothing more than a first grader in the kingdom of God.

If I am a fantastic worship leader, able to lead hundreds of people in passionate worship of God, yet have not love, my skills are worth jack.

If I am a blog warrior, constantly on the attack against those who would distort the faith, yet have not love…

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The Unadulterated Truth


There are some who absolutely declare that all religious roads lead to the same end. For these people the celebration of God comes in many ways and many forms. These conclusions are despite the fact that Christian foundations are quite different than the founding of other organizations and thoughts. However the difference in these sects is more than obvious especially when you consider the way that many of the organizations were started. For instance cultic organizations such as Buddhism and Islam were started by individuals said to have matured to the level of deity while in Christianity its founder is part of the Triune Godhead.

John 3:16 clearly shows that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not parish, but have everlasting life.” Academically and theologically terms such as “hypostatic union” can be used to show the relationship between God and His Son. The idea of “kenosis” can also be employed to show how Christ emptied somewhat of His attributes in order to walk with man. However the point of this essay is to call attention to the clear truth that there are stark differences between the God of love which is the Christian God and the purported god of peace which is the Islamic god. You see the God of love seeks only to reconcile man by way of acts of love such as the love Christ showed as he laid aside some of His attributes in order to live as man lives. Herein begins the juxtaposing of Christianity and Islam.

Love is the founding factor of Christianity. God loved and so He sent His Son. Christ so loved the world that He was in full agreement with the Father (I John 5:7) to the extent that He humbled himself unto death, even the death of the cross. This was not out of hatred or disdain for mankind rather love became the hallmark of the ministry of Christ not to condemn the world but rather that the world through Him might be saved. This is not the case with the founder of Islam. Islam (by many accounts) was born out of its founder’s disdain for Christianity. This disdain was a great reason for the Crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries wherein it could be argued that Islam sought to overtake the world by ridding it of Christianity. It is doubtful that the Crusades were born out of love.

The practice of Christianity is to love fellow man. It is not to harm him rather the practice of Christianity is to embrace individuals while hating the sin. With this in mind compassion coupled with love creates for the Christian a life of showing the love of the Father by expressing love even to those that reject Christ. On the other hand millions have had blood spilled because of Islam and those that purport that terrorism is the act of a “religion of peace.” Love did not crash into the World Trade Center more than a decade ago. Love had nothing to do with imprisoning a pastor only because he was a pastor. Love was not shown when three men were beheaded only because they were not Islamic. Additionally acts of love do not seek to force submission rather love allows choices such as Christians choose to serve the One and only God.

The truth of the matter is that many Muslims seek to force their view on “infidels” or they will suffer dire consequences. Christians seek to compel through the Love of Christ. Herein is the difference between Christendom and Islam; the former prefers love while the latter seeks conformity by force and even death. There are no true Christians that seek harm of anyone; not even Muslims. Yet there are some Muslims who cling to the idea that the only good Christian is a dead Christian. In this is the unadulterated truth concerning those that choose Christ and those that prefer Islam; the one works with the idea of love bringing forth reconciliation while the other prefers destruction in the hopes of gaining seventy-two virgins. So, the question must be asked; who will you serve? The One true and living God or the god of this world? I must say as the prophet of old once declared and say that as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

Week Ten of the CPE Journey: The Audacity of Completion


August 22, 2014 is a day that will not soon be forgotten by me. It was the last day of my training as required by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). The four hundred hours of clinical and academic work was among the most intense four hundred hours of work of I have had in quite some time. The intensity was met with me being honoured to present the last worship service of the unit. As I began to prepare the homily I found it difficult to put on paper words that would adequately present the intensity of completion that was accomplished not by me alone but also my peers as we all traveled the CPE journey.

Despite my inability to properly pen proper words for the homily on that last day of CPE I could not help but think of Paul when he was winding up his ministry as he sought to encourage Timothy. In his charge to Timothy in II Timothy chapter four Paul says in part that he fought a good fight and kept the faith. This is to say that Paul endured many things during his ministry. He had to lay aside some of his own views in order to be effective in preaching the Gospel. This led him to journey down difficult roads which included Paul being shipwrecked, snake-bitten, imprisoned and other difficulties. Interestingly none of these things deterred Paul from meeting the task at hand. Paul completed what was required of him so that he could confidently declare that he had fought a good fight.

My peers and I have also endured a number of things in order to accomplish the mission at hand. While we were not shipwrecked or snake-bitten the trouble we endured was not for the faint of heart. We had the temerity to set our sights on completing CPE and would not relent despite the troubles that came our way. There were obstacles to be met both within and without the program. Some of us disclosed some of the trouble and yet there were many obstacles that were not mentioned but either me or my peers. Yet there was an absolute necessity to complete the task at hand. And so we labored tirelessly as we journeyed through the challenge of Clinical Pastoral Education.

I certainly can speak with no authority as to the totality of the obstacles of my peers yet I can say that looking over my life some might have counted me out many years ago. You see I was told my entire childhood that I was no good that that I would amount to nothing. I was the one in school that had few friends and was often the brunt of many jokes and the skinny kid that was the natural target of not just being bullied but also being beat up on multiple occasions. Certainly people such as my first grade teacher saw much good in me yet very few took time out to aid in positively molding this stuttering, quiet kid that just did not fit in any crowd. Even so it would seem that a tenacious attitude was being built for many years in the young loner that I was.

One might not have thought that a young skinny kid would do well in the United States Marine Corps. Unexpectedly this strong-willed young man became a strong young Marine and there was certainly no stopping from this point on. No, it was not easy even in the military but then there was no promise of an easy life. There was no suggestion that being a Marine would put to rest all of the worlds ills. In fact the contrary was the case as I was being molded not just to a Marine but also a man of character; a man of destiny and a man of audacity. I did not and would quit in boot camp and could not and would not quit on whatever else life had to offer. No, quitting was not an option and neither was holding to the idea that the quiet young boy would amount to nothing but nothingness.

There is no intent here to discuss my biography. That would take much more than an essay of around a thousand words. The intent here is to show that audacity is a necessary tool used to bring the best from all of us. You see there were some that said that I was not chaplain material. That would not stop me from walking toward that pull of ministry that is deeply imbedded in me. Yes, there were some that encouraged me to move forward but as in my childhood the idea of not pursuing was the drumbeat of others. There was even one peer who told me at least twice that I did not belong in the CPE program. Nonetheless my tenacious audacity would not allow me to march away from that which I knew was part of the work I had been working toward for a number of years. No, I could not listen to the dissenters rather I had to heed the call which is so much part of my life.

In heeding the call I walked through certain aspects of academia. More importantly my CPE journey led me to many people; some in beds and others sitting in chairs. I have talked with staffers including doctors, nurses and housekeepers. I have been on the bedsides of the dying and the crying. Some of those with whom I have ministered have been hurt physically while others were in emotional turmoil. Some just needed someone to talk to and others just needed the feeling of belonging. I have had the opportunity to minister to many while some have ministered to me. It has been a journey and a journey well worth taking.

No journey comes without bumps in the road. This is perhaps a point that Paul was making to Timothy. Undoubtedly Paul endured obstacles which may have seemed insurmountable. It is certain that many sought to discourage as well as ridicule Paul as he journeyed the road of pointing men to the Saviour. The tenacity of Paul serves as an example of all that have a need to persevere despite certain opposition. Giving up was an option Paul could not enjoy and I am certain that it is an option that the children of God cannot entertain. Determination is sometimes confused for stubbornness yet without determined audacity nothing will ever be accomplished.

No worthwhile journey comes with ease. Nothing is accomplished without some blood, sweat and tears. Yes there are sweet victories along the road of success and there are also bitter failures. Yet the failures are not reason enough to end a journey rather the failures make successes all the more sweet. So, as I have said in times past do not quit and don’t give in. Let God complete the work He has begun in you as you use that deep-seated audacity of completion to do the unique work that is for you and you alone.

Remembering grace – specifically!


Originally posted on sevennotesofgrace:

prayer2No matter who we are or what circumstances and concerns we have, all of us have to deal with trouble in our lives. This post comes from Paul David Tripp with some great advice for turning our troubles into a time when we can be thankful, when we can remember God’s grace to us in a very specific way – quite a challenge!

“When trouble comes, it’s vital that you talk to yourself. . . no one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you as much as you do. What you say to you in moments of trouble will impact the way you respond.

David was a man well acquainted with trouble. Poor David; if you read the Psalms, he always seems to be in trouble! But in these moments, David was always talking to himself. We saw this in Psalm 27

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Week Nine of the CPE Journey: Sidestepping


Over the past several weeks I have purposely and intentionally not addressed contemporary issues greatly because of the magnitude of work as a chaplain intern. That work has put me in touch with people across the human spectrum. I have enjoyed working with Blacks, Whites, British, Columbian, Chinese and all types of people groups. I have found this to be greatly rewarding as I have learned many years ago that people are people are people and to suggest anything different is simply asinine.

I bring this up because of the present turmoil in Ferguson, MO. Here is a town riddled with cries of racism born out of false emotive responses to a police involved shooting wherein few facts have been made public. Thugs (many from other towns) continue to break into stores and steal from those who had nothing to do with the shooting. Vulgarity has run amuck to the extent that some “protestors” have used their fingers to indicate a false disdain for injustice. Obvious facts are ignored in the face of some flaming the fires of racism only to meet personal or political points that have done nothing other than bolster feigned outrage. This bolstering continues to be by political leaders, the media at least in some part and so-called civil rights leaders.

There are certain matters I have considered I as have watched this unrest unfold. For instance I have wondered why President Obama has once again injected himself in the middle of a local matter while he seems to pay no attention to the burning world around him? Why have Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton gone running to a situation in order to promote justice when the investigative process had not the chance to begin? Moreover why have they not gone to Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Dallas and other cities where Blacks routinely kill other Blacks? Are not those Blacks important too? Do they not deserve the same treatment? Also, why are these so-called protestors rioting in the streets? Can they not find a better way to vent their points of view? More importantly it seems to me that injustice has yet to occur. What about waiting for the completion of the several investigations before making crass judgments?

Now, there is no intent here to make little of the death of Michael Brown. The death is absolutely tragic no matter the circumstances leading up to it. However that does not mean that tragedy needs to be met with tragedy. There is no good reason for citizens to turn to crime in order to make points. Bad can only make bad worse so that my sidestepping from CPE discussions is truly highlighting and celebrating the diversity of those with whom and I serve and to those I serve. If the rebel rousers in Ferguson would but lay down their weapons of destruction perhaps there would be room in their hands for the tools of reconciliation.

To further this point a bit more it needs to be noted that some have suggested that the actions of the criminals here is the result of a so-called “Black plight.” It should also be noted that, well, I am counted as a Black person. I was raised in a neighborhood in Baltimore wherein the best chose not to go. In the neighborhood were Blacks, Whites and other people groups nearby. The thing is we got alone just fine. Yes, my parents were divorced when I was very young and there were definite family problems. Moreover there were social problems going on as well. Still the problems of the day did not lend to the idea of “Black plight” at least not in my mind.

And still I did not let my situation hold me back from who I am and my progress in life. Without presenting a biography of myself suffice it to say that I have had a successful life. I served in the military, have owned businesses, worked in law enforcement and have accomplished academic success that most will never. Pointing these things out is not to toot my own horn (all though I have also played a number of woodwind instruments) rather to show that one’s ethnicity has nothing to do with success or failure. It has more to do with the decisions and choices made. It is certain that there will be positive outcomes as well as negative ones. Yet one’s choices tend to lead to individual “plight” rather than that of an entire people group.

With that I would encourage all to lay aside senseless idiosyncrasies and pick up the tools of reconciliation. Perhaps when preconceived notions of wrong predicated upon no facts can be thrown out then the notions of wrong can be replaced with true justice which leads to peace.

Why rage?


Originally posted on Singing in Babylon:

Psalms decorative
Why do the nations rage

    and the peoples plot in vain? Psalm 2:1 ESV

Well, they plot and rage in vain because they plot and rage against the LORD and against his anointed; but they and we plot and rage at all because we are angry about the bonds and cords (Psalm 2:3) that limit our personal power in the world; because we are selfish sinners.

That ‘he who sits in the heavens’ laughs at our rages and our plots against him only infuriates us more, like any child who tests his will against his parents and, if he is lucky, finds them immovable in their insistence on what is right. Even our tantrums can become parables.

Of course, like Captain Ahab, we might give in to our anger, wasting our life in a futile and ultimately fatal struggle to overcome the One it is beyond us, wounded or…

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Week Eight of the CPE Journey: Sojourning


When this unit first started my supervisor gave my peers and me a word that has stuck with me even until now. That word was “presence.” Presence presents the idea of being with someone in the good times as well as the bad. It is a concept that God instilled with Adam in the garden and is a concept that has been a continuum throughout humanity and even until this moment by way of the Holy Spirit. A way to further the idea of presence is with the practice of sojourning. Sojourning, what an idea to bring about intimacy in mankind from one soul to another.

Last week I had the good pleasure of meeting with a gentleman who called out to me from his room in the emergency department of Huguley Hospital. This gentleman was not in emotional turmoil like many that I have met but rather this kind one simply needed to have someone walk a short distance with him. So I stood by his bedside and listened, responded and simply came along beside this gentle soul. The visit ended up with not only me ministry to this gentleman but also him ministering to me. I had taken the time to sojourn with him which resulted in the two of us being all the better for it.

The point is that there are some in this life that think that they need no one but Jesus. Yes, we absolutely need Jesus with us in this life. Without Him our lives would be complete and utter failures. Yet man was created to enjoy companionship. That companionship can only come with someone who walks alongside and with another. It is not only knowing the sentiments of our neighbors but also feeling and experiencing the sentiments whether those sentiments are good or bad. Sojourning is part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Recall how that Jesus promised to send “another Comforter.” Now it is true that the term “paracletus” has legal definitions it comely presents the idea of one called alongside to help.

When the Holy Spirit walks with us in day-to-day activities He is sojourning with us. We, too, are called to walk alongside our fellow man. This sojourning means that we go through what our partner goes through. If they cry we cry. If they rejoice we rejoice. And when this is done intimacy is developed to the extent that when our sojourning friends have a need the call will not go unheeded because of the compassion developed during the steady gradation and journey toward oneness in Christ.

Hence I am convinced that, like chaplains, Christians at large would do well to walk with one another thereby strengthening and carrying the burdens of those too weak to carry. The matter of sojourning, then, has much to do with the relational aspect of Christendom rather than the prescriptive methodology many seek to practice. Yet I dare say sojourning does far better than any prescription.

On ‘pumped-up’ prayer…


sevennotesofgrace:

For some encouragement to pray….

Originally posted on sermons and soda water:

Spurgeon“Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time
when you may be found.”
   Psalm 32:6 ESV

Completing a trilogy of posts to do with prayer is this brief passage from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, ‘Prayer, the Proof of Godliness’ from 1887. Spurgeon suggests that genuine prayer, pleasing to God, is ‘a natural emanation from the renewed heart’. As for what he calls ‘pumped-up’ prayer, well that’s altogether something else!

From Charles Spurgeon …

‘Once more, beloved Friends, prayer is natural to the godly man.
I do think that it is a good thing to have set times for prayer, but I am sure that it would be a dreadful thing to confine prayer to any time or season, for to the godly man prayer comes to be like breathing, like sighing, like crying.
You have, perhaps, heard of the preacher who used to put…

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Week Seven of the CPE Journey: The Significance of Crying


Writing this post will probably be among the hardest for me to write. The reason for that is because it requires some vulnerability and being vulnerable is a matter that I have learned to shun on certain levels and embrace on others. You see, this culture does not necessarily embrace tears as strength particularly when those tears flow from men. This is because men are not supposed to cry; we are to ‘walk it off’ as though there were truly no hurt and no pain. Yet I have found that this mentality does little to strengthen or grow mankind.

All too often I think about that divorce I had to endure. It was a divorce that I did not want and a divorce that I felt was undeserved. The memories of the day my wife packed what she wanted out the house in Chesapeake, Virginia while taking not only my kids with her but also everything that I had in the world. There was no greater devastation to me than coming home to find the kids beds gone, my wife’s possessions gone and nothing left but a deafening silence. All I could do was sit on the steps in the house and cry. I cried so much that I think I filled buckets with the tears. However that would not be the last time I was to cry.

I use that backdrop as a prelude to the discussion of the tears I have seen here at the hospital. I am reminded of a recent encounter I had with a precious lady having a number of physical problems. As she began to pour her heart to me concerning family issues the tears welled in her eyes. Those were tears of hurt, pain and disappointment. Her adopted daughter was presented as acting in a rather cantankerous manner. The son of the daughter appears to be following in the mother’s footsteps. While nothing had been done to this dear lady she had the impression that her life had been a failure. She felt that she had done nothing right all because of her wayward daughter.

In encouraging this lady I began to draw a picture of all the people she touched in her life. I suggested that she imagine all those people lined up in the hallways all waiting to write a paragraph or two describing the way she touched their lives. As I talked the expression on her face began to change from hurt and pain to one of inquisition. The inquisitive look gave way to an understanding that she was significant and perhaps she had accomplished more than she realized. The tears, the crying changed from pain to acceptance of the fact that she had done well in her life. So, this lady in a short period of time cried because of hurt and also because of the relief in that she had done well and was not a failure.

I also began to consider my small group. There have been emotive moments wherein tears and crying could not be held back. And there were many reasons for those tears. Some of the tears were because of past hurt. Others cried because a fresh realization came that it is OK to cry and that crying is not a sign of weakness rather it holds within it much strength. Even I have cried for a couple reasons. Among those reasons is because the hurts of the past surfaced and there was no way to release the hurt except by tears. Additionally there was crying because the weight of the world was finally lifted from narrow shoulders. This crying served to cleanse, to heal and to relieve. What a wonderful gift God has given us by allowing us to cry.

My point in this is simple and to the point- it is OK to cry. In fact I would venture to say that someone needs to cry even as this is being read. So, go ahead a cry. Go and get your healing through tears. Go and get the much needed relief. Go rejoice in the fact that you don’t have to carry what you have not been designed to carry. And, don’t worry about what others may say. There is significance in crying and that crying is nothing more than an emotional release of things stored inside us. So go ahead and cry!

Week Six of the CPE Journey: Destination Ministry


For one to suggest that the CPE journey is not about the minister would be a major fallacy. The journey has much to do with introspection and adjustment. This adjustment, though, is not all about the chaplain. The adjustment certainly betters the chaplain but the adjustment is not solely for the chaplain but also for those to whom he ministers. And this is the point of chaplaincy; it is not to use the positional platform as a box from which to promote academic and ecclesiastical wares rather it is an opportunity to “extend the healing ministry of Christ” which is the mission of Huguley Hospital.

As I began to reflect on this past week as well as my experience at large in this program I realized that I was not just walking toward my destiny of ministry but that I am already engulfed with that thing I thought I was walking toward. Take for instance the case of a lady I had opportunity to minster to. Here was a wonderful person in the emergency room. This lady was steeped in domestic problems. Her boyfriend had all but told her to kill herself. Her self-esteem was already much lower than it needed to be. This is not to mention the fact that she was busy caring for others, including her adult children, but that there was no reciprocal action as to her care. As such she felt alone that nobody cared so that she was in the hospital as a cry for help. Her way out, at least in her mind, was suicide. Yet she knew that suicide was not the answer. So, here she came to a place seeking healing not for any physical ailment rather for a deeply wounded spirit.

And so as this patient “regurgitated” her heart onto me I sat, listened and engaged in what turned out to be an excellent visit. My gentle probing coupled with word of encouragement caused this patient to realize just how good she is. Now, I cannot say that my visit with this young lady eradicated thoughts and intentions of suicide yet I can say that at least for a short time she knew that somebody loved and cared for her. She also knew that I was not there to get something from her but rather to give something to her and that there was absolutely no need for reciprocation. So then it dawns on me that I no longer walking toward my destination. Instead I am already involved in that destiny of ministry.

Not all the ministry that is done has to do with those that find themselves in tough spiritual and emotional difficulties. I recall when I was on call a few weeks back and I was asked to visit a patient desiring to see a chaplain. After responding to the room the discouraged gentleman simply wanted to be read Scripture. I promptly went back to the office, collected my Bible and responded back to that kind gentleman. We talked for a while and then I began to read the Scripture. After reading the gentleman and I began to talk about what I just read. This form of ministry was similar to the lady mentioned above; he just wanted somebody to talk to and wanted to know that somebody genuinely cares.

In this I can say of a surety that I am no longer walking to my destiny rather destination ministry has already been accomplished. It is in this that I seek to encourage all. Sometimes we think that we are walking toward a certain thing but when we look we have already met the destination. Take for instance those of us that drive on highways – all too often when driving our minds go to other things. Sometimes we are involved in conversation or perhaps listening to the radio. As we engage in those things we pull closer to the destiny. And then we look up just to see that we are no long headed for our destinations; we are there.

I suspect this is part of the “pressing toward the mark” Paul discussed in Philippians 3:14. Paul worked earnestly to please God in that which he was called. And while he was pressing toward that mark it is interesting that Paul was already doing that which God wanted him to do. His destination of ministry had already been met yet he pressed even harder even while in the fullness of ministry.

So then those that do not see themselves as having met their destinies might do well to look and see where they are. It stands to reason that the pressing is so intent that the full realization of destination ministry may not be realized even while there may be an encamping of work around those seeking to do ministry. Now, as you press to further your destiny and it seems out of reach look up and you may not be close to your destiny but already in the midst of certain destination.

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