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A Father’s Day Gift

We are thrilled and grateful that a local church decided to honor the fathers in their congregation by making a generous donation to His Way this past Sunday. But, more than the financial support was the spiritual vision and partnership expressed in this Father’s Day gift.

Twickenham Church Bulletin

Twickenham Church Bulletin – 6/19/2016

As we share the love of our Heavenly Father with the men at His Way, two very painful realities become evident.

First, many of our men have never known the love and leadership of a father in their lives. The wound left by that vacancy has contributed to the pain that led many of them into self-medicating efforts in substance abuse. Our goal is to help these men discover the healing that is available through our Heavenly Father’s love expressed through His Son, Jesus Christ. And if possible, that they may use this experience to heal the wound between them and their earthly fathers.

Secondly, these men are or will one day be fathers. The possibility that they will be good ones and not pass on the generational curse of their fathering experience is unlikely without their transformation by our Heavenly Father. Allowing the gospel to break this generational curse so that they are truly healed and therefore will not pass on the wound to their children is our hope and dream.

Support like what we received this past Sunday morning is helping that vision become a reality. We pray that the concluding Old Testament vision expressed in Malachi 4:6 will become a reality, “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.

Thank you for joining us in this effort.

Tom Reynolds

Spectator Sport?

Church Stay at HomeRecently, I missed our Sunday morning assembly due to being sick.  I cannot remember the last time I missed an assembly due to illness.  While I was not feeling well, I still did my personal study during the congregational bible study time and then tried to decide what I would do next.

I turned on the television and began channel surfing through various religious programs.  I settled on a few for five or so minutes until I remembered that my own church live streams their service online.  So I logged in and began to watch.  As the service concluded, I realized that I could not spiritually survive on a regular dose of online or TV church.  To me that would be like trying to satisfy my hunger by watching the Cooking Channel.

That Sunday experience reminded me that Christianity is a participant and not a spectator sport.  Biblically, the only people in the stands watching Christianity are those not of the faith.  We are to live in such a way before an unbelieving world that as they watch, they are convinced.  But Christians are never called to spectate their faith only participate in it.

That being said, maybe our conversations after an assembly should have little to do with the performance of the assembly or class (like, how the music was or how the preacher did), but instead we should discuss how my singing was and what I heard in the message, learned, and will begin to apply this week.

Let us all get out of the stands and begin living our faith and not just try to watch and critique other’s religious performance.

Tom Reynolds

Symptom Suppressants

Tom Head ShotI heard this the other day, “Do you know the difference between a doctor and God?  God doesn’t think He is a doctor.”

I know that I am not a doctor either, but I do have observations of health that have shaped my personal practice.  One is that I avoid symptom suppressants.  Because our society is so pleasure obsessed and therefore pain adverse, there are a lot of over the counter medicines simply promising the reduction of negative symptoms due to illness.  While coughing, sneezing, vomiting, and runny noses are terribly uncomfortable and can hinder one’s life, they are the vehicles God designed in our bodies to get rid of negative influences.  My observation is that to limit that process only causes one to suffer longer with the illness as well as risk secondary infections due to the germ remaining in the body longer than God designed.

Therefore I try to avoid all symptom reducing medicines believing that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God, and that His process, while painful at the time, will yield His intended result.

I believe that this principle holds in the spiritual and psychological realm also.  Suppressing negative emotions such as grief, guilt, and anger will yield longer term emotional illnesses and potentially secondary afflictions such as depression and resentment.  Again, because we are in a pain adverse culture, we are quickly prescribed medications that reduce our symptoms and therefore cause us not to address the core issues of guilt or shame or grief and so on.

The beauty of God’s design is that instead of turning to modern medicine for symptom reducing medications, God has a plan to resolve these issues.  God suggests that if we have an interpersonal conflict with someone we should go to them and work it out immediately (Matthew 5:23, 24; Matthew 18:15-20).  God also gives us an avenue to resolve internal struggles.  I John says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9).  So confession to God is His answer, not medications to suppress your guilt.  He also states in James 5:16, “ Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed,  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  There is great, divine healing in confession to each other.

God has also established a regular opportunity for His people to evaluate themselves in the Lord’s Supper.  In I Corinthians 11:28-30, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”  The spiritual and physical maladies that are caused by unconfessed sins are enormous.

So let us not chase symptom reducing practices of denial, blame, and excuse making, but instead confession that we too may be healed!

Tom Reynolds

Mood Mastery

Tom Head ShotA plague has hit Alabama within the past few years…Kratom.  Kratom is an herbal extract derived from a root that grows in Southeast Asia.  While illegal in the countries it grows in, this substance has been imported into the U.S. and now sells in some convenience stores as a “5 Hour Energy” type product called Vivazen as well as under other product labels.

This substance has the pain blocking effect of prescription medications like Percocet and Lortabs yet is available without a prescription to anyone including children who purchase it right off store counters.  It is a highly addictive opiate like substitute.  Opiate addicts are flocking to it as a socially legitimate substitute for heroin or illegally obtained pain medications.

Currently there is a bill in the Alabama State House and another in the Senate to take this substance off the counters and make it only available through a doctor’s prescription.  While we are praying that this bill will pass the legislature and be enacted into law to protect the vulnerable and the innocent, my greater prayer is that the mindset that makes us all vulnerable to these types of attacks can be transformed.

Scripture encourages us to, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 1:13)  Unfortunately, we’ve grown accustomed to  attempting to control how we feel by depending upon substances that we intake.  When we train ourselves to wake up with caffeine, boost ourselves with energy drinks, sooth ourselves with alcohol, and put ourselves to sleep with medications, we set ourselves up to become dependent on something other than what God has designed our “fearfully and wonderfully” made bodies to do.

We also face the spiritual threat of becoming dependent on something or someone other than the Lord which puts our faith in jeopardy.  If we are dependent on something other than the Lord, we can become vulnerable to spiritual attacks from the evil one.  As James warns, we can become “a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (1:8)

Paul shares a principle that is a guiding light on this topic.  In I Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23, he states, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.”  All things are available to me in Christ, but I must not allow anything to enslave me to the point that it overrules Christ’s in my life.

The way I have attempted to practice this principle is to avoid any substance addictive products such as caffeine or sugar.  I enjoy coffee but I drink only decaf.  And even with that, I take periodic sabbaticals from it to be sure I am not growing dependent upon it.

Let me also add that your body has naturally designed chemicals within it that serve to wake you up or energize you or help you sleep.  When you use artificial means, your body begins to not produce these chemicals, which then automatically creates a physical dependency upon these artificial substances.  Therefore, you not only become physically dependent but risk also spiritual compromise.

You will notice that if you take a sabbatical from the product you will feel the ill effects of your dependency; that is your “detox”.  If you feel detox symptoms like headache, nervousness, low energy, and irritability, it should alert you to your dependency problem and encourage you to steer clear of these products in the future.  I assure you these symptoms will pass in a few days and your body will return to produce these chemicals naturally again.

Don’t risk your physical and especially your spiritual health on these artificial products.  Don’t risk having a divided hope, but become sober-minded and set your hope fully on the grace of Jesus!

Also please join us in prayer for the passage of HB175 in Alabama to rid our stores of these dangerously addictive substances.

Tom Reynolds

Dedicating God’s Child

Tom Head ShotIn celebration of our youngest granddaughter’s birth, we recently attended her baby dedication at my son’s congregation.  They were celebrating the addition of eighteen children to their church family in the past year.  It was a beautifully done celebration.

A special touch was that all the men who led the service were the fathers of the children being dedicated.  During the reflection prior to taking communion, one of the fathers discussed in depth the at risk birth of his son and how for many days after the birth his son struggled for life.  He ended his reflections discussing the sacrifice that God went through in giving up his one and only son for us, a feat the father admitted he could not imagine doing.  What an unfathomable, amazing love God has for us!

While I reflected on God’s incredible sacrifice of love for me, my mind began to drift in a little different direction.  What does this sacrifice say about my value?  God valued me so much that He made a decision that I was worth His only Son.  My Heavenly Father concluded that the giving up of His only Son was worth the adoption price of having me as one of His children.  God prized me that much!

God prizes you that much!

That’s a dedication

Tom Reynolds

“Matt’s Story”

Matt HarriganMatt’s story has a familiar beginning. He’s from a good family and grew up going to church. While he was a good student and played sports all through high school, his drug use started when he was only 13 years old, trying marijuana and alcohol with friends. It escalated from there.

After high school, Matt went to Auburn for two years and says, “I became a drug dealer at Auburn. I mostly sold marijuana, but eventually pills and cocaine too.” He also developed a serious addiction to pills after being prescribed a narcotic painkiller called Roxycodone after surgery. When the doctors quit prescribing them, he started buying them on the street. It didn’t take long before Matt was using drugs intravenously.

Realizing he had a problem, he moved back to Huntsville to live with his family and change his lifestyle, but was soon using heroin. “I did the junkie thing for a year and overdosed twice.” Matt went to a rehab center for a while (and was even baptized while he was there), but eventually made bad choices and was dismissed from that program. Back at his parents’ house, he overdosed 3 more times, one time not breathing for 15 minutes. Matt’s parents gave him 2 choices – move out of their house or go to His Way.

Now –  2 months away from his one-year graduation, Matt is part of the His Way Advanced Recovery Group (ARG) program, and providing leadership for the other residents. He says his life is completely different. “I always believed in God and knew about God, but I never acted on it. This time, I am trying to walk it out. The approach at His Way has been to show me that I need to let God change my whole life.” Instead of focusing on not doing drugs, Matt credits His Way with helping him change his friends, his surroundings, and his attitude. He has found a new life where he doesn’t want to do drugs anymore.

After graduation, Matt plans to move back in with his parents for 2 months and then go to scuba diving school in Louisiana, with the goal of becoming an underwater welder. He plans to stay in touch with the close friends he’s made at His Way, but is looking forward to an exciting new career and a fresh start in a new city.

When asked what he would like others to know about His Way, Matt says – “His Way can help anybody that is ready to change their life. But you have to be ready. I am very appreciative of everything His Way has done for me. I only had death or prison ahead of me. So, I truly feel like His Way saved my life.

The Humble Christmas

Feed My SheepChristmas is the time of year most filled with expectations.  Some from our childhood experiences, some from our culture, and some from the constant onslaught of our media.  But I have the privilege of spending Christmas with many whose experience does not measure up to these expectations.

I am with those living in the shelter of a rescue mission, feeding those who are homeless, and ministering to men in a recovery center.  None are situations that we dream of spending our Christmas in.  So how do these experience the expectations of Christmas?

Actually, I am not sure their experience is not much closer to the original Christmas experience.  As a young virgin girl is preparing to give birth among her family in her little hometown of Nazareth, she and her husband hear that the emperor is requiring that all register for his empire’s census in their town of origin, which in their case means traveling to Bethlehem some 90 miles south.  I can’t imagine the fear and disappointment as this young couple takes on this week long trek journeying over treacherous mountain terrain away from all that is familiar.  At a time when all that is familiar would be all that mattered.

They arrive in the strange town of Bethlehem only to discover that there is no place to stay.  So homeless and broke they persuade a man to let them stay in his stable.  I am sure their hope is to register quickly and get back to Nazareth, so that Mary can have her firstborn child among her family.  But instead, she goes into labor that night in the barn.  In a strange city, her only support is her husband having to coach her through this painful ordeal.  So among the filth and stench of a stable full of barnyard animals, Mary gives birth to her firstborn son.  I am certain, not quite the way she imagined the event.

After the birth, their first guests are not family to see their first grandson, or dignitaries to see the King of the Jews, or medical professionals to lend assistance, or synagogue officials to celebrate the Messiah, but shepherds; lowly, dirty, roughneck, weather beaten shepherds.  I am sure their arrival did not improve the smells of the stable environment.  I imagine their calloused, dirty hands were not the first a young mother wanted touching her newborn as he lay asleep in a feeding trough.

The amazing thing about this whole story, as scripture reveals, is that it is exactly as God had orchestrated it!  It was God’s idea to move Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem through the instigation of a Roman census, so that Jesus could fulfill the prophesy of His birth being in the city of David. (Micah 5:2)  It was God’s plan for there not to be a reservation or place for them in Bethlehem, so that His son would be born in humility and obscurity.  God sent the angels to tell, not the city council or mayor or the religious elite, but shepherds.  These social outcasts would be the first to announce the birth of God’s glory.

Because Christmas is about humility – not the glitter of Christmas cards or the warmth of a Hallmark moment or the pleasantries of a holiday hymn or the generosity of a jolly old elf, but the reality that God left the Most High to arrive at the least low so that He could save everyone in between.

So as I stand among all those who are trying to find meaning in a Christmas this year that is far below their expectations, I come to Paul’s encouragement in Philippians,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (2:5-8)

And I realize that this year in the homeless shelter or in the rehab, we need not resolve the humility with Christmas glitter and expensive gifts because we may be far closer to God’s  original Christmas than any expectations we had in the past.  Let us not solve our humility but embrace it.

Let us humble ourselves this season that we may find the true meaning of Christmas.

Tom Reynolds

Saying “Yes” To His Way

(taken from Tom’s Reynolds’ message at His Way’s December 3rd Christmas dinner)

Tom Head ShotHis Way is about God’s power transforming lives eternally.

He began by transforming mine.  As God led me through the greatest tragedy of my life, through the wilderness of an unknown future my unwavering belief was, “All things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. “ (Romans 8:28)

Just last night, I shared that vision with one of my His Way brothers, Neil, who is trying to allow God to transform his life.  This passage emphasizes that as long as we keep loving God and pursuing His purpose, all things are redemptive and for His transformative purpose.  Although we may face many difficult things, nothing has to be bad!  Because “All Things” can work together for good. 

Eight years ago, through God’s leading of Clyde Jones, who had a desire and a building, and Doug Stogner, who had an experience, a passion, and willingness, I was placed in the middle to help create a vision.  Through this experience, His Way was born.

After six months of volunteering, I was asked by the board of directors, if I would be willing to leave my comfortable, secular job to commit full-time to His Way.  As I considered my lack of qualifications, my ill-prepared abilities, my ignorance, as well as my feelings of still recovering from my greatest life trauma, I prayed earnestly.  And one day, a Friday, about this time of year I went to a local restaurant to find a corner by myself to allow God to give me a final message of clarity as to what I should do.  As I entered the restaurant, I saw a friend, Jesse May.  My first thought was, “Oh, No! I want to be by myself, but I also don’t want to be rude, so what do I do?”  Well I went with not rude and sat with Jesse to eat.  He asked how everything was going and what I was up to.  I began to explain the significant decision that was before me.  To my amazement, Jesse asked, what would it take financially to make this decision clear.  I gave him an amount and he said, “If I make sure that can happen, will you do it?”  There was no clearer voice from God that I could have expected that day.  So I said, “Yes!”

I have now spent eight years saying, “Yes” to:

-Seeing over 400 men and their families touched by this ministry.

-154 graduates.  By the end of 2015, we will have had 38 men graduate into sobriety in Christ which is a 48% growth of our best year in the past.

-78 baptized into Christ.

-Every resident having the seeds of God’s transforming power sown in their lives.

Just this year:

We have had 15 men say “Yes” to Jesus in baptism

We have had 38 graduates begin new lives, like:

  • Zach going into the Navy
  • Tyler at 21 becoming the spiritual leader of his family, community, and church  
  • Thomas graduate into bringing the message of recovery hope as a nurse to the psychiatric unit of Marshall North hospital.
  •  Chad experience stability and a God directed life with his family after over one year in the program.
  • Kyle step into a lead position on a construction crew
  • Don celebrate his 70th birthday
  • Lee achieve his first “Real” job at 44 years old
  • Chris asking his girlfriend to marry him at his six month graduation with plans to get married after he graduates his one year at His Way.

On November 21st, we had three brothers who had been involved at His Way get married in three separate ceremonies.

By saying, “Yes”, I get to watch God’s transforming power every day!

It is not always pretty because God’s grace applied to the lives of men in recovery can be mesy, ugly, stressful, and confusing, but always amazing!

As the Old Testament closes, God announces a dream that will not begin to unfold for over 400 years with the coming of the Kingdom of God through Jesus.

Behold, I will send you Elijah, the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to fathers.” Malachi 4:5, 6

This vision is being fulfilled through His Way.  Parents getting sons back, but also getting brothers and grandsons and fathers and uncles.  Through His Way, families are restored, future families are created, and the gospel is entering and transforming entire families. 

At a graduation this past summer, David’s father stood up and thanked His Way because not only had his son’s life been transformed, but the gospel had begun to change their entire family through David’s change.

An entire generation that has been lost to drugs and alcohol is being reclaimed!

By saying, “Yes” to God’s work through His Way, you are helping to change lives.

Please understand that every man who goes through our program invests in his own recovery, but what he pays only covers a third of the cost.  Another third is raised through our business ventures such as “The Saving Way” thrift stores.  And your support of our stores blesses these men with the opportunity of recovery.  But the expense of this opportunity would not allow these families this experience if it were not also for your generous donations that cover the final third of the expense.

Tonight, we are asking you to say “Yes” by contributing generously to this life altering opportunity.   Please also remember us with your year-end giving and throughout the year as we continue to say, “Yes” to these families in desperate need.

Tom Reynolds