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His Way

Do You Want What You Have?

Tiger WoodsSeeing Tiger Woods struggle shooting rounds of +4 and +3 on golf courses he dominated for years, causes questions to continually swirl regarding his future and even his present.

Golf commentator, Paul Azinger, made a statement that as an entire generation tried to duplicate Tiger’s swing; he was trying to change it.  Tragically the only one dissatisfied with Tiger’s swing was Tiger.  Over the years, Tiger has had numerous major swing changes and four different coaches and he now seems lost in his swing mechanics.

This is the fruit of discontentment.  You end up not wanting what you have while straining to get something you can’t have and thus you end up with nothing.

A number of years ago I watched a very gifted and talented friend jump from job to job because he would get tired of the position he had and the next one would look much more attractive.  But then after a few months, the luster of that new opportunity would fade and then the next opportunity would look more attractive.  In the meantime, his career growth remained stagnant.  I shared my observations with him – you look like a man who gets on a train going north only to see the next southern bound train looking more attractive, so you change trains for the next opportunity only to see the next northern bound train looking more attractive, so you jump again.  You do a lot of train changing and have a lot of activity, only to find yourself a few miles from the original train station, never getting anywhere.  This is the constant plight of the discontented.

I have chosen to define contentment as “wanting what you have.”

The much often quoted scripture of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” is the conclusion of Paul’s longer discussion regarding contentment.  He begins in verse 10 thanking the Philippian Christians for their renewed interest in helping him.  He states, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  . . I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”  The secret is realizing the strength of Christ can sustain me in every situation.

So make the faith decision today to “want what you have.”  And stop trying to become what you are not.  Stick with the original swing coach, Jesus Christ.

Tom Reynolds

The Charleston Difference

FlagThe peace, quiet, and harmony in Charleston, SC after the tragic racially motivated murder of nine African-American Bible study attendees at Emanuel AME church on June 17, 2015 by a white supremist  youth stands in stark contrast to the almost year-long protesting, rioting, and violence following the killing of one African-American youth in Ferguson by a police officer.

What creates such a difference?  The difference is created by the decision of the Christian community in Charleston to forgive the perpetrator.  Two days after this senseless crime, the daughter of 70 year old victim, Ethel Lance, said to Dylann Root, “I will never talk with her again.  I will never be able to hold her again.  But I forgive you!”

AME Bishop John Bryant stated at the memorial service, “Someone should’ve told the young man.  He wanted to start a race war, but he came to the wrong place.”

This reveals the power of Christians who choose to obediently walk in the footsteps of Jesus.  Jesus taught and practiced a non-violent response to violent, sinful, and even abusive behavior.  He taught ideals such as turn the other cheek and going the extra mile.  And followers such as Paul emphasized to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. . … Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine.  I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:14, 19-21)

In I Peter 2:21, Jesus’ lead apostle recounted, ”For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.”  The path of Christian discipleship is a choice of willfully enduring suffering as Christ did.  This isn’t just a good suggestion; it is a calling of Christ.  It is the calling of God!  Peter goes on to explain that in the midst of Jesus’ greatest anguish and suffering on the cross, He did not retaliate or revile, but instead graciously bore the abuse because,  He entrusted “Himself to Him who judges justly.”  The Christian faith calls us to non-retaliatory entrustment of violence, wrong, and suffering to a God who judges justly and will manage the fairness issue while we manage the obedient, love and grace issue of forgiveness.

As Reverend Nelson Rivers of Charity Missionary Baptist church in North Charleston stated, “You cannot be the thing you hate.  You cannot become the evil you seek to eradicate.  Forgiveness is not the same as ignoring the facts.  We want justice.”  But Christians entrust justice to God and do not take it into their own hands as some self-righteous vigilantism.

The fact is Jesus bore our sin in His body, so that we may be healed. (I Peter 2:24)  And, we as His followers must bear the sins of the world and carry them to Jesus that healing may come here as well.  In the context of restoring sinful people, Paul writes, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)  The burdens we must bear in fulfilling Christ’s law of love is the consequences of the sins of others.  And the only way we as frail, weak people can bear those sins is through the forgiveness of Christ.

Jesus prayed from the cross as He was being brutalized in every conceivable way.  He prayed for those who were abusing Him as they were actually abusing Him, stating, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

As followers of Jesus, we must pray the same whether in the face of great social harm or even personal slights.  It is Jesus’ path of peace.

Tom Reynolds

“I Wanted To Die” – The Fred Smith Story

Fred IIAsk Fred to tell you about his life up until now and he is pretty straight forward.  “I had a really rough childhood.  At age 15, I started drinking and smoking pot and that was the start of 43 years of mostly ‘hell on earth’. I died once that I’m sure of and was dead for 4 hours from a drug and alcohol overdose in 2009. I quit drinking then to save my marriage, but didn’t give up my drugs. I chose drugs over my family, well everything, and I saw no purpose for my life anymore”.

Fred’s life is a completely different story today, but it was a hard journey to this point. Fred knew God from a young age, and went to church off and on at different periods of his life, but says that he mostly just ignored the “little voice” he heard warning him as he made one bad choice after another. He joined the Navy at 17 and his drug and alcohol use escalated out of control. Fred was married and divorced four times, has seven children and twelve grandchildren. If you know Fred, you know his emotions are always very close to the surface, but this is particularly true when he speaks of his family. Over the years, his choices and broken promises led to complete separation from some of his children and grandchildren.

One night in 2010 while he was fishing, his fourth wife discovered him smoking a joint after he had promised that he had stopped. Tired of the drugs and lies at this point, she gave him an ultimatum: “You can have the drugs or you can have me”. Fred says through tears, “I said, ‘See ya later!’ That’s how deep in my addiction I was”.  After that experience, he lived mostly as a hermit for 3 years, smoking pot and popping pills, eating only once or twice a week and rarely showering. He tried to shoot himself several times, but the gun would never go off. “I wanted to die”, he says, “I had no purpose. All I was doing was causing pain”.

These years of hopelessness finally came to an end one day when he overdosed for the second time that month in May of 2013. During the time he was unconscious, he will tell you that God paid him a visit and showed him what hell was really like. “It was a dark, desolate and lonely place where there was no God, no love, no feelings, no happiness, no joy or hope!”  He saw himself laying on a concrete slab all alone, then he dissolved to dust and blew away. “It was so vivid and real to me, that when I woke up from that experience I did not believe anymore that there even was a God”.   But as the fog wore off during the ensuing time in the mental hospital and another rehab center, Fred says God “cleansed his heart” and he started to read his Bible and believe again. By the time he arrived at His Way, he was over 2 months sober and seeking a personal relationship with the Lord. “I didn’t come to His Way to get off drugs. I already knew I would never touch them again. I came to find a personal relationship with God, to seek his face”. He chose to read his bible and pray instead of spending his downtime watching TV or playing games and he says, “I found God’s face, grabbed hold of Him and wouldn’t turn loose until He blessed me. When He did, I claimed His promises”.

Early one morning, during his daily routine of reading his bible on the front porch, Fred says he surrendered his all to God and prayed; “Lord, You’re the potter and I’m the clay. Mold me and use me as you will”. At that moment, he received God’s Shalom, a peace like he had never known before. “People want to keep a little control for themselves, to be able to say they have some final control over things. You can’t do that. You can’t just give 99.99999% of your heart, will and trust! You have to give 100% of yourself, all your will, and trust to God! After that, just obey and continue seeking His will and claim the promises found in his word”.

Fred has since reconciled with his children and has a life full of Jesus and his family and friends, driving home nearly every other weekend to see them. He also is now on staff at His Way, calling it his “JOY” instead of a “JOB”. Having found this peace that passes all understanding, Fred wanted everyone around him to have it. But he soon discovered that he couldn’t give it to other people.  Only God does that when that 100% commitment is made. “It is so hard to see people hurting, stressing and worrying, knowing that they don’t have to experience those things”. So much so that Fred prayed to God to take away the peace, but he wouldn’t take it away. So Fred prayed to God for a better way to show and express it to people in a way that would cause them to be willing to make the 100% commitment it takes to get it for themselves.

Then in December 2014, Fred was diagnosed with Stage 4 adenacarcenoma lung cancer. This isn’t what he would have chosen for the next season of his life, but he knows the cancer has a purpose. Though he knows he doesn’t have to understand the purpose, he feels that it has opened up a door to share God’s peace with others. He does this by having a positive, peaceful and confident attitude in spite of a somber and, to most, a frightening prognosis. He started hearing from people via social media and in person how he was an inspiration to them, having this peace even looking at death soon, short of a miracle from God. Also he feels truly blessed by and through the fact that he has been able to bring laughter, smiles and hope to faces full of pain, fear and worry in the room at the cancer center where he and the other patients are receiving their chemotherapy. “It’s a dark place, and I get to bring the light of Jesus into it by sharing through testimony the power of God’s comfort and peace, showing gratitude to God even for my cancer, praising God, praying and cutting up with the nurses and other patients.  Through all these things I’ve realized that God has blessed me with this cancer in answer to my prayer for a better way to show and express His peace to others. What better way than to show Gods complete and perfect peace and even gratitude facing man’s number one fear ‘Death’!”

Though his future is uncertain, Fred is not bothered by anything the world can do to him. He says it is pretty ironic that for many years he wanted to die, but couldn’t.  And now that he has found a reason to live, a purpose, he is facing the reality that he may not have many years left. “When God’s purpose for me on this earth is done, he will call me home. And I’m ready”. Until then he will continue to share his story of hope and peace through Jesus to those in recovery and those afflicted with sickness.

Brenda Newman