Do you sometimes feel like throwing your hands in the air and screaming, "I Quit! I Give up!?" If so, this vlog is just what you need. The video is only 6-mintues long, and I believe it is well worth your time, especially if you need some motivation to take another step today.
Earlier this week I uploaded a new video to my “ Just Thinking ” YouTube page and on day two, it went from about a hundred views to over a thousand. At the time of this writing there have been over 1,600 views. Now, I haven’t had any other videos take off like this one did, even my testimony took over a month to reach a thousand views. I also began to notice more comments and shares on my “Just Thinking” Facebook page and a couple on YouTube. Several of the comments have been quite interesting, and they all revolve around the word – GOD.
The video I uploaded getting all this attention at the moment is entitled, “ Why Didn’t God Stop the Abuse? ” Some of the comments came with assumptions based on the title rather than watching the video. Some individuals thought the video was about domestic abuse, but it was actually a response to a poster who had watched the question and answer segment with Dr. Milanak and me. This poster was challenging the existence of God and in their opinion, there was no grace or mercy to be observed in my story. Here is David’s statement in full, “If this is an example of god’s grace and healing, it means nothing, or it (god), wouldn’t have allowed the injury in the first place. ” I’m pretty sure David is an atheist. Others like him who I have interacted with in the past almost always address God as “it,” while also refusing to capitalize the word God.
The two posters on YouTube had similar statements to the one David left on Facebook, yet they went farther in their condemnation. These men questioned my intellect and ability to think critically, which is often an “argument” atheist make against Christians and other religious minded individuals. The truth is, the stance atheist often take against Christians isn’t an argument at all, but an attack rooted in emotion. They hurl disparagements toward followers of Christ such as being anti-intellectuals with the hope of quieting others. These two boiled my answer to the abuse question down to simply being stupid and weak for believing in God.
Let’s ask ourselves a few questions.
“Why do atheist get so upset when someone trust in a loving God they say doesn’t exist?”
“So, what if someone’s belief in God is a crutch? ( I’m not saying that belief is a crutch ) If said belief helps a person to cope with the daily struggles of life, then why would any open minded and tolerant person care what another believes?”
I have a theory about why atheists care what Christians believe. They care because when confronted with the truth their hearts and minds fall under conviction. They struggle for answers concerning pain and evil, but without God there isn’t a viable answer that can satisfy their deepest longings. They know that when they sit at the side of a dying loved one, they have nothing to offer but sorrow, and then they’re confronted with their own mortality, that one day they too will face the end of life with no hope.
In years past my skin wasn’t as thick as it is now, and such responses from individuals troubled me because I would wonder if I had made some sort of mistake making a bad situation worse. Today, I’m still troubled but for a far different reason. I don’t think producing such works and writings to be questioned or challenged by others is a mistake, actually it’s quite the opposite. I think it’s a mistake NOT to put out videos and blogs like the one getting attention now. It’s a mistake NOT to take every opportunity using the tools at hand to share the Gospel of Christ, even if it offends the unbeliever. Remember these words from the Apostle Paul?
1 Corinthians 1:18-19 (ESV) For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Romans 10:14-15 (ESV) How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Christian, we have a responsibility to share the Gospel through each and every avenue presented to us, for in doing so it will make an eternal difference for some. While Christ-Centered Solutions focuses primarily on the needs of those in the Church, there are also many opportunities to share with those who are outside as well. My “ Just Thinking ” blog/vlog are an extension of CCS and I need your continued help to grow this ministry for the glory of Christ. Here’s how you can be a vital part of this ministry.
Please follow these links to:
Give a one-time gift online or to become a monthly partner: Christ-Centered Solutions.org
Purchase: “ Marriage and the Family from a Biblical Worldview ”
Watch: “ Why Didn’t God Stop the Abuse ”
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May God keep and bless you!
Why Didn’t God Stop the Abuse?
Just a few days ago I received a post from a gentleman who had just watched the Q&A portion of “Resilience: A Testimony of God’s Grace and Healing,” where Dr. Melissa Milanak and I discuss the healing process of my PTSD. In that video we talk about the importance of faith, my relationship with God, and His working through Melissa and others to help me with this disorder. The response of this gentleman, whose name is David is interesting, and I’d like to share it with you along with my thoughts.
He wrote: “If this is an example of god’s grace and healing, it means nothing, or it (god), wouldn’t have allowed the injury in the first place.”
Notice his view of “god” – that is little “g” God. I think there’s a strong possibility David is either an atheist or at an agnostic. There also seems to be a hint of anger in David’s statement. I find this to be pretty typical from the few negative responses on my “Just Think” Facebook page regrading these two videos.
Now, at first, I wasn’t going to respond to David, but then I decided I did need to say something. I usually don’t respond to a lot of what I consider to be negative comments or post anymore. My reasoning is that Facebook, and other social media platforms, really don’t allow us to give in-depth answers to attacking comments left by posters. I have tried to answer such critics in the past by writing a long in-depth response, and only then to receive yet another negative comment whereby I felt the need to write even more with an argument going nowhere. That’s why I occasionally write a blog or produce a video like the one above where I can address issues more fully.
Back to David.
My response to his statement of God’s absence of grace or lack of caring went like this: “I'm sorry your philosophical view won't allow you to see the grace of God in the service of others who minister to the hurting. You certainly have a right to question the value of the video, but you have no rights to the credibility of my experience of healing in the work done with Dr. Milanak. The real question raised in your statement is that of God's role in my experience and others like me. Acts of evil lay squarely on the shoulders of mankind in his fall/sin and not on God. I suspect though that you deny the existence of God, and if you're right, the problem is still an issue with mankind. I pray God's grace and peace will be manifested to you. Thank you for watching and at least hearing what I had to say.”
I think it’s interesting that we as human beings often want to attack God’s character by questioning why He doesn’t intervene and stop the evil before it happens, while on the other hand when He has done so as in the past, we criticize Him as some maniacal monster.
What do I mean?
Many atheist and critics of the Bible attack God’s actions in the Old Testament, calling Him a “monster” when He ordered the Israelites to wipe-out certain clans and people groups which included men, women and children. His reasoning was often in response to the abusive practices of these groups, which at times included the sacrificing of children to the god Molech by burning them to death. There were others also who He ordered to be put to death, (even some Israelites because of these same sacrificial practices), or because of their acts of sexual immorality involving women, children, and animals.
What David and others don’t often understand, or better yet acknowledge, is that God has never been the problem, it’s mankind and his sin. Listen, there have been times in my life when I have struggled with this truth, because I personally wanted revenge for what was done to me. I didn’t always like the thought of leaving justice up to God because like Jonah, I know God is gracious and long suffering.
So, we come back to question at hand. Could God have stopped my abusers along with every other abuser throughout history? We could also ask: Could He have stopped Hitler, Stalin, and Mao? Could have stopped the terrorist on 911, or the mass shootings in the last couple of weeks, or last few years?
Of course He could, but that would require an act even more extreme on His Part. It would require God eliminating everyone, all men, women, and children from the annals of history. Again, God isn’t the problem, and eliminating Him from the equation isn’t the answer because it doesn’t change the abuser, mass murdering dictator, or the mentally deranged who shoot random people.
Often, there's question that follows and it is, "Then why couldn’t God take out just those who are evil and leave the rest of us to live a peaceful existence?" What’s interesting about this question is that we never see ourselves as evil, only those who commit the most heinous acts. The truth is we’re all evil, we’re all sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy, and by removing only those we don’t like creates other problems like the domino and ripple effects.
As for David’s question of God’s grace within my trauma, I choose to see Him, God, working in and through the compassion and love of other Christians, like my wife, family, church, and Melissa. Clearly, David missed mine and Melissa’s statement on the providence of God in our first meeting. Had she not been a follower of Christ, there’s no doubt I wouldn’t have returned for a second visit to receive the help I desperately needed.
Lastly, as I’ve told many others, I don’t believe God wastes the pain of His children. I truly believe His intention is to take what Satan has meant for evil and to turn it into something beautiful and redeeming for His glory. For me, I choose to believe God will take my hurt and pain and put it to use for someone else who has experienced something similar, and who is also in need of His healing.
If you haven’t watched, “Resilience: A Testimony of God’s Grace and Healing” parts 1 and 2, please follow the links in the description below.
Blessings, till next time!
Resilience: A Testimony of God's Grace & Healing Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn8_d... Resilience: A Testimony of God's Grace & Healing Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKOFn...
Just a few years ago my family and I experienced one of the most traumatic things a family can face – the threat of imminent death. This week’s blog is based on a sermon I delivered shortly after first being told my wife had a glioblastoma brain tumor, and according to her doctors she was going to die within a matter of months.
There are several things I’m reasonably certain of in life.
I’m reasonably certain that …
There are also some things I am certain of beyond a shadow of a doubt.
I’m truly certain that …
These last four “certainties” were many of my thoughts during the first week following Teresa’s surgery and diagnosis. I spent hours thinking about our life together not just from a past perspective but also our present and future life together. My days were consumed with obtaining vast amounts of information concerning brain tumors, cancer, and of course prayer and the Word of God. Every day as I reflected upon the Scriptures and especially those connected to God’s promises, my hope grew that He would somehow intervene in our lives. I kept coming back to certain inescapable facts: “God is real, God is true, God is gracious and merciful, He loves me, He loves my wife, He does nothing without a purpose, and He has the final say in ALL THINGS.” As I reread the story of Lazarus from John 11 three things were driven home for me during those days.
First, God’s love never prevents us from experiencing the difficulties and pain of everyday life (John 11:3-7). We live in a cruel and unforgiving world because of the corruption or curse of sin (Romans 8:18-25). All of creation waits with immense hope of Christ’s return and the establishment of His Kingdom; freedom will truly ring on that day when the curse of bondage we’re now under is lifted.
In regards to Lazarus and his sisters there is no doubt in my mind Christ Jesus loved them all deeply. Note the statements in verses 33-36 of the same chapter and how the Lord was moved emotionally. His weeping reveals in one sense how love and suffering often go hand in hand. Another great example of this fact is evidenced in the very words of Christ found in John 3:16. Who would know better than God the pain and loss associated with love.
For many, even some Christians, the presence of pain, suffering, and death is somehow equated with the idea that God must be absent during these specific times of difficulty. To say that God doesn't care about the pain and suffering within humanity is blatantly untrue. As created being we often limit our focus to the physical world and connect our wellness or sickness with being loved or unloved. The truth is, by ignoring the spiritual the realm we also ignore the greatest element of healing offered by God which also conveys His great love (Romans 5:8). We need to remember also that a deficiency of healing never means one lacks enough faith to be healed (a false teaching of the prosperity movement). Note the words of Martha in John 11:20-22:
John 11:20-22 (ESV) So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
It’s as if Martha is saying this would have never happened had You been here on time, but now it’s too late. Some would say this is not what she’s saying at all and point to verse twenty-two in order to make their case. These folks might have a point if it weren't for verses 23-27 and her actions at the tomb.
John 11:39-40 (NASB) Jesus *said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, *said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days." 40 Jesus *said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"
Martha’s statement in John 11:22 most likely refers to her belief in some sort of general blessing God the Father bestows on and through His Son. She definitely believed in a future resurrection but not for her brother at this time in history. The bottom line is that Christ Jesus could have healed Lazarus from 1000 miles away if He chose to do so just by speaking the Word. Three days or four really isn't an issue for God. Just because healing doesn't take place within some sort of time-frame we've set doesn't mean God can’t heal or that He’s somehow missing in action. During the most trying times of Teresa’s sickness I was constantly reminded that no matter what happened God was still on His throne!
Secondly, God has called some to suffer for His glory (John 11:4)
I realize this statement may sound odd and even morbid to some individuals, but the Scriptures are filled with examples that illustrate this point. Remember a man named Saul in Acts 9 who hated and persecuted the Church? God would use him to bring glory to Himself through many trials and difficulties. Read again the Lord’s statement to Ananias in Acts 9:15-16 and the testimony of Paul’s life in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27.
God is always purposeful in His actions and Lazarus’s case is no different. Again many might question God’s “methods” or the allowance of suffering for His glory, yet we need to remember that God is Sovereign and Holy and owes humanity nothing. Maybe we need to be reminded more often that without the suffering of Christ on the cross there would be no resurrection, no glorification, and no eternal life!
John 17:1 (ESV) When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,
If I’m certain of anything it’s that God has a reason for everything. Certainly the sickness and death of Lazarus didn’t catch God by surprise and neither did the rapidly growing tumor in my wife. Now I’m not equating Teresa’s illness with that of Lazarus, the Apostle Paul, or Christ Jesus upon the cross, but I do believe God had a greater plan for this event in her life. Without any doubt God’s purpose was to be glorified. I remember vividly clinging to the promise God made to those who brought an offering of thanksgiving on His behalf, the Psalmist wrote:
Psalm 50:15 (ESV) and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
The third and last point is simply this; when all is said and done the only words that matter are the ones which proceed from the mouth of God.
John 11:43-44 (ESV) When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
God’s power is simply amazing. The God Who called Lazarus from the grave is the same God Who healed my wife and bewildered her doctors. Without any treatments after her surgery, and from a diagnosis of glioblastoma, to lymphoma, to an infection, and finally to “We can’t really explain what happened,” I’m certain of this one thing – it was all about God and His glorification!
When it comes to the question of “Why” I’m reminded of a C. S. Lewis’ quote; “The question for a Christian isn’t why me Lord, but why not me.”
P.S. I thank God daily not only for my wife Teresa but also our sons Joshua and Tanner. These two young men were solid when I was weak and needed support. They bring me great pride and joy and I dedicate this blog to them.
Some Just Have Better Vision
The video below I found to be such a blessing and inspirational. What a great witness of love for a great Savior.
Yes Sir Coach
Romans 13:7 (ESV) Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
I love … fall and the game of football!
One, I don’t believe there’s another team oriented sport that even begins to rival the complexities of schemes and intricacies involved as in this game. I realize some view football as nothing more than a brutal game where players only seek to inflict as much pain as possible. Having played from junior high through college I can honestly say this is a false perception. Don’t misunderstand, I do love the big hits and the sense of combativeness that takes place during each play, but there’s so much more.
Two, as a purest of the sport, I love what lies behind each play. The strategies incorporated to carry out a single play make the game intriguing. Formations and motions used by the offense to confuse a defense and gain the upper hand take a great deal of skill and knowledge. A defense will often employ similar tactics using a mixture of fronts and coverages to confuse the offense. In many ways the game of football is like a game of chess except it’s played on a much larger surface.
Three, I appreciate the fundamentals that must be taught for a player to be successful. The slightest change in a blocking technique or a route run by a receiver can make a difference in winning or losing. In the game of football everything matters even down to the smallest details. It takes eleven players working together and carrying out their exact assignments to accomplish the team’s goal.
Four, what I love most about this game is not the game itself but the lessons taught and applied to other areas of life. Personally, I believe I had some of the best coaches a player could ever hope for in this game. During my playing days at Liberty I had two different offensive line coaches: Kendall Keith an All-American from the University of Georgia and Chuck Kelly who played at Louisiana Tech and professionally. I learned much about the “X’s” and “O’s” from both these men, but one of the greatest things I learned was that men who love Jesus never quit no matter the odds. Both of these men were physically imposing figures that demanded respect and gave the same in return. Each pushed my teammates and me daily to the point of mental and physical exhaustion, and looking back I can’t thank them enough for being tough on me when needed.
Yet, I believe the greatest coach I ever had the pleasure of playing for was a man by the name of Johnny Sasser. He was the head football coach for twenty-four years at East Wake High School which is located outside Raleigh, North Carolina. Sadly, he died of cancer in 1993 at the age of forty-eight leaving behind a wife and two sons. Coach Sasser had a profound effect upon my life in so many ways. Not only was he an innovator as a coach, but he was a motivator for life. He had a saying for every situation, and the motto that he’ll forever be remembered for is “Winners find a way.” Coach Sasser believed there was always an answer no matter what problem might lie before us. This is not to say that we would always like the answer.
Johnny Sasser was a man of great conviction and Christian faith which is what motivated him to teach young men how to live in this world. For him, football was a teaching tool to mold young men into better men. On Saturday mornings I always knew where to find him – in his office watching the game footage from the night before. I would often wander into the Fieldhouse to watch the game film with him. I was hoping to learn as much as I possibly could about the game I loved, but he would often direct the conversation back to my life and dreams. Not long after I graduated from college I hit a spiritual rough spot in my life and the only one I wanted to talk to was Coach Johnny Sasser. One Saturday morning in 1988 I walked into the Fieldhouse again, and there he was as if he was waiting for me – he never missed a beat. I sat down to watch the previous night’s game film, and all he wanted to talk about was me and my life. That day he once again helped me begin to see what should be important … God and family.
During these last few weeks I’ve had the great pleasure of helping coach a local middle school football team. Each day as I head out to practice I take a few minutes to pray for the other coaches and young men that I’ll be working with on the field. As I pray I not only ask for God’s protection upon these young men, but most of all, I ask for God’s blessing and leading with the hope that each player will see Christ in my life, (just like I saw in Coach Sasser’s life). I suspect prayer became a habit because it was instilled in me early on at Liberty. Each position coach on our team would gather his players and lead us in prayer before and after practice. Looking back, this routine also had a profound effect upon my life. For fifteen years or more now I’ve volunteered to help coach different teams and praying for players and coaches before hitting the field is a habit I don’t ever think will be broken.
So why do I share these things with you?
We hear so many negative things about our youth today with their lack of respect for authority and their dismissiveness towards God and the Church. The coaches I presently work with are fine men, and their work with young men obviously extends far beyond the football field. I’ve been so impressed with the things I’ve heard from our players and the genuine respect that is shown. I routinely hear the phrases “yes sir” and “no sir” as our players address the coaches and officials on the field. Yet, I think the greatest thing I’ve witnessed thus far took place before our first game a few weeks ago. Without any prompting, one of the young men turned to our head coach and asked, “Coach is it okay if we pray?” With a nod of the head, the young man gathered his team and led them in a prayer. For some this may seem like nothing more than a ritual, but for me it was a reminder that there are moms and dads, coaches and teachers along the way that have done something right.
Again, why do I share these things with you? Every so often we all need reminding someone can make a difference in the life of another by living out our Christian faith.
I praise God for the people who made a difference in my early life!
Teresa Hall West
Sharyn Siler Stevens
Bruce and Grace Hall
J. D. West
The Pastor and Deacon (whose names I can’t recall) from Friendship Baptist Church in Raleigh North Carolina who led me to Christ
1 Peter 2:9-12 (ESV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
This is a framed article at the top of this page is from the Raleigh News and Observer covering the life of Coach Johnny Sasser following his death in 1993. It hangs in my office as a constant reminder to be a "difference maker" in the lives of others.
A Story You Need to Hear
The story below is written by Kellie Brown, and is her testimony of coming to Christ through many personal tragedies. Kellie is a friend, and a Christian Life Coach in Louisiana.
I am a firm believer in Jesus Christ, and am recovering from substance abuse and co dependency.
When I was born my biological father left my mother because of her pregnancy with me. He didn't want me or any other children for that matter. I never knew my father, nor have I ever met or seen him at all. This was the first of many rejections in my life.
My mother remarried when I was three and her new husband adopted me. As far back as I can remember my mother always seemed to manage her troubles by drinking alcohol. Most of my memories of her consist of her being either drunk, asleep or at work leaving my two sisters and me to fend for ourselves. I never could understand what was so wrong with us that she felt she needed to drink all the time. She and my dad separated, divorced and remarried several times until they finally divorced for good before I was a teenager. My mother continued to drink heavily, and my extended family chose to ignore the problem. This left my two sisters and me unsupervised most of the time, and free to do whatever we wanted.
The next major crisis in my life came when I was twelve. I was riding my bicycle near home one day and a drunk driver leaving a bar lost control of his motorcycle and ran into me. I was catapulted through the air a very long way and hit my head on the pavement. I suffered extensive brain trauma and was in a coma for three weeks. When I awoke it seemed I was not the same child at all.
I continually struggled emotionally not caring anymore about most anything, and I was determined I was going to do whatever I wanted regardless of the circumstances. To cope with any further pain of rejection I would just get drunk, smoke pot and take harder drugs. I used anyone who tried to help me in order to get what I wanted and then discard them. I was afraid to let anyone get close because I felt they too would reject me sooner or later. Through all this my sisters and I continued to be taken to church where I heard that Jesus loved me, but I couldn’t understand why. In my mind, I felt no one else loved me so why would He. I continued to rebel and had multiple run-ins with the law for minor things. I was suspended or expelled from school more than I can remember. Deep down I just wanted someone to care enough to stop me. Basically I just wanted someone to love me.
When I was fifteen both of my sisters and I started to be placed in and out of foster care, as my mother was either in no condition to take care of us or I was in getting into trouble. While in foster care a couple from our church actually became my foster parents. The man who was my foster dad, who was supposed to protect me and provide for me, sexually molested me. At church one day I decide to talk to the pastor to see if he could help me. I was shocked when this pastor asked, “What did I expect?” He said I deserved it, and this totally turned me off to church and God.
After this my life began to spiral even faster and further downhill. I started snorting cocaine, stealing, lying, and making up stories just to get attention. At the age of sixteen I attempted to end my life by taking a whole bunch of pills. This was my plan to end things, but obviously it was not God’s plan; He was not finished with me yet.
I did manage to graduate from high school when I was seventeen, and the day after I graduated my mother decided to throw me out. During this time I lived with a friend, and was taking care of her children while going to college. I was still partying and trying to enjoy life, but inside I was growing empty and getting worse.
My next crisis…
When I was 20 I was raped by my supposed boyfriend, and this resulted in me becoming pregnant. I had my daughter Ashley on April 2, 1986. Shortly after her birth I had to have an emergency hysterectomy, and so she was going to be my only child. I had no clue how to take care of her so for the first three months of her life, my sisters and my aunt took care of her. When she was three months old we moved in with another family from church. They honestly thought they were doing the right things trying to help me the best way they knew how, but they were members of a very strict and religious church with many rules which we had to follow. I struggled with conforming to the church’s lifestyle. However, during this time with them I did learn how to care for my daughter.
When Ashley was two we moved out, and were on our own trying to start over again. When I was twenty-three I began to think back on my relationship with Christ. I knew a lot about church and felt like I knew a lot about God, but I also had many doubts. Fortunately, I had a friend who was also a Sunday School teacher and I went to her with my questions. She guided me through the scriptures, and once and for all I settled it in my mind and heart committing my life to Jesus Christ.
God started working on me but I still struggled. I never felt I was growing closer to God, but I was constantly reminded of the rules and regulations my church family expected me to follow. Everything seemed rigid and hard. There was no joy in my relationship – just rules. So all I did was check off the boxes. It didn’t mean anything because I never had the close relationship with God or anyone for that matter except my daughter.
Soon though, it was in this church that I met a guy named Mike. Mike was a Sunday School teacher, and very involved in the church. We were friends at first but it quickly became more. Mike seemed perfect for me. He was the love of my life, and my soul mate. But because Mike had been through a divorce, when we got married in 1992 we were removed from all ministries and leadership of the church. This was a very painful experience for both of us, but this church was all we knew so we pressed on.
After we married Mike adopted Ashley. For twelve years we had many good times as well as some tough times. Increasingly times grew mostly tough because it seemed I was allowing Ashley do things Mike didn’t agree with. We definitely had different ideas on how to raise this young girl. We fought over Ashley going to a public school, attending school dances, and other similar things. Finally it became too much. We thought divorce was the answer, and after two years we remarried. I thought this would finally fix things and we could move forward, but little did I know that this solution would only last a short time. Ten days after we remarried I came home and found my husband on the floor dead from a heart attack. Again my world was tossed into another downward spiral. At this time Ashley also tumbled hard down her own hill. I always thought I could fix Ashley, but I began to see that I couldn’t. The fact was Ashley couldn’t even fix herself, and it was going to take something or someone bigger than us.
During this time Ashley started taking pills because she could not handle the pain of her dad’s death; medication and alcohol was a way for her to escape the pain. When she realized she was taking way too many pills she gave them up for a while, but only to replace the pills with more alcohol. She was running downhill so fast, and it seemed I couldn’t do anything to save her.
She called me one night and told me she was going to see her Dad. I left work and returned home to find her barely breathing on the floor. She had taken an overdose of pills along with a lot of alcohol. When she woke up I decided I had to do something, and so I made her get some help. I gave her two options. Either go check in as an inpatient at a treatment center somewhere, anywhere, or go to Louisiana to my sisters to dry out and get help. She chose Louisiana.
Two days after she got out of the hospital I put her on a plane to Louisiana. It was there that she found Celebrate Recovery, and finally got some the help she needed; best of all she found her own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A year later she even found a young man and got married. A few months after they married and her husband was about to deploy… surprise – she found out she was pregnant.
Her husband was going to be overseas so I decided to come be with her to help when she had the baby. I ended up selling everything and moving to Louisiana in November of 2010. I didn’t really know why I was leaving all I had known for 45 years, but it just seemed like that it was what I needed to do. Looking back I now know why. God moved me here to get a hold of me. He moved me, and put me in a different culture where there was love and acceptance. As I watched my daughter in her new relationship with Jesus she had what I never had –Joy! God had a plan and knew where I needed to be to understand that He loves me just as I am. He set things up so I could move and see my need for Him. Even though I had accepted Him in my heart I didn’t enjoy a close relationship with Him, but now I had an entirely new perspective – not so much about rules and behavior but about love and acceptance. Things now seemed to be going really well.
But again it didn’t last long. On January 17, 2012, the best part of my life came to a sudden end. I came home and found my daughter, who in a brief moment of desperation had taken her own life. You see although she had a new relationship with Jesus, a new husband, a precious baby girl, Ashley still had some struggles of her own, and unhealthy ways of dealing with them. It happened so fast. I was so shocked and angry that she would do this, and even more mad that God would let her do this.
I had closed the door once before, but this time I felt like I slammed the door on God. What kind of God would allow this? But, even as I tried to leave God, God did not leave me. I know now He has been with me all along. He has never left me. I am so glad my small doors can’t keep God out.
It is an unbelievably difficult thing to try to adjust and recover from the loss of a child – my only child – my entire world. For two months I was completely numb. I don’t even remember much of the days and weeks that followed. This past summer I hit a very low point in my life, and I was at my bottom. I was desperate. I longed for my daughter. I was determined to go see Ashley one-way or the other, and I felt like I had reached the end. But God had other plans. I was at the end, but He was just at the beginning. He wasn’t ready for me to go anywhere yet. At the precise moment I had enough pills in my hand, and I was ready to end my life a very close friend contacted me on the phone. It was then that I realized I couldn’t do this to my friends or my family. Regardless of how I felt about me I couldn’t do this to them.
I had been attending Celebrate Recovery for a little while, but I wasn’t working the steps or anything. I was going but I not doing. I was still so angry and bitter at God for taking my daughter, but it was here that I began my journey back to God. I also started seeing a counselor, and a life coach. I now had a team of support. God kept pursuing me. He wanted a deeper relationship with me. There was no way I could get through this on my own. God had been showing His love to me through all of these events.
Through much prayer and guidance on Dec 24, 2012 I totally surrendered everything to God, and made Him the center of my life. This was a first for me. Ashley had always been the center of my life for 25 years. I had always thought if she was the center of my life she would always need me, and that would make me happy. I finally came to realize that all I truly needed was Jesus. I knew this but never really experienced before – Jesus loved ME, and with a love that surpasses any other kind of love from anyone. I have found my worth in Him, and I was finally able to walk forward in this light. After embracing this, and making Jesus my new center I also realized the pain medication I had been on for my knees was becoming a problem. I stopped taking the medication and I’m trusting Jesus with my pain.
No matter what’s in my past I know that Jesus loves me. Now, because what God has done for me I’ve forgiven the people in my past that had hurt me. I am realizing and enjoying that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I’ve come to realize this past year was necessary to get me where I am now with God. I never felt His love like I do now, and I firmly believe if Ashley were here I might never have had this relationship with God. My greatest need is not to be needed; my greatest need is Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:28“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose.”
I’ve prayed that God would open doors for me to minister to others in this hurting world, others who are suffering like I have suffered. God is starting to open doors, and I cannot wait to see what He has for me this new year.
Thank you for letting me share my testimony with you,
Kellie can be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/KellieJBrownChristianLifeCoach
Pre-Love Not Free Love
In the fall of 1985 my wife Teresa and I were living in Lynchburg Virginia and she was pregnant with our first child. To say the least we were overjoyed with all that was taking place in our lives. Not only were we expecting our first child, but I was finishing my senior year at Liberty University and the life ahead looked promising.
Many evenings we would sit on the couch and talk about our plans and dreams all the while with my hand on Teresa’s belly. We talked about the many possible names for both boys and girls, and I remind you at that time it wasn’t always possible to know the sex of the child before its birth. There were names I liked that Teresa didn’t and vice versa. Jokingly, we had affectionately named our pre-born child “Oscar,” now both of us knew this wouldn’t be his or her name after birth. Every day we would talk about “Oscar” and the life ahead for this child. There were also days we talked directly to “Oscar” as if he/she could hear and understand every word we spoke. As the weeks passed we loved this child more and more just as most parents do who are expecting. Funny thing is we did the same type of stuff with our second child except for giving him a pet name.
It’s amazing the depth of love we can have for someone we’ve never met before, and when that first meeting comes the emotions can be overwhelming. When my first son was born, whose name by the way is Joshua and not Oscar, I returned to the father’s changing room and collapse to my knees thanking God for this new life. Five years later with the birth of our second son the emotions were just as strong as my knees buckled and I bowed to God thanking Him once again for the life He entrusted to our care.
After my call to ministry I began a practice of dedicating my preaching Bibles; it’s not uncommon for me to wear a Bible out every few years as I read through it and make notations on various passages. My first Bible was a gift from my wife which I dedicated to my oldest son Joshua, and the second was dedicated to my son Tanner which was given to me on the day of my ordination. In each I wrote a note to them expressing my love for them and the Word of God. In expectation of my sons getting married one day and having children of their own, I've also dedicated other Bibles to the grandchildren I anticipate being born. None of us know what tomorrow holds for our lives, but I want my future grandchildren to know that before they were even conceived they were already loved. Every day I pray for my sons, their future wives and children, and that God will bless and use them in a mighty way to bring glory to His name.
So why have I adopted this practice? Some might even think this odd, but it wasn't so with God. In one sense this is what God has done by giving us His Word. In eternity past God not only knew me by name, but He also loved me dearly just as He does all His children. Throughout the New Testament the expression of God’s love for those He would call seemingly spring off every page. The Scriptures teach us that before the Earth was created, and the universe in which it resides, God had a plan and a purpose for our lives. It blows me away when I think about how He knew everything about me; in His mind I already existed. Knowing every twist and turn of humanity before it happened God still chose to love us, and He provided a way for eternal life and fellowship with Him through His Son Jesus the Christ.
In closing pay special attention to the following passages from Ephesians and Second Timothy. And as you read these verse don’t fall into the trap of getting all caught up in the doctrines of predestination and free will, for if you do you’ll miss the blessing of God’s greatness and His sovereignty.
Ephesians 1:3-5 (ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
Both verses reveal the truth of God’s love through His forethought, and we should rejoice in the love God demonstrated for us before creation. The bottom line is this; God in His foreknowledge of mankind’s failure still chose to love us in eternity past and follow through with His creative plans. We could say He “pre-loved” us, and that love wasn't free. His love for mankind came at a cost, and He knew ahead of time that the cost would be the shedding of Christ's blood on our behalf. God demonstrates perfectly the love a parent has for a child yet born.
Lastly, just as the words I write in the front of those dedicated Bibles are an expression of my love for my children, and hopefully one day my grandchildren, the Bible is God’s love letter to humanity. The next time you hold His Word in your hands I encourage you to look at it and read it as a love letter written directly to you. It makes a difference!
Loving the Undesirables
Matthew 25:35-36 (ESV) For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
In 2009 I was pastoring a new church start which was just a few years old when we found ourselves in a terrible “pickle” as the old saying goes. We were meeting in a leased building when the owner gave us an option to buy the facilities or move. Many of our church members were quite distressed with this proposition; they had spent a great deal of time, energy and money in renovations and becoming a positive witness in the community. Some were also concerned with the proposed price tag of the property. The reality was that we were already paying more than 10 thousand dollars a month in lease and utilities. To go beyond that amount with a mortgage payment would be not only a strain but poor stewardship.
Things can only get better, right? Wrong!
Right away we began looking for a new facility that could meet our needs and the vision God had given us only to find one closed door after another. Wilmington can be a very expensive place to live and operate any ministry or business. I should also say that some local officials aren’t very helpful especially when it involves churches or Christian ministries. To make matters worse, a local pastor and his leadership wanted to sell their church building in order to move to a new location. His congregation was about twice as large and needed more space. After talking several times he encouraged us to give our notice to vacate our present building and prepare to buy their church facilities. Everything seemed to be working out for both congregations until this pastor and his elders changed their minds. It was too late for us, and we were without a building altogether. We now had thirty days to find a new building from which to operate, or we would be homeless so to speak.
God is rarely early but He is always on time!
So what did we do? First we rented a warehouse in order to store many of our materials and to have an office to work from during the week. Second we changed our worship times because of an unexpected opportunity. Another local pastor offered us the uses of his facilities on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings which turned out to be a blessing for both churches. To be frank with you, this was no easy feat. Even though the majority of our congregation is very loving they are like most others who are fond of Church traditions. I was asking them to do something that was out of the norm, and they never let me down. As a pastor I can truthfully say I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to shepherd. I was proud of them for exercising their faith and not giving up where others had by seeking “greener pastures”.
Here is where the story really gets good!
I knew God had something greater for us as a congregation, and I just needed to be ready when He revealed His will. After several days of deep prayer and witnessing a need in our community, as well as in our congregation, I knew what we were to do from a ministry standpoint. One of our members was an evangelist named Chris Rollings. Reverend Chris operates an evangelistic ministry called Calvary Praise Ministry and is a frequent speaker in jails and prisons throughout South Carolina. Chris’ style of preaching is probably identified best as “in your face” preaching and for good reason. He personally knows what it takes to win a convict to Christ. His personal story is worth hearing time and time again.
I incorporated Chris’ help for a new ministry because I thought he was the perfect fit. With our services moved to Sunday afternoons we now had a great opportunity to reach out to the un-churched community. Chris and I headed out one Sunday morning to investigate the plausibility of a new ministry at Greenfield Park in downtown Wilmington. This was the area where a large number of homeless people lived or spent the majority of their time. We began talking to these folks trying to get a feel for who they were and why many had chosen to live this lifestyle. That’s right many of these individuals CHOOSE to be homeless. Some are ex-convicts, drug addicts, prostitutes, runaways, mentally ill, and saddest of all veterans with no place to call home.
The next week we began holding Sunday morning services in the park. Our mission was to feed these individuals both physically and spiritually. We began building relationships with these folks hoping they would trust us enough to one day help them move beyond their present circumstances. They would have to have the desire to do so because that was the one thing we couldn’t provide.
Each week members of our church would put together bags of food and other personal care items for the homeless as we worshiped together in the park. Slowly and steadily folks would come out of the woods to worship with us, and afterwards members would sit and talk with these individuals that others often shunned. The Wilmington police loved having us in the park and were a great help until city officials became involved and wanted to move the homeless out of the area. We understood their concerns about families not feeling comfortable, but it didn’t change the fact these people were still going to gather somewhere. The homeless were still going to be hungry and in need of spiritual care.
At last count the city of Wilmington has more than 2,000 people considered to be homeless, and while a large number choose this lifestyle others do not. To make a long story short Chris has become the pastor to many of these people through what is now known as the Wilmington Homeless Ministry. Chris, Steve Lambros, a deacon at Myrtle Grove Baptist Church, and Glenda Dodge, a lay member also from MGBC, continue to run this ministry each week out of the VFW on Carolina Beach Road in Wilmington. They average 50 people in their Sunday morning service each week, still reaching a group of undesirables that need to know Christ as Savior.
Space just doesn’t permit me to tell you all the stories behind these folks. I can tell you that we have lost several by murder and exposure to the elements. I can tell you that there is a young woman trapped in prostitution and is constantly under the threat of harm if she tries to leave, and this ministry provides her with a sense of hope. I can tell you many have come to know Christ and have made profound changes in their lives. I can also tell you there is still much work to do and others continue to struggle with addictions, daily threats, and extreme poverty. And with all that said Chris Rollings is still the best one to reach them.
I thank God for Chris and his team of two. If you’re thankful for these ministers of grace let me ask you to do something for them.
Calvary Praise Ministry
476 Vallie Lane
Wilmington, NC 28412
Myrtle Grove Baptist Church
(Wilmington Homeless Ministry)
5524 Myrtle Grove Road
Wilmington, NC 28409
What Would You Say?
Luke 12:11-12 (ESV) And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
On Friday I had surgery for a deviated septum; just another consequence from getting older and playing college football a few years back. (Thanks to the surgery I’m also going to be out of commission for the next week so I thought I might write a little extra while I’m laid up at home.) As I arrived at SurgCare of Wilmington Teresa and I went through the standard process of signing in, filling out all the remaining paperwork, and of course writing another check for a service yet to be rendered.
As I sat at the desk of a very nice woman who was finalizing everything for my procedure I read the many personal postings on her cubicle wall. Now mind you I wasn't being “nosy,” (just a little humor), but most of us place pictures and other items in our work space because they’re meaningful to us and often inspiring. This particular woman had two things that caught my eye. One was a short statement on a post-it note that read, “Before you lay your head down to sleep make sure you thank the Lord for waking you up today.” The second was a full page prayer which called on the name of Jesus no less than five times.
I debated with myself if I was going to make a joke when we wrote the check about paying through the nose or drawing her into a conversation about the prayers on her wall. To say the least it wasn't much of a debate, I went with the prayers. I should also say here that I do have a little mischievous streak that sometimes shows up and is hard to read for those that don’t know me very well.
When I signed the last form and handed her pen back I looked straight into her eyes and asked, “Do you really believe in this Jesus guy?”
This dear woman looked at me with fear and utter shock. Her mouth fell open and not one sound proceeded forth for what seemed like five minutes. Fortunately for her Teresa was standing behind me who, within a few seconds, slapped me on the back and emphatically said, “ROD!” I laughed and shared with her that I was a minister and follower of Christ Jesus. Her shoulders dropped and she sat back in her seat with a deep sense of relief. She then shared with us that no one had ever said anything to her about these prayers. Once she did have a young person sitting at her desk holding a book about atheism which caused her some discomfort. I thanked her for having her faith on display by sharing these prayers and then Teresa and I promptly returned to our seats in the waiting area.
Later in the evening after returning home I thought about this woman’s reaction to my question. Was her response more fear than shock or vice versa? Was she afraid she would have to defend her beliefs before an unbeliever who might ask questions she couldn't answers or cause her to doubt the very faith she put on display? Was she shocked because in her mind she couldn't begin to conceive anyone not believing in Christ Jesus especially here in the south where there is a church around every bend? I personally believe she falls with the latter simply because of her words, “I never …”
What would you say?
I’m concerned deeply for those like this dear lady at SurgCare. They actually believe the world is basically good and are shocked when others challenge the veracity of Christ and His Word. In reality the world is evil and as Christians we should never be shocked of man’s contempt for Christ.
I believe those who are fearfully hesitant far outnumber the goodhearted shocked individuals. I can’t tell you the number of Christians who have shared with me their horror of being put on the spot by non-Christians. “What if they ask me a question I can’t answer Pastor Rod?” I remember having similar concerns in the mid-eighties and my mentor was a great help. After sharing my apprehensions Dr. Wheeler reminded me that no one has all the answers, but it’s the wise person who is resourceful and knows where to look in order to obtain those answers.
We need to learn how to use the tools at hand including pastors, teachers, and the elders of our churches. But the greatest thing we need to learn how to use is the Word of God and the only way this can be accomplished is to spend time studying every day. Scripture reading, meditation, memorization and prayer are habits developed by those who are dedicated to finding answers in order to make an eternal difference.
I want to encourage you to do several things:
Christian, husband, father, pastor2pastors, biblical counselor, author, friend, and lover of God & His Word!
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