A lot of people took notice on FaceBook of the photo I posted Sunday. It was taken at the, service that I had a chance to speak to the officers working the traffic for the Braves game on Easter Sunday. We had a good short service standing in the parking lot of the Weather Channel's Building. But while all that may be OK, what was said was remarkable. Not by me, but by a law enforcement officer. And that officer was not even there.
I read a two passages of Scripture and that was my message. In the first passage, it should be noted that this is the ONLY place in the bible that Jesus marveled at someone's faith. Jesus was amazed at this man's faith in him and he said so. It seems that this Law Enforcement officer (a centurion) had a sick servant and so he sent for Jesus to come to his home to heal this man. This officer was not Jewish, but he knew the Jewish laws and customs. The Jewish leaders who came on the officers behalf ask Jesus to please come heal the man because of how much the officer had done in the community to help the people. But before Jesus arrived He sent a second man to say how much he understood the idea of "Chain of Command" and he knew that if Jesus just said the words the servant would be healed. That was some deep faith and this officer is the one who had it. Here is the passage:
Luke 7:2-10 NLT
2 At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. 3 When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. 4 So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, 5 “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.”
6 So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. 7 I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 8 I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” 10 And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.
Do you? Do we, have a faith like this? To believe that as God speaks it will happen? If we do then why do we not pour over the words Jesus has already spoken in the Bible? No doubt a law enforcement officer said something of huge importance here. But then there was a second verse Sunday I read.
It seems that at the crucifixion of Jesus there was weeping, suffering, gawking, mocking, and lots of comments. But one comment was recorded that stands again above all the rest. You guessed it once again the comment is made by a law enforcement officer.
Again we see the faith of the law enforcement officer as first worships God. Then he says what is true and obvious.
I am delighted to work with law enforcement. They are brave, patriotic, dedicated to their work and truthful. Helping them to have this kind of faith is a passion in my life.
What do you expect God to do for you?
You may not come right out and say it, but most of us sort of live from day to day thinking that if we do good stuff then God sort of is obligated to bless us. If we are obeying the rules then we deserve some kind of reward from the Almighty. And if we were to something really good like, give, pray, teach, or go on a mission trip then we are definitely going to get some points with God.
Now all of you "good" theologians know that is not really the way the bible teaches us. Good works is not the basis for our salvation. And we all know that Job was a good man and that some real bad stuff came his way. But for most of us if we do the right things and keep our nose clean wether we admit it or not we kind of expect to be blessed physically and with some of the worldly blessings.
The truth is if we are doing the right things and living by God's plan we are not going to be involved in things that would tend to mess us up and get us into serious trouble. There is Scripture that teaches this idea.
Psalm 1:1-3 NLT
1 Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. 2 But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. 3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
But this is a principle of life taught by Scripture not a promise that if I say something nice that God is obligated to do something for me. You see we are like whiney children too often telling God, "Hey did you see what I did." "Don't I get blessed for this?"
I read this Scripture this morning and I think we need to keep this in our minds as people who serve the Lord and maybe it would cut down on the whining among the church members.
Luke 17:7-10 NLT 7 “When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? 8 No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ 9 And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. 10 In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”
What a privilege it is to serve God. The Lord Jesus is our Master and doing His work and task daily is our joy and hope in life. But do not fall into the idea, and it is easy to do, that you deserve something for what you do.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something you have likely heard of but really may not understand what it is all about.
Everyone encounters a certain amount of trauma in their lives. You may be a bit traumatized by seeing a car wreck. You may become the victim of a crime, or witness someone who is severely injured. Even someone speaking harshly can be traumatizing. Trauma comes across our media every day and we see and hear about shocking and horrible events in the world, and as we see and hear we must in our own heart and mind deal with them.
One of the very first very traumatic events I still remember to this day in my life, was seeing a preview for a movie at the drive in with my parents. The title of the film being previewed was called Blood Feast. It was a very nasty "splatter film" which had a warning as the preview came on, but I looked anyway as an 8 year old boy. What I saw was a horror scene on the big screen that I have never forgotten. I dreamed about it for years. I have seen much in real life as a police chaplain but the fact is as a child I was traumatized by a movie trailer.
When we encounter trauma we must cope with it in various and normal ways. Sometimes this is fairly easily or simply accomplished and we return to our normal selves relatively quickly. The type and intensity of the trauma of course are significant, as well as our entire life condition. Our physical environment, our emotional, mental and spiritual make up will have a part in how we deal with each and every trauma we may encounter. But when the trauma is severe our normal coping tools may not be sufficient and we are overwhelmed by the thing that has happened. Natural disasters, life threatening events and of course repeated and ritualistic events can bring severe trauma to a person that the individual cannot deal with by way of ordinary and routine coping skills.
Now let me explain the difference between Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Everyone has stress related to traumatic events in life. But not everyone has prolonged issues because of the traumatic event or events. Here is a quote from the Mayo Clinic:
PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person.
The effects of trauma are very real. We all have some trauma in our lives. Your coping and dealing with negative and terrible events is dependent on my factors. But you cannot and should not diagnose yourself with PTSD. This is a professional diagnosis and just because you have undergone some traumatic event this does not mean you automatically have a case of PTSD. Mental health professionals say that like most mental illness there is no cure for PTSD. However PTSD does respond very well to therapy.
Most of us get over the traumas we face but some can stay with you much longer than others just like the movie trailer I saw. Cumulative stress is a real factor in many people's lives now days. A feeling of being overwhelmed is all too common among people who have difficult and high pressure professions. You may feel a bit overwhelmed and therefore connect it with trauma.
What are some things we can do?
First see a counselor if you do feel overwhelmed or are having trouble with your ability to function and deal with stress and trauma. But realize that eating right, exercise, rest, relaxation and just talking with those who know and love you the most are going to go a long way toward helping you to cope. But in addition to these a regular feeding of your faith in God and trusting Him to help you will be the real answer to overcome stress and negative and troubling events in your life.
The Lord gives us comfort and strength to endure and keep going. Trust Him and see Him and He is going to be with you in all situations. Too many times I think we look for help for our troubles including how to deal with the troubles in life in all the wrong places. God's word has comfort and strength for all of us.
2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
You can you know. You can talk yourself into most anything. Be it good or bad you can have a little talk with yourself and convince yourself about many things.
Let me ask you a question. Are you a good person or a bad person? Your first response may be well I am a good person because I either do some things or because I do not do certain things. Your second response to answer this question will likely be to pick someone that you know or is known by others and say, "Well at least I am not like that person." So sort of depending on the subject you could make a case that you are a good or bad person.
But what does the Bible say?
Mark 10:18 ESV 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
Romans 3:10 ESV ...as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
Now most of you reading this do believe the Bible and so you would not argue against the Scripture and it is very plain. Yet most do not go around thinking you are a bad, sinful or unrighteous person. But we just do not like to think of ourselves as bad or wicked, or evil.
But again the Scripture says.
Mark 7:21-23 ESV 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
I am not writing this morning to make you feel bad about yourself. Quite the contrary. I am however wanting to make a point. It is easy to talk yourself into thinking I am not such a bad person and my WORKS do count for something. God surely sees what I am doing and I have EARNED some favor with Him.
This is of course heresy and not biblical truth. All our works are as filthy rags to God. But yet we talk ourselves into thinking this way.
The simple point to be made this morning is that we are right or righteous with God not by doing anything. But our faith in the Cross of Jesus and what He has done has given us forgiveness and holiness. So it is what God has done not you.
Talk yourself into sharing this with someone today.
When the Lord met His disciples on the seashore after His resurrection from the tomb, Jesus said some remarkable things to these men He trusted to take the Gospel to the world. One of the most powerful statements in the word of God to me is found in John 21 in this exchange. He has restored Peter by giving him a series of questions about, "Do you love me?" Peter is saddened because the Lord ask three times, and Peter had denied Jesus three times. The Lord had even told him that he would do so. Then the Lord makes this statement in the 18th verse.
John 21:18 ESV 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”
No doubt when you are dressed by others and carried somewhere you do not want to go you are either too old, too sick, or mentally unable to make your own decisions. Or maybe you are in prison. There is application for all of these. But the verse is speaking about the facet that someone is making the decisions for you. Being that decision maker is not an easy job. Parents make decisions for their children, but when they grow up they make their own. We live in a free country and we get pretty used to making our own decisions. When someone tells us "we have to do something," and we have no choice, we really can be offended.
I am faced with being a decision maker for my dad. Really, I have been making his decisions for the last couple of years. But now this Scripture is really alive in my mind as I am having to upgrade his care to a higher level. Dad cannot take care of himself and my mom cannot take care of him either. He has to have help and more than "Assisted Living" can offer. So a plan must be formed and followed. it is painful.
There is a decision that no one can make for another. The decision to call out to Jesus and place faith in God is a matter of the heart and no one can make this decision for anyone else. Oh, we may try to force people to go to church, and even to recite words, but faith and belief come out of the heart. I can write a million words on a blog page, but none can make you have faith in God. This will come from your own heart.
Dad will soon be in a skilled care facility, and others will do most everything for him as he cannot. Mom will come to live with us and we will give her as much freedom as we can. Painful, as this is not what they really want to do, and neither do I. But the decisions have been made and we are working to get these moves made.
Where my parents will spend their remaining years on earth is an important decision that I am having to make for them. Where they will be spending eternity is a decision they have already made. But someone may be reading this who has not made a decision to follow Jesus. We are never guaranteed tomorrow. While you can, you must make your choice to believe and follow Christ. To not do so is to make a bad decision repeatedly. Every time you hear this plea to believe and do not you are making a decision, a bad one. The Bible is plain.
Romans 10:13 ESV For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Have you made this most important of all decisions? No one can make it for you. Other decisions can be made for you but this one cannot be, it is yours alone. I have conducted two funerals this past week and hundreds through the years, and this is the questions that is always ask. "Did he/she know the Lord? Please think about this and make certain you know the Lord. No one can make this decision for you.
The word "prayer" is used a lot by Christians. When we read Face Book we see people asking for prayer and naturally a lot of people responding with the word and saying they are doing so. But I would ask a simple question, "How much are we really praying?"
I am one who tells people I am going to pray, and I try to make it a habit to honor this promise. But if I do then I need to call out the person's name before the Lord right then. If I do not, I too often forget and never think of them again. So I always try to "pray" right then. But what do I pray for? What the person ask for? Is this what God wants? Does God want us to agree with other Christians about their hope and desires? Is it like getting enough endorsements on a petition and when we get enough God caves to our demands? I think not.
What does it mean to be "praying" for someone. Does it mean we put in a formal request to God to change things to the way the person wants, or the way we think things should be? I think this is what much of our "praying" is all about. We make list at church to remind ourselves who is sick or hurting and tell God we want them better now.
I think we should stop and think about this idea of praying for a minute or two. Praying ... talking to God... first must be an act of worship.
Let that sink in a minute. When you are going to acknowledge God in your heart there is no position physical, emotional, or spiritual that can have any merit except total and complete submission to Him. He is God. We must submit and realize that we are to submit our will to His. Humility and reverence should be in our heart when we are going to pray.
Yes, I am aware that God loves us. Yes, I am aware that He calls us His children, but too often I am afraid that we are "praying" or talking to our Father like whining, bossy, spoiled, brats. Some quote the Scripture at God reminding Him of What HIs word says.
And then we say things like, "I claim this in the Name of JESUS." I do understand that this is a way that some feel they are giving voice to their faith, but how does this sound to God?
God is all powerful and HOLY. God knows all things and so He knows what is best for me and you. Jesus taught us a phrase in the Lords prayer.
Matthew 6:10 ESV Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
I am afraid when we are "praying" we too often leave this part out as we submit our list to God. We need to realize that our prayer is more about us accepting and praising God for His will being done in our lives, even if it includes a path of testing, sickness, and yes even tragedy.
Prayer is the work and duty of every Christian, but we do so little of it. We make such a mess out of it, by being distracted and even irreverent. And when do pray too often it is just so we can say we did it; instead of belief and trust in the will of God becoming our desire.
This morning as you read this, have you been praying already? Will you pray before you leave home today? When I stop and think about "praying" i see my own faults quickly and must back up and realize that until I worship God with all my heart, I cannot just jump into "praying." The essence of praying without ceasing is to keep this attitude and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, holiness and power of God in our minds at all times. If we do then we see everything in the light of, "May HIS Will Be done."
Too often it seems we are i a place where we wish we had a reverse on life. We do not like the events or actions or words that have occurred, and we wish there was a rewind button to push and make it all go away.
As much as we might want to we cannot change the past. There is no reverse on life events. What is spoken has already been heard and cannot be taken back. What actions have been taken cannot be wiped away. Even the thoughts we think cannot be erased from our memory.
But the good thing is that we can change. We can do better next time. We are capable of learning from our mistakes. And even better than this is Our Lord's way He handles our mistakes. He tells us plainly that Our God forgives and does not choose to remember our trouble.
Hebrews 10:12 NLT 17Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”
With that thought in mind we do not have to worry about the past but just keep moving forward toward what God has for us. So do not get bogged down with what has happened and mistakes you may have made. But realize you can change. Paul knew this and he wrote some words for us to really grab hold of in his letter to the church at Philippi.
Philippians 3:12-14 NLT 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
This can give you a lot of resolve to keep going in tough times. This can help you when you think you need to back up. You can't back up but you can go the right way. So put life in gear and get going the way Christ leads.
The blessings we have in life are different for each of us. To a child a great blessing may be a toy. An adolescent's great blessing might be to drive the car alone for the first time. For a mother to hold a child after giving birth we all realize is an obvious great blessing. You and I both have many blessings in our lives each day but do we give the praise to God for the blessing or do we just sort of take it for granted?
Today I will experience a great blessing. I will meet with several clergymen that I do not yet know to share with them some ideas and experience that I have in the area of law enforcement chaplaincy. The City of Smyrna has begun a Chaplain Program for the Police Department and have ask me to come teach their staff of new Chaplains. The students I will have today are all volunteers. They are beginning a journey to serve a very special group of people. I have found this journey to be a strong calling from God in my life. Working in law enforcement family is not the same as working in the church or even the traditional family. There are many special conditions and areas for concern for these men and women of public safety. Training and preparation for the Police Chaplain is essential.
God has truly blessed me in the ministry to law enforcement. I have been a part of as a chaplain for the last 15 years and I am blessed to share this information and many things I have learned today. An additional part of this very real blessing is that I am going to do this in the city where I grew up. Going back or passing through Smyrna GA is always special for me as this is home. To see this program started and now a chance to progress is not only very needed but life giving to the community. To be a part of the process is a double blessing for me. Under the leadership of Chief David Lee and Deputy Chief Robert Harvey the Police Department in Smyrna has become aware of the need and work of chaplaincy for both the strengthening, and health of their officers.
We will cover the basics of chaplaincy today and I will have the opportunity to share what God has already blessed me with in my work as a chaplain. I pray that my great blessing will help and enable these new Chaplains to be blessed as I have been, and that they will be a blessing to the officers and personnel of the City of Smyrna Police Department.
I have made no secret of my love of Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest devotionals. This morning a statement that this dear man of God wrote has jumped off the page at me. I would like to share it with you. It seems that I struggle with worrying about how I am going to do what God is I believe leading me to do. How are we going to live? Where will the funds come from? What can I do to make it happen? Now I do not believe we should be reckless or foolish in our actions, but I do have faith in God. So if I am sure, and I am, that God is leading me a ministry serving law enforcement personnel I must trust HIM completely. I am afraid that I get way to concerned with two questions. First, how do I make sure I am doing what the Lord wants me to do? And then how can I be sure HE will provide for us? Here is Chambers's statement.
When God gives you a clear determination of His will for you, all your striving to maintain that relationship by some particular method is completely unnecessary. All that is required is to live a natural life of absolute dependence on Jesus Christ. - Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His HIghest - March 9
It is without question that I love and believe the Lord in my heart, but do I trust Him with what He has called me to do? In other words my heart tells me this is of God an this is what I a to do, but I my mind I mistakenly start thinking that I must figure out the way to get it done. This is not true just for me but for each of us. The Lord has plans for each of us to serve Him and while we may feel a call to do some things we too often do not get moving on the task because we think we have to cover the details before we can start.
Psalm 37:23 NLT The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
Do I really believe this? Do you really believe this? Yes but...? My friend there are no buts. God does provide what we need, but not what we may think we want. Peace comes to our hearts as we seek Christ and to walk with Him doing what He leads us to do. We have no reason to fret or worry. No need to constantly seek to scheme of how we will get by. We must depend on the Lord. Good words to really consider as we seek to serve our Lord Jesus Christ.
Isaish 26:3 NLT You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!