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WHY DO WE JUDGE SO HARSHLY???

1 Sep

Suicide is a most difficult subject to discuss.  We don’t understand, because we don’t want to … We judge.  We project our beliefs about people, regardless of whether or not we even know them.  We judge.  We make decisions about what we perceive as the sins of others without respect or regard to their families, to their circumstances, or to their realities.  We ignore the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7) where He asked “How can you see the speck of dust in the eye of another while you have a PLANK sticking out of your own eye??”

I’ve been told (and I have no statistical data to back this up) that South Carolina leads the nation in pastors that commit suicide.  I hope this is not true.  And I know we haven’t cornered the market, either …

WHY?  Why do pastors and church leaders commit suicide??  DON’T THEY KNOW??  DON’T THEY BELIEVE??  I’m afraid the answers are not as simple as we wish they would be.  And I am also afraid our prognostications and judgments have a much larger impact on this situation than we’d care to admit.

In the past couple of weeks, some information about a leader at a Christian college has come to light.  I have seen many social media posts asking for prayer for this great school.  And I have seen some folks unmercifully judge this man and hit him with all of the righteous buckshot they could muster.  Some spew venom from the outside of the church, laughing and mocking this man, the school with which he has been associated for decades, and mocking the Kingdom of God.  Make no mistake:  This man is not perfect.  He will answer for his sins.  And I submit to you that 99.9% of us have no idea what the real story is.  It grieves me that I have seen Christian leaders burning him on social media.  I look at this situation and it shows me that NONE OF US are above or immune from sin.  WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES.  Let he who hasn’t made a mistake cast the first stone!!

After hearing of another pastor suicide, I wonder if this hyper-judgmentalism, the one that doesn’t allow a man of God to be human, I wonder if that might be a factor in all of this.  And there are some people who will read this and say “Well, David Wike must be hiding something…”  I won’t hide it:  I AM NOT PERFECT.  Mind you, I had never heard of Ashley Madison until the news broke about the breach, but I am not perfect.  Neither are you.

Maybe if we prayed for each other, tried to restore each other with grace and dignity, instead of burning each other with righteous flame-throwers … Maybe if we took that approach, maybe ONE PASTOR might not take his life … DO you think it would be worth that??

I do.

Trying to Count it all Joy

28 Aug

I’ll be completely honest with you:  the devil is attacking.  Right now.  All around Ebenezer I see and hear signs of his work.  That tells me that he doesn’t like what is going on around here.  He stepped up his effort on the very day we voted to build a new worship center.  And he is attacking a variety of leaders in a variety of ways.

And, honestly, he didn’t leave me out of his fun.  But I read a Facebook post yesterday from a fellow pastor that has meant more to me, and enlightened me on something James wrote:  COUNT IT ALL JOY!!

James 1:2-4 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  

God never promised that we would live life without problems… Without obstacles.  In fact, Paul reminded us in Ephesians 6 that the enemy WOULD INDEED ATTACK US.  That is why God gave us HIS ARMOR!!!  Now, James reminds us that even when we face hurt and disappointment, to COUNT IT ALL JOY!!  Because God will use it to strengthen us, our faith, and our dependance on Him.  So, even when we face attacks, temptations, problems, we need to learn to LEAN ON HIM and ask Him for strength, for wisdom, and for what we need to face the trial.  Because if we do not, WE ARE ALLOWING THE ENEMY TO WIN.  PERIOD!  And, when we DO ask Him for these things, He promises that He WILL PROVIDE.

So … it’s not always easy, but James is right!!  I need to count it all joy when I face these things!!  AND SO DO YOU!!  Praying for you today!!!

He is our shield

20 Mar

I was reading the devotional email I received this morning from the Blackaby Spiritual Leadership Network and it was particularly challenging to me.  I love what the Blackabys do for leaders and value this email every day.  Today, a challenge to TRUST OUR SHIELD.

Proverbs 2:7 says “HE is a shield to those who walk uprightly.”  The writer of this devotional entry reminds us that anyone is open to face attacks or criticism.  And there are typically three ways we can respond to this:

  1. Operate under the radar and DO NOTHING to draw attention to yourself and maybe you won’t be criticized.
  2. Be aggressive in fighting it, and lash out at those who lash out at you.
  3. Trust YOUR SHIELD  (WHO IS GOD!!!)

I will confess that I have been guilty of the first two.  Being an MBI ISTJ personality type, I am naturally quiet about my movements anyway.  Being a middle child, I want everyone to be happy.  There have been times when number 1 has been my friend.

There have been times when I have had all that I can take, and number 2 has been my approach.  And I will confess to you that NEITHER approach works, NEITHER approach builds the Kingdom of God, and NEITHER approach pleases Him.  But I have made the mistake of trying each approach.

Number 3 is HARD.  However, I have personally seen that Number 3 WORKS!!  Again, it requires faith in God and a trust that He is greater than any attacker.  I also believe that trusting Him will lead us to evaluate the things we are doing that brought the attack, and if we trust Him and listen to Him, HE will lead us to change our ways if need be.  It all goes back to trusting HIM.

Praying for you, that you will not face such attacks.  But none of us are immune.  So, when you are attacked, TRUST YOUR SHIELD.

One of THOSE moments

3 Feb

I had one of those moments yesterday in worship … One of those for which I am so thankful.

I have never heard a fellow pastor say “I just love doing funerals.”  I probably never will.  And you will NEVER hear me say that.  While a funeral is typically a simple service, every one takes a little out of you as a pastor.  Even though it does help when the deceased knows Christ, it makes these massive emotional withdrawals from your heart.  And when we have a bunch of them back to back, you get to this place where you feel like you are in the surf and huge waves keep crashing and knocking you down.

January is usually a busy month for these kinds of things.  And in 2014, February might be just as bad. After far too many funerals this past month, I got a phone call on Saturday that a dear lady was close to death.  I drove out to see her and her family.  I drove back, thinking soon Diana and I would get dressed for the EBC Sweetheart Banquet and have a date!!  Then, another call … Yet ANOTHER sweet lady from EBC was close to death.  I drove back to the hospital and prayed with her and her family.  As I drove back to the house, I started thinking to myself “Man, I’m not sure I can take this.”  After so much of it, your heart just aches.

During the Sweetheart Banquet I got a text that one of those ladies died.  Right before 8:30 worship Sunday morning, I got a phone call that the other one died.  Within 12 hours, Ebenezer lost two of the kindest ladies I have known in a while.

So, there I sat on the front pew during 8:30 worship.  Hurting.  Thinking about how those families were hurting.  Thinking about how empty my emotional gas tank was right then.  And we began to sing … Psalm 22:3 tells us that God inhabits the praise of His people.  So I just started signing as hard and loud as I could.  IT WAS AWESOME!! (Not the sound, mind you.  I am sure somewhere a pack of hound dogs was howling at the tops of their lungs.)

Then as I sat there, listening to the choir, God spoke …  I realized that I was right:  I cannot do this.  BUT HE CAN!!  He filled my heart.  He reminded me to stop TRYING to do it myself.  The words the choir sang were like medicine for my wounds.

Every time I come to worship with an empty cup, He fills it.  And not because I am a pastor.  Because I am HIS child!!

The Good Things

4 Dec

Yesterday I got to do one of the things I really love doing about my job.  One of the good things.  I got to help a friend.  Specifically, a friend who is a seminary student and new minister.

I had an opportunity to sit down with this friend and talk through some issues and help him develop a plan of attack.  In the midst of all of the Tuesday things that had to be done yesterday, I got a chance to slow down and help someone.  That is always a good day!  Those other things are necessary, too:  Staff meeting, a little project on the physical plant, a quick trip to the hospital.  But, when I get to directly help someone who needs a little, that makes my day!!

Last week, a couple of pastors from Saddleback spent 90 minutes in a video conference with me and one other pastor (from New York City).  The entire purpose of this was for them to pour into us and our ministries.  I have always LOVED that about Rick Warren and Saddleback.  And it is nice to be able to pay that forward a little!!

Does Prayer make a difference??

18 Mar

I had a visit today.  I won’t name the visitor for now, but he is a friend and a member of Ebenezer.  He told a story that needs to be retold again and again.  For now, let’s call him “Norm.”

Norm’s career was in an industry that took him all over the world.  He did a lot of work in Europe, and that is where this TRUE story is set.  Through his travels he met a young man who was a card-carrying Marxist.  Let’s call him “Sam.”  Sam had no concept of God, and never wanted one.  In Norm’s travels, some of those with whom he worked started calling him “the Preacher” because of his willingness to share his faith.  (Let’s stop right here:  He was NOT a spy or was not working for OSS or the CIA.  He was working in textiles!!)

In spite of Norm’s religious believes, he and Sam became friends.  They both understood where the other stood with their beliefs, and yet they maintained a friendship that would last well past Norm’s retirement.  That is where the story gets interesting …

Norm came to prayer meeting one night, many years ago.  He told us that his friend Sam, in a European nation, had been diagnosed with colon cancer and wanted us to add him to the church prayer list.  He also expressed concern that the medical care in this country might not be as good as what Sam could receive in America.  We began to pray for Sam, because we knew it meant so much to Norm.

There are a couple of miracles in this story.   One of them is that Sam recovered well, and is still alive and healthy today.  But the next is really where the power of God and the power of prayer intersect…  Sam, this card-carrying Marxist, is now in a relationship with Jesus Christ!!  And HE now prays for Norm and others all around him!!  The seeds were sown when Norm told Sam that a church in Florence, SC, was praying for him.  This puzzled Sam… WHY would they care about him??  WHAT would motivate them to pray for him??

I don’t know the details of the journey.  Maybe Sam will tell us one day.  But Norm is OVERJOYED today, because his friend Sam is SAVED!!!  And Norm attributes this to the POWER OF GOD and the POWER OF PRAYER.

Don’t EVER think your prayers do not matter!!  You never know what GOD will do!!

James 5:15  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

A Mystery

11 Feb

You’ve got to love a mystery!!  I can almost see Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby Doo pulling up in their green van right now …  But this is not THAT kind of mystery.  It is a good mystery, and one on which we can depend!!

There are mysteries in God’s word, in the history of His interaction with His people, and mysteries in His very nature.  That we DO NOT understand.  And that is OKAY!!!

Yesterday we brushed by one of them while in Genesis 6.  Who were the Sons of God, the Daughters of Men, and the Nephilim?  I am NOT blogging to answer and talk about the THREE prominent theories.  Those kinds of things are fun to talk about and think about, but none of them change the result:  The earth was in a state of growing sin, walking farther and farther away from God.  That is why God chose to flood the earth!!

As much as I like to understand EVERYTHING, I’ve come to this conclusion that really helps me:  There IS a God, and I am NOT Him!!  And it is okay for me not to understand EVERYTHING about Him.  After all, if I could define God and draw His specifications on a blue print, would He really be God??  The mysteries of God are absolutely real and it really is OKAY for us to have FAITH because if He really IS GOD, we WILL NOT understand everything about Him.

Perhaps the greatest mystery is WHY DID HE LOVE US SO MUCH THAT HE SENT HIS SON??  I really don’t know the answer, but I am so glad He did!!

He is real, He is alive, and I am forgiven by His grace.  Thank God for His mysteries!!