A View of Catholicism Today

This I believe. I believe in heaven.  I believe in God.  I believe each of us has a soul that after death resides with God and angels and the souls of countless others in eternity.  I believe that angels exist, reside in eternity and are God’s messengers to we dwelling on Earth.  I believe that any creature capable of loving, caring and having feelings for others has a soul that too, after death, resides in heaven.  That goes especially for animals.

I am also a Catholic

I am a mightily disturbed Catholic over the public outing of those miscreants who call themselves priests.

 

I have countless times over my adult years said “I’m a Catholic in spite of the Church.”

 

I identify as a Catholic mainly from communal, social, and family reasons.  I’m from a half Italian, half Sicilian family.  The distinction is verification that I know the difference.  I went to Catholic elementary school, Catholic high school and a Jesuit college (the distinction is intentional as many within the church cast a skeptical eye towards Jesuits, even calling the head of the order “the Black Pope”.)  My relatives are Catholic.  For the most part, my friends and classmates are Catholic.  I attend Catholic Sunday services. Quite unintentionally I’m a founding Grand Knight of my parish counsel in Maryland.  I consider myself part of my new Texas Catholic parish community.

 

Being Catholic is part of my identity.  I would not feel comfortable or honest to say otherwise.

 

The Catholic religion is based on faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s a legitimate part of what followers call Christianity. We don’t worship statutes as some think.  We don’t worship angels.  We don’t worship Saints.  We worship one God and it doesn’t, to me at least, matter what anyone calls the Supreme Being, even using the Hebraic phrase that acknowledges God but refuses to use a name to that effect.

 

I also need to be very clear that I really bridle at being asked if I’m a Christian.  If you can’t tell what I believe from the way I act then I don’t deserve to use that description anyway.

 

Another reason I don’t subscribe to the “have you accepted Christ” club is that I find it a tad insulting and just as offensive as Muslims demanding fealty to Mohammad’s cult of belief.  I say cult because any group that believes “others” who, for whatever reason, refuse to join that group deserve death is no fellowship that worships the true God.

 

If, as many claim, Mohammed was an impressive and quite successful plagiarist of world religions his epic work’s most despicable admonishment that non-believers must be slain can be traced to an equally disgusting era of intolerance of those from whom he borrowed ideas including the Catholic Church.  The Inquisition was one.  Oliver Cromwell and his Roundhead Generals genocidal slaughter of Irish Catholics as compelled by “the wrath of God” is another.  Witch trials were part of that horrid mindset.

 

The idea of any one religion claiming exclusivity to (pick a name) heaven, paradise, nirvana, or whatever the name du jour for eternal happiness might be is utter, egotistical bull.

 

My attitude is simply that what I practice as a form of worship is none of your business. As I said, my life is my membership card and if that’s not good enough for you…that’s your problem, not mine.

 

That said I have a very real problem with the historical and present Catholic Church, the regal structure of the clergy and the offenses against God and mankind that follow.

 

I can’t stand anything that walks like, talks like or has pretensions of royalty.  I’m sure it’s due to equal parts of my Sicilian/Italian genetic disdain for overbearing authority and the intrinsic importance of independence to being American.  Bow to a King or Queen or kiss a Cardinal’s ring…thank you no.  I’ve shaken a few Presidents’ hands but taking a knee to anyone or any group is out of the question.  We are all the “Chosen.”  Why else would we be here?  We all deserve equal respect until we prove otherwise.  And, we are all servants no matter if others call us by any exalted title.

 

In my seven decades as a Catholic I’ve encountered priests who understand their role as servants of God and their fellow humans, and I’ve known many who posture as divine arbiters of human behavior.  I’ve found Irish Catholic priests more often than not tend to act like petty tyrants who demand the faithful follow their every idiotic command as coming directly from the mouth of God.

 

The recent, but by no means new, revelations of the wholesale sexual depravity of some Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania and elsewhere were not shocking.  They didn’t shake my faith or cause me to jettison my identity as a Catholic.  The horrific sexual predator practices among scores of priests in Pennsylvania is but one of the most recent in a long-standing history of that abomination.  Not that such damnable behavior is restricted only to the Catholic clergy.

 

Catholicism to me is not an exclusive club, nor the only community whose membership enjoys favor with the Divine although church figures throughout history would beg to differ. I do not hold the Catholic clergy or their hierarchy of pretentious titles – monsignors, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, even the Pope – in any particular awe.  They are just men doing a job who tend to wear funny outfits.  Respect I give for the individual on a sliding scale depending on their dedication to service to all of us, humans and animals alike.

 

There is but one God. To me, it does not matter the flavor of believe espoused: Christianity, Islam, Protestant faith etc. with which one identifies.  (Islam is mentioned here with a figurative cautionary asterisk attached.)

 

A great lesson was taught me when my wife and I sought a cleric to preside over our marriage ceremony.  We made inquiries of a wide range of religions.  The local, Maryland Catholic priest declined.  He said our previous, less than successful forays into domestic disfunction, required the past unions to be annulled.  The idea that children even those from the worst parental pairings would be, in theory, the offspring of a newly deemed non-existent union was pretty offensive and insulting.  Even a minister whose website proclaimed theirs was a community of progressive thinking, acceptance, and quite “universal” that met in a glorified tree house said “no.”  One man, whose initials begin with “Kenn,” stepped forward. I believe his background was Baptist…and definitely former Marine.

Rev Kenn Blanchard at Duke University

Attending the event were many Catholics including two nuns.  One of the nuns approached me once the vows were made and documents signed and said that the Reverend’s service was the single most spiritual she’d ever seen.  No robes, no altars, no organs accompanying vocalists singing hymnal or Hollywood songs.  It was a spiritual event orchestrated by a true clergyman saying true words in honor of the true God.

 

So,in spite of the church and too many predators in priest clothing, I remain a Catholic but my form of worship is grounded in how I live my life, embrace others, open my heart to the companionship of those who passed before me and accept the many gifts, both positive and painful, the Divine One allows me to experience during my journey here.

Julie Golob is Wild at Heart

Julie Glob is Wild at Heart

This is the first design in a promotional tee shirt design called Wild at Heart with the superstar pro shooter, mother, veteran known as Julie Glob.  In this first rendition I chose someone I just know that is both a child of God and a multi-time world, a national shooting champion, an experienced shooting instructor, woman of the outdoors, proud US Army veteran, published author, wife and mom.

Here is how you can get one of these as a shirt or something else cool from our shop.

I got this idea to create action tee shirts based on the spirit of this ministry.  The Speak Life Church ministers to everyone seeking an honest relationship with God but we are focused on ones that live life to fullest.  For too many, churches today are reserved for the elderly or have become stagnant in dogma.  Religion is how we are comfortable in worshipping a Holy God.

I am looking forward to worshipping our Creator and the lover of our souls with others like me on the range, on the water, on two wheels and online.

Wild at Heart

I remember getting persecuted for being pro-gun in church too often as I grew in ministry.  At the same time, I know many gun owners, competition shooters, and hunters that love the Lord Jesus but don’t regularly attend church for more than one familiar reason.  I have been called to minister to God’s people regardless of what the brick and mortar churches are saying to them.

So true to form, I am back in the wilderness, where I am comfortable, using the internet to teach, preach and reach people for Christ.  I’m not alone.  God is with me.  He was in the wilderness a lot if you think about it.  He was with the Israelites, the prophets, Jesus, and John the Baptist in the wilderness.

If you would like to be considered for a tee shirt to made of you representing a follower of Jesus that is wild at heart, send me a high definition photo of you in action.

Collect all of them.  Inspire a design.  Join us.  Follow Christ.

Get Yours Here

 

The Surprisingly Simple Remedy for My Lukewarm Christian Life

Here’s an example of a podcaster using what is available in social media to reignite his passion for the Lord.  The tale of a project called Miracles & Atheists.  The surprisingly simple remedy for my lukewarm Christian life.

What do you mean, “when was I born again?”

I grew up in a church, I’ve always believed…it’s awesome that you found Jesus right before you were about to take your life, that God spoke to you as you opened the door to cheat on your wife, that you were delivered from your 10-year addiction, but I don’t have a story.

The Dilemma

I prayed for Jesus to be my Lord and Savior when I was a kid I guess, but I don’t remember being saved. What I do remember is praying that same prayer several times throughout my childhood, on 5 or 10 occasions maybe. I suppose I just wanted to make sure I was saved, but nothing happened.

The point is, I don’t have a story so don’t ask me about it, I get uncomfortable.

I don’t like being uncomfortable.

The truth is, not having a dramatic story makes me wonder whether I truly am saved. I believe, sure. At least I think I do.

But what does it really mean to believe anyway? I’m supposed to know that I know that I know I’m saved, right? That’s what the pastor says. Ok then, but how do I know for sure?

Faith is being convinced about things we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that; but am I convinced? The whole concept sort of stresses me out. Jesus tells us those who believe will cast out demons in His name, they will speak in tongues…wait tongues? What’s that all about anyway? I grew up United Methodist man, I don’t know what all this means.

Those who believe will pick up snakes with their hands and drink deadly poison without getting hurt. They’ll place hands on the sick and the sick will be healed…seriously? (Ref: Mark 16:17-18)

I certainly haven’t experienced any of that. Maybe I don’t believe then. But why not? What am I doing wrong? If I’m not saved, why am I wasting my time with church?

These are the things I struggled with during the first 38 years of my life as a lukewarm Christian.

People always used to tell me about the freedom they found in Jesus, but all I felt was condemnation. Paul says there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) so I felt confused all the time. What’s the point of it all?

My lukewarm Christian friends used to tell me not to worry about it…that I was bearing fruit, I was fine. Even so, I had a potty mouth, an adulterous heart and an empty feeling inside….continuously searching for fulfillment, for something more.

Far from freedom, I know.
The truth is I was doing something wrong. I was going through the motions: seeking after the Lord with one hand but holding onto the world with the other. I’ve learned it doesn’t work that way.

About 18 months ago I started an unexpected journey in search of making sense out of it all. It was a Sunday afternoon, where despite having three energetic kids running around the house, I found myself scrolling through a mind-numbing playlist of movies on Netflix, most of which were full of sex, violence, and self-centered living. I’d been watching too many of those lately and I needed something kid-friendly, but not a kid’s movie, I couldn’t stomach anymore of those.

I selected a documentary called “The Finger of God.” I thought to myself, “hey that’s different.” The premise of the film was to investigate why some churches were on fire for the Lord, while others were well, lukewarm, perhaps? The film’s producer, Darren Wilson, sought after churches that were seeing real-life miracles, with the goal of capturing them on film.

Before watching this movie I knew absolutely nothing about miracles. I never even thought about signs and wonders before, or that any of the miraculous things Jesus talked about still happen in the 21st century. The Holy Spirit was basically an afterthought to me.

I figured miracles were a conceptual thing, not literally something us humans here on this planet could actually partake in. But I tell you, this documentary got the wheels turning for me. I was fascinated by some of the things I was seeing: deaf people’s ears opening up, knees being healed on the spot, manna showing up in people’s Bibles. It was weird…was this the same Jesus I thought I knew?

The idea of seeing miracles stayed in the back of my mind for the next six months. I wanted to know more, but I didn’t do anything about it.

Doing something would make me uncomfortable, and I don’t like being uncomfortable.

It’s funny though, the Lord doesn’t seem to be concerned about my comfort. It’s like He has other plans for me or something…

So I figured the best thing would be to start getting into the Bible; to see what God’s Word says about miracles. Didn’t they go away? The problem was I found the Bible boring and confusing. I was going through the motions when I read the Bible and felt guilty about it. It shouldn’t be that way, having guilt didn’t feel right.

God knew I would get frustrated and blow off my Bible reading, and I did. So He put someone in my path who was well-versed in miracles, signs and wonders. I met Cale Nelson at a conference for podcasters in early 2017. We had only talked for five minutes or so, but I could see this guy was on fire for Jesus. I admired that, all the while wondering why I wasn’t on fire like he was…what was I missing, seriously?

At this point my finances were a mess and my marriage was about to fail. I was full of pride and selfish intentions. Yet, I put up a really good front. By God’s grace Cale and I kept in touch online, and after a few weeks I asked him whether he’d be interested in talking about Jesus with me more regularly.

Through Cale’s example, I learned how truly different real followers of Jesus were from the rest of the world. That scared me.
I was comfortable in my lukewarm world; I wanted to blend in.

Even so, I recognized in my search for fulfillment that I needed to make some sort of change. We all know the definition of insanity. So one of the first things I did was pray the Lord give me a hunger for His Word. If His Word truly brings life, I want to understand how.

Miracles and Atheist project

It took a few months, but the hunger I prayed for did eventually come, gradually. I made a commitment that the first thing I would do after waking up is get into the Word of God before I did anything else, even if just for five minutes. To my surprise, I actually started enjoying my time reading! For understanding, I started devouring any Christian media I could get my hands on related to miracles: audiobooks, YouTube videos, podcasts, and more documentaries.

It opened up a whole new world for me! I couldn’t believe I’d been missing out on such life in the here and now. For my whole life I’d just been concerned about not going to hell, but for the first time I realized Christ is actually inside me in the form of the Holy Spirit, I just needed to learn how to access Him.

I was sitting in church alone one Sunday morning and the pastor gave a sermon about taking risks for the Lord. He said faith had to involve some sort of risk, that without risk, it wouldn’t be faith. The message resonated with me.

I realized I had developed a fear of man. If I were to talk about my faith, to move outside my comfortable, lukewarm world it would be awkward. Talking to Cale every week was fine, but getting out into the world and being that weird Christian well, that was different.

Yet Jesus said “so everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33 ESV

Acknowledging Jesus would mean I’d have to take a risk, probably more than one, and I didn’t like that very much. On the other hand, I didn’t like going through the motions anymore either.

It was time.

A lot of Christians love to learn, but far fewer take action on what they learn. I wanted to take action.

The Lord gave me a vision of bringing atheists and believers together to talk about miracles, signs and wonders. The problem was that atheists intimidated me. They thought Christians were stupid, they talked with big vocabulary and I didn’t want them to challenge me on my beliefs. My theology wasn’t all that strong and I didn’t want to jeopardize my faith, so I stayed clear of any religious talk when I found myself in a conversation with an atheist. Nevertheless, I respected them. They weren’t like me, in that they made a decision. They didn’t question their beliefs, they just didn’t believe and moved on.

There’s something to be said for being decisive, yet I couldn’t understand why they would be willing to jeopardize their salvation. It was a fascinating worldview, and I realized I had a heart for the atheist.

So I took my first risk, I took action.
I needed to find atheists and Christians willing to have a conversation. So I put out a polarizing post on Facebook about the folly of the aggressive, Bible-thumping, “you’re gonna burn” Christian. I mentioned that I would be working on a project to address the issue. I put out the post at around midnight on an early Wednesday morning and within 24-hours, I had nearly 300 comments and 20 private messages asking me what I was doing.

My post took people by surprise, it was out of character. And it also struck a chord. The next day I found myself filled with what could be none other than the Holy Spirit. I felt like I was high! Nothing else mattered, not my finances, not my frail marriage, not the kids, nothing…just God.

It was one of the most fulfilling experiences I can remember; that day I was baptized of the Holy Spirit. I took my first risk for the Lord, and I got my first taste of real faith. Shortly thereafter I found myself laying hands on the sick, rebuking illnesses and starting to see people healed. It’s been nothing short of amazing (and a little crazy).

One week later I launched a four-hour livestream on Facebook – I call it Miracles & Atheists. The premise of the show is to facilitate a healthy dialog between atheists and believers about the supernatural. It hasn’t been easy, but incredibly fulfilling.
Piece by piece, brick by brick my faith strengthened.

Nowadays, I see my wife and kids growing in their faith. My marriage is stronger than it’s ever been and God’s handling our finances. My six-year-old is even laying hands and praying for the sick! It’s been an amazing roller coaster of a ride.

I don’t care about being the weird Christian anymore, I just want to help the lost and heal the sick.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV

I had read that verse for years, but I never knew how to truly apply it in the fray of life, until I took my first risk for the Lord. Seeking God’s kingdom first means to truly die to yourself, every day. It’s means listening to the Lord when He calls you to do something, whether you know for sure that it’s Him or not. If it’s aligned with the Word of God, you go for it.

For me, I’d already lived the first 38 years of life for myself, so I’ll go ahead and live the rest out for Jesus.

If you’re like me, you may be afraid of going all in for Jesus. You probably don’t like being uncomfortable – believe me, I don’t either! Just know that your fear isn’t from God, it’s from the enemy. Push through and take that risk! When the dust settles, don’t be surprised when that mountain moves.

Are You Spiritual or Religious?

are you spiritual or religious

Titles

How many times have you heard someone describing their faith status as being spiritual but not religious?  What do you identify as in your Christian walk?

As Christians we struggle with titles and identifying words for what we do and what we are.  Words have always been important.  They define us.  In a time where identity is topical.  What do you call yourself as related to Christianity?  Not only do we have goo- gobs of denominations but even more differences internally.

If you think about it, I bet it is because of the shortcomings you have witnessed, lived and survived as a Christian.  Have you heard the podcast?

Are you religious? Religion is our attempt at worshipping God in the manner of our preference. To be spiritual is to recognize the existence of God, angels and demons. That is not saying much, actually. Demons recognize God, they just don’t worship Him.

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. James 2:19 (KJV)

It is not secret that the concept of organized religion has come short for most people. If the truth be told we have come short of what God wants for us.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God – Romans 3:23

Our churches are imperfect because we are in it. There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people.

Are You Spiritual or Religious?

One thing about deciding if we are religious or spiritual is from our failing as a religious community is forgetting who the real enemy is. We fight each other. We fight the pastor. We fight the deacons. We fight non-Christians. We fight people that show us our shortcomings. We fight a lot for people trying to be like Jesus. The real enemy is spiritual. It is the unseen forces that inhabit our dwellings, and people in our lives. Being demon possessed sounds horrible but lets move away from the Exorcist type movies and think about what happens to us daily.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

Have you ever had a family event go south (go to hell) after it started off great? There was love and peace in the home and then without warning someone ignites a firestorm of mean spirited conversation that destroys the joy. It is often the family member that doesn’t go to church. Or how about after a guest comes over. It is not the guest necessarily but as if a presence came in with them that changed the dynamic of the event.

This event influences more people than presenting the Gospel. It is why it happens. It is demonic.

How about a home that goes from warm to cold. A day that goes from great to horrible as if a virus of evil passes through it. I submit that this is exactly what happened.
How about the church business meeting? Those are often the worse. Meetings held were we talk about everything but evangelizing, saving people from eternal death or helping someone. They are ripe for evil influences. Meetings were we are more concerned with parliamentary procedure than prayer. Prayer is more important than we realize.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have enemies in the spiritual realms. Satan and his minions hate you. They seek to stop your growth, delay your progress, kill your joy. What’s worse is you accept it on a daily basis as normal. You blame everything and everyone else.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  John 10:10

It doesn’t just happen in church or in the movies.   It happens so often we miss it. Think about family times that turn out to make you NOT want to be around those who love you unconditionally. Think about all the times we have allowed ourselves to be angered, frustrated, or whatever is the opposite of what God would prefer.

You ever had family dinner time destroyed? The family is enjoying themselves and feeling the love and thankful to God about their blessings and then it hits.

How about in the home with a child that all of a sudden disrespects you, hits a hot button of yours.

It happens in church. It splits the church. It undoes the fabric of a church congregation which is actually another family.

Let’s talk about demons in the movies. They often say snarky stuff at first. It’s funny sometimes. It is a diversion. The next level is often hurtful truths. They are not all knowing but having been around longer than we have and able to confer with other demons on stuff about us and our families that appear impressive. They use that information to push your buttons. It came shame us, or fill us up with false pride. And it is always subtle. There is no being in red with horns and a pointed tail to scare us. The monster comes only after your confront it and try to cast it out. Then you get the ugly thing that spits, fights, curses God and blasphemes.

Casting out demons is no joke. It is not for the weak in faith. Not many of us are strong enough to do it. Look at what happened to the posers that tried it in Acts 19:13-16

Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

I don’t want you running out of the house naked and wounded.

Reading Scripture the Holy Spirit cautions us that to do it successfully it must be done by someone strong in their faith, cleaned and prepared by fasting and prayer.

In the movies, The Exorcist (spoiler alert) both priest died. Prayer is still crucial for us on a day to day activity before we deal with anyone.

Suggestions:
Before your next conversation with your spouse pray.
Before your next meeting pray.
Before your next event pray.

You want to pray to rid your home of indwelling or wandering evil.
You want to pray to protect your family while home. Think of evil as a roach in your home or church. You need to fumigate it with prayer.

Call the Holy Spirit to replace what is there. That is done through prayer and praise.

Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I want to give you a title if you must have one. Instead of being religious or spiritual, how about being a follower or disciple of Jesus the Christ. There is no ambiguity or gray area there. But I must warn you there is no middle of the road answer. You are either His or you are not…

Matthew 10:33 says “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character.

Amen?

Make Good Choices a sign pointing to choices
Make Good Choices

 

 

Crank up the Christian Tunes When Working Out

woman music christian music

About 30 pounds ago, I was a fitness instructor – jumping around on the fault line in Southern California, leading people through step aerobics and high impact workouts. See, I’ve dated myself already. So now, 30 years and 30 pounds later, I’m back in the gym and one of the first things I changed about my workout? The music. I decided to add Christian tunes to my workout regime.

Cranking up the Christian Tunes

Instead of listening to metallic rock, hard-driving and fast-packed thumping music with nasty words, I’ve switched the sound system over to Christian Rock. I’m revisiting the songs from 15 years ago, when I played in a Christian band at a big Baptist church in Missouri, and I’m starting with this CD, Integrity’s iWorship, “No Boundaries. It is a 2 CD collection of 33 worship songs, including these artists – Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Israel & New Breed and more. I look forward to exploring more modern Christian music as I practice this new choice of music in the gym.

I reference Ecclesiastes 3:3: A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up.

christian tunesI like to think of it this way. As I tear down muscle fibers, to rebuild themselves, I am also tearing myself down again and listening to the words through these songs, and rebuilding myself. I am able to hear the words, think through them and leave after a workout with a stronger purpose in living the life that God wants me to live.

What are some Christian artists and songs that you do or would listen to when you work out?

Barb BairdOur friend, Barbara Baird, has been a Sunday School teacher, a concert choir accompanist at a Baptist college, a singer in church choirs and a keyboardist with Christian rock bands. She’s also a travel writer, a gun writer, a wife, mom and granny who lives in the Ozarks. She’ll contribute tips on lifestyle topics – such as travel, exercise, safety and who knows what else? Find her at Ozarkian.com and Womensoutdoornews.com.

 

 

 

 

I Love Gun People

None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church… Ephesians 5:29

When I got started in the gun community I was shocked to learn that I had as much prejudice and bias as anyone else. I had to check myself. The path from firearms instructor to minister of the Gospel, to Black Man With A Gun was not a straight line. My journey was unintentional. God often makes a straight line with a crooked stick. I love the people in the gun community, I didn’t know that when I started though. Let me share some of what happened along the way…

I started out with nothing. I still have most of it left.

I began as the evening, sexton of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Washington, DC. At the time it was a prolific and big name church in the African American community. I didn’t know any of that. I liked it because the Spirit spoke to me there. I had recently bankrupted my family, strained my marriage and changed jobs trying to become an entrepreneur. I was a burgeoning public speaker that had successfully lobbied and testified for concealed carry reform in four states. I was a gun activist. I was trying to become a paid lobbyist. I was trying to build a firearms training business that would stop accidents in the homes and make people in my community safer with the guns they owned. I was certified to qualify police, security and federal officers for armed duty.  My community wasn’t buying what I was selling.  Before concealed carry was an option in thirty-five states, I was trying to educate people.  So I put it all on hold and went to work for a church.

Every evening I opened the church, checked the place for leaks, spills, toilet cleanliness and then waited for the women of the shelter to get off work and unlock the house door for them. The church owned homes that it allowed homeless women to rent super cheap. They had to work of course and couldn’t lay around all day so the house was locked all day. I learned a lot. The choir members would come in and I would patrol the place to make sure they old ladies and the teens in the building were safe. After things got settled I sat in a little room near the door and worked on my first book, “Black Man With A Gun; People Fear What They Don’t Understand.” The title was changed by the editor.

The  church ladies loved me being there. They loved the attention I gave them. They giggled at the fact that I rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle and was in church. I was the good bad boy of the building. When asked what I was writing they thought my premise was sound. Help stop the violence. I was shocked when the book was published and a few of the deacons recoiled in horror about my book. I was the same guy. Fortunately, the old ladies still bought the book and supported me. It was there after hours that I got the chance to talk to God one on one. In the sanctuary, I would sit on the first pew and look at the cross in the few minutes before I closed the building down and lock it up and leave. It was there that I would ask the Lord what He wanted for me in my life. It was there that I praised Him for saving me, sustaining me, and protecting me from all the things I had willfully done.

My day job in the government had just changed and I was wondering if I was going to make it to retirement. I was a misfit among misfits. As an entrepreneur I was dabbling as a writer, a speaker, a private firearms instructor, a professional bodyguard and a private investigator. At work, I was a supervisor of armed police officers, a senior instructor of police tactics and facilitator of new hires. I was struggling. I got the opportunity to fly all over the country with the NRA, and the Law Enforcement Alliance of America but it didn’t satisfy the longing in my soul.

One night a family of four came to the church looking to see if it had food to give them. They were living on street, in an old station wagon. I had never met anyone like that before. I thought it unbelievable in this day in age, in America, in the Nation’s Capital, there were hungry families. I heard the church had a pantry so I asked someone and they told me it was upstairs in the church attic. I didn’t even know there was a church attic. I got the key, found the attic and saw that there was plenty of food there. I went shopping. I filled four bags of canned and boxed food and brought it down. I was met at the door and challenged by a church trustee that admonished me for giving food to drug addicts. It was in ear shot of the couple. The look on their faces was authentic. The hope they had vanished. I felt as if someone had gut punched me. The trustee took a bag from me and handed it to the woman. She took a couple of cans and threw it at the stairs in anger. The husband was angry but he bent down and picked up the food. I looked at trustee and his arrogance and felt repugnance like I have never felt in my life. Another church officer walked by and gave a nod of approval to his actions. I felt anger for the first but not last time in a church. I wanted nothing to do with these people if this was acceptable. I apologized to the couple and gave the rest of the food I had bagged and walked back into the church.

When the pastor came in that night, I told him what happened and that I was resigning. I asked him how he could work around such people. I told him I didn’t want his job. He smiled and said he accepted my resignation. I was surprised. He didn’t try to change my mind or anything. The next week was quiet for me. The trustee saw me at Bible Study and apologized. A few nights later, the Lord spoke to me again in a dream. It wasn’t the first time but I remembered all the times He had in the past and recognize the feeling of peace that comes from being in His presence. I don’t remember the conversation but I woke refreshed and with a Scripture on my lips as I opened my eyes from Isaiah 6:8.

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

After church on Sunday, I waited for the opportunity to talk to the pastor privately. Having been on staff, it was easy to navigate the building, and bypass the personalities. I was expected to be cleaning up or opening a room. When I approached the pastor in his study, he saw a look of concern on my face and asked if everything was OK with my family. I assured him everything was great actually and we were now doing better than ever.

“So what can I do for young man,” he asked. Pastor I think I have a calling on my life to minister, I said. He looked me in the eyes, and said, “Yes, you do, everyone in this church knew that except for you.”

Stunned I just stood there. Tears leaked from the corner of my eyes. Now what do I do, I asked, I am not like the other ministers here, I said. I am Harley riding, gun toting, former US Marine, that works as the CIA.

He smiled and said, the Lord called you, He knows.

That was during the time of the Y2K fears. I gave my trial and initial sermon ten days before 9-11. It was the year of change for more than just me. The Black Man with A Gun persona was created and firearms training, radio interviews happened. These was before Google, Facebook and other social media.

The Washington Times interviewed me and to push the article they wanted an eye popping picture. We took one with me holding my Kimber 1911 and a leather bound King James Bible. The deacons of the church voted to kick me out of the church and resend my license to preach but it was defeated. I didn’t learn about the secret ballot until much later.


I wondered from church to church, serving where I could. I created In The Wilderness Ministries, the Forgiven Christian Riders Motorcycle Club and ministered where I could. I did this until I was called to pastor an autocratic church in Washington, DC. It was a tough place. When I resigned from the pastorate I felt the anger, frustration and sadness many who no longer attend church feel.

I now know that the Lord allows everything to either move, teach or prepare you. I know 999 things that don’t work. I know who I am. I walk with God. He has never left me nor allowed me to screw up too bad that I couldn’t get back to the safety of His side.
I refused to conform to this world. I refused to conform to the politics of the church as we play it. I am not popular in religious circles around the city. I don’t get invitations to preach revivals, and special days. I can be called uneducated. I don’t have a doctorate of divinity. I have failed at many things but not my God. I refuse to accept defeat in serving a victorious God.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2

He called me and asked Who shall I send, I said again, Send me!

This is a new beginning. Please join me. Don’t worry if you like hunting, riding motorcycles, shooting high powered rifles, pistols and shotguns. I do too.  Don’t give up your faith. Don’t give up on having a real relationship with the Creator of the universe despite what has happened to you in this life. Don’t surrender to the voices you hear and the naysayers that are abundant in your life. Roll with me, follow Jesus, let’s do this thing together. I understand your situation. I have been on your street. I am not above you. I am just walking with the One that saved me and I want you to be with me.

To God be the glory!

 

What’s Killing Our Veterans?

veterans committing suicide

Is the reason behind the tragic suicides of our nations veterans guilt?  For the recently separated combat veterans of the US military I have noticed a common thread regarding faith. Many has lost their faith in God after witnessing death, destruction, and the sanctioned slaughter of civilians. Those that still have faith, struggle with “religion” because nobody is talking to them.

Even unbelievers have heard that the wages of sin are death. Most don’t like that reference because everyone sins.

A byproduct of sin is the feeling of guilt.

Guilt kills more people than we realize. For the recently separated combat veterans of the US military I have noticed a common thread regarding faith. Many has lost their faith in God after witnessing death, destruction, and the sanctioned slaughter of civilians. Those that still have faith, struggle with “religion” because nobody is talking to them.

“Every day, approximately 22 American veterans commit suicide, totaling over 8,000 veteran suicides each year.”

This statistic comes from the VA’s 2012 Suicide Data Report, which analyzed death certificates from twenty-one states, from 1999 – 2011. The report calculated a percentage of suicides identified with veterans out of all suicides in death certificates from the 21 states during the project period, which turned out to be 22 percent. (By point of reference, about 13 percent of U.S. adults are veterans, according to a 2012 Gallup poll.) Then the report applied that percentage against the number of suicides in the U.S. in a given year (approximately 38,000). Divided by number of days in a year, the report came up with 22 veteran suicides a day.

Most, if not all of us have felt some type of guilt in their walk of faith at some point. The only solution I have found is in the Gospel of Jesus. This is not to be confused with televangelist, the preachers of X place or the megachurch in your neighborhood. We know that real Christianity is not kosher in pop culture, society or anywhere for that matter. BUT, we are all guilty of sinning before a holy and just God. It is guilt that is behind suicides.

Most people in uniform I believe have a very high moral code. It is one of the reasons they joined the military. They came to serve. Our human moral code has a limit. If you don’t have a faith system in Christ, you have a high probability of failure.

Guilt.

We know that word. You don’t have to serve on a battlefield to identify with that monster.

In the past, Post Traumatic Stress was seen as a result of “trauma/fear overload” in combat. But now, research suggests that guilt is a key factor. According to a Marine Corps study, PTSD was found to be “more closely linked to an inner conflict rather than threats to their lives, the sight of bodies or blood or family problems.”

Who has not had some inner conflict? What if you had nowhere or no one to talk to about it?

Army Colonel Carl Castro, who is coordinating $50 million in research into suicide prevention and treatment at the Pentagon said

“The core of the issue is that it’s not that people who attempt suicide … want to harm themselves as much as they want the pain they’re currently in to stop, and they don’t see any other way out.”

The US military does try to treat service members with mental and emotional issues; but treating those individuals isn’t the main priority. Fighting wars and defending the country are. As a result, many service members fall by the wayside after they leave the service or can’t cope with the myriad stresses of military service.

So how do we combat this as a church? I believe I’ll use what worked for me, the Gospel of Jesus. I had to hear the Good Word for myself. I had t study and meditate on that Word. I had to be open to the holy Spirit. Note that I didn’t get it from any one person in church.

This guilt is exacerbated by people that are also having difficulties coping in the larger society. It is tough to receive for folks going through family issues, substance, sexual and mental abuses. Many service members have family issues that are exacerbated by lengthy deployments and separations from their families, as well drug and alcohol addictions by the military spouse, the service member, or both.

In spite of its waning popularity it is still relevant. There are many verses contained within that speak to one who is feeling guilty, or one that feels outside and in pain.

But what exactly is guilt? My definition is “feeling remorse or negatively judging yourself for things you either did or did not do, which you believe had a negative effect on someone or something else.”

I am about to die, and I cannot forget my pain. I confess my guilt; I am troubled by my sin. Psalm 38:17-18

Guilt can literally “eat away at you” like cancer.

It’s impossible to go through life without doing things we regret. But you are a spiritual being having a human experience, and you deserve to be free. Don’t think about ending your life to free yourself either. So how do you start?

First, become aware that self-forgiveness is not about condoning your past behavior or saying that what you did or did not do was okay. It’s about accepting the past as it is, knowing that it cannot be changed, and realizing that feeling guilty keeps us stuck in the past. Own it and move on.

If I can help you, I want to. I want to show you how I made it through. I want to show you that the Bible is not just another book. I’d like to be your friend.

In Christ, even the most heinous sins are blotted. Salvation is by grace, and grace forgives. After a person is saved, we will still sin, and when we do, God still promises forgiveness.

“But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1).

Freedom from sin, however, does not always mean freedom from guilty feelings. Even when our sins are forgiven, we still remember them. Also, we have a spiritual enemy, called “the accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10) who relentlessly reminds us of our failures, faults, and sins. That is the one that keeps you down we you should be up. The devil boosts your guilt and says you’re just a hypocrite if you ask for forgiveness. Don’t dwell on guilt. Seek forgiveness and help from the Lord. Pray to the Holy Spirit daily for help and trust in Christ alone.

Spiritually, sometimes God uses guilt as a form of discipline to put us back on the right path. Guilt can lead us to repentance. So feelings of guilt are a blessing, because they push us towards God. Just like physical pain drives us to find out what’s wrong, the spiritual pain of guilt causes us to seek forgiveness.

Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us. For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23–24

Put the past behind you and move forward. Instead of dwelling on your now, dwell on God’s awesome love and grace.

If you want someone to walk with you, call, email or connect me. You are not beyond help. Life is not over. You can overcome. You can have peace again. You matter.

A broken crayon still colors.

 

You have forgotten the encouragement that is addressed to you as sons: “My son, do not think lightly of the Lord’s discipline or give up when you are corrected by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he punishes every son he accepts.” What you endure disciplines you: God is treating you as sons. Is there a son whom his father does not discipline? Hebrews 12:5-7

If I made sense to you, let me know.  thanks.