Sunday, October 12, 2014

Suicide … How many more lives will be lost?

Again and again I hear of pastors and Christian leaders that have choose to end their own lives. I remember an incident that happened when I was a young preacher in the town where I grew up. A pastor shot himself in the head in his office holding his Bible. This happened only a few hours after he was confronted by the church leadership over an affair that they had discovered he was having with one of his parishioners. Believing that his ministry and marriage were over, he chose to take his own life instead of coping with the shame and guilt. Some would say that his action was honorable; others would call him a coward.

However, we don’t know what this pastor was thinking about that gave him permission to take his own life. And just like today, as we continue to hear the news of pastors/ministers committing suicide, we really don’t know what they are thinking. Sadly, the culture of the church not has created a way for clergy to share the fears and hardships they are struggling with.  Many pastors who have been put on a pedestal fall, and then do not know how to properly address the shame, guilt, or humiliation they have caused, with the very people that had elevated them.

Over the years I have heard dozens of stories by Pastors, Ministers, and Lay people in the church that have expressed the thought of giving up or quitting; some of them have even said they had considered suicide. However, they were able to find an alternative to the permeant solution that they had considered. They used the steps of the acrostic: TALK

Tell someone what you are thinking
Ask someone for help
Listen to what people share to help you
Keep focused on the positive

And Choose Life

            Today we should be encouraging our pastors/ministers to choose life by providing a safe place for them to TALK where they may engage openly within a fellowship of caring pastors who encourage and help them walk through traumatic experiences.

            I have been involved in ministry for over 35 years and have been hurt by a lot of people. Ironically, no one has hurt me more in the church than other pastors. There are probably a thousand reasons why pastors commit suicide, but I think the main reason is that other clergy did not or did not know how to support and encourage them daily. I can’t answer for you pastor, but I can ask myself:
Do I give others the freedom to tell me what they are thinking?

Am I willing to provide help when they ask, and do I hear/see the non-verbal cries for help?
Do I really listen to what they share with me, or I’m too busy focusing on the next sermon or big program at my church?
Am I tearing them down instead of building them up?

Pastors, it is time we focus on Life and help others in the ministry to do so today.

Three simple challenges!

Call a pastor and encourage him in his role as a minister!
Ask a pastor to how he is doing, and then really listen to what he says!
Commit to praying for 12 pastors in your area that you know personally. Ask God to encourage them and to allow you to influence them for LIFE!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Heroin use on the rise and destroying lives!


Having lived in the Greater Cincinnati/Tri-State area for the past 28 years, I have seen the challenges of our communities to combat the drug epidemics that have come through our region.  Over the 23 years I have been active in what I’m hoping is making an impact on the drug problems/epidemic throughout our region as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor.  A recent article in the Cincinnati Enquire I believe accurately tells the story of the Drug Epidemic in 2014.

In the past 23 years I have counseled thousands of individuals that are struggling daily with an addiction either to such things as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, diet pills, benzo’s (Xanax and Valium) and many other drugs. However, I have not seen a drug that has torn through the very fiber of our society as Heroin has over the past 5 to 7 years.  The following tragic re-wording Psalm 23 by an anonymous heroin addict set the reality for the current drug crisis today!

King Heroin
"King Heroin Is My Shepherd, I Shall Always Want."
"King Heroin is my shepherd, I shall always want.
He makes me to lie down in the gutters."
"He leads me beside the troubled waters.
He destroys my soul.
He leads me in the paths of wickedness."
"Yes, I shall walk through the valley of poverty and will fear no evil for you, heroin, are with me."
"Your needle and your capsule comfort me."
"You strip the table of groceries in the presence of my family."
"You rob my head of reason.
My cup of sorrow runs over."
"Surely heroin addiction shall stalk me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the damned forever."

            What has become even more ironic to me is the denial within the church today that drugs and especially heroin are a serious problem. This continual delusion that the young people and adults in our churches are not addicted and the fact that pastors honestly believe it. I sadly understand parents loving their children, or how they could, for a short time, be in denial. However, the reality is that it is time to wake up and smell the roses. The National Institute for Drug Abuse reports that over 1.6% or nearly 4 million people over the age of 12 reported using Heroin at least once.  Heroin being cheap has not helped with this national epidemic. However, if we add in the use of other opiates such as OxyContin, Vicodin, other drugs with an opiate/morphine base, the numbers become much higher

            There continues to be a high risk for overdose when an individual uses Heroin or other opiate substances, and the potential for dependency is very high.  Results or effects from using are generally slow and shallow breathing, blue lips and fingernails, clammy skin, convulsions, coma, and possibly death.

            What now … it is time for parents, church leaders, and the community to overcome the denial that has kept us from being a resource for success in recovery that are effected by the use of Heroin or other opiate drugs. What are the signs? Missing pills from prescription bottles in the home, behavioral changes, loss of interest in school, extracurricular activities and friends, often appears to have excessive sleepiness (because opiates are sedatives), requesting or spending money with nothing to show for it, needle marks or unseasonable long-sleeved shirts to cover them up (this is not an exhaustive list). Opiate users eventually build up tolerance to the drugs, so they need increasing amounts to achieve the same effects.

            As a parent: It is essential that we get over the mindset of what will be thought of me? It is time to intervene, ask questions, and find the truth. As a parent it is often times better to ask the tough questions and be wrong, than not ask any question and be totally right that they were using and find out too late. Recommend a treatment program for them, either inpatient or outpatient depending on the individual. Some will require short term help and make a great recovery plan, others will need ongoing support. Call your insurance company for recommendation, call the local hospital, and call Narcotic Anonymous. They all have great resources to help you find help.


            As a church: It is essential that we pull our head out of the sand, and provide as many resources as possible. Sadly, praying at the altar is not going to be enough for most Heroin/Opiate addicts. The ability to provide counseling (if you have some knowledge) or develop a great resource list is the key to helping them recover. It will also take realizing that it is going to take the addict, family, church, and community working together to help them find the tools to not use.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A look @ what has been accomplished over the past 11 years!

Through HIM Ministries
A look @ what has been accomplished over the past 11 years!

We founded Through HIM Ministries officially in April of 2003, after returning from New York City working with individuals affected by the events of September 11, 2001.

Since then we have seen God bless and allow us to have the following accomplishments Through HIM!
·         We currently maintain two blogs
o   With over 8700 views
o   With People viewing from 63 countries

·         We have published
o   64 workbooks/study-guides
o   With a conservative estimate of over 60,000 download, views, and reads.
§  Keeping in mind that several of ours sites that we have downloaded the material to do not keep records, and we have found several sites that have chosen to download our material to their sites without our permission. (So be it, we simply say to God be the glory)
o   We have received e-mails as well as comments on Facebook and LinkedIn from pastors in Africa, India, Pakistan, Philippines, and other places as well thanking us for the material.

·         We have presented workshop/seminars
o   Have spoken breakout sessions at men’s conferences such as @ Iron Sharpening Iron, Flashpoint Men’s Conferences.
o   Spoken a several men’s retreats and conferences with local churches.
o   Have spoken professional in conferences on addictions, and grief.
o   Have preached in several dozen churches over the years.

·         Founded Through HIM School of Ministry
o   With three courses currently online

·         Have built an online web connection network
o   With over 7000 connection between Facebook, LinkedIn, and other connections


How can we a blessing to you?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Am I Standing strong for my faith?

Am I standing strong for my faith? What are you going to do, when it is illegal?

The news is full of stories that remind us of the book of Acts were we read several accounts of individuals being persecuted for their faith, and ironically it is almost always done in the name of religion.  History has continued to be full of men and women that have died for their faith, their unwillingness to compromise their belief in God.  Wether it was the Jews of the Old Testament that wouldn’t bow to the idle of the conquering nations, the martyrs in the Roman coliseum, to the Chines or Russian believers in atheistic nations that have turned their back on God, or those that follow the Islamic Shariah laws.  Please don’t misunderstand me, I have read church history and the Christian churches have had their share of bloodshed and persecution to mandate someone to believe in God. Regardless of who is doing the persecuting it is wrong, every individual worldwide should have the choice of accepting or rejecting the Savior Jesus Christ.

I recently read an article on the net, that to be honest did not shock me! Check it out @ http://news.yahoo.com/sudanese-woman-sentenced-death-apostasy-123904046.html

For me the question is not if this could happen within the United States, the question is when? I’m not sure if it will be Islamic Shariah laws, the Atheistic Agenda to remove Christianity from American culture like they attempted in China and Russia, or if it will be anyone of a number of influence that will put Christians on a collision course with death.

There is a cop show that has the song “Bad boys, bad boys, what you going to do when they come for you?” … At some point in the not too distant future Christians are going to be considered the BAD BOYS & GIRLS, what are you going to do when they come for you?

There are simply two options:
  1.  Acknowledge Christ and Savior, and live your life for Christ and be punished and in some cases even die for the faith that lives within you. Knowing that as you kneel before persecutors you will kneel before Christ in Heaven with all his glory around you.
  2. Recant, and claim that everything you believed and shared about Christ was a lie.  Reject the eternity of Heaven, the loving touch of Christ, the compassion of Christ at the Cross, the Victory over death at the empty tomb.

It is sad to say but the government, the watch groups, the United Nations, or any other organization around the world that you are trusting in are not going to be able to prevent the coming judgment or persecution in fact if the truth be known most of these including your own government and the United Nations could carry out the agenda of removing the Christian influence and testimony from that vary foundation that we hold dear.
The famous preacher of one of America’s first Mega churches (at one time running over 10,000) in America in the late 1800’s D.L. Moody would say, the thing he feared most was that 50% of his congregation would split Hell wide open. The reality of today is that I would have the same fear.  The church of American has NO FEAR of persecution, no reason to defend their faith. However, the day is coming when REAL Men and Women of Christ will have to stand and proclaim with a loud voice “I’m a Christian until death”
What do we need to do?

·         Pray for those that are being persecuted. PRAY for our leadership around the country that they would stand for the faith they claim they represent. And that Christ will give you the peace and understanding to share your faith daily, so that others will spend eternity with you in heaven.

·         As pastors and member of the Body of Christ what do we need to do? We need to Preach a clear salvation message without comprise, Teach the Body of Christ to defend and share their faith effectively around the world, and encourage the Body of Christ to live a life that is a reflection of what Christ did for them at the day of salvation.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tragedies and more tragedies ....

I can’t help but look to heaven and ask why? There seems to be so many tragedies recently from airplanes crashing, to ferry’s capsizing, bus crashes, and countless other stories around the world of dozens and even in some cases hundreds dying.  I realize that the news media (24 hour/7 day week) coverage plays a role in how we react to the news of death.

I have spent my entire adult life serving in the church, as a pastor, associate pastor, children’s pastor, men’s leaders, and college instructor. Helping people in crisis is difficult at any time, when a family member or friend dies after a long health related illness, we ask questions. When a young person commits suicide we look for answers.  When a plane crashes or ship sinks we demand answers.  Sadly, many times there is no good or acceptable answer. What there is; are frustrations, anger, resentment, denial, and multitude of others emotions that are so common of people in crisis and coping with a personal tragedy.

As pastors and ministers we are generally the first called when one of these tragedies strikes a family within our church or community. How we respond will determine much of how God will be viewed throughout the grief process and recovery process.  I have sat with many of family members, church members, and community members, watching other pastors with the bedside manors of a lion or bear (I have a few other words I thought of but, they are not really nice). My heart breaks for the family, as this pastor/minister opens his mouth and talks with no compassion or understanding of the human heart or need’s.  I often wonder what were they taught in Bible College or Seminary, or who showed them how to minister during these time.
If I could sit with pastors around the world today and share my heart, it would be these three simple things that I learned over the past 35 years of ministry, helping folks deal with a crisis from a sick child, loss of a parent, and destruction of property, to responding to a crisis at a school, or crash site.

1) Silence is a virtue, people want someone to listen to them cry and weep. Allowing them to vent and ask questions, process their emotions, and find answers in the compassion and love we share, as we simply sit with them.

2) Sharing should always be honest and positive. In the case of crisis hold out hope with them. I recently sat with a pastor that was ministering to a family of sick child, and he asked what are your plans for the funeral? Yes the patient was terminal, and there was little hope on the doctor’s part. However, as pastor we should help them focus on the positive of Christ love, and the possibility of Christ mercy, at the same time helping them prepare for God ending grace.

3) Serving Christ should be the most important task. I’m convinced that sharing Christ is my most important task, showing Christ mercy, love, and compassion is first and foremost in my focus throughout the time.

These three simple thoughts keep me focus, as I’m in the hospital, a family home, an emergency shelter, standing on the street corner, or at a crash site. I always have to remember “it is not about me, it is about them, finding peace in Christ love through a time that there is no answer that makes sense except Christ”.  However, in these times they need us to pray, encourage, have faith with them, that there is comfort in HIM (Christ),

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Is there a Balance between an Awesome God and Mental Health?


Is there a Balance between an Awesome God and Mental Health?

             I sit in my office and deal daily with patients that have dual-diagnosis; they suffer from addictions to alcohol, crack, pot, and any number of substance and life controlling problems.  However, that is not the worst of it, some also struggle daily with the problems of mental health issues.  Issues such as depression, anxiety, post trauma stress disorder, Bi-polar, and this list could go on.

            Each of these issues in there own right could cause serious life problems for the individual.   They cause arguments, miscommunication, frustration, anger, resentment, and who knows how long this list could be.  Family members want the individuals to just do what is right, get over it, pull themselves up and move on, don’t sit around an mope all day.  The individual has a sense of confusion, why am I this way?  But the despair and inability to kick these feeling just keeps looming overhead, and frustration and confusion are the norm of the day.

          I talk with family members that believe that I along with others in the health care community are the miracle worker of the century, that we can tell them it’s OK and it will change.  If a family member enters treatment for a few weeks, and goes to a few meetings they will all get better.  The sad part is that at one time I believed this too.  I have spent over 20 years in pastoral ministry serving from the children’s pastor, youth pastor, to the pastorate.  I visited church member at the psychiatric wards, and had no clue why they were there.  The doctor would describe symptoms and diagnosis such as Bi-Polar, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, even something called depression.  I remember visiting the psychiatric ward of Children’s hospital, and them describing Attention Deficit Disorder, depression, and separation anxiety disorder.

I would leave confused, because in my mind I serve an Awesome God, who could and would heal if these people would just pray and believe.   Twenty years ago I entered the Chemical Dependency field as a counselor.  I began to develop and understanding of addiction and the mental health of individuals.  As my counter parts within the faith-based community I continued to struggle with mental health issues.  Then one day I sat with a very special individual that taught me the power of God.  He shared the story of the Apostle Paul praying three times for God to remove the thorn from his life.  God’s reply was “My Grace is Sufficient for you.”   As he continued, he shared a very interesting point, Paul never states what the thorn is, therefore, we can place our thorns or burden there and remember “Gods Grace is Sufficient for me.”   He took me back many years ago at the age 19 when my personal family Doctor diagnosed me with arthritis, and I have been on medication for years, does that make my faith any less?  God grace continues to be sufficient for me to continue to walk and function in a normal manner even when it hurts.

That individual has been one of my dearest friend, and remains one my mentors for in the field of counseling.  I’m learning that “God Grace is sufficient” to help individuals that suffer from any mental health issue.  I now have the privilege to serve as Assistant Minister and as a Substance Abuse Counselor, working with a number of patients in my counseling position that bring this long list of dual-diagnosis with them to treatment.  The ironic thing is as pastor’s we work with individuals that may have mental health issues, without knowing it.  We sit sorting through the emotional baggage that has taken them on a ride of destruction.  Today, I still believe without reservation that “God is an Awesome God.   However, now I look at the mental health profession with the same respect and admiration as I do the medical professional.  I have seen first hand the effects of medication for treating anxiety disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 Research has shown that some mental health issues are a result of chemical imbalance within the brain.  Some within the faith-community would like to debate this issue, and place all issues of mental health within the spiritual realm.  If they would only pray and trust God.  However, we have seen from brain scans, and research done by both the medical community and mental health community that there are some biological causes that can contribute to mental health issues.

I have seen people sit and communicate with a therapist of their choice and begin the process of making sense of what is happening in their life.  I personally feel that most mental health issues a person address is the result of events that have happen in the past and the individuals current inability to sort thorough them without help.  The individual that struggles with depression and loneliness, as a result of a father leaving the home at young age.  They function normally most of the times, but events happen and they become depressed due to their concept of loss.  Or the individual that have what is called Anti-social personality and can’t get along with anyone because, as a child mom passed away, and everyone else helped dad raise the child, and boundaries are not a word he likes to hear. The feeling that society gave him a raw deal is now reason to make everyone else’s life miserable.

What do we do?  If I had that answer, I would write a book, do the talk show circuit, and become famous.  But honestly don’t see that all happening.  What I see is individuals within the professional community of mental health, and the faith-community coming together to help people to find solutions and skills to cope with these major issues in their life.  Mental health is not about individuals being crazy, it about individuals that need a loving and awesome touch from God, and a helping caring hand from family and friends.  With the additional help of whatever resource weather it is a medical doctor with medication, professional psychologist with years of training in mental health issues, or a pastor that just loves them where they are.  Together we can and will make the difference.

 

 

 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ethics is always easy!

Ethics is not always easy!


David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church, was convicted recently for embezzling twelve million dollars. Evidence was presented, witnesses were heard, and disagreements were voiced about court room procedure. I am disheartened that I am subjected to only the opinions of the various news media and their biases.
Several well-known pastors have focused on just the greed aspect of this case in articles they’ve written or in their blogs. I believe that they have left out an important aspect of this case: ACCOUNTABILITY, as in the ethics of our actions and behaviors within the ministry and all the relationships within that ministry. The past is littered with these types of cases where a minister goes astray, becomes unaccountable to his ministry, and destroys many relationships. This is a very scary thought that is described in scripture.
Accountability is not only required of all ministers in the financial aspect of the church, but in what is viewed on the internet, the choices of where to eat dinner, and the company we keep.  Ethics is defined as: “the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group or culture.  Many Christians would argue, and maybe rightfully so, that the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament make up the Ethics and moral fiber of how ministers should conduct themselves.  However, one thing that I have personally learned from over 30 years of ministry, and watching too many ministers fall in shame, is that IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT ETHICS AND ACCOUNTABILITY BECOME THE CENTRAL VIEW OF THE CHRISTIAN WALK.
Who does the scripture show that we are to be accountable to?  I believe there are four essential people that need to be accountable to in order to maintain an Ethical view in life.
1)      God is at the top of the list …
a.       To me, this is a no brainer. I have to maintain a clear understanding of His scripture, and spend daily time in prayer and Bible reading focusing on what is right and ethical in His view.
2)      To your family …
a.       I believe that the reason we see many ministers fall prey to the attacks of the enemy and fail ethically in their ministry is they forget they are account to their wife and children.  God has called us to not neglect our family.
3)      To your pastor …
a.       I have the privilege of severing the majority of my 30 years in ministry as an Associate Pastor, under some awesome men of God.  I have found both in my personal life and ministry that when I become accountable to their vision and ethically submit to help them accomplish it, God’s blessings are amazing.
4)      To your accountability partner …
a.       Every man and especially pastor should have an ACCOUNTIBILTY PARTNER.  Ethically this accountability partner should be a man or woman if you are a women.  They should be mature in their Christian walk, they should share your interest in being Ethical and accountable to each other and God. They should be open and honest with each other.  A friend of mine tells me this accountability partner (fellow pastor) has permission to tell him straight up “You’re really stuck on stupid with this one” … meaning his friend can be honest, no matter what.
 Friends, the question is really simple: who are you accountable to? Who do you explain your actions to and get valuable feedback? If you currently don’t have someone in your life that you’re accountable to (today) now is the time to find someone. 
Enough with pastors and minister going it alone, and failing ethically.  Ladies/Gentleman, Not only must you be ethical in your thing and behavior, you are accountable for your reputation, family, ministry, and relationship with God.  Are they not worth more than your ego?