Category Archives: Struggles and Trials

In Response to Another School Shooting

Our hearts break when we think of the students and parents and staff, but now that the dust is settling, and the political forces have already spoken out, I’d like to say something about the most recent school shooting.

It’s not a gun problem; it’s a heart problem.

I’ve heard all the gun control arguments, but regardless the Constitution or the right to defend oneself, the root of the problem is what should be addressed. The question should be “why?”, not “how?”

Why did this teenager want to kill his fellow students? Why did the other murderers, maniacs, and monsters want to kill people? We’ve had guns in this country long before Columbine. Heck, we used to have shooting clubs in the schools! But what changed in society? What changed in the heart of our culture?

You can take away all the guns, but you’ll still have a disease that’s going to find a way to steal, kill, and destroy. No law, no matter how strict, is going to turn a lawbreaker into a law-abiding citizen.

Until you address the heart and soul issues, your only solution will end up being totalitarian control.

When the law of God is written on the hearts of men, there’s no need for external restraints; the constraints are internal. But when the only law written on the heart is the law of Self, there’s no restraint sufficient to make a man love his neighbor.

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Filed under America, community, current events, General Observations, legalism, Life/Death, politics, Struggles and Trials

Do You Hate to Sin?

I hate it when I sin.

Some people hate to get caught, but I wasn’t caught. No one saw or heard or anything – only God.

I hate it when I sin because of the feeling it leaves, the drain on emotions, and the sense of powerlessness that leads to feelings of failure, defeat.

I hate it when I sin because I knew better! I knew better! It’s not like I didn’t know the consequences. It wasn’t like this was something I’d never before encountered. I just walked right into the sin and just committed it, just like it was the natural thing to do.

Oh, but that’s the issue, isn’t it? Nature. That battle between the redeemed and the unredeemed, the spirit and the flesh. How I look forward to the day when this tent in which I dwell is redeemed, also!

I hate it when I sin!

But you may be asking, “Aren’t you a pastor? Aren’t you supposed to be a spiritual and religious leader? How can you be talking about ‘sin’ like this? Won’t it hurt your reputation?”

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8

The Truth is in me. I’m not perfect, just forgiven.

And that’s really why I hate it when I sin; it’s because I know I’m forgiven! Yes, I’m already forgiven! I’ve been saved, justified, reborn, adopted, and have received the righteousness of Christ…and I know a little about what it took for that to happen…

“Forgiven” by Thomas Blackshear

It took the Cross! It took Calvary! It took Jesus bearing my griefs…carrying my sorrows…being stricken and smitten of God…being afflicted…being wounded for MY transgressions…being bruised for MY iniquities…accepting MY chastisement…and taking MY stripes so that I could walk away free (see Isaiah 53:4-5).

He – Jesus – did all that for me…all because of my sin…because He loves me (Romans 5:8).

But you may ask: “If you know you are already forgiven, then what keeps you from going out and sinning all you want?”

Two reasons. First, my “want to” has been changed. Second, it’s like the Apostle Paul said it: the love of Christ constraineth me (2 Corinthians 5:14). The thought of His love for me…what it took to redeem me from sin…to purchase my salvation…what He endured on that cross…the scourging He willingly accepted…it’s like ropes wrapped around me, binding me, “constraining” me.

Nevertheless, there are times when I sin. And I hate it. Romans 7:15-25 just about sums it up.

I thank God that where my sin did abound, grace…OH! What a word!…did much more abound (Romans 5:20)!

Then you may ask: “Well, if there’s more grace than there is sin to forgive, why not just keep sinning so that grace may ‘abound’ even more?”

Read Romans 6, is all I can say.

If you sin just because you can…there’s probably something major you’ve missed along the way. Maybe there’s nothing “constraining” you.

I hate it when I sin.


God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. – Psalm 51:10-13 CSB

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Filed under Christianity, grace, Love of God, Struggles and Trials, Theology

The Depth and Breadth of Suicide

I’ve written about depression and suicide in the past, as many of you know. I’ve written based on personal experience with depression and brushes with suicidal thoughts. Hopefully, some of what I’ve written in the past has made an impact and caused you to think about the issue a little more deeply.

But for what it’s worth, my experience is shallow compared to the depth of pain and sorrow an actual suicide can bring. And when you come face-to-face with what suicide can do to those who are left behind, there’s no plumb to measure how deep the wounds will go.

This morning one of my daughters (Katie) called me on the phone, hardly understandable for the convulsive weeping. A young man with whom she went to college, a young man whom she considered to be a best friend, took his own life last night, and Katie had just received the news as she was driving to work.

The question kept repeating from her lips…”Why?”

Christopher Nitzband (photo by Katie Baker)

There were no discernible warning signs. He was loved by all. I even enjoyed talking with him over lunch last week. He was about to graduate college and had already been accepted to the graduate program at George Mason University. He had everything to live for, yet he chose not to.

Why? Indeed.

The wounds will go deep, and the pain will sink deep into the crevices of many hearts. And the many? How will we know? Already there are hundreds weeping. What other ripple effects will there be from a severed relationship and a wasted life?

I want to leave you with the words from my daughter’s Instagram post. She says it better than me.

“…It’s hard to believe I won’t see him walking around campus anymore. No more walks. No more talks. No more random trips off campus. The horizon of possibilities is gone.

I’ll see you later, bud.”

The “horizon of possibilities is gone.” That’s a wide, wide loss.

My daughter’s updated Facebook cover photo.

I’m sorry for your loss, dear Katie. I’m truly sorry.

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Filed under Depression, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

Ranting About Realty

The following is a rant I’m making on my cell phone via talk-to-text. I’ve just got to get some things off my chest, even if I have to talk a lot. Forgive me.

Here we go…

Today is the day we close on a house. Oh, don’t get me wrong, however. This is not a house that we are buying; it is a house that we are selling.

Let me further clarify, the house that we are selling is not a house that we are going to be profiting from; it is part of a trust for which I am the trustee. And let me tell you, this has been more of a pain than I ever thought it would be.

Honestly, the whole process of buying and selling property, especially an older house, has been enough to make me never want to buy a house for myself! Sure, I guess if I ever get rich enough to do so, I can have other people do everything for me. However, if I have to go through all this stuff again, I might go insane! I’d rather rent, or live in a van down by the river!

Regardless, all we’ve gone through up unto this point – the day when the papers are to be signed and everything is finalized – has made me think of my future home, the one in heaven.

Just think about it for a moment. Up there we won’t have to deal with contractors, sales people, home inspectors, and realtors. There will be no commissions, no closing cost, no concessions, no negotiations, no allowances, and no last-minute repairs before anyone can move in.

No, when I finally get to move into my heavenly home, I won’t have to worry about a title company getting my name spelled correctly, collecting all the keys and garage door openers, or signing on any dotted lines. I won’t have to worry about any upkeep, any unfulfilled promises, or property taxes (hallelujah!). When I get home, it will be my home, bought and paid for by my heavenly Father!

And I won’t have to sign any more contracts, or revisions, or even more revisions of more contracts… My name has been written in the Lambs Book of Life, and that’s all that matters.

I’m through ranting, now.

Be blessed, y’all 🙂

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Filed under General Observations, Struggles and Trials

Obamacare (Affordable Care) Reality

For your information…

Today I am starting my first day of physical therapy for my shoulder (a month after rotator cuff surgery).

Being that it’s the first month of the year, and since I’ve not yet used my health insurance, here is what I’m looking at.

Up to 26 visits this year.

Each visit costs $100.

Insurance will pay 50% of each visit, up until my total out-of-pocket expense of $6,000. That’s six thousand.

So, just for 26 visits (if I go) I pay $1,300.

And all that for a policy that covers my two girls and me…

For $1,700 a month… for the “silver” plan.

$1,700 a month.

Thank you, Obama.

Truly affordable.

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Filed under current events, fitness, General Observations, politics, Struggles and Trials

“If You Could Pick Your Dream Career…”

In my last post, I gave you an update regarding my shoulder surgery and a head’s up about a job interview. Let me tell you a little about the interview.

The Interview

First of all, I am not at liberty to tell you where I had a job interview, at least I’d rather not at this point. I feel it’s best to keep a possible future employer’s name out of the conversation and off the internet; I’m not sure how they’d appreciate it, and I’d hate to jeopardize anything.

Let me just say that I met with several people during my interview, each one representing a different department in the company, including a person from their HR department. The atmosphere was intended to be low-pressure and rather casual, but it did start off a little stressful, at least for me. It was the first job interview I’d been on in a long time and the first time with an employer of this size, so it took a few moments to find my stride.

But after a few moments, not long after introductions and the first question or two, I was able to settle into some confident conversation. Since I was not there to be quizzed on my knowledge of their company or industry, only to be questioned about myself and my abilities, I did my best to present the best version of me I could. If I was the product being sold, I think I sold myself well.

The Question

Now, there was this one question they asked that really brought out some passion. The Human Resources lady asked, “If you could pick your dream career, no limitations or restrictions, what would it be?”

I didn’t have an immediate answer. I was at a loss for words.

Even now I can’t think of anything akin to a “dream job,” at least not one like what you might think. I mean, to be honest, I am doing what I want to do – I’m a pastor! All things considered, there’s nothing else I really dream about doing.

You’re probably wondering if I’m already a pastor, then why would I look for something additional to do? A simple answer is that I want to provide for my family, and sometimes – if not most of the time – little churches don’t have the means to do that.

Is my “dream job” a big church? No, not at all. I’m really happy to be where I am.

So, what was my answer?

“I want to make a difference.” When I die, I want to be missed. I want to know I’ve made an impact on people’s lives. And should it be possible to make a lot of money doing that, I could live with it, sure.

Then I narrowed it down a bit. I said, “I love to teach…I love to see the look on someone’s face when they get it.”  I love to take something complicated and make it simple. My perfect job is one where I can create passion in others so they can do the best they can at what they do.

A gentleman then asked if I thought I could stand before a group of 200 drivers…from all walks of life, with varying degrees of desire and commitment…and convince them of the importance of understanding “driver fatigue.”

“Absolutely,” I replied with a grin. Then I explained how.

Keep Praying (and giving)

I do appreciate the well-wishes and prayers so many of you have offered. Should I be hired for the position being considered, believe me, life would be a little more comfortable and less stressful; it would be a game changer, for sure.

I’ve yet to receive any feedback from the interview, but when I do I will certainly let you all know. Just keep praying God’s will be done.

Remember, because of my surgery, it’s now been over a month that I’ve been out of work. If you would like to help alleviate the financial burden we are under, please consider going to the sidebar and clicking the Paypal donation button.

Every little bit helps.

In the meantime, I’ll just continue being the one-armed pastor of a little church where God is doing great things! 🙂

P.S. At one point I did say, “Being the President would be a good gig, but it only lasts eight years, so…” 😉

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Filed under current events, ministry, Struggles and Trials

It’s Going to Be a Good Year

Happy 2018!

It is the afternoon of the first day of 2018, and I am looking forward to what’s ahead. I can only hope what lies ahead are things that will bring me happiness, but I can’t assume; some of the things that bring us the most joy are not always the things that initially brings us much happiness.

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to being happy more often than not. I mean, even in the hard times and through seasons of disappointment, do we not have a choice? Can we not find a way to rejoice in the positive instead of dwelling on the negative?

For example, when I left the surgeon’s office the other day after getting stitches out of my shoulder, one of the nurses spoke to me. As I passed by with my arm in a sling, probably a little pale from the stress of it all, he asked, “Are you doing OK?” I paused, looked back, and replied,

“You know, there are people in the world who have to use their toes to brush their teeth. I don’t have to do that, so I guess I’ll be OK – it could be worse.”

And that’s really it, isn’t? Most of the things we complain about are really nothing more than first-world problems. Most of our unfulfilled dreams and expectations could be traced back to desires that most of the world would find laughable, if not absurdly immoral. Most of you who are reading this could be much worse off than you are in every area of life, everything from finances to relationships, or from health issues to housing issues.

Heck, if you didn’t have to ride an hour on an unsafe, crowded bus in 90-degree weather, all just to get to a place where you could stand in line to get access to a computer and internet, then you are automatically better off than hundreds I saw do just that in Zimbabwe.

I have a Savior who loves me and wants to commune with me, even when I forget He’s there. I have a God who is there every morning before I wake, painting a one-of-kind sunrise just for me! I am able to witness and experience the incredible complexity of nature, all with senses designed to recognize them and give glory to their Creator! I am blessed!

So, this is going to be a good year! I just know it! All it will take is recognizing what I have, as opposed to what I don’t have. I could even go a step further and recognize what I don’t have, as opposed to what I could be enduring.

This is the [YEAR] that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be GLAD (i.e., happy) in it! – Psalm 118:24

Our newest game – a cashless “Monopoly.” Scary, really.

….even if in the first game of the year I play with my youngest daughter, Haley, she completely decimated me and obtained complete control of everything. Good for her! 😉

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Filed under Future, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials, the future