The Armorbearer?

About six years ago, I posted a guest-post by H. B. Charles, Jr., entitled: Armorbearer is NOT a Biblical Church Office. In that article, Pastor Charles relates an encounter he had with a pastor’s chief armorbearer. He also stated his thoughts about the concept of armorbearers in the church. Well, I hadn’t given much additional thought to the subject until recently. Not long ago, I declined an invitation to teach in a seminar at a church. The reason I declined was because the seminar was about: “Equipping Armorbearers for Service in the Local Church.” Not long after that, I happened to overhear a conversation between two people where one proudly boasted of the fact that he had been his pastor’s armorbearer for over six years! And then, more recently, a guest pastor, visiting where I serve, was escorted by another gentlemen, whom I had previously known to be a deacon. As we sat chatting in the study, me with my naïve self, said to the brother; “Hey man, I didn’t know you were preaching now! When did this happen?” To which he replied, “Oh no! I’m not a preacher; I am the pastor’s armorbearer!”

I’m sorry! Maybe I’m just too old-school! But I can remember, up until about 20 years ago, there were NO ‘armorbearers’ in Black churches, especially Black Baptist churches! (There were no bishops in Black Baptist churches either, but that’s a discussion for another post!) Where did this ‘armorbearer’ concept come from? Well, after I declined to teach at the ‘armorbearer’s seminar,’ and after re-reading Dr. Charles’ post, I decided to take another more in-depth look at what the Bible says about the subject.

The ancient Hebrew armorbearer was a man (I would assume preferable young and strong, since he literally carried the king’s or general’s metal armor, along with his own sword and shield) who would accompany the one he served (a king, general, or superior army officer) into battle. The term; ‘armourbearer’ is found 18 times in the KJV; all in the context of a war battle and all in the Old Testament. Now, I can see where there may be applicable parallels. The preacher/pastor can, in a sense, be styled as a general, leading the forces (church) of the Lord into battle against sin and Satan, with the Bible being his sword. The Apostle Paul did say, in Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (KJV) He says in verse 17: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (KJV) Okay! I see the armor and I see the sword and the shield! But wait a minute! Paul was talking to every believer, not just the preacher! And Paul said for ‘us to put on’ the whole armor of God, he didn’t say anything about someone carrying it for us!

But even more than that, think about the character of the One we claim to follow. Paul writes in Philippians 2:5-7: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” (KJV) After a dispute among his disciples as to which one of them should be accounted the greatest, we read: “And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 ESV) It would seem to me that, in view of the words and character of Jesus, the idea of a pastor having a personal valet, butler, personal attendant, chauffer, Bible- handkerchief-carrier-sweat-wiper is totally contrary to the spirit of Jesus! I’m sorry, but I just can’t envision the Jesus I read about in the Gospel having an armorbearer!

I recognize that some might suggest the position of armorbearer as a means of teaching submission and honor, but it seems, as it is practiced by most I encounter, to be demeaning for the armorbearer and ego-inflating for the pastor/preacher! We would better serve the church and her Lord by teaching people, not to particularly serve the pastor, (Who by Jesus’ definition, is the servant of all! Many pastors these days got it twisted: The pastor is called to serve, not to be served!), but rather to serve the Lord by serving one another!

Now, I realize there are many who will not agree with my position (they will mostly be the ones who have armorbearers or who serve as armorbearers), but my conscience dictates I speak what I perceive to be biblical truth. My aim is not to offend or upset, but rather to encourage a focus on what’s really important! Although I declined the invitation to teach in the ‘armorbearer’s’ seminar, I would have gladly accepted an invitation to not only teach, but even to just participate in a discipleship training seminar! That’s more in line with what Jesus actually told us to do: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

A Bad Reaction To A Broken Promise

My 20th  pastoral anniversary at the New Hope Baptist Church in Covington, GA is coming up in about a month or so. Consequently, the wife and family are all excited and compelled me to go shopping for a some new clothes for the grand occasion. It was while my wife and I were doing some shopping that we encountered a situation that got me to thinking about how insensitive we have become as a society.

A customer came in, who had apparently made a purchase the day before. Apparently, the store didn’t have everything he wanted, because there was an item that was to be delivered the next day between 4 and 6 pm. Well, when the customer came in, apparently there had been some miscommunication with the store clerk the day before, because he was expecting to pick up his completed order. When he asked for his merchandise, the clerk told him that he had informed him the day before that the rest of his order would not be in until sometime between 4 and 6. At this point, the customer said that the clerk had not informed him of that time period. (At the time of this discussion, it was about 3:00 pm). At which point the clerk, of course, said that he had indeed told him. Well, about this time, the customer was getting a little upset because apparently, he had a flight to catch for a wedding out of town the next day and needed the items he purchased before he left for his flight.

Now, you may be asking of me at this point: “How do you know all of these details?” I know them because the customer was upset and loud and had informed the clerk (and everybody else in the store) that if he did not have his order by the time he had to leave for his flight; there would be trouble! Now, I don’t know how the clerk took it, but from the tone of voice in which the customer said it;  I took it as a personal threat! Granted, the customer had paid his money! Granted, the clerk (may or may not have) promised the merchandise would be in the store at a certain time. But, since when is it acceptable to verbally abuse someone in the manner in which the customer did? The clerk even went so far as to get the customer’s address with a promise to deliver the clothes personally to the customer’s home when they arrived at the store!

Now, I can understand the customer’s frustration, but I think his reaction was unwarranted! First of all, he brought this pressure upon himself because he should not have waited so close to the date of his departure before he made his purchase-order! Secondly, If the clerk had indeed told him the clothes would be back between 4 and 6, then why was he raising such a fuss at 3:00 pm? And even if the clerk did give him a specific time, the merchandise was being delivered by a courier, who had to navigate through Atlanta traffic! Only God would know exactly when the merchandise would actually make it to the store!

My point is this: Just because someone has paid for a service, that doesn’t give them the right to use verbal abuse because of a perceived failure of promise! This scenario is just a typical example of where we are as a society! People are so stressed-out that any little inconvenience sets them off! But there was one good thing that came out of this situation! My mother used to say; “You can draw more flies with honey than with vinegar!” My wife must have also known that saying because she went out of her way to be extra nice to the clerk! As a result, when we finished with our selection and the clerk was ringing us up; he gave us a thirty percent discount for our patience and understanding! As we were leaving the store, we thanked the clerk for the discount and in my mind, I thanked the irate customer as well! However, I really hope the clerk survives the situation in one piece because I need to pick up the rest of my order next week!

The Seed

When you ask God for an apple, don’t be so disappointed or surprised when He gives you a seed! But why would God give a seed instead of the fruit? Because the blessings of God are usually delivered in seed-form. Why? Because the fruit is the end-result. The fruit is mature and cannot grow or expand anymore. It is the nature of any fully ripe fruit to be perishable and if not soon consumed, will soon began to decay!

On the other hand, a seed has unlimited potential and an almost unlimited self-life! You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the apples in a seed! A fully ripe apple will only last for a limited amount of time before it starts to decay. But an apple seed has a much longer life span and unlimited potential.

If God only gave us what we ask for, our lives would be so limited. But, in God’s infinite wisdom, God knows we really don’t know what to ask for, so He does exceedingly, abundantly above all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). However, we often fail to recognize, appreciate, or appropriate the exceeding, abundant, above supply of God because it is usually delivered in the form of a seed. So, the next blessing you receive and you think it is not enough, it’s probably not a fruit for you to eat, but rather a seed for you to plant!

Sleep: The Practice of Death and Alternative Reality

Have you ever considered the fact that every time we go to sleep, we are in a sense, dead to the world? I mean, think about it: When we are asleep, we are not aware of anything that is happening around us, and life as we know it, goes on without us! When we are asleep, we do not participate in any of the activities or functions of people who are awake! When we are asleep, we are totally unaware of the world around us. So, in a sense, when we are asleep; we are dead!

However, during sleep, while we may be ‘dead to the world,’ we are by no means in a state of total unconsciousness! The medical community says we don’t go to sleep without dreaming. I read one report that said everyone is thought to dream 3 to 6 dreams each night with each dream lasting from 5 to 20 minutes! The report also said that about 95 percent of the dreams are forgotten by the time a person gets out of bed and that dreaming can help a person learn and develop long-term memories.

Think about it! Not only are we dead to the world every time we go to sleep, but also, every time we go to sleep, we participate in and experience an alternate reality! Yes! We participate and experience! The report said; we don’t remember 95 percent of our dreams, but the 5 percent we do remember often have a lingering effect upon us after we wake up! Have you ever had a dream that you were falling and you woke up in a cold sweat; screaming and clutching the sheets? If you were not alone, someone probably assured you that everything was all right and that you should go back to sleep because it was ‘only a dream.’ But when you were experiencing it, it didn’t ‘feel’ like it was ‘only a dream’ to you! It wasn’t like you were in a movie theater or just watching television. No! You weren’t merely watching it; you were experiencing it! You were an active participant! You had stake in how things turned out; so much so that your body reacted in the same way it would if you actually had that experience during your conscious waking hours!

Now, I don’t know about you, but in the dreams I remember, I was always able to do things I could not possibly do in my waking conscious state. For instance, in one particular dream, I was able to move from one location to another in a matter of seconds by just thinking! I was able to fly and do other things that were physically impossible to do in my conscious state. The weird thing about it was that in my dreams, I didn’t think of those things as impossibilities, they were normal, because in my dreams, I was actually doing them!

Now before you brand me as a heretic or as being unstable, I’m qualifying what I’m about to say as just musing. But what if the lyrics of the song: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” are more true than we realize? What if this life, as we consciously experience it for 70 years or so, is merely ‘but a dream?’ What if, when we close our eyes for the final time and experience physical death, at that point ,we wake up to real life and discover this life was but a dream? Only time will tell, because those who have actually experience it don’t come back to tell; it’s a one-way journey! But in the meantime, every night and every time we go to sleep; we are practicing death and experiencing alternative realities.

The Reversed Cinderella Complex

Well, as I am writing this post, it is January 2, the day after New Year’s Day. And as I am writing, I am wondering how many people are suffering from what I call; the Reversed Cinderella Complex. Do you remember what happened at the stroke of midnight in the story of Cinderella? The Fairy God-mother had already told Cinderella that she had to be back home before the stroke of midnight because, at midnight, the magic spell would wear off and everything, including her beautiful gown and the golden chariot would turn back into what they were before the spell was cast. Well, you know the story, Cindy was having such a good time at the ball, that she lost track of time! She was barely out before the stroke of midnight, when her beautiful gown turned back into rags and her grand chariot reverted back into a pumpkin!

The Reversed Cinderella Complex is the opposite of the Cinderella story. For some strange reasons, many people believe something magical happens at the stroke of midnight at the beginning of the New Year. They are energized with new resolve and new determination! They think there will be a substantial (almost magical) change in their situation when December 31 turns into January 1. But alas, after the midnight balls and the midnight church services, even as early as January 2, reality sets in! They discover there was no magical or miraculous change, their dream-gown is still a regular dress and their grand chariot in their dreams is still the same old pumpkin they drive every day! Yes! For most people, the only change that occurs between the last day of December and the first day of January is the change on the calendar!

As much as we like to believe in the Cinderella fairy tale, the truth is; real change is not magical, real change is work! As I’m writing this post, my social media feeds are still flooded with wishes of a Happy New Year. But, I understand that the New Year will not be happy just because of ‘wishes’ for it to be so! The New Year will not even be ‘new’ if there is no effort to make it new! Neither will the New Year be happy if that happiness is only determined by what happens! My point is, there is really nothing magical about the New Year! If we want the New Year to be ‘happy’ and ‘new,’ then we must, in the words of Captain Picard of Star Trek; “Make it so!”

Changes do not magically or mysteriously happen! Changes do not occur by themselves; changes do not make themselves, we must make them! Do you really want a Happy New Year? If you do, then you must work to make it so! You must change to make it so! Perhaps, one of the reasons we often fail so quickly in our New Year resolutions of change, is because we try to do too much at once! We try to tackle more than we can handle at one time. Let me show you what I’m talking about! Some years ago, I made a startling discovery that transformed the way I look at life! I discovered the fact that life can only be lived one moment at a time! There is a gospel song in which the singer asks the Lord to teach them to live one day at a time, but I discovered, that is impossible! We don’t live one day at a time! We don’t live one hour at a time! We don’t even live one minute at a time! We only live; one moment at a time! Therefore, instead of focusing on the year, it would be more practical and beneficial to focus on the moment! Instead being overwhelmed with what we can do this year, focus on what changes we can make in the present moment. The old proverb says the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step! Ask yourself: “What changes can I make right now?” “What can I do differently, in this present moment?”

If we consistently make the effort to change our moments, we will change our minutes! Those moments and minutes, will change hours and days! The changed hours and days, will transform weeks and months! The transformed weeks and months will translate into a transformed year! No! It’s not magic; it’s work! Are you willing to put in the work to actually ‘make’ the New Year a ‘new’ year? You can do it; one moment at a time!

Making Things New (A New Year Sermon)

 

 

 

“Making Things New”

“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . . .”

         Revelation 21:5 KJV

As we approach another new year, I am sure many are already talking and speculating about what their New Year resolutions are going to be. But, if the truth is to be told; many who are doing this now were doing the same thing at this time last year and much of what they proposed to accomplish then did not come to pass! In most cases, resolutions for the new year lose their resolve in just a matter of weeks! So, what can be done to make the promises we make to ourselves and to others more resolute and definite?

Well, I was looking at this text the other day and I saw something that might be helpful to us in our quest to make things new. You might have noticed, that while the text says: “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . ,” the title of this discourse is not about making ‘all’ things new, but rather just making things new. I did that because; only the LORD GOD can make ‘all’ things new! However, because we are made in His image and in His likeness, coupled with the fact that we were given the Dominion Mandate, I believe if we look at how He that sat upon the throne makes ‘all’ things new, we can discover a blueprint, a pattern, or a guide to how we can make ‘some’ things new!

Now, it is interesting to note, as we look at the text, that God did not say He was making all ‘new’ things; He said He was making all things new! The two Greek words most commonly translated as; ‘new’ in the NT are ‘neos’ and ‘kainos.’ The word; ‘neos’ primarily denotes something that is recent in time; or something that was not there before. Whereas ‘kainos’ refers primarily to quality; something that is of a better quality and nature than the old. Neos is new in time; kainos is new in nature. ‘Kainos’ is the term used in the text. The text is not saying that God will make ‘new’ things which did not exist before, but rather that God will refurbish, renew, or make better the quality and nature of all things that already exist! The New Heaven and the New Earth will be the ultimate make-over job!

Isn’t that what we seek to do when we make our new year resolutions? We seek to make our lives and things better than they were the year before! But alas! Most of the time, the new year ends up being a repeat of the year before! Why does this happen? Why is it that our new year resolutions rarely stick? Well, I think the primary reason is because most of us don’t understand how we are programmed to function! Let me show you what I’m talking about: By nature, we are creatures of habits! We learn by repetition; doing things a certain way; over and over again. Do you remember how hard it was when you first learn how to tie your shoe laces or how to write? You had to concentrate and focus and it took time and much repetition to master those new skills. But now, you can tie our shoe laces and write your name in a matter of seconds, without much thought or effort! Why? Because you programmed yourself through repetition to the extent that tying your shoe laces and writing your name are automatic-habitual skills! Most of us can do them with our eyes closed without any thought at all!

Well, just like we learned how to tie our shoe laces and write our names, we learned every other skill and function in our lives. And just as we now tie our shoe laces and write our names without any effort or thought, so do we perform every other skill and function in our lives! Most of us, when we got dressed this morning, we stepped into one particular pants leg before the other and we put on one particular shoe before we put on the other! We don’t really think about it, but chances are, we step into the same pants leg first and put on the same shoe first every time we put on our pants and shoes! Now, as an experiment to illustrate the principle I’m talking about, the next time you get dressed, make a mental note of which pants leg you step into first and which shoe you put on first. Then the next time you get dressed, consciously make an effort to step into the opposite pants leg and put on the opposite shoe first! First, you will have to stop and think to even remember to do this exercise. Then, if you succeed in remembering, you will experience some awkwardness or even difficulty in making the attempt! Now, here’s the kicker: Chances are, you will try this experiment only once or twice, if at all. And if you try it at all, most likely, you will revert back to putting on the same pants leg and same shoe that you’ve always put on first! Why? Because you are not willing to continually go through the awkwardness and difficulty of doing the opposite of what you’ve always done! But here’s the super-kicker; should you continue with the experiment, in a matter of time, the opposite pants leg and shoe will become your automatic choice and easy and the choice that was once automatic and easy will become the difficult one! That’s how we are programmed to function and that’s how life works! Most of our new year resolutions fail because we are not willing to go through the awkwardness of remembering and the difficulty of learning to put our leg through and put on the opposite pants leg and opposite shoe first! When we don’t persist with a conscious effort to endure the initial awkwardness of doing things differently, we automatically revert back to the comfort and ease of doing things the way we’ve always done them!

But in the text, the One who sat upon the throne says: “Behold, I make all things new. . .” All things will not automatically be new, in order for all things to be new, the Lord will have to ‘make’ them new! The word ‘make’ implies effort and work! Now if the Lord will have to put forth an effort and work to make ‘all’ things new, then how much more should we be expected to put forth effort and work to make some things new? But that’s our fundamental flaw; we want a maximum return with minimal effort! We want something for nothing! We want a ‘new year,’ but most of us a not willing to put forth the necessary effort and work to ‘make’ the year new!

If we were to look at the verse that just precedes our text, we can gleam another principle in making things new. The last phrase says: “for the former things are passed away.” There it is: In making all things new, it was necessary for the ‘former’ things; the things that were before, to pass away; to cease to be. It’s impossible for the former things and the all things new to co-exist! In looking again at our experiment; we might have missed the fact that it’s impossible for anyone to put both legs through and put on both shoes at the same time! No! One leg and one foot always goes before the other; both cannot be first! Therefore, in order for the experiment to work; the one that used to be first, must pass away from being first and the one the used to be last, must be made new into being first! As we said earlier, that will not automatically happen, because the former thing was automatic; the new thing must be made new!  That’s the way it is with anything in life! The things we desire to be new or different in our lives will not be new or different just because we want them to be new and different; they will only be new and different if and when we ‘make’ them new and different! Changes do not make themselves; changes must be made by us! I know we say it all the time, but is it really true? We always say: “Prayer changes things,” but is really prayer that actually changes things? I would like to suggest that in most cases; prayer doesn’t and isn’t designed to change things, but rather prayer actually changes us, and is designed to empower and motivate us to change things! I’ve noticed, as a pastor down through the years; particularly with church folks; when people don’t want to do something, they often veil their obstinacy and resistance with prayer. They say things like: “Pastor, we should pray about it!” But when they really want to do something, they don’t even mention prayer; they just go ahead and do it! In most cases, they pray about and refuse to do the things they should do, while they don’t pray and do the things they shouldn’t do!

Well, I’m just about through now, but there are a few more ideas I want to share with you about making things new, and then I will leave you alone. Notice in the text, the position of the One who said; I make all things new! According to the text, He sat upon the throne! The throne is the seat of authority and power. While some would suggest ‘authority’ and ‘power’ are synonymous terms; actually, they are not! Authority denotes legal right and privilege, whereas power denotes ability and might! In the world, there are some who have authority, but they don’t have ability and might, while there are others who have ability and might but don’t have authority! But He who sits on the throne in the text has both; authority and might!

Well, the good news this morning is that the offspring of the One who sat upon the throne have been given authority and might as well! In Genesis 1:26-28, we read:  “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” When God said, “Let them have dominion” that was the authority! When God blessed them, and said, “Be fruitful and multiply” that was the power! Now, I hear you! You’re saying: “Yes pastor, but that was before the Fall!” Yes it was, but Jesus came to fix up what Adam messed up! The authority and power that Adam lost in the Fall has been reclaimed and regained in the Last Adam; Jesus the Christ! Therefore, the Apostle Paul says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The Greek word translated as ‘new’ in the Apostle Paul’s statement is the same Greek word that is translated as ‘new’ in our text! Only ‘new’ people can really make things new!

How can we make things new for the new year? By changing our thoughts! The Bible says: As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” If you really think you can; you can, but if you really think you can’t; you never will! Don’t worry about what others think; what you think is much more important! Train your thoughts, look at the list in Philippians 4:8 and make a habit to only think on those things! And then, we must watch our words! We must train ourselves to only speak life, for the power of life and death is in the tongue. What we say to and about ourselves is much more powerful and effective than what anyone else says to or about us! And finally, we must understand that we can’t live our lives a year, a month, a day, or even an hour at a time! We can only live our lives; one moment at a time! Therefore, we shouldn’t worry so much about making the year new; but rather, just focus on the making the present and next moment new!

Choices and Decisions (Sermon Snippets)

Snippets from the sermon: “Decision: The Power of Choice” Text: Deuteronomy 30:19. This sermon was the 6th of a 7-sermon series on “Dealing With the D’s.” Preached at the New Hope Baptist Church / Covington, GA. December 9, 2018.

We all have the God-given authority and right to make choices and decisions. This is one of the distinctive qualities of humanity that separates us from the animal kingdom; animals live instinctively, humans live by choices and decisions.

Our choices and decisions determine our direction and destiny.

We are where we are today because of the choices and decisions we made yesterday. Where we will be tomorrow is being determined by the choices and decisions we are making today!

“I don’t have a choice!” is a fallacy: That is erroneous thinking! It’s not a matter of not having a choice; it’s a matter of not liking the available choices!

Many people do not exercise the power of choice and allow life, circumstances, and other people to make choices and decisions for them.

To strengthen your decision-making muscles:

a. When confronted with a choice, never default by saying; “It doesn’t matter.” Make a decision; make the choice between grits or hash browns, coffee or tea, etc. Resolve to be proactive in making decisions in even the smaller things that might not matter as much.

b. When you make it a practice to consciously make a decision with little things that don’t matter as much, you will be better able to make better decisions with the big things that matter more.

c. Count the cost of your decisions ; weight consequences and options. All choices and decisions cost something: time, energy, finances, emotional investments, etc.

We literally make thousands of choices and decisions everyday. What to wear, eat, drive, who to see, to answer or not, etc. Therefore, we don’t need help to make choices and decisions, we need help in making better or good choices and decisions.

Even if we refuse to make a choice or a decision, that is a choice and a decision! To choose not to choose is a choice! To decide not to decide is a decision!

The greatest choice and decision we must make is: “What are we going to do about God’s call to salvation? What are we going to do with Jesus?