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!

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.

Holy Nonsense?

Have you ever thought about some of the nonsensical things we say as believers? For instance, what is “a born-again Christian”? Using that term logically implies the possibility of (1) being a person who is born again, but who is not a Christian or (2) being a person who is a Christian, but who is not born again. Both are impossible according to the Bible. So, to say you are a born again Christian is just like saying you are a human man or a human woman; you literally saying the same thing twice!
Or how about: “He’s an on-time God!” I know the meaning is that God’s deliverance is just in time. But often we forget God is eternal! That means God is not restricted by the human construct of time. So whenever God shows up in our situation, even when we think God’s too late; God is on time! By the way, when we say God is on time, we are imposing our finite time constraints on God. Secondly, God can never really be early or late because God doesn’t have to go where God already is!
How about this one? We tell people that in order to be saved, they must accept Jesus as their Personal Savior! Where did we get that from? Certainly not from Scripture! Seems like its the same idea as having a ‘personal body-guard! Although we may have a personal and intimate relationship with him, our relationship with Him is not personal in the sense that it is exclusive of all other Christians!The Bible says that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved! Jesus is not just a Savior who saves; Jesus is the Lord who saves those who submit to His Lordship!
Well, that’s enough! I’m just thinking out loud!

The ‘Good’ of the Trump Presidency

I originally posted this on my Facebook page:

The Bible says that all things work together for the good for them that love God, the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). So how is the Trump presidency and the current political and social climate working for the good of those that love God? After some introspection, here are my thoughts:

1. The exposure of religious hypocrisy: No matter how one may claim to represent God, acting in a manner that is contrary to the nature and will of God indicates you really don’t believe in the God you claim to represent. The actions of the Trump administration and the climate it fosters forces the church in America to decide, in the sight of God and the rest of the world, if it is going to truly be like Jesus or be like the Scribes and Pharisees! If a church or faith group endorses or is silent toward the racist, hateful, and inhumane actions that are currently being perpetrated and encouraged by the present administration, then they prove themselves, for all rational thinking people to see, NOT to be the real church or the real representatives of the God of the Bible! Now actually, this is a good thing, because now we have the opportunity to know who is really real and for all hypocrites to be exposed for the hypocrites they have always been!

2. The exposure of political hypocrisy: Now we see who are statesmen and who are politicians! A statesman does what he or she thinks is good and right for the country; a politician only does what serves his or her self-interests and the interests of the people who financed their campaign. A statesmen puts the good of the country before the pride and ego of political parties. The politician will defend his or her party to death; even if their position is wrong and evil! The statesmen’s politics is influenced and tempered by their morality; the politician bends and manipulates their morality to fit their politics!

3. The exposure of social hypocrisy: After all these years; race is still the number one social issue in America! Why? Because America refuses to acknowledge her historical hypocrisy! America refuses to acknowledge that much of her greatness was achieved unfairly with unpaid slave labor! America refuses to acknowledge that she has historically manipulated belief in the God she claims to trust to justify her social and political evils! Racism is WRONG! And any social, political, or religious system that supports it is WRONG!

If you are uncomfortable with the way things are in America today; that’s good, because you should be! But don’t ever think for a second that Donald Trump is to bear all of the blame! No! The biases and racist filth that have risen to the surface since the Trump campaign and presidency were there all the time; Donald Trump just created a climate wherein they can be more easily seen, recognized and expressed! So in a sense, the Trump mantra of “Make America Great Again” presents America with the opportunity to shed the hypocrisy, because in the true moral and social sense; America has never been great for all Americans! But now, since everything is so blatant and obvious; we have the opportunity to work together to truly make America great. . . for the very first time!