Monday, September 11, 2017

Resharing my thoughts from 2011

This post was originally posted in September of 2011, and re-share it with you today!

Dr. Don Allen, Jr.

Reflecting on my memories of 9/11 …

As I sit here reflecting back to ten years ago, it is hard to believe the horror and fear that swept the nation and world that morning. I sat at my desk here in Cincinnati, when my wife called and said someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center in NYC. I was in shock, and even considered that she was joking. However, soon I realized that it was no joke; it was the nightmare that hit to close to home. I remember standing with friends at work watching the second plane hit the tower, the Pentagon getting hit, and hearing of the plane crashing in Pennsylvania.  I remember to this day hearing the words come out of my mouth, “I wish there was something I could do.” God heard those words.
Three months later my family and I are visiting in NYC as a candidate for the position as Director of the Hope Center, a post 9/11 organization being put together by the Assemblies of God churches on Staten Island, to minister to the folks affected by that horrifying day. In May of the 2002 I would move with my family to Staten Island, NYC and for the next ten months would talk with people in person, and on the phone about that day that had become seared into their mind. I spent time at ground zero with a police officer that was only yards away when the first tower came down, watching people being crushed under falling debris and nothing he could do. I talked and prayed on the phone with a fireman that was at home in Long Island with the flu, who had called in sick that morning, realizing as he watched the news his engine company went into the tower and never came out. I spent hours standing at the gate of recovery zone, with a Salvation Army Major that had been one of the first counselors there to help counsel folks that morning.  For nine months I drove by Fresh Kills Garbage dump where the remains of bodies, and debris were separated remembering the smell, and the sights of watching the trucks pull away, stays clear in my mind.  I still talk with many of my friends, that were counselors at Ground Zero, as bodies were found, and responders needed to talk.
It has been ten years; I still hear the stories in my mind and realize that even with not being there in NYC on that day, it has affected my life in an enormous way.  Today I reflect on the memory, realizing that too many individuals were affected by an event that was motivated by hatred of a radical few. But that has affected millions around the world, even today.
As you reflect on today … 9/11 …
·         What is your memory of that day? 
·         As a Man or Women of God what have you learned from the event and the aftermath over the past ten years?
·         Has the nightmare of that day, drawn you and kept you closer to God than you were on September 10, 2001?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Can I really believe Racism is OK and be a Christian?

In the New King James Version Acts 17: 26 reads: “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings and the same verse is translated in the New Living Translation: From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.”

As I reflect on the racism tearing our town, cities, states, and country apart I’m reminded of the Christ sitting at the well drinking water with the A Samaritan Woman, now if there was ever a situation where Christ could have shown true racism it is within the context of this passage in John 4: 5 – 42, she was a Samaritan: 

The dictionary gives the definition as “a member of a people inhabiting Samaria in biblical times, or of the modern community in the region of Nablus claiming descent from them, adhering to a form of Judaism accepting only its own ancient version of the Pentateuch as Scripture.”  The hatred between the two groups of people goes back over hundreds of years, and had boiled on occasions into fierce and bloody disputes.  As Christ sat there on the well he knew the history better than anyone else. However, despite this he choose to stay and drink from the well, in Samaria, from water drawn by a Samarian women that had five husbands (divorced) and was living with another guy.

Notice with me a couple of things in the passage:

1.      Christ didn’t acknowledge her challenge about Racism (You’re a Jew, and you don’t talk to people from Samaria).

2.      He talked about the needs, she needed a relationship with Christ (PERIOD)

3.      He ministered to her and all she knew

My brother by different mother (I.e. my Best Friend outside of my wife) is an African American pastor in Cincinnati.  We have spent hours talking and sharing our hearts, outside of my wife there is no one that knows more about me than Robert. See it is now about the Skin color, it is not about where we grew up, and it sure is now about what others say.  Racism is taught, then it is caught, and then shoved down people throats!

We want to stop the Race War in America we need to quite teaching it.  Let me be clear that is on both side of the tracks.  I deploy what has recently been happening I think the KKK, and Nero-Nazism is a joke, and a group of cowards that most likely have a mental illness called stupidity.  However, I also believe that there are folks within the Black, Latino, Asian and other communities that have the same hatred for other races.  I grew up as a Military brat, and with that I grew up on Air Forces Bases. On an Air Force base as a kid a least the way my dad and mom taught I didn’t see black, white, or yellow people I saw Blue and Tan uniforms.  Any disrespect was not allowed of anyone.

When my dad retired when I was 13 years old we moved to Flint, Michigan less than 60 miles from Detroit a rascal hotbed at times during the 70’s and 80’s.  We moved into a racially diverse neighborhood, I attended a high school that was over 70% African-American several of my good friends where black, and functioned through life realizing that Racism is a state of mind not a fact of life.

  Have blacks done bad things to me? Yes. However, so have white people! Do I hate either one, I’m going to take a bat and hurt them, go into their neighborhood and smash windows, drive a car into a crowd of people or set their business or home on fire? The answer is NO!

Back to my original question “Can you believe Racism is Ok and be a Christian”  Truth be told only God knows that answer.  However, when I look at Galatians 5: 17 – 21 and read this list of Sins of the Flesh … I think God is clear when he uses the word “Hatred” we find it comes from the Greek word “├ęchthra, ekh'-thrah;” which is also translated as enmity is in the scripture which means to be: hostility; by implication, a reason for opposition:

If I want to be in the perfect will of God I cannot be a Racist against anyone, because God didn’t make white, black, yellow or red.  He made one race and based where our ancestors lived  and the sun, weather our body adapted a coloring to help us survive (You may not agree with my understanding of how we got our colors, but I know for sure that Adam and Eve were one color and NO I don’t have a clue nor do I care what shade of skin they had.  When I have lunch with my brother Robert, it is about friendship and relationship.

WE WANT TO STOP THE RACISM IN AMERICA … It is time for the church to focus not on the differences it has but about the similarities that we have “I.e … A NEED FOR A RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST” remember in John 5, the Samaritan women went back into town and got her ex-husbands and all her friends and Christ said the “Fields are white unto harvest”  … Christ never saw a Samaritan women, or a group of Samaritan men coming out of the village, he only saw individuals that needed a personal relationship with him!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Opiates killing the pain or hurting me:

          Just over a year ago I had both my knees replaced within three months: (the first one in August and the second one in November: (AND NO I WOULD NEVER RECOMMEND HAVING THEM REPLACED SO CLOSE TOGETHER).  However, following the surgeries I was given Opiates (including Morphine, Oxy-condone, and Vicodin) for the pain. Now please understand this is not the first Pain medication I have ever taken. Since I was 13 years old I have had no less than 12 knee related injuries, in addition I had Achilles tendon repair, kidney stones, and some other pain related issues.  So I know what pain medication is and what it can do.

          First, let’s define an Opiate: Merriam – Webster defines it as a “Narcotic: a drug (as morphine or codeine) containing or derived from opium and tending to induce sleep and alleviate pain”   This can include pain medication of various strengths, like Tramadol, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Morphine, and street drugs like Heroin.

          Individuals that take Opiates are at a very high risk of building up a tolerance to the drug, therefore requiring higher doses to get the same relief or feeling. As addictions counselors we also look at the individual’s family history, and social interaction.  In my case there is a history of alcoholism within the family, and this has given me cause to be more cautions than some folks that have no prior family history.  The key is to know your limits and be very careful to keep help handy.

          I share my story hopefully to help folks understand that despite the pain and the use of medication there is hope for not becoming addicted.  For the past 25 years I have worked as an Alcohol and Drug counselor, and have worked with individuals that abuse and even become dependent on Opiates to help them function in their daily lives.  I’m fortunate that I have not become one of them.  However, I realize it is by the Grace of God, and the encouragement and support of family and friends. It is also very important to have honest and caring doctors. 

          What has kept me from abusing or becoming dependent on the Opiates, I believe there are three factors that play into this.  Please believe me I’m NOT attempting to over simplify sobriety or addiction.

1)    My personal relationship with God:

·        I believe that God is able to help with the pain. However, believe me when I was waking up every hour or two prayers was not cutting it. However, through that time of pain and prayer I was able to cut back each day to the point of not using on regular bases.  And today I very rarely have to take a pain pill, and that is generally only when I do something stupid like over extend the knees.

2)    My personal relationship with family/friends:

·        I learned a long time ago I have to give individuals permission to ask the Question.  “How much are you using and why?” for those of us that use Opiates for pain this may seem like a stupid question, they should already know it because of the pain.  However, when you think about it, maybe it is not a stupid question after all; there is a recommend dose for pain medication and a time frame in which you should use them.  If you continue to use beyond the recommend dose and time frame you are on the virtue of a serious problem.  Let them ask the question, and be accountable to them for what you’re doing, it is time to be honest not only with them, but with yourself.  When you start lying about the amount or reason your using, it is time to seek addiction treatment.

3)    My personal desire to not abuse them (for me and my family):

·        I share with my clients that there has to be a reason to get up in the morning, something that gives you a since of purpose in life.  I can’t accomplish that Purpose if I am HIGH on pain pills or running into the dope house shooting up Heroin.

When will I know it is a problem? The simple way is if you give a yes response to anyone of these following four questions’:  (1) Has it caused me problems with my family and friends? (2) Has it caused me legal problems? (3) Has it caused me problems with finances? (4) Has it caused me problems with either my mental health or physical health?

I recently read several articles where it becoming easier to buy Opiates (Pain Killers) over the internet from countries like China, India, and other third world countries that don’t have regulations over what is in their drugs like we do here in America.  As a result we see a number of people dying from the use of these mail order drugs.

Opiate addiction is a very serious issue, and one that has to be monitored not only by the individual that is taking the drugs, but by your doctor, family, friends, and anyone else that is important in your life that can and will hold you accountable.

Honestly the thought of becoming dependent on Opiates scares me, so for me accountability is the only clear choice.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My thoughts on the Open Letter to Tullian Tchividjian's:

               I recently read an article where several pastors were calling for repentance of the former pastor of Coral Ridge Church. Over a year ago Tullian Tchividjian's resigned due to a moral failure that he admitted too, after the affair was exposed on the church’s computer.
                Please understand I’m not challenging the thought or need for repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God and family. However, I’m challenging pastors that feel it is their responsibility to make their call public.  When I look at the greatest sex scandal recorded in the Bible, yes, I’m talking about the King and the Fox (or better known as Bathsheba). When the prophet Nathan came to call for repentance he did not take out an article in the Jerusalem Times, he didn’t stand on the King’s front porch, nor did he call the great council. He went to King David and told him what God had laid on his heart to say, repent and get things right with God.
                Repentance is a noun: meaning “the action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse,” or as one person put it, “it is turning your back on sin, and going the other direction towards God.”  I have been in ministry for 35 years, and watched many pastors stand and demand someone repent for something they did; at the same time wondering is there something they should be repenting for as well. The pastors that have called for Tullian Tchividjian's public apology remind me a lot of the Pharisee that brought the women caught in adultery.  In my opinion they felt like they needed to set the example. When I think of those events in the Gospel my question is, where was the man caught with her? Why did they pick this woman? I have a dozen questions. However, the best one, how many facts do we have?
                I’m thinking back and it has been nearly 30 years since someone of Pastor Tullian Tchividjian's status has fallen. I was pastoring in the 80’s when Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart both fell, and watched the Pastors of American come un-hinged. I preached a message following those events entitled the “Day God’s man fell.” I used as my text the events of the Apostle Peter, and his fall denying Christ three times the night of prior to Christ death.  My points were simple:
  1. Repentance is a request asking Christ to forgive us of our sin. (I John 1:9)
  2. It is a change in our behavior and attitude.
  3. It is a rebuilding of trust with those we have wronged.
  4. It is submitting to accountability of either presbyter or accountability (men’s) group.
I guess my question is, did the gentlemen that wrote this letter see this as the method of calling for repentance done Biblically according to Matthew 25? 
Please understand I’m not condoning Pastor Tullian Tchividjian's sin, his divorce, his re-marriage.  Sadly those things happen and I for one will continue to preach on the destructive consequences of sin. However, I find myself very concerned when pastors or individuals call for Public Repentance. It sort of reminds me of seeing men put the stocks in Boston, and other parts of New England in the early 1700’s, we were going to make everything about us public.
From what I have read in several other articles and even the excerpts from his recent book he has repented and is making things right with, God/Christ, his ex-wife, his children, his grandfather, parents, and the church he hurt. However, I’m not one of them; yes I’m hurt to hear an awesome pastor fell. However, I’m happy to hear that he has re-established his relationship with God/Christ. My job is very simple; pray for Pastor Tullian Tchividjian's, and every other pastor (famous or not) that God will help prevent from falling into sexual immorality, and for those that need help rebuilding their relationship with Christ; not to continue to demand more from them in public than I do other sinners.
Remember our job as Christians is always the same …. Love the Sinner, hate the sin!

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Lord’s Table …

          I have become very heart broken over the years as I have attended church after church and sit in the pew while they serve the LORD SUPPER or COMMUNION as it is often called. 

As a Christian we would not ever think of inviting Christ to dinner at our house and serving HIM supper the way some of us serve his Supper in church.  We would never allow our children to simply stand or sit where ever, talk throughout the meal, and not truly acknowledge the guest in the house.

I guess I’m one of those old fashion preachers/teachers that spent a lot time studying Pastoral or Applied Theology and in doing so I remain frustrated.  I think every aspect of the service is important. However, I see pastors and worship leaders put an emphasis on the music, preaching, and half dozen other things which maybe important at the time, but not when it time to serve the Lord Supper.  Then the speaker stands for the Lord’s Supper and fails to take us to the understanding that the Bible clearly sets the stage for the Lord’s Supper, it is a time of REMEMBRANCE, it is a time of REFLECTION, and most importantly it is a time of REPENTANCE.  

As I view the Bible and history I see for key elements of presenting and sharing the Lord Supper, in my opinion if you can’t do these every time.  Maybe it is time reconsider the priorities of the church and coming to the Table.

1)     Introduce the Lord Supper/Communion as a part of the Worship Service. (This is not a part of the offering, announcements, or invitation)

2)     Explain fully that it is time of Remembrance, Reflection, and Repentance.

3)     Give them a chance to do all three (It is not time to quickly rush the Lord Supper, you don’t rush dinner at home)

4)     Eat and drink it together, understanding this is a Communal Meal that is shared by the family.

         Pastor/friends I realize that there are dozens of things happening during any given Service. However, Christ stated to his disciple “Do this in remembrance of me” I don’t know about you, if you rush me through something, I really don’t remember. I guess what I am really doing is asking; “Is it time to slow down, and remember what Christ did at the Cross?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Persecution is not a new concept!

               Persecution is not a new concept, nor is it one that can be ignored. The Christian news media outlets are full of stories of persecution, killings, and other acts of cruelty against Christians. Let me say from the outset I realize that Persecution is happening around the world of different religious groups as well.

               Emperor Nero of Roman blamed the believers of “The Way” those followers of Christ, as they were known throughout the First Century A.D., their belief in the teaching of Christ undermines the very fabric of the society. Throughout history Kings, dictators, and even individuals have been involved in persecution. Yes, even Christians themselves have been involved in some of the greatest persecution of other believers, we can go back to the Spanish Inquisition, where the Catholic Church persecuted those fellow believers that where not a part of the church as they deemed it.

               Persecution can take on many forms; the simple definition in my mind is “simply stopping one from believing what they believe, either by force or threat of force.”   I remember back in 1974 while attending McKinley Junior High School a teacher found some Gospel Tracts that fell out of my pocket in class.  I have never seen a teacher so enraged by a simple piece of paper, he didn’t ask whose they were he simply waved them around and said “Don’t bring this trash into my classroom, and if you do I will have you kicked out of this school” I was 14 years old.  When I told my parents they told me not to make waves and you better listen to him.  Honestly, I felt persecuted by the teacher and definitely felt threaten. He would probably have totally freaked out if he knew I had a New Testament in my back Blue Jean pocket every day. However, my parents expressed the belief of many Christians of the time and even today, it not worth the fight, don’t make waves, and don’t buck authority. Now look at the public schools, and colleges Christians organization are banned from most campuses, teachers can’t even say they are a Christian in fear of losing their job, and if they see a child with a Bible they want him kicked out of school.

               The Apostle Paul dealt with persecution; just like the other disciples in fact all of the original 11 (not including Judas who committed suicide) were persecuted. Ten where killed, and one was boiled in oil then exiled to an island for criminals. Persecution that the Apostles faced in the first century, and that Christians face today is a result of a state of fear, from those that don’t understand the believers in Christ. Atheistic countries like North Korea, China, Russia, and Muslim nations that outlaw Christian expression do so out of fear.  Atheist would rather believe and force others to believe there is No God, than have individuals have a choice to expect or reject, just like Muslim nations they have come to the conclusion that their belief system is right and the others are wrong. As I stated before I know Christians have had their times of persecuting, and it was wrong then and it is wrong now.

               God is righteous and just, he set his standard of values found within the Scripture (Bible). People that struggle to live up to those standards will become enraged when they are told they are wrong, or the statement that they are a sinner comes up. Persecution isn’t limited to governments, individuals can persecute as well by stopping people from practicing their faith. People have a right to beliefs, and I should have the same right to stand up and say that is not a Biblical view.   It has become acceptable to criticize or demean a believer in Christ for his believing in these biblical principles, and stating them. To the point of destroying his career and his family, this is persecution. 

               Ironically, there is one interesting fact about persecution that folks often overlook … When individuals and nations rise up to Persecute the church and God’s people within in it, God shows HIM self-faithful, and lives are changed and hearts touched, and revival sweeps the land.  You can tell Godly men NO, but Godly men will always worship HIM and share their faith despite the persecution. Simply, take a look around.  Look at events throughout the Middle East, Africa, China, India, and yes even Russia where there are reports coming out daily of believers being hunted, put in prison, and killed for their faith. However, there are also reports that thousands of people trusting Christ around the world despite the threat of death and prison.

               More than one individual has made a bold prediction that Christianity will come to pass (end), stop existing and it will be proven that Jesus does not exist.  Sorry to report that those skeptics and persecutors are dead, and Christ is remained seated on the right hand of his Father is heaven.

               I believe that America and the world are at the crossroads of history; the 21st Century is not going to determine the future of Christianity.  However, the 21st Century is going to determine what it is going to look like around the world.  There was a recent report that tens of thousands of folks trusted Christ as savior in one night service in India, and individuals in Africa are reporting the same results.  Now individuals will question the accuracy of those numbers. However, what we can’t deny is despite the persecution around the world people still believe.  The church in America is caving to the persecution of the liberal beliefs, and pressures from within to change it beliefs. However, we continue to see outpourings of God greatest and lives changed through a belief in Christ.

My view of the reality of Christianity and Persecution is simple …

               Persecution is coming to the world like we have never seen. However, at the same moment Revival is coming to the world that will scare every atheist and non-believer to their very core.  Some Christian believers will die; some will be injured, and some will be offended verbally. However, be certain of one thing Persecution is not a new concept, and throughout history God has always got the GLORY!



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Premier Preacher fall’s from grace!

               I recently read several Facebook posts and articles that stated Rev. Perry Noble the former senior pastor at NewSpring Church, a mega-church located in Anderson, South Carolina had been removed by his board over Alcohol related issues.

               I have been an Alcohol and Drug counselor for over 25 years, and involved in pastoral ministry for over 35 years, I have seen dozens of pastors stumble for various reasons. Alcoholism is one of those things that have destroyed many pastors’ ministries, and marriages.  However, with the changing culture I’m totally surprised that they didn’t come up with another reason.  When I did my doctoral dissertation several years ago, and asked pastors about the perception of alcoholism and alcohol use, I was amazed at the number of pastors that thought it was OK for their members and themselves to drink.

               The question that we all must answer is when does it become a problem? I ask four questions of my patients. (1) Has drinking affected your family and friends (2) has your drinking affected your finical situation (3) has your drinking affected your legal situation and lastly (4) has drinking alcohol affected your health, either your physical health or psychological health. If you answer yes to anyone of these then you need to take a serious look at your drinking habit. Why people drink alcohol has as many answers as people who drink. However, the reality is that alcoholism (or drunkenness as the Bible calls it) is a problem that needs to be addressed.  There will remain a debate of the various views of the sin concept of drunkenness verses the disease concept of alcoholism/addiction.

               How the church responds to Pastor Noble and others in the church will be an interesting lesson in love, forgiveness, and helping.  I see the church from both the pastor’s side and counselor side, and I believe that there are three things that must happen.  Keeping in mind these are my own opinions!
  1.  The church must be willing get their head out of the sand, and to accept their role in this problem. I feel that role will be to have an open discussion of our views of alcoholism. This includes the stress factors we place on pastors, what we are teaching the individuals within our churches, and how we view alcohol consumption both privately and at social events around the country.
  2.  The church must be ready to help! I have watched too many churches condemn alcohol and drug addicts, without as much as a prayer for the individuals suffering from the illness or problem.  Sadly the likely hood of most churches providing treatment or in most cases even supporting the person going to a recovery 12 step program is out of the question.  The church has turned this problem over to the Para-church ministries like rescue missions, teen challenge, and secular counseling agencies. Without a doubt we have missed some of the greatest opportunities for ministry.
  3.  The church must be willing to not judge, but support individuals that need help. Let me be clear I’m not saying that alcoholism/drug addiction or any numbers of other addictions are not bad and out of the will of God for individuals lives. However, as a church we have come to make exceptions for a number of sinful or as some simply put bad judgment until it comes to alcohol/addiction and other peeves.

I can hear the critics now of this blog post, your making this all about the church.  As a pastor, alcohol and drug counselor, and having grown up around alcoholics in reality in some ways is it all about the church.  We have failed society but changing God’s word to mean what we want it to say, we have allowed sinful behavior to be accepted as just poor judgment, and we have failed to hold each other accountable for our actions.  Then when an individual’s world starts coming apart, we rip them a new one.  Some individuals have embraced us, and our self-righteous position. 

Folks, I don’t know what Life Spring Church did or didn’t do to help Pastor Noble prior to his being asked to step down.  I hope and pray that they did more than make demands. However, that doesn’t excuse us from showing love, support, encouragement, and providing a loving shoulder for him and his family through this difficult time. I have learned the hard way from church members, patients/clients, and family we are only one crisis or problem from being an alcoholic, drug addict, physically sick, or maybe even mentally ill.  It is time to get our head out of the sand and start being a part of the solution and not continue to be a part of the problem.

        While reviewing the blog post with a colleague and friend, he shared some unique insight that I had not thought of at the time of writing this post.  One of things that we often overlook is the number of pastors that have grown up in alcoholic and/or dysfunctional families/home’s and were able to find an escape through the church and their personal relationship with Christ.  However, if a person has not truly addressed the root cause of the addiction in themselves and their family they are destined to repeat the patterns themselves.  This could be in the form of using Alcohol or drugs, or other compulsive, sinful behaviors such as sex, food, drugs, shopping, pornography, gambling, and etc.

Remembering the sin of the father affects the child, and as a church we need to provide a safe and loving place for people to heal and find emotional support when addressing the physical illness, but when addressing the addictive destructive of the use of alcohol.