Joseph Herrin (06-05-2013)
A homeless man was murdered in Macon, Georgia this past Friday. His passing will not be announced on the national news. It will likely not receive more than a passing mention in the local media. In the eyes of the world, this lone, homeless man, enslaved to alcohol, was nobody. Judged according to societal values he was unimportant while living, and his passing was inconsequential.
Macon Rescue Mission
I met Skipper during my years of service at the Macon Rescue Mission from December 2004 through February 2008. The Mission ran an alcohol and drug recovery program for men. Skipper was an alcoholic. For how long, I do not know. He had already been living on the streets of Macon for many years before I arrived in town. Skipper was older than I, just how much older I could not tell. Alcohol ages men. So does life on the street. I would guess that Skipper was at least ten years my senior, likely more.
While at the Mission, the men in residence could not drink. If they were suspected of drinking, or taking illegal drugs, they would be tested. If they tested positive for these substances they would be discharged from the Mission’s recovery program. Each man who came to the Mission was asked to commit to stay the duration of the program. This was declared to be ninety days, but in actuality most men stayed much longer. Some were in residence for years.
As far as facilities go, the Macon Mission is very nice. The building was approximately 5 years old when I arrived there. The men live in a dorm environment. There are two sets of bunk beds in each room, and often an additional man would sleep on a mattress on the floor. There are 3 dorm rooms upstairs, and the same number downstairs. The men shared a wardrobe, and had a foot locker to store some possessions in. These were secured with padlocks as theft was common among men from the street.
The men’s dormitory had a large day room where men could sit and talk, play board games, read books, or watch the big screen T.V. that held a central place in the room. Just off the day room was an outdoor courtyard that was surrounded by a high wooden fence. The fence was intended to keep outsiders out, and to keep the men in the recovery program in. Those accepted into the program were only permitted to leave the facility with staff approval. They were required to sign a logbook whenever entering or exiting the facility.
At the Mission, the men were given three good meals a day. There was never any lack of available food. Donations poured in from the community. Additionally, every man in the program was required to apply for food stamps and half of their allotment was used by the Mission to purchase food to be served in the Mission cafeteria. The men could use the remainder to purchase whatever snacks and food they desired. Most men gained weight while in residence. This was often a good thing as drug use, alcoholism, and life on the street tends to wear men down physically.
The men were all given jobs while in residence. All had to pitch in to keep their dormitory clean. Beyond this, each man was given a regular assignment. Some worked in the kitchen preparing meals. Some were sent to the Mission’s thrift store to do manual labor, receiving and sorting the donations that came in, and helping to stock the store. Some worked on the Mission’s trucks that picked up donations at businesses and at people’s homes throughout the community.
Having been raised in a Christian home, I had long understood that the Lord spent much of His time ministering to the outcasts of society. He went to the drunkards, the prostitutes, the poor. Yet, being raised in middle class America and attending church in the suburbs, I had no interaction with this segment of society. As I grew older I realized the deficiency in my life. I wanted to be used of Yahshua to minister to “the least, the last, and the lost.” Yet, I had no idea how to begin.
Growing up in suburbia I was indoctrinated with a fear of people who lived “on the other side of the tracks.” The newspapers and television news led me to conclude that people who used drugs were crazed maniacs would stab you, or rob you if you ever crossed their path. I became fearful of the one’s whom Christ seemed to spend the most time among during His ministry. Had not fear prevented me from seeking out such ones, I would still have been at a loss to know how to minister to them. How could I explain to addicts and alcoholics the means by which they could be set free in Christ? Quoting a set of Scriptures from “the Roman road” seemed insufficient when the needs were so great and their bondage so desperate.
I remember while in my thirties confessing to the Father that I wanted to help these ones, but I did not know how. I asked Him to equip and instruct me, and to set before me an open door. Yahweh does all things well. After my wife and son left me in 2004, I found myself homeless. Yahweh instructed me to lay aside the ministry of writing for a season, and He led me to the Macon Rescue Mission. I did not enter their doors as a minister. I entered as a homeless man.
The director of the men’s division told me the only way I could stay there was to be a participant in the alcohol and drug recovery program. I told him I had never abused drugs or alcohol, but he said that if I would attend the same meetings with the men that he would let me stay. It was educational to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings with the men twice a week. I saw the futility of these programs, for they cured no one. They left men perpetually confessing that they were alcoholics and drug addicts.
In these meetings I listened to men profess their commitment to break free of the bonds of drugs and alcohol only to see them fall time and again. Some were quite boastful, seeking to impress the new guys in the program, but they were often the biggest frauds of all. They would present themselves as having all the answers, but they would sneak around and drink and do drugs on the sly.
AA and NA have an appearance of spirituality, but they are devoid of truth and have no divine spiritual life. In these programs, a man is encouraged to confess that he needs the assistance of a “higher power” to overcome his addiction, but they are told that it matters not who or what this higher power is. One meeting leader pointed to the large Christmas wreath hanging on the wall of the Mission dining room and told the men gathered there that the wreath could be their higher power, if that is what they chose.
Absent from these programs is the recognition of man’s sin nature. AA and NA tell men that they have a sickness. Characterizing addiction as sin is taboo. These programs fail to acknowledge that men are overcome by sinful urges because they lack the divine life of Yahweh. Yahshua identified mankind’s most basic need when He told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” AA and NA pretend to offer a cure for addiction that bypasses the need to be born of the Spirit of Christ.
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
The Scriptures declare that Yahshua was tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin. The only way mankind can overcome the sin that is resident in the flesh is by becoming a partaker of the divine nature. Yahshua not only provided an atonement for sin, paying fully sin’s penalty (which is death), but He rose again from the dead so that He could send forth His Spirit into the hearts of men. This impartation of divine life is what gives men the power to overcome addictive desires. Any program that leaves out these essential truths is merely offering to men a placebo. Men are given promises that these programs work, but a system that does not lead spiritually dead men to the life that is found only in Messiah is nothing more than a work of deception originated in the mind of Satan. AA and NA exist to divert men from the truth.
Although the Macon Rescue Mission has the words “Jesus Saves” emblazoned in large letters on the exterior of the building, it is NOT a Holy Spirit led organization. It is overseen by a board of directors, men and women culled largely from Macon’s business community. There is no consideration of whether these Mission directors have been born again of the Spirit of Christ. The words Jesus Saves are largely window dressing, giving the Mission an appearance of being a Christian organization so that it can solicit donations from the great number of churches and church members in the area. This is after all, the Bible Belt. People consider themselves Christians whether or not there is any substance to the claim.
Two nights a week the men in the Mission’s recovery program are required to attend AA or NA meetings in house. On the other nights they were required to attend chapel services, while also being encouraged to attend additional AA or NA meetings in the community. The Mission has a chapel constructed right in its center, yet the Mission employs no chaplain. The chapel services are conducted by churches and individuals from the surrounding region who express an interest in coming and speaking to the men in residence, along with the women in the Mission’s battered women’s shelter. I attended a great many of these chapel services. Many offered no more help than the AA or NA meetings. Many who came to speak were devoid of the Spirit of Christ. Some who may have been born again were incapable of explaining to men in bondage how they might be set free in Christ.
During my first year at the Mission I wondered whether I could do any better. Could I communicate to men where their addiction originated? Could I describe to them the reason Christ had to die and His blood be shed to atone for their sins? Was I able to lay out the nuts and bolts of the gospel in a comprehensible fashion, or would I be like so many others who quoted Scriptures and spoke forth spiritual platitudes without understanding?
After several months of sharing a dorm room with 4 other men, I was asked to step into the role of Resident Manager. The Resident Manager is the overseer of the Mission after the staff goes home on weekdays, as well as during the entire week-end. As Resident Manager I was given my own room in the men’s dorm and received a weekly stipend of $100. The hours were long, often 80-100 hours a week, but it was a tremendous learning experience for someone who had never been exposed to this part of American culture.
My nights were frequently interrupted by the building’s alarm going off, or the phone ringing to announce some urgent issue that had to be dealt with. Men would try to sneak out at night, setting off an alarm. Women, or their children, in the battered women’s shelter would suddenly need to make an emergency room visit. I had to contend with men sneaking into the bathrooms at night to smoke crack cocaine. When men returned to the Mission at night, or on the week-end, having been granted a pass, they would have to be observed for signs of drug or alcohol use. I frequently had to administer drug and alcohol tests, and many men showed positive.
Occasionally I was threatened with violence, but no one ever laid a hand on me. Yahweh had set a guard round about me. I was where He had called me to be, doing the job He called me to do. After a year as Resident Manager I was asked to take over a management position at the Mission’s thrift store. The Father kept me in this position a further two years. It provided a regular salary, and I moved out of the men’s dorm to make room for the new Resident Manager.
One benefit of this new position was that I was now considered a Mission staff member. As Resident Manager, I was still viewed as one of the men in the recovery program. Men in the recovery program could not lead chapel services, but staff members could. In this way the Father opened the door for me to begin speaking regularly, often weekly, during chapel. Many of the messages given are available as audio files on the Heart4God website.
Macon Rescue Mission Chapel
The Father had skillfully ordered my steps. I now had more than a year living in close quarters with men who were struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. I had many conversations with these men. I saw their struggles. I understood their need. The Spirit used these experiences to show me why the world’s programs did not work for these men, and to expose the impotence of the traditional Christian message to effect change in men’s lives. Yahweh gave me a hands on, crash course, and during the last two years of my association with the Mission I was able to speak many things to the men that they needed to hear.
One of the messages I delivered was titled You Must Be Born Again.
This message set forth the truth that there are two distinct types of men in this world. There are those who have been born of the first Adam, and those who have been born again of the Last Adam who is Christ. This latter group are new creatures, as distinct from mere men as a butterfly is different from a caterpillar. They have a new life within them. They are given a new mind, new powers, and an innate desire to please the Father.
The error of men trying to overcome sin without being born again was addressed in this message. This was followed up with another sermon titled The True and False Gospel.
In this message the false message of the prosperity gospel that caters to the desires of the flesh and the passions of man’s soul is contrasted with the invitation of Christ to “Come, take up your cross and follow Me.” It is shown that suffering is necessary for fleshly men to be transformed into spiritual beings. Apart from sharing in the sufferings of Christ no man can attain to spiritual maturity. The men were exhorted to lay aside a pursuit of self-gratification and to seek the things of God.
In the messages God Will Not Be Mocked, Going on to Maturity, Discipline or Judgment, and Qualified or Disqualified, I continued to hammer away at the false ideology of a modern church that winks at sin, that emphasizes the love, mercy and compassion of God while ignoring His severity, His holiness, and His righteous judgment. It is the fear of God that turns men away from sin, and this fear is absent from most men’s hearts. One should little wonder that there is such a high rate of recidivism among those who attend AA and NA based recovery programs. When nothing essential changes in men’s lives, their behavior remains the same. Apart from union with Yahshua there can be no true deliverance.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives…
As I wrestled with the bondage I observed in men’s lives, I was driven to press into the Father to know how to effectually and accurately share the good news of victory that is found in Christ. This ultimately led to my writing the book Overcoming Addiction by the Spirit of Christ.
Here is a true nuts and bolts account of man’s dilemma and Yahweh’s solution. The men at the Mission began to anticipate that when I stood up to speak to them in chapel that I was going to deliver a sober message of truth that contained a call to repentance and emphasized the fear of Yahweh. Nowhere was this message made more clear than when the Spirit directed me to preach the message titled The Point of No Return.
This sermon addressed head on a false belief that I discerned to be keeping many men from repentance. Knowing their lifestyle is sinful; knowing God will call them to account, men assure themselves that they have plenty of time to get right with God. They postpone dealing with sin in their life believing that the opportunity will continue to be present at a later time. Yahshua cast down this unrighteous reasoning when He presented the following parable.
“A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and dung it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'”
This parable has a broad interpretation where the fig tree represents Israel, those natural descendants of Abraham. Yet is also has a more narrow application to the individual lives of men and women. We are like the fig tree. Yahweh has created us for His pleasure. He rightly looks for the fruit of righteousness in our lives. He comes looking for the fruit of His Holy Spirit, and finding none He is dissatisfied.
Yahweh is patient. He bears long with men and women. He will send a messenger. He will bring conviction to a person that they need to repent of sinful behavior. He will shake their lives through various means, seeking to induce them to consider their ways and fear His judgment. Yet, many do not respond according to God’s desire. They harden their hearts to the voice of the Spirit. Their conscience becomes seared as they reason that they will have many more opportunities to repent. Yet God has said that His Spirit will not strive with man forever. He has said “NOW is the day of salvation.”
Repentance is a gift that God grants to mankind. Apart from Yahweh extending grace, no man could repent.
II Timothy 2:24-26
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil…
Man is not guaranteed that if he rejects Yahweh’s call to repent today that the offer will be present tomorrow. There comes a time when God will say, “Why does this person take up space on my earth? They are bringing forth no fruit for my glory. Pluck them up and cast them into the fire.”
With such messages I sought to cause careless men to consider their ways and fear Yahweh. My message was sober and my demeanor was grave. I had in mind the words of the Lord’s brother who wrote:
And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
The apostle Peter further declared:
I Peter 4:7
The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit…
In this hour of apostasy where the church labors to offend no man, I have found that sober words of judgment are often unwelcome. I have been told that a Christian must appear happy, and demonstrate that he greatly enjoys life in order that he might attract others to Yahshua. As someone who fishes on occasion, I understand that the bait one uses determines what type of fish they will attract. If we fish for men with that which appeals to the flesh we will draw to ourselves fleshly men. If we would attract those who love truth and seek divine life, we must offer to them sober words of truth.
In John chapter 6 Yahshua spoke a hard word that offended the majority of those who had been following Him. Most of the multitudes departed, leaving only a core group of bewildered disciples. Yahshua asked this remnant if they wanted to depart as well. Peter’s answer reveals the type of men Christ is seeking.
Yahshua said therefore to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have words of eternal life.”
Yahshua is seeking those who long for eternal life. This life is not defined by its duration. Rather it is defined by knowledge of, and intimacy with, Yahweh and His Son Yahshua.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Yahshua Christ whom You have sent.”
People of God, it is a waste of time to pander to men and women who have no hunger to know God and to please Him. Christ’s words offended the carnal, those whose minds were set on earthly things. Though few were left, those who remained earnestly desired to know God, and to be found pleasing to Him. Some find a God-centric message to be too difficult, too stern. A God-centric message is that which seeks to please God by declaring His mind faithfully, not being altered or diminished to make it more palatable to worldly men and women. The majority of mankind prefer pleasant words that do not offend the flesh. This attitude was evident among the multitudes who departed from Christ.
Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?“
This hour calls for men of sober spirit who are willing to speak words that are difficult. If the words being spoken do not offend the flesh, then they cannot promote spiritual life. This is a difficult time for men who proclaim sober truth to labor.
II Timothy 4:1-5
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Yahshua, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things.
We are in that hour of which Paul spoke. Men will not endure sound doctrine. The churches have heaped up to themselves teachers to tickle their ears and proclaim the things in accordance with their soul’s desires. Yet, men like Skipper are perishing. Where are the Christians who will impress upon such men the lateness of the hour and the enormity of their decisions? Skipper heard the message of truth. He heard it not just from me, but from Randy Simmons who has continued to labor on the streets of Macon.
Let not Skipper’s passing be wasted. In the next post we will look at some valuable lessons from his life, and his death.
To be continued…
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