Can I get a Witness?

21 Nov

Those of us who follow Christ have heard talk all of our lives about protecting our “witness”…  Having a good “witness” …  What in the church-speaking world is that??

I could go on and on about this and beat around the bush a little, but I haven’t had enough coffee at this point in the day to do that.  So, simply stated, your Christian “witness” is actually the reflection of God, of Christ and His love that radiates out of your life.  It is how much of God that others see in you.  Like it or not, many people will judge the reality of God by how well YOU reflect Him (if you claim to be a disciple).  They look at you and me and want to see if God’s love is genuine.  If He is real.  What they are REALLY seeing is how real He is to us!

Some will immediately claim this as unfair.  We will speak of our own imperfections and try to dismiss our behavior with a myriad of excuses.  And that is pointless.

People who do not know Christ want to know more.  They want to see that He is real.  They want to experience the difference that He makes in lives.  So they draw near YOU and ME.  And wait.

What will they see this week??

People of The Light

20 Nov

The third chapter of the Gospel of John tells the story of a man named Nicodemus.  Nick was a Pharisee, and yet he KNEW Jesus was sent from God.  He was one of the few.  He sought Jesus out at night to ask Him the most important question anyone can ask … And he never even got to ask it!!

Jesus beat Nick to the punch:  “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

Jesus went on to explain:  Just as we all have a physical birth, we must also have a spiritual birth.  A re-birth, if you will.  When we turn our lives over to Christ, we are borne anew!!  And we must be people of the Light!

These words are still true for us today:  Light has come into the world, but men (and women) love darkness instead of light.  Because their deeds are evil.  (And by evil, I believe Jesus is referring to the fact that HUMAN NATURE is opposed to God’s nature.  We naturally want our own way and naturally rebel against God’s way.)  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light.  Because they do not want their deeds to be seen.  And, whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.  Because they are living in a way that they don’t mind if their deeds are seen.

Ironically, God sees ALL.  Things done in the light and things done in the darkness.  What is He seeing in you?  What are you saying?  Doing?  Posting on social media?  Teaching your children?  Modeling for others to see?

One of those things that should make you go “Hmmmmmmmm”

Sometimes, we forget

7 Nov

Strength.  A must-have to make it through life today.  All of the stress of life bears down, tightens, wrings you out.  You must have strength to make it through.  From where do YOU draw your strength?

Yesterday I was talking to a friend about basketball drills.  Those difficult physical challenges our coaches placed before us at countless practices.  The best drills have purpose:  Build stamina … Target specific muscle groups … Wear out a bunch of smart-alec teenagers who think they have the answer to everything but really know nothing …  I had a coach in high school that would make us run cross country for our late summer/fall conditioning.  Then, the first two weeks of practice we wouldn’t even SEE a basketball.  Nothing but sprints, drills, jumping, and other physical challenges.  And, honestly, we were in awesome shape when the season started!!  (Didn’t win too many games … but we could run with ANYONE.)

HOWEVER … Basketball is not life.  Basketball is a sprint.  Life is more of a long race.  A feat of endurance.  A matter of pace.  And you will need a DEEP WELL of strength to make it.

I believe this is why God gave us Proverbs 3:5-6.  Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight!  If you are going to MAKE IT in this race, you need HIM!!  You need HIS STRENGTH!!  You need to TRUST HIM!!

Candidly, I will admit that I sometimes forget the previous fact.  Yes, me … A “pastor.”  Not listening to my own sermons again.  I try to put my head down and muddle through life.  And I grow weak.  And life keeps coming like a fire hydrant spraying water into your face.  And the stress presses in.  Then frustration.  Anger.  Helplessness.

And then I realize that I cannot FIX others.  I cannot even FIX myself.  But those words Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3 shine like a beacon.  And I needed to remember.  I can trust Him … He is ALREADY AT WORK on all of it!!  I just need to open my eyes and see Him!!

The Next Pandemic

23 Aug

It is on the horizon … I can feel it.

Almost everyone would agree that we live in a world on the brink.  Here we are, teetering back and forth, about to fall over the edge.  As the great Andi Hill just said, “you cannot go anywhere in life without drama.”  Drama in families.  Drama at work.  Drama in communities.  Drama in our churches.  Political drama.  Social drama.  Drama, drama, drama!!!!  (Not to be confused with Marcia, Marcia, Marcia)

It seems everyone is so easily offended these days that you cannot say or write anything.  BLUE is my favorite color.  (True story).  Now I will be getting hate mail and “requests for retraction” from the League of Red, the Yellow Party, and the Pink Ponies.

I thought the Great American Eclipse had an interesting effect on social media. For about a solid day, there was very little hate and abuse.  Just marveling at God’s creation (whether they realized it or not).  For about 24 hours, we were united.  And amazed.  And it was terrific!!

But, now, BACK TO WORK!!  Let’s point out all of the mistakes our leaders made, let’s highlight the hate, let’s do our part to tear this world into multiple pieces.

WHY?

Honestly, here is the pandemic:  WE have become a people who do not live for GOD in any way, shape, or form.  Over the past few months, I see the hate building.  And sadly I have seen people who profess Christ as Savior fueling this fire just as much as anyone else.

BECAUSE GOD IS NOT AT THE CENTER OF OUR LIVES.

I see it in how our children are being raised.  I see it in our worship, in our outward faithfulness to God through BEING THERE, through SERVING, and through GIVING.  I see it in the fruit that is NOT present in the lives of those who claim Jesus.  In how we fail to LOVE.

I see it in the hate.  God has become a little more than a figurehead.  A good luck charm.

How will all of that turn out for us?  Why don’t you ask the Children of Israel how it always turned out for them when they relegated God to a symbol.

(You REALLY don’t want to know ….)

Stop the PANDEMIC!!  Stop the HATE!!  Learn to LOVE with Christ’s kind of love.  Before it is too late!

That Steeple Though…

12 Jul

The word for this is BEAUTIFUL…

For only a couple of days, I have returned.  And it still feels like home.  Many of the names and faces here have changed. But this city remains the same!  Great food.  Awesome music!  And plenty of work to be done.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was planted in this city decades ago because of the mission-rich environment in the Big Easy.  And to make a long story short, God moved me and my little family here from Upstate SC 25 years ago.  

In SC, we take steeples for granted.  There seems to be one on almost every church in every corner.  This is not the case in New Orleans.  There aren’t many churches and even fewer steeples.  And when this country boy moved over 600 miles from family and friends into the huge, unforgiving city, the sight of this steeple would make my heart skip a beat.  When I saw this steeple, I was reminded that God is active in this city.  And safety…. and home… was just under the shadow of that steeple.

Yesterday when I drove back onto this campus for the first time in 11 years, my heart skipped a beat. Because in the heart of this great city, home is still there.  That steeple still proudly rises above Gentilly Boulevard.  

And God is still working a beautiful work right here in the heart of New Orleans.  (Is it any wonder why my eyes leak a little every time I look at it???)

What Bugs me about the Bible

10 Jul

I am a proud graduate of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  All of my professors taught and reminded me (and others) of the absolute treasure that is our modern Bible.  I’ve studied the history of the best-selling book of all time, I have studied the languages in which it was written, and I continue to study this Book.  And I recognize that the Bible is SO MUCH more than a book!

But, I have to confess there is something that bugs me.  There is just something that is not quite right.  I read it and see it and hear it and there are, from time to time, things that do not sit well with me.  That kind of stick in my gut.  That make me a little queasy.  Sometimes I even search for other answers and different meanings.

You see, the Bible is God’s Word.  Holy.  Set apart.  The Bible is His revelation of Himself, His nature, His activity with humankind, it is His love letter to His creation.  And I find that, the more I study it, the more I immerse in it and allow it to permeate my heart and mind, the more uncomfortable it makes me.  The more I cringe.

And I realize the reason I cringe …. IS ME.  Whenever I come face to face with the perfection of our Holy God, I realize how imperfect and unholy I really am.  (Probably NOT the confession you would expect to hear from a man whose career is pastoral ministry, but there it is.)

Show me a man or woman who LIKES to be called out, who ENJOYS being told how wrong he/she is, and I will show you someone who it NOT telling the truth.  Deep, deep down inside NONE of us enjoy the realization that we are wrong.  Many times as we rock along in this life, WE become our north-point.  Our thoughts and beliefs become our standard.  The Bible actually shows me a greater standard than I could ever develop.  And, quite frankly, that reminds me of my own imperfection.

So, I realize that the very thing that bugs me about the Bible is my heart.  My life.  My human will.  And I guess I should be glad it makes me uncomfortable.  Because it reminds me that the Holy Spirit is not done with me yet!!!

It all boils down to this

26 Jun

I was reading a political commentary this weekend that hit the nail on the head!! I would say this is primarily a first-world problem, but it is everywhere. I might ponder this a modern problem, but this is a problem as old as time. We can blame social media, the immediate publication of news (thanks to the World Wide Web), and modern technology, but this issue existed long before any of those were even dreams in the hearts of men and women.

One HUGE problem with our world today is OUR desire to WORSHIP US. That we each have a desire to do our own thing, go our own way, and the state of our world today makes that all too easy. We pick and choose the issues for which we are willing to die and allow equally important issues to fall by the wayside in the name of political affiliation.

Honestly, we in the United States live in a multi-party system. Each of us who are involved try to find the candidates and parties that most align with our value systems and we follow. If we are smart, we realize the candidate is more important than the party (but we will save that for our civics lesson later this year)…

Each party is developed and driven by men and women. Imperfect beings. Many in these parties will claim their party more closely models the life of Christ, which is the ultimate goal of every follower of Christ. But they all fall short. Why else would some fight for the rights of women and yet the rights of unborn women fall away? Why else would some fight for the rights of all unborn in the name of the Image of God and be so comfortable with war and capital punishment? We pick and choose that which makes us feel most comfortable …

We are swept into a worldwide community that values self-worship above all else. We, in the Body of Christ, are called to operate in this world. To tell the Good News!! To be Beacons of Light and Truth!! And this does make our job more difficult. Makes it a God-sized task.

When it comes to politics, the greatest plea I have for everyone who follows Christ is to PRAY.  And PRAY.  And PRAY more!!  No one is perfect!!  No candidate or party is perfect!!  And yet this is our way as Americans.  We will all make mistakes.  Exercise a little grace and pray for each other!!!!

We live in a world that values SELF-WORSHIP. God Almighty said we are to have NO OTHER GODS BEFORE HIM. And there is the rub …