The Morning After

16 Sep

Okay, Ebenezer, I DO NOT like this “being home on Sunday morning.”  Not one bit.  There is so much to be thankful for, but I wish I could see you guys.  Look you in the eyes.  Know that my family is okay.

At Wednesday Night Bible Study, we talked a little about Jesus calming the storm.  As we shared those words and prayed, all of the experts were telling us that a Category 4 or 5 hurricane was going to SLAM into our coast and obliterate us.  And do record-breaking damage to South Carolina, North Carolina, and a good bit of the Eastern Seaboard.  So we braced for it.  We prepared.  We cancelled Sunday worship because the forecast showed the eye of the storm about 30 miles due south of us on Sunday at 8am.  And we waited.

Two memes I saw told the story:  One said waiting on this hurricane was like being stalked by a TURTLE.  True!!  The other struck more fear into my heart .. It said that waiting for this hurricane was like waiting for your father to get home, KNOWING that you were in trouble and you were gonna get a good spanking!!!  (It didn’t quite say that, but that is the clean version)  Honestly, I’ve been there and done that more than I care to say.

SO… We sat, glued to the TV and internet.  Hearing this storm would break all of the records.  CATASTROPHIC DEVASTATION.  And we waited.  And we waited.  And we prayed.  And there was NO WAY this storm was not going to completely gut the eastern side of both states.

But God wasn’t writing the story that way.  It is true, there were people who lost their lives in the storm.  There are cities and families whose worlds are COMPLETELY DEMOLISHED.  But God was at work.  Right before the storm came ashore, it apparently hit a pocket of dry air that no one saw coming.  The mighty Cat4/5 hurricane was deflated to a mere ONE when it came ashore.  The path of devastation was reduced to a more confined area.  Now, do not take these words lightly:  THESE PEOPLE NEED OUR HELP.  And will need it for WEEKS TO COME.  This, too, is how God works.  He calls His people to make a difference in His world.

I do not make lightly of the damage, of the water and wind, and of the storm.  But I am afraid we were all so hypnotized by the radar, the forecasts, and the science of it all that we forgot one HUGE important factor:

GOD IS GOD OF ALL.  EVEN THE STORM!!!

My friend Lyn Myrick felt compelled to read this at the end of our Bible Study.  He told us it was his favorite passage.

Psalm 46 (NIV)

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 

I am afraid we all forgot that GOD IS OUR REFUGE.  And even when the earth gives way, and the mountains fall into the sea, HE IS STILL IN CONTROL.

And, instead of being angry with our weather forecasters and our government, perhaps we should be thankful that God deflated a Cat4/5 storm.  We prayed, He moved His hand, and look what happened!!!!!!!

Genuine

29 Aug

I was walking into the mall the other day and a man walked up to me out of the blue.  He said “I have something for you” and he reached into his pocket and pulled out a crisp $100 bill.  I WAS ECSTATIC!!!  That had never happened to me before, and I couldn’t wait to tell Diana about it!!!

Instead of calling her, I went straight into Belk’s and went to pair of really nice shoes that Diana has on her watch list.  Really nice shoes.  The kind she would never buy for herself, because she has spent her lifetime putting her husband and children before her, and she struggles to spend a dime on herself.

I proudly take the shoes to the register and the cashier tells me the total, and it will almost wipe-out my “gift” from the man at the door.  But that’s okay .. She deserves it.  I hand the bill over to the cashier, and she takes out a little pen.  Then she shyly steps over to a phone and calls someone in low tones.  She asks me to be patient, because there is a little issue she needs to resolve.  Two minutes later, I find myself explaining to a store manager and security guard how I obtained the COUNTERFEIT $100.00 bill that I tried to use in my purchase!!!!  They look at me like I am crazy.  And, I hear someone across the room say “Isn’t that the preacher at Ebenezer?!”   GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[Okay.  That didn’t really happen.  And most of those who know me knew that from the beginning, because my walking into the mall alone would surely be a sign of the apocalypse.  But, how embarrassing would that have been???]

If only I had made sure that bill was genuine before I went through all of that!!!  If only I had really thought this through and realized that in my 52 years on this Big Blue Marble, no stranger has EVER given me $100.00 for no reason!!  If only I had not let the thrill of free money cloud my logical mind!!!

Every day, we need to be aware that there are counterfeits all around us.  Temptations.  False idols.  Even people who seem to be the most genuine we could imagine, and yet they operate with subterranean agendas.  HOW CAN WE GUARD AGAINST THESE??

The only way to guard against those false things is to KNOW THE TRUTH.  To be in sync with the truth.  In John 14:6, Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…”  If you walk with the TRUTH, and you listen to the Holy Spirit that He promised, you will be able to sense when things are not quite right.  To see those counterfeits before they cause you embarrassment and harm.

Be careful, my friends.  There are all kinds of hazards and wolves in this world.  KNOW THE TRUTH!!

Don’t Tell Them Jesus Loves Them

27 Aug

Back in 1988, Steve Camp released a song that haunts me 30 years later.  Here are the lyrics:

Oh, the suffering souls
Crying out for love
In a world that seldom cares
See the hungry hearts
Longing to be filled
Much more than our prayers
And a young girl sells herself
On Seventh Avenue
And you hear her crying out for help
“My God, what will we do?”

Don’t tell them Jesus loves them
Till you’re ready to love them too
Till your heart breaks from the sorrow
And the pain they’re going through
With a life full of compassion
May we do what we must do
Don’t tell them Jesus loves them
Till you’re ready to love them too

All the desperate men
Are we reaching for the souls
That are sinking down in sin?
Oh, cry for the church
We’ve lost our passion for the lost
And there are billions left to win
And another forty thousand children
Starve to death today
Would we risk all we have
To see one of them saved?

Don’t tell them Jesus loves them
Till you’re ready to love them too
Till your heart breaks from the sorrow
And the pain they’re going through
With a life full of compassion
May we do what we must do
Don’t tell them Jesus loves them
Till you’re ready to love them too

Why have we waited so long
Ah, to show them Jesus lives
To share salvation’s song
Why have our hearts become so proud
Oh, that we fail to see
To love them is to love God

And a young girl sells herself
On Seventh Avenue
Hear her crying out for help
“What will we do?”

Oh, don’t tell them Jesus loves them
Till you’re ready to love them too
Till your heart breaks from the sorrow
And the pain they’re going through
With a life full of compassion
May we do what we must do
Don’t tell them Jesus loves them
Till you’re ready to love them too

A song, released 30 years ago, tells the story of TODAY.  The story of NOW.  Church, WE are called to tell them that Jesus loves them.  But don’t you DARE tell them until you are ready to love them too!!  In fact, if you do not love them, you are walking OUTSIDE of God’s will.

And, if we are called to LOVE the lost, how much are we called to love those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ?  How can envy and strife exist in the modern church, except that we (the church) are walking and living in a way that is contrary to God???  A long time ago there was a word for living like that:  That word in SIN.  Walking against God’s will.  And those of us that knowingly walk against the will of God will be judged for doing that.

So, pray and seek His face.  He will give you exactly what you need to be able to love even those you deem unloveable!!  (Trust me … I know from experience!!!)

WYSIWYG

24 Aug

Do you know what that means??  This one will really date some of my IT peeps.   WYSIWYG is an acronym for What You See Is What You Get.  It dates back to the really old days, the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the days when WordStar and WordPerfect for DOS reigned supreme in the world of text editing.  It was a revolutionary move when we could SEE what all of the control codes in our documents looked like!!  Today we are spoiled with MS Word.  We can see, format, and do everything we need to do on the fly.  It is a much more efficient day.  Because what we SEE (What we KEY INTO THE PROGRAM) really is what we get when we print or display.

As a young student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, I was a WordPerfect for DOS master!!  I knew the Kate Turabian Writing Manual almost as well as I knew the book of Genesis.  And I was taught over and over this truth:  YOU NEED TO BE A WYSIWYG.  Not in those words, but we were constantly reminded that we, as ministers, need to be REAL.  I argue today that genuineness and realness are necessary for EVERYONE who follows Christ, regardless of your profession!!!  Granted, we in ministry HAD BETTER lead the way on this one.  But we all have the highest calling to (not only) be REAL but to BE CHRIST to a lost and dying world!!!  Because everyone really is watching.  And they can tell when we are not genuine!

I was talking to a friend about a situation yesterday.  A meeting with a variety of adults involved.  Some who know Christ.  Some who do not.  In this meeting, a married couple who, as everyone knows, is a minister and his wife.  Another colleague was late to the meeting and the couple proceeded to tear her to shreds publicly, not because she was late, but for some other reason.  Then, she arrived, and sugar would not melt in their mouths as they greeter her!!

IS THIS CHRIST?

What do you think others who witnessed this kind of thing (probably more than once) think about CHRIST and the CHURCH???  When we act no better than the world??  (Specifically to my ministry friends, WHAT do you think those other folks think about ministers when we do things like this?)

Church, WE are called to do better.  To BE better.

In other news, my momma always told me to beware of people who will talk about others TO you.  Because they are almost always talking ABOUT you to others.  I find that to be true over and over again.  Sad …

What can YOU do about this?  Again, Mom would advise me NOT TO BE PART OF THIS.  If you do not give others a listening ear to their rantings and ravings, you are stopping the spread of it all!!!  Honestly, I need to do better.  Because by all means, I am NOT perfect.  It takes work.

The greatest thing that you and I can do is to BE THE BEST EMULATION OF CHRIST WE CAN BE.  Be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect!!  (Some too easily dismiss this quote from Matthew 5:48 because WE CANNOT BE PERFECT.  But it gives us something to strive towards!!  And if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time!!!)

DO BETTER.  BE BETTER.  You can do it!!!

Selective Love

6 Aug

Otherwise known as “Conditional Love,” we practice SELECTIVE LOVE often.  And perhaps we don’t even realize it!!  (But maybe we do …)

All it takes is a few moments on social media and it is apparent that almost everyone in our world has forgotten how to disagree.

We are NOT all alike. We do not believe THE SAME WAY about every issue that we face. And THAT IS OKAY. We are human. The differences between us help to form the unique individuals that we have become.

The danger of 2018 is found in how we allow these differences to polarize us on every level. When we pick and choose whom we will love based on our beliefs or other factors that divide us, we are practicing SELECTIVE LOVE. We are ONLY LOVING those who are like us, who look like us, who act like us, who believe like us, who vote like us, who pull for the same football team. Can you see where this is headed??

This is not only bad for the future of our world, this is in DIRECT OPPOSITION to how Jesus taught us to love in the Sermon on the Mount!!

 In Matthew 5 (NIV), Jesus said:

 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded His disciples that the civilized world would expect everyone to love their neighbor. And hate their enemy. These things were not only accepted, but EXPECTED of anyone and everyone. But a disciple of Christ is called to DO MORE …

We are called to LOVE OUR ENEMIES. To PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE US. We are called to meet the aggression of our enemies with LOVE. With CARE. And, if we do these things, we will be the sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven.  Again the world says this is CRAZY.   Some of you reading this might even think these words are crazy.  But, remember:  These are the very words of Jesus Christ!

IF you only love those who love you, you are living no better than the rest of the world. LOVE those who do not love you. Go the extra mile, even when it doesn’t make sense.  THAT is God’s kind of love!!

STRIVE TO BE PERFECT as your Heavenly Father is perfect!  (Zig Ziglar said: “If you aim at NOTHING, you will hit it every time.”)

Humility

25 Jul

A dangerous topic for any blogger … Humility.  Being humble.  I’ve been told that bloggers are the most narcissistic people on the web.  Honestly, it slowed my blogging frequency until I realized this:  My blog is another expression of faith and trust in Him.  So, if you are one of those that thinks this is a narcissistic article, I hope you have already stopped reading by now!! (Hopefully, you didn’t start reading in the first place.)

I serve in a profession with many temptations.  Current news outlets are FULL of stories of ministers and denominational leaders who have experienced tremendous falls.  Some for mistakes made years ago.  Some for ongoing transgressions.  Some of these falls are most deserved.  Some of them are heartbreaking.

Now, I cannot sit in judgment over any man or woman in ministry.  Because I have made mistakes over the years, too.  The world might not grade my mistakes as harshly as some others, but God sees all of this differently.  All have sinned and fall short of His glory.  And, to Him, all sin is bad.  But one of the dangerous elements in many of the mistakes made by men and women (not only in ministry, but in life) is the element of PRIDE.  PRIDE is a MOST dangerous element in the life of any and every Christian.  We probably all struggle with PRIDE on a regular basis.  At least, I know I do.

Do you live to SERVE or to BE SERVED?

Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, shared this in Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  One of the greatest temptations that has plagued humanity from the BEGINNING is PRIDE.  I do not believe Solomon was telling us not to believe in ourselves.  Having a positive self-image is necessary for our own mental survival!!  Solomon is reminding us not to WORSHIP ourselves.  I believe Solomon was being consistent with the biblical model of HUMILITY, of not allowing our self-image to become an item of worship!!

Today I believe he would write “KNOW WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST!!”

Both Peter and James wrote about this same idea:

James 4:10 – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

1 Peter 5:6 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

If we HUMBLE OURSELVES before the Lord, we are showing the world that HE IS GOD and WE ARE HUMANITY!!  And that is OKAY!!  It is the most realistic ORDER OF EXISTENCE!!!

If we then HUMBLE OURSELVES BEFORE OUR NEIGHBORS, we are showing the world that JESUS CHRIST IS REAL!!  In fact, more simply stated, we are showing the world JESUS CHRIST.

Do YOU live to SERVE?  Or to BE SERVED?  A great question to ask ourselves every day.

 

Slowing Down

28 Mar

There is something to be said for SLOWING DOWN.  Believe me.  It seems that lately I have been meeting myself coming and going.  A funeral here.  A meeting there (and here and everywhere).  A handful of fires.  A computer goes down.  Projectors blink.  It.  Never.  Stops.

I had an opportunity to come to Columbia for two days of uninterrupted study.  A chance to get away.  To pray.  To work on upcoming sermons.  To plan for the remainder of the year.  To take a breath.  Honestly, once I slowed down and took a deep breath, I was shocked at the things that flowed out.  Almost like taking a sip from a fire hydrant.  A TON of ideas worth praying over and pursuing.  But it makes me wonder …

What if I took the time to just slow down once or twice a week, just to close my eyes and listen to God and to what is going on around me??  I wonder how much more of an asset to the Kingdom of God I would be if only I could do that???

I am not sure, but I think we are going to find out.  I think I’m gonna give this a try.  We shall see!!!