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 …

We should BE MORE

26 May

There is a disturbing trend in our world today.  We cannot “get along.”  We have forgotten how to coexist with others who might not agree with us.  Who do not look like us, act like us, etc …  We are spiraling down into a world in which the love of Christ is NOT SEEN even in His church.  We are headed for dangerous times, indeed.

Quickly, we might want to blame social media.  I do think social media has fueled this trend, but ultimately WE ARE RESPONSIBLE.  Social media makes it easier to post our thoughts and feelings onto the world wide web with a degree of anonymity.  We will post things, even about people we know, that we would NEVER say to their faces.  Because if we looked them in the eye and said those things, we would have to deal with the pain we inflict.  Even though social media makes it easier to “express ourselves,” we cannot escape the fact that WORDS CAN HURT.  And YOUR WORDS can make a POSITIVE IMPACT on this world just as they can make a NEGATIVE IMPACT.  The choice is YOURS.

So, YOU are to blame.  (I AM, TOO!) We have spiraled down to this point where we terminate relationships and friendships with those that might not see things the same way we see them politically, religiously, economically, and even down to loyalty to sports teams.  My friends, WE ARE RIDICULOUS.  (And I am keenly aware that I might lose a friend or two in saying these things.)

WE ALL NEED TO WAKE UP AND REALIZE THAT NONE OF US HAVE THE MARKET CORNERED WHEN IT COMES TO LIFE.  All of us have faults.  All of us have made mistakes.  We all have beliefs that have been shaped by life, by circumstance, by influences, and hopefully by God’s word.  Probably NONE OF US have it exactly as God sees it.  No, God is NOT a Republican.  He is NOT a Democrat.  He is  NOT a Northerner, and as much as it pains me to say, He is NOT a Southerner.  He is not a Gamecock, Bulldog, Tide, Paladin, Buckeye, and (gulp) not even a Tiger.

And yet HE finds a way to LOVE US ALL.  He even finds a way to love our enemies.  And He commands us to do the same.

The cure of all of this??? IT IS YOU.  Not waiting on others to act, but YOU LOVE WITH GOD’S KIND OF LOVE.  And if YOU do it, and if I do it, and if the next few people do it, before long we will treat each other with the dignity and respect HE INTENDED for us.  And you won’t unfriend that person who voted for that other person.  Or who pulls for that other team.  Or who drives a Ford or Chevy.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 “When I was a child, I acted like a child.  But now that I am growing up, I’m not doing that anymore.”

Hey WORLD:  Stop acting like children.  GROW UP.  We were all taught better than this.

Time FLIES when you are having fun

8 May

It sounds so cliche, but it’s the absolute truth:  ENJOY EVERY DAY of your children.  Because, one day, they won’t be children any more.

Twenty-two years and three days ago Diana and I welcomed our son into the world.  We were in the midst of packing our home and preparing to move to Florence to serve at Ebenezer as Minister of Youth and Recreation.  I was two weeks away from graduation with one class remaining to be taken a week after graduation in a workshop.  Our lives were in a tempest of things that had to be done to take the next steps in our lives when Drew was born in a hospital which was over 600 miles from home.  We had no biological family nearby, but we had plenty of family from Woodmere Baptist Church and from our seminary family.  And there it was …

Four weeks later we drove away from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to our new home, Ebenezer.  A place we still call home.  With two small children and a calling from God.  And it has all unfolded faster than we could blink our eyes.

Today I have two children who have earned Bachelor’s degrees … One who is working on her masters degree as a Physician Assistant, and one who is now in process of applying to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to do online work as he serves his own church in Florence (Greenwood Baptist).  And it all seems like a flash.

Just yesterday we were unloading a truck into one of the Cambridge Apartments.  Playing softball at Freedom Florence and baseball at Maple Park.  Going to programs, plays, and multiple sports at Delmae, Moore, Sneed, and West Florence.

I have said it many times the past few years and am saying it again now:  PARENTS, BELIEVE IT!!  It goes by like a flash!!  And I really wouldn’t change it at all!!  (Except maybe to slow it down and enjoy it a little more)

Parents: It’s time to LEAD

17 Apr

There is a dangerous trend in parenting.  Working in my field, I’ve actually seen it for years.  Each year it gets a little stronger … A little worse.  We have molded parenting theory and reshaped our society to accommodate it.  And we are starting to pay a price.

And, simply, here it is:  PARENTS, you need to BE PARENTS.  YOU need to take charge.  YOU need to call the shots.  YOU need to open your eyes and see the reality of your child’s life.

How did we become a society of the entitled?  By trends just like this.  And I know some will read this and be angry with me.  That’s okay.  As a pastor, I have a job to do as well.  And it is not always popular.

As a parent, you have experienced far more life than your child.  Probably by now you have experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  You have experienced good fortune and times when life just wasn’t fair.  You have seen the ups and you have seen the downs.  Do you want to prepare your child to face REAL LIFE?  Teach them about all of this.  (Especially the part about life not always being fair…)

Make them go to school!!  Make the live up to their commitments!!  (One of the worst trends I see in North American culture RIGHT NOW is the trend of being committed until something better comes along.  Teach them to be a person of THEIR WORD by being a person of YOUR WORD.)

Teach them to face up to problems and work them out instead of running from them.  I am the CHIEF of hating confrontation, and yet now I see that it is necessary at times.   But I know with all of my heart that the best thing I can teach my family is to face up to problems instead of running from them.

And, for goodness sake, BRING THEM TO CHURCH.  If I could’ve talked my mom and dad out of making me go to church, I would’ve done it every time.  Now I look back and I am thankful they could see through that!!!!

This is hard.  And there will be times when you won’t be able to be their best friend.  And that’s okay … That is part of being a parent.  If you trust the Lord, use His Word as your guide, do your very best, and band together with other believers who are parents and facing the same work, YOU WILL MAKE IT.  And you will NEVER regret it.

I am praying you will start TODAY!!!!