Archive | September, 2011

Love your enemies

30 Sep

Fred Sanford encapsulated a true worldview when he misquoted Jesus Christ by saying “do unto others BEFORE they do unto you.”. If there is one thing this world believes in, it’s that. Sadly, many in the church believe it, too!

Sometimes that mantra is used to justify being mean to others. Sometimes it’s used to justify covert operations and the betrayal of trust. Sometimes it’s just a great excuse because “everybody else is doing it!”

What would Jesus do?? Even better, what did Jesus COMMAND us to do in the Sermon on the Mount?

He said “it’s easy to love your friends and those that love you. I want you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you!”

WOW! The answer, once again, is love. Even if they are throwing stones at you. Even if they are stabbing you in the back. God will reward your love. It is His way and His command!!

So the next time the devil tempts you to hate, pick up an even more powerful weapon: LOVE!!!

Accentuate the Postive

29 Sep

There’s a lot to be said for focusing on the positive and moving ahead.  Tommy Dowling, a local leadership guru and church consultant, always reminds me to put energy into the positives!!  We can focus so much on the negatives we forget to nourish and cultivate the positives.  That won’t work in a local church (and it doesn’t work well in ANY business).

Satan gives us plenty of negatives on which we could focus.  And he wants us to do just that!!  I do believe it’s important to listen to criticism and take an honest look at it.  But we cannot bog down in it, just like we cannot ride the wave of praise!!  Truth is, we need to focus on the Holy Spirit and His leadership in EVERYTHING WE DO IN THE CHURCH.  If we do this, He will put the positives and negatives in the proper perspective, in the proper place.

Henry Blackaby reminded us in Experiencing God to discipline ourselves to “find God where He is at work in our lives AND JOIN HIM!!!”  Here’s a challenge for you to do that today!

A Great War is Waging

27 Sep

There is a great war waging right now in a variety of locations around the world.  One that might seem insignificant is waging in Florence, SC, as we speak.  It is not a conventional battle, but one on spiritual realms.  For Ebenezer Baptist Church.

God is taking hold of His church in a mighty way and Satan doesn’t like it!!  And he is doing everything he can do to pull us away from God and away from each other.  He will use pride, greed, power, envy, rage, and everything else we will allow him to use to accomplish this mission.  Satan loves to inhabit the conflict of God’s people and he wants to do a real number on us right now.  We must not allow him!!

I sit back and watch and it just makes me hurt.  I’ve seen Ed, Justin, Pam, and Andi under attack.  I’ve watched dear friends of mine come under attack.  I’ve seen this church under attack.  And I’ve been hit by too many flaming darts myself.  The time is NOW church for us to PRAY FOR EACH OTHER!!  Dig into God’s word, put on the full armor of God, and DO NOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN!!!

Specifically, do not allow Satan to have any strongholds in your life.  If we all would do this and get back to loving each other, this entire world would change!!!  All starting from an “insignificant spot” on the globe called Ebenezer …

Managing God

26 Sep

What a dangerous title and thought!!  How could we EVER manage God Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of all that exists!!  Author of our Salvation!!  And, yet, we try to do even worse things to Him.

Yesterday I referred to events in I Samuel, chapters 4 – 7 concerning the Children of Israel, the Ark of the Covenant, and a really bad plan.  It seems Israel decided to go to war against the Philistines.  When that didn’t go well, they decided to take the Ark of the Covenant, because it was POWERFUL.  It had always dispelled their foes before.  That battle brought great devastation on them, and they lost the Ark!!

Why??  Because they planned it and tried to invoke God’s power into their plan!  He hadn’t told them to go to war in the first place, and He DEFINITELY didn’t tell them to take the Ark!!

They were without the Ark for 20 years.  God didn’t give it back to them until they had purged themselves of their idols and false gods, and realized that without Him, they could do nothing!

EVERYTIME we try to manage God, to invoke His power into our schemes and plans, we are setting ourselves up for miserable failure and a lesson to be learned:  We cannot manage God and shouldn’t EVER dare to try!!!

Hoping every Ebenezerite will watch this

26 Sep

Top Ten Things I liked about this weekend

19 Sep

Our staff and most of our church spent the entire weekend here on campus for our Family Worship Weekend.  Yes, by any other name this is a REVIVAL!!  (Not because it was a series of meetings, but because it has renewed our hearts)  SO … here are the top ten things I loved about it:

10.  Tom Blackaby’s accent … Canadian!!  (Tom protests he was born in California, but c’mon … I’ve never heard a Californian talk that THAT, eh!)

9.  Jeff Slaughter’s accent … MISSISSIPPI!!  Yeah, I know Justin is from Mississippi … but he doesn’t talk like THAT!

8. I met folks from Camden and from FLORIDA that came up for this weekend!!

7.  Jimmy Norton tried to take Tom and Jeff clubbing on Thursday night … It’s just not a visit to Ebenezer unless you get to spend time with Jimmy Norton!!!!

6.  I got to see Harry Freeman dance … err, wait a minute. We’re Baptists.  Ok, I got to see Harry Freeman do “interpretive movement” on stage Friday night!!!

5.  Thanks to the kindness of Tamara and Jimmy, I got to have one of Wendy Frazier’s lemon squares.  Really had nothing to do with the revival, but it WAS a high point of the weekend!!


3.  Spending time with these guys that led us was one of my all-time favorite parts!!  I had breakfast with Tom on Saturday … with this world-renown speaker, author, and theologian … And we talked about our kids, sports, and stuff!!  Yeah, we talked shop some, too, but it was nice just to hang out with someone who has walked where I walk!!   And, as far as spending time with Jeff goes, it’s always fun to talk to that dude!!  One of the things I love about both of those guys is they are the same, no matter where you encounter them.  No huge egos … Just regular guys who thirst to serve God!!

2.YOU SHOWED UP, EBENEZER!!  Okay, everyone didn’t.  But MANY OF YOU DID!  And, as an added bonus, God changed our hearts for the better!!  Those that missed it really missed something special!

1.  I KNOW the Holy Spirit was at work in this.  In every way.  From the inception of this idea until the last prayer was prayed!!  Several folks have commented to me “Man, you must’ve told Tom a bunch about Ebenezer!!”  Not true!  We did give Tom and Jeff a “lay of the land” about our church, but the Holy Spirit was CLEARLY talking through them this weekend.  Here’s a hint:  Where Jeff and Tom do not constantly watch over us, the Holy Spirit DOES and He knows EVERYTHING that goes on around this place!!!!!

The Next Move is YOURS

19 Sep

Today is the first day we discover whether or not this weekend has any impact on Ebenezer.  We spent time this weekend with two icons of worship and understanding God’s word … You can’t get too many people to lead a revival better than these two.  I am thankful I got to spend some time getting to know them more … I had breakfast with Tom on Saturday and God reinforced a few things, mainly that people are people no matter where you are on this Big Blue Marble. Tom told stories about pastoring that sounded just like he’d been here looking over my shoulder!!  The time I spent with these guys was special, and I won’t soon forget any of it!

But even THAT wasn’t what this weekend was all about … We seek to build God’s kingdom, to live obedient lives to HIM!!  HOW will we do this??  WHEN will we get started??  WHERE will it begin for us??

All we can do is open our eyes, look for where God is at work, and JOIN HIM!!  And that is up to you!  The next move is YOURS!!  Will you have the courage to make it?

A thought for Pastors (and for all)

17 Sep

I just had a great breakfast with Tom Blackaby … One on one.  A chance to talk about everything in the world, and to talk about nothing.  We did both!

At one point, he told me a story that I will roughly quote: “Once, at a preaching conference, there were four speakers on the agenda for an evening.  The first three spoke and each went overtime.  The third, who was a preaching professor at a seminary/college, eloquently spoke and upon his finish left the podium to a standing ovation.  The fourth man stood, knowing things were way overtime, and shared the word God gave him.  He left the podium with half of the room on their knees before the Lord.”

Which pastor would you rather be???

One of the things I like about Tom is there are many similarities between us, about which I had no idea until we spent some time together this weekend.  And I know when he shares, he is sharing what God put on his heart to share.  I’m thankful for men and women who follow the Holy Spirit and trust Him.  God can do much with disciples like that!!  Lord, make ME a disciple like that!

Day One

16 Sep

Day One of the Family Worship Weekend is HERE!!!  This is a day for which we’ve prayed for months.  And our prayer is simply this:  That families in our area will draw closer to God and closer to each other as a result of what He does this weekend!!

I know there are several “distractions” for this weekend (Clemson V Auburn, USC V Navy, opening day of deer season for rifles), and yet this is where God led us and this is where we are.  As I write this, Jeff Slaughter and Tom Blackaby are already preparing for this weekend.  I am preparing for a funeral, but after that, it’s all about what God will do tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday. And my prayer is EVERY FAMILY that needs a closer walk with God and a closer walk with each other will be there!!

The schedule is:

TONIGHT – 7pm – Worship Rally with dessert social afterward

SATURDAY – 4pm – Session ONE (Adults with Tom and kids with Jeff)

5:30    Supper in the FLC

7:00    Combined worship in FLC

SUNDAY –     9:15am   Sunday School

10:30am  Combined Worship in FLC

Praying for Courage

15 Sep

That’s what I am doing … Every day.  Praying for courage for Ebenezer.

I believe our hesitancy to completely sell-out to God is a lack of courage … A fear of the unknown.  It is a frightening thing to completely be in the hands of God.  Human nature migrates us towards a need for security and stability.  For some of us, that is a need to be in control.  When we are totally, completely sold out to God, HE IS IN CONTROL!!

When I was a small child, I swallowed a nut.  Not the yummy, salted, roasted kind … The kind that fastens to a bolt.  The nut lodged in my throat and I began to choke.  This was apparently before the Heimlech maneuver was widely known, because as I turned blue my babysitter grabbed me by my ankles, turned me upside-down, and swung my back against the wall.  (I know … this explains A LOT)  It must’ve worked, because the nut dislodged and I turned from blue to red in the face again!  (I’ve NEVER liked rollercoasters, and I wonder if this is why?)

We might feel like we’ve been burned in some way in life, but that is NO REASON to NOT TRUST GOD!!!  In other words, our control issues SHOULD NEVER interfere with our trust in God!!  He is GOD!!  His plan is so much more than ours could ever be!!!!

So, today and everyday, I will pray for courage for each of us that make up Ebenezer Baptist Church.  For me … for you … for them …  When we get to this place where we trust Him we will be so much better off!!