Archive | January, 2012

The Message

31 Jan

Today would probably be a good day to begin with my occasional disclaimer:  The thoughts on this blog are mine.  They are neither the thoughts nor opinions of Ebenezer Baptist Church.  And I am imperfect.  I make mistakes (Gasp … I  know.  But it’s true).  I am human, not cyborg (although I have looked into preserving my brain after I die!!)

This morning I was reading a passage of scripture.  One that I’ve read and preached many times before.  One of the things I like about using technology is the fact that I can look a passage up on my iPad or on certain websites, then change the Bible version, and instantly see it from another point of view.  For some unknown reason I decided to look this passage up in The Message.

The Message is a paraphrase of the Bible published by NavPress in the mid-1990s.  I am not typically fond of paraphrases and will rarely quote one when preaching because I like a word-for-word translation.  But when I read this one, although it is definitely not a word-for-word, it speaks to me.  It reminds me of the heart intent of what Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount.

In the NIV, the words of Jesus from Matthew 7:1-5 read like this:

 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Jesus is pretty clear … The way we judge others is EXACTLY how we will be judged.  That convicts me deeply.  But I have never seen anyone with a “plank” sticking out of his eye.  Now, mind you, I’m sure there have been times when I’ve had one.  But literally, the only plank I’ve ever seen sticking out of anyone in the past few years was the one sticking out of Bill Watkins’ hand a few weeks ago.  If you want to see it, just ask him:  He’ll show you the pictures!!

NOW … when I read this in The Message, here is what I found:

 1-5 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

WOW!!  That rips me to the core!!  Because I’ve never literally had a plank in my eye, but I’ve had sneers on my face.  Many times.  And I think The Message really schooled me this morning on the intent of Matthew 7:1-5.

So, paraphrases are NOT ALL BAD.  Especially when you realize you are not reading a word-for-word translation.  They can still speak to God’s heart intent for His word.

Excuse me now while I go check the mirror …

Burned out

30 Jan

This morning I find myself up way too early and burned out.  The events of the past four weeks have been like a gauntlet and I am hesitant to even take a step today for fear I will trip another land mine.  It’s been a wild ride, and nothing fun about it.

Yesterday we buried another strong servant of God at Ebenezer.  Yes, Geneva Tolson had been sick for several years now.  But I remember not so long ago when she was hard at work building the kingdom of God in the ways she could.  Once again, I hurt for her family and I wonder who God will send to take her place.  While we were finishing Geneva’s funeral, another funeral started 100 miles away.  It was for the mother of my good friend, Richard Hooss.  I was thankful Ed assisted with that funeral and was able to be there for the Hooss family.  (If the plural of goose is geese, is the plural of Hooss “Heese?”  I’ve asked Richard that question before … He says yes.)

Oscar Holland said something at Geneva’s funeral that struck a chord with me.  He talked about how he’d seen people full of kindness and grace at Ebenezer, and remarked that Ebenezer had many people who fit that description.  Maybe more than any other church he’d seen.

I’ve seen that in the last month, too.  I’ve seen families full of graciousness and mercy, even when mourning the loss of someone they love.  Even in the tough times of dealing with death.  And that has blessed me.

And, in spite of all of the baggage that comes with being a pastor, the grace, mercy, and love of the people of Ebenezer will be what pulls me through.  And I’ll do my best, in my imperfect ways, to pull you through.  As will the staff of EBC.

And for that I am thankful.

Today’s sermon

29 Jan

My Bride

26 Jan

I love my wife!!  She is the perfect compliment to me.  It’s as if God put US together in the Garden of Eden.  She helps make my strengths stronger and she shores up my weaknesses.  She celebrates my victories and picks me up when I fall into the pit.  She is my best friend and my most serious voice of reason … and I trust her words.  She really is like Wonder Woman.

Don’t believe me??  We are almost at the end of a two-week stint of keeping her 19-month-old nephew.  Long story, but she is helping her mother out who had hip replacement a couple of weeks ago.  And she has taken this task on with great resolve and done well.  And it makes me proud.  Proud that she has such a love for her family and is willing to do all that she does.  I see the love of God and the heart of Christ in her all the time.  She does more than talk about it … She LIVES IT.

Neither one of us is perfect (yeah, y’all KNOW I’m not).  But she’s pretty close!

Introvert, Part Deux

25 Jan

Yes, I am an introvert. You might’ve noticed the first Introvert post is gone.  I should’ve been MORE of an introvert in what I said the first time.

I chose to take the first post down, but here is the link to the blogpost from Ron Edmondson.  It is really worth the read!!

Wanted: Six Soldiers

24 Jan

Why am I so chippy right now?? That’s what SIX funerals (I didn’t do two of them, but they affect me in personal ways) will do to you in a little over two weeks.  Thankfully, they were all disciples of Christ, so I will see them all again!  And all of them had a unique impact on the kingdom:

One of them was a caretaker.  Ironically, she took care of everyone but never wanted ANYONE to fuss over her.  I accidentally caught her in the hospital once … She wasn’t angry that I didn’t use my ESP to know she was in the hospital.  In fact, she told me she’d purposefully hidden it from me because she knew I had too much to do.  She will be missed.

Then there was a friend who did not attend our church, but much of her family does.  She was at death’s door six weeks ago and then God brought her back.  And she used her last three weeks to point her family to Him, praising Him and sharing her faith in Him.  They had one more Christmas and heard much about what God had done for her in life.  She will be missed.

Then there was a man who used to attend EBC.  He was a real friend to me.  Had been since I came here almost 17 years ago.  He and I shared a great love for UNC Basketball.  The last time I visited him in the hospital, he had the best quote:  “People pick on me about UNC turning the ball over so much in the past couple of years.  I just tell them ‘it’s hard to dribble the ball with all those championship rings on your fingers.'”  He had a great faith, attributing his mother for teaching him all about Jesus.  I loved that guy, as does his family.  He will be missed.

Then there was a lady who was best friends with the first one I described in this post.  She was unique … She taught piano to half of Florence County.  She served Ebenezer for YEARS and had the unique role of serving a sister church down the road too… at the SAME TIME!!  It’s rare that you can make a difference in two churches at the same time, but that’s exactly what she did.  In a tremendous way.  She will be missed.

Then there was this man who was a friend.  He and I had a lot in common in the realm of HVAC.  He worked to make sure people had what they needed.  He was a worker bee, and a great one.  Shared his faith with his actions.  And it is hard to let him go.  He will be missed.

THEN … there was this man who, to say he was my friend would be a gross misstatement.  He took on the role of guardian angel for me and for the rest of the staff at EBC.  He was a worker, a helper who liked to do his good deeds in secret (as Jesus said they should be).  He did so much at EBC on a regular basis I would break this blog if I listed it all.  I still cannot imagine EBC without him.  He will be missed.

So, by my count, that would be SIX.  SIX soldiers who have marched on to their reward.  And I am praying God will raise up faithful people to continue their callings!!


23 Jan

That is how I feel this weekend … Raw.  I don’t write that to elicit pity, or any other kind of response really.  But that IS how it feels right now.  (LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR:  Don’t worry about ME.  I’ll be fine.  PRAY FOR THESE FAMILIES PLEASE!!!)

Funerals are like novacaine.  They numb me a little.  And for the past couple of weeks, I’ve done / attended too many.  This weekend I had two very different funerals:  A huge, community-wide funeral for Philip Kennedy and a small, private, family funeral for Don Belcher.  I consider both men to be friends … So this weekend, I had too much novacaine.

I pray for the families of these, and others who’ve lost loved ones in the past few weeks:  the Singletarys, the Watfords, the Smiths, the Carrolls.  We as Christians have some understanding of what happens after death because Jesus TOLD us.  But that doesn’t stop us from missing those we love.  The void has to heal best it can.

So, we as a church spring into action and help in any way we can.  And in EVERY one of these situations, I’ve watched you, Ebenezer.  And you are doing the Kingdom of God PROUD!!

Let’s pray for healing for each other this week … and especially for these families!!!  Love you guys!!

Today’s Sermon

22 Jan

Don’t forget the Golden Rule

16 Jan

Yesterday I preached on the Greatest Commandments, which consists of the Shema and the Golden Rule.  There is a valuable life principle at work in the Golden Rule, and one that we forget too often.

Fred Sanford (on Sanford and Son … ok, if you remember that, you’re probably my age or older) had his own version of the Golden Rule:  Do unto others BEFORE they do unto you.  Yeah, that’s funny!  It is also what the Golden Rule has become in the modern world.  Get the other guy BEFORE he gets you.  Just straight-up survival of the fittest.  No Godly principles at work here!!

Diana recently faced a situation where a man who barely knows her decided to tell her off over a situation that wasn’t real.  (This did not happen in Florence.)  In hindsight I believe he was doing this to cover one of his own mistakes.  I was not with her at the time, and all I wanted to do is … Well, I’d better not blog too deeply here.  God and I finally saw it His way, and I did want to share something with this guy that I think would help him in life:  If you respect others, they will respect you.  But if you live your life disrespecting others, that is exactly what you will get from them. If you want respect, you must treat others respectfully.  Does that make sense??

Another truth, that this fellow probably wouldn’t understand, is this:  those of us in Christ are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  (That is exactly why God won our little discussion, and He’s right!!)

Jesus said if we will love God with EVERYTHING WE ARE and love each other as much as we love ourselves, we would be getting to the heart of the Law and the Prophets.  God will be pleased and this world will be a much better place!!!

Don’t forget the Golden Rule today!!!

How Great is the Love of God?

15 Jan