Archive | March, 2012

Long overdue

30 Mar

This is the first blog entry for the week. And it’s Friday. I haven’t really had writers block, so to speak, but this has been a week full of things about which I just can’t blog. Come with the territory as a pastor. Honestly, this week I strongly considered starting that anonymous blog I’ve always threatened to do. But that would never work: I blog from my heart and would be too easily figured out.

I can say this has been a week of pinnacles and valleys. There have been great victories and I passed through a few mine fields. And there has been heartache. But, again, it comes with the territory. But no complaints here!! Just happy to live to serve another day!

This week I visited a great influencer of me when I was young. He is much older now, in poor health, and struggling. But he will always be my pastor!!! And Eddie Greene will probably never know (on this side of eternity) what a tremendous influence he still has in my life. I’m thankful for pastors like him, like Lonnie Shull, like John Dill, who helped me when I was a young Christian. They taught me stuff you just can’t learn in seminary. Every time I walk into a hospital room or a situation in which I minister, they go with me… Whether they realize it or not.

And I know my responsibility is to pay that forward to the next generation.

Today’s sermon

25 Mar

What I REALLY would’ve said

23 Mar

Isn’t it kind of dangerous for a pastor to write and think something like this???  Unfortunately, I am not always in a place where I can really speak my mind.  Sometimes God says no … sometimes Diana does.  If I could REALLY say what I think, it might be dangerous.

After THAT dramaculous intro, here is what I REALLY would’ve said to my ACS peeps today if I’d had a little more time:

  • I remember the first time I ever saw ACS.  It was MS-DOS based and COMPLETELY customizable.  I was a young IT professional who happened to be on the newly-formed technology committee at the church where I grew up (Washington Avenue Baptist Church in Greenville, SC).  I LOVED the demo.  Everyone else on the committee (who were all over 50 while I was 23) hated it.  One of those took that opportunity to remind me that she was working with computers at the bank while I was in diapers.  I was outvoted.
  • I remember my stint at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, teaching the undergraduate computer course.  ACS was on my menu then.  Someone had given us demo disks.  In a very limited fashion, I instructed my pupils in the need for data organization.  They looked at me with eyes glazed.
  • Almost 17 years ago, when I came to Ebenezer, I discovered that ACS was based in Florence.  I had not known that.  We were on ACS for DOS, and we LOVED IT.  I remember the day we decided to transition to ACS for Windows and how Ed Self and I had to pull our ministry assistants into it kicking and screaming.
  • Over the years, I’ve had some really good friends at ACS.  Still do.  In fact, there are a few employees at ACS that are some of mine and Diana’s closest friends.  Helps me love my ACS peeps even more (because I KNOW some of the people with whom you have to work!!)
  • I love the fact that we are close enough and brave enough to let you guys run experiments and use our installation as a proving ground at times.  I remember as a software developer (before surrendering to ministry) how important beta testing is.  THAT is why I have such a heart for you guys!!
  • I would’ve wrapped up by telling you that there are TWO products that I use so much it would boggle your minds:  I LOVE ACS OnDemand and I LOVE Church Life.  Those two applications enable me to do my jobs (all of them at EBC … I have a few) on the go and on the run.  Church Life is the BOMB-DIGGITY.  Just sayin!!!

So, there is the reason behind my appreciation and love for my ACS peeps.  You really make more of a difference than you can even imagine, both for your neighbors at EBC AND for 50,000 churches across the nation.  YOU GUYS ROCK!!!

The fog is getting thicker … and Leon’s getting LARRRRGERRRR!!!

19 Mar

That title has nothing to do with this blog entry, except for the fact it is my FAVORITE line from the movie “Airplane!”  (Not that I’m recommending any of you go watch Airplane, because if you are not into absolutely stupid guy humor, it’ll be a waste of your time …)

Fog … Condensation forming that is light and airy, and hanging in the air just enough to prevent good visibility.  This morning I was driving up McCown towards the church and when I got to Mark Phillips’ house, I couldn’t even SEE Genevieve Pettigrew’s mailbox.  Thick fog requires a knowledge of the road to drive in, a little luck, and a lot of faith.

Fog presents a great analogy on faith.  In New Orleans, there is a double-bridge called the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway.


(Facts about that bridge copied from Wikipedia:

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, or the Causeway, consists of two parallel bridges crossing Lake Pontchartrain in southern Louisiana, United States. The longer of the two bridges is 23.83 miles (38.35 km) long. Since 1969 it was listed by Guinness World Records as the longest bridge over water in the world; in 2011 in response to the opening of the longer Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in China, Guinness created two categories for bridges over water: continuous and aggregate lengths over water. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway then became the longest bridge over water (continuous) while Jiaozhou Bay Bridge the longest bridge over water (aggregate).

The bridges are supported by 9,500 concrete pilings. The two bridges feature bascule spans over the navigation channel 8 miles (13 km) south of the north shore. The southern terminus of the Causeway is in Metairie,Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. The northern terminus is at Mandeville, Louisiana.

Thank you, Wikipedia, for making all of our lives greater.)

When fog sops these bridges in, the police force for these bridges (Yes, the Causeway has IT’S OWN POLICE DEPARTMENT) will stack cars two or three together and tell them to follow the police car in front.  The cars go across in a tight line, with speeds going as low as 20mph (depending on the thickness of the fog).  The key here is have faith in the person in front of you … DON’T LET THEIR LIGHTS GET OUT OF YOUR SIGHT.  The bridges are relatively straight, but you’d better follow carefully.  Great faith is required, because if the policeman doesn’t know where he is going and You are following his lights, if he goes over the side I guess you are next.  And then, the next guy.  And then, the next guy.  Not a fun thought.

Everyday presents opportunities to follow with faith.  Spiritually, Satan pumps the fog in all around us.  In front of us.  Behind us.  And the Holy Spirit is there.  He is always there.  Waiting to show us the way God wants us to navigate.  The only really “safe” way, even though it might lead through treacherous territory.  No matter how thick or dangerous it might seem, if we follow Him closely … if we TRUST HIM … we will make it safely to the other side.

So:  Which will you choose today, on this foggy day in Florence, SC???

today’s sermon

18 Mar

An update on Dad and Mr Lefty

15 Mar

It’s been a while since I did this, so I thought I would blog a little update on where Dad is medically and where my left arm stands right now …

Dad is physically doing well.  From a memory standpoint, not so much … He has been in therapy to strengthen his legs and is physically able to do more than he’s done in a while.  He is still in a wheelchair, but they’re working on his ability to get in and out of a car!  If this all works out, Mom will be able to use her Buick to take him on shorter trips with the help of a transport wheelchair (which will be a little lighter).  All of it still concerns me, because Dad’s ability to get in and out of the car is  heavily dependent on him NOT being tired.

I call them everyday.  And almost every day I have to remind Dad that I live in Florence and I have to remind him of what I do vocationally.  I know this is tough for Mom, because it’s getting tough for me!  But, honestly, it’s not about me …

As far as my left arm goes, I guess not much has changed.  I’ve been out of therapy for months now.  I haven’t seen my doctor for months.  So far, no pain.  Even though its been more than a year, the swelling is STILL going down weekly.  I can see new visual signs of that almost on a weekly basis.  I cannot straighten my arm, and the doctor does not want me to do that.  He says the cartilage is messed up pretty bad in that elbow, and I don’t need to do that.  Also, if it pops out of joint I will be going DIRECTLY to the hospital, and then DIRECTLY to surgery.  Been there and done that once.  Don’t want to do it again!!

This is funny now, but I wasn’t too happy when someone tried to manually straighten my arm in the office hallway one day.  it was a well-meaning person, but OOWIE did that hurt!!!  A few weeks ago I tried to put on a sports coat.  Did not hang right because my shoulder is still goofed up.  I even went up a size or two, and it still didn’t fit right!!!  Thank God for my doctoral robe.

People act surprised that I don’t have pain, but I honestly don’t.  Hope that doesn’t change anytime soon!!!

Be Careful what you wish for!!!

13 Mar

I was talking on Facebook to one of my oldest … no wait, it’s not that she’s old.  And she is definitely not the oldest friend I have.  But she has been a friend since we were both little kids growing up at Washington Avenue Baptist Church in Greenville.

Anyway, Joy Crenshaw Branon and I were talking on Facebook a little while ago and she reminded me that she remembers when I was a little kid in Sunday School and proudly announced to the whole class “When I grow up, I’m gonna be a preacher!”

In the last couple of months, there have been times when I’ve thought “If I could only go back in time and tell that little kid, ‘Hey Nucklehead!  BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!!'”  (And I would sneak some $$ back and invest it ALL in Apple)

Hey, kid … you have NO IDEA what you are asking for:

  • Sleepless nights
  • Times when you feel God is your ONLY ally
  • Late night phone calls
  • Vacations you will have to leave your family to do your job
  • Times when you can do nothing right, no matter which way you move
  • Stress
  • Heartache
  • This list could go on and on ….

I was thinking about that the other day, and then it hit me …  There would also be times of:

  • Seeing God at work FIRSTHAND and seeing Him do things that you wouldn’t believe unless you saw it firsthand
  • Getting to spend some of the happiest moments with your extended family (mine is EBC) and see babies born, celebrate great victories in life, help marriages get started on the right foot
  • Having the opportunity to help young Christians grow and getting the most awesome reward of seeing them blossom in God and follow Him with great faith!!!
  • Being entrusted with the privilege to help families in their times of greatest need
  • Being loved by your church
  • And, again, seeing the miracles of God from a front-row seat

The Holy Spirit Himself reminds me that I am one of the most fortunate men in Florence, SC, because I get to be the point man for My Savior in my family that is Ebenezer.  And when I think about all of that, I would tell that kid to trust in the Lord with all of his little heart, and to lean not on his own understanding.  In everything he does, acknowledge God and follow Him, and God Himself will pave the way for that kid.

(And, if you have a few bucks, invest in Apple when it first goes public even though everyone around you is telling you that Apple Computers is a mere fad.  Trust me, kid … )

Good things

12 Mar

Tommy Dowling always told me we need to focus on the POSITIVE.  Sometimes we focus too much on the negative … And I am here to tell you that, as pastor to this church, I DO see good things happening.  I DO see people building the Kingdom of God.  I DO see people being obedient and pursuing God’s will for their lives and pursuing it for His church.

God’s kingdom is alive and well and working at Ebenezer.  And I am thankful for it!!!

Today’s Sermon

11 Mar

Personal preference

6 Mar

In praying through this idea that we, the church, are called to be a hospital ship instead of a “Love Boat,” there is one big, glaring detail we cannot deny:  We’ve become more like love boats because we’ve built our churches around personal preference and comfort.  Our programs, our decor, everything about us is centered around what we want and what we prefer …

Even in our actions, programs, and habits.  We really are called to reach the wounded.  In order to do that, we need to move beyond what we want and what we think “should be” and start asking God what He wants.  IN EVERYTHING.  We say our purpose is to worship Him, that we exist for His pleasure.  To serve Him.  To build His kingdom.  And to make this transition, we MUST make it all about Him.

He must increase, and we must decrease in this equation if it is ever to work!!