Archive | April, 2013

Am I allowed to have pride??

29 Apr

I did a wedding this weekend…  Third one this month, actually.  But there was something that really made this one stand out!!  I was part of a trio of ministers involved.  What made this one special, however, was the third man in the lineup…

When I came to Ebenezer in 1995, there were a handful of senior high leaders that were really active.  But the core group was mostly made up of 8th and 9th graders.  And one of those 8th graders was a skinny little blonde-headed kid who wore glasses.  His name is Jason Dorriety.  He had this cute little sister who could outplay ALL of the boys in her grade (3rd, I think) in basketball.  Her name is Jessica.  Jessica Graham, as of this past Saturday.

Jason was that kid who was there EVERY TIME THE DOOR OPENED.  And, he wasn’t just there.  He was diving in as deep as he could.  And, he KEPT DIVING IN, even AFTER he graduated high school.  This wasn’t a David Wike thing, even though he was one of my good friends by the time he was a junior in high school.  This was a GOD-THING.

This God-thing continued into college, where he was eventually the president of FCA at Clemson.  It continued into life, as shortly after college, he publicly surrendered his life to full-time ministry.  Since then, he has served at First Baptist Church in Gray, Ga, and now at Spring Valley Baptist Church in Columbia, SC, as Minister to Students.

Everyone else at the wedding this weekend teared up when Jessica took a microphone and sang to Joel at the unity candle, a move most of us had NO IDEA was going to happen.  I had already fought back tears when Jason started speaking as he did his part of the wedding.  A big knot came up in my throat and I thought about that skinny little 8th grader that was taking it all in …

So, if I am permitted to have pride in ministry, I was PROUD on Saturday night.  And thankful God allows me to be part of a wonderful church that generates young men like Jason Dorriety.

A heavy burden

28 Apr

This week, God gave me a heavy burden.  SPECIFICALLY for Ebenezer, but it also branches out to all churches in North America.  That is what this sermon is about:

Part-time God from Ebenezer BC on Vimeo.

What does love your enemies mean today?

22 Apr

Last night in evening worship, we combed through the commands of Jesus in Matthew 5.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ calls His disciples to live to a HIGHER STANDARD.  “You have heard it was said ‘Do not murder’, but I tell you ‘Do not WISH someone dead.'”  Jesus calls us to a holy life, one that hinges on the state of our hearts.

He also told us to turn the other cheek if slapped, and if compelled to carry a pack for one mile, to carry it for TWO.  He commanded us to LOVE OUR ENEMIES and PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE US.  And now, one week after the brutal attack on citizens, on innocent by-standers, at the Boston Marathon, we are left to ask “What does this mean??”  Truth is, it takes on a whole new meaning for us.

Jesus did NOT say to let the remaining bomber off the hook.  He deserves to answer for his crimes, and will do this. But I believe Christ is addressing the hatred that we can possibly feel in our hearts towards this young man.

Every time I see a picture of that little eight year-old boy that was killed, my blood boils.  It makes me ANGRY.  I want to go do something about that.  And, I cannot even imagine how I would respond if that had been my son.  If one of the young ladies killed had been my daughter.  I pray I never have to face that, because I just don’t know how I would handle it.

I think most of us that love America probably felt the same way.  We would not hesitate to pull the trigger and end that guy’s life.  But vengeance is not ours to be had … it belongs to God Almighty Himself.

As hard as it seems, we have to realize that Jesus Christ died for that young man, “Suspect #2.”  Sometimes I wonder if someone had reached out to he and his brother years earlier and told them about the hope of Jesus Christ, if this bombing would have even happened.  I wonder if the church not doing our job is the reason these men plunged so far into darkness.

But, Christ made it clear we are to LOVE our enemies and PRAY for those who persecute us.  Even though our instinct is to do the opposite.  And if you don’t believe me, go read Matthew 5.

A tough thought for the day… But, I believe there is a reason for all of this.  I believe God is protecting us from ourselves when He reminds us to love our enemies, because He knows if we plunge into a world of hate and bitterness it will hurt US far more than it hurts anyone else.

Today’s sermon: A Spirit of Fear

21 Apr

A Spirit of Fear from Ebenezer BC on Vimeo.

Welcome home

18 Apr

These past few months have been tough.  Tough for Ebenezer.  Tough for the staff.  When God called Justin away, a huge void was felt not only in our church but also in our staff family.

We really are like a family.  When one of us hurts, we all hurt.  When one of us celebrates, we all share.  I guess you might say we are more than a team.  Justin was a big part of that team, and he IS loved.  And the lack of his presence was felt for sure.

The process to find a new minister in the Southern Baptist church is difficult.  Unique.  We don’t have a bishop or overseer that could merely assign a new staff person.  We kind of act as independent entities, have to search, evaluate, and find on our own.  That is exactly what Personnel has done since October.  The pool of candidates was whittled down from over 100 eventually to one.  Unlike the business world, if you are trusting God in the search, you approach candidates one at a time.  After an initial interview, that is what we did with Nathan Neighbors.

Nathan was born in Columbia but grew up in Florence.  Graduated from South Florence High School.  After college he married his high school sweetheart, Ashley (Ellis), and they headed to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  And they have been serving God faithfully since…

One of the my favorite things about this part of the process was how Nathan seemed to fit right in with Ebenezer.  With our church staff.  The first time I met him face to face, it was as if I had known him for years.  Honestly, I kept my feelings close to the vest to see where Personnel would land.  Eventually, they felt the same thing!  We all knew that this was the man.  But we had to continue working the process until all of the stars aligned.

I am thankful that everything aligned, and Nathan is already at work (so to speak).  Of course, he will work an appropriate notice at his current church and will then be on the field with us towards the end of May.  I am excited to see all that he brings to this vital ministry at EBC.

And, when I say “Welcome home!!” to he and Ashley, it means more than welcome to Florence!  I am thankful that Ebenezer is their new home!  I am thankful that they are already part of the family!!

What should we tell our children?

16 Apr

We still do not know all of the details.  And we might never know them all.  But the United States of America has been attacked again, in a cowardly way.  The goal of any kind of terrorism is to strike terror into the hearts of intended victims… There are actually two circles of targets in a terrorist attack:  Those directly impacted by the attack.  In the case of Boston, those killed, injured, and those who were eyewitnesses of this heinous action.  The second circle is anyone who watches this on television, online, or through other forms of media… These are those who will fear based on this attack.

With all of that understood, what do we tell our children?  We hold much of the key to their feelings of security and, unfortunately, they are growing up in an age where this seems to happen more and more often.  How do we convey this message to them and preserve their sense of security??

First of all, remember that each child is different and will handle this information differently.  Second, be very selective about which news shows and web articles you permit them to see…  Over the last hours, some of the images on the web and in news coverage are pretty gruesome.  While these images are true, I’ll confess at 46 years old there are a couple I wish I could unsee…

What can we do??

1.  Tell them the truth … as they can handle it.  I think God models this to us in how He has progressively revealed Himself to us.  He has told us the truth, as we can handle it and process it.  This is where you MUST know your children.  And if you have different aged siblings, this will be tougher.  But the best thing you can do is be as honest as you can with them.

2.  A fact of life is that evil exists in this world.  Most children can understand that.  And, one of the saddest facts of what happened yesterday is the perpetrator(s) of this act of terror did this with no regard to the fact that they were hurting innocent people.  In fact, that is what they intended to do.  You cannot get any more evil than that.

3.  Another fact is that God expects His people to bring LIGHT and GOODNESS into the world.  So now WE have a job to do.  Satan might have struck the first in this battle, but WE MUST WIN THE WAR.  We can now find ways to bring GOOD to something that is really, really BAD.

4.  Tell them to pray, and pray often.  Pray for the victims.  Pray for the first responders, who ran TOWARD the explosions while others ran away from them… (THESE FOLKS ARE HEROES!  GOOD IS ALREADY RUNNING IN).  Pray for those who will investigate this terrible crime, that they will find the truth.  And, finally, pray for whomever did this.  YES, Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  I know this seems to go against EVERYTHING we feel inside right now, but they obviously are in DESPERATE NEED of a real relationship with Jesus Christ.

5.  We remind them to BE OF GREAT COURAGE.  We allow a terrorist to win when we FEAR.  I know that is hard, but God walks the paths of life with us everyday.  Even when evil tries to strike us.  And truthfully, we never know what will come our way.  But we were not given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of POWER.  Of courage.  And we can defeat this act of terrorism by holding our heads high and being BRAVE.

Obviously I am no expert… I am sure many will find problems with some of what I have written.  But the truth is always the best answer.

Why should we be surprised?

10 Apr

Sometimes I think about the national issues of today … the politically charged hot issues … and compare them to the hot issues just 20 years ago.  And I am amazed.  And I wonder what kind of world my children will have to navigate in 20 or 30 years.  And, honestly, that makes me sad.

And, slowly, I see the handwriting on the wall:  There are some in this world that call me narrow-minded and bigoted BECAUSE I believe the Word of God.  All because I believe God’s Word is true, and that I believe I am required to add nothing to it or take nothing away from it (Revelation 22:19).  Slowly but surely in these United States, I am seen as a monger of hate.  A pinhead (ok, I’ve been THAT for some time).

But why are we surprised??  There are two simple truths that will make these things more and more true, at least as long as people who do not fear God are at the helm of our society:

1.  People DO NOT WANT their sin exposed.  NO ONE likes to be called on the carpet, and NO ONE likes to be reminded their lives are against the Will of God.  Period.  And they will fight it tooth and nail.  Now, let me interject one very important fact here, too:  ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD.  We have ALL SINNED.  NONE OF US IS PERFECT.  So, this statement is not made from some high and lofty perch.  I am just as imperfect as the next guy, and ALL SIN is bad in God’s eyes.  Not just the ones identified in political battles.

2.  Jesus told us people would HATE US because we love Him.  Go read Matthew 10.  Jesus told us that the WORLD would hate us because of Him.  And, they hated Him.  I mean, c’mon, THEY CRUCIFIED HIM!!  ANOTHER NOTE:  When they HATE us, this is NOT A LICENSE for us to HATE THEM.  In fact, Jesus also reminded us that it is EASY to love those who love you … But, we who follow Christ are called to LOVE OUR ENEMIES and to PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE US.  In every way, Jesus reminded us that THE STATE OF OUR HEARTS, EVEN TOWARDS THOSE WHO HATE US, should be that of love.  There is no room for the volleys of hate from our side of any issue.

So, why should we be surprised?  In Matthew 10:22, Jesus reminded us that those who stand firm until the end will be saved.

I know what I’m going to do.  How about you?