Archive | November, 2013

Diary of an Oddball

27 Nov

Okay.  I will admit it.  I am the oddball of which this speaks.

I did not choose this.  I do not strive to be different.  But I know that I am.  Maybe it’s because my initial background is computers.  Maybe it is because I am an introvert that forces extrovert because my calling and job requires it.  (This might explain why I am perfectly content to be locked in a cave with a computer.) But I know that I am.

I hope you wouldn’t pick up on this in the walls of Ebenezer.  I am comfortable with my church family, so hospitality and friendliness come pretty easy within the walls.  And, somewhat outside of the walls.  But put me in a room full of area pastors or people I don’t know well, and I clam up.  It’s not that I don’t like them… I have MANY friends who are pastors in our area.  But put me in a room full of them, and I get really quiet.

Maybe that is why today’s online training with Saddleback was so meaningful to me.  It was me, a pastor from New York City, and two pastors on the Saddleback campus.  And we had a blast!!  And we solved some problems and broke some barriers down.  I am so thankful for the folks at Saddleback and their commitment to equip pastors all over the world!!  They inspire me to help the young pastors I know and to equip pastors in Honduras and other places when I have the opportunity.

And I am thankful for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Thankful for my Heavenly Father.  Thankful for the Holy Spirit, and I am thankful that God is greater than EVERYTHING, even my shyness!!!  And I am praying that God will continue to help me to use all those things He has given me to glorify Him and build His kingdom!

The Value of Family

26 Nov

Here I sit in Easley again.  A day or two before I had planned to be here for Thanksgiving.  I am thankful that Dad seems to be doing okay today.  Yesterday was a hard day for him and for the Wike family as we buried dad’s brother, Bob.  I don’t think any of us even thought Dad would bury his brother.  But we did.

As I wrote yesterday, death is hard enough for all of us.  Dad’s disease adds another dimension to the process of mourning.  My prayer for him has been that he will be able to work through this as best he can and not re-live this death over and over.  So far, so good.  Time will tell the ultimate answer though.

My dad had a great love for his brother.  In ways that most of us would never understand, they found themselves set as the two of them against the world many times from their youth.  They were always there for each other.  Even until the end.

I am thankful today for family:  For my little sister, who drove up from Tampa on Sunday just to be here with Dad and is driving back today.  In the rain.  I am thankful for my wife, who took charge of the turkey frying I was supposed to do yesterday and pulled folks together to get it done.  And I am thankful for my church family, specifically for the folks that jumped in at the last minute and got those turkeys done, and for the folks that have pulled together to help me be able to spend this time with my dad.  These are hard days for him and I am glad I could spend a couple of extra days with him before Thanksgiving.

It is no cliche:  I really don’t see how people make it through times like this without family.

Heading home for a funeral

25 Nov

A sad journey today. Very soon I will be on the road to Easley to attend my uncle’s funeral and spend some time with my dad.

Death is always difficult. Sadness envelopes you when it is someone close. When a Christian dIes, there is always hope and comfort in knowing that disease will never again touch that person. But that doesn’t lessen the sense of loss.

My dad loved his brother dearly. They were close all throughout their lives. I know if dad didn’t suffer from NPH this would be a horrible day for him. In a sense it is even harder in the fact that he cannot seem to get into the grief process. Every time he deals with knowing Bob died it is as if the first time he has heard the news.

Praying for closure today for my dad and praying for Uncle Bob’s family.

Making the Most of it all

19 Nov

Every year around this time we start hearing and thinking about the meaning of the season.  Well, seasons … Thanksgiving is a time when we think about the spirit of the first Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful for where we are and how we got here!!  Thankful for the provision of God in our lives.  This really meant something to the first Pilgrims to celebrate Thanksgiving… They had survived and were beginning to thrive in a harsh land.  Truth is, we should be most thankful for their determination and spirit!!

And then, of course, Christmas is upon us.  The celebration of Christ’s miraculous birth!!  We will be reminded that Jesus is the Reason for the Season.  We will honor our traditions of exchanging gifts with those we love.  It will all come and go so quickly, if we blink we will almost miss it!!  December is definitely the fastest-moving month on the calendar…

To keep this as simple as possible, what if all of this meant a little more to us this year.  What if, at the forefront of our hearts, we kept the spirit of the holiday (Holiday is a word derived from the fact that it is a HOLY DAY, a day set apart) and knew in our hearts that God and His blessing is what these days are all about??

I challenge you:  Find a way to put God first in these holiday seasons!!!

Atheist Mega-Churches???

18 Nov

Yesterday I referred to an article issued by the Associated Press about Atheist Mega-Churches and how they are making their way across the Atlantic from the UK to the US.  Here is a link to the article:
http://news.yahoo.com/atheist-mega-churches-root-across-us-world-214619648.html

NO, I wasn’t making a veiled insult to any church that might or might not be in Florence … This is real and this is a perfect example of what Jesus was talking about when He said the lost are wondering aimlessly in this world like sheep without a shepherd.  These, my friends, are the wolves that seek to devour.

We have been charged to be salt and light in a world that needs us.  We have been commissioned to go and tell the world about the Good News of Jesus Christ.  This urgency of this commission becomes more obvious when we realize that the world is out there trying to provide answers that are counterfeit at best.  But some are so thirsty for answers that they will accept anything.

What can you do about this today??  Tell one person about Jesus.  That is a start!!

Veteran’s Day 2013

11 Nov

As I have contemplated the meaning of Veteran’s Day today, I was quickly drawn to the veterans who have had a strong impact on my life…  Friends who have served.  Several uncles.  And two men who have a DIRECT impact on my existence, my grandfather and my dad.  I am thankful for the sacrifices they made, both while in the service of our nation and generally in life.  They taught me a work ethic and a life ethic that made me the man I am today.

This afternoon I was thinking about what today means and I decided to watch Toby Keith’s Angry American video.  Powerful images of men and women who serve our nation TODAY.  Lyrics that remind us of a day, not too far in our past, in which our nation was cut to the core.  Challenged.  And America accepted.

September 11, 2001 was another day that will live in infamy in modern history.  A day in which America was dealt a deadly blow on our own shores.  As horrible as that day was, we emerged like the majestic eagle that is our symbol of freedom.  Immediately after one of the weakest points of our history, we were strong in that weakness.  We were together.  United.  We loved our country and we grieved with those among us who lost loved ones as if they were our own.  But there was a unity of spirit in the post-911 days that reminded us all that Uncle Sam wasn’t dead.  That the rumors of his demise were much exaggerated.

Fast forward 12 years and today it seems to me that we are about as far from united as possible.  We cast stones at each other over nothing.  Our allegiances to sports teams and political parties even over-shadow our willingness to obey Christ.  Our economy is almost in ruins and we are reeling to find leaders to trust.  It is hard to find a good man or woman who is willing to serve in the public arena, and WE are to blame for it.  Some good men and women still serve.  I am thankful to know several of these who, by virtue of their service, paint targets on their backs and on their homes.  And yet they are willing.  But good men and women are becoming harder and harder to find.

WE, the church, hold a great deal of responsibility for this.  The United States has gone from being ONE NATION UNDER GOD to a nation ashamed of God, and ironically He should look upon US and feel ashamed of His people.  Our nation has thumbed its nose at God, at His Word, at His commands, and it seems some take great pleasure in doing so.  I believe in our lifetime we will see attempts to prevent the reading of certain passages of the Bible and possibly the censorship of those passages.  And it is all because we have kept our heads in the sand and done nothing.

Okay, so what am I getting at??  Am I about to call for some massive revolution, for a military resistance?? NO.  But, church, I am asking you this:  Are YOU willing to BE OBEDIENT to God and TELL OTHERS ABOUT HIM??

As we have chosen NOT to tell others about Him over the last few decades, we have allowed the fabric of America to weaken.  WE have NOT trusted God enough and now we are in a fix.  Do what HE commands.  If you are unclear about what He is commanding, please PRAY and READ YOUR BIBLE.  He will show you what He wants YOU to do.

Edmund Burke once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Let’s not test this to find out if it is true.

History in the making

11 Nov

The story really is the kind of story told in history books.  It is that important.  To date, Ebenezer Baptist Church has two history books written about it, both telling the story of this great church with a tremendous heritage of missions.  In fact, if you look for one central theme in the 235-year-old life of Ebenezer, mission work might be it!!  Both of these books tell the story of two daughter of Ebenezer, Ruth Pettigrew and Neale Young, who gave their lives for missions overseas.  Their lives were all about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And I submit to you that there is another such story today that belongs with these two.

I remember when I first met Drake Johnston.  He was barely in junior high school and was a neighbor to our youth pastor (at the time), Justin McAlpin.  Justin invited him to EBC in the beginning and Drake would faithfully walk down to Justin’s house and catch a ride with him as often as he could.  Through that relationship, Drake realized his own need for Christ.  As time passed, his mother, stepfather, and little brothers came to know Ebenezer as their spiritual home, too!  (Ironically, Sherry (his mom) attended Ebenezer as a child, so this was somewhat of a homecoming for her!!)

As Drake finished high school and all of his friends talked about where they were going to college, he sensed a call to go in a different direction.  God gave him a tremendous musical talent and he felt called to use it for God as best he could.  He prayed about it, talked about it with his mom, with Justin, with me, and with others whose counsel he trusted:  He felt a call to go to the mission field with the OM organization.  He talked to the OM folks and found out that he probably would not be assigned to a ship but to a land-based worship team.

When most of the kids his age were moving to different colleges, pledging fraternities and sororities and engaging in the lives of college freshmen, Drake was being trained to survive on the mission field.  And that is where he has spent his life since.  And he will head back in a few months.  Hearing his testimony in song and his experiences yesterday reminds us that, just as God did with Miss Neale and Miss Ruth, He has taken another child of Ebenezer and placed that young man in a position to directly influence hundreds of thousands with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Personally, I can also see how God has blessed his talent and it continues to grow and develop.

So … the next time you wonder if God is still at work in a place like Ebenezer, think about Drake.  Think about all that God has called him to do and all that he is doing to build the kingdom of God.  Realize that those noisy kids running the halls contain the next Drake … the next Ruth … the next Neale.  And thank God Almighty for the noise!!