Archive | March, 2014

Does honoring God really matter??

22 Mar

You KNOW what my answer to this will be.  But, instead of the pat answer, I present to you solid evidence.

There is a family I know.  Actually, many families, but one in particular.  They are NOT members of my church or even live in our city.  But I know them and have known them for many years.  When I look and compare this family to the family in which I was born, I see striking differences.  And the main, root difference goes back to how God is valued.  When I think about my grandmother, Tweeter Hooper (yes, her given name WAS Tweeter), she worked, pestered, fought, and did everything else to make sure her family was in church.  I see that paying off in the lives of all of her children now.  Somehow, we are seem to have healthy connections to God (at least as far as I can tell).  But this is not the family of which I write.

Another family.  A grandmother who really didn’t value God.  Her children, one who married into a strong family and does value Him.  One who did not.  As the generations go, they seem farther and farther separated from God and from His desires for creation.  With each generation, this family seems to move farther away from Him.  With no apparent end in sight.

Two things … Number one:  If you think your relationship with God and your service to Him doesn’t matter, YOU HAVE NO IDEA THE IMPACT YOU MIGHT BE MAKING FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.  YOU have a responsibility to the generations that will come after you, and your positions on such things DO MATTER and WILL MAKE AN IMPACT whether you realize it or not.

Number two:  This other family is NOT beyond salvation.  They are NOT beyond the scope, reach, or love of God in Jesus Christ.  But someone will need to share it with them.  Maybe that is YOU???

Today, I write and say that I am thankful for my grandmother and the impact she made.  I am thankful for my parents and for the fact they taught me that God is real and Jesus really does love me, not only in their words but in their lives.  And I am praying that I won’t let the next generation down.

He is our shield

20 Mar

I was reading the devotional email I received this morning from the Blackaby Spiritual Leadership Network and it was particularly challenging to me.  I love what the Blackabys do for leaders and value this email every day.  Today, a challenge to TRUST OUR SHIELD.

Proverbs 2:7 says “HE is a shield to those who walk uprightly.”  The writer of this devotional entry reminds us that anyone is open to face attacks or criticism.  And there are typically three ways we can respond to this:

  1. Operate under the radar and DO NOTHING to draw attention to yourself and maybe you won’t be criticized.
  2. Be aggressive in fighting it, and lash out at those who lash out at you.
  3. Trust YOUR SHIELD  (WHO IS GOD!!!)

I will confess that I have been guilty of the first two.  Being an MBI ISTJ personality type, I am naturally quiet about my movements anyway.  Being a middle child, I want everyone to be happy.  There have been times when number 1 has been my friend.

There have been times when I have had all that I can take, and number 2 has been my approach.  And I will confess to you that NEITHER approach works, NEITHER approach builds the Kingdom of God, and NEITHER approach pleases Him.  But I have made the mistake of trying each approach.

Number 3 is HARD.  However, I have personally seen that Number 3 WORKS!!  Again, it requires faith in God and a trust that He is greater than any attacker.  I also believe that trusting Him will lead us to evaluate the things we are doing that brought the attack, and if we trust Him and listen to Him, HE will lead us to change our ways if need be.  It all goes back to trusting HIM.

Praying for you, that you will not face such attacks.  But none of us are immune.  So, when you are attacked, TRUST YOUR SHIELD.

March Madness

19 Mar

This month has truly been March Madness at EBC.  So far we’ve had three special and different Sundays.  Each one was great but we will finally be back on full regular-schedule this Sunday.

What is it about us that craves normality??  Why do we get so out of sorts when things are even slightly different?  The answer can be found in our beds!!  On a cold night, what do you do??  Lay on top of the covers when you go to bed, or do you burrow under the covers and etch out a place and get warm??  Do you hold your head up off the pillow not to disturb it, or bury your head in it and allow it to conform and hold your head while you sleep??

Our nature, in every avenue of life, is to eek out a place and make life comfortable for us.  There is nothing wrong with that.  We want clothes that comfortably fit and we desire a life that is as stress-free as possible.  This desire spills over into every element of our life.  Even in our relationship with God.

The rub, as it is, is that our relationship with God is rarely comfortable.  God loves us and is amiable toward us, but the perfect nature of God is in direct conflict with our imperfect natures. When stand before His perfection, we CANNOT be comfortable with our imperfection.  And even when things change a little, we get uncomfortable.  We fidget.  We don’t like it.  It is both incompatible with our human nature to want things our way, and to want to control the situations in which we live and operate.

There comes a time when we all need to let go and allow God to take control.  At times it will lead us to do different things.  And that is okay!!  After all, it IS all about Him … RIGHT?

Where we are and where we go from here

18 Mar

Life moves fast … And the older I get, the faster it seems to move.  You wake up one day, and it is ten years later and the world in which we live has changed dramatically.  Sadly, the world keeps moving away from God.  Sometimes the changes are breath taking.  And we wonder how we got to this place …

We (the church) can blame the devil, we can blame the world, we can blame everyone in sight.  But the last time I checked, OUR GOD is far more powerful than the devil, than any force on this earth, than any prince or government or social system.  And we are called to be His presence on this earth.  In this culture.  We are called to be IN the world, but NOT OF the world.  We are called to be salt to a decaying world, and to be light to a darkened world.  So we need to stop playing the blame game and BE THE CHURCH God has called us to be!!

I don’t think this is a calling to thrown stones or to burn the current system down.  We need to BE salt and light.  We need to LIVE as people with hope and peace.  If we are the genuine article, people will see.  And they will want to know the difference we know!!  If they look at our lives and can see no difference, they naturally ask themselves “What is the point??”  And, quite frankly, they have every right to ask that.

Are you unhappy about our government??  THEN VOTE.  Seek out those who honor God and vote for them!  This will require all of us to get to know candidates, get to know issues, and be involved.  And if there are no candidates worthy of your vote, maybe YOU need to run??  NO MORE EXCUSES.  If you are unhappy about the way things are, the only way you can make a difference is get involved!!!

And if we get involved in all of these things, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, WE WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  AND if we are following Him, we can get all of these things in our world headed in the right direction.  But it takes time.  And it takes OUR WILLINGNESS TO BE INVOLVED.  ALL OF US.

Where do we go from here?  YOU will determine the answer to that question.

Why not trust?

17 Mar

I was talking to a friend yesterday about an upcoming decision our church will make concerning the usage of our present facilities.  If you know anything about Ebenezer, you know that we have space problems… WE NEED MORE!!  When you add in the idea that we need to seek God’s answer to this, it is not as simple as some might think .. and He is leading us to use what we have to the fullest!!

People have prayed for this for YEARS.  And prayed that we will do EXACTLY what God wants in His timing.  This has been a hard wait for the Ebenezerites.  When I read back on the stories of Moses and the Children of Israel on the exodus from Egypt, I can relate.  There have been some that feel they have clear-cut answers to do THIS … and just as many that feel they have clear-cut answers to do THAT.  As a leader, the only way I maintain sanity is to focus on God and seek answers from Him.  And I have found that people don’t always like His answers.

One of the biggest mistakes churches and church people can make is to watch at what God is doing in other churches, possibly even in other cities, and assume that the same formulas and programs would work for their church.  This is dangerous, because of several factors:

  • No two churches are alike.  There have never been two completely identical churches EVER.  Rick Warren speaks much of this in his books, and especially in The Purpose Driven Church.  We are in danger when we think we can copy what another church is doing and expect it to work identically in our church.
  • The context of every church is different.  Even when you look at the churches in Florence, SC, each of us is a little different.  We reach different people groups.  We are each unique in our way.
  • God has called each of us to a different mission.  Ultimately, we are all called to be Great Commission churches, but God uses each of us in different ways to reach this city.

With those thoughts in mind, don’t you believe God has a better plan for us than we could possibly hatch??  Don’t you think He wants what is best for us in every decision made??  I do.  That is why as we approach yet another important decision, I am looking to Him for all of the answers.

Why should we trust Him??  WHY SHOULDN’T WE?

I am praying that all of the Ebenezerites are asking Him for answers, too.  And, for all of you who go to other churches, I am praying that you seek God’s answers for your church.

Join me?

How our Ebenezer came to be

4 Mar

Several people have asked me to post of the story of how this particular Ebenezer that we dedicated this past Sunday came to be … First, a little background:

The word “Ebenezer” is derived from two Hebrew words put together to name a location.  It is usually transliterated as a proper name by dropping the definite article (Ha) from the Hebrew word for “help” (Ezer) and putting it together with the Hebrew word for “stone” (Even) to create: “Ebenezer.” The etymological roots of the word, thus defined, should demonstrate that an “Ebenezer” is, literally, a “Stone of Help.”

On February 17, 2008, Ebenezer Baptist Church gathered for a combined worship service to celebrate 230 years of ministry.  At the end of that service, each worshiper was challenged to place a stone on a pile of stones to mark the fact that God has helped us, individually and as a church, to this place.  Afterwards I wondered aloud “What will we do with all of these stones??  If God gives you a vision for this, please let me know.”  Shortly after that, Haley Wightman told me she had a vision for what we could do.  What if we made a monument to God from these??  Jim Stamp had a similar idea.  These two talked and the current iron heart you see was a result of that (and of YEARS of work by Jim, who probably has THOUSANDS of hours in this project.)  Through the efforts of many church members (and a lot of extra effort by our Church Administrator, Dusty Kertis, and Tory Brown), the concept of our own Ebenezer was fabricated and placed.  The monument you see before us IS OUR EBENEZER.  The stones in this monument are the very stones that we placed on that pile 6 years ago.

However … let it be known to the entire world that THIS IS NOT AN IDOL.  WE DO NOT WORSHIP THIS EBENEZER.  But we love and revere the One True God, and this monument serves as a reminder of His hand in our lives, as individuals AND as a body of believers known as Ebenezer Baptist Church.  May He and He alone receive all of the glory in this stone of help!!


Should the Church be involved in foreign missions?

3 Mar

Believe it or not, that question is often in the hearts and minds of some.  I’ve heard it many times in many different ways, and not only in my church but in churches across the US:  “Why are we going to __________ when there are needs right here at home?”  That is a really good question.  Here, I believe, is God’s answer to that question from His word.

WHY be involved in foreign missions?

In Matthew 28, Jesus said these words just before He ascended into Heaven after the resurrection:  “19 Go therefore and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (NIV)  In the second half of Acts 1:8, Jesus said “you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the END OF THE EARTH.”  So the first, simple answer is that Christ COMMANDED us to be involved in GLOBAL MISSIONS.

But a deeper look at Acts 1:8b tells us that He not only commanded us to be involved globally, but LOCALLY as well.  So the biblical answer to this question is He commanded us to DO BOTH LOCAL AND GLOBAL MISSIONS.

So, WHERE ARE YOU INVOLVED?  When someone questions a church’s response to global missions, a legitimate question to ask is “What are YOU doing locally to build the Kingdom of God?”  I have never believed it is enough to state publicly what your church should be doing … If you have a heart for something that needs to be done, GET INVOLVED AND DO IT.  It is not enough to alert leaders to a need, but (to borrow a page from the Purpose Driven Church) if you have a passion for a ministry YOU need to help make it happen.  And that involves more than just alerting others to the need and expecting them to make it happen.

One of the things that makes our Honduras partnership work so well is we have leaders in that ministry who are passionate about it.  For a mission project and a partnership to endure, you must have passion.  You must pray and seek God’s face and allow Him to lead.  When we take the reigns away from Him and guide things in our own directions, we often make a mess.

Another element in this is God’s timing.  God’s timing is always perfect, but rarely what WE want it to be.  When we enter into a new ministry at Ebenezer, it takes time to allow God to work on the hearts and minds of His people.  At times, this can be very frustrating.  Over and over in God’s word we see examples of the Children of Israel in the most hopeless places… And then they turn to God.  And He does things of which we cannot even DREAM!!!  (1 Samuel 7 is a great example of that)

So, the real question here is not  “Should the church be involved in foreign missions?” or even “Should the church be involved in MISSIONS?”  The REAL question is this:  “WHERE ARE YOU INVOLVED?”