Archive | June, 2015

Cultural Shift

30 Jun

Yes.  We are in the middle of a cultural shift.  As a pastor, I have opinions hitting me from all sides.  And I have the Holy Spirit speaking to me.  And all of the voices are starting to settle down … FINALLY.  And I can here HIS voice more clearly.

What does God think about all of this??

First of all, I AM NOT GOD.  I am fully aware of that.  And, believe me, YOU do not want ME to assume that role.  It would create a miserable universe in a matter of seconds.  Possibly milliseconds.  But, in the middle of all of the opinions and voices, there are several things I know to be true:

OUR MISSION AS A CHURCH HAS NOT CHANGED.  I am writing to Ebenezer.  And I am writing to the Body of Christ, the “Big C” Church.  We are still called to WORSHIP GOD and GOD ALONE, to TELL OTHERS ABOUT SALVATION IN CHRIST, to MAKE DISCIPLES, to MINISTER IN OUR WORLD, to FELLOWSHIP with each other.  NONE of that has changed.

GOD’S WORD HAS NOT CHANGED.  No court in any land can redefine the things God inspired to be written into His Holy Word.  So there is no need to panic.  Yes, we are called to continue to believe His word and stand for His word.  Even when the culture around us ignores His word.  By the way, THAT has been happening for DECADES in the United States of America.  Sometimes I wonder why people are so surprised…  But, rest assured that God’s word is the same as it was last week … Last month … Last year … Last century … NONE of that has changed.

JESUS SAID THE GREATEST THINGS WE CAN DO ARE TO LOVE GOD WITH ALL OF OUR HEARTS AND LOVE EACH OTHER AS MUCH AS WE LOVE OURSELVES.  THIS HAS NOT CHANGED.  I’ve been so troubled by the things I’ve seen on social media.  From BOTH sides of the issues we’ve walked through in the past two weeks:  Specifically, same sex marriage and the Confederate flag flap.  Both sides have spewed hate.  Rhetoric.    We’ve quickly gone from a state united after the Charleston tragedy to a state divided.  And in full hate mode.  (It’s like Clemson-Carolina week all year round.  On powerful steroids.)

All of this hate grieves God.  I know it.  Because, church, we STILL have to find a way to be His ambassadors to the world.  TO THE ENTIRE WORLD.  To those who want to remove the flag AND to those who want to keep it.  To those who celebrate the Supreme Court decision AND to those who grieve it.  We are called to TELL OTHERS ABOUT HOPE IN JESUS CHRIST.  WE ALL NEED THIS HOPE.  No decisions by courts or legislators will ever change that.

Yes, our culture is shifting.  PLEASE DO NOT EVER FORGET that OUR GOD IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, and FOREVER.  Even if we face persecution (which I believe is coming).  Even if we stare into the very face of hate (which I believe we will).  OUR GOD HAS NOT SHIFTED.  Our mission has not changed.

HOW WILL WE ACCOMPLISH THIS MISSION?  How can we stand for what we believe and yet love and reach those with whom we do not agree?  That, my friends, is a God-sized task.  We MUST trust Him to show us the way.  And have the faith to follow Him on that path.

A Legacy

23 Jun

Legacy.  Something handed down from an ancestor to another.  It could be property.  It could be knowledge.  It could be the very thing I write about tonight.

Something happened to me today.  I want to write about it, NOT to toot my own horn, but to give thanks for my mother and father.  Because what happened today was a direct result of their LEGACY to me.  A legacy I have attempted to pass on to my children and hope they will pass on to theirs.

Don’t get your hopes up:  This is probably an insignificant event.  Barely worth reading.  You might want to Facebook and see what people are writing about the Confederate Flag or whatever the hot topic is now.

This afternoon I went to a grocery store after my workout.  There I stood in line with a handful of items.  There were many folks in front of me at the self-checkouts, so I stood.  And waited.  Knowing that I am much quicker than most of them at logging in, scanning my stuff, paying, and exchanging a pleasantry with the attending employee as I take my bags and venture back out into the intense heat.  There was an older lady in front of me and she was hurrying as best she could.  She lifted her debit card to swipe for payment and she dropped it.  And it found its way FAR, FAR to the back of the equipment on the floor.  She looked like she could’ve cried.

I knew what to do.  Why?  Because I was taught to be a gentleman.  A Southern gentleman.  Taught by both my mother and father, from a young age.  When someone needs help, you go out of your way to help.  PERIOD.  She looked at the card and looked back at me with a bewildered look.  I was already putting my stuff on the floor.  She started to bend down and I said “No, ma’am.”  I had to get on all fours and crawl up under the machine.  I grabbed the card with my left hand (you know, the one that will not straighten out yet God has seen fit to help me recover and be able to use it to do all sorts of good stuff).  I handed it to her and she thanked me. Her smile was all the payment I needed.

I really thought nothing of that entire incident until about five hours later.  Then I hit me:  I am that Southern gentleman because I had a mother and father who cared enough about who I would become to teach me to do things like that.  To hold a door for a stranger.  To help someone who needed it without having to be asked.  To do the right thing.  Regardless of race, social status, or any other factor that our world would say separates us.  I am a product of two parents from the South who made sure I obeyed the Golden Rule:  To do unto others as I would like for them to do unto me.  To treat others better than I treat myself.  To love with God’s kind of love.  With the kind of love Jesus showed us when He stretched out His arms and allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross.

So, as you can see, I am not bragging on myself.  I merely did the right thing.  The very thing I was taught to do by Don and Janet Wike.  If I am bragging on anyone, it is them.  And they wouldn’t like it one bit!

A Son of South Carolina

22 Jun

I love my state.  South Carolina is a large part of my life.  Sure, I would venture over in to northern Georgia or North Carolina at times when I was young, and even made an obligatory trip to Florida a time or two, but South Carolina always had my heart.  There is just something about this state.  Something about that field of blue of a crescent moon and palmetto tree.  I love it.

I didn’t realize how much I loved it until I moved to New Orleans, Louisiana.  Don’t get me wrong:  I love New Orleans, too.  Love the people.  Love the church I served.  LOVE the seminary I attended.  But there was always something about this state.  Living away for three years helped me know even more how much I love this place.

Fast-forward 20 years later.  One of the most heartbreaking tragedies to ever happen in an American church happens in Charleston.  Nine people … Nine CHRISTIANS.  Nine worshippers were gunned down.  The intent of the shooter?  To start a race war.  But, to quote a long time friend of mine who is now a Charleston resident, “He failed.”

What we see now is a revival, of sorts (to quote another good friend who is a Charleston resident).  We see people bonding together.  White, black, purple, green, EVERY COLOR.  LOVING.  We see the families of those who were brutally murdered FORGIVING the murderer.  (I think because they know it will do no good to hold a grudge.)  We see a city … in SC, it is known as the “Holy City” … Instead of falling into anarchy, this great city has pulled together with love, grace, and mercy.  I believe God is glorified in this.  I believe the devil is mad, because his little plan just failed.

Foiled by Charleston.  Foiled by South Carolina.

And, today, I am prouder than ever before to be a son of South Carolina.  Sure, we have our faults.  We are not perfect.  But we are South Carolina.  And that is pretty great in itself.

What makes a church GREAT

15 Jun

What makes a church jump from GOOD to GREAT???  Is it the awesome and dynamic pastor???  Not even close.  Is it the superior production value of the music and drama???  Nope.  The wonderful facility???  Nah.  All of these things are good, mind you, but none of these take a church from GOOD to GREAT.

This morning I will cut to the chase.  I am tired.  It is VBS week.  I am WAYYYY over-committed today.  So here it is:  It is a combination of OBEDIENCE TO GOD and the spirit of the PEOPLE.

The people can make or break a church.  The people are what draw others in.  When visitors find a strong sense of family and community, they want to be part.  And (here I am, sliding the REAL TRUTH in) this only works when GOD IS AT THE CENTER.  When HE IS LEADING THE PACK.  When the people are FOLLOWING HIM, HAVING FAITH IN HIM, TRUSTING HIM, TAKING GIANT STEPS AS HE DIRECTS.

The “church” that DOES NOT DO THESE THINGS is nothing more than a club.

The church that DOES these things IS GREAT.  ONLY BECAUSE OUR GOD IS GREAT.

Think about that as you have your next cup of coffee ….

(Drops mic.  Walks into copy room to get yet ANOTHER cup of coffee)