Archive | August, 2015

Another Brick in the Wall

31 Aug


I really wasn’t prepared for this on Saturday, but I had to knock five cement blocks out of a wall in Mom and Dad’s basement.  Long story, but I was making room for a new furnace that will be installed in the next few days…  It had been a long time since I’ve done any demo like this and I was reminded of a fundamental truth about blocks and bricks:  Blocks and bricks that are mortared together have a collective strength that they don’t have individually.

I talked about this in my sermon yesterday.  Knocking out the first brick in the line was TOUGH!!!  But once I got the first one out, the rest were a piece of cake!  Then, when I moved to the second row, the same principle held true:  The first one was MURDER.  The rest were easy!

This might not be the best method, but I often prepare and meditate on my sermon material while I work.  Or workout.  I go over it and think about it and kick it around.  As I worked all day Friday and Saturday at the house, I missed this one!! It hit me on Sunday morning right before I walked into early worship.

WE are like the blocks.  WE … the CHURCH.  When we stand together we make a wall that is STRONGER than any of us are as individual blocks.  When one block is missing, our wall is weakened.  THAT IS WHAT IS SO IMPORTANT ABOUT BEING A CHURCH FAMILY!!!  When YOU are missing, someone else might be struggling because the wall is weakened. The family is less than it should be.

I have several friends who are facing MAJOR THINGS in their lives right now.  Several in my Ebenezer family.  And I intend, to the best of my ability, TO BE A BRICK IN THEIR WALL.  TO HELP THEM FACE IT ALL STRONG AND UNITE FOR THEM.  Because, I know they will do the same for me when the time is right.  How about you???

A Living Legacy

25 Aug


Legacy.  A piece of our lives that lives on beyond us.  For some, the legacy left will be very good.  For others, not so much.  How is yours developing?

Today I drove to the SC Baptist Convention Building in Columbia for a meeting of the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina, for which I am an ambassador (albeit, not a very good one).  It was a chance to meet a couple of new friends and fellow pastors, to reconnect with some old ones, and to jump back into my role of support for this very vital ministry in our state.  Later today, Diana and I have a meeting here in Columbia with a local attorney who is handling our estate documents (but that is another story for another day).  We were connected with him through the Baptist Foundation and their partnership with Philanthrocorp.  Another neat story.

But imagine my surprise when I realized the highlight of this meeting was the annual awarding of the Dr. Lonnie H. Shull, Jr, Legacy Award, given to a South Carolina Baptist who has exemplified generosity and service to our Lord and our state.  And I can think of NO ONE ELSE for whom this award should be named …

I first met Lonnie Shull soon after I surrendered to ministry, left my job in IT and moved to North Greenville College to finish my BA in preparation for seminary.  I was recommended to Fairview Baptist Church (in Greer) as a youth ministry intern, a job I accepted and fumbled through for 9 months.  Lonnie Shull was then the pastor of Fairview and a tremendous influence on my life.  There are so many stories I could tell … And I would probably goof the details.  When I was called to Fairview, a long-time youth pastor had just left and I was tasked with helping the staff hold the Youth Ministry together.  Honestly, if not for a really great team of adult youth workers and their minister of education, Tommy Comer, Fairview would’ve been in SO MUCH TROUBLE.  But God was at work and things worked out well …

Since I didn’t have a youth pastor with whom to work, Tommy and Lonnie took me under their wings.  They both taught me so much about ministry, about people, about serving on a church staff.  It was the kind of eduction you cannot buy, and it is priceless anyway …  Lonnie would take me to the hospital, on crisis calls.  I remember one time riding with him to the house of a member who had just died.  Seeing him in action was indeed priceless.

Lonnie stayed active in my academic plans and routed me down to New Orleans Seminary when NGU could only accept 22 of my 90 transferable hours from Greenville Tech.  (New Orleans took it all!!  So, in that, he helped me save 2 1/2 years of school time).

So, as you can see, I owe that man so much.  But that is NOT where his investment in my ministry ended.  Even though I only served Fairview for 9 months, Lonnie Shull made sure that I applied for their church vocation scholarship.  And, every semester, Fairview paid my tuition.  The folks at Fairview will never know the difference that made to me, to Diana, and to Krissy.  But the legacy didn’t stop there, either!!

Through the years, Lonnie kept up with me.  He encouraged me.  He would always tell me how proud he was of me.  He was a generous man … Yes, generous with money, but generous with so much more.  He continued to pour into me until he could do that no longer.  You see, several years ago, dementia began to take a toll on Lonnie.  The same kind of toll it took on my dad.  In a strange twist of fate, now dementia has taken not only my natural father, but is taking a man who was somewhat of a “father in ministry” to me.  Man, I HATE DEMENITIA.

Today, I got to see his lovely wife, Hazel.  Lonnie was not able to attend the meeting.  She is such a sweet lady and so strong.  My heart breaks for her.  But, I even tell you now like I told her that Lonnie’s legacy IS STILL ACTIVE AND ALIVE.

BECAUSE … I have made it one of my life’s goals to do what Lonnie did to the best of my ability.  I asked God for that a long time ago.  And He has provided.  He has provided men and women over the years who were growing in ministry and God has allowed me to pour in to them.  To stop and have a cup of coffee with them.  To give them chances to share in the pulpit.  To invest in them and their families just as Lonnie invested in me.  I cannot stop this terrible disease from doing what it does.  But I can carry the ball.  It is my turn.  I can live the legacy forward.

My friend Tom Capps (who was also at this meeting) said it best when he said “Lonnie Shull was one of the statesmen of the ministry in SC.  We just don’t have statesmen like him anymore.”  I will probably never live up to it, but I am going to do my best to make sure this legacy continues.

An Imperfect Vessel

17 Aug

Yesterday I delivered the second sermon (in a series of six) based on the Membership Covenant of Ebenezer Baptist Church.  You might say this is a “back to the basics” approach … What it means to be a member of Ebenezer (and basically ANY church) meets “Our world needs us to be THE CHURCH now more than ever.”  Yesterday’s entry was about giving ourselves up for God.  Allowing all that we are and all that we own to be disposed of by God in whatever manner He chooses.

Now, a confession:  I am NOT PERFECT.  I know … I know … SO many of you are disappointed to learn this now.  I mean, after all, if THE PASTOR isn’t perfect, WHO IN THE WORLD CAN BE???  (In all seriousness, there was only ONE perfect Man that ever lived.  And we crucified Him.)

I struggle.  Sometimes these sermons are mostly for me.  If the above news really does bother you, I am truly sorry.  But facts are facts.  Just like you, I am an imperfect vessel.  The difference between us and the world is this:  Jesus Christ can take our imperfections and use them in MIGHTY WAYS.  He can overcome our imperfections and prepares us to carry a PERFECT MESSAGE to a lost and hurting world.  We are imperfect … He is STILL PERFECT.  Always has been and always will be.  And He wants to use YOU and ME.

And when I think of these goals, these ideals He sets for me, I KNOW He can help me reach them.  If I will only rely on Him and trust Him totally.  And when I fail, I dust myself off and get back on the horse.  How about you??

I hope you have a great week.  And I hope you have many opportunities to serve His kingdom this week!!!

So, how is that pride-thing working for you?

14 Aug


I was talking this week with some friends and this truth came to light:  MANY, MANY of the problems we face in life can be traced back to PRIDE.  Our pride.  The pride of others.  PRIDE is often a culprit and major player in the problems of our world in the year 2015.

So …  How are you doing with PRIDE?

We try to justify pride.  Too many of us think we are the only one in the world with the answers.  I have caught myself thinking IF ONLY I COULD TAKE CONTROL … I COULD FIX ALL OF THIS.  When we foster that idea in our hearts, PRIDE stops us from listening to the opinions and viewpoints of others.  No matter how brilliant we might think ourselves to be, a different perspective will ALWAYS shed more light on a subject.

So … Now for the mind-blower.  I believe GOD is ONE GOD.  He is very real and He is not bound by time, space, dimension, or any other construct we can imagine.  He knows all of the thoughts and hearts of men and women.  He knows the very number of hairs on your head RIGHT NOW.  WHY NOT LISTEN TO HIM???


I am not perfect … But I find that, the more I pursue His will for my life, the more my own pride has to take a back seat to Him AND to others.  My pride causes so many problems that it definitely needs to DECREASE as His presence INCREASES in my heart and life.  Others don’t need to see ME … They need to see HIM.

So … how are you doing with this?

Written on our Doorposts

10 Aug

The Shema … HEAR O ISRAEL, THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE GOD!!!  Those words from Deuteronomy 6 taught the Children of Israel a truth about God that is irrefutable.  God is ONE.  God is GOD ALONE.  And our best response to that is to LOVE GOD WITH ALL OF OUR HEART, SOUL, MIND, BODY, STRENGTH.  With everything that we are, we should LOVE the Lord.

That idea is bantered about on many Sundays across our world as people gather to worship OUR GOD.  The One True God.  And we do Him a mis-service when we leave out the rest of that passage.  Deuteronomy reminds us that we should keep these words UPON OUR HEARTS.  We should think about these things all of the time.  Because God knows and nature has proved that whatever is on our hearts will be coming out in our lives.

We are called to impress these truths on our children.  NOT to force them into faith … Faith and belief must come from their hearts.  BUT we have a responsibility to teach them the truths about God that we have seen in our own lives.  If God means anything to you … If He has done ANYTHING in your life, you really should tell your children.  TELL THE WORLD!!!  They both need to know that God is real and He is active in the lives of His people.

We are told to tie these truths on our hands and foreheads.  Many devout Jews achieve this with the use of a device known as a phylactery … A small leather box containing scripture written on small pieces of paper.  If that works for you, DO IT.  I also like the thought that everything we do with our hands, and everything we do with our heads (with our minds) should be scriptural.  We should be LIVING by the Word of God.  If you do this, your children and those around you will know it.  You don’t have to be showy about it … The cream will always rise to the top.  They will see it if it is true of your life.

Write them on your doorposts and on your gates.  Build your homes on the foundation of the Word of God.  If you do this, God will walk every step of this life with you.  There are times when life will be tough and there are times when life will be a great celebration.  God will be with you in BOTH!!

He is always there.  He always cares.  Do you give Him His rightful place in your life?