Archive | December, 2015

What Advent means to me

14 Dec

There is a risk any time you do an interview with someone who will then take your words, edit and interpret them, and then present them in a media outlet.  The Florence Morning News interviewed me and a fellow pastor last week about Advent, and specifically what Advent means to our respective churches.  For the most part, she was pretty true to what I said.  But it is amazing the difference ONE WORD can make on such a topic!!

So, what does Advent mean to me?  The Advent season is a celebration of the first coming of Christ.  Celebrated by many Christian churches around the world, we recognize the state of the world into which Jesus, the Son of God, entered 2000 years ago as part of God’s plan to redeem His creation.  And I believe with all of my heart the world He entered 2000 years ago was not so different than our world today.

Sure, we have made great strides in civilization, technology, and almost every imaginable category.  But at the base of every man and woman, we are basically the same as they were over 2000 years ago.  We are a people who look around this world and do not see a lot of hope.

HOPELESSNESS … That was the word.  Jesus did not enter a hopeful world.  He entered a world that had drifted farther and farther from God as sin ran rampant and there was no way for man to rectify that situation.  No way for humanity to redeem itself in the eyes of a Holy and Perfect God.  It was a world that seemed to be in a spiral with no hope and no seeming relief on the horizon.

A world, much like today.  And as I watch our world spiral farther and farther away from Him, I wonder if the hopelessness I see in humanity was exactly what Jesus saw when He came.

THIS IS WHY WE ARE HERE, CHURCH!!!  WE HAVE THE ANSWER.  The answer is CHRIST!!  The answer is John 3:16, John 14:6, Romans 5:8.  The answer is FAITH IN CHRIST.  He is the ONLY WAY of salvation, the only way to have a relationship with the ONLY TRUE GOD.

And we live in a world where some will read the paragraph above and be offended by it.  And there might come a day when some fight to revoke my right to even WRITE words like this.  To even SPEAK thoughts such as these.  But, not today ….

GET BUSY, CHURCH!!  We are NOT guaranteed a tomorrow.  And tomorrow might be too late.

Tis the Season

7 Dec

It will never be the same.  Yesterday marked one year since my mom died. I found myself just trying to focus on my responsibilities in worship yesterday.  Once I got through that, the reality set in.

On the other hand, I have wonderful memories of mom.  And I know, as the excitement builds for Christmas, this was her favorite time of the year.  This Christmas will definitely be different, too.  Last Christmas I think I was still in shock over the whole thing.  So far this year, remembering her and what Christmas meant to her has been a great thing.  I hope that trend continues.

I miss her.  No doubt.  But I also know it honors her to carry on.  In fact, she invested herself in me and in helping me be able to carry on.  That teaches me to do the same for my children.  I, too, am mortal.  And I think that’s the right thing to do.

But I do not look at a decoration or sing a Christmas carol without thinking about her.  And there is something right about that, too.

A Question for YOU

4 Dec

If you had to share your most fond memory of Christmases-gone-by, what would you share?  Last night, I was in a room full of ministers and spouses and we were asked.  I probably wouldn’t have said anything, except I was under the impression we ALL had to share.

My answer?  You know, I’ve thought about this so much since last Christmas.  Honestly, the holidays took on an entirely new meaning to me after Mom died almost a year ago.  That feeling that it will never be the same always hangs out there.  My mom LOVED Christmas.  And the thing she loved the most was my answer …

When I think back through the 49 Christmases I’ve spent on this Big Blue Marble, the gifts I don’t remember … (Well, honestly, I do remember some of them.)  When I think about the most significant trait of Christmas, I remember my grandfather, Ben Hooper.  I remember how much HE LOVED being with his family.  Christmas was one of his favorites BECAUSE of family.  Honestly, Christmas really changed for me in 1995 when he passed away.

My fondest memories of Christmas were spent down at his house with mom’s family, her four sisters and brother and their families.  Papa getting his projector out and us watching old movies he made with his Super-8 camera, which had NO sound.  The awesomeness of this was that we were all together.  That made my Papa happy.  Now I realize it made my mom and dad happy, too.

So, when I think about what was special about Christmases gone by, those memories of my family flood in.  And I am grateful.  And it inspires me to try to make those kinds of memories with my family.

The world tells us the greatest things of Christmas are GIFTS … STUFF.  Funny how untrue that really is!

The Reality of God’s blessings

3 Dec

You’ve heard it.  I’ve heard it as well.  I’ve heard it said and I’ve heard it implied.  “If you bless God, He will bless you.”

Now, I DO believe God will bless those who bless Him, who live according to His word and pursue His will for their lives.  In fact, there are so many blessings involved in that it might be too many to name.  HOWEVER, God’s definition of blessing is a little different than ours.

In the western world, we equate blessing with money and material gain.  Don’t we??  We see someone who seems to be doing well financially and think “God has really blessed them.”  I DO believe God is responsible for everything we have and everything we are.  But when it comes to God blessing us, He often blesses us with things money cannot buy.  With the peace that material possessions cannot bring.  That is hard for us to understand, but I believe it to be true.

So, when that tele-preacher tells you to send him $100 and God will send YOU $1000, don’t be so quick to jump on that.  But hear this:  If you follow God and pursue Him with all of your heart, and if you seek His will for your life, you will find God heaping blessings around you even in the midst of storms.  Even when times are going tough.

Because, this statement is absolutely true:  GOD WILL NEVER FORGET YOU.  And if you draw near to Him with your life, He will take care of you.  In good times.  And in the not-so-good times.

And that is something money can never buy!!!

God Bless Us, Every One

2 Dec

We are human.  Imperfect.  And we cannot help it!!

That is the entire truth.  The whole truth.  And nothing but the truth.  As Sgt Joe Friday would say, these are “just the facts.”  And while we cannot help but know that we are imperfect, there are several options concerning what we DO about it.  And be WE, I am talking about those of us who know Christ…

  • We can use it as the ULTIMATE EXCUSE.  And every time we fall short, we can just shrug our shoulders and say “I am imperfect.  I just cannot help it!!”  Not sure that will wash when we step into eternity.
  • We can IGNORE IT.  We can put on the front of absolute perfection because, after all, that is what the world expects of the church.  RIGHT??  When we put on masks and pretend we have perfect lives, the only people we convince of that might be ourselves…  On a delusional day.  We know our flaws.  Most anyone can see through masks, especially over time.  We can pretend this is not reality, but all that really does it complicate an already imperfect life.
  • We can TRUST GOD to remake us in HIS IMAGE.  This is probably the most difficult of all options, because it takes work.  Discipline.  It requires to read His word, spend time with Him and with other disciples.  To actually be vulnerable with God and allow other followers of Christ to hold us accountable.  To seek the TRUTH of God in His word, and NOT live life as the world does:  Only doing what is RIGHT in my own eyes.  I will, to the best of my ability, do what is right in God’s eyes.  And the only way I will know what THAT is will be by spending time with Him.

I am sure there are other options … Other routes around this problem.  But those three are the most popular.  And the route you choose will have a direct impact on the happiness, peace, and meaning that you find (or don’t find) in life.

Which will you choose?


Time Flies when you are having fun

1 Dec


WOW!  This year has flown by.  I’m not sure if I am more shocked it is December 1st, or that it was over 70 degrees in Florence, SC, yesterday.  December is a busy month at Ebenezer.  Seems we have several special things going on each week.  Therefore, it will fly by too.

My prayer for ME and for YOU is this:  That we will slow down, remember the Reason for this season (which is the unexplainable grace of God expressed to us through His Son, Jesus), and enjoy every moment we have with our families and friends.  There will come a day when we are not able to do just that.  And, I’ve got to be honest with you:  When I think about Mom and Dad, which I’ve been doing a lot in the last two weeks, I am thankful for no regrets in my relationships with them.

Spend time with those you love.  Have fun with them!!!  I promise it will be time well-spent.