Archive | July, 2016

Don’t Be “That Guy”

25 Jul

We Baptists are an interesting lot…  We DO believe (as Paul wrote) that we are saved by the GRACE OF GOD ALONE.  Not by works, so that no one can boast.  And, yet, we need to GET TO WORK!!  Not to earn salvation, mind you.  We cannot do that.  But shouldn’t our love relationship with God motivate us to do what He calls us to do???

A few years ago on a mission trip, I rode with some of our people to deliver boxes of food to an orphanage.  There were a ton of boxes from a hunger relief agency we had been able to secure and ship over, and we were delivering them.  The awesome part of that delivery was the joy on the faces of those children, NOT because of the food, but simply because we were there.  Our presence caused quite an out-pouring of joy from those kids:  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone so glad to see me (and the others)!!!

As we helped unload and store the boxes, another interesting sight … Something not seen often in this village … A shiny new car pulled up.  Two men and two women got out of the car and walked to the orphanage.  These four all were well-dressed, something not seen often in this village.  The sparkling-clean white shirt, worn by the leader, almost required sunglasses just to gaze upon him.  And, by his actions, it was clear that he was someone very important.

He walked up and began to shake our hands.  He spoke to a few of the kids and the women who ran the orphanage.  He then picked up a child and walked over beside the boxes.  The other man with him got several shots of the leader with his Nikon camera.  Then, as quickly as they arrived, POOF!!  They were gone.

It all happened so quickly… NONE of us knew who he was or what had just happened.  A translator later explained to me this man was a regional governor.  Someone had tipped him off that we were delivering food.  He came out and took a few pictures.  The translator told me a few days after we returned to the US, there would be a newspaper article praising this governor for the way he provides for the orphans.   And this was his usual practice!!!

Okay, so that kind of made me mad for a little while.  But here is the rub:

  • WE DID NOT DO THAT FOR FAME.
  • WE DID NOT DO THAT TO MAKE OURSELVES FEEL BETTER ABOUT US
  • WE DID NOT DO THAT FOR CREDIT, OR TO EARN AN IOTA OF SALVATION

So, in the grand scheme of things, WHAT DOES IT MATTER??  GOD KNOWS WHO DID IT.  AND GOD KNOWS WHY.  Do YOU know why??

We took that food because God called us to take it.  Because God opened doors for us to be able to do so.  We did this because He called us to do it.  And that is all of the reward we should ever need.

I never checked to see if that man posted pictures or used that action to boost himself.  And, it really doesn’t matter now, does it??

In Defense of Pastors

13 Jul

Long story short, a couple of days ago I stumbled upon a discussion of a well-known pastor and some issues he is experiencing right now.  The discussion quickly fell into a discussion of how you cannot trust pastors, most pastors are in it for the money, the concept of tithing is an invention of the organized church to scam the public out of money, and the discussion continued to sink lower.  I did not know all of those involved in this discussion.  I can imagine that some of them were once involved in churches and had been burned.  Some might have never been involved, but had read news headlines and evaluated messages of pastors and formed their opinions around those (as is our nature to do) and really did not understand what a church should be about and what our obligations, as disciples of Christ, are towards God and towards each other.  I guess I could say many of the opinions and passions expressed might be different if these folks were actively involved with a church family, but perhaps that is not mine to judge …

I cannot speak for all pastors.  I cannot speak for any pastor whom I do not know personally.  And, I guess ultimately, I can only speak for myself in some of these matters.  But I can assure anyone who reads this that all pastors are not the same.

Through my serving churches in Greer, SC, New Orleans, LA, and Florence, SC, I can attest to the fact that there are many men and women in ministry who strive to be ethical and people of strong character.  Most of the ministers I know do not do this for the money.  Some might have left careers in financially rewarding fields (like myself and the industry of Information Technology) to follow a call God placed on their lives.  Many of these men and women are not highly paid, do not live in fancy houses or drive the newest cars.  And that is quite alright!!  They are still some are the richest people I know because they have realized there is more to life than a bank balance and stuff.

Some struggle.  Some struggle with the emotional stress of helping parishioners with massive problems, preparating for teaching and preaching times, keeping things rolling at their respective churches, visiting the sick and comforting the bereaved, being everything they can possibly be for those they were called to serve, and trying on top of all of that to be the right leader of their family everyday.  They feel torn when they have to leave their family at a moments notice, over and over again, to answer the call.

Honestly, many struggle with financial issues.  But no one wants to hear that.  They struggle with unreal expectations that will be impossible to meet.  They struggle with people who compare them to the last guy, or the next guy, or the guy across town, or the next comparison (whomever that might be).  They struggle with the loneliness of the job, the feeling of being ostracized from social functions BECAUSE of who they are.  They struggle to serve their congregation effectively while their own family members struggle and suffer hours away.

I do not write all of this to receive pity or to make anyone angry.  I am simply asking you to pray for your pastors and ministers.  And realize that all pastors are not alike.  Truth is, every pastor faces issues … Temptations … Struggles.

If you attend a church, do not take your pastors for granted.  You probably have a true gem and do not even realize it.  If you do not attend church, realize that almost all of the pastors around you are fine, upstanding, ethical men and women who want nothing more than to help you know and grow in Christ.

And when they make a mistake, PRAY FOR THEM.  There has only been ONE perfect man to ever walk this earth.  And we crucified Him … So ……..

The Legend of Judgey McJudgerson

10 Jul

Matthew 7: 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Exactly what do you think Jesus was saying when He spoke these words on the Sermon on the Mount?  Do we really care to understand??

I believe it is important for every follower of Christ to be aware.  Aware of our surroundings.  Aware of those in our lives and perhaps where they stand with Christ.  A little farther down in Matthew 7, Jesus said we will know (our leaders) by their fruit.  I think the same rule applies to our friends, to our families.  To anyone we know, especially if we know them well.  If you are living for Christ, others SHOULD be able to see Him in you.  And vice versa.

So, Jesus told us not to judge.  Not to be judgmental.  I think He is pleading with us to NOT follow our hearts, our human instincts, and speak poorly about those around us who fail.  To drag someone through the mud when they make a mistake.  By the way, EVERYONE makes mistakes.  But it is in our nature to do judge.  Especially if it might be one with whom we do not agree.  We sit back.  We wait.  And, when certain people fail, we yell it from the mountaintops, as if to say “I TOLD YOU SO!!!”  Friends, that is just wrong.

The funny thing (it’s not really funny) about this is, when someone takes an opportunity to pronounce judgment on another, life usually has a way of bringing that back around.  You see, we all make mistakes.  NONE of us is perfect.  And it might just be by the grace of God that you and I are surviving right now!!  Galatians 6 warns all of us to not be deceived.  We will reap what we sow!!

Our nation has been through several heart-breaking, life-shattering situations just in the past four days.  Our passions tempt us to jump to conclusions and speak words that might bring us momentary relief.  But those same words might do far more damage to others than we can imagine.

Perhaps, instead of sitting in the seat Judgey  McJudgerson (name credited to my favorite Jedi, Sandra King), we should just LOVE and PRAY.  I KNOW that is what JESUS would do.  What He wants US to do.  And, I’ll bet if you know Him, you know that as well.

BE the Change

9 Jul

I’ve spent wayyy too much time on social media in the past few days.  One theme I see over and over is the fact that we DO live in a broken world, and it is a world that desperately needs change.  AGREED!!!  Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ even go so far to remind everyone that this world DESPERATELY needs Jesus.  Again, AGREED!!!  (And, I want to ask:  How are YOU sharing Him with this world?  But that’s another blog for another day.)

So, we all agree that we need change.  Who is going to do it??  Our favorite political candidates?  Activist organizations?  Our military?  Our police?  WHO will take the reigns and initiate the change we so desperately need?

Interestingly enough, another theme I’ve picked up on the last couple of days is the idea that we need to be TRUE to our friends.  Reminders that those who talk bad about others to us will probably speak ill of us to others.  That is a CHARACTER issue.  You can be sure that one is true as well.  It is in our human nature to highlight the flaws of others in hopes of diverting attention from our own shortcomings.  (Seldom works, but it makes us feel better about our imperfections, so we do it anyway.)

So, here we are … WHO WILL STOP THE RAIN??

The ONLY WAY this world will change is FOR US TO BE THE CHANGE.  CHRISTIAN, THAT MEANS TO BE EXACTLY WHAT WE SAY WE ARE.  Exactly what Jesus Christ calls us to be.  People of LOVE.  People of GOD.  People of CHARACTER.  Careful with our words about others.  Careful with our actions towards others.  And liberal.  LIBERAL WITH OUR LOVE!!!  LIBERAL WITH OUR LOVE FOR GOD and LIBERALLY LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR.

Yes, this conservative Southern Baptist pastor is BEGGING YOU TO BE LIBERAL.  Heck, WASTEFUL with your love!!!  LOVE EVERYONE, EVEN IF THEY DO NOT DESERVE IT!!  EVEN IF THEY’VE SPOKEN ILL OF YOU!!  EVEN IF THEY’VE SET THEMSELVES AGAINST YOU AS AN ENEMY!!

SHOW THEM THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST!!!!

BE THE CHANGE!  And watch what it does to our world!!!!!!

(Sorry for all of that yelling)

Imago Dei

8 Jul

Put on your thinking caps . . . Close your eyes and answer this . . . If God walked into the door right now, how would He look?  God walks in the door … Who do you see?

Some see a kindly, older gentleman . . . Pair of khakis, golf shirt, jacket, maybe wearing glasses and a cap. Maybe even smoking a stogie.   A grandfatherly figure, much like the one George Burns portrayed in the “Oh God” movies. A kind, benevolent God who is very much misunderstood . . . Loving.  Forgiving.  All-embracing.

Some might see an older man in a long flowing white robe with a long beard. He bears a striking resemblance to Father Time. He is watching and waiting, looking for the right time to unveil the rest of His plan for all creation.

Some even see a vengeful and angry God, perched high upon His throne, watching like a hawk with a bloody sword in hand. Ready to punish evil-doers and having little to no mercy on those who sin.

Who do you see?

Voltaire said: “If God made us in His image, we have certainly returned the compliment.”

In other words, we have forgotten that we were created in His image, and have tried to re-create Him in our image . . . To make Him something that fits our expectations, our lifestyles . . . To have a convenient, comfortable God who never challenges us, who is there at our beck-and-call, and who is NOT there when we don’t want Him to be.

Is this what He intended when He created us in His image?

Some freely admit they don’t exactly know what to think, BUT The fact that we are created in the image of God brings us to the sanctity of human life.  That, above all other life forms, human life should be revered.

What does this mean to you?

In Genesis 1, God said “Let us make humanity in Our image.” Ancient Hebrews would have understood, at this point, God is the ONLY AUTHORITY on earth.  The human race would be caretakers of this earth.  WE would be stewards.  WE are responsible of this place.

To be made in the image of God means that we bear an extreme likeness to God . . . However, we are not God.  We are not deified, we are not gods, but we do reflect the divine nature within our humanity.  And only the human race is described as being made in God’s image.

The image of God is so basic to mankind’s structure that the Fall into sin did not destroy it.  Sin has spoiled it . . . sin blurred it . . . But men and women remain as reasoning, moral, creative creatures.  Still intended to have dominion over the earth.

ALL of us.

The implications are many, and they are DEEP:

  • There is something special about the human race
  • We should hold human life in highest regard
  • This goes back to the very beginning, and transcends any lines of nationality, race, social status, etc.

When a child is the spittin’ image of a father or mother, that child is a reflection of the parent. Sometimes a child can look like both  That child is a reflection . . . You can look into that child’s face and see the face of the parents.

THAT is what is so special about the human race.  We are God’s creation . . . There is something about every one of us that should reflect the face of God.

Not saying that God has eyebrows . . . arms . . . legs . . . a body, roughly six feet tall with ten fingers and toes.

There is something about who He is that is bound up in who we are.

This is why life is so incomplete for one who does not know Christ.  The world discourages this kind of talk, but this explains the God-shaped void in our hearts.

At the end of it all, two things stand out:

  1. Any person who does not know Christ will NEVER be complete, will NEVER be happy until they have a relationship with God.  They will never know true happiness and completion until they have asked Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
  2. Every Christian has the charge to reflect the image of our Savior, Lord, and Creator in our lives . . .

In how we live.  In how we love.  In how we handle adversity, such as those we face as Americans today.  Even in how we celebrate victory.

LITERALLY in EVERYTHING we do.

Many things can be said about being made in the Image of God, but the MOST VITAL IS THIS: EVERYONE in the world should be able to look at us and see HIM.

YOU need to know:

  • You are created in His image
  • He desires a relationship with you
  • He wants to save you from your sins
  • But, He gives that choice to YOU

WE WERE MADE TO DO THESE THINGS.

Because we were made in the Image of God.

Live and let live

7 Jul

We humans are amazing creatures.  Capable of great accomplishment, unimaginable love and grace.  And capable of destruction beyond compare.  Beyond reason.

Sometimes we fail to realize those things of which we are capable.  Sometimes we fail to realize the great things we do, the terrible things we do, and everything in between.  And, sometimes, we know all too well what we are doing and upon whom we are inflicting pain.

Our world teaches us to live and let die.  Get the other guy before he gets you.  Survive, thrive, succeed, and do it all at the expense of others (or, at least at the expense of those for whom we have no love).   Human nature moves us to do things that keep others down and make us feel better about ourselves.

And NONE of these things have any place in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus really did say it is all about love!!  Love GOD with all that we are, Love EACH OTHER (our neighbor, our enemy, and everyone in between) with THE SAME KIND OF LOVE, and that we should love the world so much that we are willing to BE the difference.  We are willing to LIVE A CUT ABOVE the world.  We really are called to a higher calling, a higher standard than the world.  When the world looks at us, they should see something different.

Yes, we really should look DIFFERENT from the world.  Set apart.  Holy.  And, if we do not, we are doing something wrong!!!

I spoke with a friend a few days ago whose family was facing something unimaginable.  Something horrible.  One of those things about which our worst nightmares are made.  It was a situation in which his family would have every right to hate with a white-hot hatred the man who inflicted this pain upon them.  And God is leading my friend to lead his family to put down the hate.  To forgive.  This young man, this young Christian has figured something out:  When we HATE, when we allow things like this, like envy, like jealousy to invade our lives, those things will eat us up from the inside out.  One of the greatest freedoms we can know is to FORGIVE, even when another doesn’t seek forgiveness.  When we hold a grudge, it will separate us from God.

When we forgive (especially when forgiveness doesn’t seem warranted), we are loving with God’s kind of love.  We are loving with the same kind of love that took Jesus to His cross to bear our sins.  A love which we did not deserve.

When we love with that kind of love, we are BEING the salt and light that Jesus Christ called His church to be.  And one more thing:  You really don’t have to tell ANYONE you are doing this:  When you love this way, HIS LIGHT will be seen brightly in it all.

Live and let live!!!