Archive | October, 2016

Missing out on something great

31 Oct

Are you missing out?  Do you even realize it??  This is not a trick question.  In fact, it is quite serious.  But the devil doesn’t want you to know or believe the next few things I will write.  I am praying you will read on ….

Last night at our Quarterly Business Meeting at EBC, we confronted an issue that every church confronts at different points in their church lives … In our business meeting, many important issues were discussed and the same 10% of our Sunday morning crowd was there.  And they are probably NOT the ones who needed to hear what was shared last night.

As a pastor, I wonder if the other 90% just doesn’t realize how vitally important these items shared are??  Or, do we simply not care?

We all have issues and problems in our lives.  We all have victories.  We LOVE to share in each other’s victories.  But all of us certainly think “I don’t need more complication in my life.”  So, perhaps we do slide out on times like this, hoping someone else will handle it.  But what if God gave YOU and only you the skill and ability to address a certain situation we face?  What if YOU were the only one who had the answer, an answer given to you by Him to bring to His church??

Business meetings at EBC are much different from other churches of which I have been part.  No yelling, no throwing things, no fisticuffs … Nothing that makes it look like the WWE.  And that is a GREAT thing.

A big issue we are facing right now as we prepare to move into a new worship center is that we are experiencing a lack of commitment.  An unwillingness to serve.  An apparent unwillingness to tithe.  And, after Hurricane Matthew, that is very apparent.  We will be fine, but there will be struggles as we transition and prepare for the new payment on the building.  We do not want to short-change any ministry as we make this significant move in the life of our church.

Tithing … Serving … this is an obedience issue.  This is an unwillingness to trust God with everything!!  We say “I don’t have time!!”  And “I don’t have the money!!”  But the truth is, we make time and money for that which is important to us.  We live in a society where many people live paycheck-to-paycheck.  I’ve been there.  And one of the things I learned is if I put God first and tithe at least 10% of my income, He always made the rest of it work for everything we needed!!  And that is still true today!!

But don’t make the mistake of believing that we should tithe because it makes financial sense!!  Don’t make the mistake of believing “If I serve, it will earn me points in Heaven!”  If you make that mistake, you really are missing the blessing!!

The blessing is this:  MONEY and TIME cannot possibly provide the PEACE and SATISFACTION IN LIFE that you will know once you REPENT of your sin, FOLLOW CHRIST with all of your heart, and OBEY HIM in every way!!  Put Him first in EVERY WAY of your life!!!

Don’t take my word for it … TRY IT AND SEE!!

And, for goodness sake, GET INVOLVED IN THE LIFE OF YOUR CHURCH!!  God is calling YOU to it!!

The Art of Relationship

24 Oct

The spice of life … the spice of almost every relationship … can be found in differences.  When I think about my relationship with my wife, which has been growing since I met her over 32 years ago, there are two main components that make it work:  We DO have many interests in common, and we have MANY differences.  There are things she loves for which I do not care, and vice versa.  She has abilities that I do not have, and vice versa.  It is funny how these difference make as much of an impact on our ability to survive as the similarities make.  She makes me better in ways I could never achieve.  (And HOPEFULLY vice-versa)

The same is probably true in most of my friendships.  We are all naturally attracted to friends with whom we share common ground, but there are always differences that glue the friendship together.  And, in my life, I’ve always been taught to respect the differences.  In other words, it’s okay if we disagree.  We do not have to be identical for our friendship to work.  That is at the heart of the ART!!  The art of Relationship!

And, this is an art that is quickly dying.  I see it all over social media about a variety of topics.  Politics.  Religion.  Sports.  Social media seems to provide a pseudo-anonymity that allows an individual to say things they perhaps wouldn’t say in person.  To do things they might not normally do.  As more and more of us migrate our social interactions to this venue, we are losing a vital ability in this Art of Relationship.  And this trend could be irreversible if we are not careful.

Just take the Presidential election:  Reds HATE the Blues.  Blues HATE the Reds.  And both HATE the third and fourth parties.  I remember a day when I could disagree with my neighbor or brother or friend and still love them.  Still be civil towards them.  But that day is quickly passing.  It makes me wonder what the aftermath of this election will be, no matter who wins.   In fact, if this trend continues, it won’t matter who wins because we (the “United” States) will lose miserably.  Our only hope is to find a way to pull out of this nose-dive.

We are NOT totally beyond redemption.  We can make a difference RIGHT NOW.  BE THE CHANGE.  YOU… YOU BE THE CHANGE.  I WILL BE THE CHANGE.  We can make a difference.  This is not the first time in the history of civilization this has happened.  As my good friend Lee Freeman reminded me last night, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is “nothing new under the sun.”  This is not the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last.  But it needs to stop now.

And YOU could make all of the difference in the world.

Staying True to the Call

3 Oct

A great friend appropriately reminded me today to “stay true to my calling.”  Good words for any pastor to hear (especially on a Monday!!)  This afternoon, I have been thinking a lot about my calling.  About what it meant to me 25 years ago when I left a booming career in IT to follow Him wherever He would lead.  About what it means to me today, after spending over two decades in the same local church.

Apparently my calling began before I can even recall it.  A good friend from way back reminds me often that she can still remember when we were in kindergarten and I proudly announced that “I am gonna be a preacher one day.”  I do not remember that but I am sure she is 100% correct!!  If you knew me through my high school and college years, you would’ve thought that to be a misunderstanding.  There was NO WAY that boy would ever be a minister of any kind.

In spite of me, God had a plan.  He maneuvered me exactly where He wanted me to be … Where He NEEDED me to be.  I worked for several years in an up-and-coming part of the Information Technology industry and He called me to leave it.  Walk away.  Take my wife, my 9 month old daughter, leave my job, and go where He led.  I did it.  I vowed to follow Him completely, even when I might be the only one.  He is my Rock.  And this has been quite a ride.

He moved this country boy to New Orleans for three years where Diana and I had to make it over 600 miles from our families.  It was tough but we made it.  He gave us an awesome family in our church, the Woodmere Baptist Church of Harvey, LA, and another awesome family in our seminary family.  He gave Krissy several pairs of surrogate grand parents, including Dr. Sid and Virginia Buckley who were already family to us before we ever moved there.  It was an exciting time and a simpler time.

Then He moved us to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Florence, SC.  We first came here for me to do Youth Ministry and after a few years, this church asked me to be their senior pastor.  He gave us yet ANOTHER great family.  And the calling continued.

Over the years, there have been many peaks and awesome times.  And there have been many valleys.  There has been much to celebrate.  There has been a few times to mourn.  And, honestly there have been a couple of times when I have wanted to go back in time and BEG that little kid NOT to say that prophetic statement he so proudly announced.  And, yet, God is still the same.  He is still here.  And the calling is still loud and clear.

And, just as my good friend reminded me today (even though he probably doesn’t even realize it), when I keep my eyes focused on God it doesn’t matter what storms I might face.  I will never face them alone.  I am also most thankful for a wife who walks with me 100% of the time.  God is my Rock, and many times she is my anchor.

What does the future hold?  None of us knows the answer to that.  But we take great heart, because we KNOW Who holds the future.  And He is at work all around us.

So, today I am thankful for the calling.  And I have good news for you, too …  God has called YOU to something equally as awesome!!!  Are you willing to discover it?

A Living Act of Worship

2 Oct

Tonight I will lead the third session in a six-session class on Sharing your Faith.  God is the object and subject of any Christ-centered church … (Or, at least He SHOULD be).  Our primary focus is WORSHIP, but very closely linked is the challenged Jesus issued in the Great Commission: that WE are to be HIS VOICE here on earth.  WE are commissioned to GO and TELL the WORLD that He died for their sins.  That He defeated SIN and DEATH and is ALIVE!!!  And that HE is our WAY (and the ONLY WAY) to a relationship with God the Father, the relationship for which we were CREATED!!!

So we are challenged to TELL THE WORLD.  The WORLD starts right here.  It is all around us.  And, if we are to be heard in our world, if we are to be taken seriously, we must live lives that tell the story as well!!  I think that is what Paul was talking about in Romans 12:1-2 when he challenged us to offer our bodies as LIVING SACRIFICES.  To live in a way that is SET APART.  To not CONFORM to this world, but to be TRANSFORMED because we have allowed Christ Himself to renew our minds.  Paul said if we will do this, we will be able to clearly see God’s will for our lives.  God will be pleased with us.

But there is something else here.  Something we could easily miss if we do not read carefully.  If we live lives that are HOLY, SET APART, and TRANSFORMED, the world around us will KNOW there is something different about us.  They will KNOW Christ is REAL.  And when we establish THAT with the manner in which we live our lives, they will WANT TO HEAR about Christ!!  Not only do we earn the right to be heard, but they will WANT TO KNOW more!!

And, so, we go … And we tell …  And we not only tell those who look like us, dress like us, and act like us.  We tell EVERYONE within our reach!!  No matter how much alike or different they might be!!!  Our call is just to TELL!!

That is the reality of living as an act of worship to God.  It pleases Him, and it tells the world that He really is WORTHY!!!

Go and do likewise …..