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Church… There is no substitute

24 Sep

There is something about the church.  Something special.  In Matthew 18, Jesus Himself said wherever two or more are gathered in His name, He will be there with us.  Think about it!!

The church brings so much more value into the lives of its family than one could imagine.  We celebrate each other’s victories.  We shoulder each other’s burdens.  We hold each other accountable.  We strive together for a deeper understanding of the Word of God.  We band together to work as one body in this world, achieving far more as one body than we would ever achieve as individuals.  There really is no substitute.

Over the years, I have heard many points of debate about the church and a Christian’s need to be part of it.  “I can worship God on a softball field (or from a boat or a deer stand).”  Yes, certainly you can worship God from anywhere.  But the church is NOT ONLY ABOUT WORSHIP!!

“My children attend a Christian school.  They are getting plenty of Bible education.”  (By the way, I attended a Christian school.  And used that excuse, too.)  If the church were ONLY about EDUCATION, that might work.  But it is not!

“I am involved in a community Bible study.”  That is AWESOME!!  WONDERFUL!!  Discipleship is definitely a HUGE need within the church.  But, the church is not only about discipleship.

I would ask “Where do you practice stewardship?  Where do you engage in ministry?  How do you pour into the lives of the next generation?”  In other words, you need to find a church family.  And be true to that family, wherever it might be!!

And, in all honesty, when we spread ourselves across the community and attempt to replace the church with different activities, 99% of the time we are trying to AVOID ACCOUNTABILITY.  Because NO ONE likes to be held accountable.  But a huge role the church plays in the lives of its family is accountability.  If you walk away from accountability, you will eventually walk away from the family of God.  (I’ve seen that happen, pretty much 99 times out of 100.)

There really is no substitute for engaging in a church family.

First Love Lost

25 Jan

Last night we began our study of Revelations in Wednesday Bible Study.  I learned at least TWO things:  1) people are VERY INTERESTED in this apochalyptic work.  2) It is EASY to bog down in minutia and miss the main point of John’s work.

After talking about theories and views of this mystical book, we started moving through the scripture.  We came to the first message, to the church at Ephesus. I hope and pray this would not be Ebenezer, but I see so many similarities.

Jesus told this church “I see all of the things you are doing well, and you do many of them.  But THIS I have against you:  You have lost your FIRST LOVE.”

Passion.  God led me to preach about it last Sunday, and it comes up again this Sunday. Do you remember what it was like when you first came to know Christ??  How you couldn’t wait to tell others, and did not want those you love to miss what Jesus Christ can do for their lives??

How is that going now???

Jesus told that church “If you do not find your first love, I will remove your lamp from its stand.”  I KNOW if we fail to reach those around us, God will raise up another that will.  And we will miss out on the tremendous blessing of helping others know Him.  And a sad day that would be.

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.

If you could ONLY see what I saw

25 Sep

Thursday morning … The morning after what I believe to be the most significant set of revival meetings at Ebenezer in the 19 + years of my being here.  To quote Chuck Kelly, the only word for this is that ancient Hebrew expression:  “WOW!”

We are all reminded that revival is NOT a set of meetings, but a state of the heart.  Specifically for us, a time to be revived and reminded of the basics in our relationships with God.  It is ALL ABOUT HIM!!  NOT US!!  And He has called us to be DISCIPLES who make DISCIPLES!!

But, the amazing part of this story begins months ago.  Ed Self told me he had a book he wanted me to read … I picked up this book, “Going Full Circle” by Mark Powers, and I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN.  It was as if Mark Powers had a direct feed of exactly what was going on at Ebenezer.  And, honestly, it was not good (what was going on).  But reading this book was like drinking from a fire hydrant.  Ed and I talked and prayed, and we wondered if there was any way Mark would consider coming to EBC and leading us in our fall revival.  We contacted Mark … He said “SURE!!”  And the rest is indelibly written on the hearts of our church.

ADD this perspective to all of that:  God knew EXACTLY what would be going on at Ebenezer almost a year ago when Ed gave me that book.  When He ignited this fire about the message Mark was sharing in Ed’s heart, and then in my heart.  And God knew EXACTLY where we, as a church, would be this month when these revival meetings took place.  In His infinite wisdom and sense of timing, He orchestrated it all!!  And it is coming to fruition right before our eyes.

And I cannot WAIT to see what God does next!!  This is an exciting time to be a Child of the King!!

For more info about Mark Powers, go to www.goingfullcircle.org

Something REALLY GOOD is around the corner

19 Sep

God is doing something … And it is REALLY GOOD.  I can see it in the lives of people around me.  I hear it, in how His church is following Him and really starting to live like we “get it.”  And there is one other piece of evidence that tells me we are headed in the right direction:

THE DEVIL IS TRYING HIS BEST TO STOP IT.

Wednesday evening after bible study, I came to Garden City with my mom and dad.  (That, in itself, has a variety of challenges.)  I am glad to be here because I can give mom a little break and she needs to rest her healing ribs.  However, since I have been here I have faced several situations at Ebenezer where I can see the devil trying to drive a wedge between people at Ebenezer.  Every one of them present logical arguments on both sides of an issue.  I’ve tried to use my “middle-child” skills to be a good pastor and  bring these things to a good conclusion.  And it hits me:  MAN, the devil is working overtime.  ONLY HOURS BEFORE OUR REVIVAL STARTS.

I’m going to go all “Jethro Gibbs” on y’all and tell you this is NO COINCIDENCE.  And, we CANNOT let the devil win!!!!  How do we fight this???  ON OUR KNEES.

So, PRAY, people!!!  Because something really good IS around the corner!!  If not, the devil wouldn’t even mess with us!

I’m praying for YOU today

15 Sep

I’m praying for you today, Ebenezer.  I’m praying as you move out into this world and go about the businesses of your lives … I’m praying that you will be a shining light of God’s love in this dark and for boding world.  I’m praying that the devil will win NO VICTORIES in your lives today.  I’m praying you will look up many times today and clearly see where God is at work, and that you will have the courage to join Him.  I’m praying that the Holy Spirit will empower you to do exactly what God has planned for your life today, and nothing less.  I’m praying that voice that is already telling you “You don’t have time for whatever this revival thing is next week” will NOT succeed in keeping you from hearing Mark Powers and experiencing the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. I’m praying that you can experience and know what your brothers and sisters around you at EBC are knowing:  The Power of Christ is REAL and it DOES CHANGE LIVES.  For the better!!

In return, I ask that you pray for Mark Powers (our revival leader), for Ed Self, Pam Gaddy, Andi Hill, Nathan Neighbors, Omerea Privette, Dusty Kertis, Marcia Watkins, Melinda Miller, Kitty Daniels, Tory Brown, Edwin Blue, Bill Watkins, and for me.  Hope you have a great week!!!

God is moving among us

8 Sep

He really is!!  People are turning their lives over to Him, giving their troubles over to Him, and this is an exciting time at Ebenezer Baptist Church.  I have never seen a time like this in the 19 years I have been on staff at Ebenezer.  It really confirms to me that we are doing the right thing in our new worship center project, because ever since we voted to do this I have seen two things:

1.  People (in large numbers) are taking bold steeps of faith toward God and His will in their lives.

2.  The devil is stepping up his attacks against our church, and specifically with our church staff.

God is walking through this with us, so there is no need to fear number 2.  And the devil wouldn’t be trying so hard to stop this if it wasn’t going to be a HUGE kingdom builder.

As for number 1, KEEP TRUSTING HIM!!  RUN TO HIM!!  THIRST FOR HIM!!! Keep trusting and walking with God hand-in-hand.  HE WON’T LET US DOWN!!!