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Exactly WHAT is this Revival thing?

3 Sep

I have heard several questions about the upcoming revival activities at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and thought it wise to share some details about what is planned AND to share from my heart about where we are headed…  So, here goes:

This revival IS NOT the typical revival-type event we remember from years past … Billy Graham is unable to come and preach it (although we would take him in a HEARTBEAT) and George Beverly Shea is unable to lead music because, well, he is no longer living.  The challenge before us it to consider what the word REVIVAL really means…  That is, to TURN OUR HEARTS BACK TO GOD.  We are planning a more evangelistic set of meetings in the early spring.  But this revival is FOR US!!  (If this makes you angry, then I must tell you the that it was Colin Raynor’s idea.  If you want his phone number, email me.)

The story of this particular event begins about a year ago.  Ed Self came to me with a book he’d been reading, written by Mark Powers.  The book is Going Full Circle, and it is about the church returning to WHAT WE WERE INTENDED TO BE.  As I read this book, it was as if Mark was writing ABOUT US!!  I don’t want to let too much of the cat out of the bag, but Ed and I began to pray and think about how we could get the entire church to see and hear this message.  Mark will challenge US to step up and be the church that God has called us to be, and what that REALLY means is WE NEED TO BE THE PEOPLE GOD CALLED US TO BE.  Part of his challenge to us will be to break out of our patterns of habit and how we “understand things SHOULD BE” and step into a real relationship of faith and trust in God, both individually and as a church.

In my heart, there is NOTHING more important for those who call Ebenezer “home” than to hear this message.  SO … We are providing SUPPER FOR FREE each night, and guaranteeing you that we will be done by 7:45.  We will begin Sunday morning, Sept 21, and then each evening (Sunday – Wednesday) that week.  And that is only the START of what God will do with this.  IF you will let Him.

Will you???  The only way you can is to BE HERE.  I am praying for you, EBC!!   Please pray for me and for Mark Powers as he prepares a message from God for us.

(By the way:  I have this BAD habit of throwing interns under the bus.  DON’T blame Colin!!!!!)

A Game-Changer

2 Sep

He never ceases to amaze me … When I see what God is doing in the lives of people at Ebenezer, I get excited!! We are in the early stages of a real revival!! This revival is not a “set of meetings,” but a changing of the hearts of God’s people, and a time of focusing on Him and what He is doing in our hearts and minds and LIVES!

On September 21, we will begin a period of examining Ebenezer, our motives, our routines, our programs, and most of all GOD’S intent for us.

This is an internal time of revival, a time for all of us who call Ebenezer “home,” a time to gather in and find out what God’s next steps for us might be. Mark Powers, from the South Carolina Baptist Convention, will lead us on this journey. We will begin on Sunday morning, then meet Sunday through Wednesday evenings. Supper will begin promptly at 5:45 pm and our journey will continue every night until 7:45pm.

Your staff has been praying over this event for some time now. We hope you will join us in praying for this, praying for our church, and join us for this specific journey from September 21 – 24. This will be a GAME-CHANGER for Ebenezer. Please don’t miss it!

The Proof is in the Pudding

18 Aug

Yesterday, we at Ebenezer Baptist Church voted to proceed with plans to build a new worship center and some additional enhancements to our current facilities. It was a big day for us, and a bold move for our church. But this vote is simply a vote.

We can listen to rhetoric all day long. We can get excited about a new project and look forward to the day it is completed. We will enjoy the fruit of this labor, and hope and pray that God enjoys it, too!! But the PROOF will be in the PUDDING: WILL WE HAVE FAITH AND TRUST GOD WITH THIS?

Our fund raising team will soon approach the church to pray about our financial support of this project. Contrary to popular folklore, Ebenezer does not have a money tree out back or a cache of Confederate treasure from which we pull our riches!! (You would be surprised at how many people in our community believe those things) We each will be asked to pray and make a personal commitment to this project. Diana and I have already begun to pray about this. I hope you have, too!

But we realize this commitment must be over and above our regular tithes. There is something very important that we all must realize here: The ministry of Ebenezer GOES ON!! We cannot halt ministry to complete this project. There are so many ways in which God is at work at Ebenezer, and we do not want to do anything that would hinder this work.

So, the proof really will be in the pudding. Will we trust God to provide?? The proof will be in how Ebenezer continues to serve our community, our world, and our LORD. Pray for our church, and pray for your role in this most important project.

Big Faith Required

4 Aug

I love the picture of Moses and the Children of Israel, painted by Marty Massey last night in our church business meeting.  Twelve spies were sent in to the Promised Land to give a report.  TEN of them came back and said “NO WAY!!  There are GIANTS in this land and we cannot take it!”  And Joshua and Caleb came back and said “GOD GIVES US THIS LAND!!”  And Moses was there with a tremendously difficult choice to make…

If you play the odds, you go with the 10.  If 10 of 12 men say NO WAY, then it makes the most sense to keep on walking.  All logic and understanding dictate that you follow the ten.  It makes sense.  It would keep the people happy, right??

HOWEVER … There is a variable present in life that we often overlook.  GOD was at work!!  God had already promised this land to Israel.  He was in the details and the Children of Israel were in a place where BIG FAITH would be required.  And had they not had big faith, they might still be wandering in the wilderness.

We are very much like the Children of Israel in a lot of ways.  In fact, when I look at what Moses faced, I’d like to think I can relate to him probably better than most people.  Moses would’ve been a great Baptist pastor.  He had people on his right and people on his left second-guessing decisions, direction, and every move the Children of Israel made.  Moses did make mistakes, but for the most part he followed God’s leadership.  He dealt with unhappy people and had to fight human logic with a call to faith in God (and he had to do that WITHOUT Proverbs 3:5-6 to quote constantly in his heart).  He constantly lived in a place and time when BIG FAITH was REQUIRED.

Now we Ebenezerites find ourselves in that same place.  Plans are being made and discussed.  And I wonder how much faith we will exercise??  How much will we lean on our own understanding?  How much will we follow HIS lead in such a big decision?

All Around Us

23 Jun

God is at work all around us … Our job is to find where He is at work at JOIN HIM!!!  That principle from Experiencing God (a GREAT discipleship study written by Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King) is one of the TRUEST things I have ever read.  (Is THAT possible???  TRUEST??)

I have watched that consistent principle play out over and over again in my life and in the world around me.  EVEN when I was running from Him.  EVEN when I did not want it to be true.  GOD is at work, and if (and when) we open our eyes and LOOK AROUND, we will see Him.

I see it in a huge way every time I look at Ebenezer.  I see people He is moving to accomplish His purposes.  I see grace, mercy, and love in the lives of Ebenezer.  I see God growing all of us to do what seems impossible and moving us beyond the limits to new heights.  And all of that THRILLS me.  And challenges me as well.

A week of vacation and reflection will give you a fresh “bite” on life … And I am reminded how exciting it is to be a part of this great family of faith.  And challenged to make the right moves in leading this flock on God’s path for us!!

Yes, I am on a VBS high right now … Pray for me and I will pray for you.  And even if you are not a member of Ebenezer, still pray for me and I WILL pray for you too!!  Have a great week!

A TRUE Theocracy

4 Jun

I looked up the definition of “theocracy” today.  It is a nation that is ruled by a religious leader.  But today I make an argument for ANOTHER definition, one that is more fitting and that should be true of EVERY Christian church.  The TRUE Theocracy that I see is a church, ruled by GOD.

We Baptists are a funny lot.  We have a rich history of priesthood of the believer, of resisting government oversight and tyranny, of not being a “credal” people … The list can go on.  Baptist churches are also known for each church being responsible for it’s own direction.  Every Baptist church is a little different from each other.  We each have our quirks and we each govern and operate a little differently.  If you are an old school Dr. Pepper fan, we are PEPPERS to the core!!

Ebenezer is a committee-led church, and this is written into our constitution.  We rely on different teams to accomplish different tasks and each team is accountable to the church body as a whole for doing their jobs.  When it comes to church government, every member has a vote and a say in every decision.  Through ALL of this, we operate in a very American way!!  But it is time we move to more of a theocratic way…

What I am trying to write here is this:  Any church in this situation should work hard, NOT to make decisions based on our personal preferences, but on what God desires for us!!  EVERY VOTE we cast should be one in which we have sought HIS face about the particular issue, and are willing to vote what HE says is best!!  NOT WHAT WE LIKE OR WANT!  NOT OUR AGENDA, but HIS!!!  If every Baptist church would approach things this way, there would be NO SPLITS … There would be NO UNDERCURRENTS … There would be NO DERISION or DIVISION … And there would be NO FIGHTS over the color of the carpet, or the toilet paper, etc …

So in every decision, big or small, we really should commit to vote GOD’S will and NOT OURS!!  Last night at Ebenezer, I saw this come together in a way that makes me think “God REALLY DOES KNOW WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT!!”  More to come on that later, but it is awesome to just take your hand off of the wheel and watch God steer the ship EXACTLY WHERE HE WANTS IT!!

I hope we at Ebenezer are ALWAYS a TRUE THEOCRACY.  Because when we all allow God to work, He accomplishes far more than we ever could!!!

Hindsight is 20/20

11 Apr

This morning, I’ve been thinking.  That might be the smoke that some of you smell ….  Thinking about the past two decades of my life.  In a little over a month, I will make the 19th year milestone on the staff of Ebenezer.  And Ebenezer is what I am thinking about.

The 1990s were a tough decade for Ebenezer.  Without going into detail, we had some spots that brought us down to low places.  I was there for half of that decade and I remember.  And now, I look at where we are going, and while some people see an imperfect church, I see something totally different.  I look at Ebenezer today and see and church that God has brought FAR (and NOT just over the past 15 years or so, but since 1778).  I see a church that God is healing.  We are still imperfect.  But God is working among us, and that is a WONDERFUL thing.  And I will not take that for granted.

Perhaps it is time for all of us to look back and see what God has done!!  Maybe that will change many of our perspectives on our own lives!!  Give it a try!!!!