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Can I get a Witness?

21 Nov

Those of us who follow Christ have heard talk all of our lives about protecting our “witness”…  Having a good “witness” …  What in the church-speaking world is that??

I could go on and on about this and beat around the bush a little, but I haven’t had enough coffee at this point in the day to do that.  So, simply stated, your Christian “witness” is actually the reflection of God, of Christ and His love that radiates out of your life.  It is how much of God that others see in you.  Like it or not, many people will judge the reality of God by how well YOU reflect Him (if you claim to be a disciple).  They look at you and me and want to see if God’s love is genuine.  If He is real.  What they are REALLY seeing is how real He is to us!

Some will immediately claim this as unfair.  We will speak of our own imperfections and try to dismiss our behavior with a myriad of excuses.  And that is pointless.

People who do not know Christ want to know more.  They want to see that He is real.  They want to experience the difference that He makes in lives.  So they draw near YOU and ME.  And wait.

What will they see this week??

Sometimes, we forget

7 Nov

Strength.  A must-have to make it through life today.  All of the stress of life bears down, tightens, wrings you out.  You must have strength to make it through.  From where do YOU draw your strength?

Yesterday I was talking to a friend about basketball drills.  Those difficult physical challenges our coaches placed before us at countless practices.  The best drills have purpose:  Build stamina … Target specific muscle groups … Wear out a bunch of smart-alec teenagers who think they have the answer to everything but really know nothing …  I had a coach in high school that would make us run cross country for our late summer/fall conditioning.  Then, the first two weeks of practice we wouldn’t even SEE a basketball.  Nothing but sprints, drills, jumping, and other physical challenges.  And, honestly, we were in awesome shape when the season started!!  (Didn’t win too many games … but we could run with ANYONE.)

HOWEVER … Basketball is not life.  Basketball is a sprint.  Life is more of a long race.  A feat of endurance.  A matter of pace.  And you will need a DEEP WELL of strength to make it.

I believe this is why God gave us Proverbs 3:5-6.  Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight!  If you are going to MAKE IT in this race, you need HIM!!  You need HIS STRENGTH!!  You need to TRUST HIM!!

Candidly, I will admit that I sometimes forget the previous fact.  Yes, me … A “pastor.”  Not listening to my own sermons again.  I try to put my head down and muddle through life.  And I grow weak.  And life keeps coming like a fire hydrant spraying water into your face.  And the stress presses in.  Then frustration.  Anger.  Helplessness.

And then I realize that I cannot FIX others.  I cannot even FIX myself.  But those words Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3 shine like a beacon.  And I needed to remember.  I can trust Him … He is ALREADY AT WORK on all of it!!  I just need to open my eyes and see Him!!

What Bugs me about the Bible

10 Jul

I am a proud graduate of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  All of my professors taught and reminded me (and others) of the absolute treasure that is our modern Bible.  I’ve studied the history of the best-selling book of all time, I have studied the languages in which it was written, and I continue to study this Book.  And I recognize that the Bible is SO MUCH more than a book!

But, I have to confess there is something that bugs me.  There is just something that is not quite right.  I read it and see it and hear it and there are, from time to time, things that do not sit well with me.  That kind of stick in my gut.  That make me a little queasy.  Sometimes I even search for other answers and different meanings.

You see, the Bible is God’s Word.  Holy.  Set apart.  The Bible is His revelation of Himself, His nature, His activity with humankind, it is His love letter to His creation.  And I find that, the more I study it, the more I immerse in it and allow it to permeate my heart and mind, the more uncomfortable it makes me.  The more I cringe.

And I realize the reason I cringe …. IS ME.  Whenever I come face to face with the perfection of our Holy God, I realize how imperfect and unholy I really am.  (Probably NOT the confession you would expect to hear from a man whose career is pastoral ministry, but there it is.)

Show me a man or woman who LIKES to be called out, who ENJOYS being told how wrong he/she is, and I will show you someone who it NOT telling the truth.  Deep, deep down inside NONE of us enjoy the realization that we are wrong.  Many times as we rock along in this life, WE become our north-point.  Our thoughts and beliefs become our standard.  The Bible actually shows me a greater standard than I could ever develop.  And, quite frankly, that reminds me of my own imperfection.

So, I realize that the very thing that bugs me about the Bible is my heart.  My life.  My human will.  And I guess I should be glad it makes me uncomfortable.  Because it reminds me that the Holy Spirit is not done with me yet!!!

It all boils down to this

26 Jun

I was reading a political commentary this weekend that hit the nail on the head!! I would say this is primarily a first-world problem, but it is everywhere. I might ponder this a modern problem, but this is a problem as old as time. We can blame social media, the immediate publication of news (thanks to the World Wide Web), and modern technology, but this issue existed long before any of those were even dreams in the hearts of men and women.

One HUGE problem with our world today is OUR desire to WORSHIP US. That we each have a desire to do our own thing, go our own way, and the state of our world today makes that all too easy. We pick and choose the issues for which we are willing to die and allow equally important issues to fall by the wayside in the name of political affiliation.

Honestly, we in the United States live in a multi-party system. Each of us who are involved try to find the candidates and parties that most align with our value systems and we follow. If we are smart, we realize the candidate is more important than the party (but we will save that for our civics lesson later this year)…

Each party is developed and driven by men and women. Imperfect beings. Many in these parties will claim their party more closely models the life of Christ, which is the ultimate goal of every follower of Christ. But they all fall short. Why else would some fight for the rights of women and yet the rights of unborn women fall away? Why else would some fight for the rights of all unborn in the name of the Image of God and be so comfortable with war and capital punishment? We pick and choose that which makes us feel most comfortable …

We are swept into a worldwide community that values self-worship above all else. We, in the Body of Christ, are called to operate in this world. To tell the Good News!! To be Beacons of Light and Truth!! And this does make our job more difficult. Makes it a God-sized task.

When it comes to politics, the greatest plea I have for everyone who follows Christ is to PRAY.  And PRAY.  And PRAY more!!  No one is perfect!!  No candidate or party is perfect!!  And yet this is our way as Americans.  We will all make mistakes.  Exercise a little grace and pray for each other!!!!

We live in a world that values SELF-WORSHIP. God Almighty said we are to have NO OTHER GODS BEFORE HIM. And there is the rub …

We should BE MORE

26 May

There is a disturbing trend in our world today.  We cannot “get along.”  We have forgotten how to coexist with others who might not agree with us.  Who do not look like us, act like us, etc …  We are spiraling down into a world in which the love of Christ is NOT SEEN even in His church.  We are headed for dangerous times, indeed.

Quickly, we might want to blame social media.  I do think social media has fueled this trend, but ultimately WE ARE RESPONSIBLE.  Social media makes it easier to post our thoughts and feelings onto the world wide web with a degree of anonymity.  We will post things, even about people we know, that we would NEVER say to their faces.  Because if we looked them in the eye and said those things, we would have to deal with the pain we inflict.  Even though social media makes it easier to “express ourselves,” we cannot escape the fact that WORDS CAN HURT.  And YOUR WORDS can make a POSITIVE IMPACT on this world just as they can make a NEGATIVE IMPACT.  The choice is YOURS.

So, YOU are to blame.  (I AM, TOO!) We have spiraled down to this point where we terminate relationships and friendships with those that might not see things the same way we see them politically, religiously, economically, and even down to loyalty to sports teams.  My friends, WE ARE RIDICULOUS.  (And I am keenly aware that I might lose a friend or two in saying these things.)

WE ALL NEED TO WAKE UP AND REALIZE THAT NONE OF US HAVE THE MARKET CORNERED WHEN IT COMES TO LIFE.  All of us have faults.  All of us have made mistakes.  We all have beliefs that have been shaped by life, by circumstance, by influences, and hopefully by God’s word.  Probably NONE OF US have it exactly as God sees it.  No, God is NOT a Republican.  He is NOT a Democrat.  He is  NOT a Northerner, and as much as it pains me to say, He is NOT a Southerner.  He is not a Gamecock, Bulldog, Tide, Paladin, Buckeye, and (gulp) not even a Tiger.

And yet HE finds a way to LOVE US ALL.  He even finds a way to love our enemies.  And He commands us to do the same.

The cure of all of this??? IT IS YOU.  Not waiting on others to act, but YOU LOVE WITH GOD’S KIND OF LOVE.  And if YOU do it, and if I do it, and if the next few people do it, before long we will treat each other with the dignity and respect HE INTENDED for us.  And you won’t unfriend that person who voted for that other person.  Or who pulls for that other team.  Or who drives a Ford or Chevy.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 “When I was a child, I acted like a child.  But now that I am growing up, I’m not doing that anymore.”

Hey WORLD:  Stop acting like children.  GROW UP.  We were all taught better than this.

IF

10 Apr

If I asked God for His wisdom, would I accept it?  If I asked God to show me the things in my life that have become stumbling blocks (both to me and to others), would I have the strength to remove them?  If I asked God to show me the baggage from my past that prevents me from being everything He has called me to be, would I trust Him enough to put that baggage out of my life?

As we enter this Holy Week, we pause and think about all that the Crucifixion and the Resurrection means to US as followers of Christ.  As we come face to face with all of this, we must grapple with the above questions.  When we see more clearly Who He is, we realize more clearly who we are.

IF ….

The Great Flood of 2015

5 Oct

October 4, 2015.  Another day that will live in infamy for the great state of South Carolina.  This was the day the Great Flood of 2015 hit us so hard, especially Columbia, Sumter, Charleston, the Grand Strand and many areas in the center of our state.  Florence didn’t escape unscathed:  I have many friends in and around our city who had flooding in houses and buildings.  As the storm slowly moves away from us, the task ahead to rebuild is daunting.  But we’ve been here before.  And sadly will probably be here again.

Yesterday, this storm wasn’t so impressive.  After living in New Orleans for three years, I had honestly seen worse flooding.  Hey, I have walked to class in worse.  But New Orleans is a different beast …  A city, built below sea level, with infrastructure to pump out massive amounts of water.  And believe me, New Orleans HAS to have that capability or it would be underwater after about two normal weeks in the summer.

Not so for cities in the center of our state.  Cities well above sea level.  Cities that haven’t seen flooding like this in 1,000 years (and I wonder who was here 1,000 years ago to record such, but that is another story for another day).  But again, soon the sun will shine, the winds will blow, and it will be time to disembark from this ark and rebuild.

And my thoughts are drawn to THE CHURCH.  To MY CHURCH.  To YOUR CHURCH.  Because, as sad and devastating as this event is, we now have an opportunity to impact the world around us.  And, Ebenezer, we won’t have to go far at all to find folks who need our help.  In fact, I have already been blessed to see Facebook posts from men and women in our church offering to help whomever has need.  THAT IS THE CHURCH BEING THE CHURCH.  God is happy about that!!  I am, too!!

I am praying for my state.  And I am praying for OUR CHURCH, the BODY OF CHRIST, that we will unite and seize this opportunity to make a difference in our world.  Join me???