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That Steeple Though…

12 Jul

The word for this is BEAUTIFUL…

For only a couple of days, I have returned.  And it still feels like home.  Many of the names and faces here have changed. But this city remains the same!  Great food.  Awesome music!  And plenty of work to be done.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was planted in this city decades ago because of the mission-rich environment in the Big Easy.  And to make a long story short, God moved me and my little family here from Upstate SC 25 years ago.  

In SC, we take steeples for granted.  There seems to be one on almost every church in every corner.  This is not the case in New Orleans.  There aren’t many churches and even fewer steeples.  And when this country boy moved over 600 miles from family and friends into the huge, unforgiving city, the sight of this steeple would make my heart skip a beat.  When I saw this steeple, I was reminded that God is active in this city.  And safety…. and home… was just under the shadow of that steeple.

Yesterday when I drove back onto this campus for the first time in 11 years, my heart skipped a beat. Because in the heart of this great city, home is still there.  That steeple still proudly rises above Gentilly Boulevard.  

And God is still working a beautiful work right here in the heart of New Orleans.  (Is it any wonder why my eyes leak a little every time I look at it???)

Parents: It’s time to LEAD

17 Apr

There is a dangerous trend in parenting.  Working in my field, I’ve actually seen it for years.  Each year it gets a little stronger … A little worse.  We have molded parenting theory and reshaped our society to accommodate it.  And we are starting to pay a price.

And, simply, here it is:  PARENTS, you need to BE PARENTS.  YOU need to take charge.  YOU need to call the shots.  YOU need to open your eyes and see the reality of your child’s life.

How did we become a society of the entitled?  By trends just like this.  And I know some will read this and be angry with me.  That’s okay.  As a pastor, I have a job to do as well.  And it is not always popular.

As a parent, you have experienced far more life than your child.  Probably by now you have experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  You have experienced good fortune and times when life just wasn’t fair.  You have seen the ups and you have seen the downs.  Do you want to prepare your child to face REAL LIFE?  Teach them about all of this.  (Especially the part about life not always being fair…)

Make them go to school!!  Make the live up to their commitments!!  (One of the worst trends I see in North American culture RIGHT NOW is the trend of being committed until something better comes along.  Teach them to be a person of THEIR WORD by being a person of YOUR WORD.)

Teach them to face up to problems and work them out instead of running from them.  I am the CHIEF of hating confrontation, and yet now I see that it is necessary at times.   But I know with all of my heart that the best thing I can teach my family is to face up to problems instead of running from them.

And, for goodness sake, BRING THEM TO CHURCH.  If I could’ve talked my mom and dad out of making me go to church, I would’ve done it every time.  Now I look back and I am thankful they could see through that!!!!

This is hard.  And there will be times when you won’t be able to be their best friend.  And that’s okay … That is part of being a parent.  If you trust the Lord, use His Word as your guide, do your very best, and band together with other believers who are parents and facing the same work, YOU WILL MAKE IT.  And you will NEVER regret it.

I am praying you will start TODAY!!!!

The Devil Plays Chess

3 Apr

I’m certain of it … I see it every day.  The devil does play chess.  He uses strategy, influence, popular opinion, and everything else he can use to derail us.  To stop us from properly functioning in the Kingdom of God.  He will do it to you  He will do it to me.  He is crafty.

And, it is working.

As a pastor, I see it now more than ever.  I see how he tries to convince us to use God’s word to justify our sin.  He turns us against each other over the most minimal things.  He works hard to keep us at odds, because he knows that a church which is not unified will not experience the blessings God intended for us.  He tries to keep us in this state so we will not impact the world around us.

He wants us to be afraid to tell others about Christ.  He wants us to disengage and fail to serve God, because the difference we make will hurt his agenda.  He wants us to lack a trust in God with our future, with our resources, and specifically with our money.

Money is a funny topic.  When I talk about it, as a pastor, some immediately choose to see me as a televangelist, thinking they need to hold on to their wallets when I am around.  And I have never picked a man’s pocket!  But the stereotype is powerful, and the devil knows he can weaken the church if he can sustain that lack of trust.  And he doesn’t want any of us to know the freedom of TRUSTING God with it all!!

And he certainly doesn’t want any of us to teach our children what God expects, not only with our words, but also teaching them because WE TRUST GOD and THEY SEE IT IS REAL!!  Because, have mercy, if we all served, if we all told others about Christ, if we all tithed, the Kingdom of God would advance like nothing we had ever seen before!!

So … The ol’ devil wants us to stay right where we are.  And he give us every excuse NOT to tell others, NOT to serve, and NOT to give.  Because if he can weaken our generation, WE weaken the next generation.

And he wins.

The only question left to ask is this:  Do you want him to win?  You will decide by what you do with these very words.

Breaking Down the Walls

20 Mar

There is a revival afoot in Florence.   If you live here, you definitely want to take part!!  It began in the shadow of an ominous event almost two years ago, when a young man entered Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston with the intent of doing evil.  Nine of my brothers and sisters in Christ lost their lives that day, because of their race and their love for Christ.  Period.  And it still breaks our hearts in the Great State of South Carolina.

But God can bring great things out of the ashes of bad …

You see, in the buckle of the Bible belt, our reaction was a little bit different from that of other parts of our nation.  Instead of drawing lines and throwing stones, we bonded together and prayed.  And trusted God.  As heartbroken as I was, I was proud of Charleston and how that city came together in the face of it all.  Evil did not ultimately win that war.  The Armor of God was deployed and it did its job!

Here in Florence, churches of all denominations and creeds began to gather and pray. Together.  Through a series of events and the leadership of the Holy Spirit, this group brought Tony Evans to Florence just last month.  And history is still writing itself!!

If you skip back 150 years or so in the history of our area, you will find the story of Samson Ham.  Samson Ham was a slave who attended Ebenezer Baptist Church.  And the hand of God was upon this young man.  So much so that God led some of the men of Ebenezer to pool their money and buy his freedom.  And Samson Ham worked hard to found Savannah Grove Baptist Church.

When you jump forward to 2017, how fitting is it that God has once again put Savannah Grove and Ebenezer together in our ONEness EmbRACEd project.  And we have realized several key factors that would disarm racism and bring harmony to our little part of the world if we can spread the word:

  • We MUST be intentional in our relationships with each other
  • Those of us who call Christ Savior are all playing for the same team!!  And we have the same goal in mind:  The Kingdom of God!!
  • It all starts with us GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER FACE TO FACE!!!  It is hard NOT to love someone you know!!  ESPECIALLY OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST!!

As for Ebenezer, Pastor Canty said something last night that is 110% true:  There are no two greater groups equipped for this!!  There might not be two churches in Florence County with the history of Savannah Grove and Ebenezer.  WE SHARE THE SAME DNA!!!  They are LITERALLY our brothers and sisters!!  Time to LIVE LIKE IT!!

Will any of it make a difference??  I KNOW IT WILL!!  And, as for me and my house, we will choose the Golden Rule and LOVE!

How will YOU make a difference?

Well …. Isn’t THAT Special!!

19 Mar

churchlady

Jesus never actually met the Church Lady when He walked the earth almost 2000 years ago.  But He did meet her ancestors …

Dana Carvey brought the Church Lady alive decades ago on Saturday Night Live.  You did not have to watch her long to realize she thought much of her own piety and very little of everyone else.  She often did her superior dance to celebrate her own closeness to God as she compared it to guest after guest who just didn’t measure up.  We watched her and we laughed.  We thought “How ridiculous for anyone to live that way.”  Little did we realize this is a way of life for many.  And perhaps us at times.

Jesus Himself was attacked by the Pharisees and Sadducees because He wasn’t as superior as they …  He frequently taught against the legalism of religion and called His disciples to God’s true intent for the law:  The state of our hearts.  God looks past the surface of who we pose to be and sees what is really in our hearts and minds.  He sees past the facade into what is real.  Too often, we like to stop at the surface and camp out … We see the blemishes of others and like to point them out.  Maybe we just do that in our minds, but we do it.  And it makes us feel …. SPECIAL.  And inside we do our little superior dance and think about how much more we please God than another.  And God grieves.

Why do churches struggle?  Because we live that way.  Why is there racial tension in our communities?  Because we haven’t been willing to step forward and break down barriers.  Why are families drowning?  Because we find it messy to get involved.  The list could go on, but the theme is easy to see:

HEY CHURCH!  GET INVOLVED!  LOOK PAST THE MASKS!  BE REAL!!  LOVE GOD AND LOVE EACH OTHER!!

It is much easier than the devil wants you to believe …..

 

Church, We have a Problem

12 Mar

We talked about this at Ebenezer today.  At least, a little bit.  I believe this problem exists in many North American churches today.  It is a great problem to have, and a terrible one.  And we find ourselves caught in the middle….

As more and more people turn to the Church, more and more seek to be part.  And this is a great thing.  We Southern Baptists have mastered the idea of programming as a way of engaging those who seek Christ.  And this method presents the difficulty of the problem:  As more and more seek to engage, there is a greater need for workers.  For those seasoned Christians to engage people who want to know more.

The crux of the problem is the fact that we live in a society that places far more value on enjoyment that service.  “What is in it for me??”  That seems to be far more the question asked in the modern church than:  “How can I make a difference for Him?”

This problem is simple, sad, and might end the life of the North American church if left unchecked:  WE have a heart problem.  A servant problem.  Jesus said “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”  Then Jesus told us to PRAY God would send out more workers.  I am praying that God WILL send more workers forth at Ebenezer and churches everywhere.  Because there are tons of people all around us who want to know more about Christ.  They watch us, they listen to us, they rely on US.  And I hope we are teaching them the right things, and not multiplying the problem.

Join me in that prayer.

The Value of a Filter

6 Mar

Have you ever thought about it?  What is the value of a filter?  What is the use of a device that plucks impurities out of the air, out of our water, out of the oil and fuel in our car?  We don’t think much about these things until we need to replace them, and then we can see them as nuisances.

The value of an air filter in your house is that it prevents dust and small particles from collecting on your a/c coil and heating elements.  Without a filter, these things just will not work.  In your car, your oil filter and fuel filter collect impurities that would shut your engine down and possibly end it’s life.  Filters are usually inexpensive but provide an invaluable service to our lives.  And we don’t even realize it.

As an introvert, I think and rethink every word I say … (MOST of the time.)  I have good friends who are the complete opposite:  Whatever comes across their minds is coming out of their mouths.  No matter what it might be or the impact it might have.  I would argue that WE ALL need to practice the discipline of FILTER.  No, not that we need a gas mask on our faces to muffle the words.  But we need the filter of WISDOM.  Knowing WHEN to speak.  Knowing when NOT to speak.  Knowing WHAT to speak.  Knowing what NOT to speak.  And God’s word has quite a bit of input on this subject!

James 1:19 says “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

Proverbs 13:3 says “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

Psalm 39:1 says “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue.  I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.”

Job 27:4 says “My lips certainly will not speak unjustly, nor will my tongue mutter deceit.”

Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Ephesians 4:29 says “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. ”

Wise words for today and everyday!!  Hope you have a great week!  Be wise about what you say.

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3)