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.

Time FLIES when you are having fun

8 May

It sounds so cliche, but it’s the absolute truth:  ENJOY EVERY DAY of your children.  Because, one day, they won’t be children any more.

Twenty-two years and three days ago Diana and I welcomed our son into the world.  We were in the midst of packing our home and preparing to move to Florence to serve at Ebenezer as Minister of Youth and Recreation.  I was two weeks away from graduation with one class remaining to be taken a week after graduation in a workshop.  Our lives were in a tempest of things that had to be done to take the next steps in our lives when Drew was born in a hospital which was over 600 miles from home.  We had no biological family nearby, but we had plenty of family from Woodmere Baptist Church and from our seminary family.  And there it was …

Four weeks later we drove away from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to our new home, Ebenezer.  A place we still call home.  With two small children and a calling from God.  And it has all unfolded faster than we could blink our eyes.

Today I have two children who have earned Bachelor’s degrees … One who is working on her masters degree as a Physician Assistant, and one who is now in process of applying to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to do online work as he serves his own church in Florence (Greenwood Baptist).  And it all seems like a flash.

Just yesterday we were unloading a truck into one of the Cambridge Apartments.  Playing softball at Freedom Florence and baseball at Maple Park.  Going to programs, plays, and multiple sports at Delmae, Moore, Sneed, and West Florence.

I have said it many times the past few years and am saying it again now:  PARENTS, BELIEVE IT!!  It goes by like a flash!!  And I really wouldn’t change it at all!!  (Except maybe to slow it down and enjoy it a little more)

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!!!!

FAILURE

11 Apr

We’ve all been there.  We’ve all seen success and we LOVE IT.  We LIVE FOR IT.  And we’ve all experienced failure and most all of us hate it.  Period.

And, most all of us work hard NOT to experience failure a second time.  Well, guess what?  NONE of us are perfect.  We will all fail.  We will all make mistakes … Sometimes small ones.  Sometimes COLOSSAL mistakes.  What can we do?  Where can we go for help?

First of all, we need to level the playing field.  Because our nature gravitates towards the image of a perfect life.  We do not want to admit failure and imperfection.  Somehow we think it lessens our value in the eyes of others.  If we all slowed down enough to see that we all face the same issues and that, in reality, NOT ONE of us is perfect, our world would spin a little smoother.  But pride stops us from doing that.  To make matters worse, we demand perfection in others and yet allow ourselves to be imperfect.  As if we deserve a break, yet no one else does.  The nature of humanity is interesting to say the least …

Whether you realize it or not, someone in your realm of influence TODAY is struggling.  Perhaps with failure.  Or disappointment.  Or, maybe they are just hurting.  And the best thing you can do for them is to be a BARNABAS.  Paul’s famous missionary sidekick was probably the greatest encourager in the New Testament.  His name literally means “Son of Encouragement.”

Someone near you needs encouragement today.  Pray for them.  Speak a word of healing to them.  Remember that you will need the same word some day!!!

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 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.

What does it take?

27 Mar

The time spent in our Oneness Embraced project with Savannah Grove Baptist Church (and several other churches) was and is time well spent.  YES, Dr. Tony Evans is an awesome teacher and we start every session with a video segment from him.  YES, it gives us all a forum to talk about racism as it exists today and has existed in the past in our nation and world.  YES, it proves God’s word to be true … (Imagine that!!!)

BUT … the greatest thing about this time (I believe) is not in our discussions, but in the time spent together.  The discussions are very important, but the root of healing is in love.  In friendships that are being borne.  In the face-to-face time spent, getting to know everyone.  These times are the true ingredients for breaking down walls.  And God’s fingerprints are all over these things!!!!!

But there is one more step.  One more thing about which we need to be vigilant.  An important step we all must take to pave the way for the next generation:  We need to teach our children, grand-children, nieces and nephews, etc., that God’s word has no room for racism.  We need to teach them right and wrong based on HIS word, and not ours.  I am thankful for a mother who taught me right from wrong, taught me that we are all God’s children, taught me that the differences between me and others were more cultural and contrived than they were factual.  We need to teach the next generation, and teach them to teach the NEXT generation, and so on and so on.

We didn’t get here overnight.  We will not solve this problem overnight, either.  But I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who ARE working to solve it.  And I will work as hard as I can to help!!!