WYSIWYG

24 Aug

Do you know what that means??  This one will really date some of my IT peeps.   WYSIWYG is an acronym for What You See Is What You Get.  It dates back to the really old days, the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the days when WordStar and WordPerfect for DOS reigned supreme in the world of text editing.  It was a revolutionary move when we could SEE what all of the control codes in our documents looked like!!  Today we are spoiled with MS Word.  We can see, format, and do everything we need to do on the fly.  It is a much more efficient day.  Because what we SEE (What we KEY INTO THE PROGRAM) really is what we get when we print or display.

As a young student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, I was a WordPerfect for DOS master!!  I knew the Kate Turabian Writing Manual almost as well as I knew the book of Genesis.  And I was taught over and over this truth:  YOU NEED TO BE A WYSIWYG.  Not in those words, but we were constantly reminded that we, as ministers, need to be REAL.  I argue today that genuineness and realness are necessary for EVERYONE who follows Christ, regardless of your profession!!!  Granted, we in ministry HAD BETTER lead the way on this one.  But we all have the highest calling to (not only) be REAL but to BE CHRIST to a lost and dying world!!!  Because everyone really is watching.  And they can tell when we are not genuine!

I was talking to a friend about a situation yesterday.  A meeting with a variety of adults involved.  Some who know Christ.  Some who do not.  In this meeting, a married couple who, as everyone knows, is a minister and his wife.  Another colleague was late to the meeting and the couple proceeded to tear her to shreds publicly, not because she was late, but for some other reason.  Then, she arrived, and sugar would not melt in their mouths as they greeter her!!

IS THIS CHRIST?

What do you think others who witnessed this kind of thing (probably more than once) think about CHRIST and the CHURCH???  When we act no better than the world??  (Specifically to my ministry friends, WHAT do you think those other folks think about ministers when we do things like this?)

Church, WE are called to do better.  To BE better.

In other news, my momma always told me to beware of people who will talk about others TO you.  Because they are almost always talking ABOUT you to others.  I find that to be true over and over again.  Sad …

What can YOU do about this?  Again, Mom would advise me NOT TO BE PART OF THIS.  If you do not give others a listening ear to their rantings and ravings, you are stopping the spread of it all!!!  Honestly, I need to do better.  Because by all means, I am NOT perfect.  It takes work.

The greatest thing that you and I can do is to BE THE BEST EMULATION OF CHRIST WE CAN BE.  Be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect!!  (Some too easily dismiss this quote from Matthew 5:48 because WE CANNOT BE PERFECT.  But it gives us something to strive towards!!  And if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time!!!)

DO BETTER.  BE BETTER.  You can do it!!!

Selective Love

6 Aug

Otherwise known as “Conditional Love,” we practice SELECTIVE LOVE often.  And perhaps we don’t even realize it!!  (But maybe we do …)

All it takes is a few moments on social media and it is apparent that almost everyone in our world has forgotten how to disagree.

We are NOT all alike. We do not believe THE SAME WAY about every issue that we face. And THAT IS OKAY. We are human. The differences between us help to form the unique individuals that we have become.

The danger of 2018 is found in how we allow these differences to polarize us on every level. When we pick and choose whom we will love based on our beliefs or other factors that divide us, we are practicing SELECTIVE LOVE. We are ONLY LOVING those who are like us, who look like us, who act like us, who believe like us, who vote like us, who pull for the same football team. Can you see where this is headed??

This is not only bad for the future of our world, this is in DIRECT OPPOSITION to how Jesus taught us to love in the Sermon on the Mount!!

 In Matthew 5 (NIV), Jesus said:

 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded His disciples that the civilized world would expect everyone to love their neighbor. And hate their enemy. These things were not only accepted, but EXPECTED of anyone and everyone. But a disciple of Christ is called to DO MORE …

We are called to LOVE OUR ENEMIES. To PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE US. We are called to meet the aggression of our enemies with LOVE. With CARE. And, if we do these things, we will be the sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven.  Again the world says this is CRAZY.   Some of you reading this might even think these words are crazy.  But, remember:  These are the very words of Jesus Christ!

IF you only love those who love you, you are living no better than the rest of the world. LOVE those who do not love you. Go the extra mile, even when it doesn’t make sense.  THAT is God’s kind of love!!

STRIVE TO BE PERFECT as your Heavenly Father is perfect!  (Zig Ziglar said: “If you aim at NOTHING, you will hit it every time.”)

Humility

25 Jul

A dangerous topic for any blogger … Humility.  Being humble.  I’ve been told that bloggers are the most narcissistic people on the web.  Honestly, it slowed my blogging frequency until I realized this:  My blog is another expression of faith and trust in Him.  So, if you are one of those that thinks this is a narcissistic article, I hope you have already stopped reading by now!! (Hopefully, you didn’t start reading in the first place.)

I serve in a profession with many temptations.  Current news outlets are FULL of stories of ministers and denominational leaders who have experienced tremendous falls.  Some for mistakes made years ago.  Some for ongoing transgressions.  Some of these falls are most deserved.  Some of them are heartbreaking.

Now, I cannot sit in judgment over any man or woman in ministry.  Because I have made mistakes over the years, too.  The world might not grade my mistakes as harshly as some others, but God sees all of this differently.  All have sinned and fall short of His glory.  And, to Him, all sin is bad.  But one of the dangerous elements in many of the mistakes made by men and women (not only in ministry, but in life) is the element of PRIDE.  PRIDE is a MOST dangerous element in the life of any and every Christian.  We probably all struggle with PRIDE on a regular basis.  At least, I know I do.

Do you live to SERVE or to BE SERVED?

Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, shared this in Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  One of the greatest temptations that has plagued humanity from the BEGINNING is PRIDE.  I do not believe Solomon was telling us not to believe in ourselves.  Having a positive self-image is necessary for our own mental survival!!  Solomon is reminding us not to WORSHIP ourselves.  I believe Solomon was being consistent with the biblical model of HUMILITY, of not allowing our self-image to become an item of worship!!

Today I believe he would write “KNOW WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST!!”

Both Peter and James wrote about this same idea:

James 4:10 – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

1 Peter 5:6 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

If we HUMBLE OURSELVES before the Lord, we are showing the world that HE IS GOD and WE ARE HUMANITY!!  And that is OKAY!!  It is the most realistic ORDER OF EXISTENCE!!!

If we then HUMBLE OURSELVES BEFORE OUR NEIGHBORS, we are showing the world that JESUS CHRIST IS REAL!!  In fact, more simply stated, we are showing the world JESUS CHRIST.

Do YOU live to SERVE?  Or to BE SERVED?  A great question to ask ourselves every day.

 

Slowing Down

28 Mar

There is something to be said for SLOWING DOWN.  Believe me.  It seems that lately I have been meeting myself coming and going.  A funeral here.  A meeting there (and here and everywhere).  A handful of fires.  A computer goes down.  Projectors blink.  It.  Never.  Stops.

I had an opportunity to come to Columbia for two days of uninterrupted study.  A chance to get away.  To pray.  To work on upcoming sermons.  To plan for the remainder of the year.  To take a breath.  Honestly, once I slowed down and took a deep breath, I was shocked at the things that flowed out.  Almost like taking a sip from a fire hydrant.  A TON of ideas worth praying over and pursuing.  But it makes me wonder …

What if I took the time to just slow down once or twice a week, just to close my eyes and listen to God and to what is going on around me??  I wonder how much more of an asset to the Kingdom of God I would be if only I could do that???

I am not sure, but I think we are going to find out.  I think I’m gonna give this a try.  We shall see!!!

Here is where we are

25 Mar

Almost 23 years.  That has been my tenure at Ebenezer Baptist Church.  First as Minister of Youth and Recreation.  Then, as Interim Pastor.  And now Senior Pastor since 2001.  In all of these roles, I have watched.  I have spoken out.  I’ve been chastised.  I’ve been encouraged.  I’ve seen a lot.  But every day I realize I haven’t seen it all.

There is a trend that I am seeing.  An alarming trend.  Some of you will read these words and be angry with me.  That’s okay …  Although I might know you well and even love you like family, I do not answer to you.  I answer to the One who called me to this post in the first place.

Almost 20 years ago I was talking to a friend about Sunday evening worship at Ebenezer.  It is quite discouraging to see 500 people on a Sunday morning and then less than 20 on a Sunday evening.  He told me to “get over it.”  That Sunday evening was his family time, his time to unwind.  The only time he had to spend with his family because life has them all so busy during the week.

I got that.  I understood what he was saying.  I didn’t like it, but I understood his point of view.  But that trend has grown.  That answer expanded.  Now there are some that use that answer for Sunday mornings.  I am once again alarmed.

We sell short the value of the Kingdom of God and the Family of God in our lives.  One of the forces that always has helped me strengthen my relationship with Christ is the Family of God.  The fellowship of my church.  When I am gone, I miss Ebenezer.  In Ebenezer I have encouragement, accountability, help, care, and from those things and those people I draw strength.  When I see the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of my family, it wells up inside of me.  Sometimes I get around my brothers and sisters at Ebenezer and I am ready to charge the gates of Hell with a water pistol.  The family of God is a source of strength and encouragement for me.  I would hate to do life without them!!

So … Those who choose not to engage with the Family of God are, in my humble opinion, selling themselves short.  Denying themselves of a tremendous blessing.  Possibly trying to dodge the accountability.  Or, maybe just too busy during the week.  I also believe Satan works to keep us so busy that we cannot breathe until Sunday.  It makes dodging weekly worship easier when we feel we have an excuse.  If you are okay with that, you really don’t know what you are missing.

And another thing:  Don’t sell your family short on your time.  Sunday shouldn’t be the only time in the week you have to spend with your family.  We make time for the things that are most important to us.  WHY AREN’T YOU MAKING TIME FOR YOUR FAMILY EVERY DAY???

But, then again, what do I know??

Pseudo-Code

2 Feb

A lifetime and a half ago, I was working as a systems/software developer for an up-and-coming company in Duncan, SC.  Our mainstay?  Analyzing manual work systems and enabling our clients to collect data and use it to make things better.  This was in the day and age when there was no iPhone app for that.  There was NO IPHONE!!  We barely had electricity and did our math homework on the back of a flat shovel with a piece of coal because we had no pencils ….

ANYWHO …. One of the industry buzzwords that one of my bosses latched onto was “pseudo-code.”  He would come in and want me to develop this elaborate software FIRST in pseudo-code, basically in English as a sort of logical walkthrough.  I always resisted and didn’t see the point in doing the work TWICE.  Why not just code it??  We all understood the actual code, so why would we create a false code, other than to fulfill the popular buzzword???  Never saw the point in that …

This week I was talking to some friends who asked an interesting question:  “Why don’t you preach a sermon about how judgemental people become when they start following Christ?”  Why do people find Christ and then, all of the sudden, become super-judgemental?

I attribute that to the pseudo-code of the day.  Pseudo means “false… Pretend…  Unreal.”  We, as the church, are sometimes guilty of developing a false culture.  A culture in which everyone must DO the same things, like the same movies and books, listen to the same music, dress the same way.  And when someone doesn’t do these things, we judge them.  Sometimes we even cast them out.

HOW TERRIBLY FRIGHTENING AND DANGEROUS!!!!!!!  It is one thing to hold each other, as the church, to a biblical standard.  We are DEFINITELY called to do that.  IN LOVE.  But it is an entirely different thing to hold each other to a standard we have developed.  Because RIGHT and WRONG all becomes subjective.  At the whim of the PERSON who dictates the culture.  The IMPERFECT PERSON who will also make mistakes.  It becomes a Pseudo-Culture.

We talked about this on Wednesday evening at EBC.  It does seem far easier to attempt to TELL everyone how to live, what to wear, and what to do in life.  When we do this, we are bordering on telling the world “YOU MUST BE LIKE US BEFORE YOU CAN BE SAVED!” We are selling short the process of Sanctification, which is not our job but the job of the HOLY SPIRIT.

As the church, we are called to deal with the HEART CONDITION.  To Go Make Disciples.  To Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And to Teach them THE WORD OF GOD.  And to love them as much as we love ourselves.

Why do we judge so harshly??  Jesus reminded us in the Sermon on the Mount to be careful of how we judge, because the same measure we use might just be used to judge US someday………

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.