Wednesday, December 30, 2009
In addition to this, all the parties, events, and activities of church and family during the holidays is a lot of fun, but also can be tiring. And did I mention the food, and cakes, and the candy?! Needless to say, everything has left us exhausted (and fattened, lol)!
My wife posted on facebook that she loved putting the decorations up, but hated taking them down. She got a lot of response from others who concurred. We enjoy the preparations for and the times of, but are left with a tiredness that carries over for a few days, doesn't it? This week Trish and I have been taking down the decorations at home, and we will take them down at the church tonight. I'll be glad to get it all over with!
We had a great Christmas! Always enjoy our family time, and our church functions and fellowships. And I am now getting ready for the New Year. I actually began thinking about some things in November that I want to accomplish in 2010, but have had them on the back burner until now. So I've got to get my body in alignment with my spirit.
Wishing you a Happy and Blessed New Year!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
It is barely 6 a.m. as I write this morning, on Christmas Eve. I have already been awake for an hour, and am too excited to sleep. The stockings are hung, the tree is decorated. Gifts are underneath. In the morning Trish and I will wait for our kids to arrive. Three sons, and one daughter, all grown. One grandchild, five years old Zachary. The hung stockings are for Zach, myself (Paw Paw), and Trish (Maw Maw). The family will gather here at our home in the morning. They should all be here somewhere around 10 a.m. Well, not all. One family member will be missing when we sit down for Christmas dinner later.
Tonight at 6 p.m. we will gather across the road at mom and dad's house. My brothers and sisters will be there, their spouses, and children. It is always a house full. We will eat and open presents. It is a family tradition at Christmas time. Not sure who will make it, and who will not be able to. I do know of one face who will be missing.
My excitement and joy is tempered somewhat by the missing faces and empty places. My dad passed away in March after battling for a year with cancer. Dad's place will be empty. I am sure someone will probably be sitting in his recliner. But they wont be sitting in his seat. No one can take his place. He was the patriarch. Imperfect, he would tell you. But he taught us to work, and to treat people fairly. My brothers have a thriving business that is due to his hard work. I am the first born. I remember when the family had nothing, and mom and dad struggled. I remember not having a coat to wear to school. But daddy sacrificed for the home and family. Dad loved Jesus, and is now with him. I have peace in that. But I miss him.
Micheal, my son in law, passed away in July to a four year battle with lymphoma cancer. He had so much going for him, and he was so young. Loved God with all his heart. He was a fire fighter, and served the city of Charlotte as a building inspector. One year to the day he and Tina were wed, they discovered Michael had cancer. Over the next 4 years, treatment, more treatment. Encouraging news, discouraging news. Two stem cell transplants. Michael and Tina struggled, but they kept believing. But it was not to be. Michael's place will be empty. He will not be sitting on the couch talking to Dwayne and watching one of the football games. He will not be playing with Zach. And although it has now been several years since, my wife's mom also passed away after battling cancer. Mary is now with Jesus. Sadly, Trish's family scattered after the death of her mom, and has never been the same.
Going through some pictures on my computer this morning, I ran across one where dad was being presented a trophy by me at our first church car show, in 2008. Daddy's passion was cars. He entered 10 or so, not because he wanted to win a trophy, but to help our church out. It was a fundraiser. Another picture is of Michael. He is wearing a T shirt. You can faintly see the words "Arrgh you ready?" What you can't see is the lower line, which says, "For a cure." The occasion was at our 2007 participation in the Cancer Society Relay for Life. Our church participated, and raised over $1500 for the cause. Our slogan was "Ready for a cure" and we did the Pirate theme. Michael was an avid supporter of the cause.
I know I'm going to enjoy the celebrations with family. And I am not sure if I will say anything about missing them. It is too painful. Mom is lonely, and struggles. Tina (my daughter) has good days and bad days. I don't want to say or do anything that will make what I know to be a difficult time for them even more so. And I am hesitant to write, for I know my daughter will sometimes read my blogs. But I wanted to write this for others, who like us, will find themselves both laughing and crying this Christmas...
Because of missing faces and empty places.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Today I celebrate my wedding anniversary with the love of my life and my best friend. Trish is a gift from God to me, and I am so blessed to have her in my life. I could not imagine it without her. We married way too young, not out of necessity, but out of love itself. Our marriage has withstood many trials and tests during the years, and her commitment has been the backbone of it.
I want to tell you about what marriage can and should be. A marriage that survives the storms is one whose trust is God, and whose love is committed and faithful. Having stated this, I want to tell you that there are no perfect marriages. And if you are a product of a failed one, it does not make you a failure. God never gives up on you.
The word of God asks a question... "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her worth is far above precious rubies?" To answer Proverbs 31, I shout, "I DID, I DID! I found one!!"
Trish, I love you. You are the most shining example of Jesus that I have ever seen. Thank you for being you. You are a precious gift.
Happy Anniversary, Sunshine! I love you!
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Yes, I want to continue to honor the name of Jesus. And as a Christian, I am bothered that the world we live in goes to great extent to omit his name and mention during the Christmas season. I have a problem with the secular world trying to de- Christ Christmas. "Happy Holiday" has become the norm, lest we offend. So while I stand with my brothers and sisters in Christ who are offended that he is left out of their mentions, I want to say again-- I'm taking Christ out of Christmas.
The very term Christmas means a festival, or celebration of Christ. And I get that. We should celebrate him throughout the year, not just at Christmas time. The problem is that we want to keep him in something he wants to get out of. We box Jesus into our narrow minded theology, we box him into our cultures and creeds, and we box him into our own prejudices. Jesus is ok with many believers as long as he doesn't intrude into the world they live. As long as he doesn't interrupt their schedule or affect their choices.
Church, its time to get him out of the box. He isn't in a manger any more. He is the King of Glory, residing in the hearts of those who trust him. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
Here's one preacher who is for taking Christ out of Christmas!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
In the midst of the sharing, one story leaped out. It was from a young lady, who was visiting. (I'll call her Cindy, not her real name) Cindy told of how she loves to go every year to her grandmother's house. She told of how her grandmother hangs apples on the Christmas tree. And grandma makes apple cider. Cindy said that she loves her grandma's apple cider.
As she shared with us, her excitement was contagious. As I looked in her eyes, I found myself wanting some apple cider. And I don't like apple cider at all. At least I don't think I do. It has been a while since I have tasted it. I am now wondering, thinking, pondering... I'm about to run out somewhere and buy some!
Sitting at home now, two hours later, I think about her story. And I think of how I want my relationship with Christ to be like Cindy's grandma's Christmas tree and apple cider. I want others to be excited to come to the church I pastor, hear the message I preach, love on the Jesus I love. I want them to be ready and eager to come back. I want them to know that grandma's house, I mean Jesus' house, has doors that are open any time.
Cindy sold me on apple cider. Going to go get me some!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook can be great resources for furthering the advancement of the gospel. I purposely mix up sharing my faith with family and fun posts. I find that if I can first connect with people, I am provided a platform that may not exist otherwise.
I encourage pastors and leaders to take advantage. Being an expert writer or communicator is not a prerequisite (I certainly am not). Just be yourself, be real, and communicate. I follow and friend some of the great leaders and communicators of our nation, and I am inspired by their posts. I also follow some who, like me, are just a local pastor in a small town church. But their message is just as great! So, get to it. Begin writing, blogging, sharing.
Salesman are using these resources to expand their sales. Let's use them to expand the kingdom!
Monday, December 14, 2009
If I forget and make a decision or answer a question, I am not liable for the consequences thereof. Yes and no really means nothing during this time.
The decision to postpone, eliminate, or just plain ignore decisions results in my 1,000,000 decision. I am now taking a nap. If you have a major crisis, you may contact my youth pastor or worship leader. These guys never have to make a decision and are just waiting for you.
If you have read this far, I hope you understand I am light heartedly joking. Most pastors can relate to overload at this time of year. I am open and available to those who need me, at all times.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I recognized the handwriting on the envelope immediately, as I pulled the mail from the box. It was a Christmas card. The beautiful writing addressed to my wife and I was from my mom. She always hand writes all the names and addresses. Mom has never used a computer. But unlike me, you can read her writing.
I walked slowly back across the road and to the house. I hesitated at the thought of opening the card. I knew it would be a Christmas card. She has faithfully sent them out through the years. But this would be the first year...
With tears in my eyes, I read the beautiful poem and Christmas wish. And I read the signature below, "Love, Mom." You see, this is the first Christmas card I have ever received from P.O. Box 182 without two names on it. Daddy passed away in March. His name is missing.
There's a lot of joy around the Robbins' house this year. Trish and I are staying busy. Loving God, loving our church, loving our family. But there's a couple of missing spots. Those who know us know this, and I pray will forgive me for feeling the need to write about it again. Sometimes when I feel like crying, it seems to be good therapy just to put it in words. I have been hesitant to do so because of my daughter, Tina. Her husband, Michael passed away in July. Both Dad and Michael passed away due to cancer. Tina, like mom, has some good days and some bad. But mom doesn't read my blogs. Tina does. So I try to keep my thoughts to a minimum.
You never know when just a simple thing will trigger a memory. Like a Christmas card. And we are not alone in facing a Christmas with pain and adversity. I know many of you are facing some things that make this a difficult time for you. My prayers are that the Lord will give you his divine strength. And I pray you will be surrounded by family and friends who will help you.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Praying everyone is blessed this Christmas season.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I underestimated the time it would take, and the funds needed to complete the project. But we just about finished the process for this year. About one more work day/night, and we should be finished, barring unforeseen problems. I overloaded two areas tonight while working, and will need to check them out. I am hoping it is only a fuse, otherwise, we will have to replace some lights and wiring. I also want to go back and install timers in every area.
I hope in the future to build upon the work and have a Bethlehem area, where various scenes would appear as it were in the time of Jesus' birth.
I'll be putting up some pics shortly.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Have you ever read the small print? I wish I had before I ran out this morning. But in the process of being disappointed, a thought occurred to me that we often do the same thing in church. --Not to confuse you, let me start at the beginning...
I hadn't planned on being a part of the game. I have done mine in the past, and have somewhat retired from the Black Friday thing. I still do Christmas shopping, but not on this day. Rising early to be in line somewhere at 5 or 6 AM, rushing through the crowds and struggling to get that one or two items, then rushing to another store. I remember the adrenaline rush as I was successfully mastered the game. But for me, at age 56, the thrill is gone. I am at a point in my life where I had rather pay another twenty bucks or even fifty bucks more to avoid the hassle.
So my wife and I are sitting in the living room this morning discussing some plans for one of the bedrooms. I am going to convert it over to a mini office, put in a recliner, while at the same time allowing it to serve as a bedroom when needed. I mentioned that it needed a TV, so she said they are on sale today, I should run out and get one.
Wow, what a deal! I was going to get a 32" Plasma for $258. I would not have to strain my eyes to read the small print when changing the channels. It would be worth getting ready, and going out in the cold this morning. It would also be worth facing the crowd and waiting in the lines. Looking at the Wal Mart website, I found a great deal, from 5 to 11 AM. It was 9 AM at the time, so I ran out, got there about 9:30. However, when I arrived, I did not see my TV. I didn't even see anything close to being the same deal. That is when I read the small print. Limited supplies, no rain checks. Here I was, I had gotten my expectations up. Disappointed? You bet!
It seems the door buster advertisements are there to get you in the door. There will be only a few, for first come. Trickery? Maybe not in the legal term, but realistically, yes. I walked out the door without buying anything.
Then I thought of the slick advertising we sometimes do in the church. We will put it in our bulletins, fliers, post it on our doors and walls, plaster it on billboards and signs. We will have our people announcing it everywhere. We're telling of the "great deals", the signs and wonders, the revival taking place. Please don't take this the wrong way, because as a pastor, I appreciate all the excitement and positive news we can get for the local church. But I must say, sometimes I walk away disappointed. I think the conference offered a lot of bling, but short on substance. We've got people walking out of the church talking about a wonderful service who can't tell you a thing about what happened or what was said.
Yeah, I have seen the Black Friday Madness. I was there. Been there, done that. I have also seen the Black Sunday Madness. When there was a lot of hype, but somewhat like the giant store, the church didn't produce as advertised. I can't control the game they play on Black Friday. But in my corner of the world at the church I pastor, by the grace of God we can change ours. No more false (or misleading) advertising, we're keeping it real!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Yes, we love it. It is quality time with our family, and we enjoy the moments. The tables will be different this year, minus some spots. At mom's house, dad won't be there. He passed away in March. And as we sit at our table, Michael will not be here. My son in law passed in July. I am sure our celebrations and fun will be tempered somewhat. What I would give to be able to turn back the clock one more time for them. But no, life goes on.
I know that our family is not alone. Not in the traditions, nor the festivities. Not in the joys, nor the sorrows. You can probably identify. The holidays are great times of blessings. But they are also times when the stress level gets high. Busyness leads to tiredness. Stress can easily elevate in shopping lines when you neither have the money nor the patience for your purchase. In the midst of it all, take a breath. Say a prayer, enjoy the moments. These times are precious.
And don't go stressin', go blessin'!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Not long on the road, my wife and I would hear the words coming from the back seat... "Are we there yet?" They would be repeated several times during the course of the trip. Our children always enjoyed the destination, but not necessarily the grind of the trip.
I see myself that way sometimes. I enjoy the blessings of the powerful services when we gather together at church. With the electrifying praise and worship, it is easy to preach. We seldom have what we be called a "bad service" but lately the good ones have been even better. There is a sense of expectancy as we gather together, and the atmosphere lingers during the week. This has been going on for several weeks now. God is good!!
And yet I know that this is not all there is. I still find myself saying, "Are we there yet?" Is this it? I see some of the signals of the beginning of revival, but there are also the lingering signs that reveal the desired place is not yet...
Struggles with the flesh, lusts, indifference in the church tells me we are not there yet. The giving of the saints doesn't match up with their shouts, we are not there yet. Divisions, quarreling, and gossip, no we're not there yet. We're getting there, but we're not yet there.
And yet, in an imperfect church with an imperfect pastor, this I know: While we are not "there" (the place we desire to be in Christ), he is "here." In the midst of the church, Jesus walks, moves, talks, acts. Look in the book of Revelation. To the imperfect churches of Asia Minor he comes.
I am in a pursuit to get to HIM. Others in the vehicle with me are as well. We see the lights of revival, but we are not yet complete, not yet restored. The good news is that Jesus comes to us. It is an ongoing process. Like a vast array of mountains or ocean waters, we are on the verge.
Are we there yet? No.... but Yes!
Monday, November 23, 2009
We were working at the church the day before, and I had climbed a ladder to get some items out of the attic. We have a storage area there, and my purpose was to get some Christmas decorations down. It was Saturday morning, and a gentleman in the church had leaned the ladder against the wall. I hurried up, only to find myself in a free fall as I got at the opening to the storage area. The ladder was falling, and I was clinging, with nothing to grab to, so down I came...breaking shelves below which were set up for our coffee shop.
I survived the accident and the fall, but I have a couple of big bruises and an aching back to show for it. One bruise is on my back side, just above my hip. It is black and purple in color, and about the size of a baseball. The other bruise is about an inch long, on my leg. I am grateful to the Lord, I know things could have been much worse.
If you've lived any length of years in life, you've gotten bruised. Bruises usually heal in a matter of days. But it is another type bruise that is on my mind, the inner bruises. Wounded spirits, fragmented relationships. Feelings of being wronged, left out, forgotten. These kind of bruises are more difficult. I find myself, as a pastor of a community of believers, tending bruised feelings from time to time. Sometimes it is between a husband and a wife, other times it is relationships in the church. And whether the feelings are justified, or just imagined, they are nonetheless real to the one who is hurt.
Both natural bruises, and the inner bruises of life, are going to occur. It is how we respond to them that determines our outcome. Some people are always running from their bruises. Running from relationships, jobs, churches, marriages. Yes, you will get hurt. But there are things you are assigned to that you must face, deal with, and work on. If it needs to get better, make sure that you make it so.
When dealing with people, we often deal with those who are bruised in life. A precious person is offended. There have been times when I have tried to get involved, to be a mediator. Upon investigating the matter, I may not feel it is justified or of as serious a nature as the reaction, but it is nonetheless real to the wounded. In those moments I sometimes feel my help has ran its course. And so I have to realize my limitations. How to repair it, I know not. There are some bruises I cannot heal... Only HE can.
I climbed back up the ladder. I got the items out of the storage area. Didn't know I was bruised at the time, but I knew I needed to be up there. That's what I want to encourage you to do. Get back up, go again, stay with it!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The cake was Zach's idea. He wanted one for his mom and his aunt Ti Ti, his nickname for Tina. A white cake with purple icing was Zach's request, and the Ingle's bakery baked the cake and decorated it accordingly. If you follow my blogs, or know me personally, you know Zach is my 5 year old grandson.
As we were finishing the food, fellowship, and cake, Zach proclaimed, "This is the perfect birthday." Then, as in retrospect, he said, "If my daddy had been here, it would be perfect."
Daddy... he doesn't attend much at fellowships or parties. Works a lot. Our oldest son, he has a lot of good qualities. But, like a lot of men, he misses what is important. Family time, friend time. The moments of life together. I tell this story, not to embarrass a son whom I love dearly. I tell it for the fear of a man missing out the precious moments and a child recognizing it. I tell the story for all men out there who are too busy for their own good.
"If daddy had been here, it would be perfect." Zach said... I almost cried. It was an almost perfect birthday.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Pastor charged with sexual battery
The following report comes from the Charlotte Observer. Bessemer City is located about 45 miles from Forest City NC, where I pastor. The post from the Observer is between the lines, the other is my observations.
BESSEMER CITY, N.C. -- Gaston County Police have arrested a 72-year-old pastor who is accused of sexual battery.
Harley Michael Keough, pastor of King James Baptist Church in Bessemer City, is charged with five counts of sexual battery.
Police say the charges stem from incidents that allegedly occurred over a three-year period from September 2006 through October 2009.
According to a news release from the Gaston County Police, the crimes involve five women between the ages of 23 and 46. Police say the victims went to the church food bank for assistance, and they were allegedly assaulted during their visits.
Keough is being held in the Gaston County Jail under a $50,000 bond.
Apparently the pastor is more concerned about guarding the reputation of the King James Bible than he is about taking advantage of people in need. This is sad for the church and for the community.
Friday, November 13, 2009
To rejoice in the Lord is not based on mere happiness or pleasantness of situations and circumstances. Sometimes they will be favorable, and sometimes they will not. There will be days when you feel as if you are on top of the world, and other days when it seems as if the world is crushing in on you.
Last week was an easy time for me to rejoice. My wife and I took a retreat and got away for a few days. It was a brief time, but provided us the rest and relaxation we needed. The cabin by the river provided the atmosphere, and the weather was perfect. What seemed as a problem turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The TV channel was only programmed for a few local stations. I am not sure if it was all that was offered, but suspect it was something in the remote that I could not figure out. There was no ESPN, which I tend to watch too much of. The TV was turned on very little. Reading from a newly purchased book, reading the bible, and spending quality time with my wife was just what I needed. We came home refreshed, and the service this past Sunday at the church I pastor was sweet! God moved in a tremendous way!
I love the highs, don't you? It is easy to rejoice in those times. But this week has provided opportunities that try my mind and my spirit. The weather has been yucky, with rain, rain, and more rain. My wife got sick, hardly able to get up. A couple of situations with some people at church bothered me and got under my skin. I was wanting to ride the high of last week. After all, momentum is our best friend. It is sometimes difficult to make, so you want to ride it as long as you can. As of yesterday, I felt my frustration level rising and my momentum level descending.
Thankfully, the Lord reminded me of this verse. It is in my spirit, and I want to encourage you with it, as it has encouraged me. The verse did not say to rejoice when all is well. It did not say to rejoice when you feel like it. It says to rejoice in the Lord always, at all times, in all situations.
To rejoice is a choice. To rejoice means to choose to take joy. That's the key. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
I am thankful for the reminders of the Lord. In addition to the verse, a song also came to my mind this morning. "When I think about the Lord, how he saved me, how he raised me, how he filled me with the Holy Ghost, how he healed me to the uttermost." Yes, I want to shout, "Halleluiah!"
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I went into the kitchen to put on some coffee and make some toast. We purchased some jars of apple butter at the Apple Barn in Pigeon Forge last week, while we were there. I thought of how good toast and the apple butter would be. That is when I noticed the mess. I hadn't noticed it before, but I am sure it was there yesterday.
The kitchen was a mess. The sink was piled up with plates, bowls, cups, glasses, and utensils. I decided I would put them in the dishwasher, but it was full. Thankfully, everything in it had been washed. Being the perfect husband I am (yeah, right) I decided to put everything in its proper place. After I had done so I emptied the sink of all the unwashed items and put them in the dishwasher, putting the detergent in it, and turning it on.
I then proceeded to place a paper towel in the trash. Guess what? It is full. Looks like I am going to have to take care of that. All this work is making me tired, so I decided to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while I make out a game plan. Oh no! I hadn't seen this before, and don't know why I am seeing it now--- the living room is a mess! My grandson, Zach, who is 5 years old, was out of school yesterday due to the holiday. Between the two of us, we made a mess. Papers scattered, cookie crumbs littered, things where we left them. It looks like the carpet needs vacuumed.
My mind is racing to my sickly wife. Not only does she keep a clean house, she takes care of two boys (Zach and I), works in both the church and church operated daycare. I don't know how she does it all.
I sure hope she gets well soon. My mind is on overload from thinking about all the things that need to be done, lol. Seriously, I love Trish so much. I realize in times like this how much I take her for granted.
Get well, Sunshine!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Today is Veterans Day. It is both a national and state holiday for the citizens of the United States of America. Veterans Day is set aside to honor those who have served in the military.
The bible tells us to give honor to whom honor is due. And honor is certainly due to those who have stood guard over our land. We are a free nation today because of the commitment of both those past, and those present who have served.
God bless our military. Bless our men and women, sons and daughters, who make it strong. And God bless the USA!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
If you are within driving distance of New Harvest Church, in Forest City NC, I invite you to join us this Sunday at 10:30 AM for another powerful service.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The two days thus far have been refreshing. We are reading books, studying our bible, praying, and relaxing. I am enjoying this time away, and want to return home fresh and full for our church family.
Thanks for praying for us!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The bible gives us the history of great attacks from the enemy after great victories. David knew this. One of his greatest moments of despair came after a victory. I have witnessed this in church life. After great undertakings and accomplishments, we become under attack. We may be vulnerable at these moments. Tired physically, mentally, and spiritually. We don't mean to let our guards down. But it happens. And the enemy launches a full fledged attack.
The need to refresh, reload, and refire is not just due to unforseen attacks of the enemy. It is needed in order to be replenished. Jesus told the disciples on one occasion to "come apart and rest a while." The word of God said the disciples had no leisure. They had no rest, no relaxation, no refreshing. They were constantly giving out. Jesus knew the danger in this. He told them to pull away-- yes, pull away from the busyness of life.
And so Trish and I are taking a few days this week to do it. We have wanted to for some time, but it just didn't work out. We have decided to make it work. We love church life, and we have had some amazing things going on. We are proud of our church family. But we are tired. We need to be refreshed for them, and for others the Lord sends us to. We are going to the bookstore this morning. Going to buy a good book to read, maybe a new worship tape. We'll take our bibles. Somewhere in the mountains of Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, we will find a spot to stay. We will read, pray, study, and enjoy the company of one another. And we will come back down from the mountain in time for church Sunday morning. We plan on being...
Refreshed, Reloaded, and Refired!!
Monday, November 2, 2009
Our kids were in some extravagant praise and worship. At one point my five year old grandson went to his aunt, my daughter, and told her, "I'm stirred up." Zach was indeed stirred up, and I think the rest of the kids were as well.
I want more of Him, and I want Him to have more of me!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
"Maw Maw, we need to talk. Turn the radio off." My five year old grandson said to my wife, Trish. She was taking him home from church after the midweek service. Although Zach's mom was at the service, he had asked that my wife take him home, so she obliged. The request to turn off the radio was a little unusual for him. Although my wife did not tell me the station that was playing, the dial is usually on His Radio. Zachary loves His Radio.
This Wednesday night service was different. Rather than dismiss the kids and youth after praise and worship, we kept everyone in the sanctuary. Our midweek attendance has been down lately, with school activities and sickness, and I wanted to have all available people for a meeting that was needed. Our annual Harvest Festival would be coming up in 3 days, and I wanted to make sure we had all bases covered. This is a major outreach for our church, and requires much planning. The meeting I had called for was one that was of the round table kind. Except there was no round table. It was an open format, with a couple of key people telling where we were, how we would do things, and what was needed. Talk was going on in several directions. This is where the problem arose...
I didn't know there was a problem, and in reality, there wasn't. At least not from my vantage point of assessing everything. But as Maw Maw was driving Zach home, he needed to talk. Trish relayed the conversation he had to her. It was something like this:
"Maw Maw, I have been in a lot of meetings. This one was not done right. Everyone was talking. When a meeting is taking place, everyone is supposed to be quiet, and you listen to the person up front."
As I said, I had asked a couple of the outreach leaders to the front. In the midst of their communication, people were responding back and forth. There was also one lady making rounds and talking to people while this was going on.
A meeting out of order? Not really. But what stirred me was that the kids learn early. Zach understands a lot more about flow, order, and reverence than a lot of adults. He may have misinterpreted this one, but at least he is watching.
Art Linkletter used to do a show called, "Kids say the darnedest things". Yeah. You can learn a lot through a child. One of the perks of being paw paw is that this time around I am actually still enough to listen. And I am loving it!
Got any kid stories about church? I'd love to hear yours.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
A Pastor Appreciation service will be held for Trish and I this Sunday at the church. It will be a special time where honor will be given. Lunch will follow the service, with great food and fellowship. That is pretty much all I know. It is one of the few times as pastor where I am out of the loop and not in control regarding the direction and flow of the service.
The month of October is set aside as a time for the recognition and honor of pastors. Serving as pastor is both one of the most rewarding, and most stressful occupations you will ever experience. A recent survey states that 80% of pastors, and 84% of their spouses deal with constant discouragement. I could give you other stats regarding pastors leaving the pulpit, but that is not my purpose here. Before I move on, I want to challenge you: honor your pastors. Your pastors aren't perfect. He/she will make mistakes, will make some decisions or say some things you may not agree with. But they have the responsibility to guard your soul.You should stand with them and help them strengthen the local church.
Here are my thoughts in advance of Pastor Appreciation...
1) Trish and I are honored to be honored. Thank you for entrusting your souls and your family into our hands.
2) We are blessed to have you in our lives. God is so good to allow us to have people like you in our church family.
3) Sometimes we forget to say thanks. Thanks for serving, giving, praying. Without your combined efforts, we could not have a strong local church that extends its mission to the community, region, and world. Thank you for all you do.
4) We love you. More than words can express. You are more than people we preach and teach. You are in our hearts.
5) You are family to us. A few of you are our natural family. All of you are our spiritual family. As family, we worship together. We sing together, pray together, play together, and cry together.
6) Our desire to see the glory of God captured in the hearts and lives of all. To see a church blazing with the fire of the Holy Ghost, reaching, rescuing, and redeeming lost and hurting humanity. To take the gospel of the kingdom to the nations of the world, beginning at home. It is to raise up our sons and daughters, to empower and train them for the call of God on our lives. Thank you for catching this vision with us!
Pastor Appreciation? Thanks. Whatever you will do or say. Just want you to know that Trish and I appreciate you appreciating us. Just in case we forget to say it during the service or the dinner Sunday.
WE APPRECIATE YOU!
Friday, October 9, 2009
My wife always turns in earlier than I. She will go to bed, sometimes sit and read her bible or a good book for a little while, and then turn in. I always go in before I think she has finished her reading to get me a goodnight kiss before she goes to sleep. Tonight I went in, and the nightlight was already off. She wasn't reading. She was praying. Praying and crying.
She had a phone call earlier in the day. It was from my daughter. I could tell from Trish's voice and the tone of the conversation that it wasn't good. Our daughter is battling deep depression. You see, she cries at night, too. Tina cries because her husband recently passed away. A marriage of 5 years with a husband that fought terminal cancer 4 of those years. On their one year wedding anniversary, the diagnosis of lymphoma cancer was discovered. The last year's struggle had been hell for the both of them. Now Tina is battling an enemy herself. One of self will, or self esteem, of loneliness. And at night she cries.
My wife, Trish, cried as she talked with Tina on the phone. And so when I went to the bedroom and saw her crying, I knew. The day's struggles were on her heart. Trish is also battling. Sinus problems for the last couple of weeks, and high blood pressure. I know she is under the strain of serving in a local church with great people, but not enough funds. Overseeing a daycare that is a great community outreach, but struggles itself with parents who don't pay-- adding more pressure on us. So, whether it was her physical pain, the burden for our people and family, or just stress, I am not sure. It was probably all three. She keeps it from me. Doesn't want me to see. She holds them back. But when she goes to bed at night she cries.
Across the road from my house is the my mom's house. Mom is now in her mid seventies. Dad passed away this past spring. They married in their teens, as did Trish and I. It was a different generation. Daddy did everything for mom. She didn't even know how to pump gas or work the remote. Mom is doing well, at times. As is Tina. But, like her, she is lonely. And, although she doesn't tell me, I know.
At night, she cries.
And when I think about my mom crying, my daughter crying, and my wife crying-- I do, too.
Not sure why I am writing this. I get too transparent and too personal at times, and most don't want to read these things anyway. So I may pull this at any time. If you happen to read it through, please don't judge us. These ladies are going to be alright. They have a strong faith, and a mighty God.
But sometimes they cry.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
I love my wife. Trish and I married at an early age. We have been married for almost 39 years. Most marriages do not make it when wed in their teenage years. For that matter, most marriages simply don't make it these days at all. I say that, not to demean those who have had marriage failures, but just as a matter of fact. The pressures, struggles, and temptations on couples today can be overwhelming. Both the husband and the wife must make sacrifices to insure a healthy marriage.
Trish bought me a T shirt, probably 2 or 3 months ago. It says simply, "I love my wife". It is pictured here, although blurry. The photo was taken from my cell camera. I have worn this shirt out many times during the summer, and now into the fall. It hardly fails that I get a comment and a compliment from someone while I am out.
The truth is, I do. I do still love her very much. My childhood sweetheart, the joy of my life. The best thing in the world that ever happened to me outside of Jesus. No, our marriage has not been perfect. But it has been good. Through all the trials, the struggles, and the things we have faced, my wife has stood by my side. She is truly my help mate. She helps me pastor the church. Her worship of the Lord and her prayer life challenge me.
My pet names for her are "Sunshine" and "Pretty Girl". She lights up my life. I can walk into a room full of ladies of all ages, but, in her mid fifties, she is still the pretties in my eyes.
Yeah, I proudly wear the shirt. I LOVE MY WIFE!
Monday, September 28, 2009
Have you ever felt that way about the Lord? Have you thought that your situation was too difficult? You looked the problem over, and you came up with your "if only" list. Like Mary and Martha, you tell the Lord, "if only"...
If only you had answered my prayer when I first prayed. If only she hadn't cheated on me. If only I had gotten that promotion. If only they hadn't turned on me. If only he hadn't died. The if only list can consume you with doubts, fears, and regrets. Many are living in the "if only" stage of life.
There were also those that day that had written Lazarus off as past history. But Jesus is about to make him current events. He is about to visit the graveyard and speak to Lazarus.
Lazarus, come forth! With those words, the dead arises. Hell loses it's grip. He who calmed the waters and said peace be still now speaks life where life is no more!
IT'S NOT OVER! No matter where you've been, what you've done. Doesn't matter what they thought, and who was in favor of your departure. He speaks a Reviving, Restoring, Resurrecting word to Lazarus. LIVE AGAIN!! And, he does.
I speak today to the Lazarus remnant, to you. You are here today. It is not by accident you are seeing this, reading this, and hearing it with your spirit. There is a call that is greater than the fall. I speak to the Lazarus Generation...
The Lazarus Generation loves God with all their heart, mind, and body
The Lazarus Generation is radical in their praise, and expressive in their worship
The Lazarus Generation is pure before Him
The Lazarus Generation lives in total abandonment to His purpose
The Lazarus Generation is not bound by the traditions of man
The Lazarus Generation has tasted of the power of the miraculous, and they release it to others
The call is coming forth. It is time to get Radical!
But what is this commotion? What is all the rumbling about? Something is going on. He's alive, you say. Surely not! We watched him die.
Standing at the tomb of Lazarus is the ONE who holds the keys of death, hell, and the grave. Speaking life into a lifeless body and calling his spirit back into his body is the one who opened blinded eyes and made the lame to walk, and set the captives free. Jesus speaks, and the powers of darkness releases its hold. Lazarus, come forth, he says. And he that was dead comes back to life.
There is a Lazarus generation to which I speak today. You went through an attack, and you did not make it. A marriage failure, a problem with drugs, homosexuality, or porn. You had a moral failure of major proportion, and the church kicked you out. You don't blame them, but in the hole of hell you are in, you here a voice calling you. Though others have abandoned you, forgotten about you, and even may have rejoiced at your falling, Jesus is calling. He doesn't ask for permission from the religious. He stands at the pit of your pain and calls you forth. There is a Lazarus generation that is coming forth.
Not every prisoner in the grave hears the voice. But you do. You hear a call from another world that is more powerful than anything you have ever known. It is life Himself calling life back into you. With purpose and power, you are repositioned for this time. You are raised for a reason. The Lazarus generation is a revelation of resurrection power over which the powers of hell have no hold. They can't be bought, swayed, nor propagated with religious jumbo mumbo. You owe your life to Him, and wherever He is, you will be.
Trace the story of Lazarus, and you will only see him with Jesus after his resurrection. He only shows up where Jesus is. When you have been raised from the pit and restored, you have no time for anything, nor anyone else.
Do you hear a call from another world? Yeah. I recognize that call. I hear it, too. There is a corporate Lazarus Generation, and it is coming forth!
Having some growth, and that, in itself is exciting. It is always good to see new faces, and to see when God touches lives. If we could ever get everyone at church on the same time, we would have a pretty good crowd, all things considered. Of course, that doesn't happen in these days. So much going on, trips, vacations, and work schedules make it difficult. That, plus the fact that some people are not consistent in their attendance.
I am ready to get back in the pulpit, after missing the past two Sundays. I feel a stirring inside, and am asking God for more!
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Offenses and hurts can come up when you least expect it. I thought I was beyond being hurt anymore by this. It was something that happened three years ago. I have moved on. Or, so I thought. But sometimes things happen which trigger a painful memory. And you are back to that day, that moment, that time... when the offense happened.
It is not always that you haven't forgiven, or haven't moved on. It isn't necessarily that you carry bitterness or resentment. Some people think to get over something you have to forget it. I don't agree with that assumption. I believe that the fact that we are still here, still alive, and still moving is an indicator that we have not surrendered to past pains.
It wasn't intentional. It was on facebook. The post was telling someone that they were the best pastor in the world. I saw it and wish I hadn't. Because I was once that pastor. I was once the one who poured into their lives. But they walked away without saying goodbye, after 20 years.
Yeah, it hurt when I saw it Am I angry? No, not any longer. In fact, I wish everyone would think of their pastor as the best in the world.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
You see, I believe in movement. We CANNOT stay the same. We MUST change. Not change for change's sake, but because we become stagnant when stationary. We need progression in our lives. Anything standing still or remaining the same is losing ground. Change is the key word.
Trying new approaches and methods is not forbidden in the church. There are abolutes, such as prayer, the word of God, salvation through Christ. But we are allowed variations on many things. For example, we are told to teach the word. But the bible doesn't say to call it kid's church or sunday school. The bible says to praise God, but it doesn't say if it is to be contemporary music or southern gospel. The bible says to be assemble ourselves together, but it is not specific on the time. When it doesn't say specifically, it gives us liberty to choose what works best for us. And what works best for one may not be what works the best for the next.
I like what I call "out of the box" thinking. I am not afraid to try something new or fresh. I am not afraid to fail. I had rather try and fail than fail to try. The high distance jumper doesn't know his limit until he has actually failed. When he tips the bar over, the measure just prior to that is his level. And that doesn't mean he can't raise his level. So I sometimes try something that doesn't work. If it doesn't, I know how to pull the plug, revamp, or retool. I refuse to stay stuck with something that doesn't work just because I had the bright idea in the first place.
Changing one's mind is a biblical concept. The word repent in the bible means to change one's way of thinking. to reconsider or think differently (source: Strong's concordance). So I encourage you to expand your horizon, stretch yourself. Let's get creative. Think of new opportunities for extra income for yourself. Think of fresh ideas to get your church more involved in the community. Write your ideas down and share them with people who appreciate your giftedness. So what if your idea is not tried? At least it was another one on the table. It was something to consider. Dream on. Not every song written becomes a hit. But some do. Dream your dreams, write your songs. Didn't work? It's ok, you're not a failure based on what didn't work. Try again.
About two months ago the Lord really stirred in my spirit something regarding the church I serve as pastor. It was regarding the phrase insanity, and the thought which is expressed, "If you keep on doing what you've always done, you're going to keep on getting what you've always got." I sensed God speaking to my heart that we must be willing to explore and make changes in order to go to the next level. Since then, we are doing that. And I can honestly say there are some positive results, and it is still very early in the process.
I can also say that I have already changed my mind about one change I made. With the beginning of the school year, several parents suggested we begin our midweek service 30 minutes earlier. After several weeks of indecision, I made the call. We changed the time. After one service, my wife and I both felt the same thing. The earlier time seemed to create a hurried sense. It hindered some whose work schedule already made attendance difficult. Some of the very parents who asked for it somehow forgot their child is involved in extracurricular activities, so the early start prohibits them from arriving on time, or even attending at all.
I am not like coach John Fox, of the Carolina Panthers. (I am a fan, and Charlotte is nearby) I am not in love with Jake Delhomme and I am not married to him for my quarterback. Or, let me put it this way- I am not married to a concept, a time slot, or an idea-- if it ain't working, I know how to pull the plug. And it won't take me all season to do it. Yeah, you guessed it- The midweek service is now back at the regular time.
What? That pastor can't make up his mind, you say! Thank you. I appreciate the compliment. It means I can readily adapt to change, fresh ideas, and new concepts. It means I can turn from what isn't working. And the good news is, so can you!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Not only will our time change for tonight's service, but our format will as well. We will begin with praise and worship, but shift afterward. The kids and youth will have their respective classes, but the change will be with the adults. The men and ladies will divide into two parts. This will be our first men's group, and women's group meetings in a while. I know it will be great.
Come on over and worship with us!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The end of one thing is the beginning of another. Transition occurs in the stages of change. You may be currently going through a difficult time in your life. It may be due to the death of a loved one, a separation or breaking of a relationship, or a losing of a job. Some endings are traumatic. We feel as if we are not going to survive this one. Loss of peace, loss of sleep, and loss of self worth attack our minds. It is during these times that we sometimes convince ourselves that our best days are behind us.
What we fail to remember is that we are going through a process of change. It may not have been due to anything we did, and nothing we could control. What we can control, however, is our response. Remember, the end of a thing is just the beginning of another. The ending is actually a new beginning. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off. Yes, you are still here. You have a purpose. God left you here for a reason. Your pain does not define you, unless you allow it to.
There is a new beginning for you. Stop blaming yourself because he walked out on you. No longer look at the grave of a loved one as though you should be there, too. The living move on. Anyone who truly loved you would shout it from the grave. You lost your job? Yeah, its rough right now, but you can make it. God breathed His life on you. There is no one else like you.
You can start over. You may be 25 and divorced with two kids. You may be 30 and widowed. You may be 40 and out of a job. You may be 50 and the one you were married to for 20 years left you for another. You may be fighting a terminal disease. But it ain't over. No matter your age, your stage, or what has happened in your life.
Let me tell you a personal story. Several years ago now a lady in the church had a husband to pass away. It was unexpected. She grieved over him, and felt like life was over. She had very low self esteem. I encouraged her to dream. I shared with her some of what I am sharing with you now-- that you can pick up the pieces of a life whose dreams seem to be gone, and God will resurrect them. Today that widow lady is a thriving business woman and God has sent her a very special man into her life who is now her husband. As with Job, God took her mess and turned it into a miracle!
So I say to you, it's a new season in your life. Pick yourself up. New things are in store for you. The God of heaven has promised to bless you. Allow Him to bless you and cause you to be a blessing to others!
Monday, September 14, 2009
"Come and be apart of these great services" the invitation would say. I would receive various fliers advertising special events which would be held at this church. I knew the pastor and people of this church very well. I also knew that they did not understand what they were asking me to do... Come, and be apart.
It is the apart thing that I see quite frequently. I see it in marriages, and it is also mirrored in churches. But I have never asked for, nor wanted to see any of them come apart. Neither did my ministry friends who issued the invitation, for that matter. To come apart is to be divided. It means to be separated. When the church has divisions, it is difficult to progress. You will never be in a church that is perfect. It is made of imperfect people. There will never be a pastor that you totally agree with on all issues, never a song leader that sings all the songs you prefer. There will be opportunities in church life for disagreements. And sometimes we must simply agree to disagree. Unity does not mean we all love chocolate. Biblical unity came about with people of various cultures and customs who assembled together for a cause greater than their diversities. In fact, the diversities in church strengthen it, rather than weaken it. The same way in a marriage. It is the harmony of two unique individuals who come together in a bond of love and join their lives in a covenant relationship.
I always knew what the intent of the letter was from the church. They did not actually want a divided house. They wanted me to come and be a part. To be apart, and to be a part are two different things entirely. I want to encourage you today, not to be apart, but to be a part. Link up with those of like passion, like vision. Be a part- contribute, make it better.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Thinking about church life. Honestly, I've been at it for a while. I have weathered the storms and have seen the ups and downs of serving as pastor in a small town church. My wife and I have witnessed church growths and church slumps. In the good times I want to run and jump and shout. Sometimes in the difficult times I just want to run.. run away, run and hide, run and cry.
But God is good. Even during the struggles, He is good. And, at the moment, the church is doing well. Sort of. The annual summer slump took its toll on us. Now that school is back in session, the attendance has picked up. And not only with more constant attendance by our regular attenders, but by a new flux of visitors. It is encouraging.
I held a special meeting this past Wednesday night. I called it "dream building." We served food, and I share vision and strategies for growth, planning, and that kind of stuff. Took about 90 minutes. The attendance was good, and the positive response and feedback was very encouraging.
While the attendance is up, the funds are not. Our region continues to remain one of the worst in the nation. The unemployment here is around 16%. That is the figures they give. I estimate it is more like 20%. Some have given up on finding a job, and have quit looking. Industries here have all but left, and the job market for the most part is on the lower end pay scale.
All that effects the giving, which is how the church operates. I had a friend of a nearby city tell me the other day that his finances are tight. And, although he is only 30 miles away, the job market there is totally different. He described to me his situation, but I didn't tell him ours. Another friend is considering cutting back some of his staff. Honestly, either of those are in good shape financially compared to what we have gone through. But we are not alone in our struggles. Churches all across the nation are being affected.
I will confess there has been times when I have thought of quitting. I have reasoned that I can do something else, make more money, or get a consistent paycheck. But someone will pray, someone will give their heart to the Lord. I will see a reason to hang in there for one more week. And the next week there is another reason.
These are the ups and downs of church life in these days. But we are going to make it, by the grace of God. Am I negative? I hope not. What I want to tell you is to hold on, make adjustments. Do whatever you need to do through this difficult season. You are not alone. You can make it.
Monday, September 7, 2009
I don't know if she was crying because of the pain or because of the fact that the medicine she needs is so expensive that she can't get it. Or was she crying because in spite of the fact that the church seems to be growing again, we still haven't gotten over the financial struggles we're in. Living in Rutherford County and pastoring a small church is not easy in these trying times. Ranked 13th in the nation with depression because of the lack of jobs and low paying ones that exist, the county continues to struggle. This is where we are.
I've watched as both sides of the political platform has fought over the health care bill. I have reservations about the government bailouts that have gone on and the increasing budget deficit. But I have been in third world countries that have better health care than we do. Trish and I do not have medical insurance. We simply can't afford it.
And so, sometimes at night, she cries. And when I see it, I do, too.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
What hurts worse is that it seems that in spite of all your efforts for a positive outcome, God has turned His head. Heaven is silent. It seems He isn't listening, or doesn't care. Its as if God is saying No, no matter how much you cry and pray. You can find yourself questioning and wondering where is God in all of this.
You are not alone in thinking that perhaps Jesus is unconcerned with your pain. Others were in the bible. The disciples were in the storm at sea. They cried, questioning if Jesus cared that the waves were beating against them. In fear, they thought they would perish in the storm. What they were about to see was the ONE who calm the sea speak to the storm, and it would cease. But in their mind, it was over.
Most of us have had those seasons of life. You know... the "O" seasons. Joseph had it, Job had it, Daniel in the lion's den had it. The list goes on throughout the bible. Hebrews chapter 11 speaks of some of them. The "O" seasons, and the "No" seasons.
Yes, sometimes there is a No from God. The victory you prayed for did not come. You buried a loved one. You lost a well paying job. A close friend turned on you. Your mate of 15 years left you for another. I confess to you that I am not religious enough to have an answer for everything. I don't know why it seems some who are less spiritual and more distant from God seem to have greater blessings than others who have sacrificed their lives.
There are times when I think I am preaching to myself. After all, our family has gone through its share of trials and tribulations. And this summer has been one of the worst. My son in law lost his 5 year battle with cancer. My dad lost his year long battle with cancer. Both my mom and my daughter are struggling. Yes, Trish and I have been battle scarred through the years. But I really am not writing about my pain, and we are not alone in life's battles. Some of you are facing a situation that looks hopeless. You don't know what to do. It is to you I reach out to. My heart lifts you up to Jesus.
For this one thing I know... when your heart says O, and God says No-- He is still God, and He is still good. The fact that you are still breathing is an indication that God isn't through with you. He will help you through what you are going through. The winds may blow, but this shall pass. Joseph made it from the pit to the palace. Job ended up with twice as much. They made it, so can you. Hang in there, don't give up.
God has great plans for you. The storm will pass, and you will survive. All through the word of God are people who were broken at one point in life, only to find that the God who called them raised them up. You are one of those. You are more than a conqueror. You may not look like it or feel like it. But neither does a diamond in the ground. It needs to be discovered, uncovered, and crafted. A diamond undiscovered is still a diamond. A cocoon is a beautiful butterly in waiting. He has promised to give you beauty for ashes.Yeah, it's ok to cry. The good news is you're going to make it. I believe that sometimes God's Nos are for a greater yes. Your yes is coming!
Friday, August 28, 2009
This week has certainly been one of variety, thus the title, smorgasbord. My grandson started kindergarden this week. Those of you who know me know that he and I are glued to the hip. So the week has been one of a major struggle. Not sure about for Zach, but it has been for me.
Some good things are transpiring in the church. Sunday was an awesome day. Began with a great service, pretty good crowd- finally. The summer months have been down. A good number of people also went with us to Chimney Rock, a local mountain resort area, about 20 miles away. We had a wonderful evening of fun and fellowship. Wednesday was another awesome service, and again, the crowd was better than usual for the midweek service- this, even though it was affected somewhat by school starting back. Met some great people this week.
It hasn't been a perfect one, though. Just when you're flying high, the devil hits you. I've got to remember to keep my spiritual guard up. One of those things where I am not pleased with my response or actions.
Have spent the week praying. We started intercessory prayer back Monday night at the church. I believe this is the key. Praying for our area, our church. Financial problems are big here. Believing God for breakthrough. Also praying for others. Got some friends in ministry going through some things, lifting them up.
That's it. Pretty much sums my week up... How's yours?
Friday, August 21, 2009
Just the word captures our attention, doesn't it? We immediately kick into images we have seen, whether in real life or a movie, of people who had gone berserk. Not a pretty picture, is it?
The dictionary defines insanity as a deranged state of the mind; madness, craziness. Before we bring to mind all those we think either are insane or are on the border of being out of their mind, we need to explore from what perspective our opinion is based. After all, Jesus was labeled as being insane (John 10:20), and so was the Apostle Paul (Acts 26:24). I would say neither would fit our definition of insanity, but both were called that by the world who understood neither.
And that gets me to my thought today on insanity. The thought of "what if" regarding our walk, our relationship with Jesus. If we really sold out from the world and to God, would they label us? Probably. I remember a time when those of us in the church were thought of as being crazy by our family, our friends, classmates, and coworkers. When someone would get radically saved and on fire for God, they were ostracized as having "religion" and it was said that the church they were attending were doing mind control over them. No, they had just had a radical experience with the Lord that turned their life around, and affected everything about them. To the outside world, it was insanity, to the believer it was simply falling head over heels in love with Jesus.
Remember that? I'm talking to the church people, now. Remember when you were born again? Remember when God filled you with His Holy Spirit? You wanted to set the world on fire, to tell everyone about him. You prayed, read your bible, gave more than your tithes, and considered serving in the church and honor and not a burden. You were faithful.
Insanity? No. -- Sold out, on fire, committed-- Yes! That is what church was like, and the believers were like a few years ago. Seems to be a dying breed. Folks get mad if you challenge them to give, to attend church faithfully, to be committed to God. Jump ship, change churches.
Sounding a little preachy, I guess, but it is hard to hide what is inside of me.
Not to say I don't have my own shortcomings. I preached a message this past Wednesday. It was about commitment to God, and about MOVEMENT. I said that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results." And yet, I feel like that's what we've been doing. Let me make it a little more personal.. that's what I'VE been doing. So insanity, by way of definition can be a plus or a minus to the believer. If it means we are sold out to God, so be it. However, if it means we have become stuck in our own level of commitment or lack thereof, it is time to do something about it.
Last night, I joined in on a part of the conversation struck up by a friend of mine on facebook. She was reflecting about how we existed before the computer and cell phone, and whether we could survive without either. Several different ones got involved in on the conversation, myself included. Then, this morning, one of the ones who had posted a comment came up with a brilliant, or not so brilliant idea. "Why don't we fast them for a couple of weeks?" Silence in heaven... er, ah, in facebook world. Nothing. Nada... Zero. No response.
I thought to myself, I should take him up on that. Then I started having the shakes. Go without the computer and cell phone for two weeks? Can I? Surely God wouldn't be in that. I started to hit him up and say, let's do the cell phone one week, and the computer, the next. Mind you, I am not against either. But something struck a nerve. I keep hearing what I preached the other night. "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results."
Lately I've been crying out for breakthrough, for a real move of God. Want to see it more than anything. Whatever it is that will break me out of the stuck in the rut insanity and move me into the category of the radically on fire for God insanity, count me in.
Computers, cell phones, and all.. Like a chain smoker lighting up another cigarette, having withdrawals just thinking about it.
HOW INSANE ARE YOU?
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
If you live, you know there are battles. Problems and adversities arise. Conflicts and struggles will come your way. It is not a question of IF, but a question of WHEN. Warfare IS coming your way. I know from experience. Those of us in ministry seem to constantly face one battle after another. We experience great victories only to face another battle whose enemy seems larger than the last.
Sometimes you may feel as if you are the only one facing the enemy's advance. Your marriage may be going through a crisis. Your church may be struggling. There may be financial problems, sickness and disease. At times it may be a combination of things.
I have had the Elijah complex before. Have you? Remember Elijah? He felt at one point in his life as if he was the only one standing for truth, the only one God had left. He was facing the battle, and he was isolated. Discouragement set in.
In the trench is where you go to retreat, hide, rest. It indicates a place to go for cover. The battle is raging, and you are still fighting. But you need a hole to hide in, if only temporarily. You may actually continue to fight from the trench. I don't want to be like Elijah. I don't want to be alone in the trenches of life.
I remember one time a number of years ago. I was facing deep discouragement. I had felt betrayed by a certain group of leaders in the church I was pastor of. I talked to a pastor friend of mine. He came to my home immediately to comfort and console me. I felt as if he was ready to take his spiritual weapons out and help me attack those who had attacked me. He got down in the trenches with me and strengthened me. After some wise counsel, we decided not to attack the unwise board. But it was good to know I wasn't in the trenches alone. There next to me was another soldier who understood warfare and pain. He was ready to guard my life to the point of laying his on the line.
I don't believe its by accident that you are reading this blog today. You may be experiencing some great pain at this moment. I want to encourage you. You are not in the trench alone. I am praying for you, and others are. I also want to send a challenge out for others. You are called to rescue those in need. Like the Good Samaritan, there are some wounded ones along life's hiway. They may not attend our church or be in our denomination. They may be of another culture or color. It matters not. Jesus died for them. They need someone to get down in the trench with them.
My life's aim is to get in the trenches. To reach out to the discouraged, hurting, lost, hungry. To be there for them. From one who knows pain, I can't pass by as if I didn't see.
SEE YOU IN THE TRENCHES.
Trish, my wife, had just been talking about calling for a time of prayer and intercession. A lot of needs exist in the community where we live and the church is located. This area is in the list of one of the 15 greatest areas of depression in the nation. High unemployment and low paying jobs are prevalent here.
But we'll not just be praying for the economy. We're going to be praying for spiritual breakthrough in lives. We want to see lives changed, people set free. We want to see increase and revival in the church.
If you're located within driving distance of Forest City, NC, we invite you to join us this morning. There will be no crowd, and there will be no format. Just prayer. If you can't physically join us, but want to join in at least a portion of the prayer time, we welcome it. Again, we'll begin at 10 am, and the prayer time will go somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour.
You can also send us your prayer requests. We will gladly include them in our prayer time.
Monday, August 17, 2009
There's some dreams inside that I don't yet see the fulfillment of. I am a visionary. I am an encourager. I talk about a BIG GOD. I speak of increase and favor. I believe the Lord is going to bring about a great move at the church I pastor. I see revival breaking out.
The fire is burning inside. I prophecy it in the church services, I tweet it on Twitter and post it on facebook. And yet at times it looks like what I am saying is totally wrong. You see, I am saying what I am seeing in my spirit. But what I am seeing inside me is not yet what is manifesting in the natural. Am I a liar? I guess it depends on who you ask. But I dare not go back on what I sense God is saying.
I see it, but I don't yet see it. But the spirit man declares it is coming. Like Elijah prophesying about the coming rain when there was not a cloud in the sky, it is not yet evident-- except to the man or woman who has heard from God.
The rain is coming, its on its way. Get ready for revival. Get ready for increase.
I see it-- just not yet.
I talked with a couple of friends in the last week who are pastors, as I. As usual, when we talk, the conversation eventually includes something about church life. Both mentioned how both the attendance and finances had been affected this summer. I definitely understood what they were saying.
Let me say up front that I encourage people to get away if they can do so. Take a few days or a week and get out of town. Some are fortunate enough to be able to do so several times a year. I am glad for those who are able to do so. I understand the importance of the vacation or retreat.
But at the same time I somewhat dread seeing them coming. On any given Sunday during the summer, several families are away. Add that with those who just decided to go to the lake or nearby mountains, and we have seen attendance drop dramatically. Sometimes a third of our congregation is not there. Sometimes it is worse. Yesterday was the case. I had a "grand" sermon, I was pumped. But in all honesty, when I stood before the congregation, it was like I had lost the sail out of my boat. I summoned faith and stirred my spirit. It was a good service, and the ones there were receptive.
But I'll be glad when the summer vacations are over. The thing now is, some of those with kids not in school wait until September to take their trips. Summer slump extended to October?
Feedback is welcome. Y'all be blessed!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
They are located in about every mall in America, I suppose, and in some third world countries I have been in. This "women's store" features sexy lingerie, accessories, and clothing. I confess that I had to look the last two up. All I was certain of was the sexy lingerie.
I have never been into a Victoria's Secret store, and I have no plan on going. I would be about as uncomfortable in one as a Dallas cowboy at a Redskin's reunion. But I have been by many of these shops. It is difficult to walk through the mall without seeing one. And although I rarely go into a mall, during the Christmas holidays, I generally go with my wife on her shopping trips a couple of times. And each time I do, I turn my head.
NO! Not to look, indulge, stare, and lust. I turn my head the other way. I don't want to get the deer in the headlights look of turning to and not turning away. I don't want to see what I shouldn't see. Yes, I know it is all legal. Some would argue it is not dirty at all, this Victoria Secret. And in the right place, it isn't. To a married man and woman, the intimate revealings are pure. But outside of that context, it is out of bounds, so to speak.
Now that you have gotten this far, I want to tell you that I am not really talking about Victoria Secret and sexy lingerie. What I AM speaking of is when we publicly display what should be intimate or private. Those times we place our feelings and thoughts towards someone or something on public display for all to see. I think we forget sometimes that others are looking. Others who may be weak or tempted. Those who may be easily discouraged. For example, the social network sites- I am on facebook. It allows open communication. The advantages are that you can openly share your testimonies, life experiences, or what ever may be on your mind. The danger is that people sometimes abuse what should be a precious privilege. They publicly display their gripes and complaints. Things are said openly that should be said only in intimate conversations, or not at all.
Walking through the mall, I come up unaware on a Victoria Secret shop. With one glance, I have seen an image that sticks. Yes, I know there are far worse on Hardee's commercials. Nevertheless, like a country music song about trucks, mama, and booze, the image is lodged there for a while.
I saw it, but didn't want to see it. Here's a warning. There's some Victoria Secrets in the malls. Walk softly, you will see some things that are openly displayed. Same thing here. You're going to see some things. Some times I just have to look the other way... but the damage has already been done... Have to kick into warfare, lol!
Monday, August 10, 2009
I have never taken up the sport of which many of my fellow pastors participate, that is golf. They tell me that playing a round or two of helps them to unwind. To them it is an enjoyable hobby. I remember a number of years ago going to the nearby course with a member of the church. He was sure that if I just went one time, I would be hooked. Yeah, "hooked" is what I got, alright. I hooked to the right, and hooked to the left. Couldn't seem to get the thing to go in the direction I wanted. I haven't been back since, and don't really care to.
But I would like to have a mulligan. A mulligan, in golf terms, is a do over. Its not to count the bad play that you just played. I need a do over, a mulligan... but not in golf.
Its been a tough summer for me. My dad passed away in spring, and my son in law last month. People see me and ask how I'm doing. I assure them I am doing great, fine. I smile. They ask me about my mom, how is she? How is Tina, my daughter? Mom is moving on, and Tina is readjusting. Life goes on. Dad would not want mom to grieve her years away, and neither would Michael with Tina. But grief is hard to understand, and difficult to describe, isn't it?
I was riding down the road in my car the other day. I was thinking about a subject I would be preaching on, and it was dealing with generational curses. I haven't preached the message yet, but I was thinking on dealing with issues in our lives that are sometimes passed on to us. And, for whatever reason, daddy came to my mind.
I am not deep into the generational curse thing as some, but I do believe there is some truth. I know that strongholds, traits, and even physical diseases are sometimes passed on. Both my grandfather and dad passed away after battling with colon cancer. So, as I was thinking about this, I thought about the call from dad....
THE CALL- It was probably 6 weeks or so before he would pass away. Of course, I had no way of knowing his passing would be so soon afterward. We had felt the doctors were helping him, and the doctor had even said the cancer was in remission.-- I got this call from daddy. He wanted me to come over. I walked across the road and over to mom and dad's house. When I sat down, daddy wanted to talk about something. It was something I have never addressed in the pulpit, nor in any of my blogs. I would never uncover my dad. But daddy wanted to apologize for his temper with me.
I was the firstborn, and I had it rougher than the others. When I was growing up, dad's temper was pretty bad, and I was the recipient of some harsh punishment. I have put all that in the past, and honestly, have always been ashamed to even think about it. I only mention it now in the hope that my honesty will help someone else. With tears in his eyes, dad asked me to forgive him. He said that his dad had treated him the same way, and he carried it on to me. I told dad that he did not need to ask me to forgive him. I tried to brush it off, not really wanting to talk about it.
I wish I had a mulligan. I wish I had opened up more.
Then, tonight, Trish and I were sitting here in the living room. She opened up an old account of emails. It is addresses we do not use anymore, but we still occasionally get some messages there. I did not know what was going on, but saw my wife crying as she sat across from me. It was an email from Michael. He was so young. He had so much in him. I had the feeling one day Michael would be in the ministry.
I wish I could talk to him again. I wish I had a mulligan for Michael.
I really don't know why I am sharing this rambling of mine. I just want to encourage you while there is time. If there is someone you want to talk to, do so. Cry with someone, forgive. Fellowship. Enjoy. Give them flowers while they are alive.
Yeah, we're still fighting, still hanging in there. God is good. He brings us through. We have the victory. But honestly, sometimes I would love to have a do over, just one more talk.