Saturday, February 28, 2009

Deacon attempts bank robbery

News highlights in the last couple of days from Greenville, SC is of an attempted bank robbery. Armed with a gun, the assailant entered the bank and took several hostage. An alert person on the outside of the bank spotted the hooded man as the plot unfolded, and called authorities, who were on the scene quickly. The robbery plot was foiled and no one was hurt in the incident.

The attempted robber was identified as a businessman, deacon in the church, and father of four. He had no prior record according to reports given on the news. I just saw the news on TV channel 7 in Spartanburg SC, as they reported the story. It has aired several times, and now shows the man appearing before the judge dressed in an orange jail suit and cuffed. His sister stands beside him, crying to the judge and telling him that he had never done anything of this nature and must have snapped with the pressure. Apparently his business has had some recent trouble.

I know none of the people, but Greenville is nearby where I live, so I follow the news from that area. I have seen this account probably a half dozen times since Thursday when it occurred, and find myself feeling grief over the incident. I feel grief for the people in the bank who are left with the scars of an attempted robbery. Both the employees and the customers will undoubtedly have this etched in their memories for a while. The outcome now is that none were harmed, but as the scene was unfolding, they did not know if they would breath another breathe of air. I feel for the family and friends of this man who attempted the robbery. His children will not know life as they knew it, as he undoubteldy will face a good number of years in prison. His wife, his parents and siblings, his church family are all affected by this ill advised decision. I feel also for this man. He is responsible for his actions, but I cannot imagine what would cause a man who seemed from outward appearances to have his life in order act out such an ill conceived plan.

This is an hour of great perplexity in our nation. The financial crisis has left many in great anxiety and distress. All across the nation are reports such as this of people who are commiting robbery, suicide, or some other act of violence, out of character.

This is an hour to pray and call on God. This is an hour for the church to shine the light. There is hope!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No respect around here

Respect and reverence in worship has always been open to interpretation. Cultures differ as to what is and what is not proper or expected in the house of God. In the news of the weird today is a brief article released by the Associated Press from the Baltimore area.

It seems a father got upset because his son refused to take his hat off in church. Apparently the dad's anger boiled over, and after church he stabbed his son in the buttock with a knife. Good deal, dad, that will show him! Try to kill your boy for leaving his hat on.

I attended a youth rally Sunday night at a friend's church. Many in the crowd were dressed differently than I, and some wore hats. I personally didn't feel led to pull my knife out in order to teach them respect. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed the service and wondered why we don't have as much liberty in our regular services as the kids. Maybe it's because they are not bound by rituals and regulations like some of us.

I am sort of old school. I understand the need for discipline and reverence in the house of God. I sometimes am bothered by a lack of entering into worship. I attempt in all things to honor God, and I certainly do not want anyone to be disrespectful of Him.

I remember years ago, probably 10 or 12 years ago. I walked into the sanctuary from my office. Near the front was a young lady I knew who had grown up in the church, and had been in and out recently. She was visibly upset. It was about five minutes before worship time, and I called her into my office to inquire what was wrong. She told me her husband, whom I didn't know at the time, was with her. He was wearing a hat. One of the deacons in my church had asked him to remove his hat, and he decided rather than do so he would go outside. I told her to go get her husband and tell him it was ok for him to wear the hat inside. I also instructed the deacon not to interfere. In ten or so minutes, the young man returned. But he was not wearing his hat. Today that couple is still in the church, and they are a part of our leadership structure.

Yes, I would prefer you take your hat off in church. And if you are a part of my core group, I will ask you to remove it. I will give exception to youth events, fellowships, etc. And if you are a visitor, we wont even say anything. You see, to me the issue is not really the hat-- it's the heart. And if I run you out of church because you've got a hat on, then you're not going to hear the life changing message I'm about to preach. You may not hang around and become a part of the worship team, the church board, the children's director.

I don't think I'll be pulling the knife out today on any hat wearers!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Love and Prayers

Love and prayers... two seemingly harmless words. This is a closing word I usually share with my family or church family when I am sending an email. I want them to know I love them, and that they are constantly in my prayers. Prayer is a good thing, and we know love is the greater than hope and greater than faith. Everyone needs to be loved.

I found myself the other day sending out an email. I don't even remember who it was or what it was about. But I remember I had tagged the "love and prayers" thing on the end, and sent it. As you know, an email sent is out there. It was not that I wasn't praying or didn't love, it was that I was afraid of how it was going to come across. The words "love and prayers" are an intimate setting I give to those close to me. And so I pondered, just how would those who don't know me in that way take the words, "love" attached. They might be able to handle the prayers part, but the love?

And so here I sit on a Saturday night, not intending to write. To tell you the truth, my brain is fried and my body is tired. It has been a full week. Major work and activities at the church I pastor have taken a toll on me. I am trying to refresh myself for tomorrow, as I am believing God is going to show up in a powerful way. I am stirring myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I want fresh fire in me so that I can impart it to those I serve.

And I find myself just feeling as if I should tell someone out there... you may stumble on this blog by accident. But I feel God wants me to tell you something.. "Love and Prayers."

To the widow who feels all alone. To the teen contemplating suicide. To the senior who feels as if your best days are behind you. To the young lady who just had an abortion and feels the weight of condemnation. To the couple who is fighting. To the discouraged pastor. To the one battling cancer, and to his wife. To the pastor's wife who lays awake and cries at night. To the lonely, hurting, sinful, discouraged. To the well, the happy, the blessed. To those on top of the world and those who feel the world is on top of them. I want to tell you something: "Love and Prayers."

There, I said it. No, I'm not taking it back, and I'm not ashamed to tell you.

Love and Prayers,
Pastor Ronnie

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Friends part two- The odd couple

Shortly after posting my last blog on friendship, I received an email with this clip. The video is a short story about an unusual friendship of an elephant and dog, and is titled "The odd couple, animal style." I hope you will take the time to view the clip... you will enjoy!


video

Friends?

It's good to have friends. I am a firm believer that you can never have too many. When you are in the eye of the public, you get an opportunity to make new friends. I am always appreciative of the privilege of doing so. Relationships are important, and I do not take lightly the "friendship" tag.

A friend is defined as:
1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter
3. a person who is on good terms with another;
one who is not hostile source: dictionary.com

There are friends, and then there are FRIENDS. Some are friends at a distance. I am not speaking of distance in the terms of miles, but in terms of relationship. There are intimate friendships, casual friendships, and the distant ones in regards to you know them and are ok with them, but prefer to keep the relationship in the distant manner. Or perhaps, they prefer to do so.

There are friends you can trust, and friends who will turn on you. Friends you can share with, and friends you guard what you share. There are friends who will go to hell and back for you, and friends who will stab you in the back.

The bible speaks of friends- Proverbs 18:24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother NIV This verse speaks of a true friend, one who will be there no matter what. This is the deepest level of friendship.

I am on Face Book, the social network site. I have found that being on there helps me connect with my friends, reacquaint with some past ones, and connect with new ones. One of the things currently going on at the site is "ranking friends." Nominate your top friends for the top 10. I sometimes play along, and will usually try to pick out a different group in doing so. When you have played along with the game, it will allow you to see your ranking. You can bump yourself up, and bump others down, without them ever knowing about it. Yeah, I've had those kind of friends before. No thanks, I'm not going to play the ranking game, at least not on myself.

It is also somewhat ironic that there is a link when you go to the friendship game thing that says something like "4 of your friends think you are an idiot." Needless to say, that's another game. But I find it humorous, because I know there are some so called friends of mine that think I am an idiot. :)

I have learned that to have friends I must become one. I continue to work on that. Not everyone thinks you're the greatest. But some do. Your husband, wife, mom, dad, son, daughter. That grandchild. That child at the soccer game. That teen you went out of your way to befriend. To some, you're the lifeline. No, not everyone knows your value. But your true friends do. And there are others waiting to discover your friendship, who need it. You will help them. You will be to them what is defined in the above description from dictionary.com.

There are times when I wonder if taking the time to write these assorted thoughts on my blog are worth the effort. I don't want to write to vent my frustrations, although I have done that. I want to help someone whom I may never see. I want to somehow shine a light, even if it is revealing a past or present pain in my life. My goal is to tell people both near and far that there is a God in heaven who understands, and is present to help them. And I want to assure them that they are not alone. I tell them from a perspective of a small town pastor who has endured trials and pressures of life, and somehow, by the grace of God, has survived.

Enough of my ramblings this morning. Going to get another cup of coffee. Need a friend? Hit me up. I can always use another one!


Sunday, February 15, 2009

WOW, WHAT A KISS!

Thirty five thousand people gathered in Mexico City on Valentine's Day to engage in a simultaneous kiss which broke the Guinness World Record. The kissers had to pucker up and hold for one minute in order to accomplish the feat. The event brought world exposure as the cameras flashed as lips locked.

The staged kisses set a record, but I doubt they had any significance to the kissers involved. And I understand that kisses can mean different things, depending on who and what is involved. I occasionally kiss the children at church, and have even been known to kiss a spiritual son or daughter on the head. I don't know exactly why I do it, but I usually do so in a special moment of prayer or impartation. There is the kiss on the cheek that I gave to a woman in El Salvador once when I was preaching. I hadn't planned it, but was preaching on the scripture where the woman anointed the feet of Jesus, and he told Simon, "you gave me no kiss." I got caught up in the moment and the spirit and kissed a nearby woman on the cheek, and kept on preaching. I didn't realize until after the service that she fell out in the spirit the moment I did so.

There's the kiss of a child, the kiss of a dog, the friendship kiss. But then there is something more... yeah, you know what I'm talking about-- THAT kind of kiss!

THAT kind of kiss is the intimate moment between two individuals who are madly in love. It should be special. The moment should have impact. I still get the feeling of the fire inside of me when I kiss my wife. We are not joined by 35,000 others, but we are joined by an abiding love that hell and adversity has not seperated in 38 years of marriage.

As great as the kiss is that I describe between a husband and a wife, there is another kiss that I want to speak of. It is available to you today. No matter what you've done, where you've been, what you've gone through. When God sent His only Son to earth to die on the cross, it was for YOU. HEAVEN REACHED DOWN AND KISSED THE EARTH!

Heaven's kiss is awaiting you. Have you received it? I did, many years ago. And you know what, this morning at church, I got kissed by God again. I got touched by His love. And as I write this blog in my living room tonight, He just gave me another one.

Here--- I'm going to pass it on to you. Have a kiss on me!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Valentine's list...

Love is in the air... you can feel it, can't you? But love is more than a feeling. In my blog today, I want to share my Valentine's list with you. But first, let's define what love is:

We often hear stories of those who have "fallen in love." The romantic tales are inspirational. Millions of books are sold as romance novels, and there are TV channels devoted to love stories. Today, on Valentine's day, millions of dollars are spent on cards, candies, and candlelight dinners.

In every marriage ceremony I have ever performed, I always include the scripture from the book of First Corinthians, which says " Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

Yes, I can FEEL love, but it is MORE than a feeling. Some define sex as "making love" but sexual acts are not in and of themselves love. Love is caring, sharing, intimacy. There are certainly levels of love, but love in the greatest sense comes from and is God.

Today, I celebrate Valentine's day with the love of my life. I am speaking of my wife, Trish. We were just kids when we were married, much too young. But through the years our love has grown deeper. No, it hasn't been a perfect marriage. You have to work on any relationship. But I love her more today than I did the day we first met. Happy Valentine's Day Sunshine, Pretty Girl! (my pet names for her)

I have some other Valentines (or sweethearts) as well: 4 Kids, all grown, a Son in law and a Daughter in law...Dwayne, Anitra, Tina, Michael, Shane, Chad. I have one grandchild, Zach. He'll be 5 in about 3 weeks, and he is the love of my life.

The Valentine list continues: My family, in addition to the ones mentioned above. My church family. From the kids, the teens, the adults. I love you, and I love serving you. Thanks for putting up with me. I enjoy the great times of worship, fellowship, and fun. It's never boring being around you, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

And there are others: Friends in ministry. Trish and I are privileged to have some awesome friends who understand the complexities of the life we live. It helps to have them in our lives. My best friends are pastors. We cry together and laugh together. They are among the most spiritual men I know, and yet there are times when we just goof off. I would never personally call them my Valentine, but it's good to have friends you can just be yourself around.

Valentines from Afar who are Near to my heart: I have friends in ministry who are in third world countries. Some of them refer to Trish and myself and mom and dad. I don't get to see them as much as I would like, but they have my heart. And there are some whom I have never met. We share similar passions, and have connected via the internet. Ministry, blogs, church life, etc have brought us together. Bonds grow with mutual interests. Thanks for being there, and being a friend.

To all of you,
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Monday, February 9, 2009

You're a victor, not a victim

Have you ever felt like you were a victim of circumstances? That you were held captive by others' choices? Most of us at some point have experienced difficult times. A marriage break up, a financial collapse, a moral failure, a disease, or a relationship failure.

There are choices each of us make which sometimes lead to the problem. But then there are those situations where you were blindsided... you didn't see it coming. You didn't know someone could be so cruel. Days turn into weeks and weeks into months. Some trials are over in a few days, and some take years to recover from. It is in the down times where we feel as if we are a failure. We play the blame game-- on them, on God, on ourselves. We can become bitter and cynical. We often shut ourselves out if we're not careful. Sleepless nights of worry and fear. And here you are, a bible believing, spirit filled Christian. You don't act like nor feel like you are either.

But what you are going through doesn't define who you are. You are the apple of God's eye. He made you for a purpose, and nothing can deter it. As a matter of fact, He will use the very things you are going through to propel you to your destiny.

Consider Joseph. He was betrayed by his brothers, lied upon by Potiphar's wife, forgotten by the baker and butler. He was kidnapped, put in a pit, sold as a slave, imprisoned. But when we read the final chapters of the book of Genesis, this Joseph is in rulership, second in command only to Pharoah. Victim? Hardly. We know him as a victor. But you see, we have the benefit of reading the other chapters, or as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

The rest of the story has not been written in your life. I speak from experience. My life went through it's own personal hell, as our ministry went through a church split. Three years of wondering if we were going to make it left me feeling as if I were a victim. It wasn't easy, but we survived. We hung in there. We prayed, we cried, we prayed again. We kept on doing what we were called to do. I can report today that the church is growing and full, lives are being changed, and there is revival in the air.

When you don't feel like you're a victor, you still are. And when you think you won't make it, you will. I believe in you today, and God believes in you. That's the main thing. Hang in there. And if you ever need a friend to talk to, give me a shout.

Blessings,
Pastor Ronnie

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How do you define cool?

Blogging, Googling, Texting, Networking, Surfing... I find myself using terms and doing things of which I knew not of a decade or so ago. Some of the teens at church have discovered I can text, that I'm on facebook, and that I can IM. They have commented to me that I am cool. Wow, it's good to be cool again. I had been out of the uncool arena for so long, and it is great to be rediscovered.

Yes, I love to blog. I am by calling a communicator, and I do so orally and via the pen, or as in this case, the computer. I also have discovered how to text on my cell phone, how to send and receive instant messages, and how to google, or research by the search engine.

My wife, Trish, does little of the above said things. She doesn't blog, doesn't IM, doesn't facebook. She does some research via the google search engine, but it is limited to what she needs. And yet, when I think of the term cool, I think of Trish. She challenges me with her prayer life and her devotion. She stirs me with her passion and hunger for God. She keeps me balanced. She has managed through the years to raise four kids with little help from me. (Sorry, but it's true). She did this on a limited income and she did it without complaints. She has carried in her bosom the difficulties of being in ministry without ever wishing we were doing something else. In good times and in bad times she has been constant. She is a prayer warrior.

This is how I define cool. Yeah, I love the compliment, especially when it comes from the youth. I am flattered. But when I examine their idea of "coolness" I realize I must help them redefine what cool is. It is not necessarily that I can text, IM, or am on facebook. I want it to be because I can pray, touch God, love on them while at the same time stir them and challenge them. I want it to be because they see the fire of heaven in my life.

That is my definition of cool. By the way, I have some "cool" teens and for that fact, adults and children. And they align with my definition- sold out and on fire for God!

Blessings,
Pastor Ronnie

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

MISSING THE RICH AROMA

OK, I'll admit that the subject of my blog is not a deep theological study. As a matter of fact, it is an insignificant thing to many. But I feel I must bare my heart and confess... I'm missing my coffee.

No, I haven't gone through a deep religious experience that has caused me to give up my caffeine. I just decided a couple of weeks ago that I could no longer justify paying around $9 per pound for my favorite blend. I generally go through that pound per week at home, and that is not counting what I use in my office here at church. I found I could get a cheaper version of Colombian Supreme for half the price. So, for the last two weeks, I have been drinking the cheaper variety.

Yeas ago, before I accepted Christ, I enjoyed smoking cigars. I found out there were many varieties, but you got what you paid for. If you paid for a nickel cigar (you could get them for that in those days), that is what you got. Needless to say, I became addicted to the more costly smoke. It is somewhat like that with my coffee.

Occasionally when I go on a fast, I will come off the caffeine for a week or two. But I like the taste of my coffee. No, I don't like the taste of this cheap substitute. I can smell the difference, and I can taste the difference. Once you have drank of the good stuff, it is hard to go back to the cheap imitation.

It's sort of like that with God. We can substitute cheap religious experiences, and we can justify that we are still born again, still in church. But I also miss the deep aroma of worship, of moving and flowing in the Holy Ghost. Sometimes we have it, and sometimes we have decided it costs less spiritually to go the religious "lite" way.

As for me, I prefer the rich aroma... of coffee, and of worship!

Monday, February 2, 2009

THE HOLY GHOST FELL ON US!

Wow, what an awesome service we had yesterday. It was one of those where the Spirit of the Lord takes over, and you just get out of the way. I have been hungry for God. Our services are usually filled with the presence of the Lord, and rarely am I disappointed. We have a great worship team, great leaders, and a good church. Trish and I are blessed to be in leadership over a wonderful group of people. Yes, the services are pretty awesome.

But yesterday was more so. I have had a feeling that God is wanting to do more. I really believe we are on the verge of revival. The church is growing, people are getting saved and set free. In yesterday's service, several of our teens were in or near the altar seeking the Lord. it was one of those intense times of just crying out to Him. The worship team was singing, and the presence of God was strong. One of the young ladies (I think about 14 years of age) received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was awesome! This precious teenager has a heart for God, and she got filled up. I had prayed with her, but was not around her when she released the language of the Spirit. Later, she got my attention and told me what had happened. As she told the story, I remembered back 22 years earlier when this girl's grandmother had come to me asking about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. She was from a Baptist background, and wanted to know about this and the subject of speaking in tongues. It was only a few days later that she received the infilling.

I am glad to report that God is the same today as he was back then. What an awesome God we serve!