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Friday, December 21, 2007

To Judge or Not to Judge

I heard the same news you probably heard. A young lady who was on a children's television program announced she was pregnant and sixteen. It's amazing how this has become the talk of the talk shows. Some defend her and some castigate her. I haven't heard anyone speak to the problem yet.

The problem is not that she is pregnant. Pregnancy is not a sin. There will most probably be the birth of a wonderful child in the next several months. Neither the pregnancy nor the birth is a sin. Pregnancy is not a sin but it may reveal sin. The problem was the sexual activity that was going on.

I know that there are many who claim that the church has such a "Victorian" concept about sex. They claim we are suppressing sexual urges. If we are, we aren't doing it very effectively! I see the magazine racks when I check out at the grocery store. They are replete with articles of sex. It's talked about through many educational tv shows. The movies and other media programs still see it as tantalizing enough for viewers to watch. It has been generally accepted by the media that it is normal and should be done by mature people.

It seems to me that no one is speaking about the elephant in the room. What has been the result of casual sex? Does anyone want to know?

I counsel people and I can tell you from being in the ministry for over twenty-five years my observances.

1. Casual sex steals the intimacy away from marriage. It is intended to be something that is so carefully kept that you only share it with one person.
2. It puts an emphasis on size, performance or anything else which can be used for comparison. It has brought more paranoia to the bedroom than anything else I can imagine. Neither person should be able to compare so that it is truly always "good" for the other.
3. It encourages suspicion in a committed relationship. Since sex doesn't require a commitment, why shouldn't it be done outside of the marriage relationship? Those who have had casual sex are often suspicious of their spouses after marriage. This is not good for the relationship.
4. It encourages cheating on the spouse. Again, it didn't take a commitment to have sex in the first place, so why not with this other person who seems willing?
5. It contributes to the decline of the family. Sex causes pregnancy. If there is no need for commitment of the first, why not the second? Why get married? Why stay together? Why not have serial marriages?

The media banters around whether this pregnant young lady should be a role model for the target audience of 7-11. I believe she could be. She could tell them that there are things you do that seem to be fun at the time but have serious consequences. She could share her heart in how she wished she had kept herself chaste.

I have no interest in beating her up, telling her what she did was wrong or extracting a pound of flesh from her. This is neither my place nor my desire. I would hope people would gather around her and give her their words of encouragement. However, I don't think they should praise her for what she did.

I have heard some comments that said, "Well, she could have gotten an abortion. See how good she is." That seems to absolve any bad she has done. Okay then, let's try this one:

Billy Bomb embezzles $100 million from his company. Suddenly, he is rich. It is not a sin to be rich. He sees his new wealth as a way to spred some good around the world. He gives half of his stolen money to the National Cancer Society. Should we say it was just peachy that he embezzled and his gift makes up for his sin? If we believe this, why did we prosecute the guys at Enron?

Finally, I have no judgement for this young lady. Judgement requires a sentence. I am neither qualified to do so nor do I want the job. I know that God loves her as much as He ever did. He wants to cover her with His love and walk with her through the time for her to give birth. If He would do so, so should we.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Would You Buy from a Crook?

Recently I went to one of the big box electronics stores to redeem an offer that apparently gave The offer said, "Save $5 Today" The condition was that I reserve a copy of a DVD that was coming out December 4 which would allow me to get an extra $5 taken from any other Disney DVD priced $14.99 or more. The offer expired December 18. When I picked up my movie I asked for my $5 discount. They informed me that the offer was only for the day that I reserved the movie. They pointed to the "Today" and said I had to get a movie on that day and it was no longer valid. Honestly, I got mad, told the manager what I thought of their business practices and vowed to myself that I can no longer shop in that store.

Do you think that is too rash? I mean, we are only talking about $5, right? Sometimes the very best deals you can get are found in that store. Am I cutting off my nose to spite my face?

I don't think so. These people were deceptive with their ad. I took the ad to several others without prompting and asked them what they thought the ad said. They all came to the same conclusion as I did without me telling them how to read the ad.

The store told me that no one else misunderstood the ad. This comes when people realize they have been taken and do not want to admit it. They feel foolish and do not want others to realize their embarrassment.

I will not buy from them again because they are crooks. If you knowingly do business with a crook you become partners with them in their crime. It keeps that crook in business. It encourages them to continue in their cons. Even if I see a product that they have that is much cheaper than I can get somewhere else, I cannot buy from them. It is now a matter of principle.

I am not on a crusade to destroy the store. I just can't buy from crooks.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Lost with No Solution

Last week I got lost while driving to a familiar place. I really don't know how it happened. I went the wrong direction and soon had no clue where I was. My first problem was that I thought I knew where I was going so I didn't need to think about it. I was on auto but my software (contained in my IBM- Itty, Bitty Mind) needed an upgrade.

Once I knew I was lost I also knew what I didn't know. I didn't know where I was. There is no one you can call to give you directions if you can't tell them where you are. Besides, I didn't want to tell people that I got lost going to a familiar place. Yes, one that I have been to many times. They will surely ask what was wrong with me.

So, I wandered. I drove around hoping that I would see something that would trigger my memory. The more time I looked, the faster I began to drive. I can't say I had become frantic but I figured I would start getting calls if I didn't show up soon. I would have to confess to being lost. That would be embarrassing.

It's not like this is the first time this has happened to me. One night when I lived in Nashville, I was going home and turned one street earlier than I should. Both streets had a street light and both were dark streets. They had a lot of similarities in the way the houses looked. I just wasn't thinking. Suddenly I was at a dead end. My street continued on and I looked around. I didn't know these houses and couldn't even tell how I had gotten here. Once I turned around and went back to where I had turned I knew exactly what I had done.

This time was different. I had made so many turns I didn't know how to get back to where I had made my mistake. I thought, "Could the Lord use this to teach me something?" He did.

I believe most people wonder what is going to happen to them when they die. Sometimes they come up with their own solutions but they also know that these are their own solutions. They continue hoping to get some confirmation that they are right or, at least, some direction in which way they should go.

They listen to their friends who seem to be very convicted of what will happen. They don't know that their friends say these things with conviction but have no clue whether or not they are right. No one wants to admit that they are clueless so they speak with apparent confidence.

They are afraid to say, "I am lost here. Can you help me?" They believe that this will reveal that there is something wrong with them. They hope that believing something sincerely will make it true. They believe that God surely must grade on the curve so He should let just about everyone into Heaven. They feel lost with no solution.

I didn't like feeling that way. I don't want others to feel that way. There is no safety in being lost. It makes you extremely vulnerable. There is no joy in being lost- only worry when we take time to think.

If you would like to have some reassurances feel free to email me. I promise I won't say something is wrong with you. In fact, there is something extremely right with you. I will keep it all very confidential. Just don't keep wandering. Go for an answer.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Do You Know Why You Are Here?

A few years ago Rick Warren wrote a book to help people find their purpose in life. Millions bought the book. I suppose you would think that we now have millions of people who know their purpose. There were all kinds of wondrous stories about the book but largely society seems to keep going the same direction it was before the book. I wonder if a lot of people gave copies of the book to their friends who never read it. I wonder if others would rather have a best seller on their shelves than to read one.

Many people do not want to know what their purpose is. They would rather go with the flow rather than have to stop and think if what they are doing will fulfill their purpose. Purpose becomes a standard to evaluate yourself. You can always draw a bullseye around whatever you hit and call yourself a success as long as you don't have a predetermined standard.

A true purpose becomes work. It drives you to do what you were intended to do. Do I need to say that many people don't like work? I find people staying up late each night playing video games or watching movies while they deprive themselves of sleep because they want to squeeze as much of the time away from work as they can. Many of them work at not working when they get to work. They have no pride in what they do but assume they are wonderful just because they are human beings. After all, doesn't everyone get an award these days so that no one will feel left out?

People will justify all of this when they know the end of their lives are in sight. Some of this comes from what they have watched on tv. They will say things like, "I have made my peace with God." There is no truth in that statement but they heard some actor say and it seemed to make everyone feel better at the time so they figure it is something they should say. I wonder if they have any idea what "peace with God" really is.

How can you say you have made peace with God when He had a fulfilling purpose for your life and you rejected it all your life? How can you say you have peace with God apart from knowing His Son, Jesus?

Years ago I discovered my purpose and it freed me to be what God has called me to be. It has been the most invigorating, fulfilling and significant thing to infect my life. I would not want life to be without it. It is found in a verse:

Philippians 3:10 (NIV) " I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,"

I have not fulfilled my purpose yet. God's purpose is a lifetime pleasure.

Sometimes I fail to remember my purpose but God still draws me back to it again and again. When I am fulfilling my purpose I have true peace with God. I have significance because I am in the middle of something eternal.

I want everyone to know their life purpose. Do you know why you are here?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

God Is Not Like Your Uncle Ernie

Uncle Ernie worked for the railroad for over forty years. He could tell stories of his glory days when he did things that saved many disasters. The railroad was eternally indebted to Uncle Ernie. The railroad gave him a gold watch and nice retirement.

Uncle Ernie and Aunt Martha lived frugally. She took ten percent of each of her husband's paychecks and invested it. By the time Uncle Ernie died they were millionaires. That did not change anything about the way they lived.

A couple of years ago Aunt Martha died. It broke Uncle Ernie's heart. It seemed that the only thing that mattered to Uncle Ernie was family. Of course, Uncle Ernies wealth kept the family coming over. Now, Uncle Ernie can't seem to take care of himself so he is in a nursing home. The family still visits.

Each family member thinks that there is a good chance that Uncle Ernie will make him rich if he continues to visit. Each family member hopes that Uncle Ernie will give him something everytime he visits the nursing home. They all believe that Uncle Ernie has no use for all that money and each of them believes he can make better use of it. So, they visit and hope that Uncle Ernie will give them something for their troubles.

Uncle Ernie knows why they have come. He is truly glad to see them. He actually does give them a little of his money at times. It isn't regular. This way they keep coming and Uncle Ernie only has to give them something some of the time.

The family has made it clear. Uncle Ernie lives for them.

Some of Christianity has become like this. We go to church to see our Nursing Home God. He is so glad to see us that some of the time He gives us what we want. We all hope that He will make us rich someday. We tell the story to others. He has so much and He just wants to give it away. If we just believe and keep coming our ship will come in. God will give us more than we can imagine. He doesn't expect us to confess or have true hearts that please Him--O, No we can't even mention that when we meet! He really lives for us; certainly not us for Him.

So books are sold and huge churches are filled with this message of the Nursing Home God. He has had some really great stories to tell in His past but now His only power is to give away everything that He has.

Does this seem really shallow to you? Do you not think that God expects us to become conformed to the image of His Son? Don't you think that means there will be times when our devotion to Him will force us to look at our sins and see how horrible they really are?

No, I don't think God is like your Uncle Ernie.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Did You Hear What They Said?

The infomercial was telling of another amazing invention. They were selling a razor that would never get dull, would never need to be replaced; it was the last razor that you will ever have to buy. It also came at an amazing price but if you would order right now you could get two of these razors!

Think about it. If it never gets dull, never needs to be replaced and it is the last razor you will ever have to buy--why do you need two? Yes, you could use one for travel- but why not just pack the one you have? Yes, you could give one away--oh, come on, who gives one of those double bladed razors as a gift? The only real reason people would buy two is to replace the first one.

Why is it that people want to believe in a pancea for all things that could go wrong? People want razors that never wear out, knives that never get dull (Yes, I bought the Ginsu years ago.), Dust cloths that last forever, etc.

Why do we buy the books that say that there are remedies that others don't want us to know about? Why do we buy these natural miracle herbs which will make us lose weight, grow hair and take the wrinkles out of our faces? Why don't we read the disclaimers that are on the infomercials: "These results are not typical" "The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these claims" "Results vary" Do we really believe there is a vast conspiracy to keep us from living healthy lives?

Most discoveries in medicine or science are not made in someone's garage. Most of the things people take which are an easy way to get what they want don't work. Eating right and exercise will do more to make you healthy than most of the supplements being sold.

Its all down to what put inside yourself and how you work those things out that make a difference. I heard one guy say that there was a pill that would help you sleep better, increase your energy level, control your blood pressure, increase your red blood cells, help your respiration, help you get to the ideal body weight and improve your looks. The only problem was that this pill had to be taken every day and it took THIRTY MINUTES TO SWALLOW IT! The pill is called exercise.

Most of the things in life worth having are worth fighting for. There is no "last one you will ever need" or any other panacea for the ills in your life. You want a good marriage- you will have to fight for it. If you want a good bank account- you will have to fight for it. If you want a good walk with the Lord- you will have to fight for it.

The next time you hear an infomercial make sure you check it out. Make sure you listen to what they have said.

I heard one person say that their success was due to luck. "Yes," they said, "pure luck. I have found the harder I work; the luckier I get."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?

We have a Jack Russell Terrier. (Several of you are nodding at this point and already know what I am about to say.) Her name is Jackie. She is the most loving dog we have ever owned--though I use the word "owned" loosely. No one owns this dog. She is her own person.

Once we had a ham which was pushed back in our freezer until we forgot about it. We found the ham when we cleaned out the freezer. My wife simply threw it in the trash. We left the house with the ham in the trash and the dog in the house. Upon returning the trash was strewn all over the house. Jackie's punishment for getting in the trash is having to stay outside. She was waiting by the door in acticipation of her banishment. We put her out and picked up all the trash but forgot about the ham.

That night we let her back into the house and she went to sleep in the rocker recliner next to our bed right after we went to bed. About thirty minutes after we went to bed I heard the recliner squeek as it does when Jackie gets either into or out of it. About thirty minutes later I hear it squeek again. Then, every hour later the same sequence of events occurs.

When we got up Jackie is desperate for water. We filled her bowl twice and she drank it as fast as she could. On the way out of the bedroom my wife tripped over the ham bone. Jackie had eaten the entire ham overnight. We put the whole crime together from the evidence.

After finding the ham Jackie ate as much as she could while we were gone. She made sure that she had hidden the ham in our bedroom before we got home. She did not touch the ham as long as we were home and awake but had every intention of having snacks all night as soon as we went to bed. She waited until she thought we were asleep before she got up and ate as much as she could. Then, she would take a little nap in between snacks so that she could eat more. This ham made her incredibly thirsty since one bowl of water would not slake her thirst.

This nefarious crime was premeditated. It was not a crime of passion but one in which she carefully thought out her actions. She took her punishment for getting into the trash knowing we would forget about the ham since she had taken everything out of the trash can, scattered it to the maximum limit of the house and hung her head like she was really sorry for her crime just before we put her outside. She cleverly deceived us.

I think Beagles will probably go to heaven. We had a Beagle and she was one of the sweetest dogs you could ever own. I think sheep dogs will go. They work hard for their keep. However, I don't think we will find any Jack Russell Terriers in heaven--at least not Jackie!

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blessings Come in Unexpected Ways

A couple of weeks ago I bought a car on Ebay. I know, I know, you either think I am crazy or have a lot of nerve. Yes, I have heard that many times. But I didn't take as much of a chance as people who buy used cars from dealers.

First, I ran a carfax report. This gave me the vehicles history. I knew that the car had been a lease and was owned by only one person. I saw where it had been registered and knew that it had never been in a major accident.

Second, I checked out the dealer. She had over 500 sales on Ebay and had no complaints. How many car dealers do you know that have no complaints?

Third, I watched her auctions for a few weeks. I saw what she sold and about what price I could expect to pay. So, I went into this deal with a lot of research and some great expectations. Yet, I was still surprised.

I guess I thought that all car dealers were spawned on Halloween at midnight. I expected the slick talk and the greasy handshake. I was more than pleasantly surprised. I met Ronnie and Lisa Waggoner who were the most down to earth, likeable people I have ever met. Ronnie picked me up from the Atlanta airport and took me to his home. The car I bought was waiting on me. Before I looked at it he told me that he would buy me a plane ticket back if I didn't like the vehicle. Now, what chance had I taken?

Lisa was equally friendly. She didn't push and didn't dally. She had all the legal papers ready when I wanted to complete the deal. The whole thing took less than thirty minutes. If Ronnie and Lisa weren't so friendly I wouldn't have hung around talking to them for another hour!

Sometimes the people you expect to stretch your patience are the very people who are a blessing to you. I guess I should stop trying to categorize people by what they do or how they look. Duh!

Monday, September 10, 2007

What's Really Important?

Last week I saw the news about a Hooter's server who was asked to adjust her dress so that she could board a plane. She did so and flew. Later, we find her on national news complaining that she was embarrassed and wanted an apology from the airline. Did the airline contact the national news agencies to tell them about this travesty? If she was so embarrassed wouldn't she have kept her mouth shut?

The problem I have is that the news agencies carried her story. It just wasn't news. It was as serious as being asked to quieten down when another passenger complains. All I am saying is, "Let's not give this fifteen minutes of fame!"

Twenty-four hour a day news has blurred the lines in what is important. Most days we don't have enough enough relevant substantive news yet, because the media must fill the time, insignificant stories make the airwaves. Unfortunately, our society doesn't even recognize that much of this is gobble-de-goop and not news at all.

Sometimes I will hear people say things that indicate they don't know what's important. They say things like, "Well, the kids had a good time and that's the most important thing." Of course, that is never true. Kids often have good times doing things that are very dangerous. Their safety is more important than their good time. I guess this is why so many parents buy their children video games yet fail to teach them some of the basics about life. Their exclusion of teaching indicates they believe it is more important that their children have a good time.

Surely, you can both buy children video games and teach them but I am finding that to be rare. Most fathers are not teaching their sons to become gentlemen and most mothers are not teaching their daughters to be ladies. I hear the appalling language coming from young people and must believe they have not been taught what is important. Amazingly, much of what I hear comes from Christian young people.

What if we had a revolution? What if we said that we will carefully discern our time by what we do and what we watch? What if this happened in the Christian community alone? Would our lack of participation cause others to take notice? Would our careful observances of good, meaningful activities cause others to join us?

I think so.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Power of Belief

I have been leading a Bible Study on Wednesday nights for about two and a half years. We started in Genesis and we are now in Joshua. Recently, we read the passage where Joshua takes God's people into the Promised Land. He sent spies into the land and they came out praising God for what they were about to possess. They obeyed everything Joshua said and believed that God would give them this land. I thought how different this was when Moses did the same things but got a disastrous result. Moses saw the people rebel and not believe God would give them the land. The power of belief gives one group victory and the lack of this belief condemns another.

My belief on whom I know God to be will be reflected in my actions. My actions will either allow God to show who He is or they will present an impotent God. When I act like God can't or won't do what He said He wanted I fail to receive God's best for me. This is not what God desires for me nor what I want for myself.

I find myself with many difficult tasks. Each week I must prepare a sermon which will deliver God's word to the people. I must lead a church to act faithfully to our Lord and grow both spiritually and numerically. I must seek ways to see God's vision of making our church known because of her faith. That faith should turn the world upside down just like the early disciples faith did. I must enlist people to join the battle. Each of these things are too hard for me, yet they are required of me by God. My continuance in these arduous tasks reveals who I believe God is. It also determines the results. I believe, listen and obey or I fail. There is no Promised Land for those who fail to believe, listen and obey.

Of course, my human nature would rather God give everything to me without any effort on my part. Was that what Moses congregation expected? Did Joshua's generation learn that through forty years God provided and could be trusted in a way that Moses' group did not? Which is greater: manna everyday or crossing the Red Sea? Maybe neither. Both reveal who God is.

So, I sit here with a completed Bible asking God to do some great things. I cannot ask Him to work without expecting that I will have to work too. That isn't His pattern.

I ask God to do something of biblical nature. I would like to see a turning of the world upside down with the faith of His believers. I would like to see places shaken because of the prayers of God's people. I would like to see people healed and receiving miraculous provisions. At the same time, I am afraid to ask. What will He require of me that will be an act of belief?

The power of belief changes the world.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tired of the Political Season?

Next year is election year and I'm already tired of the political season. I am tired of politicians attacking one another to get votes. It seems that they believe they can stand on others' backs to become taller. I am tired of the ads. Most are incomplete. I am tired of Christians deciding who is God's candidate. I am quite sure that He isn't voting for one for the exclusion of another. I am tired of the political commentators telling me what the candidates mean or have said. I am tired of the media parsing each politicians words and rushing to crucify them when they have had a slip of the tongue. It seems that the politicians' great goal is to be elected. Of course, that goal is simply for me, the voter. Somehow I can't do without them.

I am looking for a different kind of candidate. My candidate may not exist. My candidate still remembers what it is like to walk down the streets of America without someone telling them what to say. My candidate thinks rather than polls. My candidate knows what it is like to pay taxes which come from money that could be better spent on other things. My candidate knows that which is lived in private should also be that which is lived in public. My candidate genuinely loves people and sheds no false tears when the cameras are on. My candidate will unite America rather than divide her.

I can't stand that the church has become a political battlefield. There are too many winks and nods toward candidates which divide the church. Jesus came for everyone, not just the ones I would politically agree with.

The problem is that the "official" election year hasn't even started. If nothing changes this election year will be one of the worst ever. Would you pray with me that God will intervene? Would you pray that He would keep the candidates civil? Would you pray that the process could actually unite our country into realizing the great privilege we have in living in a democratic republic? I believe that prayer is the only thing that will change things.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Some Things in Life Are Slow Going

My wife and I have recently purchased a house and have been moving in. We moved to Virginia Beach two years ago but thought our house in the Nashville area would sell and we would soon buy one here. We left most of our things in boxes from that move and didn't even put one nail to hang pictures in the house we rented. Of course, that means we didn't even look at all the stuff we had for those two years.
The new house is about 500 sq. ft. smaller than the one we had in Nashville. It is an excellent time to downsize since we no longer have any children living with us. Each box we open is "like a box of chocolates." I only wonder how we could accumulate so much junk!
When I get frustrated going through the boxes I throw my hands in the air and exclaim, "We haven't need anything in this box for two years, how can we need it now? Let's just throw it all away!" Immediately I will find one of those treasures that I had forgotten and realize that I need to go through everything so that I don't throw out the treasures with the trash.
It is slow going. It is just like the rest of my life. You have to sort through a lot of things to find the treasures.
Not everything is great in church. Some people eliminate church from their lives because all of it isn't good. Churches will always be full of sinners and sinners do some bad things. They will treat you badly. They will hurt you behind your back and openly. It seems that life could be better without these things. But church also has some great things. It has the Word of God. It has a group of people called a Sunday School class that will be at your side whenever things go badly. It has eternity for its future. Throwing out church because it contains some bad things makes as much sense as throwing out your family because they sometimes disappoint you.
Still, going through everything to sort out the good can be slow going. I don't find a treasure in every box. You may not find a treasure at church every Sunday. But the ones you do find make the search worth it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Do People Think Jesus Is A Scam?

You have heard it as much as I have: "If it seems too good to be true; it is!" I suppose some people believe that you can get a new car- according to some of the ads in the paper- for less than $10,000 but I am afraid of what that car will look like. I still wonder how these dealers can make these claims. Do they have one car which is being sold at this price?

Yet when I talk to people about Jesus I can't help but believe they are thinking the same thing. Once I spoke to one young girl who had gotten herself in a terrible relationship and had done things that she was sorry for. I told her that she could be forgiven for everything she had done and it would never be brought up again. I told her that Jesus loved her without regard to the things that she had done. I told her that we- the church- never needed to know what she had done. I told her that if we found out, it wouldn't matter anyway because we were all in need of a Savior because we had all done things we wished we hadn't.

She began to cry silently and sobbed, "I wish I could believe that."

I wanted her to believe badly. I didn't know how to tell her that this isn't a scam. I wanted her to know that I had received this forgiveness. But in the end, she just couldn't believe it.

Times like that really hurt. I hate it when people walk around feeling guilty. Something inside us determines right and wrong. Maybe that's the image of God that has been imprinted on us. We can pretend that our guilt doesn't exist but we really know the truth underneath. When we are offered the chance to rid ourselves of it we should jump at it. I guess it seems to good to be true.

There was a time when I decided it was true. I confessed my wrongs to Jesus and He really did take the guilt away. I haven't been the same since. I know who I was so I know anyone else can do this too. I know who I am so I know that anyone else can keep being forgiven.

I admit; it sure does sound like a scam. How do I tell people it isn't? How do they know I am not a scam artist myself?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Looking for An Open Door

Several years ago I went through depression. I suppose you would have to call it mild because it only lasted for a few weeks. I was in a miserable situation. I was unproductive in my ministry. I was a Singles Minister and people were leaving the church. Some of those were singles. I was working harder and harder to keep them. My reasoning was that I was just not working hard enough to keep them in the church. As time progressed things got worse.

I wanted to leave but I had no opportunity to do so. I prayed for another church to "steal" me away but none called. I begged God to move me but He was silent. I bartered with God to move me and I would do some things that I previously would not do but God was uninterested. I blackmailed God by telling Him I would leave the ministry if He didn't move me. He told me that He could do everything He needed without me but I couldn't do anything I needed without Him. I was depressed.

Depression is like going into a dark room and desperately trying to find a door that doesn't exist. My real problem was I didn't want to take the door God provided. I really didn't want to totally turn my life over to Him. I wanted to reserve my problems for myself. For some reason, problems are precious.

I finally gave in. The depression left and eventually God moved me.

I wonder if that's what its like for others or if I am just weird. Do others feel like they are in a dark room looking for a door that's not there? Is it always because we are unwilling to accept God's provision and give Him our problems? Is this really a faith problem?

I know what happened to me but am I weird?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What Makes a Good Church?

I guess I am always perplexed on what makes people choose the church they attend. I wonder if there are any guides. I know what I try to do when we do church. I don't know if that's what people are looking for.

I want our church to be real. I don't like trying to make it perfect so that everything has to follow a formula. We don't work at making mistakes but mistakes are a part of life. If someone sings the wrong song or gets something out of order, we don't make a big deal out of it. We work with people who are expressing their love for the Lord. If the love for the Lord is there and they haven't been negligent in their preparations, then, sometimes we mess up. It is part of being real.

I want our church to really worship. That can't always be created. Sometimes our attempts have too much of us in them and too little of God. It is so easy to make worship design something that we put on paper rather than think how what we are doing will help people worship. It is a struggle. Sometimes the flesh takes over and we design and do something truly created by the flesh. Sometimes God takes that and creates worship anyway. That's why I come to church every Sunday morning hours before anyone else arrives. I pray that we will worship. I know that it has been imperfect human beings who have designed what we will do that day. I ask God to intervene and help us become the worshipers He would want.

I want our church to continue to be loving. Thalia Lynn is the most loving church I have every attended (much less, pastored!). I am amazed at the care the people give to others. There are so many mission projects which truly meet needs that I have lost track. They genuinely greet people in the halls and sanctuary with a true concern. They love being together and especially eating together. If people knew how truly loving Thalia Lynn is they would break in on Saturday nights just to make sure we weren't meeting early.

I want our church to continue to be forgiving. Thalia Lynn doesn't care what your past is. We are all sinners who have done things we wouldn't want to publicize. We don't want people to think less of themselves because of their pasts. This is not the church for those who want a perfect people who never do anything wrong. We have been forgiven for the things we have done wrong and we know that others need forgiveness because we have received it ourselves.
I want all our church members to know God's place of service and serve there because it is best for them. Many times people think that service is a burden. They join a church but don't expect to do anything. Membership in many civic clubs require more from people than most churches. But service is something that God calls us to for the purpose of doing something better in our lives than we would have received if we hadn't served. Not all areas of service for all people. I want people to discover that place that gets them excited and go at it with gusto.

I want our church to be biblical and not merely denominational. The Bible is the authoritative word of God. It contains the testimonies of people who walked with God. It contains the instructions we need for life to be full. It is not political in that it determines which party to vote for. It is moral. It is truth. I want to have each member be able to read the Bible and have that priesthood of the believer understanding that God will help them with the application of the scriptures. I believe in the power of God's word to be effective. I don't believe we need a denomination to tell us how we must apply these scriptures. I see that is the problem the Pharisees had with Jesus. Many of them missed Him because they couldn't escape the application of the scriptures they had always had. On the other hand, I do appreciate the denominations because I believe they allow us to do more together than we could separately. I just don't want them telling us how we must believe on every jot and tittle.

I want our church to see souls come to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord. That should happen because we witness, give, send missionaries, commission people to service and plan to tell our world of a loving Christ by meeting the needs of people. We have and will continue to go on mission trips, pray for missionaries and rejoice with each person who comes to know Christ.

I want our church to grow-both inside and out. I want people to grow spiritually and have a vital relationship with Christ. I want the church to grow in numbers, too. This means we are reaching people for Christ.

This is what I work for. This is what gives me real joy. I am so fortunate to be in this church.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My First Blog

I have known about blogging for years but have resisted doing so. I thought it was vain to think that your thoughts were so important that others would want to read them. I did not see the potential it gives for people to interact-- however impersonally. So, this is my first blog. I hope that I get better at it for I feel very uncomfortable right now.

For those who do not know-- and I suspect that is everyone-- I am the Senior Pastor of Thalia Lynn Baptist Church in Virginia Beach. I have been here since March 27, 2005. We hover around 500 people coming to church every week. The members are incredibly friendly.

We have two Sunday AM Services. The 9:30 service is contemporary by name. I really don't know how to define contemporary. For us, it is songs from Third Day, Casting Crowns, Tree 63 and the like. We have two praise groups who I think are really good. They alternate Sundays when they lead the worship.

The second service is traditional. Traditional, for us, is hymns, responsive readings, singing the Doxology after the offering and such. It offers a very rich experience and represents our heritage of worship.

I am very proud to be the Pastor of Thalia Lynn. These people have been extremely loving toward me and my family. I believe that God gave me the opportunity to come here as a blessing. I do not ever want to take that or these people for granted.

Thanks for reading my first blog.