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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.