Divorce, Marriage, The Church and Fairy Tales

I saw an interesting article on a friend’s Facebook today from The Huffington Post concerning divorce and marriage statistics in Red states vs Blue states. You can read the article here http://www.huffpost.com/us/entry/4639430  . Obviously the conclusion that they reach seems biased against the church and I don’t agree with them. What I can’t argue is that there is problem with divorce amongst Christians.  Church leaders have been concerned with this for a considerable amount of time. What many have realized is that while in the secular culture marriage and relationships have become self centered and disposal at the same time they have made “falling in love” into an unrealistic fairy tale. Christians have bought into the fairy tale. At the same time the church has an epidemic running through it of pastors teaching that Jesus magically fixes everything. So when Christians get married and find out that the love fairy tale isn’t true they turn to Jesus the “fixer”. The problem is that Jesus isn’t a love genie who grants your wishes just because you tried the methods you learned at the latest greatest Christian marriage conference. Jesus gives us strength and understanding, yes, but his command is to love our spouse as he loves the world and, just in case you haven’t heard, the world rejected and crucified Jesus and he still refuses to abandon us. If we want to see successful marriages then we need to preach grace, mercy, sacrifice and long suffering and most of all work. Marriage is work, hard work. I know it isn’t the fairytale you have heard but it is much better than what Hollywood and romance novels have to offer.

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Starting a New Chapter

One of the hardest things I have found in ministry is the knowing of when you have finished a  chapter and it is time to move on to the next. There was a point and time this year that I felt like I may be at that point but I could not bring myself to simply walk away with no other ministry to go to.  My wife and I talked at great length and I decided to steal a page from Gideon and ask for a sign. In my prayers I was very specific and asked God to show me exactly what He wanted and He has graciously answered my prayer.  It wasn’t necessarily pleasant or an exciting moment when I got that answer but it was undeniable. And so last week I submitted my letter of resignation to Reedy Fork Baptist Church where I have served the last 5 almost 6 years. It has been a wild ride along with plenty of ups and downs but I can conclusively say that this chapter is over.

So what is next?

I don’t know.

As of right now I have no job to go to , no church to attend, no house to live in. I have some time to figure all that out and have some options available to me. What I do have is peace and clarity. There is something very exciting about knowing that God gave you the exact thing you asked for even if it was the last thing you really wanted and knowing that this is exactly what He wanted.

It hurts.

It hurts to say goodbye. It hurts to walk away from something I built up from near nothing. It hurts to know that so many that counted on me for things in the community will have to find someone else.

But I have no worries for myself. No worries for my family. And I look forward to the day when God reveals more about the next chapter of this thing I refer to as my calling.

Oh and if you happen to know of a church looking for a really great guy to be their youth minister….

Tell them I am available anyway

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One Car Crash and Nothing is Ever the Same Again

A little over a week ago I wrote a post about getting beat up everywhere you turn. Today’s death of Paul Walker in a one car auto accident brought again to mind the fragility of life and how quickly it can be snuffed out

One of my safe havens is my alone time in the car.

There I am safe from all the noise of the world…… until..a  couple of weeks ago

I had left home and wasn’t 2 miles from my house. It was one of those moments we have all had. We are driving along when someone shoots past us hot-dogging the accelerator, their exhaust bellowing as they move past you at a rate of speed that not only exceeds the speed limit but also the limits of common sense and safety.

It frustrates, annoys and enrages you….and you say to yourself or out loud “That idiot is going to get himself killed”

And you believe that…..maybe even hope that they have a close call so they learn a lesson

But you never desire that they actually lose their life

And you never expect it to happen….

Not while you are watching.

There I was, in my car, as the words were dropping off my tongue, watching the little two door car speed down the road leaving us further and further behind and then…

It happened

In an instant the back end of the car shifted left then right then left again. Obviously out of control the driver most likely tried to correct but only manage to make things far worse for in the next instant the car was rocking side to side on two wheels. Before I knew it the back end off the car lifted itself into the air, dragging the nose of the vehicle diagonally across the road from the oncoming lane back into the proper lane and towards the shoulder of the pavement. The suddenly the rear end dropped back to earth as if it had been slammed down my an invisible hand and the car shot off the shoulder and into the ditch on the side of the road. As I watched this final movement I held my breath and gave a gasp of relief when the car avoided hitting three small trees head on managing to only make a glancing blow on the passenger’s side of the vehicle.

My heart raced

I couldn’t breathe

I had no phone (left it at home that morning)

I stopped and got out of my car. The truck in front of me pulled over as well the other car behind me kept driving. When the guy in the truck saw me they too left the scene and so it was just me alone. I wish I could say my first reaction was to run and help or even to pray……. No my reaction was far more rooted in the flesh

I cursed….

And then I ran….

As I ran to the car another vehicle was stopping I motioned to the gentleman as to indicate the need for him to call 911. He was already making the call. I walked to the door and looked in…..and shuddered

The driver wasn’t in his seat

He was on the other side of the car…

No seatbelt.

I backed up, took a breath and looked in the back seat through the rear hatch window, at this point praying there wasn’t a child inside.

There wasn’t

I went blank…. I couldn’t open the door…. I didn’t want to see

The gentleman on the phone ran up and opened the door and went in he tried to make contact but couldn’t get a response. We knew he wasn’t moving and that we could not under any circumstance move him. We couldn’t even tell if he was breathing. It was very cold that morning and the driver was wearing several layers including a hood that was covering his face.

I haven’t decided if I am thankful for that or not….

The paramedics were there very quickly. Their station was right around the corner. They hooked up monitors, we helped break back brush, and in the matter of just a few minutes it was over…..

They stopped….

No resuscitation….

No defibrillator……

The guy with the phone said he had overheard those two words no one wants to here in a situation like this…

Brain Matter….

He was gone. Nothing to do but call in the coroner…..

I never did see his face and only learned his name and age from the obituary in the local news. An African American man who was the same age as myself who was probably just late for work and in a hurry.

That image will haunt me. Not because of the trauma or the death but because of how quickly it passed.

10 seconds? 20?

Poof…

We are told in the book of  James that life is nothing but a vapor.  Again we see this today another one car accident and two people dead in an instant. But of course this one we see on the news and we are grieved because this was a celebrity and I am sure much will be made of what and how this happened because of Paul Walker’s popularity. Which I will be glad to hear about because it will remind everyone how tomorrow is promised to no one.   And that living recklessly even for a brief moment of indulgence can result in tragedy.

For me, though, Paul Walker’s death, as special as he was, will never impact me the way the death of a man whose name I never knew and whose face I never saw impacted me.

I learned that day that all it takes is……

A one car crash and nothing is ever the same again

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Lumberjack Handicap Match

I am not an avid watcher of pro wrestling but in years past I have followed closely enough to know the jargon and definitions used in the sport.

There are two types of matches that I came to mind today while I was thinking about life and the struggles we face: The Lumberjack Match and The Handicap Match

For those of you less versed in the lingo allow me to explain

A Lumberjack match is a basic match with one exception outside of the ring is filled with other wrestlers in a single line side by side,  shoulder to shoulder whose primary purpose is to inflict pain on either any wrestler involved in the match in the ring should they have the misfortune or poor judgement to find themselves on the outside of the ring

Handicap Match is a match where a wrestler or a team of wrestlers is pitted against another team of wrestlers of greater number such as 1 on 2 or 2 on 3 or 1 on 3 etc

But what if we had a Lumber Jack Handicap Match? Can you imagine what that would be like? Outnumbered in the ring getting knocked around with the odds completely stacked against you and no where to run to catch your breath because the moment you slipped out of the ring you were assaulted by a flurry of wrestlers taking any opportunity to inflict whatever pain they can.

Life can be like that. I have experienced it. In one area of life, home, work, social whatever, you are taking a beating. One challenge after another after another after another relentlessly beating you down. And then when you run to what you think will be a safe place, one of the other areas of your life, you are met with a seemingly equal or greater number of challenges. It is enough to make you question yourself or give up entirely because all you want to do is catch your breath. 

Am I describing you?

I can say that this year has been one of the toughest of my life. Heartbreak, sadness, questioning myself,  and sometimes wondering if there will ever be an end to the storms. But I know something

I think we all know pro wrestling is rigged. It isn’t fake. You can’t fake falling through the air and landing on your back sometimes from heights of 10 15 feet. Wrestling is rigged the winner is predetermined and the match is somewhat rehearsed.

Guess what. Your life. It’s RIGGED.

It almost never fails in these type matches that I have described one of the “hero” characters is getting beat up by a group of the “bad guys” and when all looks lost and the bad guys are cheating and torturing the hero another hero or group of heroes arrives to even the odds and drives the bad guys away much to the delight of the crowd.

I have a hero. You do to.

He’s the best.

Not only does He make the save He is the one that rigged the match.

Take great hope in the fact that God has already one. Your struggles. Your pain. Your desperation. Everything is a part of bringing the crowd to it’s feet as the only true Hero rushes in and makes the save.

And at the end of it all

The Hero will pick you up. He will grab your hand. And He will raise it along with His in victory.

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What Do I Say? – Honoring Dr Martin Luther King

I spoke this past weekend at  a rally dedicated to Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington the theme as advertised  was “Remembering Dr. King’s Dream! Honoring the lives of those lost in our community to violence! Uniting the community”. When I was asked I eagerly agreed but soon after I realized there was a question I did not have an answer to… What do I say?

First of all I am not an activist nor am I a student of the history of the civil rights movement. So I was a little at a loss when I started thinking about what I was going to say.

I decided to split the speech into two parts. The first part being about my personal feelings of ineptitude. The second part I devoted to focusing on social matters that I believe are necessary to address if we want to see true growth in our society.

After I delivered the speech I got many many compliments. I do not know if it was recorded but I decided to publish a text based on what notes I jotted down beforehand. This is not the speech word for word but gives you the idea of the intent

I don’t know why I’m here. Let me let all of you in on something, I am just a poor ole white boy from Rock Hill SC. I do not come from a family whose name carries any weight or influence. I don’t not have money, prestige or influence attached to my name. I am not a man of note in the arena of politics or business nor do I have any aspirations or ambitions to rise in the ranks of those arenas. I am not a mover or a shaker in the realm of civil rights or social justice. I am simple man who serves the Lord at a small church that most people would never take notice of if they didn’t live down the street from it. And yet time and time again I am invited to speak at events such as these. I don’t know why I am here. Do not misunderstand me I accepted the offer to be here because I consider it a great privilege, but what I don’t understand is why they ask me. I am a nobody. But then I consider the reason we have gathered here to day and the cause that Dr King fought so hard for and I believe I begin to gain some understanding and I think that Dr King would be quite pleased. For you see, perhaps I am here based solely on the content of my character and nothing else.

I have long admired Dr King for many reasons but there is one reason that stands out above all the rest. As Dr King was a dreamer, I too am a dreamer and as a dreamer let me tell you how you honor a dreamer. many have worked tirelessly to see that Dr King’s dream was pursued and achieved and we have come a long way but we also have a long way to go. But the true way to honor the legacy of a dreamer is not to simply champion their dream the greatest way a dreamer can be honored is by their dreams and legacy inspiring others to dream as well.  I dream dreams.

 
I dream dreams of a time when the words responsibility, respect and honor regain the value they once held
I dream dreams of a time when People once again take ownership of their choices actions and words.
I dream dreams of men who become fathers and then become dads, not because they have to or because they have been forced too or because they have been guilted into it but because they know that they will be the most important person in that child’s life.
I dream dreams of Moms who stay home and don’t go out to the club even if it means missing out on things they want because their children need them and because they deserve them and they finally realize it is time to put away the childish fancies and be a mom
I dream dreams of parents who raise their children and don’t allow them to roam the streets at night where they gather in God knows where, with God knows who, doing God knows what hurting innocent people and ruining their lives and the lives of others
I dream dreams of communities that step up to the plate to help the hurting, the hopeless and the helpless among them and all the Republican and Democrats can stop arguing about who is going to pay for what because we beat them to it and already have it taken care of.
I dream dreams of our leaders no longer blaming and pointing fingers each other simply so they can posture for the next election but that they come together and work on what really matters
I dream dreams when our leaders can make a mistake and willingly accept the consequences of their actions regardless of what it may cost them so that they can rise up to be the example of accountability and responsibility the next generation so desperately needs to see 
I dream dreams of people that stand up for what is true and right regardless of who it offends because doing what is right is the only way to have true prosperity
I dream dreams of a people who don’t set their goals based on what they do or don’t have but rather on what God has called them to be and work hard pouring there blood sweat and tears sacrificing everything they have simply to achieve that goal.
I dream dreams. What are yours?
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I was on TV

I had a pretty cool last minute opportunity to go on the local news Saturday morning and talk about the Freedom Rally to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech. I had been invited to speak at the rally and the organizer, Traci Fant, (pictured with me) called and asked if I would go with her to the interview.

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I eagerly accepted primarily, not because I wanted to be on TV (because I didn’t), but because I wanted see the inside of a TV studio….seriously how many times do you get that chance. Here is the link to the interview

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Judging? Warning? Over the Line?

Have you ever had to scold a child to keep them from doing something dangerous?

I have…..

I have been that child…..

Have you ever lost your cool when scolding that child? I mean have you gone from a simple stop to a freak out moment? Something like “What the _____ were you thinking have you COMPLETELY LOST your MIND? GET AWAY FROM THAT!!

Yeah….  I have….

I have been that child…..

I had interesting thought today about Christians,  sin and what we are supposed to be doing about it when we see it occur in others lives.

Hmmm Parallels……

What is interesting in today’s culture is that no one likes to have there sin pointed out (Actually I think that can be said for every person in every culture in every part of the world for the entirety of time) and because of that we throw around this whole “Don’t Judge” thing which is fine to an extent but completely incomplete and out of context.

I actually don’t think that the problem is judgment but rather that we have a freak out problem.

Don’t get me wrong we have some judgmental people who go way over the line but I think there are more that just don’t know how to handle the shock of someone doing something that will harm their spiritual life and freak out. Drinking, Sex outside of the confines of Marriage, Drug Use, Homosexuality, Adultery, Divorce all these are harmful to the spiritual life but none are the end of the world. Every last one of those sins can be moved on from. The question we have to ask ourselves is how do we help the healing.

Yes. I yelled and freaked out when my daughter got close to the hot burner.

No I did not start digging a grave for her when she touched the hot burner and burned her hand.

We have to assess first of all whether or not the person we are dealing with is a Christian or not. Let’s face it touching a hot burner is not a big deal if you are engulfed in flames yourself.

If we are dealing with a Christian then we need to approach the conversation as a warning in love as we would warn a child. If they don’t listen and they get burned then we need to be prepared to give help needed. Unfortunately the realization that harm has been done is not nearly as fast as the burner analogy but you get the idea.

Turning from sin isn’t about changing who we are….

God didn’t ask for that…..

We can’t change our self…We have to give up our self….

We lose it all and replace it with who God is….

Sometimes that hurts….

Sometimes we don’t get to do what we want….

But we have one less scar.

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God’s Will

Here is a recap of the the series on God’s will that we have been doing

Week 1- Finding God’s Will- Ex 3

God’s Will is found in the ordinary

God’s Will calls to us

God’s Will is on His schedule

God will wait for us to respond to Him to reveal His will

God’s will is about Him not us


Week 2- 
Finding God’s- Will Ex 3

We must Know who God is to find His will

God’s is Compassionate

God Know’s our struggles

God is  self reliant. He does not depend on us nor anything else to exist

God Honors His promises

Week 3- God’s Will for Everyone

6 things God wants for everyone

1. To have a relationship with God

2. To fellowship with other believers (church)

3. To communicate with God (prayer)

4.To grow, not just closer to or in knowledge of God, but to grow to be more like God Himself

5.To study about God and His plan for this world (The Bible)

6. To make an Impact

 

Week 4- Big Dirty Mess- Mark 14:66-72

Following God’s Will is hard

Sometimes we will mess up

God’s Will is not cancelled by our mess ups

God’s Will is based  in forgiveness

God’s Will does great things with  broken people

 

Week 5- God’s Will Doesn’t Make sense

God’s Will Never Makes Sense- Judges 7-8

God’s will doesn’t call you to something you can do. He wants the glory for Himself not you

God’s Will is meant to make you uncomfortable

God’s Will will scare you

God’s Will will be accomplished.

We must be careful to point back to God when we succeed

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Love , Grace, Mercy, Hunter Hayes and One Direction.

My twins, Kelsey and Isaac,  just turned ten a couple of weeks ago. For about a year now Kelsey has slowly been falling more and more in love with the hit Brit pop group, One Direction. This means , of course, that daddy is also listening to a lot of One Direction. I personally believe that any parent should have the decency to be listening to what their kids are listening to so that they know the messages that their kids are being indoctrinated with.  This morning as we pulled into the school One Direction’s latest hit “Little Things” came on the radio and as usual Kelsey got that blushed look she usually gets when they come on the radio. I have heard the song before but I have never been one to really understand the lyrics of a song for the first few times I listen to it. Today though was the day that I caught on to what the song was really about.

If you haven’t heard the song youtube it. The essentials of the song are that all the girl’s insecurities and imperfections or “little things” add up to who that girl is and those insecurities and imperfections are accepted because the boy is in love with the girl. It is a beautiful concept and if I was a teenage girl I would probably swoon at the words of the song. But as I listened I was saddened, not because of the song but because of who the song was delivered by and who it was directed to and no I am not demonizing One Direction.

My point is that a group of boys is telling girls that they are loved just the way they are and girls are falling over themselves for that love.

Another song came on during my drive back home, “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes. Same point different artist.

You know who SHOULD be sending out this message?

1. The Church

2. Dads

You know who is NOT doing a good job sending out this message?

1. The Church

2. Dads

We are so good at saying we are concerned about the next generation but we are horrible at actually doing anything about it. Dads ignore their children and churches practice legalism. While church members are fighting about when committees should meet and color the new curtains should be the world is getting better at preaching love, grace and mercy than the church itself!

Maybe it is time that we realize little things really are important we just have to realize which ones.

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Translate Properly

For many years I have heard and read about reasons people give regarding why they leave a church. At the same time I have heard pastors and leaders respond in various ways. Sometimes they respond positively and seek to find ways to improve their church other times they play the blame game. So I want to look at some examples

Reason 1: I am not getting fed

This is a common reason. Too many times though leaders deflect and blame the person for not being mature enough to feed themselves or copping out or wanting to be spoon fed and have their egos stroked and their ears tickled. The outcome is a church that doesn’t change or seek to push their people. A proper translation would be more along the lines of  I do not feel challenged or grown or renewed spiritually by the teaching and preaching of the church” If we translate it this way we can begin to examine what we are teaching is it deep enough

Reason 2: The services are boring

Another common reason. A failed translation will say that this person is not dedicated to truly worshiping God because  they are too focused on themselves.  Perhaps instead what is being said is that “There is no excitement created for the things of God in our services and I see no transformation by God in our people as a result in our services”

Reason 3: I don’t like a certain staff member

This one is tricky because there could be a real issue there but too many times we are quick to point the finger at the staff member.  What happens in truth more times than we are willing to admit is that the person did not get their way and is not recognizing the God ordained leader for the  ministry. What is really being said is “I don’t want to go where the leader is taking me” or “I don’t want to submit to their spiritual authority” In either case it may be best they move on but the leader should pay attention and adjust his leadership style should this be brought up on a more consistent basis.

Translating properly with understanding gives us the opportunity for self reflection and adjustment. It is easy to play the blame game but if we don’t use the opportunities to grow that we are given the end result is death.


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