Saturday, July 23, 2016

Let's Just Get Along

A friend of mine was recently hanging out with his wife and daughters.  The girls (who are really good kids) were having one of those days where they just didn't get along.  They fussed and argued with each other like most kids do occasionally.  After a while of this, my friend had enough.  He looked at his girls and said, "OK, here's the deal.  You two are going to get along or you both will give me your cell phones right now!"  And of course they quickly said, "Yes sir, Daddy, we'll quit arguing!"  He got some mighty fast results with that threat didn't he?!  

My friend and I shared a good laugh over that story.  Every parent knows how that goes.  It comes with the territory.

The way my friend felt about his children is representative of how God feels about all of His children!  He just wants His sons and daughters to get along.  Our relationships with each other DO indeed matter to God.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  That's what Paul wrote in Romans 12:18.  And that's what we need to keep in mind when we interact with each other.

There's too much fussing, fighting, back-biting, snubbing, gossiping, and arguing in this world.  And it even can be found in some churches.  This is not what God wants. And this is not what we need.

Our world needs a healthy mixture of love and peace.  We need to care about each other, and we need to coexist harmoniously with one another.  This will make the world a better place, and this will bring a smile to God's face.  Kindness, patience, forgiveness, gentleness, and calmness will go a long way towards reaching this goal.  And God can help bring about these qualities in each of us.

My mom told my brothers and me something like this before.  She said that her main request of my brothers and me is for us to get along.  She wants us to have good relationships with each other.

That's what God, The Heavenly Father, desires from all of us.  And that's what makes life better.  Let's just get along.

Monday, July 18, 2016


I don't know who it was.

And I don't know what the circumstance were surrounding it.

But this is what I do know:

A deacon told me about a former church member years ago who disagreed with the church over a matter.  The disgruntled member voiced his frustration to the church leadership and wanted changes made.  When he realized he was not going to get what he wanted, the former member said this:  "Me and my money are leaving this church.  And this place will not make it without me!"  Then he walked out the church door and did not return.

As I reflect on that story, I am reminded of this important truth:  The church is not based on you or me.  None of us are the rock on which it stands. 

The church is founded, based, led, and owned by Jesus Christ.  HE is what the church is all about.  HE is The One who is vital to the well-being of the institution. 

We church people need to remember something:  None of us are irreplaceable.  I'm not.  And you're not.  Any of us could leave it today, and God's church would continue to march forward.  So let's not get too big for our britches and think we're more important than we really are.

I'm sure glad that Jesus is who holds the church together.  If it was dependent on any of us, it would sure be in trouble.  It would have flopped a long time ago.  But Jesus keeps it solid, focused, and vibrant.  Thanks to Him, the church is going nowhere but onward and upward!!

Let's always remember to give credit where credit is due:  The church is all about Jesus.  He, not us, is who makes everything work.  And He, not us, is the center of it all.

Oh, and by the way, here's the rest of the story I started at the beginning of this blog post.  The church is not just surviving.  It's thriving!  Great things are happening.  It's just further proof that the church does not depend on any one man or woman.  Far from it.  The church depends on Jesus!  And He will never let the church down.  Ever.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Divorced Deacons In The Church?

Some of you are not going to agree with me on this.  And that's perfectly ok.  There are plenty of good people on both sides of this issue.  Furthermore, we can have different opinions on this and still be good friends.  If you can, just give me a minute of your time, and hear me out before you react.  Maybe we can find some common ground here. 

I've heard it every year I've served as a pastor since 1993.  And, for the most part, I've kept quiet and not said much in response.  What am I talking about?  This:  "Pastor, we can not elect a divorced man as a deacon in the church because Paul wrote in 1Timothy 3:12 that deacons must be "husbands of one wife."

Let me just go ahead and say it:  I disagree with this idea.  Why?  Here's why...

Well, for starters, Paul did NOT even mention divorce in 1 Timothy 3:12.  If Paul wanted to forbid divorced men from being deacons, he would have written, "deacons must not be divorced."  But he didn't write that.  Nowhere in 1 Timothy 3:12 did Paul mention divorce.  Nowhere.  Go back and read it.  Divorce is not in that verse. 

Then what did Paul actually mean?  He meant what he said.  There's no need to complicate it.  He stated deacons must be "husbands of one wife."  That means a deacon should not be a polygamist or promiscuous.  In other words, he is a one woman kind of man.  He is faithful and loyal to his bride, and he doesn't have another woman or two in addition to her.  It is my firm belief that this is what Paul was writing about.

Listen, I get it.  If some ole fellow has been divorced several times because he's a scoundrel and not one bit sorry about it, then he shouldn't be a deacon.  I do see the point in a scenario like that.  He has some character issues that he needs to address with God's help before he can be a leader in God's church. 

But it must also be considered that plenty of people are divorced because of choices their spouse made.  Not everyone who is divorced actually wanted that to happen.  Also, some people who did cause their divorce by wrong actions have since been forgiven, made good changes, and live very differently now.  See my point?  Each divorce case is unique and complex.  Don't think you can size someone up just because they've been divorced.  There's usually WAY more to the story than you may see on the surface.

Furthermore, let us consider others who are not divorced, but they are lazy, dishonest, quick-tempered, secretly hooked on porn, racist, gluttonous, arrogant, dead-beat guys who make no positive contribution to the church in any way, shape, or form.  If you assign one of those "good ole boys" to the position of deacon just because he hasn't been divorced, then congratulations to you.  You've just hurt the church way more than you would have if you had picked a good man who just happened to experience a divorce earlier in his life.  Simply put, there are worse things in life than divorce.  Far worse!

There are other character qualities that we must look for in deacons.  Paul said that deacons should also be dignified, good leaders in their homes, proven over time, not greedy, and in control of their appetites.  And that's just part of the list.  Let's don't get so hung up on one part of the list ("husbands of one wife") that we overlook all the other items on the list, which can be read by clicking HERE

Nobody is perfect.  I'm not.  And neither are you.  And if we want to be too rigid, we churches will never find anyone who is qualified to lead in any capacity.  Nobody meets all of the standards to perfection.  But the good news is we do have a perfect God who uses imperfect people to do His life-changing work.  And I'm thankful for that.

Yes, character DOES matter when it comes to leadership.  It really does.  At the same time, let's also remember to be reasonable, full of grace, and understanding when it comes to dealing with people.  And let's not make the standard higher or tougher than God Himself set it in His Word.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Dilday Question

I was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas from 1993-1996.  While there I did receive a great education, and I'm thankful for it.  But also, while I was there, I saw politics in it's ugliest form.  Our president, Dr. Russell Dilday, was fired and tossed out in a most terrible way.  Needless to say, most of us were bothered by it.  That was a dark day.  And as I walked back from campus to my apartment that afternoon, another student ran up to me.  He asked, "Hey, what's going on at the school?"  "Well," I told him, "Dr. Dilday just got fired a couple of hours ago.  It's a pretty crazy scene right now, man."  Then, he asked me THE question...
Throwing his arms up in the air, he asked "Where is God in all this?"  Then he took off running.  I never saw that guy again.  Kid you not!  I never once saw him again.  He just ran down the road and that was it.  Gone.

I still think about that question.  "Where is God in all this?"  Maybe you've asked that same question before...

When your bank account is empty.
When your doctor says you have cancer.
When your spouse walks out on you.
When your kid rebels and goes off the deep end.
When you lose your job.
When your car breaks down.
When you lose your house.

"Where is God in all this?"

What I wanted to say to that guy in Fort Worth that day, but couldn't, is what I'll say to you: 

When life hurts the most,
and you feel that all hope is lost,
God is still right there with you and me. 
And He always will be.

Things happen in life.  People make wrong decisions.  Circumstances get painful.  It's at times like this that we must remember that God never promised He would give us a detour around painful experiences.  But He did assure us that He will walk by our side through those tough times.

David said it this way in Psalm 23:4 - "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."  David was saying to God, "Just as a shepherd accompanies and helps frightened, little sheep through scary moments, You accompany and help me." 

Where was God in the darkest valley?  Right there with David.
Where was God when Dilday got fired?  Right there with His children.
Where is God when you hurt and suffer?  Right there with you.

Remember what Jesus said at the end of the gospel of Matthew?  He uttered these words:  "I am with you always."  I really like that word: ALWAYS.  There is absolutely no end to the divine presence in the life of believers.  God sticks around when the sun is shining and when the sky turns gray.  Every night and every day, God is right there providing comfort, peace, strength, guidance, and hope for you and me.

So if you're feeling like that guy in Fort Worth, and wondering "Where is God in all this?", take comfort in knowing that He is right there with you.  And He's not going anywhere.  He's there to stay.  And you can always, ALWAYS, count on that.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Perry Noble Situation

I attended Anderson University from 1989-1991 before heading off to Furman.  While at Anderson, I met a guy named Perry Noble.  We weren't best friends, but I was around him several times.  After I left Anderson, I never saw Perry again.  But I followed him online while he started and served as the pastor of Newspring Church.  

Earlier today, it was announced that Perry's ministry has come to an end at Newspring.  Apparently he has abused alcohol, and that created further problems.  I don't know any more details, and that's ok with me.  It's none of my business, and I would rather not know.

But there are some things I do know....

Perry needs our prayers.  We should lift him up to the Lord and ask for His healing during this hurtful time.  Only God can fix this, and God is who we mostly need to talk with about it.

Perry is no worse than you and me.  We all are sinners.  We all do wrong.  Some people drink too much.  Some people gossip.  Some people have an affair.  Some people are full of pride.  While different people do different things, all people sin one way or another.  So none of us should look down on Perry.  I know I won't.  The way I see it, we all are sinners in need of God's forgiveness.

Perry needs friends who care about him.  While everyone faces consequences for doing wrong, everyone also needs someone to love them and stick with them.  A true friend will stay with those who fail and do wrong.  A true friend will say, "I still love you anyway."  Perry needs that, and so do we.

Perry needs help rather than condemnation.  I'm glad to see that he is already getting professional help with his struggles.  That's a smart move!  Whenever we see someone struggling, let's not kick them while they're down.  Let's not shoot our wounded.  Instead, let's make sure they get whatever help they need to get back onto their feet.  Let's help them get well and live again.

Finally, let me address Perry:  Perry, I know there is a chance you may never see this.  But I do wish you well.  And I love you as a brother in Christ.  Right now, you're hurting.  But my prayer is that God will comfort you, your wife, and your child.  And I'm sure you're probably beating yourself up a little bit too.  Believe me, I've been there.  I know what shame and regret feel like after failing morally.  But let me remind you of this:  God, who still loves you, is always willing to forgive you.  He can wipe away your sin and help you move forward.  I don't condemn you.  I don't look down on you.  And I don't judge you.  Not at all.  But I do wish God's very, very best for you.  I love a good comeback story!  And my desire is to see a good one in your life.  Hang in there man.  Look to Jesus. Love your wife and kid.  Remember that better days are ahead for you in Jesus!  P.S.  This experience does not define your whole life.  It's only one season.  So move on and do something great, with God's help, in the next chapter of your life's story.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday Night Rewind - 6/3/16

Life is good here in The Gamecock City!  I hope all is well for you and yours.  Here's a rewind of what's been happening around here lately...
*  This morning, I finished preaching a four week series on the book of Ruth in the Old Testament. 
*  We walked through most of the story (only leaving out a couple of small details here and there) the past month.  It's an interesting story in and of itself.  But we also looked at what it means to us today. 
*  It seems to me Ruth's story is one of losing about everything and seeing God's work of restoration take place.
*  I enjoyed preaching through it, and I hope it was a blessing to our church family.
*  This afternoon, we had a cookout here at the church.  Burgers and hotdogs were fixed on the grill, and everyone had plenty to eat.  It was a delicious meal!
*  I sure do love pastoring this church.  They mean the world to me, and I'm happy to be a part of them. 
*  Good ole Dad even got into the spirit of things today by fixing a banana pudding for the cookout. 
 *  Way to go, Dad.  I didn't know you had it in you to do that!
*  Vacation Bible School is coming up here at the church July 24-28.  Our theme this year is "Submerged".
 *  One thing I can tell you is this:  These people here at New Calvary Baptist go absolutely NUTS and decorate more for VBS than any church I've even been a part of or seen.  It's amazing.  (Take a look for yourself at what they did last year by clicking HERE.)  And they really do a good job of ministering to kids.  So I'm already getting excited about it for this year, because I know our folks will be praying hard, working hard, and swinging for the fence.
*  That's it for tonight.  Life is going well, and I'm a thankful man.  Very, very thankful!! 
*  New blog posts will be put up on the blog this week.  I hope you get something good out of them.
*  God bless you and yours!