Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Gifts Pt. 3 Myrrh

And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume Breathes a life of gathering gloom; Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, Sealed in the stone cold tomb. *

The last two columns I wrote, just before Christmas, dealt with the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus and what we could similarly bring to God as our Christmas gifts. I purposely covered gold and frankincense before Christmas, so that the gift of myrrh could be considered after Christmas was over.

Gold symbolized Jesus’ royalty and frankincense symbolized His priesthood. Myrrh, however, symbolized something that we don’t like to think of at Christmas. Myrrh called to mind the death of Christ for our sins. Few people ever look at a baby or young child and think about their death, but that is exactly what the myrrh represented when the magi gave it to Jesus.

Myrrh is a dried sap that is extracted from certain trees, native to the area around Israel. It was used two ways in ancient society. It could either be burned as incense, or used as an embalming ointment. As incense, it was often used in funerals to mask the inevitable smell from the dead body. It is also mentioned in the Old Testament as an ingredient in holy anointing oils and perfumes.

In addition to being one of the gifts recorded as being given by the wise men, myrrh is mentioned twice more in the New Testament. The first occurrence is in Mark 15:22-23 when Jesus was crucified. And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. The next mention of myrrh is in John 19:39-40 when Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

What could we possibly bring to God as a gift that would be similar to myrrh? We should give our life for Him. Yes, we need to die for Him. No, I do not mean that we should kill ourselves. I mean that we need to die to our former lives and our former sinfulness. Paul says in Romans 6:6-9, Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
The thing that God most wants from us…is us! He wants all of us. He wants every part of our lives. He wants our body, our spirit, our mind, and soul. In order to give this to Him, we must put aside all of our wants and desires. We must understand and believe that they died on the cross with Christ. They were buried with Him in the tomb. However, Just as Paul says in the Romans passage above, we are raised with Him victoriously.

The paradox here is, that if we give God all of who we are and will ever be, then He will give us a new life that is far greater than we could imagine. This includes life here on earth and eternal life with Him in heaven.

We have much to celebrate! Christ is no longer a baby in a manger. He is no longer a simple man raised by a carpenter. He is no longer on the cross or in the tomb. He is risen and lives in us to bring us light in our darkness, and joy to our lives!

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2)

Glorious now behold Him arise; King and God and sacrifice; Alleluia, Alleluia, sounds through the earth and skies. (*We Three Kings. Words and Music by John H. Hopkins 1857)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Gifts Pt 2. Frankincense

And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

Frankincense to offer have I; Incense owns a Deity nigh; Prayer and praising, voices raising, Worshipping God on high. (We Three Kings. Words and Music by John H. Hopkins 1857)

Twenty years ago or more, a preschool-aged member of my family was practicing for a Christmas pageant. He was not only singing with the group, but also had some lines in the play. His only line was, “The wise men brought gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

I was feeling pretty mischievous, so I thought I’d have some fun at the expense of a 6-year old. I told him I would rehearse with him. As he recited his lines to me I said, “No, it wasn’t frankincense, it’s ‘Frankenstein’.” I really didn’t think much more about it until I found out later that he really did go to the pageant and say that the wise men brought gifts of gold, Frankenstein and myrrh. I doubled over in laughter.

The problem was that he knew that Frankenstein was a monster with bolts coming out of his neck, but he had no idea what frankincense was. In fact, isn’t that the problem with most of us? We have heard this story many times since we were children, but most have no idea what these mysterious gifts were that the wise men brought.

Last week we discussed gold. We all know what that is. This week we will explore that second gift of Frankenstein…I mean frankincense.

Frankincense is a resin that is derived from the boswellia tree that is in the dry regions of north-east Africa and south of the Arabian Peninsula. The tree tolerates the most critical situations and is often on rocky slopes and ravines. This resin has long been used as aromatic incense, most often in worship.

The Hebrews used it in the temple and in the tabernacle before it. It was one of the ingredients in the altar incense. And the LORD said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. 35 You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. (Exodus 30:34-36) It is also mentioned in the book of Leviticus, Numbers, Nehemiah, Song of Solomon, and Jeremiah in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, it is only mentioned twice. Once, as a gift that the wise men brought, and another in Revelation as an item that merchants sell. This gift has significance just as gold did.

Since the gift of gold signified Christ’s royalty, the gift of frankincense symbolizes Christ’s priesthood. He is our King and our Priest. He rules over us, but to Him we bring all of our worship, praise, burdens, confessions, and sins. Where once the Hebrews had to go to a priest to communicate with the Father, now we have our perfect salvation in Jesus. We no longer need a priest to gain access to God. Jesus is our High Priest. We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.(Hebrews 8:1-2)

This is all great information, but what do we do with it today? Last week, we talked about how we should give God our material things this Christmas, but what can we give to our High Priest?

To Jesus, our High Priest, we offer…

Our confession. Romans 10:9 if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

Our sins. Romans 6:18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness

Our selves. Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship

Give these gifts to God this Christmas, and release yourself from the guilt and shame of disobedience. He came to set us free from the chains of sin. He became our High Priest so we can go directly to Him with our praises and petitions. Go to the altar of your heart today.

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our bless├Ęd Redeemer! Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring! Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever. Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King! (Fanny Crosby 1869)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Gifts Part 1: Gold

Christmas is here! One Christmas song says that “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” It is certainly an exciting and busy time of the year. Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Have you even started?
It seems that finding the perfect gift for our friends and family seems to be an obsession at times. However, this Christmas, I have heard of many who are cutting back a bit due to a tough financial year. Whether you are staying with a budget or going all out for presents, please try to remember in all of this business, the reason we give.

The giving began with the gift of Jesus. God became one of us, so we could be forgiven of our sinfulness, and have a closer relationship with Him. That gift could never be matched by us. We simply do not have the ability to give that sacrificially. However, if we look to the first human gifts, given to celebrate the birth of Christ, then we may be able to begin thinking about what we can bring to God at Christmas.

Chapter 2 of Matthew tells us the story of the wise men who came to bring gifts to the newborn King. 
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-2, 11) 

These gifts were grand presents for the new King. However, they had spiritual and symbolic meaning as well. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we will examine each gift and discuss what they might teach us about the things we can bring to Christ this Christmas.

Gold is a wonderful precious metal. It is very expensive in today’s world and was equally so in the time of Jesus. Gold was not something that was necessarily brought to a newborn baby. However, scripture tells us not only that the wise men brought this gift of gold, but also that it was a fulfillment of prophecy. The multitude of camels shall cover your land, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall proclaim the praises of the LORD. (Isaiah 60:6) In other words, this gift of gold represented Jesus’ kingship. This was a gift traditionally given to royalty. The Magi, were well aware that they were giving this gift to a newborn King.

Gold also represents wealth and material goods. Perhaps the message of this gift from the wise men to Christ, is that we should also give Him our material goods. Jesus spoke many times in His ministry about the evils of loving money more than God.

Jesus told one young man who asked Him about how to acquire eternal life, to keep the commandments. When the young man replied that he had done so all of his life, Jesus pushed a little further, “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21-22)
It is imperative that we be willing to give up all the possessions that we have if it means gaining Christ. Most of the time, we are not asked to do such, but we must be willing, if we are truly to be followers of Jesus.

What possessions do you need to surrender to Jesus this Christmas? If you look at what takes up most of your time, energy and money, you will find the answer. Are you willing to present it to Christ, just as the Magi laid their gift of gold at His feet? He gave His all for us. Pray and ask God for the strength and wisdom to give all that you have to Him.

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:34-36 NKJV)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts 2009

Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore! Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth. (1 Chronicles 16:7-12)

By the time you read this, you will either be getting ready for Thanksgiving, or getting over it. My prayer for you is that you remember the many blessings that God has given you in the past year. Those who know Jesus Christ have more to be thankful for than any, because regardless of our circumstances, we know we have a Heavenly Father who loves us.

As so many of you have heard me say before, Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday. There are no presents to give or receive, family and friends is the most important element, and most of all, it is deliberately designed to give thanks to God for His goodness.

Just as with all the other holidays, Thanksgiving has been commercialized with more focus on turkeys, football, and going through store ads in anticipation of after Thanksgiving sales, than on truly being grateful for God’s goodness. Some even view the traditional family gathering as a hassle and interruption to routine and schedules. Johnny Carson once said, “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.”

The reality of the holiday is that it really doesn’t matter if you sit down to a great feast or have many family members and friends to celebrate with. For many people, Thanksgiving can be meaningful by truly being grateful for the ham sandwich that you are eating alone. In fact, Thanksgiving should be something we celebrate each day as we spend time with God.

As I have taken time to ponder God’s blessings to my family this year, I came upon some questions I put forth in a column from several years ago. I thought it would be a good idea to remind everyone, including myself, of these questions to help us all get a great picture of how God has moved in our lives in the past year.

  • What were the major events that took place in your family this year?
    • Thank God for the milestones that bring us out of routine days.
  • Did your family grow in number, through weddings or births?
    • Express your gratitude to our Heavenly Father for new additions and pray for guidance in being a role model for them in your Christian walk.
  • Did you experience the loss of a loved one?
    • If not, give thanks to God for allowing you another year to be together. Don’t miss the opportunity to tell them how much you love and appreciate them.
    • If so, thank God for the time you had together, the memories of times you shared, and the promise of a great day when you will all be together forever.
  • Did your family experience hard times?
    • If so, consider what you learned from each situation and thank God for His instruction and guidance.
  • Who are the members of your family?
    • Name one quality that you’re thankful for in each person.

If you will take the time to answer these questions, it may change the way you view your blessings and give you a structured way to truly give thanks to God in whatever your circumstances are.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:11-13, 19-20 NIV)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I love watching the weather. I enjoy sitting on my front porch during a storm. I would watch The Weather Channel for hours if my family would let me.

In all of this weather watching, I have become a pretty good weather predictor. If there is a chance of snow, call me and I’ll tell you if we will get it here. I know that if the snow is coming from the west, we won’t see any. If it is coming from the southwest, up through Atlanta; get ready for long lines for bread and milk.

I get a kick out of weather predictions on the news. Today in Edgefield, the weather forecast is a high temperature of 68 degrees, with a 40% chance of rain tonight. I can understand how they can predict the temperature, but how do they decide that there is a 40% chance of rain.

In my estimation, there is always a 50/50 chance that it will rain. Think about that for a minute. On any given day, either it will rain or it won’t. That’s a perpetual 50% chance of rain.

I was making another 50/50 observation during the Clemson football game against Florida State last week. Clemson’s kicker missed several extra-point kicks and two field goals during that game. I remarked to a friend that the kicker has the hardest job on the team. I said, “Unlike the offense, the kicker always has no better than a 50/50 chance of scoring. They only have once chance per attempt. If they make it, they are a hero. If they don’t, they’re a goat.” Just like rainfall, either they’ll make it or they won’t. There is no second chance.

I heard Mike Glenn, who is pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church in Nashville, TN, (and a former pastor at EFBC), speak at Anderson University a couple of weeks ago. He was preaching to the student body during chapel. One of the things he said was that life on earth is like studying for a final exam in a pass/fail course. You will either pass the final exam, or you won’t. There is no second chance.

The great thing about this final exam is that we have been given the answer. I said answer in the singular, because there is only one question. At the end of this life, God will administer the test. He will ask us if we knew, trusted, and believed in Jesus Christ. If indeed we did, then we pass. If we have not, then we fail. Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)

What a tragedy to fail a class where all of the actual questions and correct answers are given ahead of time. You have been made aware through the scriptures you have read, the Sunday School lessons you have attended, and the preaching you have heard.

This is our study time for that final exam. It is a pass/fail exam. You have a 50/50 chance of passing. You either have the correct answer in your heart, because you have truly accepted Jesus into your life, or you have rejected the calling of the Holy Spirit and thus, you fail the test. There is no middle ground. There is no riding the fence. You are either for God, or against Him.

I don’t really have any idea if it will rain or not. I have no way to predict if the football will leave the kicker’s foot and make it through the goalposts. Those are true 50/50 chances. I do know, however, that if you have given your life to Christ, you have a 100% chance of passing God’s final exam.

My prayer is that you have already passed that exam in your heart. If you haven’t or are not sure, please find a Christian friend and talk with them about it. Also, I and any of the EFBC staff will be happy to speak with you about how you can know for sure where you will spend eternity.

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matthew 7:13-14, 21-13 NIV)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dr. Frank Page elected VP of Evangelism

Click title above to read full story.
I think this is a wonderful step for NAMB. May God bless the efforts of the new team.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Casting Vision: Worship Part 1

Last week, I wrote, “In the coming weeks, I will outline for you what I believe some of the strengths, challenges and future Kingdom work this church can undertake… I will cover different aspects of our church in the coming weeks: worship, Sunday school, missions groups, EFBC ministries, youth and children, and church membership, among others.”

My intention is twofold. I hope to praise the aspects of our church where we excel, and encourage growth in those places where we do not. I also hope to communicate the vision that I believe God is giving us for those areas. I have chosen to do this in the order by which a newcomer to our church might encounter these areas of our church. We will begin by looking at our Sunday morning worship service, which is where most people first experience Edgefield First Baptist.

This is such an important subject, that it will require two weeks to cover it. This week, we will talk about the attitude of worship. This concerns the condition in which we bring ourselves to the house of God, to worship Him. The attitude that we have on Saturday night and Sunday morning have much to do with the offering we bring to church. Next week, we will examine the actual worship service, but we must first make sure our hearts are prepared to truly worship the God of Heaven.

I grew up in a Pentecostal church setting. The worship was lively. The music was sung with passion. Many instruments were used. It was very common for people to say, after a particularly stirring service, “The Holy Spirit really moved in church today. The preacher didn’t even get to preach!” There was no order of worship in a bulletin. There was an unwritten order that we usually followed, but in many services this “order” was interrupted.

I truly felt moved by the Holy Spirit in those services, but the feeling didn’t last long. Afterwards, I struggled to remember anything I had learned from being there. Many times, I was left with only the memory of what song was being played when I felt the goosebumps.

Why was this? I think it is because we were coming to worship with the wrong attitude. I remember saying things like, “I can’t wait to get to church. I really need to get my batteries charged.” Or “I need to get fed.” These kinds of statements make worship about us and what we hope to receive from God. We actually need to come to worship with the attitude of “What can I bring God today?”
Worship is not about coming to God’s holy “feeding trough” so we can make it until the next meal. It’s about offering all that we have to Him. Indeed, God does fill us when we worship Him, but that should be seen as an honor that is bestowed unexpectedly, not a purpose to be desired.
If we, as a church, are to understand God’s plan for worship in our church, we must begin to worship Him unselfishly. We are to come to His sanctuary with a repentant heart, bringing all of who we are and what we have, to Him, as an offering. When we come to God with the correct attitude, stand before Him, and lift our praises to Him, then we can say we have truly worshipped.

Magnificent, Holy, Father,
I stand in awe of all I see.
Of all the things You have created,
still You choose to think of me.

Who am I that You should suffer,
Your very life to set me free.
The only thing that I can give You,
is the life You gave to me.

This is my offering, dear Lord.
This is my offering to You, God.
I will give You my life,
for it’s all I have to give.
Because You gave Your life for me.

I stand before You at this altar.
So many have given You more.
I may not have much I can offer.
Yet what I have is truly Yours.
(Offering Performed by Third Day. Songwriters: Anderson, Carr, Powell, Avery, Lee)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.                   (Romans 12:1 NIV)

Casting Vision

For the past number of weeks we have taken a look at our church’s vision statement and “Key Characteristics” as they are outlined in our church constitution. This discussion has covered a wide range of topics, and I hope they have at least made you think a little about what we do well, what we need to improve, and where God is leading us as a church family.
In the first installment of this series, I wrote;
The prophet Zechariah had a vision of a man with a measuring line in his hand, who was going to measure Jerusalem. When Zechariah asked about this, God told another angel to give him the message, “Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the LORD, 'and I will be its glory within.” (Zechariah 2:4-5)… If we truly want Edgefield First Baptist to be all that God wants it to be, then it is time to stop playing church and going through the motions, and fix our eyes, ears, hearts and minds on Him and Him alone. Then, and only then, will we be a church “without walls” with God as our center and protector as Zechariah describes.
Are we ready to be a “church without walls?” Dr. Frank Page challenged us in our Sunday morning revival service, to be useful Christians and a useful church. He also said, “Sometimes, one of the greatest hindrances to a church’s future is a glorious past.” In order to be useful, we cannot rely on what we have done before, but what we are doing now and in the future to grow the Kingdom for Christ.

A member of our church sent an e-mail to me after the first installment of this series ran. In that column, I made the insinuation that interpreting God’s vision for our church is up to the church body. This person indicated that I should share what I perceive God’s vision for this church to be since I am the pastor. The church member writes, “I would like to know exactly what vision you have for us. Yes, we are a congregational church, but whatever God has laid on your heart is important to us all. Tell me/us what future you see for EFBC.”

In the coming weeks, I will outline for you what I believe some of the strengths, challenges and future Kingdom work this church can undertake. Not all of it can be done and implemented right away. Not all of it will appeal to everyone. Not all of it will be easy. However, I have spent much time in prayer, thought, and discussion on all of these topics for the past several years. Only now do I believe the time is right for us to look hard at what we do, what we need to do better, and where God is leading us.

I will cover different aspects of our church in the coming weeks: worship, Sunday School, missions groups, EFBC ministries, youth and children, and church membership, among others. These writings are not criticisms of how we do things now, but a glimpse into what we can be in the future.

Be in prayer about all the areas of our church. If you are involved in certain ministries here, devote more time in prayer for that area. Ask God for guidance and wisdom in whatever you do. If you are not involved in ministry areas of our church, pray about where God can use you and take the leap of faith needed to respond to God as He leads. Remember, there is no age limit and no retirement plan in God’s Kingdom. If you are able to read this or are able to hear it read to you, you are useful to Him!

My prayer is that as we move through this time of seeking God, your Christian walk will be strengthened and you will find God’s purpose in your life. However, also remember that God’s purpose for you is never “just for you.” God intends for you to use what He enables you to do, to influence others for Him.
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NJKV)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Empowerment and Commitment

This week’s column is the last of our church’s “key characteristics”, as outlined in our church constitution. So far, we have covered our vision statement, and the characteristics of faith, family, growth, caring, and equality. This week we will discuss “empowerment and commitment.” Our constitution reads;

Empowerment and Commitment: Like our very salvation, our service for Christ is possible only because we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Yet, by grace, God has made us partners with the Spirit in sharing the gospel and building the kingdom. Therefore, we are a committed people. We commit ourselves to the faithful stewardship of our church, our time, our resources, our spiritual gifts-in short, everything we have-so that we might serve Christ faithfully.

In the business world, empowerment was a “buzz word” that gained popularity in the 1980’s. Many companies found that they were much more efficient and customer friendly, when they gave some decision-making authority to lower level employees. This made the employees feel more important, and speeded up customer service issues. Many successful companies have built their entire businesses on this concept.

In Christian life, we have ultimate empowerment. We are given the power to do as we please. Paul speaks repeatedly of “freedom in Christ.” However, we also have an obligation to God and to others, who we influence, to refrain from those things that harm our ability to influence for good. As one of my seminary professors said, “The shark is the most feared predator of the sea. He is free to do as he pleases. However, if you take him out of the water, he’s just a dead shark.”

When we are “in Christ”, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do His will. When we are living outside the will of God, we are just dead, like a beached shark. Empowerment only comes from the Holy Spirit to us and we must use it to further God’s kingdom. The wonderful thing to know is that the same power that created the universe, gives us power to do His will.

The second part of this characteristic is commitment. I received an e-mail from Verizon Wireless last week. They informed me that I am now qualified for a new phone, since I have had this one for two years. For those of you who are not Verizon customers, they have a program called, “New Every Two”. Every two years, you can upgrade your phone. Many of the upgrades are free.

That’s a great program, except for the fact that I don’t need a new phone. Mine is working quite well. However, I found myself looking at the great new phones I can get for free!

There are many aspects of life where we have given up on commitment. Serving Christ shouldn’t be one of them. Our church constitution mentions that we should commit our time, resources, spiritual gifts and talents, and everything else to the work of the church. Not only should we do those things, we should do them tirelessly, with a loving and serving attitude.

Commitment is never easy. Nine-time World Champion rodeo cowboy, Ty Murray once said, “Commitment isn’t the time you spend, it’s a line you cross. It’s the difference between sitting on an angry bull, and having your hand roped to his back.” In the book, No Fear: Don’t Let Your Fears Stand in the Way of Your Dreams, Rick Bolton writes, “It’s the look in the cowboy’s eyes as he nods his approval for the gate to swing open. That’s when we first sense the line he crosses between the relative safety of the chute and the uncertainty of the arena. We still can’t see it, but that line exists. It is the point of no return.”

Are you that committed to Christ? Have you been to the place where you are fixed on serving Him, no matter what? Make the commitment to live for Him unconditionally. Only then, will you find the true joy of salvation and fellowship with our Creator.

Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:14-15 NIV)


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Equality and Inclusivity

In 1980, Hank Williams Jr. recorded a song titled, The American Way. The song speaks to the prejudice against southerners, and those who do not appear to have money, throughout America. A line from the song says, I've noticed I don't get much help when they see my blue jeans. Some slick with a suit walks up, ‘Oh, can I help you please’. Yes I'm learning, as I gain a little age. About the power of the dollar, and the people with white collars and the good old American way.

Are you prejudice? Most of us in this 21st century would answer that question in the negative. Most of us do not believe that we are prejudice at all. We believe that we hold all human beings in the same equal status. That is what we say. However, our actions betray our verbal statements sometimes.

The more appropriate question is, “What are you prejudice against?” We all have prejudices. Prejudice is defined by a preconceived, unfavorable opinion. The fact that the opinion is formed without proper knowledge or experience, is the key to understanding prejudice versus ordinary dislikes.

Some prejudices are very petty and go unnoticed most of the time. I don’t like martial arts movies. I have never watched one, but they don’t seem very entertaining to me. This is a good example of a prejudice. I have no reason to not like them, but I don’t like them anyway. On the other hand, I also do not like cantaloupe. I don’t like the way it smells or tastes. My wife and family love them, but I don’t. Why don’t I like them? I have tried them and have realized that I do not enjoy eating cantaloupe. This is a dislike, not a prejudice.

As we are working through our church’s “Key Characteristics”, we find the following characteristic in our church constitution:
Equality and Inclusivity: While every child of God is unique, we have a common bond which transcends our differences: We are all persons created in the image of God and persons for whom Christ died. Therefore, our church is inclusive of all people, regardless of background, age, race, gender, or social status. Furthermore, opportunities for growth and service are open to all people and are qualified only by how each individual has been gifted and called by God. Our equality and inclusivity are mandated by the Gospel and stressed by the emphasis in our Baptist heritage on the priesthood of believers and the autonomy of the local church.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that 11:00 o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. The trouble with that statement is that it was made over 40 years ago, and it is still true. However, it is not only true of racial differences, but many others as well.

Did you know that many people see Edgefield First Baptist as a snooty church? They do. I know that the statement is not true. However, I have talked with more than one person, who I invited to worship with us, who said they couldn’t because they didn’t have a suit. One of those people was actually honest with me, and said that we were a “snooty” church.

Why did they feel that way? Perhaps we have inadvertently sent out signals that we want everyone to act like us. If someone shows up with a suit or nice dress on, we don’t think anything about it. They are like us. However, if someone came into our church on Sunday morning with leather pants, tattoos, multiple piercings, and unkempt hair, what would happen? Would the Sunday dinner conversation be about the music or the message, or would it be about how that person in leather came into “God’s house” with no respect? That, my friends, is also a prejudice.

What do we do about it? Is there some magic potion to make us love and appreciate everyone? No. We have to see them through the eyes of Jesus. We have to let Christ be so much in charge of our lives that we are able to see the whole person, rather than just the exterior. Pray to God and ask Him to give you eyes that see what He sees in people, and how to reach them with Jesus’ message of hope and life.

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 7-8 NIV)


When you care enough to send the very best…
Hallmark Cards ad slogan
Hallmark is the largest greeting card company in the world. It has grown from Mr. J. C. Hall selling picture postcards out of two shoeboxes in 1910, to a $4.3 billion company today. They have now branched out into their famous Christmas ornaments, a cable television channel, gifts, and party supplies, among other products.

Some years ago, they ran a series of television ads that showed people who had received a greeting card. The first thing they do, on the commercial, is check the back to see if there is a Hallmark gold seal on the envelope flap. The voice-over then says, “Hallmark, when you care enough to send the very best.”

Yes, Hallmark managed to create a huge, nationwide, guilt-trip. We all felt inferior if we gave someone anything but a Hallmark card. In turn, the recipient possibly felt a little slighted if they realized they weren’t good enough to get a Hallmark card. I'd say it was a very successful ad campaign.

Part of Hallmark’s “Belief and Values” statement reads, We value and are committed to: Excellence in all we do. High standards of ethics and integrity. Caring and responsible citizenship for Kansas City [Company headquarters is located in Kansas City] and each community in which we operate.

Notice how much Hallmark refers to the word “care”. Caring is a major part of this company. If you visit their website, you’ll find that they talk about how much they “care” about their employees, how the employees “care” about their work, and how the local store owners “care” about the community where they operate. This “caring” even managed to come out in the way they believe customers perceive them. Customers only give Hallmark cards to the people they really “care” about.

The “Key Characteristic” of our church that we are discussing this week is, “Caring”. Our statement reads as follows.
Caring: Some treasures are too valuable to keep to one’s self. Chief among these is the love of God. As we have first received God’s love, so we love those around us. Our love means that we have warm fellowship within the family and that we constantly communicate to those who do not yet belong that we have a place in the family for them. Finally, it means that we imitate Jesus in seeking to meet the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of others.

Caring about someone means that we are concerned for their well being. We can almost substitute the word “love” for “care” in many cases. If we care about someone, we truly are going to see that they get the best from us. If the best from us is a certain kind of greeting card, or the best part of our time and energy, that is what we want to give.

Why is it that we have such a problem then, giving them the best thing they will ever know? Why do we have a hard time giving them Christ? If responding to Christ when He calls to us, is the greatest thing in our lives, then why aren’t we sharing that with everyone?

This church is very good about doing things for others. If there is a legitimate need in our church or in our community, there is usually someone who is willing to help. We have no problem rolling up our sleeves and getting messy, if need be. However, we sometimes have difficulty asking others if they know Jesus Christ, and then sharing Him with those who do not.

If we truly care, then we will share the very best with those around us. If we truly care, we will make every effort to tell the people that we are around each day how much God loves them. In John 10:11-13 Jesus says, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Do you truly have a heart for others like Jesus, or are you just a “hired hand” who does a “job” but runs away at the first sign of trouble? Who have you “cared about” this week? I challenge you to share the message of Jesus Christ with two people this week, then share that story with your Sunday School class on Sunday. They would love to hear about it!


Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories. Unless you have lived under a rock most of your life, you are probably familiar with the story. Peter Pan is a character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. He is a mischievous boy who can fly and who refuses to grow up. Peter spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of The Lost Boys, interacting with mermaids, Indians, fairies and pirates, and from time to time meeting ordinary children from the world outside.

Sometimes Christians, and as a result, churches, are a lot like Peter Pan. We like things the way they are. We enjoy the status quo. We like our lives just as they are. We enjoy some adventure, but it seems to be the adventure that we create, and thus is never really dangerous or risky.

In the movie Hook, starring Robin Williams as Peter and Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook, we find that peter has fallen in love with his friend Wendy’s granddaughter Moira. This causes him to decide to grow up so he could get married and be a father. It seems that having the same adventures with pirates, mermaids, and fairies, had created dissatisfaction with Peter once he found true love.

We are continuing to examine the “Key Characteristics” of our church, as outlined in our constitution. This week, we come to the issue of growth. The entry in our constitution reads:
Growth: Families foster both numerical and individual growth. Among other things, new births and succeeding generations ensure the continuation of the family. This is one reason we share the gospel. But we also share the gospel so that individuals can grow into the persons God wants them to be. Moreover, while salvation is instantaneous, growth spans a lifetime. For this reason, we provide regular opportunities for people to continue to grow in the knowledge of God and commitment to Jesus Christ.

I think this “characteristic” has a great deal to say to us. It reminds me of the old saying, “There are two ways to get to the top of a tree. You can climb it or you can plant an acorn and sit on it for a few years.” Unfortunately there are many Christians who would much rather sit and wait on growth, (both numerical and spiritual) than to work toward it.

The characteristic above has a good grip on the ways we foster growth in our churches. We have to both provide for the numerical and spiritual growth of the children coming into our church, as well as reaching others outside our church who are either not Christian or who do not have a church home.

I also think it is accurate in that the numerical and spiritual growth begins with the family. We have emphasized family worship and spiritual growth in families in the last few weeks. I have talked about it from the pulpit, I have devoted time in this column to it, Pastor Greg has developed a tool to make family worship at home easier, and he has also preached about it two Sundays ago.

I am of the belief that numerical growth in a church will always be superficial and temporary, unless the spiritual growth and commitment to Christ comes first. Peter Pan had no desire to “grow up” until he found his true love in Moira. Unless we find our true love and all that we need in Jesus Christ, we are doing nothing more than Peter was doing in Neverland.
There is more to life than the simple routine that we are in. Jesus wants to take us on so many adventures. We just have to give everything up for Him.

There's more to this life, than livin' and dyin', more than just tryin' to make it through the day. More to this life, more than these eyes alone can see, and there's more than this life alone can be. (Phil Naish, Steven C Chapman 1989)

We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:14-16 NKJV)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I am continuing with my analysis of the “Key Characteristics” of our church as defined by our church constitution. We have already covered the first characteristic, which is “Faith”. Today, we will consider “Family”. The church constitution reads as follows.

Family: To be family is to have a common origin. We have been created by the Loving God, in His image. To be family is to seek the common good. Our caring is not only for ourselves, but also for the rest of the family. To be family is to foster growth. In the family of faith, this growth includes bringing others into the family and helping all the members of the family to reach maturity in Christ.

I believe that the future of the church, as an institution, will be determined by how strong the families are within the body of Christ. Spiritually strengthening families instead of only focusing on individuals, will have a greater impact on the work of contributing to God's Kingdom, than simply opening our doors and sending forth an evangelistic message.

Until Moses wrote down the history of the world leading up to his day, the history and traditions of the Hebrew people were passed down orally. Stories were told about how God had delivered them during times of need. Visual aids were introduced to make sure the children knew of those traditions as well.

One of the most common examples of this was the Passover. As you know, Passover was the celebration that commemorated the night the Angel of Death “passed over” all of those who had placed blood over their doors in Egypt. It was because of that night, that Pharaoh finally let the Hebrew slaves go free. The Passover celebration involves certain foods that are symbolic of slavery, and the wandering in the desert.
The symbolism of the food is just one of the ways the Jews passed the story down.

There were also four questions that are traditionally asked during the family Passover meal. They are actually a series of questions, that answer one main question, that is asked by the children in a family, which is, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The answers tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, which educates all generations about the goodness and providence of God. (You can read all of the questions and answers here)

What are we doing at EFBC to foster spiritual growth in our families? Lately, we are doing a great deal. Our Associate Pastor of Worship has developed a Family Worship Guide. This is more than a devotional. It is a guide to lead families to the throne of God in their homes. For most of Christian and Jewish history, this is where spiritual education was nurtured. It has only been in the last few centuries that we have shifted the responsibility of teaching our children about Christ to the church.

I believe God is calling us back to family worship and Greg has done a wonderful job of leading us in that direction. My family has been using his guide and we find it to be extremely easy to work with, and have seen our children respond to it well. As parents, we have also enjoyed the opportunity to worship together as a family. I highly recommend this guide to every family that wants to see spiritual growth occur in their homes. You can obtain a copy for your family in our church office, or you may access a guide online here.

As important as our individual families are, we are also a church family. As such, we need to foster spiritual growth in our church as well. We provide many opportunities through the week to plug-in and participate in areas that can assist in your Christian life. There are Bible studies, Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and many other activities that will help you mature in Christ. There are also a number of opportunities for discipleship that are coming in the near future.

I believe God is moving in our church body, and is beginning a great revival before our very eyes. I also believe that God is beginning that harvest in the field of family life in our church. God wants you to be an active participant in this movement in any way you can. Be obedient to Him in whatever He is calling you to do. Keep praying for our church family and all of the families within this body of Christ.
I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood. Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod. For I’m part of the family, the family of God. (William J. Gaither © 1970)
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NKJV)

Monday, August 24, 2009


Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don't you see? It's not just Kris that's on trial, it's everything he stands for. It's kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.

These words are a quote from Miracle on 34th Street. They are spoken by the character Doris Walker, played by the very talented Maureen O’Hara in the 1947 version of the film. Maureen’s character is a “no-nonsense” special events director, employed by Macy’s department store. She recruits a man named Kris Kringle to fill in during the Thanksgiving day Parade, since the previous Santa was not able to fulfill his duties at the last minute.

Despite Kris’ insistence that he was the real Santa, Doris was just too cynical to believe. It took a short jail term and a trial for her to finally believe in him. The quote above shows the radical turn she took when she allowed herself to truly believe in Kris.

Last week we analyzed our church vision statement to see how we measure up to what it says. This week we will begin taking a hard look at our church’s “Key Characteristics” to measure them against our actions.

The first of our church’s “Key Characteristics” that we will be considering over the next number of weeks is faith. The church constitution reads as follows.

Faith: Faith is the key to our identity. Our common faith in Jesus Christ defines who we are. Hence, we identify ourselves individually by His name, as Christians, and corporately as His body, the church. This common faith creates unity in the church and makes us family. Through faith we receive the grace by which we become daughters and sons of God, brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ, and brothers and sisters to one another.

When we make faith one of our key characteristics, and place it in our constitution for everyone to see, we had better be able to back it up. Are we a people of faith? When God moves in our church or in our individual lives to accomplish something, what is our first reaction? Do we move ahead with whatever God has laid on our hearts, or do we check to make sure all the money is in the bank and that we have a backup plan? What did Abraham do when God called him out of Ur? He left. He did not question or squabble. He simply obeyed. This certainly puts Hebrews 11:1 into perspective, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Another point that this “characteristic” makes is that our faith in Christ unites us together as a family. We do seem to have more of a family atmosphere at EFBC, than some other churches I have been to. However, is it truly our faith in Christ that binds us together, or is it simply the common interests that many of us share? Perhaps there are so many who are biologically related in our church that is gives the impression that we are all bound by Christ.

Faith is the building block for all Christian life. Without faith we can do nothing. Without faith, we are not cleansed by the blood of Christ.

When you go to the dinner table for supper and sit down, do you wonder if the chair will hold you up? No. You just sit. That is an act of faith. You have faith that the chair will do its job. Likewise, we must have faith that God will do what He says He will do.

In our individual lives and in our church, God gives us a vision for who He wants us to be. Along the way there are a number of tasks that must be accomplished. Our job is to do the tasks even when they don’t make sense. For example, God told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations even though Abraham had no children, Sarah was past the point of childbearing, and Abraham was very old. When God gave them a son, God told Abraham to sacrifice him. This made no sense, but Abraham obeyed.

When God gives us a vision and the tasks that go with it, what will our response be? Will we try to make all the pieces fit, or will we simply obey? What about in your own life what will your choice be? My prayer is that we will truly make faith a characteristic of our personal lives and in the life of our church. I we will, then nothing is impossible.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV)

Family Worship

I believe that the future of the church as an institution, will be determined by how strong the families are within the body of Christ. Spiritually strengthening families instead of just individuals will have a greater impact on the work of contributing to God's Kingdom, than simply opening our doors and sending forth an evangelistic message.

To that end, I invite you to take a look at this website, which is devoted to family worship. (click on the words "Family Worship" in the title above.) This is more than a devotional. It is a guide to lead families to the throne of God in their homes. For most of Christian and Jewish history this is where spiritual education was nurtured. It has only been in the last few centuries that we have shifted the responsibility of teaching our children about Christ to the church.

I believe God is calling us back to family worship and Greg Pittman has done a wonderful job of leading us in that direction. My family has been using his guide and find it to be extremely easy to work with, and have seen our children respond to it well. As parents, we have also enjoyed the opportunity to worship together as a family.

I highly recommend this guide to everyone.

May God bless you!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Vision Part 2

To inspire and nurture the human spirit— one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

The phrase above is the official mission statement of Starbucks Coffee. Maybe you’ve heard of them. They sell coffee. However, they have turned a simple cup of coffee into a whole lifestyle. How? They formulated a mission, and then carried it out. The statement is very clear and well defined. They intend “to inspire and nurture the human spirit.”

They also make sure they know how they will accomplish the first part of the statement. They don’t just see their business as selling coffee; they see each individual as valuable and make them feel important as well. Their approach is to start with the individual (one person), then attend to their wants and needs (one cup), and then through them to influence others (one neighborhood). Go into any Starbucks and I’m sure the person behind the counter, called Baristas, can recite this mission statement for you.

I promised in the last column, that we would analyze our own vision statement and the five “key characteristics” that our church adopted some years ago to see how we are measuring up. Can you recite our vision statement? Have you ever heard it? Have you ever seen it on any publications from the church? My guess is that most have rarely seen or heard it, and fewer can recite it. The vision statement is below.

We are a caring, growing family of Christian faith who, in partnership with God’s Holy Spirit, are committed to sharing God’s love in Jesus Christ and fostering growth through the spread of the gospel and lifelong discipleship.

As vision statements go, it’s not too bad. It was carefully thought out, and seems to include all aspects of who we should be as Christians. In all it is a great statement. While it does have some elements of purpose, it isn’t short enough to commit to memory and incorporate into everything we do. When that is the case, many times organizations find themselves not measuring up to their vision, because they forget what it is and can’t articulate it.

How do we measure up to our vision statement? Let’s take a look at some key phrases in it and consider whether or not we are truly living up to these words in this church body. As you read each one, ask yourself the following two questions. How do we rank as a church in fulfilling this part of our vision statement? How do I measure up in doing my part to help fulfill them?

Caring- We are truly a caring group of people in this church. There is no doubt about that. However, to what end are we caring? Are we caring for the physical well being of others, but forgetting to care for the soul? When was the last time you asked someone about their spiritual well being? Caring is wonderful, but as Christians it is not enough to care for the body. We must care for and nurture the spirit as well.

Growing-This word is mentioned twice in this sentence. It says that we are growing, and that we want to foster growth. Let’s hold up the “measuring line” to this one. How are we growing? Is it numerically or spiritually? Is it both, one or the other, or neither? We say we want to foster growth, but which kind of growth? How are we going to foster it? The statement says we will accomplish this through both sharing the gospel and through lifelong discipleship. Are we as a whole church body doing both of these things?

Partnership with God’s Holy Spirit-The Holy Spirit needs to be the leader in all that we do. We are partners with Him only in the sense that we are the hands and feet and He is the driving force. The decisions about the direction of our church should never be made in “partnership” with the Holy Spirit. They should be made in obedience and submission to the Holy Spirit.

Committed- Are we truly committed to sharing God’s love? Are YOU truly committed to this task or have you left it up to others? Are we sometimes more committed to other things in our lives than seeking God’s will and sharing His love?

My prayer is that we would begin to own our vision statement and live out its words in all of our church life. This week, try to do something towards that goal. Next, we will begin to analyze the five “key characteristics” of our church which are listed in our church constitution. May God richly bless you as we work through this together.

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it [perfection]. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
(Philippians 3:13-16 NIV)

Monday, August 3, 2009


I shared this post with my church family in our weekly newsletter. While the information here may be directed to our particular church, I think there may be others who can glean some truth, and maybe even some wisdom, from this journey we are on. I welcome any comments you would like to make about this or any subsequent posts concerning God's vision for our churches.

I want all of you to know how much I appreciate your kind comments about this column that appears each week in the Herald. I have also heard from many who do not receive the Herald, who read the column on EdgefieldDaily.com and on my blog. I know there are many who look forward each week to reading the words contained in this short forum.

However, this week will mark a departure from my usual writing. I feel the leading of the Holy Spirit, to call church members and friends of our church to prayer. I have been burdened for some time about the course and vision of our church. I’m truly not sure that any of us have a clear vision form God about where He wants our church to be in the immediate and long-term future.

I hear a lot of ideas put forth about new things we need to do, and new ministries we should be involved in. I am alerted to ways in which current programs could be better. I get the feeling that there is a movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst, but due to fears of being labeled a “troublemaker” or a “rebel” many of us squelch those feelings and thus do nothing.

We have many opportunities in our church. We are right in the middle of town, we have some of the most influential men and women in Edgefield County as members and friends of our church, and we have some of the best ministry programs available in our area. However, if we lack a clear vision for where God is leading us, then we are simply “rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic”, as I like to say. Are we so busy doing ministry that we forget to ask God what He wants from us?

At some point, we at Edgefield First Baptist, must ask ourselves the very difficult question, “Why do we exist?”, and seek God for the answer. However, it does not end there. When we prayerfully seek God and His vision for our church, we must not then be afraid to move ahead on the path He has laid out for us.

The problem is that we must first take a hard look at ourselves. What do we do well? Where do we fail? There may be some ministries of our church that we are continuing simply because it has always existed in our generation, not because it is ordained by God or is even effective. There may be other ministries that need to begin, but are held back because resources are being funneled into non-effective areas of our church life.

The prophet Zechariah had a vision of a man with a measuring line in his hand, who was going to measure Jerusalem. When Zechariah asked about this, God told another angel to give him the message, “Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the LORD, 'and I will be its glory within.” (Zechariah 2:4-5)

If we truly wish to be a church that honors God in all we do, then we must take measure of ourselves. We must discard the notion that we are limited by our past or our present condition. Robert Kennedy once said, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Only when God’s people truly begin to hear His voice, and heed His words will he extend His blessings upon us. Without His guidance in all we do, then we are reduced to nothing more than a charity organization that provides a little entertainment on Sunday mornings. Is that what we want for our church? I think not.

I love this church. I love the people in this church. However, I love God more and I hope you do also. If we truly want Edgefield First Baptist to be all that God wants it to be, then it is time to stop playing church and going through the motions, and fix our eyes, ears, hearts and minds on Him and Him alone. Then, and only then, will we be a church “without walls” with God as our center and protector as Zechariah describes.

In the weeks leading up to our revival, which begins on September 27, I will devote this column to analyzing the Vision Statement and six “Key Characteristics” that this church adopted in 2003. We need to hold up the “measuring line” to see if we truly embody, not only that vision and characteristics, but also the call that God is extending to us to be His church, for His glory. I know this may be a painful, yet necessary, journey to undertake, but my prayer is that we will begin to see how we measure up to God’s standards, and develop a true sense of where God is leading us as a family of believers.

Saddle up your horses. We’ve got a trail to blaze.
Through the wild blue yonder of God’s amazing grace.
Let’s follow our leader, through the glorious unknown.
This is a life like no other! This is the great adventure!
(Steven Curtis Chapman)

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

(1 Corinthians 12:27NKJV)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fly Me to the Moon

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the first man to ever set foot on the lunar surface. I was not old enough to remember the event. However, my parents watched on television, along with about 500 million other people, as Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar lander, The Eagle, to place the first human footprint on the moon.

Many who have viewed the video footage of that day’s events have been inspired, awed, excited and proud. However, there were some who were doubtful that we could actually accomplish such a feat. There were a number of skeptics who believed the whole thing was an elaborate hoax.

In fact, if you do an internet search for “moon landing”, you will find many stories about the Apollo 11 mission, but even in 2009, you will find many who wish to prove that it never happened. In fact, there are many who believe that the moon landing in July of 1969 was fabricated, in order to show superiority in the Cold War.

In 1976, the nation was celebrating 200 years of independence. I was nine years old. The American Freedom Train was traveling around the country, loaded with authentic items from our 200 years of history. It was like a rolling museum, and I remember the things I saw, like it was yesterday. I saw Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, Lincoln’s “stovepipe” hat, an original copy of the Louisiana Purchase, and many other fascinating items. I remember being in awe of the space exploration section, where I saw a replica of the moon rover “car” that the astronauts rode in on the moon, moon rocks, and other items from lunar landings. I actually saw rocks from the moon!

As far as I can tell, we sent humans to the moon and brought them back safely. We have first-hand accounts of the three men who flew there, and the two who say they actually walked on the surface. We have video footage to prove they were actually there, along with a great number of pictures. We have the actual equipment used to make the voyage, and written records of the flight. We have the testimony of all of the scientists who worked on the project, along with our government officials who were in office at the time. We have artifacts that were brought back from the moon’s surface, like the ones I saw myself, that are unlike anything we have here on earth. Why would we not believe that it happened? Some do not believe, because someone caused them to doubt it and they have chosen not to believe.

If there are those who doubt the moon landing, for whatever reasons, why are we surprised that there are those who doubt Jesus’ death and resurrection? There are many written accounts outside the Bible that attest to His life. There is written evidence of Jesus ministry while on earth. There are first-hand accounts of His death on the cross, and personal testimony of conversations and interactions after His resurrection. Many died because they would not rescind their story of His healing power and conquering of death. Yet, there are many who wish to deny that He ever existed or if He did really live on earth, that He was the Son of God.

You see, even if we had a video or photograph of Jesus coming out of the tomb, there would be many who would deny its authenticity. The fact of the matter is this; it comes down to faith. We must have faith in NASA, the government, and the testimony of the astronauts who walked on the moon, before we can believe that humans have been there. We must have faith in the Bible, the Holy Spirit living in us, and the testimony of those who saw it all, before we can believe in the salvation of our Lord Jesus.

Ask God for greater faith, so that you can honor Him through the testimony of your life.

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9 23-24 NKJV)

Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For by it our ancestors were approved. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible. (Hebrews 11:1-3 HCSB)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Adolf Coors IV

Click the following links to the Focus on the Family website. Here you will hear Adolf Coors IV describe how he found Christ and walked away from his family's business. This is powerful!
Part 1
Part 2

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

By the Sea

I had the opportunity to experience the beach twice in the last two weeks. The first was a short, two-day trip with my wife and kids. The second was with our youth group, as we traveled to Garden City, for our annual beach retreat.

I love the beach. I love everything about it. I enjoy it at any time of the year, and any time of the day. I love the sand, the warmth of the sun, the change of pace, and the roar of the ocean.

One of the things I always look forward to, is sitting in a chair on the sand and watching the waves crash onto the beach. There are two things in nature that, for me, are very hypnotizing. One is the flicker of the flames in a good-size fire, and the other is the rolling of the sea.

Both of these are powerful occurrences in God s creation. While both have the ability to destroy and kill, they also provide great usefulness and resources to human life. The difference is in how much each one is respected. When we believe that we can master either one, or have overconfidence in our own abilities to harness their power, then we set ourselves up for disaster.

The sea, however, is what reminds me of God the most. As I told the congregation Sunday, the ocean looks pretty much the same as it did when I was a kid. It is still called the Atlantic Ocean. However, it is constantly moving, shifting, and rolling. Tides come in and out. As some sand is washed away with each wave, new bits of shells and other matter is brought ashore. It is a fluid, living thing.

God is the same today as He has always been. God existed before there was such a thing as time. Psalm 90 tells us that He is from everlasting to everlasting. He has always been and He will always be.

I am thankful that God, like the ocean, is the same whenever I go to Him. However, He is not still. He is moving and as active as any sea on earth. He is not stagnant, and does not expect us to be either.

God wants us to be actively serving Him by loving His people, His creation, and worshiping Him. He is not still, so we should not be either. In Him is life, and anyone who has life inside cannot be idle.

If you happen to take a trip to the beach this summer, remember to take the time to see God in the might and power of the sea. He is there. He is everywhere, we just have to see and hear Him with our hearts.

Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory. The LORD has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. Sing to the LORD with the harp, With the harp and the sound of a psalm, With trumpets and the sound of a horn; Shout joyfully before the LORD, the King.

Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell in it; Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the LORD, For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity. (Psalm 98 NKJV)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What's in Your Hand?

In October of 2004, I went on a hike to the top of Table Rock. Table Rock is located in Pickens County in South Carolina and is one of the most popular parks in the state. The hike to the summit is rated moderate to strenuous, but I would say it is more strenuous than moderate. However, the view from the top is incredible, and well worth the climb.

At dawn, I arrived at the park before anyone else, and began my ascent to the top. The reason for my hike was a quest. I had renewed God’s call on my life to be in the ministry after many years of running away from Him. For some reason, I felt that God was going to reveal something wonderful to me, if I climbed to the top of the mountain, read my Bible, and prayed.

After a long, tough hike, I made it to the top. I caught my breath, ate a granola bar, drank some water, and found my Bible in my backpack. I thumbed through it a bit and landed on a passage that I knew in my heart was what God wanted me to see. I read the following words. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV)

I thought, “What? I have no trials in my life. I have a great job, a wonderful wife, a precious son and baby girl on the way. What trials?” I left the mountain angry at God. I felt like I had wasted my time climbing the mountain and reading those words. I did not believe that message was for me at all. I believed I had just picked that passage at random, and that it was nothing more than random words.

Within two weeks, my world came crashing down. I was in the middle of a trial in my life that I never saw coming. I went back to those words in 1 Peter, like a kid headed for the cookie jar. I understood what God was telling me, but only in hindsight.

In 1883, Dr. William Howey went to check on crews who were building the Canadian Pacific Railway. While there, he found some interesting copper-colored rocks and pocketed them. Upon returning home, he sent them to the director of the Geological Survey of Canada for evaluation. The stones were deemed worthless, and Howey threw them away.

A contractor picked them up, and a year later decided to check out the site where they were found. It turned out those "rocks" were copper, and the contractor had discovered one of the world's largest copper deposits, which produced millions of dollars of ore. Later, it was also discovered that the ore contained high levels of highly sought-after nickel. The deposit was named the International Nickel Company of Canada, and went on to become the second-largest producer of nickel worldwide. In 2006, the company was bought for $17 billion.

Sometimes we don’t recognize God’s providence in our lives. Words from the Bible that we think do not apply to us, may be the very words from God we need later. Stones that we think are worthless, may indeed be worth a fortune. God sends His blessings to us in many ways. It is not our job to judge them to be right for us or not. God knows more of what we need than we do. He also knows when we will encounter those needs.

When David went out to check on his brothers during the battle, he did not take a weapon. He only had a sling. I’m sure that many times he thought the sling to just be something used to protect his sheep or to have fun with. He never knew that it would one day bring down a giant in the name of God.

Read the Bible. Seek God. Pray for understanding. You are blessed. Never take anything from God for granted.

Moses answered, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The LORD did not appear to you'?" Then the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied. The LORD said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. "This," said the LORD, "is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you."
“He [Aaron] will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it." (Exodus 4:1-5, 16-17 NIV)


Monday, June 15, 2009

True Deadline

I watched a video online last week of WYFF, the NBC affiliate in Greenville, SC, flip the switch to change all of their broadcasting from analog to digital. They did it with a lot of ceremony. They had the reporter in the room with the CEO of WYFF, and a host of other people. They then showed a gentleman, in the transmission room, on top of Caesar’s Head, who shut down the analog signal for good at exactly 7am on Friday June 12th.

Like many other stations, they actually did not stop broadcasting in analog at 7am. They simply stopped showing television programs. What analog viewers saw was a phone number to call if they were having any trouble with their digital converter box, or had any questions.

Congress passed the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act in October of 2005. This legislation called for the end of analog programming on February 17, 2009. The legislation even allowed families, who did not have cable or satellite television, to request up to 2 coupons per household to purchase a converter box so their television service would not be interrupted. These coupons were available from January 1, 2008 through March 31, 2009. As the end of 2008 neared, broadcasters also spent billions of dollars on publicizing the switch to digital on February 17, 2009.

As the February deadline approached, it was clear to many that Americans were not ready for the switch. Even with all of the publicity on radio, television, billboards, and over the internet, people still had not purchased the converter boxes or requested the coupons. In fact, the Nielsen Company estimated that 5.8 million homes were not ready for the switch in February.

The government decided to move the deadline to June 12th, to give people more time to change. However, between Friday June 12th and Saturday June 13th, over 700,000 people called a federal hotline. One third of the calls were legitimate issues with converter boxes. Twenty percent of the calls were concerns about reception issues. Another third, however, were from people asking where to get the coupons to get converter boxes that have been available since January of 2008. In fact, The Commerce Department said that on Friday alone, 319,990 requests for the coupons were made.

If all of this happens when we are aware of a deadline date; what happens when we know something is going to happen, but do not know when? Jesus assures us that He is going to return to earth again someday. He does not give the time, day, month or year. He simply says that He will return and for us to be ready. Will you be ready when He returns or will you be trying to dial the hotline to get more time?

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
(Matthew 24:42-44 NKJV)

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
(Luke 12:35-40 NIV)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Good Riddance

Chen Fuchao felt as though he had no reason to live. He was $290,000 in debt from a failed construction project, and saw no way out but to kill himself. He climbed to the top of the Haizhu bridge in Guangzhou, China, where eleven other people have attempted suicide since April of this year. Fuchao intended to be the twelfth.

When he got to the edge of the bridge, however, he must have needed to think about whether this was the thing to do or not. He remained there for over 5 hours. During his contemplative moments on the bridge, the police were called, the area was cordoned off, and traffic was held up.

A 66 year-old man named Lai Jiansheng emerged from the crowd that had gathered. He asked the police for the opportunity to try to talk the man down from the bridge. The police turned his offer down. Lai was insistent that something needed to be done, so he took matters into his own hands.

Mr. Jiansheng walked away from the police, and proceeded toward the barriers. He broke through the cordon, and began the climb to the bridge. He climbed up to where Fuchao was standing on the edge, and reached out to shake his hand. As they shook hands, Lai pushed Chen Fuchao off the bridge. Fuchao fell 26 feet onto the inflated air cushion that had been laid out by the police. Fuchao survived with some spine and elbow injuries. Click here for the video

When Mr. Jiansheng was asked why he pushed the man he replied, I pushed him off because jumpers like Chen are very selfish. Their action violates a lot of public interest. They do not really dare to kill themselves. Instead, they just want to raise the relevant government authorities' attention to their appeals." Indeed, Mr. Jiansheng and those who were stuck in the traffic, the police and fire departments, and many others were very inconvenienced by Fuchao s actions.

When we allow sin into our lives, it takes everything hostage. It robs us of self-control, happiness, relationships, time, and money. It holds up the blessings that God wants so much to give us, and keeps us blinded to the needs of others. It stalls our relationship with Christ and damages our witness to the world.

If sin is that disruptive in our lives, then why do we tolerate it? Why do we continue to do what is displeasing to God? God provided a way out. God sent Jesus to die so that we could be free from sin and temptation. Instead of letting sin hold our lives hostage, we should get rid of the thing that clogs up our relationship with God. How? Simply push it out of our lives.

Mr. Jiansheng had enough of Mr. Fuchao interrupting his day, so he pushed him off the bridge and ended the ordeal. We need to follow this example and push sin out of our lives.

Is it easy? No. There will be those who tell us we cannot rid our lives of sin, that it is just a part of life . (1 John 3:5-7) The police tried to tell Mr. Jiansheng that he could not talk to Mr. Fuchao, but he didn t accept that. He did something about it.

It will take courage. (1 John 5:18) Mr. Jiansheng had to climb the bridge in order to face the culprit. We may have to do many things that will take courage to accomplish in order to rid sin from our lives, but we must resist the temptation to do nothing.

In the end, we must do whatever we can to avoid sin. The alcoholic knows that if he takes that one drink, he cannot stop. Therefore, he must avoid drinking alcohol of any form. The same is true of whatever sin it is that you are wrestling with. Remove yourself from the circumstances, and ask for help if needed.

Will you give your sin up to God today and take the measures necessary to live a wholesome life before God? Will you push that sin off the bridge today and free your life from its holding power? If you would like to talk with someone who can help you, please contact me or a Christian friend who can pray with you, and help push the sin into the depths where it belongs!

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me. Then Jesus said to him, Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve. Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:8-11 NKJV)