I Say, Let Freedom Ring!

Happy 4th of July! I am thankful to live in the “land of the free and home the brave!” By God’s grace, I live in a land stained with the blood of patriots, which paved the way for me to possess the freedom to write this post. Thank you, Lord!

I love living in America. However, we have drifted away from you. In America, we are blinded by our unchecked individualism. We are known for our pull-ourselves-up-by-the-bootstrap mentality. We can do anything we put our minds too. The problem is our thoughts are corrupt. Like the men in Nimrod’s day, we long to erect a tower to make a name for ourselves. However, you call us to humility, if we are to enter the everlasting kingdom, which is coming. Have mercy on us, Lord.

We boast of our freedom as we dance in the shackles of sin. The clanging chains of hypocrisy can be heard around the globe. We claim to be a Christian nation, but we slaughter our unborn. We claim to be the example for others to follow and neglect the orphans and widows. Have mercy on us, Lord.

Once we stood united, but now we are polarized demonizing anyone that has a different perspective. What is wrong with us? Is it the economy? Undoubtedly, more money in our purses will make us a better nation, right? No! Then it must be education. Let’s overhaul the system streamlining it to as close to perfection. Only to have our new intellectual society, redefine our conundrum, but provide no answer.

What is wrong with us? Hear me clearly, fellow Americans. Many of you will reject my counsel, but I must share this burden with you. We are sinful. No, I am not speaking of mere mistakes. I declare we are sinners. We are a rebellious and stiff-necked people that have turned from the One that granted us freedom. We must return.  Have mercy on us, Lord.

Where is the Tower of Babel? It cannot be found. All monuments erected in vainglory will fall. This is our fate if we continue on this path.  Only what is done for Christ has eternal value. Am I calling a nation to repentance? Am I calling for the masses to call on the Lord? Yes, but it begins with you (and me.)

For far too long, we have smeared lipstick on a pig. We have tried to be respectable. Nevertheless, a pig delights in the mud and relishes the slop because it’s in its nature. Swine will act like a swine because it has the heart of a pig.  Our problem in America is not the economy or education, but our spiritual depravity.

We inherited this depravity long before the year 1776. It began in a garden of perfection. Humanity rebelled against the command of God, ate from a forbidden tree, and fell from their rightful place of dominion. We were made in the image of God, but the fall marred this image. We are innately corrupt. We cannot change ourselves. We are in bondage. Death reigns over us, because of our sin.

What is the answer? Simply put, Jesus. Jesus – God wrapped in human flesh – came to Earth to live without sin, so that his life could be substituted for ours. He took our sins by nailing them to cross. Jesus paid our debt. He purchased your freedom; true freedom.

How do you receive this freedom? Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (CSB)  To be born again, you must realize your sinfulness. The Apostle Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (CSB)  If you do not think you’re a sinner then review your life in light of the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:3-17). We are all sinful. However, there is a solution.

The Bible states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (CSB)  You deserve God’s wrath for your crimes against Him. But He has extended grace through Christ instead! Will you receive this gift of grace?

In Romans 10:9-10, Paul gives us instructions on how to receive Christ or be born again. He writes, “9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:9-10 (CSB)   Don’t harden your heart to His call. Again, will you accept his invitation? Will you place our faith in Christ’s substitution?  Real freedom comes through faith in Christ!

Look around you. If you want to change the culture, you must first change your heart. America is great, but God’s kingdom is greater. No politician can make America great again. Or at least, in the way that matters most.

Have mercy on us, Lord. Tear down our idols so we can be rebuilt anew. I am grateful for the sacrifice of patriots past and the political freedom I have as an American. However, let us never forget the origins of genuine freedom, YOU. I say, let freedom ring!

Stick a Fork in June, it’s D-O-N-E!

This post completes the 2018 June Blogging Challenge! There was a new post every day in June. I must admit it is a small accomplishment, but an achievement none the less. I have learned celebrating the little victories motivates me to press on to the more considerable triumphs.

Why did I set this goal? It’s all summed up in the word: discipline. I tend to have too many “good ideas” when it comes to writing. I chase after them like an indecisive bird dog flushing out a covey of quail. I suffer from A.D.D. However, I am not talking about Attention Deficit Disorder, but instead, I have Acute Deficiency of  Discipline. I have a problem with placing my butt in the chair and writing. This self-imposed challenge, although my content varied, forced me to sit and write with consistency.

The consistency of posting daily strengthened my “writing muscles.” These blog posts were extra created content. I typically preach three times a week, and a majority of these sermons are written as a full manuscript. I find it helpful after outlining a sermon to write myself clear, so when I approach the pulpit I have wrestled with the text all week.  I know the meaning for the people then, and I have the message for God’s people now. Therefore, this challenge was very challenging at times. But its over. Done. Finished. I have conquered June.

However, I confess I did not do it alone. You – the readers – were in my study or beside me on the couch encouraging me to keep pecking away at this keyboard. I thought of you often as I pushed against the resistance of the blinking cursor. Thank you for taking this journey with me. Thank you for liking, commenting, and sharing my words with others. It means more to me than I can express.

Moreover, I would be amiss not to mention my biggest supporter in this world. Red, thank you for not killing me when I disturbed your sleep as I slid out of bed at five o’clock in the morning to pray and write. We all know how much you enjoy mornings. I appreciate the grace extended to me when I was working late to meet the deadline of the day.

Red, believe it or not, you inspired this month’s adventure. Over the years, I have watched you hone your craft and become a phenomenal photographer by challenging yourself to be better. You may not remember the conversation – I know there are so many – but when I told you I wanted to become an author I was gauging myself. I wondered if I had what it takes to pursue this dream. I understand now, although my aspiration is lofty, I have God and you on my side. I know both of you believe in me. Watching you and having you in my corner, I know I will succeed by God’s grace. With you, I am a better me. Again, thank you for believing in me. Even when I have too many “good ideas” that wake me before daybreak.

So where do I go from here? I am committed to becoming a better writer; to find my voice. This challenge has revealed that I can carve out the time needed to write and still fulfill my other obligations. Yes, I may need to drink more coffee, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

In the future, I will not be posting daily. However, rest assured I am writing. Now, my challenge is to use the daily writing habit established this month to work on my first novel. Watch your inbox because I may post a sample chapter soon. As far as the blogging, the posts will slow to a weekly rhythm instead of the daily hustle. I hope you have enjoyed the June Blogging Challenge as much as I have but stick a fork in June, it’s D-O-N-E!

 

 

150th Post! (or is it?)

The only problem with confetti is sweeping it up after the party. Well, this post has me feeling like a janitor.  I wanted to do something special for this blogging milestone. However, the surprise backfired on me. If you subscribed to this site or follow it on social media, you may have wondered if I learned a new language this afternoon. I have not.

To mark the occasion, I wanted to spruce up the blog’s theme. Unfortunately, the “one-click solution” to merge the new template with my current one sent a barrage of demo posts out. I apologize for the inconvenience. I think I have all the confetti swept up at the site, but cannot recall the posts from your inbox. Please forgive me.

I think there is a life-lesson here. Those “one-step-solve-alls” usually don’t work. I should have transferred everything manually. You live. You learn.  So, when the confetti goes off prematurely, it kind of takes the pizazz out of the celebration. Again, I apologize for flooding your inbox demo posts. Also, rest assured there is nothing screwy going on. It was only a novice working on his WordPress site. Regardless, let me know if you like the new look of the blog in the comments below.

Well… Happy 150th or so post! Doesn’t have the nice a ring as I planned.  Oh, well I see you here tomorrow. Have you ever spoiled a surprise? I love to hear the story.

5 Lessons for Ministry from the Tobacco Patch

You’ve never itched until you’ve cropped “sand lugs” from a worn and wet fiberglass seat on a tobacco harvester. “Sand lug” leaves grow near the bottom of the stalk and are covered with dirt and grime. Pulling these leaves from the stalk and passing them through the conveyor belt to the”panner” causes the sand to work its way into some unseemly spots. Like I said you’ve never itched until you’ve cropped “sand lugs” from a fiberglass seat that needed replacing three seasons ago.

Growing up in the south my summer days were filled with an itching bottom and a red neck. I spent my summer vacation cropping tobacco (it’s pronounced tah-backer in the south). In the mornings, we would unload a barn of cured leaves. We emptied the tobacco into burlap sheets to make it ready for the market. (The aroma of dried tobacco leaves still lingers in my mind.) When the barn was empty, we would head to the fields to fill it up again. Although it was only a few weeks out of the summer, it seemed like a neverending cycle. But I am grateful for the lessons I learned in those fields. Experiences, which prepared me for a life in ministry. Here are five lessons I learned and how they relate to gospel ministry:

  1. A grain of sand in the wrong spot will make you miserable, but keep on cropping because things tend to work themselves out.

    In ministry, you will be rubbed the wrong way by things that really don’t matter. You will feel it’s unbearable. However, you can let the little situations prevent you from working for the Lord. Keep cropping. It will work itself out.

  2. When it gets hot, learn to pace yourself.

    Temperature affects your production. If you’re facing a season of heated confrontation, remember not to run full speed ahead, or you’ll get burnt. The pressures of ministry will cause even the most seasoned worker to burnout. Slow down and pace yourself.

  3. Enjoy the simple pleasures in life (like an RC Cola and MoonPie).

    Nothing was more satisfying than a twelve-ounce soda and a snack at break-time in the fields. You’re not designed to work nonstop. Take time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

  4. If you disagree with someone, get it right before the end of the row.

    In the tobacco patch, teenage boys (and girls too) would often argue back and forth while on the harvester. Everyone knew if the matter was not resolved by the end row things could escalate into an all-out fight. In ministry, you’re going to have disagreements, but make things right before it gets out of hand.

  5. Always help others gather their crops.

    The farming community where I grew up helped each other. I remember times when one crew was finished but went to help another farmer to get his harvest in on time.  As a minister, I should never leave my fellow pastor to work alone. Christians should help others.

Again these are only a few correlations between the tobacco patch and ministry. I am sure there are more, but these will do for now. What about you? Did God use a former job or situation to shape you for ministry? I would love to hear your story in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Wednesday in a Baptist Church

The parking lot is usually full, but in the summer the cars dwindle. Come early, and you will witness covered dishes lugged from vehicles to the social hall. In the colder months, the scent of hamburgers seasoned with a deacon’s special blend of spices drifts through the air.  It’s the last Wednesday of the month at a Baptist Church. It’s Family Night.

It may seem like an excuse to eat a meal for some. However, it’s far more than food. It’s about friendships. Gathered around the folding tables people share about their day. Conversations can range from the weather to delicate difficulties a person is facing. Yes, to some it may look like a reason to loosen your belt, eat your fill, and sip sweet tea. But this meeting is far more important than that!

A pastor mingles checking the pulse of the people. He offers a quick joke to a few and a word of comfort to others. Brothers and sisters in Christ laugh and tell stories of bygone days. It’s more than a potluck dinner. This gathering is the sharing of each other’s life. Genuine relationships blossom on Family Night.

How many meals did Christ share with His followers? There are several instances found in the Gospels. Still, scoffers complain that it’s just an “eating meeting” and they miss the blessing. One should never underestimate the power of a Baptist casserole. For the last Wednesday night of the month in a Baptist church is sometimes the most ministry-filled night. It’s Family night.

Excuses Never = Dreams

At the moment, my brain is saying, “I’m tired, boss.” Over the last couple of days, my mind has put in some overtime. Not only me but all the teachers at Citizens Christian Academy are working on next year’s curriculum. However, a goal is a goal. Exhausted or not my brain is going to work a little more. I determined to deliver fresh content every single day in June. This post will be the 26th consecutive daily post.

So, what am I going to write about today? Honestly, I have been trying to think of a topic for over an hour.  I have been here before. Watching the blinking cursor taunt me from a blank page. It is at times like this I have to B-I-C. That’s stands for Butt-in-Chair and write.  It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile is, right?

Now, I think I know what I am supposed to write about today. Sometimes you have to grab those inklings in your thoughts and force them kicking and screaming on to the page (or screen). Writing is sweaty work. My shirt may be dry, but my mind is perspiring. But it’s in moments like these that form you as a writer, as a person.

Do I cower to the flashing cursor? Never! When you’re tempted to give in is when you have to revisit why you began the journey. I started this challenge to break the back of the excuse of not having enough time. I started this journey to force myself to focus on the craft of writing. I began this quest to silence the questions of self-doubt.  I must write until my words overtalk the inner critic. (He’s a nasty fellow.) I am pursuing this for the sake of falling in love with the process of putting words on a page.

From childhood, I have dreamed about being a prolific writer. This month, I am taking the first step in seizing the slippery aspiration of authorhood by the throat. I am a writer now. Lord willing, I will be a published author soon. Nevertheless, I will have fun chasing this dream.

Aha! I am at 366 words. Take that blinking cursor. With every keystroke, I am pushing against your resistance. You’re only making me stronger. My mind screamed,

“I’m tired.”

“You’ve worked hard enough today.”

“Take a day off. Nobody will notice.”

“It’s not like they’ll read it anyway.”

Butt in the chair and write. Push past the noise to a place where the words flow. It takes faith, perseverance, and in my case a little coffee to achieve anything noteworthy.

You may not be a writer, but I know you have a dream. An ambition that gnaws at you from the inside. Will it ever be a reality? That’s up to you. It may be as simple as getting healthier or as big as pursuing your dream job. DON’T let the excuses stop you. Say a prayer to Jesus and press forward. It will be worth it in the end.

You know my struggle now. Opening up about your goals is a vulnerable place, but it does bring with it a sense of accountability. What is your passion? Are you pursuing it? Why not? I would love to hear from you in the comments. Commenting and letting others in on your goal may be your first step in the pursuing your dreams. You never know.

That’s 590 words, cursor.