The Latest on Me: Many Open Doors

Have you ever felt like you had a passion for something but there was not a sign of an open door for years? I felt like that until last year. The end of 2018 was discouraging as my attempt to church a plant did not end well. The next year (2019) was full of a few interview processes at some churches that also didn’t end well. By the Summer of 2019, I told God I was done with serving Him in a church staff role. I would just spend the rest of my ministry encouraging pastors because I didn’t appear to be good at anything else. Then 2020 came. My first preaching opportunity in almost a year and a half came. The fire that had burned since I was a teenage boy to preach was as much alive as it was then. That led to 4 more preaching opportunities at the same facility and one at the church we attend.

This year is even better. I preached twice in the month of January. I have a podcast interview on February 17, 5 preaching opportunities in March, and a 5-day revival meeting in May. I am beyond pumped. God reminded me once again He is not done with me, and the call He placed on my life nearly 25 years ago is still valid.

You might be reading this and wondering where your open doors are. I was there. I wondered why I got passed by while many others got all the opportunities. I felt punished because of a divorce. Rest assured that people will label you, but God has a way of vindicating you while people act the way they are going to act. God has a way of shaping us while we are in the waiting room. He is either preparing you for something, preparing the people you will minister to, or both. He worked on me a long time before this moment, and I give Him all the glory. Would you pray with me about these opportunities?

The “Magic” of Preaching

You may read the title and think I’ve lost my mind, potentially going mystical or new age. Let me clarify – I’m not! There’s something amazing and supernatural about preaching. I have done it for over 25 years (preaching my first sermon when I was either 13 or 14), and I have watched God do something “magical” over and over. Only God could take a shy, backward only child from Portsmouth, Virginia, give Him a divine message from Scripture, and produce divine results.

Today was no exception. Every time I’m invited to preach somewhere, I ask God to reveal to me the message He would have me deliver. It’s not that there is a shortage of material, because we have 66 books of the Bible full of material. The challenge is discerning what is the message for that hour. God led me to a particular message, and I really questioned if I should preach this as I felt that maybe the people were beyond that place in life to need that message. (It’s crazy how we make assumptions!) Before I left, I knew who needed that message.

In this stage of ministry, it’s funny that I still fear being transparent in my preaching. Many preachers won’t share personal examples, especially about the ugly parts of their life. One of my ugly parts is that I’ve been divorced. Most pastors I know would try to hide it or avoid it. Some people told me that God wouldn’t use me post-divorce. I’m glad to tell you He still uses me. Not everyone appreciates my honesty, but some do. And that’s perfectly okay! I will continue to walk through the open doors He gives, be obedient and transparent, and watch Him do what He does best. The hour is crucial, and people need the message of Christ more than ever. God is still doing the supernatural through ordinary people like you and me. Find what it is He has given you to do and do it will all your heart. He’s got the rest taken care of.

Social Media and Me

I have never been that great at social media. Some people can post just the right thing with perfect pictures, tons of emojis, and all the flare. That’s not me! While social media has its many wonderful traits, it can easily become a comparison trap…EVEN WITH PASTORS! We look at what other pastors are doing and can quickly feel like we must be equally as good if not better. I am learning a lot about myself as it relates to social media and am having to make some adjustments. I will be sharing those here.

Facebook has been great for reconnecting with people from all 4 states where I have lived and served as well as people from college, etc. While I am horrible with Facebook and get bored easily scrolling through it, I will keep it because of all the connections I have there and how much the world seems to use it. If you are connected with me there, you know my wife is pretty good at tagging me and giving everyone a play by play of our life. I also have a page I rarely use (but hope to one day) that will share a podcast if I ever get to it. My oldest son is living out the podcast dream right now, so I will live vicariously through him for now😂. So that’s what’s up with me and Facebook.

Twitter has become a bit successful for me over the last 2 years. I started the account in 2014 and had gotten up to 500 followers with barely any activity. When I became active at the end of 2018, my Twitter following got up to almost 15k. I never imagined that! It was great for me to share short thoughts without having to use all that much energy. I have come to the point, however, that I don’t find it as enjoyable. Due to recent censoring (and, no, it’s not about Donald Trump for me), the extremely high amount of political posts, and the hatefulness of many who call themselves Christians, my Twitter presence will be decreasing tremendously. It’s ultimately about me being in a different season of my life and needing to focus on some different things.

Instagram is just not my thing, and I have to own up to that. I am not big on pictures, and it was just downright awkward posting them. On top of that, I got bored scrolling through what other people post. And forget about Snapchat! I tried that one day and got angry when the picture disappeared so quickly, so I deleted it😂.

You will more than likely see my blog activity pick up again. God is teaching me some great things right now, and I will be sharing those with you. My thoughts will continue to be honest, transparent, and vulnerable. People are struggling and need to know that even pastors struggle too.

If you were looking for a post about the evils of social media, I’m sorry I disappointed you. I’m not wiping them out. I will, however, be cutting back so that I can focus more directly on my personal growth and God-given mission, and I can’t be more thrilled!

Expecting the Unexpected

The last two Sundays have been wonderful. Last Sunday night, I preached as I do every other first Sunday night at a place called Home with a Heart. It is a home for men recovering from addiction. Every time I preach, I always want God to move. It’s extra special when a move of God seems to pop out of nowhere – unexpected by me but planned by God.

On the typical night, the family that leads worship sings about 5 songs before I preach and about 4 after. I had preached a message on praise from Hebrews 13:15. This was a message I had preached several years ago but with a slightly different twist. In the message, I had mentioned how some people “pray the prayer” 150 times and aren’t truly born again. It was clear that conviction was in the room. A few men had walked out and returned around that point of the message. After you’ve preached off and on for 25 years, you can handle most distractions…note that I say MOST. (The one I couldn’t handle is a story for another time.)

We start singing the last few songs and seem to be closing with “Give Me Faith”. Tears are flowing down my face. Garrett, who is singing lead on this song, continues to sing. It was clear God was up to something. Men began to come forward to pray. I couldn’t leave my seat because tears were flowing. The group went into another song, and Garrett went down to pray with these men. When all was said and done, one man chose to follow Jesus Christ that night. He later apologized for leaving the room because he didn’t want to hear what I was preaching. I told him it was no issue, and I was thrilled about what God is doing in his life.

This morning, I was driving to church. It’s a 25-minute drive, so I began to pray for our church services. I ask God to do something unexpected. He did in both services. In the 9:00 service, a couple shared about something recent they were going through. Their level of transparency would not be allowed in most churches, but our church surrounded them with grace and love. In the second service, the worship music added an unplanned element. Other than a couple of the singers looking surprised, it seemed to flow. I talked with the workshop leader for the second service, and he was jokingly upset with me about asking God to do the unplanned. I told him, “Don’t fault me for praying; fault God for answering.” We were both joking, but we do embrace God’s surprises.

We have been trained to expect the unexpected. We should be equally or more willing to embrace it when it is a move of God. I’m tired of the same old stuff. The same old stuff gets the same old results. It’s time to be expectant Christians who expect God to interrupt our planning to accomplish His greater purpose. Lord, bring it on!

Revival Starts in the Mirror – Introduction

With all that has transpired in the last year or so, I’m amazed that I hear and read little about revival from today’s pastors and fellow Christians. Could it be that the term “revival” is considered antiquated, or could it be that we may not see a need for it? Maybe it’s that attempts for “revival” have been human attempts and some man-made, manufactured manipulation that has not produced lasting results, so now no one wants “revival” if it’s only a pathetic imitation and not the real thing?

Whatever you want to call “revival”, we need it! I can remember attending many meetings called “revival services” that were empty. I think what happened is that many were looking for emotional hype and never wanted the biblical responsibility that comes with it. Second Chronicles 7:14 gives a fourfold formula for a revolutionary revival. Here’s the important thing about revival – it begins in the mirror.

The “revival in the mirror” of which I speak is your personal focus on getting right with God. Don’t you worry about the woman you know who leads a Bible study at your church and spends the rest of the week gossiping about everyone she does and doesn’t know. Don’t worry about the pastor on the ego trip or the boss at work that treats everyone horribly and then leads worship on Sunday. You are not responsible for them. When you stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, Jesus isn’t going to hang out with you and talk about all those hypocrites down at your church. He’s going to talk with you about you.

Rather than go into a long post that contains all the information about the fourfold formula for personal revival and transformation, I will break this up into a series. God challenged my heart about this while I was driving this morning, and I have no doubt He will challenge you over these next few posts. Stick with me as we break this life-changing truth down. May God revolutionize your life and may it spread like wildfire in Jesus’ name!

Reflections on 2020: A Needed Surprise

This year has been one for the books. Make no doubt about it. Political tension, a pandemic, continued racial discrimination, and a list of other things will be forever etched in our memories. I do not write this to make light of the difficulties people have experienced this year. My heart honestly breaks for them. This post will simply be a documentation of my thoughts in hopes that these words might help someone along the way.

Earlier this year, let’s just say the decrease of interaction we had here in South Carolina due to the pandemic was depressing for me. Tons of thoughts from the past came back up…things I had forgotten. These things brought back memories and feelings I didn’t realize existed. My conclusion was I had a lot more healing to do. 2020 lesson for you – delaying the process of dealing with your hurt will create a bigger mess for you later so take it slow and unpack it early (trust me on this one).

This year has obviously been one of self-discovery. In my ministry to pastors, I faced my one baggage. These guys have honestly been a blessing to me. Their struggles helped me face my own, and I was genuinely able to walk WITH them. Another lesson – when walking with someone through life’s challenges, don’t take the “I’m the expert” approach; they need humility on your end.

Several years ago, I heard TD Jakes speak of God’s will as something we “stumble into” as we take daily steps of obedience rather than it being some far-off mystical revelation. I’m not here to endorse or bash this pastor, but what he said resonated with me. Such was the case this year. I was daily doing my thing when an opportunity came my way. I had not preached a single sermon in 2019. I was discouraged by some doors to ministry positions that had closed and a failed attempt at a church plant, so I was ready to throw in the towel, plop my rear end in a church seat, and simply be a cheerleader to a pastor. Then came the first Sunday in March when I was asked at the last minute to preach at a home for men who are recovering from addiction. I’m happy to say I have preached 5 messages there this year and one in our church. The fire is still there. Lesson #3 – When God calls you, He doesn’t uncall you. He does, however, reassign us at times to allow us time to heal.

This year has forced me to slow down. I was not really going too hard, but I wasn’t enjoying what was around me. I was too busy going through the motions. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting better at being present in the moment. My oldest son will graduate high school this year, and all the others are growing up quickly. I need to be celebrating the little moments before they’re gone. Someone put it this way this week – stop focusing on “What if” and start embracing “what is”.

If I didn’t start taking back my life, God only knows where I would be. I am celebrating some victories this year. My anxiety is becoming more manageable, and I have lost 19 pounds this year. While I’m thrilled about that, I am setting more goals for weight loss, exercise, and stress and time management. I’m determined to enjoy life no matter what is happening around me.

Enjoying life really is a choice. We can lament or we can allow God to turn our mourning into dancing. I’ve mourned enough. It’s time to dance. I don’t encourage you to watch me dance because my dancing is ugly, but my God delights in it. Wishing you a blessed 2021!

Weary on a Christmas Day

I’m one tired boy. I just spent over 4 hours driving round trip to pick up my oldest kids. Such is the life of this blended family.

I sit here pondering the weariness of so many. You may be reading this, and you’re weary for one or more reasons. Maybe you are weary of being sick. Maybe you’re weary because you lost one or most loved ones since last year. It could be that you have been hit hard financially, or this year has drained the life out of you. Whatever the case is, there is a Savior who invites the weary to come to Him. In fact, Scripture says that Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes who were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

This Christmas, weary or not, Jesus loves you with an everlasting love. He invites you to receive His love. That is the greatest Christmas gift you could receive. Admit you’re a sinner, believe that Christ died and rose again for your sin, and call upon Him to save you. That begins a journey of walking with Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

From my family to yours, merry Christmas! Please do not hesitate to reach out if I can help you in your faith.

Are You in a Desert?

Throughout my life and ministry, I have seen a pattern of a period of God’s blessing followed by a dry spell, then repeat. I have never been one to be content with the dry spells. I always want to see tangible results. When those results don’t keep coming, my impatience and frustration rise to the top. Many would say that our moments in the desert are punishment or an indication that we are doing something wrong. That can be the case, but this is not the general rule.

Sometimes God orchestrates our time in the desert for our own personal growth. Jesus was often led to the desert to pray, be tempted, or experience moments with the Father. One account states He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted. I needed this reminder today.

My desert has lasted for the last 7 years. When I resigned my first pastorate in November 2013 due to the demise of my home, I stepped into a desert. Initially, I was ready to dismiss a return to the pastorate because I equated that with everything that went wrong in my life. The destruction of my home had little if anything to do with the pastorate, and it did not take away the passion in my heart to preach and Shepherd God’s people.

The last 7 years have been filled with tons of fillers. I have tried multiple types of ministry. I went back in to music ministry. I started a church. I even stepped into a season of ministering to pastors. These were not fruitless, but they have not satisfied. I have asked God why a pastorate hasn’t opened up for me. Is it due to my decades long reputation as a “song boy” because of all the years in music ministry? Is there any church 30-60 minutes from here that can actually see God still has His hand on me and that He could use me in their context? Tons of questions flow through my mind.

The truth to which I must cling is that God will place me at the appointed place at the appointed time. In this desert, He is still preparing me. God hasn’t tossed me in a garbage can to rot until I die. He is still working in my heart to prepare me for the next assignment.

Are you in a dry, barren place in life? God hasn’t forgotten you. He does His best work in deserts. Sometimes we can’t notice God is giving us life-imparting water until we are in a dry place where we become thirsty. Let God have His perfect work. He’s not done! He’s just begun!