The One Who Showed Up

There is not a single one of us who has not invited someone to at least one thing in life. You may have invited someone to a party or to be your forever love. In addition to inviting people into a relationship with Jesus Christ, I have spent years of ministry inviting people to join a choir, worship team, senior adult ministry, or simply to attend a worship service. I cannot tell you how many times I have invited someone to something, only to hear this great line – “I just might surprise you and be there.” At this point, I can tell you that those who say this would literally surprise me to an early grave if they decided to show up. Well, today, I met the one who showed up when he said he would.

Two days ago, I was providing music for a senior center here in the upstate. Right before I left, one of the men engaged me in conversation for a few minutes. Within that few minutes, he asked where I pastored and responded with, “I’ll come see you.” As I said, I have heard that a lot. This man meant it and showed up between 5-10 minutes before the service started. It meant a lot to me because this man probably drove at least 30-45 minutes and even invited someone with him, although the individual didn’t take him up on it. He said he planned to be back sometime.

In life, it’s easy to focus on the hundreds who turn down your invitation and forget the one who accepted. Pastors fight that discouragement too. Here’s the thing – Even Jesus had this issue. I think about the 10 lepers in Luke 17. All 10 were healed of their disease. Here was the problem – Only 1 came back to thank Jesus! All 10 received the healing, but only 1 returned to thank Him.

Today, I choose to celebrate the one who showed up. A man I barely know blessed this pastor today, and I’m extremely grateful. Don’t take “the one who showed up” for granted!

Mountains High and Valleys Low

It has been quite a while since I last posted here. Almost 2 months to be exact! It wasn’t that I didn’t think about this blog or writing another post. Every time I went to write or think about another post, God said, “Don’t you dare write about that!” Since God told me no, I thought I better listen. He has now given me the go-ahead, so I am writing about the highs and lows of recent months, giving you a glimpse of the reality of the pastor.

On May 1, we relaunched as Oasis Church. Our church has been wonderfully unified through this process. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Considering we are a congregation averaging between 50-60 people with a mortgage that takes up a huge part of our resources, God has been SO FAITHFUL to us! Praise God we will have it paid in 3 years! Despite the great things that happened, this pastor and congregation got tired. (This may cue up those with the spiritual gift of rebuke who say that Holy Ghost-filled people never get tired, so I refer you to Elisha, Jonah, and others who were also human.)

Being tired is a great breeding ground for discouragement and depression. Then add to that both of our vehicles needing repair along with my mom’s which was on loan, the financial woes that come with that along with some leaps of faith, and a few families who left the church (albeit peacefully), I was the lowest I’ve been in a while. Despite my low state, God came through for me in ways only He can do. He provided financially with a couple of miracle gifts and gave the strength to lead and minister, though I found myself ministering on fumes some days.

Another bright spot was my 17 year old son surrendering to the call to music ministry while he was at camp. He and his sister were both sick when they returned, but he was able to share his news with the church on Sunday morning. The church prayed over him and rejoiced with him.

We also had a great children’s ministry workers meeting this week. Many of our people are serving in multiple ministries, but they are excited and looking forward with great vision. I couldn’t help but leave encouraged.

In the day of the megachurch, it’s easy for one to look at our church and see what we don’t offer. What I see is a church in which God has breathed new life. I see a church that has caught a second wind and desires to reach the community. I see an authentic community God has built, where people can be loved where they are and have the freedom to grow in Christ. Yes, we may have to take baby steps and move slowly, but lots of great things are in the works. We are doing what we can with the resources God has given us. As He gives us more, we will be able to do more.

I have no shame in asking people to pray for us. Would you pray that God would send us laborers? Would you pray for me to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, putting on the whole armor of God? Would you pray that we would stay focused on our Lord and the Great Commission? The last 2 months have been full of mountains and valleys, but I know one thing – God’s presence and care has been in all of it!

I’m Sorry

I grew up as an only child, so I had no competition at home. I did, however, have cousins I saw frequently at my grandma’s house. Until I was 10, all my cousins were girls, so we had lots of arguments. My grandma was always determined we were going to fix it, so she did what many from that generation did – she made us say “I’m sorry!” Then she followed up with, “Don’t say it unless you mean it.” The truth was that I wanted to go back to what I was doing, so I told my cousin I was sorry just to speed up the process.

How many of us do that with God and others, even in our adult life? I would say the vast majority of us. How many of us are truly sorry when we mess up, hurt someone, or violate God’s standards? My wife and I recently had a discussion with the kids about being sorry. One confused to only being sorry because he got caught. While we aim for his heart being broken over sin, we appreciated the honesty. I have encountered so many who have been overtaken by sin, and the only reason they were sorry was because they got caught and could no longer delay the hurt their reactions would cause others.

What does God have to say about sorrow in relation to sin? Second Corinthians 7:9-11 says this: “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” Godly sorrow leads to repentance – a change of mind that results in a change of behavior.

Is there any sorrow in your life today? Are you sorry because of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Or are you sorry you got caught? If you answered yes to the latter, admitting it is the first step to correction. Let God have access to the selfishness in your life and produce some godly sorrow in you.

Are Reblogs a Thing of the Past?

I began my WordPress blogging “career” in 2015. I had no clue what I was doing, but I guess I figured some things out. Before I knew it, I had 1,600 followers. A few years ago, I burned out and let the old domain go. Months later, I purchased this one. In retrospect, I have noticed some things have changed in the world of blogging.

My question today is “Are reblogs a thing of the past?” I used to see other bloggers share each other’s posts. Many would share mine. It was a great way to promote the work of others. The question came to mind as I did so for another blogger. It was not solicited, but I really liked what he had to say from Scripture about what it means to be a true disciple.

In a day when it’s every man for himself, let’s reinstitute putting others before self. I’m still the type of guy who wants to root for the underdog. This has come back to bite me a few times, but I want to give people a chance like someone gave me a chance many years ago. If reblogging is a thing of the past, let’s go retro and bring it back!

To Those Who Have Been Lied About

Life can be hard. People can be cruel. It hurts even when we expect it, but cruelty from those you thought loved you is an even harder pill to swallow. We all have had someone lie about us, but some of those lies have been quite damaging to our reputation.

Over a year ago, I spoke with a pastor who had several slanderous words said about him in relation to his divorce. As someone else who has been divorced, I could relate. As he shared his woes about the rumors that were spreading, someone gave him two wise words – “Prove yourself!” This pastor was not admonished to get on social media and “set the record straight.” He was simply told to live a consistently godly life, and the Lord would defend him. After a few years went by, the one who gave him the advice told him, “You proved yourself!”

You may be reading this, and you have had people say horrible things about you. I know it hurts. In efforts to try to defend yourself, your accusers will try to say you are just covering for yourself. When you simply live a godly life and allow the Lord to plead your case, He is much more successful. Take your hands off the wheel and let Him drive!

An Appointment with God

Around 2:00 pm yesterday, I was awaiting deliveries to come through. They were few and far between. The inactivity was driving me insane, so I took a drive to the church. I know I can pray anywhere, but I feel a certain freedom in there when the building is empty. I got there and began to spew out to God my deepest struggle. My goal was to petition God for a specific thing and not leave until I got the answer I wanted. Instead, I got the answer I needed.

While I need God to work a certain way, God’s answer to me was one that is all too familiar – Praise God in the hallway! In other words, worship Him as you await the answer. My time began with my expression of disgust for a certain situation. It ended with praise.

The turning point happened when some song lyrics came to my mind. The song, “You Get the Glory” by Jonathan Traylor”, exposed some error and selfishness in my mindset. The truth is that you may struggle with these lyrics:

This is so heavy And it’s bringing me to my knees And I’m crying out Lord, I need You now To come and see about me

Don’t know why’s this life so hard? And why do You seem so far? But if this cup won’t pass Help me to stay steadfast Let Your will be done

And this is my cross to bear This is my story to tell That no matter what I’ve gone through I’ve been tried and came out true So let Your will be done

Tribulation, persecution My affliction, You get the glory from it In my weakness, in my brokenness In the crushing, You get the glory from this

On the mountain top, in the valley low You are in control, You get the glory from this On my good days On my bad days, I will still say

You get the glory from this You get the glory from this No matter what I have to go through in this world As long as You get the glory from it

My time of prayer turned when I asked the Lord, “Come and see about me.” In that moment, I felt deserted. Oh, did He answer that prayer! I was totally feeling the second paragraph about life being hard. As I continued to work through the lyrics, I realized I was too selfish to truly mean the words of this song as a prayer. I started admitting that to God and processing through it. I told Him, “I know You have called me to deny myself, take up the cross, and follow You, but I don’t want the self-denial or the cross at the moment.” My pride, flesh, and arrogance somehow turned into praise before my time was over. I knew that I had to practice what I have preached to people for years – Focus on the Lord and not circumstances! Every day, I must choose to praise.

Do you remember what Jesus addressed in the sermon on the mount beginning in Matthew 6:25? Worry! He addressed the subject of worry. He told the crowd that if God takes care of the birds and flowers, He will take care of them. Then He gave them the command to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, and all these things would be added to them. I was reminded to seek HIM first. Not seek what He can give me first. Seek HIM! I must align with what Cody Carnes wrote: “I just want You. Nothing else will do!”

While I wanted the situation on my heart to be fixed right then, God had an appointment with me to fix me and my fleshly mindset. I’m glad He did! I had forgotten what it was like to forget about myself and worship Him like I did. I want daily appointments like this. It may hurt and go against every selfish part of me, but that’s what I need. Make it a point today to set up such an appointment with God and let Him change you!

Ordering Delivery

At the beginning of this year, I made a decision to join the gig economy and deliver for one of the popular food delivery services. I can assure you that the decision was not made so I could take in the big bucks. Quite the contrary! Because I pastor a church and have kids who live out of state I pick up every other weekend, I need flexibility. The financial piece has been a huge struggle, but I have cherished more intentional time focusing on the church and my family. Being a delivery driver has taught me a lot, so I figured I would share a few of those things with you.

Never judge a book by its cover! We have heard this one a million times. People assume that those who live in nicer houses will tip better than those who don’t. That is definitely an assumption! I can’t tell you how many times I have pulled up to a home that looks like it is about to cave in, only to discover that the residents of that home tipped well. I have pulled up to lakefront homes where the tip was minimal. Some people don’t tip at all, assuming that the delivery fee and tip are the same. The bottom line is that generosity is a condition of the heart, and the tip is dependent upon if the customer has a genuine appreciation for what you do.

Never give people too much credit! I’m goofy enough to assume sometimes that people will put their full information into the app so you deliver to the right place. They don’t. Because I deliver in a college town, some people only put the name of the university. This is a large school that covers miles of this little town. Some people live in apartments and don’t include the apartment number. A few days ago, someone put in an address that doesn’t exist. I had to call and ask for the address, only to find out it was 4 miles away from the address they included in the app.

Never assume people who do these gigs as the scum of the earth. You would be amazed at the real lives these people live. Some would assume they are uneducated people who have no skills to do anything else. I have heard all kinds of derogatory remarks about those who deliver food for these services or those who transport people using one of the driving services. Many are people like me who have college degrees or who need some flexibility because of life circumstances. You would be surprised that some people who do these jobs actually earn really good money. If I lived in a more metropolitan area, I could probably be reeling in some good cash right now. I think this principle also applies to the first point of not judging the book/driver by the cover. As someone who wore suits for several years, I might look like a bum with my t-shirt and jeans, but don’t let that fool you.

As a “gig economist” (I guess that’s what you call me), I’m not knocking this line of work. I think it is a great opportunity for people to still be able to work and tend to family obligations like a sick spouse, child, or parent, etc. I’m thankful for all the people out there who are giving it their all, sometimes chasing pennies in order to put food on the table. Next time you find yourself using one of these services, be a blessing to that person. You might be the bright spot in their day.

Duty or Delight

I have always been a “check off the boxes” kind of guy. Manly men do not pass go and collect $200. They do what has to be done with no small talk or pleasantries along the way, right? I’m not calling myself the epitome of a manly man here, but I am saying that there are certain expectations that come with being a man…or an adult, for that matter. While God doesn’t want us neglecting responsibility, God doesn’t want us hating life either.

On my drive to church yesterday, I was reflecting on Mary and Martha’s encounter with Jesus as recorded in Luke 10. Martha was busy in the kitchen. Mary was hanging out at the feet of Jesus. Martha was focused on the responsibility while Mary was focused on the relationship. Relationship and responsibility have to meet. Duty and delight have to meet.

As you start out this week and try to check off the boxes, it’s okay to enjoy the journey. In fact, the Bible tells us to serve the Lord with gladness. It’s okay to be happy while you’re getting things done. Take a minute to change your thinking. You’ll be glad you did.

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This!

It’s crazy how a blog post begins with a simple thought that gets creative fast! The title was not the original intent, but it seems rather fitting for Mother’s Day weekend. Days like this…crazy, broken, insane, hostile days when objective truth is hated and we embrace whatever we make up from minute to minute. Days when we hate those who don’t think just like us. Days when the only person who is loved is self, and the self-love that is flaunted still leaves people empty. My Mom did tell me there would be days like this.

My Mom told me about these days because her mother told her that days like this would come. Why would my grandmother say such things? Because my grandmother studied the Bible, and God clearly told her through Scripture that there would be days like this.

What does the Bible say about these days? Second Timothy 3:1-5 says, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” While some would talk about how antiquated this book is or say that it is a bunch of hogwash, it sure is accurate. Although people were like that to some extent almost 2,000 years ago when this was written by Paul, they are doing a much better job of it in 2022. I’m glad my mother and her mother both warned me about days like this.

Did you have parents who warned you about these days? Maybe you didn’t. Please don’t hold it against them. You can be the kind of parent, grandparent, or even friend who warns people. You can be the one who tells others what they need in times like these. I believe the hymn writer said it best:

“In times like these you need a Savior
In times like these you need an anchor
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

“In times like these you need the Bible
In times like these, O be not idle
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

“In times like these I have a Savior
In times like these I have an anchor
I’m very sure, I’m very sure
My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One
This Rock is Jesus, the only One
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!”

You don’t have to dread nor hate the days in which we live when Christ is your Savior. You have all you need to face these crazy times. He said His grace is enough. Lean on Him today!