Thursday, November 30, 2006

New Christmas Movie: The Nativity Story

A new movie about the birth of Christ is just being released. For more info on it go to:

This site has lots of "best of" lists regarding movies, too! If you haven't seen it lately or ever, see if you can find a copy of The Bishop's Wife (the old black and white version, not to be confused with the more recent The Preacher's Wife!)'s a great Christmas movie that is often overlooked!

All I Want for Christmas!

In case you're wondering what to get me for Christmas! Wouldn't this be "cool" in the sanctuary for a children's sermon????

See it in action at:

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving! We're Not Ant Children!

Core Thought: God's love is not given to us through some spiritual eye dropper, it is LAVISHED upon us!!!

I am at my mom's; she's on the couch reading the oh-so-heavy-with-Black-Friday-sales-circulars newspaper; I'm updating my blog on the other end of the couch, and Tom (my brother's 10 year old Golden) is contently snoozing on the floor. We spent the day at my aunt's in Mauldin, having some good fellowship and great food. I'm pretty content. Thanks to everyone for the prayers concerning my first Thanksgiving without my father. My gratitude has far outweighed any feelings of sadness, and even for that, I am....well..."thankful."

Last night at prayer meeting, we began with 10 people including me since the church had opted to cancel supper and the kids' program due to the holiday. I jokingly began to talking about hoping God would send two more to make an even dozen (a prediction I had been making all day), and then we heard the door open, and another came...just one more to make my lofty goal.
As I finished with announcements, the door burst open and my dozen was made (PLUS NINE MORE!!!)! One family entered with a total of 10! We joked about God's generosity and my lack of faith. So I did a short devotion about 1 John 3:1: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" I asked, "How do we know that God's love has been LAVISHED on us?"

Everyone answered, and I kept grinning, because I was getting the answer I wanted, until our 5th and 6th grade Sunday School teacher, smiled and said, "heirs." "That's it!" I exclaimed! "We're CO-HEIRS with Jesus Christ! We're adopted into his family, and we're not some little, itty-bitty ant children sitting in some saucer by God's bed, we're co-heirs with Jesus! We're really part of the family!" How great is that!

For my place in God's family...not because I was good enough to earn it, but because God was good enough to want it...and provide for it! So I am thankful that we're not ant children of God, but co-heirs with the Son, Jesus Christ!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Can God Use Little Cars to Feed the Needy? YES HE CAN!

Core Thought: Little is much in the hands of God!

A long time ago, a little boy brought a couple of fish and five loaves of bread to Jesus, and he fed thousands. Tonight (Monday the 20th), our Royal Ambassadors (elementary aged boys) gave Jesus some little wooden cars, and their time and out of that, over $4200 was raised for Meals on Wheels. That's enough to feed eight people for a year!

I hate that I missed it due to the remnants of this weekend's stomach flu, but I am so proud of our RA's for all their hard work which yielded an evening of fun as they raced for the coveted first place trophy, and, more importantly raised some much needed funds to feed the poor!

My Grace is Sufficient

Core Thought: Even when there is tragedy, grief and heart ache, God brings good.

Sometimes people say in the wake of something bad or tragic, "Well, God has a reason for everything." I don't tend to see things this way. This statements can inply that God "intends" for certain things to happen, but I know that He does not intend that children die at the hands of abusive parents, or drunk drivers, etc.... it is never God's will that someone sins, and in that sin, someone else is harmed.

It is His will only in that He allows freedom in this life, and that freedom causes great pain. What the Bible does say is that no matter what happens to us (whether by natural disaster, the sinful acts of others (or ourselves)), He will bring good out of it. (Romans 8:28)

I have witnessed that so many times. This past week an SCE&G employee, Ken Butler, died while working on restoring power in the wake of a night of storms. My Chairman of Deacons, Eddie Platts, was Ken's co-worker and was with him at the time of the accident. Even on the evening of the day of Ken's passing, Eddie shared with me how real the Lord's presence had been to him throughout what had to be one of the most difficult days of his life.

He, and other members of my church who worked with Ken, shared similar stories of a great man of faith, who seemed to really love his family and life. Though there was (and "is") much sadness, there were also comments of gratitude for having had such a great co-worker.

Eddie spoke for me this past Sunday morning while I was away on a college retreat, and even when I told him that I would get someone else considering all he had on him, he insisted that he speak, and from the reports I'm hearing, God used him in a great way as he spoke. Pray for him as he will speak during Ken's funeral service this Wednesday. Also pray for Ken's wife and three children.

Once again I'm reminded of the powerful wake that is left behind when someone passes! I hope for all who read this blog, that when your time comes to pass from this life to the next, people will be sharing stories about you and you blessed them while you were here.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Be Patient and Pray

Hey everybody, I have a lot to blog about from this week, but am going to be late for a retreat in the upstate this evening if I don't get going! Pray for me as I lead four sessions about LIVING A LIFE THAT MATTERS which college students, primarily from Clemson University (Not that students at Clemson need to learn anything about living right, since we all know what a wonderful, Christian school it is...sorry...couldn't resist!).

Also, pray for everyone who is freaking out trying to get a Playstation 3...heard this morning someone got shot in a line waiting for one...pitiful! Paying $600 for a video game...more than pitiful! Wait five years, and you'll be able to pick up one for $25.00!

I'll be blogging before Thanksgiving!!

Gratitude and Grief and Grace!

Core Thoughts: Last Week Was An Amazing Week! Sadness, gratitude, sacredness...all rolled together!

I went to the funeral this past Wednesday of an amazing lady...Cordery Robinson, mother of Gordon Robinson who was pastor here at Denmark FBC for 12 years. I had the joy of serving as his associate for 5.5 of those years. Cordery was known as Big Mama (though quite petite) to her family, and lived 92 great years, facing life, mountain tops and valleys, with a simple,profound, powerful, enduring faith in her Lord.

The themes of her memorial service were put Jesus first, others second and yourself third, and never just do what is expected of you, do better. She was an optimist...if she had a flat tire, she thanked God it happened near someone's house who helped her. Her last several months were spent in pain and discomfort, but never in despair or self-pity. She never lost her optimistic edge, nor her desire to point people in the direction of the Lord. Her family described her last months as a continuing revival, with her being very vocal about wanting to see Jesus, and about how God's grace had truly saved her, giving her an extraordinary peace in facing her death.

When asked if she had regrets, she talked only of gratitude. She wanted God to wait until after her 92nd birthday to (her words) "pull the plug." At that celebration she asked to make a speech, and she did...tell her family that the most important thing in life was to put Christ first and follow him.

Her grandson, Brian, did an eloquent and effective job in describing his admiration for Big Mama, who was good at growing things, and who had planted many seeds in his life and the lives of others. He surprised most of us by singing a gospel song acapella. Gordon also spoke of having a wonderful, faithful mother, whose faith as expressed in the past several months, had awed him and others. How great to see a child to be able to proclaim publicly his gratitude for having had such a great mom. Her example will be remembered by all who knew her, and all who knew her would do well to imitate that example!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Velocity Skip

Core Thought: Don't miss an opportunity to be grateful.

I was home over the weekend visiting my mom and brother. We did our typical Saturday thing and went to eat seafood and do a little shopping. (Nope, I didn't find any bargains!) Anyway, I had a few thoughts on vehicular courtesy.

Whenever someone stops in a parking lot, or on the street to let me walk in front of their car, I do two gestures of gratitude:

First, the courtesy wave (There was once a Seinfeld episode about this!), which you can also do when someone lets you into traffic by stopping, or waves you on at a four-way stop. It's just a simple wave of the hand to say thank you.

The other gesture is probably not as well known, and I have dubbed it the "velocity skip." This occurs either simultaneously with the courtesy wave, or shortly thereafter. It is a slight skip or change in your forward velocity to indicate your desire not to hinder the driver any more than necessary. In short, it's just a slight increase in your speed to "get out of the way."

Yes, it does irritate me a bit (just a bit) when I wave a saunterer (yes, it's a word!) across (especially someone who is young and fit), and they continue at their previous pace, a slow saunter (strange word isn't it?). This act of ingratitude is compounded by a lack of the courtesy wave.

So what am I saying? Get mad at saunterers? NO! Just don't forget your wave and your velocity skip! The world will be a better place! in this Coke commercial...don't assume it's a video the whole thing!!!

Don't forget - you can comment now!!!!


Core Thought: A public service announcement we all need to know about.

Go to this link and watch the whole thing! It could save a life!

It still amazes me how powerful one decision, or one moment of inattention can be. Don't throw your decisions around! They are powerful!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Two Ads - Two Ways To Live!

Core Thoughts: You can either be a GIVER or a TAKER; GENEROUS or SELFISH. You choose, but choose wisely.

Here are two links to two TV ads. The first is from Toyota and emphasizes the stupidity of selfishness.

Ever met a happy stingy, selfish person? Ever met a sad generous person?

Okay, the next ad is from an insurance company. Wouldn't the world be great if we acted like this all the time! Oh and remember my definition of true love (from I John 3:16-18). Watch this and see if you agree...

Cool...huh? So go out and spread some doesn't take a lot of time, and it may just spread to someone else!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Being A Success Means Remembering the Basics

Core Thought: It’s easy to be distracted by so many things that you forget that the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing!

I have a good friend who has a problem. He owns his own business and it is growing too fast. His problem is success! Of course, that’s a pretty good problem to have. So what’s the secret of his success….well, he is making things people need and want, but as I stand by as a semi-objective observer, I have noticed some other reasons:

  • He is smart and knows what he’s doing.
  • He uses his knowledge and experience to make a good product.
  • He is open to learning how to do new things if a customer wants something special.
  • He is honest.
  • He is cares about his employees and is fair with them.
  • He is hard working.
  • He has integrity.
  • He has a great business partner (his wife).

Oh, and one more thing. He takes Jesus Christ seriously….seriously enough to let that relationship function not only in his church life, but in his work and family life as well. The qualities that he exhibits reminds me of qualities we all need to be intentional about when it comes to our relationship with Christ. Think about it…

Just as my friend is smart and knows his business, a believer should seek to grow in wisdom and be about his Father’s business.

Just as my friend uses his knowledge (his “smarts”) by applying it to what he’s making, so wisdom that is not used is useless. The Bible says that faith without works is dead. In Galatians 5: 6 Paul reminds us that: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Love, unconditional love, is an action in the best interest of another. We need to “act” on what we “know,” and what we “know” is that we are here to “love” God and others.

Just as my friend is open to learning new things, so should we be open to learning new things about Christ, ourselves, our purpose, His Spirit, and so many other things to make our life better. And when our life grows and becomes better, so does our impact on others. A disciple is a life-long learner.

Just as my friend is honest, so should we be to honor Christ. If people can’t trust us about life in general, how will they ever trust what we have to say about Christ?

Just as my friend cares about and is fair with those who work for him,
so should we care and be fair in all our relationships. People are not to be used merely as means to an end. They are valuable to God, and should be valuable to us.

Just as my friend is hard working, so should we give ourselves to serve the Lord with joy and enthusiasm. Paul told the Roman Christians in his epistle to them, “
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (12:11) Also, just as an athlete needs to train to excel (versus merely “trying harder” to do the same old things), so should the believer train to experience the abundant life in Christ.

Just as my friend has integrity, so should we as believers. How many of us have heard a lost person talk about how horrible the church is because of all those hypocrites. It is true that no one is perfect, but we should strive for integrity so people can trust us. Hypocrisy destroys a person’s witness.

Finally, just as my friend does not conduct his business alone, so does the believer grow and live and serve the Lord in community with other believers. We need each other…it’s biblical! We are to depend on each other…that’s biblical, too! Remember that the first thing God labeled as “not good” at the beginning of creation was that man was alone. So God gave him a partner because: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

So how is your success these days? Are people looking at your life and thinking about your relationship with Christ? Are they looking at your life and seeing anything that they might want to imitate…anything that points them toward the One whose presence in your life is obvious? I hope so, because that IS success!

Your Risks Can Change Quickly

Core Thought: Be careful about living as you are invincible. Life has a myriad of ways to prove the contrary!

I really like the insurance company’s commercial where the guy goes hunting for sharks ALONE in a cage. He is surrounded by several of these computer-generated man-easters, and gets bumped, stumbles with spear gun in hand, and accidentally shoots the spear through the bottom of his boat. Oh, wait…here’s the link:

At first he rejoices because it scares the sharks away, but in a moment his jubilation turns to disbelief as he sees from below his boat exploding and sinking. So much for an exciting fishing trip. The dummy went alone, and he had not taken the time to think out possible scenarios. Hmmm….sharks….that would be enough to a.) keep me out of the water, and b.) if I did go in, I wouldn’t be out there by myself!

At any rate, it reminds me of how dangerous it is to go through life thinking you can handle it alone. Also, we have an innate ability to create a good bit of our own suffering and pain.

We don’t get our way and get upset.

  • We assume stuff about others, and instead of going to check it out, we withdraw, or gossip to rally support.
  • We enter into dangerous situations with little regard to possible consequences (affairs, addictions, etc.).

And then there are the sharks we can’t control: disease, tragedies, grief, etc.

We need more than insurance. We need to wake up and realize that we were created to live life in healthy relationship with God and with others. Nothing is more important than this. Yet we forget. That’s one of the many reasons God intended for us to live in community with others; so we could remind each other to stay awake!

God has not hidden the fact that life here is risky, and that things can change in an instant. We warns us about sharks, but promises over and over that no matter what, He is with us.

So don’t go shark fishing alone; and don’t do this life alone either! It may not be today, but one day you might just find your boat sinking, too!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Forgive Me - I'm Still Learning

HEY EVERYBODY! YOU CAN POST COMMENTS NOW! I HAD A SETTING SET INCORRECTLY. Just click on Comments and leave one. You can choose to be anonymous, but that would drive me crazy trying to figure out who you are! So do leave your name! Thanks for joining me on this blogging journey!!!!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

God Still Uses Donkeys To Get Our Attention

Core Thought: Donkey's Lesson Number One - Real Friends Tell Us The Truth and Stick with Us!

God still uses donkeys to get our attention! In Numbers 21, we read how God used Balaam's donkey to get his attention by giving the donkey a voice and a message. Now, I may be treading on thin ice even saying this, and I am not equating the two, but Donkey in the motion picture Shrek is a powerful communicator, too.

It's easy to overlook the impact Donkey on Shrek because he is so entertaining, but if you look past that, you'll see in Donkey, a lot to learn about impacting others for good. Donkey ranks up there as one of my favorite movie characters (one day I'll blog about my all time favorite!), and NOT just because he is so funny.

Donkey becomes a phenomenal force in the transformation of Shrek, a lonely, angry, frustrated, isolated, misunderstood ogre incable (it seems!) of true love, into everyone's hero who finds true love (when he had been hopeless) and lives happily ever after (Well, at least until Shrek 2)!

From the beginning of their friendship, Shrek tries to get rid of Donkey, who is determined to forge a relationship with the ogre, because, as Donkey sings, "You gotta have friends!"

No matter how rude or scary Shrek tries to be, Donkey is in the relationship for the long haul. As you watch the story unfold... you see that Donkey's connection to Shrek is not a selfish one. No, it is born out of an initial act of salvation. Shrek scares off Donkey's would-be captors (not to help Donkey, mind you...just for the sheer pleasure of scaring people!), and Donkey is from that moment on...connected! Why?

Gratitude! Shrek even tells him upon their first meeting, when he is trying to brush this new irritant off, "why don't you go and celebrate your freedom with your own friends?"

I like that phrase, "celebrate your freedom." Isn't that how anyone who has been freed should look at life? From the start, Donkey is an expert in celebration, and eager to use his new found freedom to forge a friendship with his liberator, Shrek.

And this relationship is not easy, but it is worthwhile. When Shrek decides to go and confront the evil Lord Farquad, it is Donkey who excited exclaims in front of the crowd of displaced fairy tale creatures, "Pick me! Pick me!" Christian should be so eager to follow Christ on His adventure called life....

As I said, significant relationships are not always smooth or easy. Near the end of the movie, through a major misunderstanding, Shrek retreats to his isolation and anger, and lashes out at Donkey. Donkey, however, refuses to end the friendship and goes to confront Shrek....why? "Because" Donkey exclaims, "Friends forgive each other!"

Finally Shrek wakes up...and, with his restored friend, Donkey, go to rescue Fiona from evil (and short) Lord Farquad! What a great friend to have...someone like that irritating little donkey named, "Donkey!" Someone who takes all of us, good and bad, and is committed to our best interest.

Donkey could have called it quits and said it wasn't worth it, but he didn't because he knew that Shrek needed a new life, a better life, and Donkey was committed to do whatever it took to make it happen. Friendship can mean hard work some time (any deep relationship does!), but it is worth it! Still, Donkey has another lesson for anyone willing to look deeper than the laughs...

Core Thought #2: Donkey knows a little something about witnessing using "rabbinic questioning!" Could there be a better way to share our faith?

A couple of days ago, I heard a message in which the preacher brought out Jesus' witnessing style. He brought to our attention the fact that Jesus did NOT debate about the merits of his "religion" as opposed to other religions. Interestingly enough, when he did attack religion, it was usually aimed at his own religion...Judaism...and then only with regards to the hypocrisy of certain leaders, or with people abusing that particular religious system (like the money lenders).

You don't see Him making the paganism of the Romans a target of attack. He came to announce the good news of the coming of God's kingdom, not to establish just another world religion. He did not come to debate and win arguments; he came to reveal God's love and salvation and purposes.

Basically he told his followers to learn from him, to demonstrate what kingdom living was in daily life (i.e. a life of love for God and one's fellow man, including enemies), and to be willing to give an explanation for their lifestyles of love.

He didn't get sidetracked into the issues of the day. As a matter of fact, he didn't promote religion at all, but relationships...with Him, the Father and with each other. For Christ, Christianity was no religion at all, but the reality of who He was and who we are.

This is not to say He didn't upset people, because He did, but not by debating them, but by living a life that revealed hypocrisy and the dangers of empty, ritual-only religion. No wonder so many of the religious leaders of the day turned on Him.

Others, however, were drawn to this new kind of life. And Jesus responded to many of these seekers with a witnessing "style" we would be wise to learn and practice. Jesus, who was not only God incarnate, but also a Jewish rabbi, employed an amazing tool in reaching out to those drawn to Him. That tool is called....are you ready....asking questions!

In his book, Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did, Randy Newman spotlights this simple, yet powerful way of engaging people in meaningful dialogue. He cites several examples of Jesus' method of engaging people versus just preaching "at" them.

  1. A rich man asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" That question was a great set up for a clear, concise gospel presentation. I can almost hear a disciple whispering in Jesus' ear, "Take out the tract." But how did Jesus respond? He posed a question, "Why do you call me good?" (Mark 10:17-18).
  2. When religious leaders asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes, Jesus referred to a coin and asked, "Whose portrait is this?" (Matt. 22:17-20).
  3. When the Pharisees asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" Jesus' response was a question: "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?" (Matt. 12:9-12).

This isn't to say Jesus never preached, but when he was one on one, often he used questions to get whoever he was talking to to think. Wait a minute...I almost forgot Donkey, didn't I?

As he and Shrek are learning to tolerate each other; they have an important and revealing confrontation under the stars after Fiona has retired for the evening in the cave. Donkey, ever the analyst starts "the process."

DONKEY: (heaves a big sigh) Hey, Shrek, what we gonna do when we get our swamp anyway?

SHREK Our swamp?

DONKEY You know, when we're through rescuing the princess.

SHREK We? Donkey, there's no "we". There's no "our". There's just me and my swamp. The first thing I'm gonna do is build a ten-foot wall around my land.

DONKEY You cut me deep, Shrek. You cut me real deep just now. You know what I think? I think this whole wall thing is just a way to keep somebody out.

SHREK No, do ya think?

DONKEY Are you hidin' something?- SHREK Never mind, Donkey.

DONKEY Oh, this is another one of those onion things, isn't it?- SHREK No, this is one of those drop-it and leave-it alone things.

DONKEY Why don't you want to talk about it? - SHREK Why do you want to talk about it?

DONKEY Why are you blocking? - SHREK I'm not blocking.

DONKEY Oh, yes, you are. - SHREK Donkey, I'm warning you.

DONKEY Who you trying to keep out? - SHREK Everyone! Okay?

DONKEY (pause) Oh, now we're gettin' somewhere. (grins)

Okay, so Donkey isn't that smooth or embracing, but he is motivated by the desire to help his friend, and he does this by finding out who Shrek is. Do we want to know people? Do we want to engage them as Christ did? I hope so. As God gives you opportunities to share the good news of your life with Him, relax, and find out who you are talking with. If Christ took the time to engage people with questions of true concern and compassion, shouldn't we?

If you want to find out more about the power of rabbinic questioning as a way of communicating the good news, check out:

If Donkey can help an ogre named Shrek by being committed, compassionate, and willing to ask questions, can't we?

Don't You Love Those Political Commercials!

Core Thought: Despite all the mud slinging, you still need to vote! (A lot of people in other places would love the opportunity to be irritated by our political process!)

If you haven't seen this commercial from AARP, you need to, and after you visit the link, find out what issues are at stake, and vote! The link: