Sunday, December 26, 2010

Be the Gift in 2011


While working on my "post-Christmas" sermon, I used a song from "Mercy Me's" latest CD, The Generous Mr. Lovewell. I think it has a lot to say about what kind of life Christ wants to give all of His followers...lives of daily, consistent, acts of love and kindness! Here's hoping people can tell that you are a member of the Lovewell family!



Lyrics:

Verse 1
He wakes up every day the same
Believing he's gonna make a change
Never wonders "if" but "when"
I guarantee he can find a way
To reach out and make somebody's day
'Cause someone took the time with him

Pre-Chorus 1:
He believes it's the little things
That make a great big change

Chorus:
Hey Mr. Lovewell
Doing today what you do every day
No matter how small believing it's all the same
Come on, Mr. Lovewell
Oh we could use a few more just like you
Who care enough to give this life away
'Cause you've been changed
The generous Mr. Lovewell loves today

Verse 2:
It may be a simple, "How do you do?"
The king of thing that can pull them through
A minute or two can mean so much
Or maybe it's the one across the street
He's asking if there's anything they need
'Cause they will know us by our love

Pre-Chorus 2:
It may not mean that much to him
But it's the world to them

Bridge:
We all need more Mr. Lovewells

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Christmas Story with Some Great Kids!

After viewing so very many dramatizations of the First Christmas, it's hard to impress me, but these kids did! May the wonder of childhood be rekindled in all who would call themselves "Christ-Follower" this Christmas Day! Take a moment to watch these kids, and smile as they remind us that the greatest gift of Christmas is a God Who would send His Son to earth as a baby that He might grow to be our Savior. In saving us, He made the way, became the way, by which we could be adopted by God that we might call Him the title He loves best...ABBA FATHER!

At its heart, Christmas is a love story summed up best by a passage you are probably very familiar with: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16,17 So remember this Christmas Day how much the Father loves you, as John did when he wrote, "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1

May the wonder of childhood grip you today!!!! Enjoy the Christmas Story, and remember that God wants us to be a continuing part of that story every day!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Jesus - Take Two!

Here's another "Happy Birthday Jesus" song by Alabama. A little more grown-up than the previous post, but still a great reminder about why we have Christmas in the first place! Enjoy!

Christmas! It's a Birthday!

On Christmas Day why not start a new tradition! Gather everyone around the computer and play this video! Pretty simple reminder for all Christ-followers that after it's all been said and done, Christmas is a birthday celebration for the One Who loves you more than anyone! Give Him the gift He wants most...YOU!

May we find the joy in Christ that Paul expressed in Philippians 3:7-9 "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith."

HAPPY CHRIST'S BIRTHDAY EVERYONE!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Happy Star Wars Life Day!

I cannot believe that I did not remember this. I saw the original Star Wars about ____ (Fill in embarrassing number between 1 and 100) times, but this Star Wars Holiday Special completely slipped my mind. I say "holiday" on purpose in that since Star Wars is set in another galaxy a long, long time ago, they wouldn't know Christmas if it hit them in the head (if, that is, their species had a recognizable head!). So here it is, but I bet NO ONE can watch the whole thing! I'm a huge Star Wars fan, and I can't muster the courage (or lunacy) to waste 117 minutes watching it! It was shown only once, and George Lucas (Star Wars creator) was NOT pleased with it! Oh well, it is a part of Star Wars history, so HAPPY WOOKIE LIFE DAY!!!



For more information about the special, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Star_Wars_Holiday_Special

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thanking God for the Optimists in My Life

On the way home from a meeting at the local tech school on Wednesday, I pulled over to take this picture. Yes, there may 13 buzzards in this picture!

And, yes, my first thought was...what a great image...buzzards waiting for things to die. In an economically depressed rural town, not a pleasant thought.

I told a church member about it, and she wisely responded, "But where would we be without them?" And then I thought...we'd have to clean up a lot more road kill than we do. How dare be down and ungrateful about God's natural clean-up crew!

Ironically, I was talking with the church member who is on our finance committee about an unexpected blessing. My secretary talked to me about 20 minutes after I took this picture, the picture which tempted me to be sad about things in town dying...well, she informed me that someone had sent the church a check for $34,000, which is probably the largest single check ever given....so we were talking about this unexpected blessing when I was reminded that what may seem like buzzards might be gifts from a loving Father, like the check.

So don't jump to conclusions about apperances...just because there are buzzards on the water tower of your life, it doesn't mean your Father isn't doing something amazing! Romans 8:28 is actually true...God does work all things out for our good if we trust Him! And while He's working it out, don't dwell on the negatives (that's a sin...see Philippians 4:8), but be joyful, pray continually, and be thankful our Father is real, and with you (1 Thess. 5:16-18), no matter how many buzzards you see!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Little Reminder of God's Grace...

I've been trying to catch up on visiting church members since getting back from vacation, and have been ministering to some folks that have had significant medical challenges, etc. The past couple of days have been challenging, but my Father is faithful in reminding me that He's faithful. Last night in the driveway of my last visit for day, He was generous enough to paint this for me and whoever else was wise enough to have a camera in his/her pocket! For some reason, it made me feel better. If you see something beautiful out there, take a picture, and then give God credit!

Surviving the Happy Holidays if You're Not So Happy!

Not everyone has a "Happy" Holiday this time of year. My church family has lost more members this year to death than in a normal year, so more of my church members are facing their first Christmas without a loved one. Add to that countless others suffering from depression, illness, loneliness, etc. that give ample opportunities to feel sad during "the most wonderful time of the year."

I came across this article concerning using the psalms to "confront the uncomfortable darkness," and I thought it had some pretty good insight into how important being honest with God is, especially when we are grieving or depressed. The author is Dr. Lynn Anderson (http://mentornetwork.org/index.php/lynn/about/). Here are the first two paragraphs:

The Psalms help us explore the uncomfortable. God provides therapy through the Psalms. As we pray all of the Psalms — laments as well as praises — they will take us into emotional geography that we might otherwise avoid. They lead us to process painful feelings we might otherwise just stuff down inside.

Our “happy happy” culture programs us to avoid painful or negative feelings. But serious downsides come with this kind of avoidance. Mental health professionals have long since discovered that swallowed painful feelings, like anger, fear and shame usually produce negative consequences. These feelings frequently come out in some destructive form, such as clinical depression or substance abuse or sexual acting out. God knew this. And I believe one reason he gave us the Psalms is to help us unearth these kinds of feelings and deal with them. By praying the Psalms we vent and lay our stuff honestly at His feet. God is big enough to let us beat on his chest.

The rest of the article can be found here:http://www.heartlight.org/articles/200109/20010926_prayer04.html

As we celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas season, be especially sensitive to those who may be having a more difficult time celebrating.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Christmas, It's About the Cross, Too!


As always, I'm experimenting with different lighting, etc., to get interesting shots of our sanctuary's Christmas decorations. When someone got a large nativity set for the baptistry there was a little discussion about whether to cover the cross, perhaps to put up a star, and I think we did do that one year, but I like having the cross up there. I put a red filter on the church spotlight and got this effect. (For more pictures of our decorations go to:http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2058548&id=1533128561&l=4c0b486e42)

We as Christ-followers can easily get so caught up in Christmas traditions that we subconsciously separate Christ's birth from His purpose in coming, which included His eventual death as a sacrifice for our sin. In Luke 2, when Simeon blessed the child in the temple because God had promised him that he would not die without seeing the Messiah, he was not all sweetness and light.

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:29-35


What had happened to Mary was miraculous beyond comprehension, but her son's journey would not be without pain (immense pain), and she would experience pain on the journey, too. This picture also reminds me of the words of the angelic messenger in Luke 2:10,11: And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. There could be no Savior without a cross, so may part of your Christmas celebration be thanksgiving that Christ came not just to give us the ultimate Christmas story, but to save us from our sin! Click on the video to see/hear one of my favorite Christmas songs by Go Fish:

Don't Be a Disney Racist! Give Their New Scrooge a Chance!

Disney's newest version of "A Christmas Carol" may be much better than you'd expect! I know prejudiced people with regards to movies. Some people (usually younger ones) write off black and white movies immediately, others can't stomach science fiction, and others think watching animated movies, unless you're enduring it for the sake of your children, is a complete waste of time. Some movies...uh, many movies are a complete waste of time, but not because of their genre or media type, but because of a lack of story.

Pixar has yet to make a movie (and they are all animated)that has not been a commercial success. Why? Because they are masterful story tellers. All of this is to say, don't write off Disney's latest animated version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." If you have a HD television, it is just an amazing things to look at. What surprised me though, was how much of the dialogue was lifted right out of Dicken's original work.

Case in point. When the ghost of Marley comes to visit Scrooge, Scrooge comments that Marley was always a good business man. This sends the ghost into a whail. The book and the movie are almost word for word in Marley's response:

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

I love the story of a Christmas Carol because it so clearly illustrates a fundamental principle of life: that transformation rarely comes without struggle; and that transformation is possible. So check it out in this video clip. Some scenes may be a little too intense for very young children, and they certainly won't get a lot of the dialogue, but I found it a pleasant Christmas surprise!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Advent Conspiracy Plug

Last night some folks in Bamberg County witnessed a Christmas miracle! I spoke at the annual Christmas tree lighting at the courthouse. It was 40 degrees (the wind chill made it feel like 20 below!), and I was met with well-wishers encouraging me to "keep it short preacher!" I don't blame them...it was cold. I had asked my church family to pray for me as I had been informed earlier that I needed to keep the "message" between 5 and 10 minutes. Last night that range changed from 5 to 10 minutes to 5 to 8 minutes per the requests of my welcoming committee.

Well, I preached for 8 minutes! Yes, someone timed it! I did manage, however, to get in plugs for:

The Bishop's Wife, on of my favorite Christmas movies (the black and white version): I referenced the final sermon given by the bishop, a sermon (it only lasts about a minute) written by an angel, played by Cary Grant. Go to the 6:30 mark for the sermon if you're in a hurry. It will be worth it if you haven't seen it!




I also took the speaking opportunity to plug the Advent Conspiracy (go to: http://www.adventconspiracy.org/ for more info). Here is their first video promo from several years ago followed by a more recent (2009) version:








Finally, here are three of the founding pastors giving an introduction to the Advent Conspiracy.





If you haven't already, think about joining the conspiracy!! You may just find Christmas more wonderful than you ever imagined!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

How Good is Your Church Connection?

Several of my friends have already purchased HD TV's and are enjoying the bigger, clearer pictures they are getting. Stay with me, I'll get to the church thing in a minute.

Here is a picture of the various kinds of cables you can use to connect your TV to an antenna, cable or satellite box. Pick the wrong cable, and you'll cheat yourself out of the High -Def picture you were expected. Also, you have to sign up for HD programming from your cable or satellite provider, too!

Anyway, as I was thinking about these various connection options, I thought about a person's church connection. Someone who attends only on Sunday mornings and only sporadically isn't going to get as clear a picture as to what God is up to in the local church as someone who is more involved (involved is NOT the same thing as attending.).

If you never get out of a pew and get involved in deeper discipleship and mission experiences, then your picture of what God is doing in the church is going to be blurry and not as satisfying. As we grow in our faith, I hope we will get a "higher definition" picture of who Jesus really is, and if you are not actively following Jesus (He, through His Spirit, by the way, is always on the move outside the walls of the church working to bring others into His family!), how can you get a clear picture of Him.

Christ died to give us the clearest picture possible on this side of heaven as to Who our Father is. Since he paid such a high price, don't you think we should do our part to be connected to the family He's called us to? Don't settle for a fuzzy picture of God's family, the church. Check your connections...it might be time for an upgrade!

FREE BOOKS!!! KINDLE STYLE!


First, did you know that Amazon.com has a good many free ebooks in the Kindle format. I just downloaded A Christmas Carol for my Ipad.

Second, did you know that if you do not have a Kindle book reader you can buy and read Kindle books by downloading the FREE Kindle application (for PC,Mac, Iphone, Ipod-Touch, Ipad, Blackberry, and Android phones). By the way, Barnes and Nobles has its own free reader software, too!

Third, did you know that if you do have a Kindle, that the books you have already bought do not have to be re-purchased if you get another device like an Ipad?

Fourth, what are you waiting for? Go the the Kindle Store at Amazon and see what bargains you can get! (Amazon did NOT pay me to say any of this!)
Go here for more information:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=sv_kinh_8?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200127470

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Opposite of Stinkin' Thinking - Faith, Hope, Love

I have no idea what pain you are going through right now. I have no idea about what traumas you have endured in your life, or what suffering lies ahead for you. What I do know is that there are people like Brryan Jackson (that spelling is NOT a typo!) who have gotten raw deals beyond my ability to comprehend. Brryan was this week's "Person of the Week" on ABC World News. His father injected him with HIV infected blood as an infant to hopefully kill him so he wouldn't have to pay child support.

His father is serving a life sentence for this heinous crime. Brryan is a freshman in college; is almost completely deaf from the medication he's had to take; and has endured added emotional pain from the reactions and rejections of others.

He also has embraced life; forgiven his father; helps others with HIV, and is, well, amazing! So if you are experiencing continuing difficulties, here is someone who shows the power you DO have over whatever is happening...the power to choose your response. His story is humbling, and encouraging. Every day you have is precious; don't waste it by being unkind, indifferent, bitter, selfish, hateful, unforgiving, materialistic, apathetic, etc. No, it may not be easy to change your responses, but Brryan shows us it is possible.

For Christ-followers, remember that God's will for you is that you be transformed by His Spirit and His Truth through the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1,2), NOT that you be conformed to the world (i.e. responding to difficulty the way the world does.). No, it's not easy to change how you think and how you respond, but how many truly worthwhile things are easy? Don't give up thinking your life is as good as it's going to be. God will bring good out of whatever pain you have had, have now, or will have, if you trust Him. Brryan proves it can happen, and our Father provides all you need to make it happen. Don't give up hope, after all, hope is vital! Wait, that's the name of the organization Brryan founded to help those infected with HIV! For more info on Brryan's website go to: http://www.hopeisvital.org/Welcome.html

Find out more about Brryan's amazing story here:

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Stinkin' Thinkin' - A Life Crippling Condition

Summary: Saw this article today about identifying the crippling life perspective known as "stinkin' thinkin'," and it got me thinkin'. Here's the article: http://mental-health.families.com/blog/do-you-indulge-in-stinkin-thinking If it describes you, read on....

Let me say first and foremost that I hurt for those folks who, through a combination of a lot of factors, suffer from what many counselors have dubbed "stinkin' thinkin'." It is a paralyzing mental perspective that colors the majority of life events in a negative, dysfunctional, often destructive way. I have told so many folks that the older I get, and the more people I meet, talk with, minister to, etc., the more I'm convinced that 99% of our happiness is based not on our circumstances, but on how we mentally process and respond to those circumstances.

Scriptures command us to dwell on the positive (Phil. 4:8), not to worry about anything (Phil. 4:6; Matt. 6:34), to do everything WITHOUT complaining or arguing (Phil. 2:14), to speak only what is helpful (Eph. 4:29), etc. I'm not saying that altering one's thinking patterns is easy, but I do believe that it is one of the primary ways (if not the primary way) that we experience God's will for our lives. I do believe that Scripture speaks to the dangers of negative thinking.

I am writing to offer encouragement and hope to anyone who lives in a continuing state of negative life processing because I have witnessed transformation among people who finally had enough of making life (which is already difficult) even more difficult by seeing so much in an overly negative light. Sure, we can't be pie-in-the-sky, out-of-touch-with-reality, happy-go-lucky, disconnected from reality optimists. I do believe, however, that our Father expects his children to be biblical, obedient, faithful, joyful optimists. Yes, you can experience depression, frustration, etc., as temporary experiences (God has promised to bring good out of those times, too), but what life perspective guides you? How does your particular life perspective affect those around you? Your spouse? Your children? How does it affect your witness for Christ?

Romans 12:1,2 warns us not to be conformed to the patterns of this world (patterns like materialism, selfishness, and may I dare add "pessimism?"), but to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1,2)

Are you suffering from thinkin' stinkin'? How can you tell? Pray about it. Are you being obedient to those Scriptures that address your thought life? Ask someone who loves you what they think. More importantly, ask your Father what He thinks about you! (He made you in His image; sent His Son to die to adopt you as His child; has given you the opportunity to join Him in His redemptive purposes of adopting others into His Family; etc.)

Take whatever steps needed to begin the journey to a higher (even more realistic) view of Our Father, reality, and yourself. You went to school to learn things to help you live life, right? Perhaps God wants you to go back to school to make Romans 12:1,2 more of a reality in your daily life...to have a renewed mind that thinks, acts, decides, etc., more and more like Jesus Christ and less and less like the world. Life is too important to give up or give in to the way it's always been.

Find a counselor (take your time to find a good one), who can help you take steps to doing life differently. Don't just try harder to be positive; get back to the truth of Scripture; re-connect with a community of faith; re-evaluate your relationships (do you have any positive friends to help challenge your negative attitudes?); just don't settle for life as is. Christ died to give us an abundant life, not an easy, comfortable one, but one of love and purpose, but the catch is it has to be His way, not ours, and definitely not the world's.

The first step is being honest about your attitudes. I found this article today that outlines classic symptoms of stinkin' thinkin'. If it describes you, don't give up or give in. Take that first step to a better way of doing life...Christ's way! The article: http://mental-health.families.com/blog/do-you-indulge-in-stinkin-thinking

Friday, October 22, 2010

One Idea Can Save Lives - REALLY!

WHAT WORLD-CHANGING IDEA
IS GOD WANTING TO GIVE YOU????

Here is a statue near Niagara Falls of Nikola Tesla who invented a lot of stuff. I've blogged about him before. This statue, however, was designed to communicate one event in his life when, in January 1881, he was walking with a friend in a city park in Budapest, Hungary. Without warning, he had a vision concerning a design he had been struggling with for an electric motor. In that moment of insight, an idea came to him which he quickly drew in the sand with a stick (hence the stick in the statue). That design would late be the basis for the AC (alternating current) motor which some have said is among the 10 most important inventions of all time (hence the big AC motor in the statue!)! He went on to invent 700 more inventions, including AC electrical current! Your life would be VERY dark if Tesla had not lived!

Now stick with me here. Wednesday night I challenged my church members at prayer meeting to get alone with our Father in prayer and ask Him, "what is ONE thing I can do that I am not currently doing to add to the health of the church as the Body of Christ?" Lately, I've been reminded of the power of the ONE thing when two of our older Sunday School classes decided to start a "little" project of collecting and selling scrap metal to buy fresh water wells in impoverished countries. More people die daily from unsanitary water than any other reason! Some of our kids have helped out in the collection effort, too! In less than a year, they have collected enough money ($10,000) to dig three wells! They then continued the drive to raise money for a much-needed piano for the sanctuary and carpet for our nursery...ALL FROM ONE IDEA!

So, what ONE thing can you do to impact your church and your world for Christ? Don't underestimate the power of one idea! It was one idea that gave us electrical power in our homes; and another idea turned junk into water for those who need it most! So, go ahead, pray and let God ignite your imagination! Then watch out....something's going to happen!!!

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE...HERE IS THE COLUMN I WROTE ON THE SUBJECT FOR THIS WEEK'S CHURCH NEWSLETTER:

WHAT IS JUST ONE THING YOU CAN DO TO MAKE OUR CHURCH FAMILY HEALTHIER? Here’s an exercise that might help you to understand. Inhale…but DON’T exhale…inhale some more….but DON’T exhale…inhale some more…but DON’T exhale! Now how long could you keep that up? Eventually your body would force you to exhale, because the body needs to take air in, but it also needs to get air out. If you keep breathing in and holding your breath, eventually you’d pass out and your body would force the issue.

Erwin McManus, pastor of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, used this illustration in a sermon I recently heard to drive home an important point about the danger of always taking in the blessings of God without ever passing them on to others, especially to those who don’t know Christ. For the Body of Christ to be healthy, each part must breathe in spiritual nourishment (Bible study, worship, discipleship, fellowship) and breath out blessings on others (through evangelism and ministry). With a year of higher than normal losses of members who have gone to be with the Lord, and with the continuing tendency of the young to move out of Denmark after graduation, it is more important than ever that we pay attention to the health of our church family.

Last night I challenged those in our Wednesday night prayer meeting (By the way, you’re missing some mighty fine fellowship if you’re missing Wednesday nights!) to ask themselves, “what ONE thing can I do to contribute to the health of my church family?” This is not something you need to share with me, but something you need to get on knees about with our Father. Each of us need to ask Him, “Father what do you want me to do to bless the Body of Christ here in Denmark?”

I have been amazed by what a simple idea like collecting scrap metal has done for our fellowship. Less than a year after our Dessie Stedman and Jim Tant Sunday School classes started this simple project, we have enough money for up to three wells to bring life and health (and an opportunity to hear the gospel!) to possibly thousands of people. Enough money has been collected also to help buy our new piano, and to put toward new carpet in the daycare. That is the power of just one “what can I do to help” idea. What idea is waiting in your mind? What idea is our Father waiting to put into action in your life to bless our church family that we might be a blessing and witness to the people of our community and even the world?

As I said Wednesday night, Christ did not die so we could sit in the stands like fans at a football game yelling our instructions to the team on the field as to how WE want them to play the game for OUR enjoyment. No, Christ died so that we could be on the field, and share in the victory. And this is NO game, but a war with very high stakes…literally the souls of man. No expense was spared to rescue those thirty-three Chilean miners last week, and Chile and the world agreed that an estimated one million dollars per miner as a cost of the rescue attempt was not too high. If that is true, what should each of us be willing to sacrifice or willing to do to join our Father’s Spirit as He is on a rescue mission, convicting and drawing people to Christ. No joy can compare with the victory of being a part of someone coming to know Christ, and you can’t get that joy from sitting in the stands.

So seek the gifts our Father wants to give you, but remember Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 14:12: “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” If you love our church family, I implore you to pray earnestly to the Father to show you, to empower you, and to equip you to do that ONE thing you’re not doing to contribute to the health of His church here in Denmark. If God can save thousands of people through the one idea of turning scrap metal into clean water, what is He waiting to do through you?




Monday, September 27, 2010

Different, Not Less

"Different, not less!" That's how the mom of Dr. Temple Grandin described her daughter with regards to growing up with autism. Just watched the DVD about this amazing woman's life. She is a brilliant person with autism. Along her journey, people thought she should be ignored or worse, disgarded, but she is a professor and worldwide speaker on autism and animal handling. Her story is inspiring, and reminds me of how careful we need to be about dismissing people according to our quick judgments. Dr. Temple Grandin's life is a testimony to the power of hope. How thankful we all should be for the gift God gives us people who are "different, not less." Here is the trailer for the film:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wow, I'm Published....Sort Of...

A friend of mine on Facebook had a picture of a church published last week on a www.sciway.net, a pretty comprehensive site on all kinds of SC information (great reference if you know someone coming to SC for a vacation). Her FB post encouraged me to submit a picture of my church, and they actually posted it! Now people can find out that Denmark, SC, does indeed exist! Click here and find out a unique relationship the First Baptist Church of Denmark and Clemson University!
http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/bamberg-county/denmark-first-baptist-church.html

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thanks to Our Father for Making Me A Country Parson

I found this bulletin yesterday, one day after the 18th anniversary of my church voting to call me as pastor, and two days after they honored me at a special service on Sunday morning. My how time flies....I mean how it REALLY flies! This coming April will mark 24 years since I came to Denmark as the church's youth and education and associate pastor.

I am grateful that my Father would allow me the privilege of being a country parson, because that is what I am. The service reminded me of just how much my Father has given me out of His grace and love. I have never deserved the privilege He and my church family has given me of ministering in this town for almost a quarter of a century. Most pastors (statistically speaking) don't stay put in a church for this long, but that means that most pastors don't get to know their people as well as I do. Most pastors don't get to honor high school graduates who he first saw on the days they were born. Most pastors don't get to perform weddings for church members who they first saw on the days they were born.

This summer, in particular, has been extraordinary in its depth of experience. I have officiated at six funerals, assisted in another, went to two more (including the tragic death of one of most beloved day care workers), officiated at two weddings, went to three graduations, spent a week on a mission trip with some of my college students, welcomed a new baby, celebrated 1st birthdays for two more, took pictures at a 90th birthday party, and helped a couple celebrate 60 years of marriage. All this occurred since the first of June.

Am I exhausted? Yes. Am I grateful? YES! Even in tiny, little Denmark, every day there are multiple opportunities to see my Father at work in so many ways...on the mountain tops of joy, and in the valleys of grief and heartache. I have prayed with many people this summer who are grieving the loss of loved ones....and when I say "loved" ones, I mean it. It is a sacred honor to be with brothers and sisters in Christ at those times when they are having to say good-bye to someone they love. It's hard to explain how much I value those conversations with people this summer who knew their time was coming to leave, and how ready they were, and how much they were trusting in the promises of Christ., and how willing they were to tell others. Seeing their peace encouraged me again and again.

This past Sunday was extremely encouraging, too. Those planning the pastor appreciation day knew how awkward it is for me to sit and listen to "appreciation," and they made sure the emphasis was on worshiping our Savior, not me. The speakers, musicians, soloists, choir, and those participating in the children's sermon (entitled: "Things You Don't Know About Andy") encouraged their pastor more than they'll ever know.

So for anyone from my First Baptist Family reading this, THANK YOU for allowing me the great privilege of being your pastor and friend these many years. THANK YOU for allowing me to journey with you through life as we seek to follow Christ. I can think of no better ending words than those of Paul in Phillipians 1:3-6: "I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Kelly

Garrett Doss has implored all friends of his wonderful wife Kelly to find and send pictures celebrating the completion of her fourth decade on planet Earth!!! Happy 40th Kelly! Enjoy your day with your true love...you know...the guy in the picture! Have a TITANIC Birthday (without the sinking, of course!!!!!)


Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How to Remember 9/11...

It's 8:47 am, Saturday, September 11th..one minute after the exact time that the north tower of the World Trade Center was hit nine years ago by American Airlines Flight 11. The news just had a special report concerning the moment of silence at 8:46 to remember that first impact. Other moments of silence will be observed throughout the morning.
  • 9:03 am (United Airlines Flight 175 striking the south tower of the WTC)
  • 9:37 am (American Airlines Flight 77 striking the Pentagon)
  • 10:03 am (United Airlines Flight 93 crashing near Shanksville, PA after the passengers fought to regain control of the plane which would have been used for another attack...probably on the Capitol or the White House.)

Other moments worth pausing to remember include the collapse of the south tower (9:59 am) and the north tower (10:28 am).

Almost 3,000 people lost their lives that day, plus another 6,000 injured...make that "physically" injured...10,000's more family members and friends of the victims were forever injured on that day. So what do we do now?

Romans 12:21 is a simple, powerful compass for anyone seeking to respond wisely to evil: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Here is how one American, Kevin Tuerff, president of EnviroMedia in Texas, remembers Sept. 11th.



For more information on this company's annual 9/11 "Pay It Forward" emphasis, go to: http://www.enviromedia.com/enviroblog/?tag=pay-it-forward

September 11th, 2001 was a horrible day in the history of our nation, but the evil of the hijackers and those aiding them did NOT destroy our capacity to overcome evil with good. So let us remember those whose lives were cut tragically short, by not wasting our lives or our freedom on human selfishness. Let us not imitate the terrorist by becoming intolerant and guided by hate, but more like the good people of Gander (and so many others in our nation and around the world who poured out compassion and love in the days following the tragedy), by being kind to whoever we can. Wait, isn't that a part of what love is (I Cor. 13:4) and part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22)?

How complicated is kindness? How many doors can it open? How many people can it "deflect" to magnify its impact (like with Kevin Tuerf!)? How many bridges can it build so people can find the ultimate kindness of God through Christ? (1 John 3:16)

So remember 9/11! But may we all join together to overcome the evil of that day with love and kindness whenever and wherever we get the opportunity!

P.S. For those who have never heard the story of little Gander, Newfoundland, Canada (pop:10,000) and the extraordinary kindness shown to over 6,500 stranded airline passengers during the week of 9/11, here it is....

Friday, September 10, 2010

Be Honest...

Hmmm...I wonder whose car this is!? Be honest...do you think the driver is "too geeky?" If you have any clue as to who this guy is, just pray for him! I'm reminded of Luke 10:38-41: As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Well, at least the car was parked, and he didn't try to take the picture "in transit!"

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Don't Fall For The World's Deception!

I haven't seen the latest Shrek movie, but I do like this clip as Donkey is tempted the bait in a trap...WAFFLES!


Okay, so what's the deal? Well, here's the "deal"....really...it was a deal...about half off at Amazon, and given my new desire to eat healthy (did I mention I've lost 35lbs this summer?), I had to get this grill...

Wow! Five interchangeable (and therefore easily washable) plates! It was perfect for someone transitioning to a healthier diet. Imagine the joy I had when my treasure arrived from Amazon this past Friday. I open the box and carefully slid out the main unit and then started the "plate extraction" process. Oh, there were five plates in the box BUT FOUR OF THEM WERE FOR MAKING WAFFLES!!!!!! Donkey would have thought it a bonus! I then decided to find something good about this mistake and decided to use it for my children's sermon this past Sunday.

I brought the box, gave them the buildup and then began to take out the plates. At the third waffle plate, there was laughter....and a deacon shouted "You get what you pay for!"... more laughter.

I warned the kids (like Shrek warned Donkey in the clip)...don't fall for the promises of the world. I asked, "have you ever gotten a toy that didn't seem quite as good or exciting as it did in a TV commercial?" Heads started shaking. Yep, they knew already...and then I reminded them that God isn't into false advertising and that He always tells us what is right and what is true and that we need to trust Him above everyone and everything else. So be careful out there! Don't fall for the world's trap, no matter how tasty something might seem! Don't be a donkey and believe every promise the world makes, no matter how "tasty" it may seem! Oh, and the George Foreman people are sending the missing plates... until then....waffles anyone?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sittin' in the Dark on a Sunday Morning!

Good morning everyone! It’s 6:21 am and I’m sitting in the church office where I’ve been since just before six setting up to put finishing touches on my sermon/Sunday School lesson/children’s sermon. I awoke this morning at 4:40 and a mere two minutes later my electricity went out. I looked out the window and saw that everyone else had lights so I took a quick shower (hot water only retains its heat so long) and headed to the church. I called the electric company. I very nice lady answered and said a limb was down and they were fixing it. I asked her if that meant the power here at the church might be interrupted it.

An…..WAIT…THE STORY JUST GOT BETTER….I was just scared out of my skin by someone banging on the window a mere three feet in front of me! It was my church member (and deacon!) who is on my alarm list who was called by the alarm company when the power went out! He had been at my house trying to get me up and was circling the church when he saw a dim, mysterious glow from the church office. I’m glad no inappropriate words were screamed at his knock! Sitting in a dark, big old church in the dark is creepy enough!

Anyway, what I was saying is that as the lady from the power company was assuring me that there would be no interruption of service….mid-sentence the power at the church went off, so here I sit wasting valuable battery life (two hours remaining) blogging about my early Sunday adventure…which is continuing the theme of this roller coaster summer in a little town where exciting drama is always in the making! May you all have a blessed power-filled day of worship, joy, celebration, air-conditioning, and electricity! Oh, and God bless all power employees hard at work at all hours of the night in all kinds of conditions making life comfortable for the rest of us, often at the risk of their own lives!


"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16

Live in the Light!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

What Upsets You? Make Sure It's Not YOU!

I have found in life that often the things that upset us are things of our own making, and/or our perspective. Here a dog seems to think the water is alive, and he attacks, but also contributes to its movement toward him. Maybe he's upset because he can't control this strange "flow." Maybe he really is crazy. Still, it reminds us all whenever we get upset to first stop and ask ourselves, "what am I contributing to this situation?" "Is this something God wants me to get upset over?" "What do I get for being this upset?" So be careful when attacked by a stream of water in the sand...it maybe be just a stream of water. Relax, reflect, response, rejoice!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Warning - Could Break Your Heart

I was brought up on beagles (we had three: Nicholas, Eisenhower, and Buck), so this was a poignant video about 120 beagles being freed on July 4th from a biological lab that went bankrupt. I don't even want to know what they did to these poor guys (and gals), but they're up for adoption now so it had a happy ending. You've been warned! You may head to New Jersey to adopt one of these guys!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Clemson Lost to Carolina Tonight, and That's OK With Me!

I know, I know...that's not something a Clemson graduate/fan should ever say...well, I'm saying it. Yes, it was painful to see Carolina walk all over the Tigers in the game tonight, at the College Baseball World Series, but when USC pitcher, Michael Roth (who did pitch an amazing game) told the reporter about the "BT" stitched on his cap, it did make it okay...VERY okay. The team needed to win, not just to advance in the series, but because they, and the rest of the Gamecock community experienced a painful loss on Thursday, when one of their most ardent fans, seven-year old Bayler Teal, lost his two year fight with cancer. Roth was obviously moved by the loss, and wisely reminded us all that the biggest game in life is never baseball, football, soccer, etc.

As I found out more about Bayler, I was reminded about what the biggest game is....the greatest game... is love. This was an amazing kid...case in point: some time ago some players visited Bayler (they have done so repeatedly since finding out about him)in the hospital and gave him gifts, including a poster of the team signed by the team. As Captain Munnerlyn started to give the poster to Bayler, Bayler asked if they would give the poster to the little boy across the hall. Bayler told Captain that the other little boy did not get visits from Gamecock players.

Bayler was five at the time, but a teacher for all of us who get so upset when things don't go our way, or when someone cuts us off in traffic, or defeats our ball team(fill in any shallow, "doesn't matter in the long run" excuse to get mad, irritated, frustrated, or angry). Though appreciating the wonderful encouragement from the Gamecock team, he was still concerned about a sick friend across the hall who also needed encouragement.

So my prayers go out to the Teal family. You can read more about Bayler here (http://www.postandcourier.com/blogs/cws/?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&UID=36f5ded1-8b94-4e13-b3a2-ef1ed4358ee0&plckPostId=Blog%3a36f5ded1-8b94-4e13-b3a2-ef1ed4358ee0Post%3aba466623-8513-4110-8581-4502414d2890&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest)

So I'm very okay with USC's victories on Thursday and Friday, because one of their smallest, yet, wisest fans deserved it! Whoever wins the series, what's ultimately important is whether or not we have learned the two most important things in life are to love God and to love others. (See Matt. 22:34-40). No matter what game you like, or team you support, don't neglect playing this most important game, and as Bayler Teal teaches us all....LOVE WINS!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Spontaneous Praise at Lexington, SC World Changers

Some of our youth and adults have spent the week up the road in Lexington, SC, on a World Changers mission trip. Jenna and Brent joined with some of the other "WCers" for some spontaneous praise. It was very, very encouraging to hear them...and remember, this was AFTER a day of working in 95 degree weather!!! Way to go World Changers!!!!!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

How to Respond to a Raw Deal From a Young Sage

I know this post is long, but it is worth it if you or someone you know is diminishing life by being negative, complaining, bitter, etc. Meeting this young sage has been one of the most encouraging things to happen to me this year. I hope you will be encouraged, too! Please note that I sent this to Jamie's mom for complete approval before I posted it.

So here is the “rest of the story” about Jamie, the young, insightful poet I met on vacation in April. You can see that post at: http://andyfbcdenmark.blogspot.com/2010/04/remarkable-young-poet.html

Jamie’s story and perspective on life is an indictment of anyone who consistently complains about getting a “raw deal.” As I said, Jamie is intelligent, winsome, articulate, engaging, funny, and she embraces and appreciates life. As her mom has told me, “she’s eleven and she gets it.” It is a pity that we can live a lifetime and never “get it.”

This is to encourage anyone who thinks they have gotten a raw deal in life. Truth be told, you may certainly have gotten a raw deal, but the important question is, what are you going to do with your deal? What are your options if you cannot change whatever is in your life that is “raw?”

You could complain about it over and over for years, focusing on the pain of your condition, or what someone did to you, or how God didn’t come through the way you wanted. You can let your circumstances drive you into a bitter, joyless hole of self-pity. Such a reaction, however, is not the only option.

Jamie is eleven, yet has already experienced a raw deal. I met Jamie’s mother and father about 25 years ago. They were a great couple, and we were good friends. We have been on vacation together, and have visited in each other’s homes for the first decade of our friendship. They moved, however, and slowly we drifted apart…not because of any events or problems…we just lost touch.

This past April, I knew I was going to be near them so I decided to “reconnect.” I emailed first, and Jamie’s mom was excited that I would be able to meet Jamie, and to catch up. What shocked me was to find out that during our ten year lapse of communication, Jamie’s dad was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. Look it up, it’s horrible. Basically, it causes progressive neurological decay causing problems in motor movement, and also in mental deterioration. In short, this disease turned a very nice guy into someone who has difficulty getting around, and worse, has experienced a decline in his ability to think rationally. He is not a happy person, and can sometimes be inappropriate in what he says.

He lives in an assisted living community, but Jamie’s mom makes sure she sees him weekly (supervised visits.). Jamie has never really known a healthy dad; and I don’t want you to get the impression that she has developed her perspective easily. Her mom is extremely supportive and proactive in helping Jamie learn how to deal with her dad.

Such an approach has helped Jamie to become the amazing commentator on life she is. On the day I met Jamie, she spent some time soaking in the beauty of my vacation cabin’s view, doing what few eleven years old would….she wrote a poem about what she saw.

Mountain Woods
This view is so beautiful
The most peaceful place I’ve been

So crisp and nice

So green and windy

As perfect as a picture

Here and now I just realized

What I would like to do

I would like to freeze this moment

And keep myself right here.

Jamie, Age: 11 - April 17, 2010


I was amazed at her ability to appreciate the beauty of the mountains, but also at her ability to articulate it so well. My amazement would take another leap on the next day when I received an email from her mom. To make a long story short, Jamie and her mom went from the cabin to take Jamie’s dad out to eat. Jamie’s time with her dad that evening stood in stark contrast to the afternoon in the “Mountain Woods.” He was angry, loud, and deteriorated into tears. This upset Jamie as it would most any child. She and her mom went out to talk deciding to let him finish eating before taking him back to his apartment.

The amazing part came on the way home from that experience. This little eleven year old girl would never get to experience her dad as I once did long ago before the disease showed itself. She has gotten a “raw deal” of major proportions. She has ever legitimate reason to question, to be angry, and to give in to her circumstances, but she has chosen a different path. Her mom says she entered the world “hard-wired as an optimist,” but she’s also been taught how to put her dad in a healthier perspective.

How do I know this? Well, on the way home from such a sad time with her dad, she told her mom, and I quote: “I’m so sorry for Dad. I feel bad for him, but I also feel like we are closer because it is just the two of us. I feel like we are the luckiest people in the world to have each other. I feel like God has used this terrible illness to show us what real friends are like, what is really important in life and what capacity we have for love.”

So what would you tell Jamie? Would you tell her to dwell on what’s wrong with her dad (and the world), and to scream out WHY ME? I wouldn’t. I’d tell her, “Jamie, you are totally right, and extraordinary in your ability to say it so well!” In her statement and in her life, Jamie is fleshing out the powerful truth of Philippians 4:8:Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Jamie has no idea how many people I’ve shared her story with, though she and her mom have given me permission to do so. All I know it that when I’m tempted to cry out in anger and resentment, WHY ME LORD,” I’m convicted by the words of a little girl who is asking a better question, HOW CAN I BEST RESPOND TO THESE CIRCUMSTANCES?

Hopefully, in your life, you’ll find the same answers she’s finding, namely, to know what is really important, and exercising and growing in your capacity to love. This is not wishful thinking or foolish optimism; it is another way, a better way (as opposed to self-pity, useless criticism, resentment, or bitterness) to respond to life’s raw deals; I’ve seen it work…in people like Jamie!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day and I hope we will all take time to remember our freedom isn't free. This veteran's testimony is still one of my favorites. I've posted it before, but in case you haven't seen it I wanted to do it again. Charles Durning, popular American character actor, recounts his experience during the Normandy Invasion (June 6, 1944). It is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by so many Americans for our freedom. May we never forget them, and may we live lives that honor them...lives that refuse to bow to our own selfishness, and rise to serve the greater good.



Our government is asking all Americans for pause at 3:00 p.m. today for a National Moment of Remembrance. Find out more here:http://www.remember.gov/

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Day to Remember Before Memorial Day

Today is a day to remember. This is a picture of my father (second from the right) and some of his army buddies from a long time ago. I'm proud that he was a part of the "Greatest Generation," who fought for our country's (make that "the world's") freedom in World War II. He was wounded twice, once from enemy gunfire and once from shrapnel from an enemy artillery shell. Though he never said it, I wonder if the shrapnel wound was the more painful of the two? I would think so because over 30 of the men in his company were killed by that shell.

Today is my father's birthday and he would have been 85, but I thank God for the almost 81 years he had here. I also thank God that he was willing to go and fight to maintain our freedom; and for those soldiers and friends of his who lost their lives the day he was wounded. I know he never forgot that day, or those men, and we shouldn't forget them or any of our brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives in military service to secure and maintain our freedom.


This coming Monday is Memorial Day, and many high school and college graduates will continue to celebrate their recent graduations. I hope they (and their families, and their friends, and all of us!) will take time to remember those teenagers in our country's history who did NOT have such freedom. I'm talking about those teenagers and young adults who willingly answered the call to war, knowing they might not return. Many did not, and because of their sacrifice, we are free.
I will never forget my father, or his service to our country....and I pray I'll never take for granted those men who served with him who did not return home. I hope we will honor their sacrifice by remembering them and by using our freedom to do what they did, to act unselfishly for the betterment of our nation!

Isn't this what freedom is for? As Paul reminds us in Galations 5:13,14: "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Have a meaningful Memorial Day!