"All Have Sinned"

“I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together…”

Remember that song Carol Burnett sang at the end of her show in the 70s? (I know, I’m totally giving away my age.) Well, that’s what I felt like singing tonight: a bittersweet tune to end a great time. Joy and sorrow mixed tonight as I announced I am leaving Riverside Baptist Church in Greer, SC to become lead pastor of Oasis Church in Ormond Beach, FL.

This is one of the hardest decisions LeaAnn Strickland Buckley and I have ever had to make, as we have had such an incredible 8 years at RBC. We are absolutely certain that this is a move completely orchestrated by God. I know that God has huge plans for RBC, and am so grateful to know that the staff and leadership is well-equipped to keep the pedal to the metal. Our last Sunday at RBC will be June 5, and we would love to see you all there as we celebrate what God has done these last 8 years. We will always be thankful for the relationships we have formed and the great things God gave us the privilege of seeing here.
And to the wonderful people at Oasis–thank you for the extraordinary outpouring of kindness and support as we make this transition. We are excited to see what God has in store. After all, we are on the same team working towards the same goal–introducing people to the Jesus who changes everything.

Christian living

The Importance of Catching One’s Breath

“So, how’s it going?”

“Covered up, man.”

“I know what you mean.”

Have conversations like this? I do. All the time. In spite of technology’s promise to make life simpler, it seems we’re more “covered up” than ever. Instead of  leaving work or school, it now follows us more easily than ever. There is a lot to be said for being able to work from a mobile platform (as I am doing as I write this), but it also means that work is never more than a click or swipe away.

I am as bad at this as anyone (which I am proving by writing this while on “spring break” with my family). But I also realize just how badly needed it is. It really is nice to have no schedule to follow, but just to be able to spend time with my wife and kiddos.

I can’t tell you how many times I felt guilty taking any vacation days when I was younger. As a pastor, there is always someone who needs you, a problem that needs to be solved, a question that needs answered. Much like any other job. But for someone who feels like they have to help everyone and fix every problem, it can be exhausting. God always empowers us to do what He calls us to, without a doubt. But He also is clear that there is a need for rest. A need for margins.

What happens when there are no margins? There is no room for error. Like flying with the Blue Angels, only never coming in for a landing. Without a break, your skill level eventually becomes irrelevant. Inevitably, you run into something, more often than not damaging someone else in the process

I don’t have the all the answers, but I have one that is especially clear today–give yourself a break. You will gain a lot by giving yourself some short-term margin. It may just help you get a perspective on how to gain some long-term margin as well.


Christian living

You Can’t Love What You Don’t Know

Thanks to social media, it has been increasingly easy to gain insight into the minds of those who follow Christ. Our reflexes have become increasingly sharp in posting memes that require others to “share and like” if one really loves Jesus. Or, perhaps, we post pictures of church signs that contain some well-intentioned message. Then the truly stalwart Christians post news stories showing the evil of the world and decry the wickedness of humanity.

Take just a moment and look at this from a different perspective. Look at these things as a lost person would.

Many of the memes posted about Christianity are either based on hoaxes (if I see one more post about Proctor & Gamble and Satanism I will scream), or have enough grammatical errors and misspellings to make an English teacher openly weep. And as for the church signs? The grammar and spelling applies here as well, but perhaps worse is the fact that most have horribly painful puns that no one outside of the church actually thinks are funny.

Many of the things believers do to make their point to the lost world around them is a lot like showing family photos to a stranger. They have no point of reference for what they are seeing because they have no personal investment. They don’t know the people, they don’t know where it took place, and because they have no reason for context they really aren’t all that interested. That’s when the outrage begins on our part. “Why don’t they enjoy looking at these pictures and hearing these stories? What kind of cold-hearted, insensitive people are they?”

The funny thing is that is precisely what the world is asking about Christians.

The world around us doesn’t know us. Sure, they know some things, but they generally aren’t the best representations of us. They know caricatures, extremes on both sides of Christianity, that certainly do not represent the true nature of following Christ. “That’s because they haven’t taken the time to get to know us!” we say indignantly. “They don’t know me as a person, but they’re making assumptions about me!”

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Jesus was rebuked because He spent time with tax collectors, harlots, and anyone else He could find. The religious leaders of the day spat that He was a “friend of sinners” (Matt. 11:19). Jesus spent time with people so that they might come to know Him and therefore have a context for what He had to say. Jesus knew exactly who He was ministering to—He was God in the flesh, after all—but He nonetheless went out of His way to interact at a close, personal level.

In our zeal to push back against an immoral culture, we have pushed away the very people Jesus has called us to reach. We are so shocked and saddened by the lack of a moral compass in people’s lives that we have thrown them to the wilds instead of helping them find their way. We are in the world and not of it, make no mistake, but we are still in it. Jesus said that as we were going about life we were to be making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). As we go about the life God gives us, we will meet people who are lost without Christ. We need to stop being so surprised people without a compass get lost and then we mock their lostness. Instead, we need to graciously provide them with the knowledge of how to get on the right path, remembering that people generally accept directions better from someone they believe actually knows the way.

Christian living

Is Compassion a Victim of Technology?

The Internet is awesome.

I mean, really. Think about what we have available at out fingertips thanks to this network of computer swapping information in ways unfathomable to non-techies like me. We can find out how to replace the power window in a car, even watch a video of someone doing it. We can learn new recipes to combine food that seems awful but turns out amazing. We can download music we had as a kid and thought lost forever due to being out of print. We can get precise driving directions on our phone to a location halfway across the country because we’re to afraid to get on a plane and fly there. All of this is, unquestionably, awesome.

There is, of course, a dark side to the Internet as well. I’m not just talking the seedy underbelly where criminal endeavors spring forth or morality is easily compromised.

I’m talking about the death of common courtesy and compassion.

I was always taught to be nice, even to those who weren’t particularly nice to me. I was taught that if you can’t say something nice, it’s probably best just to say nothing at all. That’s not to say that one should never stand up for one’s beliefs or contest an idea that is contrary to one’s own. Such discourse, when done in a civil fashion, many times opens doors to surprising learning and wonderful friendships. I have many friends with views in opposition to my own. This does not make them an enemy, but a friend who sees things from a different perspective. Might I consider them wrong? Well, yeah. Everyone knows that DC Comics’ books and TV shows are better than Marvel’s (the opposite is true of their movies), that Mopars rule the automotive world, the the mid-90’s were the true golden age of Batman comics, and that the Alabama Crimson Tide is the greatest college football team in the history of everything (please hold the hate mail and nasty comments—you’ll just be proving my point).

So, then, how do we deal with a situation when a friend—particularly a fellow believer in Christ Jesus—publically and arrogantly makes a grievous error? Do we take Facebook and bash them in that cryptic way so many excel at? You know what I mean: “Feeling bad today. You know who you are. Pray for this person.” Does that really accomplish anything?

Jesus actually had pretty clear instructions in this situation:  “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:15-17).

The Internet and social media have made it awfully easy for us to skip steps one and two and jump right to the public aspect. It is extremely easy to say things from behind the relative safety if not general anonymity that a computer keyboard provides. We are insulated from any real personal interaction when we lob grenades via a keyboard. It certainly seems that we are more likely to say things via the Internet that we would never actually say to someone’s face or in the presence of their family and friends. When we write the things we do, do we ever stop to think how that person’s spouse will feel when they read it? What about their children? “Well, then they shouldn’t do such and such to bring such scorn,” or, “They shouldn’t let their kids read things on the internet,” or, “They need thick skin if they’re going to be this and such,” or whatever our response is to justify our harshness. The fact is that two wrongs don’t make a right. Correction is intended to be redemptive, but many times it’s simply done out of anger.

If an honest attempt is made to initiate conversation as Jesus taught and the person ignores or refuses such, then there is certainly little alternative. Blatantly obvious sin cannot simply be ignored due to bias or convenience. Realize that Jesus is talking about public sin here; not merely a difference of opinion, but a public spectacle that compromises the Christian testimony of the one doing it. I have some very good Christian friends who would strongly disagree with me on all of the points I listed above, but they likely wouldn’t viciously attack me on the Interwebs over it (again, please don’t prove my point). We need to decide if the stand we are about to take is a hill upon which we are willing to die. Some things are indeed worth it, make no mistake. Some are not. Knowing the difference is what separates history’s successes from its failures.

Proverbs 15:1 says that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” It would do all of us well to keep that verse a little closer to heart. I’ll do my best to remember that the next time someone tells me that Greg Capullo is a better Batman artist than Graham Nolan or that a Shelby GT500 is better than a Hellcat Challenger. Because that’s just stupid talk 😉  .

"All Have Sinned"

Can’t Make It to Church? We’re online at www.rbcgreer.com

Under the weather? On the road? Stay up too late last night playing video games? Or maybe you don’t have a church you feel comfortable going to?

Whatever the reason you might be free this morning, I’d love for you to watch our services online at http://www.rbcgreer.com. We’ll be live at 9:00 and 10:30 am eastern time, with archives of previous services also available, so check us out.

"All Have Sinned"

Important Rule Here: Be Nice

I haven’t addressed this before because, frankly, I haven’t had to. Since I have had over 35,000 hits this week regarding an article I posted earlier, the comments have also increased to say the least.

Let me say that I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I post. It is entirely likely that someone may have a deep-seated loathing regarding whatever my post regards on that particular day. It is often helpful if one reads what I have written in it’s entirety before commenting ;).

I welcome comments and civil discussion, but I will not allow this to become a soapbox for someone else’s agenda. That’s what their own blog is for :D. If someone gets snippy it either doesn’t get posted or it gets removed after the fact. We don’t all have to agree, but we will all be agreeable here.


The Management

Christian living

First Things First

Hitting the snooze while the “ooga chaka” opening of Blue Swede’s ‘Hooked on a Feeling” shouts at me from my phone. That’s the first thing I do in the morning. I didn’t choose that song as my alarm because it’s a particular favorite (I actually prefer B. J. Thomas’ version), but rather because it has the most grating opening of any song in my phone’s music library. I don’t need something that soothes we to wake me up from the deep slumber that claims me each night. I need something jarring. Something abrasive. Something uncomfortable. Otherwise, I’ll just happily let the music play and continue on with my dreaming.

We all have our “first things” we do each day. They are part of our morning routine that generally includes various manifestations of hygiene care  and caffeine intake. Whatever forms they may take, we cannot get to the rest of our day without them.

I’ve been preaching through a series this month called “First Things”. Each message has dealt with areas within the life of a follower of Christ that must be prioritized in order to effectively and obediently walk in the way He has called us to. Everyone wants to be a mature believer right out of the conversion gate, but the fact of the matter is that there is no shortcut to growth in the life of the  Christ follower. None of us (hopefully) would think of leaving the house without brushing our teeth, fixing our appearance somewhat, and putting on appropriate clothing before going to engage people in meaningful conversation (I’m certain that people who wear pajamas in public have a perfectly valid reason for doing so). Likewise, if we are not properly grounded and prepared in our own walk with Christ, how can we consider ourselves ready to help disciple others?

Is this jarring and uncomfortable? Sometimes more than others, yes. There are times we forget to brush our teeth. (Yes, you’ve done it, too. That’s why you keep chewing gum in your car.) Or forgot to put on anti-perspirant. Or mismatch your shoes because you put them on in the dark. These uncomfortable moments serve as landmarks that help to remind us of what we need to focus on first so that the things that follow go smoothly.

Paul wrote to the younger Timothy that he was to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB). The idea here is that there is to be earnest, diligent study of the Scriptures to ensure a right walk for both the one studying and the one who is discipled. There are no Cliff’s Notes to Christian maturity (Do they even still make those? I think I just dated myself). No one can do it for us. We must take the time required to know the Truth. Do we mess up? Of course, but these mistakes must serve as reminders of the first things, the priorities that ensure everything that follows is in its proper place.

Who is Christ? What has He instructed me to do? What is the cost of obedience? What am I willing to give up for Him? These are the “First Things” I’m preaching on this month. You can check them out online at http://www.rbcgreer.com. If you’re in the area, we’d love for you to come check us out in person.