Monday, December 5, 2011


A few days ago a group of people from our church made a trip to Charlotte to volunteer at the shoebox processing center for OperationChristmas Child. Every day the center preps over 100,000 boxes for shipments around the world to children just in time for Christmas. People who volunteer at this site are passionate! One of our newest church members was on the trip, and she told me on the way back that we needed to double our goal for shoeboxes next year. And, we should get started on next year’s shoeboxes right away.

I like passionate people. One of my favorite aspects of being a pastor is regularly working alongside of people who are passionate about what they do. Passionate people are driven by causes greater than themselves. Passionate people change the world. We have people at Oakland who work year round for wonderful causes that make a difference in eternity.

But, passionate people don’t always play well with others. Sometimes passionate people can’t understand why everyone doesn’t share their passion. Why doesn’t everyone in the church get involved in my cause? Don’t they understand how important this issue is?

I am a passionate person. I am passionate about baseball, football, running, burritos, reading, politics, philosophy, leadership journals, technology, hiking, missions, naked juice, comic strips in the Sunday paper, etc. But, I have little to no passion for lacrosse, stamp collecting, scrapbooking, Tupperware parties, root canals, cabbage, or country music.

We are all wired differently. We are all unique by design. God gives us all great passions for His unique purposes. We will naturally gravitate toward people who share our passions, and we will all make our own impression on the world. It makes the journey so much more fun.

14Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?” 1 Corinthians 12:14-17 (NLT)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

As a child the Oreo cookie presented a unique challenge to me. I was never really sure if I was eating it correctly. There are at least four different ways to eat an Oreo cookie. The simplest way to eat a cookie is to take small bites of the cookie without disturbing the basic, original form. You can also dunk it in milk. You can separate it into two halves with the cream filling attached to one half leaving the other half bare. (The debate still rages about which half one should eat first.) And lastly, you can place the whole cookie in your mouth at once, which is quite convenient when in danger of being caught with a cookie in hand.

Today, I am inclined to say that there really is no one correct way to eat an Oreo. As my sign language teacher used to say in response to different ways of signing the same group of words, “that sign isn’t wrong, it is just different.”

As an adult I wrestle with how far to take my judgments. I am naturally analytical and critical. I like to take things apart and put them back together just to see how they work, but I will analyze those quirks in another blog for another day. Where is the line between good judgment and being judgmental?

We instill in our children the value of making good decisions and developing wisdom. We teach them not to touch the muffler of a small engine after it has been running for an hour even though it is quiet. Experience is harsh teacher, and her lessons make a lasting impression. We teach our children to speak truthfully at all times regardless of the consequences. It is never okay to lie. We quote Ephesians 4:15 – “we will speak the truth in love.”

We also cringe when our children are overly critical, racists, elitist, and sometimes too “truthful.” “That man doesn’t have any hair,” children are quick to note. We often dismiss children’s comments because they simply don’t know any better. But what do we make of adults who should know better, but simply don’t? What about when I am the adult that doesn’t know better. How do I know when I have crossed the line?

“Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong.” Romans 14:4

I have found that I should exercise good judgment and speak the truth in love in all issues that pertain directly to me and anyone for whom I am responsible. If I am not responsible for a person, then they are not my “servant”. And I don’t have the right or responsibility to make judgments.

I simply am not responsible for the free actions of other people. I am responsible for my actions and my words. And I am responsible for what I do with my Oreos.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

God and Hell

A fellow minister and I were having a conversation one day about the nature of God and what God does. We discussed a number of topics, which somehow led us to a discussion about hell. The other minister was my senior by more than 30 years, and I initially attempted to be as modest as possible in our discussion.

At one point she turned to me and stated bluntly, “my God doesn’t send people to hell.”
I replied, “I agree.”
She looked at me with a puzzled look and said almost in a question, “You do.”
I said, “Yes.”
She said, “But, I don’t understand. I thought that you said earlier that God sends people to hell?”
I said, “He does.”
After a long pause she said, “Are you saying my God and your God are different?”
I replied, “It certainly appears that way.”
She then spent several minutes saying some comments to me that I would rather not repeat. But her comments did indicate that she might not be regenerate. She even accused me of believing the Bible. Oh, the humanity!

After she calmed down, her intellectual curiosity emerged, and she asked me “what is the difference between your God and mine?”
I said, “You invented your god in your mind. Your god looks exactly like you want a god to look. Your god does exactly what you want a god to do. Your god is just a bigger, more powerful version of you.”
Despite my high accolades, she wasn’t flattered.

She responded in kind. “Your god only exists in a book. If we took away the Bible, then you wouldn’t even know who God is.”
I said, “Exactly.”
She scoffed.
I continued, “Basically, you are saying that my God is revealed, but your god exists in each person’s mind and varies from one person to the next.”
She said, “Well, sort of. God is the same, but we each see her differently.”
I asked, “How do you know who has the correct god?”
She replied, “It isn’t about who has the correct God. Everyone is free to see God differently, and it isn’t our place to judge people.”

I said, “So I am free to believe in the God of the Bible?”
She then said a few things that would indicate that I am an idiot who should never be allowed to speak in public. She ended the conversation by saying that most intelligent people would choose her god anyway.

So, I guess she showed me. We should simply have an election to determine who God really is. Maybe we should only let the “intelligent” people vote in the election. Maybe we could all bring our jewelry and make our own god.

Maybe God doesn’t need us to define who He is after all. Maybe, if God wants us to know who He is, He will tell us. Maybe, He will even say, “I AM WHO I AM.”

The “I AM” tells us the truth about heaven and hell.

1. Heaven and hell are both real. Matthew 23:33.
2. Hell is not air conditioned. Our attempts to make hell more tolerable can’t change the fact that it is place of unspeakable agony and eternal separation from our King. 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
3. Hell doesn’t end. Mark 9:48. Jude 1:7.
4. Sin separates us from God. Unless the separation is removed, we will spend the rest of eternity separated from God. The cross of Jesus is the only way back to God. Matthew 7:13.
5. We choose to sin, and we deserve hell. We do not deserve heaven. Heaven is a gracious gift from God. Ephesians 2:8.
6. God is the judge of the living and the dead. 1 Peter 4:5.
7. We reap what we sow. Galatians 6:7.
8. God sends people to hell. Luke 12:5. 2 Peter 2:4.
9. God invites people to heaven. We should too. John 14:6.
10. Hell should break our hearts. It should move us to tears. It should move us to action. Hebrew 3:13.

Friday, February 11, 2011

O Glorious Day

Music has never been my strongest subject. My greatest musical achievement to date was learning to bang large wood dowels together when our music minister waved his hand in a quick, upward motion, and I wasn’t even very good at that. My worship pastor tells me now that my music minister was attempting to teach me rhythm. Fail.

When I entered college at Florida Baptist Theological College, I discovered that I would be required to take a music class in order to graduate. I dreaded taking this class more than any class in all of my academic career – including middle school gym and calculus based physics at the University of South Alabama. I cleverly decided to take the class in a compressed summer term to minimize the length of my suffering through a music class.

In the summer of ’97 I enrolled in a music class with Dr. Don Odom. On the first day of class, my fears were quickly placated by the opening lecture by Dr. Odom. He began the class by saying that he knew that most of us did not want to be in the class and that we probably took it during the summer to get it over with as quickly as possible. Touché.

I learned more about worship from Dr. Odom than I ever imagined, and my hatred of music education softened to dislike over that summer. Dr. Odom told us many stories from his ministry. He told us that he was asked to sing “One Day at a Time” at a funeral service which includes the phrase “I’m just a woman” in its lyrics. If I remember correctly, he was paid $500 to sing the song.

Dr. Odom provided many practical applications for his students. He told us not to wave our hands if we ever led music unless we actually knew what we were doing. He encouraged us not to worry about having to lead music because if a church was small enough for us to be asked to lead music, then the people would probably just follow the piano player regardless of what we actually did.

One of the assignments we did in the music class was writing a sermon from a hymn. (I know it sounds heretical, but it was a music class.) At first I thought the assignment was rather dumb, but I must admit that for the first time I really paid attention to the words to the songs I was singing. I have never been able to look at a hymn the same way since that assignment. Words convey meaning. Words put to music convey meaning that can move us in ways that no other form of communication can.

I recently experienced a song that took me by surprise. The words were familiar, but the music was new. It took me back to my childhood, and reminded me of the joy of my salvation (Psalm 51:12). The song is called “O Glorious Day” by Casting Crowns. The old hymn is called, “One Day.” Maybe it will encourage you today.

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer,
One day the stone rolled away from the door;
Then He arose, over death He had conquered;
Now is ascended, my Lord evermore.
Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever:
One day He's coming—O glorious day!