I Love My Church

I absolutely love my church.
When you start following God’s will for your life, be ready because it is an adventure. I have been blessed to have served at several different churches in about every context you can imagine. Two years ago Henderson Baptist Church in beautiful downtown Hickory Tavern, South Carolina, called me as their next pastor. The first year I would call a foundational year. Henderson was getting to know me, and I was getting to know Henderson (and Hickory Tavern). I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I focused on doing those things that I did know how to do: teach, preach, and pastor. I did have a healthy dose of fear. Fear that I would fail. Fear that the church would fail. Fear that I would be another in a long line of short-term pastors. At the end of my second year, about to start my third, it is starting to get fun! God is truly doing a miracle here at this church. People are getting saved and lives are being transformed. This year the church has started growing, both spiritually and numerically. This morning we had as many people in our morning worship service as we did at homecoming last year (without the fried chicken and poundcake!). Pretty soon we are going to have a space problem. It is fun when you see people bringing their friends and family to Christ. It is fun when I stepped into our ladies Sunday School class and they are apprenticing several different ladies to teach. It is fun when we just had a baptism and next week I get to baptize again. It is fun when I get to focus and do those things that God has called me to do (teach, preach, pastor) and let the church do everything else. It is freeing to focus on what God has called you to do and let Him and His people handle the rest.
I Love My Church, and I hope you do too!

Running Home

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

This month I have started running.  Someone asked me a few days ago why I started.  I’ve never been athletic, but was blessed with the genetics that allowed me to stay modestly fit.  Recently, however, I started putting on a few more pounds than I was comfortable with and I began experiencing some stress-related issues, that quite frankly, scared me a little bit.  I began with the motivation at the beginning of the year to start working out.  I even had a “workout buddy” lined up.  Well, I kept making the excuse that I was waiting for my workout buddy so I could start working out.  March rolled around and we still had not gone anywhere.  The ancient Chinese proverb states, “A thousand miles begins with a single step.”  One afternoon I pulled out my running shoes, which while a year old they looked brand spanking new, laced them up and headed out the door.

That first day I downloaded the $1.99 Nike+ GPS app for my phone.  It tracks your progress and chimes in every so often with time and distance stats.  With social networking integration, my facebook friends can literally “cheer” me on while I run.  It is a great tool for a beginning runner like me.

I can say that I honestly didn’t make it too far that first day.  I did not want to come without doing at least a mile.  That first run nearly killed me.  It took almost 19 minutes to complete that mile.  I ran for less than a quarter mile before I had to take a break, huffing and puffing.  The next day, I laced up my shoes again and went out the door.  Now, I’m in my third week of running.  I can tell you that after those first few runs that it has gotten easier.

Today I set a new personal best, running a mile and a half down to “the bridge” on Henderson Church Road and then doing 1 minute run/walk intervals on the way back.  On the last quarter mile to the bridge it is a steep downhill run, you use muscles you didn’t think you had in order to stay standing.

When I made the turn to head back what was once downhill, was now a steep uphill climb.  It was difficult.  I could hardly move.  Every muscle in my legs were on fire and when I would slow down they turned to jelly.  In spite of the circumstances I carried on.  Why?  Because I knew that I was going home.  I was on the home stretch.  I knew that while I was on a hill of adversity at that moment, I would soon be at home with my feet propped up.

It reminded me of what life and death is like for the Christian.  For the Christian, at the beginning of our life, we can make great strides because of our physical strength.  As we age our bodies wear down on us and as we make that turn, sometimes that last stretch is just like that hill, it is the most physically demanding thing we have ever faced and we’re ready to give up.  Fortunately, what awaits the Christian is not a black hole.  It is not “the end.”  When we face the final stretch we can run with joy through adversity because we are running home!  We are running home to the arms of Jesus who has prepared a place for us.  We are running home to the Father who loves us so much that he sacrifices His son for us.  When you are running home, it may be difficult, but there is something greater on the other side.

As a young pastor I have watched many make this journey.  Even now one of my heroes is at home with hospice care and it will not be too long before he will be going to his heavenly home.  My heart breaks to watch my brother-in-Christ deal with a body that is breaking completely down. . . but I know that his spirit is running home.

May it be said of us when we leave this earth:  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7