WHY YOU SHOULDN’T COMPARE RIOTING AND LOOTING WITH JESUS CLEANSING THE TEMPLE

WHY YOU SHOULDN’T COMPARE RIOTING AND LOOTING WITH JESUS CLEANSINThis post isn’t meant to address the justification or condemnation of the riots in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. I have only one purpose here, and that’s to deal with the wrongful association of the recent riots with Jesus’s anger at the Temple merchants as depicted in all four Gospels.

By understanding what happened in the Temple, you’ll see that what Jesus did wasn’t the same as what we’re witnessing today.

1. Jesus is God. In the Tri-Unity (Trinity) of God, He is (was, and always will be) the Son of God.

2. As God and the Son of God, Jesus cleansed what was His; what He owned. He did not destroy what belonged to other people.

3. Jesus did not burn anything.

4. Jesus did not steal anything.

5. Jesus did not recruit or expect other people to join Him (although He had followers present).

6. Jesus was demonstrating His disdain for people using a house of worship to make a financial profit.

7. Jesus never threatened the safety of another person, which fires and looting do even if collaterally. No Gospel records that He struck another person.

8. Jesus felt anger, but not hate.

However, while the current madness cannot be compared with Jesus’s cleansing of His Own temple, there are some parallels.

1. Jesus was fighting injustice, as no one was hurt more by the moneychangers than the poor and oppressed.

2. Jesus was angry.

3. Jesus wanted people to “listen.”

4. Jesus had had enough.

5. Jesus couldn’t simply do nothing.

ONE MORE THOUGHT

While what Jesus did was not rioting or looting, He was “demonstrating.” Demonstrating is an appropriate response to injustice. Demonstrating goes far beyond merely holding signs and shouting slogans. It includes boycotting, speaking out, and insisting on being heard.

So while I understand that I don’t understand, I choose to stand for justice for the oppressed. I’m not going to be silent.

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THINK BEFORE YOU POST

With all the fake news going around on social media, which was prolific before COVID-19, it seems that we need to get back to some basics regarding what we post. This is especially true for Christians, as we claim to follow the One who is Truth. We all need to THINK before we post. Ask yourself these five questions before hitting that post icon:

T- Is it TRUE?
H- Is it HELPFUL?
I- Is it INSPIRING?
N- Is it NECESSARY?
K- Is it KIND?

Let’s dive a little deeper.

T- Is it TRUE?

So much on Facebook (and other platforms) is meant to be satire (for example, “The Onion” and “The Babylon Bee”), but too many people treat these and other sources as fact. Many of the so-called news outlets are nothing more than hate bait, intended to get us wound up and angry at people who think differently than we do.

Check your sources. Know the facts. When we post fake news as if it’s true  it has the same effect as lying. It perpetuates falsehood and makes it hard for people to take us seriously.

H- Is it HELPFUL?

Even if something is true doesn’t mean you have to post it. Ask yourself, “Who does this actually help?” If it’s controversial there’s virtually a zero-percent chance it will change someone’s mind.

I- Is it INSPIRING?

Not everything is meant to be inspiring. Sometimes we need a wake up call or just a chuckle. But if your post is meant to make a point of some kind I can promise you that it won’t if it’s not inspiring. Negativity, cynicism, and sarcasm just drag us down.

N- Is it NECESSARY?

People often ask why I’m not more politically vocal on social media. For one thing, those who actually know me and pay attention to my values probably can guess where I stand on most issues, but I’ve found that divisive and harsh posts only polarize us. In almost all cases “I would rather win the friend than win the argument.”

If I have some doubt that I should post something, I often share it with the privacy set at “me only.” After a few hours, and sometimes after a day or two, I revisit the post and decide whether or not to make it public or delete it.

Similarly, if I see that one of my posts was largely misunderstood or had a negative effect I didn’t intend, I’ll hide it from my page or just delete it completely.

K- Is it KIND?

Finally, if it’s true, helpful, inspiring, and necessary to say, why not say it in the kindest way possible? Being mean, condescending, sarcastic, or self-righteous probably won’t get you heard and surely won’t build your credibility. Expletives are never necessary. Bullying is unacceptable. Meanness is ineffective.

THINK

Yeah, it’s your page. You have the right to say whatever you want. But you also have a responsibility to do your research, speak the truth, and nurture your friendships. To paraphrase the greatest Person who ever lived, “Speak to others as you would have them speak to you.”

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YOUR PASTOR AND COVID-19

If you care deeply for your pastor and love your church, I hope you will take however much time is needed to read this.

First, let me say that I do not presume to speak for every pastor, or even most of them, but I’m pretty sure my thoughts echo those of many on the front lines of ministry. 

Indulge me for a moment, and please hang in there.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

For me, this October (2020) marks sixty years upon this old terrestrial ball and thirty-one years as a pastor. Counting my current and almost surely my final charge, I’ve served as senior pastor of four churches in three states.

I’ve watched people die, dedicated babies, baptized scores, married and burried hundreds, and preached more than 2,500 sermons. I’ve counseled through divorce, suicide, depression, and child abuse. I’ve seen scores flock to the altar to meet Jesus for the first time.

I say all this so you have no doubt that when it comes to pastoring, I’ve been around the block. Several times.

HAVEN’T BEEN HERE, HAVEN’T DONE THIS

Bible College and Seminary prepared me for most of what I wrote above, but nothing, including leading my third church near NYC through the aftermath of 9/11, has prepared me for COVID-19 and its impact on the church. I’m flying by the seat of my pants, literally figuring it out as I go along. I am assuming every pastor is feeling this way.

THE CHURCH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

My church, because we’re committed to the health of our members and our community, and because we believe that our testimony to the world matters, has chosen to not conduct public services until it’s safe to do so. We were already live-streaming our services, so that transition has been simple, but we’ve also had to launch virtual prayer meetings and ramp up our communication, improving our texting and online presence, including revising our website. But these things are relatively mundane to the real challenges we face.

ONGOING ISOLATION

Let’s face it, everyone is “feeling” isolated now because we actually “are” isolated. But being isolated from your spiritual family carries its own unique burden. We’re kept from the ones we pray with, worship with, study the Bible with, and serve alongside with.

The pastor feels especially isolated for several reasons. First, he is generally the one who plans and leads most or all the public gatherings. Second, he has the spiritual interest of every person in his heart, not just his own interests or those of his own family. But what most people totally don’t realize or at least ponder is that the pastor is ALWAYS thinking of the church; always. And because the church is everything to him, his isolation from his flock is nothing less than heart breaking.

A SENSE OF INCOMPETENCE

With today’s celebrity preachers, megachurches, and the ubiquitous “social media pastors,” the average pastor of the church down the street can feel overwhelmed. He neither has the skills nor the resources to pull off those flashy services with professional musicians, stunning lights (and even fog machines), and amazing multimedia presentations.

Now that we’ve gone “online,” the pressure is even greater. Most people have no idea how much the pastor frets over his own inadequacies and lack of creativity. After all, he entered the ministry to preach God’s Word and serve God’s people, and feels totally lost trying to navigate today’s technology-laden waters.

Additionally, small church pastors, which make up about 85% of all pastors, don’t have support staff and multiple associates like the pastor of the medium, large, or megachurch. The small church pastor simply does the best he can, knowing that’s enough for God, but secretly hoping that it’s also enough for his flock.

LOSS OF RESOURCES

COVID-19 has wrecked what was arguably the best economy living persons can remember. Just weeks into this healthcare crisis, millions are unemployed, businesses are closing, and the masses have kicked in to survival mode. For most, the church is the last thing on their list of financial obligations. For many, the church isn’t even on the list at all. And yet ministry expenses continue whether people are gathered in the building or not.

Your pastor may not tell you this, but I’m pretty sure he’s concerned. We preachers don’t like to say we’re “worried,” because that just seems sinful, but the truth is, we are. Sure, we’re trusting God. Sure, we’re practicing faith. But in the meantime those electric bills keep coming in, missions need to be supported, community members keep calling and asking for help, and the pastor still needs to feed his family just like you. I’m blessed and glad to be bi-vocational, and don’t depend solely on the church to support my family. But if your pastor is “full-time” with your church, he is trusting, by faith, that his family’s needs will be met.

Reaching, serving, and leading followers and community members requires resources. Your pastor is working hard to creatively lead the church through these lean and challenging times.

THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT

Finally, and perhaps the heaviest weight your pastor carries, is that COVID-19 isn’t going to be with us for a few weeks or a couple of months; this is our foreseeable future. The lack of physical gatherings, and with all that we lose because of it, is going to continue to weigh down your pastor. Ongoing isolation will impact him greatly, if it hasn’t already. His sense of incompetence will only increase as he’s expected to figure things out and blaze the trail. And the ongoing depletion of resources are sure to be a burden on an already-burdened soul.

BE A PASTOR TO YOUR PASTOR

If you’ve made it to this point I think it’s safe to assume that you care about your pastor. He’s a man of God. He’s a man of integrity. He’s a man with a big heart. But in the end, he’s just a man; 100% human. Here’s how you can minister to him.

1. Pray for your pastor daily and let him know it.

I can’t tell you how much it lifts my heart when someone texts me and says, “Pastor, I’m praying for you.” It makes a difference.

2. Offer your pastor help in the areas he may struggle with.

Are you good at technically? Offer this knowledge to your pastor. Do you have some creative ideas during social distancing? Suggest these to your pastor. Believe me, he needs all the help he can get.

3. Encourage your pastor.

Most people would be shocked if they knew how much criticism their pastor deals with. Social media only expands this. Don’t be a complainer: be an encourager. A positive phone call, text, or email may save your pastor’s ministry.

4. Help your pastor promote your church’s ministries.

Share social media posts, Facebook Live events, and information about your church with your friends and social media followers.

5. Don’t stop giving to your church.

If you’re able, continue to support your church financially. Expenses don’t cease when “services” do. Most churches have online giving portals or PO Boxes for mailing a gift in.

If you can’t give financially, volunteer to do things the church generally has to pay for. Mowing the grass, taking a meal to a shut-in, or making phone calls are a few ways to serve the Lord through serving the church.

JUST LOVE YOUR PASTOR

I bet your pastor hasn’t shared most of what I’ve written because he doesn’t want to be a burden. He doesn’t want you to worry. When it’s all said and done, just love your pastor. He’s not perfect. He’s only human. I believe that when you show your pastor that he’s loved, he’ll thrive, and so will your church, as he leads you through these strange and fearful times.

 

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YOU DON’T HAVE TO “HAVE” CHURCH TO “BE” THE CHURCH

First, let me say that few people love the local church as much as I do. I’ve absolutely adored the gathered assembly of Christians since I was eight or nine years old. I have been a senior pastor for more than thirty years. Anyone who truly knows me knows that I am highly dedicated to the health, promotion, and growth of the local New Testament church.

That being said, I have something to say about well-meaning but perhaps misguided fellow believers, especially pastors, who are propagating the idea that “true” Christians wouldn’t cancel services “for any and all reasons,” and that those who do need to fear God’s judgment.

But before I say anything else, let me be clear. This is my page and my post, thus it is my opinion, and does not necessarily represent that of my membership. I will not tolerate being criticized, “called out,” or otherwise “corrected” on my own page. If you disagree with me, pray for me, but if you feel the need to “put me in my place,” then scroll on. Now, let’s get down to business.

First, the church is a people, not a building or a program. The local church described in the New Testament did indeed gather together on the “first day of the week” (Sunday), but it was not defined by or confined to a specific location or even a time. Surely the idea that church “meets on Sunday morning at 11:00 am and Sunday evening at 6:00 pm” is not in the Bible. These practices emerged in the past few hundred years in response to an agrarian culture, and then later by an industrial revolution. Someone in the New Testament would have been baffled if you referred to the evening service or the midweek prayer meeting. As a matter of fact, Christians more than likely met daily and in homes, their schedules being dictated by the needs and availability of the ones attending the meetings.

Second, nowhere in Holy Writ are we condemned nor commended for adhering to man-made rules regarding dates and times. Does the Bible instruct us “not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together”? Absolutely. Does the Bible state that we’re limited to particular places and times to do so? Absolutely not. To insist or even suggest that all Christians are to conform to your or your church’s viewpoint on when and where Christians are to meet is legalism, or what was called in the Bible “Pharisaism.”

My church, GracePointe Baptist Church in Madison Heights, gathered this past Sunday but only because we are a very small church and had less than 50 people present. We adhered to the “no touching” rule and stayed pretty spread out, which is typical of us Baptists, anyway!

However, as this Coronavirus crisis progresses, I will lead my church to use caution and conform to what the authorities ask us to do. That means that more than likely we will be cancelling some public “services” in the brick-and-mortar building that stands at 568 Winesap Road. Why? Because we care about each other and our community. I will broadcast worship, including preaching, via Facebook Live and will encourage small groups of ten or less to gather together and experience the worship service on their smart TVs or other devices. That is just good common sense.

You can disagree with me. It’s a free country. But I know in my heart I have the deepest love for God, His people, our local church, and this community for whom our church longs to be a light in the darkness. That, my friend, cannot be confined to a building or a calendar.

God bless you and be safe.

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BETTER WITH AGE

For Lois on Her Birthday
October 9, 2019

When I first saw you
You were just sixteen
Neither woman nor child
But somewhere between
You were more lovely
Than you realized
With raven-black hair
And dark, lovely eyes

You were shy and unsure
Of your place in this world
Yet somehow I knew
You were no usual girl
You were godly and good
With a heaven-bent heart
But I paid no attention
To these things at the start

It took a few years
And a few of life’s turns
For me to really see you
For my heart to burn
And one day it happened
And quite suddenly
My eyes were opened
An epiphany

When I won your heart
As you had won mine
My whole life changed
For then and all time
I felt my palms sweat
How my face did smile
My heart skipped a beat
As you walked down the aisle

The years quickly passed
And children were born
And between them and me
Your heart was torn
On mountains we laughed
Through valleys we cried
And soon they were grown
As the decades flew by

It was just us again
Though different were we
Content and in love
Just the way it should be
Older and wiser
Faces etched by time
I was still yours
And you were still mine

Our hearts were both full
And we were quite blessed
But something was missing
We both would confess
And then our daughter
Brought us news heaven-sent
And now we have Scarlett
And are truly content

From that first starry night
On your porch where we kissed
Through each of life’s dreams
That we crossed off our list
With each tick of the clock
And each turn of the page
You’re more lovely than ever
You get better with age

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INFINITE

There’s an end to my ability
A limit to my dreams
Boundaries to my knowledge
And to what everything means

The face within my mirror
Proves time does not stand still
I can’t fix all that’s broken
No matter how strong my will

Friends I’ve disappointed
Family I’ve let down
At times I should have soared
But was stranded on the ground

Often lost and lonely
Gripping the end of my rope
I wondered if I could go on
I questioned if there was hope

As imperfect as a person
I have proven oft to be
There’s one thing in my life
That is sure a mystery

That I should father such a child
As the daughter my wife bore
Who to me is surely perfect
I could not have asked for more

So when came our little Scarlett
Into this world we live in
I was nowhere near prepared
For the gift that we were given

To see her with my eyes
Was to glimpse something celestial
To hold her in my arms
Transcends all that is terrestrial

To touch her cheeks and hold her hands
Is beauty, soft and intimate
And in my heart, deep in my soul
I know this love is infinite

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POEM FOR SCARLETT (May 23, 2019)

Before you were a tiny treasure
In your Mommy’s womb
You were a dream moved by a prayer
That you would be here soon

This dream came not from emptiness,
This prayer came not from need
For our lives were full, our hearts content,
Our happiness complete

We knew if we could find such joy
In what our God had given
That adding you to our family
Would be one more step toward heaven

So when your Mommy and your Daddy
Announced their cherished treasure
The love and joy that filled our hearts
Were gifts beyond all measure

So grow, our little Scarlett
Be strong and fight your fight
For soon you will be with us all
When you shall come to light

A whole world still awaits you
A life for you to start
Until we hold you in our arms,
We’ll hold you in our hearts

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THE HOLY LIFEGUARD

This week while vacationing at Surfside Beach, SC, I got to know a young lifeguard, Lorella, who is originally from Brooklyn. In addition to lifeguarding, she works at a hospital. A lovely and outgoing young lady in her twenties, she, as most lifeguards do, takes her job very seriously. That’s good to know since I’m on her watch.

When she tended to a young boy’s wounds, caused by his simply being a boy on the beach, she was the mom’s hero. When she saw someone struggling in the surf, she was welcomed to come to the rescue. But other times she is unliked and unwanted, because she enforces rules that are not fun and even boring.

A group of young men approached Lorella, who is cute and likeable, and in a flirtatious manner asked her if they could swim the waters, which she had recently forbad because of rough waves and an obviously impending storm about to reach us. Suddenly the guys became irritated, walking off in frustration because Lorella was just too uptight.

I thought about how much this is like how people view Jesus. He’s great, awesome, even, when He’s rescuing us from trouble, healing us from sickness, or delivering us from financial ruin. But when He says “Thou shalt not,” all of a sudden He’s ignored or explained away. The Bible His Spirit authored is relegated to the realm of fairytales at worst or reinterpreted to fit the times or the lifestyle of the one who is uncomfortable with absolute truth. What God’s Word states about marriage, morals, finances, and the treatment of the poor is treated with disdain, and the ones who honor it are ostracized and labeled intolerant.

The Holy Lifeguard seeks only to save us, even if that means from ourselves. In the end, the dangerous waters in which we insist on swimming are merely the stormy sea created by our own actions, which in turn stem from faulty beliefs. If the One Who created us loves us enough to give His life for us, surely He’s able to guide us and protect us.

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HOW DID YOU LOSE SIXTY-PLUS POUNDS?

greg before after

People have been asking how I lost 60 pounds (and slowly but surely still losing weight), so I’ll offer an outline of what I do. I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD DO; this is just what I do, for what it’s worth:

  1. I decided that I wouldn’t make weight loss complicated.
    1. I don’t “count” anything.
    2. I don’t adhere to a particular “diet.”
    3. I made a plan based on what worked with Lois and tweaked it for me.
    4. This is what I do.
      1. Eliminate sugar.
      2. Eliminate bread.
      3. Eliminate pasta.
      4. Eliminate cereals.
      5. Eliminate dairy.
      6. Eliminate rice.
      7. Eliminate fruit (except berries).
      8. Utilize Atkins products.
        1. Have a “meal bar” for breakfast
        2. Have a “snack bar” in the afternoon.
      9. Limit evening snacking to nuts, “Skinny” popcorn, and “Carb Smart” ice cream.
  2. I decided to not beat myself up.
    1. Knowing what my initial weight was, I didn’t weigh myself until I knew I had lost weight.
    2. I let my clothes do the talking.
    3. I don’t weigh myself every day.
    4. It’s better to pace myself than race myself.
      1. Initial weight loss is the greatest.
      2. I lost on average about ten pounds per month the first four months.
      3. I lost on average three pounds a month the next three months.
      4. Currently, as I approach my desired weight I lose only ounces per month.
  3. I decided to get rid of my old clothes.
    1. Keeping old clothes “in case I gain the weight back” is a recipe for failure.
    2. I decided that I would not revert back to my old lifestyle.
    3. Good weight, Goodwill, good riddance.
      1. Say goodbye to the old clothes and give them to good will (or a good friend).
  4. I don’t want to be skinny; I want to be healthy.
    1. I have more energy.
    2. I have more confidence.
    3. I have better vitals (blood pressure, etc.).
    4. In other words, when there’s less of me, there’s more of “me.”

5. I adhere to the above plan with ZERO cheating for the first four months. You CAN’T CHEAT AT ALL if this is going to work. After I lost about 50 pounds I began to eat with some “normalcy,” but I’ve not reverted to my old ways. I have an occasional dessert, and eat some of the “forbidden” foods in small portions and not daily. I’ve maintained my weight for months now and I have been in my new “lifestyle” for a year. It works.

What surprised me the most is that this has not been as hard as I thought it was going to be. I’ve even learned to love foods I used to never eat and give up others (less healthy) that I thought I’d never give up. I learned that if I can change the way I think (which we all can do), then I can change the way I live. You can do it, too.

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SONG FOR MAMA

mama-1
Grass-stained jeans
Scraped up knees
Getting stung by bumblebees
Teary eyes
When getting teased
My childhood was made up of these
But your love was bigger than the world
Though you didn’t always have the words to say
Your hands were full with your four boys and a girl
But you wouldn’t have it any other way
Marching band
Youth Group at church
Teenage crushes that sometimes hurt
Riding bikes
Summers at the beach
My teenage years were made of these
But your love was bigger than the world
Though you didn’t always have the words to say
Your hands were full with your four boys and a girl
But you wouldn’t have it any other way
One fateful day
Your life did change
Your whole world was rearranged
And Daddy’s there
Giving you all that you need
Your life is now made up of these
And our love is bigger than the world
And you’ll never, ever have to be alone
For we don’t see you sitting in that chair
We see you sitting on a throne
Yes, mama, you are the queen of our world
We see you sitting on your throne
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