Thursday, December 22, 2016

Birthday month.... "a partridge in a pear tree"

Well, at my house Karen, my wife, started a tradition of celebrating "birthday month...." this means that when your birthday falls in that month... we celebrate it the whole month...  No, not a party or a gift every day...(that would be nice), but besides just calling it "your birthday month," the celebrant gets to make special choices, get extra privileges and common affirmations and celebrating moments...  So, I got to thinking... Jesus' birthday should be a birthday month celebration too..., well it has been for a long time, but as you know, many extra things have been added that may have just taken away the meaning intended...  Traditionally, Christians begin four Sundays before Christmas with the Advent.  The excitement builds each week, and then on December 25th, Christmas is over, stopping abruptly and people go back to living their normal lives.  That just does not sit right with me... there are more days in December.  This crazy thought I was having was further expanded and supported when I saw a drama where one of the "Wise men" shared that the manger scenes really should put the Magi on the other side of the room rather than in the manger scene itself..., reminding me that they were not at the stable, but arrived years later after a long journey... .so how can I meaningfully extend Christmas a few weeks at least..?

So I began thinking about this, doing a little research... I ran across a very familiar song that has historical meaning most may not be aware of.  "The Twelve Days of Christmas"  is actually a celebration that begins on December 25 and ends January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany (which is the celebration of the revealing of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi).  This may be a way to reflect on the incarnation/birth of Christ at Christmas, and then how this should impact our lives.

Historically, in the fifth century church, in the Catholic tradition, there were three parts of the ministry that were practiced right after Christmas day.  December 26 the feast of St. Stephen (the deacon) (a day to give leftovers to the poor), December 27 was the feast of St. John (a day to celebrate the relationship we now have with Christ). and December 28 the Feast of the Holy Innocents (a day to remember all who suffer for their faith, beginning with the children murdered by Herod, victims of abortion, war, martyred for their faith, etc).   I discovered a few other traditions woven into these days following Christmas... something to think about.

Granted, the medieval church frowned on many of these traditional practice's and the reformers finished the job of suppressing them.. as maybe their importance did become overtly systematic... but a devotional, reflective reminder of what they celebrate makes for good contemplation.

In addition, interestingly, the song itself, at its origin, was to preserve many of the truths of scripture with children during a time of persecution, also has symbolic meaning.... The "True Love" referred to in the song, while singers believe this to be a smitten boy or girl, is really Jesus Christ, because truly love was born on Christmas Day.  The partridge in the pear tree also refers to Him, as a partridge by characteristic, often sacrifices itself or feign injury, drawing away a prey to protect its young.  Furthermore, two turtle doves were the Old and New Testament, Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love. Four calling birds were the four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The five golden rings represented the first five books of the Old Testament which describes man's fall into sin and the great love of God in sending a Savior.  The six geese a laying stood for the six days of creation. Seven swans a swimming represented the seven-fold gifts of ministry: preaching, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership and mercy. The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes. Nine ladies dancing were the nine gifts of the spirit, ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.  The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful Apostles and the twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of the Apostles Creed.

We always say the spirit of Christmas is a year round practice... But I think we can easily declare that December is Jesus' birthday month... and... I am going to try to extend the celebration in my own heart beyond Christmas Day a few weeks.... and yes, more enthusiastically into my every day life beyond that.

Friday, November 11, 2016

You gotta climb to get the view!

In my devotion this morning I was encouraged to not be reluctant to be obedient when God calls me to boldly lead. In Genesis 22:2, one of the most challenging assignments came to Abraham, and there was an urgency in the assignment.  Assessment is sometimes not the path.  Our own assessment of the outcome is often not what God wants from us. God’s command sometimes is, “Take now,” not later. It is incredible how we debate! We know something is right, but we try to find excuses for not doing it immediately. If we are to climb to the height God reveals, it can never be done later— it must be done now. And the sacrifice must be worked through our will before we actually perform it.

“So Abraham rose early in the morning…and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3). Oh, the wonderful simplicity of Abraham! When God spoke, he did not “confer with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16). Beware when you want to “confer with flesh and blood” or even your own thoughts, insights, or understandings— anything that is not based on your personal relationship with God. These are all things that compete with and hinder obedience to God.

Abraham did not choose what the sacrifice would be. Always guard against self-chosen service for God. Self-sacrifice may be a disease that impairs your service. If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; or even if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him. If the providential will of God means a hard and difficult time for you, go through it. But never decide the place of your own martyrdom, as if to say, “I will only go to there, but no farther.” God chose the test for Abraham, and Abraham neither delayed nor protested, but steadily obeyed. If you are not living in touch with God, it is easy to blame Him or pass judgment on Him. You must go through the trial before you have any right to pronounce a verdict, because by going through the trial you learn to know God better. God is working in us to reach His highest goals until His purpose and our purpose become one.

Following His assignment may be difficult, but we must realize that this is where God does His greatest work!  I want to sense His pleasure, not approval of others,  not my own.  The climb to great heights are most often up hill and difficult.... Few find the courage to experience the joy in that journey. Don't want to miss it. Climb on!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Write your own Headline this year...

I heard a recent sermon that challenged me to look at the perspective of what I am leading with.  How are you doing?... sometimes we respond with "I'm tired,"  "Fine," "OK....."  Do I really want to lead with that?  Is that really the "story" of my life?

Starting 2016 in Genesis again, Joseph's story jumped out at me... He had some back to back bad days.... his jealous brothers plotted to kill him, sold him into slavery, falsely accused of rape, wrongly imprisoned, promised favor and forgotten.  In all that, Joseph's head line was... "God sent me here to save lives!"    Wow, now that's a headline!  Joseph meets his brothers after all these terrible things.... (Genesis 45:4-5  "you sold me"  "God Sent me here to save lives"... "God meant this for good" ...these headlines are true, but totally different perspectives.

In journalism, the headline does not often fairly represent the story.  Did you know that the writer does not usually write the head line? The editor does.  He goes for the sensational words that will get the reader to buy the paper, read the story, click the link, etc.  But the reality is, often, we don't read the story, we only read the headline and assume the story is represented in its entirety by the headline.  Therefore, we do not really know the true story.  I wonder, is that what people often see our life to be... by what we lead with... our headline?

We are often not the author of our story.  Things happen to us sometimes that are not in our control.  We do however, choose who sits at the editors desk... Satan would love to take that job and represent our story with his plan, or hide the real story of what God is doing in my life for the world to see.  He wants to use our limitations to shut us down in all areas.  He wants to put big bold letters on our life that will mislead us from our created purpose.  As a pastor, I often hear people's full stories, but the editor of their story is not honoring God.  ....I don't have friends, "Nobody will ever love me," I don't do well in school, "I am no good," my parents are divorced, "I will never be a good dad," my kids struggle, "I am a bad parent."  These circumstances of life may certainly be true and are often out of our control... but the headline is yours to broadcast.

Don't write your headline out of your pain and discouragement but out of your purpose....  not out of regret but out of the lessons learned....  not out of the exhaustion of life challenges but out of the fullness of opportunities God gives....  not out of the past struggles but out of the vision, God's assignment for your life.  The headline of your dreams is not your present status, but the difference you are going to make.  In all things God works for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.  Do we believe this?

 What if we showed up each day like we have been sent... deployed for action.    "Go to all the world, make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father....  and I will be with you always!"  What is your headline...  What about... "I have an important assignment,"  "building friendship bridges," "I am discipling my children," " I am discovering my long range assignment through my present trials,"  "I had a full slate of opportunities today," "I'm thriving," "I'm in love," "I win," "I'm grateful," "I have been sent here," this year, mine is going to be "I'm on a Victorious journey!"

Send me your 2016 headline....  I want to know your true story!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sabbatical Day / Year / Every 7?

Each year I try to take a Sabbatical/vacation.  For about a week I get away, sometimes alone, to breath, clear my mind and to pray.  This year is no different.  I again will be trekking a section of the Appalachian Trail for a week in September from Davenport Gap to Sam's Gap... maybe beyond (about 100 miles).  I have a few books, and plenty of prayer time slated for the time on the trail.  The word Sabbatical comes from our Lord's command to take a period of rest, a Sabbath as part of our relationship with Him.
The Sabbath Day is the seventh day of the week, a day of rest for the Hebrew people under the Mosaic Law. But the Law also spoke of a sabbatical year. Leviticus 25:1–7 provides instructions for the sabbath year that was to be observed after the Israelites moved into the Promised Land.
The Sabbath year is also instructed in Scripture.  Leviticus 25:3–5 explains what the sabbath year was: “For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.” Every seventh year, then, was to be a time of no planting or pruning of crops. The Sabbath (meaning “rest”) was applied to a time of rest for farmland (this is also mentioned in Exodus 23:10–11).  Every seven years, I try to take an extended sabbatical time... maybe in the form of a focused life change, course work, biblical study, etc.  Something that would strengthen my relationship with Christ.
Jesus also clarified for us that we are to rest in Him.  This is good news... that we rest eternally in our salvation relationship with Jesus.... "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27), Jesus was restating the principle that the Sabbath rest was instituted to relieve man of his labors, just as He came to relieve us of our attempting to achieve salvation by our works. We no longer rest for only one day, but forever cease our laboring to attain God’s favor. Jesus is our rest from works now, just as He is the door to heaven, where we will rest in Him forever.

 Well, Moses gave warning of what might happen if the sabbath day/year were not obeyed in Leviticus 26:33-35...  and it was not a blessing.  I believe that the joy of a relationship with Christ is an every day faith based resting place.... there is nothing that we can face that we can not trust God with.  In addition, a regular weekly, yearly and every seven years is just a bonus time to enjoy that relationship with my Christ.

Regardless of the time taken, the truth can not be avoided.  God wants to be with me, and I want to take time to be with just him too...  Thanks for your prayers and hope you will enjoy a fresh sabbatical soon.. if not this Sunday.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Building Bridges of Love

On June 21, 2015 I was in Kenya speaking to the church at Masai Corner.  My message that Sunday was, "Building bridges of love that connect people to Jesus Christ and each other."  I shared how my home town (Charleston, SC) and my home church (Ashley River Baptist Church) were similar in many ways to Mombasa, Kenya. Our towns were both Coastal port cities, both separated by a river on both sides.  One difference however, Mombasa has a bridge on the north side and a ferry to the south.  Thus, the illustration of a relationship based on a bridge versus a ferry resonated with them.... 

Rewind... a little background.  Over four years ago, our ARBC missions team began to pray about developing missionary partnerships.  Chris & Lisa Moore ( were presented to us by church members who had recently visited there (2011) on a homecoming trip for her, having been raised there by missionary parents, and wanted to show her husband and daughter where she grew up....  After Chris & Lisa then visited ARBC three years ago (2012), we began to plan a mission trip there.  Two years ago (2013) that trip dwindled down for various reasons and was canceled.  My two daughters, Sierra and Sky, were still led of the Lord to go, and they did.  They became messengers of hope and possibility to ARBC, Chris & Lisa visited ARBC again last year (2014) and another trip was forged, this time 12 team members were sent out by ARBC to begin to build this bridge of relationship with the churches and ministries of Real 4 Christ... our first personal, supportive relationship with a cross-cultural missionary has begun.

The hope of the ARBC missions team, and a growing number of ARBC members, is that this relationship will be a bridge of constant hope, love, prayer, support and partnership.  Not a "ferry relationship" with barriers of complication, differences and distance that remain, but a bridge that will connect us personally with each other, on a spirit-led moments notice.

The culminating similarity of our two eastern coastal towns that resonated with the 100's of Kenyans in attendance that Sunday, was the similarity of pain felt...., caused by those who were led by Satan with the intent to "steal, kill and destroy" relationships. Still fresh on the minds of the Masai Corner church was the horrible massacre of over 180 college students (4/2/2015), many Christians, in the town of Garissa, Kenya who were killed for their faith by those with a devious hope to drive fear and division among the Kenyan people. A relationship bridge was developing before us... as I shared about the horrible tragedy and amazing forgiveness of the disastrous killing of godly people in Charleston, SC (6/17/2015).... that too, an effort by Satan to "steal, kill and destroy."  As we wept and prayed together for our Charleston home community, God was still at work building bridges in Kenya AND in Charleston!  After that Worship service (6/21/15), Masai Corner Church, Kenya, held hands, together.. along with those in Charleston who would be holding hands across Charleston when the sun rose there.... building bridges of love to connect people to Jesus Christ and each other.... we connected... a relationship is forged in so much we have in common...

Below is an audio experience that... you may just hear the voice of God in....
 The Sounds of Kenya:
Our ARBC team traveled by safari off road vans, through rivers, and herds, deep into the Kenyan hills, to visit 4 church plants. "If you are not careful, you might miss the voice of God" Chris Moore said, through tears after worshiping with the R4C Dzomba Fellowship Church Plant

a few days before, we learned of the horrible massacre back in our home town Charleston, thus this excerpt from my message that Sunday:

Kelvin Charo, is baptized.... "connecting people to Jesus Christ & each other"


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Make Me A Sanctuary

“Make me a Sanctuary”
Pastor Kent Williams

Traditionally, a sanctuary is a holy place set apart for the purpose of worship. All over the world, churches meet in schools, houses, gymnasiums, community centers, parks, an under mango trees... etc. For a few hours a week, those places become sanctuaries.  However, those places are not sanctuaries at any other time during the week. What turns an ordinary room—a gymnasium, for example—into a sanctuary?

When we think of the word church, we often think of a building. Sometimes that word reminds us of a structure with a steeple or a long aisle between pews. That’s not what God calls the church. Instead, He calls everyone who has accepted Christ “the church” (see Colossians 4:15). So, the church refers to people, not a building.

This is important to know because, when we are with other Christians, we are the church and we can make any room into a sanctuary. When Christians worship God, an ordinary space becomes a sanctuary—a place set apart for worship.  We don't go to church... we are the church.

We see this concept of a sanctuary explained well in the Old Testament.

Exodus 15:17 is the first mention of a sanctuary: “You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance—the place, LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.” The sanctuary was a place for God to dwell in the midst of His people.

Exodus 25:8 reiterates this thought. “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”

Psalm 68:35 says, “You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!”

The sanctuary in the Old Testament was the tabernacle and, later, the temple—a place where the Lord dwelt among His people. He appeared in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The presence of the Lord over the sanctuary was a powerful reminder to the Israelites.

Our “sanctuaries” today are much different than the original sanctuary of the Israelites. Since Jesus’ death and resurrection, a special dwelling place no longer exists. The Lord dwells in us as believers (1 Corinthians 3:16). The gathering places we call sanctuaries become that when His people gather for Worship.  Identifying them as Sanctuary buildings declares holy what God did not want to be declared so.

So, make my heart a Sanctuary…, and as my life and walk become holy ground… Life becomes a worship experience every moment of every day….
Worship is Life!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Christian Parenting Tips

Jeff Strong posted this list in 2010... it is due to be redistributed.

10. Not spending time with your teen.
A lot of parents make the mistake of not spending time with their teens because they assume their teens don’t want to spend time with them! While that’s true in some contexts, teens still want and need “chunks” of one-on-one time with parents. Despite the fact that teens are transitioning into more independence and often carry a “I don’t need/want you around” attitude, they are longing for the securing and grounding that comes from consistent quality time.
Going for walks together, grabbing a coffee in order to “catch up,” going to the movies together, etc., all all simple investments that teens secretly want and look forward to. When you don’t carve out time to spend with your teen, you’re communicating that you’re not interested in them, and they internalize that message, consciously or unconsciously.

9. Letting your teen’s activities take top priority for your family.
The number of parents who wrap their lives/schedules around their teen’s activities is mind-boggling to me. I honestly just don’t get it. I know many parents want to provide their children with experiences and opportunities they never had growing up, but something’s gone wrong with our understanding of family and parenting when our teen’s wants/”needs” are allowed to overwhelm the family’s day-to-day routines.
Parents need to prioritize investing in their relationship with God (individually and as a couple), themselves and each other, but sadly all of these are often neglected in the name of “helping the kids get ahead.” “Don’t let the youth sports cartel run your life,” says Jen singer, author of You’re A Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either). I can’t think of many good reasons why families can’t limit teens to one major sport/extra-curricular activity per season. Not only will a frenetic schedule slowly grind down your entire family of time, you’ll be teaching your teen that “the good life” is a hyper-active one. That doesn’t align itself to Jesus’ teaching as it relates to the healthy rhythms of prayer, Sabbath, and down-time, all of which are critical to the larger Christian task of “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

8. Spoiling your teen.
We are all tempted to think that loving our kids means doing all we can to ensure they have all the opportunities and things we didn’t have growing up. This is a terrible assumption to make. It leads to an enormous amount of self-important, petty, and ungrateful kids. A lot of the time parents are well-intentioned in our spoiling, but our continual stream of money and stuff causes teens to never be satisfied and always wanting more. Your teen doesn’t need another piece of crap, what he needs is time and attention from you (that’s one expression of spoiling that actually benefits your teen!).
There are two things that can really set you back in life if we get them too early:
a. Access to too much money.
b. Access to too many opportunities.
Parents need to recognize they’re doing their teens a disservice by spoiling them in either of these ways. Save the spoiling for the grandkids.

7. Permissive parenting.
“Whatever” — It’s not just for teens anymore! The devil-may-care ambivalence that once defined the teenage subculture has now taken root as parents shrug their shoulders, ask, “What can you do?” and let their teens “figure things out for themselves.” I think permissive parenting (i.e., providing little direction, limits, and consequences) is on the rise because many parents don’t know how to dialogue with and discipline their children. Maybe parents don’t have any limits of boundaries within their own life, so they don’t know how to communicate the value of these to their teen. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to, because their own self-esteem is too tied up in their child’s perception of them, and they couldn’t handle having their teen get angry at them for actually trying to parent. Maybe it’s because many parents feel so overwhelmed with their own issues, they can hardly think of pouring more energy into a (potentially) taxing struggle or point of contention.
Whatever the reason, permissive parenting is completely irreconcilable with a Christian worldview. I certainly do not advocate authoritarian parenting styles, but if we practice a permission parenting style we’re abdicating our God-given responsibility to provide guidance, nurture, limits, discipline and consequences to our teen (all of which actually help our teen flourish long-term).

6. Trying to be your teen’s best friend.
Your teen doesn’t need another friend (they have plenty); they need a parent. Even through their teens, your child needs a dependable, confident, godly authority figure in their life. As parents we are called to provide a relational context characterized by wisdom, protection, love, support, and empowerment. As Christian parents we’re called to bring God’s flourishing rule into our family’s life. That can’t happen if we’re busy trying to befriend our teen. Trying to be your teen’s friend actually cheats them out of having these things in their lives.
Sometimes parents think that a strong relationship with their teen means having a strong friendship—but there’s a fine line that shouldn’t be crossed. You should be friendly to your teen but you shouldn’t be your teen’s friend. They have lots of friends, they only have one or two parents—so be the parent your teen needs you to be.

5. Holding low expectations for your teen.
Johann Goethe once wrote, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat as man as he can and should be, and he become as he can and should be.” All of us rise to the unconcious level of expectation we set for ourselves and perceive from others. During the teenage years, it’s especially important to slowly put to death the perception that your teen is still “a kid.” They are emerging leaders, and if you engage them as such, you will find that over time, they unconsciously take on this mantle for themselves. Yes, your teen can be moody, self-absorbed, irresponsible, etc., but your teen can also be brilliant, creative, selfless, and mature. Treating them like “kids” will reinforce the former; treating them as emerging leaders will reinforce the latter.
For an example of how the this difference in perspective plays out, I’ve written an article entitled “The Future of an Illusion” which is available as a free download from (in the Free Downloads section). It specifically looks at my commitment to be involved in “emerging church ministry” as opposed to “youth ministry,” and it you may find some principles within it helpful.

4. Not prioritizing youth group/church involvement.
This one is one of my personal pet peeves (but not just because this is my professional gig). I simply do not understand parents who expect and want their kids to have a dynamic, flourishing faith, and yet don’t move heaven and earth to get them connected to both a youth group and local church.
I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret: no teenager can thrive in their faith without these two support mechanisms. I’m not saying a strong youth group and church community is all they need, but what I am saying that you can have everything else you think your teen needs, but without these two things, don’t expect to have a spiritually healthy and mature teen. Maybe there are teens out there who defy this claim, but honestly, I can’t think of one out of my own experience. As a parent, youth group and church involvement should be a non-negotiable part of your teen’s life, and that means they take priority over homework (do it the night before), sports, or any other extra-curricular commitments.
Don’t be the parent who is soft on these two commitments, but pushes their kid in schooling, sports, etc. In general, what you sow into determines what you reap; if you want to reap a teenager who has a genuine, flourishing faith, don’t expect that to happen if you’re ok with their commitment to youth group/church to be casual and half-hearted.

3. Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation.
While youth group and church is very important, another mistake I see Christian parents make is assuming them can completely outsource the spiritual development of their child to these two things. I see the same pattern when it comes to Christian education: parents sometimes choose to send their children/teens to Christian schools, because by doing so they think they’ve done their parental duty to raise their child in a godly way.
As a parent–and especially if you are a Christian yourself–YOU are THE key spiritual role model and mentor for your teen. And that isn’t “if you want to be” either–that’s the way it is. Ultimately, you are charged with teaching and modelling to your teen what follow Jesus means, and while church, youth groups, Christian schools can be a support to that end, they are only that: support mechanisms.
Read Deuteronomy 6 for an overview of what God expects from parents as it relates to the spiritual nurture and development of their children. (Hint: it’s doesn’t say, “Hand them off to the youth pastor and bring them to church on Sunday.”)

2. Not expressing genuine love and like to your teen.
It’s sad that I have to write this one at all, but I’m convinced very few Christian parents actually express genuine love and “like” to their teen. It can become easy for parents to only see how their teen is irresponsible, failing, immature, etc., and become a harping voice instead of an encouraging, empowering one.
Do you intentially set aside time to tell your teen how much you love and admire them? Do you write letters of encouragement to them? Do you have “date nights” where you spend time together and share with them the things you see in them that you are proud of?
Your teen won’t ask you for it, so don’t wait for an invitation. Everyday say something encouraging to your teen that builds them up (they get enough criticism as it is!). Pray everyday for them and ask God to help you become one of the core people in your teen’s life that He uses to affirm them.

1. Expecting your teen to have a devotion to God that you are not
cultivating within yourself.

When I talk to Christian parents, it’s obvious that they want their teen to have a thriving, dynamic, genuine, life-giving faith. What isn’t so clear, however, is whether that parent has one themselves. When it comes to the Christian faith, most of the time what we learn is caught and not taught. This means that even if you have the “right answers” as a parent, if you’re own spiritual walk with God is pathetic and stilted, your teen will unconciously follow suit. Every day you are teaching your teach (explicitely and implicitely) what discipleship to Jesus looks like “in the flesh.”
What are they catching from you? Are you cultivating a deep and mature relationship with God personally, or is your Christian parenting style a Christianized version of “do as I say, not as I do”?
While having a healthy and maturing discipleship walk as a parent does not garauntee your teen will follow in your footsteps, expecting your teen to have a maturing faith while you follow Jesus “from a distance” is an enormous mistake.
You are a Christian before you are a Christian parent (or any other role). Get real with God, share your own struggles and hypocrisy with your entire family, and maybe then God will begin to use your example in a positive and powerful way.