I am disturbed in my spirit.
The verdict in the Zimmerman trial seems to have unleashed a deep bottled-up division in America. Add to that the recent Voter Rights Act decision by the Supreme Court and we have some ugly rhetoric boiling up in our culture. It seemed over the last twenty years we had made some great strides in racial connection in America. Now I am not so sure.
I hear white and black saying we need to have a national conversation about race. Then the screaming starts in an 8-10 minute TV segment. There is more heat than light in most of that. But I do believe a conversation is needed. The conversation I am talking about is with someone of different race. Someone whom you do not know very well. Make an invite to dinner at your home. Talk. Get to know one another. Hear the stories about their families, grandparents and children. Make a friend rather than making a point. Hear the concerns each has on each side of the color line. You just might be amazed.
I hear some people say I do not see color. That is true only if you are physically blind. It is a part of what makes each of us who we are. It is okay to see it. It is just not ok to pre-judge because of what you see at first glance. Let’s have some conversations.
I am preaching Sunday on the Woman at the Well. She was a Samaritan. Jesus was a Jew. That was a formula for separation. Jesus tore down the barrier. It all started with a drink of water.
Grace is greater than race.
It was two weeks ago that my good friend, Dr. Leo Day, shared with me the news of his move to Southwestern Seminary. He is going to be the Dean of the School of Music. This was a sad day for me.
For the past eight years Leo and I have worked together to lead Olive in worship. He has been a wonderful platform partner. I cannot thank him enough for all he has brought to the Olive family. Leo and his family will be with us until Sunday, August 11.
The past several days I have been in the planning and praying stage for the future of worship at Olive. In the short look we have to prepare for August 12. There will be no one sitting in the Minister of Music’s chair that day. I am putting a plan together. And in the long view we are searching prayerfully for God’s man to come to Olive. I am grateful for those who join me in prayer on this endeavor.
It is still hard to believe God sent Leo Day to Olive. Through some eyes a black man from Mississippi and a red-haired preacher from North Alabama is an odd pair. But it was a match engineered by the Lord. Hurricane Katrina was the storm that made this possible. Leo could not go back to New Orleans after helping us for a month. We needed an interim Minister of Music and he fit the bill. He needed a house and we had one. God was at work. What a delightful journey it has been.
When I think of his days with us several words come to mind:
The Lord’s Prayer
Thank you, Leo. Your pastor and friend in Pensacola will miss you.
Gun rights and gun control is currently a hot topic in America. The 2nd Amendment of the Constitution is a mere twenty-seven words. It is straight forward. I do not see how it cannot be understood.
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
The second amendment is not about hunting. It has nothing to do with how many shells it takes to kill a deer. The amendment is about We The People being able to defend ourselves when needed.
The Founders saw the fear of arms being in the hands of the government alone and the people having no power to defend themselves if need be. They did not want the right of the people to bear arms to be infringed.
Now, the issue of permits, mental health, and who can own what is a great dialogue to have. However, when the government infringes on the rights of the people, we are headed down a road that is very dangerous in the long run.
In my message Sunday morning I shared of my conviction that we need to pray more together at Olive. So I have set a time for us to do so.
On the first Wednesday of each month at noon I plan to be in the OBC Chapel to pray with anyone who will join me. This is community wide. Invite your friends to join us. We are praying for revival in America and in our churches and in our lives.
Some cannot join us because they are out of town or just cannot get to the Chapel. Pray where you are. Take time to call out to the Lord. Get a couple of Christian friends together and pray. One man told me he would not be at Olive because on the first Wednesday of the month for a long time believers at his office have been praying together at noon. AMEN! That is what I am talking about. JUST DO IT!
Join me Wednesday at noon on your knees!
When one studies revival, you can only come to the conclusion that awakening is a sovereign act of God. Yet, there are some actions we seem to always find when we find revival among God’s people. One of those actions is unified prayer.
I have come to a conviction. We do not pray enough at Olive. So, I have sought to take some action. As pastor I am calling us to unite in prayer on the first Wednesday of each month at noon. The first gathering will be next week December 5 in the OBC Chapel.
It is open to anyone who wants to pray. I will lead out in the meeting. And I invite you to mark your schedule and join me. You could skip the noon meal if you like. Or you can eat before or after with some friends at a local restaurant. We just need to pray. We need to invite our friends, be they from Olive or other churches. Or invite a lost friend to join you if they want to be a part.
No doubt many will not be able to get to the church campus. You may be across town or away from Pensacola. I ask you to set aside the noon hour on the first Wednesday and pray.
United prayer is important. You never know what God may do. O Lord, make Isaiah 64:1 a reality among us!
Christmas decorations are going up at Olive. Volunteers and Olive staff have been hard at work. The campus is looking great. This weekend we move into the Christmas music season. It is going to be an amazing month at Olive. Do not miss it. Be here as we worship the New Born King!
Christmas is a season of gift giving. And it is a time of year when the church is blessed by special gifts from many people. The ongoing budget will get a boost. International missions benefits from the SBC Lottie Moon offering. And this year we are taking a special offering to build a clinic in the Ministry Village at Olive. I am looking for 200 people to give $2000 over the tithe to build this clinic. We can do it! We will receive the offering Christmas Eve. You can send it early if you want to. But that evening will be a joyous occasion. Pray about your part.
You never more like Jesus than when you are giving! Give your funds, your service, your love and of yourself.
Many individuals, churches, families and organizations help the poor on Thanksgiving weekend. Those are good and commendable actions.
I never come to these days without memories of my good friend Jean Rae. She was the catalyst to beginning the Ministry Village at Olive. She turned a deaf ear whenever people asked her for a needy family to help at Christmas. I can still hear her saying,
“If you do not know anyone poor, you are just making yourself feel better by giving some food one day a year. People are just as hungry on February 25th as they are December 25th. We should be doing ministry year round.”
Those words stuck in my heart. So now we feed the hungry, provide clothes, pay light bills and more five days a week. My wife says Jean is smiling at me from heaven as she sees the work going on at Olive. I hope so, because she never smiled much at me here!
I love and miss Jean. I am going to name a building for her one day. Just to make her mad!
We have a great partnership at Olive with the Pensacola Bay Baptist Association. One of the ministries we partner in is the Health and Hope Clinic. It currently meets in the associational office building on Chemstand Road. For many months we have sought to find a funding source to build a new clinic building on our Olive campus in the Ministry Village. So I am stepping out this Christmas to make this a reality. The December 24th Christmas Eve offering will be used to raise the funds. I am looking for 200 people to give $2000. That will put us on target and close to the the goal. Others can give much more. And everyone can give something. Come ready to place your clinic gift in the manager that evening. We only need 199 more. Liz and I are first in line to make this gift. I plan to break ground Christmas morning after the 11pm service.
Look for the building to begin early in 2013. And we will be in business on the Olive campus by the summer. We can do this!
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
This morning our Olive team had an outstanding staff meeting. Denita Williams, Program Administrator for Tender Hearts Caring Hands, gave a passionate and detailed overview of this vital part of Ministry Village at Olive.
Some of the facts caught me by surprise.
January –August 2012 there were:
• 972 family food bags and 131 transient bags distributed (an average of 138 per month)
• 1519 walk in requests and 3899 phone requests for assistance
• a high percentage (62%) of those assisted were single/divorced with children
Tender Hearts Caring Hands is open from 8:00am-2:00pm Monday-Friday. Thanks to our large team of dedicated volunteers, this outreach is able to keep longer hours to meet needs than other local agencies.
Denita took time to thank various people on our staff for their part in making THCH a reality. From food drives to VBS offerings, from connection group donations to promoting specific needs, she emphasized everyone has a part in kingdom success of the ministry.
Thank you, Denita, and the entire Ministry Village at Olive team. You are making a difference for eternity!