The Boat

“The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.”

—C.S. Lewis, from “Mere Christianity”

There’s plenty of reasons to “come to church”…

– Hear uplifting music and messages

– Make friends

– Meet your future husband or wife

– Support group during difficult times

– Good environment to help raise your kids in

– Do more for the community

Among many others, I am sure.

But there’s only one reason to “be the church”… that is, to be the light (of Christ) that shines in a dark place (this world). By doing so, we are a living, breathing invitation to those within our reach. People that are far away from God, seeing God in us.

The Church (that is to say, the big “C” church – worldwide body of Christ) has been God’s chosen vessel to reach the lost for nearly 2000 years now. That word, “vessel” is an interesting choice of words, as we heed Jesus’ call to be “fishers of men”. We ain’t fishing from a pier, the shore, or some other designated spot, but rather a moving vehicle. As in, let’s say perhaps… a boat!

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I used to live in Georgetown, SC, a waterfront city. Many fishing boats, and more specifically, shrimping boats were docked there. If you wanted the freshest seafood available, there was no better place to get it!

And if you believe the locals, the area served as a filming location for the movie Forrest Gump.

Now if you recall, Forrest Gump had a shrimping boat he acquired named, “Jenny”. The boat was far from perfect condition. It was old, rough, and probably had a few mechanical hiccups here-and-there. But you know what? It got the job done! “Jenny” would later give birth to the “Bubba Gump Shrimp Company” which proved to be very lucrative for all involved.

I often think of The Church in the same way. You see, the expectation for The Church is perfection. Well, for us as human beings, that is impossible. It’s a tall order we were never meant to fill, so we need to be comfortable in the skin that we’re in as Christ-followers.

Yes, The Church has made mistakes centuries ago, decades ago, years ago, months ago, weeks ago, days ago, hours ago, and seconds ago. But the church has also accomplished a lot more good, than it has screwed up. (Western democracy, hospitals, and the education system are just a few examples!)

Regardless, Jesus Christ didn’t establish His Church on the expectation of perfection, but instead one of love and obedience.

He says in John 14:15,

“If you love me, keep my commands.”

This means that as The Church, we simply have to keep Christ at the center of everything we do, which will then serve as a filter keeping out the unnecessary, not-so-Christ-like bits. In other words, water projects for third world countries will move forward, while timeshare schemes will rightly be left behind.

It is reassuring in knowing that while The Church will not “get it right” 100% of the time, we are afforded much grace and multiple (but not endless) chances to do right. That is, to reflect Christ in all situations and to all people.

I personalize this as a pastor, in that I should not artificially prop myself up as some super-nice, super-righteous, clean-living version of myself. My shoulders can’t handle all that added weight! I must be “real”, sharing my struggles and being honest when I do make mistakes. Even then, that’s not the focus. In my honesty, I point out that I simply could not do this (life, ministry, being a good husband/father, etc.) without God!

As John the Baptist said in John 3:30,

“He must become greater; I must become less.”

The Church will stand tall as long as we stay true to that notion. No denomination, no seminary, no building, no program is built to handle what Jesus can! None of the charitable good we do matters if it didn’t emanate from the source.

“The Boat” may not be much to look at sometimes, but the engine is still running strong! The world has many challenges, but God is telling His children to move and meet those head-on.

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Looking for a church family? Come and join us for “The Boat”, part four of Let’s Go Fishing!, this Sunday at 11am at the Hartsville Family YMCA.

The Ins and Outs of Church

stageYMCAI love my church! One thing in particular about The Living Church​ is that it was born out of vision, not division. Seemingly half the churches in the greater Hartsville area came as a result of church splits (when pride overcomes unity), which is a sad statement on the health of The Church as a whole. I’m pretty sure that Hartsville isn’t the only community like this.

Meanwhile, over 60% of the local population live without a church family! Something doesn’t add up. Over 150 churches in Darlington county, but yet so many are disconnected.

It’s my belief that one church alone can’t reach everybody, but every church should have the heart to reach every kind of person! TLC does this by telling others about Jesus with a smile on our face, knowing where we’ve come from and where we’re going. We are imperfect people with the understanding we’d be lost without God and isolated without a church like ours.

I’m willing to bet that we aren’t alone. If you live in Hartsville, you are more than likely one of three profiles:

– You have a church family that you are an active participant of. Great! By all means, stay there and invest!

– You are one of many who are living this life apart from the love, encouragement, and community that a church provides. You might not think you need it, but you do.

– You are somewhere in-between. You might be a church member, but not active. Or, maybe you’ll throw a bone to visiting a church service on occasion. Perhaps you’re that someone who still hasn’t found that “perfect fit” (which probably does not exist in the way you think it does) and you’re at some indiscriminate level of involvement in an existing church.

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Simply put:  You’re either sitting on the inside, the outside, or the doorsteps of church.

The latter two of those three are disillusioned and uninspired, with neither truly fulfilling the most important aspect of their life: the spiritual.

This is why The Living Church exists…

We want to authentically live out our faith so that you’ll be curious enough to visit one of our services.

We want you to meet the real Jesus and enter a personal relationship with Him.

We want to give you a reason to stay and get involved.

We do that by sharing our bold vision to change Hartsville for God.

We do that by showing you how you can offer the hope of Jesus to those without Him. 

We do that because “no man is an island” and they can flourish as a member of a faith community. 

We get better together! Spiritual fathers coming alongside sons, mothers with daughters, brothers with brothers, sisters with sisters. 

If you’ve given up on church, never been to church, or where you’re currently at is not engaging you with refreshing purpose and vision, I want to invite you to TLC’s worship service at the Hartsville Family YMCA – Sundays at 11am.

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It’s there you will be greeted by friendly folks, enter a powerful time of praise and worship, hear an inspiring message, and have an opportunity to respond! When you leave, you’ll feel a lot better than when you walked in.

Don’t live in isolation on the outside or in frustration at the doorsteps. You’re wasting your time! Get inside God’s house and experience life-change.

Obtainable (and Lasting) Peace!

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In such turbulent times as these, the promotion of “peace” gets bandied about quite a bit. “Financial peace”, “world peace”, “inner peace”, “peace in the middle east”, so-on-and-so-forth. But do we ever really ask ourselves is any of it obtainable? If so, does it last?

The Only Kind of True Peace Out There

Romans 5:1-8

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

This particular passage demonstrates that peace is not the absence of trouble, but rather the character and strength to deal with it! It is our faith in Jesus Christ that grants us such peace!

This is far different than the kind of peace the world offers! The peace the world knows is temporary… whether it’s peace treaties that never hold up over time, or the “clarity” that eastern religions offer but cannot be sustained.

Jesus Promises Us a Different Kind of Peace

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

You would be surprised at the amount of people that NEED TO HEAR this! They worry day-to-day about things that, when put into perspective, are trivial in God’s eyes!

Then there are those that try to make their own kind of peace by building up possessions or accomplishments, when in reality they’re just building up walls to block out their junk!

And of course we also have many who will drown out their sorrows with their cheap vices and petty hopes. This is just as temporary, and just as costly!

There’s a Better Way to Live

Isaiah 26:3-4

“He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! Trust in the Lord God always, for in the Lord Jehovah is your everlasting strength.”

It is so much easier to live in humble submission to God and the peace He freely gives us! Why do we even bother fighting it? The thing to remember is that true peace is unattainable through OUR MEANS!

Be thankful for a God who LOVES YOU and wants you to live with peace and joy each and every day of your life. It won’t mean you’ll be without challenges, but instead you’ll know I have Him to empower you to face them head-on!

Remember that satan will ALWAYS want us feeling isolated and stressed as a result. It is up to us to decide who to believe about ourselves… the enemy or God Almighty!

Tell someone you know that needs to hear this: that GOD LOVES THEM and that you want them to experience the peace that Jesus freely gives!

Today is the Day! (or… “How to Survive Winter in the South”)

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It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s not a “winter wonderland”, but more like a dreary landscape with a delightful, slushy mix of ice and dirt everywhere. Yes, it’s a snow storm in the south!

And I hate it! Call me a wimp, but I just do not like winter weather. Now when I say “winter weather”, I’m not talking about the chilly breeze that I have to wear a light jacket for. I mean the stuff that northerners tend to get. Even then, the south’s version is freezing rain. It wreaks complete havoc around here on our roads and trees. Schools are first delayed, then later cancelled. Local facilities like the YMCA shut down early. And yes, that means a cancelled Bible study or two.

Now, Governor Haley has issued a preemptive State of Emergency for the storms to come. It’s getting bad, folks! (seriously… kind of… maybe)  Grab all the milk and bread that you can find!

Islamorada, Florida Keys… sounds good right about now!

It’s days like these where the church-planter in me comes out in full force. I weigh the dreamy possibility of launching a TLC – Islamorada campus. Hey, Parrotheads and sports-fishermen need Jesus too, right?

 

But here I am, practically stuck behind a computer. Many of us feel mentally and emotionally paralyzed by just looking out the window. The good news is that we at least can be spiritually encouraged!

You see, the Jesus didn’t promise no troubles, but He does promise that you won’t be alone in those troubles. The Christian faith isn’t just for the sunny days or the miserable ones… it’s an every day kind of deal.

Psalm 118:24 says,

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

The day that is here now is exactly the day that God intends for you to experience!

Just like with many other areas of life, we could have something “better”… but we are given everything we need to give God glory with. No matter what cards you were dealt, you can win at this game called “life” when you live each day for God!

So while I might feel “frozen” from this funky weather, I don’t have to stay that way when I reflect on all of the things the Lord has taken me through (both good AND bad). There’s something even bigger than that, if I fully consider what He did for me on the cross! Jesus gave us His life so that we can have life. He conquered both sin and death and is still alive (and alive in me!)

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.” (even if the meteorologist spells doom)

Ever After

Most of us grow up with a culturally manufactured desire for a “one true love”. It’s the dashing prince or the damsel-in-distress that we fatefully encounter on some glorious day. From there we are made to believe that this love will “last forever” and birds, complete with pleasant chirps and flowers clutched between their beaks, will circle around our romantic embrace wherever we may go.

Then reality hits… the dream is over. We wake to the droning sounds of snoring from someone who may have what can only be described medically as severe halitosis. “Real life” can be as sour as that morning breath.

What happened to Prince Charming? Where’s my Cinderella? The truth is they were never there in the first place. Well, at least not in the form we are made to believe. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a fulfilling marriage!

If we were somehow able to find that perfect somebody, does that unto itself lead to a healthy relationship?

In Genesis 2, we not only see where Eve came from, but why:

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Adam needed help! If Adam was complete and perfect, he would have no need for somebody else. Human beings were created for community. Just as it was with Adam, this means first with God our Father, and then with others. We can’t exist solely on our own, no matter how independent we think we are.

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Everyone needs someone that helps them in this time we have on earth. That person doesn’t have to be from a storybook, they just need to be complementary. By lending support to any and all areas of life, each of us completes the other. If that dynamic stays in tact, we can end up with a beautiful story of our own that glorifies God!

Truth is stranger than fiction, as it turns out.

 

Come out to the Hartsville Family YMCA this Sunday at 11am as TLC finishes up its Love with Honor series with, “Ever After”. You’ll see why love doesn’t have to look like a Disney movie!

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Single on Valentine’s Day?

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I just wanted to take a moment to speak to all the single folks out there. This may/may not be a hard time for you, what with all the romantic gestures, couples selfies on your Facebook newsfeed (guilty as charged), and all the usual relationship-themed posts and Tweets that accompany this time of year.

You see, before there ever was a Mrs. Chris Honeycutt (my wife Heather), Valentine’s Day was sometimes a lonely, discouraging day for yours truly. During my college years and first few years in ministry after, I would go on the occasional date around Valentine’s Day with a nice girl from school or church. That never materialized beyond into anything, however. I was always seemingly too busy to carry on a relationship.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to be in one. The prayer of my heart around that time of year was for God to send me the “pastor’s wife” that I felt I needed more than anything. And that’s what the problem was.

I thought I needed someone in my life because I was bombarded with friends and roommates getting engaged (and married mere months later) after only one month of dating. Not just one, but more like five. Perhaps this is a unique Christian-world phenomenon, but I grew dumbfounded and a little envious. I was living my life in comparison to others and it’s just downhill business.

That instantaneous “blessing” was happening for everyone else around me, but me! Being honest here, the disillusionment only would grow with every wedding festivity I was a part of with those friends and roommates.

The lesson I had to learn was God would not give me that “girl of my dreams” until I was ready for her. I would only become ready for that relationship, when I focused solely on making my relationship with God the biggest priority of my life (and meant it).

I had to live out Psalm 37:4…

“Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

It took years for this to really take shape fully. I had often heard how “It will happen when you’re not looking for it” and that speaks to this issue pretty well. When I finally let go of that persistent desire to find a wife, and squarely put my all into my relationship with Jesus Christ, I found Heather.

God wouldn’t bless me until He knew He could trust me with the blessing! He loved me and Heather too much to put us together at any earlier point in time.

So basically, don’t wait on God… pursue God! He deserves your heart before you give it away to anyone else.

Head Games

2011-12-06-miscommunication1 One of the challenges of any relationship is communication. Verbal and non-verbal communication alike can both result in disaster depending on not only HOW it’s said, but WHERE it’s coming from.

It may very well be a man/woman dynamic, but I know there’s a consistent pattern with my wife Heather and I. Whether it’s deciding on what to eat, where to go on vacation, or the movie we want to watch, the conversation often goes like this…

Guys, you share my frustration! And yes, maybe not every woman is indecisive, but most are.

Before you get too offended, it is actually an instinctual quality by design (or nature, depending on your perspective). For them, this is the aforementioned “WHERE”, or their centerpoint where communication flows from.

Indecision is not necessarily a bad thing, because at the end of the day women are looking for the man in their life to lead them… spiritually, emotionally, and otherwise. One result from this quality is that women are more likely to be open to new ideas and possibilities, which may complicate the decision making process. Why is that?

Because men are generally known to be stubborn. This too, believe it or not, is his communication centerpoint and very much instinctual. Men are less “open” and more settled into their habits and preferences. We tend to think that anything new that challenges our norm is… well, “stupid”. That obviously can complicate things as well.

Indecisiveness and stubbornness seem like they are two warring tribes. So where’s the common ground? What does healthy communication in a relationship look like, when men and women come from very different places?

Quite simply, this is where marriage enters the picture. In Mark 10, when Jesus was quizzed about divorce, He used it as an opportunity to reinforce marriage. In that He says,

“6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” “

He was quoting the book of Genesis, describing the significance that man and woman become one flesh upon being joined in marriage. It’s where two very different bodies are now united. That means what may appear to be competitive or contradictory, now must be complementary (enhancing the other).

To our human nature, divorce makes perfect sense, while marriage seems to make no sense. Divorce appears to be more natural, separating the two things that just aren’t compatible, right? This is one reason why our culture today has such a twisted perspective on marriage, because it just feels so unnatural.

Copyright Dawn McKinstry Photography Marriage is actually supernatural, when done in the eyes of God. This is why we say in the Christian faith that marriage is not merely a contract, but a covenant. God is involved and invested! How our marriage begins and ends on this earth, has an impact on eternity in the way of how it points to God for His glory, or to us for our self-idolatry (“I want to be happy!”).

Really, it has to involve God in order to have the best chance at our marriage not only surviving (which is a base level goal anyways), but thriving! If not supernatural, it would mean it defaults to natural where we’re left to our own devices. We’d be dealing with our spouse without any covering, support, or grace in the relationship’s environment.

Without Him, I don’t want to be married because I couldn’t make it work on my own.

Come join The Living Church for worship this Sunday at 11am at the Hartsville Family YMCA as we continue our Love with Honor series with “Head Games”. We’ll discover how communication speaks volumes of the health and purpose of our marriage! See you then.

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