The Cost of Freedom

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Our founding fathers committed treason on this day 239 years ago. By declaring independence, they were risking their very lives for the cause of liberty! Public executions awaited them if this whole “revolution” thing didn’t work out.

So here we have today leaders that change with the wind of media-manipulated public opinion. Unlike the signers of the Declaration of Independence, they make decisions based on polls and what’s going to bring them the least repercussions. Basically, they are the exact opposite of those who were brave enough to defy the biggest imperial power of its time. And we see the results!

What we need today are men and women of character, not smoke-and-mirrors. We can have America prosper once again if politicians would lead not from behind (seeing where everyone else is going first), but rather out in front to charter new territory of strength.

While politicians are easy to blame, we must also realize they are just a product of our vapid culture. We cannot expect them to be actuators of change in D.C. when we will not hold them accountable if they get sucked into the system there.

This weekend, in addition to watching fireworks, grilling hamburgers, or laying out on the beach… how about doing something constructive? Write a letter (or email) to your local representative about an issue you’re passionate about. Make plans to check on your current voter registration status. Volunteer with your local polling station, or if so motivated, a campaign. Any of these steps will help restore some faith in the republic.

Show that you care, or otherwise our leaders will act accordingly, as if you simply do not.

Start spreading the news…

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One of the perks of ministry is that sometimes you get to tag along for pretty cool trips. Not vacations really, but opportunities. This weekend is one of those as me and my boy Russ Wallace, a.k.a. Th.Kid (“The Kid”) will head to New York City. It’s there where he’ll be doing interviews and looking to blaze some trails in the “Big Apple” to take his craft to the next level.

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I hate using generalizations, so I would hate labeling Russ as a “Christian rapper”. He’s much more than that as I’ve gotten to know him both personally and professionally. He’s a real artist that has written and produced most of his music on his own (with influence from and reliance upon the Holy Spirit).

I’m more of a guitar kind-of-guy, so the rap genre is somewhat lost on me. But talent and excellence can break through the barriers of personal preference! Th.Kid is a great example of this.

I really can appreciate his stuff and most folks do once they hear it! This has helped make him one of the top artists in his category on ReverbNation.

His new album, “RE:Invent” drops next week and it’s truly a work of the soul. Russ has poured himself into this, with his time, money, sanity (kidding, sort of), and at the expense of relationships. But he sees this as a ministry and as I can attest to, personal sacrifices and following God go hand-in-hand.

What if we all could express ourselves with bold, relentless passion? Where we gave 100%, knowing that our life in this world is temporary, but points to eternity?

James 4:14 tells us,

“You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” 

Christ-followers believe we have the hope and promise of everlasting life with God, through His Son Jesus Christ. While we must do everything we can on earth, it is not everything. We are not beholden to “bucket lists” but instead driven by the mindset of stewardship. With the opportunities and abilities we’re given, what are we doing with them to lead others to Christ?

Russ is using his gifts to uniquely express himself and his faith. He’s not a pastor or seminary graduate, and he would be the first to tell you that. Thankfully, neither of those are requirements for obedience to God’s calling as being light to this dark world.

That theme is what his song, “Candlelights” is focused on. Check it out!

Look out for “RE:Invent” coming soon to iTunes, Google Play, and just about everywhere else.

For more info on Th.Kid, visit his website: www.thekidbooking.com

Connect with him via:

ReverbNation (www.reverbnation.com/thekidbooking)

Facebook (www.facebook.com/thekidentertainment)

YouTube (www.youtube.com/thekidbooking)

Twitter (www.twitter.com/TheKid_RW)

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My Heart Runs

From my morning meditation today:

“My Heart Runs” by John Mark McMillian

Like deer to the pool
I’m coming after you
Like a thirsty animal
My heart is for your love

Like Jonah from the deep
I’m coming out of my sleep
To find the secrets that you keep
Is the only thing worth rising for

From the dirt you’ve drawn me out
And you draw me out again
I’m coming back from the dead
I’m coming out of my skin

And you are everything my heart wants
Everything my heart wants
And my heart runs
My heart runs after you

Like breakers on the shore
You’re knocking on my door
Like the deepest places in you
Calling to the fountains of my soul

From the dirt you’ve drawn me out
And you draw me out again
I’m coming back from the dead
I’m coming out of my skin

And you are everything my heart wants
Everything my heart wants
And my heart runs
My heart runs after you

(So) My heart runs
(So) My heart runs
(So) My heart runs
My heart runs after you

“Going down to the river” this Sunday!

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The Living Church takes “life change” seriously! We love to celebrate when a person gives their life over to Jesus Christ and declares this in a unique, bold way… water baptism!

TLC has done water baptisms in different ways and settings. My personal favorite is when our church family makes the trek down the beautiful, winding trails of Kalmia Gardens, finding our way to the boat dock on Black Creek. We bring a crowd with us, along with music.

To those who might be there for a Sunday afternoon stroll, it might seem a bit… weird. But oftentimes complete strangers stick around and lean over the rails of the walkway and see what all this commotion is about. Some of these folks even come and check out our worship service the next week!

The water is usually pretty stinkin’ cold. There isn’t a sturdy, clear area to stand in. The creek mud can suck a shoe right off your foot! Mosquitos are trying their best to feast on your arms and legs. There’s even been a few fish and a water snake (non-venomous!) that have showed up.

Regardless of those “special guests”, there isn’t anything like it and the day is a memorable one for all involved. Our local paper even mentioned us in a write-up about baptisms last year.

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While I may have my own preferences, water baptisms are not really about the setting at all. Whether it be a baptismal, portable unit, swimming pool, ocean, river, lake, or creek, just about any body of water will work!

Water baptism is only a powerful moment because it is about Jesus Christ. The expression that one’s old life is gone, and their new life in Christ is here, is what makes this truly special (and the only thing that matters)!

I want to invite any and all folks to see this in-person! Come out for worship this Sunday, 11am at the Hartsville Family YMCA as we continue our series, “Simple Math”. Water baptisms will follow directly after service at Kalmia Gardens (gathering first at the white gate entry-way before making our way down).

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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!