Success or Failure? (A Perspective)

There’s a story up on Bleacher Report that’s an update piece on former Cleveland Browns running back, Peyton Hillis. Does his name sound familiar? For any NFL football fans, you might remember him as the breakout star of the 2010 season who landed the cover of the video game Madden NFL 2012.

That 2010 season was pretty much about it, as far as significant contributions to the NFL.

His next season got out-of-whack due to contract negotiations and injuries. From there, it was a downward spiral of ineffective play. His retirement from the game wasn’t newsworthy enough to makes any headlines. Now in 2015, he is coaching high school football in Arkansas.

Some may say he didn’t live up to expectations… that he was a failure and a disappointment. In statistical terms, perhaps. Personal terms, maybe, if football was all that was important to someone.

You see, Hillis takes a great perspective on his NFL career and how it ended. He still has some hard feelings on the lost opportunity that it was, but is there something more? Something better?

“I went through a couple of years there just mad at the world,” he said. “I put my faith in the world and the world let me down. And I should have known that. The world’s always going to let you down. Put your faith in God.” 

Peyton gets it. The fact remains that there is no better judge of our success than God! What’s funny is about football, is that many players play past their prime. Hey, that’s still good money to be made! But what happens is, fans’ perception of players change. Brett Favre will go down as a legend in the game, but when he finally retired he was a punchline to many jokes (by his own doing).

Seeing what were once dominant, skilled all-stars turn into third stringers, or just simply shells of their former selves, is depressing and makes the fan forget about them from their prime.

Anyone remember this guy?

Anyone remember this guy?

In essence, glory is fleeting in this world.

A perpetual question that comes up every season is, “Does God really care about a stupid game like football?” I don’t know! But He does care about those playing it and what they do with it. If they’re not playing for His glory, they are failures for they seek only the fame and trappings of a successful football career.

They are successful if it can point to something (or better yet, someone) BIGGER than themselves!

To me, that is the mark for ministry as well. There are plenty of self-seeking pastors out there (just like in any line of work) that could use a look in the mirror. As someone who’s been in church ministry for 13 years, I can’t say I’ve always had pure intentions for everything I’ve done. It was never about using the ministry for profit more so than it was using ministry as a vehicle to subconsciously prop up and market myself in the world of “church”. This seems silly, but honestly, this is more pervasive than you may think.

Flip through any Christian magazine or website and you’ll see pastors advertised for this conference or that conference. Maybe a new book they’ve written or TV show via INSP, Daystar, or TBN. None of these things are bad at all necessarily, just in how they originate (their intentions) or just how they turn out (Heritage USA and Jim Bakker, for example).

How this all affects the ministry world is something worth noting. One could observe that the “celebrity pastor” culture is not much different than what we Christians loathe in Hollywood. (more on that another time, perhaps)

One thing I’ve learned about my time in church ministry over the years is that there’s a lot of wasted time and energy spent propping yourself up, instead of lifting Jesus up! It’s a time-tested distraction technique the enemy likes to use in the arena of spiritual warfare.

In what’s been a transitional summer for me and my family, I’ve been able to put things in perspective, much like Peyton Hillis has on his career. You see, his football career isn’t over (despite what others say), as it continues on with him coaching young men. In many measurable ways, that will be more profound than what he could have accomplished as a star running back in the NFL!

So what should we all be concerned with, ultimately? Jesus says it pretty well in Matthew 6…

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


That line, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” comes with a promise! If we seek Him first in all that we do, we will be taken care of. We won’t have to worry about that big contract we’re due. We won’t have to worry about being on a bigger platform. We are already blessed by being sons and daughters of the Most High! We’re given the gift of salvation through His grace alone. That is worthy of our praise! We shouldn’t desire anything less. 

Let us take ownership of our identity in Christ as we accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God (and not the “Kingdom of Self”!). Stay humble and focused by keeping your eyes on Jesus.

The Value of Authenticity

I’m in Asheville, NC today. This is a beautiful area that I have some historical ties to. The one that stands out the most, is that it is here where I proposed to my then girlfriend, now wife, Heather in the Rose Garden of the Biltmore Estate.

The boat dock where I popped the big question...

The boat dock where I popped the big question…

There wasn’t a more romantic moment to be had, as I had brought along a book of poems I had written just for her. All of them rhymed, which is kind of hokey according to most poetry circles. But as cheesy as it may have seemed (complete with flowers and me dressed in a suit), it was at the very least authentic. Despite what others think, my wife and I will always look back with fondness on this moment, as we should.

Authenticity has always been a prized personal value for me in both life and ministry. I’m known to be a guy that speaks his mind (as graceful as possible, most of the time) and does things with intent and purpose… not because that’s how it’s always been done. I’m definitely a “down to earth” kind of guy, much to my success and detriment.

This value, however, is not always appreciated or utilized properly. Many churches today have other values, which is fine, but they walk a dangerous line as at some point people discover what’s at the core. If it doesn’t match up, then people get disillusioned and eventually leave. Other churches deliberately tread lightly as to not offend anybody or anything, even though we’re in a culture that is in desperate need of bold (and loving) voices of the Gospel!

Authenticity is a unique trait in politics as well. We’re seeing the rise of Donald Trump lately in the 2016 presidential race. He’s quickly risen in the polls due to the perception that he is a “straight-shooter”.

Donald Trump: A remarkable phenomenon of a political rise in polls despite offensive remarks

Donald Trump: A remarkable phenomenon of a political rise in polls despite offensive remarks

Heck, he even proclaimed Senator John McCain is NOT a war hero (“because war heroes don’t get captured”). There was some fallout with a half-apology from Trump, but what happened? He climbed in the polls even more!

Despite his brash behavior, he’s connecting with a significant portion of the country that is highly apathetic regarding politics nowadays.

We are promised much, but given so little by politicians that talk a good and pleasant game on the campaign trail, but do nothing once they’re in office.

Whether Donald Trump would make a great president is irregardless of the fact that people appreciate honesty and plain speaking. Too many candidates beat-around-the-bush without really getting down to the heart-of-the-matter. With Trump, you see what you get. I’m in no way endorsing him (which I’m not sure how beneficial that would be anyways), but I understand his appeal. It’s a little refreshing to see, despite knowing that it probably won’t last.

With that said, there’s just something about authenticity that’s hard to replace, especially in church ministry. “Nice stuff” and “broad appeal” only will last so long before people see through it. It must be matched with a true desire to offer people new life in Christ… not just long for their attendance or wallets.

Despite how the term has been used before, authenticity is not a license to offend. Instead, it’s the innate quality of connecting deeper than surface level emotions. Cutting through the fluff and identifying the real issues at hand. There’s an art to doing this with tact (one I must admit I’m still working on), but it can and should be done. We can’t afford any longer as Christ-followers to suppress addressing what people need.

Think about a heart surgeon. They don’t dance around the obvious need a patient has for a triple bypass. They don’t start by offering dietary advice or just showing them a video of what heart surgery could look like for them. No, they get down to brass tax and say what must happen or the patient will die.

Spiritual health is more imperative than our physical health, yet we don’t treat our eternal body with the same urgency that we do with our earthly body!

Jesus says in John 8:31-32…

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

His truth frees us! Truth in-and-of-itself has that power. This means we should be striving to speak straight to the heart of people and their needs, regardless of the potential fallout. In addition to the spiritual application (starting first with a hard look in the mirror), this should be something we carry with us in our relationships and work as well. It’s dangerous territory, but that’s where battles are won!

Are you authentic?  Take the time to identify areas of your life that you’ve held back (because of any number of common excuses) and live freely so that others might come to know freedom.

The Cost of Freedom


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…


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.


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:

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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!


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.


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).

SimpleMath-Week3 Banner

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!


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.


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.