Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stay Off the Other Side of the Road

Remember the movie "The Elephant Man"? I had the unfortunate opportunity to view this heartbreaking film when I was about 12 or 13. It's about a man named John Merrick who was stricken by congenital disease that left him terribly disfigured. The terrible pain and rejection this poor man must have gone through in his life was unbearable to watch even as an outsider. It's all the more difficult when you realize that the story of John Merrick really happened.

I'll never forget Mr. Merrick wailing "I am not an animal! I am a human being!" My heart hurts for him even when I remember the simple cinematic re-enactment. I don't know how I would have dealt with it in real life. What if I had known him? Would I have shown him compassion, mercy, grace? Or, would I have avoided him and assumed that someone else was his friend, someone else would take care of him, someone else will show him love. I can only hope that I would have been kind.

It brings to mind the story that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan when He was asked the question "Who is my neighbor?" A guy is on his way somewhere when he is viciously attacked and left for dead by a group of bandits. A priest and a temple assistant both pass him by without offering any assistance. The folks that you think would be first in line to help just passed by on the other side of the road!

"Someone else will handle it."

These two frauds, religious position and all, simply wrote him off. So who ends up helping? The least likely person - a despised Samaritan. He even pays for the injured guys rehabilitation without seeking repayment. Jesus concluded that the true neighbor was the one who showed mercy, and told his inquisitor to go and do likewise.

In the movie, there is also a Good Samaritan. Dr. Frederick Treves reluctantly takes in Mr. Merrick and helps him regain some dignity in his last days. Even though he had his faults, I admire the good doctor for showing mercy to someone in an extremely difficult condition.

We all have John Merricks in our lives. Maybe they aren't physically deformed, but they have some ugly problems. I have to ask myself, am I going to be repulsed by their spiritual, emotional, or mental defect and pass on the other side of the road? Or, am I going to realize that I too am in need of grace and mercy because of MY many flaws? I realize that in God's eyes, I am nothing more than filthy rags - a grotesque perversion of the original plan for humanity. But God didn't pass me by. He walked over, picked me up, put me back on my feet, and is still walking beside me today - defects and all.

Monday, April 24, 2006

What Wall?

When I was a teenager, Pink Floyd was one of my favorite bands. To be honest, I'm still a fan. I can remember listening to "The Wall" at least ten-thousand times, and seeing the movie about a dozen. Now that I think about it, those guys are weird! Maybe that's why I like them so much.

I was washing dishes tonight (yes, I do that) and I realized that I had been singing "Nobody Home" from the second disc of "The Wall". Specifically, there is a part that says:

"I've got wild staring eyes.
And I've got a strong urge to fly.
But I got nowhere to fly to."

Suddenly, memories flooded back of times when I was really down and depressed and I would listen to this album. If you have ever heard it, you will quickly realize that it probably wasn't the wisest choice when I was bummed out. Goofy teenager.

When Roger Waters would drone out the words "But I got nowhere to fly to", such an empty feeling would come over me. Loneliness, despair, sadness, hopelessness, brokenness - all emotions that are captured in that one simple line. As I stood there with my hands in soapy water, for a moment, those emotions hit me. Then I remembered this:

"Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:28-31, NKJV)

Back then, I certainly was weary. More than once I did utterly fall. I literally had "nowhere to fly to", since I possessed no hope, no strength, no faith, no waiting on the Lord.

That is no longer the case! My hope is in the Lord! I don't always wait on Him. Too often, I rush ahead and screw things up. But when I come back to my senses, and begin to wait on and trust in Him, He renews my strength! Then I have somewhere to fly to; right into the arms of my Savior with wings like eagles.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Before I was a pastor, I was a computer guy. I spent about 10 years in the industry, my last assignment being a team lead within the company's CIO responsible for login services, e-mail, etc. That's not where I started with the company, though.

When I began this new position, the company was called AT&T. Our team was originally tasked with manufacturing computer systems installation and support. Cool stuff. In 1996 when I started, there were 2 guys who were my team. I was 27 years old and just a bit green when it came to a corporate environment. (I had worked for the Gwinnett County School System in tech support before - way different world.) One of my teammates, Jim Gunter, was probably twice my age, and remarkably experienced in surviving the minefield of corporate life. In retrospect, it seems that it would have been particularly easy for him to be unenthusiastic about this young whippersnapper coming in as his supervisor. After all, who was I to be leading him, a veteran of almost 30 years with the company?

But Jim didn't do that. Regardless of my age, my inexperience, or the possibility of his reputation being damaged, Jim took me under his wing and became my mentor. I will love him for the rest of my days for that. I attribute much of my later success in that position to his influence and the investment he made in me - a smart aleck young punk with something to prove.

I don't know why I have been thinking about him so much this week, but I just had to say something. I suppose it's because I miss him. Jim passed away a couple of years ago, after he had retired and I had moved on to become a pastor. But you know what? I'll never forget him. I don't really know if he realized the impact that he had on my life. The thing is, I can't wait to tell him. He is with the Lord, and someday I look forward to sitting under a shade tree in Heaven, drinking sweet tea, and catching up with my dear friend Jim. You bet I plan to tell him what he meant to me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Perfect Love

No matter how bad my day was, all the junk just disappears when I walk in the door and my kids yell "Daddy!" Of course, they have their moments. They can be defiant, self-centered, prideful, inconsiderate, and the list goes on. But most of the time, they are loving, caring, thoughtful, intelligent, and just darn cute. Some say they take after me. I wonder if folks are referring to the good stuff?

What's my point?

Just this: Tonight when I got home and this ritual was repeated, it occurred to me that this is the way our Father wants me to approach Him. When I come into His presence, He wants me to possess the same absolute joy that my two year-old has when rushing to give me a hug when I get home. I confess that I don't always feel that way towards my heavenly Father. I, like my children, can also be defiant, self-centered, prideful, inconsiderate, and my list is even longer. However, as a dad I have a finite glimpse into what the Lord must feel when I look up to Him and yell "Daddy!" I know this; for me it is one of the most wonderful feelings of all. In spite of my children's shortcomings, I will always love them. In spite of our shortcomings, our Lord Jesus will always love us with a more perfect love than we can comprehend.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Never Forsaken

Have you ever felt like you were really alone? Everyone has those times when it feels like the world is against you and nothing seems to go right. I've had my moments, some more recent than others. It may come as an event that only lasts a few hours, or for days or weeks. I had a few hours like that today. Yeah, I went there. Pity party and all.

Then something very peculiar happened.

A very dear friend, with whom I do ministry, sent me an e-mail out of the blue. I wish I could share it with you, but it is one of those things that is so special that I just want to keep it for myself. Suffice it to say that I felt very loved once I read it.

Then, a few hours later, I received another e-mail from a member of our church. We had been talking about a specific situation, and she ended the e-mail "keep on doin' what your doin'". Affirmation, hmm.

That wasn't all, but you get the point.

As I thought about the events of the day, the Holy Spirit brought a specific scripture to mind:

"The Lord your God will go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you." (Deut. 31:6b, NLT)

What a dolt! I had to be reminded that I am NEVER alone because Jesus is right there with me. I shouldn't need affirmation. I shouldn't have to be told I am loved. I have been freely given the love of the Creator Himself - not because I deserve it - but because He loves me and will never leave me alone. Man, what a deal.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Rev. Bob?

You've heard it said that the Lord can use anybody to fulfill His purposes. I would add one caveat: The Lord can use anybody, many times in spite of themselves.

Today, the Holy Spirit ministered to me from the most unlikely place. As I was going to my daughters' school to have lunch with them both, I was listening to Bob Marley's album "Legend". The second track is called "No Woman No Cry". First of all, you have to understand that right now I have some major changes happening in my life. The thing is, I love change. However, sometimes the changes are not so comfortable. I just have to rest in the promise of Romans 8:28,

"That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." (The Message)

Back to Bob. In "No Woman No Cry", close to the end of the song, Bob sings blissfully in his Jamaican accent "Everything’s gonna be alright, everything's gonna be alright." All of a sudden, I could feel the presence of the Lord, and He was telling me “Bill, everything’s gonna be alright!” Slight different pronunciation, of course.

Funny how things happen sometimes, isn’t it. It just goes to show that many times the Lord CAN use folks in spite of themselves. Like Bob, I’m living proof of that.

Blessings all.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Who'd a thunk it?

Today, of course, is Resurrection Day! To me, this is the most meaningful and most important day in the Christian's year. After all, our Lord's victory over death is also our victory! He is Risen!

I come from a very traditional background, where we dressed up for church - particularly for Easter. Suits, ties (arrgh), and shined up shoes were the standard. At Sugarloaf, we are "come as you are", but I still have that tradition in me that feels like I need to look especially nice on this day. So, this morning I got up at the crack of dawn (since we had 3 services today) and put on my nice slacks, button-up shirt, blazer, and shiny black shoes (no tie, YEHAW!). I forgot that folks aren't used to seeing me that dressed up! You wouldn't believe the number of comments that I got on how I was dressed. Stuff like, "Hey Pastor Bill, you got a funeral today?", or "I didn't know you owned a button up shirt." My favorite was, "Look, Pastor Bill is trying to dress up like a Pastor!" I couldn't help but chuckle. Folks that know me have seen my somewhat unique style. Something like Bufordian casual. I almost understood what the demon possessed man must have felt like:

"A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, but they were frightened when they saw the man who had been demon possessed, for he was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane." (Mark 5:15, NLT)

I can't speak to the perfectly sane part, but I was certainly fully clothed.

Have a blessed Resurrection Day!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Step It Up!

Last week, I started reading the book of Galatians and the Lord really prepared me for some things that He knew I was going to deal with in coming days. From His word, the He spoke directly to my calling, which He has been moving me to really step into in a new way lately. There are functions in my role that I have been quite reluctant to fill. Speaking and preaching is one of the areas.

After I returned from Africa a few weeks ago, God showed me that it was time to step up and quit standing in the background. It’s not a prideful thing – God forbid - it is simply taking on the mantle which He has set aside for me. In Galatians 1 Paul writes:

My call is from Jesus Christ himself and from God the Father…”

I was reminded that I didn’t decide that I should be a pastor and missionary, that was Jesus who set me aside for that task – even before I was conceived.

“For it pleased God in his kindness to choose me and call me, even before I was born! What undeserved mercy!” (Gal 1:15)

I could almost hear the Lord telling me “What are you worried about, step up, I have created you for this!”

Immediately after coming back from Africa, several different speaking opportunities have arose – among these, the TEAR Banquet (over 520 folks in attendance, the most I have ever spoken to at one time!), our Awana missions night (talked to the kids about Africa), and most recently I have been invited to preach at a local Russian church. The first 2 I have completed (quite fun actually), the last one I am most hesitant about. Preaching is not a boat floater for me right now. However, I know that I am being pushed into another role that I should have already taken on. The Lord is stretching me. I can feel a move of the Holy Spirit in my life right now and I can almost see that this season is going to be one of those milestone times in my life that I will look back upon, with 20/20 hindsight, and see the great things that the Lord did in my life and ministry.

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires you to fear him, to live according to his will, to love and worship him with all your heart and soul, and to obey the Lord’s commands and laws that I am giving you today for your own good. The highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the Lord your God. Yet the Lord chose your ancestors as the objects of his love.” (Deut 10:12-15a)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Not Your Typical Redneck Pastor

Just uploading my picture!

I know, I know, it's kind of a dorky picture. It's the best I could find for now! The plan is upload a better one later.

For those who don't know me, please check out my profile (I'm in the process of updating it!). The short story is this: I am a former computer geek/Georgia Tech grad who now finds himself in a COMPLETELY unrelated field - Pastor! I'm Missions & Prayer Pastor at Sugarloaf Community Church in Suwanee, GA. Have been for about 3 1/2 years now, and what a ride it has been. Anyone who tells you that being a pastor is easy (kind of like some say a banker's job is easy) is just plain nuts! Sure, it's not easy, but it's kind of like the Peace Corp: "the toughest job you'll ever love". I can't imagine doing anything else, particularly when it comes to international missions that reach out to the poor and seemingly forgotten. My passion is to show the love of Christ to those who the world considers to be unimportant. It doesn't matter where, Russia, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, or even in my own home town of Buford.

I could go on, but right now I don't have the time! It's Good Friday - the day that commemorates Christ's Crucifixion - so we have service tonight. More later...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Here we go!

Well, I certainly need something else to do, since I don't already have enough! Hopefully my ramblings will make some sense to some, and a little sense to most, but either way, I just hope I actually post stuff!