What Happened When I Became a Christian?

#tbt: me, Ann, and Bradley (who lead me to Christ)

What happened when I became a Christian, twenty years ago today?

Not much.

There were no fireworks, no inner feelings of joy or relief.

I didn’t tell anyone, for weeks at least. I just went on with my day (July 31, 1995), which involved football workouts, of course.

Nothing felt different. But now that I look back, I know that a real change did take place, underneath my skin and within my soul.

Click here to learn what did change…

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Dark Stripes

See the Stripes Poem

This poem was written and produced a year ago. It’s about Clemson University’s dark and striped past, in its link with the brutal institution of slavery.

I’m sure that people will react on all parts of the spectrum. Some will embrace the words too much and resist a hope that can only be found in the gospel, and some will oppose this poem too much and resist a chance at gospel-centered reconciliation.

Take a few minutes to watch and listen to See the Stripes by A.D. Carson:

Here’s a snippet that stands out to me:

“for some reason or another—
it’s uncomfortable for some people to talk about
slave owners, supremacists and segregationists on those terms,”

You can read the full poem here.

What’s the call-to-action? I think it’s about acknowledging the facts and having others-centered conversations. Too often, we (and I’m pointing at myself, too) want to assert our feelings and opinions and facts, and insist on being heard first.

As I tell kids at in our programs, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, because He wants us to listen more than talk.”

Let’s be open to loving dialogue.

“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”  Colossians 4:6

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Ephesians 4:29

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10 Inspiring Quotes from “Through Gates of Splendor”

book_ through_gates_of_splendor amazonIf you heard someone say, “”Every Christian should read this book,” what would you do? You may or may not listen to him.

But if that person is an elder at your church, and says this while teaching on a Sunday morning, you are more apt to listen to that wisdom.

And if that person has been a mentor for you for over 15 years, you definitely follow his advice.

A man like that encouraged our church body to read Through Gates of Splendor last fall. I’m glad he did, since this book was one of the top books I read in 2014.

If you haven’t read this book, or if it’s been a while, here are some excerpts that inspired and challenged me:

In preparation for the mission

“We’ve already put our trust in Him for salvation, so why not do it as far as our life is concerned?” Ed McCully (in a letter to Jim Elliot)

Click here for more points to ponder…

Citizenship, Culture, and the Church

Citizens_SermonSeries GraceChurch

I have lots of thoughts on this week’s sermon, Citizens: Identity. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch below:

It’s important to remember the context of this message, that the sermon is primarily for Christians, the body of Christ. Likewise, virtually all of the Bible was written to those who follow God, or at least say they do.

As the pastor (Matt Williams) said:

“We have to train a culture of Christians to think courageously, and look at the Scriptures and apply them to us.”

Therefore, none of what I say here should be taken as “Those people should do this,” or, “What if someone else (not a Christian) wants such-and-such?” Those may be valid points and worthy of discussion. It’s just not the focus here.

What IS the focus? Click here to keep reading…

Confederate Flag Controversy: What’s Your Worldview and Identity?

confed_flag SC_Statehouse getty miaden_antonovA few weeks ago, I had to apologize to someone in my church. This wasn’t an insignificant apology, like, “I’m sorry I forgot our appointment.” This was an issue when I deeply wounded someone in the body of Christ.

A whole bunch of thoughts were going through my head, as I walked into this mediated apology session:

  • Through my pride, I hurt someone who God cares about deeply.
  • I didn’t deserve forgiveness, but I needed to ask for it.
  • I sinned against this person, against others who were involved, and against God (Psalm 51:4)
  • God values peace, and I needed to do everything I could to make that happen.

But one thing I wasn’t thinking: I never thought that I could walk into this meeting and demand forgiveness. I wanted reconciliation, but I would have understood if this person wasn’t ready to give it to me. (Thankfully, they were a lot more gracious that I would have been, and I was forgiven immediately.)

Even though God commands us to forgive each other, just as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32), I couldn’t insist on being forgiven. Forgiving is a choice of one who has been offended.

The Question at Hand

I am writing this blog post to my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially my white southern friends. Other people are invited to read this post, but I don’t think you’ll fully grasp where we are coming from. (Truth be told, I don’t fully understand these complex issues, but I’m working on it.)

Shortly after a recent racism-motivated massacre in Charleston, SC, many people were calling (once again) for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in Columbia. Others said that people were using this tragedy for political reasons, and it was not the right time to bring this issue up. (But exactly when is a good time to discuss this? It’s been an issue for at least 20 years. Thankfully, Governor Nikki Haley has bravely called on the SC Legislature to remove the flag from the Capitol grounds.)

So, this is the issue: Should Christians support the removal of the Confederate Flag from our State House grounds? And if we want to take it further, we can ask: Should Christians freely display this flag?

Click here to keep reading…

The Hope for Unseen Greenville

Unseen Greenville Panel

Since we moved back to Greenville a year ago (and especially since we now live downtown), I’ve learned a few things about our city:

Greenville does a great job “hiding” its problems (such as poverty).

And (as a result of this),

It’s easier to raise money and awareness for places like Allendale than it is for Greenville.

Now, both of these observations are vast generalizations. Most of us in Greenville are aware of real problems and needs in our community. And we have had lots of supporters for our ministry in Greenville.

But when most people think of Greenville, they think of all the Top 10 lists that our city finds itself on, for food, raising a family, and more. And we are so confident in our superiority that we boast of our hashtag #yeahTHATGreenville.

Still, if you hang around long enough and open your eyes and hear, you’ll see the unseen Greenville.

You’ll want to SEE this . . .

Humility in Our Gospel Mission

Matthew 28:19-20 is one of the most-used passages to justify foreign missions (and not always accurately so). Another similar passage is Acts 1:4-11.

In discussing this passage, Brian Dembowczyk points out that we (evangelicals in the USA) tend to have a proud, self-centered view of the gospel and of missions.

“And so when it comes to global missions – and local missions for that matter – we need to resist the pull toward missional pride and pursue missional humility instead.”

Keep reading…