Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Unique Ministry of Savannah, Georgia

Today I visited one of the coolest, and perhaps the most unique, ministries I have ever encountered.  On Houston Street, in downtown Savannah, Georgia, underneath towering trees and Spanish moss, you will find the International Seamen House, a shelter where sailors from around the globe can stay when they are in port.  There at the house, you will find things to entertain the senses and the soul.  When you walk in the door and look to the left you will find a game room with a ping-pong and pool table.  If you walk straight upon entering through the front door, you will find a room where they keep things to give to the sailors such as clothes, magazines, and knit hats that a ninety year old lady makes.  In the back of the house, you will find a chapel with a stain glass window featuring an anchor.  The best part of the house is not the collectible article from around the world, but a book shelf containing the most priceless article in all the universe: the Bible translated into the languages of the sailors that may be visiting their safe haven.

My finding this treasure in downtown Savannah is not a coincidence.  I believe it was Spirit led.  See, my friend Puckett, who I am visiting this week, has two Chinese room mates.  Thus far, my attempts to befriend these two have not accomplished much.  My forward American demeanor does not cope well with their reserved demeanor.  Even though I will continue to try to begin conversations with them, I want to make sure I leave them something that can change their lives through clear communication.  Therefore, today I set out on a mission to find them Bibles in Chinese.  And thanks to a kind pastor named Parrish at a downtown Presbyterian church (what a novel idea, a Presbyterian and Baptist doing God's work together) who was able to send me to Evelyn at the I.S.H., I was able to get Bibles for Aaron and Yi Faun.

So as you pray, pray for the I.S.H., Aaron,  Yi Faun, and all the churches and ministries in Savannah, Georgia as they minister to the world as it comes to them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


After two years of on and off reading, I finally finished a book I began reading in the summer of 2009.  The book is called Blue Highways and was written by Wiliam Least Heat-Moon. 

On a February day in 1978, William Least Heat-Moon set off on a journey.  In order to get away from the turmoils in his life that had rapidly piled up and to do as Simon and Garfunkle did when they "walked off to look for America," Heat-Moon set off to see the United States by means of the "blue highways," the smaller roads that lead to smaller places.  And it is Heat-Moon I can thank most for inspiring me to do the same thing.

This week, I am on a similar journey.  Unlike Heat-Moon, I am not on this journey because my life is falling out from underneath my feet.  My reasons is much more simple.  I am in Savannah/Tybee Island, Georgia to visit a friend and to have one last break before school starts.  My trip is like Heat-Moon's in that I long to see and experience the simple, more local things that Savannah and Tybee Island, Georgia have to offer. 

Thus far on my trip, I have gotten the opportunity to eat at three local eaterires.  The first one was a joint named Spanky's.  Spanky's, located perfectly next to Tybee beach and the pier, is a joint known for their chicken fingers.  I have to admit, I didn't get their chicken fingers, but their cheese quesadilla was wonderful... and cheap.  They also allowed me to sit there for awhile and write away from the blazing Georgia heat.

The second place I ate was my favorite.  It is called Huc-A-poos and it is the epitome of a quality, local cuisine.  With food names such as the "Hellcat Hotdog" and customers who claim to be "ministers of the church of spiriutal humanism," Huc-A-Poos is swimming in personality.  While there, I had two huge slices of pizza that I engineered myself.  Not to mention, the prices were far below what the food was worth.

The third joint was a hole in the wall, literally.  I didn't think to get the name of it, but if you go down the street that leads to the pier, you will find a barbecue and hot dog place with a yellow, overhanging eave.  The barbecue sandwich was memorable, but the kind, old, black man that served me was even more memorable.

My trip down to Georgia thus far has not consisted of eating only.  I have also continued on a journey that started in high school.

The summer before my junior year of high school, I was on my way to Alaska for a mission trip and for the first time got to play guitar for tips.  While in the Seattle airport, I made $8 dollars before the airport police escorted me back to my gate.  Ever since then, that sort of venue has been in my blood.  What I didn't know then, and still don't understand, is that playing guitar for tips is frowned upon almoast everywhere you go.  Living in a place where you never see anybody playing music in the streets, I always enjoy it stumbling upon it.. 

Well, yesterday my journey to legal "panhandling" began at the Savannah City Hall where I was hoping to attain a permit.  After an hour and a half of going from office to office, my hunt for that little blue piece of paper giving my permission to play guitar in public areas for tips was ended in Daffin Park.  There, at the office of leisure services, I learned only a certain number of people were granted such a permit and that you have to be a Chatham County resident to get one.

Being persistent, I thought I would try my luck on Tybee Island where my friend works.  Unfortunately, I got the same answer at the Tybee City Hall.  There was a glimpse of hope for me, though, as I was initally given permission to play in front of thew Waves Surf Shop.  But, those who were farthest up the food chain cut my legs out from underneath me and discontinued my permission to perform there.

I'll end this blog post with this.  While I was in St. Augustine, Florida, two of my friends and I asked a police officer where to go to see some of the sights of the town.  His response was dishearthneing.  Instead of sending us to a good local place to eat, he tried to send us to some sort of Ripley's amusement just a little ways away.  Now, I know that those sort of things attract qutie a crowd and he was just trying to appease the tourists, but I was looking for America, not Hollywood. 

So, the next time you go to look for America, take the "blue highways."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My Talent is Buried

Jesus once told the story of three men (Matthew 25: 14-30).  These three men were slaves to a very shrewd master.  Before going on a long journey, the master entrusted all three slaves with a certain amount of money.  To one slave he gave five talents who in turn made five more.  To another slave he gave two talents who in turn made two more.  And to the third slave, the master gave one talent which he buried in the earth.

Upon his return, the master commended the two "faithful slave[s]" who acted wisely with what little he had entrusted them.  But the reunion was not so splendid for the "evil, lazy slave."  He was not commended, but was instead stripped of the little responsibility he had been entrusted with and was cast "into the outer darkness" where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth."

On this Independence Day, I fear I have taken the talent of religious freedom God has given men and buried it in my comfort and apathy.  God, forgive this evil, lazy slave.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Institutional Man

In the scene previous to this one, Brooks is wielding a shank and is on the verge of taking Heywood's life.  The reason?  He has recently been informed that he will be released from prison on parole.  To anyone outside the prison walls, and to most inside of them, this is a ridiculous idea.  Who would not want to be free from prison?  But if you were standing in Brooks' shoes, you might consider the same thing.

See, as "Red" (Morgan Freeman) said, Brooks is an institutional man.  After spending most of his life in prison, that is where he is most comfortable; and to practically begin life all over again after making one in prison seems detrimental to old Brooks.  As a matter of fact, it seems so detrimental to Brooks that he is willing to take a mans life to ensure that he doesn't have to leave the Shawshank prison.

Now, picture this.  A young man from the community begins coming to youth group.  After a while his best friend becomes the youth pastor.  He goes to every single service, even the ones that don't attract the younger crowds.  He does all the outreach projects.  He goes on all the trips.  Then, one night during the youth group, the youth pastor makes announcement that shocks this young man.  God has called the youth pastor and his family in another direction and he is resigning from the church.  The young man is heart broken.  So heart broken that he quits going to church.  This young man has become "institutionalized."

Whenever moments like this happen, and they do happen far too often across the United States, most people are surprised.  I know that I am.  We say, "How could he just quit coming to church like that, he loved church so much?"  And when we ask that, we answer our own question.  The reason that this happens is because people fall in love with the institution and routine of the church and not its kingly head, Jesus.

Love Jesus, then love the church.  If you try to love in the wrong order, you will end up like Brooks.  You will be an institutional man.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jesus in a Box

I can remember quite well the first time I heard it.  I was at Falls Creek Camp and my youth group had just finished doing a low ropes team building course when the counselor said it.  "You can't put Jesus in a box."  The counselor was almost right.

Jesus.  Jesus is the Son of God.  He is also the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  He is the First and the Last.  Jesus is he Lamb that was slain and  the victor over death.  He is my healer and my Wonderful Counselor.  He is the Word.  The Creator.  Jesus is the Messiah.

The list above describes Jesus.  It is not an exhaustive list, but you can bank that Jesus is at least all of these things.  Why do I  make such a bold statement?  I make such a bold statement because the Bible describes Jesus that way.

Now, if you have studied any church history at all, you will know that one of the great battles the church continuously fights is the battle against heresies, or false doctrines.  Some of them are bold, some come in costumes, but what makes a heresy a heresy is they are taking Jesus out of the box.

I know that when people say that "You can't put Jesus in box" they often mean we can't make Jesus into what we want Him to be or we can't make Jesus less than who He really is by putting Him in a box that seems to suck away all of His power.  But, I can assure you of at least one thing.  There is one box that Jesus has to go in and cannot come out of.  It is the Bible box.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Storm Warning

“I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.”
Joshua 7:12

                Picture this.  It is hurricane season in the Atlantic.  You live in a nice beachfront house with a porch that leaks out onto the sandy dunes.  It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon and you are relaxing out in the sun’s warm rays.  And as you are relaxing in your fold-out beach chair and listening to the radio, an emergency broadcast screams across the radio waves.  It is to inform you that a hurricane is surely going to hit your town and the whole town needs to evacuate immediately.  Despite how frightening that situation may be, there is a situation much more frightening than that: not hearing the news of the coming storm and continuing your day like the next was going to be just as pleasant.
                Today, in the United States, a very common verse from the Bible is used to give people peace and comfort.  It is the verse “God will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).  But like the person in the story above, many people who are told that are going to live their lives as usual and wake up the next morning to find a storm is right over head.  The reason that is so is because many people, when they are told that “God will never leave them or forsake them,” are not hearing the whole truth when it comes to that verse.  The whole truth to that verse is that God will not forsake you if you do not forsake Him (2 Chronicles 15:2).  People want to live their lives thinking they can live however they want and still receive the blessings of God.  But that is not true.  As you can see from the above verse, sin separates us from God.  Achan had stolen objects from Jericho that God had commanded the Israelites to devote to Him.  When Achan stole the devoted objects, the nation of Israel was exactly where they didn’t want to be: without God.
                Even though God shows us grace and mercy when we sin, there are still consequences.  One of those consequences may be God stepping away from the situation and letting us do it on our own.  Don’t let it happen.  You have been warned of the storm.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Big Pink Elephant

What ever you do, DO NOT think of a big, pink elephant.  You are not thinking of a big pink elephant, are you?

I have heard it many times.  It goes something like this, "I don't listen to the lyrics, I just really like the beat."  Or, "I can watch it and it not bother me.  I can handle it."  These are the common answers people give whenever their music or movie selection is questioned.  The question I want to ask is: can you really?

Today, MTV will be airing a special entitled "Lady Gaga: Inside the Outside."  When I saw the preview for this special over the life of the increasingly famous and provocative Lady Gaga, I heard something that made me sort of laugh on the inside.  Lady Gaga preached.  Yes, she preached and she didn't even know it.  This is what she said:

My parents got me Stevie wonder…and the Beatles when I was younger.  Good choices Mom and Dad.  Don’t spoon feed me the Beatles and Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd and  Led Zeppelin and Elton John and expect for me not to turn out this way.

Whenever I heard Lady Gaga say that, my mind went straight to Jesus' words in Luke 6:45.  "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."  The lesson of Jesus' words are simple.  People say and do according to what they think in their hearts.

Unfortunately, there are many Christians who do not heed the warnings of the Bible, which are sometimes conveyed unknowingly by people such as Lady Gaga.  Thinking that they can expose their minds to more and more garbage, via sight and sound, without any side effects, they do so until the spiritual poison they have ingested finally manifests itself in sin.  Don't overestimate your ability to sift through the impurities of the media.  What you see and what you hear is what you are going to think.  And chances are that if you fill your mind with poison, poison is what's going to come out.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

So, did you think of a big, pink elephant?

Post Script: If someone tells you they just like the beat, ask them if they know any of the words.