I want to continue my flashback Friday or Friday Flashback blog by talking about another great brother in Christ that I am so blessed to call one of my best friends. His name is Bryan Hawkins. Almost 20 years ago I was at my friend, Scott Sickles' house when this little guy in glasses drives up in his go-kart. Scott introduced me to his neighbor Bryan. We became friends mostly at first because we both hung out with Scott. But a year or so later, Scott's dad, "Coach Dale" drafted both me and Bryan on the Tigers baseball team. That is where our friendship really started to happen. But it really wasn't until we both were in high school and were on the drumline together where we really became close. We were always at each other's houses, went on double dates together, had many inside jokes that we still talk about to this day. But late in our high school lives, both of our lives started to turn to God. Bryan went on a spiritual renewal weekend called Happening a year after I went. We both were involved in our church youth groups.
After high school I went to USC and marched on the USC drumline and Bryan started at UT and marched on the drumline there. We both joined fraternities, but we never lost touch. We would visit each other on weekends, fall breaks, and hang out at home during the Summer. Later in life, were in each other's weddings. Our children are about the same age and we still keep up with each other almost every week.
We have both walked strong with God and we have both ran from God. We have been there for each other during both of these times. I remember when Bryan's roommate at UT passed away. I remember how it changed Bryan's life. I remember reaching out and being there for him. Almost four years ago when my brother passed away, Bryan and his wife drove up for the funeral. As soon as the graveside service was over, Bryan was the first one to come up over to me. It meant more than he'll ever know.
You don't find friends like that. God puts those friends that are like siblings in your life for a reason. Bryan is a brother to me and I'm so thankful for his friendship for all these years. I wouldn't be the man I am in ministry if it weren't for him pushing me and always having an encouraging word when I needed it.
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. -Proverbs 18:24
In life, when something is going wrong with a friend or family member, we often say that we will pray for them. But do we? I know that over the years I have told someone that I would pray for a specific thing for someone and I would forget. Not on purpose but I would forget. So was it okay, since I told the person that I was going to pray for that I was going to? How many times has someone said they would pray for me and they didn't?
The past two Sundays I have challenged my students in my youth group to find someone they didn't know too well and pray for them before youth group was over. I also challenged them to call each other during the week daily and ask them if they had spent time with God and ask them for prayer concerns. Both weeks I didn't pray with any of my students, but have had several students text me and ask me those questions. It feels really good to know that someone is praying for me.
Several years ago I started making an excel sheet with several rows and columns numbered 1-31. On each day of the month, I pray for those students by name on the number of the date on that row. I feel prayer is very important. I have seen prayer change my life and other peoples lives.
I challenge you to take a few minutes today and pray for a friend. Text or call a friend and ask them what you can pray for them.
Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [your praying] with thanksgiving. Colossians 4: 2
Sunday I shared a true story to our Confirmation Class and to our youth group that happened to me a couple weeks ago...
A few weeks ago on a Tuesday I was finished with my work around the office but it was too early to pick my daughter from day care, so I decided to take a field trip. I went to the "Proving Grounds" where the University of South Carolina Gamecocks Football team was having spring practice. It was the first time I had ever been to practice. I saw on the website that it was open to the public, but it had no instructions or directions on where to go. I drove down there and I parked right next to the field. I saw several people and players entering a gate, so I just followed. I just happened to have on a Carolina Under Armor coaches shirt and a grabbed a Gamecock visor and put it on. I walked in and walked right past security and was just standing around trying to figure out where to go to watch practice. I soon noticed that I was standing with several of the coaches...Ellis Johnson, Spurrier Jr. to name a few...then another security office came up and asked if I was one of the new coaches. I thought about it for a second and then said no I'm just here to watch practice and he then showed me where to stand.
I later thought, what would have happened if I would said "Yeah I'm helping with the receivers or special teams."
But my point to this and my lessons on Sunday is that we are called to Holy Living. But over the years we have learned to dress the part and we have become really good at pretending to be Christians. We can come in on Sundays and Wednesdays, and dress the right way and act the right way. But in the end, we really are just pretending. I could have told the security officer that I was a coach, but soon enough I might have been caught...maybe not.
As a youth pastor of going on 14 years...its has been easy at times over the years to pretend. There has been times when I have not stopped and taken care of myself and was not right with God. But I pretended. I was really good at...I was so good at it that I was still on the outside a "great" youth pastor. I knew the lingo, I could still put on a great lesson, a great youth program, and teach a great bible study! But inside I was so far from God. And until I finally took a step back and stopped.
And when I stopped and I was real with myself and real with God...things changed. I went from pretending to be with God to running with God! It is very tough at times for us to do that, but once we do that God will work and He will work in amazing ways.
We have all been guilty at times of playing church and pretending to be a Christian for a couple hours a few times a week. But that's not what God wants of us. He wants us to stop pretending. He wants us to live an abundant life!
We need to show our transformation that God has done in us all the days of our lives and not try to just show it for a few hours a week.
Romans 12:2 Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Since 1995 Hootie and Blowfish have put on Monday after the Masters golf tournament. The tournament, featuring athletes, musicians, actors and pro golfers, raises money for junior golf and educational charities in South Carolina. I've never been able to attend, but always have seen the event as a great thing.
For many of us...every Monday...we have "A case of the Mondays" (Office Space). We just feel blah and we really don't care. But imagine if we treated every Monday as Monday after the Masters. What if we made a difference in other peoples lives after an amazing Master's Sunday that we had in church. As Christians, we should never have "a case of the Mondays." But just like after the most exciting day of golf...Master's Sunday...we should be like everyone who comes together in Myrtle Beach on the Monday after the Masters. We should take the message to the world. We should give back to others. We should be excited after having an amazing day of worship on our own Master's Sunday.
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence ... I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God
I know I've already posted one blog this week on the Masters...but what can I say I have Masters Fever. I was talking to a good friend in ministry from Augusta this week Jason. Both of us no longer live in Augusta, but agreed that this week we have Masters Fever. To us it should be Spring Break and we should be headed to the Augusta National to watch the Masters. Like I said in my earlier post there is nothing like it.
One of my best friends Bryan Hawkins this week had the chance to take his wife and posted on Facebook "just left the Masters. Wow. The fairways were beautiful. We sat in Amen Corner and I wondered how people don't believe in God."
Which brings us to Master's Sunday. It is the final day of the best golf tournament, the toughest course, and the most beautiful course. So many times growing up Master's Sunday either started or ended Holy Week. I always thought that was kind of cool. I wish that we would be excited every Sunday for our Master's Sunday.
We have so many things that lead us up to Sunday worship. We have work, school...and just LIFE in general. Just like in golf we have a practice round. Every day we need to practice what we preach. We need to live a life of worship and just not one time a week or for some of us once or twice a year. We overlook everyday God's beautiful creation of life and the planet we live on. We forget to celebrate and thank him for the many blessings He gives us.
The Sunday roars at Augusta brings chills to many, but as David Crowder's song says...my God's not Dead...He's surely ALIVE and He's living on the inside ROARING like a lion! Let God roar inside of you like the roars of a birdie or eagle at Augusta on Master's Sunday...EVERYDAY!
So as someone prepares to put on the Green Jacket for another time or maybe the first time, think about the last time you were excited for Sunday to be here and the chance to go to church and worship our creator, our God, our Master? Do you have the same excitement as those who watch, play, or win the Masters? When is the last time you saw the beauty of God in nature or on a golf course and just thanked God?