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Monday, December 22, 2008

There is a lot to love about this time of year...

There is a lot to love about this time of year...it's really hard to choose. This morning, we awoke to single digit temperatures. I love that. It makes it feel like Christmas to me. I used to have the hardest time living in South Georgia where it was just as likely to be 75 on Christmas as it was to be 40. One day, I hope to awaken to a white Christmas. It hasn't happened yet in 41 years but I'm still holding out hope. That's not my favorite thing though.

I love hearing from family and friends that I haven't talked to in forever. Whether it's an e-mail, phone call or Christmas card, I enjoy catching up with old friends and being reminded of special memories. As good as that it is, that's not my favorite part either.

There are family gatherings, children's excitement, well wishes and plenty of good eats. Each part of the Christmas season holds a special meaning and a special place in my heart...or my stomach as the case may be. But what's my favorite part?

I've narrowed it down to one special moment. It's that point on Christmas eve when everything is done. The presents are neatly wrapped and stacked under the tree. The kids have finally settled down for the night. Church responsibilities have been put on hold and the last parties have become sweet memories for future years. It's that point when I sit down on the couch with my wife in front of the fireplace with a glass of skim milk (Santa's watching his fat intake) and chocolate chip cookies prepared for St. Nick. The world is perfectly still--it's as if 2000 years later creation is still observing the arrival of its Maker. The last few hours of one year are filtering away and I'm looking ahead to the start of one more. There, in that stillness, there is no missing the significance of that night. Angels singing, shepherds bowing, wise men seeking, father rejoicing, mother pondering, King arriving!! Two thousand years later, it is my prayer that we still know the importance of Christmas.

My blogs will be hit and miss (mostly miss) over the next few days as we go through the holidays. My family (Lisa, Morgan, Harrison, Abigail and Landon) wish all of you who read the Merriest of Christmases. May the Child of Bethlehem find a place in your heart as Lord this Christmas. We love you!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

This you call tolerance?

This, you call tolerance? I'm sure you've heard it by now. The national organizations supporting gays, lesbians, transvestites, bisexuals and other disenfranchised people with something to complain about are raising you-know-what because Obama had the audacity to ask one of America's most dynamic pastors to pray for his inaugural (maybe you would have preferred Wanda Sykes to do it?) What in the world was he thinking? The articles and reports that I have seen to this point are models of the double standard in tolerance. Because Rick Warren is courageous enough to take a stand for righteousness, these people have deemed him unworthy to participate in the President-elect's celebration. Even one "pastor", the head of the NAACP for the San Francisco area, said he was appalled at the decision by Obama. "What happened to Obama's cries for unity?" is the question that has been asked repeatedly.

Okay, unity? This is not how you go about it. Rick Warren has every right (and responsibility, I might add) to make a stand for what he believes to be righteous living. This does not disqualify him from being a part of the national discussion in Washington, D.C. any more than the screaming of a (very vocal) minority of people in our country who choose to support an alternative lifestyle (this is the their description of it).

Let me straighten something out here. Grace was never meant to promote compromise. Grace, as it was demonstrated by Christ, means I will love you as you are but will not leave you in a life that contradicts God's plan for you. Whether that be lying, cheating, stealing or otherwise--someone who bears the characteristics of grace is compelled to seek change, not excuse sin. Jesus NEVER tolerated sin!! Ever!!

Kudos for Rick Warren for standing his ground. May his prayers be heard clearly in the heavens as he lifts our nation up before God.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE: my shopping is done for 2008. Presents are wrapped and placed neatly under the tree. Arrival times for family members have been "booked" into my calendar. And the menus for Christmas morning and the day after are being finalized. Now, it's time to sit back, enjoy the true meaning of this season, and laugh at all you poor suckers who still have to visit the mall. HA!!

AND DON'T FORGET...Franklin's Night Before Christmas coming up on Christmas eve. For those of you in Franklin who would love to join us, it's a free event from 5:30 to 7:30 in Building 8 at the Factory. There will be free dinner, some carols and then the premiere of Ridgeview's newest movie. We will be done by 7:30 so you can get home in time to enjoy the family traditions that you celebrate each year. Feel free to join us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Questions.

Questions. They fill our lives. Great and small they challenge who we are and what we stand for. For some, they spur us on to greater things by causing us to examine ourselves. For others, the byproduct of questions is growing fear in our heart. Am I good enough? Is God big enough? Can I ever do enough? Who can I trust?

That first Christmas night was so special because our Answer had come. The One in whom all truth was found. He was the answer for our struggles, for our doubt for our chaos. Think how much power is found in these words to the old Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem:

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's funny the things that can jog your memory.

It's funny the things that can jog your memory. This morning, I woke up around 4:45 (yes, that's a.m.). It was probably the anticipation of the impending phone call from the school board saying that school would be delayed because of the ice. Laying there in the darkness, my mind was taken back almost 35 years to my childhood. I'm not sure what triggered it but I was lying there thinking of my December mornings.

It was pretty much a daily ritual that year. I was eight years old. I would wake up early in the morning (I've always been a morning person and an early riser) and make my way to my mom and dad's room. Working my way through the pre-dawn blackness, I would move around to my dad's side of the bed and crawl in underneath the covers. I'd slide as close to him as I could and rest my head on his massive arm. There, he and I would listen to "Cousin Al", a local radio DJ. Al would share his homespun tales, talk about his "RC Cola and moon pie," and play the classic country hits. I couldn't imagine being anywhere else.

During December, Al would pull out the traditional Christmas classics sung by people like George Jones, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and others. I would lay there in the bed dreaming about Christmas day--unwrapping presents, eating my mom's sausage balls (still, to this day, the very best made) and heading down the road to Granny's for more fun with cousins.

I want that for my kids. I want them to think of those incredible moments when the world seems okay, when dreams really do come true and when Santa (real or not) seems as close as the big man lying next to you in the bed. This morning, I swear I could smell his aftershave and hear the thump of his heart in his chest. I miss my dad and those early school mornings. I miss hearing him sing songs all over the house (most of the time he got all the words right).

My prayer is that this Christmas season (every Christmas season) my family can create those kinds of memories and that I can be everything to my kids that my dad was to me...and so much more.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The shoe throwing incident of 2008

The shoe throwing incident of 2008. I'm sure most of you have seen or heard about it by now. Some Arabic reporter in Baghdad decided to take a shot (actually two) at the President with his size tens while in a press conference yesterday. If you've seen the video, it's pretty comical. Bush looks like he is reverting back to his playground days playing a little dodgeball (pretty agile for an older guy). He seems to have a little smirk on his face as if to say, "Is that the best you got?" Of course, the guy was apprehended though, might I add, not very quickly. Where was security on this thing? This guy gets off two loafers before they ever get to him. Heaven forbid that he would have had a knife or an automatic weapon.

Anyway, here's where the strangest part of the story is to me. I hope this doesn't offend anyone who doesn't need to be offended. The news out of Iraq this morning is that thousands of people are in the streets of Baghdad marching for this guy's release. They are screaming, chanting and burning stuff so that he will be released. Listen, I don't know about your philosophies or your religious leanings, but I don't think it's ever right to throw shoes at a man.

Do I dare ask what's going on in the Muslim world when thousands of people can walk out of their shops, homes, schools and workplaces to protest on behalf of a shoe thrower? Can Iraq's economy handle this kind of work slow down? Of course, if they are somehow related to American industry, they don't have much to worry about. They could always fall back on a government bailout. Talk about something to throw your shoe at...where's my extra tennis shoes? I've got something I want to protest.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You know, some folks just don't get it.

You know, some folks just don't get it. Christmas, I mean.

Last week, my executive pastor, Eddie, shared what he heard on a local radio show. The hosts of the morning show were talking about songs commonly played at Christmas that really didn't have anything to do with Christmas. An example they used was "Frosty, the Snowman"--a great seasonal song but it really has nothing to do with the event we celebrate. They invited listeners to call in and share their own song titles. One lady called in and, with all seriousness, listed the song "Mary, Did You Know?" The announcer laughed a little to himself (probably waiting for a punch line or "just kidding"). After a pause, he asked, "Ma'am, you do know that Mary was the mother of Jesus?" Her reply? "What's that got to do with the Christmas season" (reminds me of the old country song with Jeff Foxworthy "Here's Your Sign")

Then, the next day, the Atlanta paper was ranking the worst Christmas albums and songs of the season. Now, you and I both know there are some really bad songs and bad remakes of good songs (e.g. Madonna's remake of "Santa Baby"). It's not like they didn't have plenty to choose from. Their number 10 choice was a song by Shane and Shane--contemporary worship writers who have done some really good stuff. The song chosen was "Born to Die"--a song that talks about the obvious (at least I used to think it was) reason for the birth of Christ in the first place. The reason it was chosen as one of the worst?? It puts a damper on your Christmas spirit by talking about Jesus' death.

Hello? Sorry to rain on your parade people but you can't have Christmas without Jesus and you can't speak of Jesus (his name literally means Savior) without understanding that his birth occurs under the shadow of his impending death--the most significant reason for his presence.

Maybe our friends and naysayers need to be reminded of the final verses of the classic Christian carol, "Good Christian Men, Rejoice":

Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice!
Now ye hear of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this.
He has opened heaven's door, and man is blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this, Christ was born for this.

Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice!
Now ye need not fear the grave: Jesus Christ was born to save;
Calls you one and calls you all, To gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save, Christ was born to save.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Just when you thought it couldn't get more ridiculous

Just when you thought it couldn't get more ridiculous, the world decides to "up the ante" a little bit. Newsweek magazine, the bastion of unbiased news and information (said with tongue planted firmly in cheek), has done just this with its latest issue.

Newsweek decided to come out for same-sex marriage in a big way, and to do so by means of a biblical and theological argument. In its cover story, "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage," Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller offers a revisionist argument for the acceptance of same-sex marriage.

Aside from the very subjective writing in which Miller offers only professional opinions that support her journalism, the magazine fired a parting shot at all those who profess to believe the Bible. Newsweek editor Jon Meacham offered his editorial piece that reveals even more of the magazine's agenda for this article: "No matter what one thinks about gay rights — for, against or somewhere in between — this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism....Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt — it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition."

Okay, okay. Enough writing already guys. You've already proven that you don't have a clue what faith in God and the Bible is all about. In case you missed it, the editor of Newsweek magazine just called every Bible-believing Christian (and, for good measure, every Torah believing Jew) a complete idiot--something just two IQ points below a slug. (He said it. Not me. "Intellectually bankrupt").

Well, here's my thought. Since I am intellectually bankrupt, I don't have the mental capabilities to read, especially a magazine of such high caliber. Neither do millions of others out there who believe as I do. Maybe we'll just stoop to some other journalistic pieces who understand how to express differing views without resorting to name-calling and hateful generalizations.

By the way, how far do you think either of these two would have gotten out the door of their offices if they had called Muslims complete idiots for their beliefs or resorted to the same kind of name-calling in reference to supporters of homosexuality? You better believe the ACLU (the biggest civil rights joke since...well, since I don't know when) would have met them before the door had shut completely.

Don't be suprised Christ followers. This is exactly what Christ predicted when He said others would hate us because of Him and would persecute us. And Jesus teaches that this is just the beginning. Who knows where it will lead...especially if you and I choose to remain silent and act like the brainless wimps Meacham accuses us of being.

Monday, December 08, 2008

There are only two ways to live your life according to Albert Einstein.

There are only two ways to live your life according to Albert Einstein. You can live as if there are no such thing as miracles. Or you can live as if everything in life was a miracle. While I'm not sure that I entirely agree with the statement, it does speak to one very important truth about every single one of us in our lives.

We choose.

That's it. We choose. We choose how we live our lives, what perspective we begin each day with. In every decision we face and ever life crisis that comes, there is an opportunity to choose. And the choice we make is often determined by Who we know.

So...you choose how you live today. Miracle or no miracle, God wants to be a part of what it is you face.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Balance.

Balance. We all strive for it in some manner or another. I've heard ladies talking who marvel at one particular mother who is able to "balance" all that she has going on. Leaders are encouraged to maintain "balance." Men talk about having to keep their work demands in check to maintain "balance." It is the Holy Grail of life management, it would seem.

I got a fresh perspective on this subject this morning as I shared a quiet time with Lisa. Imagine life as a bike ride. We talk about how balance is important to riding a bike. Think about this...the only time a bike is ever really balanced is when it is sitting still with both of your feet on the ground. The rest of the time, a bike ride is a constant challenge. It is a hundred different muscles working together to counteract the wobble, to avoid the pothole in the road and to slow down when a car approaches. Throughout that whole "experience," the bike is never completely balanced. But when the ride is over, you measure your balance, not by the individual moments along the way, but by judging the whole ride.

Many times, in our striving for balance, we can focus too much on one aspect of our life and fail to see how well we are maintaining balance. Here's a good example...Lisa. She loves a clean house. We both do. But sometimes we have needs that pop up--a kid who has a project or a game, a friend who needs someone to talk to over lunch, a ministry opportunity for the church--that can interfere with time set aside to clean the house. Now, if we focus too much on the dirty sink at home, we might think that our lives are out of balance. However, when we do that, we fail to see the child who is secure in knowing her parents love her, the friend who is at peace because we took the time to pray or the family that was touched by the generosity of our church.

Balance isn't found in maintaining a rigid schedule that never gets interrupted or off kilter. Rather, it is found by surveying your whole life and knowing that your heart, mind, body and soul are maintained in step with God's will for you. Potholes will come and dirty sinks will happen. Maintain peace in your life by keeping your eyes on the big picture God has for you. In the end, you will find balance.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A leap of faith

A leap of faith. That's what they call it when we place our trust in something without having the evidence needed for certainty. The phrase has found all kinds of uses from supporting a favorite underdog to putting your money into long shot investments. Typically, it's a more negative term used by someone who can't believe that you would choose the path you've chosen without first knowing more. In the following verse, though, we find Jesus using it in a much more positive way.

34Jesus said to her, "Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you're healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague." Mark 5:34 MSG

The daughter refered to here is a woman who had been plagued by a medical issue for decades. Because of her condition she had been barred from normal life and the simple privileges allowed to most women of her day. With those kinds of odds, faith was all she had left. Anything to remove the plague.

Jesus rewarded her with healing. More than that, he made her the poster child for what it takes to get freedom...a risk (a leap) of faith. Therein lies the root of our bondage. The cause does not lie at the feet of a Savior who is unworthy or a God who is impotent. Rather, it lies in the heart of a people who have become too averse to leaping. Funny how Satan can convince us to reject the very path that leads to our healing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Communicating with someone in these modern times is really no problem.

Communicating with someone in these modern times is really no problem. We've got phones and faxes and e-mail and Facebook. There is virtual "this" and virtual "that"--all meant to keep us in "personal" contact with someone. You and I know that you just can't beat the real thing. There's no way that technology can keep up with being in the presence of someone you really want to hear from. That's why this verse is so powerful:

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV

That's what Christmas was about. To that point in human history, God had spoken to His people through prophets, signs and wonders. But it wasn't good enough for a God who desires that we really know him. So, he put down all the other forms of communication and showed up Himself--stepping right into the middle of human history. His presence, His appearing, reveals the depth of love that God shows for us. He cared enough to send His very best--Jesus, God made flesh and dwelling among us.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The flip is switched

The flip is switched. We have seamlessly shifted from Thanksgiving to the Christmas season. I have to be honest. Lisa and I started listening to Christmas CDs about two weeks ago, though. I love the songs and the feeling they bring so I can't really keep them to just one month a year.

I'm looking forward to lots of things this Christmas season. There are, of course, the parties and the goodies, the songs and the annual Christmas parade. More than anything, I love hanging out with the family. I'm praying for a little simplicity this season, a less hectic pace. I'm wishing for love in my family, peace in my heart and snow on the ground (wouldn't hurt to have it just once, now, would it?) More than anything I guess I'm casting a vision for myself as I launch out into Christmas '08. I want to know the Baby of Bethlehem better than ever before. I want to come to that day just as those shepherds did that first Christmas morning--innocent, pure, completely open, and worshipping with all their hearts.

If I can get there, I won't need much more. I've got all the gifts I need. But the older I get, the more I realize that all I really need(ed) was born there that day. If only I can embrace Him...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanks.

Thanks. It's a simple word not often said--at least, not nearly often enough. Because it's that time of year and I didn't want to branch way out on a limb, I decided to share my gratitude via this blog. Here's a few things I'm very thankful for (I'm way too blessed to name them all).

I'm thankful for friends that come in all shapes, sizes and colors. I'm thankful they love me when I get stupid, challenge me when I get lazy and encourage me when life gets tough.

I'm thankful for a mom who knows how to make the best dressing IN THE WORLD and that, long before I was old enough to taste it, she and my dad were encouraging me to love God. I've found that dressing satisfies for hours; God is eternally more sufficient.

I'm thankful for my staff. Nobody in America has as much fun with the people they work with. Just come stand outside our office (don't do it on Mondays. It's crazy in here) and listen to the laughter that fills this place as we work side-by-side.

I'm thankful for my cars. I can't imagine climbing onto a buckboard for the five hour trip to Georgia nor can I imagine climbing the ridge at Monteagle with a team of horses and four hungry children.

I'm thankful for my church family. Ridgies are the best. You do such an amazing job of being the "bride of Christ." I pray for you daily and know that you do the same for me. Together, we will make a difference for the Kingdom of God.

I'm thankful for Godly examples in my life--those people who best exhibited Christ to me over the years and are patient with me as I learn what being an "imitator of God" is all about.

I'm thankful for my extended family from Virginia to Georgia, from East Tennessee to West Franklin. God has blessed me more than I deserve in this area so thank you, all of you--in-laws, outlaws and just one step ahead of the law. You guys are the best and I love you.

I'm thankful for three beautiful daughters who make my heart dance when they are around. I want to be a hero for them. I want to teach them what real love is all about. I want them to know that there are good men left in this world. I'm thankful they understand me when I get that wrong.

I'm thankful for my son. There's no way I can deny that child is mine. He looks like me, eats like me and argues like me (the perfect trifecta for any woman). I pray the lessons he learns from me are far more plentiful than the mistakes I have to apologize for. He's a good kid; they all are.

I'm thankful for my beautiful wife, Lisa. As I told a friend recently, God knew when I got married again I would need someone who was beautiful (check), smart (check), Godly (check, check) and tough enough to stand in my face and make me a better man (triple check). Lisa is so good for me. God is even better.

It's my last entry for the week as my family heads out for the holiday celebration. I pray that you and your family have a wonderful, safe and preservative free Thanksgiving. I'll see you back here in December. Do yourself a favor. Take time to say thanks to some people in your life this week.

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's a very cool wet day.

It's a very cool wet day. The kind that make me want to go home, put on my sweats, grab a hot chocolate and sit with Lisa in front of the fire. Instead, I found myself out with my executive pastor, Eddie, delivering some food baskets our staff had put together for some under resourced families in our area. What amazing joy is found in the little things that you and I take for granted.

It got me thinking back to one of my favorite worship songs, one that was written by Chris Tomlin:

A refuge for the poor, a shelter from the storm
This is our God
He will wipe away your tears and return yourwasted years
This is our God
Oh... this is our God
A father to the orphan, a healer to the broken
This is our God
And he brings peace to our madness and comfort in our sadness
This is our God
Oh... this is our God
This is the one we have waited for
Oh... this is our God
A fountain for the thirsty, a lover for the lonely
This is our God
He brings glory to the humble and crowns for thefaithful
This is our God

My heart leaps when I hear those words. This is our God. No matter how the world may deny Him or try to re-write Him into their image, this is what God is really about. He is a restorer, a Creator, and a Helper. He fixes broken things, finds lost things, gives purpose to life and offers hope where there once was none. This is what the world has waited for. This is the One who was predicted. This--this image of a Father loving on His children--this is the one our souls long for. Now we must share Him. Now, we must tell others. NOW! The world needs to know the One their souls desire.

"You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the need in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat..." Isaiah 25:4

Friday, November 21, 2008

We are in a recession.

We are in a recession. Okay, I get that. You don't have to hit me over the head to help me understand that many people are struggling. But would it be too simple to say that the majority of our problems (as families and as a nation) come back to one simple principle--we're greedy.

I read this recently in a book written by a financial planner. In talking with a group of successful businessmen who earned over six figures in income annually, he asked the question, "How many of you earn twice what you did ten years ago?" They all raised their hands.

The next question was, "How many of you, if you had been asked ten years ago, would have been thrilled by this kind of income?" Again, they were all in the affirmative. But, when asked if they were content with where they are today, not one would raise his hand.

You get the picture? Here is the simplest financial bailout plan the world has ever seen. Don't spend what you don't have. I, for one, think it is absolutely crazy for us to be bailing anyone out--banks, insurers, mortgage companies and, least of all, the big (stupid) three auto makers. I mean, let's get real. Thirty million dollar bonus packages and we can't figure out why they can't earn a profit?

But let's get personal. Do we really need the third TV set, the XM on our radio or the latest cell phone with the ability to touch the screen ("OOOOOOHHH")? You know the answer and so do I. Now, I'm not saying you can't have those things. Many of you can afford them without placing additional strain on your family's finances. More power to you. But if you're cutting your tithe to make sure you don't have to cut the cleaning lady, your priorities are as messed up as the federal government. You better do the simple math and learn to live within your means (minus the super mega limit credit card) or you'll have collectors banging on your door. And, for you and I, there won't be a federal government bail out. Simply a rude awakening to the fact that we should have done what we should have done when there was time to do it. A friendly reminder before your holiday buying season begins.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

There is no doubt that we need each other.

There is no doubt that we need each other. I don't have to go very far to show you examples of how much people need the contact of other people. Not just physical contact but emotional, spiritual and mental as well. I hear it in the voices of people I counsel with. I see it in the faces of people who I speak to on the street.

If you don't think people want to get beyond the Twitter and the Facebook entries, just sit down and write a personal note to someone and see what kind of reaction you get. I did it recently to one particular couple in our church. The wife responded as if I had written a NY Times bestseller (which I hope to do some day).

Our lives are filled with...well, you name it. We live in homes with garages that have doors that work by remote. We pull in without ever getting out of our car. We actually can have "relationships" with people around the world without ever hearing the sound of their voice. And never before have we needed each other more.

I'm thinking specifically of one couple I had the opportunity to be with recently. After we had finished our evening with them, the young lady came up to my wife and began to talk to her on the side. She was sooo hungry for more, wanting to have relationship with someone whose name wasn't Mac or PC--someone who could feel and laugh and smile and hug. After all, God created us to be these kinds of people and, if we lose this art form, we have lost a very special gift.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I was thinking about my loss today as I reflected back

I was thinking about my loss today as I reflected back on my friend, Steve, who passed away this weekend. I guess my thoughts were stirred by his death along with the fact that I have several friends who are awaiting test results, facing surgeries or battling personal illnesses right now.

When I think back on those days, I'm amazed at how God sends His grace in the most amazing ways in the darkest situations. In the first moments after our van was struck that April afternoon, I screamed and prayed as loudly as I could to God. God didn't save my wife... but He did send an incredible peace into that chaotic moment. It was a peace that I would absolutely need to survive those next hours and days.

I think back on the days our family shared just prior to the accident. Wonderful memories, lots of laughs and dozens of pictures--pictures that would serve as a wonderful connection to what God had blessed Abigail, Harrison and me with.

In the midst of a loss, never doubt that God will give you comfort. His peace is constant and gentle. He promised that He would "never leave you or forsake you." Whatever your loss today (maybe a loved one, maybe a loss of security because of desperate news from the doctor, maybe you lost your significance because your occupation has been taken) you can rest in knowing that God's power is supreme and His way is best. Trust Him.

Personal note: Kristin, thanks for your kind words and for sharing your dad with Lisa and me. Please know that we are praying for you in your loss this week and the weeks to come.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Here's to going home.

Here's to going home. There's something special about those first minutes when you walk in the door. The sights. The smells. The memories that let you know that this is where you belong. I remember the first time I went away to school. I was in seminary in Fort Worth, TX. My family lived in Macon, GA--easily 12 hours driving time. That entire first semester, I was crazy homesick. I knew where I needed to be and I knew why God had me there. But I also knew where I wanted to be. I missed mom and dad. I missed my bed and my room and all the things that make a house your home.

That first Thanksgiving break, I completed my finals, went back to my dorm room and packed my bags so I could make the early start the next morning. I wanted to be home as soon as I could. That night, I lay in bed wide awake. The anticipation was killing me. So, somewhere a little after midnight, I did the only thing this homesick boy knew to do. I loaded my truck and made the 12 hour drive home in the middle of the night. Probably not the wisest thing to do nor the safest, but I did it. Sometimes the urge to go home is so strong it overpowers everything else. I remember the greeting I got from my dad as I walked in the front door. (He had not been expecting me till much later that evening.) That alone would have been worth every mile of the journey home.

You might think I'm writing this tonight because I'm looking forward to the holidays. I guess, in many ways, I am as much as ever. But tonight, I'm writing with a mixture of emotions. I'm writing because of another homecoming. Just a few minutes ago, I got the word that my new friend from Arizona that I wrote about a few weeks ago, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. Tonight, he's home--a place he longed for, a place he was not sure of. Tonight, the pain that had ravaged his body for so long is no more. Tonight the tears that filled his eyes that day we first met have been dried. The fear and uncertainty are no more. I believe with all my heart that he is in a place where the sights are beautiful, the sounds are astounding and the faces let him know that he'll never have to leave again. He's home.

In that blog a few weeks back, I called him "Scott" to protect his privacy. Today, I'll let you know that his name was Steve...Steve Kerr. And in the few minutes I knew Steve in this life, I became a better man. Tonight, Steve is just one more reason I can't wait to get home. I love you, Steve. Your family and friends are in our prayers this evening.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Words are powerful things.

Words are powerful things. They truly have the power to heal and to harm. Sometimes the most innocent of phrases can rip to shreds years of healing and hope. At other times, a simple word or two can lift some one's spirits farther than they ever imagined. And, yet, they are simply words.

But God knows the power of words. Think of some of the most powerful words that Scripture shares with us. In the encounter between Moses and God, Moses asked the Creator, "Who are you?" God responded with two very powerful words--I am. I am? What does that mean? It is a very powerful phrase that says, "God was and God is and God will always be what we really need Him to be." God is not limited by our imagination or by science or by natural law. He just is…in a very powerful way.

There is another word that contains much power in the Bible. It appears many places but most frequently during those encounters between man and God (or someone representing Him such as an angel). Peace. Now, if I came up to you and said "peace," it would mean one thing. But for the Creator of all things to look at you in your present situation and say this word means something wholly different. Peace...strength in the midst of chaos, no presence of fear.

The strength of words cannot be denied. Whether it's a parent disciplining a child, an individual dealing with a co-worker, or a husband reacting too strongly to his wife and best friend (are you catching my humility here?), we must understand the power of Words. After all, when the world was in a desperate situation and needed to hear from God, He didn't put on a display. He didn't send an army. He didn't cause the sky to go dark or the mountains to crash into the sea. He simply gave us His...Word.

"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." John 1:1-14 NIV

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It has been chaos around here today.

It has been chaos around here today. We've had a pregnant Mary, two opera singers, a very bad guitarist and a donkey (yes, a live one). Here at the office. No, it wasn't a staff meeting. We were shooting one of the final scenes for this year's Ridgeview film. It is going to be great so you're going to want to make plans to come (and invite everyone you know) for the showing on Christmas Eve. Make sure you're there.

That got me thinking about some of these commercials you see on TV. You know the ones.

"Not sold in stores."
"As seen on TV."
"New and improved..."
"Call now. Operators are standing by."

They make some pretty heady claims. Especially as we head into the holiday season, you'll see the promising to do a whole lot of stuff. Organize your life. Clean your clothes. Remove all calories from your cooking (okay, the last one was just wishful thinking). You get the picture. One particular magazine just did their annual review of the best selling of these products. Their findings?? Most of them simply don't deliver. Even the ones that do were questioned as to the real need that they fulfill.

Is real life any different? Which one of us has never fallen prey to the claims that culture wants to make on our lives?

"You can't get this anywhere else."
"It's just like you see on TV."
"Better than ever before."
"Get it now because it might be gone tomorrow."

Let's be honest. The only One to ever live up to His claims was Christ. No spastic announcers needed. The angels broadcast His birth. No select audiences. His salvation is free to all who will take it. No new and improved because it just doesn't get any better than life on the road with Christ. No money back offer because He's never failed. I will tell you this though. It is a limited time offer. And you better believe you don't want to get caught having this One. Blessings!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why do we make things so hard?

Why do we make things so hard? Especially when it comes to the things of faith. Salvation is simple. You accept a free gift from a loving God who paid a price for your sin that you couldn't pay yourself. You rearrange your life to give Him ownership and leadership. It's done. It's really that easy. Now, the life that follows this decision may be a little harder. But the act is as simple as acknowledgement and obedience.

And obedience is another area where we try to take the simple and make it really difficult. The religious leaders in the Bible took the 10 Commandments and turned them into dozens of books of laws that had to be kept in order to stay in good standing with God.

But Christ summed up the desires God had for us in two simple little sentences. Love God with all your being and love others more than you love yourself. (my translation) Just think how that last little sentence would radically change the world if we practiced it. Road rage would be a think of the past. Contracts would never have to be signed. We'd never here people screaming about their rights or their needs because we'd all be looking out for one another. Marriages would last forever as they were intended to be and no child would ever go uncared for.

Our churches would be radically different. We'd have to have crowd control at the doors because the world would want to come in and be part of the loving. Pastors wouldn't burn out because small groups of people got together and were dragging him down behind his back. No guest would ever feel out of place in a church. And we'd never have to talk about how to carefully use the offerings because the bigger concern would be how to deal with the excess we had in our church's accounts. We'd spend more time praying for each other than talking about each other. And the "law" of God would become almost unnecessary.

Why can't we get this right? What is this selfish nature that says I have to look out for me and mine because no one else will? All it takes is a few people who choose to do the right thing in a world that has seemingly forgotten what the right thing is. The right thing, as Paul put it:

8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:8-10 NLT

Monday, November 10, 2008

I’ve heard it said that difficult times provide a mirror to our soul.

I’ve heard it said that difficult times provide a mirror to our soul. It’s during the most difficult of times that we find out who we really are, what we really believe. But it’s those same difficult times that give God His best opportunities to shine and to really show us how much He cares.

I’ve already seen it a half dozen times in recent weeks. Like most of us, some of my Ridgies are feeling the squeeze of a poor economy. My family is doing like most of yours and taking more sack lunches, turning off our lights more frequently and cutting more coupons to insure that a down economy doesn’t catch us off guard. But some of my families are already being damaged by the financial woes. Let me tell you a tale of two families.

Family A has been hit by income too low to keep up their lifestyle. Their income has been driven lower than normal by the hit that his industry has taken. Since the day the news first became obvious to them, they have scrambled around with great effort to try and figure out how to stop the bleeding. When I spoke to them, the lengthy conversation never revealed one word of prayer, God, surrender or priority. Rather, there were apologies that they had cut back on their tithing to make sure they could make ends meet…God will understand.

Family B has been hit equally hard. Struggling with a low income that couldn’t get much lower. Just wanting to do the right thing for their kids. When they first mentioned this to me over lunch, we talked about some ideas for re-arranging priorities, dumping some debt and learning to live within their means. I knew they would be alright because the last request before we parted company was, “Would you pray with us, Ridley? We know with all our heart that God will take care of our needs. We simply have to surrender.” They got it right.

Now, the two families above aren’t real. Well, actually, they are. They are compilations of dozens of phone calls and meetings I have had with people in recent weeks. They are all families that have been struck by the aforementioned difficult times. And their character is showing. My prayer is that all of us would learn to trust God in ALL things—good and bad. Knowing God intimately in the best of times makes our confidence in Him more steadfast in the worst. Let me close with this encouragement from David.

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 37:39 NIV

Thursday, November 06, 2008

My wife tells me we are in the midst of trail mix moments.

My wife tells me we are in the midst of trail mix moments. It’s just another one of those creative phrases she uses to keep life in perspective for all of us. Like many of you, we are facing “stuff”—weird economy, growing kids, changing church and personal challenges that every believer deals with. Any way, I’ll let her words explain the whole “trail mix” thing to you.

“We are having some of the sweetest moments and some of the saltiest moments all at the same time. Obviously, I would much prefer to pick out the M&M’s and just enjoy the sweet moments but I am excited about what we are learning about being salt and light to the world in our salty moments. It makes me smile to say we have both. Too much salt leaves you dry and thirsty. I may not be “nuts” about the salty lessons but I do get excited how we know we are on the right track when we are in the midst of salty moments and boy, I sure can taste those M&M’s better when they are mixed in with the salty. Can’t you? Think about it. What a “sweet” reminder that ministry offers both. What a blessing that we are experiencing both right now. I am excited to take the next bite that Jesus has to offer. I pray that you and I enjoy our healthy trail mix and that we continue to hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

Good words. Great truths. Isn’t she “sweet”? Hope you enjoy all the flavors that life brings you today and remember that God is in both.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Anyone who has not signed on for warfare has not fully understood the call of Christ.

Anyone who has not signed on for warfare has not fully understood the call of Christ. Jesus never said, “If you have problems in this world…” but “When you have problems…” One of the saddest things to see is a person who longs to follow Christ but is not willing to stay in it for the long haul and withstand all that Satan wants to throw at him. We love to applaud people like Job (from Scripture) who have the enemy’s worst thrown at them but continue to stand. However, we miss that Christ’s call on us is for that same kind of faith and perseverance.

That is why God gave us the Holy Spirit as a comforter and guide. He works deep inside us to change our desires from pleasing ourselves to pleasing God. It is the Holy Spirit working through the Bible who gives us the ability to control our thoughts (or, as Paul put it, to take every thought captive). The Holy Spirit is the only one who can relieve the strong urgings of the “old self” and help us to subdue them to the desires of the new self. It is His power that enables us to break habits that have been repeated countless times, to step away from the bondage of our enemy and to overcome Satan and all his subtle temptations.

At RCC, we’re beginning a series called “The Campaign” this Sunday. It talks about these very issues—advancing God’s kingdom while stepping away from ours. I ask that all you Ridgies out there will be in prayer for one another as we dig into a subject that Satan hopes you never understand. Be prepared for his schemes and don’t be surprised by what lengths he will go to to keep you from being a part of these days in the life of our church.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

“Be simple; take our Lord’s hand and walk through things.” Brother Andrew

“Be simple; take our Lord’s hand and walk through things.” Brother Andrew

“The greatest worries of this world are brought on those who are entangled the greatest by this world.” Brother Ridley

Where do you draw your strength? Is it from the mission you are living out in your life? Or, do you spend more time worrying about the props? Are you more concerned about the “things” God gave you to serve Him or by the ones that God has called you to serve?

Those who go through life unencumbered find that the race is more easily run and the grace of God is more easily felt. God will give you strength for whatever portion of the journey you are on but you must know the difference between living in His power and living in yours.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I read this excerpt from one of the leadership e-mails I get just this past week.

I read this excerpt from one of the leadership e-mails I get just this past week.

“Last week I attended the Willow Creek Association's REVEAL conference. Bill Hybels was the opening speaker…I was surprised by what he identified as the church's biggest challenge. Hybels says the largest gap exists not between seekers and believers, but between less mature Christians and "Christ-centered" Christians. The less mature, he says, believe that "God is for me, my plans, and my agenda in this world." But the truly Christ-centered have given up their lives and dreams in complete surrender to him. "A big honkin' thing has to happen for a Christian to move from self-centered to Christ-centered."”

Looking to tomorrow’s election (hopefully for the last time. Like many of you I am tired of hearing about all of this) I thought about the agendas that we take into the polling booth. As I have mentioned before, I am shocked by the number of “Christians” who say that the economy is more important than the many moral issues that face our nation (One could easily argue that economic issues are a result of poor moral choices in our past).

More importantly, I think Bill Hybel’s words hit home for many of us in the area of worship. We have adopted a shopper’s mentality when it comes to looking for a place to worship with our family. We hop from church to church, looking for the one that “meets our needs,” without ever consulting God’s desires for us. I often wonder how many times a day that God shakes His head and thinks to Himself, “They really don’t get this, do they?”

Here’s what I encourage you to do. Stop thinking about yourself. (That’s a pretty basic concept for a Christ-follower). Find the way to where God wants you in your career, your goals, your place of worship. And STAY there till He tells you to move. NOTE: the first sign of trouble is not an indication that God wants you to move. In fact, none of the following are acceptable reasons for leaving a church:

*Church is too big/too small
*They don’t have enough programs for my kids
*They aren’t meeting budget
*They don’t appreciate me/my family enough
*That pastor/staff member never does… (fill in the blank with a thousand different things you could do in service to your church like hospital visits, writing potential members, inviting new people to church)

I think you get the picture. Contemporary churches in America are filled with those who think that worship is about their preferences and that service is something limited to paid professionals. I am thankful for the many Ridgies who are changing that mentality and getting it back to what it needs to be. You guys really get this (most of you, anyway).

Wherever you are and whatever your place in your church, recommit yourself to serving God and the family of your church with all your heart. The Kingdom will be blessed and you will find more contentment than you ever would in your present self-focused existence.

Friday, October 31, 2008

It’s funny how God can stop you in your tracks and give you a different perspective.

It’s funny how God can stop you in your tracks and give you a different perspective. It’s not so much the events as much as the timing of those events, sometimes. Case in point, my trip to Arizona this week. I thought I was visiting Scottsdale so God could use me to encourage and challenge people. Instead, God used a new friend to change me.

I had just finished up my third presentation of the day. Honestly, I was pretty wiped out after sharing my story again. (Each time is kind of like tearing the scab off of an old wound. It never gets easier). We (Lisa and I) were hanging around to chat with some new friends we had made at the hospital. I noticed one lady hanging around till all the others had left. She had joined the conversation a few minutes earlier and talked about the presentation. When everyone else had excused themselves from the room, she said, “Can I ask you a question?” I assumed she was going to ask something further about the presentation so I told her yes.

As tears formed in her eyes, she began. “I’m sorry to bother you but…” she hesitated. “My brother is upstairs in this hospital. He’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he doesn’t have long to live. Would you mind praying for him?” I glanced at Lisa and the look in her eyes told me what we needed to do.

“Do you mind if we go up to see him?” I asked.

“I don’t want to bother you guys. You really don’t have to go to that trouble,” she said.

“It would be our pleasure.” Understatement of the year.

We made our way to the elevator and through the cancer ward there at the hospital. Before we reached his room, I asked the woman to check and make sure her brother was comfortable with a stranger visiting the room. After doing so, she confirmed that he was interested in talking with me.

As I approached his bedside, I asked God to give me something good, something encouraging to share with him (I’ll call him Scott to protect his privacy). “How are you feeling, Scott?” I asked. “And before you answer, tell me how you are REALLY feeling.”

Scott began to cry. I leaned closer to hear what he was trying to say. “I’m scared,” he whispered.
“What scares you the most?” I asked. I was genuinely interested, curious as to what this fifty year old man was facing; even more curious as to how Lisa and I could encourage him.
“Scared of the pain. Scared of death. Scared of what lies after this. Scared for the family I’m leaving behind.” The words came out slowly but with a steady nature. He had obviously spent many hours thinking this through before I had ever arrived.

“Do you believe in God?” I asked him. “Yes,” he replied. “What do you believe?” I continued.
Scott spoke words I have uttered hundreds of times to thousands of people. The difference? Scott said them with more conviction than I could muster as he lay there anticipating what was to come. “I believe He loves me more than anything or anyone.”

I won’t share the rest of our time with you. Some moments are best left for the hearts of those who get to experience them. I knelt by Scott’s bed, took him by the hand, and begged God to give me the words to pray so that Scott would feel stronger and more at peace with what he is facing. When I finished, Scott wouldn’t let go of my hand. I didn’t want him to. I needed him as much as he needed me in those moments. His confidence reminded me that economic downturns and impending elections don’t define life—only God does. And only those who know Him can really know what life is…no matter how long or short that life may be.

I finished my time with Scott. I bent over, kissed him gently on the forehead and said, “I love you.” We both cried a little. I don’t know what Scott took away from our time together. But I know I took his spirit of courage with me. I promised that Lisa and I would pray for him every day.

I’m a better man for knowing Scott. Lisa would tell you she’s a better woman. My prayer for us—all of us—is that we can embrace the challenge of each new day with the quiet confidence that comes from knowing what Scott knows—God loves you desperately.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well. Luke 17:19 NIV

Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well. Luke 17:19 NIV

These words, spoken by Jesus, hold the key to many of our unanswered prayers. For many of us, God can sometimes seem absent, unavailable, slow to act (according to our timing) or just indifferent. But nothing could be further from the truth. God cares deeply for every hurt and heartache we have. On some occasions, God is using this “quiet” to test our faith and to make us stronger. More often, God is simply acting in response to your faith. He is acting exactly the way your faith expected Him to.

If you are looking for big answers to big prayers…then you better have a little faith in a big God.
“Praying without faith is like trying to cut with a blunt knife—much labor extended to little purpose.” James O. Fraser

I covet your prayers this week as Lisa and I are in Stocksdale, Arizona Tuesday through Thursday for another speaking engagement. I’m looking forward to what God will do over the next couple of days. Please pray for our kids as we are away as well. “Talk” with you when we get back later this week.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I got one of those e-mails last night that pastors get far too seldom.

I got one of those e-mails last night that pastors get far too seldom. It was one of my dear friends, one of my sisters at RCC, reminding me how much she and her husband pray for me. Right on time. Believe me, no gift was ever more appropriate for Pastor Appreciation month than an e-mail like this one.

I’ve never felt like Satan was more at work than he is right now. I see him going after our families. He’s worked over time on mine in recent weeks. I see him tearing at the fabric of our nation. Don’t fool yourself into believing that an election in a couple of weeks will bring the end to it. It’s just beginning. He’s working overtime on distracting our churches and keeping individuals in bondage. At the top of that list are the men and women that head your churches and hold places of leadership. Just as any smart military leader would, Satan goes after the leaders. Yeah, he’ll take an enlisted man when he gets the opportunity. But the chance to depress or bring down a major or a general is high priority for the “father of all lies.” And he puts an all out effort into targeting those called to lead.

So do your part. Pray for your pastor. Pray for your staff. Pray for their families and for their protection. Pray for the words that are said about them and the truly hateful ones that might be said to them. Do your part to encourage and to strengthen. Serve them, love them, and stand by them. Never forget that they have to answer to God for the leadership that they bring to you. You, however, have to answer for the prayers you failed to pray on their behalf.

Wherever you attend church, whoever your leader may be, don’t hesitate to love on them year round when God brings them to mind. The truth is that you’ll be rewarded with leaders who are more fit for battle and more ready to lead you in the journeys of the Kingdom.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

These days, much conversation centers on the subject of values.

These days, much conversation centers on the subject of values. Election years tend to do that for us. Journalists and campaign spin doctors, alike, are making much of the values that they say represent a candidate or his party. I submit to you that most of our political figures have only one value—them.

Look at this definition of a value: “A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable.” Though it’s not stated, I think it’s implied that when one determines something to be of value for them, they are willing to sacrifice to see that “value” upheld. Values become the lens by which we see our world. When we come to value something, it’s not easily changed by culture, conversation or an opinion poll. Values are formed over the course of time and are weathered by the storms that life brings to us.

Now, what are your values? For Christ followers, much of what we value is given to us from God’s word. We value life, forgiveness, grace, family, love and service among many others. These are values that Christ modeled, the prophets taught and Paul preached. Have our churches clung to those values? Or, have we tended to become like political candidates seeking a swing in the popularity polls? Do we compromise what’s important for what’s convenient? Let me get real controversial here and tell you that I believe that’s exactly what many Christ followers have done (some I know and love but am struggling with this election season). Consider a recent conversation I had with a young lady who professes to follow Christ. Her particular support of an anti-life (or pro-death if you choose) candidate wasn’t sitting very well with me. In the interest of friendly debate, I asked her why the candidate’s stance on this issue didn’t bother her. Her reply was, “Oh, I don’t agree with him on this. I just think he’s the best solution for our economy.”

I pondered her response for a brief moment and came back with the only thing I knew to say, “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” she asked.

“I’m sorry that you, along with other Christians who have chosen to support this man, have come to the conclusion that God is more concerned about your stock performance and your fuel bill than He is about unborn babies and families that are under attack.” Our conversation ended there.

Don’t get me wrong. I am equally concerned about my wife’s ability to sell houses and the financial stability of the hundreds of people who are part of my church family. I want them to be able to pay their bills and feed their families. Here’s my concern. I believe our economy has suffered because we’ve forsaken our values, gotten away from what really matters to God, and chosen to seek our comfort rather than keeping our character intact. God help us when bailouts and tax relief become more important than unborn babies and the sanctity of marriage as one man and one woman. When we reach that point (as millions of us have) no amount of economic stimulus can relieve us from the judgment of a God who is holy.

Hope you are making plans to vote if you haven’t already.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It’s a tale of two birthdays.

It’s a tale of two birthdays. Actually, they are tomorrow (October 21st) but it’s a tradition in our family to celebrate your birth as long and as hard as the people around you will allow it. So, I’m thinking about these two special people today.

The first is Joshua Blake or, as I liked to call him, “Joshie.” Josh would be 6 years old tomorrow and God only knows what he would be like. From time-to-time I catch myself day dreaming about the “what might have been” scenarios. For the brief time I had him, Josh was a joy. At 17 months he was already into baseball and chocolate—favorites for both me and his older brother, Harrison. He had won many hearts with his smile and growing personality. Unfortunately, most of you will never know him and we’ll never know exactly what could have happened in his life. The flip side, I often remind people, is that he’ll never know the pain of braces, a chemistry test or being rejected for a date. And he never had to pay one penny in taxes. I’ll get to see him again someday. In the mean time, we continue to celebrate his birthday because of the precious gift he was.

The other birthday belongs to Ermias—someone I’ve yet to meet in person. Ermias is from Ethiopia and loves school, his church and “football” (soccer to us Americans). He lives there with his mom and other siblings. He is a bright-eyed little boy with big dreams of being a doctor. My family’s goal is to do what we can to get him there. In the mean time, my kids pray that his family will get the goat that they need, the clothes to keep him warm and the food to keep them alive. We adopted him just a few months ago and it was my wife’s idea to find a young boy Josh’s age. It was God who gave us a young man born the same day as Josh.

To me, it’s a wonderful illustration of God’s mercy. I will never get the chance to hold my Josh this side of heaven; I hope to someday shake the hand of a young doctor from Ethiopia. Tomorrow (today), October 21st, both are celebrating life and in that celebration I worship a God of second chances—the God who gives back over and over again. Happy birthday, Josh. Happy birthday, Ermias. Whatever you are doing, I pray that both of you know how much you are loved.

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…” Joel 2:25 NIV

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I haven’t talked much about this election.

I haven’t talked much about this election. It’s not because I don’t care. I’ve watched the reports, read the articles, seen the forwarded e-mails and done a little research of my own. I don’t think that it’s overly dramatic to say this is one of the most important elections our country has ever faced. I would equate it to the providential election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860—a calm hand to lead our nation through the most turbulent of times.

I believe every election grows in importance because our nation grows increasingly polarized with each new term. Our newly elected President will face the issues of immigration, abortion, homosexuality, economics, national security, the environment, energy concerns and a burgeoning national debt. Any one of these would be a challenge but all of them combined present a formidable task for our leadership. Partisan politics has only handicapped the progression of our nation and special interests and selfish government have placed a huge obstacle to forward momentum in dealing with the real issues. (Anyone discouraged yet?)

I have prayed numerous times in the last months about what God wants for our nation. I have recalled the promises of Psalm 33:12 (Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD...) and 2 Chronicles 7:14 (…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.) Here’s where I am today. Five key statements that every Christ follower should keep in mind as we race to November:

· Register and vote. We have absolutely no right to criticize if we don’t participate in the representative form of our democracy. Speak your mind, contact your leaders and don’t just sit back and…gripe (there are other words that could be used here but you get the point). DO NOT be afraid to speak out as a Christ follower. We have as much right to speak as the homosexual activists, the pro-death marcher, the anti-American preacher and the loud mouth who denigrates the Christian voice.

· Don’t listen to the media. They have proven over and over again their willingness to bend the truth and outright lie to make their point. Research facts for yourself and search your heart.

· Pray…over and over and over again. Pray about your involvement. Pray about your vote. Pray for the man who wins whoever he may be.

· Finally, pray (I know I just said that but this one is very specific) that the name of God is glorified. God was magnified in the Civil War and during the Great Depression. Grown men came to recognize God during the Watergate scandal, the Iran hostage crisis, double-digit inflation under Carter and race riots in Selma, AL. Don’t for a second believe that God cannot be glorified in even the darkest moments of our history. He can and He will be again if we will just pray.

· Remember that Obama is no Savior and McCain is not God. The One who will restore our nation and bring her to prosperity again was born 2000 years ago and died so we could be free in the truest sense. Don’t expect a man to do that for us.

God bless America! He is our only true hope. We don’t need change. We need Him.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Being transformed begins in the mind.

Being transformed begins in the mind. (Romans 12:1-2) This is true for all of us. The question is, what are we being transformed by? Transformation by the culture that surrounds us leaves us down, frustrated, depressed and discouraged. Why? Because this world is not what God wants for us. There is so much more. So, an economy that struggles, children that disobey, a spouse that doesn’t understand you or a job that seems like a dead end will never “renew” your mind. Renewal only comes from one source—God.

I challenged my staff with this thought this morning in our staff meeting. What are you doing on a daily basis to be sure that your mind is being transformed by renewal, not by a culture gone crazy? A steady diet of negative news or frustrating commentary will keep you from living the life God intended. That’s why it’s critical that you and I take time away (every day) to study the good stuff, to meditate on God’s promises and to truly be renewed by the hope that Christ offers us. Give it a shot. Once a day for three weeks—just you and God—and see if your life doesn’t begin to be transformed by His vision for your life.

Monday, October 13, 2008

“Do you want to get well?”

“Do you want to get well?”

There’s this interesting story in John 5. Jesus is walking past the pool of Bethesda on his way into Jerusalem. It’s a pool recognized for its healing power. Anyone who would dip themselves in the pool immediately after it had been stirred by God’s hand would find healing. There lies a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years. Can you imagine? Thirty-eight years of lying in the dust. No real hope; no real plan for getting better. You can almost feel the desperation as it pours from his flesh. His life has as much room for bitterness and regret as anyone. Along comes the Healer. He passes by the man and turns to him. In what had to rank as one of the most perplexing questions in all of Scripture, Jesus asks, “Do you want to get well?”

One would imagine that the man’s heart leapt within him. Years of crushed dreams and fading hopes have now been given a second chance at life. Instead of responding with a thousand “yeses”, the man offers excuses for why he is where he is when the Master finds him. To his credit, though, when Jesus offers a plan for healing, the man responds and the rest is history (or should we say “his story”).

I’ve got a question. Do you really want to be well? You know who you are as I’m typing this (and you’re reading it). Do you really want to know wholeness and strength? Do you want to be released of your burdens and running free of the bondage that has held you to this point? Or, like so many, have you grown comfortable there in the dirt? Is your response to His healing just one more excuse for keeping things just like they are? Maybe you like playing the victim?

Get over it. (I say that in love). The Bible is clear that there is no infirmity, no failure, no addiction, no handicap that God can’t help you through. Sometimes it’s healing He brings. Always, it’s strength to live your life like He intended. You simply have to want to get well. You. Not your friends. Not your pastor. Not your church or your small group or your family. You.

So, quit asking for more prayer if you aren’t willing to get up and walk. Don’t call out for more accountability if you don’t want to receive it. And, by all means, don’t seek a hand up unless the hand you stick out is ready to be healed and whole and used by God for what’s next in your life. So, I ask it again: Do you WANT to be well?

Friday, October 10, 2008

He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart..."

He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Luke 10:27 NIV

If you were at RCC just a few weeks ago, you heard me share this verse as part of our messages on the family. It was the Sunday that my wife, Lisa, joined me on the stage to challenge our women with God’s plan for their lives. You also heard Lisa make this statement, “The interesting thing about this command is that you can’t really do the second part well until you’ve learned to do the first.” She’s right. For a husband or wife to love their spouse, they must first learn the deeper love of God.

I thought about the implications as it relates to us as a church this week. I’ve challenged our staff to take one day a week to prayer walk. It might be somewhere in downtown near our offices. It might be their neighborhood or the park near their home. It may be the mall or the theater or the ball field. Just one day a week of praying for those around us. Part of that prayer, for me, as I have walked the streets of Franklin has been, “Give me your eyes so I can see this world as you see it, love it as you do and minister to it as you would.” Those kinds of prayers will change you. They have me. And, as always, the enemy has followed closely on the heels of those prayers to try and defeat me.

I invite you to join your staff in the weeks ahead in praying for “our Jerusalem.” Prayer changes things. It very well may change your heart for the people around you.

NOTE: Don’t forget Saturday evening’s event at the Cool Springs Theater. We’ve bought out the 6:30 showing of “Fireproof” and there are still discount tickets available. Five bucks a piece. Make plans to come and bring those you know. This is an exceptional movie with a timeless message. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

“The gloves are off. You know that, right?”

“The gloves are off. You know that, right?” Those were the words of one of my friends this past Sunday immediately after our worship. He was challenging me to think about the position we put ourselves in when, as Christ followers, we dare to take on and expose the lies of Satan. Leave him alone and you’ll skirt by with minimal interference. But dare to take him on with the truth of God’s Word and you must prepare to do battle. My friend is right. Satan doesn’t go down easy. Never has. In fact, God’s word teaches us that he knows what his fate is. He’s been defeated for thousands of years. But he won’t go down without a fight.

The question my friend was asking me on Sunday is a worthy one. He was checking my heart to see if I am ready for whatever the “roaring lion” would be bring our way. I have to ask you the same. Will you go with me? As we take these next steps in our journey at Ridgeview, will you be willing to strip away all that remains of your old self and embrace all that God wants to give you? Will you stand arm-in-arm with the other followers at RCC who choose to challenge the lies of Satan with the timeless truths of Scripture? There is a battle that must be waged for the hearts of people that you know and love. It is worth the struggle that is to come. I can promise you that. But you must ask yourself, are you ready to come out swinging?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Today, we make the final move to the RCC website. From there, you can subscribe to new blog entries via RSS feed and, eventually, an e-mail subscription. To do an RSS feed in Internet Explorer from our site, just do the following:
Go to
www.rccfranklin.com/pastorsblogs
Click below my picture to enter my blog
Click on the RSS feed pull down menu at the top right corner of your browser, then click on my name.
Click "subscribe" on the page that appears.
All future blogs should appear in your Outlook program as an RSS feed.
If you have problems, find a technologically advanced person (not me) who can answer your questions.
As I said, we will be adding the option of e-mail subscription in future weeks.


I was watching a TV special the other night, one of those funny ones where they highlight the best of Super Bowl commercials both past and present. As was expected, the old "Mean Joe" Green Coca-Cola commercial won for the best of all time. Beginning to end, the show was filled with some great commercials--funny stuff. Scattered throughout, however, was the normal mixture of trash. Too much flesh here; crude comments there. It made me mad that (again) this is what we have to watch for as we gather around our TV sets this weekend with our families.

With that, I went back to a devotion I read earlier this month from Tony Evans (Dallas pastor and author). He gave some great principles for moral purity. I share his principles below (italics) and my thoughts (regular print). Hope they encourage you this week and the days ahead:
  1. Anyone can commit immorality. Never, ever believe that you are above the ability to commit a sinful act. Most great moral failures came about as an accident because someone believed they "would never stoop so low." Believe you can do it and you will if you are not kept accountable.
  2. Past spiritual success does not guarantee future success. What you learned yesterday helps you build for tomorrow, no doubt. But your past makes no guarantees for your future behavior. Live for today. The past is gone and tomorrow may never come.
  3. Recognize the power of passion. Augustine said, "There is nothing more powerful in bringing down the spirit of a man than the caress of a woman." Don't play with passion because you WILL get burned.
  4. God will hold you responsible. Every sin is against God. Every failure is a choice you make. Take responsibility for those poor choice. Make corrections...not excuses. God doesn't play when it comes to our failures. But He does offer grace.
  5. You are not a helpless slave of your passions. Once again, you cannot change your past but you absolutely can determine what happens with your future. Don't make excuses.
  6. If you have sinned, there is hope. Always. It's never beyond God's grace and forgiveness. You must begin with confession (agreement with God that your behavior is wrong) and follow with repentance (a conscious decision to turn 180 degrees from that behavior and choose to do what's right).

Hope you have a great Super Bowl weekend. Whichever team you choose, hope you enjoy the fellowship of someone this weekend as you enjoy the game. I'll see you back here next week. Remember, we are only on the Ridgeview site from now on.

After Friday, we will make the final move to the RCC website. From there, you can subscribe to new blog entries via RSS feed and, eventually, an e-mail subscription. To do an RSS feed in Internet Explorer from our site, just do the following:
Go to
www.rccfranklin.com/pastorsblogs
Click below my picture to enter my blog
Click on the RSS feed pull down menu at the top right corner of your browser, then click on my name.
Click "subscribe" on the page that appears.
All future blogs should appear in your Outlook program as an RSS feed.
If you have problems, find a technologically advanced person (not me) who can answer your questions.
As I said, we will be adding the option of e-mail subscription in future weeks.

After Friday, we will make the final move to the RCC website. From there, you can subscribe to new blog entries via RSS feed and, eventually, an e-mail subscription. To do an RSS feed in Internet Explorer from our site, just do the following:
Go to
www.rccfranklin.com/pastorsblogs
Click below my picture to enter my blog
Click on the RSS feed pull down menu at the top right corner of your browser, then click on my name.
Click "subscribe" on the page that appears.
All future blogs should appear in your Outlook program as an RSS feed.
If you have problems, find a technologically advanced person (not me) who can answer your questions.
As I said, we will be adding the option of e-mail subscription in future weeks.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

After Friday, we will make the final move to the RCC website. From there, you can subscribe to new blog entries via RSS feed and, eventually, an e-mail subscription. To do an RSS feed in Internet Explorer from our site, just do the following:
  • Go to www.rccfranklin.com/pastorsblogs
  • Click below my picture to enter my blog
  • Click on the RSS feed pull down menu at the top right corner of your browser, then click on my name.
  • Click "subscribe" on the page that appears.
  • All future blogs should appear in your Outlook program as an RSS feed.
  • If you have problems, find a technologically advanced person (not me) who can answer your questions.
  • As I said, we will be adding the option of e-mail subscription in future weeks.

I got another of those urban legend things e-mailed to me today. We all get them. Most are pretty predictable and many have made the loop through my e-mail a half dozen times. This one was different though. It stuck in my mind a little more than most...it kind of haunted me a bit.

Here's the "legend" in a nutshell (as sent to me by my sister). A New York paper reports that some poor guy dies at his desk on Monday and no one notices until Saturday when the cleaning service comes in to clean. Because he was first to work and last to leave and a very diligent worker, no one thought twice about him sitting at his desk for so long.

As I usually do, I checked out the story at www.snopes.com (a great place for checking all the urban legends floating around). Seems like the story has been floating around for years with appearances in British, American, Canadian and even Finnish papers. Of course, it's been all over the Internet. Every time it was printed, the papers reported large numbers of responses from concerned readers.

Here's where this legend started to tug at my heart. Why does this story register with so many people? Why does it keep running loops around the Internet and through the media? Because all of us live with an underlying fear that we don't matter. It's true. It's why pro athletes beat their chests, why Brittney will do anything for attention, why young kids act up for their parents, and why the story of some poor, middle-aged guy dying at his desk hits home for so many.

We simply want to know our lives have significance and that someone cares. When we lose that--when we get to that point where we truly believe we don't matter--we lose all hope. Honestly, I want to know the same thing--that what I did and who I am matters to someone besides...me.

God promises that this is the case for all of us. He cares very deeply for me (see Matthew 10:29-31) even to the point of numbering my hairs. (an easier task for me than for some of His other children). God does have a purpose and plan for me and you. More importantly, He longs for us to live full and abundant lives (John 10:10), not merely just getting by.

Let's be honest, though. Having the love and attention of God--who we cannot touch or see--cannot take the place of relationships here. We need each other. But we've forgotten how to be in friendships with people, to communicate with other human beings and to be real with the people in our lives. Technology (text messaging, e-mail, chat rooms, etc.) has removed our outlet for satisfying one of our greatest needs--human interaction. That's why over 75% of people in one survey I just read, indicated they had felt very lonely in the last month.

That's also why we talk so much about doing life together at RCC. Church is a place where people should be accepted, where men can build strong friendships and look for mentors and buddies who are on the same journey. It's a place for women to find support and comfort for the tough stuff of life. It's a place where teens can know that their significance is not found in accomplishments or rewards but in the meaning that is given to us by our very existence.

I need that. I need to know that there are others on this journey with me.

I found that in my family. I've found that in the others who worship with me at Ridgeview. I found that in Christ. That doesn't mean that there are not lonely days, frustrating days. It just means that every day, regardless of what I feel like, I can live with confidence in this truth:

I (God) know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 MSG

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

REMINDER: we are in the process of moving the blog to our church website (http://www.rccfranklin.com/). As soon as the subscription plans are worked out, we'll make the final move. Until then, you can read the blog here or at the site. As always, thanks for taking the time to read.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 1 Corinthians 10:12 NIV

Satan's a jerk! And a very sneaky one at that. When it comes to causing trouble, you better believe that he is not only real ,but really good at what he does. One of the things he does so well is to keep us from seeing the long term damage of our sin. We have a tendency, when we are faced with a choice, to imagine that our sin will only hurt us and just for a little while. "No one will ever know," we imagine. "It's just this once and then I'll do better."

King David fell for it. Think about what happened the night he chose to commit adultery with Bathsheba (don't you love that name? The name alone should have told David to steer clear. She was trouble). David had just experienced over two decades of spiritual, economic and physical success. Israel's borders had been destroyed, her enemies defeated. The land was at peace with the exception of a few minor battles left to fight. So, David did what many of us tend to do...he got comfortable in his position.

The story of David's fall begins with a little phrase that indicates his overconfidence. "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war..." 2 Samuel 11:1 NIV David wasn't where he should be nor was he doing what he was supposed to do. David had gotten overconfident in his position. Because of that, he could not see the danger that loomed ahead.

He wasn't looking for trouble the night he roamed out onto his roof. And, when he made the choice to compromise, he closed his eyes to all the dangers that loomed. Not only did David disobey God, David's choice led to a pregnancy, a murder, lies covered by more lies, the deaths of four of his sons and the eventual division of Israel. Think David saw all of that coming just because of that "one little sin?" You can bet your life he didn't. But that's exactly how Satan works. He covers our eyes so we can't see what God is trying to save us from. He's been doing it for years.

I talked with a young lady here in Franklin last week about Jesus and sin. She was a high schooler and a seemingly intelligent young lady. Her final comment in our conversation blew me away. "Not all sin is bad," she said. "Some are just little trivial ones."

Hear me! Don't bet your life (or your kingdom) on that lie. It comes from Satan. Your position today can be your downfall tomorrow if you don't take seriously the dangers of sin and consider the character of the enemy we all face. "Be careful" the Bible warns. You don't want to fall into this trap...I guarantee it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

REMINDER: we are in the process of moving the blog to our church website (http://www.rccfranklin.com/). As soon as the subscription plans are worked out, we'll make the final move. Until then, you can read the blog here or at the site. As always, thanks for taking the time to read.

Sometimes you just have to do what you know you should do. That's true when it comes to worship. You and I were made to worship, to have this amazingly incredible friendship with God. That's why there is such a heavy emphasis on this in the Bible. That's why there is such a heavy emphasis on it from pastors and worship leaders in churches all over. God created us to have a relationship with Him and to worship Him. End of story.

The reason that's so hard is the Enemy--Satan. You see, the worship we give to God is the worship that Satan desires for himself. It's why he does everything he can to keep us from God. He wants what he neither can have nor that he deserves. So, to keep you and I from doing what we should, he throws everything at us--busy schedules, conflicts, personal interests, hobbies, careers, troubles, debt, and on and on. Each of these have a way of taking our focus off of God and putting it on ourselves. When we do that, Satan has won and we pay the price.

It's no accident that most men hate to worship. In many cases, the condition of the father reflects in the condition of the family. If Satan can keep my mind so preoccupied with bills to pay and how tired I am every evening and the latest attempt to protect my interests, then he has prevented me from fulfilling my purpose. This vicious cycle begins for us where we feel dissatisfied with life (because we are not doing what we need to) and it spills over into our relationships and that causes us not to worship and not to desire relationship with God. The cycle continues. Before long, we are inconsistent with our church attendance, sporadic with our quiet time and flat in our friendship with God.

So, what do we do? We choose to break the cycle. We do what we know we need to do. In victory we worship Him; in defeat we do the same.

Take weight-lifting as an example. Because of sports, I have worked out since my freshman year in high school (off and on--mostly off until recently). When you are working out, there are times when you see great progress and you are feeling wonderful. But there are far more days where you feel flabby, out of shape, lackadaisical, even want to quit altogether. Those are the days when it is most important that you do what you know you need to do. You walk back into the workout room, crawl back on the bench and you keep doing the right thing.

Your life may be filled with junk right now. Spiritually, you may feel flabby and out of shape. Maybe you are ready to quit entirely. Now is the time to do what you know you need to do. Step up and get back to worshipping God. Now, don't panic. I'm not asking you to join a choir or a monastery. I'm simply asking you to do three things well: pray without ceasing wherever you are, read without ceasing about God's love for you in the Bible and worship without ceasing in both the good times and the bad. You will find that the right thing leads to the best thing and will help you to get through anything that may come. My suggestion for you today and everyday...worship!!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

REMINDER: we are in the process of moving the blog to our church website (http://www.rccfranklin.com/). As soon as the subscription plans are worked out, we'll make the final move. Until then, you can read the blog here or at the site. As always, thanks for taking the time to read.

Sometimes God must take you to the bottom before He can take you to the top. It is a spiritual principle that has been played out more times than I count. Consider Moses. Prince of Egypt. Royal lifestyle. Great education. God "promotes" him to the desert as a fugitive and then takes him to where He really wanted him in the first place--leading the children of Israel.

Another example is the guy I have been studying this week, Joseph. Last time, we talked about his rejection. First, he finds himself in a well, then a slave caravan and then an Egyptian prison. The way I see it, you can't get much lower than that. No family to visit you (remember, they were back in the homeland). No friends to cheer you up. Just you and the other cons struggling to make it through another day.

Now, here's a key question: what would be better than sitting in an Egyptian prison? (be careful how you answer). Many of us would say "anything" and that would be true. You give me freedom, a hot shower, some clean clothes and a minimum wage job and I'll be happy to be out of that place. The problem is, when we surrender to God, we have to be careful not to settle for second best. Which do you think is better? Flipping burgers down at Pharaoh's hamburger joint or second in command to the big honcho himself?

Joseph was low, rejected, down-and-out. No doubt about it. But when his rebound came (at the hands of God, not Joseph's doings), he rebounded well. Why? Because he didn't limit what God could do. He understood the principle that sometimes God has to take us to the bottom before He will lift us to the top.

Why does God do that? Lots of reasons but one of the biggest is this: God wants to remind us that we really need Him. Yes, we can "make it" through life without Him--but who wants to just make it. I want to live on the top, rebound from the crap life throws at me and achieve all that God has purposed for me. That doesn't mean that I won't be flipping burgers some times. It simply means that you and I should never settle for living life our way when God's plan for our rebound is always the best.

Whatever your prison is today, make a commitment to leave the rebound up to God.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

REMINDER: we are in the process of moving the blog to our church website (http://www.rccfranklin.com/). As soon as the subscription plans are worked out, we'll make the final move. Until then, you can read the blog here or at the site. As always, thanks for taking the time to read.

Rejection hurts. There is just no way around it. Whether it's an idea of yours that is shot down or a relationship that you've poured your heart into, the feeling of rejection can leaving you reeling emotionally. And, it can happen to anyone.

Remember Joseph? For those who aren't familiar, I'll give you a condensed version of the story. Joseph's eleven brothers are very jealous of him. He is obviously his dad's favorite of the 12 boys. Their rage leads them to fake Joseph's death, then, to sell him off into slavery. Talk about rejection. These are no mere strangers or fringe players in the story of Joseph's life. This is his family, his own flesh and blood. How would you survive such a rejection? Would your thoughts turn to depression, suicide, anger or bitterness? How about love and honor? Back the emotional roller coaster up here. Did I really say honor? Yep.

Let's jump into Joseph's story in Genesis 39 to understand how so much rejection can lead to so much good for Joseph. It's a simple five word phrase that could easily be overlooked:
The Lord was with Joseph... Genesis 39:2 NIV

That's it! That's the key. That's the pivotal phrase for every Christ follower. The Lord is with you. No matter what trial you are in, the Lord is with you. No matter what difficulty you face or rejection you have had to swallow, the Lord is with you. Your finances may be low and your debt crawling higher but the Lord is with you and has promised not to leave. You just have to trust that His presence can make a difference. And it can. It took Joseph from a well to a palace, from a palace to a jail and from there to second in command. God is with you. Will you trust that today in the middle of your hardship whatever it may be?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

REMINDER: we are in the process of moving the blog to our church website (http://www.rccfranklin.com/). As soon as the subscription plans are worked out, we'll make the final move. Until then, you can read the blog here or at the site. As always, thanks for taking the time to read.

There is no place in the Church for "you." Now, before you get alarmed, start packing your collective bags and turning in your letters of resignation, go back and read that sentence again. There is no room in the Church for "you."

That's the peculiarity of God's economy. It always has been. From day one God has taught us--the Church--about the importance of putting others first, beginning with His desires. Jesus said to His followers that following Him meant dying to self every single day (no room for you). He said we would have to take up our cross (no room for you), lay down our life (no room for you) and follow Him (no room for you).

Jesus went on to teach that the first would be last (no room for you), the greatest would become least (no room for you) and that those who desired to be masters would have to learn to serve (no room for you).

We are to love others, pray for our enemies and bless those who put us down (no room for you, you or you). Are you detecting a theme here?

Now, here's where the problem comes in. American culture tells us "It's all about you." Be honest. You like that better, don't you? Who wouldn't? That car was built for you. The hamburger you ate was made your way. The credit card was designed just for you. This special sale is made with you in mind. It's all about our comfort, our convenience, our joy. In short, there's no room for anyone else.

That's why there is a problem for so many of us. We get hit 30,000 times a day with the message that no one matters but you. Deep down in our souls we know that only one message matters--there's no room for you. This is why we have to be so careful about the messages we watch and see and hear. They are completely contradictory to the one message that God has screamed at us for centuries. The one path to true satisfaction in life does not run through you.

That's why we talk about serving. It's why we remind people constantly that this life is not about our comfort; it's about our character. It's why there is no room in the church for "you." And, if you'd like to join others who are learning to say "no" to self and "yes" to Christ...we've got plenty of room for you.

Monday, January 21, 2008

REMINDER: we are in the process of moving the blog to our church website (http://www.rccfranklin.com/). As soon as the subscription plans are worked out, we'll make the final move. Until then, you can read the blog here or at the site. As always, thanks for taking the time to read.

Everything has a price. Yeah, I know the song says the "best things in life are free"--on some levels that's true. But the best things in life cost you something as well. Typically, one price that must be paid for just about everything worth having is time. In fact, we are "paying" time every moment of our lives. More properly put, it's an investment we are making.

But there is another consistent "cost" for the things in life that are really worth having--comfort. Think about it. Love and relationships require that you step out of your comfort zone, move beyond the familiar to the unknown and expose yourself. Happiness requires the same. There are many different ways that our comfort keeps us from experiencing the important things of life--not the least of which is God's purpose for our lives.

Rick Warren said it well in his bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life, when he said that God is not interested in our comfort, he is interested in our character. Wow. I don't know about you but it made me fidget to think about that. How many times have I whined about God's "provision" for me when, in reality, I was asking God to make me comfortable?

God's reply? "I never promised you a rose garden..." (okay, it was actually Lynn Anderson who sang that but I think she stole the idea from God). The truth is, God never promised an easy life. What He promised was the strength and provision to make it through...to pay the price for the things we really needed.

So...if you're looking for "easy believism" try something beyond Christianity. It's no place for your comfort. There is a price to be paid for being a Christ follower. Jesus said so himself (Matthew 24:9) The question is, "Are you willing to pay it?"