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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

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  • 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?"

Friday, January 18, 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.

I always love worshipping with the people at Ridgeview but probably more so now than ever. I get this real feeling that the momentum is building and the excitement is growing. I really feel like we are coming together with a sense of expectancy and anticipation--that we really believe that every week God is going to show up and do something in someone's life.

And why shouldn't we? Look where we are and where we have come from. I remember the first meetings with our "core group" before we launched in the Fall of 2004. They were a curious bunch and eager to serve. Our first meetings at the school in October of that year were learning experiences: how to set up and tear down (our first set up took almost 3 hours), what our church would "look" like, and how our vision would "play out" in Franklin.

Then came Launch Day. Over 300 supportive onlookers came. I warned the leadership then that most would be gone within two weeks. They were wanting to see what was happening and who else was involved. They were curious. Within three weeks, we had gone from 327 to 134.

We settled back to around 100 regular attenders but they were a willing bunch, giving up time and resources to see that RCC laid the proper foundation for her future. I warned myself, as we began to grow, that most of these people would not be here a year from now. Every new church has to go through such a period--testing the waters, casting and re-casting the vision, sorting out the curious from the committed. It's a long process. Typically, in a new church, 60% of the people you start with don't make it through the first two years.

Here we are, three years later. I don't have to warn people any more about who might not be here later. We have some of the best supporters on the planet. They get it. They understand Ridgeview's call and purpose. The fire is hot; the passion is growing. I've seen several of the RCC family this week around town and they are saying the same thing over and over...it's going to be great in 2008 at RCC. I believe it. Our whole staff does.

I invite you to join us this week as we begin to ask the hard questions about the essentials of our faith. We begin this week with questions we have about the Bible...the handbook of our faith. And you'll want to make plans to be a part of our LIFE groups as we continue the discussion after worship is through. Make sure you check out the LIFE group page on our website for more information there. We're taking the gloves off, getting dirty and messy as we ask God to answer some really hard questions for us. You will not want to miss this!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

This week I was blessed to see one of the prettiest pictures I have ever seen in my life. It wasn't of a sunset, a rainbow, a water fall or anything like that. It was something even better. It was a photo of what salvation looks like. "A photo of salvation?" you might ask. Yep. A photo.

You see, one of my best friends and his wife are in the process of adopting a young girl from Africa. My friend has been there on a mission trip and he came back with a tremendous burden for the children of that continent. So many of those countries are torn by civil war and conflict. Africa is a tough place to live because of the natural challenges. When you pile war and disease and millions of refugees on top of it, you understand why so many tens and hundreds of thousands are dying every day in that land.

My friend saw enough on his mission trip. So he came home, sat down with his wife (they have 3 children of their own) and decided that being concerned was not enough. They would do something more tangible to bring relief to at least one child. That's where Georgia comes in...and the photo. After months of paperwork and red tape, my friend is in Africa this week meeting Georgia for the first time. He will have to stay there for a few weeks to finish up all the requirements and help Georgia with acclimation to a new parent. Prayerfully, by the end of this month, Georgia should be close to being in her new home.

While he is in Africa, his wife is here in Nashville keeping the home front moving along (did I mention they already have 3 kids?). She is also keeping all of their prayer partners updated on their progress. Monday, I got a photo of my friend and his new daughter.

I saw salvation.

When I first opened the pictures on my computer, my breath was taken away. There was my friend--very white (sorry dude), red hair, glasses and a smile as big as the Sahara on his face. In his arms was Georgia--beautiful eyes, deep dark skin color and a smile twice as big as her dad's. And two thoughts struck me. No two people ever looked more like family. And she couldn't do anything to deserve any of it. She--frail, malnourished, young and innocent--had done nothing to earn the love that had reached across the Atlantic to the orphanage she called home. She had no ties to my friend or his family. She has absolutely nothing to offer him...except that smile...and her life.

Somewhere in time (something that I can't begin to comprehend) God saw me across the "ocean" of space. I was frail and malnourished. Nothing I had nor nothing I could do would have deserved what Christ did for me. Somewhere in heaven though, God smiles with delight. The day I received His love--His completely free gift--my snapshot went on His wall. There we sit together, captured for all the world to see, one Father and one completely helpless child. Matching smiles and all, God displays His children as trophies of His amazing grace and love.

My friend will be home soon (not soon enough for his wife). Won't you pray for them? And won't you pray for all the children of Africa, young and old, looking for their fathers? While you are at it, say a prayer for the young and old all over this world, looking for home? The Father waits to hold them, to know them and to love them. What a homecoming it will be for them ...and us!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I need a man. More specifically I need some men. Just so you don't miss the importance of what I am sharing with you, let me get really detailed in what I am saying. I--we--need some Godly men who are ready to answer the call.

We had an amazing Sunday this past Sunday at Ridgeview. Great worship. New worship guy. Lots of new faces. An abundance of our regular attenders there. Frankly, it was an incredible day all the way around. As I wrapped up our gathering with an invitation for people to join me in the battle, I was blown away by two things. First, I was blown away by how good the Ridgeview family is. I know I shouldn't be surprised by it at this point but it's something I like to brag about. When the RCC staff petitions you guys, you rise to the top like nobody else. You step up, speak up, move up and jump up...and God takes notice. You (all of you who serve and pray and teach and work and volunteer) are the reason that God is glorified in the walls of RCC and in our Franklin community. You guys rock!!

But there was something else that caught my attention. the number of women who are serving in our church. They are leading worship, handling technical stuff, assisting with tear down, teaching our kids, praying for our leadership, serving on our Leadership Team and pulling more than their fair share of the weight. Now, that doesn't mean we don't want any more women to serve. Nor does it mean we don't have some really good men who are part of what we are doing. We have great ones. We have been blessed with smart business men, men with servant's hearts and men who get the vision of what God wants for RCC.

We just need more!! Seriously.

Let me explain why. This past week, we had four young people receive Christ in our student ministry--a ministry that has grown by over 200% since Paul's arrival in 2006. At the same time, our children's ministry (which runs around 25 to 30% of our attendance on any given Sunday) has young men who are looking for role models. Where are they?

Where are the men with life experience who are going to teach these young guys what it takes to follow God? Where are the men who will take up the mantle and show young boys how to love their wives, to serve their churches, to train their children and to love God with all their heart? Where are they? I'd like to know. I'd like to find them and bring them in. It's a matter of growing importance in most churches. It's important in ours. There are young men who need to be led and trained by genuine (male) followers of God.

Here's what I don't need. I don't need guys who aren't willing to stand firm or to invest long hours or to dream big dreams or to sweat alongside other "warriors" in the kingdom. I don't need spiritual wimps or moral black holes. I don't need men who are tossed around by the latest fad or whose convictions are swayed by the latest opinion poll. I don't need men who value their hobbies or their careers more than they value the "kingdom stuff" or their families. I've seen enough of them in my ministry years.

I need Godly men. Do you know any? If you are willing to apply, contact someone on our staff. They're looking for you too.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Just a few housekeeping matters before I share a thought heading into the weekend. First, don't forget our move to the Ridgeview website (www.rccfranklin.com). Not only will you be able to check out my blog there but the blogs of all our staff members are available and you can check out some great information about things going on at our church. We'll stay here at this site until the subscription stuff is worked out but you might want to get in the habit of taking advantage of the other site now.

Speaking of what's happening at our church, this Sunday is "Legacy 2008". It's my annual "State of the Church" address, if you will. It's a good chance to look back at how God blessed us in 2007 but, more importantly, to re-cast and fine tune the vision for Ridgeview as we move into 2008. If you're in town, I hope you'll join us at 10:30 on Sunday for a great day of worship.

Finally, I want to clarify a "technical" matter. When I write these blogs, the notification for those on subscription does not go out until midnight. So, when you get a notice there's a new entry, it's actually written the day before. That caused some confusion for a lot of people yesterday when Harrison's birthday popped up (it was Wednesday). So, for future reference, keep in mind the subscription is a day behind. For those of you who come straight to the site (this one or the Ridgeview site) you'll get it as soon as it's posted.

Now, to the important stuff.

I was challenged a little the last two mornings about what is "mine." Matthew 5:38-42 says this:
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. NIV

Jesus was up to his old tricks--challenging the status quo and putting traditional thinking on its head. Basically, he was just "righting" the ship. In his unique way, Jesus was challenging us about our attitude towards others with this teaching on retaliation. But it also has a lot to say about what we really own.

Jesus' comment about turning the other cheek says, "You don't even own yourself. I paid for you. I created you. You respond with what's on loan to you in a way that is proper." The cloak was the most important garment a person could own in that day. Not just a covering, it was used as a blanket, a sack to carry things, a place to sit and a pledge for debt. It was one of the most expensive items that a Hebrew person had and they were lucky to have one. Jesus says, "Hey, if he asks for your shirt, give him the cloak." With one sentence, Jesus was saying don't retaliate, don't hoard, don't trust in material things and remember that I am your provider.

Josh wasn't mine. (my son who died in the accident) Neither was my Sarah. For that matter, neither is Lisa or Morgan or Landon or Abby or Harrison (don't worry, the name list stops there). Yes, God has entrusted them to me. He's given me the responsibility of caring for them and loving them and cherishing them. But (this may be the hardest part of all) he's also given me the responsibility of letting them go. For the kids, that day will come too soon when they'll become adults and I'll have to let them "go" and become independent.

For all of them, it means being grateful for the gift, treasuring their presence and knowing that I must give them back to God daily. The same is true with my material things--my home, my finances, my plans and dreams, even my time. What I have and what I am is not my own. In order to get "best value" I must (translated "you must") be willing to give it all away. Only then can you understand the value of "owning" anything.

I hope you have a blessed weekend with whatever God brings your way. And I hope you find a way to bless someone in some way with all that God has loaned to you. Till Monday...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I remember the day pretty clearly (even for my 40 year old mind). It actually began on Sunday. Laying on the couch, I was half-asleep, half watching a playoff game. From the back of the house, I heard the muffled cry of my first wife, Sarah. "It's time." Time? Time for what? I was too incoherent to make sense of what she was sharing with me...but only for a few seconds. A second cry from the back cleared the cobwebs and brought me to my feet in an instant. "It's time!!"

I'll spare you the gory details but several hours (about 1 in the morning on Monday) and one episode of "Lois and Clark" later, our first child was born.

It's a scary thought bringing a kid into this world. Challenges, responsibilities, struggles and sacrifice--not to mention trying to teach a child how to live against the flow of this world. Speaking as a pro though (three children safely delivered), the blessings far outweigh the tough moments that dot the landscape of my kids' lives.

So, I want to write a thank you note. Today is Harrison's birthday. Actually, his first name is Ridley (he is officially the fourth of that line). Thank you...for a whole lot of things but these are just a few:
  • for sharing your million dollar smile (soon to be more expensive as we prepare for the "braces years") and those amazing dimples.
  • for loving me unconditionally, even when I prove that daddy's are not perfect (some less so than others)
  • for causing me to stop and appreciate more of the minutes that God has given us. Crickets and dogs and thunderstorms and Walmarts (I know it's questionable whether the last one is from God or not, but there's no denying your fascination with them)
  • for amazing hugs, infectious laughter and stupid jokes
  • for giving me a buddy to watch games with, talk sports with and learn about girls with
  • for making me look forward to grandchildren and how they'll repay you some day (GRIN)
  • for giving me another reason to pray every day for your heart, soul, mind, future, and future spouse
  • for adding another reason to look forward to the years ahead as I watch with great expectations to see what God does with you and your sisters
  • for causing me to re-examine my faith a dozen times a month as we talk about what it really means to follow God
  • for being one of many reasons I have to get up in the morning and take care of my self for a longer life
  • for reminding me daily that the most perfect analogy of my relationship to God is that of a patient Father and a growing son. I only hope that your daddy can learn to love you the way that my Father has loved me

I hope you have a happy 13th, buddy. You have been an amazing gift to me these 13 years. I pray that you and I share at least 5 or 6 more decades together. (This blog doubles as a reminder to all the family members who read that you're supposed to wish him "happy birthday" today.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

We wrap up our discussion on Psalm 15 today. But before we do, I want to let you in on some really cool news that will effect those of you who read this blog regularly. As of this past Saturday, January 5th, Ridgeview (my church) has a new website. It's pretty amazing and all-inclusive (not on the scale of one of those fancy resorts but pretty close). My blog has officially moved to the pages of our website. Right now, you'll find it in both places because they haven't added a subscription notice to the site. Soon, though, you'll be able to visit my blog and check out all the latest information regarding RCC. In addition, there are blogs from the rest of our staff, audio files from our worship, calendar information and helpful links. It's a pretty amazing (I've already said that) site.

Now to our last quality from the words of Psalm 15.
who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Psalm 15: 5 NIV

There's a lot of stuff in these five verses. I haven't begun to get into all of it or to do it justice. In fact, there's probably much more here that some of you would find and maybe even like to share. This last portion, though, underlines a critical aspect of the nature and character of God (and, therefore, should be a part of our character). God cares about those who have need and He does so with a heart that is fair and just.

God was not against interest being charged when it came to business. In fact, elsewhere in Scripture, God gives further instruction about how interest should be charged and from who. What God is talking about here (through David) is using someone else's misfortune as an opportunity to get wealthy. The underlying message here goes even deeper.

God loves to give. He really does. Think about one thing in your life that God didn't give to you. You can't. It's His nature and He's been doing it since the day He spoke Creation into being. Giving. He desires that you and I do the same. Here's the thing. It's more for your benefit than for theirs. You receive more from giving than they do. How? Of course, there is the blessing, the reward, the relationships that are established or broken. Probably greater than any of these is this...giving is the only way to make sure your material things don't own you. You want to make sure you don't fall into the trap of being owned by stuff? Then make sure you learn to give it away on a regular basis.

In God's great economy, this is how He protects us from "stuffitis" and takes care of those who have greater needs than us. Learn to give. Do your part. Protect your heart. Keep God's economy in tact.

SEE YOU at www.rccfranklin.com

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ever made a promise you didn't want to keep? If you're human, you probably have. Lord knows I've done it more times than I care to think about. Honestly, when I was (much) younger, I didn't give it a whole lot of thought. Then that changed. I had a son--a very persistent son with a wonderful memory.

Now, in the early years, the question of promises didn't matter a whole lot. Harrison didn't even know how to spell promise, much less what one was. So, I didn't have to worry about those things.

Then, he got older and all was rearranged. I don't remember when or where. But it probably went something like this. Harrison asked a question. Daddy made a promise that he would take care of it later. Later came. Daddy forgot. Harrison reminded daddy...again and again.

Now, how can you teach your kids about keeping their word if you're not going to follow through on the horsey ride or throwing the football or playing a game. Truth is, you're not. And that's the principle that David is emphasizing for us in Psalm 15 today.

"...who keeps his oath even when it hurts..." Psalm 15:4 NIV

Jesus emphasized this truth with another teaching.
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things." Matthew 25:21 NIV

You see, it's only when we are faithful and trustworthy with smaller things that God will allow us the bigger responsibilities (not that keeping your promise to your kids is a small thing...just follow me here). My word is my word whether that is to a 12 year old, my wife, my church members or...to God. Even when it hurts, I've got to be found faithful in my actions and my words. To be a true reflection of God, people must know that my word can be counted on and that my promises will be iron clad.

Don't you miss the days when a man's word is his word. If you've bought a house in the last 20 years, you know that's no longer the case. Entire forests have to die every time a contract is struck between a seller and a buyer. No one's word counts for very much any more. Godly people should be working to reverse that trend. That begins with the small promises that you and I make day to day. I want you to know my word can be trusted. But that responsibility ultimately falls back at my feet...not yours. And it begins with a promise I made to my son last night. His birthday's this week and I've made an oath with him. One I intend on keeping.

Friday, January 04, 2008

...but honors those who fear the Lord. Psalm 15:5 NIV

Have you ever thought what it means to really honor someone, especially someone whose values are markedly different from the rest of the world? Honor simply means to show respect for someone.


This became a challenge to me several years ago when Christmas time rolled around for our family. My first wife and I were struggling for gift ideas. We had covered all of the essentials when it came to kids and most of our other family. However, when it came to her father, we were drawing blanks. Why? Mainly because I respected Mr. Trimble so much. He was a Godly man with rock-solid values. When you think of a man who fears the Lord, Mr. Trimble instantly comes to mind. For as long as I had known him, Mr. Trimble had been the kind of man who had modeled that consistent fear and respect of God.

Sarah and I toyed with ideas and never really felt at peace with anything that came to mind. They all seemed trivial, especially to a simple man who didn't desire much or need anything. The question was asked, "How do we give in such a way to honor him?"

Ultimately the question of honor for him (or for anyone who fears God) comes back to a respect for what they respect. To honor a man who honors God is to behave and act in such a way as to recognize the choices they have made and the priority they have set for their life.

Mr. Trimble has worked all his life doing many things. But the one thing that has been consistent in his desire is to watch God's kingdom grow and His name be blessed. That Christmas, we made a donation to Billy Graham's ministry, something we knew would bring Mr Trimble great pleasure. It did because it gave God great pleasure. And instead of one more shirt to fill a closet or a pair of house shoes he would have never worn, a man who feared God was honored.

Now, Psalm 15 isn't just about buying presents or giving gifts. It's about respect--respect for what one represents and what one chooses to live for. To honor someone, nothing about my speech or actions can diminish what they value--the fame and recognition of the God that they fear.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I want to pick up where we left off before the holidays as we continue to dig in to Psalm 15. We had worked our way up to verse 4 where David writes that the one who honors God is he...
4 who despises a vile man NIV

At first glance, this might appear to be a harsh statement, maybe even contradictory to the merciful person described to this point in the passage. You might think, "Okay, I'm not supposed to slander anyone, do my neighbor any wrong or cast a slur on him. Now, David is telling me to despise someone?!" Actually, this is right in character with the overall picture of the Bible. It's a picture that we don't cast accurately in the American church.

Let me explain what I mean. The Bible says quite frequently that we are to abstain from the things that are evil. We are to despise what the evil people do.
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 NIV

Five different times in the New Testament, we are told to have nothing to do with the evil desires or the people who entertain them. God called us to be holy people. The word literally means "to be set apart for use by a Divine purpose" As followers of Christ, you and I are to be "set apart" from the things of this world. The reason that we don't talk about this attitude much in the church today is would require us to give up some of the compromises we have made with our culture. To despise the vile man would mean fewer consumer products, fewer entertainment options, fewer rights as citizens and even some down right hardship. Not a popular idea I would dare say.

To truly despise what is vile (not only the man but his actions) would cause us to really be separate from much of what gives us comfort--our friends, our behaviors, our hobbies, even our careers to some degree.

God deserves and expects more. Make no mistake about it, when Jesus told his listeners that those who followed Him would have to "die daily," he wasn't talking about a namby-pamby (good word, huh?), sissified, easy belief system that would give us social status and increase our self-esteem. He was calling for people who were willing to live in daily warfare, without compromise. There is still grace and mercy enough for every man and for every sin but, for those who refuse to turn their back on the sinful nature and embrace God, the Father asks us to come out and be separate from the darkness that engulfs their lives.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Welcome to a new year. You know, the hardest part about the new year is those first few weeks where you have to force yourself to write 2008 instead of 2007. If you are like most, you've probably given some thought to the year ahead as you looked back over the last 12 months. It's a cool time of reflection as well as goal-setting.

In the midst of all that, I've found myself completely fired up about this coming year, especially as it relates to my church family. God was so good to us this past year. We've established some new relationships in the community, attracted some wonderful families and new faces to our fellowship and positioned ourself for God's plan in 2008. This past year was a time of digging deeper into our vision, firmly planting our roots and "trimming" the structure of our organization so that we are ready to run.

And, man, am I ready!!. I'm looking forward to all that God has for each of us in the months ahead. I look forward to hearing your stories as well. Tomorrow, we'll get back to more substance. Today, I'm just trying to get caught up from the holidays. Can't let you go without saying two more things...

How about my Georgia Bulldogs??!!!

Thanks for reading the blog and being faithful to do that. I'm praying that God leads us into some new stuff this year as He rearranges my brain every morning.