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Friday, January 30, 2009

They're off.


They're off. Just got back from the airport where Paul (our Student Minister) and I went to pray with our mission team headed to India. I am excited to hear how God is going to use them and bless them in the days to come. I invite you to be in prayer for this group of servants. Thank God for their willingness to go and to serve. We'll update you as their week progresses.

Everyone is looking for a way out.

Everyone is looking for a way out. Maybe that is part of the problem. From bailouts to wanting out of our marriages. We have buyouts, close outs, and hand outs. What we need to teach is a way to stay in.

Let me explain my thinking. When there is a way out, we are less determined to make it work. In the back of our minds, we always know we can desert our post, cut our losses and run. We have developed such a microwave mentality in our society that we aren't willing to put in the time and effort and (did I mention?) time it takes to see things through. Marriage isn't working after a few years? Get out. Our favorite team hasn't won a championship after a few years with the new coach? Buy out his contract and move on to the next sucker. Finances not in order and money disappearing? Get a hand out or a bailout or some kind of out. What are we teaching our kids? What are we making ourselves out to be? A nation of people who want the easy way....you guessed it, out!

Can you imagine what this country would be like today if our Founding Fathers had looked for an easy out? What if the earliest settlers had quit their exploration because there were no easy roads? Do you think Martin Luther King would have ever had his dream, that women would ever have gained the right to vote or that America would have emerged from World War II if they had only wanted the easy way out? Who will lead this nation in our next generation if we raise a bunch of "outers?"

The same is true of our churches. One of my staff members sent me an e-mail regarding this very thing this morning. Great churches are filled with people who determine from the beginning there is no way out, no back door for when things get tough. They are driven by great people who understand that anything worth doing is worth the time to make it right. The world will not come to know the message of God's love if we keep looking for the easy way to share it. It will require sacrifice, commitment, deep love, TIME and someone who is willing to nail the back door shut!!

Good kids, great marriages, strong careers, better health, mission endeavors and vibrant churches all have two things in common--hard work and plenty of time.

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4 NIV

Friday, January 23, 2009

I grew up in the church.

I grew up in the church. While I am thankful for every person in those churches who poured themselves into me, I recognize now that not everything I was taught is Biblical. Take for instance, the very common belief that God answers every prayer. We like to say that. It makes us feel good and reminds us that God is never very far away. It ranks right up there with the reminder that "God neither sleeps nor does He slumber" when it comes to peaceful thoughts. The problem is, it's not true.

The teaching goes something like this. Whenever we say a prayer, God will ALWAYS answer. His answer will take one of three forms: yes, no and not now. I will grant you that God typically responds in one of these three manners WHEN He responds...but I believe the Bible teaches that God doesn't always answer.

Many places in Scripture, it is made clear that our sin can be a roadblock to our prayers being answered. Consider a couple of verses for me:

...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. 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord... Acts 3:19 NIV

In each of these passages, Scripture spells out that a prerequisite for God's response is our repentance. In other words, before the bold face can happen the underlined part must take place.

What does that mean for you and me? If you're like me, for many years, I've clung to the promise that what seemed to be "unanswered" prayer was just God saying wait. I can't deny the truth or dress it up any longer. God's silence was indicative of my rebellion. I needed to ask for forgiveness before I asked for anything else.

You may find yourself in that place today. Don't let Satan or well-intentioned believers convince you that everything is okay and that God's answer will come "in His time." God's answers will come, and come with abundance, when you and I get serious about our sin, turn from our disobedience and live lives of purity as God demands.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A prayer for Mr. Obama

Father, it is a new day in America and, yet, many things remain the same. The "arrival" of our new President in the Oval Office has not changed the frustrations of a sour economy, the desperation of millions who are out of work, or the fears of terrorists who are still unnumbered. His swearing in has not lessened the vitriol that fills the halls of leadership nor the divisions that plague our nation. But with his inauguration there is a new hope, a new vision and a new anticipation of what is to come.

So, Father, as Barack Hussein Obama ascends to the position of the "most powerful leader" in the world, will you do for us what no mere mortal can do? Would you give to President Obama the wisdom to lead, the strength to endure, the patience to wait on you and the humility to understand that he is, indeed, nothing more than one man? Would you somehow use the events of the coming administration to bring this President and, more importantly, this nation to a deeper understanding of your Omnipotence? Will you show us that our free will cannot circumvent your ultimate plan and that our best intentions for humanity can only be expressed through Jesus Christ?

Grant to our President the balance it takes to be "the man": between wisdom and self-awareness, between work and family, between confidence and humility, between leadership and submission. Surround he and his family with protection (the kind that goes far beyond a Secret Service entourage). Sustain him completely--mind, body, heart and soul--so that he may fulfill the demands of the position You have elevated him too.

Speaking of which, remind us of our obligation as followers. No, I did not vote for President Obama but he is our leader, a leader that Scripture plainly says would not be in power had You not given him that authority. And that same Scripture says that I should be faithful to submit to his leadership, to pray for his service and to love who he is. On those times (I am sure that there will be many) when we do not see eye-to-eye on how this country should be led, will you place a guard over my tongue? Will you help me to understand the choices, to gain a true perspective of all that must be considered and to do all I can to support what our country is doing? However, Lord, never, ever let my heart enter into compromise. Keep our country from the same compromises that will distance us from your Divine protection and direction. Thank you, Lord, for hearing our pleas. Now, heal our nation, forgive our sins and our arrogance. Forgive our downright stupidity when we believe that we can do this, any of this, without Your provision.

God bless, America (I really mean that. It's not just a saying) And God bless our President.

Monday, January 19, 2009

There's no better feeling than knowing you are where God intends you to be.

There's no better feeling than knowing you are where God intends you to be. Whether it's your physical life, your financial life, your spiritual life or some other area, it's comforting to know that you have "gotten it" and that you are living in your "sweet spot"--the place God created you to be.

Yesterday at RCC, we began a new series called "Resolved." We're talking about having a vision for your life and knowing what God created you uniquely to do. Too many of us live our lives from event to event, hoping that the next change to come will be the one that makes us happier or more fulfilled. Rather than making life happen for you, many of you are letting life happen to you. That's never what God intended.

It starts by seeking out God, asking Him to show you what He created you for and how He intends to use you. Many of you live lives of complete frustration because you're wandering around looking for the answers that God has held to your life all along.

I want to invite you to join us on this journey. Even if you live outside of Franklin, the next five weeks are going to be incredible. You can listen on our website (www.rccfranklin.com) or on i-Tunes. You can also follow our daily devotions with this series at www.resolve09.blogspot.com.

The responses to yesterday's kick-off message were the kind that every pastor longs to hear. People were talking about direction, about new hope, about finding purpose. There was a genuine buzz among many of our people as they prepare to take a truly life-changing journey towards greater purpose and deeper meaning in their lives. After all, it's what God promised for those who follow His plan.

Friday, January 16, 2009

"I have a dream"

"I have a dream." Of all the words uttered by Dr. Martin Luther King, none have touched the hearts of the world more than these. Dreams can drive us, change us, make us over. Maybe that's why Proverbs tells us that "people without a vision (the Hebrew word literally means a dream or revelation) will perish."

That's why we are spending the next six weeks at Ridgeview talking about purpose and vision for our lives. Nothing good that comes in life will come without some purpose, some direction. Billy Sunday, the famous American evangelist once said, "More men fail from lack of purpose than from lack of talent."

So, where are you going? What drives? What burns in you so deeply that only seeing it come to fulfillment could satisfy you? These are your values; this is your mission. When you find that, life takes on a whole new meaning and you can rest assured that your life will count for something major.

Thanks for your prayers as we buried my first wife's father this past week. It was a sweet celebration of an incredible life lived well. Your prayers were definitely felt as I spoke on Wednesday.

If you're in town this week, drop by Ridgeview as we begin our journey to be a people of purpose. It's going to be good!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

It's been just over a year ago since I wrote about my first wife's father-in-law

It's been just over a year ago since I wrote about my first wife's father-in-law (January 4th to be exact). Mr. Trimble was a man I respected highly, the kind that challenged me to be a better man myself because of his example. I say "was" because, this past Sunday, Mr. Trimble went home to be with the Lord.

Now, typically you won't catch me using that phrase "at home to be with the Lord." I'm not sure why. I guess I'm not usually very comfortable with its implications and some people who it's applied to. Not so with Mr. Trimble. I really believe with all my heart that "Andaddy" (as his grandkids called him) is at home. I also believe that this was what he longed for most...that day when all the stuff on this earth would end and he would move on to all that really mattered.

I thank God for the longevity and persistence with which Mr. Trimble lived out his faith. I thank God for the father and grandfather and husband he has been to his family. I thank God for the example he has been and the model of truth and integrity. Most of all, I thank God his suffering is over. There comes a point in a man's life where the appeal of God's glory in Heaven far outweighs the longing to be with your loved ones here for just "one more day."

My family and I will be traveling to Macon to be with the Trimbles and to conduct his funeral service on Wednesday. I covet your prayers for all of us as we go. I'll stay in touch throughout the week as time allows.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Two important things happened on this day in 1995.

Two important things happened on this day in 1995--one significantly more important than the other. First, Valeri Poliakov completed his 366th day in space. It was the longest that any human being has ever endured the conditions of outer space. Poliakov was pushing us into new frontiers that we had only imagined. Honestly, I didn't really notice and I didn't really care. You see...

...earlier that same day (very early I might add) I was being pushed into new frontiers of my own. The day before (a Sunday afternoon) I had been awakened by the voice of my wife from the other room. "It's time, Ridley." Several hours, one AFC playoff game and an episode of "Lois and Clark" later and Harrison was here. (Officially it's Ridley Harrison Barron IV but he's been called Harry, Hairy Bear, and Quad--mostly just Harrison) My new frontier had been entered. I was beginning one of the most exciting adventures any man or woman could face.

What a road it has been? Fourteen years of fun, frustration, laughter, lectures, and joy and we're still journeying. My little boy isn't little any more. He's growing into a young man. He's turned his attention from cartoons and action figures to sports and, shall we say, figures of another kind.

I can't wait to see what God is going to do with him next. I have prayed from the day that Sarah told me we were expecting that my little boy would somehow change the world. He's already done that for me. I pray that he will do it for others.

Here's to you on your special day little buddy (the name I've always given him). I love you.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Don't forget to show your blisters.

Don't forget to show your blisters.

J. Oswald Sanders, the prominent Christian leader who died a couple of decades ago, tells the story of Frederick Booth-Tucker. It seems Frederick was a judge with the Indian Civil Service and on the rise in that position. But, after deciding to follow Christ, he became frustrated with his work and was seeking more. He resigned and joined the Salvation Army in India--a place whose language he knew and whose culture he understood. Despite his commitment and his great effort, he could not break through to the people he was attempting to reach. So, he and another Salvation Army worker decided to take on the role of holy men there in that country. They traded their western clothes for robes and got rid of their shoes. Using only a small bag and a "beggar's bowl", the two set out across the country living off of the generosity of people. The roads they traveled were rocky and scorching hot in the Indian heat and it wasn't long before their feet were covered with blisters.

Upon reaching one particular town, they attempted to talk with the village leaders. They were greeted coldly and basically sent away empty handed. Too tired to go further that day, Booth and his friend laid down beneath a tree to nap before they began again.

When they awoke, they were surrounded by villagers. The people began to apologize profusely for their behavior and offered them food and water. The leader explained to Booth. "As we came to get closer to you while you slept, we noticed the blisters on your feet. We did not realize you were holy men. We did not know that you had walked the journey we have walked."

Booth gained instant respect with the people he was attempting to reach. In the weeks to follow, he would gain their friendship and trust, eventually leading over 25,000 to accept Christ.

Don't hide your blisters. The journey you are walking now may leave the very scars that will open doors to others. Always remember that, in Christ, no pain is wasted and no trial is without purpose. God may be refining your heart and your story so that many more may come to know His hope. Whatever you do, don't hide your blisters.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ever heard of the sons of Korah?

Ever heard of the sons of Korah? No, it's not some low-rate Southern Rock band. If you've done much reading in the Old Testament, specifically Psalms, you've seen their name mentioned. These worship leaders in Jerusalem are responsible for Psalms 42-49. They gave us powerful passages of worship like these:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea...Psalm 46:1-2

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth! Psalm 47:1-2

This is powerful stuff. But do you know about their past? Here's a hint...Numbers 16. Here we read that Korah, one of the Levite priests, got greedy and led a rebellion against Moses!! Did you catch that? Korah set himself up in a power struggle with one of God's chosen men and one of Israel's greatest leaders. I don't care who you are, you're not going far with that one. In fact, the Bible records that Korah's whole family was swallowed up by an earthquake that literally took them inside the earth and covered them up again. Everyone was destroyed...everyone but the sons of Korah.

God had great stuff in mind for them.

So what's your excuse? I mean, you're obviously here for a reason. Have you asked God what kind of greatness He has prepared you for? I'd be willing to bet that it wasn't so you could brag about your position at work or your lengthy resume. God doesn't create men for themselves but for Him. And the reason I talked about Korah's boys? Because your past can't be an excuse. You can't have a much more tainted past than this: "Isn't that the boy whose daddy took on Moses? Wasn't he swallowed alive because of God's judgment?"

Yeah, you may have a past. Who doesn't? Some are uglier than others. Who cares? If Korah's boys can rise above their past to author such beautiful passages in Scripture, you can bet that God's grace and strength will enable you to fulfill your purpose.

Monday, January 05, 2009

I was reading a newspaper this morning when this headline caught my eye

I was reading a newspaper this morning when this headline caught my eye: "Fifty simple ways to change your life in 2009". I was interested. So, I clicked on the article and scanned over the list. It dealt mostly with changing your physical health. #1 was to start drinking diet coke instead of regular soft drinks. (I chuckled as I read that because I have many friends including my wife who would go ballistic about such a suggestion...all the dangers of nutrasweet and stuff, you know?) There were others that were pretty good...eat more fruits and vegetables at every meal...don't skip breakfast...park further from your office so you have to walk more.

That got me to thinking, though. Why do we spend so much time and energy and newspaper space talking about changing a physical body that will eventually wear out no matter what we do? Don't get me wrong. I am a believer in caring for your body and "taking care of the temple." But I thought it might be apropos for me to share "Five simple ways to change your (spiritual) life in 2009. (Couldn't make it to fifty--you wouldn't read that far). So, here they are:

1. Fall in love with Jesus. You might expect that to be the first one but there are many of us "religious" types who don't have a clue about what it means to really be in love with the Savior. Love is not based on your performance or His. It's a decision you make to follow Him.
2. Read your Bible regularly. I'm not even going to say every day so that you don't get legalistic and beat yourself up. But read it at least as regularly as you read the paper or your favorite magazine. This book can change your life radically...but it does no good sitting on a shelf.
3. Pray with your family EVERY day. Okay, don't fall into legalism here. If you miss, start the next day. If you miss that day, start the next. If you miss again, call your pastor and confess. (just kidding. Lighten up).
4. Go to church every week you can. The Bible said don't give up the meeting together that you have become accustomed to. It also said that this is MORE important as we approach the end of time. We all get sick or go on vacation from time-to-time but your ball game, your hobby, your sleeping and your laziness aren't going to draw you closer to the Savior. (see #1)
5. Quit letting others dictate your happiness. This is going to be a tough year for many of us. Lisa and I are already feeling the pinch of finances. But our joy isn't found in a bank account or a house. It's found in (surprise) #1. I can't let my friends, my boss, the performance of my favorite team or my financial position dictate my joy.

BONUS (just because you read this far): Learn to live by grace. Many of us start out this way but we wind up falling back on performance and legalism. Grace was meant to set us free. It's hard to live in freedom where there is no grace. More on this later.

Have a happy, healthy 2009. Thanks for reading as we take this journey!