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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

God's got it.

God's got it. I know those are simple words but it's critical (for me) that I remember them. As I was talking through my schedule yesterday, my head started spinning. I'm a pastor, filling in as a student minister, preparing to teach a college course, coaching an All-star team, looking for a new student minister, while trying to be a good son, husband and father. In between, there's me...the other parts.

So, this morning I needed the reminder that worry does me no good. (Matthew 6:33-34). More importantly, I needed to be reminded that God desires for me to give Him my concerns and let Him work out the details (1 Peter 5:7).

The funny thing is, I've seen Him do it so many times before. He's cancelled appointments, rearranged schedules and even caused it to rain so I could make my schedule work. He's headed off trouble for me. He's provided financially where I saw no promise of income. He's given me directions when it would have been far easier to let my hard-headed nature take me down a different path.

So, here I am again today reminding myself--full calendar and all--He's got it. He will work it out for His good and His glory as long as I am trusting Him with it...all of it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Like most of you, I've watched the TV coverage with great interest lately.

Like most of you, I've watched the TV coverage with great interest lately. I was interested to see how the media would handle the deaths of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and even Billy Mays (he's the pitch man who used to scream to you about all the great products on TV). Obviously, there has been report on top of report and news from every possible angle on these individuals. To be sure, their deaths, as all deaths are, were sorrowful. Millions around the world mourned their losses. Each had made wonderful contributions to our culture (though some might be questioned as to their value, they were contributions nonetheless).

So, I was faced with the irony of a much sadder situation that I read about in the news this morning. On Friday, just a day after Fawcett and Jackson had passed, a 12 year old boy in Albany, GA died. That news alone would not be significantly shocking in a world where children die all too often. It's the way he died. According to reports this morning, this young man got into a disagreement with a 14 year old friend who promptly pulled out a knife and stabbed him. In an instant, two lives are destroyed. One will never walk this earth again, the other will forever bear the guilt of murder. Innocence taken, innocence traded.

Where are the mourners now?

I have to ask myself that question. As we continually expose our kids to greater trash, as we watch homes that are shredded by divorce and abandonment, as we continue to lower the standards we have for our culture, who will mourn the loss of innocence when more and more we watch young lives that are shattered. It's happening all across our culture and we miss it...or, worse yet, we wave it off as a horrible event but one that no one could have prevented.

It makes me pray harder for friends like Jessica, who works in a high school filled with gang members in Memphis, or Chris, who for years has lived with his wife and kids in inner city New Orleans so that he could model what it means to be a dad and to love your family. We can't afford not to mourn for Ladrona and Jamal. And the only rightful tribute for them would be this--refuse to let your heart become hard or uncaring. The souls of our children depend on it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

People are watching you.

People are watching you. All the time, no matter where you go, there are eyes on you. (no, this is not another GEICO commercial with an animated stack of money and creepy eyes). I've been reminded of this truth many times in my life--as a young high schooler, as an athlete, as a coach, as a minister, and as a father and husband. Somehow, it seems when you choose to follow Christ, the "viewing" becomes more intense as the world watches to see how real this Jesus is.

On many occasions, it is a desperate attempt to catch you doing wrong so that they can shout very loudly, "See, Christians are just like every body else." Let me set your mind at ease. The Bible has already told us that. All of us stand in need of forgiveness and grace. All of us.

On other occasions, though, I find that the people who are watching are genuinely desiring to see if there is something different about this faith we profess and how it changes us. They want to have hope, peace, love and purpose--all of which are found in true Christ followers. So...they keep watching.

I thought about this last night as I re-told the story of David and Goliath to our teenagers at the Youth Bible Study. This thought struck me. Have you ever thought much about this famous confrontation? Did the guys who lined the Philistine hillside that day watch to see how David would act? Young teen boy faces nine foot tall champion with no weapons, no armor, no back up and...NO fear. Were there any Philistines who asked about this God as they watched David's courage? Were there any who were changed because of what they saw that day?

We may never know the answer to that question this side of heaven but I can tell you this--people can be changed by watching you. And not always in a good way. Your life has the power to attract people to God as well as the ability to drive them far away. Make no mistake, they are watching you. What they see depends on the true condition of your heart.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Asking for a little prayer today.

Asking for a little prayer today. Most of you know that we have had a vacancy in our student ministry position since the spring. We are moving forward with our search and have really narrowed our choices to some really good, very capable candidates. Here's where the prayer need intensifies. These guys are really sharp. They are experienced, talented, passionate and well worth the consideration. I need someone to stand up above the others.

In order for that to happen, God is going to have to speak very clearly to those involved with this decision. I'm excited about who this person will be. I am excited about what he will offer to our kids. So I don't want to dare take a chance that God may speak and I may be too busy to hear. So, as I jet out the door to meet with one of our guys, I ask that you would bring peace and clarity to my heart so I may hear His.

God's got amazing things ahead for RCC. Can't wait to watch it happen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I had an interesting thought this morning.

I had an interesting thought this morning. (Some might find that shocking or comical but I do have these every now and then). Looking through my devotionals, I was recalling some of the miracles Jesus performed. Specifically, I was reading about the raising of Jairus' daughter from the dead in Mark 5 but this applies to most of the miracles that involve healing. Follow me here...

Maybe this thought comes from watching too many TV shows or movies but I think it makes sense. When encountered with physical problems in the Scripture, you never catch Jesus asking the usual "medical questions": what are their vital signs? what caused this injury? are there any other symptoms? do you have insurance? (okay, the last one wouldn't apply to 1st century Jerusalem but you get my point.) He doesn't go through any of the normal procedures for restoring health. Why? The answer seems painfully obvious--He's God, not just another physician--but I wonder if we really understand the underlying premise.

Here it is...God does not work in ways we expect under the limitations we know or with the concerns that we have. This applies to every problem we face, not just the physical. When you pray to God to help you sell your house, He doesn't ask what is the price per square foot or the comps in the area. When you ask God to find you a new job, He doesn't check the unemployment rate or the present status of the economy. When you ask God for healing from addiction, He doesn't ask you if you are in a support group or if you've "quit" before. All those questions are important...to us, not to Him. He doesn't work in the parameters we do. He's not limited by the information we have. He's bigger than all of that.

Here's the kicker, the only thing that limits God is our faith and the only thing that limits our faith is our fear. Fear wars against our faith. It questions God's goodness and His power. But, when fear is conquered, faith abounds and where faith abounds, God's desired outcome is always achieved.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Whose approval do you need?

Whose approval do you need? Who are you really aiming to please? One of my devotions for the day led me down this train of thought. Like most humans, you and I are born with this enduring trait to be concerned about others opinions of who we are or what we stand for (some of you who deny it tend to be the ones who are most effected by this). This "concern" affects more of our decisions and actions than we might realize. From the clothes we wear to the home we live in, from the friends we have to the jokes we tell, it is easy to get caught up in maintaining a certain image with our peers.

Jesus worked hard to move us from this view of our world. He lived and taught that only a fear of God could give us a true view of the world around us. The problem with other's opinions is that they can change with the weather or the latest Gallup poll (or with your outfit). As Christ followers, we are urged to gain our esteem from an unchanging Holy God and His view of us and the world we live in. To live otherwise is an extremely costly exchange.

"When you fear God, you fear nothing else...if you do not fear God, you fear everything else." Oswald Chambers

Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm looking for a man with a trash bag.

I'm looking for a man with a trash bag. Until yesterday morning, I had never seen the man. I haven't seen him since. But, as I shared with my congregation in yesterday's message, this man left a huge impact on me.

You see, I'm in the middle of a series called As You Go. It deals with the call on EVERY Christ follower's life to serve this world and to love others more than self. It's a clear message that weaves its way throughout Scripture. It's been a good series and, I think, very thought provoking.

On the way to church with my family yesterday morning, I passed the aforementioned man with the bag. He was walking alongside the road and his bag looked like it carried some clothes or something. I politely moved away from the shoulder with my truck so he would have room to safely walk across the bridge. Something told me to stop. I didn't. In my mind, I justified that my family was a little bit late and, after all, I was the pastor. If I weren't there in time, people would start to worry.

As I stood backstage preparing to come out for the message, it struck me--I was the man that I was about to preach about. I was the guy who was too busy to help my neighbor, to pull my truck to the side of the road and see if he needed a hand. Now, this isn't the first time I've been confronted with my own failure to live up to God's commands--just the first time it's happened as I was heading onto the stage to preach. Let me assure you, it is not a comfortable feeling.

But following Christ shouldn't always be comfortable. Preacher or not, long-time Christian or not--as Christ followers we ALL have to come face-to-face with the ways we short-circuit God working in our lives. When I become the biggest obstacle to the transformation that God is doing in me, then I have to take responsibility and remove my will from the picture. Only then can the transforming work of God continue. That's what I pledge to do as a pastor and, specifically, as your pastor, Ridgies. You deserve it. My family deserves it. Most of all, my Savior deserves it.

So, today, I'm on a journey to find a man with a bag...and this time, I pray God gives me the eyes to see and the heart to serve no matter what my agenda may be.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I have a mole.

I have a mole. Not the kind that grows on your skin...the kind that tears up your yard. I'm not positive about this but I'm seeing the tell-tale signs that this little critter is ravaging the soil around my house. Sources tell me that a mole can dig over 300 feet of tunnel in one night. Incredible!! So, while I was sleeping last night, my little terrestial enemy was digging three football fields of underground lines. All of this while I was supposed to be having sweet dreams.

So, I'm going to spend some time this evening researching how to combat the little sucker and see if we can't eliminate this problem. Just another part of living in a more rural area. If you share their turf, don't be surprised when you cross paths, right? I guess the hardest part of fighting a mole is knowing where he is and whether or not it's really a mole at all (I'm told that groundhogs and other animals make similar tunnels). What's a homeowner to do?

Sounds a lot like another enemy I have though. He's deceptive, always working when I am not paying attention. He's hard to identify at times and I'm not always sure the most effective way to battle him. I know he's there, though. We share the same turf and he's left the tell-tale signs all over my life. Here's the good news though. When battling Satan, I don't have to search the Internet or ask my "sources" what to do. God has given me all the information I need for identifying Satan's tactics, battling his attacks and moving forward with God's plan. And, if I'm serious about resisting his schemes, God's word must be part of my plan. Yours too.

If only finding a battle plan for the mole were so easy....

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Some cool stories to share

Some cool stories to share from what's going on in our RCC family. For those who aren't able to worship with us on a regular basis, let me give you some background information. As a part of our current worship series, As You Go, we have been talking about service, acts of love and denying ourselves in order to truly have the attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Two weeks ago, we gave $5 to every person in attendance and challenged them to think of a creative way in which they could use that money to serve others. The purpose of these acts? Simply to love others and create relationships. Something we all believe Christ would be about.

Some of you haven't had the opportunity to put your plan into action yet while others just haven't had a chance to share yet. But I wanted to take a minute and tell you what some of our Ridgeview family is doing. This is for two reasons. First, to show you how God can use any act of love to touch people. Two, to challenge those who didn't get the $5 to think of ways you can think of yourself less and about others more. The world would be a better place, a more Christ-like reflection, if we did. Here are some of the great ideas enacted by our Ridgies:
  • Some have chosen to simply bless others with their $5. One LIFE group has been actively involved in serving at a retirement home here in Franklin so some of their members gave their $5 to help with what they have been doing. Another gentleman bought $5 worth of groceries to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank. Just like many other non-profits and charitable organizations, they are constantly in need of resources to perform their ministries.
  • One lady in our church prayed for a long time about who she would bless. She even wrote a letter to go with her $5 committing to pray for whoever received it for the next year. Then, she went to one of our local parks, met a handicapped man while walking the sidewalk and asked him to receive her gift.
  • A couple who has just started attending Ridgeview went out and purchased a copy of a powerful devotional book that had made an impact in their life. During a difficult season, it had renewed their strength and hope. They took this book and gave it to a co-worker of his who has just discovered that his five year old daughter has leukemia. Awesome!
  • One family chose to make dinner for their neighbors. Another young lady has decided to challenge her neighbors to add $5 to hers and to come together to create a meal for their less fortunate friends that live around them.
  • One family is using their money to buy popcorn. They are inviting the whole neighborhood to join them at their "home-made" ball park for a night of wiffle ball, free popcorn and time of fellowship to get to know each other.
  • Another family used their money to buy lemonade and make ads for a garage sale they are having. They are inviting the neighborhood to come and participate. Half of the proceeds will go to the St. Jude's Children's Hospital for continuing research.

I think you get the idea. A small amount of money plus big dreams equals a huge impact where we live. It reminds me of the words of Christ when he said we were to be salt and light. When salt gets poured out (i.e. acts of service and love) it impacts everything it touches with more flavor.

Keep up the great work, Ridgies. God is using you to make a difference in the lives of those you come in contact with one heart at a time. I can't wait to hear more stories in the days ahead as you continue to follow Him in obedience.

Monday, June 08, 2009

How happy are you?

How happy are you? That's the way mine and Lisa's quiet time began this morning. A good question, no doubt. I began to think about that a little as the author of the quiet time went further. He quoted a pastor friend of his as he continued his thoughts:

How happy are you? Most of you would answer--given a scale of 1 to 10--with a nine or a ten, hopefully. Those of you who didn't would feel a need to justify your not-so-high response. But what if I could guarantee you that by this time next week you would be a happier person? What if during that week, I did a couple of things...out of the ordinary things to help place your life in perspective? What if I
  • called to tell you that your banker had frozen all your assets and informed me that you no longer had a dime to your name
  • informed you with another call that your boss had fired you without pay, stripping away all retirement funds and any other benefits
  • also told you that the four people who mattered most to you (family or friends) had been killed in a horrible car accident
  • told you that your doctor had called to say you had a terminal illness that allowed you only 6 weeks to live with no possible form of treatment.

Then, what if I came to your house, sat you down, looked you in the eye and told you everything I had shared with you was a lie, a hoax, a fabrication meant to change your perspective? After punching me in the face, maybe you'd understand the difference that perspective can have on your happiness.

He's right, you know. Happiness, based on your circumstances, is just that...happiness. And happiness changes with the events of your life, the emotions that fill your heart and the mood of your day. Jesus promised joy. Joy is measured on a scale of 1 to 10 with numbers 1 through 8 not counting. Joy comes in spite of your circumstances because it is based on a healthier perspective--one that comes from Christ Jesus and is focused on the eternal rather than the temporal. Joy takes the stance that, regardless of the situation, God's got it. It remembers that, in light of eternity, temporary setbacks will not change who we are.

God asked us to live lives full of joy. And the only way to do that is a change of perspective. By thinking less of ourselves and more of others, God puts our vision where it needs to be. When your vision is right, jobs, money, retirement, relationships and health all take on a different meaning for this world. So, how happy are you? And how does it show to a world who is watching you and me?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

When someone does well, I like to applaud them.

When someone does a job well, I like to applaud them. Whether it's something as simple as being a great waitress at dinner or something as major as making great grades at school, I like for people to know that their work does not go unnoticed. There are places where you and I can pass out the "thanks" and the "congratulations" on a daily basis--friends, family and complete strangers love to know they are appreciated for whatever they do.

This particular recognition is especially satisfying. It's for my RCC family. It is for a job well done in fulfilling the call and mission that Christ has put on His church. Beyond that, it is a challenge to never rest, to never settle and to always keep moving forward in fulfilling our purpose. Here, in his own words, the Director of Evangelism for the Tennessee Baptist Convention gives the reason for my excitement:

"...your church ranked in the top 50 churches among 3100 Tennessee Baptist churches in Members/Baptism ratio for 2008. You are to be congratulated for your diligence in making evangelism a priority in your ministry and for your leadership among Tennessee Baptists. The record reveals that it takes approximately 47 Tennessee Baptists an entire year to reach and baptize one person for Christ. Your church baptized one professing believer for every 3.5 members...!"

To God be the glory, Ridgies. You have partnered with the Holy Spirit to change lives and this recognition shows that God is more than willing to do His part if you and I will do ours. I don't care if we ever own our own building or get to a place where we don't have to set up every Sunday if you and I are constantly and consistently leading people to this place of safety in Christ Jesus. Let us not lose sight of the fact that THIS (and this alone) is the reason that God calls us to walk this earth--to bring Him glory and point others to this relationship. Keep up the good work, Ridgies. I'm very proud to be your pastor. Now, let's turn up our efforts and go to whatever lengths it takes to find the lost and bring one more to Jesus.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

We started a new series this past Sunday.

We started a new series this past Sunday. Entitled As You Go, it talks about developing a lifestyle that reflects that of Christ, particularly in regards to serving others. What does it take to develop a mind like that of Christ in this area of our lives? How do we learn to let serving become second nature for us without it being about "vain conceit or selfish gain" (Phil. 2:3-4)?

It made me think back to a portion of C. S. Lewis' classic book, The Screwtape Letters. In this fictional recounting of communication between a high ranking demon and his protege nephew, Wormwood, Lewis addresses this subject of self. I think he hits on an important tactic of our enemy, the Devil.

He encourages Wormwood to continue to push his "patient" (the man he is trying to control) by convincing him that he needs so many things. In fact, he becomes frustrated with Wormwood when he discovers that the patient has been allowed time to enjoy a book, a walk and time with friends.

In other words, the nightmare of the enemy is when followers of Christ discover that we don't need most of what we seek. The simple pleasures of this life are more satisfying, more enduring. But think about how little we pursue the simple pleasures and how much of our lives is spent on chasing down the things that just do not matter. Greater promotions, larger homes, nicer clothes--they not only require much of us to secure them but they require even greater amounts of us to keep them. In doing so, we lose so much focus and we lose this heart that God has given us to serve. We get focused on the "me" to the point that we lose "them." And "them" is where God would rather we spend our lives...having the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5)

Monday, June 01, 2009

The truth will set you free.

"The truth will set you free." An oft-quoted phrase that carries with it powerful meaning...as long as you understand what the truth is and where that truth comes from. The problem is that our enemy, the devil, has done a masterful job of twisting truth and distorting reality in our culture. Unless you truly allow the light of God to show you truth, you can find yourself in difficult situations, making some really strange statements or off-the-wall judgments.

Take, for example, yesterday's news regarding the tragic death of the anti-life physician, Dr. Tiller. (I don't dare call them pro-choice--this is just another twisting of the truth by Satan. If he was truly pro-choice he would give the baby a voice.) The murder of this father, husband and member of the Lutheran church in the Midwest is a horrible event. It should have never happened.

But I want you to see how the American press and the liberal left have played this (and, I think, Satan has twisted truth). Three different news reports have credited different people with making a quote similar to this one: "This is what happens when you follow the radical thinking of the pro-life movement."

HUH? Did you catch that? When you follow the "radical" teachings of the pro-life movement you get...murder??? Hello! How in the world can logical, rational readers observe such statements and not catch the irony in them? This man spent most of his life devoted to late term abortions...the MURDER of unborn children in the last trimester of pregnancy. That is exactly what the anti-life movement is all about...a right to end an innocent life. How can the press point it's finger at a movement (by the way, the murder suspect is a radical guy who is not part of the mainstream pro-life movement) that stands for life and hold them responsible for this death while the blood of millions of innocent babies still drips from their fingers? In a word...Satan.

He is a "liar and the Father of all lies" according to the Bible (John 8:44). He has been in the business of lying to you and me since the day we arrived. Some of you, right now, are buying the lies he is feeding you about your family, your faith and your future. Many are living in the wreckage that is left behind when the lies have done their damage. For those who are, I offer this...the truth will set you free. In the truth is strength and hope to live a life full and satisfying, one that is built solidly on the foundation that is found in Christ Jesus.

Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Psalm 43:3 NIV