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Thursday, July 30, 2009

A life-changing love affair.

A life-changing love affair. That's what I'm proposing. Something that invades your heart in such a way that you can neither deny its influence or reject its power. I'm talking about the Word of God. Charles Spurgeon, powerful pastor and writer, once said, "Defend the Bible? I would just as soon defend a lion. Just turn the Bible loose. It will defend itself."

That's real power. And, honestly, that's what many of our churches and their respective people are missing. Real power.

I read recently of a group of college students who got together just to read the Word. That's it. No other agenda. They would meet weekly to read through Scripture and to take it to heart. They would read a story where God promised He could heal and they would pray healing for a friend. They would read how God promised to never leave us alone and would offer up the names of lonely people on their campus. Reading God's plan for sex and marriage prompted them to pray for the sexual activity of friends and roommates. Lives were being changed because of the power of the Bible and their belief in that power.

The flip-side is this...I've served in churches where the Bible wasn't even part of the message on Sunday. It was a feel-good, meditative thought that didn't rely on the power of the written word to be the foundation of the spoken Word. Needless to say, we didn't stay long at that church and that church never amounted to much.

My prayer for Ridgeview is that we would become passionate lovers of this Word that God has given us. It has extreme power to offer healing, mercy, love, grace, strength and information for living our lives...but only if we soak it in. What would happen if we were more adamant about having our Bible with us than our cell phone? What if we spent as much time reading the Bible weekly as we did the newspaper or our favorite magazines? What if the Bread of Life really became as important to us as our food?

We would undoubtedly find ourselves in the midst of the next great Revival (dare I say, greatest revival). Stop what you are doing right now. Pick up His love letter to you and begin to read daily His message for your life. One verse a day, one thought at a time, you will find His power for your life ready and waiting.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sometimes I get it right...

Sometimes I get it right...and sometimes I don't. I'm big enough to admit that and not crazy enough to believe that most of you don't already realize it. Today, I'll give you an example of times when I did both.

Sunday, I slipped. My words from the platform of our church may have given some of you the impression that I was not celebrating the ministry of our church on Saturday. You might have thought that, somehow, I didn't value your service to the families we helped or that I questioned your motives. Nothing could be further from the truth. I celebrate along with our staff, the wonderful heart with which the 40 plus members of Ridgeview served Saturday. You guys were pure reflections of Christ as you painted, ripped up floors, tore down ceilings, hung new gutters, laid new floors, etc. So, when I said Sunday that I "disagreed" with Pastor Eddie's announcement, I didn't mean that you guys weren't awesome. I was simply saying that serving for serving's sake is never enough. Real change comes when ALL that we do is done for His glory. Two people can stand side by side and lay sandbags on a river bank but they may do it for different reasons. One may be looking to build a resume and the other look to share His renown. Guess which one has experienced true life change? Sorry if I gave any other impression than the one that God's glory is why we exist. When we do it right, we do it for Him.

Now, about getting it right. I won't go into all the details (I'll let the link below do that for me). Just suffice it to say that I think I got God's voice exactly right when I chose to marry Lisa two plus years ago. I am a blessed man...far more than I deserve. And the swirling of our two families together has been a wonderful way for all six of us to bring glory to God. After all, without Him, who knows where this cat would wind up? Enjoy the read:
http://www.tennessean.com/article/20090727/COUNTY090101/907270307/1164/COUNTY09/Two+families+come+together+as+one

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm having a mountain top experience.

I'm having a mountain top experience. Seriously, I'm on top of Lookout Mountain right now with some of our kids from Ridgeview at Student Life camp. We are winding down day three and it's been a great week. Two things I want you to see in my brief blog today. Number one: Ridgies, you have some amazing youth. They are incredible teens with good hearts, great minds and talent galore. I've loved having this time with them as we listen to speakers, worship together and open up God's word every day. Secondly, God is up to something big in many areas of our church. I see His rumblings in our kids' (who, I have heard this week, had an amazing time at their camp over the weekend). I hear it in the hearts of our teens who are seeking God so desperately and are raising their expectations of what He can do. And I see it in the faces of each of you, week-after-week as we come together for worship. God will absolutely satisfy you church. You simply have to remove all the distractions, all the barriers and take down all the walls. He wants to pour out His Spirit in our midst, Ridgies. Are we ready to receive what He has to offer? Love you guys and can't wait to stand before you again this week as your Shepherd. I am amazed at our Savior.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We all need intentional practices.

We all need intentional practices. They are the only way to break the bad habits that can control our lives...like the ones that Paul talks about in Romans 7. As we walk this journey, we find so many times that the "old self"--the propensity to sin--wants to take us places we don't need to go. These are your personal areas of weakness--envy, anger, lust, self-worth--you name your weakness, there's a safe bet that you have some bad habits in that area. These habits may be mental (most are), emotional or physical. Whatever the case, the only way to break them is to put in their place, intentional habits that will replace them.

Let me give you an example unrelated to spiritual things but just as appropriate. Harrison (my son) loves chewing gum. Wherever he is, whatever he is doing, if someone offers him gum, he is a willing consumer. At least he was until recently. He got braces. And, as any good orthodontist would tell you, gum isn't good for your braces. So Harrison had to learn how to break that habit. He didn't make it 24 hours before he already had a piece of gum in his mouth--not because he purposely wanted to break the orthodontist's rules. It was a habit. For weeks after he got his braces on, he would hop into my truck, open the console where I keep some gum and start to pull out a piece. The habit was killing him.

Thankfully, he's worked his way past it. But it wasn't easy. He had to develop some new, intentional practices that would keep his mind off of the gum and focused on more important things. The same thing is true for you and I in our faith walk. Some intentional practices include reading your Bible, learning Scripture, praying, meditating, spending time in silence, learning new worship music, thinking positive thoughts that God has about you or writing in a journal.

These intentional practices help to take the old ways of thinking from your mind and replace them with "Christ thoughts". Only through intentional actions can you find a way to put the "old man" in his place and live a life that more closely resembles that of Jesus.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Here's a birthday thought.

Here's a birthday thought. I've heard it said that one measure of success is not whether you have tough problems to deal with, everyone has those in their life, but whether you are still dealing with the same problems as last year. It's a benchmark to determine if your life is a journey with potholes along the way or more like a rut that you can't seem to get yourself out of.

Mine is a journey. A tough one sometimes, but a journey nonetheless. And while some of the tough problems have seemed surmountable, God has always been faithful to help me overcome or work my way through.

As one author put it, it's not that we overestimate the storms of life. They are scary and dangerous. It's that we underestimate the strength of God. I don't want to live the next 42 years believing in a "wimpy" God. I pray I never underestimate Him or His ability to deliver me to the next part of my journey.

Thanks for the many birthday wishes today. My friends are a huge part of why I consider myself to be such a blessed man.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Okay, here's the verdict.

Okay, here's the verdict. I did the annual physical exam thing yesterday (I do it every year around my birthday to make sure things stay in the best working order that they can). I have arthritis in a big toe and both wrists. My surgically repaired left shoulder is holding out okay but the "good" shoulder has rotator cuff tendinitis from throwing too many batting practice sessions. The right knee is holding but has inflammation from tearing cartilage in football 24 years ago. The blood pressure and cholesterol are both "higher than we would like to see."

So, as I lay in bed this morning, feeling a little bit older than my 41 years and 364 days should, I was pondering several things.

  • Was it worth all the fun I had? Throwing yourself at the 300 pound linemen, diving for the baseball over and over and playing football in the backyard with my nephews and son.
  • Would I feel like a car wreck if I hadn't been in seven of them already? Is this normal wear and tear or is this the end result of too many "fender benders?"
  • What's it going to feel like the next 42 years?
  • I'm glad this isn't all there is--I've got a new body with new shoulders and no cholesterol problems waiting for me some day.

I can tell you the answer to number one was an absolute "yes." This life is far too short not to enjoy it. I've loved every practice, every game and every back yard "brawl." I'd do it all over again (but only with an 18 year old body).

As far as the rest of my life, who knows what that holds other than God? I do know this. There is no better place for the balance of my days to be than in His hands. The Bible says He has numbered our days and He knew every one of them before I was born. He is very familiar with creaks my body makes when I crawl out of bed in the morning. He knows the pains I feel. He's numbered every hair that's dropped from my head. He knows me that well!! And...He loves me big!!

So, as long as I have breath and life I will serve Him. As long as the cholesterol doesn't creep too high and the knees hold out, I want to be going where He wants me to go and doing what He wants me to do. My prayer is the same as Paul's--that when my days have run their course, I'll be able to enter into my Father's presence having done two things: fulfilled His purpose for me in this life and left my kids with the best example of what a Christ follower should be. It's been an amazing 42 years. The best may be yet to come (albeit, a little slower than I lived it in the past GRIN).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Are you really listening?

Are you really listening? If you've got kids, you've probably asked that question on more than one occasion. I have. Particularly when it comes to my son, Harrison. We have many conversations that go something like this...

Me: Harrison, I need you to help me out with something. Can you.... (fill in the blank)?
Harrison: Sure, dad. I'll be glad to.
Me: Now, I need you to do it this way and by this certain time. Can you handle that?
Harrison: Yes, sir. I'll do it.
Me: Any questions?
Harrison: (after a slight pause) Wait a minute...when do you want me to do it?
Me: Are you even listening to me?

But I find that I can't get too frustrated with him. My parents had the same conversations with me. And, oddly enough, I think God has those same concerns about my ability to listen. You see, like too many Christ followers, I grew up believing that just hearing the Word (reading it, hearing it on the radio or in messages) was enough to change me. I was, after all, being confronted with God's word regularly. However, I understand now that listening without integrating it is exactly what James was talking about in this passage:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22 NIV

Far too many church goers think that being in the presence of a teacher qualifies as putting the Word of God in their heart. It doesn't. Not even close. If it were that easy, we could put in a CD of someone reading the word, play it over a loudspeaker on the back of a ice cream truck and change our culture radically by influencing our kids with God's message. It's not that easy. Hearing the word puts it into our ears but the only way to put it into our hearts is by integrating it's message into our lives. This requires meditation, study, prayer and practice--none of which most church goers do on any regular basis.

This, in my mind, is the number one reason why studies and surveys indicate that Christians and non-Christians have very similar behaviors (divorce, alcoholism, cheating, gossip, etc.). We're just hearing the Word without letting it change us. And the Word, without change, is just like the seed that Jesus talked about (Luke 8:4-15) that withered because it had no root or got choked out because it grew among thorns. God asks, are you really listening but, more than that, are you allowing His Word to change who you are? Without change, His Word has no lasting effect.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

I've heard it said that if you want to make God laugh, you should just tell Him your plans.

I've heard it said that if you want to make God laugh, you should just tell Him your plans. To be honest, I wonder sometimes if my plans would make God laugh or make Him cry. I'm in this stage of my life right now where I'm questioning if I'm dreaming big enough. Am I taking enough risks for the Kingdom?

I've come to very few conclusions for me personally, but I can tell you one thing that I'm sure of--God is showing me some fascinating things about my relationship with Him. What I'm finding is there is a gap between what I think it should be and what He thinks it should be. I've discovered that most of us are far too logical with our thinking in our relationship with God when, in reality, faith in God requires less logic and (dare I say it?) more foolishness. Look at most of the stories of Scripture and the heroes of their faith. Very little about what they did and the way they did it is "logical". I think we'd all agree that it takes some foolish thinking to build an ark in the desert where there has been no rain or to get out of a boat in the middle of a storm to go for a walk on the water. Why is it that our 21st century faith is so tame...so calm...so rational? Maybe the answer to that can also help us understand why most of our churches accomplish little for the kingdom and make little impact on our culture.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength....But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:25, 27

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I feel sorry for Mechelle

I feel sorry for Mechelle. To be sure, there are many who are hurt by the tragic news of Steve McNair's death over the weekend here in Nashville. Fans, teammates and other family members were caught by surprise with the breaking news this past Saturday. But my heart really goes out to Steve's wife, Mechelle.

And it's for more than the reasons you might expect. Time after time, report after report, I have watched with interest as interviews talked about Steve's life. There is no doubt that he was one of the best quarterbacks to play the game. There is no doubt that he was a wonderful leader and teammate for all of the Tennessee Titans. And you cannot argue that he had a significant impact on many lives through his foundation, his restaurant and other services to the community.

But why does it seem that everyone is avoiding the obvious fact that Steve was in a place where he shouldn't have been with a woman he shouldn't have been with? Why do interviewees want to change the subject when this is mentioned (particularly people here in Tennessee. Media from other locales seem to be more willing to discuss it.)?

Let's be clear. Steve's death is sad. So is the death of the young twenty year old mistress. But Mechelle was at home being a mother to the children as she had been all along. Steve's death happened because Steve was not where he should have been. Steve made some very poor choices...and this wasn't the first time. So, while we definitely should honor the contributions and the life of a man who did much, let's not miss the chance to learn lessons like this: it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. No matter what your contributions may be to this world, good works can never outweigh a pattern of really poor choices.

Now, Mechelle and her children will have to live a life in the shadow of that legacy. Let Steve's life teach us all important lessons.