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Monday, November 23, 2009

We will begin our Thanksgiving travels in less than 24 hours.

We will begin our Thanksgiving travels in less than 24 hours. That means several things. First, it's time for me to start packing. I've waited just long enough for Lisa to start worrying that I won't get it done. Seriously, how long does it take to pack underwear and socks? Second, there probably won't be any new posts for the next week. Sorry, I know how much you look forward to the words of wit and wisdom that spill from this page. Thirdly, there are just a few, very short hours to lose more weight so I can eat more turkey--a feat I am sure will not be accomplished. But neither will it keep me from eating the "sacred bird." So, in honor of the last blog before the holiday, I thought I'd share a few random thoughts that have very little meaning but might make you smile really big before you face ALL of the family later this week:
  • According to a recent study, five out of four people have trouble with fractions.
  • If practice makes perfect and nobody is perfect, then why practice?
  • If it's true that we are put here to help others, then what are all the others here for?
  • How come no one ever says "it's only a game" when there team is winning?
  • If ladies can have PMS then why can't men have ESPN?
  • When blondes have more they know it?
  • What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
  • Why is it called a soap opera when nobody on the show sings?
  • Does a lightning rod on top of a church show a lack of faith or a sign of how bad things are on the inside?
  • How can a coffin have a lifetime guarantee? Isn't the "lifetime"already over?
  • Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these little dangly things at the bottom and drink what comes out?"
  • Isn't it true that the word "politics" comes from the Latin word "poli" which means "many" and "tics" which means "blood-sucking pests?"
  • Isn't Disney World just a people trap that's been set by a giant mouse? (that one is for my kids as we head to Disney later this week).

On a more serious note and in keeping with our upcoming holiday, here's a great thought for the day we set aside to "give thanks."

Thanksgiving Day comes by statute, once a year but to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow. Edward Sanford Martin

I pray that you and your family enjoy your time of Thanksgiving together. I also pray that we develop hearts of gratitude that allow us to live lives of thanks in every day. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just got done with one of my regular monthly meetings.

I just got done with one of my regular monthly meetings. It's one of the ones I enjoy the most. It's with a group of pastors here in the county where we live. I love sharing and laughing with these guys. I'm reminded what it means to serve for God's glory and not our own. I get to see a glimpse of their hearts and understand better what drives them. In those moments, I am very thankful for each one of them and for the passion with which they lead their churches. It's not easy being called to do what we do.

That got me thinking about this thought. After spending a couple of hours together sharing and encouraging one another, I asked myself, "I wonder what their people are doing to encourage each of them? Do they even understand the pressure under which their pastors operate?"

So, here's my thought for you today. If you are a church attender, here's a list of ways you can encourage your pastor wherever you are (hopefully some of you go to their church):
  • Ask. Rather than assuming you know what he needs, ask him. Then, be prepared to listen.
  • Come to church regularly. You see, a pastor is called to serve because God sees a man who will care for his people. We do care. Regardless of what you may think. And when you aren't there, it's like a part of our family is missing. Be there, in your place, on a regular basis.
  • Treat him normal. Don't place unreal expectations on him or his family. He's called to be your pastor, not Superman. Joke with him, laugh with him and give him a break if he isn't constantly in the best of moods. He is a human being.
  • Respect him. This is biblical. Your pastor deserves an extra measure of respect because he will some day have to answer to God for how he lead God's church. But you will some day have to answer to God for how difficult you made that job for him. (Ouch!)
  • Love him. Faults and all. And, yes, he does have plenty of faults. So does his family.
  • Balance. If you are going to feel free to criticize him (you know you do it every Sunday after church on the way to the restaurant) then feel equally free to encourage and compliment him. In fact, it takes one hundred positive comments to outweigh one negative one. You better get busy. Why don't you start right now? NO... seriously, right now.
  • Know that you don't know everything. You don't know every issue he is handling right now. You don't know the secrets he has been told that he is carrying around. You don't know what the phone call was about at midnight last night. And you have to remember, he deals with this on top of his own family's concerns.
  • Help in the little ways. How about buying his family lunch one Sunday or offering to cut his grass one week? How about taking his kids so he can have a date night with his wife? Wash his car one Saturday without him knowing or buy his family tickets to some cool event that you know they would enjoy. Just the little things help remove a ton of weight. Looking at the faces of my some of my brothers today, they could use it.
  • Above all else and in addition to everything I've mentioned, never fail to pray for him. I guarantee he will love you for that.

Before I end, I've got to say thank you to my Ridgeview family. I came into the office after the meeting and told Pastor Eddie, "I love my church. I am so thankful God has me with these people." You love your pastors well...but you can always do a little better GRIN

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The first time I heard of Hernando Cortes was in 7th grade.

The first time I heard of Hernando Cortes was in seventh grade. My Social Studies teacher told a fascinating story of this Spanish explorer. In 1519, anxious to uncover the treasures of the Mexican mainland, Cortes formed a small force of 600 men to land on the Yucatan peninsula. His goal was to capture the treasures that had been in the hands of the Aztecs for more than 500 years. Maybe you've heard bits and pieces of this story...

Cortes was successful in conquering the Aztecs and doing what no other army had ever been able to do, capture the treasures of Mexico. While I don't approve of Cortes' motives, I think there is much to learn about goals from what Cortes did.

First, he devoted his life to this singular mission and did not allow himself to become distracted. Despite the protest of many who did not want him to proceed or the presence of obvious difficulties if he did, Cortes confidently moved forward with his plan. He made it his life's mission.

Secondly, he surrounded himself with others who had a similar goal. Six hundred men joined him on this expedition. It is said that he hand selected and "interviewed" each of the men who were chosen for this journey. He didn't want the people surrounding him to keep him from the goal.

Finally, he was wholehearted in his commitment to this journey. Cortes sold his houses and wealth. He paid for the ships and the men with his own money. He revoked previous titles he held in Cuba. And, just to prove his point, he went the extra mile to show his devotion to the mission. When Cortes' men landed on the Yucatan peninsula, a few of them had started to grumble. They were less than satisfied with the quest to that point. Some who months earlier had said that they believed God wanted them on this journey, were now saying God had told them to turn back (sounds like a lot of church attenders I know--be careful what you blame on God). So, to make sure he had their attention and devotion at the level it needed to be, Cortes gave a simple, three-word command: "Burn the ships!"

Cortes turned things up a notch for he and his men that day. Perhaps that is why they became unstoppable and accomplished what no other army had done in 500 years. Perhaps that's what we need in our churches today--a whole-hearted devotion and a singleness of purpose that says, "Burn the ships. This our mission. This is our destination. We will not turn back."

Many of us still have ships floating in the harbor--excuses, justifications, failures and fears that keep our focus off of God's glory and on ourselves. We aren't singular in our focus. We believe that we can be the best at everything and obtain all we want. It's a human impossibility. But most important, those ships are escapes. They represent a willingness to turn back from the mission that God has given you. It's become to easy to walk out on your marriage, to quit your job, to turn your back on your friends and family. Burn the bridges. Don't leave a door through which Satan can come in. Set your eyes on the prize and always move forward...there is a treasure that awaits you.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My mom used to have an old book called "The Torch is Passed."

My mom used to have an old book called "The Torch is Passed." It was a look--through words and pictures--into the brief days in office of President John Kennedy. Being a history lover, there were many days I would simply plop down on the couch in our living room and flip through the book. It told the story of Kennedy's rise to the Presidency as well as the tragic accounts of his assassination. As a boy, I was fascinated. There were cool stories and pictures that captured my imagination. But, there was one photo in particular that stuck in my mind. (Honestly, I recall that it was from this book but it's been many years since I picked it up off of her coffee table.)

It was a picture of President Kennedy, in the Oval Office, surrounded by members of his administration. There were suits and ties and uniforms. It was evident that they were in the midst of serious discussions. In the foreground, sat John-John, Kennedy's toddler son, an obvious contrast to the dignified scene behind him. He was sitting on his dad's desk, oblivious to the breach of protocol he had created. And no one seemed to care...

I thought about that this morning. Funny how certain words or songs bring images to your mind. It was Romans 8 where Paul says that we have been given the right to call God "Abba, Father." The term is one that signifies deep intimacy and familiarity. This suggestion was a complete breach of protocol for a people who feared to even write the name of God. But what it said to all those who read Paul's words was have been invited to draw near to God. He desires closeness with you. Think about it. John-John never hesitated a moment when he swung open the doors to the Oval Office. There was no fear or shame because he knew the man on the other side of the door had given him an open invitation to come. He was, after all, his daddy.

That invitation is there for each of us. God, our Daddy, invites us into this fantastic relationship where we have full access to Him--any time, any place, without fear. We have been moved from servant to son, from distant follower to walking closely with our God. I hope you are taking the opportunity to enjoy full access to the Creator today.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Good leaders can be hard to find.

Good leaders can be hard to find. So, when you come across them, you better be ready to show proper appreciation and respect for who they are and what they bring to the table. I know a good thing when I see it. I am very blessed to be surrounded with some incredible leaders in our fellowship at Ridgeview. There are men and women from a range of backgrounds who truly have a heart for God and want to see Ridgeview become all that God has destined it to be. They are one very LARGE reason why Ridgeview is what she is today...and what she will be tomorrow.

Yesterday I read this great quote:
You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Being part of a church plant is not easy. In fact, many have fallen away from the vision as this church has continued to move forward. Their reasons have varied: too much accountability (that's an interesting one--deserves a blog all to itself), not growing fast enough, growing too fast, no children's choirs, no _________ (fill in the blank).

Now, take the courage required to move "away from the shore" and multiply it times five when you choose to lead in that setting. You take on the vision and future of a group of people and say, "Hey, follow me. I don't know what waits along this journey but I can promise you that the end destination will be well worth the trip."

So "thank you" to all the leaders at Ridgeview--staff, leadership team, and servant leaders. Thank you for having the vision and courage to discover new oceans. The journey may get rough sometimes but no one who has ever waded in new waters ever regretted the journey. I love you and am thankful to be serving alongside of each of you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tom Brokaw called them "The greatest generation."

Tom Brokaw called them "the greatest generation." It was a reference to the men and women who survived the Great Depression and went on to fight in the largest conflict planet Earth has seen to this point. They were men and women just like you and me who understood the value of freedom and that those freedoms should not just be guaranteed for Americans, but for all who were under the tyranny of Hitler, Hirohito and Mussolini. So, they left the farms, the factories and their families to take on the threats that faced the world. They were selfless, ambitious, young and a little bit crazy. But they loved America and were willing to do anything to insure that her light continued to shine brightly for the generations that followed.

Flash forward 60 plus years. It's a completely different culture we live in. One that quite literally confuses the minds of those from that great generation who are still living. It's a world where we scream about rights but refuse to acknowledge that those rights do not come without sacrifice. They do not come without a willingness to take responsibility. We are raising generation after generation of people who just don't know what liberty means...or at what cost it comes.

We have young adults who will herald a Hollywood "star" because they speak up about some issue. These same young adults refuse to support the troops who live and die so that star can speak without fear. Our kids believe that this world revolves around them and their comforts. They confuse wants with needs and rights with privileges. They don't understand the value of a life lived well--one that chooses to live for others rather than for themselves.

No one knows what the future of this nation really holds. I can tell you this. The longer we live believing that we deserve everything without it costing us anything, the more dangerous our culture becomes. The more we believe that it is the responsibility of a government to do what only individuals should do for themselves, the greater the likelihood that we will find ourselves slipping into the apathetic morass that was Nazi Germany. I believe our fathers and grandfathers deserve more. They were the ones who stormed the shores at Normandy. They flew the B-52s that silenced the guns of the Empire of Japan. They bled on the shores of Sicily, Dunkirk, and Iwo Jima. They led the offensive at Tet, stood in the face of communism and are guarding the barren sands of Afghanistan and Iraq. This Veteran's Day, their blood cries out, "Will you remember the Alamo, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam and the Twin Towers?"

May we never forget that freedom comes with a price and that price is too high to sacrifice our liberties for comfort, for convenience or because we no longer care enough to carry the banner.

On this Veteran's Day, I want to say "thank you" to every young man and woman who has ever proudly worn the uniform of the United States of America. Whether it was peace time or war, your sacrifices are what has made us great. May we always remember the cost of freedom...

Monday, November 09, 2009

My wife, Lisa, has lots of little quotes and phrases she likes to use.

My wife, Lisa, has lots of little quotes and phrases she likes to use. I think I've written on this blog before about her reference to the Devil as "hairy butt Satan." That's one of my personal favorites. This morning, I found myself reading a passage of Scripture that serves as the origin of one of her others. Here it is:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:1,3 NIV

Lisa likes to use that phrase...a lot. "Beauty from ashes," she will say as she works to encourage a friend or a woman who is going through a difficult time. Of course, what she is referring to is the Lord's ability--not to mention His willingness--to take what appears to be a lost cause and make it worthwhile. God loves to show His favor by taking the wrong and correcting it and by taking our sadness and filling us with joy.

As I was reflecting on that passage this morning, I wondered aloud to myself, "Who wouldn't want that?" Seriously, think about that. Why would anyone not desire beauty over ashes, gladness over mourning and praise over despair? I think the answer is obvious. But many days, we choose the opposite. We choose to listen to an enemy--er, hairy butt Satan--as he whispers words of defeat and despair in our ears. And, if he does it to those of us who are Christ followers, how much more must he do it to those who do not know God? Satan uses accusations and his venomous lies to keep us down and defeated.

Lift up your eyes, the Scriptures tell us. He has turned our mourning into dancing. Now, we have the incredible privilege of sharing this message of hope with those whose lives are filled with nothing but ashes. Our God is a God of joy. Don't let them live one more day without knowing it:

Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land and everlasting joy will be theirs. Isaiah 6:7 NIV

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What might have been?

What might have been? Those are some of the most haunting thoughts that an individual can have. What might have been if only this had not happened? What might have been if I had chosen more wisely? What might have been if I had not listened to them? You know the feeling--it's a sinking one. We use that 20/20 hindsight to discover that the path we chose was neither wise nor profitable. God was not honored and now we are left with the pieces of...well, you know. You've been there. Maybe you're still there.

It happened to many of the well known heroes of Scripture. I'm thinking specifically of Samson today. Samson was destined for greatness from birth. He would deliver the Israelites from their long time nemesis--the Philistines. He would be God's man for this period in Israelite history. Oh, what might have been.

Then you get to five of the most disappointing words in Scripture at the end of Judges 16:19: ...And his strength left him.

All the promises and blessings are gone because Samson chose to listen to Delilah rather than to God. Every dream he had, every vision he longed to fulfill, was ripped away in the moment that he chose wrongly. But just as it is with all of us who have fallen, Samson is reminded of the grace of God. He's in prison at the hands of his captors. Eyes are gouged out and he's put to work grinding in a prison. It's there that we see the evidence of a God who restores (even those who have fallen so far). Verse 22 of that same chapter says, "But the hair on his head began to grow again..."

Isn't that cool? God's disappointment doesn't last forever. Yes, Samson had failed. He had chosen wrongly. So there had to be consequences. God had to teach his child that such mistakes wouldn't work. But God initiated grace...he caused Samson's hair (the sign of God's presence in his life NOT the source of his strength. God was the source) to grow. It was the original hair club for men. Only this one wasn't to attract ladies or make Samson feel better about himself. It was a sign that God would not forget Samson. He would restore him and allow him to finish his assignment. It was a reminder that you can never fall so far that God cannot find you.

Sounds good, huh? The promises of God restored to those of us who fail. The promise that he will never leave us where we are. He loves us too much. Choose rightly. Choose grace...then watch as the power is restored to your life. The hair will begin to grow again...and you will know God's presence again.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

This is good stuff. I wish I had written it.

This is good stuff. I wish I had written it. But it comes from a friend of mine.

"Did you know that Jesus was invited to parties? Jesus influenced the lives of other by 'doing life' with people. As part of our training, we are being challenged to develop our ministry strategy. We are learning to go where people are and share Christ's love with them within their own groups. We are praying that small Bible study groups/churches will emerge from these groups. God is transforming our traditional thoughts on church and ministry."

Here's the interesting thing. If you've been at Ridgeview or around me for any length of time, you've heard us talk about these very same things. Doing life together. Re-thinking our strategies for sharing Jesus with the lost. Transforming our thoughts. But, get this. This isn't a friend in Nashville or at a large church in a metro area. These are friends of mine who are missionaries in Poland.

The reason this is so interesting to me is that the "strategy" is a timeless one and breaks across all borders and barriers. It's the way that Jesus shared His love with others and the way that we should be doing the same. We do this by learning to love people where they are. We accomplish it by getting away from this idea that we are coming to rescue those in need when, in reality, we are just hungry people showing others where to find the bread. We are NOT the rescuers. We are the rescued who are pointing the way. It's not about who is right or wrong, who is left or right-wing, or who is Democrat or Republican. In our "rightness" we can be so wrong that the love of Christ is never conveyed to the ones who do not know Him.

Here's my challenge to you, Christ follower. Are you really ready to be like Christ? Do you really desire to see others transformed and rescued? Change your mentality from "us" v. "them" to all of "us" needing "Him" and see how that perspective enables you to carry out the Great Commission.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Forget the levels of hell taught by some religions or the mythological labyrinth of Greek origins.

Forget the levels of hell taught by some religions or the mythological labyrinth of Greek origins. The Ridgeview staff has just survived the Customer Service line at Sam's Wholesale. Oh my word!

The idea was that I would drop two of our guys off to renew our membership after lunch. A simple procedure, I thought. The form was already completed. The check was made out for the correct amount. So the two of them slipped inside while our media guy and I sat in the truck and talked. After several minutes, I get a phone call. It's Eddie. They need me inside because they can't make changes without the primary account holder. (How I got that honor, I'm not quite sure.)

Upon arriving at the desk, I am informed by representative that Eddie is listed as my spouse. Okay, this is ridiculous. I mean, I like the guy and everything, but we ain't sharing the same refrigerator if you know what I mean. After making that quick correction, I am informed that our account has been set up illegally. Apparently this is a great offense on par with climbing the perimeter fence at the White House. The only way we can set it up is to add more free cards and rearrange the way the primaries and secondaries are set up. Keep in mind, the account has been set up this way for almost five years now. This isn't a new account. It's been in their computer this way almost as long as I have been standing in their customer service line.

I'll shorten the story for you.

Before it's all over with, I am told the only way to set up the account is for Pam (Eddie's wife) to be living with me. I politely inform my new friend (I figure after 30 minutes with her that we could at least say we are friends. I feel like we go way back) that I already have a wife and four kids, I don't need another person living in my house. She didn't like my humor.

There it is. That's my afternoon at Sam's. Nothing particularly spiritual aside from the great amounts of patience I developed inside the "warehouse." But while I was at Sam's, it turned Fall, my kids promoted a grade in school and my wife and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary. But seriously, we will get our wholesale prices doggone it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Maybe you've heard the popular definition of insanity.

Maybe you've heard the popular definition of insanity--to do the same thing the same way and expect different results. By this definition, I'd say many of us border on insanity in the spiritual part of our lives. We run through our lives at breakneck speed. We focus on our wants and our needs. We complain when things don't go exactly the way we think they should. And, tomorrow, we will get up and do it all over again. Most of us would admit that we lack the peace that Scripture talks about. There is an unsettled presence in our spirit that tells us that there should be more to life than living at this pace.

Years ago, a very dear friend of mine challenged me to memorize this verse:
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You. Isaiah 26:3 NLT

There is a simple remedy to the madness. It starts by focusing your life around Jesus. That's not an easy task in a world that has become focused on distracting us from this very thing. Don't get down when you find that you are focusing on the wrong thing. Use this as a place to get back on track and turn your focus on Him.

Next, learn to accept everything that comes into your life. It doesn't mean that it has to stay that way. Just understand the truth of Romans 11:36 that says all things come through Him. Then trust Him to give you the grace, peace, patience and strength to handle ALL things.

Finally, leave tomorrow in the hands of God. He has already seen what is to come. He has promised to go before you. You and I must trust that He will never allow tomorrow to be more than we can handle. Stay steadfast and know that He is God.