Thursday, January 28, 2010
I once had a professor tell me that two of the worst enemies of our culture were the remote and the sitcom. The first means you never have to finish anything. You can flip from show to show without ever having to see a resolution. The second teaches us that life's problems can be resolved in about 22 minutes (by the time you take out the commercials) no matter how difficult they may seem.
Nevertheless, you read Galatians 5:22 and right smack dab in the middle of all these tremendous qualities is that word...patience. Much has been written about patience. Leonard Tolstoy said, "The two most powerful warriors are patience and time." And Benjamin Franklin wrote, "He that can have patience can have what he will." The trick to patience is...time. It has to be worked out over time, developed over time, trained into the soul over time. But our tendency is to force it, to try harder to will it to happen. It just doesn't work that way. Maybe the surfers could teach us a thing or two about it.
I'm told that surfing, if you don't know what you are doing (this would absolutely apply to me which is why you won't catch me on one of those things), can be extremely dangerous. The problem is that when a large wave takes a novice surfer under, instincts tell you fight to get back to the surface. The key, however, is to go limp and let the currents bring you to the surface. In other words, there are times to act and there are times to wait, be patient and allow the answers to your problems to surface. The result of the latter is a life lived in balance waiting on God's timing for each and every situation. Patience is a virtue...and it comes to those who are willing to wait.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
So, can you imagine the feeling Job must have had when his occurred? That's right, Job, from the Bible. I read this yesterday in my quiet time and, as I skimmed over the words, felt that same little shiver in my spine. This is God speaking...
Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Job 38:3
Yikes! Talk about intimidating. But I need that...you need that...these "good talking tos" from God. They are done because He loves us. Now, I know from experience with my kids, when you are in the middle of one of these you can have a couple of reactions. The first--cross your arms, close your ears and stare off into space. Lessons are missed. Life stays the same. You wind up losing all that you could have gained from the conversation.
The second--the much better approach--open your ears and, more important, your heart. God is speaking and it is always worth listening to. Pull yourself aside today and pray, "God, you need to talk. I need to listen." You'll be a better person for doing it.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
In the words of ESPN's Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend."
It seems that the anti-life people are at it again. Groups like the National Organization for Women (the real name should be the National Organization for Women Who Are Alive because they were fortunate to make the abortion cut) are up in arms because CBS has decided to show such a "controversial" ad. They can't believe that CBS would show something like this.
Can I just ask some pretty obvious questions:
- Why isn't NOW complaining about the "controversial" showing of this Sunday night's Grammy Awards on CBS? You know we can't all agree on who the winners should be. More important, you know they won't make it thirty minutes into this lengthy celebration before someone will drop an "F-bomb", make inappropriate jokes for the family viewing hour, or mock the holiness of the God that over 80% of Americans profess to believe. But this isn't worth talking about.
- Why doesn't NOW, since they don't want to be controversial, voluntarily remove themselves from EVERY major network's evening news? Lord knows they get far more air-time talking about their agenda than the pro-life people get talking about preserving babies. I guess anti-life sentiment gets better reviews.
- While we are eliminating controversy, why don't we block the President's State of the Union address? His approval rating is almost 30% below the support that the pro-life movement receives in our country. Surely something so controversial can't be aired for Americans to see.
No, here's the real truth. NOW (and their partners) know that the story of Tim Tebow is a direct blow to the baloney that comes from their "death agenda." On Super Bowl night, a young man who, if it were left to the choice people, would be dead by now, will stand up in front of an entire nation. His message will be that life is infinitely more important than convenience (which is what the anti-death movement is really all about). Thank God for Tim's story. It is the story of millions of other babies who were never given a chance, never given a voice. And it is a story that is well worth hearing, regardless of the radical, anti-life organizations that would want you to believe otherwise.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Last night our discussion revolved around how much those teachings (for those of us who grew up in church) have effected our understanding of the Biblical narratives. For instance, we all recalled a picture from children's Bibles that showed the slippery serpent from the Garden of Eden. He was portrayed dangling from the Tree that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from. So, for most of us, the word "serpent" and those pictures have had an impact on how we remembered the stories. But the Bible is clear that the serpent didn't slither on the ground at that point and never indicated that he was hanging from that particular tree. It's just something someone interpreted somewhere along the way.
My point? That's why it is so important that we pick up the Bible--frequently--and read these stories for ourselves. Don't take my word for it...nor anyone else's for that matter. Let the Bible teach you what God wants you to know about Himself, His plan for humanity, and His great love for you. Get it straight from the mind of God.
I hope you all are reading the Word...whether its through our 90 day challenge or just your personal time with God every day. Regardless, you've got to put the Scriptures in your life if they are ever going to have an impact. Then, maybe, when you're done, you can use that knowledge to start updating some of those old flannel graphs that are still hanging around.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
At a Touchdown Club meeting many years before his death, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant told the following story:
I had just been named the head coach at Alabama and was off in South Alabama recruiting a prospect who was supposed to have been a pretty good player and I was havin' trouble finding the place. Getting hungry I spied an old cinder block building with a small sign out front that simply said "Restaurant."
I pull up, go in and every head in the place turns to stare. Seems I'm the only white fella in the place. But the food smelled good so I skip a table and go up to a cement bar. A big ole man in a tee shirt and cap comes over and says, "What do you need?" I told him I needed lunch. He says, "You probably won't like it here, today we're having chitlins, collared greens and black eyed peas with cornbread. I'll bet you don't even know what chitlins (small intestines of hogs prepared as food in the deep South) are, do you?" I looked him in the eye and said, "I'm from Arkansas , I've probably eaten a mile of them. Sounds like I'm in the right place." They all smiled as he left to serve me up a big plate. When he comes back he says, "You ain't from around here then?"
I explain I'm the new football coach up in Tuscaloosa at the University and I'm here to find whatever that boy's name was. He says, "Yeah I've heard of him, he's supposed to be pretty good." And he gives me directions to the school so I can meet him and his coach.
As I'm paying to leave, I remember my manners and leave a tip, not too big to be flashy, but a good one. He told me lunch was on him, but I told him for a lunch that good, I felt I should pay.
The big man asked if I had a photograph or something he could hang up to show I'd been there. I was so new that I didn't have any yet. It really wasn't that big a thing back then to be asked for, but I took a napkin and wrote his name and address on it and told him I'd get him one.
I met the kid I was lookin' for later that afternoon and, I don't remember his name, but do remember I didn't think much of him. I had wasted a day, or so I thought.
When I got back to Tuscaloosa that night, I took that napkin and put it under my keys so I wouldn't forget it. Back then I was excited that anybody would want a picture of me. The next day, we found a picture and I wrote on it, "Thanks for the best lunch I've ever had."
Now, let's go a whole buncha years down the road. Now, we have black players at Alabama and I'm back down in that part of the country scouting an offensive lineman. I don't remember the name but he's got two friends going to Auburn and he tells me he's got his heart set on Auburn too. So I leave empty handed and go on see some others while I'm down there.
Two days later, I'm in Tuscaloosa and the phone rings. It's this kid who just turned me down. He says, "Coach, do you still want me at Alabama ?" I said, "Yes I sure do." He says okay he'll come. And I say, "Well son, what changed your mind?" And he said, "When my grandpa found out that I had a chance to play for you and said no, he pitched a fit and told me I wasn't going nowhere but Alabama, and wasn't playing for nobody but you. He thinks a lot of you and has ever since y'all met." Well, I didn't know his granddad from Adam's house cat so I asked him who his granddaddy was. He said, "You probably don't remember him, but you ate in his restaurant your first year at Alabama and you sent him a picture that he's had hung in that place ever since. That picture's his pride and joy and he still tells everybody about the day that Bear Bryant came in and had chitlins with him."
"My grandpa said that when you left there, he never expected you to remember him or to send him that picture, but you kept your word to him and to Grandpa, that's everything. He said you could teach me more than football and I had to play for a man like you, so I guess I'm going to."
I was floored. But I learned that the lessons my mama taught me were always right. It don't cost nuthin' to be nice. It don't cost nuthin' to do the right thing most of the time, and it costs a lot to lose your good name by breakin' your word to someone.
When I went back to sign that boy, I looked up his Grandpa and he's still running that place, but it looks a lot better now. He didn't have chitlins that day, but he had some ribs that woulda made Dreamland proud and I made sure I posed for a lot of pictures; and don't think I didn't leave some new ones for him, too, along with a signed football.
I made it clear to all my assistants to keep this story and these lessons in mind when they are out on the road. If you remember anything else from me, remember this. It really doesn't cost anything to be nice, and the rewards can be unimaginable.
~ Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant ~
Well said, Coach. It's a lesson that all of us should keep in mind as we are "on the road" in our lives. The rewards are limitless.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Job's prayer is a surprising one in Job 1:21. Its words are echoed in one of my favorite praise songs:
You give and take away, you give and take away. Still my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name.
That prayer...that song...this perspective comes from a heart that is fully centered on Christ. There is no other way to explain it. If his wealth or even his family had been Job's identity, he would have never been able to proclaim praise in the face of overwhelming oppression. But he did. The Bible says that "in all this Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing."
What about you? Where is your heart's focus? Could you proclaim that, in spite of the hurt and oppression, God is still God and His name is still worth praising? The time to decide to live rightly is now, before the storms hit. In the midst of those storms, what you cling to will show. It did for Job.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Immediately, there was backlash in the media from "experts", other theologians and streetwise pundits. The question was asked (as has been for centuries), "Why do bad things happen to good people?" After all, a loving God would not do this to these people. The same kinds of arguments follow many natural disasters in this world (e.g. the weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans). I'm not here to support or dispel one side or the other of this argument. I've got a different question in mind.
The question I'm pondering this morning is this: who am I to pretend to know what God is up to? Sometimes, because of our finite way of thinking, we believe that we can simplify God's logic down to option A or B when, in reality, God is thinking of options A to M. Who is to say that God didn't have discipline in mind when the earthquake happened? To deny this as a possibility is to ignore the God of the Old Testament, who frequently used acts (natural and otherwise) to bring discipline to His children. Maybe it's not discipline that is occurring but simply an attempt to get the attention of the world or Haiti. Maybe God allowed this to see how Christ followers all over the world (including the U. S.) would respond when they saw brothers and sisters in desperate need. Maybe a fourth or fifth or sixth option must be considered. And, here's the clincher, who is to say that God isn't able to accomplish all of these through one event because of his infinite wisdom and power.
Here's my point. Rather than acting like I can trace God's hand well enough to pronounce to the world that this is or is not His doing, how about doing what I know I can do. I can continue to pray for the people of Haiti. I can continue to give of my resources to help those in need. I can prepare my heart to be open to new opportunities for serving those poor individuals who have survived this horrible event. And...I can stop pretending like I am God and that I comprehend all that He does.
Here's the truth...there will be more tragedy, more horror and more need in this world as she continues to wind down (just go read Matthew 24). As Christ followers, we are free from having to judge, having to determine, having to make broad sweeping pronouncements. What we are not free to do is to turn our eyes away from the needs around us, whether that is a nation in turmoil or our neighbor across the street.
Monday, January 18, 2010
A few years ago, researchers from the National Institutes of Mental Health did a study that involved a simple motor task. As subjects performed a finger-tapping exercise, researchers did MRI brain scans to identify which part of the brain was involved in the exercise. The subjects were then asked to perform that simple motor task every day for four weeks. At the end of four weeks, researchers repeated that brain scan and determined that in every instance, that area of the brain had expanded. Their brains had literally recruited new nerve cells and rerouted neuronal connections.
Juxtapose that with Romans 12.
"Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
How is our mind renewed? The one word answer is Scripture. Scripture literally re-scripts our brain. As we re-read Scripture, much like the finger-tapping exercise, we are recruiting new nerve cells and rewiring neuronal connections. The end goal? Not knowledge! The end goal is the mind of Christ. As you read Scripture, you are downloading the mind of Christ. His words become our operating system.
Do you see the importance of what we are doing? We are not only downloading the mind of Christ but we are building a habit into our lives that can radically transform us for God's purposes. What kind of force for God's kingdom could Ridgeview (or any church for that matter) be if we all had the mind of Christ? Think on these things and be greatly encouraged. Christ can do this work in us.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
She continued, "So, how did Jacob conceive?"
"What?" I was confused now. "How did Jacob conceive? He didn't baby. He's a man. Men can't conceive. They just help with the whole process."
"It says over here in this part of Scripture that he conceived with his brother." Now I was downright perplexed. What version of the Bible was she reading?
Well, after a little bit of checking, I was relieved to find out what was causing her confusion. Jacob deceived his brother, Esau--not conceived with his brother. Hey, at least she is reading the Word and learning.
Now...the B90X is a lot more enjoyable than the 30 day shred (that's the day 14 part). Because of a New Year's resolution our whole family made, Jillian--the chick from The Biggest Loser--is kicking my hind end every night for 20+ minutes. It's been tough but it's great watching the kids work out and doing it as a family. With both of these challenges running at the same time, I'm learning greater personal discipline. Between the two--B90x and the 30 Day Shred--I'll survive...as long as Jacob and Esau don't start trying to conceive again.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
It seems like every time you turn around, you're seeing another example of someone not keeping their word. In fact, contracts (legally binding documents) are no longer of any value. As bad as I think this is for college football (and other sports as well), I think it sends a far worse message to the kids who hold up these men and women as their idols.
How hard is it for me as a parent to encourage my kids to be people of their word when they are constantly shown examples of how it "pays" to lie? In fact, you see examples of this every where you turn...in sports, in politics, in business, in politics (did I say that twice?).
The Bible has much to say about this. God made it clear that only words of truth should be expected, that our "yes" should be "yes" and our "no" should be "no." God has always dealt forthrightly with us. He expects us to do the same. I know that's hard. I know you don't want to have to tell the truth when it puts you in an uncomfortable situation ("Honey, do I look fat in this dress?") or when it may cost us something ("Did you really agree to pay that much for this service?") but the Bible gives example after example of how honest words lead to a clear conscious and greater blessing in the long run.
Here's where the real issue lies. Most of what our kids learn doesn't come from Lane Kiffin (thank you, Lord) or from bank CEOs or from Presidents. While they do see them as models and examples, I believe the largest contributor to the character of our kids over the long run is...us. My son will learn much more about being a man of his word from how he watches his daddy behave. My daughters are going to learn to tell the truth when they see me telling the truth...in ALL things.
Let this be a reminder to us all. We were given the responsibility of being a parent so that WE could impact our children (wonder what "Daddy Monte" is thinking about Lane's behavior and how it reflects on his parenting). When we defer that responsibility to others, we watch a culture that turns to whatever model is most prominent. Unfortunately, for today, that's Tiger Woods and Lane Kiffin. However, it's not too late to make the right choice. You can be the model for tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
With that reality comes mixed emotions. While he's still my son, he's no longer my boy. He's a young man. While I love the fact that he is maturing daily, I hate the fact that he becomes "too big for his britches." While I'm glad that he is getting smarter and learning more, I'm not excited that he thinks his dad is ignorant about some subjects in life (how many times have I heard "but Dad you don't understand...?") He bucks and snorts at the discipline that we put into his life with one breath. With the next, he recognizes that his parents have protected him from so much and blessed him abundantly.
With every year that passes, it gets easier to see that he is 100% my son. He looks like me, talks like me, gets angry like me, lives passionately like me--I absolutely love it. But it's not easy watching "me" grow up again.
This morning, I thought how much our relationship resembles that of mine to God. How I change and transform on a daily basis. I resist. I rebel. I debate God. But, with every day that passes, as long as I am willing to accept the discipline He brings to my life, I'm looking more and more like Him. One day, one day soon, I'll go from a tumbling toddler in my faith (where I feel like I am right at this moment) to being able to look Him in the eye...literally. I can't wait for that moment. And I pray that when it arrives, there will be no denying that I am 100% His.
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:26-27
I love you, Harrison. I'm very proud to be your coach...your father...your friend...your biggest fan! I'm still praying that you grow up to change the world by being more like your Heavenly Father. You can start by doing your homework and a load of laundry.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Yesterday, we celebrated another year of stories, victories and accomplishments through God's grace and power. But it was a celebration of what God has enabled us to do these last five years as an RCC family. I am thankful for your giving, serving, going, loving, preparing, worshiping, growing and seeking. This year, I'm praying that God gives us more of the same only on a greater scale. I pray He gives us more energy to go and a bigger heart to serve Him. By the end of year six, I want us to know Him better, love Him more and reflect Him more purely. I promise you, everything we give to God will be used for His glory and we will not be disappointed.
Maybe you've seen this somewhere along the way but I love it's message.
Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave in a well-preserved body, but rather, to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting out loud, "...Man! What a ride!"
This is the most exciting life one can live--this life that's used up and poured out for Christ. I pray you learn to live it this year.
P.S. If you get a chance, check out my wife's new blog at www.lisadbarron.blogspot.com She's a better writer than I am anyway :)
Thursday, January 07, 2010
As bad as that was, the school system called off school before one flake of the white stuff had fallen. My kids would have been in their second period classes before we had the first hint of snow. An hour after it began, the snow is almost done at my place.
But I have a theory. It's one of those conspiracy things. You see, I think they are all in it together: the weather people, the school people and the grocery chains. (If you live anywhere in the Sun Belt, you know where I am headed with this.) I think that somewhere in the national Kroger or Publix headquarters, some guy looks at milk and bread sales and decides they are a little low. He calls his buddy at the Weather Channel. Those guys flip that infamous coin to decide which days they will predict the white stuff. In turn, they call the schools and get them to cancel all classes for "effect." I mean, no one would question the school systems, right?
Before you know it, you have happy kids, unhappy parents, a prediction of 4 inches and a mad rush on the stores (because we all know that 1/2 inch of snow means that the stores can't restock their shelves and the inability to drive for a few hours means we will absolutely starve). The night before, EVERY line in EVERY store is filled. They are buying milk, batteries, flashlights, bread, and canned goods for the seven hours it will take for the roads to get cleared by both of Williamson Counties snow plows. (My cynicism grows...)
Don't laugh. It's possible. I hear the stores are working on a "global warming" angle to boost their summer sales....
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Read the article from January 6, 2010 entitled "If You Can Find a Better Deal, Take It."
A little background for those of you who aren't in the Franklin area. Our church is partnering with LifePoint Church over in Smyrna, TN to put a team of Christ-followers in Thailand. That team will be working with local college students (and others) to introduce them to Christ through conversations, interactions and community. Last week, we sent the team down to Atlanta for some final training over the next few months before they head overseas. They were to arrive this past weekend, enter into furnished housing and begin their training and interaction with the international community there. Problems began almost immediately upon their arrival, not the least of which was an apartment fire in the building next to theirs. The final straw came when Fire Department personnel could not turn heat and hot water back on due to codes violations. Our families were experiencing the coldest winter in years (so much for global warming theories) with no heat or warm water for their kids.
So, early this week, the team was scrambling to find suitable housing for all of these families. That came some time early on Tuesday morning. The problem? None of the units was furnished and these families had sold all of their furniture in preparation for their move.
That brings me to yesterday afternoon. It's late in the day when both of our churches got the word that the team had housing but no beds or other furniture. Our respective staffs went into action and that's when the body of Christ really starts to show off. We sent an email to the RCC family around 3:30 to let them know of the needs of our missionary family. By 5:30 p.m. we had received donations for every single item on the list but one...and that one item was receiving cash donations to purchase that item. LifePoint Church had seen the same kind of response. By 7:30 last night (Tuesday) we had completely furnished an apartment for a family of five. I even had one church member say today that they received the second e-mail saying "No more donations. We've got everything taken care of" before she had even read the first asking for assistance.
That's what a pastor loves to see. You guys are awesome. When a need arises, you step up and step in and blow away expectations. Talk of depressed economy and lower budgets means nothing. When it comes time to minister, you really, really shine. That's why I love being the pastor of RCC. You really get it what it means to influence our community for Christ
(P.S. I'm sure Pastor Pat over in Smyrna is saying the same thing this morning. By the way, if you're looking for a great church or a place to take your lost friends and you live over in that area of Middle Tennessee, look no further. LifePoint is an awesome fellowship. Of course, if you live in Franklin, you've got to go no further than RCC to find that kind of fellowship. You might expect a proud pastor to say that. )
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
A couple of summers back, we borrowed a friends GPS on a trip to Virginia to see family. As with most, you could choose the kind of voice you wanted to hear as it gave you commands. We chose a British woman and decided to name her. The name we came up with was Amelia--in honor of one of the greatest female pilots in American history (at the time, I was driving a Honda Pilot. Catching the connection here?) Before that trip was over with, Amelia was on Lisa's last nerve. Her constant directions, instructions and corrections were just too much for Lisa, who usually prefers a quieter drive while on vacation.
Thus, the tremendous sacrifice she made by inviting "Amelia" into my truck on a more permanent basis.
I got to thinking about this GPS as I was driving to visitation for a funeral service at a local church last night, one that I wasn't familiar with the location. Because of traffic, I turned on a road just before the one Amelia had chosen. Amelia didn't like that and immediately announced, "Recalculating. Please make a U-turn as soon as it is safe." Fortunately, I knew where I was and eventually made it to my location.
But how many times do you and I choose to ignore God when He is offering us direction? He has a plan marked out for us (Jeremiah 29:11) but we choose to follow our on way (Proverbs 3:5-6). No matter how many times He gets it "right" we still decide that we somehow know far more than He does. We think we know the shortcuts--the way around the traffic jams of life--but we usually wind up with a bigger mess than we could have foreseen. The good thing about our "ignorance" is that God is much like Amelia...His grace allows U-turns.
Monday, January 04, 2010
For Lombardi, that literally meant starting the first practices of each season by holding a ball aloft and saying, "This, gentlemen, is a football."
Wooden, according to stories, would take it even further, teaching his guys how to tie their shoes correctly and how to put on their socks before each game so as not to get blisters. They left nothing to chance and, along the way, managed to produce champion after champion.
Ridgeview is going back to basics this year. We are putting a stronger emphasis on the little things that matter most in our Christian growth: prayer, Bible reading and study, and sharing our stories of faith with one another.
I am praying this will be a year that we go further than we ever have and give more than we have ever given--all for the cause of Christ. Will you join me in praying "the basics" for 2010 at RCC? Will you commit to pray for your staff and each other? Will you commit to read the Bible every single day without fail? And will you offer to share your story of your personal journey with at least one person each month? (It's not a rhetorical question, people. I'm wanting to hear from you as we begin 2010)