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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Praying hard

Our current sermon series at Ridgeview has been a lot of fun. But it's had more than its fair share of "ouch" moments. You know what I am talking about? Those moments where God gets my attention by poking and prodding at those sensitive areas of my heart. Two areas where God has been prompting me are this...prayer and His imminence.

Now, I've always believed in God's imminence (the aspect that God is here and actively involved in life). There has never been a doubt that God is near and strongly desires to be a part of my life on a daily basis. I've just recently been reminded about how much God wants to be involved in the smallest of details. Our tendency--at least mine--is to trust God with those really big things and try to take care of the small stuff ourselves. But the Old Testament reveals--all of Scripture reveals--that God wants to be involved in all areas of our life. The irony is that my life would be so much easier if I would simply let Him do what He wants to do there.

Most of that happens through prayer. Once again, I've always believed in prayer, trusted in its power. But reading and teaching these books of the Old Testament has made me more aware of the ongoing "conversation" that occurs between God and His people. It's not an on again, off again kind of thing. It is truly a moment-by-moment communication between a Creator and His people.

Here's the really cool thing...the more I talk with Him, the more imminent He becomes, the more active He is in my life and the easier things are for me, even in the worst of situations. This is why Satan works so hard to keep us busy. I just jumped on Facebook to reply to a message and I scrolled through the status updates. There were calls for the end of the week, a couple of them asking for some alcohol relief from the stress (hey, not all my friends abstain from drinking. Some are Baptist deacons) and others referenced their hectic schedules. Is it any wonder that the Enemy keeps us defeated? It's because He keeps us from praying and inviting God to do what God so desperately wants to do. Some lessons, it seems, are just harder to learn.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The cost of sin

I read this interesting little tidbit of news yesterday in an article my father-in-law had shared with me. It seems that the full rack of ribs at Outback Steakhouse has more calories than fifteen (that's right one followed by a five) Krispy Kreme doughnuts. That's amazing!

That got me thinking three things:
1. I can go eat ten Krispy Kreme doughnuts now and feel like I am on a diet.
2. How many people go into that place ordering--not just ribs--but fries/baked potato along with a salad? They probably have no stinking clue that they have just sucked down the equivalent of probably three dozen doughnuts.
3. Isn't that meal just like the sin we face?

I have a friend who likes to drop down into his best evangelist voice from time-to-time and say something like this..."Sin will take you farther than you want to go, make you stay longer than you want to stay and make you pay more than you want to pay."

But boy it sure looks good when it's coming, doesn't it? Consider this. Do you think that very many people would walk into Chili's or Ruby Tuesday's or Outback to order ribs if they knew that there were that many calories in the meal. Oh, there would still be those who chose to partake but not nearly as many. So, Satan, being the wise enemy he is, dresses sin up, covers it with sauce and puts it with a side of fries. He's not about to tell you up front that you'll have to pay a price. Think about that the next time sin entices you. It may look good for a season but the consequences are never worth the price.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The price of a good heart

In the never ending pursuit of a healthy heart, Lisa has graduated me from just better eating to the 30 Day Shred and, now, the P90X fitness program. It's for that reason that I found myself in the floor of our bonus room last night, my body contorted into shapes and forms that I didn't know were physically possible. (I heard "downward facing dog" so many times I thought I would puke) At one point, I was on my head (literally) both feet high up in the air, trying my best to stop laughing at myself because I was afraid I might pull something...uh, something else. But I made it through and, today, I'm feeling pretty good about myself. It is, after all, the price you pay for a good heart.

This morning, I was thinking about another aspect of the heart--one that is equally as deadly as the plaque that can build up in your arteries. Pride, just like a clogged artery, can sneak up on you and leave you paralyzed before you ever know it's there. It chokes your ability to hear from God, skews your rational thinking and has the potential to ravage your personal relationships. English writer and critic, John Ruskin once wrote, "In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes."

So, how do we battle pride? Might I suggest a little stretching? Seriously. Stretch yourself. Take journeys to places you've never been. Read things (particularly the Bible) that challenge your thinking. Ask others to be honest and rate your humility...and then humbly hear what they have to say. Look at the world from a different view (I recommend God's) and let it stretch the way you think and feel. Finally, the best stretch of all, on your knees. Because humility is granted to those who will seek it, ask for it, desire it from God. I call that stretch "the downward kneeling follower." GRIN

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2 NIV

Monday, February 15, 2010


WARNING: The following blog comes with a lot of openness and transparency. Hope you are prepared to hear it.

I blew Valentine's Day. Bad. It wasn't just an off day or a bad day. As far as Valentines goes, it was just short of the Valentine's Day massacre. I won't go into all of the details (my wife and kids deserve their privacy). I'll just say this...I was graphically reminded why I need God's grace so desperately.

This "work in progress" still has so much ground to cover. Probably more than I recognize or care to admit. But after my frustrating day and a restless night, I really needed God to love me in a very demonstrative way this morning. I wasn't feeling very lovely as the day began. So, as Lisa and I began our morning with our quiet time, this is what we read,

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

God is great but sometimes life just isn't very good. Those are the times that we need his greatness the most. I just had to say that this morning. I know there are those of you out there who live life under the overwhelming weight of guilt or sin or depression. Lean heavily on Christ and His grace. It is more than enough to sustain you. May you feel the strong and powerful arms of Christ embracing you this day. For He is more than enough for your need...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Drawing closer

I finished lunch just a few hours ago. I'm not sure what it was that I ate but something has me thirsty, really thirsty. I'm craving some of that bottled water from the refrigerator here in the office. So, I kind of laughed when I read the following passage in my Bible just a few seconds ago:

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 NIV

I asked myself, "Is this really the way we approach God?" I mean, is my desire for Him one of want...or genuine need. I worry that most Christ followers, especially the American variety, live our lives as practical deists. We believe in God and even believe that He created the world. However, when it comes to our day-to-day existence, we live as if He has no desire nor interest to be close to us or involved with us.

Or maybe we'd rather that He not be.

Let's be honest. Having a God that's holy and pure involved in our lives every day could be a little scary, a little intimidating...a little transforming. And that's exactly why God says He wants us to draw close. He wants to transform us. God's presence in our lives isn't meant to be a deterrent to evil (although it does that very thing), rather it's meant to be a bridge to hope and purpose and love.

The promise of Scripture is that drawing close to God drives out fear, brings us security and changes who we are all the way down to our core. That kind of "close" only comes through intentional seeking though. It doesn't happen by chance and it doesn't happen in one hour on a weekend. It's through a daily desire--no, it's an hourly one--to find our satisfaction in Him. Just like with my thirst, there is only one thing that will really make a difference. If you've ever been thristy, you know what I mean.

In Proverbs 8:17, God says, "I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Something to remember

We all have dreams and visions. We all have plans about things we want to do or accomplish before this life is over. But at the end of the day, we don't know the significant things we will do until long after they are done.

For example, Abraham Lincoln is well known for many things, not the least of which was his Gettysburg Address. It is commonly known, however, that President Lincoln did not set out to deliver a speech that would be remembered centuries later. In fact, that fateful day, Lincoln was the second level speaker on the agenda. He jotted down his notes for the speech on the train ride to Gettysburg. It wasn't till long after the speech was delivered and Lincoln had been assassinated that the speech began to gain its fame.

Here is what I know and have learned. Trying to make your mark in this world is not worth giving your life for. But trying to make a mark for God in this world is worth every second of your life. We can try so hard and do so many things hoping to accomplish our agendas. They simply don't matter. As I have been constantly reminded by many sources, only what is done for God will last. In addition, we will never know the full impact of our choices--no one will--till long after we are gone. That's why Jesus taught us to pray daily, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done." Only through that prayer can we be perfectly situated to carry out his will for our lives.

"It's not about You being a part of my story, Lord. It's about me being a part of yours." Andy Stanley

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


One of the goals I set for myself is to purposely take the time to thank those who have invested in my life. I got that chance last week while I was in South Georgia.

We were just about to begin the graveside portion of my aunt's funeral, the portion I would be leading. I noticed him working his was from the back of the crowd towards an open area on my left. He wasn't as agile as he once was. He didn't move with the quickness I remembered as a teenager. But there was no denying it was him. Other than the gray hair, he looked much the same.

I wanted to walk over to him immediately and speak (it's been my desire to do this for over 20 years) but the funeral director had just nodded to let me know it was time to begin. As we completed the service, I tried to make my way over to him but was intercepted by a flood of family that I had not seen in a long time, for some it had been over three decades. So, I did the only thing I knew to do...I sent Lisa to make sure that he didn't get away. "Who is it you're talking about?" she asked. Motioning over my right shoulder to the gentleman standing with my cousins, I said simply, "Coach."

That's what he was to me. Coach. To others, he was Ronnie or the McNeese boy or the history teacher...but the word I chose to use (choose to this day) reflects a respect for who he was and what he did in my life.

It was the Spring of my junior year and, thanks to the hell that my current football coach had put me through, I was walking away from a sport I dearly loved and had played for 10 straight years. He (the former coach) had told me he hated me, hated my family and didn't care if I ever played. What a joy!!

Summer came. I got a job working with a crop duster. Instead of my normal summer workouts and football camp, I spent many minutes debating the choice I made, even crying because I knew how much I'd miss playing the game. Then, late in July, I got a phone call from Coach McNeese. The old coach was gone--fired--much to everyone's relief. Coach McNeese had been promoted from assistant to head coach. He simply was calling to say he'd love to have me back out for one more year if I was interested.

That year turned out to be one of the best of my life. Coach McNeese took a rag tag bunch of boys who weren't supposed to do much all the way to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. More important, he reflected character, value and strength that most of those boys had never had the pleasure of seeing on a field of competition. He changed the way I looked at myself, made me believe I could do whatever he asked me to do. We shared a great season. For that I am glad. He invested in me (and a lot of other guys) and for that I am eternally grateful.

Last week, for the first time since I walked across a stage 25 years ago, I got to look "Coach" in the face and tell him how much I loved and respected him. It was a classic moment, one they like to replay in movies and stuff. And, for Coach (25 years and two hip replacements later), I pray that it strengthened him to know that his life mattered probably far more than he ever imagined to this young man. Way to go, Coach. You are the stuff that champions are made of.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Did you see the ad?

I'm talking about Tebow's "controversial" pro-life ad from last night's Super Bowl. Talk about much ado about nothing, the furor raised over that 30 second spot was say the least. Tebow's ad with his mom was an effective and inoffensive celebration of his mom's choice not to abort him years ago. Why the pro-death movement felt like it deserved all that attention is beyond me...or is it?

You see, their problem with the Focus on the Family sponsored ad was not its content. No. The problem is that choice is good, in their mind, as long as women are choosing death. When a woman weighs the options (and Pam Tebow had been given them all) and chooses--rightly--to let the baby live, pro-deathers become furious. "How in the world can someone be so naive as to make that choice?" they ask. "How could anyone with all the information decide to let that baby live?"

Let me give you a few reasons--faith, hope and love. Not love of ourselves but love of God and love of others. You see, when you couple those together, there is really only one choice. Moses agreed:

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live... Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Aunt Doris

My Aunt Doris passed away last night after an extended battle with cancer.

Her passing got me to thinking about a favorite verse of Scripture:
For when David served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep... Acts 13:36

What a compliment it was for David, to know that he had served his purpose and fulfilled his call. I feel that way about my aunt. She might have made it longer. She could have held on here on this earth for any number of reasons. But God--a God she knew very well and talked with regularly--had seen enough. Aunt Doris had served Him well. He had watched her love and lead her family. She had done what He had asked. Her time had come. God had called.

...and with every loved one that leaves, I find myself being drawn infinitely more to this place called Heaven. I am just a traveler here and my time will come some day. Till then, for each of us, we wait and watch and serve and anticipate...

Monday, February 01, 2010

I hate missing church.

I just have to be honest about this. I got up yesterday and literally felt like I was out of place. I did my "30 Day Shred", read my B90X, hung out with my wife and kids, watched Craig Groeschel and Andy Stanley preach on the internet, worked on a few projects--it just wasn't the same.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love the snow, love the occasional lazy day. But let it snow on Monday and melt by Saturday night. I've got to have some worship time with my people at Ridgeview. I missed our worship band leading us in those amazing worship songs. I missed hearing our people sing and pray. I missed the smiles and the hugs and the conversations with the people who are my family. It just wasn't the same.

So...I'm giving you fair warning. Some long range forecasts are calling for some white stuff again this weekend. It may or may not happen. But if it does, I may just walk to church and meet whoever can show up (safely, mind you). I've got to worship with my Ridgies. Looking forward to this Sunday more than ever. Hope I'll see you there.