Sunday, October 12, 2008

APPRECIATION

Today was Pastor Appreciation Day at Magna View. I was blown away at the generosity of our church. They presented us with a two-night stay in Asheville, NC and tickets to Biltmore too. Three families in the church are also taking care of our girls so Cecelia and I can have this time away alone. I couldn't believe it. Biltmore is one of my favorite places on earth. I love the history of it, and this is a perfect time of year to be going, right about the time the leaves will be changing. I can't wait to get there.

I can't believe the generosity of our church. Earlier this year they presented us with a car for our 10th anniversary as pastor. The car has been an answered prayer. I honestly didn't expect anything this year, but this church is just amazingly generous.

It has been a difficult year for our church and for our family. Many church members stood beside us and sometimes in front of us through some very difficult times. They have surrounded us with the love of God and have walked through the fires with us. Though it has been tough, it has also been an amazing experience. We have grown so much. Though it has been pastor appreciation day, it has really been a day that this pastor appreciates the church.

I don't know if any of the members actually read this blog, but I am so thankful to be a part of Magna View Baptist Church. There are some incredible people of God in this body. I pray that God will bless each one according to the richness of His grace and love. I look forward to serving God here and to what God is going to do in and through His church.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

TOUGH TIMES

These are pretty scary times we are living, at least economically. Prices keep going up while stock markets fall. I cringe every time I look at my retirement account. I also cringe every time I have to fill a vehicle up. Even with government involvement (or because of it), the recovery is going to be slow. I've read some commentators saying it will take years for us to get back to where we were just two years ago.

In such a crazy, volatile world it's good to know that somethings never change. For one, God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever more. He is still in control and can and will work in spite of the circumstances of our economy. Another thing that hasn't changed is God's mandate for His church - make disciples. In Matthew 28, when Jesus gave the Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples, He didn't place any qualifiers or disclaimers on it: He didn't say, go if it's safe, go if it's affordable, or go if it's convenient. He just said go, and as we go, He will go with us. Whether it is around the block or around the world - go and He will go with us.

Tough times require tough people. The church has always flourished in tough times, because the people of God have risen to the occasion and kept doing what God called us to do. The economic crisis has and will continue to affect the church, but God is our Provider, not Wall Street or Washington. He will make a way for the Church, His Body to accomplish His call even in the tough times.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BUILT ON THE FOUNDATION OF CHRIST

I was privileged to attend a pastor's meeting at Carson Newman today and had the opportunity to hear the new president, Dr. Randall O'Brien share his heart and his vision for CN. It was powerful. Dr. O'Brien has a passion for the Lord and to do His will. He shared that his purpose in coming to CN was build the college on the foundation of the lordship of Jesus Christ. You could feel his passion as he spoke of an experience that he had in Mossy Creek when he came here for the interview with the presidential search team.

I haven't too often come across people in the educational field who have such a passion for Christ. With Dr. O'Brien, it seems to permeate everything he says and does. This the third time I have heard him speak, and he has been the same every time. I'm excited about what God is going to do at CN in the coming months and years.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"LOSING" A FRIEND?

Not really. This passed Thursday, a friend of mine passed away. Though he was quite a bit older than me, we had a wonderful relationship. When I came as pastor of Magna View I started visiting Malcolm and his wife Ruby. They were elderly and no longer able to attend church, but I spent many hours visiting with them in their home. Malcolm loved to talk and tell stories. He talked about his time in the military, his days as a coal miner, the trips he and Ruby had taken, fishing, and Tennessee football. He and Ruby had been season ticket holders for a number of years and Malcolm loved Tennessee football. I knew Malcolm's time on earth was short when I visited a couple of weeks ago and asked him what he thought of the TN-UCLA game and he said he had been too tired to watch it.
We often describe someone's death as a "loss," and I guess in some way it is. But for me it is more of a "passing" than a "losing." Someone once told me "you can't lose something if you know where it is." I know where Malcolm is - he's in the presence of his Lord. He isn't lost, he's just passed on to a knew reality of life. I'll see him again someday. That is the hope (assurance) I have in Christ.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

SHAKIN' IT UP

The political season is in full swing, and one candidate is really shaking things up. John McCain's selection of Alaska's Gov. Sarah Palin has got both parties a-buzz'n. My first reaction was "WHO?" I think a lot of people had that reaction. So, I did as many did, I started searching for information and what I found was encouraging: pro-life, evangelical Christian, NRA member, outdoor sports(wo)man, and un-afraid to stand up against her own party leaders. Hard to find all those qualities in any politician these days. However the election turns out, it's going to be an interesting two months. McCain's choice has certainly re-energized my interest in the politics of our country.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE

I learned a long time ago that the world is filled with negative folks. What I've discovered in the last few years is that so is the church. That's amazing to me, given the grace that has been extended to us by the Lord, and the hope we have in Him. You would think that Christians would be the most positive people in the world. Because of the goodness of the Lord we should be able to find the silver lining in every dark cloud.
I think of Paul and Silas in jail at Philippi. How easy it would have been for them to grumble and complain about the conditions they were in. But instead, at midnight they were praising the Lord and singing to Him. Their circumstances were less than ideal, but they chose to "accentuate the positive" and focus on the Lord rather than on their problems.
I confess, I'm sometimes influenced by those "Negative Nellie's" in the church that always want to complain about what's wrong, while ignoring the good things the Lord is doing. They always seem to find something to criticize, and I find myself being discouraged and frustrated and tempted to do the same things. God has used a couple of things to help me overcome the negatives:
1. My uncle Dan, a retired pastor who is approaching 90 years old but still has an amazingly positive outlook on life. He sends out a daily PTL (Praise the Lord) email and God uses Him to remind me that praise brings about a positive attitude.
2. Psalm 34:1, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." God really highlighted this verse a few weeks ago and it has helped me immensely. I discovered that when the praise of the Lord was "continually in my mouth" there was no room for negative talk or criticism of others. You can't praise the Lord and criticize others at the same time; it's impossible.
So when I find myself faced with those negative people and tempted to stoop to their level, I just start praising the Lord. I try to turn their complaints into opportunities to praise. It's amazing how God changes my attitude - praise always leads to positive attitudes!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

THOUGHTS ON GOOD FRIENDS

Well, it's been a while since I've blogged, again. It's really not my thing, but I'm working on it. I'm hoping to use it as more of a discipline to help me organize and express my thoughts better.

Lately I've been thinking about some wonderful people God has brought into my life. I've been blessed to have some really good friends who have stood by me and encouraged me. I have one friend that I really connect with. We think a lot alike, and he has such a heart for God. He inspires me more than he realizes. Another friend is a prayer partner who has such a calm spirit and balanced outlook on life. He helps me keep my balance.

Recently God heightened a friendship with someone I had known for a while. God used a phone call to get us together and we shared our hearts about ministry. He took it upon himself to fast and pray for me because of some things that have been happening in my life. God has used this man to sustain me.

I'm so humbled and thankful for the people God has brought into my life at just the right time. God always knows what and who we need. Of course, He is my best Friend, and He meets every need in my life according to His goodness and grace. What an amazing God!

Friday, June 20, 2008

VISITING FRIENDS

Cecelia the girls and I are in Murfreesboro visiting friends. We're staying with Cecelia's best friend Patty and her family. Last night we had supper With Derrick, Joy and Tybee, our former worship leader who moved to Nashville in May. We met at the Red Lobster and had a great time. Tybee is growing, and is just beautiful. Derrick and Joy are doing well. I didn't realize how much I've missed them until we saw them again.

Patty's brother Barry took me golfing today. We played the Old Fort Course in Murfreesboro. We had a great time. Don't know what the score was - we were too afraid to add it up. The course was nice, but had a lot of water and sand. I spent a lot of time at "the beach."

We'll head back tomorrow (Saturday). It's been good to get away for a couple of days; just to unplug and relax. I heard a preacher say one time, "Unless you come apart for rest, you'll come apart." (Not sure if that's it exactly, but it's close.) God is good.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

BLESSINGS

Today was such a blessing. I'm always in awe when the Lord shows up, and He did today. The Sunday School lesson was a study of John 11, titled "Does God Care." Of course the answer is yes, but we dealt with the questions, "If God cares, then why do we get sick?" and "Why do loved ones die (too soon)?" The lesson was on Lazerus. We had great discussion.

There was a sweet but powerful Spirit in the worship service. I was blessed by the special music by the three Hickey Girls (Kailey, Caroline and Carla). They set the tone for the message. God really took over the message -He made His presence known in a powerful. It was a message He had been burning in my heart all week.

And then tonight was so much fun. Kenna Turner-West really ministered to people tonight, through song, through testimony and through the sweet spirit of her personality. God spoke through her to so many people.

God always knows what we need when we need it. Thank you Lord!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

BREAKOUT

I've been reading a book titled "Breakout Churches" by Thom Rainer, now the president of Lifeway Christian Resources. He and a team of analysts studied different churches that went through times of crises and then times of exponential growth with the same pastor. I've just started reading it, but so far it is pretty remarkable how God works in and through periods of difficulty.

One church in Nashville (The Temple Church) had grown to over 1,000 in attendance before going through a time of crisis where attendance dropped to about 650. The primary issue was over building new facilities in order to be able to reach more people. Many in the church had grown comfortable and uninterested in reaching new people, especially those different from them. When the pastor pressed forward, 300 of the long-time leaders left the church in a short-time. The church had to scale back some ministries for a while because of financial difficulties, but after a period of about 2 years, the church began to grow again. Today the church has over 2,000 in attendance and the number of ministries has nearly doubled. The turn around was not easy, and it came at a high price, but the end result as been remarkable.

What the book is reminding me is that God is faithful and He will build His church as it pleases Him. With humans, things may look hopeless sometimes, but with God, all things are possible! (see Mark 9:23, 10:27)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

D.C. and Back

Last week, May 7-9, myself and Scott, a young minister in our church, traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a Pastor's Briefing sponsored by the Family Research Council, a Christian, pro-family organization. It was an awesome time. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency about two blocks from the Capitol, where the conference was being held. We heard some wonderful messages about the importance of standing for Christian values in the public and political arena. The highlight for me was the Wednesday night tour of the Capitol building where we heard Rick Greene and David Barton of Wallbuilders ministry, talk about the religious heritage of our nation. It was amazing to hear how pastors had a great impact in preparing the nation for the impending fight for freedom and intricately involved the formation of our founding documents.

On Thursday we prayer walked around Capitol Hill and the Mall. We also spent some time in the Library of Congress, which is an amazing building. We also walked to the World War II Memorial, which wasn't there the last time I was in DC in 1997. It was a bit of a walk from the Capitol Hill area, but well worth it. I've always been interested in WWII, and being at the monument and reading the quotes from the leaders of that era was a very moving experience. I'm looking forward to going back and taking the family.

I read a Proverb a day (31 chapters in Proverbs and 30 or 31 days in a month), and I came across 14:34, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." We became a great nation because of our commitment to biblical values and principles. We are losing our greatness because we are losing our commitment to those same things. But I believe we're seeing the beginnings of a grassroots return to our biblical foundations. Organizations like Family Research Council are providing the leadership and the resources to turn our nation around. Pray for them as they are on the front line of culture war. And pray for all Christians to get involved in the voting process and vote our values. I pray that our generation is used of God to bring about a national spiritual renewal.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What To Do in "All Things"

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:28 (NLT)

What are we to do when God is working those “all things” for our good? Praise the Lord!

“One of the best ways to get out of a pit is to praise your way out. When you’re praising God, you’re trusting God. If you’re worrying, you’re are not trusting,and if you’re trusting, you’re not worrying…If you’re going through a battle and you’ve prayed about it, you should be rejoicing. Every time you think about the situation, praise Him.” (Kate McVeigh)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Big Day

Well, it's been a great day. I turned 43 today and I've been so blessed. I took a vacation day from work. so I got to spend a little extra time in the word and prayer this morning. I then headed for the golf course. I haven't played since last fall and it was good to get out on the course again. I don't take golf that seriously so it is very relaxing for me. (Plus I was under 100, and I got paid to play).

On the way home Cecelia informed me that she and the girls were taking me to my favorite ribs restaurant, Tony Roma's, which recently opened in Pigeon Forge. I haven't had Roma's Ribs since our last trip to Myrtle Beach a couple of years ago. I made up for lost time! It was great.

We then walked around Pigeon Forge and Patriot Park. It was beautiful evening. We fed the ducks in the river/creek, and just relaxed at the park. This has been one of the best birthdays I've ever had - nothing exciting, just relaxing and being with Cecelia and the girls. I loved it!

God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and family. Some recent events have really drawn us closer together. I'm thankful for a godly wife who seeks God's face and believes His word. She has been a source of spiritual encouragement for me. And she is raising godly daughters. They're not perfect, but they know how to honor God with their lives and talents. A couple of weeks ago, the four of them (Cecelia, Holli, Lydia and Abigail) sung in church. My heart nearly burst with joy as they used their gifts and talents to honor God. I'm so thankful for a family that has a heart to serve and honor God.

Well, this is more than I anticipated writing, but it's been a great day.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday

Growing up in the Baptist church that I did, I never heard about Maundy Thursday. Not until I was in college did I become aware that Christians all over the world commemorate the last meal Jesus had with His disciples. Maundy is from the Latin word for mandate or commandment. It is a reference to what Jesus said to His disciples during the meal - "But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. " (John 13:34)

Jesus, the master teacher that He was, gave an old commandment new life. In the OT book of Leviticus the Lord said, "Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. I am the Lord." (19:18, NCV) Though this was part of the law code of the Jewish people, love is a hard thing to legislate. What it became in practice was "Love those neighbors who are like yourself." In other words, love those who are like you, who see things like you do, who you can love as much as you love yourself. It was not what God intended.

Jesus updates the commandment to "You must love each other as I have loved you." How did Jesus love? By giving Himself for those who didn't love Him; by laying down life for sinners, so that they could become saints. Real love always seeks to lift up the object of its affection. Jesus gives further instruction by saying, "If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples." (John 13:35, NLT) As we love others like Jesus loved us, others know we belong to Him. Do you think that pleases Jesus? I think so too.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Small Things

The Bible says, "do not despise the day of small things." Most days are filled with "small things;" nothing spectacular, just little blessings along the way. But if we pay attention to the little blessings along the way, we see that they add up to a full day of good things. Today was one of those days. This morning was a good time of worship for me. Nothing spectacular happened, but I sensed the presence of the Lord. We spent the afternoon together as a family and I was blessed to spend some time with Cecelia and the girls. We've been so busy with church and school that we have rarely all been together the last few weeks. And tonight I got to set back and worship the Lord while the choir did "Written in Red." What a powerful musical, and they nailed it. The song, "Who Will Call Him King of Kings" gave me the "Holy Spirit goosebumps." He is my King and I could just bask in His love tonight. A day of small things, but what a wonderful day. Thank you Lord!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Like the Father

You have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.” But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends. If you greet only your friends, what’s so great about that? Don’t even unbelievers do that? But you must always act like your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-48 (NCV)

Has anyone ever said, "You're just like your father," or "You're just like your mother." I remember when people would say those things to me, and I immediately shut them down. I loved my dad, and he was a pretty good guy, but I didn't want to grow up to be like him. My dad was old fashioned, close minded, closed lipped, and could be a pretty harsh man. He wasn't always nice to my mom. He sometimes caused me a lot of anger and frustration. I wanted to be different. But people saw in me some characteristics of my dad that I didn't see, or didn't want to see. But I finally came to the realization that I had begun imitating what I had grown up seeing. Recognition is the first step to change. I've been fortunate to be able to change some of the behaviors I had adopted from my dad. I'm thankful to have a loving family that has helped me see what I'm doing and what I could be.

When I became a Christian I didn't realize all that it meant. I got saved primarily so I could go to heaven when I died. I knew it meant that I needed to be a good person, but at the time, I didn't realize that being a follower of Christ meant becoming like Him. Being a Christian means becoming like the Father, because that's the example of Jesus. Jesus set a pretty high standard. especially in the area of relationships.

My earthly father taught me (by example) to avoid the people that didn't like me, (out of sight, out of mind). He taught me to be nice to those who were nice to me, and be friends with those who were friendly to me. For most of my life, that's how I lived... like the world. Then I started taking the Bible seriously, and reading the passages like the one above that revealed a different standard of relationships. I realized I could no longer give others the "cold-shoulder" and be like Jesus. I could no longer look the other way when I encountered people who didn't like me, and be like my Father. I'm still a work in progress, but I understand what it takes to please the Father, and that's all that matters.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Beginnings?

One of the things I've learned in my time off is that the number 8 is the number of new beginnings. I learned this from a TV preacher that I normally wouldn't watch, but something kept me tuned in. I had heard this idea from a couple of different places, but this guy went through the Bible, highlighting number "8" passages. A couple caught my attention - there were eight people in Noah's Ark, symbolizing a new beginning. David was the eighth son of Jesse, symbolizing a new dynasty. Hebrew children were circumcised on the eighth day of their lives - symbolizing a new cycle of life.
In subsequent research (I had to learn more about "8"), I learned of a Jewish festival called "Shemini Atzeret", the "eighth day assembly." It came after the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkoth. Leviticus 23:33-44 declares that the Feast of Tabernacles is to be celebrated for seven full days. Seven is the number of completion and the final day celebrates the completion of the harvest. The eighth day begins a new growth cycle, therefore a holy convocation is called for, a time of worship which, in Jewish tradition, would include a prayer for rain for the new growing season. The eight day was a new beginning.
Christ was raised on the "eight day" of the week - the ultimate evidence of a new beginning.
What is God saying through all of this? Is 2008 the year of new beginnings as the TV preacher said? Still seeking, praying and waiting for clarity ... thankful that God is always a God of new beginnings.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Terminal Illness

A few weeks ago as I was preparing a sermon, God brought to mind the fact that I have a "terminal illness." Those words usually bring to mind something like cancer, ALS, Aides, or some other disease for which there is no cure yet. I have none of those. My terminal illness (as is yours), is being human. The truth is we're all dying. Unless the Lord returns, we're not getting out of this life alive. It may be soon, or it may be many years in the future, but eventually our terminal illness catches up with us.
I took my 82 year old mom to the doctor last week, and we were talking about family history. She reminded me that my grandfather, her dad, died when he was 45, an age I am rapidly approaching. Later, I was processing this information and kind of wondering where I was going to fall in the "life/death timeline" (83 like mom, 45 like grandfather, or maybe 96 like grandmother), and again the Lord spoke: how much time I have isn't nearly as imp0rtant as what I do with the time I have.
More thinking... am I doing with my life what I am suppose to be doing? Am I doing all that I could be doing for the Lord? I'm taking the next few days off to spend some time seeking the Lord and His will. I have a terminal illness and I want to make sure I'm using all the time I have left to glorify God by bearing much fruit for Him!

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Adventure of the Christ-Life

Life has become a great adventure with the Lord of late. Though nothing cataclysmic has happened, there just seems to be a sense of adventure about the future. It is great to be in a place where you can completely trust the Lord for the future. I don't have to know what is going to happen next, I just trust the Lord and hang on. There is a wonderful sense of freedom in knowing that I'm not in charge of my life - God is. I can relax and rest in His arms.

For those who know me, this is quiet a change. I use to be a control-freak. I had to know what was going to happen next, and I hated surprises. I still don't like surprises too much, but I've begun to look forward to the adventure of each day. I know God is always at work, and I can partner with Him by allowing Him to lead me and use me for His glory. Is there anything greater? I haven't found it yet.