Tuesday, June 30, 2009

All We Need to Succeed

Carrie and I visited the Biltmore Estate yesterday. Wow! Those people were stupid rich. They had more stuff than they could keep up with. They had to have an army of staff to care for their property and home. It was amazing. The house is an architectural masterpiece. The land is gorgeous. We found a place down by Bass Pond and just basked in the glory of our God that made all of this. We marveled, though, at how those skilled workers took what God made or ordered it in such a beautiful way.

It is easy to come away from a place like that I think, "I want that!" I want that much stuff. I want a house with a yard like that. It is easy to think, "I could really raise some great kids in that kind of house and with that kind of wealth." (And sound like Jon and Kate, but that's for another day.)

The reality check came for me today during my time alone with God. I was reading Spurgeon and was reminded that God has already given His children all that we need. As a matter of fact, God has given us more than we've even put to good use. Think about it. God has given you gifts of His love and grace that you haven't even applied and experienced yet.

God has given us more than we know and all that we need to succeed in being the person He created us to be in Christ.

2 Corinthians 9:8 "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."

“When I stand before the throne
Dressed in beauty not my own;
When I see thee as thou art,
Love thee with unsinning heart;
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.”
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, June 30 AM.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What Defines Your Relationships?

Do you look to the past pain or the future potential of your relationships with key people?

Every relationship has its good days and its bad days. Sometimes relationships that last a long time or are meant to last through life have very bad days. At some point, once the dust clears and all has been confessed and forgiven, each person must make a decision. They must decide if they will let the past pain or the future potential of the relationship define their direction.

If you go the pain route, you can be sure where you'll end up. You'll end up with no trust, no passion, and no hope. You'll tolerate each other and miss the best of what each person can bring to the table. It's a lose-lose deal.

If you go the potential route, you cannot be sure where you'll end up, but at least you will have given the relationship a second chance. Going the potential route means you give each other a credit on trust. Trust is earned, but you give credit for what they haven't earned based on the possibility of what could be. If they blow, they blow it. If they bless it, you are both blessed.

So what are you basing your key relationships on: past pain or future potential?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Every Life Is a Construction Site

Every person on this planet is under construction. Some are being built by their Maker. Others are destroying themselves with the help of the Accuser and other people. God wants to build us into the likeness of His Son. When we allow God to restore our lives with His love and grace, we become human the way God intended us to be. We become the temple where God dwells. That is what God desires us to be - His dwelling place, His temple. (Ephesians 2:22 "And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.")

Satan is our enemy and accuser. "Satan - adversary; accuser. When used as a proper name, the Hebrew word so rendered has the article 'the adversary'” (Easton's Bible Dictionary). He desires to destroy us. He desires to devour us so that there is nothing left for God to enjoy. (1 Peter 5:8 "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.")

So every person on this planet is a construction site. The life of each one is either being constructed as a temple or it is being destroyed by the enemy.

Not only is God and Satan at work, but we are also at work in other people's lives. Each one of us has the power to build up or destroy. Our words have power in other people's lives. They have the power to help or to hurt. Scripture tells us to use our words to build up. (Ephesians 4:29 "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.")

So who are you in business with. Are you working with God to build others up into what God created them to be? Or are you working with Satan and accusing them causing them pain in the destruction process?

Make no mistake about it. You are either building others up or tearing them down. You are either helping them be the dwelling place of God or you are destroying what God desires to abide in. Every life is a construction site. Are you helping people or hurting them?

Join God and be like God by enjoying the blessing of being a blessing. Build people up.

Friday, June 26, 2009


I went with the big kids to see the movie "Up" in 3D. It is a great movie. It has all the ingredients that make a movie a must see for me. It had humor, a tug at the heart, and a message to walk away with.

The humor was the dogs. The dogs are hysterical. I am looking forward to the day, when Asher is old enough to get a dog. Age really isn't the issue, but that is the best way to explain it. Asher would kill a dog or a dog would kill him at this point. Or my wife and I would kill them both. We have to wait until death is not a probable outcome before we get a dog.

The heart tug was the story of the man and the boy. The man loves his wife. I love to see a man who loves his wife. A man ought to adore the bride he sought and convinced to marry him. It made me thankful for the sweet wife the Lord gave me and that I begged and pleaded with to marry me.

The boy comes from a split home and it reminds us that divorce stinks. It's bad for the husband and the wife. It's bad for kids. It's bad for society. People that marry need to stay together. And they don't need to simply live under the same roof and tolerate each other. They need to love each other and care for the other more than they do themselves. Marriage works when both a husband and wife make sure that they give more than they get and love their spouse the way Jesus loves those He's redeemed.

The message, along with the fact that divorce stinks, is that life is an adventure. Even though the adventures of our lives are not always the ones we thought they'd be. Our life is meant to be an emotional, relational, communal adventure that we take with God as our guide. We have to let go of what is behind and strain forward toward what is ahead. God has the adventure planned for us. It's going to be hard. There will be days when we will hate it. Sometimes we will love it. Most of it will be forgotten. But when we take it with the people and the God we love, it's quite a ride.

It was a good movie and a good day. Hope you had a good one too.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Find It & Kill It Before It Kills You

Jim Collins shares an experience he had with his wife in his book "How the Mighty Fall." They were on a jog in Colorado on a steep trail. He couldn't keep up with his wife. She was a picture of health. A few months later they discovered she had breast cancer. Although she appeared to be a picture of health when she was running the hill, she was actually carrying the carcinoma that would lead her to two mastectomies. She looked healthy, but she was actually sick with a disease that, if not discovered and dealt with, would have killed her.

Collins uses this story to explain what can and does happen to organizations. They look can healthy and can seem to be functioning well, but actually have something within them that could cause them to stumble and fall.

He writes, "I've come to see institutional decline like a staged disease; harder to detect but easier to cure in the early stages, easier to detect but harder to cure in the later stages. An institution can look strong on the outside but already be sick on the inside, dangerously on the cusp of a precipitous fall."

The entire book is about the stages of decline an organization goes through before it becomes unhealthy to the point of irrelevance or death. I am reading this book because I do not want the family or the church I lead to fail. I do not want to be oblivious or ignore the signs that could protect us from something that could destroy us. I love my family and I love my church and I am responsible to protect and provide for them as I lead them. It is my prayer that this book will help me.

As I was thinking about familial and organizational protection, I started thinking about my life and the individual lives of my family and the people of the congregation I serve. Each one of us has something inside of us that is at work to destroy us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. And once that is done that destructive force will leave us no longer desiring a physical existence. This sickness is sin. It is in us and around us. It desires along with Satan to have us and destroy us.

We must be vigilant in seeking out the sin in us and be ruthless in destroying it. The puritan pastor John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” This is easier said than done, but it must be done. Sin in the early stages of our life is harder to detect, but easier to kill. Sin in the later stages is easier to detect, but harder to kill. We must constantly be on the look out for sin and kill it in the early stages by confessing it and repenting of it to Jesus.

What can we do to identify sin in its early stages? Just as a woman needs to get a regular mammogram, so we must regularly look into our lives for the sin that so easily entangles and hinders us from becoming healthy human beings.

Here are some basic things to do:

1. Spend time in Scripture to seek to understand the nature of God. When we see and worship the greatness and holiness of God, we will more easily be able to identify the sin that is in our own life. When we see God's grace, we can confidently find forgiveness in repentance.
2. Spend time in prayer asking God to reveal your sin to you.
3. Spend time with someone of the same gender that you love and trust and allow them to examine your life. Tell them what you are thinking about. Tell them what you are feeling. Tell them what you do that makes you feel alive, full of hope, important, and happy. If if doesn't honor God, then it's an idol. And as all idols do, it will fail you at some point and cause you to fall.
4. Ask those you love and trust to pray that you would see your sin and find forgiveness in repentance.

Remember that if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, you are on your own. You must deal with your sin on your own. That means you have no hope. As humans, we are incapable of destroying the sin that destroys us. We have will power to fight off the common stuff, but that will power produces pride, which always leads to a fall. Sin is too ingrained in us. It is a part of us and our world. We all need a savior. We need the One who can take away the punishment and power of sin. We need the One who frees us from the penalty of sin, which is death to God and gives us the power to overcome sin, which is life and love. Only Jesus can do that. Jesus is the One. He is the only hope. It is in Him alone that salvation is found.

If you are a believer, remember that you are not alone. Jesus is with you. He promised (Matthew 28:20 "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.) He has sent His Spirit to guide us into all truth. (John 16:13 "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.") The Holy Spirit will reveal sin to us and Jesus will deliver us from it. As the redeemed children of God, we have the power of Jesus dwelling in us and God's Spirit directing us. We have been given everything we need to identify what will cause us to fail and remove it before it does. (Romans 8:31-32 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?)

So what's in your life? What's in your marriage? What's in your family? What's in your circle of friends? What's in your church? What is in all of those that is working like a disease to destroy what is good and of God?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chillin' Mostly

I've had a tremendous morning and the afternoon ain't bad either.

I got up and ran at 5 am and was back by 7 am to get some personal time with God. Carrie and I took her car to get it checked out. The ABS light was coming on and going off from time to time. Turns out it's not just the breaks. It's gonna' be expensive, but so it goes in life. Everything breaks and dies. It's part of the consequence of the fall.

I spent the rest of the morning listening to message from the SBC in Louisville and one from Advance '09. The thing I am hearing over and over is that the church in North America is in trouble. It sounds like there are pockets of progress, but a whole lot of decline. I do not pretend to know what we must do to turn the tide. I don't know that we can do much. We are so fragmented as the body of Christ. It seems that the church as a whole in North America has gotten so side-tracked and side-ways with each other on secondary and tertiary issues that we do not have time for the Great Commission. It seems that the church in North America has also gotten side-tracked with self. Let's face it most people in the church are more upset about the economy and politics than they are people they don't know in danger of a life and eternity without God. I don't have any statistical data to back that up other than the fact the church in North America is in decline.

I don't know what to do about the whole world or North America, but I do know what I'm supposed to do. My responsibility and yours, if you are redeemed blood-bought, spirit-filled friend of Jesus, is to love Jesus, love the people of the church, and love lost people. It is our job to make our individual church the most loving place on the planet and seek to share the hope we have in Jesus - our redeeming resurrected God.

I hope you are having a good day. I am about to try and finish up Mark Driscoll's book "Vintage Church." It is really good.

I might even slip in and get some shut eye with Asher. He thinks that's funny.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jackson and Me and the SBC (southern baptist convention)

My son Jackson and I just got back from being at the Southern Baptist Convention. The folks from the Missional Church Network invited me to come to a dinner at the convention and share some ways God is leading Living Hope to live on mission in our city. It was a joy to get to be with them and to share how God led Living Hope to launch Hope House last year and the difference we already see this independent non-profit organization having in our city and with our congregation, as we partner with them. I didn’t have time to share many of the cool ways God is working through the church. I didn’t share how many of our people get involved in our One Great Day event, which by the way is coming on Saturday, September 26. This is a single day event where the small groups, adult Bible fellowships, service teams, and all the people of Living Hope head out into the city to provide service for specific projects that families and organizations in our area need help with: painting, clean up, light construction, lawn care, etc. It is Living Hope’s way of saying to our city that we love and care about them. There was also no time for me to share the initiatives our people have taken upon themselves to care for the Burmese, Chinese, and other international groups that God has sent to our city to be loved and shown the life of Jesus. I also did not have time to share how individuals are living on mission in their work places or how people are caring for the emotional needs of the sick and forgotten elderly in our town.

The response I received from those in attendance was very encouraging to me. I was surprised by how many people already knew what God had been leading us to do. Some people there simply came up after to say thank you because someone they knew had been blessed by what we were doing. Some shared how their church had taken some of the ideas we were implementing and were now doing some of the same things we had done and are being a blessing to their city. It was also great to get to meet new leaders that want to learn with us and network with what God is up to in our little town. I look forward to spending time with these leaders in the future and joining God in what He has for us.

I was only one of four presenters. The other three were church planters. One was from Chicago, one from Canada, and one from Clarksville, Tn. They inspired me with the way in which they are joining God in what He is doing and has called them to do. They are in very different cultures than the one I live in and are serving in ways that are very different than me, but what was revealed in the end is that we are all serving Jesus. Each one of us in our own way have been gifted and instructed by Jesus to take His Gospel to specific people in a unique way. They each had things to say that stuck with me. Here are some of the highlights for me:

1. “Take time to be with lost people and really listen to their story.” That really grabbed me because it reminded me that God loves the people He leads us to and is at work in their life. We are to find out where and how God is at work in their life and join Him in bringing light, love and hope to them in Christ.
2. “Be obedient and do what God calls you to do not because it is easy or popular, but because you want to honor God.” This reminded me that service to Jesus is not about me. It’s about the King and those He’s called me to serve. Joy comes in serving Jesus and losing my life in Him.
3. “Let people go.” God is at work and needs workers. I love my friends and I love the people of my church, but I can’t hold them back. I need to encourage them to start new small groups to connect with people that need to be connected. I need to encourage them to go where God leads them to serve even though it will keep me from spending as much time with them as I do now and desire to.
4. “Pray for God to raise up workers for the harvest.” Prayer is the hard work of ministry. It requires faith to be lived out. It requires us to depend upon God to do the work. Most of us like God depending on us to do the work, but really the work of the ministry is God’s way of just being nice and loving us and letting us join Him in what He’s doing. God does the work. We need to pray for Him to do the work of raising up people that will join Him in what He’s doing so they too can see His greatness and His love and His care being lived out as He transforms lives with His grace.

There was a lot more said, but that’s what comes to mind and that I have time to write about because I also want to tell you about the part of the convention Jackson and I got to see.

That dinner was on Monday night. On Monday afternoon Jackson and I got to go and hear Mike Huckabee speak. Mike did a tremendous job. I believe and pray he will become our president one day. He loves the Lord and understands the role of government. He explained that the foundation of government is the home where a mom and dad must love each other and raise children to love Jesus and their neighbors. From there a society can be built where people take responsibility for themselves and their neighbors and do not see the government as responsible for providing for their needs. They see the government protecting their right to provide for themselves and care for their neighbors. I like the America he wants to see become a reality.

He said a lot of other great things about leadership and the need to serve. It was a great message. I recommend you go to www.sbc.net and click on the convention icon and listen to his talk and also to the other speakers. I have not listened to the others, but I plan to this week.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What a Day!

Today was the first Sunday of my sabbatical. And by the way I am going to try and be more faithful in updating the blog to share what's happening with me during this time of rest and study.

Dr. Billy Compton spoke at Living Hope this morning and I heard through texts and emails that he was a blessing. I also heard Jon Crosby did a great job leading Living Hope in worship. Thanks guys for loving the people of Living Hope so well today.

The day started for me at Crosspoint Community Church. I got to worship with my brother and his wife at the 8:30 worship service. My wife and children attended worship with her dad and mom. After the 8:30 service I headed west to the Dickson campus of Crosspoint Community Church with pastor Kevin Cook. He is the future campus pastor of Crosspoint's North location.

It was great to see how God is working at the Dickson campus. The entire set up reminded me of the early days of BCC, where I served for five years. We used to meet at Bellevue Middle School. Those were hard wonderful days of setting up and taking down, but we saw thousands of people gather for worship and come to know Christ.

The Dickson campus provides live worship, outstanding classes for children, and a loving environment. It offers what the central site on Charlotte Ave offers. The pastor's message is delivered via video at the Dickson campus. That is the only functional difference. I wasn't sure what I would think of that, but I enjoyed it. I watched Pete live at the central campus and then watched him on video in Dickson and I could actually see him better at Dickson. The sound quality was the same.

There is a lot to take in and I still have a lot of logistical questions, but these guys may be on to something. Instead of spending millions of dollars to stay at a central campus, they are spending hundreds of thousands and having the same impact.

After the service at Dickson, I headed to lunch at Carrie's parents - Whitt's bar-b-q with potato cheese casserole without onions. It was mighty fine. And then it was back to BG and a nap with Asher.

It is so crazy hot! Tonight we all jumped in the pool. All five Pettus people went for a swim. We are so stinking loud. I believe people could hear us several streets over. But that's how it goes.

Tomorrow Jackson and I are off to the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Ky. I am speaking at a dinner for missional minded churches. We are looking forward to hearing Mike Huckabee speak. I am bummed that we are going to miss hearing Ed Stetzer and the other Godly men presenting at the pastor's conference.

I hope to give you the low down on that adventure tomorrow night.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Church Like an Airport? I Get IT

I am reading Reggie McNeal's book Missional Renaissance. I would recommend this to anyone who is serious about loving Jesus and living out what is means to Simply Be the Church. The book contains a ton of crucial statistics and ideas that God's people need to consider, as we all seek to live on mission with Jesus.

One metaphor he uses for the church that really grabs me is an airport. An airport is not a destination. It is a connector. It is a place you go to get where you are supposed to be. That is what the church is like. We are to be a connector. We are to gather, but then go. Gather to get our assignments and reminders of God's love and plan and then go out into the world and give the blessing of God's love that God gave to us.

Reggie talks about the fact that if an airport were to define its success by how many planes and people it could attract and keep, then the airport would fail. The same is true of churches. If we continue to define success by how many people we can get to show up and how many resources we can maintain, then we will fail. Maybe that is why a lot of churches are failing. They have sought to keep the people in the safety of the terminal (church walls) rather than launch them out into the real world with the real love that will bring real hope and cause renewal in real lives.

I love the airport metaphor for several reasons.

One it makes the purpose of the Christian life more than listening and consuming. It reveals the Christian life for what God intended it to be - a life working with God in the real world to change it with hope. God wants us with Him out where people need love in their normal routine of life. God wants us to take the church - us - with His message into the world and bless people with what God has given to us - Jesus.

A second thing this picture does is it maintains the value of the church gathering. God tells us in Hebrews 10:24-25 to encourage each other and gather. Look at what it says "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." We are to gather to encourage each other. The purpose of the encouragement it to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. We are to gather and encourage each other to get on with God's will for our lives, which is to bring His blessing to the people we encounter.

God knows we all need reminders. One of the great problems with God's people is that we forget. When we gather, we are are reminded that God loves us and that our adopted siblings God also sought out and saved love us too. God is working to get that love into the lives of those that are living outside of His circle of care now. We need to remember that we are to join Him in that endeavor of spreading His love daily.

A third thing the airport metaphor does is that it creates a picture of the reach of the church. Airports send people to nearby and far off places. If you get enough airports connected there is no limit to where people can be sent. The thing I most value about being a Southern Baptist is that I and my church are connected with 45,000 other churches that are working to show God's love to as many people as possible on the planet. We can do better and we will do better, but we are working together as independent congregations to help get the Word out on God's grace.

Anyway, I recommend the book and like the airport metaphor. What do you think?