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The Preacher

January 21, 2014 Leave a comment

paulWe received word last night of the passing of Paul Carrier. Bro. Paul was president of Atlanta Christian College (now Point University) for 2 of the 4 years I was a student there – he was also my teacher, my boss and my mentor. But to me, he was and always will be “The Preacher.” I learned to preach listening to him, and stayed at school during summer breaks to take the preaching classes he taught in summer school. I recall him saying, on the first day of one class, “Be sure to read the assigned textbook.” Then he set it aside and continued, “But what I plan to do is just show you how I really put together a sermon…” Best homiletics class I ever had!

I had the privilege to work for him at Kenwood Christian Church – where he generously allowed me and Chuck Baggett to preach from time to time. It was a little intimidating to preach with Bro. Paul in the audience, but when he shook your hand and said, “Good job,” you felt like a rookie quarterback being told by Bear Bryant that you had played a good game.

That’s not to say that Bro. Paul was more sentimental than honest… I was scheduled to preach the evening service at Kenwood one Sunday, but had been battling a severe cold all week. I wasn’t going to let an opportunity pass me by, so I dragged myself out of bed, loaded up on various meds, and went to preach. I will never forget what Bro. Paul said as he shook my hand after the service that night, “Your content was good, but delivery was another story. The next time you’re sick, do us all a favor and stay home.” He was right – although integrity forces me to admit I have ignored that sound, perfectly good advice more than once in my ministry.

Whenever I needed to be corrected or disciplined – which was often as a student and a student minister, Bro. Paul was firm without being mean or hateful, stern and gracious at the same time. I was disciplined once by the Dean of Students for some infraction, and had to rake leaves on the college campus. One afternoon while I did my community service, Bro. Paul came out of the Admin building, scowled and shook his finger at me – then smiled his biggest smile and waved goodbye as he got in his car and drove away.

One of my best memories of Bro. Paul is when he came to Chapel at ACC when I preached my senior sermon. Afterward, he shook my hand, gave me a quick wink, and said, “Proud of you!” It meant as much to me as any honor or recognition I have ever received.

After graduation and moving on into my first ministry, I got to see Bro. Paul at college functions, minister’s meetings, that sort of thing. Even though he treated me like a colleague, I still saw him very much as a teacher, counselor, and advisor. We fell out of touch for awhile as my young, growing family and I moved around the country – but we reconnected thanks to good ol’ Facebook a few years ago.

Much of what I am as a pastor and specifically as a preacher, I owe to the influence of this great man. One Sunday a couple of weeks ago, I used a phrase and made a gesture and immediately thought, “Oh my gosh – that WAS Paul Carrier…” I will miss him and will always remember him fondly, forever grateful for his life and example.

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Weather Cancels Church – Now What Do We Do?

January 4, 2014 3 comments

snowWhere I live, the weather is going to bite us several times a year, and some of those times will fall on weekends. The congregation I serve draws people from a wide area, and many of them live in rural areas on country roads that seldom see a snow plow. Consequently, whenever there is significant snow on a Saturday or early Sunday, we have to cancel our worship services.

When that happens, some family’s wonder what to do. Sure, they sleep in a little, but if the weather prevents getting out of the house Sunday can seem like a long day – and there are those rare people who say “It just doesn’t feel like Sunday if I don’t go to church…”

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So here are some helpful hints to help your weather those Sundays…

  • Make time for Worship. Put on some Christian music on the radio or computer. If you don’t have any on your mp3 player, K-Love is a great radio option, and Pandora, AllWorship, and IHeartRadio, are online options.
  • Get into the Word. Gather the family around and read from God’s Word, the Bible. If your children are younger, read from a Bible story book. If you’re looking for deeper teaching, find a preacher on TV. Discernment is key here, there’s a lot of weird and aberrant teaching on television. Look for Dr. Charles Stanley or his son Andy, James Merritt, Bill Purvis, Bob Coy, Greg Laurie, Ron Philips, or the late Adrian Rogers. Any of them will provide a biblical message with life application you can trust.
  • Remember to give. A church’s services may be cancelled, but the financial needs and obligations continue. Use your church’s online giving portal, or drop a check in the mail on Monday morning. At the very least, add this week’s giving to next week’s when church meets again.
  • Have some fun family time. Rather than everyone retreating to their own bedroom to stare at a screen of some sort, work a puzzle or play some board games. Watch some home movies or videos. Bake some cookies or brownies together. Roast some marshmallows in the fireplace or by the woodstove – you can even use an eye on the stove! (Adult supervision required and use caution!)
  • Tackle that project. This one is near the end on purpose, because it may seem like work to some people. But a Sunday without many other options might be a good time to clean out that closet, make those minor repairs, or even write a letter to a friend.

And sure, why not…

  • Take a nap. Knock out some of your sleep debt by catching some zzz’s.
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Football and Death Threats… just another Saturday down South

December 3, 2013 Leave a comment

football

Do you wonder how many “death threats” Alabama placekicker Cade Foster received on Twitter after Saturday’s loss? A dozen? A hundred? Thousands? Well the truth is, it’s hard to be completely accurate – his Twitter account was closed, scrubbed, and then re-opened. But, if Time Magazine and the Bleacher Report are correct, Foster received 2 death threats via Twitter.

     2…

Now, I 100% agree that’s 2 too many. No matter what the number, I am sorry that such happened to a fine young man, and I stand second to no one in believing that such behavior is reprehensible and inexcusable. The stupid, vile, probably drunk, people who sent those tweets need to be detained and questioned by law enforcement, and be permanently banned from Twitter, if not all social media. Heck, they don’t even need to have access to crayons and construction paper. They should also have to apologize to Foster face to face , and spend next season cleaning up corn dog droppings at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge…

Now, having said that, the media (and others) are using the brainless antics of a couple of idiots to paint an entire fan base. And that’s just not fair. I’ve met people from all over the eastern U.S. who have been to football and basketball games in Tuscaloosa, and almost all of them compliment Bama fans as being friendly, good sports in victory and defeat. And I have to say, I’ve been in quite a few SEC stadiums and coliseums where I was treated like a one-legged leper with pinkeye…

I know Bama has some knucklehead fans who make it hard for the rest of us – all teams do; just take a look at Facebook or any sports related forum or listen to, let’s say, 30 seconds of sports talk radio… Incivility and insensitivity is, sadly, near universal.

As fans, we can and should police our own selves. We can speak out against bad, unsportsmanlike conduct. They say you can’t fix stupid, but if we will stand together, we can clamp a dadgum muzzle on it. I’m fairly confident that in 15 minutes we could round up a posse from Walker County who could, umm, “deal with” the death tweeters and the Updykes of this world very effectively.

I share the outrage against the unkind things said to a young football player, but I also know those things do not reflect the hearts or the thoughts of the millions of Alabama fans who, though they were crushingly disappointed on one Saturday in November, love, honor and respect the Tide everyday of every year.

Roll Tide!

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A Ragamuffin Goes Home

April 13, 2013 2 comments

Manning-PopupI heard this morning about the passing yesterday of Brennan Manning, the author, former priest, speaker, theologian, and outspoken advocate of God’s unconditional love and grace. His book, “The Ragamuffin Gospel” has had as much influence on me – and shaped my ministry – as much as anything I have ever read besides the Bible. I remember reading the Introduction to “Ragamuffin,” hot tears filling my eyes and spilling onto the page as I prayed that God would let my ministry become one that could be described by the words written there…

The Ragamuffin Gospel was written with a specific reading audience in mind: This book is not for the super-spiritual. It is not for muscular Christians who have made John Wayne and not Jesus their hero. It is not for academicians who would imprison Jesus in the ivory tower of exegesis. It is not for noisy, feel-good folks who manipulate Christianity into a naked appeal to emotion. It is not for hooded mystics who want magic in their religion. It is not for Alleluia Christians who live only on the mountaintop and have never visited the valley of desolation. It is not for the fearless and the tearless. It is not for red-hot zealots who boast with the rich young ruler of the gospels: ‘All these commandments I have kept from my youth.’ It is not for the complacent, hoisting over their shoulder a tote-bag of honors, diplomas, and good works actually believing they have it made. It is not for legalists who would rather surrender control of their souls to rules than run the risk of living in union with Jesus.

“If anyone is still reading along, The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out. It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other. It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it altogether and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace. It is for inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker. It is for poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents. It is for earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay. It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God. It is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags. The Ragamuffin Gospel is a book I wrote for myself and anyone who has grown weary along the Way.”

Rest in peace, good brother, and enjoy forever The One whose Love you so eloquently, passionately described to those of us you leave behind.

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The Real Deal

April 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Chris is one of our elders at New Hope – he shared this incredible true story with me this morning…

“My Dad lives in Eugene Oregon. A couple nights ago, around 9:30pm, he got an unexpected knock at the door. It turns out that it was Tony Dungy’s sister – Coach Dungy and his wife were actually sitting in a car in Dad’s driveway with an elderly gentleman.

Coach, his wife, and his sister had flown in earlier that evening to the local airport. Around the same time, the older man – who was from the local area – had also flown in, but his family had neglected to pick him up. The man was a bit disoriented and scared and he wasn’t sure how to get home. The Dungy’s rented a car and took the guy out looking for his house. The man spotted my Dad’s house and said he thought that it was his house.  Obviously it wasn’t, but Dad actually recognized the man and was able to give the Dungy’s directions to get him home.

As luck would have it, one of Dad’s grandsons was spending the night and he just happens to be reading one of Coach Dungy’s books. It was quite a thrill for him to meet the family and get to talk to Tony Dungy. Dad said they got to spend quite a bit of time talking with them and he was quite impressed with the way Tony Dungy treated this older man who was lost.

I find it encouraging that Coach Dungy appears to be the kind of man the media represents him to be.  I wonder if I would have gone so far as to rent a car and try to help a lost old man find his way home? Would any of us?”

I’m a Tony Dungy fan – I grieved losing him as the coach of my beloved Colts much more than I did the loss of that one guy who was QB for awhile – What’s his name? – oh well, doesn’t matter… I have been led to understand that Coach Dungy is a kind, compassionate man of genuine integrity and great faith. How refreshing to be reminded of that – and how, in some strange way, proud it makes me feel.

In a world where celebrities, leaders, and famous people regularly “get caught” in moral shortcomings that reveal deep character flaws, it is gratifying to get some confirmation that a few of them are the real deal.

We miss you Coach!

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The “Am I Judgmental” Test

March 17, 2012 2 comments

We’ve been talking about The Grace Way and rejoicing in the amazing grace of God at work in our lives. One of the important things grace should do in our lives is make us grace givers as well as grace receivers… So, how do we make sure that we’re extending grace – and not judgement – to people around us?

Mike Lee is the pastor of Third Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Recently he preached a message from Matthew 7 on what it really means to judge others.  In his message, Mike shared these 11 questions designed to help us discern a judgmental and critical spirit.

1. Am I more likely to see the sin in others than in myself?

2. When I pray, am I more likely to pray for God’s judgment on others rather than marvel at God’s amazing grace toward me?

3. Am I overly critical toward others while I give myself a pass or an excuse and justify my own sin?

4. Does my own sin ever lead me to deep regret and repentance?

5. Do I have people around me who have permission to hold me accountable for my sin and unforgiving heart?

6. Do I have a tendency to be unforgiving while expecting others to forgive me quickly?

7. Do I find joy in exposing sin in others?

8. Do I find more joy in the “gotcha” moments of exposing sin or in sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

9. When others see how I deal with people, will they come away rejoicing that God is mighty to save or thinking that God would never forgive them and there is no hope for forgiveness?

10. Do I receive correction humbly?

11. Before I correct others, do I spend time in God’s Word and prayer asking the Holy Spirit to expose my sin so that I might repent?

When we deal with hurting, and messed up people, lets ask ourselves these questions and make sure we are giving them help and hope as they draw near to God.

Adapted from the “Kingdom People” blog by Trevin Wax on The Gospel Coalition.

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“The New Testament Gamble”

March 14, 2012 1 comment

Adapted from the book, “Truefaced,” by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch.  A fascinating book – I encourage you to read it.

We discover in Grace that the almost unthinkable has happened. God has shown all of his cards. He reveals a breathtaking protection that brings us out of hiding. In essence, God says…

“What if I tell them who they are? What if I take away any element of fear in condemnation, judgment, or rejection? What if I tell them I love them, will always love them? That I love them right now, no matter what they’ve done, as much as I love my only Son? That there’s nothing they can do to make my love go away?

“What if I tell them there are no lists? What if I tell them I don’t keep a log of past offenses, of how little they pray, how often they’ve let me down, made promises that they don’t keep? What if I tell them they are righteous, with my righteousness, right now? What if I tell them they can stop beating themselves up? That they can stop being so formal, stiff, and jumpy around me? What if I tell them I’m crazy about them? What if I tell them, even if they run to the ends of the earth and do the most horrible, unthinkable things, that when they come back, I’d receive them with tears and a party?

“What if I tell them that if I am their Savior, they’re going to heaven no matter what – it’s a done deal! What if I tell them they have a new nature-saints, not saved sinners who should now ‘buck-up and be better if they were any kind of Christians, after all he’s done for you!’ What if I tell them that I actually live in them now? That I’ve put my love, power, and nature inside of them, at their disposal! What if I tell them that they don’t have to put on a mask? That it is ok to be who they are at this moment, with all their junk. That they don’t need to pretend about how close we are, how much they pray or don’t, how much Bible they read or don’t. What if they knew they don’t have to look over their shoulder for fear if things get too good, the other shoe’s gonna drop?

“What if they knew I will never, ever use the word ‘punish’ in relation to them? What if they knew that when they mess up, I will never “get back at them?” What if they were convinced that bad circumstances aren’t my way of evening the score for taking advantage of me? What if they knew the basis of our friendship isn’t how little they sin, but how much they let me love them? What if I tell them they can hurt my heart, but that I never hurt theirs? What if I tell them I like Eric Clapton’s music too? What if I tell them I never really liked the Christmas handbell deal with the white gloves? What if I tell them they can open their eyes when they pray and still go to heaven? What if I tell them there is no secret agenda, no trapdoor? What if I tell them it isn’t about their self-effort, but about allowing me to live my life through them?”

When we stand at life’s crossroads, we decide which road to choose largely upon how we see God’s “gamble.” Do I really believe this stuff will hold up-for me? This is the way of life in Grace. It is the way home to healing, joy, peace, fulfillment, contentment, and release into God’s dreams for us. It almost feels like we’re stealing silverware from the king’s house, doesn’t it? Truth is, the king paid a lot so that we wouldn’t have to try to steal any silverware. He gets to give it to us; and other stuff so big and good and beautiful that we couldn’t even begin to stuff it into our bag of loot… It takes the eyes some adjustment to look into such light, huh?

Here’s a portion read by one of the authors:

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