Friday, December 28, 2007

Resolutions: Who needs 'em?

It's been a while since I have written anything on here due to all the Christmas fun we've been having. I've been too busy playing Wii Sports with my girls to sit down and type out my thoughts. My favorite sport on the Wii is tennis, and the one I am not good at is boxing.

A quick word about last week's service, we had the highest attendance in Freedom's history with 388 people there! You will want to be sure and continue to invite your friends to worship with you during January. The messages I will be presenting will be some of the most straightforward and challenging that I have ever shared.

This Sunday we will be talking about New Year's resolutions and whether they make a difference. We will also talk about what kind of resolutions you should make, and some practical tips on how to keep the resolutions you make. I would love to hear from you about what resolutions you are making for 2008. Leave a comment and let me know.

Also, I'd love to know how your family is planning to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. Do you shoot fireworks, eat collard greens, watch Dick Clark, or do you go to bed early and sleep through the excitement? Over the years we have done some of all of those things and I'm interested to hear what you will do.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sunday forecast

This Sunday at Freedom is going to be lots of fun. I hope you have already invited some friends to come with you. If you haven't, there's still plenty of time to make some calls and send some e-mails. If you usually hang around in the atrium drinking coffee for a long time each Sunday and don't come into the auditorium until the third or fourth song, you will want to be sure to get there earlier this week. The first song will be one you don't want to miss! Here are a couple of things I reminded ya'll about last Sunday that we need to remember:

- If you are on a team that arrives at the high school early (set-up, band, preschool teacher, etc.) we are asking you to please park in the parking lot beside the school. That will leave all of the good parking spaces for the guests you have invited. It will be a little walk, but getting your heart rate up before you come into worship is a good thing.

- When you enter the auditorium please sit all the way down towards the front, and slide into the middle of the row you're sitting on. This will give late-comers plenty of room to find a place for their family to sit.

- Come expecting something great to happen. I listened to a sermon by Frances Chan this week where he talked about a young lady who leads worship at a college campus near his church. He talked about her joy and passion that is evident every time she leads worship, and he asked her where it comes from. I thought her answer was very cool. She said, "every week I pray that God will do something new. I ask Him to not allow us to have a repeat of last week's service. Our God is a creator, so I ask Him to create something new in our worship service every week." I am praying that same thing for this Sunday's worship, I hope you will as well.

Beacon Blowout update: We had a great time at lunch yesterday. There were 9 guys who weren't afraid of a little grease. Actually it was a lot of grease! We did what real men do when they are at ease and having fun. We ate too much, told lots of stories, made fun of each other, and laughed really loud. I loved it! If you are disappointed you missed it, go ahead and plan for next year. We always do lunch at the Beacon a few days before Christmas. If you want to go sooner, you'll have to come up with a different place. My body can barely handle one Beacon meal a year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Get rid of the Bah-Humbugs

Here's something that's been bothering me a little bit lately. I'm getting tired of people complaining about Christmas. It seems more and more I am talking to folks who are stressed out over shopping, family, wrapping gifts, and just the Christmas season in general. I was in Lowe's two days ago and "Happy Holidays" was playing over the in-store music system. The employee who was helping me said, "I am sick of Christmas music."

I understand that for many people Christmas is a lot more stressful than it is for me. I also know that for some folks Christmas naturally brings on mild depression. I don't want to discount those real problems, but I think sometimes we set ourselves up for disappointment. We want to create the perfect Christmas where the kids get everything they want, all the family gets along, and the house is decorated like the ones you see on TV. When we do that, stress and feelings of inadequacy will naturally follow.

I read Luke chapter 2 frequently every December. I'm always amazed at how simple the first Christmas was. Just a man and woman weary from traveling and their new born Son making the best out of less than ideal conditions. Oh and by the way, the baby happened to be God in the flesh. All the cheesy sayings about remembering the true meaning of Christmas always make me laugh (Keep Christ in Christmas, Jesus is the reason for the season, etc.), but if Christmas has become a chore for you that you dread to see coming and can't wait for it to be over, you really should remind yourself that it is all about God coming to earth because He loves you. Don't let all that has to be done steal your joy in these last 5 days until December 25. Do the same thing Joseph and Mary did that night, make the best out of something that normally would cause you stress. Maybe reading Luke 2 everyday will help.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Slow down and unplug

I read somewhere recently (if I could remember where I would tell you) that addiction to technology is the fastest growing addiction in America. I had never thought of the incessant use of cell phones, e-mail, ipods, etc. being classified as an addiction. In the current issue of Reader's Digest there is a great article about controlling your use of technology instead of allowing it to control you. Here are some interesting facts from the article:

- the average American office worker sends and receives 108 e-mails a day

- a 2007 survey by the American Psychological Association found that 48% of Americans feel their lives have become more stressful over the last five years

- we now receive more information in 72 hours than our parents likely received in a month

Access to all of that information can be good, but it is also overwhelming. We contact people daily through e-mail and cell phones, but the downside is that we are always accessible, even when we shouldn't be. Here are some tips listed in the article about how to deal with information overload in our lives.

- Take Baby Steps: Try being inaccessible for short periods of time and see what happens. The world probably won't implode.

- Set Limits: Rein in office e-mail and text message traffic. Do you really need an update on things every 30 minutes?

- Give Clear Instructions: Let people you deal with know when you read and respond to e-mail, that way they won't expect an instant response.

- Stick to a Schedule: Handle recreational web surfing and e-mail at set times. Dipping in and out is classic self-interruption.

Technolgy can help you be more productive, but it can cause lots of stress if you aren't careful. Since moving to a desert island isn't a realistic option for most of us I hope these tips will help you manage your life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Beacon Blowout time change

Donny has a meeting on Thursday that doesn't end until 11:30, so the Beacon times have changed. We won't arrive in Spartanburg until 12:00 and we should leave the office around 11:40. Hope to see you then.

Breakfast with Fred

Gary O'Sullivan is always passing along great books for me to read. The latest is "Breakfast With Fred". It is a book full of leadership lessons from Fred Smith with commentary from folks like John Maxwell, Ken Blanchard and others. I had never heard of Fred before Gary told me about him, but evidently he has had an unbelievable influence on many people during his life. You can check out Fred's wisdom for yourself by clicking here.

I will be reading through this book slowly during the next year and I'll share some cool stuff from it as I go. Here's some good stuff from the first chapter entitled,
Effective Self-Management.

"The hardest person on any executive's team to supervise is himself."

"One of the most important executive disciplines is cutting off escapes from effective work."

"Most people already know considerably more than they are actually using in the workplace. Education is not the problem - disciplined motivation is."

Those three statements remind me of Galatians 5:22-23. You're probably familiar with it. That verse lists the fruit of the spirit (or is it fruits of the spirit?). The last fruit on the list always gets me. Self-control. Perhaps, Paul placed self-control last on the list because it is the key to doing all the others. Being kind, gentle, loving, patient, and all that other good stuff only seems to happen when I am disciplined to be under control. I have plenty of areas that need to bear the fruit of self-control, maybe you have some as well.

The carpet is in. Now I think we need to come up with a better name for the new room other than "the bonus room". If we named it based on what it will be used for it would be called the "guestbed play study mancave" room. That doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Maybe we could call it the Fortress of Solitude.

Thursday will be the annual Beacon Christmas Lunch Blowout. (a very appropriate title) Any men who can get to Spartanburg by 11:45 or to the office in Greer by 11:15 are invited. Donny and I would love to have you join us as we nullify 12 months of exercise and eating right in one lunch.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday Morning Quarterback

As I type this, there is a nice man at my house installing carpet in the bonus room. A whole lot of work took place this Friday and Saturday in order for that to happen. (Once again, thanks Jake!) Here's what's rolling around in my brain this morning:

- Donny did a great job with yesterday's message. We all need to remember the point he made that, our lives are not just a random series of disconnected events. God is interested in the details of our existence, and it His desire to place us in situations where we have the opportunity to serve Him. That gives me hope.

- We had a fun time last night at the O'Sullivan's drop-in. I ate way too much Christmas candy, but the time spent talking and laughing was very cool. I found out on the way out the door that yesterday was Barrie's birthday, but she didn't want anyone to know about it while she was hosting. Now that the drop-in is over be sure to e-mail or call her and tell her happy birthday!

- I watched Emily's church basketball game on Saturday. It was a barn burner with a final score of 7-6. (yes, you read that correctly) Middle school girls games always tend to be defensive affairs and this one certainly was.

- Only 8 more days until Christmas. Try to enjoy it. If going to the mall always stresses you out, don't go. Just tell your family that your gift to them this year is your peace of mind. I'm sure they'll understand.

- I spent a good part of last week finalizing the direction of the messages for January. I am really looking forward to them. They will be the most challenging, blunt series of messages we have ever presented. Start getting ready now!

- I am planning to go to the Beacon in Spartanburg this week for a lube job, I mean lunch. I go eat lunch there once a year shortly before Christmas whether I need to or not. Come to think of it, I never need to go, or even should go to the Beacon, but that won't stop me. Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a sandwich covered in greasy onion rings!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I'm back

Sorry I haven't posted this week. On Monday I spent all day at home working on getting the AC unit installed for our bonus room, then yesterday I was in some kind of funk. Who knows what it was, Christmas blues, ministry pressure, stress from the bonus room project, but whatever it was I have rebounded strong today from time spent with friends last night, steady care and encouragement from my lovely wife, and time spent in the word. So here's whats on my mind today:

- I've been listening to a lot of Dave Mattthews Band (DMB) on my ipod lately. I never really liked them that much until I heard their live recordings. That's what I've been getting into. It reminded me of the fact that people who aren't followers of Jesus need to see us live out what we believe more than they need to hear us say what we are opposed to. Listening to DMB live recordings is very different to me than their studio music. I can relate to the live stuff. I think people want to see our faith live and in person. That's what will be real to them.

- This warm weather is awesome! When it gets real cold in the winter I go on and see what the temperature is in places like Naples, FL and San Juan Puerto Rico. Then I dream about being there. The last couple of days I haven't had to dream.

- Be sure you are inviting your friends to worship with you on December 23. I was at Ted's place yesterday to preview a video we will use in that service. It is going to be very cool.

- I loved the new song, "You Said", that the band did on Sunday. When the chorus kicked in on that one I was really into it.

More work on the bonus room tonight, (Thanks Jake!). I am so committed to finishing this project on time that I am giving up a chance to eat at El Mariachi, the best Mexican place around.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Looking to Sunday

If you're anxiously awaiting another list of Christmas songs I'm sorry to disappoint you. Maybe before Christmas I'll do one more list. How about something like my favorite Eddie quotes from "Christmas Vacation"? If you don't know who Eddie is you need to rent "Christmas Vacation" and watch it this weekend.

Today instead of a list, I want to give you a little preview of this week's service. I got to hang out with our band at practice last night, and they were working on a new song for this Sunday called "You Said". Laura Beth sings it, and it is going to be awesome! Be sure you are there Sunday, you will not want to miss it. I will be talking this week about how Christmas reminds us that God keeps His promises. The bible is full of promises that God makes to us, and we can count on Him to do what He says He will do. I think that's something we need to be reminded of regularly not just during this busy time of year.

On Wednesday of this week, our Life Group had our Christmas party with the Life Group that Tracy Burkhalter leads. I was reminded of how important just hanging out and having fun together with other folks is to me. I believe the religious term for this would be "fellowship". Whatever you want to call it, it was fun. We did that thing where everyone brings a present then you steal them from each other. It had been awhile since I had laughed that hard!

One more thing before Sunday, I just received an e-mail from Wendy Trusty who is overseeing our teacher recruitment for the preschool area, and she let me know that beginning in January there will be some opportunities for new folks to serve in that area. If you have been looking for a place to minister at Freedom this would be a great place to consider. You will get to teach some of the sweetest children around the message of God's love. If you are interested, or know someone who might be good at this please send Wendy an e-mail:

I can't wait to see you Sunday! Bring your friends with you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Worst Christmas Songs

Yesterday's post generated lots of good comments, hopefully today's will as well. Here is a list of the five Christmas songs that I think are the worst. This is a list of songs where the artists were being serious so you won't find any songs like "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" on here. Besides "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" wouldn't make this list because it is so bad that it's awesome. After you look it over, be sure and add any songs that I left out, or tell me why you like one of the pathetic songs I included on this list. Here's the list countdown style:

5. Silent Night - The Temptations
One of the great Motown groups sing one of the great carols. That should be a winning combination, right? It's not. This song makes me laugh out loud, and they weren't trying to be funny.

4. Step Into Christmas - Elton John
I can't really put my finger on why this song is so bad. Maybe it's because I expect more out of Elton John. This song sounds like something by ABC or Spandau Ballet, not a legend like Elton John.

3. Winter Wonderland - Eurythmics
The end of this song is so repetitive that you might think your CD is skipping.

2. Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt should just stick to being Cat Woman.

1. Last Christmas - Wham!
Maybe you're not familiar with this song. If you aren't, be thankful. It gets a good bit of airtime on 102.5 and 98.9 every Christmas. If you are a man and you enjoy this song, you need to go to Lowe's and buy some tools, cook outside on the grill, change the oil in your car, shoot and field dress a buck, watch Monday Night Football, and listen to some AC/DC CD's to get your testosterone level back to normal.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Greatest Christmas Songs

One thing I love about this time of year is listening to Christmas music. We have two stations here in the Greenville area that play Christmas music 24/7 during December. (They also play it before Thanksgiving which I don't like, but that's another issue.) Here are a list of my top five favorite "rock n roll" Christmas songs. This is a list of popular songs that I look forward to hearing on the radio every year. This list doesn't include classics such as Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" or Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song" which I also love. I consider those songs to be in a different category than "rock n roll" songs.

I'll list these countdown style:

5. "Blue Christmas" - Elvis Presley
honorable mention for Porky Pig's version that they play on John Boy and Billy

4. "White Christmas" - The Drifters
I especially like the end where they kick into "Jingle Bells"

3. "Please Come Home for Christmas" - The Eagles
Aaron Neville also does a great version of this song that is a close second

2. "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
I love it because it's Bruce, because it's live, because of Clarence's sax solo, and because I got to see him perform it in person in Columbia a couple of years ago

1. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" - Darlene Love
Nothing beats this one in my opinion. Her voice is so powerful, and the back-up parts are awesome. Every year she performs it on David Letterman a couple of nights before Christmas, and I always stay up to see it. The second best version of this song is by U2.

Well there it is. Leave a comment with your favorites, let me know which great songs I left out.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Monday morning quarterback

I find writing my blog posts in bullet points is easier, and when something can be easy on Monday I think I should take advantage of it. I hope you enjoy yet another post from me of disconnected thoughts that I'm too lazy to put into paragraphs.

- My wonderful wife Sherry and the rest of the band were on top of their game yesterday morning. The new song that Lin sang right before the message couldn't have set up what I was about to say any better. By the time I got on stage to speak, I had already experienced the message about God being hands-on.

- I realized something this morning, I love our dog. I don't love him for the same reason most people love dogs. I've never really been a dog guy, but I love our dog for one main reason: He brings joy to my girls.

- There were at least three new families at our service yesterday. That was the first thing I thought about when Tracy Miller challenged everyone to leave their seats and welcome the people around them. As I have said before, if you are regular Freedom attender then I expect you to be on the welcoming team! A friendly smile and introduction can go a long way in a family's decision to come back next week.

- Jake and I went to the Third Day / Jars of Clay Christmas concert on Saturday night. We had the best seats I have ever had at a concert: front row center. (Thanks Mark & Tricia!) We had a great time, especially when Mac Powell (Third Day's singer) asked who owned Third Day cd's, everyone but Jake raised their hand so Mac pointed at Jake and said "what's your problem?" I'm sure that was the first time Jake had been called out in front of 8,000 people.

- The sheet rock crew is done in our bonus room, so I will begin painting tonight. Don't laugh at me if I stand up to speak on Sunday morning with paint in my hair.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Challenging questions

Two Sundays ago, Donny concluded our message series about redesigning our lives with a very challenging message about redesigning the garage. Most of us have garages filled with stuff other than cars. One of the things Donny emphasized is that what the bible teaches about possessions is very different than the American ideal that we always seem to be striving for. Nowhere does the bible teach the importance of gathering as many possessions as you can in order to make yourself happy. Donny closed out the sermon with some great questions that should cause us all to think about how we handle the money God has given us. Here they are:

· What if you and I were as diligent about seeking out people who had a need and meeting that need as we are about preparing for our own retirement?

· What if we desired seeing poverty eliminated as much as we do our own careers taking off?

· What if we searched as intently for helping the poor, the widows and the orphans as we do looking on the Internet for cheap tickets to the next game?

· What if, as a part of our regular individual budget, we set money aside for the sole purpose of giving it to someone who needs it?

· What if we pursued righteousness with the passion that we pursue our favorite hobby?

Richard Foster in his classic book Celebration of Discipline said, “May God give you and me the courage the wisdom, the strength always to hold the kingdom of God as the number one priority of our lives. To do so is to live in simplicity.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thoughts on last week

The events of last week were by far some of the most difficult I have ever dealt with. Please continue to pray for Kenny's family. Here are some reflections and thoughts about last week.

- Prayer really works: I'm sure you're thinking, "duh", but I was reminded on Thursday of the truth that prayer really does make a difference. Preparing the funeral message on Wednesday for Kenny's service was extremely emotional. I was very concerned that I would not be able to deliver the message on Thursday without losing it. Throughout the day on Wednesday and on Thursday morning I received lots of e-mails and calls from many of you telling me that you had been praying, and that you would especially pray during the funeral. When I woke up on Thursday I felt strong. I told Sherry that I knew people were praying because what I had felt I couldn't do on Wednesday I now knew could happen.

- Bill Hybels was right: In his book Courageous Leadership, Bill Hybles talks about how when you lead a church with the right people you should be so close to them that you would love to retire together. After the funeral on Thursday, I thought back on all the people of Freedom that were there grieving together, and I couldn't think of another group I'd rather spend the rest of my life doing ministry with.

- It's a shame you've got to live so long to be so wise: That's actually a quote from Donny about Rev. Crocker. I was honored to perform Kenny's funeral service with "preacher Crocker" (that's what everyone calls him) at my side. The words he shared brought me so much comfort, and I know his words and presence brought comfort to Kenny's family. The time I spent with him before and after the service confirmed what I've known for years, everyone loves him because he has spent years showing love to others.

I promise to write more often this week. By the way, Blake keeps complaining about a linc to his blog not being on here, so I have added his blog to the blogroll, for now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


On Monday's blog I promised to write later this week about Donny's sermon and this weekend's game. The reason I haven't done that is because on Monday afternoon I got a call that has changed my plans and the lives of lots of people in Greer. One of my friends, who was a faithful member of our church, took his own life on Monday. Monday evening and all day Tuesday were filled with lots of tears, prayers, questions, and hugs. Please spend some time in prayer for the following people:

- Barbara and Nicole: Kenny's wife and daughter. Nicole is 13. Kenny and Barbara were married for 23 years.

- Jack and Jan: Kenny's parents who lost their only other child, Tina, in a car accident over 20 years ago.

- Scott Nix, Mike Whitener, Steve Salvato: Kenny had so many friends, but these were three guys who had spent hours and hours with him trying to help.

- Freedom Fellowship: There's really no way for me to explain what Kenny meant to so many people in our church family.

- Me: The family has asked me to lead the funeral service tomorrow at 11:00. Pray that I will bring words of comfort to the family.

I along with so many others loved Kenny dearly. One thing I can be thankful for is that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Kenny is with Jesus, and for the first time his mind is at peace.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Monday Morning Quarterback

I had a great weekend all around. Here's some of the highlights as well as some other stuff on my mind this morning.

- Dan and Amber Ploof invited us to their place on Saturday night for a cookout. Dan works for Hormel so we had four different meats on the menu. It was a vegetarian's nightmare, and since I'm not a vegetarian it was awesome! I could have made myself sick on the beef brisket. Also, Dan gave me some of this classic meat product to take home. It now comes in single servings. Just what we've all been waiting for.

- Sunday morning Donny did a great job teaching us what the bible says about our possessions, or as I normally call it, our stuff. He challenged us with some questions we should ask ourselves. I will post those questions on tomorrow's blog.

- Tom Glavine is coming back to the Braves! I know that he is not as good as he once was, but to (kinda) quote Toby Keith, "he's as good once as he ever was". It will just be cool having Smoltz and Glavine in the same rotation again.

- The guest drummer on Sunday was Brett Ensley. Hopefully, Brett will be playing with the band about once a month. Brett is also a very talented keyboard player. It doesn't seem fair that he can tear it up on two instruments, and all I can play is my ipod. I guess I should have practiced my piano more when I was taking lessons from Mrs. Shrontz as a kid.

- I noticed on my way to Wal-Mart the other day that a Copper River Grill is being built where the old Quincy's was. There is one in Columbia that my parents love. With all the cool new stuff coming to Greer, (maybe a Bass Pro Shop) pretty soon we won't need to go to Greenville or Spartanburg anymore.

- The Carolina Clemson game is this Saturday. I will not be making any predictions, but I will write a post later this week detailing why this one of the greatest rivalries in sports.

- Sherry and I took the girls to the movies and out to eat last night. We saw "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" and it was great. I thought it was one of the best non-animated kid's movies I've seen in a long time. There is one sad part, but my girls didn't cry. I did, but they didn't.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Self awareness: Music

As long as I can remember I have loved music. Every once in a while someone will ask me what type of music I like, and I usually say, "all of it". There is not a form or style of music that I have heard that I don't like. Obviously, I prefer some more than others, but I generally like everything from rock, rap, country, blues, etc.

There's something more to my love for music that I have become aware of. I don't just love music, I need it. Sometimes during the middle of the day, if I haven't left my office because I am in the middle of studying for a message, I will take a break and listen to two or three songs on my ipod. When I'm done I feel energized and more creative. I experienced this exact thing about an hour ago. I was at a point in the day where I wanted to take a nap and couldn't concentrate. I put my earbuds in, listened to The Eagles, and now I'm ready to finish out the afternoon.

What are the things in your life that God uses to refresh you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

SC Baptist Convention, and Bob Dylan

The South Carolina Baptist Convention annual meeting begins today in Florence (South Carolina not Italy). For the first time in several years I will not be attending any of this year's meeting. The main reasons are the timing this year is not good for me personally, and because the meeting is in Florence. Nothing against Florence, I was born there, but I just didn't want to go there this year and have to get a hotel room and all that stuff.

The SCBC meeting is two days of reports and usually some discussion over issues. The reports I usually enjoy. It's cool to hear about the good work going on at schools like Anderson and Charleston Southern, or to listen to stories about how God is working through mission efforts all over the state. The part that I can't get into much is the discussion over issues. I love a good healthy discussion (even a debate) over issues that really matter. The problem is that the issues that are talked about aren't that important. That's probably not a fair statement to make. Maybe what I should say is that the issues discussed aren't important to me. After all, life is all about me right? ;) The main issue that I keep harping on is the 3.5 million lost people in South Carolina. That should always be the main topic of discussion. It's obvious that the old tried and true methods for reaching this huge group need to be evaluated and where needed, changed.

If I were given the chance to speak before the group at the annual SCBC meeting(which won't be happening any time soon) I would probably read the words of a Bob Dylan song. He does a better job of making the point about the changes that need to be made than I could:

Come gather around people wherever you roam,
and admit that the waters around you have grown,
and accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you is worth savin',
then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone.
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen,
and keep your eyes wide the chance won't come again,
and don't speak too soon for the wheel's still in spin,
and there's no tellin' who that it's namin'.
For the loser now will be later to win.
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen (maybe pastors and DOM's?) please heed the call.
Don't stand in the doorway don't block up the hall,
for he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled,
the battle outside that's ragin'
will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls.
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land,
and don't criticize what you can't understand
your sons and your daughters are beyond your command,
your old road is rapidly aging please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand.
For the times they are a-changin'.

This sinus junk is still kicking my tail. I'm going home to get back in bed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

That's how you do it!

A few months ago one of my friends at Freedom approached me after the service and said, "I felt like shouting today. Do you mind if I do that?" My response was, "If God leads you to shout, then next time you better shout!" Since then my friend has shouted and I love it. It always fires me up when people get overwhelmed by God in a worship service, and they let loose with praise. I'm not talking about putting on a show to try and impress people, but really just being moved by God's Spirit to shout, dance, jump up and down, whatever. Yesterday the band did their bluesy version of Trading my Sorrows, complete with harmonica, and when they finished one of the kids behind me busted out with a loud, "that's how you do it!" That was without a doubt my favorite moment in worship yesterday! Just being free to have fun while worshiping together is something we should experience every week.

I had a great time Saturday doing a wedding for a couple who grew up in the youth ministry that I was in charge of at Fairview Baptist for ten years. That made me feel kind of old. Maybe the real reason I felt old was this sinus infection I am fighting. I should buy stock in Kleenex this time of year.

Thanksgiving is a week from this Thursday. I can't wait. That is my favorite holiday. Don't overlook it and go straight into Christmas.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Marriage book you ought to check out

On Sunday I will continue the series of messages I began last week about re-designing certain rooms of our house. This week I will talk about re-designing the bedroom. The focus will be on your relationship with your spouse. Just recently, I have discovered the best book on marriage that I have ever read. I will be using some material from it in this week's message, it is called Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. It's a marriage book that even men will like!

If you want to purchase your own copy of this book you can do so here.

See you on Sunday!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Leadership Community

Well, I have managed to successfully follow-up a week where I posted five straight days with a week where I have written one post on Monday and now the second on Thursday. One reason why is that I spent lots of time preparing for our Leadership Community Meeting on Tuesday night. These meetings are times when I am able to sit down with some of the key leaders at Freedom and share ideas, dream big, and look forward to the future of what God wants to do in Greer. Some of the things we talked about this week are:

- The need for Jesus in our state: This Sunday there will be 3.5 million people in South Carolina who are not in church. We believe that Freedom Fellowship exists for these people, not just for us and our families. That is also why we are committed to be a church that helps start more churches. New churches reach new people. It's simple but true.

- We can't play it safe and reach the 3.5 million: We are at crucial point in the history of our church. We could survive for 100 years at the size we are now. We must be sure that we aren't satisfied with where we are, and that we are constantly trying new methods to reach our community with the unchanging message of Jesus.

- We are determined to keep things simple: If we try to do everything we will accomplish nothing. We will not be pushed into starting a ministry to fit in every niche. Our plan is to do a few things and do them well.

- The first and most important step is to ask God to do it: I challenged our leaders and now I am challenging you to pray everyday for Freedom Fellowship. Pray everyday that we will find new ways to effectively reach our community. Pray everyday that God will do what only He can do, transform lives for eternity.

By the way, our Budget Planning Team has almost finished the budget for 2008. I am very excited about the new churches we will be supporting, as well as some other things we will be giving money to. I will tell you more about those next week.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Monday Morning Quarterback

If I continue to do these Monday morning updates after football season is over, do I have to change the title to something other than Monday morning quarterback?

We had a great morning of worship at GHS yesterday. I thought the skit was very funny and it was obvious that Lance and Ivey were prepared. Andrea wrote the skit and she did a great job of setting up the message about effective parenting. The band did awesome yesterday especially on the new song "Hosanna". The way they lead us to worship week after week is incredible.

I had a great conversation with a couple who had visited with us for the first time after the service. They talked about how friendly everyone had been to them and how welcome they felt. So many of you do a great job each week of spotting new folks and helping them feel welcome.

My parents came to town for worship and we got to spend time with them yesterday afternoon. We ate at Rock's, and my Dad got my usual order and loved it. Next time you want something good for lunch you should try it: grilled bologna and cheese sandwich and an order of onion rings. Don't eat it everyday or even once a week, or your doctor will love you.

If you were at worship yesterday I'm certain you noticed that I got a haircut last Friday. I certainly got my money's worth on this one. The lady that butchered me must get paid by the amount of hair she sweeps up after each client. When she got done with me there was more on the floor than on my head. It's just hair. It'll grow back.

One more useless piece of information about me: The Patriots / Colts game yesterday was fun to watch. I can watch NFL games for the fun of it, therefor they are more enjoyable. I watch every second of every Gamecock game that's on, and I take it way too seriously. In fact, I am considering recording the games and only watching them after the fact if Carolina wins. That way I won't put my body through all of the emotional ups and downs I experience during a normal game. I really should just lighten up. I'm trying.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Real pictures of my awesome family!

I finally figured out how to put pictures on this thing, so get ready, now I'll probably bore you to death with thousands of pictures of my girls! These are pictures from Halloween. Our girls dressed as old ladies about to go to bed. The first picture is of our cool jack-o-lantern, before the squirrels demolished it.

Building character: part 3

The guys that wrote Deadly Viper: Character Assassins shared some of the questions they asked one another that got them thinking about character building being a team sport. I think these are some good ones for men to ask one another.

- How come we never talk about the really important stuff?

- What are the big issues that are ready to take us down?

- What are the stupid choices we are on the verge of making that would wreck our lives?

- How could we help each other be healthier leaders and find true meaning for our lives?

About a year ago, a minister friend of mine who I have known for 20 years left his wife and kids after having an extended affair with another woman. I can't help but believe that if he had been in a relationship with some other men where they asked and answered these types of questions, he would still be married and raising his kids. The consequences of refusing to build our character are too great to ignore.

I'll finish this subject (for now) with another quote from the book that I thought was great.

"Choosing honor, nobility, and the good can become extensions of who we are. We reject the small-minded, ineffective approach of those who focus simply on specific bad behaviors and miss the lifestyle approach."

Building character is a daily endeavor.

Have a great weekend. Bring someone with you to worship on Sunday!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Trick or Treat update

Two posts in one day! I just remembered that I promised to give a pumpkin carving update. We went with a fairly traditional triangle for the eyes and nose face on our pumpkin. I did try and make the mouth extra big this year. We took some pictures and I think I know how to actually post pictures on this blog. If I figure it out I will put a picture on here soon.

On a side note, I was a little disappointed with the turn-out in our neighborhood last night. I guess since it was Wednesday night lots of people were at church events. Many of the houses we normally go to had their lights off. My friend Jonathan Everette wrote a great post about the low turn-out in his neighborhood that you can read here.

Building character: part 2

If building character is done best in community what are some things we need to consider to make that happen?

- It will not happen by accident. This is especially true for men. If you put two women who don't each other in a room, within 30 minutes they will know about each other's personal life. If you put two men who don't know each other in a room they will talk for 3 hours about work, sports, and politics and not have learned anything about the other guy's personal life. That's just the way we men are, so if you want to build character together with some of your friends you will need to decide to talk regularly about personal issues.

- You'll have to be real. The whole idea of meeting together with your friends to discuss real life issues will be a waste of time if you decide not to reveal the real you. Building character won't happen if you don't admit what areas you need to improve in.

- There has to be trust within the group. From the beginning you will need to be sure that everyone in your group understands that what is talked about is private. If that is the environment that you create then getting real about your character issues is more likely to happen.

- Character isn't built quickly. The guys who wrote Deadly Viper put it this way, "Character isn't a destination, but a journey towards becoming a more whole, complete, and healthy leader."

In part 3 I'll give you some questions the guys who wrote Deadly Viper ask each other on a regular basis.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

I'll be writing the second post on building character tomorrow. This afternoon I have to finish up some other stuff and get home to prepare for trick or treating with my girls. It's always a big deal in our neighborhood. It's a great way to catch up with our neighbors. The main thing I have to do when I get home is carve our pumpkin. It can't be done early or else the squirrels around our house will rip it apart. Those things can really make a mess on your porch when they eat through a pumpkin. I'll let you know what type of face we carve tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Building character: part 1

"The building of character is a community thing."

That is a quote from a great new book called Deadly Viper - Character Assassins. Anyone can read it, but it is really written for men from a male perspective. Check it out here. One of the authors of that book Jud Wilhite often says, "character is the key to sustained individual significance." I believe both of those statements to be true. I believe the best example of character building being a community thing is the family. As parents, Sherry and I want to do all we can to build the character of Emily and Grace. It wouldn't make a lot of sense for us to leave that up to them. Character building is done in community and the natural community for that to happen in when you are a kid is the family.

What happens when you grow-up, get a job and move out? (I have often been accused of not really growing up) Where do you find a community that helps build your character? Sunday morning worship services are not where this will happen. Those events can't be personal enough for that. If character building is really going to happen in your life, you have to find some guys (if you're a guy) to meet with regularly and work on it. The key is that you are doing it together.

This is my first post that I have included a "part 1" in the title. I guess that means I have to write a "part 2" tomorrow. See you then.

By the way, when I ran the spell-check on this post I found out that I don't know how to spell "believe". That whole "i" before "e" thing has always confused me.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween Hoopla

I need to go ahead and write about this before I get too bogged down in the business (or is it busyness?) of a new week. Halloween Hoopla on Saturday went way beyond my expectations! The police officers that worked the event for us estimated that there were over 3,000 people on Trade Street during the busiest time period. I was praying that there would be a ton of people present for us to show love to, and God brought them in. All of our volunteers did a fantastic job as usual of serving with a smile and going beyond the normal call of duty. Donny and his team (Shelly, Jeanne Brown, and Crystal Schulte) had everything organized, so when the volunteers arrived it was easy to just plug people in the right spot and let them go to work.

The amazing thing to me about this whole event is the fact that the Chamber of Commerce asked us to do it. This was truly a God thing. We never would have been able to get permission to shut down four streets in downtown on a Saturday unless it was God's idea for this to happen.
Now that the event itself is over, let's spend lots of time praying that the seeds that were planted will grow into changed lives. Keep bringing your friends to worship on Sunday mornings, and keep living lives of true freedom every day of the week!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hoopla time

It's almost here. We are one day away from Halloween Hoopla! Donny has put together a great planning team, and as far as we can tell everything is ready for tomorrow. There are over 100 volunteers who already have their assignments and will be working at the event to make it special for the kids and families in our community. Here's a couple of things to remember for tomorrow:

- We are representing Jesus. As you are helping tomorrow, be sure and go the extra mile to be helpful. We will be dealing with kids from all backgrounds, some of which don't normally get praise and encouragement in their homes. It will be a blessing to them when they receive smiles, encouraging words, and pats on the back from us.

- Have fun! This will be a great opportunity for you to get more familiar with the people you are volunteering with as well as the people you are serving. Take time to laugh and get to know one another.

- Your service is much appreciated. It takes lots of people working in the same direction to pull off a big event like this. Thanks for working hard to make it happen.

- Pray. All of the preparation and hard work will amount to nothing if God's power is not present. Pray and ask God to give you an opportunity to show His love to the people who come. Pray that the un-churched who come will follow up on this event by coming to a worship service. Pray that God will be honored by our efforts.

I'll see you tomorrow in downtown Greer. It's going to be great!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Self awareness: Exercise

I have been working hard over the last couple of years to become more self-aware. (If that word isn't supposed to be hyphenated please let me know.) I think it's good for all of us to be aware of why we act, think, and feel the way we do. As I have been doing this, I've become aware of lots of things about myself that were probably obvious to people around me a long time ago. Things like: I tend to talk too much, I like to be liked, and I am emotional (in a very manly way of course).
Here's a new one I have discovered: I need to exercise. I know that is extremely obvious, but I'm not just talking from a physical standpoint. Ultimately the main reason I should exercise is for my physical health, but I am discovering that exercising regularly is just as important for my spiritual and mental health as well.

Yesterday I came home very drained due to dealing with the struggles of different people, and due to the fact that I didn't accomplish all I needed to at the office. Instead of making time to exercise, I came straight home. My beautiful and wise wife, (who knows me better than I know me) suggested I should go exercise before I went back last night for a budget planning meeting. I did, and as I was walking on the treadmill I could feel my mind getting clearer and my spirit begin to lift. God was using that physical activity to renew me.

I spent years neglecting my physical health because I said I was too busy. I am slowly learning that exercise is one thing I need to make time for, and I believe that God is pleased with that.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Afternoon Quarterback

Here's some quick highlights from this weekend along with some other thoughts on this rainy Monday afternoon.

- Yesterday was big-time stressful! For really the first time in the short history of Freedom we had a good bit of technical difficulties. Our technical team as well as our band did a great job of pushing through and making the best of less than ideal circumstances. God has blessed us with great hard-working people!

- On Saturday the Gamecocks laid a big egg, and I was there to witness it. Despite the pathetic play of the team I had a great time, and the reason why was sitting beside me. Having Emily at the game with me made the outcome of the game unimportant. Anytime I get to spend with either of my girls is never wasted.

- I had a great conversation with a group of people last week that really opened my eyes. Most times as the pastor of Freedom I think I am communicating the vision and dream of what Freedom can be very clearly, but I discovered last week that I wasn't communicating as well as I thought. That was great information to discover! Now the goal is to be more clear and concise.

- I love it when God moves new families to Greer just so they can be at Freedom. I believe that there are some new families attending Freedom now that God specifically sent to help impact this community.

- While Emily and I were in Columbia on Saturday, Sherry and Grace made a delicious red velvet cake. I have got to be sure and work out every day this week, because I am going to eat lots of that cake!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

LIFE Group, Haloween Hoopla, and football

Since I started reading blogs about 6 months ago I've noticed that some bloggers really like bullet point posts and others make fun of them. Because of my undiagnosed adult ADD I think bullet point posts are awesome. They are much easier to write as well. With that in mind, here are some bullet points about what's going on right now.

- We had a great time with our LIFE Group last night. There was lots of very honest discussion about the greatness of God's love for us and how understanding His love should lead us to love the unlovable. If we're honest with ourselves, I think we'd all admit that we can be unlovable at times.

- I'm reading a good book right now by Craig Groeschel called "Confessions of a Pastor". I picked it up at the Catalyst conference after we heard him speak. Blake was thrilled when he left a comment on Groeschel's blog and then Groeschel commented back that Blake had great insight.

- I'm really looking forward to Saturday. I will be taking Emily to her first Gamecock football game. This will be a big moment for me that hopefully will be even more special due to a Gamecock victory. I'm sure it will be better than when I took Sherry to her first Gamecock game back in 1989. It turned out to be a 59-0 beat down at the hands of Florida State. That was not fun.

- Halloween Hoopla is happening next weekend! This will be a great chance to show love to our community. I am thrilled that we have been given the chance to do a community-wide event in the downtown area! More on this later...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Independence: not as good as you think

I have been reading through the book of Proverbs for the last couple of weeks and I came across a verse today that really got my attention.

"A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?"
Proverbs 20:24

One thing that I tend to place to high a value on is self-sufficiency. In fact, I think very highly of those people who made their own way through life with little or no help from anyone. I'm always impressed by their stories. Self-sufficiency might be o.k. for some things, but that type of attitude can be damaging to my relationship with Jesus. In fact, Jesus wants to be the opposite of independent. His desire is for me to be dependent on Him. The words in Proverbs 20:24 ring so true for me, because I can think of many times in my life where things did not seem to make sense. Those almost always were times when I was caught up in trying to make my "own way" in whatever it was I was involved in. As a follower of Christ, my steps should be directed by Him, therefor I should expect to be dazed and confused when I try to be self-sufficient and do things my own way.

Last night, we had a budget planning meeting and it was great! That last sentence is not a typo! I have spent many hours in budget planning meetings where I would have much rather been somewhere else, but last night our team spent time talking about how much money we are going to give away next year and it was exciting. We will give money to help new churches get started and also to some other cool projects like paying for wells in Rwanda (that's in Africa) for villages to have clean water (something we take for granted).

We also spent a lot of time talking about God's plans for Freedom. You will hear more about that in this blog and on Sunday mornings soon. Here's a sneak preview: We're not content to stay where we are, and we're not finished with the task God has for us!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday Afternoon Quarterback

A couple of Monday's ago I did a post on Monday morning that I called Monday Morning Quarterback, a title I blatantly stole from Mike & Mike. I did a run down of cool things that happened over the weekend. Well here's another one of those, but I'm writing it on Monday afternoon ergo (that's another word for you Emily) the name change to Monday Afternoon Quarterback.

- Friday at the State Fair was great. I didn't eat too much. It was more than I would eat on a normal Friday, but significantly less than I have eaten at the Fair in past years. The Fiske Fries with vinegar on them are still my favorite. What was better than the food was getting to spend all day with Sherry and the girls. On the way home that night Grace must have said "I had fun today" ten times.

- On Saturday we all helped out at the Community Health Fair at SSI. The weather was great, and we got to meet lots of new people and talk to many we already knew. The highlight was seeing James, a long time patient at SSI, walk unassisted for the first time in 15 years! James had said that when he walked again he would get his hair cut and donate it to Locks of Love. So, after he walked we got to watch James get his first haircut in years as well.

- Saturday night, after the Gamecocks scared me in the second half against North Carolina, I went down to Horizon Records in Greenville to catch the last set of a band called Colonel Bruce Hampton and the Quark Alliance. The reason I wanted to see them was because a friend of mine, Jeff Caldwell, that I haven't seen since we graduated high school (20 years ago, it's hard for me to believe) is their guitarist. After they finished their set we got to talk and catch up for a little while. He couldn't believe I'm a pastor, sometimes I can't believe it either! He lives in Atlanta when he's not traveling and I'm hoping he can come down and visit on a Sunday morning sometime.

- Then on Sunday morning Sherry fooled me with something, and it was awesome. She told me this past Thursday that we had a guy coming in to play drums that had never played with our band before, and she hoped he would be good. She claimed it was some dude that Andrea found. Well, on Sunday while we are getting set up she calls me out to to the atrium of the high school to meet this new drummer, and there stands Jamie Parler (his nickname from high school that I call him is Pauley) my oldest friend in the world! I had no clue he was coming to play drums with our band on Sunday! I found out later that both Emily and Grace knew, Blake knew, Robin Wellmon knew, everyone knew but me. I have surrounded myself with people who know how to keep a secret.

- After all the fun and excitement from that weekend I crashed hard in my chair last night and watched the Patriots beat the Cowboys. I've always been a Cowboy hater, but I like Tony Romo. I was actually pulling for them last night.

This post is already long, but I had lunch with Gary O'Sullivan today and he told me that this friend of his is now reading my blog. Now we can say that Elvis has entered the building!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Time to eat

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We will be heading to Columbia in the morning for the South Carolina State Fair. It will be the first time we've been in the last couple of years, so my girls are looking forward to it. They're also looking forward to seeing their cousins.

I love the whole experience from the rides to the livestock to the games where they try to rip you off. All that stuff is fun, but nothing beats the food! I can feel my cholesterol rising now as I think about it. Some of my favorites are the Fisk fries (with lots of vinegar), the mini-doughnuts, and the deep fried mushrooms. I probably shouldn't eat any of that stuff, but I believe I'm going to have to have a little bit (or maybe a lot). I'll let you know how I bad feel after it's all over.

Donny and I spent most of today thinking through several areas that can be elevated to help us reach more un-churched folks. It was a very productive time, but my brain is fried! It doesn't take much for my brain to get in that condition. I think some time on the treadmill will be just the thing to get me back on track.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Catalyst - Craig Groeschel

I promised on Monday that I would write some about the Catalyst conference later this week. I think the best way to do this is just to tell you what I thought were some of the highlights from the speakers.

One guy we got to hear that really challenged me was Craig Groeschel. Craig is the pastor of in Oklahoma. His church was named by Outreach magazine as one of the most innovative churches in the country last year. Craig spoke about practical atheism. A practical atheist is anyone who believes God exists but does life as if He does not exist. He talked about how often times we as pastors say we believe God exists but then we do ministry as if He doesn't. According to Craig these are three we ways we can test if we are a practical atheist or not:

1. We start to believe that our effort is better than God's power.
Too often I believe that if I just work harder Freedom will reach more people.

2. We believe that our private life doesn't effect our public ministry.
When I hear this, I automatically think of "big sins" like adultery or stealing money, but Craig emphasized how things we think are small (negative attitudes, prejudices, etc.) also affect what you do in public.

3. We believe we must please people more than we please God.
That's a big one for me. I just want to be liked is that so wrong? It is when being liked by people keeps you from doing what God has clearly said you should do.

Craig challenged us to be sure we weren't becoming full-time ministers and part-time followers of Christ. God wants to do a work in my life, I need to be sure and let Him.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Yesterday's service: WOW!

The Catalyst conference last week was really, really challenging and inspiring, but I will write more about that tomorrow. I hope you were at Freedom yesterday. We had a Lord's Supper service that was amazing! It was so cool to see Dads and Moms leading their kids in the receiving of the bread and the cup. I couldn't help but think that this will be the kind of service that these kids will remember for a long time. When we were planning this service, one of the things we wanted to accomplish was for parents (specifically Dads) to lead their families in this important tradition. Too often parents (again specifically Dads) think that the spiritual development of their kids is the church's responsibility. Nothing could be further from the truth. If yesterday was the first time you led your family in prayer or read scripture to them, don't let it be the last. Begin a new tradition in your home where Dad (or Mom if Dad is no longer around) leads the family in a closer walk with Jesus. Thirty years from now, you'll be glad that you did.

It was also cool yesterday to see teenagers whose parents weren't there taking the Lord's Supper together, as well as three generations of Greene's (Tom, Scott, and Stephen) at the table together, and a grown brother and sister celebrating the Lord's Supper. I could go on and on about how powerful it was to witness.

Every week at Freedom, lots of hard work goes into making the service a reality, but this week there were some extra things that had to be done. Let me take this space to thank a few folks:

- Jake Ticknor: Jake built the crosses that were used down front. I told Jake that I wanted them to be sturdy because the last thing we wanted was for one of them to fall on someone. They were sturdy, and they looked awesome.

- Ted, Chad, Mark and the rest of the set-up team: There were lots of changes to the normal set-up yesterday, and Ted's crew handled it all smoothly and with a great attitude.

- Band: They do a great job every week of being prepared and working hard to lead us to see Jesus, but yesterday was something special. I thought I was going to explode when they led us in "Mighty to Save", I was so jacked up! By the way, they looked and sounded great up on the stage didn't they?

- Debbie Bateman, Lisa Wilson: These two ladies always make sure we have enough bread and juice, and that they are presented in a way that looks good.

- Donny and Blake: I had the idea of doing the Lord's Supper in a different way, and as I talked the idea out with these two guys they did a great job of helping figure out ways to do it smoothly and with meaning. There are so many things about yesterday's service that would have been done differently without their input, and the result would not have been good.

This post is too long already, but let me share one more cool thing about yesterday. After the service we went to Rock's for lunch with a family who are fairly new at Freedom. It was great to talk with them about what kind of church we want Freedom to become, and to find out how their first impressions have been. It was also cool to see so many tables there filled with other families from Freedom all eating together and just generally having a great time.

Don't be afraid to leave a comment about how yesterday's service affected you and your family.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Yesterday and today have been hectic! We (me, Donny, Blake) are heading out first thing in the morning (5:00 a.m. no lie!) to the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. I am really looking forward to it. This will be the first year I get to go. Catalyst is a conference designed for young leaders, so Donny and I figured we better start going because pretty soon we won't fit into that category anymore. Of course Blake has many more Catalyst conferences in his future. Anyway, trying to get everything done to go out of town is always stressful for me. Not as stressful as it has been for Donny though. Just about an hour ago I looked across my desk into his office and said something to the effect of, "You got everything covered so we can head out in the morning?" To which he responded by saying something along the lines of, "We don't leave until Friday." In the busyness of Donny's week he had lost an entire day! Have you ever been there? I know I have.

One thing we've been working on so we can leave for Atlanta knowing everything is covered is this Sunday's service. Be sure you are there this week and invite your friends to join you! We are going to be celebrating the Lord's Supper and I'm really excited about how it will be done. Don't miss it.

By the way, speaking of Blake, he is doing a great job so far with our teenagers. Pray for him and Laura Beth as they build this very important ministry. He also taught me how to create lincs to other websites on this blog the right way. From now on when you see a word highlighted like this you will be able to click on it to go visit another site. Thanks Blake. What did we ever do without you?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The perks of service

Sunday evening was really cool. I say it all the time, but it's true: baptism is my favorite thing that we do at Freedom! Thanks to Lance and Amanda for allowing us to use SSI for our baptism party once again. If you couldn't be there, be sure not to miss the next one.

I had a couple of different conversations this weekend that reminded me of something that I wanted to share with you. I talked to a friend who has been going through some pretty difficult times recently. He volunteers tons of his time in many ministries, one is specifically dedicated to helping young men grow into leaders. He told me about how he spent an extended period of time serving in that capacity recently and how blessed he was by God in doing that. Think about that, he put in a lot of time and hard work to serve these young men, yet he was the one who received a much needed blessing. That conversation along with a couple of others reminded me of this fact: when we take time to serve God by serving others we get to be a blessing to those people, but we also receive a double blessing! It's one of those things about God that doesn't seem like it makes sense, but it always works out that way.

There's another benefit to serving especially in regards to your connection with Freedom. One of things we have learned since beginning Freedom is that serving along side someone is a great way to develop relationships. When people tell me that they need to develop more friendships at Freedom I always encourage them to find a place to serve. Through that type of action you have a chance to get to know a whole new group of people.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Over 3 million people

If any of us need to be reminded of the need for Jesus in our community and our state, I just ran across some numbers in the last couple of weeks that should get us motivated. Ron Barker sent me an e-mail with these stats, and then my friend Jonathan Everette, who is a church planter in Spartanburg, mentioned them on his blog. (I've added Jonathan's blog to the list of lincs)

Here are the numbers: On an average Sunday morning 77% of the people of South Carolina are not in church. In 2004, the population of South Carolina was listed at 4,198,068, that means that on an average Sunday there are 3,463,406 people who need to be reached! Let that sink in for a moment. Almost 3 and a half million people that either don't know Jesus or are not worshipping with other followers of Christ the way the bible instructs us to. When I hear those numbers a few thoughts pop into my head.

- We need more churches! It's proven that new churches reach new people. We've seen that here at Freedom and the same is true all over this state. The over 3,000,000 plus that need to be in church won't all be reached by existing churches. That's why we need to be active in helping more churches that teach the good news of Jesus get started.

-Churches need to quit worrying about losing their members to other churches. Remember, the church exists for those who don't know Jesus, and there are plenty to go around! If all of God's churches would begin to do all they could to reach the 3,000,000 then we wouldn't have time to worry about another church stealing our people.

- We can't let up. There is much work to do to reach our community, and until all of them know Jesus there will always be work to do. Invite your friends to worship with you at Freedom. Pray for them to understand the love of Jesus. Demonstrate the true freedom that comes from Christ in every encounter you have with them.

Here's an idea for all of us, write the number 3,463,406 on a post-it note and put it somewhere you will see it everyday. Allow that note to remind you to pray that we would reach each and every one of those people. Start today by inviting someone to join you at Freedom this Sunday. They will hear the good news of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Staff meeting?!?

Here's a new development in the life of our church: staff meetings. I know that some of you cringe when you hear that word, and if you have been involved in some of the staff meetings I've been in you would really cringe, or run fast in the other direction. All that being said, Donny and I realized when Blake came on board, that we should probably be a little more intentional about getting together to talk about things instead of just popping our heads in and out of each other's offices, hence (I used that term for you Emily) staff meetings on Tuesday mornings. So far we have had two and they have been great. We have gone to Panera, sat outside and only dealt with important issues. It feels weird saying this but, I have actually enjoyed our staff meetings. I hope that doesn't mean I'm just getting old.

Here's the linc for the Covenant Eyes software download I mentioned in yesterday's blog:
If you use the code on the brochure we gave out Sunday, you can try it out for one month free of charge. We still have plent of the brochures, so you can pick one up this Sunday if you missed it.

Also, to follow-up on Sunday's message, Donny wanted me to let ya'll know that there is a great book written about sex from a christian perspective entitled Sheet Music. Clever title huh? Here is the linc to the page where you can order this book:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back from the beach

We're back! Sorry I didn't blog last week, I was at the beach with the girls. I did take the computer with the intention of getting at least one blog done, but there was too much time needed to be spent at the pool, in the sand, riding in the golf-cart, and going out to eat, and playing putt-putt to get anything else done. Here are some thoughts about last week's trip, yesterday at Freedom, and other stuff.

- We stayed at Ocean Lakes while at the beach. I have stayed there twice now, both times in September, and had an awesome time. I can't imagine what that place would be like during 4th of July week. There are a lot of houses packed in there.

- We ate at one of our favorite seafood restaurants, The Conch Cafe in Garden City. The older I get the more I love fried oysters.

- We had some rainy weather last week, but I realized again that I love being at the beach no matter what the weather's like.

- The girls loved riding in the golf-cart. We probably had as much fun doing that as we did everything else.

- Being back for Sunday morning was awesome. I got to continue the series on The Best Question Ever, and this week we dealt with making wise moral choices. I got to spend a lot of time talking about a subject everyone is interested in: sex. If you weren't there, you missed what I was thought was a very funny moment when we had everyone say, "sex" out loud just to get over the fact that we were actually going to talk about it in church. It was kind of like a weird responsive reading.

- I am amazed how every week we have new people join us for worship. Keep that in mind when we start to talk about the need to change our Sunday morning environment in the next couple of months. (ideas I am still sorting through that I will talk about later)

- Dan Ploof did a great job yesterday singing From the Inside Out. He also did all the behind the scenes work to arrange a relationship with the people at Covenant Eyes so anyone at Freedom can access their internet accountability software for one month free. I will put the linc to their website on the blog tomorrow. Thanks Dan for your hard work, and for having a passion to see all followers of Christ live sexually pure lives.

- Brett Farve tied Dan Marino's career touchdown passes record yesterday. (sorry Mark) There is no football player I'd rather watch than Farve. The thing about his game that has not diminished as he has gotten older is his passion. (he also still has a rocket arm) I'll be sorry when he retires.

- The Gamecocks took it on the chin Saturday in Baton Rogue. Obviously, I would have loved a win, but at least we looked respectable.

That's all for now. I've got so many more things I'm thinking about but I'll try and save them for another day.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A dinner to remember

At our new Life Group this week we did some get to know you style questions. One that I enjoy asking people is, "If you could have dinner with anyone in the world who would it be?" The only limits are: the individual has to still be alive, and it has to be someone you don't already know. I can think of lots of people I would love to sit down with over a juicy steak and learn from. Here's a list of a few of them:

- Bruce Springsteen: my favorite musician, writer of the greatest rock song ever, Born to Run

- Andy Stanley: The list of things I would ask would take way longer than one meal

- Tiger Woods: How does he stay so disciplined and committed to excellence?

- Bill Cosby: I would just sit back and laugh at his stories

- Johnny Depp: I have nothing to talk to him about, but maybe over dinner some of his coolness would rub off on me.

- Oprah: Again, nothing to say to her, just hoping she would make a large financial contribution to Freedom, or to the Marshall Fund (my checking account)

Who's on your list? I'd love to read it. Just leave a comment.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The challenge that lies ahead

Have you ever gotten so much great information in a short period of time that you feel a little overwhelmed? I've heard someone say before that it's like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hydrant. One of the things I have been very aware of this summer is that we need to make some changes to the way we do things at Freedom, or we will lose our effectiveness. Having 300 plus people come to worship each week is exciting, but if we still have only 300 plus people coming a year from now we have missed an amzing opportunity. Remember, there are thousands of unchurched people in Greer. In fact, I heard a statistic recently that 60% of Greenville county is unchurched! I am constantly looking ahead to find what we need to do to reach as many of these people as possible.

Two things recently have given me so much to think about in this area. One is the book, Go Big that I have quoted on some earlier blogs. The second one happened yesterday. I was able to have lunch with Tony Morgan and Michael Brown from New Spring church in Anderson. For any of you who are'nt familiar with New Spring, it is a church that is 7 years old that averages somewhere around 8,000 people a week in worship. That's an amazing number, but the next number is what really gets me excited. Last Saturday, New Spring held a baptism service where they baptized 562 people! That is more people than all 42 churches in the Greer Baptist Association baptized last year combined. Anyway, Tony and Michael took 90 minutes with me to help me see some things from a different perspective. The things they talked about and encouraged me to think about are all rolling around in my head today. I'm not going to share those things with you now, because I need to process all of these things God is trying to get me to see before I can share them clearly.

So why do I tell you this? If you don't already do it, pray for Freedom and pray for me as the pastor. If you do already pray for that, keep it up! I believe God can do even more amzing things here in Greer than He is doing in Anderson, and I want our church to be right in the middle of it. For that to happen we are going to have to make some changes, try the impossible, fail a few times, and not be satisfied with business as usual. Let's do it together.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Matter of Trust

When I was in high school Billy Joel released a new song and video that I thought was cool. It was different because he was playing the guitar in the video instead of the piano. The song was called, "A Matter of Trust". (yes, I have it on my ipod) That song title popped in my head yesterday as I was working on this Sunday's message. I will be teaching on asking the best question ever in regards to our money. It's amazing how much stuff there is in scripture about money. The Old Testament and New Testament both are filled with verses about money and how we should use it. So what does this have to do with Billy Joel? It seems to me, as I read the scripture that the issue we struggle with most about money is a matter of trust. Do we really trust Jesus when He said that God will provide for our needs? Do we really trust the bible to be true when it says in Malachi 3:10 that if we give to God He will give us more than we can find storage space for?
From my personal experience, God can be trusted, even in the area of money. I don't know how it works (I was never good at math) but the more I give the less I have to worry about where the money to provide for my family will come from. Giving to Him even when we don't think we can afford to is not spreadsheet, bottom line, make the numbers add up issue. It's a trust issue, or as Billy Joel sang, "it's always been a matter of trust"

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday Morning Quarterback

During the NFL (that's the National Football League in case you were wondering) season, ESPN does a rundown of the weekend games on Monday's that they call "Monday Morning Quarterback". I guess this will be like a "Monday Morning Quarterback" update on how things went this weekend.

The weekend got off to a great start on Friday when Sherry and I had a date at our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Mariachi. Being married to your best friend is out of this world!

Saturday was very relaxing, especially compared to all that had happened last Saturday. I was able to get some work done on the bonus room we are finishing, cut the grass, play Battleship with Grace, and settle down in my chair (every man should have a chair like mine to watch football in) and watch the Gamecocks shut down the Georgia Bulldogs. I don't claim to be able to predict the future, but I did write in Friday's blog that I had a good feeling going into that game!

Sunday was exciting. We did baby/child dedication, so there were lots of visiting grand-parents in the house. The band did their usual outstanding job, and I continued teaching about the Best Question Ever. We focused on asking the best question ever in regards to our time. After the service a man came and told me how he had been jogging by the school that morning, had seen the crowd, and stopped to ask someone what was going on. He talked to one of our teenagers who invited him to come inside. When I started to talk in the message about investing small, consistent amounts of time over a long period of time, that was just thing he needed to hear. It was an encouragement to him to continue developing his relationship with his step-daughter. It was cool reminder to me that while we are working to prepare the service week after week, God is also at work! When we get tired and take a break, God is still at work!

Then last night we ended the weekend by spending time with our worship team at the O'Sullivan's house. Barrie prepared a great meal of burritos with all the fixings, and we talked some about the importance of worshipping together and what it means to lead others in worship. Then we just hung-out, talked, and laughed.

Remember to pray this week for the people God will send to us this Sunday, and ask Him to show you who you can invite to be there. He is at work drawing people to Himself and we need to be part of the process!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Random thoughts

I haven't blogged since Monday. That doesn't mean I have nothing to say, it just means it has been a busy week. Here are some thoughts going through my scattered brain today.

- I am really enjoying preparing this series of messages based on The Best Question Ever by Andy Stanley. I think he does the best job of anyone I've read or heard at taking spiritual truth and creating practical, do-able steps to help you implement that truth into your real life.

- I love my ipod. Having all of my music available in one small package is probably the coolest thing ever invented! (I know the light bulb is more important, but you can't dance to a light bulb) Well, my ipod just got even more awesome this week. I was able to download the new Bruce Springsteen song of off itunes for free. It is from the album that won't be released until October, and the only place you can get it is on itunes. Very cool.

- I can't wait for the Gamecocks to play Georgia this Saturday. I have been wrong before, but I have a good feeling going into this one. Of course the way I feel has no effect whatsoever on the game, so I hope the players are as excited and confident as I am!

- I went home to eat lunch today, and I was so thankful for Sherry home-schooling our girls. There's lots of great reasons but the one I liked best today was that I got to love on my girls in the middle of the day. If they weren't at home I would have missed out on that.

Monday, September 3, 2007

An up and down weekend

What a wild weekend! Yesterday we experienced an awesome worship experience, but it almost didn't happen. We have been having public worship at Freedom for about two and a half years. During that time there has been the occasional glitch, but nothing to hard too deal with. Well this weekend we got tested with having several things mess up at once. Without going into all of the details, we had serious keyboard and computer issues that never got completely fixed until Sunday morning. I was just a little bit stressed out by all of it, (o.k. maybe a lot stressed out), but the cool thing was how our team all pitched in to get things right. I am so thankful that God has given each of us different abilities and passions, and that everyone is eager to use them. Ted Roberts and Mark King saved me on Saturday night when I was ready to throw the laptop we use for worship out the window of my truck. Mark Wilson and Jake Ticknor were willing to start Sunday morning very early in order to remedy our keyboard problem. The entire band worked through abnormal circumstances to lead us in worship through music that was great.

Once everything was settled we kicked off a new series of messages based on, The Best Question Ever by Andy Stanley. Here's a quick review for those of you who were at the beach this weekend. The best question ever is: What is the wise thing to do? It's based on
Ephesians 5:15-17. Before making important decisions ask yourself these three questions:

-In light of my past experience, what is the wise thing to do?

-In light of my current circumstances, what is the wise thing to do?

-In light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

As I said yesterday, life is really a series of decisions and then living with the consequences of those decisions. I believe if you will truly ask yourself, what is the wise thing to do, your decision making will be revolutionized.

By the way, our weekend wasn't totally stressful. Sherry and I went with Tracy and Paige Burkhalter to Atlanta to see the Braves game on Friday night, and even though the Braves lost we had a ball. Then last night after supper I took the girls to Sonic for treats (I got a yummy peanut butter milkshake), and then came home and sat on the porch with my beautiful wife. We called it our "Mayberry" time, just relaxing, talking, and rocking as the sun goes down. You ought to try it sometime.