Thursday, January 31, 2008

Super Bowl parties

In case you've missed it there's going to be a big football game this weekend. I read the other day that the Super Bowl ranks only behind Christmas and Thanksgiving as far as the most popular time to get together with friends. We've got several locations where folks from Freedom will be hanging out together to watch the game, eat some unhealthy food, laugh at the commercials, and just generally have a good time. We would love for you to join in the party.

Here are list of hosts and their addresses for you to choose from:

Mike and Rita Breece
9 Clearwater Court
Taylors, 29687

Jim and Lisa Varn
20 Andy Court
Taylors, 29687

Scott and Vicki Greene
4955 Sandy Flat Road
Taylors, 29687

Tracy and Paige Burkhalter
504 Austin Woods Court
Greer, 29651

Keith and Julie McCombs
1 Cunningham Point Circle
Greer, 29651

Lance and Andrea Owens
110 Palmetto Drive
Greer, 29651

Chip and Jane Patat
102 Rubiwood Circle
Greer, 29651

Cliff and Sherry Marshall
103 Thistledown Way
Taylors, 29687

As far as the game itself is concerned, I beleive the Patriots will win, and I'm afraid they will win easily. That's not what I hope happens. I hope it's a close game that the Giants win, and that Bill Bellicheck cries on the sidelines afterwards. I'm just kidding about that last part, kind of.

No matter what happens in the game, Tom Petty will be performing at halftime so we are guaranteed some good entertainment. I don't think we will have to worry about any "wardrobe malfunctions" during his performance!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Johnny the bagger

Mark Sears sent me this linc in an e-mail. Check it out. It is a great reminder to us about the importance of a personal touch. If you are regular at Freedom, take time each week to make a newcomer feel special.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tuesday morning quarterback

Since yesterday I have had several more encouraging conversations about the message series we just completed. It seems that the idea of raising the bar and really getting serious about changing the world has resonated with many of you! Since I focused on Sunday's message in yesterday's post, I didn't do my usual rundown of stuff that happened over the weekend and other disconnected thoughts in my mind. So, here goes:

- Grace's team won a game! - We were thrilled on Saturday when Grace's basketball team, which I help coach, won their first game of the season. The final score was 20-10, and it was cool to see several girls who had never played basketball before this season begin to understand the game. The funny thing is, 1st and 2nd grade basketball is no different than the NBA, you win if you rebound and play good defense.

- History was made in SC on Saturday - Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Green Party supporter, or an independent you had to be amazed at how the Democratic primary turned out on Saturday. No matter who the next President ends up being, the fact that the people of South Carolina overwhelmingly voted for a black man in a presidential primary is historic. I believe it speaks well of how far we have come in the last 50 years in the area of race relations, and just understanding that God has made us all.

- I had mild withdrawal symptoms on Sunday afternoon - Why? No football! After the Super Bowl, we enter into the worst time of the year for sports viewing. In February there is no football, no baseball, college basketball tournaments haven't started yet, and I haven't cared about the NBA regular season since MJ retired (the second time). Not to worry though, baseball will be back soon and I'll be able to take my Sunday afternoon nap to the sound of Skip Carey and Don Sutton calling the Braves game.

- Pray for my friend - My friend Jerry Chapman is the pastor of Capstone Church in Anderson, and he has asked us to pray for him and his family. Jerry has been a big encourager to me since Freedom began, and he has a heart for people who are hurting. Now he is the one who is hurting and needs to be ministered to. As you think about it, ask God to send the Chapman family what they need. You can check out Jerry's blog, and leave him an encouraging comment by looking here.

- Rambo review - Yes, I did see the new Rambo movie on Friday. Jake, Ben and I were probably some of the first people in Greenville county to check it out. It was everything you expect in a Rambo movie, but amplify it 100%. This version was more violent than the other three Rambo movies combined. I told Jake that I think Stallone went to see "300" and thought to himself, "there's no reason why the next Rambo film can't be that graphic". If you are squeamish, this film is not for you. As a great film I give it 1.5 out of 4 stars. As a man movie that you just leave thinking, "that was cool" I give it 3 out of 4 stars.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Raising the bar

Wow. That's the best way for me to describe the feeling I had at the end of yesterday's service. Delivering the message is always an emotional thing for me to do every week, but yesterday that was especially the case. I think it was because yesterday's message was something that God had been working on in my heart for several months. Someone asked me yesterday afternoon if I had any "bullet holes" in me after the message. Here's one thing (of many) that I love about our church: when God leads me to challenge us, the response from the church is overwhelmingly positive! So, no I don't have any "bullet holes", instead I had lots of conversations with folks who said things like, "I needed to be challenged today", "thanks for reminding us of those things". As a reminder, here are the main two things we will expect as we "raise the bar" at Freedom: maturity and action. Let's get to work!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pulled teeth, great pizza, and the awesomeness of Rambo

I am very pumped up about Sunday's service! I wrote on my last post that the message would be challenging, and after finishing it up yesterday I can tell you that it certainly is. If you are satisfied with being a spectator at Freedom then you might not want to come on Sunday. God has led me to express some very blunt words about what His expectations are of His followers. I believe the challenge will do all of us good.

Here are a few other things that are on my mind:

- Blake wrote a great post today about what he wants to see God do with our teenagers in 08. You can check it out here. I am thankful God sent Blake and Laura Beth our way to lead our ministry to students. I am thankful not just as the pastor, but as a Dad of one those students.

- I ate some of the best pizza I have ever had on Tuesday night. It's a fairly new place called Della Ventura's (I hope I spelled that right). It's on the corner of Hwy. 290 and St. Mark Road. It's the place that used to be Papa Don's Pizza and for a while it was Za Za's Pizza. I don't know the reasons why those places went out of business, but I would be shocked if Della Ventura's closed down. The man who owns it is from New York, and all of his family helps him run the business. When you walk in you'll think you've left Greer and walked into a pizza place in Brooklyn. The heavy accents of the workers add to the experience. Try the 7 item special, you'll love it.

- Grace pulled another tooth yesterday. She now has two spaces on the bottom middle and one space on the top middle. When I left the house this morning she was pulling on her other top front tooth trying to get it loose. Her favorite thing to do now is drink through a straw that's stuck in the hole where her teeth used to be.

- I really want to go see the new Rambo movie in the theater. I don't get to see many of those kinds of movies before they come out on DVD. It's not fair for me to ask Sherry to sit through it. I will probably get some guys together to go. If you don't understand why Rambo is awesome, I probably can't explain it to you. A lot of it has to do with me being raised during the Cold War, and as a teenager there was nothing more awesome than the thought of a guy who could rescue POW's from Vietnam, and take on the Russians at one time. I know it's not a well thought out story, it's overly macho, and some would consider it barbaric, but I still think it's the epitome of awesomeness. Maybe I'm just shallow.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Be safe out there.

I rolled into the office a little over an hour ago, and the drive in this morning was precarious. It is extremely foggy outside which is dangerous, but the conditions were made even more dangerous by the number of cars driving around without any lights on! Leaving our neighborhood, I almost pulled out in front of a car because I couldn't see it through the thick fog. I haven't read the driver's handbook since the night before I took my permit test when I was 15, but I'm pretty sure the law requires some type of lights to be burning on your vehicle in foggy conditions. Even if it isn't against the law it just makes sense. If you're planning on driving this morning be sure to burn those lights! (and stay off the phone to be extra careful)

On a different note, this morning I should finish up the message for Sunday. It is going to be very challenging. If you regularly attend Freedom, and you are a follower of Christ it will be aimed directly at you, or I should say "us" because that's where I am. Before you arrive this Sunday, begin praying about what your place is at Freedom and in the Kingdom of God. God wants all of us to be involved in some type of service. We will talk about what that means on Sunday.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday morning quarterback

Here are the random thoughts in my head this morning:

- The Fortress of Solitude is almost complete: Trey came over Thursday night to help me move our old couch and love seat upstairs into the now finished bonus room. The couch is a sleeper, and when we picked it up I had serious doubts about our ability to get it up the stairs. It was a tight fit, and I had a sore shoulder all day Friday, but in the end we got it in place. I told Trey when we finished that when we decide to move it back out I will just cut it in pieces with my chainsaw.

- Emily comes home today! Emily has been in North Carolina since Friday at our youth ministry's Winter Retreat. We have all missed her, but I believe Grace has had the hardest time. She cried on Friday and then she must have said, "I miss Emily" 500 times on Saturday and Sunday, not to mention the fact that she slept with a picture of Emily by her bed.

- Preaching in chains was more difficult than I expected: If you missed yesterday's service I came out wrapped in chains to help drive home the point about how carrying around sin is like being chained. I got the biggest chain wrapped a little too tightly around my chest so it made breathing harder than it should have been. Also, the chains made me cold, but the chains served their purpose. I have had several people comment about how the visual helped them understand the message.

- Yesterday afternoon was very relaxing: Sherry cooked a big lunch after church, and Mark Wilson came over to eat and watch the NFL game since his girls are gone on the Winter Retreat. After lunch we chilled out watching the Patriots win and laughing at Buddy (our dog) and Gabby (his dog) playing together.

- I'm not gonna put anymore music on my iPod for awhile: I know that is shocking statement. I almost can't believe I typed it, but I have added a lot of music lately and I need to "catch up" on my listening for a bit. Some of the stuff I've added recently: Willie Nelson (greatest hits), Eric Clapton (doing some old blues covers), three older R.E.M. albums, Robert Earl Keen (live), Dave Matthews Band (live), Led Zeppelin, and Paul Thorn.

That's just part of what's on my mind. I didn't talk about the Republican primary, another snow storm, and the new Rambo movie. I'll save those topics for another day.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Snow, Dave Odom, and Chuck Norris

I know that I have gone all week without writing a thing. I've had a couple of people ask me today if there was anything wrong because I haven't written. I am great. Things have been a little busier than usual this week, but other than that, everything's normal.

I hope you are planning to be at worship this week and are planning to bring someone with you. I am looking forward to the message again this week. This series of messages for January has been challenging to get together, and I am excited about what God wants to do with them.

- The snow was pretty fun yesterday. It didn't take long out in it before we got completely soggy!

- Dave Odom announced his retirement today as Gamecock basketball coach. He's a great guy, but I think the program needs a fresh start. Now it will be interesting to see who they hire. I hope it's someone young and hungry.

- I'll be glad when the SC primaries are over. We are getting 5 or 6 calls a night about it. One guy told me a pre-recorded Chuck Norris called his Dad's house to endorse Mike Huckabee. Of course Chuck Norris never really calls, he just roundhouse kicks a telephone pole, and all the phones in the US ring at once!

I promise more blogs next week. Talk to you then!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The importance of community

Last night we had a great time getting back together with our Life Group. We had taken a Christmas break for most of December, so it was a fun time of catching up, talking about how our families celebrated Christmas, laughing, and eating.

As I looked around at our group last night I was struck by the diversity in the room. Our group consists of: couples who are raising young children and teenage children, couples who have grandchildren, couples with no children, people who are retired, people who hope to be retired one day, business owners, people who work out of their home, folks who have lived in Greer forever, newcomers to the upstate, school teachers, home school moms, Gamecock fans, Tiger fans, Delaware Blue Hen fans, and the list goes on. In the midst of all the differences we were reminded last night of what unites us. We are all on journey of following Christ day by day. Because we haven't begun a new study yet, we spent last night sharing scripture verses that encourage us. It was so cool to listen to different folks quote passages from the Bible and share stories of how those words have helped them through difficult days, or how they remind them daily of who God is.

I went to bed last night thinking about our need for community. I thought about how I always feel energized and encouraged when I spend time with other followers of Jesus. I don't believe that's a coincidence. I believe God has wired us up so we will be at our best when we are sharing our lives with others. Maybe this year you can decide to share your joys and struggles with others. When you do, I bet you'll be amazed at the results.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Uncensored grace

In preparation for a series of messages that will lead up to Easter, I am reading a great book by Jud Wilhite. It is titled, "Stripped: Uncensored Grace on the Streets of Vegas". Jud is the pastor of the fast growing Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. Jud jokes that when he tells people he is the pastor of a church in Vegas they often respond by saying, "You can't be. There aren't any churches in Las Vegas." When I think of Vegas, church isn't the first thing that comes to mind, but God is doing some amazing things at Central, and Jud shares many of these stories in "Stripped".

Here's a great quote from Jud that I just read this morning. I think it goes along perfectly with what we talked about this past Sunday.

"Some think the answer is in the size of the church - from a house church to a midsize church to a megachurch. Others think the secret is in the style of ministry, from traditional to emerging. No matter how you view it, every church community will be messy because it is filled with imperfect people, imperfectly following Jesus. These people may be the problem - but they can also be the solution. Yes, life is messy. Church is messy. Faith is messy. But let's get over it, and get on with helping people experience God's grace."

Keep praying that God will place someone in your path who needs grace. When it happens, be ready to act!

Organizational update: This morning has been spent going through the piles on my desk. When someone tells you that their desk doesn't look organized but they know exactly where everything is, they're lying.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Monday morning quarterback

Here's what's going on in my head this morning:

- I had a great time at worship yesterday. The band did an awesome job of leading us, and it just felt like so many people came ready to worship. It was also great having Rhett and Tampey both back singing again!

- I haven't had any complaints yet about having everyone move to different seats. Maybe we'll do that every week. I bet I'd get some complaints then.

- Delivering yesterday's message was an extreme adrenaline rush. More so than usual, so yesterday afternoon I experienced a bigger crash than usual. I sat down to watch the NFL playoffs, and I basically passed out. I came to a couple of hours later and I felt great.

- Saturday both of my girls had basketball games. Emily's game was an exciting overtime game that ended in an 8-8 tie. Alexandra Wilson made a shot as time expired to tie the game. I still keep telling Emily that my goal for their team is to score in double digits.

- The championship BCS game is tonight and I can't get excited about it. I still miss the days when all the important bowl games were played on New Year's Day.

- I watched the new American Gladiators last night. It was pretty good. Of course it was very over hyped, but overall I enjoyed it. It was the perfect thing to watch on Sunday night because it required zero brain power to understand. The new gladiators (which all have names like Justice, Wolf, and even Helga) obviously haven't been tested for steroids. Maybe George Mitchell should begin an inquiry.

If you are part of Freedom, pray about what God would have you do in regards to the things we talked about yesterday. God has brought us a long way, and I don't believe He is done. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Put some shoes on

What a surprise to wake up this morning and see snow on the ground! It was only what John Cessarich would call a "dusting", but it was enough to get Grace (my 7 year-old) excited. After waking up, she immediately went out on the deck to check things out. Keep in mind that the deck was covered with this light layer of snow, the temperature was around 25 degrees, and that she had just gotten out of bed so she had no shoes or socks on. None of those things mattered to her. What she was excited about was the snow, and she had to touch it for herself whether she had on the right clothes or not.

Today is the first day back in the office for 2008. I don't know how you normally feel coming into a new year, but I hope you can enter into it with some excitement and anticipation. I would love to be able to greet 2008 with the same level of excitement that Grace had about the snow. Even though I don't know what this year holds for our church or my family, I should be running into it with all the energy I have, ready to face each new day head-on, whether I'm wearing the right clothes or not.

As far as leading our church, I feel very much like I might need some new clothes. Day after day, I am in awe of the fact that God has allowed me the chance to lead Freedom Fellowship. It has been a joy and a challenge for the last couple of years to be the pastor of a new church. As 2008 arrives I do feel like I am heading excitedly into the snow without shoes and socks on. The coming year is full of unlimited potential for our church. If we are going to seize the opportunities before us, we will need to do some things differently. That's what I mean about not having the right clothes. I believe this year for our church will be about fine-tuning some things we do, totally revamping others, and putting on "new clothes" that will make us more effective at impacting our community. "New clothes" could be some new leadership, better organization, higher levels of accountability, or new systems. Whatever the changes work out to be, God knows what's best for our church and our community. I sure am glad He does. Not only does He know, but He will tell us, and provide the means for us to impact our community. That makes 2008 worth getting excited about.