Thursday, May 29, 2008

ONE Prayer

Am I the only one who has felt like I'm running behind all week? Since we were off on Monday, Tuesday became Monday, Wednesday became Tuesday, now here I am on Thursday which really feels like Wednesday and I'm starting to get confused. Anyway, that's why I didn't write anything yesterday. I know that the seven of you who regularly read this were very disappointed.

This week we are beginning a message series called ONE Prayer. We will be participating in this along with over 900 churches around the world. The focus of the series is this: If you could pray just one prayer for the church (not just Freedom, but all of God's churches) what would it be? I will be kicking off the series this week with the prayer that I have for the church which is: Make us matter.

Some of the scripture we will be looking at is: Proverbs 11:11, Matthew 16:18-19, and 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

For the rest of the series we will do some things we've never tried before.

First, we will be using video teaching from some other pastors from around the country. Because the ONE Prayer series is a world wide emphasis we want to hear what other pastor's prayers are for the church.

Second, on the final Sunday of the month I will be bringing the message at Springwell Church and Springwell's pastor Scott McAllister will be bringing the message at Freedom. This will be a practical reminder to us that we are partners (not competitors) with other churches to reach the world.

There is one other big thing we've never tried before that I will tell you about later, because the details haven't been worked out yet, but when it happens it will be very cool!

If this sounds strange and confusing to you don't worry, I will explain things a little more fully this Sunday during the service, which by the way is at 10:30 at Greer High School. I'm looking forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday morning quarterback

Scattered thoughts after a three day weekend for you to peruse:

- Yesterday I ate too much. Donny fried up a lot of the fish he's been catching this spring, along with some spicy deer sausage. Let's just say I didn't show much restraint. My plan is to punish myself at the gym this afternoon, but I'm pretty certain that the amount of fried food I ate yesterday will not come off in one workout.

- Danica Patrick is one tough girl. At least she thinks she is. During the Indianapolis 500 this weekend some guy ran into her on pit road. The accident took her out of the race, so her reaction was to march down to his crew to pick a fight. Fortunately, (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) she was stopped before she got all the way there. Now I know there are some ladies out there who can whip a man's tail, but Danica Patrick is 5 feet tall and weighs around 98 lbs. What was she really going to do? Maybe she was hoping that the guy she was going after had been taught never to hit a girl. Now I'm hoping she comes to NASCAR and has a wreck with Tony Stewart. If she does she better watch it. I'm betting he would hit a girl.

- Donny did an awesome job on Sunday. I enjoyed having a break from speaking, but just having Donny back preaching was the best part.

- This Sunday we're kicking off a cool series called ONE Prayer. There are over 900 churches across the country who will be participating. I will be sure and write more about it tomorrow.

That's it for now. I'm already a day behind so I need to get back to work.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Idol chatter

It's one day late, but here's my take on the Idol finale. In short, I was shocked. I mean really shocked that David Cook won. I think he deserved it, but I didn't think he'd get it. When Ryan Seacrest said, "the winner by 12 million votes..." I knew it would be Archuleta. Shows how much I know.

I said I would only watch the last 15 minutes. I ended up watching a little more than that, but not a whole lot more. The part I really can't handle is when they have all of the finalists sing together. The way they move together and sing reminds me of something you'd see at Six Flags.

That's all for this week. I'm looking forward to worship this Sunday, Donny will be bringing the message. Bring a friend with you, and I'll see you there!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Am I a real church planter?

A little over three years ago when we started Freedom Fellowship I became a church planter. That is just another term for a guy who starts a new church and is the pastor of that church. There were many of you who also became church planters then, because I consider everyone who helped get this church off the ground to be a planter. Since then I have gone to a lot of church planting conferences, meetings, lunches, and retreats. I also read lots of church planter blogs, books, and magazine articles. Just like any other group, planters have developed their own culture. We tend to read the same books, look up to the same people etc. That being said here's a list of things that make me wonder if I am a real church planter:

- I don't have a fauxhawk, use gel in my hair, or have a soul patch.
I have noticed at a couple of conferences I've been to that some guys are using the fauxhawk as a way of covering up their impending baldness. I guess in those cases the fauxhawk is the new comb-over.

- I don't wear designer t-shirts.
My t-shirts are either freebees, restaurant related, or left over from VBS or a camp. I don't have any cool ones with skulls sprouting wings or anything like that.

- I don't have a pair of Skechers.
I think they look cool. I just don't have any.

- I don't drink Starbucks coffee.
I generally don't drink any coffee. That's what having a couple of kidney stones will do for you. I do like Frappuccinos, but those suckers are expensive.

- I don't have an iphone or a blackberry.
I actually tried to get a blackberry but the nice lady at the Alltell store said I had recently renewed my contract and I wasn't eligible for an upgrade. Of course she did offer to sell me one at the full price of $600. Since I think paying $2.50 for a Frappucinno is too much, guess what I thought about a $600 phone?

Despite my lack of qualifications I will try to continue to lead Freedom to be a church that makes an impact.

To all my church planting buddies that do meet these qualifications, keep up the good work! Y'all are awesome!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We can't do it alone

Here's something I just read this morning in "Looking for God" the new book by Nancy Ortberg. This would have been great to use in this past week's message. Let me know what you think:

"Community is very powerful. It is God's people living together with God at their center. It is the way of life out of which evangelism and discipleship emerge. Community is where we learn the truth about ourselves, where we are deeply loved, where walls are broken down, and where people who are usually excluded are included."

Following Jesus cannot be a completely independent effort. The path must be traveled in community with others, and that is one of the best explanations of it I have ever read.

Now for the meaningless discussion of the day. It looks like Archuleta will be the next American Idol. There's no way I can watch the whole show tonight. The two hour build-up for a 15 second announcement drives me crazy. My plan is to start paying attention about 15 minutes before the end of the show. I would rather David Cook win, but I'm not sure he would rather win. I get the feeling he'd rather finish second. Maybe I'm wrong. It just kind of seemed like that last night.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Where change starts

I'm sure you've already heard, it's an election year. No matter who the candidate is, campaign speeches all talk about the same thing: change. Candidates discuss the changes that are needed in America, the world, and our communities. Political speeches contain a lot of what a college professor would call "deconstructionism". I don't know if a college professor would really call it that, because I'm not sure that is actually a word, but all political candidates are good at what we're good at, observing what's wrong with the world and talking about it. Whether it's the government, the church, the local recreation department, or Wal-Mart all of us are good at finding fault or "deconstructing" the way things are being done.

I ran across a quote from Leo Tolstoy today that I think is appropriate for all of us when it comes to this natural tendency we have to deconstruct everything.

"Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself"

Perhaps the best place to begin a deconstruction of the way things are is in my own life. That should give me plenty to work on for the next 50 years or so.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday morning quarterback

It's a beautiful Monday morning, and I hope your weekend left you energized to dive right into another work week. This weekend was busy and fun for me. Here are the highlights from Relay for Life on Friday night:

- It was cold but still fun. I don't know what the wind chill was on Friday night in Greer, but I know that my teeth were chattering by the time we headed home. Despite that, the whole night was a blast. I got to catch up with a bunch of kids (now they're adults) from my youth ministry days at Fairview, as well as all of our hard working Freedom folks. Our relay team, led by Kelly Thomas, did a great job again this year. This year's event raised over $230,000 for the American Cancer Society! If you missed it this year, you will want to plan to be there next year.

- I got to sing with an amazing band.
My buddy Michael Buffalo Smith had put together a band of Southern Rock musicians to play at Relay for Life, and they were good. I mean really good. Michael asked me if I would sing the first verse of "Can't You See" by the Marshall Tucker Band with them. Of course I said I would. I couldn't turn down that type of opportunity. By the time the guys got to the song I was freezing, and I was afraid the words I sang would sound like I was stuttering due to my teeth chattering. Once I got to stand up on stage with the band I forgot about being cold. I was too busy watching Donnie Winters rip on his Gibson Les Paul that he has named "Smoky". When I got off the stage Scott Greene informed me that Donnie has played with everyone in Southern Rock, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, and ZZ Top. I'm glad he told me that after I sang with them. If he had told me before I would have been too scared to get on the stage. You can read Michael's description of the night here. I went home happy. I guess I've never gotten over the desire to go on the road with a band.

I will be moving this blog from blogspot to wordpress sometime in the near future. Blogspot has been doing some strange stuff lately, and according to Blake I can add some more features to the blog if I move it to wordpress. Blake is helping me get it set up. I will let you know when we make the move.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Connecting with God

Dustin wrote some good stuff about how a church should grow that you need to read. You can do that here. Dustin is the pastor at Mid-Town Fellowship in Columbia.
Mid-Town is one of the new churches that we support financially every month. They are doing an awesome job of reaching USC students as well doing lots of work with the homeless.

I'm reading a new book entitled "Looking for God" by Nancy Ortberg. One of the things she talks about is how we often limit the interaction we have with God to our "quiet time". We take 10-30 minutes to talk to God, and then we go on about our day without much thought of who He is or what He would have us do. In reality, God's desire is to walk with us and communicate with us throughout the day in many ways. Nancy Ortberg words it this way, "What a joy to realize that from the time we wake up until the moment we lay our head on the pillow to sleep, we have been given a variety of extraordinary ways to connect with our extarordinary God."

How can you connect with God today outside of your devotion time? One way I plan on doing that night tonight is by hanging out with all of God's people at Relay for Life. Maybe I'll see you there.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Random Thursday

As a continuing service for those of you who faithfully read this blog, and who also like to come to worship prepared, here is the scripture I'll be teaching from this Sunday: 1 Peter 4:7-11. Just as an extra little challenge, the message this week will have three one word points. Try to figure out what those words might be based on the scripture.

I read several blogs from other pastors everyday, and it seems that I use bullet points more than most people. That means that either I am innovative and on the cutting edge of things, or I have a hard time organizing my thoughts into a single coherent statement. I'm pretty sure it's the second one. With that in mind, here's some more bullet points:

- Our worship team is awesome. I know I talked a little about this the other day, but the servant's attitude and lack of spotlight hogs makes our team unique. We had a creative meeting on Tuesday night to work through worship ideas for June, and I was amazed at how 8 people sat around a table throwing out ideas and not once did anyone get their feelings hurt or try to put themselves ahead of the needs of the church. I am blessed to get to work with them.

- Idol's down to two. I haven't written much on AI over the last few weeks because the show just gets more boring to me the less contestants there are. Next week's final is David vs. David, and for the first time in a couple of seasons there wasn't a big shock about who made it to the final two. I like David Cook to win, but part of me hopes the other David wins just to see his expressions when they announce it. He makes me laugh, and I don't think he's trying to.

- Relay for Life is tomorrow night! If you haven't made plans yet for how you are going to spend your Friday night be sure to come out to Dooley Field (behind Chandler Creek Elementary) and enjoy the fun. If you have already made other plans try to change them. Relay for Life is one of those times where the whole community gets behind the same cause, and it's a cool thing to be a part of. There will be lots of food, live music, bouncy rides for kids, and all the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.

It's looking like Donny and I might get to go see some of the BMW Golf Pro - Am today. If we do I'll let you know what it's like.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

That's over the top

I love sports. I love watching sports. I love Sportscenter. All that said, sports announcers are killing me with exaggeration! Every game can't be "one of the greatest ever played" in the history of mankind, and there can't be an "unbelievable" play every game. If it happens every game then it will eventually become believable right?

Watch this video of a sweet dunk from last night's Cavs vs. Celtics game. Be amazed at Lebron James, but be even more amazed at the over exaggeration of the announcer. No regard for human life?!? Does that mean he was trying to murder Kevin Garnett? I'm pretty sure that's illegal, even in Cleveland.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday morning quarterback

In yesterday's message about the power of influence I mentioned the Time magazine list of the 100 most influential people in the world. There's a guy on the list I had never heard of named Kaka. He is a Brazilian soccer player, and I joked yesterday that I never made a decision this past year and wondered, "What would Kaka do if he were me?"
I just received an e-mail from Mike Breece with the picture you see attached. It turns out Kaka is a follower of Christ, and every time he scores a goal he removes his jersey to reveal a shirt that reads "I belong to Jesus". Evidently Kaka is doing exactly what I talked about yesterday. He is being a light for Jesus in the arena God has placed him in. That's pretty cool.
Here are a few other things on my mind:
- "No One Like You" is my new favorite song our band does. I knew when I got to hear them practice yesterday morning that song would be awesome and it was! I gave Richie (our drummer) a hug after the service, and his shirt was soaked. Playing that song twice was a real workout for him. The best part about our band is, week after week they lead without attitude or ego. It shows when they are up front, and it is very evident when they are practicing and dealing with each other before everything gets started.
- We ate subs at home for lunch yesterday. Maybe that doesn't seem fancy enough for Mother's day, but after talking with several people who waited forever to be seated at various restaurants around town yesterday I think we made a good choice. Everybody goes out to eat on Mother's Day, so we thought it would be a good idea to grab some Firehouse Subs and relax. That was Sherry's idea. She's really smart.
- Good stuff is happening in Life Groups. Every week I hear more stories about relationships being built, people reading the Bible for the first time in years, and people's needs being met by the member's of their group. This fall we will begin lots of new groups. You can be apart either by leading one, hosting one in your home, or by simply participating. If you know you would like to host or lead send Donny an e-mail at:
Remember today that you are salt and light. Intentionally be an influence for Jesus where you go today!

Friday, May 9, 2008

The opposite of me

I have been reading through 1 Corinthians this week, and I read the famous love chapter this morning. I don't know how many times I have read the words from 1 Cor.13, but I know it's so many times that it's tempting to just skim over them because of their familiarity. That's kind of what I was doing when I got to the part where Paul describes love: patient, kind,
not self-seeking etc. That's when it hit me. Love is the opposite of me. Really I guess I should say love is the opposite of us. If we are honest, we'll admit that we don't naturally live by the code of love. Sacrifice and giving up our rights for the good of others aren't natural. Responding with kindness and not being easily angered isn't easy when we've been offended. My natural tendency is to take care of me and mine. Love's natural tendency is to put other's first. That's why allowing Jesus to transform me is so important. I can't love on my own. I can't sacrifice if it's up to me. I need to be changed by Him.

Here's some random thoughts for the weekend:

- I am looking forward to a great Mother's Day Sunday this weekend. If you like to read ahead, be sure and check out Matthew 5:13-16 before Sunday. Also, Lindsay Long (used to be Holliday) will be singing with the band on Sunday. Justin and Lindsay were a huge part of Freedom's worship team in the early days. They now live near Anderson, and it will be great to see Lindsay again this weekend. Unfortunately, Justin can't play the drums Sunday because he's on a special assignment with the USAF for a few weeks.

- Greer Family Fest is Friday and Saturday. Every year on Mother's Day weekend we love to hang out in downtown Greer and eat, ride, talk, paint, and do all the other fun stuff available. Come check it out. It's a great place to connect with our community.

- Keep praying for our Future Development team as they look for opportunities involving land and buildings. Things have changed somewhat over the last week. I will be giving a full update about it around the beginning of June.

- This week's message is one of the more encouraging ones I have worked on in awhile. I think you will walk out this week empowered to make a difference in our community. See you Sunday!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Random Wednesday

Every week at staff meeting we rotate the responsibility for someone to share with the group something God is teaching them through books, on-line messages, etc. Blake was up this past week. Here are two great quotes from a message by Matt Chandler that Blake shared with us:

"Arrogance and the gospel can never hold hands."

"When I was at my worst, Christ said, 'I love you'."

My buddy Dino wrote some good stuff about times getting tough. You can read it here.

Lots of meetings on tap for today and tomorrow. That just means there's lots of stuff going on. I'm glad I get to be a part of it!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Vision has it's side effects

In case you missed it, this past week we talked about God's vision for Freedom Fellowship. The vision hasn't changed, it's the same as it was when we got started a little over three years ago. In short, God's vision for Freedom (and all churches) begins and ends with lost people. People who do not have a relationship with Jesus are where God's heart is. I prepped something for use in the message that I ended up leaving out for time's sake, but I thought I would share it here. It involves the side effects of God's vision.

If you watch any tv at all you have seen numerous ads for different types of prescription drugs. I have some opinions about our society being over-medicated that I won't get into right now, but the thing about the ads that makes me laugh is the list of side effects. In some of the commercials more time is spent listing the potential side effects than explaining the benefits of the medication. There is a anti-depression medicine that the list of side effects includes: headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and insomnia. If you weren't depressed before taking this drug the side effects will guarantee you'll be depressed once you start. I also heard a sleeping pill ad that said a side effect was drowsiness. Really? Drowsiness? Who would ever think a sleep aid would have that side effect?

If we truly embrace God's vision for His church we may experience the following side effects:

- loss of comfort due to sacrifices made to reach the lost

- loss of income due to practicing the teachings of Jesus in your business

- increased sensitivity to the pain of others

- strange desire to leave home in order to help ease the suffering of strangers

- unexplained joy despite circumstances

- an inability to tolerate selfishness and pretense in other followers of Jesus

- loss of a comfortable church that always does things the same way

- discovery of the true purpose you were created for

Beware! You may experience some or all of these side effects as you pursue the vision God has for you and His church.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Busy Monday

Well this week has started off in a hurry. Every now and then it seems like lots of issues that have been simmering under the surface all bubble at one time. Today is one of those days where that has happened. Nothing too major, just the normal things you deal with when people are involved. None of us are perfect, least of all me.

As a result the trip to see the Drive play this Wednesday is off. At least for me it is. There will still be a game (the Drive's scheduled is not affected by my schedule), and if you were planning on going don't let my absence stop you. I just won't be able to make it due to some meetings that need to take place this week. Oh well, it's a long season, I'm sure we'll make it work another day.

Hopefully, I'll have more time for an update on the weekend tomorrow. Here's two quick things for you:

-Iron Man was really cool. Emily and I both loved it. Jake thinks it was the best of all the recent comic book movies. He should know, he's seen all the movies, and read all the comic books.

-This post from Tony Morgan's blog has piqued my interest. (Bet you didn't expect to read the word piqued today did you?) I know nothing about computers, but what he wrote seems like a good idea. Is there anyone else out there doing this? If so, should I try it?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sunday scripture, awesome stuff at Midtown

This past Sunday I had someone mention to me that I didn't put the scripture for last week's message on the blog. I was glad to know that at least one person is reading ahead. (thanks, Alan)

With that in mind, this week's message will be about the vision God has for our church. I know some of you might be thinking, "don't we talk about this all the time?" The answer is, yes. We talk about it a lot because I believe that vision is one of those things that the more we discuss it the more real it becomes to us. As we focus on God's vision for all His churches, we will read a great story found in Luke 15:11-31. As you read this story ask yourself this question, "Where is the heart of the Father?" Our heart as a church should be where the Father's heart is. If that is the case then following God's vision will be very natural.

In other news:

- Brooke went home from American Idol last night. She was one of my favorites, ever since Chikezie left, but I knew she had no shot of winning. She did start to get on my nerves a little with all the crying. Also, the new song Neil Diamond sang had lyrics that seemed to be talking about Jesus.

- Midtown Fellowship in Columbia had an amazing baptism service in a parking garage this past Sunday! Over 40 people publicly made their commitment to Jesus known by being baptized! Midtown is one of the new churches that we support financially every month. They are reaching students at USC like crazy. You can read about the baptism service on Dustin's blog.