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I AM The Good Shepherd, Lenten Reader Day 36

Thanks for checking out this blog post. You have probably come here via the “I Am” Lenten Reader (day 36) at Cornerstone. If that is not how came across this post, no problem, glad you’re here.

I taught this past Sunday from John 10:11 (NIV). In this passage Jesus declares to his listeners, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Jesus is comparing himself to a shepherd who loves his sheep and will do anything to keep them from ultimate harm (death) including dying for them. In fact, we now know that this was a statement foreshadowing what was to come for Jesus. He came to this earth for a purpose. It was His mission to get on that cross.

I think about that scene in the movie The Passion of the Christ where Jesus falls to the ground beside the cross, bloody and beaten up. Then he agonizingly drags himself over and puts himself on the cross. There were no soldiers forcing him, he willingly puts himself on the cross. I can just imagine while he was dragging himself onto that cross, in his heart he was calling out “I MUST serve people on this cross!” I MUST do this for others. I have come to serve not to be served”

Jesus’ mission was to SERVE. To serve others. I think about our life missions: to get married, to have a great career, to make money, to raise a family, to have a better body, to achieve at a higher level. These are all fine goals, but if they become our only mission and the object of our attention then we have missed the point of life. We too should live to serve.

Jesus had one focused objective – to go to Jerusalem and be sacrificed for the sake of the world. He was trying to get there as quickly as possible, not because of the cross itself, but because he was completing his mission of bearing the sins of humanity. He WANTED to get that done! He knew on the other side of that cross was FREEDOM! Freedom for you and for me.

What a good, worthy, approved, and valuable Shepherd!!

Some questions for you to ponder:
How are you handling your shepherd right now?
Does Jesus have your full attention right now?
Do you love the one who got on that cross for you? If so, how does that look in your life?

Dallas Willard in his book, The Divine Conspiracy said, “The Lord is my Shepherd’ is written on many more tombstones than lives.”

I pray this would not be true of you and me as we follow Christ. I pray those words, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’, would be etched into our hearts as we live our lives.

I AM The Bread of Life, Lenten Reader Day 8

For those of you not tracking with us in our “I Am” message series, let me clue you in. This post is related to the sermon from this past Sunday on Jesus declaration “I am the bread of life”. If you are participating in this series with us then you were directed here by our Lenten Reader on day 8.

So here are some questions for reflection:

Jesus told the crowds that followed him across the lake, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the son of man will give you”. What was he telling the crowd with this statement? What is he telling you this statement? How might this statement change how you live?

The crowds made a reference to the manna that miraculously came down from heaven when Moses was leading the Israelites through the wilderness. What did Jesus say was the difference between the manna and the bread of life? Is there any possibility that you are still choosing manna over the bread of life?

“The bread of life is the antidote to having eaten the forbidden fruit” – with this quote in mind, how can you be a part of sharing this bread with others? Is there someone you know who needs this antidote? Write their name down in your Lenten Reader and starting praying that their heart will be open when you share Jesus with them soon.

Thanks for participating in this series together. I’m praying that God will continue to mold and shape you into the person he needs you to be.

Love Haiti with a Special Offering This Sunday

“Devastation” seems to be about the only way to describe what happened in Haiti this week as a result the 7.0 magnitude earthquake. While an earthquake in any part of the world is a problem, in a country like Haiti it is a catastrophe. Consider the fact that 80% of the 9 million people in the country live below the poverty line. Consider the fact that only about 50% of the population is literate. Consider the fact that most of the buildings constructed on the island are significantly below proper codes and standards. These statistics just make a situation like a major earthquake even more of a crisis with a much longer recovery time.

This is the time when the church should be at it’s best. After all, we are Jesus in this world today. I believe He would bring help to the people of Haiti. So, this Sunday we are preparing to take up a special offering to assist in the relief effort. If you are going to write a check, you can make it out to Cornerstone United Methodist Church and put UMCOR in the memo line. UMCOR stands for United Methodist Committee on Relief. They are one of the relief organizations on the ground in Haiti right now. Your money will go directly to helping those who have been affected by the earthquake.

Thank you in advance for your generosity and helping our church be Christ to a hurting people.

It is Our 10th Anniversary at Cornerstone!

WOW, just WOW! I cannot believe our church’s 10th anniversary is this Sunday! As I think about my message for this special occasion I thought I would just give you a little preview of what you will hear.

Skate center, disco ball, smells, noises, uncertainty, faithfulness, commitment, free skate nights, packed trailers, “Cletus” videos, worship, loving people, difficulties, perseverance, salvation, baby pool baptisms, free bottled water, free movie nights, Ecuador missions, Vacation Sunday, Trunk R Treat, groundbreaking, 20 acres, $1.2 million, sacrifice, new building, sausage biscuits, vision, believing, creativity, KidzTown, Seaside, Youth, College, Pay it Forward, community, giving, grace, Cindy Wall, Buloba, Uganda, Hiram pulls a bus, the playground, the Well, the children, Patrick, Sarah, Eva, Isaac, Zariah, Jesus, love, hope, partners, Gospel, Leading people, knowing, serving, 10, church, Cornerstone, one, you, us.

Today as we celebrate 10 years of ministry here is East Alabama and around the world, I am reminded and humbled in the presence of the God who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, who holds the keys to life itself, who is the keeper of gates and doors through which we have passed, are passing and will pass. He is the God who decided this church should exist. He gave us the power and focus to stay true to our mission and vision. He is the reason we can celebrate the last ten years, he is the reason we celebrate the right now, and the incredible future He has in store for the people and ministry of Cornerstone Church. Personally I am so grateful on this special day to be a part of this movement.

I could never have imagined the night before our first worship service, nervously sitting at my desk, so much would happen in ten years. I couldn’t get beyond the next morning. I couldn’t get out of the bathroom! I remember my prayer went something like this, “Oh God, if you don’t make this happen it will never work.”

God has certainly done more than I could have asked or imagined through Cornerstone. I am deeply thankful for every person who gave, served, sacrificed, loved, worked, prayed and were faithful to helping us move forward. It has been an amazing decade. But, we will only look back for a moment. We have always been a church that kept our vision forward. I am more excited about the Kingdom work that has yet to be done!

So, come join us this Sunday as we celebrate ministry past, present and future.

I Have Been Undermined as a Pastor!

I read this quote the other day that really caused me to take an evaluation of my heart. It said this, “Jesus relentlessly undermines all that is not of God to make room for the God who has redeemed our hearts.” Sometimes, even as a pastor, I still find junk inside of me that is not of God. Stuff that eats up precious space in me. What that tells me is that somewhere along the way I have not allowed Jesus to do his best work in me. I have selfishly harbored some dark, delicious poison that is slowly doing damage to my soul. It’s not even something that others can see. Like Paul said, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Hoarding junk just squashes the work of Christ in us! My prayer for me and you is that we would allow Jesus to do his best work of undermining everything not of God in us, so that we can stand upright and blameless before Him.

44 days and counting…

d7b_018444 days and counting…August 22 is the day of reckoning for this 42 year old preacher. That is the day of my very first Triathlon. Before you think, “ooohhh, wow a triathlon…” let me say it’s what’s called a “sprint” triathlon. That’s a much shorter version of the “Ironman” that most people think of when they hear triathlon. The Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mi. bike and a 26.2 mi. run. Those are definitely some “Iron” people who do that! The one I’m doing is just a little shorter than that (actually alot shorter!) – .3 mi swim, 14 mi bike and 3.1 mi run. I’m so glad I’m doing this with Mark Fuller. He is in infintely better shape than me and, therefore, makes me push a little harder in our training.  He is Ironman and I’m like Aluminum boy! But, I’m getting there, slowly but surely.

I’m just constantly reminded of how this training and persevering is so like living as a Christ-follower. It is about perseverance and sometimes pushing through the pain or discouragement that can come our way. Paul used this whole idea in 1 Corinthians to describe what the Christian life is like when lived all out. The good news is there is a prize that cannot be matched at the end of this race! Jesus said, ” I am with you always to the very end of the age.” He will be our strength when we have none left. At the end of the day, that’s the only strength that really matters.

So, I’ll keep you updated on the training progress. Let’s just keep pressing on!

Hmm, suffering, latin & Twitter

“One of my favorite Latin expressions : ubi dolor, ibi Christus; “wherever there is suffering, there is Christ.”

Just got this as a tweet (thru twitter) from Len Sweet who is kind of a cultural, theological and social architect of modern Christian thought (not sure how else to describe him, or if it’s possible to be those things!). It’s not anything new, like something we just discovered about suffering and our Savior. It is simply a truth. Wherever you go and there you find suffering, you will also find Christ. I firmly believe Christ is in the midst of suffering, not separate and distant from it. He embraced it on the cross. He called us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Then grab hold of suffering as a prize for the redeemed. That’s big! If we truly took that seriously…wow. Paul saw suffering as an opportunity to be like Christ in His death and resurrection. So essentially we are the most like Jesus in our own suffering. More good news – he is remaking us in the midst of it. Like an ugly lump of clay to a beautiful, colorful vase that is a joy to look at, so are we being formed and fashioned into the most incredible piece of God-pottery.
So, if you’re in the middle of it, hang on, don’t let it go until God has finished His work. Ubi dolor, ibi Christus – yes.

Cancer is On My “List”

I just read that professional golfer Phil Mickelson’s wife was recently diagnosed with cancer. Man! That’s tough. I am sorry for he and his family.
Cancer is just one, bad, insidious, unpredictable beast isn’t it?? I have known many people who have struggled with the sickness. I have watched (literally) people die from it. I have watched people overcome it. I have watched people endure it with incredible grace, strength, confidence and sheer determination. I realize it is just one among many ways that we can be physically harmed, impaired or killed, but it seems more prevalent these days than ever before. Honestly, it is on my list! You know, “the list” we are all making of questions we have for God one day when the “roll is called up yonder” and we get to sit with Him and get this whole deal figured out. I look forward to that. It is helpful to know in the midst of tragedy, abuse, cancer, the loss of a baby, etc. etc. that God understands our pain and questions. He knows that we don’t have complete, perfect knowledge that makes the dark clouds of uncertainty blow away. Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 13:12,

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

One day we will see God and understand Him clearly. But, for now, we are left with that sometimes murky and always critical practice called “faith”. It is tied directly to hope and is what helps us endure the craziness of this earthly life.

Grace Campus to HK//They Will Be Missed

Just wanted to say “thanks” again to Matt Dean for his message on worship. He is such a gifted speaker. His heart is so humble and given to the Lord. I am, again, challenged to think differently about how I honor Christ with my whole life. Matt can be my preacher anytime!

He and the team at Grace Campus will be missed as they head to Hong Kong this summer. Besides Matt and April and their family, we will also be sending out Scott and Catherine Littlepage, Jason Orme, and Micah Brake from our church. Please pray for them as they go to serve Christ by ministering to the lost and empowering the found in China. Also, if you would like to support the Grace Campus team financially you can click HERE.

Technology is Good

Sometimes I wonder if technology really is good. Is it moving people toward fellowship, grace, genuine connection, love, sanctification, etc. etc.? I realize it’s a means for many things. But, how often have we made it function more like the end? Sometimes it’s more frustrating than helpful. Anyway, I’m all for it on days like today. I was meeting with our IT guy Scott Fillmer about my blog when Josh Agerton (our Pastor of Connections) video chatted me from Uganda where our mission team is currently working. He was wishing me a “happy birthday”. It was great to hear from him, and not just the birthday part. He filled me in on all the great work being done in Buloba (the town we have partnered with) and how the team was doing. We caught up for a few minutes and then signed off. I thought, “wow, I love technology!” It is something that God can and does use to fulfill His purpose. I use it everyday. Do we have to be careful – YES. Anything in the hands of a person with evil intent can cause harm. That’s why Christians should take hold of it and make it a tool for good.
Today, I definitely think it was good.

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