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!

Still Praying “ONE PRAYER”

I loved being a part of the global church movement – “One Prayer”! It is important for the world to see the church not as divided and siloed, but as a unified group following the same goal of serving Jesus, other believers and outsiders. It was especially good to serve in our schools on June 27 with people and pastors from other local churches. There needs to be more of this. In fact there will be as plans are already in the works for next year. Big thanks to everyone who participated! The schools were very appreciative.

Vacation, fish hooks and Quality time

Well…I’m back from vacation. It was a good one! Every year I take off two straight weeks to just be with my family. Every other year we go to some destination like Colorado or North Carolina, somewhere farther away. Other years we just go to the farm down in south Alabama or to the beach. This summer we went to the beach (Panama City) for the first week. It was a lot of fun! We sat on the beach while the boys skimboarded (btw- skimboarding is not recommended for adults who have never done it before-trust me), we fished, we ate and ate, we went over to Destin and ate at Fudpuckers (see picture), we watched the sunset (couldn’t quite make the sunrise), I got a treble hook caught in my hand and had to have a doctor remove it, I swam with a shark one morning, the boys rode the “slingshot”, Becky and I relaxed. It was good.

The next week we just stayed around Auburn while some much needed work was done on our house. But, it was good too. I am grateful to God and our church for allowing me to spend this important time with my family each Summer. From September to May I am so busy with Pastor/church stuff in the evenings and on weekends, that this time is valuable for Becky and the boys (in terms of both quality and quantity).

God gave us rest to combat things like stress, fatigue and emotional exhaustion. It needs to be a part of our overall health. I know I function so much better after just taking a break. God did it…so there you go!

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.

Render Unto Who???

So, are you paying attention to what is happening in our country? With our Leaders? With our tax money? Are you mad? Frustrated? Are you hopeful? Are you glad? Do you think finally somebody’s doing something??

All of this is fine. BUT, let’s not get to distracted. Let’s not lose sight of the main thing. Proverbs says:

many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails

The government will never provide ultimately what people need. It will never give people ultimate hope or a life beyond this earth. The government is supposed to be a servant of the people, but it can never teach us or lead us to truly serve another person. I believe in government, because people must be governed. But it’s only because of the Fall and sin that it has to be this way. In a perfect world God is our national leader and we follow Him and honor Him with our service, money and loyalty. More time, energy and passion given to loving and serving Him will bring true change.

Just what I think.

Luke 20:21-25

They questioned him:

Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

He saw through their duplicity and said to them,

“Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

I Love it When People Get It!

I love it when people get it!

I’ve had several people share their story of life change with me this week. I never get tired of hearing them. I’m also humbled when they talk of how Cornerstone has been a significant part of that change. Some common threads in these stories seems to be the overwhelming power of God they capture through the kindness of volunteers, the passion of the music, the authenticity, the relevant messages, the awesome youth/children’s ministry and the fact that they leave challenged to live at a new level. I guess these would be the main points of the conversation. Also, though, each of these stories include the critical element of God’s timing.

They came at a time when they were open and seeking God. (Side note: why people would bash a church for reaching out to people who are seeking God is beyond me!) They were looking for a connection they had lost or never really had in the first place.  It’s always encouraging to hear them talk about how the way we do what we do is what helped them find God. It was the whole environment that helped them overcome fears of church or misunderstandings about God. It’s just beautiful to watch people get it! To see them fully believe in and understand what we are trying to do at Cornerstone.

To be sure, we are not perfect. That is not our mission. We are simply trying to hear God’s voice and be obedient to His desire for our church. We are passionately doing everything we can to honor our mission of leading people to know and serve Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost”. He gave us the command to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

To this end, I will press on…

He is Not Here, He is Risen, Just as He Said

“He is not here, He is risen, just as He said.” Wow. Words that come to mind – hope, life, eternity, power, joy. Yet none of these words can capture the magnitude of what happened through Jesus’ resurrection. It is too big – like trying to comprehend the outer limits of the universe – just can’t get my mind around that. But, for sure we can understand hope, life, eternity, power and joy when we’ve handed our life over to Jesus and received His grace, mercy and forgiveness. For those who have moved from death to life, they know what resurrection is all about. For those who have handed God the shattered pieces of their life and He handed them back wholeness wrapped in unconditional love, they know what it means to be “raised with Christ”. Yeah, wow.

God did this through Jesus because the law, the traditions and the religion of the Pharisees was powerless to do it. He did what all the sacrifices, Jewish festivals, temple rituals could not do in someone’s heart – make it clean and alive. It’s funny though how believers, even today, can still give in to the idea that we need more religious talk, religious symbols, religious buildings, religious songs, or whatever, to celebrate the fact that Christ died and rose again so we wouldn’t have to find and worship God through religion! Christianity is about a RELATIONSHIP not religion. We are people not only of the cross, but of the resurrection.

Well, I’ll wrap it up by saying, this was one of the most amazing Easter’s for me. From our Thursday and Friday experience at Cornerstone, right up through the last words of the 11:00 service on Sunday. BIG THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO WORKED SO HARD TO MAKE THIS WEEKEND HAPPEN!! ALL THE VOLUNTEERS AND STAFF WERE GREAT.

Now celebrating Easter everyday as Christ lives through me.

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