Oct 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day!

While most of America will dress up in costumes and seek out candy, few of us really understand the significance of October 31. On this date in 1517, a monk named Martin Luther took 95 theses named "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" that he drafted in response to the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel to fund the St. Peter's Basilica. Although Luther probably didn't mean to start a revolution, his courage helped to fire the first shot in what would become known as the Protestant Reformation. It was a group of men who protested errors of the Roman Catholic Church and opened the true gospel to the world. If you have a personal faith in Jesus Christ, it is most likely a direct result of the stand made this day by Martin Luther.

Here is a Wikipedia article on Luther

Here is a Wikipedia article on the 95 Theses and an actual list of what they said.

Thank you Lord for the courage and power of men like Luther. May we have men with that kind of dedication in our day.

Oct 27, 2009

An Awesome Moment from Catalyst '09

Catalyst was once again one of the best experiences I have ever been a part of. By far though, this was the highlight of the conference. Jimmy Wambua was a child who was sponsored in a Compassion International project who shares his story and meets his sponsor for the first time. This was incredible. Jimmy begins to share his story about the 3:45 mark.

Oct 26, 2009

Monday Morning Clarity

We had another great day yesterday at Sixth Street. I preached the 4th sermon in our "Amazed by Grace" series entitled "Sufficient Grace". We looked at Paul's reminder from God that "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Doing this series has really given me a greater appreciation for God's grace and its power in our lives. I believe that most Christ-followers miss out on seeing the power of God displayed in their lives because of a misunderstanding of the grace of God. It's been refreshing for me and I think the church has really enjoyed it.
  • We had another great partnership yesterday with the children's choir and the adult choir. They did "Your Love is Amazing" and Davey and Shelley Macon led in a solo. It's always great to see our children's choir on stage and the parents really show up so the crowd's better. I appreciate Carrie Keel and all her choir workers for their hard work.
  • I looked out over our parking lot yesterday before the service and we have some real parking issues. If we increase our average attendance at all, we are really going to have trouble parking the cars, especially when it rains. I hope to get our frontline teams on board by the first of the year helping to solve these issues.
  • I have noticed several new people each week, or at least new faces to me. I need to do a better job of encouraging them to fill out a connection card. I think we need to redo the connection card and find another way to disperse it to get information from everyone.
  • One of the major tasks for 2010 for Sixth Street is to start talking about developing Biblical community and small groups. I think we have some great couples that are not connected in any way to a small group and that disconnection is showing in the congregation. We are made by God to live life in community with other believers. Expect a major emphasis on this soon.
  • We are going to be having some hard talks about finances and budget planning the next few weeks. We need to find a way to balance proper stewardship of God's resources with our plans. I fully expect that the finances will get better, but we need to do a better job all around with teaching stewardship both as families and as a church family.
  • We are supposed to close on our new house here soon. My lender tells me we are scheduled for this Friday which would be great! We are really ready to get settled down and get in our own place and establish roots. The move to Alex City has been good for Alison and myself to spend more time together. It's also given us more time with the kids. However, they've gotten stir-crazy without their own house. Pray that all continues to work out.
  • Alison started her orientation at Russell Medical Center this week. She's excited and nervous about starting a new job.

Oct 22, 2009

Great Prank

This was so funny I wanted to share it with you. Imagine you went to a port-a-potty and then this happened:

Oct 21, 2009

10 Books Men Need to Read

As most of you know, I am an avid reader. I am also passionate about men getting the kahunas enough to grow up and start being the men that God has wired them and called them to be - men who passionately lead their family to love Christ and his bride. There are some great books out there to help with this quest. Now I know that most men say "I'm not much of a reader." That's a cop-out though. It's baloney. That's nothing more than an attempt by most men to give an excuse why they prefer to sit in front of a television set in their boxers and with their shirt off watching senseless hours of garbage. God made you with a brain and the ability to absorb great amounts of information. He's also called you to be the leader of your home. So, if you really want to be a godly man or you want to help a guy find his shirt and turn off the tube, here are 10 great books I think every guy should pick up.
  1. Every Man's Battle by Steven Arterburn and Fred Stoeker - This book is the quintessential resource for men who are secretly battling sexual addictions. It's a great, practical help that I have recommended to dozens of guys. It's about time that men and the church own up to and get honest about this problem. Statistics indicate that about 6-8 out of every 10 guys in your church are battling some sort of sexual addiction. It's destroying marriages, castrating the spiritual masculinity from most men in the church and rendering the church void of true manhood, and leaving a generation of boys without godly men to help them become true men of God. Men, don't pretend you don't have a problem with this. I struggled with this addiction since childhood and know full well the power it has over a man. Get honest with yourself and find help and accountability. If you suspect a guy has a problem in this area, confront him and give him this book. Some other great titles that deal with this are "Out of the Shadows" by Patrick Carnes and "At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry" by Steve Gallagher.
  2. The Samson Syndrome by Mark Atteberry - This little book was a hidden treasure I found one day on a bookshelf. In it, Atteberry does a great job of looking at the character of Samson and the struggles he faced that are common to most men today. All our lives we are told to be "strong men". However, there are some pitfalls to strong men that we need to be aware of. This book would be a great read for a small group of guys to discuss.
  3. Point Man by Steve Farrar - I first read this book before I became a husband and father and was radically convicted even then. It's a great book on designed to encourage men to take the front lines in the battle for their families. Farrar knows how to speak and write to men. Other great titles by Farrar are "Finishing Strong," "King Me," and "Anchor Man".
  4. The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley - Morley leads probably the best para-church ministry designed to disciple men I have ever seen. This book has been around for about 20 years. It's filled with practical and spiritual help on facing the 24 most common challenges that men face.
  5. The Secrets Men Keep by Steven Arterburn - Men are great at keeping secrets - not just from their wives, but from each other as well. Most men don't know how to be good stewards of money, be a spiritual leader, how to really love a woman, bond with other men, or measure success. This book addresses those challenges and more. Arterburn is a great leader in the men's ministry movement.
  6. Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes - Kent Hughes is a pastor and one of the most gifted biblical expositors of the last 50 years. He's also great at helping provide strong biblical counsel to the issue of spiritual discipline and godly leadership. This book has also been around for almost 20 years, but is not well known in today's modern men's movement.
  7. Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis - Lewis has started one of the most successful men's movements of the past 20 years in Men's Fraternity. However, before that, he wrote this book to help men know how to craft and imprint a definition of manhood to their sons. This book is more than just theory. It's the testimony of Lewis and his two friends who took the challenge to impart a biblical manhood to their sons and create ceremonies to celebrate. I have taken lots of guys through this book and it's phenomenal.
  8. Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley - Everybody cheats somewhere. You either cheat your family or you cheat your work or you cheat your church. However, each and every day we make choices of what's going to take priority in our lives. However, not only do you make choices to borrow time and energy from one place and give it to another, but someone along the way is going to feel cheated. The reality is that you choose who feels cheated. That's the theme of this small, practical book. I would suggest this book for every guy who's running the rat race, having to be away from the family for days throughout the week, or who is so consumed in work that he's distant even when he's home.
  9. The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges - Bridges is one of my favorite authors. He brings a lot of Scripture and hope to the task of following Jesus. I have read this book about 3 times. It's awesome. The truth is that holiness is not only possible for us, it's commanded of us. Therefore, we should not make it secondary. This book will provide a lot of help for the task.
  10. The Silence of Adam by Larry Crabb - This is another book that's been around for a few years but that most men have never heard of. The reality is that just like Adam, most men are passive at the task of spiritual leadership. They remain silent and unable to adequately define what it really means to be a man. In the process, most men are guessing at manhood, and guessing extremely badly. Adam's silence was deadly and caused an infection to the whole human race. However, men, you can break free from the silence and discover a true biblical manhood. This book will help you.
Of course, on top of all of these books, the greatest men's manual of all is God's word. It is full of stories of true men. Men who led they family well and those who failed and turned it around. It shows us the warrior spirits of men like Joshua and Gideon. It shows us the godly leadership of Nehemiah and Moses. It shows us the missionary spirit of Paul and the wisdom of Solomon. I would suggest a healthy digestion of God's word in addition to any of the books recommended above. Get one of them today for yourself of someone you know.

Oct 19, 2009

Monday Morning Clarity (Two Weeks Worth)

Well it's been about two weeks since I was able to post anything to the blog. Mostly because I have been on the road the past two weeks. I spent three days at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. (I hope to post some of the insights I gained there soon). Then, my wife and I had the opportunity to get away without the kids to the beach for 4 days last week. I spent a lot of time reading, thinking, and shopping and eating. It was a great and refreshing time. Because of the vacation, I couldn't get the Monday Morning Clarity last week, so I will give 2 weeks worth today.
  • We are going strong in our series "Amazed By Grace". I am having a lot of fun preaching on the grace of God. Last week we looked at "Costly Grace" and the atonement. It's nothing less than amazing to see the depths that God was willing to go to secure our salvation. This week we looked at Romans 8 and the wonderful message that "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." It was a message of hope and freedom.
  • Lea Odom and our choir knocked one out of the park yesterday with "Revelation Song". It was an awesome and powerful reminder of the holiness of God. Thanks choir for showing us a glimpse of God's glory.
  • We are having a kickoff this Wednesday for our AWANA ministry. There is a lot of excitement about bringing this program back and putting it on Wednesday nights. It will hopefully make us a lot more "family-friendly" on Wednesdays and open the door for us to minister to more families.
  • As I am typing, we have Children's Choir going on. Since we moved it to Monday we have seen a good growth and have had new kids almost every week. What a blessing to see a team of workers committed to teaching our kids to sing and providing a quality program.
  • I had a great meeting with our deacons last night. What a fantastic group of men who have a heart to be godly leaders. I believe that exciting days are ahead for Sixth Street and this group of men will have a big part to play in it. Thanks to Melvin Smith for his leadership during the transition and to Jim Thomas for taking the reigns as Deacon Chairman.
  • October is Pastor Appreciation Month and the church gave me a check yesterday morning. It was certainly undeserved since I've only been here three months. It's a lot of fun to be in the lead chair and see so much potential for the kingdom. In some ways, I feel like I have been on one long Pastor Appreciation since I got here. So many have been generous to buy my family lunch on Sundays, to bring cakes by, to offer such kind words. It verifies to me what a quality group of people call Sixth Street home.
  • After being at Catalyst, I have a greater burden for Sixth Street and for myself to make a bigger impact on social issues globally. The church took up the World Hunger banks from SBC and have already collected over $1000 in lose change for the World Hunger Fund. Alison and I have also been convicted recently to sponsor a child through Compassion International. We have done so in the past but haven't renewed it recently. We, as Christ-followers, have such an opportunity to help a child in another country with basic necessities and the opportunity to hear the gospel. If you would like more info, check out the Compassion website.

I'll leave you today with this one great quote from Charles Swindoll at Catalyst:
"Tradition is the living faith of those now dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of those now living."

Oct 10, 2009

A Grace-filled Reminder

I just returned last night from a great week at Catalyst in Atlanta. This was my third time going and by far was the best one I've been to yet. I have lots to dump out later on, but I wanted to let you know one of the most impactful moments was the Thursday night session with Francis Chan and a guy named Aaron Keyes. I had not had the privilege of hearing and worshipping with Aaron, but what an anointed, Scripture-filled worship leader - a fresh face on the horizon. Keyes shared a song called "Not Guilty Anymore" that floored me. I want to leave you with the lyrics:
Not Guilty Anymore by Aaron Keyes
It doesn't matter what you've done;
It doesn't matter where you're coming from
Doesn't matter where you've been
Hear me tell you I forgive

You're not guilty anymore,
You're not filthy anymore,
I love you, mercy is yours
You're not broken anymore,
You're not captive anymore,
I love you, mercy is yours

Can you believe that this is true,
Grace abundant I am giving you
Cleansing deeper than you know
All was paid for long ago

You're not guilty anymore,
You're not filthy anymore,
I love you, mercy is yours
You're not broken anymore,
You're not captive anymore,
I love you, mercy is yours

There is now therefore no condemnation
For those who are in him

You are spotless, You are holy
You are faultess, You are whole
You are righteous, You are blameless
You are pardoned, You are mine

You're not guilty anymore,
You're not filthy anymore,
I love you, mercy is yours
You're not broken anymore,
You're not captive anymore,
I love you, mercy is yours
What a powerful reminder of the beauty of grace and forgiveness. Get this CD and saturate yourself in the grace of Christ.

Oct 5, 2009

Most Memorable Sports Moment #1

I realized the other day as I scrolled down my blog that I hadn't finished this series I started and in the process, left out the most important sports moment. With no further delay here it is:

Red Sox Defeat Yankees in the 2004 ALCS
That's right. No doubt the biggest moment I have experienced as a sports fan was the improbable comeback in the 2004 ALCS. One year earlier, I was in a hotel in Atlanta when Aaron Boone become infamous and put the Red Sox out of the playoffs. I watched anxiously most of the 2004 season believing that with the addition of Curt Schilling, the Red Sox could finally do it. I suffered through the predictable summer swoon that hits the Sox every year. I saw them fight back from behind the Yankees to secure the Wild Card. I watched the Division series with the Angels and saw Schilling's injury. I saw Big Papi begin his incredible Red Sox run with the game winning shot over the Green Monster securing their place in the ALCS.

Then, here came the Yankees. Every Red Sox fan believed that the Sox would have deliverance from the curse of the Bambino and revenge for the Boone hr a year before. However, those hopes were dashed and talk of the curse began again as the Yankees dominated the Red Sox in the first three games. Schilling looked hurt in game 1 and got shelled. The Sox lost 10-7. Game 2 was a pitcher's duel that Sox ace Pedro Martinez eventually lost. Game 3 was a humiliating loss of 19-8 in which the Yankees looked like the Bronx Bombers of old. It was official. The Yankees were going to win and go to the World Series. No team in history had ever come back from 3 games down in a best-of-seven series. I remember talking with my brother after game 3 and both of us couldn't believe it. We talked about how the Sox couldn't catch a break and how the Yankees got them all. We thought maybe the Sox would win game 4, but surely would lose game 5 or 6. The Yankees were just too good.

Then, the impossible became possible. Game 4 saw the Yankees in command throughout. The Sox took a 3-2 lead in the 5th, but lost it when the Yankees scored 2 in the 6th. Nothing happened until the ninth and the Yankees brought in the most dominant closer in playoff history - Mariano Rivera. Rivera walked Kevin Millar to start the inning and Dave Roberts was brought in to run for Millar. The biggest moment of the series was when Roberts stole second. Bill Mueller drove in Roberts to tie the game and Big Papi hit another walk-off, two-run home run in the 11th. Sox fans were excited, but still realistic that they were down 3-1.

Game 5 was another classic with the Yankees taking a 4-2 lead on a bases loaded hit by Jeter. Big Papi did it again with a single in the 10th and the Sox won again. Momentum was starting to shift and everyone began to believe. My brother and I were on the phone all night asking "Can they really do this?" Game 6 was one of the most incredible pitching performances ever with Curt Schilling pitching with a torn tendon sheath that was sewn to his right ankle to prevent it from moving but caused tremendous pain. On sheer will and adrenaline, he shut down the Yankees and the Sox won 4-2 to tie the series.

Game 7 in the Bronx was supposed to be a classic dramtic game, but the Sox struck early with hr's by Ortiz and Johnny Damon. The Sox cruised and won 10-3 never really being challenged. It was the most incredible feeling and event I had ever witnessed. The Red Sox had done the impossible, and done it against the Yankees - the evil empire. It ushered in the Red Sox as the most dominant team of the decade, reversed the curse of the Bambino, and propelled the Red Sox to the first World Series in 86 years. No matter what, this will probably be the greatest moment as a baseball fan I will ever experience. I know I have not been a lifer Sox fan. I had not endured personally all those years of frustration. However, on a cold night in October, I saw the impossible happen. Greatest Sports Moment #1 - Red Sox Comeback Against Yankees.

Monday Morning Clarity

Well, it feels like I have finally caught up and for the first time in weeks, I had the chance to be somewhat productive on Monday. Didn't have to deal with houses or feeling sick. We're still looking for a house here in Alex City, but hopefully we'll have something in the next couple of weeks.
  • I started a new series yesterday at Sixth Street called "Amazed by Grace". I felt like it got off to a good start. We looked at what grace is and looked in depth at Ephesians 2:1-10. I was especially impacted by the depth that God had to go to secure my salvation. It wasn't just a matter of making me a better person or make what was deficient in my righteousness. I had no righteousness. He had to make my dead spirit alive by the work of Christ.
  • Yesterday was Homecoming at Sixth Street and we celebrated our 59th anniversary. Looked like a great crowd with some new faces and some old members that choose to return. Lots of energy. However, we need to do a much better job at reaching and being ready for new people. We've got a great team of guys who serve as ushers and greeters. Need to do a better job as church members inviting and doing whatever it takes to get people there.
  • We also celebrated Homecoming yesterday with the great Baptist tradition of the "Covered Dish Meal." One of my favorites. One thing I know is that Baptists can eat. That's one reason I couldn't see myself being anything else. What a great spirit among the people of Sixth Street celebrating around a meal. I couldn't help but think that on a larger scale, this was what the early church looked like, minus the fried chicken though.
  • I can't wait to get to Catalyst Conference this week. My other two ministerial staff are joining me on the trip. I have been excited about this for months. I have been 2 other times and this is always one of the most creative and transforming times for me as a leader. Gonna have a chance to see some great old friends that are also going to be there.
  • I am reading a couple of great books right now. One of them is "Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religions" by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. These guys are young and spot on with their theology and their ecclesiology. Very fresh young minds that aren't sold out to the emerging church and believe that sound doctrine and a love for the church are still important. I'll post a review of it with some highlights when I finish.

Oct 1, 2009

A Midweek Update

Still lots of crazy things happening around here that are keeping me from being consistent with my Monday morning updates. Some Mondays are so filled with catching up that I find myself late Monday night trying to come up with something. Anyway, here is a midweek update on life and ministry.
  • Great Sunday this past weekend at Sixth Street. However, attendance continues to be sporadic and less than what I anticipated. We have been getting several visitor cards the last few weeks though. I hope that we can develop an attitude of anticipation that motivates our church members to be more faithful.
  • My youth minister, Eric, preached for me Sunday night and did a pretty good job. He's young and eager to serve the kingdom and has a great future ahead of him. I know that one of the reasons I am where I am is because men like Mickey Dalrymple, Wes Cantrell, John Gibson, Scotty Hogan, and Les Hughes believed in me and nurtured in me ministry and opportunities to preach. I hope I can be as good at mentoring the next generation as those guys were to me.
  • Sunday was my birthday. It was a great one. I turned 41. Lots of great well-wishes from the congregation and someone even bought our lunch at Pizza Hut. Then, Wednesday night, one of my church members brought me a pound cake! It was still warm when I cut into it. Mmmmmmmm!
  • I am starting a new series this coming Sunday called "Amazed by Grace." I have been doing a lot of reading in the Scripture and in some great books on grace. It has been a wonderful and enriching time. I don't do it enough, but this kind of saturating in God's Word is great.
  • One of the main reasons for the lack of postings has been our housing situations here and in Alabaster. This past Tuesday, we drove back to Alabaster and signed the paperwork to sell our house. It was a huge blessing. Our house sold in 2 months from putting it on the market to pocketing the money! (And this in a down house market) Many thanks to our realtor Tim Mitchell. He did a great job! Check out his website at timmitchellsells.com. Now we have to find a house here. We are back to square one in our search, but I hope we will put a contact down on something in the next week.
  • I am challenged each and every day by my need to be a more effective father. God has blessed me with three incredible gifts and I am way too passive in their spiritual development. They have been very challenging lately. I know this is in part to the chaos of moving, new schools, and an uncertain housing situation. Alison and I are starting a new book from Kevin Leman that looks great. It's called "Have a New Kid by Friday." I also have to start being much more proactive with starting and being consistent with family devotions. I want them to be students of God's Word and they need to get that from me. Much prayer is appreciated on this.
  • I am trying to be more active in getting out of the office and visiting some of our dear saints that can no longer attend church. I got out to three of them yesterday afternoon and it was a major blessing for me.
  • It's a great time of the year sports-wise. The Red Sox clinched the wild-card berth this week and start the playoffs next Wednesday. I got to go to the MSU/LSU game for my birthday. So close! It was a great rocking environment. Good days are ahead in Starkville!
That's about all so far for this week. Lots of stuff on my mind and I hope to have some time to do a mind-dump later on this week.