Feb 25, 2010

Mid-Week Check-In

Ok. It's become apparent that being able to provide a weekly review of the weekend on Monday morning is just not possible for me. I think it's mostly because by Monday morning, I am pretty tired from the events of the weekend. I am usually spending some time in the morning winding down and also catching up on things that set up the week ahead. So, I am changing the "Monday Morning Clarity" to a "Mid-Week Check-In". I will use this to review some of the highlights of the weekend and announce some things that are coming.
  • We had another great crowd at Sixth Street with a tangible, thick presence of the Holy Spirit. I was very thankful to have my mom with us for the weekend. She had a great time meeting the people of the church and getting to see me preach.
  • We had a powerful start to the services by seeing two new Christians get baptized! I believe that baptism and celebrating life-change are the best way to start worship together and provides a tangible excitement to the crowd. Let's get active church in sharing the gospel so we can continue to see changed lives.
  • We finished the "EKKLESIA" series this past week. This Sunday, we are starting a three week series called "Going Public" about sharing your faith. This is part of preparing us for the "Across Alabama" campaign to prayerwalk and distribute invitations to attend church on Easter. My hope is that we can overcome our natural fear of witnessing and be able to comfortably share the gospel with our family, friends, and neighbors.
  • If you missed Sunday night, you missed a treat. We were blessed to have two couples that are very dear to me share about their upcoming journey to Swaziland, Africa. The Clyburns and McAdams are friends that Alison and I got to know in Alabaster. They are leaving the states possibly in June for at least a two-year ministry to orphans in Swaziland. They shared stats and photos of the dire situation in Swaziland. Please continue to pray for them as they seek to get financial support.
  • The Across Alabama stuff is really beginning to develop. We will have a 24-hour prayer vigil on March 12-13 and a community prayerwalk on Saturday, March 20th. Please sign up at the info desk or see Gary Hines to be a part of this event.
  • On a selfish, personal sports moment - congrats to Kendall Graveman who made his first two appearances for the Mississippi State Bulldog baseball team this last week. I am proud to have Kendall as part of the Bulldog family. He has looked pretty good in his first two relief appearances! Go Kendall and Go Dawgs!
  • Buckets of Hope - several of you have taken the flyers to get stuff together to send to Haiti. I have heard that because of the response from area churches that getting buckets and lids is hard to do. Keep trying. If you are going to do a bucket, please have it here by March 4th so we can deliver it.
Hope you are having a great week and see you Sunday!


Congratulations Jarvis "Swat" Varnado! You have made the Bulldog Nation proud!

Feb 22, 2010

Matt Chandler Update

Feb 21, 2010

A Century Turns - A Book Review

I was eager to read the latest book I received to review for my blog. A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears by William Bennett is a fair, informative, and sometimes encouraging look at the political and global events of the years 1998-2008. This book was a far departure from my usual literary palette. Aside from a couple of non-fiction writers, most of my reading time is spent on books about theology, church work, and leadership. However, I have long been an admirer of Bill Bennett and both his writings as well as his political stances. Bennett is a strong conservative and has been heavily aligned with Republican leaders and causes for many years. However, his political ties have never hindered him from both offering strong opinions as well as voicing strong opposition to policies he disagrees with. This has made him a well-respected figure in Washington on both sides of the aisle.

A Century Turns is a follow-up to Bennett's previous works, America: The Last Best Hope volumes 1 and 2. I have not read those books. Bennett explains that after their publication and embrace by many, he was encouraged to write a book about the events leading up to the turn of the century. I am a product of most of the events that he writes about. In 1998, I was a 20-year old, not well-informed, college student who was being asked to vote in his first significant presidential election. The list of events over the last 20 years described by Bennett are staggering: the fall of communism, the quick war to free Kuwait from Iraq, the bombing of the World Trade Center, the election of two liberal presidents - Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the election of a father and a son - George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, the controversy of the 2000 presidential election, "hanging chads", the war and fall of Iraq, the arrest and execution of Saddam Hussein. These events, and dozens more, have all occurred and radically shaped our world in the last 20 years.

Bill Bennett does an excellent job of walking through the events that have occurred over this 20-year time span and their political implications. While not backing away from his strong conservatism, he does a fair job of giving the good and the bad of both the Democratic and Republican parties. He is not afraid to open up the issues and reveal much of what the "mainstream media" has under or mis-reported over the last few years. In his asterisk notes he usually adds his commentary on how he advised a certain president or how he debated liberals on television about these events. Bennett primary purpose is not to get the reader to agree with him politically. His primary purpose is to show how America has long been a light and beacon of freedom and how this has been shown or hidden in the last 20 years. Bennett is first and foremost an American and a patriot. He has a huge grasp on American history and the constitution.

If you like history, especially the kind that hasn't been revised by today's liberal press, this is a great book. If you are like me, you will read this and find yourself reminiscing as you think about where you were when these moments were taking place. I didn't realize at the time how significant the election of a charming Southern Governor with a checkered moral past would be at the time. It didn't seem imaginable after Bush's soaring popularity in the post 9/11 events would diminish and have him leave office as one of the most unpopular presidents (according to so-called "approval ratings" and because of the heavily biased attacks of the media). It was unthinkable when Jesse Jackson ran for president in 1998 that 20 years later, a man with African-American background would be elected and sworn in. Reading through the pages of A Century Turns is a gentle reminder that while history is prologue, the making of it occurs in everyday events that are never insignificant.

This book was graciously provided for review by Thomas Nelson books as part of their Booksneeze.com program.

Feb 20, 2010

Stunned by Grace

I've been preparing for my message at Sixth Street tomorrow on Ephesians 3. The sermon is titled "The Love of God and the Mystery of the Gospel". I have been so refreshed by immersing myself in these truths this week. Ephesians is such an affirming and doctrinally deep book. I have been especially encouraged by Paul's prayer.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Eph 3:14-19
What a beautiful imagery that "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." What a stunning reminder that God's love is four-dimensional! May your heart be encouraged today by these gospel truths.

Feb 18, 2010

What Should Tiger Say?

I have been quiet for the most part on the Tiger Woods issue since it came out several weeks ago about his adultery and it's resultant disaster upon his family and his credibility. I, like most people, formed an opinion quickly. However, I have learned from the past that most of the time when a story like this comes out, whether a celebrity or average Joe, that we don't hear all the story up front and the longer we go, the more info that comes out. I tried to reserve my public opinion until more info came out. I despise organizations like TMZ that tend to sensationalize events and create publicity for themselves at others expenses. The early media frenzy regarding Tiger was disgusting, in my opinion.

Tiger Woods is a human being, created in the image of God. God loves Tiger very much and desires that he would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God has given Tiger an incredible talent and desires that Tiger would use his talent as a platform for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). Tiger is not guilty of any sin that any other man is not capable of. Tiger has lived a life that has placed him at the center and has reaped the results of that. I heartily agree with Brit Hume and his brave comments about what Tiger must do in order to find peace with God. (previous post)

Tiger has now announced that he is going to have a "press conference" tomorrow to talk for the first time. This has created a lot of buzz about what Tiger will say and what he should say. This morning I heard Mike Greenberg on Mike and Mike in the Morning ask this question, "What does Tiger Woods need to apologize for?" Greenberg's point was that he agreed that what Tiger did was wrong, but does he really need to publicly apologize. In Greenberg's opinion, what Tiger did was between him and his family and doesn't affect the rest of us. Interesting opinion and one that I don't totally agree with. I don't think that as a 42-year old guy from rural Alabama that Tiger owes me an apology for anything. His sin, while disgusting and egregious, was not personally against me or my family. I have not been adversely affected at all by Tiger's transgressions. I actually have a forum because of his sin to talk to my sons about the humanity of all public figures, no matter how talented, and the impact of sin.

However, the question still remains, "Should Tiger apologize?" Some say that he is a role model and that he has destroyed his credibility. I think any sports figure, whether they like it or not, serves as somewhat of a "hero figure" to the younger generation. Talent and success carry the price of responsibility and those who are blessed with them must have a sense of accountability and stewardship. This is something that those who cheated at baseball with performance enhancing drugs forgot or neglected. However, I don't think Tiger should apologize just because he is a role model.

I think Tiger should apologize because that is the first step towards true confession and repentance. Tiger's actions have destroyed his credibility. He is, at the present time, not an acceptable role model for my three boys. He is a liar and and adulterer. He lied to his wife about his wedding vows and gave his heart and body to other women to feed his sinful flesh. He has violated the most basic God-ordained unit - the family. He doesn't have to answer to me or you for that. He must answer to his family and the Lord Jesus. However, Tiger is not the first or most prominent figure historically to commit adultery. The King of Israel, David, not only committed the same sin, he also had her husband killed making him an accessory to murder. David's sin was just as disgusting as Tiger's. However, David was known as a "man after God's own heart." The difference? When David's sin was found out, he publicly confessed and repented. He wrote of his agony over his sin and issued a public statement in Psalm 51.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Psalm 51:1-12
While I do not think this will be what Tiger says, ultimately, this is what I hope happens to him. This is what I hope happens to all of us that are guilty of the filth and disgust of sin. I hope and pray that the story of Tiger turns out to be one of redemption and forgiveness and not just one of admission and eventual forgetting, like the Kobe Bryant incident. Make no mistake. I believe that Tiger will recover in the "public eye" eventually. He will return to golf. He will win tournaments. He will get his endorsement offers because businesses want to make money and will attach themselves to success over character. The story of Kobe reminds me of these facts. I am more concerned that Tiger can recover in the sight of God than in public opinion. That is why what Tiger has to say tomorrow is of interest to me. King David or Kobe Bryant? Which fate will Tiger choose?

Feb 17, 2010

Matt Chandler Update

Haven't posted a video update on Matt recently. Had a lot going on. Good news is that Matt has finished round 1 of his chemo and radiation. This was his video update from last weekend.

A Late Monday Morning Clarity

Great weekend! The snow on the ground late last week was beautiful and made for a refreshing change of scenery all weekend. It was cool to see some of it still on the ground pulling up to the church Sunday morning.
  • Great crowd again Sunday morning. The new year has seen an increase to our weekly attendance. We are looking at the possibility of having to go to 2 services later on this year to accommodate future growth.
  • Pray for the "Feasibility Team". We are having regular meetings to go over plans and opportunities to reignite the vision to move "Forward in Faith". These godly men need your prayer for wisdom and insight.
  • The Valentine's Banquet Saturday night was amazing. Thanks to Debra Perry and her team for all the work they put into it. Over 200 people were there. Great food! Much thanks to the guys who stood out in the cold and cooked so many steaks.
  • I have heard a lot of funny comments about the "Not So Newlywed Game" at the banquet. It was a lot of fun to hear some of the answers to the questions. Who knew that Claude Thomas was a "Hot Tamale"?
  • I spent this past Tuesday in Birmingham at an event sponsored by ALCAP about the proposed legislation to legalize gambling. I was privileged to hear Dr. Richard Land from the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission speak. We are blessed as Southern Baptists to have this man represent us in Washington. This is an issue that as Christ-followers we need to be writing our congressional representatives to let them know our feelings. There is also a rally at the State Capitol next Tuesday, March 23. If you want to go, call the church office and let us know.
  • Don't forget we have a lot of stuff coming up that you can partner in to spread the gospel. Sign up for our Across Alabama Prayerwalk of the community on March 20th. We'll also go the next week to give invitations to attend church on Easter. Also, remember our Mission Trip to Kentucky June 20-25. There are only 26 spots available.
We have some baptisms coming up this Sunday! That always makes for a great day! See you Sunday!

Feb 8, 2010

Monday Morning Clarity

Wrapping up another great weekend at Sixth Street yesterday.
  • The weather was cold, but there was a great spirit of anticipation yesterday. It manifested itself in our music and prayer time. I am thankful for such a sensitive church family that deeply desires to see God move in our midst.
  • We took a group of 21 men to the Johnny Hunt Men's Conference at Woodstock on Friday and Saturday. We had an awesome time on the vans together. The teaching was great and the music was incredible. It's always a blessing to see men band together to worship God and surrender to His purposes. I told the men before we left that I was praying God would "ruin them." I heard many great comments from the guys and the energy was transferred to Sunday morning.
  • I honestly believe that the key to seeing God move in our church lies in our ability to reach, challenge, and equip men to be godly, spiritual leaders. We've got lots of room to improve in this area, but God is moving.
  • I enjoyed preaching on worship yesterday. I have a deep passion to see God's people worship God with freedom and transparency. I agree with Bob Russell that the most magnetic evangelistic tool we have is the power of a church that worships God in "spirit and truth."
  • Awesome time last night at our "Big Game Fellowship." We had a ton of food and it was all awesome. It was great to see the Saints win, but honestly, the best part was seeing people spend time together. Most people sat around tables and played games or talked with very little attention to the game. That's "koinoinia"! I also had the opportunity to talk with a young man who has spent years in addiction and self-destruction and see him now embrace the grace and forgiveness of the gospel. Pray for Michael. God has given us stewardship over him. He needs much prayer and discipling in the days ahead.
  • We have a Valentine's Banquet coming up this weekend. Hope you bought your tickets!

Feb 4, 2010

A Late Monday Morning Clarity

Sorry for the delay this week. Lots of stuff going on, been mulling around in my head lots of things I want to write about but haven't been able to carve out time to do it.
  • Another great time of music and worship Sunday morning. The last few weeks we have had a tangible move of the Spirit in our singing.
  • The choir and Whitney Patterson did an awesome job on The Stand! I love this song and they knocked it out of the park.
  • We are really moving closer to having a corporate understanding of our mission to "make disciples." Had a great time preaching on the Great Commission Sunday morning and got some great response.
  • Tuesday was my son Drew (he likes to be called Andrew now) birthday. God blessed us nine years ago with Drew. Happy Birthday Drew!
  • Look for some changes in our Guest Services coming up soon. Robert Forbus has agreed to help Kevin and me make some changes in our front-door ministries of parking lot, greeters, ushers, and more. This will also open up some opportunities for a lot of people to find a place to serve.
  • Wow! Sixth Street stepped up in giving a special gift to the people of Haiti. As of Tuesday, you guys had given over $1600. We will be sending that in the next week to the State Board of Missions to be given over to SBC Disaster Relief. Great job!
  • I finished a great book by John Piper last week called "Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ". It helped me to realize how little we in the church in America understand suffering for others to hear the gospel. I am thankful for men and women who risk life and family to fulfill the Great Commission.
  • If you haven't signed your kids up for Student Life Kids Camp or Youth Camp at the beach, you need to do so now! This will be a life-changing opportunity for them. Talk to Eric about the details.
  • We are doing some work on the layout for the church directory and hope to get that ready soon.
  • Don't forget the Sunday night party to watch the big football game (due to NFL liscensing, we can't advertise it by it's real name anymore). Bring tailgate food, chili, etc. I am working up some soup and some chicken wings!