Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I LOVE IT when Churches Talk about Money!!!

Seriously, I do. I know people always say the exact opposite. And I know I had a post about money last week so I'm really making a lot of people mad. But, here's the thing. Jesus talked about it all the time and so I'm thinking we should to. I'm also being honest when I tell you that I seek out sermons from other pastors about money all the time. (Craig Groeschel, who I quoted in yesterday's post, is one of my favorites. You should check out his "Blessed" series on iTunes).

"Why?" you ask. Well, the truth is I'm not all that financially savvy and I need all the help I can get. I've got the whole 10% to God part. I'm good at that math b/c I just have to move the decimal point one spot to the left. I do that first, that money never gets touched, but then there's this other 90% leftover. It's the 90% that I need help managing.

I was taught the principle of savings at a young age - amounting to the basic idea that for every $10 I had, $1 went to God and $1 went to my piggy bank. It all made sense at the time and it all worked out. Of course, I was 10-years old at the time and so I wasn't paying for my food, clothing, shelter, cell phone, car, education, etc., etc., etc. So, $8 felt like a fortune.

Today, $8 flies out the window as soon as I pull in the Target parking lot. And, truth be told that ninth dollar that should be in my savings account often gets lost in the shuffle. There are lots of good rationales - Jacob's diapers are expensive, medical expenses are a given, car troubles can't always be accounted for, I can't wear the same shirt I wore last Sunday (as if everyone is paying attention).

It's simple but true - we all need a plan and we all need some built in safeguards to help us manage our money well, i.e. be good stewards of what God has given us. Times have been tough and the economy is still getting back on its feet, but God is faithful to provide for all we need. And He's faithful to create and use our abundance if we'll take the time to be responsible and prayerful and open with all that we have.

We've been talking for the last 3 weeks in worship about making a course correction. Do your finances need a course correction? Maybe it's time to seek some wise counsel - start in Scripture, then spend some time in prayer, then start asking people whose faith you respect and whose responsible financial choices are evident, then pray some more and read some more. Jesus said that where our treasure is our hearts are also. Let's take account of our treasure.

What's the story you want to tell someday?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


"Failure is an event, not a person." -Craig Groeschel, "Confessions of a Pastor"

Have you had a really good failure recently? That's right, I said a "good failure." It's not an oxymoron. So often the best things we do happen immediately following a failure. Failure can mean we're stretching ourselves. Failure can mean we're open to creativity. Failure can mean we dared to try.

Here's the thing - it's cliche but true, if you haven't failed recently than you haven't tried to do anything extraordinary. Some people are okay with boring, but I'm not. I don't want to live a boring life and I don't think God created me to live a boring life. God created me and He created you for greatness. After all, that's why God made us in His image. If God wanted boring people He would have picked a different mold.

What is God pushing you to do that you've been pushing off? What are you dreaming about at night and working toward when you get out of bed?

Get to it, the time is now!

Monday, April 26, 2010

After the Message

(but first, a few comments/corrections/etc. - for those who found their way to this blog via the article in the Summerville Journal Scene, Welcome! And, please allow me to correct a few details: first, our worship on Sundays is at 10am, not 10:30, but we're happy to have you early, on time or late :); second, I was quoted as saying "I like to be flexible with the Scripture." I'm sure it was not intended, but this was taken far out of context. The reporter asked if I use the lectionary in my sermon preparation and I said, "Sometimes, but I like to be flexible with the Scripture I use." Meaning, I don't always use suggested readings for the week; more often I let God show me the Scriptures and the places I need to go for given Sundays and specific sermon series. I take the Word of God very seriously and I spend hours in study and prayer doing my best to be faithful to what it says and not what I want it to say.)

This Sunday was week 3 in our Course Correction series and we were talking about where we're heading. Now that we've realized how we got where we are, turned the corner and realigned our priorities, we need to have an idea where we're going and what we're aiming for. Here are the notes:

We all have images given to us in commercials and brochures of smiling, happy people and what life can look like at its very best; often cheesy and fake, but nevertheless we’re told that’s what we want

What’s the picture in your head?

Like restoring a car – we have a picture of what we want it to look like when

we’re done

Andy Stanley asks, “What’s the story you want to tell someday?”

Some would say – why bother to think about it, we can’t control the future. No, we can’t, but you’ve probably heard the expression that if you aim at nothing, you’ll probably hit your target.

What are we asking for? What are we working toward?

1 Kings 3:4-14 – Solomon, the son born to David and Bathsheba, is now king of Israel. God tells Solomon to ask Him for whatever he wants, can you imagine??

Solomon’s answer: wisdom, knowing right from wrong and acting on it,

wanting to tell a story of integrity

Doesn’t ask for fame and riches – those things not bad, but not meant to be

our pursuit. Our pursuit should always be to honor God.

If you have a clear picture of where you’re going and what you’re aiminig for, you have a better chance of getting there - and more importantly, if you have a clear sense of Who you’re trying to please, the decisions and the moves get a whole lot clearer (no one said easier, but clearer for sure)

On any course correction, on any journey… You’re going to get tired along the way and you’re going to face difficulty, but that’s all part of a good story

Donald Miller defines a story as "a character who wants something and overcomes obstacles to get it." (from his book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years")

Pictures of Our Lives – we take pictures of the stories we want to remember to tell, what stories are we planning to tell in the future?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Giving Back

Whether you are or are not an American Idol fan, you have to give it to them that "Idol Gives Back" is an incredible thing. Last night, American Idol raised many, many millions of dollars to go to children in need around the world. Because they've been doing this for a few years, they had lots of stories to tell through the evening about places and people where the money is already making a difference. I'll admit it, I cried as I watched kids from Arizona to Africa whose lives have been changed forever by the donations given and the people who've given their lives to do the work paid for with that money.

I like the name too. Idol makes a bazillion dollars doing what they do and the people on the show profit big-time. It's fitting to see them acknowledge that they are giving back just a little of what they've been given. The money, the fame, the success - it wasn't simply theirs, it was given to them. They were given an opportunity, given a stage, given encouragement. And all through the night, as they interviewed the contestants and superstars who were there, they each said it was a privilege to be participate in Idol Gives Back.

I'm pretty sure this concept isn't new. We've all been given everything by the God who created us, and it's our privilege to give back just a little of what we've received. After all, just a little in the right hands makes a huge difference.

Imagine what just a little in the hands that created the universe does.

(As an aside, I know the church is often criticized for talking too much about money - interesting when Idol is revered for doing so - but, I wonder if it's often because people don't have certainty about where the money they're giving to the church goes. If you are part of Ashley Ridge Church, never hesitate to ask. I will show you personally where every dime goes. And, hopefully, you won't have to ask too often b/c we'll always do our best to make it apparent for all to see so that Jesus gets the glory for the great things being done in our community and around the world.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Few Shout-Outs

Happy Birthday to my good friend, Kevin Carter, as he celebrates his 21st! Okay, it's not really his 21st, but we'll call him 21 with 22 years of experience :)

My mom, the rock star, who drove 10 hours by herself from PA to Charleston, SC to spend the weekend with me and is now driving 9 1/2 hours by herself from SC to Ohio to meet up with my dad and spend a few days with my sister and her family - you're amazing, Mom!!!

To Wayne and Sandy All, who know how to throw a great party and cook a really good pig - loved hanging out with the Ashley Ridge family this past Saturday at our first annual pig pickin'!

To Donald Miller, a Christian author, speaker, blogger, whom I thoroughly enjoy. It's probably bad practice to send people on to other people's blogs (especially to other people's blogs that are much better and more frequently updated), but Don's is good and worth reading. This entry in particular is fantastic and fits the series I'm currently preaching.

To Jesus, who should come first, but I'm putting last in this particular case b/c He's the most important. Jesus walks with me everyday, gives me breath to breathe everyday, shows me grace everyday and so much more.

Who needs a shout-out in your life? Maybe you should stop what you're doing and call them right now.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

After the Message
Course Correction, Part 2

Have you ever renovated a house or restored a car? It always takes longer than you think, you get tired along the way, frustrated, angry, run out of money, run out of steam

Driven by the idea - In the end, it’s all worth it

But it’s got to be first-things-first – if you get over-eager and paint first, you

end up redoing it or slowing the whole process

2 Samuel 12:20-31 –

Context – Nathan confronts David, the baby born to Bathsheba dies

v. 20-21 - David turns the corner and faces reality; first he goes and worships,

v. 22-23 – he realizes the past cannot be changed (we’ve got to accept God’s forgiveness and we need to give forgiveness, can’t hold onto the past)

vv. 24-25 - then he cares for his family

vv. 26-31 - then he gets back to work

Priorities re-align, we could live forever in the guilt and despair of where we are and never make the correction or we can put first things first and get back at it

God, Family, Work – always in that order

God wants to take the brokenness of the old you and make the adjustments

Now you have a story – a story of grace, a story of transformation, a story of


The world needs those kinds of stories – too often the stories end at broken

when we serve a God who makes all things new

Now that we've turned the corner and made the correction, we're going to talk about staying on the path. This Sunday, we're painting the picture of where we're heading. Start thinking and praying about God's will for you and your heart's desire.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Um, really?

The woman on the treadmill in front of me at the gym last week was walking uphill at maximum incline, sweating, working hard...and drinking a large soda from McDonald's. I'm hoping the soda was at least a Diet Coke, but even still.

How often do we do things that totally contradict each other?

For example, I ran 3 miles yesterday and walked for an hour this evening. I also ate ice cream last night and I have every intention of eating ice cream tonight after I write this post. (the 1/2 fat stuff, of course :)

Another example, I cut my prayer time short this morning so I could get to church earlier. Um, really?

Here's the thing - some contradictions are just silly like the diet coke and treadmill, but others are dangerous and detrimental to people who don't know Jesus yet. Brennan Manning said, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

We've got to get our message straight.

Monday, April 12, 2010

After the Message
Course Correction, Part One
2 Samuel 11

"How did I get here?"

Somehow along the way, we get off-course – a bad decision or two, often subtle

It’s like cutting a curb in your car – you know your SUV can take it, you’ve done it before, but there’s a long-term effect

If we’re going to make a course correction,

we need to recognize how we got where we are

2 Samuel 11, David is God’s man and yet he veers way off course – what happened?

v. 1 – David wasn’t where he was supposed to be

v. 2 – It was evening, David had been in bed, he knew people bathed at that time – let’s not pretend this was an innocent, “woops, look what I saw”

v. 6-13 – David opts for a cover-up instead of dealing with the consequences and facing up to truth – the plot thickens, and David is in a lot deeper

v. 14-17 – David gets desperate and his desperation leads to murder

We all end up here, hopefully not to this extreme, but we’ve all ended up in this place of being off-course at some point in our lives, often with the best intentions

Here’s the good news – Jesus went to the cross and already took care of all

our sin!

Here’s the follow-up – He didn’t do it so we could keep on sinning!

Some of you have decided it’s easier to continue in the sin you’re caught up in

than turning around, facing the consequences and dealing with it.

Gotta build a hedge, have some accountability

This week's assignment - spend time with Jesus, find someone in your life to hold you accountable.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Get Wisdom

We started studying Proverbs this morning in my small group, and in my personal reading I've been reading a chapter of Proverbs every day since January along with my other OT and NT readings - which means, for those of you doing the math, I'm at the beginning of my fourth time through the book. Some may call that repetitive (and redundant :), but I have to say the repetition has been really good for me. After all, it's a book of wisdom and goodness knows I need as much of that as I can get everyday.

Several times in the opening chapters of Proverbs, we're instructed to "get wisdom." Specifically in Proverbs 4:5, it says "Get wisdom, get understanding." Often we think of wisdom as a virtue that comes with age and experience. That's true, but it's also something we should actively pursue and not just wait to be struck with.

Here are some ways I have been pursuing wisdom recently:
- I read a chapter of Proverbs everyday (you didn't see that coming, did you?)
- I pray specifically for wisdom - wisdom in decision-making for me and for Ashley Ridge Church, wisdom in parenting, wisdom in speaking with grace and truth, etc.
- I call my mom everyday - she's a fount of wisdom and she's unafraid to set me straight
- I meet once-a-month with a woman I greatly admire who is about 5-6 years older than me, which means she's a few steps ahead of me in marriage, kids, walk with Jesus, etc. I share my life with her and she holds me accountable
- I surround myself with people who ask questions and don't just tell me what I want to hear

How are you pursuing Godly wisdom?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Duke is the National Champion
The Masters Starts This Week
It's Gorgeous Outside

You better believe this Jesus-followin', Blue Devil livin' in the sunny South is a happy girl! But you know what...

Butler could have won, the Masters could have been cancelled and it could be raining outside and I would still be singing because JESUS IS ALIVE and nothing can take that away!!!

"Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire!" 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19

Thursday, April 01, 2010

One (John 17)

As if Jesus hadn't done enough for the disciples already that evening (washing their feet, feeding them, sharing what the future held for them), as the meal ended Jesus prayed for his disciples - a beautiful, passionate, heartfelt prayer.

In fact, if you only have a few minutes to read today - go read John 17 and skip the rest of this post.

Jesus told God the Father that we belong to Him. Jesus asked God to protect us and sanctify us. And then, Jesus prayed that we would be one so that the whole world would have an opportunity to know Him.

Do you think Jesus knew in that moment that we were going to have a bazillion denominations, schisms within denominations, in-fighting in our own churches? Do you think Jesus knew there would be blog posts and newspaper articles from pastors bad-mouthing other pastors? Do you think Jesus knew we were going to look at each other and say, "You're not as good a Christian as I am b/c you fall short in a particular area of sin (you know, the one that doesn't get to me even though I probably fall short in an area that doesn't get to you)?"

I'm guessing he had a pretty good idea, b/c of all the things Jesus could have prayed, he chose to pray for our unity. Jesus knew that the world would look to the church as an indicator of who He is and what faith is all about. And so, Jesus' prayer for future believers was that Christians (people like me and you) wouldn't mess them up.

In this world, there will always be differences of opinion, style preferences, and doctrinal debates, but this week of all weeks, let's agree to agree on what all of us can agree on - JESUS.

Jesus is the one who gave EVERYTHING for you and me. And not just you and me, he did it for the world, and if the world is going to hear and know that Jesus is Lord than we have to pull together and let that be the message we send.

What messages are we sending to the world that get in the way of others seeing Jesus? What messages are you sending with your own life that keep people from wanting to know Jesus?

There's good news - Jesus died for all of those imperfections in us and in the church. Now we need to move forward together, with one voice, shouting the name of Jesus from city to city and house to house.