Tuesday, May 25, 2010

After the Message

We spend so much time searching for comfort – comfort food, comfort clothes, comfortable people, air conditioning

Acts 2:1-13 – What in the world? This is uncomfortable, and it continues…

Acts 2:14-21

Not only are we not often there as a church, we’re not even sure we want to be there

Let’s be honest, someone starts speaking in tongues this morning and I’m a little

freaked out

And so, we search for comfort…

Ashley Ridge Church, are we already comfortable?

We’ve created a great environment, great music, great coffee, it feels good, it looks good, it sounds good (people ask me all the time, “how’s it going?” and I have lots of great things to tell them)

But the truth is, this isn’t good enough. We ought to be uncomfortable b/c it’s no longer just about what Jesus has done, now it’s what He’s going to do through us…and that’s not comfortable

For the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and those He came to save, are we willing to be a Pentecost church?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The "E" Word

One of my son's favorite books is the old Sesame Street book with Grover called "There's a Monster at the End of this Book." Grover spends the whole book trying to keep you from turning the next page so you don't get to the monster, only to get there and discover that he, the lovable and friendly Grover, is the monster at the end of the book and there was no reason to be afraid.

In keeping with that idea, I would like to warn you now that at the end of this post I'm going to challenge you to share your faith - I know, you're already sweating.

Evangelism has become a very taboo word in many of our churches - it's that thing the scary churches do. We associate it with the tracts about hell that are left in bathroom stalls and the people who stand on street corners yelling or the people that go door-to-door. Don't get me wrong. I find those practices as alarming as everyone else - alarming and ineffective. Nevertheless, we've let those negative examples be our excuse for not sharing our faith.

I do it as a pastor with people who've taken enough initiative to visit the church. I don't want to come on too strong, or talk about faith too quickly and thus get labeled or perceived as the scary, stalker pastor. So, I just act friendly and assume they'll ask me if they want to know anything about Jesus.

Here's our hold-up (aside from the scary evangelism tactics that have turned us off), we think that sharing our faith means we have to give someone a long, drawn-out, thorough explanation of who Jesus is, how Jesus works, what the Bible means and more. We think we have to know everything and have a great way to explain it.

This isn't true. We simply need to take the opportunity to invite people to experience something that has been powerful, important and life-changing to us. We can't have the experience for them, but we can invite them to the party.

Donald Miller says it this way: "Introducing somebody to Jesus is not about presenting ideas, then, as much as it is introducing the person to a Diety who lives and interacts. Evangelism, then, looks like setting somebody up on a blind date: God does the work, we just tell them about him and where they can find him."

It's not pushy and it's not about how much we can memorize. It's as simple as inviting someone to worship with you or, better yet, taking a genuine interest in someone else's life and story.

So, here it comes, the challenge: Think of someone you know who doesn't go to church, or even someone who does go to church but doesn't know Jesus - take your friendship to the next level (see yesterday's post) and take the risk of inviting them to come to worship or small group with you - point them to an opportunity to experience God for themselves.

I think you might find it's not as hard or scary as you think.

(And if you're the competitive type and need extra motivation, Jamin is trying to invite 25 people to worship before Sunday, and he's monitoring his progress by handing out our Ashley Ridge cards that have a place on the back for you to write your name and number - I'm looking for someone to show up on Sunday having invited more than 25 people! - But remember, the ultimate goal isn't quantity, it's building quality relationships that lead to the highest quality relationship with Jesus!)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Am I Worthy to be Jesus' Friend?

Right now, my Bible reading has me in the book of Ephesians along with the end of Judges. In Ephesians 4:1, Paul says, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." He goes on to talk about how some of us are called to be apostles, others prophets and so on. But the thing that jumped into my brain that I can't get rid of is that Jesus told his disciples in John 15:15 that he no longer called them servants, he called them friends.

Jesus calls us his friend, which begs the question: Am I living a life worthy of being called Jesus' friend?

Have you ever spent much time around name-droppers? (That would have been a good Seinfeld episode, perhaps it was and I'm just forgetting). Name-droppers are those people who meet someone once or know a friend of a friend of a friend of someone significant, but they act like they're best buddies. Name-droppers are people who feel good using a name when it gives them an advantage, but beyond that they stick it in their file and don't do anything with it.

The truth is that it's really easy to slip into the category of name-dropper as opposed to friend when it comes to our relationship with Jesus. I'm not proud of it, but this happens to me more than I like to admit.

Here's another way to put it. In the book "Same Kind of Different as Me", a wealthy white man asks a homeless black man to be his friend. The homeless man tells him he will need to think about it. The wealthy man is taken aback by the response, but the homeless man takes his question very seriously and spends a few weeks considering it. When he comes back to respond, he asks the man if it's true that when white people fish do they really "catch-and-release." He tells him that the idea really bothers him because everyone he knows that fishes does it to survive and wouldn't dream of dropping a fish because they had no need for it. Then he looks at the white man and tells him he won't be his friend if he's going to catch-and-release, but if he truly wants to be his friend, then he'll agree to it and be his friend forever.

Jesus calls us his friends and you don't have to read much further to know that Jesus is not in the catch-and-release business. Jesus was in the whole-way-to-the-cross-lay-down-your-life-for-a-friend business.

Are we going after that kind of friendship with Jesus or are we settling for being name-droppers? Paul urges us to be more.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Loving the Unlovable

I don't know who you have trouble loving, but here are some of the people on my current top 10 list:

- the guy on the infomercial selling mineral water that is "anointed" so if you BUY it and drink it all of your debt will be miraculously erased
- the people who call themselves Christians and spend their Sunday mornings protesting outside of other churches with signs that say things like "God hates people that _______." (I've read the Bible several times and I've never read anything about the people God hates.)
- the people taking hatchets into schools in China, using them to hurt and kill little children
- the people kidnapping 5-year old girls and using them in the sex trade

...this list could go on and on.

It's interesting in some ways because, if I'm honest, there are people on death row who I could find a way to love a lot more easily than the guy on the infomercial blatantly misrepresenting Jesus and people who follow Jesus. Don't get me wrong, I get that I'm being self-righteous by loving people who haven't directly impacted my life and thus feeling good about my forgiveness-meter while despising the people who make my life and my job and my convictions more difficult. In addition to being self-righteous, that's also called hypocrisy because I preach forgiveness all the time and only practice it when it's convenient.

And so, I'm constantly convicted by the fact that Jesus loves every person on my unlovable list - even the guy going out of his way to make Him look bad. Jesus says in Matthew 5, "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you."
Here's the thing, I don't have to love, like or condone a lot of what people do - there's even such a thing as righteous anger. But I do have to love people and see far enough to know that they are fellow children of God and people in need of God's grace just like me.

Who are you wasting time and energy hating today? What unlovable moments has God loved you through lately?

Monday, May 17, 2010

After the Message
Mama Said, Part 2 - "Say You're Sorry"

Here’s the thing – very few of us have mamas following us around all the time as adults, and even teenagers. Which means, for most of us, no one is following us around at home, at work, or at school and calling us out on our junk, making us say we’re sorry.

It’s hard to say you’re sorry – it’s humiliating. It’s also interesting how we make our kids say it all the time, but as adults we very rarely use those words. We self-justify, we ignore, we move on. After all, saying sorry makes us look weak and vulnerable, right?

We all do things we should be sorry about from time to time, and how we deal with those things matters eternally.

2 Corinthians 7:8-13,

Paul had a very special relationship with the Corinthians – often to their dismay and discomfort, Paul didn’t let them get away with stuff and called them out on their junk

- Godly sorrow leads to repentance, which leads to salvation.

How man times do we say “I’m sorry” and simply move on?

- their “I’m sorry” didn’t make them look weak, it made them look human and passionate and responsible

We can spend our whole lives brushing things aside and pretending “I’m okay, you’re okay,” but that’s to deny that we are human. We are human. We all make mistakes. We all do things and say things we regret. We have two choices:

1. Pretend they never happened and move on, tucking them away in our box of regret

2. Acknowledge we’re humans in the need of a gracious God who sent us a Savior to drive our sins away once and for all – in other words, deal with our sin and let Jesus’ forgiveness make us clean and new and more able to do and be all that we were called to do and to be

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Same Kind of Different as Me"
by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

It's been awhile since I've written about books I'm reading, but I couldn't let this one pass by. After numerous recommendations, I picked up the book "Same Kind of Different as Me" last week and read it. It was exceptional! I'm not going to tell you much of what it's about because I really want to encourage as many people as possible to read it.

I will tell you this much, it's a story about what happens when our faith in God becomes more than a Sunday event. It's about faith in action - the kind of action that leads to dirt under the fingernails and not just a nice plaque on a wall. It's about the power of Jesus to transform lives - homeless lives, wealthy lives, our lives. It's about what happens when we get truly relational and decide to love our neighbors like Jesus said.

I walked away from the book convicted and excited - not just to do more, but to do better. Do you know what I mean? I'm talking about the fact that I do a lot of stuff, but my heart isn't always in it, my motives aren't always to dig deeper and know God more, but instead to make it through. That's boring, that's meaningless (as Solomon points out repeatedly in Ecclesiastes). I want to do everything for the purpose of loving the God who made me and loving the people He loves. And that includes everything from washing dishes to preparing a message for Sunday morning. It includes talking to my neighbor across the street who lends us soy sauce when we need it and talking to the annoying people at the pool who sit in the corner and smoke.

Read the book - you might get something totally different out of it, but I promise it will be worth it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Day the Salsa Died

At the risk of being overly dramatic (read "exaggeration coming for purposes of conveying my point"), my heart broke last week when the manager of the Summerville Moe's told me they would no longer be making their mango salsa. The mango salsa was AMAZING (see this post). I loved Moe's before mango salsa and I will continue to love Moe's in the post-mango era, but there will forever be a void without the mango salsa. It was new, it was different, it was the perfect combination of fruit, vegetable and cilantro goodness, but now it has been tossed aside and replaced by the roasted corn salsa (also good, but nowhere near the level of the mango).

Interestingly, when the mango salsa was introduced I used it as an opportunity to wax eloquent on the necessity of change and the importance of mixing things up. I would be a hypocrite to use its demise to lament inevitable change.

You see, we all herald change when we want things to be different, but as soon as things are to our liking, we're done changing. It's the height of hypocrisy and we all do it.

And so, it's time for a gut check (myself in the greatest need). We're rocking and rolling at Ashley Ridge - things are going great! I don't have to make anything up when people ask how the church is going. I can brag for hours about the power of the Spirit, the people, the passion, the outreach and more. But, we're only 4 months in and so far we've successfully created something we love...and now, the change process begins. I can't promise a lot of things on our journey, but I can promise that Jesus will be our constant and everything else will change throughout the course of time. It has to, it must, it's an inherent feature of living organisms - and make no mistake, the body of Christ is a living, breathing, unstoppable force.

We can't afford to get comfortable with what we like, especially if our purpose is to ignite passion for Jesus Christ. When He is the one waking us up in the morning and setting our hearts on fire we will always be changing, being made new and stretching far beyond our comfort zones.

And so, farewell sweet mango salsa, you enhanced and enriched my life. Next adventure, here I come!

Monday, May 10, 2010

After the Message

Mama said, “Say thank you.” To this day, calls to see if I’ve written thank you notes. But, the thank you my mama was talking about was in response to something someone said or did for me – makes sense

I Thessalonians 5:18, Paul told us to give thanks in all circumstances - I get that we should be thankful people – lot to be thankful for, but to give thanks in all circumstances seems more than extreme

Surely he didn’t mean today’s circumstances…

Flood in Nashville, senseless murder at UVA, oil spill in Gulf Coast, bad economy, bomb scare in NY

Surely he didn’t mean "mine"…

No job, marriage in trouble, kids misbehaving, mortgage payment behind, scary medical diagnosis, etc

Really, Paul, I’ll give thanks for a lot of things I should be thankful for, but this?? They don’t make a Hallmark card for this

Only possible if we read the whole verse, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Without Jesus, no hope, no future and no reason to give thanks when times get tough. With Jesus, in the best and worst, we have hope and a reason to give thanks

So, we give thanks that we can be "pressed down but not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed" (2 Cor 4:8-9)

Having a forest perspective - we get into bad situations and think, “how could God let this happen and not do anything about it?” He did do something about it and His name is Jesus.

Give thanks in all circumstances, not b/c all circumstances are good, but because God has redeemed the best and the worst in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


It's National Day of Prayer and everywhere churches and communities are gathering to pray for our nation and its leaders. Many of these prayers are eloquent and prepared with a lot of thought and consideration. Many are simple yet fervent prayers prayed in the hearts of those who are hurting in places like Nashville, the Gulf Coast and the University of Virginia.

My favorite prayer of the day so far is the one shared by a friend who prayed early this morning, "Dear God, it's National Day of Prayer and I know there are lots of people waiting to talk to you, so this morning, I'll be brief."

The prayer I'll pray with Jacob tonight as I put him to bed goes something like this:

"Thank you Jesus for another day - for time to learn and grow and play. Be with all of the world you made, my family and friends and those in need. Bring me safely through the night to serve you in the morning light."

No matter what you pray today, let it be a sincere conversation with the God who made us all and holds us in the palms of His hands.

And make sure you do it again tomorrow - after all, every day is a day of prayer.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Prayer

God, today I'm willing to do whatever you ask. Today, I am making myself completely open and available to you. Open my eyes to see you and hear you. Give me courage to go to the places where you send me and even more courage to go to the people you send me to meet. Jesus, as you have given your life for me, let me give my life to you. All that I have and all that I am is yours.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Accountability is More than Asking Questions

I've been talking A LOT lately about small groups, community and accountability - don't expect this to change anytime soon :) God is a relational God who created us to live in relationship with Him and with each other. We were designed to need each other. We were not designed to function as self-sufficient islands.

A big part of our need for each other is accountability. We are imperfect, sinful people; but, by the grace of God, we don't have to stay that way. Jesus made a way for us to be made new and overcome the sin and death we fall into all the time. But to consistently choose Jesus, to consistently choose to accept God's grace, to consistently choose to make room for God's Spirit to work in our lives, we need a gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) nudge from our friends.

But here's the thing, true accountability doesn't end with a nudge. Truly holding people accountable to a life of faith and integrity means getting involved in each other's lives, it means being willing to get dirty and even uncomfortable at times.

In his book, "Confessions of a Pastor," Craig Groeschel tells the story of a small group he was in where a woman in the group was an exotic dancer. She didn't want to live that life, but she didn't know how to get out of it. One night as their group gathered a guy in the group shared that he had a major problem with pornography. Instead of everyone pulling away from him, they surrounded him and prayed for him and the guys in the group told him they would help hold him accountable to not looking at those things. The woman watched this with tears in her eyes, and having witnessed the grace that was shown, she decided to share her story. Immediately, the group told her she needed to quit what she was doing, but they also took it a step farther. They told her they would help her find a job and they would help support her financially until she did. In other words, they made it possible for her to do what she needed to do.

It would have been a very different story if the group continued to meet every week and just ask her if she had quit, but never offered to help. I'm guessing that eventually she would have stopped coming b/c it would have felt like a place of guilt instead of a place of freedom - a place of shame instead of a place of grace.

It's not always that dramatic. How many times have you and your friends talked about your need to read your Bible and pray but your inability to find time and make time to do it? Maybe it's time to not just hold each other accountable, but get involved in each other's lives to make the time available. For example, maybe you need to carpool to get your kids to school so your friend can use the time to spend with God. Maybe you can take turns cooking enough for your family and your friend's family so the saved time can be spent with God.

I don't know what's going on in your life and where your weaknesses are, but it's time to share them with someone and it's also time to involve yourself in each other's lives.

Monday, May 03, 2010

A Fabulous Tent

God called Abraham in Genesis and Abraham spent the rest of his life moving from tent to tent as he followed God's lead. God called Paul in Acts and Paul spent the rest of his life moving from tent to tent as he followed God's lead (heck, Paul was a tentmaker). Jesus told those he met, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Follow me." (Matthew 8:19-21 and Luke 9:57-59).

These stories are inspirational and motivational, but I admit I was worried heading into the church planting world about the horror stories I'd heard from other planters about being portable. But, my friends, God has been beyond good to us and today we meet in what I think is the best "tent" anywhere. Take a look...

This is Ashley Ridge High School - the best high school in South Carolina! (This should be especially good news for the person who asked a few weeks ago how we were fitting all the people coming into our trailer for worship :)

God had greater plans than we had thought to imagine when He sent us to start Ashley Ridge Church at Ashley Ridge High School. God knew the plans He had for us to partner with the best principal, the best staff, the best teachers and the best students to make a difference in His kingdom. I get excited every time I drive out to the school b/c of the incredible energy and people who are there.

On Friday I had an opportunity to go and check out the second annual Swampfest at the football stadium - wow! Swampfest is an event put on by the Ashley Ridge students for all of the special needs students in the district from elementary schools, junior high schools and the other high schools. It was amazing to see the students reaching out to their peers and genuinely enjoying the opportunity to do so. It was inspiring to see kids giving their time to bring joy to others. Here are a few pics below, but become a fan of Ashley Ridge High School Swamp Guide on facebook and you can see lots more pictures and hear the powerful stories of what's happening at the school.

Thank you Jesus for a fabulous tent!!!!

After the Message

Final Week of Course Correction:

Setting up for long-term success means surrounding ourselves with wise counsel

Captain Obvious, right?

Solomon was the wisest guy in the world and even he went on and on about getting advice from other people

Proverbs 1:5, 2:2, 4:5, 4:7, 13:10, 16:16, 19:8, 23:23

Whether we know it or admit it, we’re all getting advice from somewhere

Who do we often ask? The people in our life who tell us what we want to hear, or the people who love us enough and are grounded enough to tell us the truth?

It makes a big difference

I Kings 12:1-11 – Rehoboam seeks the advice of those who had counseled his father; rejects their advice and goes with the advice of his buddies – things don’t turn out so well (Rehoboam replaced as king)

v. 6 – we learn two things, 1) Solomon sought advice/counsel; 2) Based on all that Solomon accomplished, we can put a lot of stock in the advice and wisdom of his advisors

v. 8 – Rehoboam rejected the advice of his father’s advisors because it wasn’t what he wanted to hear, and instead sought the advice of some childhood buddies who he knew would tell him what he wanted

Who is speaking wisdom and truth into your life?

Do you have yes-men?

Or, do you have people of faith, people who are walking with Jesus everyday

If you haven’t pro-actively sought wisdom, I promise you you’re getting it from the wrong places.

Let’s talk about the right places:

1. Bible – full of wise guys, “the Lord gives wisdom,” “from the Lord comes wisdom” – Bible only makes sense when you’re reading it as a conversation with God

2. Other people who have the same picture in mind or who have already gotten there; said last week our pursuit is God’s glory (what’s the story you want to tell?), who else is working on the same story? Who has lived the story you want to tell?

3. Come to Jesus