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October 2009

Posts from September 2009

Promises from Church for Men

We met last Sunday for our first "Church for Men" session.  Wow, I was overwhelmed.  I expected 20 guys, maybe, to show up.  We had over 70.  If we continue to grow, we'll have to move out of the "C" Building to the gym.  That's a good problem to have.  As for this coming week, we're going to still be in the "C" Building.

Even though we had some technical difficulties regarding PowerPoint (which I fixed on Monday) the spirit in the room was great.  I listened to different groups as they met at the close of church as men told what they wanted to get out of CFM.  The most repeated response was "friends."  Hmmm.  We talk about this all the time.  We talk about the need for men to connect with other guys going the same direction spiritually and how all too often men just keep things at surface-level (you know talking about sports, politics, weather, etc. . . things that don't really matter when it comes to the heart.) 

I'm leading these brothers through material from Men's Fraternity and part of this first session was to give an overview and challenge the men.  From this point on, it's going to be tougher and tougher to make it to CFM.  Pressures from home, work, schedules and even just that little voice inside convincing the men that it is just not worth going.  That being said, I challenged them that courage and toughness will be required on this journey.  I pray the men are up to it.

Some promises were made as well.  If guys stick with CFM, I promise these things will happen:

  1. The men will have a clear definition of authentic manhood.
  2. The men will develop a new manhood language which will move them beyond surface conversations.
  3. The men will make new friends who are pursuing a common goal.
  4. The men will have their own personalized manhood plan for achieving authentic manhood.

These promises are secure.  Stick with us and you'll get these.  When men begin to live authentically, everything changes:  relationship with spouse, relationships with children, understanding of role in the church and family of God, etc.

It requires toughness, willingness and courage.  See you guys next Sunday at 7pm.


40 Days for Life

It's one thing to hear stories of those who have experienced abortion tell of their pain and struggle.  It's something else when those who share their stories are close friends.  These two ladies, Melissa Brusoe and Ashley Albrektson are active members in our church.  I have known each of them for years and have watched how they have grown in their faith and how God has blessed them with great families.

I have known of their past for some time, but until recently, most friends and church family members have not.  They are very courageous to voluntarily tell their story.  It was not too long ago that these ladies approached me with the belief that God had and was healing them and wanted to use them to help bring healing to others who have gone through what they have.  With the blessings of their respective husbands, they asked if we, as a church family, would be interested in supporting 40 Days for Life

This peaceful prayer vigil outside Jacksonville area abortion clinics is a nationwide effort from September 23 - November 1.  Our day of prayer is Saturday, October 10 outside the A Jacksonville Women's Health Center (4131 University Blvd. S, Jacksonville) from 6am - 8pm.  If you're willing to join these ladies, let us know at the church office and we'll get you in contact with them or just sign up at the information table located in the breezeway outside the Worship Center following this Sunday's message. 

One other thing - don't forget about "Life Chain."  We'll be standing together between 2pm and 3pm in front of Moosehaven holding placards stating that abortion is not the answer and that Jesus brings healing. 

Why am I pro-life?  Because God is.  Remember last Sunday's message - what really matters?  Life matters.

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Revelations While in China

My week long, whirlwind trip to China ended last Wednesday.  From the moment I landed in Beijing, I knew this trip would be incredible.  There is much going on related to the church in China.  I won't be able to share much about that here other than to say that many, many Chinese people are coming to faith in Jesus Christ daily.  Latest estimates are somewhere around 30,000 people a day.  The fields are truly "white to harvest" in this land.

While there, I recognized I had some preconceived ideas about the nation and people that just weren't true and learned some things that I had previously never thought of.

  • China is not really closed to Christianity.  It's limited, of course and I won't say there's no persecution.  There is.  However, the "official government church" - the Three Self Church, meets weekly.  It may be more of a propaganda church, but the reality is that the Word of God is now being preached there.  It's very liturgical and reminds me of some of the Methodist or Presbyterian services I have seen here in the States.  The message of the day was "You can trust Jesus."  Pretty good title.  Message was pretty solid as well.
  • There are many Chinese who claim Buddhism as their faith.  However, much of this is traditional I perceive.  Much like many Americans claiming to be Christian yet never going to any church and not having a personal relationship with Christ.  It's just "who we are" because we live here.  I perceive that many Chinese are traditional, not practicing, Buddhists.
  • The history of the nation is deep.  Being raised in America, I was never really taught much about East Asian history.  Most of all I received was European and American history.  In seminary and church I learned the history of Israel.  That's understandable, but I discovered that the many thousands of years of Chinese history is rich.  I felt totally unaware and uneducated in this realm.  The only dynasty I could remember was Ming (and that's only because the Ming vases are always referenced in movies).  This was one of the later dynasties.
  • I had no idea that under communism, that the Chinese people were exposed to so much capitalism.  There are shopping malls everywhere, new cars on the road, people choosing which career to have (I'm sure there are exceptions. . .or maybe those choosing are the exceptions.)
  • There is much national pride. 
  • The nation's 60th anniversary under Communist rule is October 1.  This would be like our July 4 celebrations.  Apparently the 60th anniversary is a really big deal - much bigger than 50.  It has to do with the lunar calendar and the Chinese belief that 60 is a perfect number.  The government is pulling out all the stops to make sure this celebration is without incident and is the biggest thing going.  They even shut down the area of Beijing I was staying in one night so the army and civilian performers could practice on Tiananmen Square.  I had to take the subway back to the hotel.
  • Driving in China is crazy.  The lines on the roads are merely suggestions.  If a person were to drive like this in the States, we'd have another road rage murder in the news.
  • The food was incredible.  Much better than "Mandarin Express" at the mall.  There were many varieties of food.  We ate at a South Korean restaurant, a North Korean restaurant featuring a musical show by the waitresses, a hot pot restaurant owned by Chinese Muslims, a Beijing Duck restaurant (formerly known as Peking Duck), a szechuan cuisine restaurant, and another restaurant featuring fresh fish - so fresh the aquariums were right there in the room.  There were some items on the menus I avoided such as donkey, eel, chicken heads, goose feet, snake, eel, duck head, etc.  I avoided the street vendors that deep fry everything you can think of on a stick.  I told my friend that in the States, we deep fry other things like corn dogs, Twinkies and Snickers bars (saw that at the county fair last year.)
  • Met with a group of college students at a donut shop.  One of the highlights of the trip.  Some were believers.  Others curious.  This was an open discussion and Q & A about Christianity.  The hunger for Truth is so refreshing.  Great times.
  • Went to the orphanage to visit the kids.  The school-aged kids were in school, so I didn't get to see them, but the preschoolers were there.  They had three choreographed dances to do for me.  Wow.  They were good.  There was joy in this place.  The folks running this orphanage truly love these children.  This was evident.  My friend's group runs this orphanage.
  • Visited the Language School.  Can't say much here, but this is a key place we will be volunteering.
  • I went out to the countryside.  Took a 2 hour flight to get there, then a 2 hour van drive.  These people live in caves.  Unbelievable.  Yet, there's a joy there because of Who they know.  Had a great time with them.
  • I was able to see some sites I never thought possible for me:  Great Wall, Terra Cotta Warriors, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden Palace, Summer Palace, and the Olympic venues.
  • China is about people (this is not a pun regarding the government or official name.)  There are so many there and they are hungry.  They are hungry for the Truth.  We have a great opportunity to share with them.

I was reading Acts 1:8 while there and it hit me.  So many people in church here in the States read that verse and believe it to be progressive.  You know - you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, then the uttermost parts of the world.  The thing is, the word "then" is not there.  It's not a progressive statement.  It's an inclusive statement.  You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world.  The mission we are called to - to be a blessing to others - starts here in our own home, but reaches throughout the world simultaneously to people of different cultures and understandings.  Wherever you are - you are on mission.

I did a lot of reading on this trip as well and one truth hit me that especially must become part of our DNA as a church.  We are constantly on a mission trip.  We must think this way, act this way, live this way.  Whether you ever get on a plane, get a passport, or go to another country, you are on a mission trip. . .and it begins right here in your own neighborhood.  Thinking like this will change how we see people, serve God and fulfill His mission.


Back From China

Just completed a whirlwind tour of China.  Arrived back in the States late yesterday and back home here in Orange Park this morning.  Still not adjusted to the time change (12 hours.)

I'll be sharing tonight at our 6pm study time.  Then, will update this blog later with more information regarding this incredible mission opportunity.

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Identity Theft - The Real Issue

This morning I presented the first sermon in our series titled "Identity Theft."  I won't be able to post the audio for another week, but already, I'm getting e-mails and messages from folks regarding this morning's sermon.

It's one of those strange days where the message is received very positively, yet hits like a ton of bricks.  The truth is that many people are struggling with living a life of no condemnation, especially in a world that excels at it.  The message is not one that minimizes sin.  In fact, it's the Gospel message - sin is major, but Christ's sacrifice is bigger and sufficient.

Why do we struggle with identity in Christ?

Simple, but hard answer - sin.

The public sins that some have - I addressed that this morning and those exist.  The sins that others know you deal with and are praying for.  Sometimes you know you're dealing with them as well, but honestly, there are times where you may not know, or at least acknowledge they exist.  These are often made manifest in addictions and behaviors.  Folks don't know what to do with you.  They pray, but that sometimes just doesn't seem like enough.  It is, it just doesn't seem like it.

Then there are those secret sins.  Most everyone has these.  These temptations are often fallen into.  You think no one knows and that may be true, other than you and God.  Think about it though, even if only you and God know. . .isn't that enough.  The challenge is learning how to deal with these sins.  These addictions, beliefs, feelings, thoughts, behaviors that are hidden so well.  Left alone, they control you.  It's not that you lose your salvation (you won't) but you become a totally ineffective believer.  The Enemy has stolen your identity.

Hmmm.  What are you to do?

Read the last part of Romans 7 where Paul talks about the battle within.  It sounds pretty hopeless.  After reading that, read Romans 8.  There is where the victory is laid out.  There is no condemnation for those IN CHRIST.  Key words - IN CHRIST.

So, are you "IN CHRIST?" 

Christianity is not a lifestyle of steps.  It's not a spiritual self-help program.  Christianity is about surrender.  That's where you start and where you stay - surrendered to Christ.

I know it sounds simple. I know it's not as simple as it sounds. . . .or is it?  You see, often we just cannot understand the simple truth of the Gospel.  Oh we read it and can recite it, but do we believe it? 

How do you gain victory?  Surrender to Christ.  For some of you it's the first time and you need to come to Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.  Check out this site for info on how to do this (The Kristo).  For others, you already are Christians, but you've been believing the lie.  Your sin - unbelief.  You just don't believe God.  Oh you say you do, but your thoughts and feelings betray you.  You need to repent of this sin of unbelief and come back to Christ.  He is ready to take your burdens and walk with you.  He never left you. Remember that.

I hope you have a great week.  Just praying for you all to experience the fullness and freedom that is available to all believers.  Not experiencing that?  Well, you may be a victim of identity theft.

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Sermon 1 will be uploaded on September 23.


Has It Really Been Eight Years? 9/11

It's hard to believe that the September 11 attacks on New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania were eight years ago today.  I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news.  I was at church, in my office when one of the secretaries told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  I thought, at first, like many others that it was an accident.  I didn't even know it was a commercial jet.  I presumed it was a private plane or a small Cessna.  Then, the news became clearer.  Word was another plane had hit.  Now, we all knew.  This was no accident.

A group of our ladies were meeting at church at that time for a small group Bible study and prayer meeting.  I interrupted their meeting and told them the news and asked them to pray. 

It was so surreal.  Something like this just doesn't happen on US soil.  Before this event, the last time an attack to this degree happened was in a different decade and was the springboard for our nation entering World War II.  That was the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Empire.  Yet, this time it was different.  This was no attack by another nation, at least not overtly.  This was a surprise attack by a group of terrorists bent on destroying not only America but the ideals of the American way of life (i.e. truth, justice, freedom, etc.)

How did I feel at that time?  Oh man, the emotions were all over the place.  I was scared.  I was so angry.  I was deeply saddened as the days events continued and the Trade Center buildings began to fall.  Word of the attack on the Pentagon led to even more concerns.  I had a good friend, who at the time was at the Coast Guard HQ (not in the Pentagon, but nearby) and I was concerned for him.  Being an Air Force brat, I figured my father knew men and women who worked at the Pentagon (he had int he past) and all of the sudden, these were not just people on the news in other parts of the country, but possibly folks I knew or had some form of connectino with.

I have a good friend who pastors a church in Stafford, Virginia.  Many of his church members work in DC.  I contacted him and assured him I was praying for him and his flock.

Then, the story hit of the plane downed in that Shanksville, Pennsylvania field.  As the story began to unfold, another emotion or feeling came to me - pride.  These men and women on United flight 93 boldy stood their ground and took over the highjacked plane.  There's no telling how many lives were ultimately saved by these folks. 

The nation really seemed to come together after these events.  There was once again a pride in being an American.  President Bush, not known for being very eloquent, gave one of the best presidential speeches in history.  For a season, politics didn't matter - being American did. 

Eight years ago.  Hard to believe, isn't it.

Well, rather than debate the last eight years of policies, wars, responses, etc. let's spend today remembering those who lost their lives.  Let's remember that since of pride that developed and enveloped our entire nation.  Flags were waving.  Unity occurred.  Many sought refuge in churches and came back to faith, even if out of fear. 

I believe many settled some eternal accounts during this time.

On that day in 2001, 2,974 died in the attacks with an additional 24 still listed as missing.  Remember this day.

Oh yeah, and as a result of this event some unsung heroes were recognized - military men and women, police officers and firefighters/rescue workers.  Even eight years later, those that serve the community this way should be thanked, honored and respected.

Continue to pray for all who serve.  Pray for our leaders.  Thank God for protecting us from similar attacks these past eight years.  We hear many stories of potential attacks that have been stopped.  We still are a truly blessed nation.

I pray that even at this moment of rememberance, we will seek God.  In so doing, I pray our sinful ways will be exposed (as a nation and as individuals) and that we will repent and turn back to God.  We still need healing in our land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

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SEC Lightbulb Jokes

These have been around for a while, but they're still funny.  Don't be offended.  I'm an SEC fan, too, but funny is funny and if you can't laugh at yourself. . . .well, you'd better learn to laugh at yourself because others will.  (These were sent to me by my brother, so if you're upset, blame him.)

How many ________________________ students does it take to change a light bulb?

Alabama?  Five.  One to change it, three to reminisce about how The Bear would have done it, and one to throw the old bulb at an NCAA investigator.

Arkansas?  None.  There's no electricity in Arkansas.  (My wife doesn't think this is funny at all.)

Auburn?  100.  One to change the bulb, forty-nine to talk about how they did it better than Bama and fifty to get drunk and roll Toomer's Corner when finished.  (Must be an inside joke.)

Florida?  Four.  One to screw in the bulb and three to figure out how to get stoned off the old one.  (Hmmm.  Not nice.  I thought the answer would be 20, unless it's Tim Tebow because he can do anything.)

Georgia?  Two.  One to change the bulb and one to phone an engineer at Georgia Tech for instructions.

Kentucky?  Eight.  One to screw in the bulb and seven to discuss how much brighter it seems to shine during basketball season.

LSU?  Seven, and each one gets credit for five semester hours.

Ole Miss?  Six.  One to change the bulb, two to mix the drinks and three to find the perfect J.Crew outfit to wear for the occasion.  (Don't get this one.  Is this really Ole Miss?)

Mississippi State?  Fifteen.  One to screw in the bulb, two to buy the Skoal and twelve to yell obscenities about Ole Miss.

South Carolina?  80,000.  One to screw in the bulb and 79,999 to discuss how this finally will be the year they have a decent football team.

Tennessee?  Ten.  Two to figure out how to screw in the bulb, two to buy and orange lampshade and six to phone a radio call-in show and complain about how Peyton Manning should have won the Heisman.

Vanderbilt?  Two.  One to change the bulb and one more to explain how they did it every bit as good as bulbs changed at Harvard.

Smile!

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