Change is Going to Happen, Whether We Embrace it or Not

Memories From the Past, Looking to the Future, Living in the Present

This past Sunday was Pastor Lee’s last Sunday serving as our pastor. After more than eight years of him being a part of our lives, it was an emotional day. You don’t spend this amount of time with someone without there being a significant impact made.

Change is inevitable and we need to embrace it.

We need to remember that if we get stuck, we will become stagnant. Think about how fresh and clear a running stream is. Then compare that to a stinky, muddy, moss ridden pond.

A large portion of Sunday’s service was spent sharing what he means to us and what we have meant to him.

He shared that over the years we have learned a lot from each other. He knows us, who we are, what we like, and how we act. We learned the same about him and his family. Three things that he said he learned were…

  • People are searching for God, knowingly or unknowingly
  • The Bible is still as relevant today as it was when it was written
  • The Church is necessary

Embracing these truths rather than pushing them away makes for a better community and world.

Embracing is hugging, taking up readily and gladly. There was a lot of embracing (hugging) done Sunday.

As a church we’ve been going through a lot of change in the past year and Pastor Lee’s leaving is just one part of that change. This is why it’s important to be “flexibly rigid”. (link to post)

We need to be true to who God has called us to be without getting distracted by things that are fleeting.

A good example of this is one of the stories that was shared. It was about a milk cow that was bought. It was kicker. It kicked over the milk bucket. It kicked over the milking stool. Milking this cow was not going as planned.

At the same time there was a cow in the pasture that was not feeding its newborn calf. After giving this situation some thought, it was decided to see if the kicking cow would feed the calf…it did.

So, the pasture cow became the milk cow and the milk cow became the pasture cow. This is being flexibly rigid. They got a milk cow and the calf got fed. This was not their plan, but it worked out.

This is embracing change.

Let’s embrace the past and what we’ve learned from it.

Let’s embrace the future and the possibilities it holds

Let’s embrace the present and not forget to live every day in the here and now.

Thank you, Pastor Lee, for your leadership, friendship and making us better people!

It Can Really Hurt to be Confronted with Our Areas of Weakness

Growing Can be a Painful Thing, Both Physically and Spiritually

We all know that becoming physically healthier starts with the realization that it is something we want. Then it requires that we make some lifestyle changes. We don’t like change. Change is scary, but we’re willing to make them, to get what we want. The results are worth the pain.

The same is true of our spiritual health.

A lady was speaking with a pastor about his sermon after church one Sunday morning. She said, “Your sermon today reminded me of the peace and love of God.” The pastor was feeling good about this and asked her to expound. She replied, “Peace…because it passed all understanding and love of God…because it endured forever.” Ouch.

Another similar after church sermon story is of a man greeting the pastor and telling him that he preached powerful sermons. They were thoughtful and well researched. He said, “I can see myself in them. And I want you to knock it off because they’re hitting too close to home.”

Pastor Lee shared that Alene Miller used to tell him that she felt that he had stepped on her toes, and it hurt. It’s a good thing to have our toes stepped on. It helps us see those places that we need to work on.

In Hebrews 4:12 we’re told that God’s Word is “sharper than any double-edged sword. His word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts.”

Having my spirit, soul, joints, and marrow cut through sounds pretty painful to me.

We are a pretty soft bunch, aren’t we? We don’t want anything to be hard.

Pastor Zach Zehnder in Mount Dora, Florida preached the longest sermon ever (53 hours and 18 minutes). His goal was to share “God’s ridiculous commitment to His people, even though we give up on Him that He never gave up on us.” This love is evident in having Christ die for us, even though we are sinful. Romans 5:8

It is easy to think we have it all figured out. We get a picture of what we expect and get comfortable going through the motions.

This is what happened to the people following Jesus. One minute they believe He was going to save them, and the next they’re shouting for Him to be crucified.

Even his disciples became disillusioned and disappointed. In Luke 24:13-35, three days after Jesus’ crucifixion, two of His disciples were going to Emmaus when Jesus started walking with them, but they didn’t recognize Him.

They were sad, and Jesus asked them what they were talking about. Cleopas asked if He was the only person from Jerusalem that didn’t know what had happened. The disciples shared how they expected Jesus to be the one to set Israel free.

Their idea of being set free was different than God’s.

They were expecting Jesus to come in and take over the country and by following Him they would have an easy life. Surprise…

When they got to where they were going, they asked Jesus to stay with them. Then as He blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to them…immediately they recognized Him, and He was gone.

God is not dead; He is alive, and He shows Himself to those who believe.

We know that Jesus’ followers did not have an easy life. They had to work and work hard. It was painful. They could have chosen to give up and just sit around, but they didn’t. They took the pain of loss and uncertainty and got stronger. They decided to follow Jesus. 

We don’t like facing our weaknesses. We would rather just stick to the status quo. The problem is that this results in the status quo. I don’t know about you, but I want more than that.

Why is it That We Too Often Confuse Simple and Easy?

No One Ever Said That Living Right Would Be Easy

I recently read a blog post from Rabbi Evan Moffic titled, The Difference Between Simple and Easy. As someone who is good at making simple things more complicated than they need to be, I had a light bulb moment while reading. I realized how much of the time we confuse these two.

Simple and easy do not mean the same thing.

For example:

“The Ten Commandments are simple. They are a list of ten things we should and shouldn’t do.

But are they easy? No. If they were easy, we would leave in a world without murder, theft, adultery, or conflict. They are simple but not easy.

Certain acts are easy and simple. Baking a cake from a cake mix is simple and easy. You pour out the mix, add water and eggs, stir, put in the oven, and enjoy.

Some acts can be easy but not always simple. Habits often fall into this category. Take driving, for example.

Driving is easy for many of us if we have been doing it for years. But anyone who has sat with a new teenage driver in a car knows it is not simple! It becomes easy over time.

Now the most meaningful category: Simple but not easy.

Following a diet is an example of simple but not easy. We generally know which foods are healthy and which are not. But we do not have an easy time sticking to them.”

Living right is simple but not easy.

It is easy to look at others and compare ourselves to them, both good and bad.

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus shows us an example of a Pharisee and a tax collector doing this.

By all appearances the Pharisee had been living right. He was not greedy or dishonest. He had been faithful in his marriage, followed the law and tithed. All things that are part of living as God wants us to.

Then he did something that God doesn’t want us to. He built himself up by comparing himself with a tax collector.

Normally tax collectors were known for overcharging people when collecting taxes and would pocket the extra. They were looked down on by the Jewish people of that time.

The tax collector was belittling himself and feeling inadequate and unworthy. He was asking God for forgiveness.

Neither of these men was completely right or completely wrong.

We need to be careful to not compare ourselves to others.

We need to compare ourselves to what God wants.

This is simple, but not easy.

Like the Ten Commandments as well as the rest of the Bible…it’s all very simple. But living it out in our daily lives isn’t easy.

Don’t Go Through Life Angry at the World…There’s a Better Way

Regardless of Your Situation, Being Angry Will Only Make It Worse

We all find ourselves in situations that make us mad. The question is what are you going to do about it?

Gary Christian took his first step straight into his own dark, cold, hellish hole on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2007. 

That’s when law enforcement told his family that his daughter Channon’s body had been found.

Family and friends had been searching for her for two days,

What happened to Channon Christian and her boyfriend, was one of Knoxville’s most horrific crimes. The young couple was ambushed and carjacked on Jan. 6, 2007.

Both were beaten, tortured and raped.

The anguish never leaves Gary Christian’s voice when he remembers being told his daughter was murdered. 

“That was my baby,” he says.

After being told what had happened, he walked to the far edge of the police parking lot, away from anyone, and looked toward heaven. 

He screamed at God. Then he turned away from Him. 

“I told Him I am done with You. I don’t want You in my life. I don’t need You in my life, and I don’t trust You with anything.”

This was a dramatic turn, a first step into his hell on earth.

Saved at age 8, Christian had grown up in church. If the doors were open, he was there. He went on mission trips, played drums in a Christian band and witnessed for Christ. “I loved the Lord,” he says emphatically.

As a parent, every morning, he prayed. In every prayer, he asked God to watch over Channon and her older brother Chase.

Then God failed him.

“All I asked Him to do for my kids was to protect them. And He didn’t.”

That anger, mixed with deep hate and a desire for vengeance, was all he felt for years. He existed in a cold, dark abyss. Even in a crowd, he felt alone. 

“I couldn’t depend on nobody; I didn’t trust anybody,” he said. “Alone had a lot to do with everything.”

About a year after the initial trials, Christian found a way to keep Channon’s memory alive. He bought a motorcycle and started the Shepherds RC riding club.

The club hosts an annual Channon and Chris Memorial Ride to raise money for charity. 

The ride is one way the families remember their children while helping others.

Then, the Shepherds rode Christian back to a place he didn’t want to go. 

Some club members asked him to attend their church. Come to Easter service, they said. It was almost like a dare. He didn’t want to go. But he did, mostly just to shut them all up. 

“I never denied God. I just didn’t want to have anything to do with him,” he says.

He knew Easter service would be about the crucifixion. But the Rev. Jim Cummings first preached about Peter, the disciple who denied Jesus and whom Jesus restored. Then he talked about Christ on the cross.  

Two weeks after Easter, Christian was back at the church. “I got convinced to go again,” he says with a wry smile.

That Sunday was the day of the Shepherds’ club-only ride to remember Channon’s April 29 birthday. Before the ride, Christian and other Shepherds went to church.

The sermon was different than the Easter message. But Christian felt it was directed right at him. “I couldn’t shake what this guy said the first time, and he’s doing it again.” 

It’s about 24 miles up Pellissippi Parkway from the church to the cemetery. The whole ride that last April Sunday, Christian says, “the Lord was tearing me up.” 

When he got off his bike at Channon’s grave, “I was just so tired. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

“I went down on my knee, and I asked him, ‘Just like you did with Peter, restore me.’ And he did.”

When he got to his feet, he realized the Shepherds around him “were all Christians … Everybody in the club then, some longer than others, had been praying that one day I would find my way back.

“I hadn’t done that when I started the club. Never once did I ask a man about his faith. But all I knew that day, all the ones standing there with me were Christians.” 

He knows now how it happened. 

“When I turned my back on God, he never left me. He never stopped loving me. He never stopped protecting me. He never left my side. And I didn’t even know it.”

Amy McRary, Knox News

Restoration and healing aren’t always easy. For Gary this means revisiting and talking about death, loss and anger.

Anger causes a lot of unnecessary pain. To be healed from that pain we need to ask for help…both from God and others.

In Luke 13:10-17 Jesus healed a woman who had been suffering with a crippling spirit for eighteen years. She came to Jesus and he healed her.

Jesus can heal us too.

Sometimes the healing is different than what we’re looking for, but God knows better what we need. The key to this healing is to ask.

Don’t waste your life being angry.

What’s Needed for a Good Construction Contractor is Simple

I Said It Was Simple…I Didn’t Say it Was Easy

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written about the difficulty in finding good, qualified construction contractors and how this problem is amplified after a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, flooding, etc.

Finding a good construction contractor is a huge problem and has been around for a long time. I’ve thought about this off and on for years and recently has been one of those “on times”.

Why is this a problem and what do we do about it?

As I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve concluded, that even though it’s a big problem, the solution is simple…but hard.

The key to this solution is…

Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Granted, different people have different ways they want to be treated, because each of us is different. Add to that, the long-term acceptance of “this is just the way it is” and it becomes more difficult than ever to solve the problem.

To clarify how we should treat others, we should use God as a measuring stick. Do your work with all your heart, as if you are working for God, not for men. Colossians 3:23

Working as if for God is the opposite of how the world operates.

As I was speaking with a customer just last night, they were telling me how they had been trying to find someone to do their project for years.

They had contacted several contractors who said they would come by and look at the project and never did.

They met with some who did show up only to never be heard from again.

With one contractor they got as far as getting a price but then they could never get him to come do the work.

Equally as bad is when a contractor does agree to do the work, but the customer never knows if or when they’re going to show up and then the  job drags out and out and out.

This is an unacceptable way to treat God or anyone else.

The first and most important thing a good construction contractor needs is…COMMUNICATION.

Communication is more than just talking. It includes:

  • Listening to find out what the customer wants.  
  • Clearly explaining the work to be done, what it’s going to cost and when it will be done.
  • Transparency and honesty. Letting the customer know what to expect and when.
  • Willingness to be vulnerable. If you can’t be there when you said you would…let them know.

I plan to unpack what’s needed from a good construction contractor more over the next few weeks.

No Matter the Circumstances We Need to Give Everything to God

It’s More Than Our Ability That God Uses to Mend Broken Lives…It’s Our Faithfulness

We’ve all experienced loss in our lives…some big and some small. The question is, in those times, how do we respond? Where is our focus? Is it on the loss or is it on God?

Most of the time we think we got everything under control and then…SURPRISE, the unexpected happens.

We’ve all been blindsided by an unforeseen accident, a startling medical diagnosis, an unfaithful spouse or a sudden death of a family member. These are a part of life.

The important thing is how we handle them.

This isn’t to say that it’s easy, because it’s not. We’ve all been given the abilities for just such a time as this. But ability alone isn’t enough. We need to remember where those abilities come from and when using them, align their use with God’s plans.

In Acts 16:16-34 we get both good and bad examples of how to deal with life circumstances. It starts out with Paul and Silas being followed around by a slave girl who had a spirit in her that gave her the power to tell the future. By doing this she made a lot of money for her owners. As she followed them, she kept yelling, “These men are servants of God!

They are telling you how to be saved.”

After several days, Paul got upset that he turned and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you to leave this girl alone!” At once the evil spirit left her.

When the girl’s owners realized they had lost all chances for making more money, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them into court. They were beaten and put in jail. The jailer was told to guard them carefully.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God, while the other prisoners listened. Suddenly a strong earthquake shook the jail and the doors opened, and the chains fell from all the prisoners.

When the jailer saw that the doors were open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped. He pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself, but Paul stopped him. He told him that none of the prisoners had escaped.

When the jailer realized what had happened, he began shaking all over as he knelt down in front of Paul and Silas and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” They replied…

“Have faith in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved! This is also true for everyone.”

The slave’s master’s focus was on money. The jailer’s focus was on his job. Paul and Silas’s focus was on God. We can see how the different responses turned out.

This isn’t to say that if our focus is on God that everything is always going to turn out how we want.

I don’t think Paul and Silas wanted to be beaten and thrown in jail. I do think their focus on God is the thing that helped them through the ordeal.

It would be easy to say that the earthquake was just a coincidence that worked in their favor. Regardless, it didn’t change who Paul and Silas were. It did however change the lives (both on earth and eternal) of many of those around them.

Too often we overlook God at work in our lives especially in the little things.

Granted an earthquake isn’t little, but God works through both the big and the little.

It’s up to you where you put your focus. Whether or not you will use your abilities to mend broken lives and help build His kingdom here on earth.

Are You Standing in God’s Way or Standing in God’s Will?

You Better Get Out of the Way Before You Get Run Over

Most people fall in one of two groups…rule keepers or rule breakers. You know which you are.

Either of these taken too far can result in standing in God’s way.

Rules can be misinterpreted and misunderstood. For example –

When a mother returned from the grocery store, her small son pulled out the box of animal crackers he had asked for. He opened the box and began spreading the animal-shaped crackers out on the kitchen counter. “What are you doing?” his mom asked.

“The box says you shouldn’t eat them if the seal is broken,” the boy explained.

“I’m looking to see if there are any broken seals.”

In Acts 11:1-18 some of the Jewish followers began arguing with Peter about his staying in the homes of uncircumcised Gentiles and eating with them. This was forbidden by Jewish rules.

Peter shared a vision he had while praying.

He saw heaven open and something like a huge sheet held by its four corners came down. When he looked in it, he saw animals, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds. He heard a voice saying, “Peter, get up! Kill these and eat them.”But I said, “Lord, I can’t do that! I’ve never taken a bite of anything that is unclean and not fit to eat.”

The voice from heaven spoke again, “When God says that something can be used for food, don’t say it isn’t fit to eat.”This happened three times before it was all taken back into heaven.

“God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So how could I have gone against God?”

When they heard what Peter told them they stopped arguing and praised God.

Too many times in the Bible the Jewish leaders are rule followers and get in God’s way.

This doesn’t mean that rules aren’t important. Sometimes we go too far the other way and don’t want to adhere to any rules. Or we pick and choose the rules we follow. We think rules can be restrictive and suppressing.

Ignoring the rules doesn’t work very well either.

God has given us our instructions of how we are to live. It’s called the Bible. Like any instructions, if you don’t read, learn and implement them, you won’t get the outcome God wants for you.

God loves us and wants what’s best for us. It’s up to us to read His instructions and put them into action.

Action causes movement, movement causes momentum and if you get in the way of momentum, you’re likely to get run over.

Being a person of action is good. You’re less likely to get run over.

If you read, learn and implement God’s instructions you can inspire others. To lead, you must move forward. People move out of the way of a person on the run; or they’re caught up in his wake.

An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep!

Be a lion for God.

A person who moves neither left nor right is destined to get in the way. Many people say they are waiting for God. But in most cases, God is waiting for us!

Read God’s instructions so that you will know His will. Because if you’re not standing in His will, you’re standing in His way…and that’s a good way to get run over.

Some content taken from Andy Andrews’ Active Decision

How Our Actions Show an Outward Expression of What We Believe Internally

You’ve Heard It Said That Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Somewhere along the way this saying has begun to be less important than it used to. Too often things are said and then there’s no follow through.

I received a text message just this morning from a lady who shared a friend of hers Facebook post. The post was all about construction contractors and remodelers not calling back when they said they would and misleading customers. I’ve seen this happen way too many times.

This problem isn’t specific to the construction industry…it’s everywhere. Much of the time when we say something, we haven’t really thought through what it is that we’re saying. We have good intentions but haven’t taken into account the fifty other things we’ve told other people we’d do.

In Luke 3:15-17, 21-22, people were looking for the Messiah. They were beginning to think that John was the Messiah. He assured them that this was not the case.

As John is baptizing people, Jesus comes and is baptized. While He was praying the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit came to Him. At the same time God said, “You are my Son, the one I love. I am pleased with You.”

This is the first time the people witnessed the Trinity. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirt. Three different forms of the same God. This was an action speaking louder than words.

Being baptized doesn’t mean we’re perfect…it means we’ve been accepted.

Too often people are afraid of God. They feel that they have to be perfect first. This is completely backward. No one other than God is perfect.

Baptism is an outward expression of our words. It is an action that speaks loudly. This action doesn’t stop there. It doesn’t mean that once baptized we will never make mistakes. We have to constantly be working to do better.

We need help to do the things that we should. Just like when Jesus prayed Heaven opened up and He received the Holy Spirt, we can do the same thing. The Holy Spirit will help us to know the right actions we should take and help us to take them.

We have the power to do the right things with God’s help.

There’s a story of a machinist at Ford Motor Company in Detroit who over a period of years had, “borrowed” various parts and tools from the company which he had not bothered to return. While this practice was not condoned, it was more or less accepted by management and nothing was done about it.

The machinist, however, experience a Christian conversion. He was baptized and became a devout believer. More important, he took his baptism seriously. The very next morning, he arrived at work loaded down with tools and all the parts he had “borrowed” from the company during the years. He explained the situation to his foreman, added that he’d never really meant to steal them and hoped he’d be forgiven.

The foreman was so astonished and impressed by his action, that he cabled Mr. Ford himself, who was visiting a European plant, and explained the entire event in detail. Immediately Ford cabled back: “Dam up the Detroit River, “he said, “and baptize the entire city!”

We can only hope that every Christian takes his or her baptism that seriously.

This is an example of actions speaking loudly!

Think about what you say. Think about what you do. Act accordingly!

We’ve Been Commissioned to Build God’s Kingdom Here on Earth

The Question is…What Are You Going to Do About It?

As Christians we are supposed to be God’s builders here are earth. The problem is that most of us don’t bother to look at the Blueprint and we don’t build according to the Architect’s plan.

We all have our idea of what we expect it to look like.

This plan has never worked very well. In John 18:33-37 Jesus went before Pilot because the people were expecting something else…they missed Him. Pilot expected something else…he missed Him.

Pastor Lee shared the poem And So They Missed Him that explains this pretty well.

They were looking for an adult, but He came as a little infant Babe,
and so they missed Him.

They were looking for a lion, but He came as a Lamb,
and so they missed Him.

They were looking for a warrior, but He came as a Peacemaker,
and so they missed Him.

They were looking for a king, but He came as a Servant,
and so they missed Him.

They were looking for liberation from Rome, but He submitted to the Roman State,
and so they missed Him.

They were looking for their temporal needs to be met, but He came to meet their spiritual and eternal needs, and so they missed Him.

Good intentions don’t make a difference…it takes action.

God has given us everything we need to build His Kingdom, but it’s up to us to do something.

Robert Pierce was a Baptist minister that found himself working with the Youth for Christ in China. On one trip, he met Tena Hoelkeboer, a missionary teacher, who presented him with a battered and abandoned child. Unable to care for the child herself, Tena asked Pierce, “What are you going to do about her?” Pierce gave the woman his last five dollars and agreed to send the same amount each month to help the woman care for the child.

He was deeply affected by the wartime poverty and human suffering that he witnessed in both China and Korea and in 1950 he founded World Vision International.

World Vision International is a service organization that meets the emergency needs of missionaries. It is active in more than 90 countries with a total revenue including grants, products and foreign donations of USD 2.90 billion (2019).

When Robert gave the five dollars to Tena, he didn’t know what this would become. He just followed God’s Blueprint and started building.

Don’t miss His plan for you.

Study the Blueprint and start building!

Why You Should Put on Your Armor Before the Battle Begins

Preparation is Important, But Only Goes So Far

Every day of our life is a battle…some bigger than others. The important thing is to be ready before we are in the middle of one.

Preparation is the act or process of preparing. The state of having been made ready beforehand.

What does, being prepared for the battle of life look like?

Being prepared requires intelligence. This is the ability to learn or understand new or trying situations. The ability to apply knowledge in one’s environment… Information concerning an enemy.

When it comes to intelligence most often, we think of IQ or Intelligence Quotient. This is determined by a standardized test assessing an individual’s intelligence… “Book Smarts”.

There is also another form of intelligence. EQ is emotional intelligence or Emotional Quotient. This is one’s ability to identify, evaluate, control and express emotions… “Street Smarts”.

When it comes to winning battles which kind of “smart” is more important?

Is IQ or EQ more important? It used to be thought that book smarts were the primary determent of success. Research has found that individuals with strong leadership potential, tend to be more emotionally intelligent, suggesting that a high EQ is an important quality for winning battles.  I think without street smarts it’s hard to use book smarts.

Too often we react without having thought. Being prepared before the battle will help to minimize saying things in the heat of the moment. Comedian Craig Ferguson says there are three things we need to ask ourselves before we respond in the heat of a battle.

  1. Does this need to be said?
  2. Does this need to be said by me?
  3. Does this need to be said my me now?

Taking the time to think before we speak is good advice.

We are all different and this means our armor will be different. Your armor won’t fit me and mine won’t fit you. When David was going into battle with Goliath he put on Saul’s armor, and it didn’t fit. 1 Samuel 17:38-40 It was too heavy and bulky. Instead, David used the armor that God had given him.

We all need to wear the armor that God has given us.

It’s up to us to put on that armor.

  • Belt of TRUTH
  • Breast plate of RIGHT LIVING
  • Shoes of the WORD of GOD
  • Shield of FAITH
  • Helmet of SALVATION
  • Sword of the SPIRIT

Preparation doesn’t mean we’ll never be hurt. But this armor helps us to continue standing during battles.

It doesn’t mean we won’t be afraid. It means we’ll act differently when we are.