Thursday, June 30, 2011

One of the Best

One of the best books I have read in a long time - and one that has has fed my soul.

Second Guessing God: Hanging on When You Can't See His Plan by Brian Jones. The author also discusses the book's topic with H. B. London on Focus on the Family's Pastor to Pastor series entitled "Nagging Doubts" (Pastor to Pastor is an excellent, practical, and complimentary resource that can be found on their Parsonage web site).

Good Book on the Habit of Reading

Adler and Van Doren's modern classic guide to intelligent reading called How to Read a Book. Dr. Howard Hendricks , Dallas Theological Seminary professor and mentor to many pastors, says that it is one of the five best books he has read.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Most Important Part of the Day

Adrian Rogers wrote one of the best, most concise and practical, articles I have ever read on How to Have a Meaningful Quiet Time.

Grapes to Give

God has grapes to give. He had luscious grapes to give to Joshua and Caleb’s generation – grapes that symbolized the Land of Promise. In order to take that great land of blessing, the people would need lots of faith, courage, and hard work!

So, as we believe the Lord is moving us to starting a church – a Spring where people will grow close to the Lord – so the Lord has grapes to give us. Grapes that symbolize the Lord’s presence. Grapes that stand for spiritual transformation. Grapes that will be other people that will come to know the Lord through this ministry. Grapes to give. In order to taste those grapes, we too will need lots of faith, courage, and hard work.

We are in a process of praying, planning, and preparing in order that we might possess. Those are the 5 P’s of starting a church!

Process – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Promised Land wasn’t conquered overnight. It takes time. Patience. Love. Grace. Strength and endurance. We have embarked upon a process that will build step by step. Sometimes we will take two steps forward and one step back. But together we will move forward in the Lord. And we will continue in this process.

Praying – Prayer marks the lifeblood of the early church. Again and again in Scripture you read, “and they prayed.” Prayer puts us before God in humility, and it invites God to guide us. Prayer-saturated people ask God for his revelation, his provision, his wisdom, and his power. The main reason we began with Experiencing God was to put us in a position of prayer.

Planning – As the Israelites got ready to take the land, God led them in a plan. As they entered the land and took city after city, at every juncture they needed to pray – seek the Lord – and allow Him to show them the next plan. So, as we have been and will continue to pray, the Lord will guide us in making plans for this church. So we plan.

Preparing – We are looking ahead to the future. As the Jews stood on the Sinai side of the Jordan, they didn’t have the grapes yet. They were preparing. So, Lord willing, we are preparing for the future. We are preparing for at least three things: 1) a church that will be a home for the Lord’s presence to dwell and work, 2) a church where our own lives and the lives of our family and friends will be blessed and transformed, and 3) a church where other people we don’t even know – here and around the world – will be touched and transformed with the gospel of Jesus Christ. For that we prepare.

Possessing – Joshua rallied the people, “Get ready. You will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own (Joshua 1:11). All of the process, praying, planning, and preparing is for the ultimate purpose of possessing! There are grapes to give, and there are lands of grapes to possess. Together, let’s take the land! We want to be possessors!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's in a Name?

The Spring: a church with a heart for home

This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:16,19

He who has compassion on them will guide them
and lead them beside springs of water.
Isaiah 49:10

Early on in our process, we sensed that the right name for this new church was "The Spring." The Bible has a lot to say about springs. Look at the following Scriptures and you might see why we are excited about the name "The Spring!"

1. The Lord found hurting people beside springs (Genesis 16:7).

2. The spring was a gathering place for people (Genesis 24).

3. The Lord demonstrated His providence at a spring (Genesis 24).

4. God’s people sang a song about God’s springs when He supplied them with water (Numbers 21:17).

5. The Lord brought His people into a land full of springs (Deut. 8:7).

6. People of faith asked for the blessings of the springs (Joshua 15:19).

7. God is able to make springs come out of hollow, dry, empty places (Judges 15:19; Psalm 74:15; 107:35; Isaiah 35:7).

8. The Lord makes places of sorrow to become places of springs (Psalm 84:6).

9. God sends springs in the valley (Psalm 104:10; Isaiah 41:18).

10. God is our spring of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13).

11. God is able to bring springs out of rocks (Psalm 114:8).

12. God is able to make new works spring forth (Isaiah 43:18-19).

13. God is able to guide His people, leading them with compassion to His springs (Isaiah 49:10).

14. The Lord is able to make His people to be like a spring of water whose waters never fail (Isaiah 58:11).

15. Faith and love spring forth for us from the hope we have in heaven (Colossians 1:5).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spring Forth!!!

This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:16,19

Something New

You never know what a year might bring forth. One year ago, I could never foresee what I would be doing now. Last fall, providentially it became clear for me and a number of other people that one phase of our lives was ending and another one was about to begin. During November and December, several couples began seriously praying and considering whether or not we believed the Lord was leading us to begin a new church in the Laurens-Clinton area of South Carolina.

By January a core of about 30 people believed affirmatively that yes, we were being led to begin a new fellowship. We wanted very much to know that we were not running from something but that instead we were being led towards something by the Holy Spirit. One year ago, none of us had any serious ideas of starting a church. But as my youth pastor told me once before I moved off to college, "Rhett, if you can ever tell me exactly what you are going to be doing six months from now, then you are no longer living by faith." When you walk with the Lord, His ways are often suprising. So, after a couple of months of quietly seeking guidance, early this year in agreement with each other, we began a process of praying and planning.

A group agreed to meet on Sunday evenings and go through the workbook Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, by Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackby. We did that because that resource is an excellent one to get you face to face with God and it helped us to lay a foundation of prayer. Compelled by structuring a church with three key elements, we continued to sense the Spirit of the Lord moving us toward a new work. The three key elements are as follows:

1) Back to the basics. A solid emphasis on the four basic functions described in Acts 2:42: Bible teaching, fellowship, worship, and prayer. The early church devoted themselves to these simple things. Modern churches easily become enthralled with the wrong things – either a preoccupation with man’s traditions that leaves little room for the leadership of the Spirit and spiritual formation – or a pursuit of relevance so much that the basic building blocks of a biblical church are diluted.

Personalities and pressure tactics can replace the Holy Spirit. Entertainment, focused on the individual, replaces worship, focused on God. Therapy replaces the ministry of teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. Making people happy and reducing conflict replace spiritual formation. The centrality of the Word of God is minimized in our culture. The latest fad and/or a dependance on the props of modern technology can be given more attention than calling on the name of the Lord for the anointing of the Holy Spirit and His deep work of revelation, conviction, and illumination. In this shift, “cool” can replace “conviction” - or personalities become more important than God’s presence. There is a hunger within us to return to a simple devotion to Jesus, a sincere openness to the Holy Spirit, and a verse by verse teaching of God’s Word.

We need to return to the four essentials: Bible teaching, fellowship, worship, and prayer. One of the key tools we have used during our planning has been Charles Swindoll's excellent book The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal. In it he writes, "You can’t have a church if you take away any of the four essentials. You can have more than these four, but you cannot have less and still be a church. And if you have more – and most churches do – those things added must never contradict or obscure the importance of the essentials. When they do, count on it, erosion occurs."

2) Experiencing God in small groups. Many of our most meaningful times of worship have taken place in small group gatherings in homes, in hotel rooms, in mountain cottages – places where friends gather informally in comfortable settings intentional about seeking the Lord together. The early church experienced much of her communion and fellowship in the homes of the believers. We have a great desire to build a fellowship that will foster the meeting of small groups that will intentionally foster such love, caring, and accountability. Though we are not certain of what form those groups will take (Sunday morning Sunday School, in-home cell groups, etc.), we are deeply devoted to structuring a church via small groups.

3) A family-equipping model. The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) is considered by the Jews to be the foundational instruction in the Torah – the first five books of the Old Testament. Jesus later used the Shema to illustrate life’s most important commandment – loving the Lord (Mark 12:28-29). The context of the Shema – the laboratory for producing persons who love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, and might - is not the church but the home. Parents are instructed in Deut. 6 what to do in order to produce such type of children. The imperative there is that parents must walk closely with the Lord with His Word on their hearts, and they will in turn impress those teachings and words onto the hearts and minds of their children.

The family is the bedrock of society. The family was made before any other institution. The family was created before the community of faith – actually the family is the primary faith community! Society will be strong when families are strong. Churches will be strong when families are strong. And churches need to organize in order to strengthen families. Sadly, many parents do not see themselves as the primary faith-influencers in the lives of their children. For years, churches have not strategically equipped parents to train their children spiritually. What if the discipleship processes at church and parents’ efforts to lead their children spiritually became one simple, common path? What if the church embraced a strategy to equip parents to be the primary faith influencers, giving them motivation, resources, training opportunities, and most importantly a clear path to walk on? What if the church offered Bible study and events that reinforced the parents’ role? The primary distinctive of this new church will be a heart and a strategy for equipping families, helping parents and grandparents to shape their families spiritually.

Simply put, we desire and sense a divine compulsion to build a church that will strengthen families as the primary catalyst for spiritual growth, healthy relationships, and societal stability. Raise disciple-making families who will impact people and the culture for Christ.

These days we are praying to that end. Please pray with us.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Prayer of Jabez

About 12 years ago a small book exploded into the Christian book publishing world: Bruce Wilkinson's The Prayer of Jabez. He taught us how to pray this simple prayer taken from the book of 1 Chronicles.

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

Jabez' name means pain and the text says that he was born in pain. That pain is not a reference to childbirth pain. Jabez was born into a family marked by hurt or dysfunctional relationships. Maybe it seemed like the world was against him. Whatever his obstacles, we know that it involved some level of hurt. Jabez' father is not included in the family lineage which means that he did something dishonorable, costing his family.

Jack Hayford shares that Jabez is a picture of God bringing broken vessels back to strength. Jabez was willing to let God shape Him. He had a will to see God build up what had been torn down. God saw the tenderness of Jabez' heart and blessed him.

Instead of crumbling under the weight of his problems, Jabez (more honorable than his brothers - perhaps they were crumbling and whining in defeat) cried out to God to do four things:

1) Bless me
2) Enlarge my territory
3) Keep your hand with me
4) Keep me from harm (or more pain).

This prayer attitude invited God to come do a fresh work out of a bad situation.

Sometimes God takes us out of sorrowful times and, if we will submit to being shaped by Him instead of being crushed by the painful circumstances, He will begin to do a new work in our lives. Instead of sorrow, he gives joy and strength.

Hayford writes, We are to search our hearts for the areas in which we need God's healing and touch and then turn to Him as our source of blessings, enlargement, or defense.

Oh Lord, bless me indeed!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


In my continuing work on writing a book proposal, I was at work on the following words on resiliency . . .

Resiliency is the outcome of healing. No other finding from this study stands out to the author any more clearly than this one. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back, or rebound, from negative life experiences. In spite of the incredible pain involved with pastoral/spiritual abuse, in spite of the loss of friends and a church home, and in spite of a tarnished reputation among peers, a person who heals from spiritual abuse will become resilient. That person will in time move forward positively. He will draw close to the Lord not in spite of the abuse but because of it. He will drink deeply from the wells of salvation, pouring out His heart to God. He will learn new aspects of God’s nature and ways unknown to him previously. He will become more compassionate toward those who are hurting. And as he heals, he will rebound.

A person who does not heal will not become resilient; he will spend his days in the backwash of yesterday’s abuse. However, every person interviewed who indeed healed from their spiritual abuse bounced back with a new vitality and depth to their relationship with the Lord. Every one of them is moving forward positively today, actively engaged in Christian ministry in some capacity. Allowing oneself to move through the appropriate stages of healing, is fundamental to experiencing a resilient life.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

another great summer event

This spring I led a group of older children through the Preteen Experiencing God study. Of course it is based on the bestselling Experiencing God workbook by authors Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby.

These kids worked hard, did their homework, and memorized their Bible verses. We promised them a reward trip if they persevered. So we took them to a Greenville Drive game last week and supper at Sticky Fingers. Everyone could not attend that night, but we had a blast!

I love that age! Their spirits are great.

Nothing like the summer! This was from Sliding Rock near Brevard, North Carolina. Great, cheap entertainment.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rossie Davis

I have had a heavy heart today since I heard the news that our friend Rossie Davis died last night of a heart attack. He and his family had just gotten to the beach this past weekend and were no doubt looking forward to a week there.

I visited with Rossie's mother Helen for a while this morning. I held her and she wept and wept in my arms and would not let go for a long time. Rossie's wife Jamie and the children are driving home this afternoon. As providence had it, Rossie was 48 and his oldest son almost 15. Rossie's daddy died when he was 47 and Rossie was 15. Also, Helen's father died on a Father's Day, June 18 years ago.

Rossie was in a breakfast small group with several of us from our church. For about 5 years, Buddy, Bob, Donald, me, and later Chris and Jay met regularly with Rossie (who always arrived late - ha!). His family will undergo major adjustments in the coming days.

I remember Rossie for his tears. Though he was not like this much person to person, as a pastor I would see his face many times in the crowd or in the choir loft. He was usually one of the first people to start crying when something touching was shared.

Losing friends makes you evaluate your own life, no doubt. None of us are guaranteed another day. Makes you consider what things that we worry about are really important. What are we doing today in the life of those we love that will outlast us? What are we doing that matters to the Lord?

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. - Psalm 90:12

Some thoughts to chew on . . .

Monday, June 13, 2011

Newt Gingrich's book, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters, is released today.

“Belief in American Exceptionalism leads inexorably to a smaller, more effective, accountable, and limited government. The American revolutionaries did not shed their blood for the welfare state; nor did they aim to replace the arbitrary rule of King George and his ‘multitude of New Offices’ and ‘swarms of Officers,’ as stated in the Declaration of Independence, with their own oppressive bureaucracy. Instead, they fought for individual liberty—and that made America an exception among all other nations.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Anthony Weiner

With all of the media blitz today on Anthony Weiner, Russ Moore writes a great challenge to us all. Are you smarter than Anthony Weiner?

Great Idea for Dads

Matthew Henry's classic book, A Church in the House: Restoring Daily Worship to the Christian Household, is well worth every Christian dad reading.


A dad plays a great joke on his son. Read it here.

Common Sense Media

My wife and I have found Common Sense Media to be a good place to go for advice in regards to movies, television, and video games. In a day of little discernment, it is wise for parents to be proactive in guarding the eyes and ears of their little ones! Jesus said something about the eye being the window to the heart.

Sliding Rock Fun

Off to the Summer Movies!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Church is a-Changing!

The past 20 years or so have seen an incredible amount of changes in the forms of how people "do church." The following is an excellent article discussing the times by an over-50 pastor of a Soutern Baptist Church. The article is called "Not Your Daddy's Church."

Republicans Lead, Democrats Ignore Debt

Jim Demint reports that the Senate Democrats keep making it official that they are the party of big spending and big government. Read it here.