Archive for November, 2006

29
Nov
06

Meet My New Friend

Last Sunday night three of my dearest pastor friends—Buddy Gray, Ron Ethridge, John Thweatt—and I befriended a new companion in the ministry. His name is Ray Pritchard, and you can read more about him on his daily blog at http://www.keepbelieving.com/. When you click there you will note on Ray’s Tuesday entry he mentions my blog. Ray is a gracious man.

Ray is a man God is using in a mighty way. The three of us have been interested in Ray’s ministry for several years. I read his blog and peak at his sermons almost on a daily basis. When we heard he was coming to Birmingham for a scheduled event, we asked if we would arrive a day early so we could spend some time in true biblical fellowship with him. Thankfully, Ray agreed.

We met with Ray last Sunday evening for about five hours. We spent part of the evening sharing a meal at a local restaurant in Hoover. Then, the other part of the evening was spent at my mother’s house, as we devoured the chocolate pie she made for us.

There is so much I learned from my encounter with Ray. He reminded me of some tried and true principles I should never forsake, and he taught me many new insights about life and ministry I will always cherish.

Ray told us his life story. His journey inspired me. His insights challenged me. And, his authenticity encouraged me. Here it is Wednesday, three days later, and I am still savoring much of what he said.
Perhaps the one kernel of truth that touched me the deepest centered on the Sovereignty of God. In almost every subject we addressed, Ray returned to the Sovereign nature of God. From his personal testimony to his accounts of past pastorates to his present day ministry, Ray kept reminding us of God’s sovereign ways.

That is a good reminder for all of us. We should remember daily that God is Sovereign. To say God is Sovereign is to say He is in control of everything. Nothing happens without passing through the permissible hands of Almighty God. To say God is Sovereign is to say nothing ever surprises Him. To say God is Sovereign is to say He is God and I am not.

One of the clearest testimonies to God’s Sovereign way is found in Jeremiah’s prophecy, where God’s Word recounts:

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
Jeremiah 18:1-10

Isaiah 29:16 reinforces God’s Sovereignty the following way:

You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing”?
Isaiah 29:16

The Bible is replete with examples of God’s Sovereign control:
God directs the course of nature:

He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a
mighty downpour.’ …The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen. He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them.
Job 37:6, 10 & 11

God has providential control of human affairs:

He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them.
Job 12:23

God influences rulers in decisions:

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.
Proverbs 21:1

God brings about various events in our lives:

I know, O LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to
direct his steps.
Jeremiah 10:23

Success and failure comes from God:

No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man.
But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.
Psalm 75:6-7

Our talents and abilities are from the Lord:

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
1 Corinthians 4:7


God plans our days before we are born:

…your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me
were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:16


On and on and on I could go with example after example after example of the Sovereignty of God. After befriending Ray Pritchard last Sunday night I am remind of this one categorical reality—GOD IS SOVEREIGN!

29
Nov
06

What Makes You Happy?

During the Thanksgiving weekend my mother and I conducted a simple, random (and I might add, non-scientific) survey of family and friends. We asked each person the same question when they arrived at my house. We asked them, “What makes you happy?”

Their answers were remarkably consistent especially when you consider not a single respondent knew what the other respondents said prior to their arrival.

The number one answer to the question “What makes you happy?” was, generally speaking, “Spending time with family and friends.” A few other answers included going to the beach, playing in the sun, reading a good book by the fireplace in the winter, sleeping late on a Saturday morning and so on. Yet by far, the number one answer focused on family and friends.

Warren Buffet, the second richest man in the world (net worth at $42 billion) in a November 23 interview with CNBC (“The Billionaire Next Door”) was asked to define success. Buffet responded, “Do what you love and do it well. That is success.” Then, Mr. Buffet added, “Happiness is not $1000 in the bank or $1 billion, but having those you want to love you, love you.”

Now isn’t that interesting? The second richest man in the world does not define success or happiness in dollars and cents. He defines success and happiness by doing what you love and having people love you.

I know what makes me happy. I am happiest when I am around the people I love and who love me. I enjoy being around my family. I enjoy being with friends. I enjoy the times of fellowship and worship I share with my larger family known as CrossPoint. I am happiest when I spend time laughing, loving, and fellowshipping with the people I love the most.

What makes you happy?

I think the reason some people are so unhappy is that they are simply pursuing those things that will never provide true happiness. Money cannot make you happy. Possessions do not provide happiness. Happiness is best defined by relationships.

28
Nov
06

Give Thanks for Your Thorns

I receive hundreds of emails each week from CrossPointers and guests sharing their stories. You would be amazed at the things I am privileged to read. There are so many stories of struggle and success, victory and defeat. Each week I am challenged by what I read.
Just before Thanksgiving I received the following email from a CrossPoint mother of a special needs child. Wow, I think you will be amazed at the depth of her words.

Read the following carefully and prayerfully:

Hi Ryan, how are you? I just wanted to share some things that the Lord has been teaching me here lately and this story was such a good synopsis of it.

When I was younger, I remember people saying that when you were unhappy with how God created you, you were basically telling God that He had made a mistake. In a recent Sunday School lesson we were talking about how we deal with it when our dreams aren’t God’s dreams for us. I realized that to tell God that I am unhappy with my life is to tell God he made a mistake with my life. Suddenly I became so thankful for so many things. Matthew is one of the most precious, patient and unconditionally loving person I have ever known. I wouldn’t want my life not to have him in it. Mike is a man who wants to be what God wants him to be. He, too, has a very different life than the one he thought he would have. I am so grateful for him. Jeremy is my mission of hope. He has improved so much over the last year and I see the love of God in each of his smiles. CrossPoint has become our family. We moved to Alabama to be closer to family (blood relations) and have discovered that our true family is right here in this fellowship. We are so thankful for the acceptance of our family, the honesty of our friends in our Sunday School classes. When James says to “count it all joy” the message is that if you fight against the “thorns” than you miss God’s blessings. God is the closest to you in the hard times. My life is full and abundant. How can I not want God’s dream for me? Thank you so much for teaching us straight from the word. May God continue to bless you.

Pamela K. Miller RN, BSN
Sedation Coordinator
Pediatric Imaging

Wow, give thanks for your thorns.
22
Nov
06

Try Thanksgiving

Tonight my mother and Vonda’s parents will be spending the night with us. Even though our parents live in the Birmingham area, we wanted to enhance the holiday occasion by asking them to spend the night with us. Don’t you know that “out of town” company always makes the holiday more festive. We have also asked the kids not to make any plans for tonight. We want to reserve the evening specifically for family.

Thanksgiving takes on a different meaning for my family this year. It will be the first Thanksgiving we celebrate without my stepfather, Rick, or Vonda’s grandmother, Granny, being present. Yes, we will shed a few tears as we think of them. But we will also rejoice knowing they are celebrating their first Thanksgiving in heaven.

While thinking of our families’ loss this year, I was reminded of a story from Henry Frost. Henry Frost served for many years as a missionary to China. In his journal he wrote of a very difficult time in his life. He says, “I had received sad news from home, and deep shadows had covered my soul. I prayed but the darkness did not vanish. I summoned myself to endure, but the darkness only deepened. Then I went to an inland station and saw on the wall of the mission home these words: ’TRY THANKSGIVING.’ I did, and in a moment every shadow was gone, not to return.”

My family will “TRY THANKSGIVING” this year. Sure there will be times we will want to cry; and cry we will. But we will prevail over our grief by giving thanks.

In “TRYING THANKSGIVING” this year I will…
…Wake up early and build a fire in the fireplace
…Run with Steve Parr in the Jewish Community Center 10K Race
…Savor my time with our parents
…Enjoy the holiday with my children
…Eat my favorite dish—sweet potato casserole with brown sugar and pecans
…Take at least two naps during the day
…Give thanks for the many ways the Lord has blessed my family
…Watch plenty of football games
…Laugh a lot

What about you? What will you do to “TRY THANKSGIVING” this year?

21
Nov
06

Resisting the Devil

While preparing last week’s message from James 4:1-10, I came across some old jokes and anecdotes about resisting the devil that I had to share with you in today’s blog.

There was this one about Satan coming to a worship service:

I read the story of how during a worship service the devil walked in and marched down to the front of the Church. Everyone started screaming and running for the doors. Soon the building was empty except for one elderly gentleman. He sat calmly in his pew; seemingly oblivious to the fact the ultimate enemy was in his presence. Satan looked at him and said, “Do you know who I am?”

The old man replied, “Yep, sure do.”

Satan then asked, “Aren’t you afraid of me?”

“Nope, sure ain’t,” said the man.

The devil then said, “Don’t you know that I could cause you profound, horrifying, physical agony for all eternity?”

“Yep,” replied the man.

“Then why aren’t you afraid,” asked the devil.

The old man calmly replied, “Been married to your sister for over 48 years.”

Then I read this little piece about resisting the devil:

We must resist the devil in everything and in everyway and there can be no compromise. I think about a hunter that was bear hunting. He came upon this bear, raised his gun, and was about to pull the trigger when the bear said “Is it not better to talk than to shoot? What do you want? Let’s negotiate.”

Lowering his rifle, the hunter said, “I want a fur coat.”

“Good,” said the bear, “that is a negotiable question. I only want a full stomach, so let us negotiate a compromise.”

They sat down to negotiate, and after a while the bear walked away alone. The negotiations had been successful. The bear had a full stomach and the hunter had his fur coat.

Finally, there is this story:

There was a little old lady who never spoke ill of anyone. If she said anything about anybody, it was always good. A friend said to her one day, “I believe you would say something good even about the devil.”

“Well,” she said, “you certainly do have to admire his persistence.”

18
Nov
06

Welcome to Lowes…and CrossPoint!

I called one of our recent guests the other night. The purpose of my call was to introduce myself and then to discover how they found our family of faith.

When I inquired as to how they discovered CrossPoint the guest responded, “We were invited to your church at Lowes.” Now she has my attention. “Lowes is advertising for CrossPoint?” I asked. “Tell me more!”

The she added, “Yes, my husband and I were standing in line at Lowes when a man in the line started talking to us and others about his church. As the conversation continued he told us about CrossPoint and where it was located. My husband and I decided we would visit your church the very next Sunday and we are glad we did. We loved it and we will be back next weekend.”

Our guest did not know the name of the man who invited her. Neither could she remember much of what he looked like. But she did remember the man being super excited about his church, and that prompted her and her husband to worship with us last weekend.

The genius of fulfilling the vision of JUST ONE MORE is that anyone can do it. You do not need a degree from seminary. Neither do you need training in a specialized class. All you need is a willingness to talk to someone in order to invite them to CrossPoint.

If we can learn anything from our Lowes guest it would be this: if you invite them they will come.

15
Nov
06

A Concrete Truck & Just One More

The vision of CrossPoint is JUST ONE MORE. To be more specific, CrossPoint exists to reach JUST ONE MORE to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

The vision of CrossPoint becomes more of a reality when each CrossPointer accepts the divine responsibility to introduce JUST ONE MORE to Jesus Christ.

Below is an email I received from a CrossPointer last week who shared Christ with JUST ONE MORE in a most opportune setting:

This morning as I was sitting (full stop) at a red light in Trussville, the large commercial diesel concrete truck in front of me decides to back up for whatever reason. I was late to a meeting and couldn’t get backed up fast enough to avoid him so he hit me (ran over the front of my car). I was not upset because I was not injured and did not have my kids with me. I was not sure of who would emerge from that large construction type truck so I prayed a quick prayer that the Lord would help me and protect me from any adverse things and that I would handle the situation appropriately. I have never been in any sort of accident. This young man (late 20’s) emerged with a horrified look on his face, totally unaware that I had ever been there.

I immediately assured him that I was ok and not distraught over a silly car. He calmed down and said he didn’t see me, his boss was going to be mad, he was going to be fired. I said, “Well, it was an accident and I would hope he would understand that.” My car needed to be towed and he felt so bad so he was helping me get my car seats, computer, purse… when I told him to look in the console for a nametag with CrossPoint. He asked if it was my work tag and I told him no- I didn’t need my work tag but I would be going to church tonight and I needed my tag. Of course that opened the door for a conversation of:“do you go to church?” “No but on a day like today I wish I did,” he said.

WOW- I told him that this would be a perfect day to start and I’d be happy to meet him there. He gave me an excuse for tonight but said he might come Sunday. I shared my testimony with him.

He ended the conversation by shaking my hand and again apologizing for the accident and didn’t understand why I didn’t “go off” on him. I told him that if my life had ended in that accident today that I would have immediately been in my dream home! He just looked at me funny and I explained that I know my eternity is in Heaven because I have Jesus as my Savior and that a car being totaled, being late for a meeting or having anyone mad at me just pales in comparison to what my life will be. Anyway, I hope he comes or I at least hope he thinks about our conversation.

It is exhilarating when the Lord puts an opportunity in your lap!

The vision of JUST ONE MORE is so easy to realize-even on the day of an accident. I would be curious to hear of your J1M stories.