Archive for August, 2007


530 and Counting!!

The Student Ministry of CrossPoint is literally soaring to new heights. Last night, a record-setting crowd of 530 students were in Sublime.

Make sure you note that number—530!

That is unprecedented.

This growth spurt has been building for some time. Jason informed me back at the beginning of the summer he could see this coming. Boy was he right.

Jason Motte and his team of leaders are making a huge impact for the kingdom of God in our area. What makes this record-setting night so special is not so much the number, although that is exceedingly great. What makes this night so important is how much the truth of God’s Word is being communicated to these students.

Many of you heard Jason preach for me last July while I was on vacation. Thus you know how solid he is in his preaching and his theology. When Jason speaks, he speaks from God’s Word. Jason is a fun guy and he enjoys laughing and cutting up with students. However, when it comes time to preach Jason preaches the truth. He does not water down his message with cute little stories. Neither does he weaken the truth with high-powered emotionalism. Jason, in many respects, is a theologian who knows how to relate the truth of God’s Word to the life of a teenager.

I am in awe with what God is doing in our student ministry and within our church. We expect to open the second building of Phase II in a very short period of time. The Student Worship Center, which has an estimated capacity of 450 is already too small. This makes me wonder if the rest of the building we think is so big is also getting smaller.

That’s a good problem to have, isn’t it?

Please pray for Jason Motte, his team of leaders and the students in our community who are being exposed to the good news of Jesus Christ.


Lessons from my Son (and Daughter)

Wednesday was a significant day for Vonda and me. It was our son’s first day of college. Although he has not moved out of the house and into a dorm, yet, we were still melancholy this morning. (We think the dorm thing will come next spring or fall. He has to show us more maturity before we give him that much freedom. I will write more on that later, much later).

I know you have heard or read something like this before, but it seems just like yesterday we were at Forest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, celebrating his arrival. Taylor was born on a Tuesday at 3:22 PM. He was 21 inches long, and he weighed eight pounds and five ounces.

That was an incredible day for me. What his arrival did was set into motion a new and unexpected journey for me. You see, prior to his birth I had never before been a father. Sure, I knew something about being a brother, and a few things about being a son and a grandson. I also knew what it meant to be a friend. And, I had picked up a few insights into being a husband, yet prior to August 22, 1989, I knew nothing about being a father.

Since that day, my knowledge in parenting has increased exponentially. And what have I learned? Here are just a few lessons Taylor (and Kelsey) have taught me:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff, and there is plenty of small stuff. Don’t sweat it when the kids marched through the house with mud on their shoes, or when they spill their drink or when they tear their new shorts or when they draw on the wall or when they… Most stuff is small stuff, so don’t sweat it.
  • Learn what makes your child tick. Trent and Smalley call this their “love language”. Taylor’s love language is TIME. He needs time with me and with his mother. That is why we took him to lunch today after his first full day of classes. We knew he would want time with us. I could always tell when I was not spending enough time with Taylor because he would become irritable, rude or disobedient. It was at those moments Vonda would suggest, “Why don’t you spend some time with Taylor.” And when I did his attitude and behavior would improve.
  • Let your child know who is in charge. Children love to test authority. I think they test authority for two reasons. One, because they are born reprobates with a sinful behavior. The second reason is less forceful. Two, because they want someone to be in charge and they act out to see who it is. Taylor never really had a problem with me being in charge. Sure, he’d pitch a fit every now and then, but for the most part Taylor was and is a compliant child.
  • Have fun. I enjoyed a fun childhood filled with many great memories. I wanted my kids to do the same. When he was about two or three, Taylor and I started a tradition called “Daddy Day.” He thought it was a day designed just for him, and in many ways it was. What he doesn’t know was that it actually served as a day for his mother, so she could get some things done around the house. I am so glad we started those “Daddy Days.” He is not too fond of them now because he is so busy, but I think some day he will return to those days perhaps when I need him to care for me.
  • Always admit when you are wrong. There have been some times in my parenting when I was wrong. Thank goodness a friend taught me to admit to my children when I was wrong. That is not easy, but by doing so you model for your children how they should admit their faults or mistakes. In the last few years I have been amazed at how much Taylor confesses to his mother and me when he has made a mistake.
  • Pray they get caught in every sin they commit. Years ago a friend of ours saw Taylor doing something that was wrong. He was totally surprised we knew about it. When he asked how we found out, we told him we started praying he would get caught in every sin he committed. That is a great prayer to pray for your kids. It is called accountability.

Do what you can with what you have. There are times I have failed miserably as a father, and there are times I have succeeded. All I have tried to do with both my children is the best I could do with what was available to me at the time.

Some day my children will be parents. And when they are, I trust they look back on their childhood days with fond memories and practice some of what they taught me to do.


The Ceremony of the Jersey

I have been focusing on the subject of football lately. I guess it has to do with the fact that college football kicks off in less than two weeks.

Vonda dreads this time of year because I literally get consumed with watching football five nights a week—Thursday thru Monday! Ah, what bliss.

Speaking of football, a very good friend alerted me to the following illustration from Notre Dame’s storied tradition. I am NOT a big fan of Notre Dame. However, I am a big fan of tradition like the one you are about to read. Enjoy.

For generations the Notre Dame name has been synonymous with college football success. The Fighting Irish have stockpiled more national championships, more Heisman Trophies, and more all-Americans than any other school in America. It’s the Fort Knox of college sports. The school’s legendary past is a story Hollywood loves to tell. Only at Notre Dame could Knute Rockne become famous by coaxing his team to “win one for the Gipper.” And through the years they’ve won. But with all that success came high expectations too.

To reinforce those expectations, each spring the Notre Dame coaches gather the team together for The Ceremony of the Jersey. It’s an annual event where each new recruit is presented with the football jersey he’ll be wearing in the upcoming season. At any other school this may have little meaning but at Notre Dame it’s like a visit to a museum. As each player is brought forward, he’s presented with his new jersey as a scroll is read naming each of the legends who’ve worn that number before – their names, achievements, and degrees. The final name on the scroll belongs to the new recruit who’ll be wearing it. The implication is obvious; wear the jersey with distinction, carry on the proud tradition, be worthy of the honor.

In many ways, you and I have been handed a jersey as well. It may not have a number, but it has some blood stains. People like Paul and Timothy, maybe a mom or a dad, maybe a youth pastor or a maybe college friend have worn that jersey. As those who have received God’s grace and are being strengthened by it, our calling today is to pass that jersey on to the next generation.

The jersey of faith that was handed to me has been worn by some incredible individuals. Many of those heroes I only know of by photos or stories shared with me by family. Many others have gone on to the heaven to receive their reward in heaven. Still others serve the Lord here with me on earth.

The blood stained jersey of grace I received includes my grandparents, Charlie and Alice Henley; my parents, Bob Whitley and Alice Rickerson; my brothers, Rhett and Chuck, and my sister, Mona. That list also includes my father and mother-in-law, Wayne and Doris Goodwin, and my wife, Vonda. More members of this elite group include my mentors Bob Barnes and Harry Lucenay; many seminary professors like Joe Cothen, Chuck Kelley, Macklyn Hubbell, Lewis Drummond, Jim Minton, John Harris, and Calvin Miller. There is a list of coaches and teachers who passed on their jersey of faith to me. Then there are my dear friends Buddy Gray, Jimmy Stewart, John Thweatt, & Ron Ethridge. Wow, the list goes on and on and on.

Take a moment to think of those who passed on their jerseys of faith and grace to you. Give thanks for their witness and example. If you would, like take a minute to share the name of one or two people who passed their blood-soaked jersey of faith to you for you to experience.


Now that’s a REAL Coach

Someone called me last week to say that my blog about Coach Bob Finley had been downloaded to the blog. I am not sure who posted it, but apparently they felt like others needed to read my remarks.

While surfing the Hoover Forum blog I discovered Joe Erhman’s webpage, For those of you who do not know, Joe Erhman is the coach Jeffrey Marx wrote about in the book Season of Life: A Football Story, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood.

Many of you will recognize this book as a Father’s Day gift suggestion I made two or three years ago.

For those of you interested, take a look at this video clip and compare Joe Erhman to what is coming out of some of out area high schools, and then you tell me who you would want coaching your son:

(click here for video)

Now that is a real coach.

There is no question in my mind who I would want my son play for. Joe Erhman is a special man, and I am confident the boys he coaching will become successful men in life.


JUST ONE MORE at a Funeral

I had something especially memorable happen Thursday at a funeral I was leading.

Peggy Branham’s mother, Thelma Dougherty, went home to be with the Lord last Monday. Peggy & Bob asked me to conduct the funeral, and, of course, I honored their request.
As I have in so many times past, I presented the Gospel during the funeral service. I personally believe the best news people can hear at a funeral is that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and that they can be saved through Him. That is why I present the Gospel at nearly every funeral.
Yesterday’s presentation was significant, in that an individual received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. What made the decision even more meaningful was that it was an employee of Bob and Peggy’s at East Lake Electric.

The employee came to express his condolences. Bob and Peggy asked him to stay for the service because they knew I would present the Good News of Jesus Christ. He decided to stay, and God placed His “effective call” on the young man and he was born again.

As I concluded the gospel presentation I asked anyone in the crowd who had received Christ to let Peggy know before they left the funeral home. Within minutes after the service, the young man confided in Bob and Peggy of his decision. As you would expect, Bob and Peggy’s family was so excited. They were crying when I entered the room. When I asked what happened, Peggy said, “Just as one dies today another one is born into the family of God.” Then as CrossPointers have a tendency to do, we all pointed one finger to heaven and said in unison, “Just one more!”

Wow, what a story.
There is another part of the story worth sharing.

Teri Lee, Peggy’s daughter called me early Sunday morning to say her grandmother had suffered a severe stroke, and they were wondering if I could come and pray with them. I arrived at St. Vincent’s hospital soon thereafter.
Since I knew Thelma, I walked in the room and leaned over her bed to speak with her. I said, “Thelma, this is Ryan. I don’t know if you can hear me or not.” To that she nodded her head yes.

This is where the story gets really good.

“Thelma,” I said, “Are you ready to go to heaven?” She smiled and shook her head in the affirmative once again.

Well, it’s all over but the shouting at that part.

Then I said, “Well, Thelma, since you can hear all our voices, just start listening for the voice of Jesus above all others. He is going to call your name; and when He does, go running toward Him. We are all okay. We do not want you to hang on for us. It is time for you to go to Jesus”

That is when Thelma whispered to all of us in the room, “I love you!”
Thelma remained stable another 24 hours. Bryan Haskins, our worship leader, visited her Monday morning. Before leaving he sang “Amazing Grace” for her. Two hours later, Thelma heard the voice of Jesus and left this world to spend the rest of eternity in His presence.

It was a glorious experience for all us involved.

Now can you see why her funeral was so memorable? Her death gave birth to another soul for Jesus Christ. We, at CrossPoint, call that JUST ONE MORE!


Why Pray?

While working through the Sermon on the Mount, we spent a few moments a few Sundays ago wrestling with this sentence:

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matthew 6:7-8

The first reading of that sentence would cause some to ask: “If God already knows what I need, then why pray?”

I can think of three basic answers to that question.

First, we should pray because Jesus prayed.

The Bible is replete with example of Jesus praying. The greatest example, perhaps, is when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night of his arrest, and He prayed:

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 26:39

There are many other examples of Jesus praying in the New Testament. Another favorite of mine is found in Mark’s gospel, where Mark records:

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
Mark 1:35

Thus, the first answer to the “why pray” question is because Jesus prayed.
The second answer to the “why pray” question is because apparently Jesus thinks we should pray.
Go back and look at the first four words of Matthew 6:7. Jesus says, “And when you pray…
Obviously Jesus thinks we should pray, because He instructs us to pray.

So, there are the first two answers to the question as to why to pray even though our Father knows what we need before we ask Him.

There is a third answer to that question. This answer comes less from empirical evidence of the Word of God, and more from experience. Another reason to pray, even though our Father knows what we need before we ask Him, is to know God better. I think we should pray because prayer teaches us more about God.

Andrew Murray worded the third point this way:

“Some people pray just to pray and some people pray to know God.”

Oswald Chambers nails the third point with this quote:

“Our ordinary views of prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer as a means for getting something for ourselves; the Bible’s idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.”

So what is the bottom line? Or, as I often ask myself when I am preparing a message for you, “So, what is the big deal?” The bottom line or the big deal is this: prayer draws me into deeper intimacy with God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth; the Father of all who call Him Lord and the Sustainer of all who trust in Him as Savior.

In summary, I pray because Jesus prayed. I pray because apparently Jesus expects us to pray. I pray because I need God, because I want more intimacy with Him, and because I cannot live without Him.

So, why do you pray?



Yesterday’s post from Scott Hanberry in Couer d’Alene, Idaho, caused me to do some deep thinking.

(I know the idea of me involved in deep thinking scares many of you, so I will be brief.)

In summary, yesterday’s blog says we should measure our church growth by the number of people the members of the church bring with them each weekend. Thus, instead of asking how many we had in Bible study or worship, we should ask how many guests were present in Bible study or worship.

So here is my idea.

In a matter of weeks we will open the second building of our Phase II building project. The second building is enormous. I walked through the complex Monday evening and I was blown away by its size. Instead of getting smaller with the addition of paint, walls and fixtures, the building is getting bigger. It is actually growing.

A staff member escorted one of his cousins through the building Monday also, and during the tour the cousin asked a great question. He queried, “Where will you put all the people that will come to this church as a result of using this building for ministry?”

I do not know if you have considered it or not, but CrossPoint as we know it today will change dramatically and immediately the moment we open the doors to the new gymnasium. We will never be the same. And that is a good thing.
And now for my idea I have been considering.

What if we were to require every CrossPointer to bring JUST ONE MORE with them the Sunday we have ONE BIG WORSHIP in the new building? Would that be over the top or what? That would mean we would have approximately 2400 people on our campus at one time.
For those of you wondering, if the Lord is willing, we plan to celebrate the grand opening of Phase II with two big events. The first big event will be a ONE BIG WORSHIP experience a few weeks after the building is opened for operation. The other big event will be an open house for the entire community in January, 2008 when we celebrate our third birthday.

So, what do you think of my JUST ONE MORE DAY idea?

I like it. I like it, a lot. Actually, when you think about our vision and all that God is doing to make the vision a reality, every Sunday is a JUST ONE MORE SUNDAY for CrossPoint.