Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Flames Underneath

I saw this car catch on fire today.

At first there were just a few flames.  A guy from a store there in the plaza ran out spraying the car down with a fire extinguisher.  It looked like the fire was under control at that point.  I told my kids, "Just keep watching.  The flames underneath the hood will come out in a minute."

And they definitely did!

Flames engulfed the whole car.  A moment later, the fire department arrived.  They jumped out with big hoses and took control of the situation.  

The flames underneath.

People have flames underneath the surface too.  Tucked deep within the mind and the heart are dangerous things.

Pride.  Greed.  Bitterness.  Lust.  These are just a few.

We may look like we're under control on the outside.  People may look at us and assume we're alright.  It's not hard to present an impressive image.

But if we don't deal with the sinful flames underneath, those destructive things will eventually come to the surface, devour our lives, and hurt other people.  The hidden evils in our hearts and minds must be addressed.

What sinful flames do you have underneath?  Try to identify them.  Let God deal with them in His own unique way.  This will keep matters under control before we are devoured with destructive forces.  And this will protect everyone from the unnecessary pain that comes from evil.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Entering Or Leaving?

I was in the office of a mechanic today.  While sitting there, I saw a great sign.  It read, "Everyone brings joy to this office.  Some when they enter and others when they leave."

That really got me thinking...

We all have an effect on people.  Either we lift them up and make them comfortable or we drag them down and make them miserable.  Because of this, people are either glad when we arrive or glad when we depart.

The sign is a good reminder for us all.  Let's be positive, pleasant, encouraging, and kind-hearted.  Let's treat people right.  When this happens, we will be a pleasure for others to spend time with.

So let's all ask ourselves this question:  Are people more joyful when we're entering the room or when we're leaving?  That's something worth considering.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

When We Go To Church

Today I was in Georgia at a small, country church. 
This neat house of worship is tucked way out in the country.  It's not a large, booming place.  But it is a fine church.

As I walked into the sanctuary, I noticed this sign over the front door:
Then, as I was walking out of the sanctuary, I noticed this sign:
The signs say it all.  Enter to worship.  Depart to serve.  When we go to church, that's what needs to happen.
When we enter a church building, let's do it to worship.  I like what Charles Spurgeon wrote about this years ago.  Check out his poem:
Some go to church to take a walk;
Some go there to laugh and talk;
Some go there to meet a friend;
Some go there their time to spend;
Some go there to meet a lover;
Some go there a fault to cover;
Some go there for speculation;
Some go there for observation;
Some go there to dose and nod;
The wise go there to worship God.
That's the reason for us walking into the church house.  Our purpose is to praise God's greatness, hear God's word, and enjoy God's presence.  Let's keep our focus on worshipping Him when we go to church.
When we exit a church building, let's do it to serve.  We are to serve God by doing His work, spreading His word, and showcasing His glory.  We also are to serve our neighbors by encouraging them and helping them in the name of our God.  Jesus served people, and we must do the same.  A servant's heart must be what we Christians have.
Enter to worship.  Depart to serve.  That's what must happen when we go to church.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Link To "The Marriage Journey"

I've written a blog post for my good friend, Jamie Greening.
The title of it is "The Marriage Journey".
I hope you enjoy it!
To read what I wrote, just click HERE.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Choosing Sides In NASCAR And In Church Life

I became a NASCAR fan years ago.  A big rivalry in those days was between Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.  Dale was a country boy who was tough, fearless, and known as "The Intimidator".  Jeff was younger, flashy, and wore the rainbow colors.  NASCAR fans were divided over who they supported.  It was a heated rivalry between those who pulled for Earnhardt and those who pulled for Gordon.  Without a doubt, I was an Earnhardt fan.  He was my favorite driver.  And I thought it was incredibly sad when he died on the track at Daytona.

That's how it goes in sports.  Fans are divided over who they pull for.  And they don't care much at all for those who are on the other side.

What's nuts, however, is this somehow happens among Christians too.  People who profess to follow Jesus choose sides and divide into different groups or teams.  And this can get pretty heated.

Think about how Christians choose sides.

I'm into traditional worship.  Well I'm into contemporary!
I only use the King James version of the Bible.  Well I use the NIV!
I'm a 5 point Calvinist.  Well I'm into free will!
I'm for Sunday School.  Well I'm for home groups!
I think Rick Warren makes some good points.  Well I can't stand that guy!

On and on it goes.  People choose sides over spiritual matters like fans at a NASCAR race.  And a fierce rivalry festers.

There's only one problem with this:  We Christians are supposed to be on the same team!  Unity should be what we're about.  We are to be one and working together rather than splintered and competing against one another.

Listen, I know we Christians aren't going to agree on everything.  It's inevitable that we will disagree on a few minor matters.  But that's ok!  As long as we agree on the main things, surely we can unite our efforts and work together for the same goals. 

If we believe Jesus Christ is the world's only hope, the Bible is our guidebook, and God's glory is to be promoted, then surely we have enough common ground to get along and help each other.  When it comes to secondary issues, I think we can respectfully agree to disagree.  But if we can find some room to unite in Jesus Christ, then we can be on the same team and do some great things in this world.

Choosing sides.  It happens in NASCAR.  But let's not let it happen among us followers of Jesus.  We churches would be better off praying and pulling for one another to succeed rather than competing against each other and developing rivalries.

Let's be on the same team.  The Lord's team!  When we kneel and submit to His leadership, we begin to see that we all are a whole lot more alike than we are different.  And it becomes apparent to us that we truly are one family!

Friday, February 20, 2015

What I Like About Our Church Family

New Calvary Baptist Church.  That's where Lara, the kids, and I belong.  I'm the fortunate guy who gets to serve as their pastor.  And that fine congregation is our church family.

I love it there.  Could not be happier!  I have thanked God many times for putting us with these fine people.

Here is what I like about our church family...

[1]  They are a welcoming bunch.  We visited there a few times before I was asked to preach some as an interim.  It was just a good place for us to go.  And they immediately made us feel welcome.  People smiled and shook our hands.  In no time at all, we knew we were at home.  They made us real comfortable, and we realized quickly they were a special congregation.

[2]  They show grace and unconditional love.  They don't demand perfection in people.  Instead, they realize everyone is a sinner in need of forgiveness.  A week before they voted on me as their full-time pastor, I stood before them and shared my life story.  Yes, I talked about my successes and victories.  But I also talked about my failures and regrets.  It was so liberating to open up and share my experiences with them.  After I did that, they applauded, formed a line down the center aisle, and walked up to me with smiles and hugs.  They thanked me for being real and they made me feel totally welcome. That was an awesome day.

[3]  They care about each other.  Relationships matter at New Calvary.  And I like it that way!  Since we run a little under 100 people on Sundays, folks are able to get well acquainted with each other.  As their pastor, I am enjoying getting to know them.  I almost know everyone's name there, with a few exceptions.  I'll keep working on that until I know them all.  But these folks look out for one another and step up to the plate when someone is hurting.  It's a warm, loving church. 

[4]  They are a Jesus-centered church.  New Calvary recognizes that salvation, purpose, and hope are all found in Jesus.  They keep Him as the center of their focus, the object of their worship, and the source of their strength.  More than anything else, they like to keep the church about Him.

Is it a perfect church?  Of course not.  No church is perfect.  And, in full disclosure, I'm certainly not a perfect pastor either.  But we unite in knowing that we have a perfect Savior in Jesus Christ.  That's what makes things tick at New Calvary.

All of us churches are works in progress, aren't we?!  None of us have arrived and figured it all out.  But if we keep looking to Jesus and loving each other, I think we churches will be ok. 

So God bless the good people of New Calvary.  And God bless the fine churches you readers are a part of as well.  May we all continue to know Him and make Him known! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Be Real

In June of 1993, I was ordained as a pastor.  Our home church, Grace Baptist, is where the service took place.  At one point during my ordination, people walked down front to where I was kneeling so they could offer me a word of wisdom or pray over me.  I'll always remember what one of my uncles said to me during that time.  I was on my knees with my head bowed.  He stood over me and said these words:  "Just be real, David.  Be real."
Over the years, I've come to have a greater appreciation for his advice.  I think I understand now what he meant.  And I now see how right he was.
You and I have a choice.  Either we can put on a show and try to impress each other.  Or we can be real.
Being real means being honest about who we are, what we think, and how we feel.  It's about taking off the mask and refusing to pretend.  Ultimately, it's about being genuine.
Here's a thought:  Let's be real.  When this happens, we do the following:
Say what we really think rather than what we think people want to hear.
Admit our need for help rather than act like we have it all together.
Get comfortable in our own skin rather than imitating someone else.
Life gets better when we get real.  Being truthful about who we really are is a liberating practice.  And it inspires others to be genuine as well. 
I like what Dan Marino once said:  "You can't live your life doing what other people want you to or you'll be miserable.  At some point you just have to be yourself."
He was right!
Don't waste your years trying to be something you're not.  Be who you truly are.  Just be real. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

When They Don't Want To Be Your Friend

We've all been there.  Someone just does not want to be our friend.  Oh, sure, we've tried to connect with them.  But it just doesn't work out.

Maybe we've never been able to click with that person, even though we've attempted many times.  Or maybe we used to be close to that someone, but then something happened, and they no longer want anything to do with us.  Either way, it hurts when this happens.

It especially bothers those of us who are more relational in nature.  We're the ones that want to get along with people, and we want folks to like us.  Relationships matter to us.  When we connect with someone, it feels great.  But when we are disconnected, for any reason, it feels terrible. 

What do we do when they just don't want to be friends?

Here's what I think...

[1]  Accept the fact that it's part of life.  There always be some people who will not share a bond with us.  It's an inevitable part of life.  Even Jesus Christ, who never did anything wrong, had this happen to Him.  In John 1:11 we read, "He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him."  Did you see that?  Jesus, who created us and came here to save us, was rejected by some people too.  Unfortunately, it's just part of life for everyone.  The sooner we accept the fact that some people will not like us in this life, the better off we will be.  That's not to be pessimistic or negative.  Far from it.  It just prepares us for how the world is, gives us more realistic expectations, and protects us from disappointment.

[2]  Thank God for the time when they were our friends.  Some friendships come and go.  They last for a season of our lives.  When we lose one of these relationships, it's helpful to express our gratitude to God for the season of life that we were able to enjoy that person.  Those bright, positive moments we did enjoy with that someone were blessings from God.  And, at that time, they did make our lives a little better.  So even though that relationship has come to an end, we can still be thankful for good experiences we did enjoy.

[3]  Wish them well.  Whether we were able to connect with them or not, it's a good thing to wish the best for those who just don't want to be our friends.  Instead of being bitter or hateful towards them in our hearts, let's think good thoughts and whisper positive prayers.  We can ask God to bless them, protect them, and meet all of their needs.  Even though they may not know we're wishing them well, it's still a good way to minister to them from a distance, and it protects us from developing a grudge or angry heart towards them. 

[4]  Remember we always have a friend in The Lord.  When we ask Jesus Christ to forgive our sins and save our souls, we are blessed to enter into a relationship with The Lord.  He is loving and loyal.  He faithfully sticks with us.  In Proverbs 18:24 we read, "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."  Isn't that a great verse?!  The Lord is a friend to us, and He remains tighter with us than a blood brother.  Now that's a good connection to have.  It's available to you and me through Jesus Christ.  And there is no relationship you or I can find anywhere that is better than that one.   

I know it can hurt when they don't want to be your friend.  That's not easy to handle at times.  But remember these truths.  Let God help you put your pain in perspective.  And, by His grace, you'll be able to move on with your life into a brighter, better future. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Odds And Ends - Edition 5

Hi everyone!  It's been a busy week with church and funeral home work.  Have missed blogging the past few days.  Here's the latest odds and ends...
*  I enjoyed three days this past week at Springmaid Beach Resort in Myrtle Beach for the Santee Baptist Association's Senior Adult Retreat.  This was my first time at Springmaid, and I loved it.  There was a big crowd of seniors.  They were a lot of fun to be around.
*  It was an honor for me to preach at the conference.  My scripture was Psalm 23.  I had a lot of fun sharing God's Word with a bunch of folks who have been Christians longer than I've been living.

*  My oldest daughter, Katie, turned 18 this past week.  Wow, I'm just not old enough to have an 18 year old daughter!  Ha!  Ok, technically, I am old enough.  But it amazes me how time flies.

*  Life is good for Lara and me!

  *  The past few days, she and I enjoyed celebrating Katie's birthday, a Valentine's banquet at church, and plenty of laughs in between. 
*  I've pastored good churches, and I am thankful for the time I was able to spend with each of them.  Now I'm serving New Calvary Baptist Church, and I love it.  Could not be happier!  This is a fantastic church family to be a part of. 
*  It feels good to be back home in Sumter.  Lara and I moved away from here 22 years ago.  That's a long time to be away.  A few times over the years I've tried to get us back home.  I guess it just wasn't time.  But now that we are here, we're loving it! 
*  We get to see my parents quite often.  They only live a few miles from us.  So it's great that we can spend time with them.
*  God has been good to me.  Better to me than I deserve!  I'm a blessed and thankful guy.
So there you go.  That's the latest.  I know this was an "all about me" kind of post.  But tonight I'm just grateful for all the good things happening here in the Richardson home. 
Thanks for following the blog.  I hope in some small way that you get some good stuff out of your visits here.  I'll keep writing, so feel free to stop by any time.
God bless you and yours!

Thursday, February 12, 2015


I stood alone yesterday at Myrtle Beach and snapped a picture of the Atlantic Ocean.  Nobody was out there with me.  While enjoying the peace and solitude, I thought about that tremendous body of water there before me.  It was truly a special few moments.

Here are a few biblical thoughts on oceans.  It's important to keep in mind that when these verses mention "seas", they also are referring to oceans.  After all, the same God is responsible for both of them being here.

The oceans were born into the world by the Lord.  Job 38:8 "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb..."  It's awesome to think of the world's enormous bodies of water being birthed into existence from our Creator.  The oceans weren't always here.  They are the result of the amazing and intentional work of God. 

The oceans were filled with water by the Lord.  Amos 9:6  "He calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land - the Lord is His name."  This makes me think of our tremendous God picking up a pitcher with His immeasurable hand and pouring all of the oceans onto planet Earth.  Now that's mighty impressive to picture in our minds! 

The oceans belong to the Lord.  Psalm 95:5 "The sea is His, for He made it."  His handiwork is His property.  We can enjoy them, but He is the One who owns them all.  The fact that all these waters belong to Him is further proof of just how powerful He really is. 

The oceans showcase the greatness of the Lord.  Psalm 107:23-24 "Some went out to sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters.  They saw the works of the Lord, His wonderful deeds in the deep."  In a way, the oceans are like a heavenly billboard.  They remind us how big, powerful, and amazing God is.  Only an awesome God could create such a thing as an ocean.

The oceans and all they contain do uniquely worship the Lord.  Psalm 148:7  "Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths."  While they do not speak human language, I believe in their own special way they adore and worship their Creator who brought them into existence.  They know who put them there and who has dominion over them. 

The oceans are governed by the Lord.  Jeremiah 31:35  "Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the Lord of hosts is His name."  Now that is power!  God "stirs up" the waters so that waves roll and crash.  Furthermore, check out this verse:  Psalm 89:9  "You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them."  Notice the word "rule".  This is all about God's sovereign authority over the oceans and the rest of the creation.  When the waves get rougher and more rowdy than He wants them to be, God says, "Ok, waves.  That's enough.  Time for you to settle down!"  And, they do.

The oceans will one day be removed by the Lord.  Revelation 21:1  "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea."  We won't always have oceans.  One day, they will not be needed.  The Lord will remove them.  And that will be fine, because He will have better things for us to see and experience.  So we may as well enjoy oceans now.

Oceans are impressive.  They really are!  But God is way more so.  May you and I praise Him because of this!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Brian Williams, Lies, And Us

Brian Williams has been suspended for six months, without pay, by NBC.  He won't be anchoring the news again until some time in August of this year.  From all indications, he is having to sit out of work for a while because he has lied (at least to some extent) in his reporting.


It's not just a Brian Williams problem.  We all have been there.  It's part of our fallen condition.  I've lied before.  And so have you.

What does God's word say about lying?  Here are a few passages for us all to consider.  Let's think on these...

"Do not lie.  Do not deceive one another."  Leviticus 19:11

"The Lord detests lying lips."  Proverbs 12:22

"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices."  Colossians 3:9

God tells us to abstain from lies and speak the truth instead.  Because He is honest, and no deception is within Him, He expects the same out of us.  We are to reflect Him in being trustworthy with our words.

There are additional reasons we must stay away from lies.  Lies prohibit progress and improvement.  Lies hurt people.  And lies damage our own credibility.  A lit match can destroy a forest, and a lie can destroy a life. 

Sometimes we are tempted to lie because we think we are protecting someone we care about.  That simply is not the case.  Telling a lie does nobody any favors.  It only makes things worse.

When we tell the truth, problems can be addressed and corrected.  When we tell the truth, people know exactly where they stand.  When we tell the truth, people feel that they can trust us.  And when we tell the truth, God is honored in our lives.

Brian Williams and the rest of us can all do something about any dishonesty which may be in our lives:  Come clean about what has really happened, repent before the Lord, apologize to people, learn the lesson, and determine with God's help to be truthful from now on.

God is willing to forgive Brian, you, and me for our lies.  He can purify us, make us right, and put us on a new path of truthfulness.  Let's embrace that blessing, and live in honesty.

May you and I remember these words of Paul from Ephesians 4:25 - "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body."

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Stuck High Heel

I was standing in the funeral home with a family several weeks ago.  They were about to enter the chapel for a memorial service.  About a minute before they walked in, I noticed a lady leaning against a wall with a worried expression on her face.   Then I realized why.  Her high heel was stuck in the floor's air vent.  And she could not get it out.

After a few failed attempts at freedom she tugged a little harder on her shoe.  Then it happened.  She pulled the whole air vent out of the floor!  And her heel was still stuck in it.  One of the other ladies noticed this and she came to the rescue.  She grabbed the air vent and pulled the heel free.  Then she quickly put the air vent back into the floor before the family walked into the chapel.

To be honest, it was hilarious.  I tried not to laugh out loud.  But then our eyes met.  The liberated lady looked at me and giggled.  Then I had to laugh.  It was a funny moment.

There are times, however, when being stuck is not funny.

Some people are stuck in addiction.  Others are stuck in generational sin.  Then there are those who are stuck in grief and unending sadness.  Many are stuck in guilt and shame over their past sins.  There are people that are stuck in serious issues, and no matter how hard they try to be free, they just don't seem to get anywhere.

Here's one thing I've learned:  True freedom is found in Jesus Christ.  John 8:36 tells us, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."  That's awesome news!!

Free from addiction.  Free from generational sin.  Free from grief and unending sadness.  Free from guilt and shame.  Jesus is the champion of freedom!

If something has a hold on you and won't let go, call out to Jesus.  He can set you free.  And your life will never be the same.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Notes On Worrying

Do you worry from time to time?  Maybe you are worrying about something right now.  It could be over something like money, health, relationships, work, or some other big deal in your life. 
I've put together some notes on worrying for you and for me.  Quick little bullet statements.  Some of these notes are my own observations.  And some of these are quotes from other Christians.  
If you're worrying about something, take a few moments and give these ideas some consideration...
*  Not one time in my life has worrying ever fixed any of my problems.  Seriously, not one time!  And I can say with confidence that worrying won't fix any of yours.
*  Henry Ford once stated, "I believe God is managing affairs and that He doesn't need any advice from me.  With God in charge, I believe everything will work out for the best in the end.  So what is there to worry about?"
*  Philippians 4:6-7 (New Living Translation) tells us, "Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."
*  The website explains that "Chronic worrying affects your daily life so much that it interferes with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and job performance." 
*  Corrie Ten Boom offers this little golden nugget of wisdom:  "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow.  It empties today of its strength."
*  I've noticed that worry can make us pessimistic and unpleasant for others to be around.  Think about it.  Do you enjoy being around someone who worries excessively?
*  1 Peter 5:7 explains "Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you."
*  Joyce Meyer gives some great advice with this thought:  "When you begin to worry, go find something to do.  Get busy being a blessing to someone; do something fruitful.  Talking about your problem or sitting alone, thinking about it, does no good.  It only serves to make you miserable.  Above all else, remember that worrying is totally useless.  Worrying will not solve your problem."
*  It would be wise for us all to remember that God is bigger and stronger than any problem we face.  He can handle any dilemma that comes our way.  Knowing this should motivate us to cry out to Him in faith rather than to cower before our challenges in worry.
*  Benjamin Franklin once made this point:  "Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen."  That's a great reminder he offers.  Isn't it true that many of the things we worry and stress over don't actually come to fruition? 
*  Rick Warren reminds us where to put our focus when worry starts to creep into our hearts:  "The more you pray, the less you'll panic.  The more you worship, the less you worry.  You'll feel more patient and less pressured."  Amen to that!
*  When I begin to worry, I remind myself that the struggles of this life on Earth are temporary.  A bright future awaits us all in Christ Jesus.  And it's a future where there will be no tears, no sickness, no sadness, no death, and no problems.  Knowing what awaits in the future should help us all to worry less in the present.
*  In Matthew 6 (New Living Translation) Jesus says "I tell you no to worry about everyday life" (verse 25).  Later in that same chapter He says, "...don't worry" (verse 31).  Finally, in verse 34, Jesus reminds us, "...don't worry about tomorrow."  His repetition means we need to listen.  He is reminding us that when He is our Lord, we do not have to be dominated by worry.
There you go, my friend.  Those are some notes on worry.  I hope they serve as a little bit of an encouragement to you and yours.
Let's pray and trust God more.  Let's worry about our problems less.  And let's remember that the future is bright indeed for us in Christ Jesus The Lord. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My 30 Days Of Christian Radio

I didn't tell many people about it at all.  My wife and kids knew.  But that was about it.  During the month of January, 2015, I listened only to Christian contemporary music.  30 days, to be exact.  See, it was a challenge that a local Christian radio station issued.  So I figured, "Well, why not?"

Musically speaking, I've enjoyed many different kinds of music over the years.  And my iPod is proof.  Country, jazz, soft rock, Christian, and 80's tunes can be found in my collection of tunes.  So my point is I've typically listened to a little bit of this and a little bit a that.  Variety has been the name of the game for me.

But, I decided to take the 30 days and focus solely on Christian contemporary music whenever I turned on the radio.  This blog post is about how it went.  Here goes...

[1]  Christian contemporary music has gotten a lot better than it used to be.  Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I really tried to get into it.  But, in my opinion, some of it was just "cheesy", and it did not appeal to me.  And there didn't seem to be a lot of options when it came time to picking an artist to follow.  There was Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and not much else.  Now, as I fast forward to my recent 30 day challenge, I've realized there are a LOT of good, talented Christian artists out there.  And the quality of their music is very good.  I found myself enjoying much of what I was hearing on the radio.

[2]  It helped me keep my mind and heart focused on God throughout the day.  When I got in my car, turned on the radio, and heard some of these songs, I would ride along and just think about Him.  And many times I would ride along and sing out loud with the radio.  I found myself worshiping in song as I drove around Sumter.  The positive lyrics helped me keep my attention on things that matter the most.

I don't share this with you to be self-righteous and "holier than thou".  Some folks I've met along the way have acted like you're not a good Christian unless you ONLY listen to Christian contemporary music.  They think listening to any other style is sinful and wrong.  That was a turn off to me.  And I've never felt that way.  Listening to Christian music does not make you or me better than anyone, and it does not make God love you or me more than He loves anyone.

I don't want to be hypocritical either and act like that is the only kind of music I'll listen to from now on.  I'm sure at times that I will still listen to different styles of music and enjoy the stuff I have on my IPod.  Furthermore, I do think that is ok.     

But I will say this:  I've come to appreciate Christian radio much more after these 30 days.  Third Day, Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, Toby Mac, Mercy Me, Newsboys, Casting Crowns, and others sing songs that really speak to me.  And I appreciate what they're putting out there.  It's great stuff!  And even though my 30 days are over, I find myself still enjoying this music that is edifying to the soul and honoring to the Lord. 
So, that's my story.  It's kind of a neat journey.  And I'm enjoying the ride.
If you haven't listened to Christian radio lately, give it a try.  I think you may be pleasantly surprised.  And I bet you'll get a real blessing out of it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"The Cow Goes Oink" - By Jamie Greening

[ I am honored to have my friend Jamie Greening write this awesome blog post.  Jamie is an author and a minister.  I first met him in Birmingham, Alabama in 2005.  You can read his blog HERE.  You can see him on Twitter HERE.  And you can learn about his latest novel, which is fantastic, right HERE. ]

I may have broken a few rules on Sunday.
Indeed, I’m pretty sure I did.
Now that I no longer pastor a local church, I am free on Sunday mornings to do other more important, cooler things at church.  Without any doubt, the coolest of those is taking a Sunday to serve in the preschool department.  It was there, in the preschool, that I broke rules.
What rules did I break?
Well, I dumped all the toys out of the toy bin, put the kiddos inside the bin, then pushed them around the room really fast pretending to be bumper cars.  The children had a great time, and I got a good cardio workout.  However, I’m pretty sure that using the bins that way is against the rules, especially without a helmet, seat belt, or license to drive a toy bin.
I also kept arguing with the children, insisting that cows went “oink oink” and that ducks went “meow.”  I’m pretty sure that will be frowned upon by language experts and cognitive theory proponents.
The real question is, do I care if I broke the rules?  The answer to that is, of course, no.  I do not.  I was too busy playing and having a good time.
Preschool is where the action of church is.  Back in Port Orchard I used to regularly tell people that the most important thing they could do in the church was not to sing a song in worship, teach a lesson to adults, preach a sermon, say a prayer, serve on the finance team, or anything like that.  The most important thing a person can do in the church is to go play with the children.
The most important thing a church can do to impact eternity is for as many people as possible to play with children.  I am convinced that the seeds of discipleship and evangelism are planted with Legos and those old, broken phones that always end up in the preschool department.
Wouldn’t it be neat if that were a requirement for being a deacon, a worship leader, a small group leader, serving on an administrative ministry or any other job in the church, that you spent time with children in the preschool department?  
There are three great sins that churches often commit in its preschool ministry.

• They let all the responsibility for it fall to young mothers.  
• They excuse older members from serving.
• They treat it as a ‘paid staffing’ issue.

Certainly young mothers are vital to a church's health, but they should rarely work in preschool environments because they are the ones needing relief.  People in their upper 30s and on should be back there because they’ve heard all the sermons and lessons already.  Older members should serve because their experience is vital, but more than that, how can a church be an intergenerational reflection of the Kingdom of God if it segregates the generations away from each other?  If a person is worried about the fragility of older people, partner them with an older youth or let them serve as ‘accountability’ people because let’s face it, we never have enough eyeballs watching our children.  Paid staff is a great supplement for organization, quality control, and to make certain abusive, dangerous, and violent people are not allowed around the children, but there is no substitute for the presence of church people building relationships with children.
A church can shout up and down all it wants that it loves children and that it cares about the next generation, but it is all a lie until they prove it by making animal noises in the preschool.