Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter thoughts

Three services for the first time ever at this Eastview campus. Everything went great. Could we do this every Sunday? Yesterday seems to indicate "yes".

New tradition at my house for Easter: Me, Sara, the boys and Abby (mikey's girlfriend) enjoyed take out Chinese for lunch (Great Wall of course!). Actually read an article on how the Chinese church is restricted on Easter there was kind of a tie-in...and I love almond chicken.

Love to see the kids with all of their good clothes...brings back good memories of the specialness of the day.

When I was a kid, we used to go to sunrise services (literally - sunrise, usually outdoors) then we'd come into the church fellowship hall for biscuits and gravy before Sunday School. Yesterday the tech team was in before sunrise to make it all happen...and they served them biscuits and gravy in the video room. Sunrise service = biscuits and gravy.

One of the first people I saw yesterday when I came into our first service was Gary and Janet York. They were sitting in the back so Janet could help with baptisms. I love them and thanked God for the foundation of leadership and ministry they built in 32 years here.

Nicki Green, our petite pastor of involvement came off of her feet yesterday in one of the baptisms she performed. Her feet actually came off the ground. I would have paid money to see her flip into the baptistery. That would have gone viral on You Tube!
When you baptized dozens of people at a time, the baptistery area is soaked...and no one seems to mind. There is a joy back stage that is palpable as the Spirit moves in each and every heart towards new birth. I could be a pastor for 1,000 and I'll never get tired of seeing a face break through the water in spiritual resurrection!

Whenever I go to a Spanish speaking country, I always think that Spanish speaking people talk so fast..but yesterday one of our members who translates my sermon for some spanish speaking people in our church said she couldn't keep up with me :-)

People asked if I was especially tired after yesterday with three services. Not really, I just preached another sermon. The real heroes are the staff at Eastview and all of the volunteers they recruit and lead. Literally thousands of people gave sacrificially to serve yesterday.

Hundreds of people parked at the high school yesterday making room for our visitors. So blessed by everyone making that extra effort.

Is is any wonder that Easter is so "Spirit-filled" each year? We spent an entire week praying around the clock for it to be so. What is happening at Eastview? Why is God moving so powerfully? One word: Prayer!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Palm Sunday by name

Well, the excitement is building around here for Easter Sunday! After getting back from a planning retreat Saturday evening; i hit the ministry ground runnning. Here are some of the people I encountered yesterday by name: Gary - our worship intern led worship and did a great job Carlos - a 22 year old I met after second service, he is new to town and speaks broken English, but he was happy to be here and will return. Ethan - A little boy surrounded by parents, family and friends as we dedicated him to the Lord after second hour. Ashwin and Rekha - A couple I baptized yesterday evening at 5:30 as people packed in for our missions banquet and FUEL Pastor Manno - Our good brother and partner in ministry in Haiti. His presence blessed me. His prayers are more inspirational than my sermons. Barton - A good brother who has gone through the elder nomination process. Blessed by his heart for Eastview. Steve and Jenny - Small group leaders who hosted Sara and I last evening for a great time with their group. It is so cool to be with small groups who are functioning as family and growing in the faith. Mikey - In between meetings yesterday, I hit the couch for a nap, interupted by my oldest son Mikey. We had a good conversation - love him - he's one of my three favorite people in the world! Others - countless others I prayed with, talked to, hugged and saw yesterday whose names escape me now. I thank God for all these names because they are the people I have come to love.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

XLB version

One of the things I did with our executive leadership team was to spend 15 minutes in our devotion yesterday giving each leader a couple of pieces of paper and a pen and had then write down as many Bible Scriptures from memory as possible (again in 15 minutes). After the fifteen minutes, I put the sheets together and made copies for everyone. My instruction was that this would be our Bible for the week. We came up with 104 different Scriptures from a wide variety of books. the idea was are we living out Psalm 119:11 - "your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against God"? Really cool exercise. If all we had was the Scripture we have committed to memory - how big would our Bible be? For us, this week, it's about 8 pages front and back. Really cool exercise. Give it a try. How many Scriptures can you come up with from memory? What does that mean? What verses have you committed to memory? Why?

Monday, April 11, 2011

mountains of east tennessee

Well, yesterday after second hour, the executive leadership team headed for knoxville TN for our annual planning meeting. This is a really crucial part of our year where we evaluate how God is working in our congregation and where we try and listen to the Holy Spirit leading for our future. Typically we head to a city where we can visit other churches and other church leaders, but this year we opted for the Smoky Mountains and have found ourselves in a mountain cabin with a spectacular view of God's handiwork. It has been marvelous planning out on the deck as the wind of the mountain blew along with the Spirit's breeze in our souls. I can only say that our prayer time alone was simply inspirational to me. I was moved deeply as my fellow laborers poured out their hearts for our church and for our people. This is preacher nirvana...thank you God for all you're doing. So, pray for our time up here. There are many cool mountain happenings in the Bible...Moses and the burning bush, Elijah listening for the voice of God, Peter/James/and John seeing Jesus in his glory, Elijah defeating the prophets of Baal, Noah's ark rested on a mountain, Jesus' sermon on the mountain, etc... Hopefully, this week the Smoky Mountains will be that holy place for us.

Monday, April 4, 2011

add to your exercises

It hit me the other day when I was in the gym. In between one set of lifting, I stopped and looked at the charts on the walls that illustrated all the things you could do with the machines and weights that were there. Honestly, I usually stick to about six exercises that I repeat three times a week, but if I wanted to really get stronger, I would add exercises to work different muscles in different ways. The spiritual life is very similar. Most of us understand that prayer and Bible study/reading are important - they are like the push ups and sit ups for training your soul. They are very effective, but there are more exercises. Sometimes these are called "spiritual disciplines" but the idea is the same - exercise your soul in a different way this week by trying these new workouts: 1. Fasting - go without food for a meal or a day in order to pray and to show God that you do not live on bread alone. 2. Lasting - make sure you take the last place in every setting for one week. Let others go ahead of you at the door, in the store checkout, in traffic. Jesus said the last will be humility in this simple way. 3. Silence - Turn off all of your gadgets, computers, cell phones, etc... and find a quiet place. Simply invite God into your presence and sit there. The Psalmist says, "be still and know that I am God" 4. Memorization - Put one verse of Scripture to memory this week. Pick a verse or two and write it on a it every chance you get. Commit this to memory. The Psalmist also says, "Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against God." 5. Solitude - This goes well with silence. Find a place to get away from it all. Maybe even just a park on your lunch break. Avoid people and try to notice God....just be aware of his presence. 6. Sing - If you're old school, find a hymn book and sing some of your favorites. You can also pop in your favorite worship c.d. or download from the web and sing praises and prayers to God. Your only musical worship doesn't have to be on Sundays at church. 7. Secretly give - bless someone you know with an anonymous gift. The anonymity makes it rewarding because you know you are doing it not for the praise for thanks, but simply as a gift to God. God will see you act and reward you in His way (see Matthew 7). Well, there you have it. Try one or several of these spiritual exercises this week. Go ahead, feel the burn. And grow some spiritual muscle.