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The information herein is copyright to Rev. John Franklin, and may be used only by permission. Contact: revfranklin@me.com

Monday, December 27, 2010

What I'm Thinking about in the After-Days of Christmas

"...that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" 

(Paul via Ephesians/NASB)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What this Pastor's house sounds like tonight...

Jordan wanted to do a little recording tonight, so we fired up GarageBand and set out on some of our favorite songs.  If you've ever wondered what our house sounds like at just such a time... here it is... far less than perfect, way more than a little bit of love, just enough craziness to make me smile and laugh while I'm led through princess moments and pirate dreams!

Who knew that this would be the great adventure?!

video

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Honeycomb and Memories...

Tonight, the kids didn't eat all of their cornbread that Penny made to go with the perfect cold-weather soup; so in true Daddy fashion, doing my part to clean up after dinner, I broke out some of the honeycomb a dear friend of our family had sent over, and cut out just the right amount to cover up the bottom half of that piece of cornbread.

The funniest thing happened right about the time I started thinkin' about the perfect culinary delight of nature that was about to hit my taste buds.  All of a sudden, my mind took me back to Arkansas where my Great Uncle Raymond, the Assemblies of God preacher who kept bees and would give my granddad honey with the comb, used to live.  I could feel the old seat of my granddad's pick-up; I felt a hug from my Uncle Raymond, that six-foot somethin' lanky old circuit rider, and rode horse-back between my other Great Uncle and my Granddad through the Ozark mountains.  I could feel the tug of overalls, feel the fit of my hat, and hear the tall tales of mosquitoes that used to carry off un-warry riders in the hills.  I could feel the warmth of folks who valued bein' heard by a young boy who loved them, and could see, like yesterday through thin fog, the old family guns, guitars, mandolins and fiddles they used to show me how to use.

Ain't it somethin'... all in a bite of honeycomb.  I hated to see it end.

What a trail it is that we ride in this life!  Why in the world would something so simple bring back something so rich?

I don't know, exactly... but I sure am glad I got to go there tonight!

Thank you, Peggy, for the honeycomb!  I've missed those ol' boys for quite a while.

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Ridin' the Chimney Trail... just a taste

video

from the 2010 album, Christmas from the Trail I Ride, by John Franklin
for CD's, contact revfranklin@me.com

The Main Thing

Charlie Brown is trimming a broken down little tree.

Our Elf on the Shelf is moving all over the house, it seems.

I'm laughing my head off at favorite Christmas movies like "Elf" and "The Grinch."

Do we really have THAT MANY parties to go to, this year?  Outstanding!

We're running out of hiding places for presents.

And finally, the wind keeps knocking down that one difficult piece of evergreen on the porch... hello again, ladder!

It's so easy to get locked into the busy buzz of the holiday grind, and find ourselves in the frustration of Christmas, instead of in it's joy.

JeeP is at the office with me this morning.  Penny is making a hospital visit, and the sermon for Sunday is going to be cool, but has some facets which are clogging my brain... thus, the brain pause to write this blog.

Do you know what I love about all the things I listed above?

They all point me to Jesus if I'll just stop and let them.

In an age that tries to extract Jesus from His own birthday, He is still simply there... simply here... simply born, lived, died, and alive again to save us.

While Buzz Lightyear has joined the safety brigade of our manger scene, the manger still holds only Jesus.

While the lights on the tree were out and had to be restrung, the lights still point only to Jesus.

While the commercialism of Christmas might make our heads spin and want to pop, that precious little gift will help me explain... you guessed it... JESUS to my little girl and boy.

This year, I want to dive in to all of it more than ever.  I want to swim in a sea of Christmas candy (even though my diet won't let me eat all of it), wondering in child-like awe at the clanging bells of Santa's sleigh... and to stop long enough along the way to look at what, or Whom, each part of this massive pageant of propaganda and presents points to... the one place it can really point to... the whole reason it all exists, Immanuel.

Finding the "main thing."  Sometimes we really do miss the forest for the trees, don't we?

It would be silly to chop down the trees, hoping to find a forest in the end.  Instead, how about we just pause ever-so-often and look at the big picture as it paints a mind-blowing portrait of God With Us... JESUS!

May your Christmas be hilarious, fun, and full of hope... after all, forgiveness is a truly amazing gift!

In the Peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"This Christmas Time of Year"


video
from the 2010 album, Christmas from the Trail I Ride, by John Franklin
for CD's, contact revfranklin@me.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lightyear - Magi Feud Continues... Shepherd Peace Accords Continue In Tact

In the wake of yesterday's misunderstandings concerning reportedly "strange gifts and boxes" carried by three magi approaching the Nativity on our piano, hostilities enflamed again today between Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear and the Magi.

In an "I just got home and had to take a picture of this" report, Pastor John reported that the Magi continue to lose horribly by anyone's estimation.

"I don't know how long these Magi can hang in there," reported the pastor-daddy, "I keep setting them up and bringing the parties to the peace table, but something they're doing is really setting him (Buzz) off!"

In today's peace-talks, the Magi have reportedly agreed to open their gifts BEFORE entering the Nativity corral, and Space Ranger Lightyear has agreed not to knock them down before they even get close enough to at least see the Christ child.

"We have high hopes for these peace-talks," said a Magi representative.  "We see how well things are going for the shepherds, and we would very much like to enjoy that ourselves."

Lightyear Protects Infant Jesus from Marauding Ne'er-do-wells

Last night, sometime between church and bedtime, there appears to have been a grave misunderstanding outside of the corral housing the Nativity on our piano.

Post bedtime accounts found Buzz Lightyear beside the baby Jesus, surrounded by fallen wise men, a camel, a donkey, and shepherds who were apparently thought to be threatening the safety and well-being of the baby.

All parties were quickly revived and brought back to focus upon the central object of the Nativity after Lightyear examined what appeared to be "suspicious boxes" and "gifts" to verify their contents.  The Space Ranger has issued an official apology, and promises to continue guarding the Nativity "to infinity and beyond."  However, when told that the display was slated for storage after the holidays, he amended his plans to coincide with the proposed schedule.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Upon the Event of Thanksgiving...

I am convicted, even un-done, that I have so little to give to the God Who saves me.

What could I do that might rise as incense before His throne?

What could I say that might please His ears and set His heart to smile?

What might I make with my hands that He might find recompense for His own blood?

In my poverty, I have but to give until all has been given, to the full measure of devotion and beyond if such might be His divine permissions in the life that is to come.

In His Light, I have found my depravity; in His peace, I have found still waters; in His grace, I have found the pathway to Life.

Modern swells of pride and ingenuity find no fellowship with my soul and empty my cup, but the ancient movement to share in the fellowship of His sufferings in the spreading of His Gospel; to this my soul is drawn beyond explanation except that I can ride no other trail in the light of His fellowship.

I shall never fulfill to live so long as to repay His grace; and such is an unreachable goal.  But to serve, and in serving, to somehow make Him smile Who has purchased me from depravity and death, Who has stayed me despite my failings; this my path, my lot, my happy sacrifice to Him shall be if God in His providence and kindness might grant it so to be.

For Christ!  For His Kingdom!  For His Glory!

Pastor John

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Trail I Ride...




Oh, that I might live as a holy sacrifice to my God... that my life might breathe His vision... that the trail I ride might be His wake... that my legacy might be bereft of me and full of Him!


For Christ!  For His Kingdom!  For His Glory!

That somehow, in His grace, I might please Him in my sacrifice!

Pastor John

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Good Stuff

Over the past weekend, Penny got a burr under her saddle to decorate the house for Christmas.  Of course, she was spot-on about it being the best and most opportune time to do so, given our pastoral holiday schedule, a.k.a. relative insanity for a month or so.  Thus, in light of the wisdom presented, I settled in for the soon-to-come whirl and wush of activity clothed in evergreen.

Fun was found in every opened box, every tug of evergreen, and every lighting of the tree.  Before long, our home was draped in the beauty of Christmas as only Penny can do, and I began to feel the welcomed warmth of our home during one of my favorite holidays.  I rearranged a little furniture and hung the green on the front of the house, retiring then to the kitchen to join my bride for a quiet conversation of pleasurable review in light of the transformation and the hanging of the mistletoe.

For some reason, Penny walked back into the living room for a moment, and came back reporting a version of peace we had not all-together expected.  I walked in after the report, and found JeeP sitting in the newly placed rocking chair, joyfully within the glow of the lighted tree, reading a favorite Christmas book with an awesome, contented look glowing from his face.

"The good stuff" whirls around us all the time, doesn't it.

James, writing to Christians under unthinkable persecutions, tells them that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with Whom there is no variation or shifting shadow"(nasb/esv).

Can you imagine any group in our history who could claim a relatively total lack of "good" things in their lives more than the early Christians?!  Yet, James reminds them, encouraging them in their endurance for Christ, that God is pouring out good and perfect gifts upon them from Heaven!

We are in the midst of one of the most difficult economies in generations.

A once "Christian Culture" has shifted to a "Politically Correct" existence... attacking those who might dare stand upon the Truth of the Scriptures with venomous name-calling and vicious outbursts meant to sideline Truth in lieu of anti-Christian ideals.

And yet, we are still yet to scratch the surface of the persecution of our early Christian fathers.

For me, this past weekend, "the good stuff" was playing in the living room, reading in the rocking chair, and re-arranging carefully placed decorations as the lights of Christmas danced in their eyes.

It would have been easy to miss.

It came and went all too quickly.

I don't want to miss even one of them.

Oh, how beautiful the gifts of our Heavenly Father Who loves us!  How magnificent His kindness!  How warm the aspect of His attention!  With Him, indeed, there is no change, no variance, no turning.  In His grace He pours out His love, and as the troubles of this world simply come and go, the love of God goes on forever!

Oh, that my life might be to Him a song of praise, a psalm of thanksgiving, and a novel of adoration!

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Road Goes on Forever

Last week, about Wednesday, all roads began to lead to Loranger, Louisiana, the site of Weekend 31 - 2010; the signature women's retreat from our Women's Pastor and my bride, Penny Franklin.

I can still feel the hum of the road in my tail-bone, and a little of the soreness in my muscles from a week of long driving, heavy lifting, and long days of work.  I served as half of the tech/media/stage crew, and senior pastor.  It was a great week!

We got back to New Orleans Saturday evening, and by about 7:15, the sound and media equipment was unloaded and back in place, and our professional team gathered at the back of our worship center.  Exuding from the tired eyes of all involved were a couple of distinct emotions... specifically peace and happiness.  Oddly enough, such have been the hallmarks of these experiences along the trail of ministry we have ridden and continue to ride today.

One of mine and Penny's long time favorite songs is the old Robert Earl Keen song, "The Road Goes on Forever" and at times like these, as we went home, took a short break and then began prepping for Sunday services, its words became appropriate all over again.

How many times have we looked at each other as one of us said, "the road goes on forever" and the other responded "and the party never ends"?  It's usually tired, happy, joyful and hopeful all at the same time.

Tonight, after just enough rest to mount back up and get back in the saddle, I'm tired and sore... but dad-gum if I'm not eight kinds of happy.  I just got home from mentoring a great young minister out at the seminary, had a brief moment with my bride as our children climbed all over me and vied for my attention, transforming their pastor-father into a human jungle gym, and we had three conversations all at once... it's good to be loved!  I walked Penny out as she left to lead the evening Women's Bible Study, kissed her goodbye, and started singing our song in my head... "the road goes on forever and the party never ends."

A good tired is just that... good.

It's good to work after the right things in life.

It's good to serve the One True God.

It's good to love and be loved by my family.

It's good to do it all together and crash into the bed knowing that we've run a good race, even as we look on down the trail and know that it's going to rev back up tomorrow.

It's good to run and run again, and to see the hand of God at work all around us as we do.

There are so many things to be about in this life... for me, I'm glad to get to run as a team... and so thankful to live in the blessing of serving the God Who died and rose again to save us!

May His peace overwhelm you, even as it has overwhelmed us!

Hoo-ah!

Pastor John

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Some Thoughts on Freedom

This morning's sermon on freedom encapsulates the continuum from temporal freedom to eternal freedom.  Check it out @ http://www.journeyneworleans.com/sermons.asp.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Roar of the Engines

This morning, we've hit the ground running in one of our favorite races.

Penny & I fell in love ministering together over ten years ago, and we've continued to do so throughout our marriage.  Today, we're in the home stretch toward her next "Weekend 31" retreat for ladies.

There are sound systems, lights, media systems, staging, promotionals, instruments, and more waiting for me as I get to hear the engines start to roar on this machine of ministry God has built in our marriage.  Already, lives have been changed toward the path of Christ even in the stages of preparation, and I can't wait to see what God is going to do in and through this woman who marched up and into my life more than a decade ago.

Purpose...

Drive...

Effect.

So often these haunt our minds like so much dust on the windshield of living.

Today, the finish line is clear, and all rivers flow to that end.

It's good to run!

For Christ!  For His Glory!  For His Kingdom!

Pastor John

Monday, November 8, 2010

Just Some Things that Stir My Soul

Yesterday, I finalized this year's All Saint's Day series "Song of the Martyrs," with a sermon titled "Count It All Joy."

It was sobering to realize afresh the context into which James was writing, the purpose for which he admonished the Jewish Christians to seek wisdom from God, and the price our fore-fathers in the faith were not only willing, but ready to pay as they proved out their faith.

Today, I want to share that sermon with you even as its contents continue to stir my soul.  If you have the time, listen in, and consider the ranks of men and women who have lived much stronger lives than we.

May we rise to the level of their sacrifice!

Here's the link:

Song of the Martyrs, Part II - by Pastor John
(It begins with some pastor moments on Biblical stewardship and picks up the sermon about ten minutes in.)



A Birds-Eye Blog-View

Just for fun, here's a conglomeration of the last year and a half of blogging life that Penny showed me how to do.  Enjoy!


Wordle: www.arevsblog.blogspot.com

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rest vs. Work - The Debate, The Design, The Solution

Recently I was interviewed by a seminary student I am honored to be mentoring.  The subject of the interview was ensuring rest in the life of a minister.

The questions were well thought out, and this particular subject being the crux of many a current book, it was a fresh discussion.

Toward the end of the interview, the young man asked me one of his final questions, "How would you suggest that a minister ensures he gets enough rest?"  It didn't take me long to answer, and I think it caught him a little off guard.

"Work your butt off for six days, and on the seventh day, you won't struggle to rest at all.  It's the Texas ranch-hand philosophy, all day doing ranch-work, and sleepin' is easy!"

Work-life balance... there's another word for that, "hogwash!"  Sometimes we protect our days off so much that people should just die on their own time.  For me, my official workdays are Sunday through Thursday, and typically I pull work through the cracks of the weekend as it's needed.  Oddly enough, it works right out to be God's 6:1 ratio for work vs. rest.  Here's an idea I think would bless the lives of both pastors and our churches, "Work together, live in peace."  Of course I'm going to hunt and fish with my children, but I can't go lazy toward my work in the process.  Perhaps we should consider that laziness breeds lethargy, and that God expects His servants to serve at His plow.

I want to rest because I've worked my tail off at the things of God all week.  I want to fall into the arms of my wife and know that I did all that could be done to bring in God's herd.  I want to be so stinkin' tired from good, strong work, that my children can use my belly like a trampoline and I can still take a nap!

God's program is simple.  God's design is strong.  Man's laziness is vomitous.

Pastors of the world, work hard today; we have been called to a great and mighty service of the Almighty God!  Rest well when you have run your six days, and may our children's children know that we have served the Lord!

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Light in the Darkness

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven."  Matt. 5:16 (nasb)

This weekend, Penny and I accompanied Buzz Lightyear and Repunzel (aka, JeeP & Jordan) in a tour d' force of pumpkin carving, trunk-or-treat candy gathering, and tonight, you guessed it, the grande finale' of neighborhood trick or treating will top off the experience.

Last night, as we waited in line for cotton candy, JeeP asked me why some people were dressed in less than happy attire.  We talked for a bit, and it gave me the opportunity to begin explaining to my son that we are a people who celebrate life... the life that Jesus gives us.

It's surprising how quickly JeeP picked up on the difference.  It didn't seem difficult for him at all.  He ended the conversation with a simple and very understanding "hmm" and that was the end of it.

Sometimes as Christians, we run from the darkness like so many scared chickens; other times we dive into it like so much watered-down Christianity, and it doesn't seem like we are very proficient at simply being "light in the darkness."

What if we refused to celebrate death and darkness, but also refused to hide inside our homes until it's all over?  What if we refused to act like so many nightmares on our street, but went out into the world unashamed and without hiding our identity as Christians... 'children of the Light' (Ephesians 5:8)?

What if we took Jesus into the darkness?  What if we publicly celebrated life, and light, and freedom, and actually told our children the 'why' behind the 'what' when they asked us?

Tonight that's what we'll be doing.

Put away the blood, and the bones, and the scary stuff people... we are the children of God.  Now let's get out there into a world of darkness and act like it!

I'll see you along the trick or treat trail!

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Down by the River

Have you ever considered that the best pathway in life might not be the one of your own creation?

Have you stopped to wonder how in the world you got "here", when you started off heading "there"; but realizing somehow that "here" is better than "there" could have ever been?

Several months ago, Penny and I were leading devotionals on the banks of the Mississippi River for a mission team that was in town.  I led the guys, and she led the girls.  I took the fellas up to the big canon that overlooks the river bank across from St. Louis Cathedral down in the square.  We gathered 'round, took some examples and lessons from the Bible I carry in my saddle bags, and then went on down to the river's edge.  The girls weren't quite finished, so JeeP and I went for a walk up the bank to find Mommy.  About that time, Penny finished up and one of the teenagers snapped a photo of me and JeeP as we walked.

There are some basic realities about that night, and the picture kind of tells the tale.

First, the pier would have been a dangerous place for JeeP without me there.  I mean, we all know he's tough as a Texas boot... but.

Second, JeeP would have been completely lost and found himself legitimately scared if he didn't stay with Daddy.

and

Third, JeeP didn't really understand where we were, where we were going, or why we were doing any of it... and he didn't have to in order to safely be there, get there, and enjoy the process.

When we were up around the giant canon, JeeP entertained the fellas by climbing up my back and onto the canon platform, and then sliding down the slanted granite into my arm as I reached out to catch him while I taught the devotional (multi-tasking preacher/daddy stuff).  Some of the guys said something about it later... I think they learned more from watching him than from listening to me - go figure.  His eyes lit up at every turn of the evening like so much revelation and Walt Disney wonderment had just come upon him.

He often asked what we were doing, where we were going, and why; but in truth, my answers simply served to help him follow me down the trail.  He still needed to hold my hand as we walked.

JeeP came with me.

It was simple.  He was safe.  My strength created his bubble of security.

Today as I saw that picture, I thought of my own walk with God.  The dark places in life down by the river are scary, even though they are exhilarating when I'm on task with God.  Even in my uneasiness, I feel illogically safe.  My own humanness struggles against the Holy Spirit within me as I earnestly want to know the how, why, and where of our journey.

In the end, God always provides, protects, and succeeds.  I don't know how, and it remains difficult to simply keep walking, but He has proven His faithfulness too many times for me to stop following along with Him.

Somehow the dark, scary places become places of peace and even fun... places where I can climb on canon and slide down the granite just because He brought me there.

King David of Israel, in the 23rd Psalm, said it this way:
"Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I fear no evil for Thou art with me.  Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows."

The Valley of the Shadow of Death isn't that cheery of a place... unless God is there and I'm with Him.

It makes all the difference in the world that I'm following even as I learn and lead.

It's kind of like a walk I took once with my son down by the river.

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The View from the Road

In my life, I have found great treasures by pausing to notice what is around me.  Every once in a while, looking up from the book I'm studying, the text being translated, the instrument being played, and wondering what's there, who's here, and what within that context that might be the beauty waiting to be noticed.

The concept of experiential learning has long captured me, and although I believe the road of life is best lived with the end in mind (so that we don't just go in circles), I've noticed that the art of appreciating the beauty along the way is so very easily abandoned.

The other day, I was coming back from Texas where I had made a quick trip to preach a funeral, when I glanced to the right and noticed beauty.  Somehow, 'round about the Whiskey Bay Pilot Chanel, there was this amazing river that cut through the swamps.  I drove atop the Atchafalaya Swamp bridge like I have so many times, wondering just how long it was going to take me to cross over today, and was suddenly reminded of how amazing the view around me was from the road.

I held out my phone and snapped a few pictures of the next great scene I saw... not as striking, but it would not have been safe to slam on the breaks just to get the shot.

In this life, the road is not the destination; but the experience happens along the pathway, and the beauty of that passage is so very easy to miss.

Sometimes joy is in the view from the Road.

In the peace of Christ... on the road,

Pastor John

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Call of a Child

This morning, I was treated to the unexpected delight of hearing my daughter read from the Bible.  As a first grader, she is required to read so many minutes per day, and this morning's selection was from I Samuel, chapter 3... God's call to the boy-to-become-prophet, Samuel.

As I drank my morning coffee and listened to the voice of my daughter, I was taken back to my own childhood, when that very same passage jumped off of the page to me, aiding in God's call on my own life toward ministry and the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Memories of time with the Lord by flashlight, waking all too early to pray, and read, and listen for the voice of God as I struggled to stay awake, flooded back through my heart and mind as the smell of freshly brewed coffee danced through my nostrils and my daughter led me unknowingly into the ethers of the past.

I listened as she read, "And word from the LORD was rare in those days; visions were infrequent." (v.1*) and I noticed as the she said aloud, "and the lamp of God had not yet gone out" (v.2*) as I wondered at the state of the Gospel in this all-too-modern and self-enlightened age.

I wondered if I had remained long enough in the shadow of the presence of God, as Samuel was doing... and of course, I feared that I have not.  I wondered if the lamp of the Gospel was ablaze or dimmed today.  I wondered what movement of God my children might see in their life-times, or if the voice of Heaven has had enough of our self-defining generations.

My course was set so many years ago beside the ark of the New Covenant of God, the Cross of Christ.  Though all has changed around me in so many ways, and so many times, the word of the LORD remains forever and unchanged.

The ups and downs of the life of Samuel the Prophet are recorded for history to remember and for generations to recall... what then shall be the call of God upon my children?  To love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, as Mark so aptly records is to all of us the first and greatest commandment (Mark 12:29-30), and such is the life we are called to live... oh, that my life would render the Word of the LORD to my children, and to their children's children to the thousandth generation.  Oh that the LORD might be to them as He is and has been to their father, and even more-so, that they might know the beauty of His holiness, and the unparalleled joy of His service.  On these simple things hang my life and my hopes for them.  On these, in the end, have I set my course at His call.

Perhaps in days and years to come, Jordan will remember what she read this morning, and the voice of the LORD might call to her as to Samuel, even as He did to her father these many years past.

Perhaps she will find even deeper joy in His service than I have known.  Maybe generations will breed contentment expounded in the presence of the Almighty God.

In the Peace of Christ and for His Service,

Pastor John

*NASB

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nice...

A day off littered with work turns aside...

JeeP reminds me that it's play time and says, "Picture me!"

The camera phone goes to work as the camera instead of the phone.

We take a picture together and all that's so incredibly important is focused in the eye of the lens.

I take a moment to write a little story about Daddy and JeeP and then it's time to make lemonade.

It's good to be loved!

John

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Little Sweat in the Bucket of Eternity

Today I passed out my half of 500 door hangers for our church.

I met up with a friend and church member, hung a new banner outside to advertise our weekend full-o-fun (rummage sale/block party/worship service/Saints game and Potluck lunch), and learned just how hot the New Orleans Fall can get when you're stretching your legs past 250 doors (my half).

We met several folks along the way... most of them glad to meet us... gave the neighborhood dogs something to bark at, and blanketed our little community with fliers that help them stay "in the know."

What good does it do?  Well, one elderly lady responded by saying, "Oh, dat's nice, thank you!" (I love getting responses from the elderly... they are typically the boiled down response pattern of the entire culture around you) but the simple answer is that I'm not sure what the final effect will be.  I do know, however, that if you show someone the cross enough times, they are bound to eventually ask why you keep showing it to them.  I am convinced that if you invite someone to receive kindness enough times, they are bound to eventually wonder why you would care.  I am persuaded that if you sweat into the bucket of investment enough times by walking from the church office to the door of someone's home, they might just wonder if they shouldn't see what Jesus might have to offer them... and that's why we do it, isn't it?

Today, we put a few drops of sweat into the investment bucket of eternity.  I wonder how the investment will return.

It's simple, it's clear, it's the Gospel going out... and that's what we were sent to do.

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Gateway...

What is the gateway of entrance into Christianity, the church, the legit title of Christian?

Is there even such a thing as a gateway, or is that just some American myth?

Can I be a part of the church and also be a Buddhist, an Atheist, a Hindu practitioner?

Shouldn't the church embrace everyone, no-matter what they believe?  Isn't that what Jesus did?!

We live in a culture today where people love to use that last one with little regard for what Jesus actually did.  Jesus' words seem to get popped out of context like popcorn from the popper, each kernel somehow presented as independent of the others.  Jesus is somehow presented as One who never walked through time, as His words are wrapped into the convenient pre-texts of preachers, teachers, and generations who might much rather redefine and package the Biblical Jesus in pleasing tones rather than embrace and follow Him in Biblical obedience.  A generation shouts that it has to feel right to be right, and forgets that's just not in the Bible... that's just simply not Christianity.  So how in the world are we supposed to figure out what really happened?!

Several years ago, I stumbled on an all-too-simple answer to that question.  ACTUALLY READ THE BIBLE.

I was raised in a time when the brand of Christianity you wore meant a lot more than it seems to today.  My brand was very conservative, and it shot me out of the gun and into manhood as a man who just wanted to follow what the Bible says.  But today seems not so simple.

Is the Body of Christ (remember that's what the Apostle Paul called the church) made up of anyone who wonders through the door and looks like they might stay for two Sundays?  Is it made up of everyone who is at least thinking about loving this man, Jesus?  Is it made up of folks who are "on their own personal journey" no-matter if that journey has taken them to the cross, to confession, repentance, and actually serving Jesus with their lives yet or not?

These are at least a few of the great movements which seem to be selling books these days, but as I read the Bible, I have to encounter the simple answer to each of these which is, "no."

That seems kind of harsh, I realize, but over the years I've found that most people would prefer straight answers to questions which effect their eternal soul.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm one of the original "throw the doors open" guys.  I want every kind of person to come into contact with the church and around the church... around the Body of Jesus Christ; but when does someone go from being with, or around, to being a part of that body?

Over years of pastoring and reaching out specifically to non-Christians who often want an answer to just such a question, I've discovered three foundational components in the Bible which are always present in one way or another at the point of a person's being "SAVED"... and that is the point at which the church has both Biblically and historically embraced new people as a part of it, rather than a satellite around it.

First, admit the Truth about God:
that Jesus Christ is the only Son of the One True God, that He died to pay the price for our sins, and rose again on the third day. (Romans 10:9-11)

Second, admit my personal sin to God seeking His forgiveness:
"If we confess/admit our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9, ref.*)

Third, quit doing life my way and serve Jesus Christ (you may have heard it called, Repentance):
"come, follow me" were three of Jesus' consistent words of leadership to potential new followers.  Luke 9:23

On these three hinge-pins rests the gate of eternity... for they are the points of embrace at which a man, woman, or child can freely engage the grace of Jesus' cross and the power of His resurrection.  It is at this turning point, that we have come to God, God's way.  We have laid down our own efforts to throw ourselves completely at His mercy and grace.  It is at this point that we are no longer our own, but belong to the body of Christ, His church.

How can a person "join" the church?  Simply put, come to Jesus on His terms; follow Him together with others who have done the same in a local gathering of believers.

Should someone still go to church if they're not willing to come to Jesus on His terms?  Absolutely!  He's the only way to eternal life.  If you're just not willing to give your life to Him now, at least stick around His church and give yourself the best chance possible of understanding and embracing the God who would save you!

Is there a gateway... yes.  Jesus said it this way, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and go in and out and find pasture." (John 10:9, ref.*)

After following Jesus for some 34 years, I can simply tell you that the "pasture-land" is worth far more than the cost of admission!

May you embrace His grace and find His peace!

Pastor John


*ref.: NASB

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It Ain't 'Mojo'!

Early this morning, I opened the church building for prayer.

I've been doing this since shortly after coming into the pastorate here, and come rain or shine, I think we've only missed one Thursday.

In a day of debate over church buildings vs. abandoning church buildings, there is something innately right about using the building we have to offer a place of prayer and meditation at least once a week beyond Sunday mornings.  Today illustrated the why.

A little bit after everyone else had left from the normal 6 AM to 7 AM prayer hour, I heard the outside church door open from my office.  After a moment or two, I stepped out into the worship center to see who had come in, and discovered a man who had come quietly into that room.  We talked for a moment, and I found that he had simply come to seek God and pray in the place of worship for our church.

While I know that there is no 'magic mojo' in the beams and rafters, there is something to seeking God individually in the place where the body of Christ has just been gathered to worship God corporately.  We mark the encounters in our relationship with God in various ways, not the least of which is by location.  Even as the children of Israel used to build monuments and altars to God along the pathway of His provision, so should stand the building of the church, the altar of prayer, and the banners of faith along the pathway of His grace and provision in our modern lives.  The pulpit, the lectern, or the music stand, as each church 'seasons to taste,' calls to memory the proclamation of that grace and direction of Christ.  The table of Christian communion calls to memory the sacrifice of Christ just celebrated.  The cross illuminated calls to remembrance the mission of Christ for our lives today.

To me, these are occurrences which merit a little less sleep for the pastor... one hour less rest for leaders...  bearers of keys... keepers of communion and the like as we offer the opportunities of familiar points of connection with the Almighty God.

Today, a few of us found a center-point for communing with God.  One man, in particular, found a point of solace much needed.  It is worth considering that perhaps we should take every opportunity available to us to extend the grace and encouragement of Christ to one another, as well as to the world around us.

Lord willing, in the weeks and months to come, I'll be opening up the church early on Thursday mornings for prayer.  Now you know some of the why behind the what.

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

Pastor John

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Life...

Afternoon studying at City Park... $0
Reading the Holy Word beneath an ancient Oak Tree... $0
Diving into the minds of the Patriarchs... $0
Communion with Herr Von Clausewitz... $0
Playing improv Hymn Jazz on the Great Lawn... $0

Revitalizing my soul... PRICELESS!

The beauty of the life in Christ is more costly than imaginable, more pressing than comprehension might allow, and more fulfilling than this human mind could fathom.

It is the life I am given so much as I can muster to engage, and so much more than I had ever hoped to know in the service of Christ Who saves me!

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Monday, October 4, 2010

To Dream and to Live...

In dreaming we might forget to be;
In being we might forget to dream.
Oh to be and to dream and to live in grace!

How magnificent and tall, the seed of life might grow within the fields of such a life as that!  How brazen and soft, the visage of the life truly lived, breathed, dreamt, and lived anew!  How beautiful a life which serves its purpose, its Master, its true end without reservation.

Who knows the dreams which might find flight in the realm of grace and freedom?!

May the musings of the mind find the soil of reality.

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What is Your Mission?

It's a question every company, organization, club, and virtually every casual group of friends has to answer these days... "What is our mission?"

We live in a day when we have lost the simplicity of our purpose, clouded the clarity of forgiveness, and made ambiguous the message of our own salvation.

The grace of Christ saves that which is eternal... the life for the life that is to come.  That is our mission.

It's far more simple than we have translated it to be.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Last Meeting of the Day

Wouldn't you know it, but the best was saved for last!

Thursdays are normally "one of those days."  Ultra busy, and sweeping up all the week's work, I start early with morning prayers, and then try to get everything done before coming home to the hugs and blessings of my wife and children... but today I ended up having one last meeting that I just could not deny.

We sat and had lolly-pops together, roaring competitions, and recited stories of dragons and mice and castles.  My mind wondered as I sang about old oak groves, and I couldn't resist taking a picture or two of my last two, and very much the most important, "church members" of the day.  We talked about how Jesus supplies our needs, and about friends along the trail of following the path of Christ in this crazy adventure we call pastoring; we sang another song to each other until I began to be regaled with cheers and stories... and more cheers and amazingly entertaining antics and tales from the beautiful brown pooled eyes looking back at me.

The last meeting of the day... today it was the best one.

Go figure... such are so often the blessings of the Almighty God.

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day!

The sun is out; the top is down on the Jeep; the air is that almost perfect combination of sunny but Fall-breezy.

In the words of the immortal, Mr. Rogers, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!"

How could a person do anything without acknowledging the Divine Design of creation on a day like today?!

Hoo-ah, God!

Monday, September 27, 2010

God is not Bound by our Whims...

The grace of God is not bound by my whims, but ruled and directed solely by His sovereignty.

How is it that we have all-to-easily dismissed the almighty nature of God, opting for the illusion of a weak-kneed god in daily application to such an extent that the application of eternal salvation would be beyond question.

The God who saves us is sovereign, almighty, and all-together God. Would that I might live by that understanding today!

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bad Golf... Right as Rain

Today I had the good pleasure of playing a round of golf with a group from our men's ministry.

We got up before the dawn, tee'd off at 7, and actually got in a few holes before the heat came down like a hammer and made us hunt for shade after each stroke of play.

It was one of those mornings that makes you think, "nice!" No big issues to confront or deal with... just guys playing golf and comparing the blessings of God in our lives. Nice.

Like I was discussing with the fella working in the pro-shop, doing life together as the church is more than just sitting in the pew next to each other. The pew is important... and so is the course.

Even as I write this, it strikes me that all the guys playing today also happened to be members of what we call ServantCorps (our deacon ministry). These are some of the men who bleed and sweat together to make sure the "wheels stay on the cart" so to speak in the life of our church. There's something right about that as it meets the golf course.

Maybe you'll find a lesson in there for yourself, maybe not; but today... for me... the rightness seems all-together overt and sensible.

Walking together in Christ... now that's just simply a great idea!

May the peace of Christ engulf you.

John

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pondering Grace

Today I am pondering the grace of God.

I am stricken by just how arbitrary and subjectively applied is the hand of God. He relates at such an intimate, intricately involved level in our lives, that even from the depths of personal knowledge of our own experience, we cannot pretend to completely know and comprehend the mind of God.

Of course God lays out some beautifully formulaic response patterns for us to understand and follow as we relate to Him in our pursuit of the Almighty God. We know that if we admit Jesus as the only Son of the One True God, come to Him in confession of and repentance from sin, giving our lives to follow Jesus Christ, that He will forgive our sins and save us for all eternity. We know that as we approach Him in contrite humility that He responds with love and care. We know that as we follow His purposes, that His provisions will be granted for the accomplishing of His purposes... and that last one is the tricky one, isn't it.

Can I see tomorrow, or format the tides of waves and synapses?

Can I hold sway over rulers and movements, or order the sun and moon to cooperate or withhold light itself?

Can I truly ensure even simple probabilities into certainties?

Indeed it is only God who sees; only God who controls; only God who directs, ensures, withholds or provides.

In the end, I am left simply with faith and dependence. I am left humble upon my knees to follow and apply my all to not turn aside from that follow-ship. How gracious is God Who saves me as I fall along the path over and over again. How gentle His mantle as He stoops low to lift me from the ditches of my own creation. How patient He is to wait upon my tears, and console the mourning of my heart. How steadfast He is to give the morning of provision from the night of my own failings.

We live in a day that is not unlike those which have come before it. It is a day when we, as human beings, seek to glorify the beauty of being "human." The problem is that it is not so beautiful a condition in this fallen state in which we find ourselves. I purpose and propose that we exist to celebrate being the servants of the Almighty God, and nothing less. I purpose and propose that life is to be lived for the glory of the Unseen God, and not for the posterity of human existence. I purpose and propose that it is not about me, except that my failings have been the cause of excruciation upon the Son of God. I purpose and propose that we live to the glory of that Christ alone.

Who can know the mind of God? Surely, only God Himself... and that is where I shall go to find my next step.

For indeed, His "word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (ref)

From on my knees I cry, "Holy!" From humility I see the light of His provision. From the pathway of His purposes I see victories to His glory.

For Christ! For the Kingdom! For His Purposes!

This, my cry of freedom today and into eternity.

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

ref: Psalm 119:105

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

for the glory of HIS NAME

God is faithful to do that which He has ordained to be done.

With winds and storms, and building beyond their destruction, He sees the tearing down; and establishes the building up of the glory of His name.

We live, we breathe, struggle and testify

for the glory of His name.

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bless the LORD!

a psalm of David.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

The LORD performs righteous deeds
And judgments for all who are oppressed.
he made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
And its place acknowledges it no longer.
But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children's children,
To those who keep His covenant
And remember His precepts to do them.

The LORD has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.
Bless the LORD, you His angels,
Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
Obeying the voice of His word!
Bless the LORD, all you His hosts,
You who serve Him, doing His will.
Bless the LORD, all you works of His,
In all places of His dominion;
Bless the LORD, O my soul!


This, my prayer today... and may it be so always; for great and faithful is the LORD, God of All!

In His peace,

John

ref: Psalm 103 (NASB)

Friday, September 17, 2010

God is Faithful

God is faithful. This I know beyond a shadow of a doubt. The everlasting God is without beginning and without end, without change, and at the same time beyond my finite realm of understanding.

God is faithful.

In the clouded view of today, life swirls and rants with varied and sundry messages, but the love and faithfulness of God are unchanged despite whatever currents assail life's ramparts.

It is not God who must change, but my faith must grow... for His faithfulness is in full effect.

Though I may not see the hand of God, I shall trust Him to be ever-present, and in full force, always God.

God is faithful.

In the peace of Christ,

John

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Grace of God... in Pictures

The grace of God is richer than an eternity of praise,

more perfect than a right angle,

more encompassing than infinity,

more beautiful than an oak tree in the middle of a wheat field in the fall.

The grace of God is hard to see, brutal to wait for, and unmistakable when found.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Slow Walk of Faith

This past weekend was an eventful and important couple of days in the life of our church.

I've often said that the human soul is a slow boil endeavor, and I find that premise proved out time and again as I follow along this path of ministry and pastoring onto which God has led me.

Saturday morning, Journey had its first ServantCorps work day. It might not sound like much to some, but it was only nine or so many months ago that I appointed the very first deacons this church has ever had. There were only five back then, and that included two of the elders. We stepped along the path of God's design for His church as I led us into one of those leadership endeavors that had better work (you pastors and CEO's out there know what I'm talking about). Skeptics were not hard to find, but we were following the path of Scripture, and that is a sure footed way to go.

Finally, it came time to appoint our new year of servants, and Saturday we came together in force, plus a few folks who just heard there was work to be done and showed up. My heart smiled. ServantCorps is now fourteen and functional.

Then Sunday came and it was time to see the next steps of what God has been cookin' up here in the Big Easy. First, our children's choir sang. I just sat and smiled as I watched and thought through the long journey here from a point of virtually no children's ministry, to a point of a whole group of kiddos not only coming to church, but singing and praising God with songs they've been learning in CHILDREN'S CHOIR! My heart smiled again as we enjoyed the fruit of the increase of God.

Finally, it was time to commission our Youth Ministry. TREK Student Ministries has been a long time coming to say the least. Finding the right leaders, getting families and students excited and involved, and seeing those both happen at the same time has been a "hat trick" here... and in truth, just finding God's perfect timing. But Sunday it all came together.

As I called upon the church body to find our Middle School and High School students all around the worship center, to lay hands upon their shoulders and to quietly pray for them, I began to hear the whispered prayers of of men and women all around the room. God was moving and I could hear the whispered foot-steps of His church. My heart smiled once again.

Finally, last night we met as TREK Student Ministries for the very first time. We had a great group of students, a wonderful group of leaders, and I was privileged to kick it off and then engage our very first "Parent Round Table." We sat and talked about the futures of our students, of the ministry, of our families together for the longest time, hearing the laughter and craziness of our students in the cafe/fellowship hall. By the end of the night, momentum was flowing through the building and the students were already crying out for more. I love it when God does His thing! And you guessed it, my heart smiled again.

Here's the catch... these simple movements of God took a long time to come to fruition. They took longer than I had hoped. They didn't come easy or cheap. There were times that were dark, times that were hopeful, times that were frightening... and through all of them, I had to just stand on the fact that we were going where God was leading us. Now that's easier written than done!

Here are a few things I'm learning more and more about the walk of faith as I travel its pathway:

1. The walk of faith is slow.

2. God comes through in His timing.

3. It's OK to tell Him you're horrified.

and

4. It's OK to follow tired and scared... believe me, although most would never admit it.

God knows His plans and works them out. I'm just here to follow Him, to lead His church, and to savor the moments that make His heart smile.

It's not easy, but I guess it's not supposed to be. This morning I'm exhausted... but then again, what are we doing if we don't "leave it all on the field," anyway!

In the end, or at least at this pit-stop in the race, it's good to see God post some big, you just can't miss 'em, "W's" on the board.

May there be many more of those... and that's just me bein' human.

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pax... Libertas... Imperium.

To live at peace; to stand upon the foundation of liberty; and to live within the standard of the Sovereign God... this is the paradigmatic struggle of our generation.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To Live for the Smile of Another...


This morning as I read from the book of Isaiah, I wondered at our own state of service to God... have we brought Him pleasure, or been to Him a burden (Isaiah 1:14)?

So many times we lift verses such as these out of context in an attempt to relieve ourselves of the burden of sacrifice, only to realize later that both righteousness and sacrifice are called for by God. In the modern age of the "enlightened church," we often times relegate both obedience and sacrifice to a less mentally adroit age, and "free" ourselves to the satisfaction of our own devices.

There are certainly countless shortcuts devised in the pursuit of self-fulfillment, but I have found only one pathway of Life. It is slow and often arduous. It calls for my complete attention and sees my failures time and again as it beckons me onward, even from the pit of my own self-deprecating folly. It is uncompromising, but all-gracious to the penitent. It is simply as it has been and will continue despite the cries of fairness and enlightenment.

In the path which is Christ, I have found peace... and yet, peace calls me onward to a higher life. To some, the aspect of living so as to please another has become all-together vile and pedestrian; on the path which is Christ, however, I have found it to be the key to peace itself.

As I seek the pleasure of God, the smiles of my children become more anointed, like they're dripping with honey; the smiles of the eyes of my wife become more satisfying than the most self-satisfying fodder the world might have to offer; and the smiles of my God become more evident, and more fulfilling even amidst tumultuous circumstances.

I wonder today if I have pleased God with my life... if I have pleased Him with my love... if I have made the aroma of sacrifice sweet or burdensome. I pray it is the former and not the latter, and that it becomes more so as I travel on this Path. It is altogether undeniable that I have fallen short this day and can find success only in the grace covering of Jesus. Oh for the day when that covering shall produce its end result, and righteousness shall upon holiness stand fulfilled. Then shall the light of the pleasure of the Almighty be seen in its fulness; even as in Christ we know it through grace today.

Run well today.

In the Path and Peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Friday, September 3, 2010

Peace...

In Providence there is peace;
In tranquility perception may be found;
In Light, Providence may be realized.

Through pain, the heart seeks God;
Through deliverance, life finds purpose;
In light of the Divine, purpose excites life.

"In the beginning was the Word,
And the Word was with God and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God."

These are the cycles of my mind this evening.

Peace of Christ to you.

Pastor John

Ref: John 1:1-2 (NASB)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Role of a Lifetime!

In a day of pursuit, ambition, and self-determinant glory-centered living, we have embraced an Almighty God, with supposedly unconditional surrender, into a life the Bible calls voluntary slavery, giving up the right of free will in the pursuit of salvation from the deserved consequences of our own sin.

And that, from a slightly differently angle, is Christianity.

Have you ever stopped to consider that our world is not that vastly different from the world in the time of Christ?

“What?!” you may think as you spew out your coffee and hope you didn’t just fry your computer.

Think about it for a moment. We live in a dominantly Hellenist (Greek) society, following a Jewish paradigm of relationship with the One True God. Oh yes, we have computers… “woo-pee!” The ancient Egyptians built the pyramids and we just scratch our heads and think, “Man, how’d they do that?!”

We communicate in the flash of electrons across a computer screen; they actually still had decent penmanship. They read books… we read books. Ok, they wore togas… but so do most folks at the common fraternity party (woops, maybe we shouldn’t talk about that one… just kidding)!

The point is this, that often times we dismiss the parts of the Bible that we don’t like under so many headings of exception like, “Well, they didn’t have corporate pressures!” or “They didn’t have to deal with school systems and modern secular humanism!” or “They just weren’t as enlightened as we are!”

These and so many other arguments of avoidance I’ve heard and tried over the years have at least one common denominator… none of them hold water.

A brother in Christ once asked me why I wouldn’t drop out of ministry for a while and get a sweet paying job in the energy industry back when we were serving in Texas. It made no sense to him that I would be educated to the level I am and only make what a pastor makes. I laughed to myself, thought “no stinkin’ doubt!” and then thanked him for the compliment but explained that my life is not a result of my choice, but of God’s calling… and that my assignment is that of a pastor.

In that moment, and even as I type it again here, it is both freeing and it kind of stings a little. My role has been set since Mrs. Smith’s fifth grade classroom, writing the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” paper, when the Holy Spirit told me to “Preach the Gospel.”

The die was cast when I was a six year old little boy on the swing set with my father, and traded my life for the salvation of Jesus Christ… seeking His forgiveness, and committing to, as my Dad put it, let Him be the boss; oddly similar to how the Apostle Paul describes himself as the bond-slave of Christ.

Even this morning, as I talked with my children, I realize that the God Who saved me has known all these things were coming and all that is to come. I know that He saw me coming knowing I would choose His grace, that He set my life in order, even working my messes to my good, so that I would be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-30), that He called me to Himself, brought me to the forgiveness of my sins, and will complete the whole process when I reach the end of this race someday.

The role of a lifetime is not my choice… it’s His.

Oh, there are roads in life that would have made it my choice, but none of those roads lead to Jesus.

In II Corinthians 4:17, Paul says, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (ESV)

Whatever the God-given role of your lifetime might be… dive into it today!

Don’t let the modern mumbo-jumbo of pseudo enlightenment (aka self-serving prideful ego-centric exaltation) rob you of the joy of serving the God of All Creation.

Run the race. Turn not to one side or the other.

Fix your eyes on Christ and breathe the clean air of living in the purposes of God.

For me, that has made the difference between fulfillment and frustration. I hope it might for you as well as we run in the path of so many who have come before us!

May the peace of Christ engulf you as run!

John

"The Role of a Lifetime" was originally published at the blog-home of Penny Franklin, where she ministers to, disciples, and walks with ladies in the grace of Jesus Christ across the country.

Find Penny's blog @ www.pennyfranklin-livingaboveministries.blogspot.com

Monday, August 30, 2010

Five Years After Katrina: Healing through Praise


Yesterday, New Orleans paused to remember the evacuation, destruction, repopulation, and rebuilding of the last five years in the wake of one of our nation's largest disasters, Hurricane Katrina.

The Gulf South took a blow the likes of which few have to remember, as in some regions homes were literally lifted off of their piers and floated away, boats and belongings ended up in previously unimaginable places, and the things which help us hold memories eroded beneath the water line and the mold.

In the New Orleans area, the military was suddenly in control on American soil. Curfews were imposed to help stem the tide of looting and lawlessness. Military vehicles rolled down the roads which had previously ushered soccer-moms into the carpool lanes of elementary schools. People returned home with the ever resounding and haunting question, "How much water did my house take in?"

For some, home was rebuildable. For others, it was time to leave. For most, life was indelibly changed.

About three and a half years after Katrina, I was called to pastor a church in New Orleans. Most of the stories I heard made my jaw drop, as people recounted the unthinkable in the context of what came to be known as normal. Outside of the mainstream of meetings, many would tell me their story of loss and reclamation, and I've noticed that the journey of rebuilding goes far beyond the temporary, and more to the heart and mind.

As I've driven through the city, I've often asked members of my congregation about abandoned homes and buildings; about destruction apparently untouched since the storm. "They just chose to move on" or "they took a payout and just didn't rebuild" have been common denominators of the replies. For some who returned, life simply went forward; for others, life is haunted by the experience. Successful men and women, the common-man, if you would, is changed in many ways that simply do not bear reversal.

Imagine losing everything that reminded you of your history. Wedding albums, important documents, walls that spoke of children growing inches over years of marking "this year's growth" and so forth. Imagine watching military vehicles roll down your block. Imagine not knowing exactly what's next with anything near the level of certainty your family has come to know over several generations. Imagine sifting through the stuff that reminds us of memories and tossing it in the dumpster because of the water, mold, and mildew. Imagine standing on the porch that just recently saw you relaxing, and now smelling the stench of rotting food in forgotten refrigerators on your suburban block. This was, in part at least, the reality of New Orleans after "the storm," as it has not-so-affectionately come to be called.

And now, five years later, the scars and wounds of Katrina are left on the hearts, souls, and minds of New Orleans.

As a pastor here, I see it come up in the most interesting places and at the most interesting times. Someone reacts in an unexpected way, but when weighed against the aftermath of "the storm" it suddenly makes sense. Children struggle to hurdle developmental challenges, but when factored with the impact of "the storm" somehow the math adds up. Winces and internal gut-wrenching that probably only pastors see in the eyes of our congregants when preaching and teaching the Word of God, make my soul long for healing in the lives that hold the eyes I see before me.

So how do we get there? How does the Bible guide us? What should we do with the pain?

Over the course of the week, I heard reports of highly emotive services and remembrances. Some of my congregants seemed to be drawn to that, others repelled by it.

What does the Bible say? How can we heal wounds that have lasted five years only to suddenly seem fresh again?

Of course we weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15), but how do we move to healing when weeping has only led to more weeping?

In the end, I recalled a very hard-learned lesson from my days of planting churches. Over the course of my life and study, I have noticed how the Biblical pattern of healing seems to revolve around rejoicing... and as ridiculous as it sounds, I've found it to be painfully true. Let me explain.

When the children of Israel encountered trials, punishments, and persecutions, and as they sought and found the salvation, provision, and victory of God, they praised Him. In fact, I've often been reminded of the story of Jehoshaphat who obeyed the Lord and sent the musicians out at the front of the army simply on God's word of provision, praising God as they led Israel's forces out to the encounter what should have been certain destruction, and simply trusting God that the victory had happened, or would happen (II Chronicles 20:20-22). And countless examples loom wherein monuments and altars were established, with little regard to the pain of the past except as a platform on which to proclaim, with exuberance, the remembrance of the victory of God's faithful provision for generations to come.

What then do you tell your congregation five years after their whole life seemed to be changed?

Yesterday, I sat on a wooden stool at the front of our worship center, and talked to the people. They came ready to mourn again, but I knew something was missing.

Where were the singers and musicians who proclaimed the favor of the Lord? Where were the remembrances of God's provision and faithfulness these five years hence? How do we get past the pain, wounds, and scars to find the victory of the Almighty God; Who wasn't surprised when the levees broke; Who saw it all coming and has been there with consistent provision despite whoever stands to bear the blame depending upon political winds and currents and positioning of the day?

The answer and mandate was clear... doing it was the tough part. This morning, as I re-read the story of Jehoshaphat, I wondered if he got some of the same looks that I got yesterday. A lot of head-nods; some heads bowed, seeming to accept the need for praising but struggling to get there; and some out-right scowls from others. I wasn't here at Katrina. I learned the lesson of praise by losing my life in planting churches. Memories washed away because the ministry needed funding, or the electric bill needed to be paid and the offerings just didn't support a salary enough yet; drives to and from the work filled with tears and disillusionment, forcing my palms turned toward Heaven to praise God for provision and victory that I couldn't even fathom, much less see. Answering the eyes of my father who wondered at the not-so-monetarily-profitable results of such an expensive education, but proud of the impact on lives as we all just learned together about the life of a church-planter. I learned that the scars don't go away, and that praise solicits the movement of God, and that somehow those work together, but only on His timing. I learned to turn my attention toward His provision, even as I was gutted by the death of dreams and ambitions.

I have learned through many pains to turn toward praising the God Who is always faithful; I have learned that God's victories are in God's timing, and that they are flawless and beautiful, but sometimes only realized in the rearview mirror of life; and yesterday it was time to lead my congregation to that reality.

Over the next few Sundays, we'll strive to engage that reality together more and more... and in that pursuit we will undoubtedly cry together, grow together, and produce together a testament to the victories and faithfulness of the Almighty God. Our praises written around a simple proclamation of faith, and hung on the wall of our church, so that all who stop to read it might know that God is here... that He never left us... that He never forsook His children who lived here... that He is, HE Was, AND HE SHALL ALWAYS REMAIN FAITHFUL in every way.

This is our praise, and our testimony to all generations, that "God heard our prayers, and we testify to His love on this fifth anniversary of hurricane Katrina!"

Though the pain lingers, let Him be praised through the pain! Though our lives be scarred, let the scars sing of the healing hand of God. Though endurance may in some sense be praise in itself, let our voices sing in adoration of our Savior and ever-present Provider; and may we proclaim His victories even amidst the storm and it's percussive echoes; for He is the Almighty, and Always Faithful God of Heaven and of Earth, and we shall not be remised to praise HIM!

May Heaven hear the songs of His people, and move amongst us so that we might serve Him all the more!

In the Peace of Christ,

Pastor John

Friday, August 27, 2010

Things I Love About JeeP


Today, I'm having a meeting with my son, JeeP. We love having meetings... sometimes at home, sometimes at the donut shop, sometimes at the coffee shop, and sometimes at the park.

JeeP tends to charm his entire surroundings with interesting antics.

This morning, I find the list of things I love about my boy piling up in my thoughts, so I thought I'd share them with you.

JeeP has a great imagination! Often times we play hide and seek completely within the confines of our booth. Today, after a great round of hide and seek, we even fed Bear-Bear some of our muffins. He (Bear-Bear) proclaimed them as, and I quote, "YUMMY!" (insert my best bear voice)

I love that JeeP sees fun all around him!

I love that JeeP smiles at people!

I love that JeeP considers time with Daddy a high priority!

I love that JeeP knows what he wants!

I love that JeeP says "ROAR" both to silly and to scary things and people!

I love that JeeP loves to fish!

I love that JeeP knows we are both cowboys at heart!

I love that JeeP can't wait to go hunting with me!

I love that JeeP loves the Jeep!

I love that JeeP loves his Daddy... he's my boy, and we're a team!

The list could go on and on; and over the years, I'm quite certain that it will!

And that is just a little window into my heart today on a pastor's "day off," and just a few of things I LOVE about my boy, JeeP!

May the peace of Christ overwhelm us all!

John

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Simple Life

I cook the fish I caught,

eat the game I hunt,

dance with my bride in the kitchen,

and laugh with my children 'till we're tired.

I follow the God who saved me,

I live for the Christ who leads me,

and I'll die for the cross He held for me.

In the end, life is simple, I guess.

God loves me,

My bride dances with me,

and my children want me around.

All-right then.

Live long, ride hard, and die in that saddle!

John

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God's Grace in Action

Our individual embrace of the grace of Jesus Christ can be as UNIQUE as our own fingerprint, and will be as ALIKE as the design of GOD. When and how did you admit WHO JESUS IS and WHAT HE DID, CONFESS your sins to Him seeking His forgiveness, and COMMIT your life to follow Him?

Tell me about God's grace and let's see our COMMON GROUND in Jesus Christ!

(Post Responses through the "COMMENTS" button.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Grace of God

Have you ever wondered at the grace of God? Ever stood back, taken a good look, and allowed yourself to be 'wowed' by His perfect timing and provision?

Have you ever found yourself having to apologize to the God who made you for ever doubting Him in the first place?

I am reminded of the Apostle Thomas, who demanded to actually feel the crucifixion wounds of Christ in Jesus' living, breathing, resurrected body before he would believe that Christ was indeed alive. Do you remember what Thomas said when confronted with the risen Jesus face to face?

Thomas, confronted by Jesus Himself, simply says, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28, NASB).

I've been there... haven't you?

All of life seems to be crashing in around you; faith is challenged to its very core; and then Jesus is simply, suddenly, and without exception IN COMPLETE CONTROL. Suddenly you realize that this was always the case. A wash of realization pours over your spirit and there are really very few things to say.

For as much grief as we give the Apostle Thomas, I think he gave as good of a response as plausible given his situation. Don't forget, the other apostles all had the benefit of seeing and experiencing the risen Christ before him. In that upper room, even though his faith had been weak, he got it right when he said, "My Lord and my God!"

Can we learn from Thomas' lack of faith? Of course we can. Should we at least try to do as well as he did... I believe it is a loftier goal than we might like to admit.

The unfailing grace of the Almighty God. Now that's something to write home about!

In the peace of Christ,

Pastor John