Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Merry Christmas everyone.

This video was shared with me and it is amazingly simple... and extremely powerful.  I humbly request you take the next 2 1/2 minutes and watch this video, then share your thoughts (with yourself, your family, your friends, your church, or here in the comments).

My thoughts and an 'unpacking' of the video to follow:

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I often get the burdensome privilege (yes) to speak to people, young and old, about things they are struggling with.  Temptation to act in a way that they believe to be wrong - which, by definition, means it is wrong... but that's for another day.  I am qualified to speak to people about such things only because I too am tempted constantly; as Paul said, "I'm the biggest sinner of them all"

The most common temptation for males of any age, any weight, any profession, any family life, any ____, any anything, is lust.  It can be severe lust that manifests itself in extramarital or premarital sexual affairs, it can haunt through pornography, it can force eyes to wander, or it can control ones thoughts just inside their own head.
I once was counseling a young man about his troubles with lust while assisted by an older and much wiser gentlemen.  When the young man asked when the temptation would go away, the other gentleman who was with me simply said "it wont."  He went on to add "I am tempted everyday.  Sometimes in a big way, sometimes simply in my own head, but the temptation is always there.  It's a constant battle, a constant struggle"

Our advice to the young man (and our advice to each other and to ourselves) was to avoid, deflect, and be resolved before hand - though being resolved beforehand is essential, it is also rarely enough.

What do you struggle with?  If we're honest, the lists are long.  Thankfully we serve a God who loves unconditionally.  A God who knew us intimately and bought us anyway.  A God who doesn't sit on a throne unsympathetically looking down with judgement, but one who has experienced temptation himself and who knows our struggles and knows our faults, failures, and short comings and calls us "saints" and "holy".  We serve a God who showers grace through the blood of his own son, his son who fully know us.

We must remember a few key things about temptation, of any kind:
Jesus Was tempted.  Not that Jesus scoffed off the absurdity of it, but that he (his human nature) was tempted.  That's number 1.
Number 2 is that Jesus did not act on his temptation - though he was tempted, Jesus did not "follow through", so-to-speak.
3:  Jesus was tempted (see number 1) And Jesus never sinned (I believe this to be 100% literal and emphatically true), ergo temptation, on its own, is not sin (/sigh of relief).
4.  Jesus 'defeated' his temptation and his tempter (the same temptations and same tempter that we have) not by using (even his) his own words, not by rationalization or attempting clever logic, not by asking for clarification on the particulars or classification on the "how bad" scale, no, he responded with Scripture.  God's Holy word, and scripture only.

Temptation is a part of life.  It simply is, and anyone who tells you it's not just gave in to the temptation to lie....

Build one another up.  Support one another.  Pray for one another.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Preacher Perfect"?

This past weekend a group of us went up to VA to camp out for a couple of nights and bike the Virginia Creeper trail.  My great uncle Hunter grew up in Abingdon, and I can always remember this because he would tell everyone that he was born at the place "where Paul was struck blind"... on the road to Damascus.  We humored him ;)

Numbers wise, all agree it was a huge success... weather wise... it depends on who you ask.  It was cold.  Really cold.  On top of the cold, it rained the entire time we were there except for the moments when it would break up the monotony of rain with sleet or snow (breathtakingly beautiful snow at over 6,000 ft - although somewhat diminished when you're riding down hill into it on a bicycle).

Everyone truly did have a great time:  the kids played on God's playground like it was the greatest thing in the world; Emily cried one time the entire trip, and that was when we were packing up to leave and she wanted to stay and camp "for a long time".

There are tons of things that make this a great trip every year:  beautiful scenery, camping out a couple of nights, biking the creeper (I cringe every time I call it "biking" seen as how for 75% of the 17 miles you don't even need pedals just brakes), roasting s'mores over the campfire, and (a personal favorite) zero cell phone coverage for 3 days.  However, none of those things truly "make" the trip.  The trip is made by the people that go.  I found myself surrounded by family every where I looked - true friends, true family, brothers and sisters in Christ who are all there just because we all love spending time together; it really wouldn't matter where or how we were doing it.

And that's what struck me.  See, this whole "preacher" thing is kind of new to me, so I don't always know the 'rules'.  One of the things I was a bit surprised (somewhat sadly understanding) to find out is that many ministers avoid such get togethers, trips, and "non-sanctioned/non-structured" Church activities out of fear of people seeing their humanity.  They have anxiety over people seeing their faults, seeing them "mess up", hearing them speak casually -- finding out they are human.

Though it is sad to think about, and somewhat shocking at first blush, when you really become honest with the reality of the situation, you sadly have to see their point, even if you don't agree (as I do not).  People want their preachers to be perfect, they want their ministers to speak in iambic pentameter, they want them to never say anything they shouldn't, never get frustrated, never have to discipline a child, never be... real.
Too often, people want their ministers to be honest about themselves, but not too honest, and when the first date goggles wear off, there's often trouble in paradise.
To me, I would go on these trips no matter what - I've always gone on them and I love them.  But now, in thinking about it that way, I want to always make a conscientious decision to go so that I guarantee people will get to see me mess up (it doesn't take long, certainly doesn't take a whole trip, in fact, if you have 30 minutes for lunch we could probably settle it there).  Seriously - I don't ever want to become so removed that people forget that I'm human, that I'm a sinner, that I'm a wholly imperfect being created by the only perfect being so knows me, sees my faults, forgave me, forgives me, and graciously loves me unconditionally.

Do you expect Christians to be perfect?
Are you afraid, as a Christina, that people will see you not being perfect?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


A couple of Sunday's ago I was fortunate to be able to preach for a very unfortunate Dr. Curtis McClane who had fallen very ill to the Tennessee Fall cocktail of allergies/bronchitis/pneumonia... thing

The sermon came from what many (myself included) would see as an odd source... Malachi.

Malachi is a very short book, but it has a lot of great lessons and its place holds great historical (and spiritual) significance; the last book of the Old Testament.  You see, for years and years (centuries), God had communicated with His people verbally - through the words of His prophets.  Additionally, God had also used dreams, visions, pillars of fire, hands on the wall, a burning bush, etc.

Then, after a long period of silence, in stepped Malachi.  Malachi, right out of the gate, cold turkey, began to call the post-exile Israelites out on all their short comings, misgivings, and blatant misuse of God's temple (that they had finally rebuilt).  Then, with a few moments of hope and reminders of promises made, God goes into a divine silence.  400 years of it.  For 400 years, God leaves us with the words of Malachi and allows them to "sink in" over 400 years of divine silent treatment.  What's the significance of this silence?  Why would God do that?  What were His last words that He left us with?

My sermon focused on Malachi 1:6-2:9, Mostly all focused on what I believe to be the most important lines of Malachi (and what God wanted us to consider during those 400 years):  Malachi 1:8-10

The sermon may be seen below:


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Faith in who?

As more and more we hear of church splits, people "losing their faith", groups folding and falling apart, and teenagers walking away from 'church', I find myself asking - what is our faith in?

Think about marriage for a minute.  What's your faith in, in regards to your spouse?  Is it in that person, their soul, their very being, who history tells you they really are, or is your faith propped up on who they are treating you in this instant?  If it's the latter, then you should already be perusing the yellow pages for a good divorce lawyer.  If you are married, you know that marriage is not now, has not been, will not ever be, Can Not ever be based on "feelings" and present emotion.  If we only stayed married when it felt good, none of us would make it past the first year.

Transition that same line of thought to the church (the CHURCH - not that brick building with crosses that you go into on Sunday mornings - the PEOPLE the body of believers who are joined together by the 1 overlying all consuming truth that Jesus Christ is LORD, the Son of God, the Savior of the world).  What's your faith in there?  Is it, like marriage should be, based on the promises of your bride/groom (through better or worse, richer or poorer, till death), which is Christ himself, is it held up upon what history tells you about God and his enduring faithfulness as proven and repeated line after line of the 66 books in our Bible?  
Or... is it based on the faith of the failing marriages?  The faith in the present, the emotion, the "feeling"?  
If your "faith" is held up by the assurance that your preacher will never preach a sermon that you will disagree with or that will stomp on your toes, you're in trouble (as an aside - if your preacher never preaches a sermon that stomps on your toes then you need to find a new preacher because they're not doing their job).  If your faith is propped up on that building, it will crumble, if it's supported solely by your Edlers then it will fall, if it's held up solely on the premise of your ministers never faltering moral compass, then you will be disappointed,  if your faith is based only on me, then you will be devastated.  

True "faith" can be grounded ONLY on The Rock, God, the Great I AM, He who was, is, and forever will be, and HIS promises.  Not your preacher's promises, not your pastor's promises, not your steering committee's promises, not your elder's promises, Certainly not my promises - Only God's promises.

And if your faith is held up on Christ alone, then when your preacher fails you, when your church abandons you, when I fall flat, when your Elder's crumble, then you stand.  You stand firm on the Rock which you were planted on, because that Rock didn't crumble, though others around you may have (and they will).

People are devastated, churches split, people walk away, faith is lost only when that faith was propped up on the wrong thing - anything or anyone other than Christ the King.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

and............ we're back

Good morning everyone!  What a summer!
As my first summer in youth ministry I learned a lot, for 1 thing, I learned how (not) to plan things, and how planning a 12 weeks back to back might take a toll...  It was a complete Blast, but we freely admit that it's nice to see the summer come to a close, see the kids back in school, and look forward to new exciting ventures for the fall.
Also, as previously discussed, with the crazy summer being just that, I knew I would take the summer off from this blog out of necessity, and I appreciate everyone's patience with that and I am now excited to get it kicked back up again.
That said, let's get the questions and topic ideas back flowing and I'll be glad, as always, to use your input, ideas, and insights to direct the posts.

Today, I want to share some thoughts on 9/11 +10.

We all know where we were on that day.  Erin and I had been married 1 month.  She was working at Sander's Market (the gas station hang out for the thriving metropolis of Linden, TN) and I was at the Post Office in Linden.  At the Post Office, people would come in talking about a plane accident in disjointed confused stories that lacked any realism, and with no TV or radio in said Post Office, that was about all the facts one could glean.  I left the post office, went home, turned on the TV and couldn't believe what I was watching:  'how in the world could a plane get so messed up that it crashed straight into the World Trade Center... that's the worst luck I've ever heard of...' and then it happened.  Standing there pondering the odds of a plane failing and crashing exactly into the tower, the second plane hit.  I literally sank to the floor with the weight of the realization that had just struck the millions of other people watching this same sight and for the rest of the day I sat.  I sat right there in floor of our house in Linden watching the images with tear filled eyes and disbelief.
Who, how, why, HERE!?  All those people... with the risk of sounding cliche... the Humanity of it was simply overwhelming.

On that day, September 11, 2001, our world changed.  We saw pain and devastation that our generation had never witnessed outside of the pages of a history book, we saw "terror" (a word reserved for uncivilized third world countries who weren't "one nation under God" and who weren't the untouchable military power of the world) played out in our own backyards, we saw courage that could the greatest authors could not contain with ink and page, we saw life, we saw death, and we truly saw the end of our reality as we knew it.

As we mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the terrible loss of life that came with that day, my mind goes largely to September 12, 2001.
If 9/11 was our darkest hour, then 9/12 was the dawn.  9/12 brought forth life.  9/12 brought forth a day of stories - of survival, of courage, of faith, of LOVE.  9/12 brought a day where as NYC lay (physically) in shambles, the people of NYC, surrounded by the people of this great nation, rose up and reignited the flame under that melting pot and once again created "one nation".  9/12 brought a day where from NYC, to L.A., to Linden, TN, you could not find an American flag in any store - they were all hanging in lawns, strapped to cars and trucks, and hanging from fire engine ladders across the country.  9/12 brought a day where we met our neighbors for the first time (even those we may have lived next door to for 30 years).  9/12 brought a day of Love.  We, as a nation, even for just a moment in time, recognized that our selfishness, our vanity, we saw our lives for what they were: consumed in frivolity.  And. We. Turned.  We turned to our country, we turned to our neighbors, we turned to those we didn't know, to those we had neglected, to those we didn't like just 24 hours before, and we loved on each other as if we really were "under God, indivisible".

on 9/12, this nation and all its inhabitants seized life with a fervor lost and clung to it as if to never lose it again.

Let us remember that day as well.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

10 years in the making....

This Thursday, August 4th, 2011, marks our 10 year wedding anniversary.

God has protected us, guided us, and kept us and we are closer, stronger, and more in love now then ever before.  Thank you, to all of you, for sharing these years (and the next 90 years to come!) with us.

Our 10 year anniversary slide show video:

It's awesome to see these pictures of us married 10 years ago in the very building where we now get to serve!

P.S. it's also funny, as Erin just pointed out, to think about the fact that many of our current youth members were probably sitting in the audience... and would have been 2-8 years old at the time!

Monday, August 1, 2011

"They will know you by...."

The Bible, contrary to the world's popular opinion, is not a book of thousands of pages of rules; page after page of "thou shalt"s and "thou shalt not"s.  The best summary of the "rules" of the Bible can be summed up as simply (and directly) Love God.  Love Others. (L1/L2).

We are called, commanded to love and love in abundance.  In fact, Jesus, after first commanding us to love others as we love ourselves (the "Golden Rule"), said love one another "As I have loved you".  WOW!  Talk about high standards!  We aren't even just called to love others as we love ourselves (which we already aren't very good at), we're called to love others (ALL others: strangers, those different then us, those we don't like, those who directly hate us) as Christ loved us...  we are commanded to love others like Christ loved the world.  Christ, who died on the cross, willingly, Christ who left His eternal throne in Heaven with angels praising him for all of time, to be born into poverty, walk the earth as a lowly man, be tempted by Satan, ridiculed by all, tortured, heart broken, and murdered in cold blood just so that He could have the chance at spending eternity with us - all so we could have the option of Living!  THAT'S how we are called to love others!?  Yes.  Commanded.

And so that "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

that's how we stand out.  That's how we are "rebels" in this world, that's how we get noticed, that's what causes other people to look at us and say... "that does not make sense/how they responded to that person is Crazy/how could they respond like that in such a circumstance/They have something that I don't!" and That's how we Point to God.  

Christians are not, and should not be known by the crosses on our necks or the fish sticker on our cars-the world should recognize us as different by our deep love, abundant grace, and unending forgiveness for others

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

6 Months In:

1st off, I apologize for the period of silence this blog has had, fortunately, it's been due to being extremely busy!  The summer brings lots of events, trips, planning, VBS, etc.

A long and fast 6 months:

On one hand, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been 6 months since I came on staff, and on the other hand the 6 months have come and gone in nothing more than they blink of an eye!

What I can say for sure, is that it has been the best, most powerful, and most purposeful 6 months of our lives.  
We Love this new life (and ministry is absolutely a complete life style – 24/7) and thank God every day for placing us in this role!

NONE of this would be possible without the tireless work of all you - the volunteers, the helpers, the supporters, the strong shoulders, and the prayer warriors... we are all in this together!

In my opinion, the numbers game is a very dangerous one.  I truly believe that whoever God places in front of us is who we are supposed to minister to, and there will be seasons of retraction and expansion regardless of who is doing what sometimes – that said, God has truly done amazing, amazing things during this time that you can’t help but stand in awe of:
  • The pre-AWANA Wed night attendance from birth through high school was running 13 kids.  It is now running between 55 and up to 90 plus a group that averages 15 people meeting at our house for 2 hours on Wednesdays before we ever even come to the building (for “Dinner & Devo @ the Dodd’s).  Just as wonderful is the fact that we went from 3 adult workers on wed nights to almost 10 times that many – all loving it and getting as much fulfillment out of it as the children they are working with.
  • The Youth Group Sunday school class was averaging 3 kids on Sunday mornings and now runs 15-25 every Sunday.  I am asked nearly every Sunday “Where are all these kids coming from!?”  The beautiful answer is that most all of them are ours.  Most of the kids families are, and have been, members here at Highland View, they just simply hadn’t been attending our services.  God has stirred in them a burning desire to come and be a part of our group, and from there, they are bringing their friends and growing even more.
  • Our youth group trips have set record numbers as well, big and small trips (17 to UPLift for a week and 25 to our KY Splash trip last week).
  • VBS last year consisted of 11 kids.  This year, not only did we have more adult volunteers than we’ve had in years, we have also had 46 unique kids attend VBS this week!
  • Church in the park, our family nights at the building, and our 2011 Family Retreat have all been far and away the most highly attended in years and you can tangibly feel the excitement and the bonds growing amongst our families (of all ages!)
  • And though I don’t wish to pull a David counting ‘his’ kingdom, we all know of breathtaking number of baptisms that God has blessed Highland View with as well!

Erin and I have found ourselves more deeply involved in family ministry than even we could have ever imagined.  God has literally dropped people in my lap everywhere we go and then opens a conversation that allows Him to bring them to Highland View (from a waitress at a local Mexican restaurant to a cashier at Home Depot).  Additionally, God is using a huge percentage of our time in family and marriage counseling for the body here at Highland View.

The opportunity to preach is always appreciated and the congregational response is simply overwhelming.  We have many things in the works for the future (full calendar, Chicago next week, tweaking to AWANA, even more family events, family movie nights, new teen activities, mission trip for next summer, Christian sports camp in conjunction with other coaches and schools, etc. etc. etc.)

We feel so blessed by what God is doing around us and allowing us to play a small part in His plan.      
We feel so blessed to be a part of this body, to be surrounded by this family, and to be shepherded by this eldership.  We truly feel free to live ministry here – and that we are free to bless and serve as God intends and are unbelievably thankful for the support all of you show us in all of our endeavors. 

Thank you all,

-Levi, Erin, and Emily

Friday, July 1, 2011

Yay though I walk through the valley...

UpLift was amazing.  I got to personally baptize 2 girls in the Fountain (very cool experience), got to watch 5 kids out of my God Time classes be baptized, and got to watch a couple dozen others make the decision to be baptized with Christ over the course of the week.

I taught 3 classes each day and spoke to the kids about the fact that they are not the star of this movie (they are not the focus of this life), that our sole purpose on earth is to point (with our very being) to God.
The last day of class I asked them a simple question:  "has it been hard to be a Christian this week - at UpLift camp, on the campus of Harding University?"  of course, the resounding answer was 'no'.  Why?  There's no magic in the Harding campus (although I will say the campus is truly one of the most beautiful I have ever seen), instead, it's easy because we were surrounded by Christians.  Everyone around us was like us.

But, I warned them, it was now time to begin our descent.  See, we can't live on the mountain top, no matter how much we would like to, eventually, we have to come down.  Down to our jobs, our schools, our sports, our hobbies, and, for some of us, our very own homes and families.  Valleys.  So what do we do?  We can be clear of one thing:  we can not survive on our own.  No one ever claimed this life would be easy.  In fact, when asked what one needed to do to be a follower of Jesus, Jesus replied 'pick up that electric chair, strap it to your back, and come on' ("Take up your cross and follow me").  Jesus was being realistic.  He was telling us as plainly as He could what we could expect from this life.  So we must (must, must must) surround ourselves with other Christians - those who will love us, support us, encourage us, build us up, and understand us for what we are (imperfect sinners, who will continue to make mistakes our entire lives, but are saved by the amazing, unfair, crazy love and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ).

I warned them that when they got home, reality, life, the enemy would be waiting to smack them right between the eyes.

My life, in every way, has lived out my sermons for the week - including that last one.  Though no one is immune to discouragement, pain, grief, sorrow, or angst, we (as Christians) have hope.  A hope that can be found by NO other means than the knowledge that comes from being saved.... no matter how low this world takes us or those around us, we Know how this story ends.  So, in the face of pain and adversity, we can have hope.

Rejoice always.  Put on the clothes of Love.  Pray without ceasing.  Have hope.  Be a light.  Point to God.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


For those of you who don't know, Erin and I are leaving tomorrow morning to drive a van and trailer with 14 people down to UpLift.  UpLift is a Christian summer camp held at Harding University in Searcy, AR and focuses on deep spiritual growth and self reflection for 7th-12th graders and I could not be more excited (for everything except the 9-10 hour drive each way...) about what's in store for us!

This will be my own first trip to UpLift and my first time visiting the huge metropolis of Searcy.  I look forward seeing our kids grow: find a deeper understanding of who they are, grow closer to each other (their Christian community and in our own youth group), and closer to God.

I'm very excited that I've been asked to teach while I'm down there and am really looking forward to spending time with these kids in Biblical study and prayer.  This is such a powerful time for these teens and I ask for all of you to pray for us while we're gone - that God will powerfully reveal himself to everyone who is there and that these teens will return even stronger than they leave.


Thursday, June 9, 2011


Ministering "To" someone is similar to talking "To" someone.
The person doing the talking may or may not actually being doing any good at all.
If you are talking "To/At/For" someone, do you know what they need?  What they think? Who they are?
If you are ministering "To/At/For" someone, they same problems exist.
We don't want to minister "At" someone anymore than we want to talk "At" someone.

Don't minister At someone -- minister WITH someone.

(Note: I jotted this down after watching a video that my sister-in-law posted that was put out by the United Methodist Church on their new missions/ministry campaign.  You can see the video here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GKBT8mV0CMc )

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sunday's sermon

My sermon last Sunday on Christian Fellowship/Fellowship of the Believer can be seen at:


The scripture from the sermon (many of the following scriptures weren't included Sunday due to time but were used in research)

Galations 3:26-29
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Romans 12:5
 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Ephesians 4:2-6
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1 Peter 4:10
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

James 5:16
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Mathew 18:20
20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

2 Corinthians 6:14-16
 14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[a]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
   “I will live with them 
   and walk among them, 
and I will be their God, 
   and they will be my people.”

1 John 1:3-4
3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our[a] joy complete.


1 Thessalonians 5:11-15
11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
 12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
1 John 1:7
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[a] sin.
Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Luke 4:16
 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.
Acts 2:42-47
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.


 John 18:2-12
2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
 4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
   “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
 7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
   “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.
 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”[a]
 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
 11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
 12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him

Mark 14:66-71
66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
   “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
 68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.[g]
 69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.
   After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
 71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Mathew 14:25-30
 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
   29 “Come,” he said.
   Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Be a do-er, or encourage those who are

I once heard a story about a pastor who one Sunday morning announced that in that night's evening service there would be a special vote on whether the church would continue holding that service in the future.
Next Sunday morning in the church bulletin there was no mention of a Sunday evening service.
When asked why, the pastor replied the church had voted to cancel the services.
This greatly upset some people and a group of them got together and complained to the pastor that they had not voted to stop these services!
The pastor then asked, "Were you here last Sunday night?" "No," they replied, each with a different excuse.
"Oh, yes. You did vote," the pastor responded, "And you made your vote clear."

Patrick Mead sums this up in his rule of "those who don't do shalt not complain about those who do - WHATEVER they may be DOing"

So often (and this is not reserved just for churches) these days people want to sit on their hands doing nothing, saving all their energy to instead be used on crushing the spirits of those who are doing things.

We see people up in arms when an event isn't held or when something doesn't make the calendar when they have never attended or supported the event in question in anyway.

People fervently want ministry booklets full of programs, even though they will never attend, support, or staff any of them... but they better still be available!

People look down on the planners for not planning it how they would plan it, even though they wont assist

They call into question trips and classes even though they don't attend

They are angered by the days and times chosen because even though they work for everyone else, they don't work perfectly for them personally (again, even though they would have no intention of attending or supporting it anyway).

  • Strive to be an encouragement to those who are planning and doing.  If there is a program you would like to have at your church and it isn't being offered, start it
  • If there is a need that isn't being met, meet it
  • If you need to be reached out to, then reach out to others
  • If you need to see something, then be the light
  • If you desire a change, then be that change
  • Always strive to be an encouragement to those who are trying to bless others, even if it isn't in the way, the place, or the time that you would have picked - because they have a heart, and they are trying.

Be a do-er.  Be a planner.  Be a leader.  Take the initiative.

Recognize church for what it is (a place to serve and feed others) and don't mistake it for a 'made-to-order' fast food mart where you are a price shopping consumer.

We are not shoppers and consumers, we are servants and stewards.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


This Sunday I'll be speaking at Highland View Church of Christ during the Sunday morning service.

I don't pre-write sermons and store them away in a drawer so they'll be ready when the time comes, nothing at all against those who do, I just can't work that way myself.  Instead, I try (beg) to let God show me what in the world I need to talk about that day - what does that one person in audience need to hear from You (God) today?
I usually write mine sometime between Tuesday and Saturday, depending on how bad I fail at listening to what God is trying to tell me to speak on...

This week, I was sitting in church on Sunday listening to Curtis McClane deliver a fantastic message and at the end of the message (as it usually happens) I was hit with an idea for my sermon and began frantically jotting down the notes out of my head.  I was glad to have (man, a full week in advance... that was early!) a few disjointed notes and passages and ideas down on paper to build the sermon out of later.

See, my plan was to then take those notes and write my sermon today or tomorrow.  I had a plan.  To which, God laughed.  Don't get me wrong, I love the idea and it may end up being my next sermon, who knows, but it wont be this Sunday's.
But...I had a long talk with someone after church (after I had jotted my notes down) and then had visitors over to the house last night who showed me what my sermon really needed to be about.

This Sunday I'll be preaching on (prepared sometime between now and then) Christian Fellowship.  What is it, why is it important as Christians, and why is it important to you (me/the individual).

What do you think?  Think on your own: what comes to mind when you hear "Christian Fellowship"?  What does it conjure up to you?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

All the single ladies....

This blog has been on my heart for a while and with each week, the importance has become more and more prevalent.  I want to take the next few minutes to address the fairer sex in regards to dating (this is predominately focused on high school girls - but if we're honest, we Know this issue does not stop there).

Though I could theorize all day, I don't know exactly what caused this growing trend, but it is becoming an epidemic that reaches to all parts of their (your....) lives:  a complete lack of standards.

Girls dating any guy, any guy at all, when they are receiving nothing out of the relationship.
An interesting point to note is that this issue isn't just with those girls who are introverted, not involved, from bad families, those with poor (or no) father figures, or those with low self-esteem.  In fact, many of the girls that are breaking my heart in this regard have exceptionally strong, present, and loving father figures, are self confident (and rightfully so), outgoing, and are stunningly beautiful.

And yet....  these girls (you...?) are dating boys who treat them indifferently at best, and criminally at worst.  Guys who have no desire to date them, to cater to them, to even show any real semblance of interest in them at all.
"That's just who they are" -- "they don't like _____", -- "they don't want to go out places" -- "they have other things they 'need' to spend money on", -- "they are too nervous to come to my house (and my parents)"
... ok.  So what you're telling me is that they don't like you enough to change anything?  To adapt any behavior, to even spend 20 minutes doing something they don't like as well as (whatever), even though you love it?  Yet, you (the lady) are adapting, changing, chasing, and giving up everything about you, your wants, your desires, your needs, your identity, just so they don't have to give up or change Anything?

Girls, let me be painfully honest here.  If they wont (even sparingly) do what you love, or get involved with what You're doing, or show an interest in your passions, then they don't love you.  They don't even like you.  Period.  End of discussion.  No if's, and's, or but's.

You are beautiful, you are beloved, you are fearfully and wonderfully made, you are special, you are worthy - own that.
Find someone who will cherish you, respect you, love what you love, be interested in what you're interested in, and that you will be a focus of their life -
not just a convenient sideshow that sticks around and is always available on the back-burner for when they have Nothing else to do.

Friday, April 29, 2011


The Bible talks a good bit about Elders (pastors).  Most of us know this about the book of Titus (sometimes even referred to as "The book of the Elders") but there are also references in other places as well:

Ephesians 4:11, 1 Peter 5:1-4, Acts 11:30, Acts 14:23, Acts 15:2, Acts 20:17, Acts 20:27, Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:5,   and, the longest and most well know scripture regarding Elders outside of Titus being 1 Timothy chapter 3.  I would also like to add to this list Matthew 20:25-27 as Jesus' example of how Elder's should approach their position.

These verses all share the following things (I encourage you to look yourself):
Elders are a necessary part of Church life.  They are to provide leadership, encouragement, direction, exemplify the Christian walk, be attentive, available, cool headed, and wise.  They are not pushy or domineering or quarrelsome- they do not lead with an iron fist, but with servant's heart.  They are to take up their yoke of eldership with passion and by choice - not compelled and offered no financial gain in return.  They are to be ever mindful that they too were once 'unsaved' like everyone they ever come in contact with and that now they are recipients of God's grace and mercy (while still being sinners... like everyone they come in contact with).

Review the following 3 sections of scripture:

1 Timothy 3:1-7  
If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he's talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God's church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap.

Compare it to Titus 1:5-9
Appoint leaders in every town according to my instructions. As you select them, ask, "Is this man well-thought-of? Is he committed to his wife? Are his children believers? Do they respect him and stay out of trouble?" It's important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God's house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry. He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it.

And now look at how Jesus portrayed leadership:
Matthew 20:25-28
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Now, some of you may wonder why I am writing a blog about Elders.  
Let me make this very clear:  because I believe we have Elders who embody and embrace exactly what they are called for.  Let me share a little of what's been on my heart for sometime now:

As you know, 

(those who attend Highland View Church of Christ in Oak Ridge, TN - those who follow this blog who do not, thank you and I encourage you to view these writings as notes on your own Elders and promote your deep thinking towards your thoughts and relationships towards your own Elders)

Erin has been working at the church for some time now.  Prior to that, my knowledge of our elders was ignorance.  I just didn't know, and for the most part, I didn't really feel that it concerned me much either.  During Erin's tenure I came to find that many of my perceptions that I had of the Elder's were dead wrong.  Again, let me reiterate, my stance was one of ignorance (as well as hearsay and assumptions which can be clearly summed up as: ignorance), and in my head I had the model of the "Iron Fist".  All decisions must pass through the Elders who would then sit quietly in dark meeting rooms, locked away in secrecy to weigh out their thoughts on the matter before passing judgement.  Then I got to see Erin's dealings with these men.  Erin would mount the courage to to go to them about some idea she had, she would draw up a plan, dot all her i's cross all her T's, suit up in her bullet proof vest and march into the hallowed halls (ie... the Library).  When she got there, at first coming in with many of the same ignorant pre-conceptions as I, she would make her pitch, sink back into her chair to await the gavel only to hear these men, with joy and pride in their voices give only one reply:  "go for it!".  
Our hearts and attitudes began to change and we began to judge those preconceived notions against the reality that we were now seeing and... came up wanting.  And to clarify, they weren't passing the buck with "go for it" they were giving an endorsement of "God has laid it on your heart, we can see your passion for it, we can feel the spirit at work - don't let us get in the way!"

Since I have come on staff and been privy to those dark, secret meetings I have found out first hand they are anything but (there's not even a gavel!).  I see these men before me saying "go for it" from their hearts.  I see men with a deep desire to see this church and it's members flourish, be filled with life, and reach this community and our world at large with the love of Jesus Christ.  They are supportive.  They welcome any idea from any member that is thought out, considerate, and Love and Grace focused.  Is their a budget?  yes, and there are hard truths to those numbers (and one hard truth is that on paper we take in less then ever and support more programs then ever and do desperately need the help of all of us in this body), but it is never a stopping point to God's plans!  What has brought huge respect from me is the fact that once the Elders see God at work in something, they do not hesitate - regardless of how their plant management brains think ;)
they Lead with their hearts.  

Consider that the elders are burdened (yoked with Christ) to make every decision they are faced with while considering every member of this church body.  A church body that includes rich and poor, 20 somethings and 90 somethings, married and unmarried, those who grew up in the church, those who are new to the faith, those who have always attended the Church of Christ and those who grew up baptist, methodist, or otherwise, people with babies, with teenagers, with grandkids, and who have never had kids, people with education varying from middle school to multiple Ph.Ds, people involved with everything everytime the doors are open, and those who come on Sunday morning and those are just a few of the millions of variables that face every decision - 
consider that if "unity" was your primary focus and you were responsible for making decisions for that group!  With that said, wisdom is of paramount importance.  Cool heads, calm thoughts, and rational thinking must prevail and our elders have great strength in those regards.  Many times considering things on decisions that haven't even crossed my mind - and thereby teaching me, by example, exactly as they are purposed.
On this note, remember how I mentioned that in the beginning I really didn't see how the elders (what they did, who they were,) even concerned me?  How the elders should concern all of us, whether we are involved with decisions or programs or not, is prayer.  Our elders need our daily prayers for what God has appointed them to steward.  

Erin and I have had nothing but support and encouragement and that is what has allowed God to do such wonderful amazing things in this body.  Ask anyone in ministry and they will tell you that the strength of faith and love of the Eldership dictates their ability to succeed.  I couldn't agree more - and in our case, it allows for following God - where ever He chooses to lead us.