Archives for September 2014

Let’s Get Out of the Huddle, Post #50

Ahhhh…’tis the season.  Autumn. Cooler weather (albeit rainy). We are in the full throws of pumpkin spice, harvest décor and football games on every channel and in every stadium.  Even from my front yard on Friday nights I can hear the high school band playing and football fans cheering at nearby West Ashley High School.

Imagine paying for college or professional football tickets. You’re in the stands, greasy food in your hands. You’re adorned in your favorite teams regalia, the fans are cheering, momentum is building….Your favorite team runs onto the field and gathers in a huddle. The huddle lasts for 10 minutes, then 20, then 40, then one hour! Then they walk off the field. What would you do? How would you respond?

Pastor Harvey Carey is the pastor of  a thriving, mission-minded church in Detroit, MI. Located in one of the poorest zip codes in America, Pastor Harvey Carey’s church was identified as one of the top churches in growing people spiritually. Pastor Harvey is the one who gave the aforementioned analogy about the long huddle at a football game.

Isn’t that what we do on Sunday mornings as Christians—huddle for one hour and go off the “field”? How do you think God reacts when He sees us all “huddled up”?

Pastor Harvey’s passionate sermon was quite convicting. He said many of us “huddle” from one Sunday to the next. We often don’t actually “play the game” of our faith, loving our neighbor as ourselves, fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28) and serving the “least of these” in Matthew 25. He said we go to all these seminars, retreats, and conferences year after year, collecting binders of information on our shelves, which only collect dust. When are we to play the game?

After really feeling convicted about his sermon, I thought of the uplifting seminars and retreats and conferences I’ve attended. Have I been in a “huddle”? Maybe I’m wrong, but I liken them to Spring Training or Boot Camp to condition my/our spiritual muscles for the “game of ministry.” Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, you are conditioned, you are prayed up, you have done your calisthenics. Let’s get out of the huddle now and play this Game of Life. Go serve! Go minister!

Reflect:

–In what ways are you still in your comfortable huddle? Please comment.

–How will you execute your plans from the huddle and play the game of Life?

Renew:

–“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” –Matthew 25: 40 NIV84

–Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…’” –Matthew 28:19 NIV84

–“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” –1 Corinthians 9:25 NIV84

Recharge:

–Name three “Fields” you will play on this month.

–What is one way your family can help “the least of these’ or your neighbor?

Resource:

 www.citadeloffaith.org

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Are You Bearing Fruit or Flashy Foliage? Post #49

Autumn's Majesty

On this first day of autumn, I thought it appropriate to ask ourselves a reflective question. Would you say you bear fruit or foliage?

How many of us have driven hours upon hours to the mountains of NC or even flown to the Northeast in the autumn to spend a weekend “leaf looking”? I admit I drive to Blowing Rock, NC every autumn to enjoy the glorious majesty of the spectacular foliage, too breathtaking to capture properly on canvas or camera.

The majestic transformation of the leaves in the mountains or in the Northeast is a sight to behold–for a few weeks. It is amazing to think that this beauty only lasts a mere three weeks or so. Then the leaves fall from the trees, withering and dying on the ground, crunching beneath our feet.

To that end, would you even walk across the street to see an apple tree ready to harvest? To see apples hanging on the limbs juicy and ripe, enough to feed a family sustainably for days, weeks, or years if needed? Sadly, the answer is probably an under-the-breath “no.”

Bearing fruit for Jesus Christ to better God’s Kingdom is not a glamorous job. How many of us have started off doing a service for God, only to slack off in just a few weeks and get tired?

“‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples….You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name.'”–John 15:5-8, 16. NIV84

The message is that simple, is that hard. Let’s roll up our sleeves, delve into God’s Word daily, work diligently for the Lord and bear much fruit. Like the apple trees, we will bear much fruit for God’s Kingdom, for eternity–true eternal sustanance.

Reflect:

–What are your plans to bear more fruit? Please comment.

–How can you encourage the “flashy foliage” bearers in your life? Please comment.

Renew:

–“‘ Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.'” –Matthew 7:15-20 NIV 84

–“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” –Galatians 5:22 NIV84

Recharge:

–“If Christ, the heavenly Vine, has taken the believer as a branch, then He has pledged Himself, in the very nature of things, to supply the sap and spirit and nourishment to make it bring forth fruit…The soul need but have one care—to abide closely, fully, wholly. He will give the fruit. He works all that is needed to make the believer a blessing.” –Andrew Murray

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How to Handle Life’s Curve Balls, Post #48

What do you do when life throws you a curve ball? Dawn and Chris Carr know how to handle curve balls. They have always been such a precious couple in my life. They met when they were 19 years old at college and were inseparable. We as Dawn’s best college friends knew they would marry.  They married right after college, in 1995.  They epitomize–then and today– a Christ-centered marriage.

For their whole marriage of almost 20 years, Chris awakens daily at 6am to have his quiet time and Bible reading, eats breakfast with his family, then he leaves for work.  They pray together, laugh together, work hard together, and have fun together as a family. Life often seems so perfect in the calm before the curve ball.

Their curve ball came in 2003, when Dawn was 30 years old. While enjoying their two-year-old son Carson and pregnant with their second child,  Dawn was diagnosed with colon cancer. Just typing those words brings tears to my eyes, recalling the shock. How could someone our age have colon cancer, especially Dawn who was pregnant?

A prayerful decision was made to operate. When the growing baby in her womb was five months along, anointed doctors made an incision from her breasts down to her pelvis. The nurses held that baby outside of her body while 13 cancerous inches of her colon was removed, then gently placed the baby miraculously back into her body. Miracles never cease.

The surgery was not the worst of the battle. Her incision down the front of her body had a difficult time healing because, as the baby grew inside of her, her skin and stitches stretched tautly. Dawn could hardly stand up straight because it hurt too much to stretch her healing incision. Not only could she not stand up straight, she also was not supposed to pick up her beautiful two-year-old son Carson.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” became my breath prayer for Dawn, one of my favorite life verses–Philippians 4:13

How did we respond as Dawn’s friends? What did we do? We prayed and rallied around her. We all came to Charlotte, took Dawn out for a spa day with a manicure/pedicure, then rented a hotel suite to have a slumber party. She was real in telling us all the details. We were real to listen. To cry with her. To laugh with her (although it hurt to laugh, she loves to laugh). To hug her. To hear her. To let her know we love her and value her. 

Dawn, Chris, and Carson came to Charleston to visit and stay with me two months later. By this time she was seven months pregnant. I remember us going to Fort Sumter and Dawn trying to push Carson in his baby stroller, and she couldn’t stand up straight. We heard the ferry boat whistle indicating that we needed to get on the boat. Dawn ran like “ET” with baby stroller while Chris ran ahead with our tickets. We laughed so hard. We had so much fun. Dawn laughed through her pain. Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.

Dawn delivered baby Zackary on Mother’s Day 2004, the miracle boy. We say he was “born again” on the day he was birthed. Dawn began chemo two weeks after he was born and couldn’t breast feed.  Both Zackary and big brother Carson have hearts of gold. They are good boys, good students, are good role models. I love them as I would my own children.

Dawn and Chris  go on date nights often, and go on “Celebration of Life” cruises each year on the anniversary of her cancer surgery.  They savor every moment. Dawn and Chris are such an inspiration, and their marriage is one of dying to self and living for God, each other, their two sons and others–even when life throws you curve balls.

I had the pleasure of staying at their peaceful home this past Saturday night. They had just come in from son Carson’s 13th fun birthday party held on their local football field. After the boys took showers and got ready for bed, I had the blessing of helping tuck Zackary in bed. So hard to believe he is now 10 years old. I kissed him on the cheek goodnight, told him I loved him and how I thanked God for him.  Miracles, love and prayers never cease, even when life throws curve balls.  The Carr family is living proof.

Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club” featured Dawn and Chris’s story in December 2012. Enjoy their poignant feature video clip now by clicking on the link below.

 The 700 Club–Baby Born Again, featuring Dawn, Chris and Zackary

Reflect:

–Why does it seem sometimes that bad things happen to us? To draw us closer to God?

–Please comment below.

Renew with One of Dawn’s favorite verses:

–“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” –Joshua 1:9

Recharge:

–What can you learn from Dawn, Chris, Carson and Zackary?

Resource:

— http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/amazing/Carrs121206.aspx

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