New Adventures In A Familiar Place

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It’s nothing short of amazing how God works. When I first “retired” from my staff position at Eastridge Community Church a little over four years ago, I didn’t think I would return. I honestly thought of my staff days as a season that was behind me – a wonderful time, but not what God would have in store for me again.

For the last two-and-a-half years I’ve had a job I enjoyed. It challenged me (mostly because it didn’t fit within the wheelhouse of my natural skills), I loved the people I worked with (still do), and I wasn’t looking to do anything different, unless a full time writing job came around.

A few months back, Kris Hodges invited me to a staff meeting. There I was, surrounded by familiar people. We worshiped and prayed and talked about God’s vision for his church! Then we went to El Charro. I thought, I could do this again…but it’ll never happen.

At that meeting, I felt God tugging on my heart. I thought He was telling me that He was leading me toward a full time writing career, but as time wore on, it seemed like a less specific vision.

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A few weeks ago, a long-time friend on staff at Eastridge announced her retirement. I mentioned to Trey Bailey, the Executive Pastor and one of my longest continuous friendships, in passing something to the effect of, “wouldn’t it be nice if I could take Michelle’s place.” It wasn’t necessarily a request for a job, but it set God’s amazing work into motion.

A couple of weeks later, Trey offered me a staff position at Eastridge. It’s the same title I had before – Director of Communications – but the job has been restructured to be far truer to the title than it ever was before, with lots more creative work, which I thrive on!

Some prayers, plans, and a couple of heart-to-heart conversations later, I’ll be back on staff at Eastridge as of October 6. I’m sad to have to say goodbye to my old job, but I’m thrilled at the idea of new adventures in a familiar place.

Doesn’t God do some crazy stuff in our lives?

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My Guest Column at The New Normal: Wipeout!

This summer I have the privilege of writing a weekly guest column at The New Normal, my friend Trey Bailey’s excellent site. Here’s this week’s entry…

One of my favorite summertime guilty pleasures is Wipeout. Let’s face it – watching people fall flat on their faces never gets old. But at the same time, every episode is downright predictable, with a similar cast of characters. There’s the arrogant guy, the one who is so uncoordinated he or she can barely walk without obstacles, the idiot in a ridiculous costume. No matter who they are, the same fate befalls them: they get themselves knocked down over and over again.

Reading the history of the Israelites is a lot like watching a Wipeout marathon.

Continue reading at The New Normal

But

The cross on stage at EastridgeThis past Sunday at Eastridge, our lead pastor Scott Moore shared a message that set up the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in a unique and powerful way. Scott took a look at the origin of sin in Genesis and how, because of sin, man’s relationship with God was torn – until Jesus repaired the relationship.

The book of Romans summarizes this narrative of sin and forgiveness:

12When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But

…and, as Scott said, there’s what just may be the biggest word in the Bible. BUT…

even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

18Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

But. It’s a simple word – three letters, one syllable, yet the truth conveyed after that one single word changed the world. I don’t know if this was verbatim from Scott’s message, but I tweeted this statement on Sunday:

As we consider Christ’s horrific death this Good Friday, think about how He brought about the reversal of our destiny. Consider how our future was changed by Jesus’ willing sacrifice. Be grateful. Be filled with praise. Be thankful.

Worthy Of Suffering?

The past week or so, we’ve been reading through Acts in the Eastridge Reading Plan. I love Acts. The stories of the growth of the early church are eye-opening and fascinating, even though I’ve read them many times. But this time, one particular verse stuck out to me.

In Acts 5, the apostles have been arrested, thrown in jail, sternly warned, and beaten — all for healing and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Then Luke, the author, makes a fascinating statement:

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.

Acts 5:41 (NIV)

Whoa. Worthy of suffering? These guys thought it was something special to go through hardship?

I don’t like to be inconvenienced or embarrassed. I push back and resist when I’m forced to go outside my comfort zone. When the expectations of my faith are ratcheted up, I kick and scream. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I’m not one of those throw-the-American-Church-under-the-bus types…that’s just not how I operate. But, no matter how great your church is (and I’m proud of the people of Eastridge), let’s face it: we Christians in America have it easy compared to just about everyone else in the rest of the worldwide Church. We don’t really know what it means to suffer for our faith, unless you consider persecution by the media or at work to be “suffering.”

The fact of the matter is this: for those of us follow Jesus Christ, what we believe in should be such a big deal to us that we’re willing to pay any price for it. Not just to be inconvenienced. Not just to be uncomfortable. But to lose everything if need be. Even to die.

To truly follow Christ means to consider ourselves worthy to suffer. I want to dive that deeply into my faith. What about you?

The Good Old Days? Not So Much…

These last couple of weeks, we’ve been reading from Ecclesiastes in the Eastridge Reading Plan. There’s plenty of wisdom to be found in that book, and while some of it is off the beaten path, some of it Last week, a verse from chapter 7 struck me:

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.

Ecclesiastes 7:10 (NIV)

I think this verse hit home to be because, as I get older, I can see the temptation to look back at years gone by and rail at how much better things used to be.

Things were “simpler…” “more innocent…” “easier…” People were “friendlier…” “less disconnected…” “not so busy…” And you know what? All of those statements ring with a certain amount of truth. But we can’t allow ourselves to dwell on the past and refuse to acknowledge both the present and the future.

My grandfather does this well. At 87, he can still spin the greatest stories of growing up during the Depression, raising my mom and aunts, and meeting countless politicians, astronauts, and other important people, but he doesn’t live there in the past. He appreciates the miraculous leaps in technology in his lifetime, and he refuses to forget that change can be good.

Respect the past. Cherish and enjoy your memories. But never do so at the expense of the gift of today that God has given us.

Believe me, as I get older, I’m learning to appreciate the present more and more.

Revolution: Redefined

You may have noticed that I changed the title of my website a while back.

For a while, I called my site Random Thoughts From The Revolution, and that’s still the subtitle. A few months back I made the change for a couple of reasons, but largely because the Occupy movement was heating up and I didn’t want to be confused with them when they co-opted that terminology.

The word revolution is powerful. People across the political spectrum overuse it. Advertisers wear it out. It’s a rallying cry in so many ways. But I can’t help but think that people don’t know what’s truly revolutionary because we’ve overused the word.

The truest revolution began around 2,000 years ago when God Almighty sent His son Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for sin — then raised Him from the dead. Jesus began to change the world by leading others around Him to follow Him.

At Eastridge, we’ve spent the last couple of weeks in a series entitled Revolution. The idea behind the series is that the revolution is to finish the work that Christ began. Our revolutionary call is to make disciples who love God, love people, and reach the world.

This Sunday, our Lead Pastor Scott Moore shared an engaging, audacious vision to create 100 campuses in 25 years. Many of these new campuses will be across eastern Metro Atlanta and north Georgia — campuses that will require large budgets and teams of volunteers, but many of them will be located in India — campuses we’ll support for a mere $150 a month until they become self-sustaining. It’s a staggeringly large vision, and it’s downright exciting.

As I said before, the revolution is to finish the work that Christ began. It’s the greatest revolution ever sparked, and it’s worldwide. It goes beyond politics, beyond culture, beyond anything we can imagine or put in its way.

It takes revolutionaries to reach the world. I want to be a revolutionary.

One Of The Best Birthday Celebrations I Can Remember

One of the best birthday celebrations I’ve ever taken part in took place five years ago this week. This party wasn’t a cookout at somebody’s house, and it didn’t take place at a fancy restaurant or park. or even at disgusting Chuck E Cheese’s. In fact, the celebration took place far from home, in a church building that smelled awful, surrounded by people who hadn’t had a proper bath or shower in days.

We were in Juárez, Mexico on a mission trip with a group of high school students and adults from Eastridge. On Tuesday of that week, one of the students, Caitlin, celebrated her 16th birthday. In an era of ridiculous, over-the-top parties (especially for milestone celebrations like a Sweet Sixteen), Caitlin spent her big day serving others. That night, we marked the occasion. It wasn’t a big party, but it was a unique, special time.

I’ve been to plenty of big birthday parties — and enjoyed most of them, but I’ll never forget commemorating a 16th birthday in the kitchen of a church in Juárez.

Joshua 4: Memorials

The word memorial has an obviously sad connotation. We only tend to associate it these days with death and sorrow, but God has Joshua and the Israelites build a memorial to commemorate their crossing the Jordan — an event worthy of celebration.

1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua,2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe,

3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”
4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe,5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites,6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’

7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

[…]

20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan.21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.

24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

Joshua 4:1-7, 20-24 (NIV)

We should all have such memorials in our lives. I don’t mean that we all have a pile of rocks we can go to, but there should be events and milestones (no pun intended) in our walk with Christ where we can say, “look, here’s what God did.” What memorials do you have? In what ways is God’s work evident in your life to you? To others?

Joshua 2: She Was A What?!?!?!

I love a good spy story…here’s a really good one.

In chapter 2, Joshua sends spies to scope out Jericho. The spies stayed at the home of Rahab, a prostitute. (If this were a commercial, this is where we’d hear the lame, anachronistic record scratch sound…) She wasn’t a used car salesman or an IRS agent; she was a hooker! Oh, and she was a Gentile too…not exactly a quality in her favor.

The cool thing is that God used Rahab to protect His men, and she was aware of that. Because she allowed God to use her, He protected her and her family. She kept the secret and was rewarded with her life.

I like to think that Rahab repented of her lifestyle and followed God, but I guess we don’t really know…

The thing is, if God can use a woman who used sex and adultery for a living, can’t He use us, even with our failure, foibles, and sin? Can’t we change our ways and allow the sovereign, almighty God to employ us to accomplish his purposes?

The answer is a resounding “yes.”

Joshua 1: Strong And Courageous

I’ve joined a group of guys who are sharing wisdom and holding each other accountable in the ECC Daily Reading Plan. I’m excited, because these guys are bright, genuine men of deep faith, and I can’t wait to partake in their wisdom as I share mine along with them.

When I have things to share, I’ll post them here as well. Here are my thoughts from today on Joshua 1:

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


God’s command for Joshua is the same command for us. We don’t have to face hostile peoples in order to overtake their land and establish God’s kingdom. Compared to Joshua’s tasks, ours are pretty light, don’t you think? But we have the same charge from the same God who was with Joshua.
God is with us…all the time. He’s the same God who gives us strength to do all things (Philippians 4:13). So why not expect Him to go with us and help us handle our day?

The Complete Jewish Bible uses the word “bold” in place of “courageous.” That gives it a different slant to me. Not only does that phrasing suggest a passive, just-not-being-afraid, but it also suggests an active strength. We should be bold in sharing our faith, standing up for truth, doing the right thing. God gives us that power too, in addition to the power to not fear.