Independence Day

With today being what it is, it stands to reason that any of us who write and have the privilege of being an American should take time today to express our gratitude to God, to our founding fathers, to the troops who protect our freedom, and to everyone else responsible for making and keeping America a free country. It is a true honor to live in a free country, and I’m grateful for it, even when it seems so many take our freedom for granted.

Happy Birthday, America. May God truly shed His grace on us.

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God Is Good!

Yesterday morning, my niece Hadley, who just turned one, fell off the bed. The girl’s a fast mover, and she outran my sister to the edge of the bed, where she proceeded to fall. She passed out. Naturally, my sister and my mom, who had spent the night with Kenzie, the five-year-old, were pretty well overcome with fear. Even after coming to, Hadley was listless and not her usual, energetic self.

We went into prayer/adrenaline mode. They took Hadley to the emergency room, where Michael rushed from work to join them; while they were in the triage room, she began to act and look more like herself. The ER doctors concluded that she passed out not from the fall or from a concussion but from holding her breath upon falling. Everyone came home, and Hadley was back to “normal.” Praise God for answering our prayers and casting our our fear with His perfect love!

It Would Have Been Enough…

On Easter weekend, I attended a Messianic Seder at Congregation Beth Hallel. When we attended there last summer, Rabbi Kevin Solomon told us that we ought to consider making plans to attend. As a firstborn, Passover has a certain significance and poignancy for me, but to attend a seder that ties the story of the Exodus and the Passover to the sacrifice of Christ was especially powerful and meaningful.

(When I was about 10 or 12, we had a seder at Covington Christian, but our family was leaving for Disney World that night, and that was all that was on my mind. Needless to say, the seder didn’t leave that great an impression on me back then.)

One particular element of the seder really spoke to me: at one point, the rabbi read statements about how God blessed us, and the congregation responded with “Dayenu,” which basically means, “It would have been enough.” I looked up a typical Messianic seder service, and that element goes something like this:

LEADER: How great is God’s goodness to us! For each of His acts of mercy and kindness we declare dayenu.

LEADER: If the Lord had merely rescued us, but had not judged the Egyptians.
ALL: dayenu!
LEADER: If He had only destroyed their gods, but had not parted the Red Sea.
ALL: dayenu!
LEADER: If He had only drowned our enemies, but had not fed us with manna.
ALL: dayenu!
LEADER: If He had only led us through the desert, but had not given us the Sabbath.
ALL: dayenu!
LEADER: If He had only given us the Torah, but not the land of Israel.
ALL: dayenu!

The rabbi concluded this portion by saying that on top of all of this, God gave us Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah!

I couldn’t help but reflect that evening and over the next several days (and obviously weeks) that God is just like that. When we think He’s given us enough, he goes further, giving us more than we deserve and often more than we could ask for. It’s humbling and gratifying to live for a God who is so giving…

Twenty Years Ago…

On November 12, 1989, Grace Fellowship Church met for the first time in the home of our founding pastor, Rob Raynor. I’m looking back at that one event now and realizing that it was two decades ago. Twenty years flies by. After twenty years of changes, lessons, laughter, tears, prayers, praises, progress, setbacks, I can’t help but be filled with awe at how far God has brought what is now Eastridge Community Church.

The Flat Shoals Road building
The Flat Shoals Road building

I can remember the early days, the few weeks where we met in the Best Western on Alcovy Road (I don’t even know what motel chain runs it now), followed by the months in the shopping center. I showed that location to a couple of our current staff members yesterday, and they were amazed at the thought of our church meeting there in its infancy. I think it was unprecedented for a church to meet in a non-traditional location in Covington, Less than a year after starting up, we moved into the tiny building on Flat Shoals Road for nine years; looking at that building now, it’s stunning to think that we stayed in that building as long as we did and that it’s still standing. We did double duty in 1998-1999, meeting at Eastside High School on Sundays and using the Flat Shoals facility the rest of the week; we were the first church in Newton County to meet in a school building (that was WORK!). In 1999 came the name change and building the facility we use today.

00 ECC building front
Our current facility

Twenty years is a long time. I’ve watched some of the kids who were here in the early days grow up and serve as adults; now many of their children are active here too. I’ve seen our pastors grow as speakers and shepherds and take on roles they probably never dreamed of assuming. I’ve seen this body of believers weather storms, small skirmishes, core leadership changes, and economic turmoil; I’ve been witness to circumstances that would shake a less grounded family to its foundation but only drove Eastridge to our knees and a greater dependence on Christ. We are truly a testimony that the strength and survival that can only come from God.

It’s not about a style of worship, although our contemporary music and casual style was what set us apart in our early days. It’s not about a personality, though I think for years we were driven by a strong leader and his personality. It’s not about a particular ministry, despite the fact that our ministry programs are strong. What it is about is surrendering to and obeying the will and direction of God and allowing Him to determine the vision and direction for His church. He deserves all the glory and credit for what has been accomplished at Eastridge Community Church for the past twenty years, and I am honored and privileged to be a part of His revolution here.

Looking back at the last two decades and looking forward to what’s ahead, I can’t help but think of some of the lyrics to what has become an unofficial anthem here at Eastridge:

“You’re the God of this city

You’re the King of these people…

Greater things have yet to come

Greater things are still to be done in this city…

Greater things are still to be done here.

I’m thankful for the people of Eastridge Community Church, and I’m eternally grateful to God for what He has done and continues to do.

If you are in Covington this weekend, I’d love for you to join us this Sunday at 9:00 or 10:45 as Lead Pastor Scott Moore shares a special message entitled “Preparing For A Work Of God,” and hang out with us Sunday afternoon from 4:00-6:00 p.m. for our annual Fall Picnic.

I’m Thankful For Our Troops.

I’m absolutely grateful for the brave men and women who give up their “normal” lives to keep us safe and defend our freedom. I am in awe of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

You know, I could’ve mentioned many other things I’m thankful for over these past few weeks; the ones I mentioned were just the immediate ones I thought of each day. I can’t help but be grateful to God for all the amazing things He’s blessed me with.

I’m Thankful For Eastridge.

“Thankful for Eastridge…” That’s a phrase loaded with so many meanings. Of course I’m grateful for an amazing body of believers who are truly in love with God. I’m thankful that God is choosing to use these people to achieve His purposes. I’m especially grateful that, after a difficult year, I can see His hand in everything that has taken place here at Eastridge.

I’m thankful for our pastors and elders, who are clearly in tune with the Lord. I’m thankful that the pastors are not just my leaders; they are my friends. I’m grateful that I am able to serve the Lord as a vocation. (These days, I’m grateful to have a job at all, really…) I’m thankful for a staff who are like a second family to me. I’m thankful that I work in a place where joy and fun are valued. I can’t help but thank God for this place I love so much.