Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jesus Never Changes!

The writer of Hebrews simply states "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!" (Hebrews 13:8)

It's a very simple statement, yet one that carries significant meaning and tension for me as a Christ follower.

The tension comes from a belief that everything changes and in that change I find hope. The Bible is very clear that I as a Christ follower am being changed (Romans 12:1-2) by God to have the heart and mind of Christ. That's a good thing! I'm also told that my hope lies in the fact that there is coming a day when this changing, tired and groaning world will be made new (Romans 8:18-25). That too is a good thing!

BUT here is the tension... I don't always like change. There are days that I prefer to be comfortable, safe and predictable. It's on those days that I don't need to trust so deeply in Christ and I can rest in my own strength AND THERE LIES THE PROBLEM! I believe that at it's core, I don't always enjoy change because it moves me out of my comfort zone into the zone of absolute dependency upon God and that's where this truth about Christ becomes so important.

As I cling to the truth that Jesus never changes, I find great security amongst a rapidly changing world. Because Jesus never changes, I know that His promises to me will also never change.

Thus with great confidence I hold on to the following promises made by God to me as a Christ follower that will never change:

I will never leave you nor forsake you! (Joshua 1:5)

Nothing will separate you from my love! (Romans 8:35-39)

My peace I leave with you! (John 14:27)

Cast all your cares on Me because I care for you! (1 Peter 5:7)

I'm coming back for you! (John 14:1-3)

There are many other great thoughts that go along with this theological truth about Christ, but take some time to rest with great confidence in a never changing Savior's promises even in the midst of things like a poor economy, the swine flu and whatever other change is currently rocking your world.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A New CONNECT Chapter in my life...

This past Sunday night Susan and I opened up our home to our newly formed CONNECT GROUP from Grace Church. There are 10 adults (five couples) and 12 kids that will begin gathering every Sunday night to do life together as followers of Christ. I am pumped!!!

Here are a few reasons why I'm pumped about our group:

1) I believe with all my heart that God has created us for community. The beginning of our connect group study states it well when it says; "We believe that Christians don't simply gather to exchange doctrinal affirmations. Rather, believers are called by God to get into each other's lives. We are family, for better or for worse, and we need to connect with each other." (John Ortberg)

2) Even though I carry the title "pastor", at the end of the day my wife and I are still just Tim and Susan and we need community. We like everyone else are on a spiritual journey and far from perfect. We like everyone else need other Christ followers to come alongside us to encourage and hold us accountable in our walk for Jesus. We like everyone else need to laugh, cry and do life as a family with other families striving to live their best for Jesus in a crazy world. We like everyone else want to experience relationships past the Sunday AM experience. The Bible clearly states we are brothers and sisters in Christ and like any family we need more than 1 hour on a Sunday morning to deepen the bonds we share in Christ.

3) Some of our fondest memories from our previous ministry experience is of our small group. Through one of the toughest periods of our lives, it was our small (connect) group that was there for my family and I. It was a dark time in our lives and they didn't go running. Through tears, hugs, prayers and the study of God's Word, we saw God move in powerful ways as we walked through our experience with a group of brothers and sisters in Christ.

I'm realistic enough to know that like every family we will have our moments... but all in all there is nothing like the family of God when true Biblical community is experienced. I would encourage you if you are not in a group yet to contact Pastor Steve and the Connect Group ministry and get yourself into one!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Golf Vacation - Final Post

Here are a few of the highlights that I will not soon forget from my final day of golf vacation:

Walked into the Royal New Kent Clubhouse and was met with a t-shirt that read: "Voted America's 16th toughest golf course" by Golf Magazine. Now that's intimidating!

Played a round of golf with a wonderful Southern Baptist church planter. It was a great day of fellowship and could this guy play! I guess it is true that southern baptist preachers only work Sundays and golf the rest of the week!!!

Proud to have played my best round of the week yesterday! I still won't share my score because it was pitiful, but I had a blast playing this course.

Played one the hardest holes of my life as the green on 18 was an island green. In case anyone is wondering, I did hit the green from 160 yards out. The problem is that once it hit the green it bounced twice and rolled down into the water.

Got sunburned and laughed hard at my friend who had one pale white hand and one bright red hand. That's one reason right there to not wear a golf glove.

Got through Richmond VA and DC traffic without a hitch. Spent 1 1/2 hours in Baltimore traffic because of rush hour and an accident.

Got home to new siding on the house, a happy dog and my wonderful family! I truly enjoyed my time away, but I'm not sure I'm up to leaving my family anytime soon again.

All in all, it was a fun 90 holes of golf on the most beautiful and difficult courses I have ever played or seen. There is something special about being out in God's creation for four days that really does my heart good! The time away also provided me with some quiet time to just pray, read my Bible and a few books I've been meaning to get through. Back to reality!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Golf Vacation - Post Three

Today has involved some interesting moments. Here are a few of them:

My wife just got a texting plan and we've been texting all day and I found out my house was getting new siding today.

I played golf at the StoneHouse Traditions Golf Club today. Truly the hardest back nine I've ever played with narrow fairways and par 3's that forced the golfer to hit over ravines right on to the green or else your ball was lost. I've also never seen so much sand before in my life as well. With all that said... I will not be posting my score from the back nine.

My buddy and I played golf today with Tommy and Dan. I can honestly say that it was the first time either one of us played golf with rednecks. I loved the southern accent, slower pace and dang... these boys were older and a trip. Lot's of laughs with their many short sayings when a poor shot was made. Short sayings that cannot be repeated on a pastor's blog.

I enjoyed dinner at a wonderful Tavern (Polo Club Tavern) as part of our golf package. It was fantastic food and I'm filling up on sweet tea while I can. I also did the obligatory souvenir shopping for the kids and Susan.

As we returned to the hotel we did so to the reality that there was four large charter buses sitting there letting out approximately 200+ 8th grade students. What else can be said... it's going to be a long night and I'm guessing the free continental breakfast may be a little busy in the AM.

Tomorrow... I play one last round and head home after 90 holes of golf and plenty of good eating. But honestly... I can't wait to see my family (even the dog)!!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Golf Vacation - Post Two

The alarm went off at six and I was up and ready to go for another full day of golf. (Funny how you don't mind getting up early when you have something fun waiting for you)

We are at the course Colonial Heritage course by 7:15 AM and were able to hit the driving range and practice green. We were then out and swinging away by 7:50 AM and the course was absolutely beautiful. BUT THIS COURSE WAS TOUGH! There was no room for error on this course with each shot needing almost perfect placement in the fairway and on the green. (Which I don't do very well)

We wrapped up our first round by 11:30 and decided to grab some lunch at the clubhouse where we enjoyed a wonderful Pork BBQ pita sandwich and some awesome potato salad. We loved the course so much that we decided to replay for the afternoon and that's where the adventure began.

The afternoon adventure began as we got behind a foursome of gentlemen who were all well over 70 years of age. They were nice guys that we got chatting with later, but man were they slow. The winds also picked up (about 25 miles per hour gusts) and the sporadic rains came. Even in the rain we had a number of great laughs as we took turns driving away in the cart on each other while the rains and winds blew. We finally called it quits with two holes to go as the heaven's opened up and we decided to head in to the club house. The only problem we faced was a golf cart that had been going all day with the battery quickly dying. So... in the pouring rain we puttered back to the club house with a battery that wasn't giving its all for us. We had some good laughs!

I'm wrapping up the night with a few Advil in my system as it has been a long time since I've used my golf muscles for 36 holes with plenty of swings. I've got a full belly and I'm getting ready to call home and enjoy some time on the phone with my family that I'm really beginning to miss in a big way. Loving my time away, but my friend and I both agreed that next time we'll bring out wives down for them to shop why we golf.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Golf Vacation - Post One

I began my golf adventure yesterday as my buddy picked me up around noon and we drove to Williamsburg, VA. The drive down was somewhat adventurous as my new GPS took us through downtown DC in order to avoid traffic on I-95. Still not sure if it was good or not??? It did get very interesting as we drove from the Richmond area into Williamsburg through a horrible storm with severe tornado warnings. I honestly spent time wondering if God would allow me to go through two tornado's in one month... Thankfully the answer was no.

Today I golfed at The Golf Club at Brickshire amongst very wet conditions because of the rain yesterday. It was terribly muddy on some holes and the sand traps were flooded. But the greens were in great shape and we pretty much had the course to ourselves. I did play the hardest hole of my life when we came around a corner and faced a 218 yard par 3 that was uphill and surrounded by sand traps. It was also a course where they warned us that we needed to go two club lengths higher on all par 3's which means my friend and I both pulled out our drivers. I double bogeyed!!!

I then spent my afternoon in Norfolk, VA where my buddy and I took a boat tour of the Naval Yard. I must confess it was very cool and I enjoyed passing by two aircraft carriers (The George HW Bush Carrier is pictured above). They were huge!!! We also went through the naval museum and walked around the USS Wisconsin.

I then finished it off with dinner at a fantastic rib joint with sweet tea and a great phone call home to my family! Having fun but still missing them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A New Experience and REST!

I'm about to try something new this week that's leaving me with mixed emotions. For the first time ever in my nearly 16 years of marriage to Susan, I'm going on a golf vacation with a buddy and leaving my family at home. To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of the many things going through my head right now. So here are my unfiltered thoughts on this trip:

I love to golf and look forward to playing four days straight in beautiful Williamsburg VA.

I love hanging out with my pastor buddy from Canada that I'm going with. We haven't connected much since my move down here, so a week away taking ministry should be fun.

I love history and have never been to Williamsburg, so that should be fun.

I just got my first GPS unit (a TomTom) and can't wait to play with it.

I'm looking forward to getting away from email and phone calls for a week.

I got a super deal for four nights, b-fast, lunch and golf every day on great courses. It's less than $100 a day.

I truly hate the thought of leaving my wife for four days. She's my best friend and I love to take trips like this with her.

I truly hate the thought of leaving my kids for a week. I try to make every activity they are involved in and I'm going to miss a few this week.

I'm going to be away from my dog (actually... this one should be in the happy category!!!)

I'm going to miss the daily buzz and activity of Grace Church. There are days I crawl into bed exhausted it's true... but I love and get pumped weekly by serving at Grace. I don't like the thought of missing out on what God is doing for even a week here!

I am learning in life to take God's call to REST seriously. This week is going to be more than just the pursuit of recreation but rather some time away to recalibrate spiritually by reflecting on where God and I have been, where we are at and where we are going.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Life Lessons in a Rainy Downpour

Spring typically brings the rain! I'm one of those guys who normally loves a good rainy downpour (at least once a week) because I love to see my grass go green in the Spring. But the past few weeks have been different in that my roof is covered with some tarps right now and I don't want any leakage into our home. It's intrigued me how a downpour of rain can go from something good to something bad based upon circumstances.

I'm coming to believe that there are two different types of downpours we experience in life. I would suggest that in and of ourselves we can create a lot of "bad" downpours because of poor choices that can leave us spiritually wet, cold and seemingly alone and separated from God. We've all experienced the misery of a damp and cold spiritual relationship with God because of our sin. If not dealt with quickly, the joy of the Lord soon departs leaving you with nothing but dreary skies and darkness.

But, the Bible talks about another downpour in Hosea 6:1-3. In these verses the prophet calls upon the people of Israel to repent from their sins, turn back to God and find revival. He notes the rains in verse 3 as a visual picture of the life and refreshment found in a God who loves to come into our lives and fill us with the living water of life. It's not a downpour that leaves us damp and cold and in the dark, but rather one that refreshes the soul like a cold pool of water on hot summer's day.

It's true that there will be days with downpours that leave us feeling dreary and wet all over, but I'm learning to daily "Come, let us (me) return to the LORD" and experience the downpour He longs to refresh me with regularly as I walk in Him.

Monday, April 13, 2009

$1000 per minute and a hope for something better!!!

A little over two weeks ago, our home (like many others) was damaged in a terrible storm. I knew the damage was significant, but I never knew just how expensive a 10 minute storm could be.

That's right, in just 10 minutes the entire front of our home was ruined on many different levels. After a recent visit from our insurance company we got an estimate on the replacement cost of the damage done. After doing the math, I came to the conclusion that the 10 minute storm caused over $1000 of damage per minute ($16.6 per second). Now that's a pricey storm!

I'm yet again reminded of just how quick life can change. Praise God that He never changes and remains the constant in my life no matter how strong the winds blow or how much the damage costs per minute. I needed that reminder today as quotes came in for repairs and I spent 3 hours dismantling my son's mangled b-ball hoop and building his new one. Sure my back is sore and I shed some blood, but I have my health, family and of course a LIVING HOPE in my RISEN SAVIOR! I'm looking forward to the day Jesus returns to take me home where I will never face another storm (of any kind) nor will I have to build another thing with more pieces than should be legally allowed! Praise God for the truth of Easter! He is Risen!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

CRUCIFY HIM & a Night of Worship!

Last evening was a wonderful night of reflecting on the death of Christ for my sins at our Good Friday Night of Worship. Through Scripture, song and a number of creative elements, time was spent thinking about how we as sinners had no choice but to scream out "Crucify Him" just like the crowd noted in Matthew 27:11-66.

This thought comes after a time of reflection in the Gospel accounts whereby we see a crowd on the brink of riot screaming at Pilate to "Crucify" Jesus. I often wonder what my response would have been had I been standing there and I would like to think that I would have been the lone one with enough courage to scream out "He is innocent... set Him free."

But, the reality of the situation is so grave that I too would have no choice but to scream out "Crucify Him!" My desire to see Jesus (the sinless Son of God) crucified is not rooted in anger towards His upheaval of the religious system of the day, but rather is rooted solely in the fact that I am a sinner and I needed Him to shed His blood on the cross to buy my freedom from sin.

It's a sobering thought to think that I too would have had to stand there and scream out "Crucify Him" because of my sin. So with that thought in mind, I praise Him for He willingly went to that cross with me on His mind for the sole purpose of rescuing me from sin. I believe last night's service at Grace was so powerful because as this thought hit home to each and every one of us, we could not help but praise and celebrate our Savior!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Does my tongue build up or tear down?

I was reading Steven Furtick's blog post from the other day and was amazed at a little exercise they were doing amongst their staff at Elevation Church. He's been preaching a series out of the letter of James and taught on James 3 and the Christ followers use of their tongue. Here is a snippet of what they did around their office yesterday.

"Yesterday I preached on taming the tongue from James Chapter 3. Today the staff will be twittering every inappropriate thing that is said throughout the office. Whether they say it or hear it second hand."

Imagine if we tried that exercise in...
  • Our Homes with our spouses and families... what does God hear?
  • Our Work Place... what does God hear?
  • Our Ministry... what does God hear?
  • Our Cars when all alone... what does God hear?
  • Our Connect Small Group... what does God hear?
  • Our Neighborhoods... what does God hear?
The tongue is a powerful weapon that can be used to build up or tear down. Hopefully we all take seriously God's call to build up and speak value into the lives of those we come in contact with daily through the words that leave our lips. I want my words to build for the cause of Christ and not tear down!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Decompression

As Sunday (April 5) moves forward, here are a few thoughts rambling through my head after a very busy week and weekend.

I hope this Sunday night isn't as interesting as last Sunday night! No need for a tornado to rip through my neighborhood this week.

I'm really proud of my wife and the job she did in pulling together the Egg Hunt event that saw 5000 people on our campus. Check out the video from the day!

I wore my Maple Leafs jersey in church today and took a beating. I'm thankful for one guy in the church who told me to wear it with pride even though it was 1967 that we last took home the Stanley Cup.

Feeling really weary! The past few nights have seen fairly high sustained winds that have the tarps on our roof making an awful racket. Be glad to get shingles back on over our head!

Looking forward to our Good Friday Night of Worship and our Four Easter services. I really believe God is going to knock our socks off with numbers as we meet and move for His glory!

Appreciated Matt McElravy (Grace Worship Arts Director) and the band this morning. They did a great job with the Beatles tune but more importantly, leading us in the worship of a Saviour who is Mighty to Save!

Had a ton of fun eating wings and watching the Michigan State Spartans beat up on UConn with my son. We used to live in Michigan and Susan was a nanny for a family that all graduated from MSU, so they hold a special place in our hearts.

Can't wait to try the live video webcast tomorrow evening. Should be an interesting exercise that will hopefully lead us to streaming our services live on the web.

Thank You Lord for another great day of worship with your people at Grace. I love serving You here with them!!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

God's Promise in the Sky!

(I had problems getting the actual picture I took of the rainbow into my blog)

Shortly after the storm, I took a walk through the neighborhood in which we live and witnessed a beautiful rainbow. It caused me to pause and just worship a wonderful God who keeps His promises even in the middle of storms. (Genesis 9:8-17)

As I came back to reality, I looked around at all the debris sitting in the road and on lawns. It was truly a mess. Lives had been turned upside down in a matter of seconds and the long road of clean up and repair would have to begin. I couldn't help but see our spiritual lives in that very picture. Sin has caused tremendous mess in our lives. In a matter of seconds we make decisions that can ruin us for years to come. Yet, in the middle of our mess stands Jesus Christ ready and willing to step in and rescue us if we by faith are willing. The mess just doesn't disappear as there are consequences to our actions, but as we experience the forgiveness of God through Christ the process of clean up begins.

I guess that's what so exciting about the vision of Grace Church as well. God's willing to meet us right in the middle of our mess and move us (transform us) into people who reflect the very image of Christ on a day to day basis in all our words and deeds. I thank God for the rainbow in the sky last Sunday night after the storm blew through!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Storm Pics

At the end of our street in an open field and this trailer usually sits in the upright position!

This picture shows one small spot where the hail ripped right through our siding across the entire front of our home. Anything that faced West in our neighborhood had similar damage.

This picture shows how our neighbors back porch didn't fair well through the storm. It did quite a bit of damage to the interior walls as well.

These are just a few of pics I took with my cell phone of our home and our neighborhood as I walked throughout the streets with neighbors following the storm. I have better ones on my camera at home for our insurance company, but they give an idea of what took place in our neighborhood like so many others. Tomorrow I'll share a pic that reminded me of a wonderful spiritual truth.