Monday, October 24, 2011

Two weeks ago all of our Growth Groups went over the story in Matthew 18 where Jesus tells Peter about the importance of forgiving. It is a powerful story of forgiveness and makes it clear we have been forgiven much therefore must forgive. It made an impact on our people who were in Growth Groups that week.

For every person in our church the goal is to make disciples. It was encouraging for me to receive a comment card on a Sunday after that Bible story on forgiveness from a person who had been struggling with that issue. This person acknowledged how convicting the Bible story was in Growth Group and how changes needed to be made to get to a point of forgiveness in her own life.

Discipleship occurs when a person's heart and behavior is being transformed by the power of God's Word, God's Spirit, and God's people speaking into their life. The process can be slow at times but it's what God has called us to do.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Recently I finished reading Eric Metaxas' book on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. So many great lessons I am reminded from his life. He spoke against the concept he coined "cheap grace." It is simply the idea that faith without works is not faith at all, but a simple lack of obedience to God. In fact, Bonhoeffer's mother was a huge influence on his life and this concept. She prodded her son to make the church live out what it claimed to believe by speaking publicly against Hitler and the Nazis, and taking action against them. For Bonhoeffer, this cost him his life.

Several books and messages are out in print today speaking to this same issue such as Francis Chan's Crazy Love book or Craig Groeschel's Practical Atheist or Kyle Idleman's book Not A Fan. Our church is grappling with cheap grace this week as we look at the story in Luke 9:57-10:1 where Jesus does not accept excuses in following Him.

Bonhoeffer wrote a book called The Cost of Discipleship. Jesus implores all of us in Luke 9:62 "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." I don't want to look back. I want to be all in for Christ and His Gospel.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I could never forgive them for what they did!

I met with some men this morning at Peggy's Diner for our Friday Men's Growth Group. We are exploring the Bible stories in the gospels. Today we looked at Matthew 18 where Jesus shares the story of an unmerciful servant. This servant owed the king billions. The king took pity on him and canceled his debt and let him go. He did the Dave Ramsey yell, "I'm debt free!" But, then he came across a fellow servant that owed him the equivalent of a couple thousand dollars. This debt free servant had his fellow servant thrown into prison until he could pay the debt back. Word got back to the king who was justifiably angry. This servant was brought to him and the king gave him a piece of his mind. He then had him thrown into prison.

Jesus' words to us are at the end of this story; "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Ever heard someone say, "I could never forgive them for what they did." Based on Jesus' teachings, what would you say? Better yet, what do you need to do?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The beauty of Growth Groups

Last Thursday night a week ago Aaron and Kayli Williams welcomed their first child into their family, Lexington Grayce. Throughout the day I received texts of Kayli's progress from Aaron. I received my last text Thursday evening. It was a picture of the baby! I made my way to the hospital to see them the next morning. It was a great visit and I enjoyed celebrating with them. As I was leaving the hospital, I ran into two Growth Group members from Aaron and Kayli's group coming to see them. In fact, this same couple had also seen them the night before!

As Aaron and Kayli returned home two days later, both present and past Growth Group members had called to check on them and bring them food. They are being cared for by their church family. It is the church being the church!

I love what our Growth Groups provide! First and foremost, they are making disciples. Out of discipleship there have also been many other side benefits. Relationships are formed in our groups. When people experience the joys of life (i.e. birth of child, engagement, wedding, job promotion, etc) their Growth Group is there to celebrate with them. Their Growth Group is there to pray for them. Their Growth Group is there to provide support for them through meeting practical needs. 

In the last few weeks I've seen our Growth Groups put their discipleship into action. I've seen them help a single mom find a place to live, move her belongings, and do some home repairs she needed. I've seen another Growth Group provide meals and house cleaning to a family who is experiencing some tough times. I've seen baby showers thrown by Growth Groups. The list goes on and on!

Ridgeview Church is a church of small groups. They are biblical (Acts 2:42-47). They are our primary way of making disciples. They meet many needs whether they be spiritual, emotional, physical, or financial. I am grateful for all that I see God doing through them!

Pastor Tommy

P.S. Here's a video of Ridgeview's newest family member. Congrats to Aaron & Kayli Williams!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Detroit Lions? Oh Yes!

Can't believe I actually wanted to watch the Detroit Lions last night! For many years they have been one of the worst teams in the NFL. They have been the team that gets beat every year as we sit around on Thanksgiving Day and watch them lose to the Cowboys, etc. But something is different this year. They are now undefeated. What happened?

They began to practice what Jim Collins refers to getting the right people on the bus and then getting them into the right seats. I'm not up on all the right people at Detroit. I actually only know two. Matthew Stafford was drafted as QB from Georgia and has made an immediate impact. His receiver, Calvin Johnson, from Georgia Tech, has also been a great draft pick. They are winning and the culture is changing in Detroit.

Whatever organization it applies to; getting the right people on the bus in the right seats is the key to success. Wrong people on the bus going in the wrong direction will kill any team. Who needs to be on your bus? Who needs to get off?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Aaron, "Lexi," & Kayli Willaims

Part of my role as a Pastor is to make hospital visits. My most recent visit was to Spartanburg Regional to see our newest Ridgeview family member. Her name is Lexington Grayce Williams. She is adorable and her parents are very proud! I am very happy for them!

I have been making hospital visits ever since my first church position back in 1998. There are a few things I've learned along the way. I try to practice these things:

1. I knock on the hospital room door if it is closed and wait for someone to open. I never walk in on my own.

2. When I first walk in the room, I squirt my hands with the antibacterial lotion on the wall.

3. I assess what's going on as I walk in. If there's a nurse talking with the patient, I wait my turn.

4. I ask general questions. I don't want to appear intrusive when it comes to a person's illness.

5a. If I'm talking with the patient and the nurse/doctor comes in, I step out of the way.
5b. If I'm about to leave and pray with the patient and the nurse/doctor comes in, especially if it isn't an emergency, I ask for 3 minutes to pray with the patient and then I move on.

6. If I'm visiting someone who just had a baby, I never ask to hold the baby. If they offer, I will accept.

7. I never overstay my welcome. Most people appreciate my visit and I want it to stay that way. I try to keep my visits to 10 minutes.

8a. I always seek to share a word of Scripture and always pray with those in the room.
8b. When praying, I always seek to touch the patient by holding their hand or placing my hand on their shoulder, etc. There is power in touch when praying.

9. I try to resist eating any leftover hospital food they have on their tray (:

Just a few things I try to incorporate in making hospital visits. This isn't an exhaustive list, but a few insights I've incorporated along the way. The most important aspect anyone can bring in making a hospital visit is a sense of love and care for the patient.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Effective Praying

We have been looking at the life of Elijah on Sunday mornings at Ridgeview and the principles we can learn from this great man of God. One of those is effective praying. Elijah was effective in praying. How so?

1. His prayers were marked with humility.
(Elijah)...bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. 1 Kings 18:42

2. His prayers were specific.
"Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked. "There is nothing there," he said... 1 Kings 18:43

Why did Elijah ask his servant to go toward the sea? He was specifically praying for rain!

3. His prayers were marked with persistence.
"Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked. "There is nothing there," he said. Seven times Elijah said, "Go back." 1 Kings 18:43

4. His prayers were marked with expectancy.
The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea," So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'" 1 Kings 18:44

What have you stopped praying about? Start back today with humility, specificity, persistence, and expectancy. God answers prayer!

Friday, October 07, 2011

In my Bible reading this morning one passage really jumped out to me in 1 Samuel 30. David was being pursued by King Saul who was jealous and wanted him dead. On the other end, David and his men were gone and in their absence the Amalekites came and raided their home base. They took the women, sons, and daughters away with them. David and his men returned to Ziklag to find an empty camp that had been burned by fire. The men were ready to stone David.

David had nothing to do with what happened. This was beyond his control. And yet, the stones were about to fly at him. Leaders always have the bullseye on their head. Here's what jumped out to me as David faced this situation: "But David found strength in the Lord his God."

Ever face situations in life where you had no control over circumstances and yet find yourself being blamed? Do what David did. Find strength in the Lord Your God. How do you find strength in the Lord? I have a few things I do to draw strength from Him. What do you do?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs' life on this earth ended yesterday. He made a huge impact on the world in his role with Apple computers. I am reminded of the legendary story when Steve was recruiting John Sculley, the VP at Pepsi, to come work at Apple. The game changing question Steve asked him was whether he wanted to continue to sell sugared water the rest of his life or did he want to change the world? John left Pepsi to go work for Apple.

As a Christ-follower, that's a question Jesus asks me as well. He asks me to come follow Him and He will make me fishers of men. He asks me to come follow Him and He will use me to make disciples who in turn make disciples. That's an incredible way to change the world. I do my part in participating with God in advancing His Kingdom one disciple at a time. So glad He invites me to be part of His team!