Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stage A Simulation

Recently, I finished reading Tim Sanders' book Today We Are Rich. It is an excellent book and has helped me tremendously. One of the chapters is entitled Prepare Yourself. Lots of great content in that chapter. One very practical piece of advice he gives is to "stage a simulation." If you speak publicly, have a job interview, etc, seek to simulate the experience by rehearsing it live. 

For me, I preach each Sunday. Before I ever get up on the stage on Sundays I rehearse messages out loud in my office. I seek to prepare for things beyond my control such as sound system feedback, a baby in the audience crying, people getting up out of their seat to go to the restroom, and many other factors. All these things have happened while I've been preaching/teaching at my church. 

Whatever you find yourself doing, seek to "stage a simulation" before actually doing it. You'll find in the moment when obstacles arise in the live event you're prepared. You will silently say to yourself, "I was expecting that," and then move with confidence.

Monday, November 21, 2011

You've Got To Play The Game

Back in 1997 I attended my first and only Baylor University football game in Waco. My girlfriend at the time and Baylor grad, Tanya, wanted me to go with her down there for homecoming. Baylor was playing Texas with Heisman winner Ricky Williams running the ball for the Longhorns. To my surprise, Baylor defeated Texas 23-21. A classic David and Goliath match up. The fans stormed the field and tore the goal posts down. It was a surreal feeling! I have had some of those memories come back as I saw Baylor defeated #5 ranked Oklahoma last Saturday.

I also had the unfortunate opportunity as a sophomore at Carolina to witness the Citadel Bulldogs defeat the Gamecocks back in 1993. It was an awful feeling that day for us Gamecock fans as we left Williams Brice stadium.

I've learned a few things in life when it comes to sports. You've got to play the game. Just because a team is ranked nationally and the other team is not doesn't mean the underdog just needs to go ahead and forfeit. Sports is a great microcosm of life. You've got to lace it up and play the game, regardless of the odds against you. You've got to believe in yourself and the God who created you. Attitude makes all the difference. Henry Ford said, "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right." Thank you Baylor for reminding me of that lesson this week. And by the way, that girl named Tanya became my wife. I knew I was out of my league but laced it up anyway and went after her. So glad I did!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

South Carolina Baptist Convention Great Commission Task Force Report

Yesterday I traveled to Columbia, SC for the annual SC Baptist Convention meeting. I served on the enrollment and credentials committee registering people who forgot or never received their messenger cards. Messenger cards allow people to receive ballots so they may vote in SC Baptist proceedings. Later that night we had the "Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report." This task force and report was mandated by the messengers from last year's convention to study the effects of the GCR on our state's institutions. This task force brought forth a plan that would allow our state to to increase our contribution to missions (both foreign and domestic). It would mean some state Baptist agencies would take a cut. 

Getting Baptists to agree on anything is no small task. After discussion of the report, the plan presented, and others offering amendments to the current plan, we took a vote. The messengers spoke and by majority the recommendations were accepted as is without any amendments.

Not everyone agreed with the totality of the changes, but at the end of the night many left on a positive note in which our state convention is headed. Here are some of the recommendations that really got me excited:

1. "We increase South Carolina's contribution to the IMB (International Mission Board) by 21.95 percent over the next three years.

2. "Church revitalization, Missions Mobilization/Evangelism, and Church Planting be made the primary focus of the SCBC."

The theme of the report was "The harvest is plentiful." That is so true! Six billion on this planet are living in spiritual darkness, desperately needing the light of Jesus Christ. I'm proud SC Baptists are uniting in purpose; to help take the light of Jesus Chrsit into the darkness.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Quickest Answer To Prayer I've Ever Received

Sunday night I headed over to Rock's Restaurant where our students meet for Bible study. As I walked in the restaurant, there was a distraught senior adult woman with one of the restaurant owners, Gene Hunter. They were looking for something. I asked what was the problem. The lady approached me with a tear rolling down her face. She said, "After church today we ate lunch here. I noticed after lunch as I got home that my purse was gone. I don't know where it is. I've looked all over. Would you pray that I find it?" Gene Hunter laughed, "You've come to the right person, he's a preacher." 

I have a policy if it is possible at the moment to pray right then and there if someone asks me to pray for them. So, I asked her if she would like for me to pray right then. She said, "Yes!" I reached for her hand and gently held it. I then prayed to our Heavenly Father who cares about the big and small concerns in our lives. I prayed for a specific answer, that this purse would be found. I prayed Philippians 4:6-7 for this woman, that she would not worry but present her request to God. I thanked God in advance that He would take care of this situation. I prayed God would give this woman a sense of peace. And then I said, "Amen."

As I opened my eyes, Gene Hunter was returning to where we were standing with something in his hands. He asked, "Is this what you were looking for?" It was the woman's purse! She was ecstatic. Some of the first words out of her mouth was, "Praise the Lord!" I gave her a hug along with high-fiving Gene and Tim Camilletti who was there to lead the Bible study.

What was the lesson I learned last night? Paul instructs me in Philippians 4:6-7 not to worry but to pray about everything with a good dose of praise and thanksgiving. And then leave time for God to work. It may be immediate. It may take years. The principle remains the same. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lessons From The Penn State Scandal

I read the indictment this week against former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. He was entrusted with his "Second Mile" charitable organization to invest in young boys who had tough home lives and backgrounds. Unfortunately, he violated that trust. The damage he incurred on at least eight young boys (some say it's up to twenty) will last for years; many may never recover. 

The fallout has been great as well it should. Jerry Sandusky has been indicted and although innocent until proven guilty, could face the rest of his life in prison. The athletic director and another football assistant have also been indicted due to their cover up of the situation by lying to a grand jury. Trustees have terminated the President of Penn State. Perhaps the biggest news of all is that trustees also terminated legendary head football coach Joe Paterno. This is the man who coached at Penn State six decades and won two national championships. Many claim "JoPa", who had reported to Penn State knowing something shady about Jerry Sandusky, should have done more. This story is a tragedy and the real loser is not Joe Paterno who at age 84 has lived a long, successful life. The tragedy is what happened to these boys and the guilt, the shame, the lack of trust, and the challenges they will face the rest of their lives.

As I've thought about this situation at Penn State, I'd like to share some thoughts, lessons, and why we do some of the things we do at Ridgeview:

*Lesson 1: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)." 
When we read an account of a child molester we look at that person with utter disgust because of their sin. However, have we ever really thought about the fact that this is the same way a holy God looks at our sin as well. Can we comprehend that our sin is equally heinous in the eyes of a holy God?

*Lesson 2: People need Jesus!
Romans 3:24 states concerning sinners who trust Christ, they "...are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." 

*Lesson 3: Pornography will take you further than you think you would ever go!
I guarantee you that Jerry Sandusky didn't wake up one morning and suddenly decide to do the things he did to little boys. His actions began in his mind. That's why repentance means to "change one's mind." Pornography fills one's mind with filth. As a person continues to engage in viewing pornography, the sin nature will crave more deviant and disgusting acts. Sooner or later, simply viewing filth will not be enough. Proverbs 27:19 states, "As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man."

*Lesson 4: Never allow yourself to be alone with a member of the opposite sex or a child.
I've had a policy in my life for many years; never meet alone with a female. It has caused some inconvenience at times, but I want to finish faithfully the race marked out for me. Also, just protect yourself by not being alone with a child so that there will never be any justification of an accusation.

*Lesson 5: If you see or know something, say something! (if you don't you can go to jail)
If I am told as a Pastor in a counseling session that someone was molested, legally I have to report it. It is simply the right thing to do!

*Lesson 6: Every church should do a background check on children's workers.
Any person serving in our Ridgekidz area has to have a background check done on them. We want to protect our kids. Also, we have a check in and check out system on Sunday mornings for our kids. Some may not like the inconvenience but please understand we are seeking the protection of each child.

These are a few thoughts and lessons we can learn from the Penn State scandal. I am again reminded that our world is sin sick. We must sacrifice our time, our talents, and our treasure to take the good news of Jesus to people living in darkness. This world will only get darker as long as we keep the light of Christ to ourselves.

In Him,

Pastor Tommy

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Is leaving a full-time ministry leaving ministry?

While I was a student at Southwestern Baptist seminary in Texas, I remembered being told that there were thousands of graduates of Southwestern in the metroplex who had come through our school but were no longer in ministry (i.e. full-time church staff). I've heard Pastors recount how those who graduated with them in seminary years later only a few were still in ministry (i.e. full-time church staff). Their challenge was to stay faithful and to persevere the race marked out for us. I heartily agree with that challenge! However, the more I'm in full-time Christian ministry I see the merit of those who may be working full-time jobs outside of the church being just as involved in full-time ministry as I am. Also, I believe it is wrong to categorize those who may have stepped out of a full-time Christian vocation as having left "the ministry." There are many bivocational pastors on the front lines who are having a huge impact for the Kingdom. In fact, the Apostle Paul was a tentmaker and some argue that the Apostles didn't leave their jobs entirely in following Christ (i.e. they went back to their nets after Christ was crucified).  

So, whether a person is in a paid, full-time Christian vocation or whether a person left that arena and is now in the marketplace, hopefully their vocation/calling stays white hot. Christ has called His followers to "go and make disciples." As long as they have that passion to share Jesus and make disciples, they can do it in whatever profession they choose. The Bible says in Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Pastor Appreciates You Month!

This past October was Pastor Appreciation Month. So, let me express my appreciation and gratitude to be the Pastor of Ridgeview Church. Here's what I appreciate about many of you at Ridgeview Church:

1. Your love for Christ.

2. Your love for people (all people).

3. Your attitude.

4. Your servant's heart.

5. Your desire to meet needs of people in our church.

6. Your desire to meet needs of people in our community.

7. Your generosity,

8. Your time you give to serve Christ.

9. Your talents and abilities you give to serve Christ.

10. Your treasure/money you give back to Christ.

11. Your desire to bridge people to Jesus and see them become fully devoted disciples.

12. Your prayers.

13. Your forgiving spirit.

14. Your flexibility in meeting together for corporate worship in rented schools for almost 8 years. 

15. Your faith.

16. Your allowing me to be me. 

God has blessed me to be surrounded by an incredible group of people at Ridgeview Church. I appreciate you. I love you. It's hard to believe we began this journey almost eight years ago when my firstborn was only a month old! It has been such a ride. I still get a thrill and my joy comes each week as I see you grow "in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). Thank you for allowing me and my family to be part of the journey with you!

Many thanks!

Pastor Tommy