Friday, February 29, 2008

It Is Finished!

Many thanks to my good friend, Aaron Carroll, for helping me go the last mile and get the new ISBC Student Ministry site published. You can check it out at:
He declined the sinful sugary delicacy and coffee in favor of getting our families together for dinner.

Tiger's Random Thoughts About Websites:
  1. Three words: Outsource, Outsource, Outsource
  2. Planning ahead of time is key
  3. Only put things on the site that absolutely need to be there- cut the fluff
  4. Clean and uncluttered is the way to go... keep it simple
  5. Double check spelling... then check again
  6. Consider your audience
  7. Make it easy to navigate and intuitive

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pitiful Posting Progress

Well, all I can say is... I am sorry. My spare time over the past few days has been eaten up with trying to develop a brand new website for the ISBC Student Ministry. I am grateful for my Mac but I am trying to educate myself on the finer points of FTP servers and the like and that is slow going. I'll buy coffee and a favorite sinful sugary delicacy for anyone that would like to help me upload my creation to the world wide web.

One thing to keep in mind: This blog exists for me. I don't exist for this blog. At least I keep telling myself that so I will feel better.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Road Not Taken

This Saturday night a highly anticipated match-up will take place in the college basketball ranks. The University of Memphis Tigers (ranked no. 1 in the nation, but affectionately known to this blogger as "Tiger High") will do battle with my beloved University of Tennessee Volunteers (ranked no. 2 in the land, the highest ranking ever acheived by a UT team.) The game will be played in Memphis and broadcast in primetime on ESPN. As of today, tickets to the game were being sold at for (gulp) $10,000 a piece- and that is not a typo.

I was supposed to be there.

Last August, my friend, Jason Sharp, and I made a plan. I even wrote about it in one of my earliest blogs. It was dubbed the Memphis Man Trip. We had a plan to make a pilgrimage to Graceland this weekend topped off with a little B-Ball and barbeque. We were going to buy tickets to this game way back before the season ever started and before anyone had an inkling that the "perfect storm" of a match-up would fall into place. We could have paid regular price and probably have gotten really good seats. But before the plan could begin to take shape, Jason accepted a job in Minneapolis, MN in October and moved his family up at Christmas. When I accepted a new job after the first of the year and knew I could not (and should not) shuffle off to Memphis this soon, the Memphis Man Trip was completely scrapped.

Now I wish we had at least bought the tickets. Ten grand would have bought a mighty big plasma HDTV and enough ribs to feed every man in my church while we watched the game... I in my new, leather recliner no less!

But the title of this blog is NOT in reference to Interstate 40, the road not taken to Memphis. It is in reference to the road not taken by Jason and me.

In 1915, Robert Frost wrote one of his most beloved poems regarding the two roads that diverged in a yellow wood. He finished it by saying that he took the road less traveled and that made all the difference.

Jason is very good at what he does and could have stayed here and continued to prosper. But he decided moving to sub-arctic temperatures, over one thousand miles away from what had become a very comfortable home for him and his family was what God was calling him to do. Most guys would have been content to stay, but Jason wanted to stretch himself, challenge himself and he (and his family) made the decision to take the road less traveled. Talking to him now, it is clear to me that it did make the difference. I miss him, but he is clearly following God.

I won't rehash a story I have already blogged about ad nauseum, but I was serving among some of the finest people I have ever known. I was in a comfortable church in a comfortable job making a comfortable living... okay so the living was a wee bit uncomfortable, but I digress. It would have been easy to keep on keeping on in that situation, but God would not give me peace about that. Now, nearly one month into my transition, it is becoming clear to me that God does, in deed, have a plan and He wanted me to be a part of it.

So Saturday night I am going to plant myself in front of my TV, hopefully with some good food, family, and friends and watch the big game. At some point, no doubt, I will think about what it might have been like to see that Tennessee victory in person, but then I will remember the two roads that diverged. I will think about the one less traveled (the narrow gate) and I will be thankful that following His path makes all the difference.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Kidney Stones... The Bane of My Existence

Well, here I sit in the bed with my MacBook waiting for the next wave of pain. Apparently, I have another kidney stone. For the last couple of days I have been experiencing some referred pain in, shall we say, other areas of my body. This morning I had the tell tell indicator of the feeling of having a knife plunged into my back. Honestly, I was relieved to find out that it was a kidney stone and nothing more mysterious.

The last time I had a kidney stone was in seminary... during exams. That was a glorious experience to say the least. They run in my family. My mom and sister have had them several times through the years. If you have never had one it is difficult to describe the pain. All I know is that my mom claims that she has had kidney stones that were more painful than birthing either of her children. Ladies, those were her words, not mine- don't hassle me with your tales of woe and 14-hour labor.

I will accept, however, your suggested home remedies. I have to speak at a Men's Breakfast at our church in the morning. Leave me some advice comments if you've got 'em.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Praise You In The Storm

Last week, deadly and devastating tornadoes touched down throughout western and middle Tennessee and on up into Kentucky and beyond. As most of you know, Union University, one of our Baptist universities in Jackson, TN, was struck hard. Below is a video that someone lovingly and painstakingly produced and dedicated to Union. It is set to Casting Crowns' song "Praise You In The Storm," which, ironically, was released just before Hurricane Katrina and proved to be inspirational throughout that ordeal for millions who understand that Jesus Christ is not only our salvation but our shield as well.

Enjoy and may you be reminded of God's love and provision in our lives.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Clothed In Compassion...Oh Wondrous Thought!

A funny thing happened on the way to work. Yesterday I had made a "date" to have lunch with some of my upperclass guys, so I was on my way to church at about 11:00 a.m. to meet them. It was a rather nice, crisp, partly sunny winter day. The route I have to take to church takes me past Eastlawn Cemetery. So there I am, rollicking along in my truck, clicking it up to about 45 mph, minding my own business... that's when it went weird. I glance off to the right just as I am passing the cemetary and see a tent set up and replete with flower arrangements, a mass of people, including the American Legion unit, all participating in a graveside service. My first, unconcious, thought was to tap the brakes and slow way down. Then I realized that I sat up straighter in my seat and... get this... I actually turned my radio down!?!? What is that all about? I went another 1/4 mile or so before I realized what my reaction was and what had just transpired.

It felt weird to just go blazing by those people. For some of them, that was one of the darkest days they will ever experience. I had absolutely no idea who they were or who they had lost, but I have been around enough to know what they were going through. It just did not feel right to be passing by without paying my respect. Then I actually had that now infamous thought: "What would Jesus do?" I can't help but think that based on what we know of His actions in scripture, He most likely would have stopped. In the TIV (Tiger International Version) it would read like this: "And on the sabbath, Jesus and His disciples went down from Kingsport to fellowship with the brethren in Indian Springs. When they had come upon a certain graveyard, Jesus looked and saw a family who had gathered to mourn the loss of their father. Filled with compassion, Jesus went straightway to the gathering and prayed for them." Sounds pretty plausible to me. How about you?

Yet, how many people do we pass everyday at school, at work, at the (gulp) church...who are equally disheartened, disenfranchised and distant? Countless numbers. Too many times I am wrapped up in my own stuff to care about or notice what someone else may be going through. What about you? Colossians 3:12 says, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." We are to be, at all times, clothed with those attributes just mentioned. What a list! Like the list of Spiritual Fruits, it is a pretty intimidating list. But those are precisely the things one needs in such situations and it is in such situations that He provides and strenthens them in our own lives.

I have had the privilege of holding one of my student's hands while her other hand held the hand of her dying mother taking her last breath. Believe me, it is in those times when you know that God is in control and it is He that empowers because there is no way that I or anyone else for that matter would have the resources needed to handle the moment.

Please understand that every day we draw breath is numbered. We have but so many to live for Him, in Him and He in us... on this side of eternity. Take every opportunity you can to notice what is going on with the people around you. You never know when you will have the Moses Moment, that moment when you become the vessel for His working in the Kingdom. Praise and glory to God that He would use us.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Christology: Who Is Jesus Today?

Now that I have had a few days to catch my breath, I can share one of the powerful messages which was used to challenge over 1000 youth pastors / workers last week. Dr. Richard Ross, student ministry "guru" from Southwestern Baptist Seminary, brought a strong word on Friday morning that is still bouncing around my cranium firing a few synapses in the process.

He related the story of the time he stood outside the dining hall at Ridgecrest (a North Carolina Baptist conference and retreat center) purposely quizzing any and all unsuspecting students by asking them all one question: Who is Jesus today? Out of the dozens he was able to quiz not one student gave the right answer. Before we get to the answer, let's examine the reasons that this seems to evade Christ-followers young and old.

First, we have a wealth of information in the biblical record and in modern television and film archives that detail Christ's earthly ministry. Several years ago, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" gave another generation of believers powerful images which coalesce to help form and solidify our understanding of Christ's earthly ministry. Dovetail that with Jesus- The Miracle Worker from "The Jesus Film" and we have no problem picturing sandal-wearing, miracle-working, cross-bearing Jesus.

Secondly, on the other end of the spectrum we have the strong church tradition and a somewhat more limited, yet rich, biblical record pertaining to the "home-going" of the church and the triumphant return of Christ. We know that we will be caught up with Jesus in the air. We know that Christ will return in the same manner that He left, splitting the clouds in the eastern sky.

But who is Jesus now? Right now? Our self-focused society prefers to view Jesus, the personal Savior. As Dr. Ross puts it, He is carried around in our pocket ready to spring out when called upon. The notion of the centrality of Christ becomes the prevailing theme. The need is for Jesus to come down to us and be the center of what we are doing. While that is one aspect of Christ's work, is it paramount? Is that who He is right now?

Now to the answer. Read Psalm 110. He is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is not biding His time, pacing through the clouds, wringing His hands, hoping we will think He is cool. His reign has already begun. The battle has been won. Think William Wallace addressing his men in the closing scenes of "Braveheart." Think King Leonidas in "300,"- a brave, valiant, warrior. Now understand that King Jesus is infinitely more glorious and splendid than that! We need to be mindful of a different theme-- The Supremacy of Christ. We need to get our eyes out of our pockets and raise our gaze to who He is. Our attitude needs to be moving away from us and up to who He is, meeting Him where He is and being a part of what He is doing and what He is going to do.

This is not just a challenge to me and other pastors and ministers. This is a challenge to all who align themselves with Christ. He is the magnificent King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Oh that we could begin to get a hold on what that means.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here...

Week one is in the books. You may have heard the term, "Running around like my hair is on fire." That comes close to describing how I felt last week. The week started with me scurrying around trying to get my office and all the tools of the trade set up. Then comes preperation for Wednesday night's lesson, a couple of physical therapy visits for a sore shoulder, heading off for three days of conference meetings and seminars and planning for a Super Bowl party for the students. By the way, that was as good a Super Bowl as I can remember. Way to go. Eli!

Then comes Sunday morning. God is so amazing. The plan for Sunday was the giving of the "State of the Church Address." Pastor Roc agonized over having to offer information rather than "really preachin'." We plan and God laughs. After the choir special... and then the encore choir special, Pastor Roc gave a mid-worship invitation. Then he proceeded with the address very adeptly weaving the word of God and the state of His church at Indian Springs. The regularly scheduled invitation was given at 12:30 p.m. The plan all along was for my family to present ourselves for church membership. To our delight, 2 other families joined us there. Then I had to leave my place in the line to go and counsel with a young man who made the decision to give his heart to Christ. After it was all said and done 10 people came forward to join, 4 of them by baptism and 2 of those were students. Oh yea of little faith!

It was a pretty fanstastic first Sunday in our new church home.