Someone’s Watching

by Bill Mingle

Have you ever had the feeling someone was watching you?

You may look around and see no one there, but still have that feeling. Maybe it’s when you are leaving to go somewhere, maybe heading to church, going to the market, or just mowing your lawn. Does your neighbor see you get up and go to church every Sunday?

The fact is, you are being watched. The day you proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord of your life publicly, you began to be watched…by the world. The secular world is watching all of us as Christians. Watching, waiting, ready to point their finger, and say, AH HA!!! SEE WHAT THEY SAID! SEE WHAT THEY DID! SEE HOW THEY ACT!! or any of a number of ah ha! moments.

They won’t acknowledge that we are human, born with a sin nature and are still prone to screw up. They are just looking to point out how hypocritical we are, and looking for a reason not to go to church, and live like they know they should be.

Knowing this is all the more reason we should all be conscious of our actions in public to be sure. Do we really want to be part of someone refusing to go to church and hearing the gospel because they may have seen one of us doing something we shouldn’t be doing as someone who professes to be a Christian? Yes the world is watching…but so is God. I have to remind myself of that quite frequently as I’m driving in traffic, and someone cuts me off causing me to stop suddenly, sometimes causing a noise in the back of my stock truck…and i know that noise means I’m going to have to spend time cleaning up spills when I hear it. God not only watches me get angry over this, he hears what I’m thinking and then he hears me asking for forgiveness afterward. He is faithful to do so.

What I don’t want to happen is some person to not come to know the Lord, because of something I’ve done or said. Will they forgive me? I’m sure I’m not the only person who struggles with trying to be the person God wants me to be, but I’m the only one who can do something about the way I act and live. I know someone’s watching. I know God is watching too. As He watches me, I want Him to see Jesus walking beside me.

Recently, Revive church honored me with the responsibility of being in a leadership role as an Elder. I always thought of an Elder or Deacon or Pastor as someone looked upon with honor and reverence held to a higher standing. When I think of myself in that role, I think of ways I fall short of this. But with God’s help, I know He has a plan to use me in spite of how I view my shortcomings. Now, more than ever before, I have to be aware of how I live my life.

Because someone’s watching.

 

Advertisements

Spiritual Condiments

by Phil Baker

Several years ago I realized I had stopped eating ketchup with french fries. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I think I just liked the salty side just as it was, especially McDonald’s fries. Mmmm mmm. Plus I think ketchup has become so sweet and sugary it barely qualifies as a vegetable fruit anymore. Now, give me a hotdog and I’ll load that sucker up with ketchup, mustard, relish and chili. Most of this will end up on my shirt.

Foodies will tell you condiments are meant to enhance the flavor of food, not hide or replace it. They should give it a little kick or zest. But some food has flavor enough, no condiments required. Recently my wife made burgers that had tortilla chips, green peppers and salsa cooked right in the patties, sort of a southwestern slant on them. They. Were. Delicious. After my first one, I realized I didn’t need to stack it with all my usual hamburger toppings. There was plenty of fiesta flavor just by itself!

Is it possible we do the same thing with God? We augment our relationship with Him with Christian music, books by our favorite Christian authors, or even with church involvement. All these things aren’t bad. But we must be very careful not to make them a substitute for that relationship. They should enhance it, add flavor to it, maybe give you a little variety. But every once in a while the plain-Jane, no-frills, bare-bones, open-your-Bible-and-just-talk-to-Him experience should be enough.

So take Lewis the Lifeguard’s advice. Don’t drown your food!

Matthew 4:4

John 6:35

 

Nashville – What’s The Point?

Nashville – What’s The Point?

by Brock Benson

Deacon Claybourne and Rayna Jaymes  – if those names sound familiar to you it is because you may have been one of those like me who tuned in each week to watch “Nashville” over the past 2 years. (If you are wondering why I as a Pastor would watch such a show, please feel free to reach out and I would love to tell you.)  How will we watch TV now without this power packed couple? After 4 seasons, ABC is calling it quits on “Nashville”. So I decided, as one who followed the show fairly faithfully, to write down some of my thoughts since it is now all said and done. Or perhaps more appropriately in this case the fat lady has finally sung on “Nashville”.

WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE SHOW

As the show ended last night the producers left us with a cliff hanger! (Probably to see if they could convince another network to pick them up but that is neither here nor there.) Avery Barkley the baby daddy and ex-husband to one of the stars of the show, Juliette Barnes, is left on the airport runway having just been informed the plane carrying Juliette lost contact with the flight control tower 50 miles outside of Nashville. After all this couple had gone through during the show and to know Avery had freed himself of the backstabber Layla Grant, I am sure you were just as upset as I was to think on how last night was the end of it all. But what did we really learn about these two characters?

First and foremost they moved to Nashville to make it, like so many.  Avery, as a young up-and-coming guitar and vocalist, was dead set in season one on getting in with the right people and getting the opportunities he needed to make his name in country music. So much so that when his then girlfriend Scarlett started to get more recognition than he did for her vocal ability he flipped out and they broke up. Jealousy never does anything good for a relationship. Yet jealousy is a nagging thorn in the flesh for this couple at different points within the show. It would paralyze, instigate, and tear them apart. It was like both of them knew this was an issue but they kept repeating the same silly cycles which left them in the same stupid mess. Neither of them were willing to take a step back and objectively look at the situation and try to figure out what was really going wrong. Avery grows in objectivity and dependability through the season as he embraces his role as a father to he and Juliette’s baby girl and there are a ton of us guys who can take a lesson from him in this regard. In the final three episodes of season 4 Juliette herself really begins to come along after rehab to see her main role as a mom not a country star. This is a beautiful message the producers, I believe, intentionally tried to compel us into seeing. So many of us are consumed with our “career” and “making it”. We forget God’s wired us for some things which don’t seem glamorous to the world but are making an eternal impact nevertheless.

I find it really interesting as I remember back over the show the many times traditional Christian family values are represented well. The way Rayna & Deacon or Rayna & Teddy would fight for the family’s unity was not only inspiring but also convicting to me as often times I don’t fight hard enough for my own. Clearly Deacon at times crossed some lines in the name of unity and fighting for family or for what he thought was right, teaching us it’s important to fight but fight within the confines of truth and morality. There are laws for a reason. And just because we are zealous and passionate about something does not give us the right to act any way we see fit. This brings me to a closing thought I want to share in relation to the show.

There are many values and belief systems represented and that were perpetuated through the storyline of “Nashville” that the producers zealously believed and were passionate about. Therefore, they ferociously advocated these positions in almost every way they could. Yet just because they were advocated does not mean they square with God’s law. I am genuinely fearful many of my fellow neighbors and the people I am investing my life in to see reached with the gospel will believe about God only what shows like “Nashville” and others like it teach them about God. Christians, we must show the world who God truly is in his completeness not just one dimension. This takes hard work and a tangible effort on our part to do so.

I will leave this post by referencing one of the scenes that was particularly compelling to me. Deacon, who was Maddie’s biological dad and Rayna’s true love, finally got married to Rayna and season 4 included a lot of them becoming a family together. However teenagers can get crazy about freedom. And this happens with Maddie who emancipates from Deacon and Rayna halfway through season 4. Crushed by some of his failures Deacon, a recovering alcoholic, nearly returns to the bottle and because of that he decides to return to his AA meetings. In his final meeting Deacon, in a fit of frustration, declared “What’s the point?  We can’t do this on our own.” Truth be told I jumped a little bit in my bed as he said it and gave a fist pump. Why? That’s the first step to receiving the gospel! Jesus came because we can’t do it on our own. We never could. The show “Nashville” is a reminder that no amount of sex, alcohol, drugs, relationship, child, or family can ever fill the hole Christ was meant to fill.

This Is The Life!

This Is The Life!

by Phil Baker

Have you ever known someone that could be described as “full of life”? Often their character, their demeanor and their outlook has little to do with their circumstance or position in life. Do you ever feel “full of life”? When is it? Is it when you are engaged in a favorite hobby? Hopefully it’s not when you’re doing some stupid, death-defying, adrenaline junkie extreme sport like BASE jumping.  I’m willing to bet you feel most alive when you are with someone you love. Because I believe life is all about relationships.

Since we started the Living Generously series, we’ve talked a lot about the “Generously” part – what we can give – money, time, stuff, etc. But what about the “Living” part? Our human inclination is to eventually ask “What am I getting out of this?” It’s a valid question. We all weigh the R.O.I. (Return On Investment) on anything we invest in. So what does living generously get us?

James says “faith without deeds is dead.” So our generosity should be thought of as a byproduct of our faith. It is the natural outward evidence of an inner change. Generosity isn’t so much a command as it is a result. If Jesus is the chicken, generosity is the egg. Think of a sponge. It is obvious when one is completely dry. It will have no signs of moisture on its surface. Its edges will be concave and curled in on itself, like it is ashamed of its sorry state. A wet sponge, on the other hand, will glisten with water. It will be swollen with liquid, its edges rounded and proud. When we have a relationship with God, we can be full of confidence that He holds our future, our present, our time, our stuff and our space.

Remember Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son? After throwing a huge bash for his long lost son, the father went out to the bitter older brother who didn’t understand the reason for the party. The father said “all that is mine is yours.” The older brother missed the point of being WITH his father the whole time. By being with him he not only had his would-be inheritance, he had ALL that his father had. By being WITH our Father, we not only have what He has given us (our money, our time, our space, our stuff) but God says “all that is mine is yours.” By letting go of our finite property in preference to a relationship with God, we attain our eternal inheritance which is too big for our hands to hold.

Now, before you start painting me with the Prosperity Gospel brush, let me finish. You’ll notice in Jesus’ parable that the father doesn’t ask the older brother to give up his inheritance. He doesn’t ask him to tithe it to the church. He doesn’t even reward him with bonus points for sticking around unlike his younger brother. The father just wants to have a relationship with his sons. And he is heartbroken when they don’t want one with him. You see, both sons valued possessions more than a relationship with their father. The younger son eventually learned the lesson. For the older son, the lesson was harder to grasp.

To be “full of life” is to be full of relationships – first is a relationship with your creator, your Heavenly Father. That is the purpose of this series, which could have been called “Generous Life” because it is about getting life and getting it generously. You can be like that person that is “full of life.” You can be that wet sponge that has a relationship with a full sink. You can be that content person by the pool saying “This is the life.”

Servant Evangelism

by Brock Benson

Evangelism is a word that a lot of people throw around in the church world. It is one of those tribal words we use in various settings with certain people to help ourselves feels spiritual in a moment where maybe where we are lacking or feeling unsure spiritually. We love to impress people with helping them to think we are spiritual in anyway we can and when we use the words we know the tribe speaks it gives us an even better reputation than before.

But lets cut the none sense for a second. What is evangelism? Let’s not just use words we think fit or seem right at the moment let’s have an honest discussion about what it means. Evangelist in Greek was someone who brought good news such as Philip in Acts 21. The news brought; the only news that really matters: Jesus died and rose paying for your sins so you can be a son or daughter upon repentance and belief. This is the gospel message of hope.This message changes everything for you and for me. Through belief in it we are co-heirs, immortal, inheritance benefactors, and the list goes on… Simply put the gospel: Is a dead man defeating death so that one day we might too.

The church over many different decades and historical time periods has seen and thought through different ways to get this message out. Admittedly I believe there are times in church history where we have been better at it then others. I am not a church history expert just a pastor but I believe others would agree with me on this observation. Case in point the differences between the first and second great awakening showed we can easily screw evangelism up in ugly ways.

While I could go through a lengthy dialogue on the many different types of evangelism and their pro’s and con’s let me share briefly in a form of evangelism I believe in a lot. Servant Evangelism is form of evangelism where the Church testifies to the gospel  through demonstrating a heart of service. This is for the purpose of placing and creating for ourselves positions where we can verbally communicate who Jesus is to people who don’t know him. I’ve participated in Servant Evangelism in Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Austin, and now Nolesnville. I have had great conversations through these opportunities but have yet to lead someone to Christ on the spot during the serving time and prayer walks. However I believe God was and is at work through each of these moments.

At Revive this summer we are going to continue to serve our Nolensville community in the hopes that God will stir up Christ centered conversations. I hope you will join in on the many opportunities to share our faith this summer through serving with our MxM equipment in the Bent Creek neighborhood. Tonight at 7:30pm we will be showing a movie and would love for you to join us by the pool! Blessings.

Leading Generously by Serving Generously

by Ken Watkins

The Living Generously series has led me to serious introspection in both the areas of time management and how I typically react to needs I encounter. Following the second week and the “Night Court” dream that Frank experienced, I found myself looking at the way I often have given my leftovers to God in the area of how I spend my time. Too many days I have found myself filling my plate with personal priorities and barely finding the last few minutes before falling asleep at night to spend talking with God. I also have spent too many weeks waiting until Saturday to prepare for leading Bible Fellowship rather than meditating on and studying the topic all week long. God expects more from me as a  Christian steward in these areas in addition to the financial areas of my life.

It is amazing how God reinforces messages we receive from the pulpit and Bible Fellowship in other areas of our lives. This morning I attended the Nashville Business Breakfast at Lipscomb and the keynote speaker entitled his speech, Servant Leadership. Just like Frank, in Living Generously, I have usually reached for my money as the first way to solve any needs that I encounter. The talk this morning was a quick reminder of the lesson I learned from Frank that I need to be more open to rolling up my sleeves and using my time to minister to others and get to know them personally in the same way Jesus ministered to those in need that he encountered. The servant leadership concept is one that I look forward to applying in my new role as an elder at Revive. God has called us to do life together and serve each other whether we want to or not. If Christ could wash the feet of those who about to betray or deny Him then I must learn to be willing and available to serve others as well.

ConGRADulations

by Phil Baker

It’s graduation season. “Pomp and Circumstance” is in the air and I just watched my nephew turn the tassel. He is the first of my 7 nieces and nephews to do so. So attending graduations will be an almost yearly tradition for the next decade.

It was surreal being back in my hometown watching from the football field bleachers the ceremony I had participated in [REDACTED] years ago. We arrived an hour-and-a-half early to save seats for the rest of the family. This was a good idea as the stadium was quickly packed with family and friends. The ceremony started and the graduates were marched in to cheers and shouts for attention from camera-ready parents. Various academic honors were highlighted with their respective recipients standing in recognition (I recall remaining seated during my entire graduation). Then the graduates lined up to receive their diplomas. Within an hour it was all over. The celebration moved to the parking lot where pockets of family gathered around their freshly graduated son, daughter, niece or nephew, posing for pictures. I’m sure this made them feel like a Hollywood celebrity.

Several speeches were made that night making mention of pages being turned, chapters ending and beginning, memories made and futures dreamed of.  As we left I couldn’t help but wonder how different these students felt as compared to an hour or so earlier. Had anything transpired to make them smarter? More mature? Taller? Of course not. The transition marked that night was just a symbolic threshold of what had taken years to accomplish. And it was the entrance to a new life.

Life is replete with such ceremonies – birthdays, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras. But the truth is such transitions happen in their own time. They happen by our own development…and by our own decision. You can choose to be smarter. You can choose to be more mature. You can choose to be taller (Okay, maybe not physically. But how about socially?). Before each of us is such a threshold. With each new day God has given us, we can turn a new page, start a new chapter and step into a new future. On New Year’s Eve, this threshold is much more visible. We make a decision to pass through this threshold and start a healthy habit or end a bad one. And at the first occurrence of failure we give up and walk right back through that door into our old life.

When signing a birthday card, I will often write “Happy Personal New Year”.  I do this because I see January 1st as an arbitrary date to mark the start of a cyclical calendar. Why not July 2nd*? Or March 4th**? Or April 1st***? It is just as arbitrary for starting a new life. Each of us has our own date that marks the next year of our life. So why does our new life have to start on January 1st? Or why does it have to start on our birthday for that matter? Why not tomorrow? Why not today?

What threshold lies before you? Will you walk through it? You will have some failures on the other side. But just as the class of 2016 can’t move backwards, neither should you. Turn your back on your old life. You’ve “graduated” from that life. Keep moving forward. Oh, and Happy Personal New Year!

John 9:4

Romans 12:2

2 Corinthians 4:16

Hebrews 3:15

 

*the 182nd day of the calendar – halfway through a 365-day year.
**My birthday.
***New Year’s Day in the Roman calendar. With the adoption of our current Gregorian calendar in 1582, those who still celebrated the new year on April 1st were seen as “fools” thus April Fool’s Day.