Another Serving Saturday

I have a feeling I’m going to be sore in the morning. But it was worth it.

I took part in Engage Middle Tennessee, a serving Saturday for all the regional campuses of Brentwood Baptist Church.

I chose to help out with Monroe Harding. I found out this morning that we’d be moving dirt that got dumped into their driveway.

I pictured the kind of soil that you put around flower beds and thought, “This won’t be too bad. I might actually break a little sweat.”

Little did I know that the dirt in question was to fill in an old swimming pool. This dirt consisted of more rocks than dirt.

I think I broke more than a little sweat. I can’t remember the last time I did so much manual labor.

Depending on how soon the ibuprofen I took kicks in, I might be feeling achy and old in the morning. But I can say without question that it was worth it.

The family we served has adopted three children and fosters several more. They probably expend more energy on a daily basis than I did today. They probably have more than a few mornings where they wake up sore and achy. But I’m sure they’d do all of it over again for the sake of these kids. I believe God’s heart is for orphans and widows, so I know God is blessing what they’re doing.

I remembered the verse where Jesus said that if we had faith, we could move mountains. Maybe I’m not being exegetically correct or theologically sound, but I wonder if those mountains don’t sometimes get moved one shovel-full at a time, one wheelbarrow-load at a time. Maybe it’s the faith of several people united in purpose and belief that moves mountains and changes the world.


H. A. L. T.

Note: I’m not taking credit for any of what follows. I’m only trying to reproduce it as faithfully as I can.

Everyone knows that you’re most vulnerable to temptation when you’re hungry, angry, lonely, and/or tired. Any one of these is tough to overcome, but a combination of two or more makes it even harder.

At Kairos tonight, Chris Brooks suggested some methods to deal with these emotions.

When you’re tired, you need to fill up on God and His word. As strange as it sounds, the best way to do that is to fast, whether that be from food or social media or anything that can distract you from or take the place of God in your heart.

When you’re angry, it’s best to seek awareness of what it is that is causing that emotion. Rather than always blaming something or someone else, you need to look within to find what’s off in your own life. The best way is by spending time in silent reflection.

When you’re lonely, you want to seek to be united in the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ. You want to seek to love and be loved. Sometimes, that takes the form of seeking guidance by asking others to speak into your loneliness or sometimes you need solitude to be better able to interact with others out of a place of wholeness and not approval-seeking.

When you’re tired, sometimes you need a time out from doing. God created the Sabbath so that we could rest and worship (and sometimes the best worship can be resting). No one was ever meant to go full-steam 24/7.

Something that grabbed my attention is the idea of secrecy– that is, doing an act of service and kindness for someone else with the intention of no one finding out. That way you take the attention off yourself and put it on another.

Again, I’m parroting what I learned tonight. I’m probably leaving out a good deal of important information, but I myself am tired, so I will make use of Chris’ advice and get me some rest.



Prayer and the Weekend

“Whenever the insistence is on the point that God answers prayer, we are off the track. The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not of the answer” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest).

First of all, I am lamenting that one all-too-brief sneak preview of fall. I honestly thought it would last a few more days, but the hot stinky sweatiness has returned. Boo.

I’m still churning over Matthew Page’s sermon from The Church at Avenue South in my head. It was about prayer, not as a means to treat God as a celestial vending machine, but as a way to get to know the heart of the God who is both Father and the Infinite Almighty.

I confess I’ve fallen into the trap of making prayer a sort of laundry list of wants and needs. It’s gotten less and less about remembering who God is and what He’s already done for me and more and more about me and my needs.

I keep thinking about the Better Together celebration at Hadley Park where two churches of different backgrounds came together as one. Mt. Zion Baptist Church, a historically black congregation, and Brentwood Baptist Church, made up of mostly whites, both joined in this event to show that the Gospel trumps racism and inequality, and that the hope of Jesus is for everyone from every kind of background.

That in itself was the answer to the prayers of a lot of people. I have a feeling that the closer we as believers get to the heart of God (what God desires and longs for from us), the closer we get to those outside of our normal comfort zones and routines. The more we understand that Heaven will be comprised of people from every tongue and tribe and race.

One last thought on prayer before I go. This is essential to understanding prayer and how it works:

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work” (Oswald Chambers).

Another Field Trip

I finally accomplished my goal that I set in 2015. I visited the last of the regional campuses of Brentwood Baptist Church, located in East Nashville and known as The Church at Lockeland Springs. That goal will probably need to be amended when the next regional campus starts in Nolensville, but until then– mission accomplished!

I had help from a new app called Waze. It’s like your ordinary GPS app that gives directions, but this one has the option of Mr. T telling you when and where to turn. My personal favorite is him yelling at me to “TURN LEFT, SUCKA!”

I made it, thanks to Mr. T and Waze. I knew immediately I was going to like this place. It had the smell of a very old church building and looked very inviting. The worship service was spot-on in theology and practicality.

I love how the Church is made up of churches that all express different facets of the body of Christ, yet are all each the body of Christ. Each of the regional campuses has taken on the nuances and flavor of their communities and each reaches out to a different segment of Nashville’s population.

Of course, since I was already in the neighborhood, I had to stop by The Pharmacy for one of their amazing burgers. The one I consumed was called The Farm Burger and had bacon, ham, and a fried egg on it (and it was delicious). I truly appreciate the animal sacrifice that went into the making of this fine creation.

I believe that occasionally, it’s good to break up the routine and do something that’s different. That could mean going to a different church or checking out a part of town that you’re not used to.

I’m thankful for the inspiration to visit all five of the regional campuses. It definitely opened my eyes to the fact that not all of the body of Christ looks and functions like my church. There’s lots of room for every kind of person in God’s kingdom.


Thanks for 25 Years

Thanks, Uncle Mikey, for 25 years.

You’ve been pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church for a quarter of a century. The only things I’ve done consecutively for that long are eating, sleeping, and driving.

25 years ago, I was on the verge of my freshman year at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Brentwood Baptist Church and Kairos were nowhere on my radar.

25 years ago, I was nowhere near the person I am today. I think a lot of who I am now is due to your influence.

10 years of Kairos (mostly under your teaching) have made a huge difference in my life. I never would have known about the brilliance that is Henri Nouwen had you not recommended him to me a long time ago.

You taught me that what I do isn’t nearly as important as who I am (and Whose I am). My identity isn’t wrapped up in or defined by my job title, my marital status, my income, the car I drive, or my net worth. My identity is define by who Jesus says I am– Beloved. Who I am is a son of God, a child of my Abba, redeemed and cherished.

You always ended Kairos by telling us that if we hadn’t heard it from anybody else, that you and the rest of the Kairos crew loved us and that we mattered. I wonder how many people in the crowd heard those words directed at them for the very first time in their lives.

I probably won’t ever get a chance to say these things to you in person. I’m not nearly as good expressing myself in conversations as I am writing things down. But I do want you to know that I am one of the people whose lives are better for you having said YES to Jesus all those years ago and been faithful to the call which led you to Brentwood Baptist Church 25 years ago.

Thanks, Uncle Mikey. We rise up and call you blessed.


Thinking About Joseph

My church, The Church at Avenue South, started a new series on the character Joseph from the book of Genesis (along with all the other campuses of Brentwood Baptist Church).

It’s a very familiar story that I’ve heard literally all my life, yet there are new lessons I can learn from the story about how God redeemed one man’s misfortune to bless and save an entire nation.

Joseph didn’t start out so well. He had dreams about being in power over his father and brothers. His decision to tell his father and brothers about these particular dreams was not a wise one. He choose rather poorly.

Can anyone else relate? I know I can. There have been seasons in my life where I’ve been poor decision-prone and where I kept sticking my foot in my mouth in conversations.

The good news is that God is for all the Josephs of the world, even during those seasons of poor decision making. There’s not a mistake or even a fiasco that God can’t redeem and turn into good in the grander scheme of His unfolding story.

Like I said before, God took every negative from Joseph’s life and used it toward His purpose of saving a family and a nation through which would later come a Savior who would save people from every ethnic group and nation.

Did that excuse Joseph’s initial arrogance? No. Will it excuse mine? No. Will it defeat God’s purposes for me and for the world around me in which I live, work, and play? No.

I am never given an excuse for disobedience, but at the same time, God can take my bad decisions and weave even those into His overall redemptive plan. While my sin will still have consequences, it doesn’t have to mean the end of my story or God’s plans for me.

God is stronger than my weaknesses and my fears. I don’t have to be perfect to be useable. I just have to be available and willing.



My Plan for 2016– The Saga Continues

I managed to make it to another of Brentwood Baptist’s campuses today. Originally, I had planned to go to The Church at West Franklin today and then hit up The Church at Woodbine in May. Plans change.

I found out last night that a friend of mine was playing in the worship band for Woodbine, so I went there. The newly revised and updated plan is to visit West Franklin on May 8, God willing.

That was the main focus on the verses that Doug Jones preached from. The gist of the passage from James 4 is this: don’t make your plans and assume that God will automatically bless them. Instead, you and I need to make plans with the added tag of “God willing.”

You aren’t promised next year or next month or even next week. In fact, no one is promised a tomorrow. Every day you and I wake up is a gift from God. Every day we survive is only due to the grace and mercy of God.

Still, I’m thankful I chose this day to visit Woodbine. I got to see the beautiful old church building that has been revitalized and re-energized with new lifeblood. I got to see a visiting middle school choir from Atlanta that plans to stay the week and help out The Church at Woodbine and the surrounding community.

Afterward, I hit up a few thrift stores that I hadn’t been to in a while. I came up with a few finds, including one that may or may not be worthy of Antiques Roadshow. More on that later.

I’m grateful for The Church at Woodbine and for Doug Jones for a community that reaches out to their neighborhood with both love and truth. You need both to see lives change. Too often (especially in this current culture) the church has shied away from convictions under the guise of acceptance and ended up offering cheap grace that comes without repentance or transformation and with little impact on the community. But that’s another topic for another blog.

I’ll give you a full report on The Church at West Franklin two weeks from now.



My Plan for 2016 — So Far

“We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan” (Romans 8:28VOICE).

It’s not really a new year’s resolution, but I’ve made a plan for 2016. My goal is to visit all the campuses of Brentwood Baptist Church in this calendar year. Obviously, I’ve been to the main campus and I’m a member of the Avenue South campus, so those don’t count.

So far, one down and two more to go.

I visited the campus of The Church at Station Hill. That place is blowing up (in a good and non-destructive way). What I mean is that this congregation has doubled since they moved into their new facility.

In a city where 95% of the churches are either plateaued or declining, that’s pretty remarkable. That speaks to what God is doing in the Spring Hill and Thompson’s Station area. That speaks to people who are completely committed to following the vision God has laid on their hearts.

They have a dynamic pastor in Jay Strothers. They have a really good contemporary worship team (with a brass section that reminds me of the old band Chicago). They are warm and friendly people who made me feel right at home.

Next month, the plan is to visit The Church at West Franklin. I’m very excited to see this church, once failing and now repurposed and thriving once more.

In May, I want to see The Church at Woodbine. I’ve heard really good things about this congregation, how they’re so ethnically diverse yet unified in their focus of reaching the lost for Jesus.

As Brentwood Baptist adds more regional campuses, I hope to be able to set aside a Sunday in the month to visit those as well.

So far, so good.


Thanks, Uncle Mike: The Sequel

I heard out of your own mouth tonight that you are stepping down from Kairos soon. I’d heard it from other people recently, but even so, I couldn’t quite believe it even when you were the one saying the words.

I thought I’d say a few words to you, since I most likely won’t get to say them to you in person.

Thank you for being faithfully devoted to the Kairos ministry and to all of us who have attended over the years. We see how biblically wise you are. We also see how honest and vulnerable you are at times, making us feel like it’s okay to struggle and have doubts, even if you’re a senior pastor of a megachurch with several campuses.

I for one am a better person because of you and Kairos. I like myself a lot better than when I first started attending Kairos way back in 2006. I understand more of my Abba Father’s love for me and am learning how to define myself by that love and the voice that calls me His Beloved.

I learned how to take a few minutes in the middle of my hectic day and be still and have a moment or two of prayer. I learned that confession is not beating yourself up, but admitting that I acted out of fear instead of faith, of owning my sin and calling it for what it really is. I learned that I-40 West will take me to Memphis every time (even if I’m only going to Jackson). I learned that Oreos are your kryptonite and that a mostly clean glass of milk is still dirty.

I and many others saw how much you loved your parents, your wife, and your sons. That more than anything has probably helped strengthen many of our marriages and families.

I can’t imagine Kairos without you. I keep saying how much I like change and I’m always ready for it, but when it actually happens, I find I’m not so fond of it. Sometimes, I wish I some things could stay the same.

But I think I’m ready for what God has next for Kairos. I’m excited for you and what God has in store for you next. Plus, I’ll always think of you whenever I pick up a Henri Nouwen book.

Anyway, thanks for allowing God to use you in helping me become more like Jesus. I and the rest of those you’ve touched through Kairos will never be able to repay how much you’ve blessed us all.


Saved People Serve People

“Anyone God uses is always deeply wounded.  On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars” (Brennan Manning).

It’s that simple. If you’ve experienced the love of Jesus in a real and tangible way, you can’t help but share that love with those around you. Like Mike Glenn says, you can’t hold the ocean in a thimble, and one person can’t contain all the love Jesus pours out on him or her without some of it spilling out onto those he or she comes in contact with.

Tonight, my friend Michael Boggs spoke about the passage where Jesus took off His outer garments and washed his disciples’ feet. That was His demonstration of what real leadership looks like. He said that the one who wants to be greatest must be servant of all.

Michael said something that convicted me. He said that in the end, Jesus won’t look at you and see titles, treasures, or trophies. He will look to see how dirty your towel is. He will see where you ministered to the least of these got your hands dirty in the process, because real tangible love is often messy.

Jesus kept the wounds in His hands, feet, and side to show us that in the end we won’t be known by our vast wealth or network or influence but by our scars.

You don’t get scars from sitting in a comfortable chair living out your perfect suburban life with a perfect wife and perfect kids in a perfect setting forever. You get scars by stepping away from everything that’s familiar and comfortable and going to meet Jesus in His most distressing disguise as a refugee or a homeless person or any of the least of these that are often ignored and overlooked.

Shameless plug: if you’re looking for a safe place to serve in the Nashville area, consider being a greeter for Kairos at Brentwood Baptist Church. It’s a much-needed ministry and a great way to get your foot in the door, ministerially speaking.

Whatever you do, remember the example Jesus set when He washed His disciples’ feet. That’s what true leadership and service look like.

The end.