A Tale of Two Grandmothers

At The Church at Avenue South this morning, the guest pastor, Hunter Melton, talked about how four women played an integral part in the spreading of the resurrection news on that first Easter Sunday.

It may not seem like a big deal now, but in a 1st century world were women were seen as second class citizens and had little to no rights, this was revolutionary for the gospel writers to include them.

I’m certain that most of you can point back to at least one woman who helped to shape who you are today. I know that I can point to at least (but not limited to) two women– both my grandmothers, Iris and Ruby.

Iris was a lady who loved her Bible and loved her hymns. She was almost always talking about her love for Jesus or singing one of the old hymns that you don’t hear much of these days. She definitely had a huge impact on my faith.

Ruby didn’t vocalize her faith as much but she sure did live it out. She was always ready to help out and lend a hand. She made incredible sacrifices for her friends and family, and we are all better for it.

I miss both of them. If you have one or both of your grandmothers, take every opportunity to let them know how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Don’t just call– go and see them and spend time with them and listen to their stories (even if they get repeated a few times).

If you are a mother or grandmother, never take for granted the incredible influence you have on the next generations. If you are faithful to be present in the lives of your children and grandchildren, one day they will rise up and call you blessed.

1 Corinthians 13 Love

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always ‘me first,’
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love” (1 Corinthians 13, The Message).

This isn’t warm and fuzzy, Nicholas Sparks romantic love. This is agape unconditional love that’s impossible by strictly human standards.

It’s the love that Christ loved us with when He laid down His life for us when we were yet sinners.

It’s the “not I, but Christ in me” love that fills us up to overflowing and spills out to those around us.

It’s still the only love that can change the world.

I want that kind of love. I want to be that kind of love.

A Good Pastor is Hard to Find

I’m blessed to be able to sit under the teaching of one Aaron Bryant at The Church at Avenue South. He is most definitely God’s man for the role of campus pastor.

I’ve been to more than a few churches in my lifetime. I’ve sat under men who had a heart for people but weren’t the greatest expositors. I’ve also know a few that could alliterate with the best of them but weren’t that good with people outside the pulpit.

I remember I worked in a church office once where the pastor insisted that everyone address him as Doctor. I’m fairly certain that he didn’t pay for all that education only to boost his ego. Well, hopefully not. I’m sure he had his good qualities, but that onesn’t one of them.

But Mr. Bryant is the real deal. He’s a gifted communicator and a compassionate shepherd. He’s one of the main reasons that Ave South has flourished in just under 4 years of existence.

I seem to remember that while it’s good to have a good pastor, that doesn’t give me any excuse to opt out of ministry myself. If I read my Bible correctly, we’re all in the ministry, whether that’s what we do professionally or not. We’re all called to be evangelists at some point in our dealings with those with whom we live, work, and play.

As Dwight Moody put it, we just might be the only Bible some will ever read. We might be the only sermon some will ever listen to, and we might be the only Jesus that some will ever see. You might be the only gospel access to people who would never set foot in a church building.

That’s a sobering thought. Hopefully, that changes the way we live. Hopefully, it changes our conversations and helps us see that God has strategically placed these people in our lives for a reason.

 

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.

 

4 Years Ago Today

My Timehop app reminded me that today’s a very important day. Not so much in the sense of a grand historical event or the birthday of someone famous.

No, on this day 4 years ago, The Church at Avenue South had its very first non-official worship service on Easter Sunday.

We had rows of the white plastic folding chairs set up in the area that is now home to the preschool and children’s ministry. I can’t remember now how many people turned up, but it was way more than anyone had expected.

We didn’t officially launch until that September, but even way back in April, we knew that all the prayers and dreams of a lot of people were becoming reality.

I suppose you don’t realize how fast the time goes by until you get a memory like that like cold water to the face. But this was a very good memory.

I still remember that after the service, the pastor invited us to take markers and write on the floor and the walls to commemorate the day. Most people wrote meaningful Bible verses or lyrics from hymns.

It’s neat to think that now when we have a worship service, we’re literally standing on the Word of God. It’s a memory that I’d let slip into the recesses of my mind that just came back.

I’m thankful for Aaron Bryant, Matthew Page, and the leadership team for making Ave South a church that I’m proud to call home. I’m aware that there are no perfect people or perfect churches, but I think we as a whole get it right a lot more than we get it wrong.

And God shows up every Sunday, without fail.

I can’t wait to see what the next four years will bring. God willing, I will get to be a small part of it.

There’s Always Something

Absolutely. There truly is always something to be thankful for.

Today, my list includes a good church service at The Church at Avenue South that saw the dedication of several parents and babies, a commissioning of missionaries for a short-term trip to Honduras, and another great sermon from Aaron Bryant from John 21:15-17.

The weather was anything but spring-like, but you can’t always have everything. Supposedly, all this April rain is bringing some May flowers, but I’m not sure what all the cold weather is supposed to bring.

I did have my old and trusty Jeep to get me everywhere I wanted to go today. I had a comfy jacket to keep out the drizzle and chill.

Plus, there’s all those little details that I routinely take for granted– good health, eyes to see, ears to hear, two legs to take me where I want to go, etc.

I’m learning to be grateful for every new day. It doesn’t always work. Some days I’m grumpy and feel entitled. Some days I choose to see the grey clouds instead of the sun peeking out behind them.

Yet on the days I choose gratitude, it’s always worth it.

Every single time.

Dangerous Prayers II: The Sequel

I was just going to call this blog post Dangerous Prayers, but then I discovered that I wrote one with the same name back on July 24, 2012. Here it is, in case you’re suddenly interested.

https://oneragamuffin.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/dangerous-prayers/

But today during the prayer time at The Church at Avenue South, Amy Bryant (the wife of teaching pastor Aaron Bryant) shared that her mentor challenged her to pray at least one dangerous prayer every day.

The one Amy offered to us today was essentially “Lord, take all the pieces of my life and consume them all, having your way with every part of me and my life.”

It reminded me of the prayer I wrote about way back when, “Thy will be done,” which implied that my will must be undone.

Those prayers are dangerous because they’re scary. They both involve giving up control and letting God take over. It’s Jesus, take the wheel.

For me, the fear comes that God won’t really do what’s best for me. That comes from a place where fear overrules faith. That fear says that God is untrustworthy and that I really shouldn’t give up control.

It’s the same lie the serpent told Eve in the garden that started with “Did God really say . . .?”

Every time I pray those dangerous prayers, I move closer away from fear to faith. I declare to God (and more to myself) that I trust Him completely to do what’s absolutely best for me.

I believe that you can be scared out of your mind and still pray these dangerous prayers. After all, courage isn’t the absence of fear but the dogged determination to proceed in the face of all these fears, no matter how daunting.

Lord, take all the pieces of my life and consume them for your glory. Take what’s left after all that is unworthy is burned away and use it however You will, wherever You will, whenever You will for as long as you give me breath.

 

 

 

 

A Needed Reminder

I don’t like to be corrected. I get defensive and angry. But just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean that I don’t need it from time to time.

Every one of us needs that one person who will always speak the truth to us in love. We don’t need yes people who will tell us only what we want to hear and who will always go along with us, no matter what.

Sometimes, we need that person who can gently rebuke and correct us and show us the error of our ways. What we need is that someone who will hold us accountable.

I know I need that. I also know that I can probably be that person for someone else.

The question from Sunday still haunts me: Who is pouring into your life and discipling you, and whose life are you pouring into and discipling?

In order to fully experience the abundant life that Jesus promised, you need the whole gospel. That starts with salvation but doesn’t end there. The whole gospel starts with justification, continues on with sanctification, and concludes with glorification.

Or maybe it never stops. You never ever get over how amazing this gospel is, even in heaven. Not for all eternity.

That whole gospel experience includes you being discipled and you discipling someone. It means not being satisfied with being saved but continually striving and reaching toward spiritual maturity every single day.

Again, the question: who is discipling you and who are you discipling? Whose life are you pouring into and who is pouring into you?

It all starts with the patience of God. Once you get that, you will be astonished at how patient and understanding you are with others, because you know what it feels like to expect condemnation and receive mercy instead.

 

 

The Whole Gospel for the Whole Person

This Sunday, my pastor Aaron Bryant touched briefly on the recent White Lives Matter rally in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro. Basically what he said was that any group that puts itself up as superior to others and treats anyone different as inferior is missing the heart of the Gospel and categorically rejecting those whom Jesus lived and died for.

I say that whenever you decide who is eligible or not eligible to receive the Gospel message of salvation in Jesus, you have in essence rejected the message of the Gospel. When you choose to define the people or people groups for whom Jesus died, then you reject what He did.

Starting in Genesis, the Bible teaches that all human beings are created in the image of God and bear the Imago Dei, the image of God. The Bible says that God so loved the world– every human being– so much that He sent His only Son.

That means that every single person is someone created in the image of God for whom Jesus died. Every single person has worth. Who are you and I to dismiss or degrade someone for whom Jesus bled and died for?

That goes for people you disagree with politically. That goes for Presidents you don’t like. That goes for both liberals and conservatives (and us independents, too). That goes for people who hold racist, sexist, and other despicable views, bearing in mind that the Gospel message is that even the worst of humanity can be redeemed and transformed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just ask the Apostle Paul.

Never think for a minute that I condone their beliefs or their actions. I’m saying that I believe that when you exempt anyone from the grace of God, you nullify the grace of God itself.

In the Kingdom of God, there’s room for everyone. Every single race, ethnicity, tribe, and language will be present in Heaven, all united in adoration and fixed on the beautiful face of Jesus.

 

 

 

Blah, Blah, Blah– Another Assortment of Randomness

I had all these great ideas about what to write for my blog post, but I’m feeling a bit under the weather at the moment, so I’ll throw several of ’em in and see what sticks.

My grandmother turned 93 yesterday and we celebrated today. I’m convinced that people back then were made better than they are now (just like everything else). She may not have her memory or know what’s going on all the time, but she’s a resilient ol’ gal that’s as likely to make it to 100 as anybody.

At the Church at Avenue South, the pastor talked about Sabbath and how we need the rest. If you go 110% all the time without ever taking any down time, sooner or later your body will remind you in not so subtle ways that it’s good to stop and rest. No one can go 24/7 infinitely without a break. Even Jesus took naps and periodically sought out places to be alone.

The Tennessee Titans may be reverting back to their old sucky ways, but my fantasy football team is 4-1 as of today. Last year, all the breaks went to my opponents, so it’s nice to finally catch a few breaks myself.

I don’t feel awful. I just feel a little stuffy and achy (with a slight fever), but I’m not the typical male who’s ready to have his last rites read. I’m hoping some Vitamin C and a good night’s rest will have me back and running at full speed on Monday.

My little kitten Peanut continues to crack me up with her crazy wild antics. She also continues to eat and poop like a racehorse (as well as almost literally grow leaps and bounds right before my eyes). She’s no longer the tiny thing I brought home from the shelter over 3 months ago.

I’m still holding out hope that next week will finally bring some actual fall weather where I can wear flannel and/or jackets. I’m way past done with sweat-inducing weather. I’m sure the people downwind of me are, too.

That’s all. Happy Sunday and have a great week!