Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Head Hurts

Ouch! My head is throbbing. I just spent a few minutes in an activity that reminded me of reading People Magazine. "I know I am going to regret this, but I'm just too darn curious..."

I read certain blogs on a daily basis...most are linked to the right of this page. I love reading about what God is doing in some of these awesome churches like Granger, NewSpring, Elevation, and Fellowship. Just for kicks today, I "googled" the names "Perry Noble", "Steven Furtick", and "Ed Young"...all pastors of some of the churches I previously mentioned.

I clicked on a few blogs and websites that were dedicated...and I mean DEDICATED to trashing these men, the churches they pastor, and even their standing as true followers of Jesus Christ! Mercy! I could feel my blood pressure rise as I clicked to post my comments. After all, someone needed to set these yo-yo's straight!

God had other plans. #1...God doesn't need me to offer my brand of defense to His church...His church...God's church...not Noble's, Furtick's, or Young's. I don't even need to vindicate the men themselves. My righteous venom added to the mix just brings about more misunderstanding.

Now, please understand (and you will if you've known me very long)...this is HUGE for me! HUGE! You have no idea what it is like for me to keep my mouth shut.

That does not mean my heart does not break for these people who seem to think their calling is not to rejoice in what the Lord is doing everywhere, but to criticize the methods. A growing church speaks volumes, as does a dying church. Preach on, Brother. Thank you, I believe I will.

God will sort it all out. I am supposed to get about doing what He told me to get about doing. As Mark Beeson of Granger CC said recently, "Count the yes votes." Nothing is gained and a lot is lost when I waste God' s time by reading such filth. I would be no worse off by looking at pornography.

So I choose to praise God for what He is accomplishing through these churches and through preachers like Noble, Furtick, and Young. My time is best spent praying for them...not blogging against them as these others have chosen to do. My time is best spent praying and supporting my pastor and my church...not wishing everything was more like NewSpring, Elevation, etc. My time is best spent praying for these folks in the blogosphere...not contributing any energy whatsoever to what they CHOOSE to focus their energy upon.

We must be careful about what we speak out against, because if God is in it; well...we know what that is.
I wonder who said that?
Yep. Perry Noble.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Feed Me, Seymour, Feed Me!"

"Feed Me, Seymour. Feed Me. Feed Me All Night Long.
That's right, boy!
Go to it.
Feed Me Seymour. Feed Me. Feed Me All Night Long.
Cause if you feed me, Seymour,
I can grow up big and strong."

Remember that song from "Little Shop of Horrors"? Audrey II...a giant man-eating plant who DEMANDS to be FED.

I think as Christians, it is pretty easy for us to fall into an Audrey II kind of Christianity. "Lord, Feed Me!"

Now, obviously, it is crucial that we are fed. God feeds us when we are spending time in His Word, in prayer, in worship, in communion with others, coming under some great teaching, etc.

God tells me sometimes that I'm fat enough. It's that consumer mentality. We want God to fill us with more and more, but is it more of Him or more of "stuff"? (knowledge, blessings)

Again, yes; I understand that knowledge is a great and wonderful thing. Yes, God wants to bless us. God also wants us to DO SOMETHING with what He has already poured into us. Are we channels or reservoirs?

Am I showing a real love to those that are far from Jesus Christ or am I more interested in just highlighting verses on love in my Bible?

Am I telling everyone about the amazing work God has done and is doing in my life or am I just enjoying singing "Go Tell It On The Mountain"?

Am I serving God and others with every passion within me or am I talking about what I WILL do one day when the circumstances are right?

I say, "Feed Me." God says, "Love Me."

I say, "Feed Me." God says, "Serve Me."

I say, "Feed Me, God. Feed Me!"

God says, "Be doers of the Word, and not merely hearers."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Let God Arise

This morning, I have read a lot of blogs about people's experiences on Easter Sunday. I'm jumping into the mix.

Big crowds this week-end at Hope. Praise God for that! I showed up Saturday night to meet my friends there so we can head to Durham for the Tift Merritt concert (friggin' awesome by the way!). Full house just about for SATURDAY Easter service. I am so proud that regular Hope folks listened and responded by giving "their" Sunday seats to guests.

I served both Sunday services as an usher in the balcony. I rarely serve up there, but it's closer to God, so...! I didn't really see a lot of people I recognized. Pastor Mike calls it "the poinsettia and lily crowd". Well, God bless them for being there, though. Pastor Mike also says, "If they hang around the pond long enough, they may just fall in."

Great service, though. Two of my good buds, Jake C. and Craig C. were in a drama that was so excellent. Plus, Autumn S. sang a cool Nicole Nordeman song, "What If". Autumn has been gifted with an incredible voice; so sing on!

My reflections this morning, however, really turned not to the church (Hope), but to THE church...God's body...God's church...all of them.

I think I strip words of their impact sometimes by using them too liberally. With that being said, please know that I was OVERWHELMED (to tears) as I read about what was happening across God's Church all across this country yesterday. Lives Impacted By The Love Of Jesus.

I read blogs from pastors and churches that are "putting all their chips in" for Christ and His Kingdom. 12,000 people attended NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC yesterday! 120 gave their lives to Jesus Christ! Record turnout at Elevation in Charlotte...500 people making decisions to follow Jesus Christ! Do you think Heaven was not explosive in celebration of that yesterday?! Mark Beeson at Granger in Indiana continues to innovate for God's Glory. He said, "Instead of everyone telling ONE, how about everyone telling EVERYONE!" YES!

God is doing some amazingly bold things in these churches that are willing to get themselves out of the way...saying " have to do this because we will surely screw it up on our own."

So, my prayer for churches...all of them, not just Hope, NewSpring, Elevation, and Granger:

  • Believe God for BIG things. Perry Noble at NewSpring says he is believing (not "wishing and hoping") BELIEVING for 3,000 baptisms in one day at NewSpring!
  • Never lose sight of the Great Commission
  • Keep focused on God and what He has called your church to be. Pastor Noble says that God doesn't need another NewSpring or Elevation...That's so true. Do what God has called you to do, and celebrate what He is doing everywhere.
  • Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. We have to love like Jesus and we must grow up.

Praise God for what He did EVERYWHERE yesterday. People who were far from Him are now closer to Him.

Easter... The Love Which Led To The Sacrifice Which Led To The Victory.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Shout Outs

Awesome week last week at UNLEASH and the NC Baptist State Convention Prayer Conference! As Pastor Perry Noble would say..."God really rocked my world!" I'll write more about both events later, but I was just reflecting some, and I want to thank some people who directly or indirectly impacted my week last week. I'm listing names only, but know that each really added value to my life. God is moving BIG and all out in my life, and I thank God that He used some awesome people last week in my journey!

The "Unleash" radicals from HCC: Emily, Steph, Ken, Amy, Vicki, Michele, Mary Ann, and Kim.
Pastor Perry Noble
Lee McDerment
Dr. Henry Blackaby
Sheila Walsh
Joyce Meyer
Jerry Rankin
Dean Sibley
Mary Ann Sibley
Karl Moraski
Chris Schofield
Dr. Logan Carson
Jake Carpenter
That sweet lady at the Subway in "Somewhere, SC"

I know this means nothing really as you read the names without explanations. Each impact in my life was huge, and this was just one week! Thank you, Lord!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Road Trip!

Nine of us from the First Impressions Ministry at Hope head off tomorrow afernoon for the UNLEASH Conference at New Spring Church in Anderson, SC! WOOHOO! We have rented a van and we are going to have a blast! The conference itself will be fantastic...New Spring and their pastor, Perry Noble, are true innovaters. I am really looking forward to just getting away for a while, having fun for sure, and worshipping our Lord together with some fellow servants.

The cool thing about the group is that it is made up of different areas of service within First Impressions. Emily, Vicki, Kim, and Stephanie represent Common Grounds, our coffee shop. Amy and Michele do that Guides/Guest Services thang. Ken operates the M.A.S.H. unit (medical) at Hope. I roll with that Usher team, and then you got the Asian Sensation, Mary Ann Sibley directing the whole rodeo. I am really excited about getting to know some of these folks that I don't know so well yet.

Pray for our travel and for the greater Anderson area and the state of South Carolina!

We return to HCC late Thursday night and jump right into the Baptist State Convention's Prayer Conference Friday (all day) and Saturday...and then into Palm Sunday (well...all week-end) services. Nothing I'd rather be doing.

I have the honor of being "host" to Dr. Henry Blackaby for the Prayer Conference. Pray for him! "Experiencing God" was one of the first "Christian" books I read, so I am jazzed about having him with me. God has blessed me with the opportunity to do some pretty amazing things while serving at Hope, and this one rates right up there!

Maybe after this week-end, Dr. Blackaby's next book will be "Experiencing Russ"! Yo!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How Will I Ever Live Up To What My Coffee Mug Says About Me?

Been feeling a little "dry" as of late. Nothing serious, or at least I hope not! I am just experiencing some slow burn...well it feels like fast burn. I am really frustrated with my job, with my lack of clear direction, with myself in general. I know none of these feelings are from God. Just feeling some kicks from the enemy.

So, as I am working on the computer this morning and drinking my coffee....

My coffee mug joins the "pile on" and nails me.

I have a couple of mugs I use. I just grab the next one in the rotation each morning. Well...this morning's mug is one Mom gave me a while ago.

It has "Russ" in large letters across the top and this is the rest:


When faced with a conflict,
You will take the lead.
For you are determined
And sure to succeed.
A true diplomat,
You are able to sway
Others into seeing
Everything your way.
As strong-willed as you are,
You'll command respect,
And always be called on
To plan and direct."

I don't need the pressure, ya know? It does remind me, however, of the character that God has made a part of who Russ is. I desperately want to fulfill God's plans for my life. I yearn to be the Russ He created me to be. No need to try to live up to my coffee mug or anyone's expectations. I've had the last drop of coffee, and my mug is as dry and empty as I'm feeling. Tomorrow, I'll awake and have my mug filled again. The only despair in the emptiness for me is the fear that the emptiness will remain. Thank God for His free re-fills.