Saturday, April 28, 2012

Don't Let Competition Compromise your Blessing

My son sat in the back seat of the truck on the way home this morning. He was crying. We just lost 13-1, and he has struck out six of his last seven times after making contact seven of the first 10 times he batted.

"Daddy, I am the worst player on the team. I never make any outs in the field and I don't ever hit the ball any more."

As Noah spoke, all the times this morning I had been hard on him to swing level, watch the ball, hustle and run came crashing down in a moment when my heart just sank. What in the world am I thinking? One year ago, I asked God a simple prayer that needed a big miracle. I asked God to help my son to play baseball. When I told Noah about this prayer, my son said "daddy, if God heals my leg and I can play will you coach my team?"

At the time, I was serving as an assistant coach voluntarily for White House High School. And I walked away from something I love because I was pushing my son onto a practice field every day in a wheelchair. To this day it is so hard to see those young men in the community and feel like I let them down. But with my wife working in another state, my son wearing casts on both legs, and my church growing rapidly, I made the decision to walk away and focus on the right things first.

If you are a White House High School baseball player and reading this - please remember that I never wanted to abandon my responsibility. But this year, I kept my promise.

Noah has Perthes disease. A degenerative bone disease in his pelvic area, leaving his hip joint on one side with just 30 percent of the ball socket completely formed. On February 4th last year, he had hip surgery and was confined to a specialized wheelchair while wearing double casts on his legs with a long bar attached in the middle.

The high school baseball players and coaches were his heroes and they were so awesome to him. They would play catch with him in the wheelchair, and Zac Hasty, another left-hander, let him use his glove. Noah used to tell me that he wanted to be like Zac when he grew up and then I would watch him cry in the truck seat when he said, "Daddy, will I ever be able to play ball like Zac?"

After surgery, Noah's leg improved. The bone started to grow back and his limp reduced and by the end of May last year, he was running. He continued to improve and I agreed to keep my promise. I battled some health issues early this year, and after doing morning workouts in January and February with the high school team, I again placed my focus on my family and agreed to coach Noah's team. I also go to all my daughter's games.

There's a spiritual principle here I want to emphasize. My competition is driving me as a coach to push my son and discipline him (positively) when he does not succeed, so that he learns and develops as a baseball player. The problem is, you could make an argument that all God did was answer exactly what I asked.

Three years ago, I also asked God to give me the blessing of pastoring a church that would reach broken people in our community. The onset of church planting in the modern church world has both advanced the Gospel in ways like never before, and ultimately - and unfortunately - created a competitive mindset among mega churches and their numbers for reaching the lost.

Social networking feeds this monster. Some pastors are humble; they reach people in droves with the Good News of Christ and you will likely never hear a peep out of their numbers. They emphasize life change as a rule, not as a digit. Instead of "five more added to the kingdom today!" we see individual stories of life change promoted and humility and serving in leadership.

Jesus said in scripture that if we want to lead, we must first serve. Competition has driven us to measure churches by the size of the congregation, the numbers of hands raised during a response time, or the offering placed in the baskets. We had 10,000 eggs at Easter, yet I looked around and noticed that Easter egg hunts have suddenly become the measuring stick for community outreach. We have helicopters, massive numbers of eggs and big-time events to draw thousands of people. So to keep up, next year I plan to shoot Easter eggs out of an M1A1 battle tank. See? I'm winning.

And I'm kidding.

But the point is valid. God is doing amazing things in His kingdom through new churches, old churches, established churches and organic churches. He's exploding the Gospel in ways we could never imagine. But be quick to remind each other what the focus really is about!

God did not call us to increase our averages and score runs. He called us to play ball. He answered our prayers to be placed on the team. And YES! We want to win! But in the pursuit of winning, let us not ever forget the true pulse of what we do, and that is celebrate every life change story and every answered prayer, and champion those who are still waiting for their blessing to come.

We have a great church; I have a great son. God answered my prayers and I am challenging God for even bigger things.

Pastors, some of you may have needed to read that you are not inadequate if your church is not reaching the numbers dished out by great men like Perry Noble, Rick Warren and Steven Furtick. Rapidly growing churches and pastors, perhaps you need a reminder that God did not call you to be a competitor with the other people at work in the same mission you are undertaking.

If you pay attention to the latest Twitter brag of mega-church pastors (who are doing awesome things, by the way), you'll miss what God is doing through YOU and HIS CHURCH in you. Just because Joel Osteen has 30,000 in worship Sunday morning doesn't mean that the young man who walked the aisle in your service isn't moving Heaven. In fact, the Bible says angels are throwing a party when that happens in your church.

And for goodness sakes - in Jesus name - STOP criticizing HOW people share the Gospel and calling it preaching. No one called you, or anyone else for that matter, to make fun of the style of others, whether contemporary, traditional, liturgical, ceremonial or grass-roots organic. Do what you do - and do it well - and realize you are called to bloom where you are planted, not be uprooting someone else's tree.

I preach tomorrow. My son plays ball again at 1:30. Amazing things are going to happen both places.

I'm just not sure we need to focus on the score as much as we focus on the story.

I love you, and these are my thoughts.

Pastor K

Monday, April 16, 2012

Thunderstruck...the Prayer version.

As I'm writing this blog, I pictured you sitting on the seat at Revolution Church Sunday listening to us rock it out to Thunderstruck by AC/DC. In fact, you may have just experienced a coronary failure at the very thought of it.

But stay with me (and we're not covering Thunderstruck live just for the record but I can't guarantee the beat won't show up on a video!). Rock guitarist Angus Young struck gold prior to the release of one of the most recognizable rock-n-roll riffs of all time. Regardless of what you think of the band's other selections and their personal convictions and decisions (good thing I'm not blogging about Highway to Hell, right?), this particular one is very important.

It's about power. Though it peaked at No. 5 on the 1990 Billboard chart, it's been made famous as a stadium anthem for sporting events across the country. Countless teams and athletes have emerged onto the field to the hard-core thunder chant. That's where I heard it the first time.

Young was said to have been flying in a plane with the band when it was struck by lightning. Another story says that during a visit to Fort Hood, TX, in the late 1980s, the band saw a demonstration of the Combined Arms Livefire Exercise (CALFEX) featuring the M1A1 tank. Young then began to pick the notes one by one on guitar, and the famous, incredible and powerful song was born. As you listen to the song, it's amazing to know he picks every single note individually using two hands. What an impressive solo.

We are a power-hungry generation. We crave it, desire it and gravitate to it. I could sit adjacent to a military base and watch command post operations for hours, and certainly am humbled at the sight of a C-130 cargo plane slowly descending to its runway. Power is electric.

Young was no different. Awestruck with power, he created an emotional response through music that moves people still 32 years after its release. Football players boil with adrenalin with the horizon-rattling thunder booms of percussion as the song blares in pre-game warmups, and military bases across the world pump it hard through the speakers at rec time. Thunderstruck is undeniable audio power.

But I am a pastor, ironically making it a little weird I'm setting this all up with a blog about AC/DC. Now don't be knocking my roots, I was a child of the 80s and every long-haired electric guitar rock band was bringing it loud out of my speakers. Def Leppard, Guns N'Roses, Poison, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, you name it. My family somehow thought I listened to country music all the time but I think most of them were afraid I would play the lyrics backwards and perform evil rituals if they caught me listening to "that" music. Anyhow, I digress, while humming Welcome to the Jungle.

There is indeed a powerful force working inside of me and it's not through music, it is the living, breathing Word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit and His son, Jesus Christ. The words of Jesus were humbling and they were truth; they also had power.

Funny thing, this Jesus who spoke of power also presented his own version of Thunderstruck in regards to our faith. Addressing his followers, Jesus pulled out the electric guitar and ripped every note. Not literally, although I bet he would be better than the guys from the 1980s.

Jesus goes to the high mountain in Matthew 17. Three disciples watched - in awe - as Jesus was presented in his glorified state. It was called the transfiguration. God spoke, confirmed his "beloved son" and the disciples fell to the ground trembling.

They returned to the base of the mountain where a huge gathering of people was waiting for them. A man brought his son, clearly possessed with a demon, and Jesus casts it out, healing the young man. The disciples were amazed at this display of power so they asked a pertinent question. Why can't "we" do that?

Jesus then uttered a very recognizable scripture.

You don't have enough faith. I tell you the truth. If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. - Matthew 17:20 NLT

Christ followers love to throw that verse out like a badge of courage. If only I have faith of a little tiny speck I can move mountains! But are you willing to encounter the life-changing power of God when you do, and are you willing to stand and face the demonic, nasty, evil enemy of God who will discourage and rob you of every opportunity to do so by attacking your faith?

To have our cake and eat it too, our faith must be first as small as a mustard seed, but explosive enough to shake the mountain. When the mountain begins to move, we can't get weak-legged and dodge God just because it ticks Satan off. We must stand our ground, realizing this kind of faith prayer is earth-shaking and will likely move us off our place as God shifts the ground in front of us.

Whether over the mountain, around it, through it or just flat out massively blowing it up, God said our faith is powerful enough to move mountains. My question to you - is our emotional response to this faith one of AWE, one of ACTION, or one of REACTION?

The awe Christian will write a song about it and sing pretty little hymns and write nice little ditty stories but when Satan comes growling like a lion, we'll take our happy face and run for the hills.

The reaction Christian will stand up and yell at the mountain for not moving and then platform every sinful reason it was there in the first place, not ever realizing there are real people being crushed under its power while we point fingers and criticize them.

The action Christian will follow the words of Jesus and command the mountain to be moved in a prayer of faith and a step of thunder so impressively inspiring that when Satan begins to tremble it will cause our feet to dance on the rocks. We'll go kick holes in the sides of the mountain and trample that enemy under our feet. And while God is shaking, we will keep praying, keep believing and keep going. We will not give up just because the mountain is moving; we will be empowered because our faith is proving that it can.

So I'm asking you if you have the courage to join me in a prayer journey this Sunday for the next 40 days - every day, every hour, every scripture we can find and every battle we can encamp.

This is not a rock song. It's a rock movement. Pardon me, while I kick this loose pebble and get motivated.

See you Sunday. Might want to bring a helmet.

Revolution Church meets Sundays at 9:00 and 10:30 a.m. at 3644 Highway 31-W in White House, TN. Live.Love.Serve. Find out more...