Ten Things I Love About Ovilla Road

14117967_1197411463635697_4902979874426544245_nPeople need to hear the words “I love you.” I try and tell my wife and kids I love them every day.  The phrase is bigger than just a superficial recognition.  It’s a phrase used to express a covenant commitment in the relationship.  Churches are no different.

Here are ten things I love about my church. These items are not the only things I love, just things that are stirring in me right now.

  1. Uncool – Now some people might take issue with this, thinking they are cool when they are really not, but I genuinely love the fact that we are not hip, trendy, laser loving, and a smoke machine driven church. Don’t get me wrong, we have some cool and fun people to be around, but it’s hard making liturgy cool.  For me, it’s being drawn into the ancient, the stuff the church has been doing for thousands of years, the ordinary means of grace that makes us cool.  The reading of scripture, preaching of the Word, baptism, the Lord’s supper, and discipline are counter cultural to where many churches are headed, but for us, it’s a desired sweet spot.
  2. Multi-generational – I love the fact when I bring my kids to church, they are surrounded by people who have been here for thirty years and are in their 80’s and some who have just been here for a few that are in their 20’s. We are a diverse body that hasn’t narrowed in on a specific age group, demographic, or socio-economic class, but is rather pursuing gospel-centered community that transcends age and differences.
  3. Staff – I love my staff. They are an eclectic bunch made up of introverts and extroverts and every known combination of Meyers Brigs you can think of.  They are for collaboration and willing to stick it out and work through the hard things.  They are supportive of one another, open, and understand we are all on the same team. They are willing to do what it takes, stay the extra hours, and pursue excellence not for the sake of excellence, but because Christ has excellently served us.  I am grateful for all of them.
  4. Elders – Almost five years ago, when our family moved to serve as the Senior Pastor here, it was partly because of the Elders and the wisdom that comes with the counsel of many. They have kind and understanding hearts.  They are open to change and willing to do whatever it takes to see people reached with the gospel and grow in their relationship.  They are some of the most committed and forgiving men I have ever served with.
  5. Confession of Sin and Prayer – I see this on a weekly basis, God’s people gathering to confess where they are weak, to pray with one another in the services and in their Care Groups, bearing one another’s burdens and seeking the presence of the Lord together.
  6. High view of Scripture – We believe in the inerrant, infallible, and sufficient Word of God. In some circles we’d be called fundamentalists, and maybe that’s true, but at least we are not mad about it.
  7. High view of Church Membership – It’s true denominationalism as a whole is in decline, and church’s seem to minimize membership at every turn. I’m thankful that our church want’s to belong to a community that goes beyond a Sunday morning experience.  That we are committing to one another as a family, as a husband and wife do at the marriage alter, for better or worse, till death separate us.  It’s about belonging, taking care of, and being committed to one another.
  8. Liturgy – Liturgy is not something usually associated in Baptist circles, but I have to admit, I love the familiarity of opening and closing the service reading Scripture.  I love the regular practice of baptism and the Lord’s supper.  I love the intentionality in connecting the songs we sing to the message being preached.  I love the familiar.
  9. Ordinary – In the day and age of bigger is better, do extra-ordinary things for God, I’m glad to belong to a group that understands that it’s okay to be called into ordinary acts of extraordinary faithfulness. These acts of faithfulness embodied in the stay at home moms who change diapers and care for their children, the families who go out to serve their neighbors by mowing their grass, or helping with plumbing problems.  They are embodied in the parents who work 40-50 hours a week to provide for their families and then come home at night to play with their kids or coach their soccer teams.  Most of our people will never be known in the history books as doing BIG things for God and their names will never be great, but they understand that God has ordained the ordinary moments of life to give extraordinary means of grace.
  10. Laughter – Whether it’s a deacon’s or elder’s meeting, a staff meeting, or Sunday morning service, there usually involves someone smiling and laughing. My church is a place of joy and lots of smiles.  Sure we have hard things we deal with from time to time, but they always seem to remember that Jesus died to deliver me from my sorrows and has called me to walk in joy and life, and that includes lots of genuine smiles.

I love you Ovilla Road and am honored to be your Pastor.

Being Bitter and Dwelling In Hurt

hurtI’ll admit it, I’m bitter. I’m bitter and up until recently, I didn’t realize it. God has made me in his image and therefore wired me for relationships, even though he made me an introvert.  Relationships involve people. Relationships are messy. People disappoint, plans get changed, and the beat goes on. In the middle of the hurt, I’m tasked with guarding my heart, for it is the wellspring of life, (Proverbs 4:23). What does that even mean, to guard my heart? If my heart is my inner self that includes my thoughts, will, affections, and emotions, how do I protect it? Figuring out how to protect it, begins with understanding where my heart is prone to wander.

Too often, I find my heart wandering around in the dwelling and retelling: dwelling in past mistakes, and retelling how I was wronged. I don’t often realize how quickly this attitude creates a posture of distrust and cynicism. Not dealing with hurt and dwelling in bitterness only makes me hostile in my heart and paranoid in my thinking. Bitterness is one of those sins that blinds me from recognizing my own role and culpability. It causes withdrawal, it breeds contempt, and it’s rooted in my self-righteousness.

The world tells me I have a right to be bitter. It tells me to listen to my inner consciousness, to dwell on a childhood trauma, to understand my unmet emotional needs, or simply just blame the man, whoever that guy actually is? The gospel speaks about my bitterness in another way. It speaks about it in the context of freedom: freedom to live, walk, and abide in forgiveness.

The gospel gives me the cure. It reminds me that bitterness is like a blade meant for another, that eventually severs the hand that conceals it. It’s like taking a poison pill and hoping my enemy will die instead.

In the end, bitterness leads to death. It robs me of joy and maximizes my anguish, while my offender is wiser, nonetheless.  As I deal with my own bitterness wrapped up in my failures, hurts, disappointments, and struggles, I’m thankful that Jesus was the one severed on my behalf. He was the one who took the poisonous pill, so I didn’t have to. He was the one who freed me to forgive, because he has freely forgiven me. He is the one who takes my bitterness and turns it from mourning to joy. It’s through his blood stained hands that he reminds me of his resolve to guard my heart because he has taken my heart of stone and given me a heart of flesh, (Ezekiel 32:26).  In other words, I’ve been made new.  I’ve traded in the corruptible for the incorruptible.  I’ve given up the bitterness and am finding rest in the peace, peace that comes only through Jesus.  At the end of the day, I’m still dealing with it all, but little by little pride is being put aside and righteousness is prevailing.  At the end of the day, I’m resting in the good truth that Jesus is better than my resentment, he’s better than my entitlement, and most certainly Jesus is better than my bitterness.

When God Gives Me More Than I Can Handle…

His death had been expected for months, but it didn’t make it any easier. As she sat, watched, and waited she couldn’t help but think about the 54 years of her life spent next to her beloved father. In his final breath, the realization that she would never see her dad again became too much. Though they had seen this coming for sometime, it didn’t make it any easier. As he took his last breath in this life and breathed his first in the next, she began to crumble. The tears grew from a trickle to a flood and the emotions went from numbness to heartache. It was more than she could handle. 

God never said he wouldn’t give me more than I can handle…God always meets me in the middle of my mess so that His great power is displayed in my life.

As I back up from these experiences as a Pastor, and look into the lives of the people I walk beside, I’m always amazed at how God seems to meet many of them right in the middle of the mess, even if it is not seen or felt in the moment. Even in death, God is still good. The human experience is one frought with a mixed bag of feelings. There are certainly days of great joy, happiness, and contentment, but what about the others? What about the days where it all seems too much? In my early years, I found myself telling people that God would never give them more than they could handle. But as truth and experience won the day, I’ve found myself telling people just the opposite.  

This often quoted quip is meant to bring comfort and peace to the one on the receiving end of the tragedy, but is it true?  The Psalmist cried out in Psalms 121:1 and stated, “From where does my help come?…It comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  If God never gave me more than I can handle, then it would set me up in a position where I wouldn’t need God. The gospel teaches just the opposite. God never said he wouldn’t give me more than I can handle.  In fact, He regularly gives me more than I can handle, so I would ferociously push into the goodness of Jesus. For Jesus is infinitely better than my circumstances.  Whether it be in death, disillusionment, or dishonor, He is always better.  With a greater picture of the gospel, I’m forced to understand that God always meets me in the middle of my mess.  He does this so His great power is displayed in my life for He is the one who provides my help, and He is one who grants my rescue. 

After several minutes had passed, the daughter of the deceased father, began to take hold of something profound. That profoundness didn’t lie in her ability to manage the situation or even control her emotions. Rather, it rested in an eternal truth found only in the gospel.  That truth displayed itself in her desire and verbal testimony to use her dad’s death to show that God gives us more than we can handle, so we will push into Jesus. She followed the thought by saying, “That is what I want, to wear Jesus like a coat, to witness to His goodness to my family and friends even in death. ” That my friends is the gospel. That is a picture of God’s glory. Therefore, let us press in to Jesus when we are overwhelmed and let us let Him turn our mourning into joy and our sorrow into peace. 

Planned Parenthood Traffics in Body Parts

You have to see thiunborn_babies_295x200s incredibly disgusting video to believe it. A nation that tolerates this, will tolerate anything.  As Christians, we should speak out for human dignity.  These children who are torn apart have no names, but thankfully, God knows their names.  Let us cry out and plead for justice on their behalf.

Mohler nails it again with his commentary:

http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/07/15/a-lot-of-people-want-intact-hearts-these-days-planned-parenthood-abortion-and-the-conscience-of-a-nation/

Need a reminder you are not the center of the universe?  Watch this video.  Just simply incredible.  

NASA has released the largest picture ever taken, with more than 1.5 billion pixels. Fortunately, this video saves you the 4.3 GBs needed to download the single image of the Andromeda galaxy, created by combining 411 pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. As the space agency notes, it would take 600 HD monitors to view the entire thing. They’ve also released a browser-based tool that lets you easily zoom in on different parts of the image. It’s pretty mind blowing …(via relevant magazine)

An Open Letter to All the Open Letter Writers and Social Media Posters..

Below, is  a link to a blog post I wish I would have written.  Sadly, I’ve been guilty of many of the things it decries.  I’m grateful the Lord is rich in mercy and slow to anger.  I’m also grateful for the author’s solid understanding of what the church is, what it is supposed to be, and how I should treat, think, and speak of it.  In the end, the article is speaking mainly to the preferences we all have and how those get in way of relationships and becoming what God wants us to be.  We would all do well to pause, think, and contemplate the tender wisdom shared here.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

http://whitneycapps.com/2015/01/20/open-letter-people-writing-sharing-open-letters-whats-wrong-church/