Recently I read the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Luke 18.  You know the story.  A young guy, well off and from an important family, approached Jesus and asked him what he had to do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus’ response was that he should keep all of the commandments.  This guy seemed to be a pretty good guy.  At least he had the feeling that he was good.  He actually had the confidence to tell Jesus, “Oh, I’ve kept all of those.”  Now I don’t really believe that, but I do believe that he was a pretty good guy to even believe that he came close to keeping them all.  He probably went to synagogue every week with his family, studied hard at school, and did everything that a son is expected to do. He was probably the type of young man that every Jewish mother dreamed that her daughter would marry and that her son would grow up to be like.

I have always felt a bit sorry for him because of what Jesus said to him next.  Jesus told him, “If you’ve kept the commandments, then go and sell all you have.  Give the money to the poor, and come follow me.”  That’s tough! OUCH!  I thought that just believing was enough.  Jesus seemed to have added a bit to the requirements with this young man.  (I know some say Jesus knew that money was a problem with him and Jesus could see his heart, implying that only this young man has this challenge.  It’s certainly not a word for us.  Right?)

Scripture then goes on to say that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven.  Considering that the poorest in America are in the top 5% of the world as far as riches go, could that be why we seem to be drifting farther and farther from God as a nation?  I know the Bible doesn’t say that “money is the root of evil” but the “LOVE of money” is the root of evil, as I was recently reminded.   It’s just that Jesus didn’t really go into that at this time.  I’m also not anti-money.  I actually kind of like it.  (Sometimes too much.)  I think this story should at least cause some pause in all of us instead of glossing over it quickly.  The least of us are wealthy in the world’s standards.  The fact is, I’m rich and you are too.  Does our money, electronic toys, or worries about either preoccupy us and keep us from God?

People Matter

January 7, 2009

A guy asked me the other day…   Actually it was ME asking God, “Why in the world do we need another church in Mt. Juliet?”  It seemed like a fair question to me.  After all, this is the Buckle of the Belt.  Besides that, it seems to me that there are plenty of churches.  Why can’t I go to a really PAGAN LAND like Daytona Beach or Panama City or some place like that and launch a church?   How cool would that be?  Beach ministry everyday.  Somebody’s got to do it!  Why not me?

The main reason, I realize is that isn’t God’s plan for me.  He wants me in Mt. Juliet where I have old friends, new friends, business acquaintances, and new people moving in all the time.  They all matter to God.

I know that people matter to God and it is my prayer as I start each day that they will matter to me too.  Even strangers, (though some would argue that there are none stranger than me.)  I want to see people the way that God sees them, including the irritating driver that always cuts me off.  I want to see the checker at Kroger, not as a “checker” but as someone with a family, dreams, and a God that is crazy about them.  Sadly, I often just reduce them to the role of “checker” and my goal is to get myself and my can of biscuits back in my car ASAP.

My friend, Rick Theobald, is the best I’ve ever seen in the “caring about everyone he comes in contact with” department.  Anytime I’m out to eat with Rick, for instance, he ALWAYS takes the time to say something personal and nice to EVERYONE that he comes in contact with.  He takes time for everyone… kind of like Jesus.  I too often find myself trying to focus on the person I’m with and take others that happen to be around me for granted.  I want to be more like Jesus in that area.  Heck, I’d even settle for being more like Rick in that area! I’m working on it.  Does anyone give “Rick” lessons?

Anyway… why another church in Mt. Juliet?  Ed Stezer says that churches over 15 years old reach 3 people per 100 members.  Churches that have been around for 3-15 years reach 5 people for every 100 members.  New churches under 3 years old reach 10 people per every 100 members.  Besides God’s call, new churches simply reach more unchurched people.  Since they matter to God, they matter to me too.

It is my prayer that the church that I will launch, as well as the other new churches in Mt. Juliet, will not forget and loose their passion for reaching the lost and unchurched.   It is my prayer that I will be more like Jesus… and Rick.

The Next Chapter

January 4, 2009

I serve an exciting God.  Who ever imagined that he would take a goofball like me, bless me with a great family (Including four kids), and then call me to launch a church back in my hometown?  Bon Jovi was right!  “Who says you can’t go home? There’s only one place that calls you one of their own.”

For fifteen years I was a full time pastor (8 yrs. as a Youth Monster and 7 as Associate Pastor) and then God rocked my world in 2005.  My dad called, who was not a Christ follower, and told me that he was dying.  After the shock, talking to my family, and much prayer, I knew that I had to go back home to Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.  My family and I closed the “Tallahassee Chapter” of our lives and left  with heavy hearts.  We had invested 7 years of relationships in our friends there, but we knew that we were following God’s will for our lives.

My dad only lived for 9 months after we arrived, but I would not take anything for the time that we were blessed with.  He went to just about every baseball game that my boys played and saw more ballet than he cared to see, other than the fact that it was his beautiful granddaughter performing it.  He did get a kick out of the men in tights, but that’s another story….

My Dad got sick and his health went downhill very quickly.  I spent the first night with him in Vanderbilt Hospital and then went home to attend church and get some rest.  As I was coming back into the parking garage the next night at the hospital, my cell phone rang.  It was my dad’s brother, Toney.  Toney had a serious tone about his words and he said, “Eddie, you have to share with your dad tonight.”  I assured Toney that I had been praying for the opportunity to share and would look for the right time to talk to Daddy.  Toney’s tone intensified and he said, “No Eddie.  Don’t look for the right time.  Share with your dad TONIGHT.”  I could tell by his words that God was speaking to me through my uncle.

When I got back upstairs, I didn’t realize that Daddy’s breathing had become even more labored.  The doctors were about to take him to ICU and I told them to stop.  I asked for a few moments alone and then asked Daddy, “Where are you with the Lord?”  Daddy responded, “I’m just not sure that I believe 100%.”

I could see in his face that he was surprised when I responded, “Daddy, I don’t think I believe 100% either.”  I’m sure he was confused because I was the pastor and pastors are supposed to believe in God.  I went on to explain to him that if it was 100%, you wouldn’t need faith.  I told him that if you believe 65%, 90%, or 80%,   God will make up the difference if you trust Him.  I explained that faith works like that.  You trust God to make up where you fall short.  We talked more about what following Jesus meant until I asked him, “Daddy, why don’t you accept Christ right now and trust Him to save you?”  Long story a bit shorter, my dad did accept Christ and died only 4 hours later.  It really eases the sting of death and missing my dad a bit knowing that he is with Jesus right now.

I thought that was my primary mission for coming back home.  Mission Accomplished!  My prayers since I was 12 were answered and my dad is in heaven.  That wasn’t all that God had planned.  I am now convinced that He actually has a plan.  Imagine that!  God having a plan for my life.

God led me back home to get me in the right geographical place, my hometown, to launch a new church.  It is exciting to see how the pieces begin to fit together.  I can’t wait to see what else He is up to and the lives that well be reached through the Next Chapter in my journey with Him.