Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Do you really think God cares?

I saw this comment on Facebook tonight during American Idol: "I'm praying for Adam to win".

Do you really think God cares who wins a TV competition? I mean, I'd like to think His favor and grace shines on the Redskins (especially when playing the Cowboys), but come on.

Could it be that someone who prays for something that trivial and totally non-spiritual (AI is purely entertainment, feeding a hunger for "idol" worship in American pop culture. Yeah, I suppose the same could be said for most everything in the entertainment world)...could it be that God is going to get involved with who wins and who loses? Are such prayers a waste of precious breath that could be praying for starving children, swine flu victims, lost sinners, confused pastors...whatever?

I wonder. Do you?

(BTW, Adam is still alive in the competition. Maybe there's something to that prayer?)

Monday, April 27, 2009

You compare

On the top is Rachel's newborn daughter Evaine. Below is Rachel being held by big sister Sarah in 1985. My kids keep spitting out clones.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Flashback

A summer like day today!

It was Compassion Sunday at NHC. We heard from Jay about how his family has been involved in sponsoring Gracie for eight years. Video images during a couple of well-placed songs helped stamp the image in our minds and hearts of children in need, not only of food, clothing and education, but of the love of Christ.

The MP13 Band was great today. It's so encouraging to be led in worship by men and women who do it so well.

I saw a big group getting ready for Kidmo to start. One mom with her two kids who just started attending NHC in January told me that her kids loved it from the first time, and that's a major reason they chose to come back.

Our friend Herb Owens, who was here to teach a parenting seminar yesterday, told me going out that "there's a great spirit in this place". Indeed, God is at work. That also means the enemy of God is busy, too. He's not passive.

The message today covered the plagues God sent on Egypt up to the final plague that led to the release of the Israelites. The theme was on stubbornness, and how those who fight God will wind up broken. I guess all of us are stubborn in our ways at times, so I hope we all left with something that will lead to change.

I'm off in a minute to teach on Biblical Church Leadership. It's a good class with excellent students! And tonight is an outreach night for our youth. Hoping to hear some great results. Maybe I'll grab a hot dog, too.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Arrival!

After a long night of labor, our youngest child Rachel, with help from her husband Ramon, produced our second grandchild late this morning.

Welcome to the world Evaine Claire! May God bless your life and may you come to know and love your Creator.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The hypocrisy of the religion of tolerance

Help me understand.

The California representative in the Miss USA competition exercised her right to free speech when asked her thoughts on gay marriage. As a result she lost the crown.

Was it an unfair question? Well, considering who asked it, you might make that assumption. And she was in the running for Miss USA, not a state house or Congress. Her answer was based on her religious conviction. So we're now to believe that a beauty pageant isn't about beauty at all, but political correctness.

But what I don't understand is why the head of the California Miss USA organization said, "People in California, more so than most states, are particularly passionate about overturning Prop 8 --especially those in the pageant/beauty world."

May I quote Steve Martin? Well excuuuuuuuuse me. But unless I'm lost in space, didn't the majority of voters in California defeat same sex marriage in November? What "people in California"? The minority?

So how does the reigning Miss California USA, Carrie Prejean, not represent the values of the citizenry of her state? And how is it wrong for her to answer a question honestly and be condemned while the asker, a blogger, can be considered just in verbally cutting her to shreds?

Once again, the preachers of tolerance, the despisers of bigotry and bias show they are the most intolerant, biased and bigoted. Unless you agree with them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Flashback

I knew today was going to be special. Not because I didn't preach, but because Sam shared his story. I've listened to him tell me about his life, and knew it had to be told to a bigger audience. It's a wonderful testimony of God's forgiveness and how we have to come to terms with forgiving others as well as seeking their forgiveness as well. It should be up on the podcast in a few days. You'll want to listen in. Sam's one of my heroes.

I was told this morning that I had no responsibilities today (I've been "vacationing" this past week), so I got to focus solely on the worship and message. It was great! Next Sunday though, I'll be back with the next chapter in Moses' story. Think frogs, locusts and a hard heart.

We were missing a lot of our folks today, due (I guess) to Spring break in the local schools. But the attendance was strong, and so was the spirit, especially at 9:00. Just watching people enjoy getting together is a treat every Sunday for me. The joy is real and evident.

On Sunday nights I'm teaching a class on biblical church leadership. My "students" are fantastic!

Thanks to Kit for the amazing chocolate pound cake. The whole Lawrenson family is digging in.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Isn't this how the church should be?

Watch it grow. The joy is infectious. And those not in it wish they could be. But then, it seems everyone is welcome, regardless of age, race or status.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Post-Easter Life

How quickly Easter comes and goes. Unlike Christmas, the tree and decorations (what few there may be) don’t stay up long after the holiday. In a few days the lilies lose their blooms; the candy is all gone and we’re thinking about what to get Mom this year.

In our culture (see last week’s Newsweek cover) it does seem that the impact of such an event as the resurrection of Jesus takes second place to sales and colored eggs. I did a Google Image search the other day and typed in “Easter”. Guess what? Page after page of pictures came up of baskets, flowers, jelly beans and bunnies. Where is an empty tomb? To steal from a stale presidential campaign slogan, “It’s about the resurrection, stupid”.

The central figure of the Easter story is Jesus Christ. When a man predicts his death, the way he would die and that how he would rise from the dead in three days, then it all comes true, that’s pretty significant, don’t you think? But He didn’t do all that solely to prove His deity or to validate His message. He also did it for our sake.

The promise of a risen Savior not only promises us hope of our own life after death, it promises us hope of a changed life now. He conquered death so that we could as well. He overcame all that the world could throw at Him so that we could overcome it, too.

You see if the resurrection doesn’t have a personal application it’s a great story at best. But it wasn’t meant to simply be a phenomenon of history. It was meant to phenomenally change lives.

The best examples are the very men who knew Him best. Their lives and their willingness to die for their faith are such a challenge and encouragement to us today not to forget about the resurrection until next spring. Let me mention three ways Jesus resurrection gave them the power in life to overcome.

First, they overcame their fears. From the moment of Jesus’ arrest to the day of His resurrection these eleven men were in hiding. They feared for their lives. It wasn’t like they were anonymous. Palm Sunday they were no doubt walking beside Jesus as the entire city cheered Him as their Messiah. Seeing the sentiment of the citizenry do a 180 and cry “Crucify Him!” in a matter of days, then seeing it happen scared them to death.

Yet they soon would be seen in the Temple and streets of Jerusalem openly and boldly proclaiming a crucified and risen Jesus before the very people who had Him crucified.

Second, they overcame their doubts. On Sunday morning when the women (who discovered the stone rolled away from the tomb’s entrance and Jesus gone) ran back to tell the disciples they doubted. John and Peter ran to the tomb to see if it was true. When they returned to tell the others, they still couldn’t quite believe. That is until Jesus showed up in the room with them and challenged Thomas to “touch my wounds”. The doubters quickly became believers when they saw Him alive.

Third, they overcame their guilt and shame. A few days after Easter Jesus had a conversation with Peter. “Peter, I want you to shepherd my flock.” Peter’s mind had to go back to his denials of Jesus the night of His trials. Yet now Jesus was graciously saying, “Peter, I’ve forgiven you. Move beyond your guilt and shame and know that you are very useful to my Kingdom”. Peter’s past became past and His future was that of leader and chief spokesman.

Fears. Doubts. Guilt and shame. They continue to plague us all but so unnecessarily. When you put your trust in the risen Christ as your Savior the overcoming power of His conquering of death becomes His power in your life to enable you to overcome whatever life throws at you.

So don’t allow Easter just to be a spring event. Make its hope and life changing power something you celebrate and embrace all through the year. And if a jelly bean helps you to remember, then go for it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Flashback

I'm tired!

First, I didn't sleep well, knowing I had to get up early. So I woke up several times during the night, plus had a 3AM phone call. Left for church at 6:05 and was the first one there!

Then we had 3 Easter worship gatherings. 7, 9 and 11. We added the 7 o'clocker because with two last year we were overflowing. Today was more comfortable and never packed to the gills, even though attendance still was up from last year. It's always great on Easter to meet new friends.

What's also an interesting take is how at Easter and even throughout the summer we have so many people from out of town and from different church (or no church) backgrounds in attendance. Like today, it's the 11:00 crowd that is more subdued, and I think not quite sure what to make of us.

The choir and band were right on with "Praise the King" and "Overcome". I wish they were up there singing every Sunday. But then, when they do sing it's always a special treat.

My Easter message took a look at how through Jesus' resurrection we are overcomers. I used the examples of the disciples' fear, doubt and guilt and shame after the crucifixion and how they overcame those things to lead the newborn church.

Thanks to Surfside Plaza for giving us a satellite parking lot. And thanks to everyone who used it today, and to the guys who drove the van. The building and grounds looked great because a lot of people put in extra hours getting things spruced up.

The several I asked about how it went in the nursery today said (enthusiastically) "Good!". I know all our kids ministries were crowded, too.

Special props to the many who were there from 7:00 through the entire morning, especially some of our First Impressions team and our band. Volunteers are the heartbeat of ministry here.

Wherever you are in the world, I trust you were able to rejoice with us in the risen Christ! Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Morning Everything Changed

After the Sabbath, around dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to take a look at the tomb. Suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. For an angel of the Lord had come down from heaven, stepped forward, rolled the stone away, and was sitting on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were as white as snow. Because they were so afraid of him, the guards shook and became like dead men.

But the angel said to the women, “Stop being afraid! For I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. He has been raised, just as he said. Come and see the place where he was lying.
- Matthew 28:1-6 (New Living Translation)

And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God, for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave, but that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ have perished! And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world. - The Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

Paul and the other Apostles, with the possible exception of John, all died because of their belief in the resurrection. They claimed to be witnesses of the risen Christ. Who would knowingly die for a lie? And if they chose to die for a lie, were they all deluded? I would say that is harder to believe than to believe they were telling the truth.

Our choices are limited to two: believe or reject that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be and rose from the dead, validating His diety and everything He said.

So Easter is not just another religious holiday. It is the day that changed everything for everyone who believes.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How Sadly Familiar...

"Andrew Gallo, 22, of Riverside has a history of driving under the influence, was behind the wheel with a suspended license..." Read the story here.

Three innocent people minding their own business struck dead by a driver who should not have been on the road.

Obviously a suspended license didn't deter this man from driving drunk again.

Throw the book at him. Please. Treat drunk drivers at least as tough as children who take toy guns to school. Get him off the road forever and send a message to others who act so irresponsibly.

Why do we not learn from "history"? And as usual, the drunk murderer walks away unhurt.

And for good measure, read the post below.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ten Years Later the Memories are Vivid

On April 6, 1999 I was returning from a trip to South Carolina where I had taken my son to visit a college. It was before cell phones became a necessity in my life, so there was no way I could know the tragedy that occurred early that day in Kill Devil Hills. But as soon as I walked in my house late that night my wife greeted me with the nightmare.

Five teenagers on Spring break, crossing the Colington Road intersection were broadsided by a drunk driver. Three were dead on the scene. One was taken to Elizabeth City with serious injuries. He would be the only survivor. The fifth, with much greater injuries, was transported to Norfolk.

The shock was intensified because the girl taken to Norfolk, who would die a few days later, was Shana Lawler, a local girl whose family was in our church. Their pastor, I immediately got back in my car and drove to Norfolk to be with her family.

Ten years have passed already. But the memories for many, including first responders and witnesses is still strong. The story literally shook the Outer Banks community as did the trial that followed, underscoring the problem of drinking and driving. National attention focused on Manteo’s courthouse. The crosses at the intersection remain as a memorial and a testament to a tragedy that should not have happened.

DUI’s remain a severe problem for our local law enforcement and justice system. But there are positive results that have come from that horrific day ten years ago. Both of our northern Dare high schools have active SADD chapters. Through non-profits and local government coalitions there are both educational and treatment options available for those with addictions. Laws have been strengthened and steps continue to be made to curtail driving under the influence with more severe penalties.

But four families deal daily still with an empty space that cannot be filled. Megan, Amanda, Angela and Shana would be 27 year old young adults today. A young woman will live out her days in prison, with no hope for life outside. And Monday many of us will pause to remember. Some things we shouldn’t forget.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Flashback

Kurt Beach was in attendance at the first gathering. I didn't know him, but met him afterward and knew immediately who he is. Our church has been praying for Kurt. Read about him here, and put him on your prayer list as he awaits a liver transplant. He's a bonafide hero, and loves the Lord, too.

Today's installment in Moses' story highlighted how that our lives often resemble a roller coaster ride. Highs and lows. So where's God? He's there, as Moses learned.

Our Kids Ministry team was highlighted this morning in a great video. Kidmo Rocks! Thanks to a fantastic and growing team of volunteers who make NHC such a kid friendly church.

Today the sweet potato biscuits were especially warm! Nothin' like 'em. Thanks Jeff and Kelly's.

Today's music worked so well with the message. And thanks for bringing in songs that also reminded us of Jesus, the triumphant king riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Hosanna!

I'm guessing today's attendance was the highest of the year so far. It seemed that way. Next Sunday we'll be adding a 7AM gathering to help with the huge crowds we get every Easter. If you were at F1RST Wednesday last week, you heard our band and choir preview what they'll be doing Sunday. It's incredibly powerful stuff. Can't wait!

And if you can join us Friday night at 7:00 we'll be remembering the cross with communion.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

One year flashback

Just about this time a year ago I got the phone call from Nathan that the donated lungs for Tricia were on their way to Duke and that evening she would undergo the transplant surgery that we hoped would be the answer to prayer.

Our bags were already packed in anticipation and soon we were on the road for the 3.5 hour drive to Durham. I looked back and found this post that I wrote that evening upon arrival.

Tonight is a time of thanksgiving for us, as well as prayer for the donor's family. What a year it has been!

April 2 is a Big Day for Us

Two reasons:
1. Nathan was born on this day in 1981. Happy Birthday, Nate. Two more years and you're certifiably old. Your life lately has put you on the fast track to maturing. I was a proud papa when you were born, and continue to be proud of you today.

2. One year ago this evening Tricia was wheeled into surgery to receive her new lungs. Last night she sang with the choir at church. What a year this has been! It's been one of those years that you are glad it came and glad it's behind you.

Life and new life are being celebrated today by our family. Yet, I can't forget that somewhere a family is grieving the one year anniversary of the death of a loved one. Yet he/she/they cared enough to donate organs to total strangers. Please remember that family in your prayers today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's amazing

Tonight at F1RST Wednesday at Nags Head Church our choir was incredible. What was amazing was that Tricia was up there singing.

One year ago tomorrow she received new lungs.

Go God!