Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunday Flashback

Unbelievably, I rarely touched my computer between Christmas Eve and today. With all the family together like we were for the holidays I had other priorities. But today it's back to work!

First, Christmas Eve's worship gathering was phenomenal. This was our 17th consecutive year for doing this, and every year it grows. Nate did a great job putting it all together, and the MP13 Band and our NHC Worship Choir are both top notch when it comes to leading us in worship. Instead of a the usual Christmas sermon we used a series of short videos we got from BluefishTV that I recommend highly for advent. There were 5 of them that told the story from the Old Testament prophecies through the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. In between each video clip the Band and choir led us in a Christmas song. The link above will allow you to view them.

One of the results of being a growing church was that we almost ran out of communion elements. Gotta pick up another tray or two! We were set up seating-wise for 185 ("with so many people out of town...") but had about 225 in the service. So, thanks to Mike and his team for scrambling (again) to get more chairs set up. Thanks, too, to the children's ministry and nursery teams for providing child care. The little ones had a birthday party for Jesus. Guests were there from as far away as Australia and Canada.

Sunday was a breather for me. Not having to preach allowed me to relax and enjoy Christmas a little more with so many of our family in town. So, a special thanks to our missionary to Honduras, Larry Benson for taking the lead Sunday and bringing a great message on our "missional" God and what that means. I took lots of notes and he had my brain working overtime.

The 9AM gathering was really sparcely populated! It's the one most of our local congregation attends. But I knew that meant 11:00 would be slammed, which it was. Even though it was after Christmas we still enjoyed some Christmas music, too. Next Sunday we'll put up some round tables in the auditorium again, which is a luxury we can afford in the winter months. We tried it last year and the tables became hugely popular, giving attenders a place to spread out their notes, Bibles and coffee!

It's hard to believe another year has come and gone. For so many reasons 2008 was the best year ever for our church. More was accomplished for ministry and missions and by more people being involved than we've ever experienced. The church continues to grow in health and strength. 2009 will, no doubt, pose some new challenges with the economy, etc. So we will get to see God work even more as we learn to trust in Him.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday Flashback

Christmas joy abounded at church yesterday! People were obviously abuzz with the excitement of the Season. Lots were going around handing out Christmas cards and gifts. I'm munching right now on my bag of macadamia nuts Roxanne gives me every year.

More folks were checking into two new courses set to begin in January - Divorce Care and Focusing on Christian Womanhood. There should be a video promo for the latter next Sunday.

I don't know of a church around with the quality of music God has blessed us with. And what's so great about being able to say that is some of us old timers can remember when this church had no musical talent. Nada. The Christmas carols yesterday were fantastic, including "Gloria (Angels We Have Heard on High)" and "O Holy Night". My dad, who with Mom is visiting for Christmas, said (about Thanisha), "That girl can SING!". And the choir was sooo goood. Their best yet. The MP13 Band also intro'd The David Crowder Band's "O Praise Him". Perfect for Christmas.

(I'm waiting for Crowder's version of "I Saw the Light". I'll dust off my banjo.)

My message title, "Mythbusters: Jolly Old St. Nick", was a bit intriguing for many ("Where's he going with this?"). It should be up on the podcast shortly. Sorry (to any zealots out there), but I didn't attack Santa! What I did was talk about the real St. Nicholas and the role he played in the Council of Nicaea, giving Christianity the Nicene Creed, which stated the orthodox (definition 1a) view of Christ. Before he died and all kinds of myths and legends were spread about him he was a defender of the biblical Christ. Then we turned to John 1 to get the Bible's take on who Jesus is.
After the message I had some great interaction. One attender approached me saying, "For 50 years I've recited the Nicene Creed and never knew what I learned today". A couple more had great questions about the Trinity. Best of all one young lady came up to me after and said, "Thanks for helping me to believe". She had unwrapped God's Gift (John 3:16) to her.

It's so awesome to be in a church where so many grasp the purposes God has for us and live it out. Sunday's are always a celebration. Yesterday I shared some of what the church has been doing in the past few weeks to reach out to our community and world.

Welcome home Emily Benson from her time as a missionary in Honduras!

Welcome home Dale Hamilton from Iraq! (He returns January 3).

Congrats to Jay S. for graduating from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary!

Wednesday night is our Christmas Eve Worship Gathering at 6PM. Please join us!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Just so you know

Before President-elect Obama ever had his picture taken with Rick Warren, I did. If I can find it, I'll post it.

Obama's getting flack for inviting Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration because of Warren's conservative views, esp. in the issues of homosexuality and abortion.

Warren's sure to get flack from the extreme religious right for being "chummy" with a liberal like Obama. But, as a pastor, how do you say "No" to an invitation to give a prayer, esp. when the Bible tells us to pray for those in governmental authority?

Kudos to Obama for demonstrating some diversity. And for my bud RW, can you get me tickets?

If he had invited me to pray, I would. Just so you know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Planning a Family Christmas Worship Time

The tree is up. The gifts are wrapped and ready. Most of all the kids are about to explode with anticipation of Christmas. But that’s true in every home, Christian as well as non-Christian.

So should being a Christian family make a difference? Shouldn’t we be worshipping on Christmas morning? After all, it’s Jesus birthday! And the answer is “Yes!”. For NHC this will be one of those “Acts 2:46” worship events when we worship from “house to house”. Our church will be worshipping, just not all together. But how do we do that?

For some of you, having family worship at Christmas is nothing new. But for many of you, it will be your first attempt. Let me give you some suggestions to make your Christmas morning extra special. Many of these ideas are things Gail and I have done at our home through the years.


How difficult is this in our society? Everything we see and hear on the media tells us that Christmas is about giving and receiving to and from each other. But very little is said anymore about the gift God gave in Jesus.

Before we allowed the kids to tear into their presents we had our worship time. What a better time than this to teach them that life is “not about me”? Isn’t that hard to do? If it’s your first time to try it, yes, it will be. It’s also a great way to teach them patience.

But don’t wait until they get up on Christmas morning to announce it! You’ll have a revolt on your hands, and angry people don’t make good worshippers. Prepare your kids in advance by talking at meal times about how Christmas should be a special time to worship Jesus. But we’re not going to worship at church. Tell them, “This year we’re going to start our Christmas Day with worshiping Jesus right here at home.”

God’s principle of worship always includes sacrifice, and giving God the “first fruits”, not the leftovers. And think about it for a second. Once they open all those toys you’ve lost them for the day! It’s easier to do the worship first than to try to corral them in later.


We start with a big family breakfast together around the table. Gail has this recipe for a breakfast casserole that she prepares on Christmas Eve and keeps in the refrigerator overnight. Then early on Christmas morning she pops it in the oven. Thankfully, as the kids get older, Christmas starts a little later!

Now, if you just can’t see that happening in your house, let me give you an alternative. Later that day have a big family meal together and turn your meal time into a worship time. By the way, whether you have your worship time early or later, include in it the opportunity for everyone to serve – do ministry – by helping with the meal and clean up. Don’t let Mom do it all!

Eating together was a big part of the New Testament church’s worship experiences. And since you have everyone around the table at the same time, it’s an excellent place to have your worship time.


When I say “worship time” I don’t mean you have to go for an hour or preach a sermon! The younger the children, the more you’ll need to make it brief (10 minutes max for little ones) and use some visual aids. We always have had a manger scene that we used when the kids were very young to tell the Christmas story. We also have done a “Birthday Party for Jesus” and sang Happy Birthday to Him. They understand birthday parties! That helps teach them what the day is really about.

Whatever you do, be creative. If you have a wide age span, try to have something for everyone, and include the older kids in helping the younger.

By the way, your children will likely see plenty of “Christmas” shows on TV this time of year. Why not invest on a good video that tells the real Christmas story and watch it together that afternoon? There are some productions (Hanna-Barbera for example) that have it in a cartoon format.


When they’re very young, find a good Bible story book with pictures. Make the story come alive. As they get older, read it from the Bible. Have the kids read it. Ask questions. Let them ask questions. (You might want to study up on it!) Keep in mind the incarnation (God becoming Man) was a miracle. And miracles can’t be explained by science. You’ll find the Christmas story in Matthew 1 and Luke 2. Don’t forget to explain why Jesus’ birth was necessary for our salvation.


For your worship time sing a song or two that honors Christ. Little children all love “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night”. Older ones love them, too! And if you’re family isn’t necessarily musically inclined, put on a Christmas CD and sing along with those who are.

Encourage everyone to say a prayer and in the prayer include something about Christmas for which they can thank God. With the very young expect prayers of thanks for their toys. But allow your Christmas Story time to lead into the prayer time. If you do a good job of telling the story, they’ll get it.


Christmas is about giving. “God so loved the world that He gave.” If your children are going to learn to be givers and not takers, plan a giving project.

Maybe as a family you can find a way to give to something special. Perhaps you put together a shoebox for operation Christmas Child. Take a moment to pray for the child who is receiving that box. Some families intentionally give up one gift on their list and use that money to give to missions. On Christmas Eve our church will be giving out goodies to the public safety and hospital employees who will be working that night. Visit someone (even a stranger) who is spending Christmas in the hospital. Send a card or package of cookies to a serviceman/woman in Iraq. One year we visited seniors in their homes and sang carols with them.

Most of all let them know the greatest gift they can give Christ is their own lives.


Here’s another opportunity to take the God-given role of spiritual head of your family. Don’t leave all this to Mom. Let your family see that this is important to you. Too often in our American culture the men leave the spiritual things to the women. Dad, you be the initiator. Of course, if you’re a single mom, you’re the spiritual head of your home, so you make it happen.


Look around. Not everyone has a family with whom they can celebrate Christmas. There are singles and older folks who are alone or just the two of them who would love to come over to your house for Christmas. There are still international students here on the beach working. It may be someone at work or a neighbor or someone in your Connection Group. We’re always looking for someone outside our family to invite. Practice biblical hospitality. Share your Christmas with others. It will only make your celebration that much better.

©2008 Rick Lawrenson

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Flashback

This morning I spoke to the Forest Park Baptist Church in Vero Beach, FL. My son-in-law is the student/parent pastor here. So since we're here visiting the lead pastor gave me an invitation to speak.

FPBC has a different dynamic than NHC in many ways, but has a heart to reach their community. Friendly folks! Using Acts 2:41-47 I talked about God doing new things and the church being ready to take the opportunities He brings to accomplish His purposes. Nobody (that I could tell) fell asleep.

If you struggle with insomnia Terry says the message will be up on their podcast page soon. (Be warned, when I mentioned being "busted in church" it was right after a grandma got up from her seat to discipline her grandsons who were less than engaged in the message.)

After church we were taken out to lunch to the Lobster Shanty on the river in Vero Beach. Good seafood! Tonight we're going to a hand bell choir concert.

I hear things went great back home at NHC to day. (But then I heard it from the guy who did the preaching.) I'm excited to see the pics from the baptism.

Home tomorrow night!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Busch Gardens and Fred's Market

We took a looonnnggg drive across the state to Busch Gardens in Tampa. A zoo with rides. Because of the morning rain the place was nearly deserted. No lines. Lots of birds. Everywhere. Rode one pretty wild roller coaster. One of those high speed twirly loopy g-force rides that make you wobbly when you get off.

On the way back we randomly stopped in Bartow at Fred's Market Restaurant. We we actually looking for Perkins but not seeing it, pulled in to Fred's. Lots of cop cars in the full parking lot. That's a sure sign there's good food inside.

Good food is an understatement. Fred's has a buffet of nothing but Southern style food. I had more than enough of the food that makes life wonderful. Things like fried green tomatoes, collards, baked talapia, stewed tomatoes, sweet potatos, fried catfish, black eyed peas, cabbage, barbecue pork ribs. There was much more that I never even got to sample. Things like corn pudding, fried corn bread, chicken and dumplings... If you've eaten Southern you get the picture.

Two thumbs up for Fred's. Five stars. My new favorite buffet in the universe. And the bread pudding was totally outrageous. I did start with a salad, by the way.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Vacation starts today

My wife and I are visiting our daughter and her husband in Vero Beach, FL (famous today for a cheesburger assault). We're looking forward to the break.

I gotta say this: my airline experience today with Southwest was the best I have ever had. The departing flight left on time; the plane was not packed, in fact was probably only 25% occupied, which meant the seat between us was empty; Southwest jets have far greater leg room than Delta, for example; the flight landed in Orlando on time and went straight to the gate. They won me over today.

Temps will be around 80 tomorrow.

And the big news today is that our second grandchild will be a girl. Congrats Rachel and Ramon. What's wild is that she is due on the same due date as our first granddaughter Gwyneth, only a year apart. We're hoping this one takes the full ride!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Flashback

If you've been on the Journey very long you know there are mountain top experiences with God and there are also the times, often painful, when you go through the valley. Today we talked about how to get through those valleys by taking steps in the right direction via trust and obedience.

Next Sunday Andy will pick up where I left off. Then the following Sunday I'll bring a seasonal message on the Sunday before Christmas.

Nate chose Steven Curtis Chapman's song "The Mountain" to introduce the message today. If you know his family's story this year you have to appreciate the insights God gave him well in advance of the valley they would traverse with the tragic death of their daughter. Here are the words from the 2nd verse:
You bring me up here on this mountain
For me to rest and learn and grow
I see the truth up on the mountain And I carry it to the world far below
So as I go down to the valley
Knowing that You will go with me
This is my prayer, Lord
Help me to remember what You've shown me
Up on the mountain

They also plugged in some Christmas music including a rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" that sneaks in a lead guitar part from "Carol of the Bells" (with distortion, of course). It's fantastic. Can't wait for more.

Tina tells me our Lil K class (pre-schoolers) was maxed out today at 9AM. The place is crawling with young children.

Following the second worship gathering a lot of folks stayed around to get the place re-set and decorated for tonight's annual Christmas dinner. We don't have a separate "fellowship hall", so our worship space is multi-purpose. In came the tables and chairs for tonight's meal. We set up enough to handle 216, utilizing the lobby as well. Good thing!

Talk about a ton of food! Our Fellowship Team did a great job setting up the food lines, getting nearly 200 people through pretty quickly. Shawn P., who has been around a few years looked around and was remembering when things were much smaller. It's quite amazing to me, too.

The stack of coats donated to give away next week to the needy in the community is becoming a mountain! Keep it up! And I don't know what was given tonight to send Bibles to youth and children in countries where believers are under persecution, but it looked like a pretty healthy offering. Thanks for giving to Jesus' body like this in celebration of His Birth, especially when it's not so easy to give.

My Flashback next Sunday will not be about NHC. I'll be speaking in a church in Vero Beach, FL while visiting our daughter and son-in-law. Hope the weather's warm!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You make it click

Here's a glimpse of the many-faceted ministry teams that make our church. These people invest themselves in serving others and are making a difference. Whether they're changing diapers and loving babies so parents can worship freely or cleaning windows, it's all about serving God by serving others.

And I get to be a part of it, which is way cool.

This is how we roll at NHC.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Where are the adults?", I wondered...

Last night I was sitting in the waiting room at our local hospital ER, waiting for a wife to arrive whose husband was being treated. In walked three teenage girls. One apparently was old enough to drive. The other two might have been 15 or so.

The older looking girl went up to the desk and said she needed to see a doctor. She had a sore throat. The other two girls continued on to the vending machines. After filling out a form and presenting her ID, the girl seeking medical attention was then told by the Triage Nurse to come in for her evaluation. At the same time one of the other girls started to follow her in. The nurse said, "You can wait out here" (referring to the waiting room), "but if you're going to be in the hospital you need to put on some shoes. Do you have some shoes in the car?"

The girl was barefooted. In December. Obviously she had no clue that shoes might be required attire in a hospital. And just as obviously, she didn't care. But she went out, and came back in with some shoes on her feet.

In the mean time, the third girl came back in to the waiting room with a Mountain Dew. She asked the girl with the shoes why she went outside. "To get some shoes on." "Why did you have to put on shoes?" "Because the f____________ b_________ woman in there is stupid!".

She pushed my button. Yanked my chain. "Hey. You think they might have some rules in the hospital? And there is no reason to call her what you just did. You're not old enough to be using that kind of language. Show some respect."

"You don't know how old I am", she smartly replied. "No. But you obviously are older than you act."

A couple of questions.

Where were the adults in these kids' lives? Why is a minor coming to seek medical attention without a parent? And what's with her bringing along a couple of friends to the hospital? Why hasn't someone taught this foul mouthed girl some manners and respect of authority? Does she have any concept of why there are rules?

It was pretty sad. Respect is a value that begins to be understood at home.

We have to reach this generation. Somewhere the passing on of values is being interrupted. Witness last week's trampling death of a Wal-Mart employee on Black Friday by me-first consumers.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fans Celebrate 25 Years of 'A Christmas Story'

I have to admit, I love this movie and watch it every Christmas.

My favorite scene? The one where the kid is dared to stick his tongue on the frozen flag pole and he's stuck there. I love it. A close second is the final scene in the Chinese restaurant and "Deck the Halls".

What's your favorite part of the movie?

Sunday Flashback

Our gatherings this "Celebration Sunday" were to hear from the church how God worked in our lives through the 40 Days of Purpose. This was our second time (2003 was our first) to go through the 40 Days, and the impact was just as great, if not greater.

The songs were celebratory. Our decoration team made the place festive with balloons. And during the message we heard from a number of believers, both seasoned and babes, about their groups, their answered prayers, their worship. Nothing pumps this pastor up more than hearing God's people tell of His mighty works in their lives.

Let's live what we learned and pass it on.

It was rainy today (even inside during the worship!). Thanks to our First Impressions guys with the umbrellas helping keep folks dry from the parking lot to the building. That's a great first impression!

Tonight our church approved our 2009 budget at our annual church conference. Who knows how the coming economic picture will effect us, but who knows how many doors it will open to ministry and mission either? Let's be ready for whatever and show ourselves to be faithful and useful to our God in our community and world.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Celebration Sunday!

Tomorrow we'll celebrate by hearing from many what God has done in their lives the past six weeks of 40 Days of Purpose. There will be some great testimonies of God's grace and we'll have a lot of fun. See you at 9 or 11.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Guest blogger: Dale Hamilton.
Dale is a good friend and one of our church family. Currently he is attached with an army battalion in Iraq.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Holy Day

Two years before the more famous Thanksgiving at Plymouth a thanksgiving proclamation was made in the colony of Virginia. Before football. Before "Black Friday". Before Macy's parade. Before it was a holiday it was a holy day.

The proclamation read: "We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."

"Holy" means set apart for God. So at the least we should not forget to Whom our thanks is owed.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Please don't dare teach this to our children in the public schools. It would confuse them as to the origins of our nation. And they might ask about this God.)

Tonight at NHC!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Flashback

You were made for a mission.

That was the theme today. As Christ followers we've been commissioned and sent to share the Good News with those who don't yet know Him. I took a poll and got an amazing response: everyone who knows Christ attributes that to another person introducing Him to them. Hello.

Today we included lots of graphics of those our church supports in other places to do just that, along with a couple of video greetings and one in-person greeting from them. Thanks to our missionaries for sending pics and videos.

We also had our Hukilau Surf Camp van outside loaded with surfboards and wetsuits (thanks Steve); the NC Baptist Men's Disaster Relief van stocked with tools (thanks Greg); Kathy from Pathways International - a local outreach to the hundreds of international students who come here to work each summer; and the Bensons from Honduras.

Also included were graphics from many of the local outreach things we do here.

The MP 13 Band led us in songs that reiterated our purpose of daring, caring and sharing. One new song, "The Power of Your Name" (Lincoln Brewster) followed up the teaching perfectly.

We're learning more and more of the need to not only believe the right stuff, but to demonstrate the love of Christ through practical means. It's a relatively new term to me/us, but God is growing us as we become more intentionally "missional".

After completing two worship gatherings we switched gears, had lunch (thanks Hospitality Team) and interviewed four new partners in our fellowship. There are several adults awaiting baptism, so we've got to get that in soon.

Another fantastic day! And Wednesday night we'll worship and give thanks together again with a special Thanksgiving gathering.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

They're going to exterminate you...

Today at our yard sale I was approached by a man who said he wanted to ask me about our church. "Sure!", I said. I'm always excited to answer sincere questions.

But he really didn't want to ask about Nags Head Church. What he wanted to do was "educate" me about the "new world order".

Him: "Have they contacted you yet?"
Me: "Who is 'they'?
Him: The "new world order".
Me: "And who is that?"

Lots of nebulous answers to my questions. All the while he's holding a copy of Christian author Larry Burkett's fictional novel "The Illuminati". It had been sitting in a pile of books on sale.

"You need to read this", says he. "It's all in here. This is the most important book you'll ever read."

"How about the Bible?", says I.
"OK. After the Bible it's the most important book...".

"But this book (Illuminati) is fiction." I'm wondering where he's going from here.

"No it isn't. Do you see who wrote it?" (Larry Burkett, now in heaven, was known for his financial counseling from a biblical perspective.)

"Yes", I said, taking the book from him and turning to the author's intoduction page. "Look right here. He says it is 'purely fiction'."

His response didn't surprise me. Conspiracy theorists have the answer to everything, even when the facts refute them. "He had to say that in order to get it published."

Right. Burkett was willing to risk his life's work under the pretense of a lie? I think not. He was a man of integrity and character.

Then he asked, "Do you know what they're going to do to you? They're going to exterminate you."

I said, "That's OK. I know where I'm going and Who wins in the end and Who is in control."

"And", he continued, "they're going to exterminate your church".

He didn't care for my answer. "That's all right, too. We're citizens of another kingdom and this life is just dress rehearsal for eternity anyhow. God's got a plan and His plan wins, not any 'new world order'."

Everybody believes in something, don't they? I've heard his fables before. And even if they were true, God is sovereign. Any "new world order" will one day be replaced by a kingdom yet to come. For that reason I don't have to live in fear of what may or may not happen.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A meteorological note

It snowed all morning on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

In November.

A week before Thanksgiving.

The temps are 15 to 20 degrees below normal.

Global warming has me confused.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Flashback

Today was our annual Ministry Fair at NHC, and I thought it was the best ever. Tom Lee, our Pastor of Ministries, along with a lot of help, put together the "fair", which profiles all of our 25 ministry teams and encourages involvement. It's not the only time we focus on serving God by serving one another during the year, but it is the the big push every year to get new church members to plug in.

And cool iServe t-shirts, Tom!

Instead of a "full-length" sermon today I spent 20 minutes of my time interviewing Mike and Tina, a couple who volunteer and are leaders of the Children's Worship team (Tina) and the First Impressions team (Mike). They get it, and our hope was their passion for serving would catch on with those who might be standing on the sidelines. I think they did an awesome job of sharing their stories.

Our Video Production Team put together an outstanding video that highlighted most of our teams. It did a great job showing how much joy there is in serving others.

A few weeks ago we were bummed that our Krispy Kreme source was no longer going to be there. But then Starbucks stepped in with bagels, muffins, etc. And Kellys keeps sending the sweet potato biscuits. God is good!

I don't know how it is that to me it seems every week at NHC gets better and better. But it does. Our church has such a joy and passion for getting together. This truly is dress rehearsal for eternity.

And next week our focus is missions. Can't wait.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gonna buy 5 copies for my mother...

It's not quite the cover of The Rolling Stone, but this pic is on the front page of the Town of Nags Head's web site today with this caption: Nags Head Fire Chaplain Rick Lawrenson gives an invocation during the Veterans Day ceremony held at Town Hall on November 11. Walter D. Fillmore, Brigadier General (Ret.), US Marine Corps, was the guest speaker. More photos can be found under News & Information.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Happy Veterans Day! Thanks to all who have given years of their lives and in the prime of their lives to defend and protect the freedoms we value and love.

And to those currently serving, especially in the Middle East, may you come home safely, soon and to a grateful nation.

Monday, November 10, 2008

From the halls of Montezuma...

The Marine Corps is a part of my heritage. And one that brings me pride.

Dad went from the reserves to active duty when I was three. I grew up watching him clean his rifle, spit-polish his boots and shine his belt buckles. I remember when I was, I don't know, five or six, how ecstatic he was when he was promoted to sergeant. I've had my share of "high and tight" haircuts from the PX barber. We saw him off to a year in Okinawa, then two years later to a tour in Viet Nam.

But it goes farther than my dad. My great-grandfather (mom's maternal side) was also a Marine. He lied about his age and as a 16 year old joined the Marines and served as one of only 500 sailors and Marines in China over 100 years ago during the Boxer Rebellion. I have fond memories of Pop sharing his personal pride in being a Marine. A cousin still has Pop's uniform, in mint condition from his days as his company's bugler.

So to all the Marines, past and present, Happy Birthday. You are the few, the proud.

Semper Fi.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Flashback

I got up at 5AM and was at the Fire Station at 5:30 to grab a cup of coffee, a Sonic sausage and cheese sandwich and get instructions for traffic control duty for today's OBX Marathon. FF Kidd and I were at our post at 6:00, which was conveniently at the corner of Soundside Road and Croatan Hwy, and the location of Nags Head Church.

After 4 hours of directing traffic and drinking coffee I had to be excused to get ready for my "day job". I volunteer with the fire department as their chaplain, and this was a great opportunity to give back.

Thanks to our Hospitality Team (Barbara, Les, Carol and Cindy) for coming in early and setting up a coffee stand for spectators. It's another way to reach out. 5,000 runners and not that many spectators came by us this morning before church started.

We only had one gathering this morning due to the congestion the Marathon causes. So it was a full house crowd and with lots of energy. Everything was crowded today, but that's a great sight. So here's a special shout out to our First Impression team for getting extra seating up as we filled up; to our Hospitality team for keeping up with the coffee and pastries; and especially to our Childrens and Nursery staff for handling the double dose so well.

Today I talked about God's 3rd purpose for our lives: discipleship. God made us to become like Christ. That's a lifelong process involving changing our character. The focus today was on the things we don't normally think about as tools God uses: trials that He designs to help us; temptations Satan throws at us to hurt us and trespasses against us by others that hurt. God uses them (Romans 8:28) to teach us to trust, obey and forgive. Easy? No. But no one who is a Christ follower (something about taking up your cross) would describe the Christian life as easy.

Great songs complimented the message today as usual. Our band does a fantastic job tying in just the right music with the message before and after.

We're again partnering with Samaritan's Purse with Operation Christmas Child. I don't know how many years we've done this - 12 or 13 I guess - and the response is always great. A short video today explained it. If you don't know about it, check out the link.

We gave a shout out to our Veterans today. Freedom isn't free. Thanks to all who have served and are serving our country in our military. If you get a chance Tuesday, attend a Veterans Day ceremony.
And Semper Fi to all the Marines out there as you celebrate your birthday tomorrow.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November at NHC

What's happening this month? Watch this!
(See what you missed if you didn't come to First Wednesday?)

The morning after

It’s November 5. And as the old song from “The Poseidon Adventure” sang, “there’s got to be a morning after”. I realize that today’s news is likely captivating the attention of the majority of us who read this paper, so I don’t have any grand illusions that what a preacher writes today will gather much attention. But I want to speak to the Christian community in the aftermath of yesterday’s much anticipated vote.

There are some biblical principles that need to be remembered by us who claim faith in God regarding government and our responsibility to it. So whether this morning’s news makes you smile or kick the cat, these should apply to you. And take a minute to break out your Bible and read the passages I’ve included.

Human government isn’t perfect, but it is a God-ordained institution. Perfection was tossed out the window in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3) Whether your candidate is viewed as some kind of a messiah or the lesser of two evils, he isn’t going to usher in utopia. Yet God has created government to protect us from harm and to provide justice. (Romans 13:1-7) If our government misses those marks it will answer to God.

We’ve heard from all the politicians and pundits that our government is “broken”. Well, it was never perfect, not even when the ink was still drying on the Bill of Rights. (I will interject that it’s still the best the world has to offer!) Broken people can’t produce anything perfect. So, as God has done toward us, let’s extend a little grace.

Taxation is part of the deal and we’re to submit to it. Jesus gave that instruction to those listening and during great governmental corruption. (Matthew 22:21) Jesus said we’re to give to God what is God’s and to support our government. Caesar’s government, by the way, wasn’t known as being particularly fair. Regardless of what you may think, you still live a lifestyle higher than the rest of the world. Travel to a third world country and you’ll realize how blessed we are. Be grateful. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Sometimes we get what we deserve. Over and again when the nation of Israel in the Old Testament turned its collective heart away from dependence on God they found themselves in dire economic times. What’s a better wake up call? Unfortunately the American church in the last generation has tried to enact spiritual awakening via political and man-centered means. And judgment, we’re told begins in the “house of the Lord”, and rightly so. (1 Peter 4:17) Before we try to clean up our country we need to clean up ourselves first.

You have a dual citizenship. (Philippians 3:20) By God’s grace you are a citizen of a coming Kingdom. A perfect government is in our future. We just have to wait and be patient. The answer to all our ills is not in any man who occupies the Oval Office, sits on Capitol Hill or dons a black robe. Let’s hope things get better. But whether they do or don’t, your future is a bright one if Christ is your King.

One day wars will be over. (Isaiah 2:4) The economy won’t be a concern. No one will be needy or hungry or disenfranchised. Race won’t be an issue and borders will be removed. And we won’t have to watch any more political advertisements or hear any more speeches from candidates! We’ll live under the rule of a perfect Monarch, giving us a world we could never imagine. (Sorry John Lennon.)

Our responsibility is to pray for our leaders. (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Whether your man won or lost, it makes no difference. He needs your prayers. Why? “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord” (Proverbs 21:1). God is the only One Sovereign in the truest sense. He’s got things under control, whether we can see it or not.

Rick Lawrenson is the Lead Pastor of Nags Head Church.
© 2008 Rick Lawrenson

(This appears today in The Outer Banks Sentinel.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I exercised my privilege

I've heard a lot of people talk about their "right" to vote. I'm no constitutional expert, but I think it's more like a privilege than a right. Kind of like getting a driver's license.

Got there early. At 7:15AM. Stood in line about 25 minutes, which was far longer than ever before here in Kitty Hawk, and I've voted here since '92.

I did inquire as to why no one asked to see any ID. All I had to do was give my name, my address and sign an paper saying I was me. The answer was that in NC identification is not required. How stupid is that?

My daughter Sarah is registered in her state of residence and voted there. Yet her name was below mine in the local registration. My wife could have come back and voted as Sarah and unless someone knew she was not, "Sarah" would have "voted" twice. I wonder how much this is happening... I'll try not to lose too much sleep over it tonight.

Then I got an email telling me that a friend's entire batallion in Iraq has not been able to vote because someone over there dropped the ball in getting ballots to them. Guys (and gals) are asked to be willing to fight under our flag but haven't been able to vote to choose their next Commander in Chief. How wrong is that?

So, despite all our technology we're still not much more than a banana republic when it comes to counting legitimate votes, it seems.

I'm glad my faith is not in America but in a God Who has it all under control. Yet, (before some of you crucify me), this is still by far the greatest nation on earth.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Well, we are in a "swing state": candidates make appearance at Trunk or Treat

Building Bridges

At our annual Trunk or Treat event last night over 400 family groups visited. There were inflatable rides; fun games; over a half-ton of candy given out; free food and drink and all in a safe family environment.

Was it expensive? A little. Did it take a lot of work? Yeah. About 80 volunteers from our church made it happen. Was it worth it?

Along with the 1,000 children who had an incredibly fun night there were another another 500 or so adults who witnessed a church giving back to the community.

Everyone was smiling. Where do you find that anymore?

Every family received a printed presentation of the Gospel.

Every family was welcomed and told "Thanks for coming. We're glad you're here!" And they heard that without being asked for anything in return. "Wow" was a frequent response.

The whole event screamed loud and clear, "This church loves kids and their parents, knows how to have fun and do it in an excellent way".

At least one that I've heard from so far was able to share his personal faith story for the first time in a long time.

Once again "TEAM" was emphasized as a huge part of being a church.

Was it worth it?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A line I cannot cross

When my granddaughter was born at 24 weeks gestation earlier this year I found myself later that day staring into a NICU incubator with the very somber realization that across America thousands just like her are never given the chance.

Phil Keaggy wrote a song a few years back that asked, "Who will speak out for the little ones?".

For that reason alone I could never allow myself to vote for a candidate who supports abortive rights. Life is sacred, and the lives of the innocent have to be defended, not discarded.

Fortunately we still have choices in this country. For how long, I'm unsure. My daughter in law's doctors advised she abort to save her own life. But what if the government via socialized medicine and not private insurance was paying for the costs? Would she have had the choice? Makes you wonder where we may be headed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Says Who?

A friend in Florida attended a political rally recently and this was one of the pictures she took.

I have some basic, fundamental problems with that sentiment.

1. Jesus (the real Messiah) said the world would know we are His disciples because we love one another.

2. Unless I divulge the information, how I vote is known only to me and God. So, how will the world identify me as a Christian by my vote? Instead, the world may choose to identify me as a racist or a homophobe or a war-monger if my vote is my “witness”. But love for other believers? That’s a witness that can’t be confused.

3. It assumes that genuine Christians have only one choice in the election. And with that assumption is the implication that if I don’t vote that way, I must not be a Christian. Yet, quoting Jesus again (He is the Founder of the movement, and therefore has the authority to define the terms), Christians are born into God’s family by believing that God sent His one and only Son to be their Savior. That simply means that Christianity is not procured nor is it maintained at the ballot box.

There’s a lady here locally who gets revved up every four years and goes on her own personal email campaign to ensure that everyone else understands the issues and where God stands on them. Somehow I’m on her list, although I’ve blocked her on one of my email accounts. It’s not because I prefer to be ignorant of the issues, however. It’s because I see people placing their hope in men and women, not in the eternal Sovereign God.

Bottom line is this: As one of His children I’ll answer to God for my vote. It is my responsibility to both know the issues and whether or not God has given clarity on His position by studying His Word. I believe He has given clear doctrine on such things as life, mercy, justice and our role as stewards of the planet we call home.

Should my faith influence my vote? Absolutely. How can it not? Is my faith proclaimed to the world by my vote? The world that needs to know the salvation offered by God isn’t going to find it by how I vote. What will attract men and women to Christ is how we love one another.
By all means, vote! And base your choice on principles not party. But the genuineness of the Christian culture will be shown in the days ahead by how we love each other. And my hunch is that the opportunities are going to be increased.
(If you want to know my position on the issue of life, simply go over to the right and find posts I've written under the label "Pro-life".)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Flashback

Today's message was about our first purpose in life: worshipping the God who created and loves us.

A couple videos today: one I got from bluefishtv.com taking a humorous look at worship to make us think about our own experience; the other a new commercial for Trunk or Treat that Nathan produced. Good job Sue and Elvis. You can see the video on Youtube.

The songs selected today went perfectly with the theme. Singing the "Revelation Song" after I read from Rev. 4 and 5 helped bring it into focus. During the offering we went without music and I asked everyone to use the 2-3 minutes to just worship God, expressing to Him why He is worthy. I think some had a hard time keeping focused, which happened to be the next point of the message.

In between gatherings I hung out alone on the balcony - a terribly neglected but fantastic place to chill. Up there I just sipped my coffee and listened to the roar of the folks below in the lobby enjoying some fellowship. That's so cool.

There was a huge difference between the two "congregations" today. High energy at 9:00. Very reserved at 11. It's kind of strange, and makes you wonder why. But I think (that's the best I can do) that the 11:00 gathering tends to attract those who by tradition go to church at 11. Those at 9 are a bit more out of the box. Just a guess. It will be interesting on Nov. 9 when we just have one gathering due to the OBX Marathon.

A very kind guest has written a blog post about his annual worship experiences with us. Hearing objective stuff is encouraging, and he shares about his own church, too.

Thanks for your continued prayers for Tricia. She goes back to Duke for another biopsy on Tuesday.

Fair and Balanced Wardrobe

This morning while I was ironing a pair of pants to wear to church (which my wife vetoed) I turned on a news channel. There were two veteran newsMEN debating over Sarah Palin's wardrobe.

No kidding. And it wasn't HGTV.

I think that with the plethora of 24 hour news outlets they just must be running out of newsworthy topics. Or maybe America really cares where she bought her clothes?

If we do, we're in deeper trouble than I thought.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Gail!

As your mom told you growing up, "You're the prettiest girl in Portsmouth, Norfolk, Newport News and Nags Head!" Still are!

Enjoy your special day. Looking forward to dinner out tonight.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Wasted Vote?

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost." -- John Quincy Adams

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum aren't our only choices.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Podcasts updated and with a new link

For those of you who follow our podcasts from Nags Head Church and have wondered about them...

The link is new and the podcasts have been updated and are current. Recent series now available for listening and download are:
40 Days of Prayer - August 10, 17 and 31
Radical Generosity - September
Teamwork - a message by Burnie Staples on October 7
40 Days of Purpose - Current series beginning October 14

Thanks for your patience.

The link is also maintained on the right of this page under "Nags Head Church sites". You can "subscribe" to the podcasts, letting you know when a new one is added. And Nate tells me they will be up on itunes in a few days (whatever that means).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Government sanctioned election fraud?

So if I vote early or by absentee ballot and then I die before election day, how is it that my vote should be counted? I'm dead on the day of the election? Is it right for dead people to vote? And you gotta figure that this happens to literally thousands of Americans. Alive on October 4 but dead a month later.

Why even have an election day? Let's just have an election year, then add up the totals on Dec. 31. That makes just as much sense as letting dead people's votes count on Nov. 4.

Just wondering. But what difference would it be if on election day I went and cast a vote for someone who had died six weeks earlier and in a sworn affadavit said, "Here's how I will vote on Nov. 4." Would that vote be allowed? No way. He's dead and can't vote. But if he had voted early his vote counts? Go figure.

But the biggest laugh to me is that I can walk into my local polling place, give the folks there a name with a corresponding correct address and without checking any ID they hand me a ballot and allow me to vote. Yet without ID a young adult can't buy a pack of cigarettes. Go figure.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Flashback

"What on earth am I here for?" There's a question that's been asked in every generation by every culture. So this morning as we kicked off 40 Days of Purpose we took a look at what the Bible says.

The Big Idea? If you're going to know your purpose in life you have to start with God. He's the Creator of life and had you and I figured out before the foundations of the earth were formed.

The songs chosen by Nate today all related super well with the message, pointing us to our Creator and Savior as the givers of life.

No more donuts! Our source for Krispy Kreme no longer carries them, so today there were bagels, brownies and sweet potato biscuits. No one looked hungry! In between gatherings I went up to the balcony (a terrible ignored hang out in our lobby btw) and relaxed for a few minutes. Then I stood and looked over the wall, watching folks coming in and those already in interacting. This is how church should be!

Pretty good response today with our memory verse for the week! Next week will even be better.

The fall settles us down into pretty much a home town crowd at church. And that's not really a bad thing. Now locals outnumber the out of town guests and we resemble more of a normal church congregation. Well, I don't know if we'll ever quite be normal.

Big week ahead with the Chowan Baptist Association holding their annual meeting at NHC. This association goes back to something like 1806 or something. Most of the originals are dead, however. Then Wednesday night is our once a quarter CREST gathering at church, where we get the opportunity to hear from our various ministries what God is doing in the church and through the church in the community.

After an early afternoon defeat of the dallas cowboys I'm settling in to watching the Washington Redskins hopefull resume their winning ways today. Then tonight, the final ALCS game will decide who goes against the Phillies in the World Series.

Next Sunday: The purpose of worship.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hide your hard earned dollars somewhere.

Barack Obama told a tax-burdened plumber over the weekend that his economic philosophy is to "spread the wealth around".

Spread whose wealth? That's my question, sir.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain argued on Wednesday the U.S. government should take up his $300 billion plan to buy troubled mortgages in order to put an end to a protracted housing crisis.

And from where will Uncle Sam get that 300 billion? You get 3 guesses and the first two don't count.

It sounds to me like whichever one wins, a revisionist Robin Hood is coming to Washington. Our pockets are about to be picked by the Merry Men (and women) of Capitol Hill. You and I who have worked hard for whatever "wealth" we have are getting ready to part with more of it. Or do the candidates have another way for the Fed to come up with funds? If so, please share it with us.

(Note that I am fair and balanced.)

Remember capitalism?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nobody knows the troubles I've seen...

Do you have those days when you just want to get in the car (or for me, truck) and take a long drive away from it all? They come often if and when you deal with people.

Don't misread me. I'm a "people", too. And not the easiest in the world to deal with.

But somedays you gotta wonder, "OK God. What's the deal. Do I really deserve this?" You know, someone did something you didn't like. Someone forgot to follow through. Someone looked at you cross-eyed. There's an elephant sitting in the room. Whatever. But none of it really is stop the world and get off stuff. In fact, I don't think I've ever had one of those.

Then I stop and consider what others are dealing with; things that truly would not only rock my boat but likely capsize it. And it's then I'm a bit ashamed of my little pity parties.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Discouraging news

I just talked with Nathan. Tricia's PET scan showed no remission in the cancer and that it may have spread to a lymph node in her chest. Tomorrow they will do a biopsy and from there determine the next step of treatment.

Nathan, Tricia and Gwyneth will be returning home tomorrow from Duke.

We all had hopes that this round of chemo would kill the cancer, but it hasn't. Thanks for your continued prayers.

But whenever Monday comes...

Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher/pastor of the 19th century made the statement that every Monday he wanted to quit.

This guy was far from a failure. He was the most celebrated and read Christian of his era. The church he led in London was by today's standards a "mega-church". Every week men and women came to faith under his ministry. But on Mondays he was down.

That's a very common hazard that comes with the job. I know. I often feel it as well. A lot of spiritual energy is expended on Sundays. The "point man" often goes toe to toe in battle for the souls of men with the opposition. And then there's the devil to contend with, too!

In my prayer time earlier God reminded me that it was Monday and prompted me to pray for a number of my pastor friends. Some are struggling today and I know it. Others I don't know, but still need encouragement to keep on.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

To the winner go the spoils

I think Burnie is too consumed with winning first place at Saturday night's chili cook-off. What do you think?

The Countdown has Begun

Last night we had a Kick Off Rally coupled with a chili cook-off that was a lot of fun. In the rally we were challenged by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life to seek God's purposes of fellowship, worship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism in our lives.

Today I'll bring a message asking 3 Big Questions we all need to be asking before we dive in to the 40 days of committing to a daily devotion and time of prayer; connecting with a small group; memorizing Scripture and regularly attending church:

  • What does God want from my life?

  • What does it take?

  • Why should I do it?

Then tomorrow we actually begin Day One.

Nags Head Church first did 40 Days of Purpose 5 years ago, and it triggered a renewal in the life of our congregation that God used to launch us to greater things than we had ever seen before as a church. So we're looking forward to a second time; especially since in the last 5 years so many more have hooked up with us.

God willing, this is going to be a great 6 weeks with eternal results.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's Deja Vu all over again

Today marks the 9 month anniversary of Gwyneth's birth. After a check up yesterday at Duke, she's doing great! In the picture she was 1lb. 6 oz. Today she's over ten pounds and what a joy!

But Tricia is back in the very same ICU where she was on that day. Today, instead of being comatose, however, she is battling pneumonia.

Thanks for your prayers for them. We know very well that prayers have covered the past nine months and will continue to make a difference.
The song we sang Sunday, "Our God Reigns" - about His sovereignty - brings great comfort and hope.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Flashback

Today's weather was absolutely picture perfect. Carolina blue sky, gentle breeze and temps between 60 and 70. October is the best time of year on the Outer Banks!

Burnie Staples, our pastor of missions, gave us a challenge this morning about what it means to be on the team. Using a couple of good sports analogies he reminded us that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back. And then he applied 5 principles of teamwork to our strategy here at NHC. Great stuff, Burnie! If you missed it, look for it on our podcast page soon.

Our congregation is taking on more and more a local appearance as the out of town guests become fewer and fewer. It's this time of year that we ramp up the local ministry a bit more. And this weekend kicks off the highlight of the fall as we get pumped for 40 Days of Purpose.

Lots of donuts today! Lots of coffee and lots of brothers and sisters just spending time together before and after each gathering.

The MP 13 Band, the video "This is not This" about our current financial insecurities, and Taylor Edmonds (who is going to Rome for 2-3 years as a missionary) asking for our prayers made it an awesome worship day.

Then (and this really is icing on the cake) our pastors (and most of our wives) met for lunch with five who have requested to become partners with us at NHC. Thanks Hospitality Team for the lunch! And we look forward to welcoming our newest team mates soon!

But to top it all off, the Redskins beat the Eagles. Dallas last week. Philadelphia today. It can't get much better!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Is it too much to ask?

Why does it seem that leading politicians in our country can't pronounce the word "nuclear"?
Just wondering.

Carter couldn't.
Bush 2 couldn't.
Palin can't.

It's really not that hard. And it's a word that's still in vogue.
Come on.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"First Wednesday" Tonight!

Starts at 6:30 sharp! I can't wait.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Silver Lining

I would think that death always brings grief to someone. At least I would hope it does. It's hard to imagine anyone dying and no one caring.

Grief in the case of an elderly person who has lived a long and full life is somehow eased with all those memories and the realization that it was their "time".

But death of a young person, especially a child, is a horrible experience for the surviving family and loved ones. I witness the initial shock of hearing the news that a child is dead often as a public safety chaplain.

And I see the worst - the cases when there is no "forewarning" like a known illness or risky surgery. There's no preparation. Most that I am involved with are sudden and totally unexpected. One minute the child is enjoying life as chldren do. The next they are lifeless.

Sunday I was involved with one of those heart-wrenching cases as a just-turned 13 year old girl suffered an apparent cardiac arrest while sleeping. While on vacation and away from home, friends, family, church.

I met with the parents at the emergency room to offer support and prayers. They actually quoted Romans 8:28 to me. This young girl has a vibrant relationship with Christ. Spiritually we're told that knowing there is eternal life ahead because of the work of Christ and our belief in Him takes the sting of death away. I saw that.

That trust in God's sovereignty doesn't, however, answer the inevitable "Why?" questions. Those may never be answered in part much less fully here.

As I do regularly in these situations, I asked the parents if they would consider organ donation. What parent considers this in advance and already has an answer ready? Precious few, I'm afraid. But without hesitation they looked at each other and said, "Yes. If her organs can allow another child to live, yes."

I informed the nurse and the papers were signed. And I hope that somewhere someones' sons or daughters are being given a chance at a longer life because of such an unselfish act.

It doesn't erase the pain, but it does help.

If you would like to know more about organ donation, please click the link to the right of this page.

Monday, September 29, 2008

We Have Met the Enemy - And He Is Us

Guest Blogger: David Wilson.

David is a pastor friend in Florida. He's somewhat of a maverick (a popular term these days) who says what he thinks.

This post on apathy is worth the read.

Walking the Balance Beam

You've seen the gymnasts do their routines on a 4 inch wide beam, leaping and tumbling and flipping. How in the world do they do it? How do they keep themselves on those four inches without falling?

Right now I find myself on a balance beam. It's in my role as a pastor, which, btw, is not the only role I have in life. (I say that because I forget and often times so do others.)

As a pastor I am a shepherd - technically an "undershepherd" to the Chief Shepherd of the flock. My job, along with the other shepherds in our congregation is to lead God's sheep to the green pastures and still waters of His choosing. His will is not difficult to discern, since He has given us a book full of directions that are pretty specific.

Where I want to fall off the beam is in supplanting God's wisdom with my own in pointing others to the food and water. I want to take detours around obstacles facing the sheep to avoid hurting feelings - sometimes when God is lead them over the rocks and through the dark valleys. I want to make life easier for them when God is trying to mature them through the pains and difficulties that come with life.

For example, the Word is crystal when Jesus addresses how we're to deal with offenses. It's not rocket science. If someone offends you, Jesus said, go to that person and clear it up. Yet how many times am I brought into a riff because a third party, who should never have been involved *yet comes to me with "Pastor, you've got to do something!".

No, I don't. They do.

I want to. I like thinking I can fix and mediate. But Jesus said that until the parties involved have come together and made the attempt I'm to butt out. I shouldn't even know what's going on. And as a shepherd I shouldn't allow other sheep to get involved either. Because when they do, thinking they're helping, they are in reality falling off the beam as well. It's not about motive or sincerity or even compassion. It's about obedience.

The beam is narrow. Staying on it leads to life. All other paths are wide - even if I think they're helping - lead to destruction. Keeping the balance to stay where God has placed me isn't easy. But it's right. Not just for pastors, but for all believers in community.

*Matthew 18:15-17

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman - An American Icon died yesterday

I just heard the news this morning. He was 83.

Thinking about it, he did play some great parts in the movies. Cool Hand Luke ("What we have here is a failure to communicate"). As "Fast Eddie" Felson in The Hustler (with Jackie Gleason as "Minnesota Fats") and reprised in The Color of Money. With Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ("Who are those guys?"). Those are some that stand out to me.

He was a good box office draw. The women loved his blue eyes and his good looks. The men saw him as a man's man. So his flicks were the perfect date night.

Later in life he became involved in Indy race car driving and team ownership, and then showed his diversity by coming out with his own line of popcorn and salad dressings.

What stands out to me probably more than anything else was the fact that a Hollywood star who probably could have had any number of women remained faithful and married to his wife (actress Joanne Woodward) for 50 years. When asked about infidelity, he quipped, "Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?"

I'm sure one of the movie channels on cable will do a Paul Newman marathon in short order. I'll try to catch it. Hollywood doesn't make 'em like him anymore. Too bad.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Rachel!

I was expecting a boy. Your mom was putting out hints that made me think that way, even though she knew you were a girl. I didn't want to know in advance. It ain't natural.

About 2 weeks late and with a shock of black hair you emerged on the night of a hurricane. G-L-O-R-I-A. (Ask an old person.) And you were easily the biggest baby in the Portsmouth General nursery. 9lb. 14.5 oz. Almost a toddler.

And now you're going to be a mom yourself.

Happy Birthday baby girl. Feliz cumpleanos a ti. (Sorry, I don't have Spanish keys on my lap top.)

Life in the Fast Lane...only slower

It's been a strange day...

Very early I made a gaff with my email and lost all my files. So I emailed technical support and within minutes (at 4:30AM!) the phone rang. It was the support guy from the other side of the world. "Is this a bad time?"

He got my email back up, but because I didn't know key info (like password and server info) it wasn't yet functioning. That I would take care of later in the day with the help of genius friends. Thanks for the bowl of chili while we tried to get it straight.

Back to bed at 5:15 and up again at 7:00 I got ready to drive to VA Beach (100 minutes each way) to see my dermatologist. The last visit's biopsies revealed a couple of non-melanoma cancers, and he got to pull out his scalpel and scissors again. He even decided to biopsy one more suspicious spot. Have you ever heard someone cutting your skin with scissors? Trust me, I don't look.

So I'm stitched and bandaged in three places. And I get to go back again in two weeks!! Playing out in the sun as a kid is way overrated. Burn baby burn.

And the weather...The wind and rain made it extra miserable. The only thing that could have made the storm more miserable would have been temps in the 30's. At least it's still warm.

It's after 6PM now. I've been getting some work done, but the eyes are telling me I'm soon down for the count.

The only thing that could complete this day would be for my pager to go off. At 11 tonight.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Comment from a new attender

"I never walk out of Nags Head Church feeling lonely. I like that."

That's awesome.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Crib

We used this video Sunday to illustrate a point in my current sermon series called "Radical Generosity". The point was that we Americans have lots of "stuff", but how generous are we with it?

It got a lot of laughs Sunday.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Flashback

Today was the third in a series about the grace of generosity. Feedback I'm getting is telling me that what the Bible has to say on this subject is really connecting. And that's great to know. God wants us to grow and abound in this grace. Next Sunday we'll take on a challenge or two to be generous.

A fun part of today's message was my version of "MTV Cribs". We used it to show how much "stuff" we really have. We'll get it up on YouTube soon if you missed it.
The Lobby continues to be (IMO) the best part of our campus at NHC. It's where relationships are begun and nurtured in a way I've never experienced in a church. The folks who arrive early and/or stay late are getting it. Fellowship is one of the best parts of being connected with a church family.

And what other church in the world gets sweet potato biscuits from Kelly's every Sunday???

Our band really needs to get crankin' on a CD project.

After church our family trekked up the beach to Carova to visit with family down on vacation. To get to Carova you have to drive on the beach, which is always a treat. And we got to eat Venezuelan arepas for the first time. Muy bueno!

Today is day 21 of our 40 Days of Prayer! Good stuff is happening as God's people make prayer a greater focus and priority. Keep it up.

And I apologize to any Red Hat ladies who might have been present in the 9AM gathering. My hunch is that even though I don't get it, you're probably a fun group of girls!

And finally the weather has cooled off!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Yesterday and today our church hosted a regional prayer conference sponsored by our state convention. About 100 people from the eastern part of NC and at least one from VA attended the conference.

The conference went really well. Several times I was told NHC was a great host. The reason why those comments were made is because of the volunteers from our church who made it happen. There was an advance housekeeping team who came in and cleaned the building prior to the conference and a follow up housekeeping team who got it clean again for Sunday. There was a team who came in Thursday night and set up the tables and chairs in the auditorium and a team who came in after the conference and reset the auditorium for worship tomorrow. There was a hospitality team who made sure the food and beverages were always on hand. And there were volunteers who helped with the conference registration. Our band was there Friday night and Saturday morning to lead worship. One of our youth ran the video tech table.

We also got some volunteer help from Ocean View and Kitty Hawk Baptist churches! Thanks for wanting to be a part.

My hat's off to those who serve the body because they know the Christian value of service. I never heard a complaint. Smiles were abundant. And it made a difference for our guests. The body of Christ was well served by you all.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Eastern NC Prayer Conference

If you haven't yet registered don't panic. You can register at the door Friday evening. Registration will be open from 5-6:30. The conference begins at 6:30. Please don't bring children. There is no child-care provided.

For you pastor types who plan to attend the luncheon, you need to register in advance today by going to the website. If you prefer, there is a phone number posted on the website you can call.

Over 100 are expected for the conference. In addition to some excellent speakers, the MP13 Band will be leading worship throughout the conference.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Quote of the Day

God often tests our hearts by asking us to serve in ways we’re not shaped.

Rick Warren

Monday, September 15, 2008

Evcer have a Murphy day?

I had great plans for getting some things done today by noon. There was a lawn that needed mowing and a sliding glass door that needed a part replaced. If all went well I should have been done around lunch time.

But my nemesis Murphy showed up. You know Murph. He somehow set a law in motion that seems to work regularly in my life.

First, upon examination of the part received from Andersen revealed it was not the same part I needed. In fact, this was the second time it wasn't the part. Or so I thought. A phone call from Andersen late this afternoon told me this was the replacement part. It screws in to the frame. The old one snapped in. "Do you have any instructions?" "No." A snap on stop would have been a much quicker fix than this one now that I'll have to drill holes into the frame.

After spending too much time on hold with Andersen and then searching the web site for the right part and emailing them with my find I finally got away to do the mowing around noon. After digging up a ton of sand spurs first I couldn't get my mower to start. It would crank up for a few seconds then die.

Now, I'm not the most mechanical mind in the world. I played with the throttle a bit, but couldn't see anything obvious. Maybe it was flooded? Then a phone call required my assistance in another location for about 30 minutes. I hadn't eaten since a bowl of raising bran in the morning, and it was not approaching 2:00. So I pulled into Burger King.

My guess is that I haven't eaten a burger at the King for over 4 years. I had no idea a Whopper with cheese and a medium diet coke would be over 5 bucks. I seem to be able to recall a Whopper with cheese for just under a dollar at one time. But it hit the spot. Back to the lawn mower.

Giving it a crank, it ran for 5 seconds then died. Maybe it's the spark plug? So I pull out the plug and sure enough, there's enough carbon there to create a 2 carat diamond. No big deal. KMart is just around the corner. But guess what? Nobody told me KMart no longer sells lawn mower parts. Not a spark plug to be found in the store. I seem to recall a day when you could buy everything you needed to tune up a car at KMart. So it's off to my Kitty Hawk Ace Hardware. I know I can count on them.

Ace didn't let me down. A quick installation of the plug and the mower was running like new. By now it's 3:00 and the hottest September 15 on record. It's 91 degrees. By 4 o'clock I've mowed, weed-eated (is that a word?) and even did some mowing on my neighbor's lawn and used the electric blower to clean it up. Tomorrow, btw, the high is supposed to be 76. Can I pick 'em or what?

I do have a couple of things I'd like to accomplish this evening. I just don't know if Murphy is still hanging around or not.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Flashback

Today I watched God work in lives and was humbled by how He is captivating hearts and lives.

One of our new guys at church (who was just baptized a few weeks ago) came to see me this morning between gatherings with tears in his eyes. He had signed up to take my Discovering Nags Head Church class. Then he found out he has to attend another function that conflicts with the class. Tears because he had made a commitment he couldn't keep. Give me some more of that.

In each of our gatherings there were men who received Christ as their Savior. Both guys have been attending for a while, but today was the day when, as Phil Keaggy wrote, God's "love broke through". Just a couple days ago the wife of one of the guys had emailed me this:"The fact that he is interested is an answer to one of my prayers. Slowly he is getting there." Today he got there.

The response to my current series, "Radical Generosity" has been quite positive. Today's big thought was that for the believer God owns everything I possess. And He is the original generous radical. With all the opportunities confronting us to be generous right now, I'm watching for some God-sized things to break loose.

The MP 13 band was most excellent today in leading our worship. I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be on a Sunday morning. It's just way cool to be in a church and watch people come in the door excited to be there and anticipating the worship.

After lunch Steve and taught our NHCU classes from 3-7PM. Both classes went well, and we'll have some new partners in the fellowship as a result.

Tina Hodgson gets it. She's our children's ministries director and is busy on Sunday morning making sure our kids worship gatherings are running smoothly. Then she was at the church from 3-7 providing child-care so that parents could attend NHCU. She knows what "it" is. I hope "it" is contagious.

Oh yeah. The Pinkertons from Lancaster Co., PA brought me a shoo fly pie. Oh my. Have you ever had an Amish baked shoo fly pie?

Next Sunday morning is less than 7 days away. I can't wait!