Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Flashback

We're entering the busiest time of year for our church. When most churches see a decline while their members go off on vacations, our church sees an increase...because those vacationers woship with us! And each year we see many of the same faces we've seen for years as well as new friends just coming for the first time.

I was touched today by a young woman on vacation who came up to me after one of our gatherings to say, with teary eyes, how the message today touched her at her point of need. A year ago she and her husband experienced the loss of a young child, and today's talk about God turning our bitter into sweet (Exodus 15:22-27) was what she needed to hear.

Thanks to Camas Frey for aptly filling in on the electric guitar today for Rich and Buddy. Camas is a veteran missionary with Alternative Missions in Honduras, and is engaged to Emily Benson. And we welcomed Chad Hardison back to leading worship after his first year of law school.

There was a big crowd of elementary kids at Kidmo at 9:00. At least it looked bigger than normal to me. Can't wait for them to have a very cool new place to worship upstairs.

I peeked in on the nursery to see Kit calming a little one who was wanting her daddy. Our nursery staff do such a great ministry.

After a two week absence it looked like there was plenty of sweet stuff out on the table to go along with the coffee.

Steve Wise was missing from his post today. He was down at Cocoa Beach, FL where he led a Hukilau Surf Camp for students there. But I saw Billy doing an admirable job greeting folks as they came in.

For the second week in a row I've met folks who have told me they found us by going to this site. Another couple told me this morning they found us by default: we offered an 11:00 gathering. (But dont' most?)

After our worship gatherings we had the joy of eating lunch with nine new partners and some of their families. Thanks to a fantastic Hospitality Team for taking such great care of us every time.

Don't forget our full-immersion-ocean water baptism by the sea next Sunday!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Like it dropped off the table

Any decent batter can hit a fastball. It's the great hitters who can hit the curve.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How are you doing?

The past few days I've had a handful of people (who I think genuinely care) ask me, "Rick, how are you doing?" Not that trite greeting kind of thing, but wanting to make sure that I'm OK and taking care of myself.

Actually, it feels good to be asked that. It's also good to know that not everybody thinks I'm Superman (even though I may act like I think I am).

And I'm doing OK. Thanks. Looking forward for a chance to take a quick break soon and do something fun and relaxing.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

The freedom we enjoy and likely take for granted comes at a great cost.

Don't let Memorial Day go by without pausing to reflect and give thanks for the sacrifices made on your behalf. Teach your children the meaning of the day and why they have a holiday. Take them to a Memorial Day ceremony in your town. Fly the flag.

Just don't forget.

Sunday Flashback

Memorial Day weekend, the start of the summer season, always means a jump for us in attendance at church. But this year the jump wasn't as pronounced as I've seen it in the past, partly because our church has been growing steadily since last summer. But it's always great to see the vacationers arrive.

"Remember us?", I was asked. "We come every year from Virginia." (If they only knew!) I'm genuinely impressed with the hundreds who worship with us every summer while on vacation. So many have found with us a "church home away from home", and we are glad to see them.

One "negative" was that 5 pre-schoolers were turned away from Lil K this morning at 9:00 because they were maxed out! Keep praying that we can get started with the construction soon. The town has all our stuff and we're waiting for their approval/permit. That will give us a greatly expanded children's facility, allowing everyone from nursery through elementary grades to grow significantly. Pray also for the funding!

Today I concluded the story of the parting of the sea and God's deliverance of His people from the Egyptians once and for all. We also went into Exodus 15 and the songs they sang in praise, worship and thanks.

It was great to meet the newest Johnson kids today: Zoey, Davis and Justin, just in from Ethiopia. You can read their most wonderful story on their parents' blog.

Also, Matt French was introduced at 11:00. Matt is serving with us this summer as an intern, giving our worship/creative arts and youth and children's ministries a hand while gaining valuable ministry experience.

I just got back from moving the almost last load of my daughter and son-in-law's stuff into their new home. And later this week we move my mother-in-law in with us and then our nephew arrives from OK to spend the summer with us! Whew.

If you're headed to the OBX of NC this summer, please stop by and visit with us. We would love to meet you.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stuffing the ballot box?

Will Kris win American Idol because Christians around the country vote for him solely because of his faith?

I'm sure I'll get some emails from zealots urging me to vote for Kris because he loves Jesus. You know, those forwards that the naive and shallow send out.

First, it's a talent competition. It's not about choosing someone because he/she is/isn't a Christian, a Hindu, or an athiest. To rally around a singer solely because he is a Christ-follower and not because he is the more talented cheats the system.

Worse, it makes "Christians" seem incredibly selfish and out of touch. Such campaigns only serve to weaken our potential influence, not strengthen it.

Don't send me the email. Don't ask me to cast the "Christian" vote on AI. Please. For the record, I like Kris. I thought Danny was better. I think Adam is hands down the most talented. And in case you're wondering, I don't vote. Never have, never will. It's just not something I take that seriously.
May the best singer win, regardless of his beliefs. And may Kris skillfully and effectively use the incredible platform he's been given to shed the light in places most of us will never get to go. If you vote and you vote for him, why not do it just because you think he is the better talent?

Let's not bring Jesus down to our level.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

That "now you see it now you don't" wall

More in the religion of tolerance...

According to a story in the Virginian Pilot, Rev. A. Lincoln James Jr., president of the 142nd annual Virginia Baptist State Convention, an association of predominantly black churches, said, "We believe the black church in Virginia had a whole lot to do with the change from red to blue," he said, referring to Democratic electoral wins in the state in 2008.

I've neither her or read any negative reaction from the media or political pundits to Rev. James' statement.

Now, suppose Rev. Stan Welch, president of the predominantly white Baptist State Convention of North Carolina had made a similar statement, but about "the white church having a whole lot to do with" electing a change in state politics from blue to red.

Do you think the press or pundits would have been silent? Or would there have been much to say about a "violation of the separation of church and state"?

Just wondering.

My questions have nothing to do with race; nothing to do with Baptists (who, by the way, were the force behind freedom of religion when this country was founded...try to find that fact in a modern day history book...). My questions are pointed to the media and those who "preach" the "religion of tolerance".

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Walking a fine line, cont.

If you haven't already, you might want to read the first installment here before continuing.

In yesterday's aired interview with Sean Hannity, he asked Miss CA about some rather racy photos that have been publicized of her in pre-Miss CA years. I'll repeat what I said earlier that her past is her past. Most of us do things in our youth that we later regret.

But if that is the case, do we excuse them? Here's how Hannity defended the photos in question. "These were for application not publication". In other words, they were to be seen by modeling agencies, not the general public. But still, they are photos and photos are taken to be seen. Was she naive? Of course. She was 17 when these photos were taken. A minor. Hello. But that's another story.

But here's the part of the interview that makes me uncomfortable. Hannity said: "Being a's not a job for you know...somebody who's concerned about modesty". Miss CA nods in agreement. He goes on, "In the pageant you have swim suit competition".

Her reply: "Right. Exactly. I'm from California. A swim suit for us is no big deal." Then she goes on to take the defense that at another photo shoot for a surf magazine she asked "OK. What am I going to be wearing for this photo shoot." When the photographer produced previously taken photos for the magazine which were of topless models, Miss CA put her foot down and said no. Then, unbeknown to her, while she was changing tops and the "wind was blowing" the photographer took some shots of her while she was uncovered.

Again, she was likely naive. But in one breath she argues that you can't be modest and have a career as a model and in the next breath tells how modest she was.

Now for you who wish to comment, please read what I'm saying here. This is not about free speech. [If you want to know my comments on the free speech issue, then go here and feel free to comment on that post]. It's about where do we (or should we) draw the lines between what's Christian and what's not. Where does one's Christianity come into play with issues such as modesty? Can we who are Christ followers say, "At work I'm this. When I'm not working I'm that".

And can it be that what appears to be an inconsistency between our faith and our actions be the thing that turns people off to us when we claim to be following Jesus? But Donald Trump was impressed!

And if you're from California or let's say, Brazil where most anything goes, does that give you license to be immodest?

(OK. I'll confess. As a teenager in CA I went to the beach and my boxers hung below my baggies. It was a CA thing. You wouldn't understand. Just coming clean here.)

For the record, I hope good things do come from this whole escapade. I really do. And I'll repeat, I do not question her relationship with Christ. But this is not about her. It's about something that looms much larger. I grapple with where we do or don't draw the line.

Happy Birthday Tricia!

Everbody's birthday is their special day. But yours are more special than most.

Sorry, I couldn't resist using this photo. We Lawrensons love mugging for the camera.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

There is no comparison

I've directed readers to this blog before. I find it so totally mind-blowing amazing. I also am so humbled by it and wonder how faith can be so strong in such crushing circumstances.

So I challenge you to give it a read for yourself. See if you, too, don't wonder how and why. And don't say I didn't warn you.

Goodbye Kayleigh. For now, anyway.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Christian" or not? Christian Childrens Fund to change name and strategy

This morning's news carried the story that the well-known Christian Children's Fund is dropping the word "Christian" from its name in order to bring in more donations.

I have no problem with that at all. If their purpose is to raise as much money as possible to assist children in poverty, and changing their name promotes their purpose, then why not?

But I'm sure many will object to the elimination of the word "Christian" as some sort of sell-out or compromise. Really?

Have you read their "Mission and Ethics" statement? I just did. There is no mention of anything inherently Christian in it. Nothing about Christ; nothing about faith (other than they are inclusive of all faiths); no Scriptures; no mention of making disciples or prayers. They are a humanitarian charity, and probably fairly successful at what they do. But Christian? Not based upon their statement.

So bearing the label "Christian" doesn't necessarily make it so. Perhaps in 1938 with their founding it was different and they've moved in a new direction. I think TCCF is being honest and saying, "We're really not a distinctively Christian organization, so why carry an increasingly polarizing name if it's going to hamper our efforts?".

It's interesting the word "Christian" wasn't coined by the Founder of the movement. He preferred "disciples" or "followers". You won't find "Christian" in the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life, either. It was coined by pagans who used it as a slur against Christ's followers. My point: being Christian isn't wrapped up in the labels we use or don't use.

At the same time, if you're going to use the monicker, shouldn't you espouse the purposes of the movement, ie. "making disciples of every nation" and proclaiming the claims of Christ as the only way to God as well as caring for the poor and outcast? Anyone, anything can claim to be whatever.

The sad part of the story is that some who bought into the "Christian" tag and have faithfully given because they assumed that not only were children being fed and clothed, but were being told about Jesus, will now drop their donations. And that's sad for the children who have been cared for by TCCF. Hopefully, for the kids, those who drop out will be replaced by those who will be attracted now to TCCF by their new name and strategy.

But how many of us who claim to be "Christian" show no evidence that we are? Do we live what we say we believe? Is there any discernable differences between our lives, our habits, our priorities and those who admittingly are not Christian? It has to be more than a word on our bumper stickers or on the sign outside our churches.

Names and labels are simply words. Whether or not something or someone is Christian is determined by more than words.

For those Christians" who now feel betrayed somehow, there are distinctively Christian alternatives. I recommend Compassion. But before you give anywhere, you really should check out the organization's mission and purpose.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Flashback

Mothers Day was also "Family Day" at Nags Head Church. And it was a lot of fun.

First, today was one of those picture perfect days on the Outer Banks. Blue skies and temps in the low 70's with a gentle north breeze. How could it be a bad day?

In his sermon - "Family Matters" - Andy (our youth and childrens pastor) told a telling statistic about our church. Each Sunday a church of 185 partners (members) ministers to 140 children and youth from infants through high school. Factor in the stat that says 43% of all who receive Christ do so before age 13. Looks like we're on target. His message was about the priority parents have to disciple their children. It was very good stuff. If you missed it, pick it up on the pod cast later this week.

Our Kidmo team (elementary students worship) came into "big church" this morning to give us a sampling of what their worship service is like. High energy, for sure! It was great.

One of our few traditions is to offer parent-child dedications on Mothers Day. I think there were about 15 little ones (including two sets of twins)this morning up front with parents and grandparents. It's a time when parents make a public commitment to rear their children in a godly, Christ-honoring home. Not an easy task.

Steve Wise told us about an upcoming trip our Hukilau Surf Camp is taking to help a church in Florida reach kids. He even tossed out some free t-shirts!

I love being a part of a church that loves families like this one!

Hope your Mothers Day was as great as ours.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Walking a fine line

OK. Here's my mind wrenching "I'm trying really hard to justify" dilemma.

Miss California/USA continues to be a news item. Most of what I've read makes me cheer for her boldness in saying "This is what I believe. These are my values." It's American. Free speech. Freedom of religion. All that.

She also is very vocal about her faith in Christ. Again, no problem there.

But here's where I have this uncomfortable feeling that I just can't quite rectify. And I know some will blast me for sounding judgmental toward her, but for the sake of discussion on the issue I'll take that risk. (For the record, I believe she is a sincere believer in Christ.)

It is no secret that she views homosexual marriage an aberration; a moral step down from the ideal of marriage. And she is willing to take the heat for her views. But at the same time is she promoting a form of adultery?

Follow my thinking here. Jesus said that if a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart it is the same as if he had committed adultery with her. I think He was serious.

Let me speak for a moment as a red-blooded man to the men. If our testosterone is still active then flowing then you know that we all have difficulties in this area. So there, walking down the runway in bright lights and before essentially all the world, is drop-dead beautiful Miss California in a bikini. If you saw her, I'm not going to ask you if your first reaction was "Preach it, Sister!". (I'm really tempted to post a pic of her bikini pose just so you can see, but probably I shouldn't. What do you think? You can google it or oogle it for yourself.)

Regardless of the point of the swimsuit competition - and I think the point is obvious - the fact is men are drawn to it for one reason. (I wonder what the wives think as their husbands are riveted to the screen? "Maybe he's wondering about her high heels?")

So here is my dilemma. Where is the line? Is it a Christian witness to publicly display what God has blessed you with knowing that men are not thinking the purest of thoughts? True, you can't control anyone elses thinking or lusts. But can we be agents of temptation, even in the name of gaining a platform to speak? Can we be both evangelists and stumbling blocks at the same time?

Should we walk the line, or is there a place where we draw it instead? If we don't are we sending mixed signals?