Considering The Afterlife…Questions of the Unknown

In our series “Hot Topics”, where our people were able to text in their greatest questions about God, the Bible, life, etc., one of the biggest areas of questions centered around the issue of the afterlife.  Apparently people want to know what’s next….imagine that.  There is a lot of fear associated with this topic, mostly because of the unknowns. In this message I tried to address some of the most repeated questions we received. (Unfortunately it makes you go to the Truthcasting site after 10 minutes.)

Tribute To A Great Man, Dr. J F Burney (Father-in-Law)

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Dr. J F Burney

(1929 to 2009)

My father-in-law was one of the strongest men I know. Into his late 70’s he could outwork most men in their 20’s. He learned to work hard the old fashioned way. He had to in order to survive. He is truly a rags-to-riches kind of story, rising from the poverty of a single mother’s home to the prominence of President of Civitan International and the Dean of Business and Professional Studies at Austin Peay State University.

Dr. Burney was a true southern gentleman whose name is his honor. Throughout the community he is remembered for the life he lived and the influence he made. The joke when I married Cheryl was that I wanted into the family for the political connections it would bring. Some even said I wanted to improve my reputation. While that wasn’t my motivation, (Cheryl was) I’m certain it did and I couldn’t be more proud of that fact.

Dr. J (no period) F (no period) Burney was a down-to-earth scholar. Dr. Burney, well known for his creative ways of making people laugh, used his intelligence to keep a sharp, keen wit and sense of humor ever before him, even to his last days. Dr. Burney never forgot his humble roots.  He could be just as at ease with leading dignitaries and businesspeople as he could be with those of lesser means. His humility in serving others was Christ-like. Although Dr. Burney was an accountant by trade and education, he was a servant by heart. Through his efforts and dedication, our community was made a better place, from providing programs for the handicapped to treatment for those seeking kidney treatments.

Perhaps one of his greatest accomplishments, however, was building a strong family and home environment. The tables are always crowded at the Burney home, welcoming visitors locally and across the globe. I never knew who would show up at family gatherings. His children and grandchildren were his treasure and his gift to them is a lasting heritage. The picture in this post is from the day Dr. Burney gave his family his final words of blessing; only a few months before anyone knew he would soon die.

God bless the memory of Dr. J F Burney.

False Assumptions About Our Church

grace-logo-gIn the four years Grace Community Church has been a church we have received much praise from people that love what we do.  Hundreds of lost, hurting people have chosen to unite with us.  We have had some previously churched people join us who felt we were a better fit for them or their family, but mostly we have reached people who previously did not attend church.  Most exciting to us is that we have baptized more adults than children in our four years, indicating to us that we are truly evangelizing and not just helping people swap churches.  It has been a wild, exciting, thrilling time watching God shape us over these first few years.

Along with the praise, however, there have also been many false assumptions and even criticisms made about who we are as a church and who we are not, mostly from people who do church in a different way from us. It seems I hear a new wave of those each time we have a growth spurt, which we are currently in this fall. The fact is that we are not the church for everyone, but that has been hard for some people to understand.

Here are a few false assumptions that come to my mind about who we are or are not as a church:

  • We get many offers to host an evangelist or hold a revival, but if you advertise your speaking ministry in a 3-piece suit, you are probably not a good fit for our church.  For some churches that would work fine, but for our church it’s just not a good fit.  Please don’t be offended by that.
  • We frequently get request from other family or friends of people asking, “Can you send someone to visit _______?” We don’t knock on doors or do home visitation.  It’s not that we don’t care, but it is simply not our method of recruitment.  Again, for some churches this works great, but we are trying a different approach.
  • We get many requests to book groups for special music venues, but if you sing Southern Gospel music exclusively, you are probably not a good fit for our church… I even love some Southern Gospel music, but it’s not the style we have chosen for our church.
  • Yes, it’s true we don’t currently advertise unless it is to support a cause we believe it, but not for the purposes of increasing church attendance. We think that should happen as our people invite their friends and family…
  • Yes, it’s true we allow people to serve in most volunteer positions without first passing a litmus test.  We believe (and have seen) that serving can often help change a person’s life.
  • We don’t have Sunday school, but we do teach the Bible.  We do small group meetings in the homes…
  • If the Bible makes an issue clear, we land on that clarity.  If it is simply a matter of tradition, me may dismiss it if it gets in the way of our vision to reach people for Christ.
  • With the previous said, we do have some traditions.  We meet at the same time and place each week, for example, but everything traditional is subject to change.  We actually like change if it helps us better complete our vision.
  • We haven’t watered down the Gospel…
  • We haven’t tried to alter the way to salvation… (It’s all Jesus for us too!)
  • We aren’t trying to offend you…but if you are offended by how we do church, we are probably not the church for you….
  • We don’t believe we are the only church in town where people can find truth…
  • We are not the church for everyone, but we are a church…
  • We aren’t like every other church.  That in itself doesn’t make us better or worse…

…We just do church differently.  Please do not be offended just because we are different.  It takes all of us working together, even though we look different on Sunday mornings, to do the Kingdom work.  Look at our people, see if they are becoming more like Christ, loving God and loving people more, and make assumptions based on those results.

The great news is that we are a church for many people.  If you are not currently attending a church and maybe have had some false notions about church yourself, come give us a visit soon.  You may be surprised how much fun we have!   And, by the way, everything you hear about how friendly our church is, how much we love our community, and how welcoming we are to others….ALL TRUE!

Are there any false assumptions made about your church?

New Property For Grace Community Church

Grace Comm Site Plan 11.1.09

As we announced Sunday, Grace Community Church has purchased 58 acres of land on Dunlop Lane, just a couple miles from our current meeting location and down the road from our community’s new hospital. We are excited about the future. To answer some of the questions we did not have time to share Sunday, I wanted to share some details about this process.

Grace was only six months old when a member in our church heard about an incredible deal on 79 acres of land one day and called me on the phone immediately. (Interestingly, a member of another church in town called him about the land.) Within a few short days, after meeting and praying with numerous leaders in our church, we had purchased the property. That seemed at the time to be a wise investment. I still completely agree that it was.

In the next couple years several things happened that helped shape our plans for a future building location.

  • The growth focus of our community shifted to another side of town.
  • Our church outgrew the rented facility where we launched.
  • Renting a school became an option. It had previously not been.
  • We moved to the center of the largest growth area of our community.
  • We began to reach people from a broader area of our county than previously targeted.
  • We sold 20 unbuildable acres of our 79 acres.
  • We paid off our existing property.

With those dynamics in place, the leadership of the church began to pray about what God would have us do in regards to property. Sensing we needed to explore other options near our current meeting location, we asked a small team of people in our church to search for available properties. When we discovered land available to us at an incredible price, considering the cost of land in the high-growth area, we decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass up and we initiated the purchase of a new 58-acre track of land. We also entertained offers on the remainder of our existing property and it appears we will sell it within a matter of weeks.

With this new purchase, several things need to be understood:

  • The vision of the church has never changed. We want to produce “growing followers of Jesus Christ.”
  • The passion for our community is even greater than when we started.
  • The future is brighter than we could have imagined.
  • We love and are investing in our community even more than ever before.
  • Our focus remains on blessing the community as much as our church with our property and any building we ever build.

It is exciting to watch what God has planned for us. We continue to seek His will, knowing that we can only act upon what we know today. His plans for us continue to be bigger than we might have dreamed.

Has Grace Community Church made a difference in your life?

Do you marvel at the way God does things at times? Have you watched His plans be bigger than yours?

For other posts about Grace Community Church click HERE.

Don’t Miss Opportunities Because You Don’t Have a Plan

Don’t say no to opportunities…say yes to an organized plan…

People always ask me how I do it all…

The truth is I don’t…

I just have a plan for my life…

And I do the things that fit in that plan…

I hear people say, “I know I need to be ______, but I don’t have time”….

I say “Yes” to Twitter and Facebook, for example, because right now, it works in that plan….(You can read about how that works HERE.)

But I don’t play Mafia Wars on Facebook either…

Why?  It doesn’t fit in the plan…

I don’t read everyone’s status updates or look at all the pictures either…

Why?  Same reason…

It’s more important that I’m there….making a presence….building connections…

That’s the plan…

Saying no is not the answer….

Saying yes to a plan is…

What are you not doing that you should be doing, because you don’t have a well-defined plan for your life?

Sometimes I Want To Appear Insane (Battling Fear)

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So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.”

In case you ever get into a close game of Bible trivia, here’s a good question: Who was afraid so he or she pretended to be insane?

Do you give up? Do you want a hint? He liked sheep. He knew how to sing. His father’s name was Jesse. He was a man after God’s own heart. He killed Goliath.

That’s right…David. The verse above is 1 Samuel 21:13. After Jonathon told David that his father wanted to kill him, David fled for his life. While running from Saul, David hid out near the king of Gath, but not wanting to be recognized, he pretended to be insane. The king let him go.

Now, I really think there is more to this than just a good trivia stumper. I think the fact that David, the one who “killed the lion and the bear” could be afraid, means that I too will have times that I am afraid. The fact that the one who “approached Goliath” could become terrified means that surely times will shake my confidence. The reality that the one who was “anointed to be king”, could become so afraid that he would act like an idiot to avoid being found out, means that you and I, who may appear to be of lesser stature in our faith, should not be surprised when we have fear and doubts.

David was a man, just like you and I. At times, he just couldn’t muster up the faith to go on. At times life got the best of him. At times, he thought he couldn’t take another step. At times fear captivated him. Moreover, it was at those times that God came through for him once again.

In addition, He’ll do the same for you and me!

What’s making you afraid these days?

10 Lessons It Took Me Years To Understand

Here are 10 lessons it took me years to understand:

  1. If you have to impress the friend, he or she isn’t much of a friend.
  2. “Just once” probably is a bigger deal than led to believe.
  3. The sooner you decide to get your life headed in the right direction the more time you have to enjoy it.
  4. There are few shortcuts to success.
  5. Hard times come naturally in life…determine early to use them for God’s glory and to help others.
  6. Kids grow up too fast. Enjoy them at each stage.
  7. There is wisdom with age. Always be willing to learn from those who have lived and experienced more of life.
  8. The longer you wait to forgive someone the longer it takes to heal your heart.
  9. If you don’t act on what you feel led to do, because of fear or indecision, someone else will and you will miss the blessing.
  10. More success in the world does not automatically bring more happiness, more success with the things that matter most does.

What are some lessons it took you a while to learn?

Do Ministry Even If You Can Do Something Else

Praying Hands With BibleOne of the most frequent “encouragements” I have heard from pastors to those that are sensing a call to full-time vocational ministry is:

Don’t do ministry if you can do anything else…

I have made it a practice never to give that advice to people seeking my counsel. That cliché sounds good, but I am not sure it is practical, helpful, or even completely true.

For years, I resisted a call to ministry, partly because of this advice. The simple fact was that I could do some things besides ministry. I had some success in business. In fact, at one point I was extremely successful in my field. In my own strength, I found I could do many things.

What I could never seem to do on my own was find contentment. Resisting God’s call on my life for vocational ministry took me down numerous career changes looking for that one thing I was “supposed” to do. It wasn’t until I surrendered to full-time vocational ministry that I discovered what I was “designed” to do. I never knew contentment in my work life until God was my employer.

My advice if you are truly called to ministry is to do ministry, even if you can do something else. Nothing provides peace and contentment in life like obedience to God’s call on your life. For more thoughts on the call to ministry, click HERE.

Are you running from a call upon your life? Are you resisting something God is calling you to do?

The contentment you are looking for in life may not be found until you obey.

Just saying…

The Real People Behind The Online Presence

I enjoyed meeting some of the people that I admire online this week at Cultivate Conference in Chicago. Names that appear bigger than life to me, because I enjoy their blogs and work so much, were up close and personal. I shook the hands of people like, Jon Acuff, Kem Meyer, Scott McClellan, Kent Shaffer, Tony Steward and Rhett Smith.

I think the humbling thing for me was the reminder that these are real people. I heard a couple of their stories. They have real stories too.

Sometimes I think we tend to forget that behind the bigger than life appearance a strong web presence gives someone are real people with real stories…and real problems and challenges to life.

That’s true for all of us…

That’s true for me….

The fact is that I blog a lot. (Some would say too much.) There may be the tendency to believe I know what I’m talking about sometimes….

…Sometimes I actually do…

…Many times its because I learned a lesson the hard way…

But with everyone that has an online presence, including in my case, it’s important to remember that the online presence may not be a complete picture of reality. We can seem to have it all together through our blogs…but behind the computer sits real people with real stories…and real problems and real challenges to life.

What’s your current problem or challenge?  Do you clean it up well online?