Let’s Pray!

Our Father in heaven, we praise you and come before you in the mighty name of Jesus Christ.   O Lord, draw us closer to you and closer together as by your Spirit, through your word, in and with your blood bought people, you build your church, which is the body of Christ, the church of Christ.  Through your power and according to your will, please work in us to carry out your mission of seeking, saving and serving as through us, you bring light and truth into this fallen world of darkness and deception, all to the praise of your glory and grace, in Jesus name,  Amen.

Will you join me in praying this every day?  Let’s make special efforts to build our prayer lives around God’s vision and mission for us and open our hearts and minds to His way and will.

Community Vision for Believers in Jesus Christ

I’ve been living on Signal Mountain for almost 17 years now.  What holds a community together?  Government? Employment? Affluence? Pride? Benefits? Ethnicity? Good Schools?  Security and safety?

As helpful as those are, they are all grounded on deeper foundations.  One of the strongest bonds to hold people together in community is this: Religious faith.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God, and that the second is to love our neighbor.  This is the glue (and proof) of the Christian faith.  God’s vision for us is for us to be closer to Him and closer to each other.  God created us in His likeness and though we fall short of that glory, He redeemed us through Jesus death for our sins and resurrection from the grave.  We who believe this are called to come together in faith and obedience to Him.

Signal Mountain has 22 church buildings, representing at least 11 denominations, serving a community of around ten thousand citizens (many of which go off the mountain to church, and some come from off the mountain to attend church here).

While there are differences and disagreements among us, we share a common location and those of us who believe in Jesus share a common book, the Bible.

What might happen if we all agreed to read just the New Testament and talk to each other about it?

This next year, 2016, let’s see how many of us can do just that!  Won’t you join us and take ten minutes a day to read from the book that has shaped western culture?  From January to March, just ten minutes a day, and you can read every word of the New Testament in your Bible.

Here’s a reading schedule:

Jan 1, 2016 Matt. 12
Jan 2, 2016 Matt. 345
*Jan 3, 2016 Matt. 678
Jan 4, 2016 Matt. 91011
Jan 5, 2016 Matt. 121314
Jan 6, 2016 Matt. 151617
Jan 7, 2016 Matt. 181920
Jan 8, 2016 Matt. 2122
Jan 9, 2016 Matt. 232425
*Jan 10, 2016 Matt. 262728
Jan 11, 2016 Mark 123
Jan 12, 2016 Mark 456
Jan 13, 2016 Mark 789
Jan 14, 2016 Mark 101112
Jan 15, 2016 Mark 1314
Jan 16, 2016 Mark 1516Luke 1
*Jan 17, 2016 Luke 234
Jan 18, 2016 Luke 567
Jan 19, 2016 Luke 8910
Jan 20, 2016 Luke 111213
Jan 21, 2016 Luke 141516
Jan 22, 2016 Luke 1718
Jan 23, 2016 Luke 192021
*Jan 24, 2016 Luke 222324
Jan 25, 2016 John 123
Jan 26, 2016 John 456
Jan 27, 2016 John 789
Jan 28, 2016 John 101112
Jan 29, 2016 John 1314
Jan 30, 2016 John 151617
*Jan 31, 2016 John 181920
Feb 1, 2016 John 21Acts 12
Feb 2, 2016 Acts 345
Feb 3, 2016 Acts 678
Feb 4, 2016 Acts 91011
Feb 5, 2016 Acts 1213
Feb 6, 2016 Acts 141516
*Feb 7, 2016 Acts 171819
Feb 8, 2016 Acts 202122
Feb 9, 2016 Acts 232425
Feb 10, 2016 Acts 262728
Feb 11, 2016 Rom. 123
Feb 12, 2016 Rom. 45
Feb 13, 2016 Rom. 678
*Feb 14, 2016 Rom. 91011
Feb 15, 2016 Rom. 121314
Feb 16, 2016 Rom. 15161 Cor. 1
Feb 17, 2016 1 Cor. 234
Feb 18, 2016 1 Cor. 567
Feb 19, 2016 1 Cor. 89
Feb 20, 2016 1 Cor. 101112
*Feb 21, 2016 1 Cor. 131415
Feb 22, 2016 1 Cor. 162 Cor. 12
Feb 23, 2016 2 Cor. 345
Feb 24, 2016 2 Cor. 678
Feb 25, 2016 2 Cor. 91011
Feb 26, 2016 2 Cor. 1213
Feb 27, 2016 Gal. 123
*Feb 28, 2016 Gal. 456
Feb 29, 2016 Eph. 123
Mar 1, 2016 Eph. 456
Mar 2, 2016 Phil. 123
Mar 3, 2016 Phil. 4Col. 12
Mar 4, 2016 Col. 34
Mar 5, 2016 1 Th. 123
*Mar 6, 2016 1 Th. 452 Th. 1
Mar 7, 2016 2 Th. 231 Tim. 1
Mar 8, 2016 1 Tim. 234
Mar 9, 2016 1 Tim. 562 Tim. 1
Mar 10, 2016 2 Tim. 234
Mar 11, 2016 Tit. 12
Mar 12, 2016 Tit. 3Phile. 1Heb. 1
*Mar 13, 2016 Heb. 234
Mar 14, 2016 Heb. 567
Mar 15, 2016 Heb. 8910
Mar 16, 2016 Heb. 111213
Mar 17, 2016 Jam. 123
Mar 18, 2016 Jam. 45
Mar 19, 2016 1 Pet. 123
*Mar 20, 2016 1 Pet. 452 Pet. 1
Mar 21, 2016 2 Pet. 231 Jo. 1
Mar 22, 2016 1 Jo. 234
Mar 23, 2016 1 Jo. 52 Jo. 13 Jo. 1
Mar 24, 2016 Jude 1Rev. 12
Mar 25, 2016 Rev. 34
Mar 26, 2016 Rev. 567
*Mar 27, 2016 Rev. 8910
Mar 28, 2016 Rev. 111213
Mar 29, 2016 Rev. 141516
Mar 30, 2016 Rev. 171819
Mar 31, 2016 Rev. 202122

* Sundays

Falling Leaves and Future Plans

They are piling up in the yard again!  Every year as Thanksgiving approaches and chilly breezes greet the morning all those Oak, Hickory, Maple and other assorted deciduous trees turn into huge flowers of color.  The rains come and the leaves fall blanketing everything in sight with their mulchable  deposits.  It’s amazing.  One mature Oak can hold half a million leaves, each one of which has contributed oxygen to the atmosphere and nutrition to the tree for several months.  Now they offer their final contribution to the soil and biosphere beneath them.  It’s a beautiful thing to serve well and end well, contributing all along the way.

I’m fast approaching the time of life when I can begin drawing on my IRA without penalty.  The color of my hair is already changing as a reminder that the days ahead are numbered.  By God’s grace I pray I can be like those leaves and serve well, contributing all along the way.  Joining the pile of past preachers in the yard may not be a glamorous picture, but if my part has served God’s purposes, that will be glory for me.

From the Pew

Yesterday was Sunday.  I love Sundays.  Having just been released from the hospital, Kendall took responsibility for the sermon so Jenny and I got to come, worship, and participate like all the rest of the family.  We even went to both services.  Maurice Jadon, from Nazareth, Israel, spoke during our Bible class time.  He told us about many of the challenges they face and dangers involved in sharing the gospel in a Jewish/Muslim context.  Sadly, many of the Muslims want to know more about Christianity, but are afraid of being killed if they are discovered.  The Jewish population is just as difficult to work with, since they see Christianity as somewhat of a political a threat.  May the Lord open hearts and minds to the gospel of Jesus Christ!  Let us keep them in our prayers.

Kendall gave us a superb message from 1 Samuel 12.  Among the lessons he shared was this great point: misplaced fear brings forgetfulness.  When Israel’s fears gripped their hearts, their minds forgot God’s care, power and providence.  Ignoring God’s word, they sought answers elsewhere and turned to idols and examples from the nations around them.  Their love for God waned and worldliness overwhelmed them.  Samuel called them to stand still and remember the mighty works of God.  Nothing brings peace and builds courage better than reflection on all God has done.  Why not stop what you are doing right now and stand still and remember the mighty works of God?  Give it 10 minutes.  You may be surprised at the blessing!


What’s a gallbladder got to do with it?

A few days ago (10/8/2015) on Thursday, about an hour after eating a big lunch I felt bad. That’s happened before, but this time it was special. It seemed more like something wrong. There was a specific spot in the very center just below the rib cage that burned and hurt and spread the wealth around the middle to my back. It subsided and I figured, indigestion, or maybe some bug had hit. Friday things got worse. Every meal seemed to bring on more pain and I called my trusty Dr. brother from church, Earnest to ask some questions. He came by, checked my heart, poked a few places and gave me his appraisal: possible gallbladder or worse, pancreatitis.

I looked it up. Hmmm. It won’t kill you quickly, so that’s a bummer (Jenny could collect on my life insurance and I could go to glory). I prayed for some guidance and discussed things with a few other medical experts I know and love. They all pointed me to the hospital. I wanted to be sure it wasn’t just a stomach bug so I tried to wait it out. By the next Wednesday, it was clearly getting worse and not going away on its own.

Memorial Hospital, here we come. We’ve been there every Fall for the past four years with Jenny’s ulcerative colitis. This year, by God’s grace, Jenny found a diet and medical/nutritional guidance that have kept her symptom free! We were so excited to have a Fall without hospitalization! Well, the Lord had other plans. It was my turn at the wheel.

I went in and was admitted when the CT scan showed something at the duodenum where the stomach and small intestine join. From Wednesday to Friday I was scanned, ultrasounded, bled, xrayed, scoped, and radiated. Every test came back saying I was healthy. I was beginning to feel like a wimp for ever coming in! But the pain was real and the tests DID show that I had swelling in my duodenum. The final test showed that my gallbladder was functioning at 24% (they like it to be 35-75%) excretion rate. The GI Dr. thought I should have it removed. The hospitalist said I could go home and do it as an outpatient. The nurse said that some people live fine with a low functioning gallbladder and that I might want to ask the surgeon what the risks were of keeping it before taking it out, since it didn’t seem to be the problem. I could either stay for surgery the next day or go home and think about it. That was a no brainer for me. Homeward bound!

What I learned from the experience:

Jenny was ever at my side, taking great care of me and reminding me of our times together during her hospitalizations. We read together from the Bible and from Joe Beam’s book Seeing the Unseen. I am SO blessed with a wonderful, faithful, Christian wife.

Our Church family came by, called, contacted, and prayed with and for me, bringing loving reminders of what a gift being in Christ together means.

Jenny and I talked about Jesus with everyone we encountered and met fellow followers of Christ who took joy in sharing faith together with us. One young man in particular shared his life story with me as I took my HIDA scan. He was excited to bring up his sons to know and follow Jesus Christ. A nurse, Theresa, shared about her grandson whom she and her husband adopted because of abandonment and abuse, and we prayed with her for them all.

So, we took a little mission trip to Memorial and though it was costly, we were physically and spiritually blessed.

God is so GOOD all the time.

Living a Psalm 23 Life

Only God could have know that when David penned the opening words to this Psalm all of human history thereafter would be impacted by them.  As a shepherd who would die to protect his flock, David foreshadowed the coming Shepherd who laid down His life for us, His sheep.

God’s love for us is plain in scripture.  The cross has made it plain.  God, who loves us enough to sacrifice His only begotten Son, wants us to love Him too.

So how are we doing in that?  Loving God, I mean.  The greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, and all of our strength.  God doesn’t just desire our love, He commands it.  He also has earned it through the death of His Son on the cross for us.  God has purchased you and me.

I want to love God.  Yet I face so many distractions.  It isn’t easy.  But it is good.  In fact, loving God is my highest and very best.  Loving God gives life the greatest purpose and most abundant fulfillment.  Loving God is that for which we were designed.

Watch this moving skit about creation and redemption.


What is our mission?

When Jesus began His ministry we went out preaching: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

These few words summed up His message and declared His mission. That’s what the gospel writers recorded for us to capture in brief the heart of His words and work. Jesus final words as He ascended were a great commission for His followers for all time. Matthew and Mark record in a few words the mission of Christ for His church. Matthew 28:19-20 give us five parts: mobilize, evangelize, baptize, stabilize, and energize. Go (mobilize), make disciples (evangelize), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (baptize), teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you (stabilize), and surely, I will be with you always, to the very end of the age (energize).

When Jesus commissioned Paul to mission work we discover that Paul stated the gospel in clear, concise words: 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

When we think of Christ’s mission and think of the Signal Mountain Church of Christ here in southeast Tennessee in the 21st Century, what few words might help us capture the heart of His mission for us?

Our leadership has been considering this challenge of defining our mission, our purpose in just a few words. Above all it must be biblical, shaped by and from the very word of God and actually selected from the word of God. Secondly, it must be practical, and must express what we do in obedience as we represent Jesus Christ in this community. Three words have been put forth for consideration as a mission statement for the Signal Mountain Church of Christ:

Seeking, Serving, Saving

Seeking – Jesus said: Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness… (Matthew 6:33). Jesus also said, “For the Son of man has come to seek and save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)

Serving- Jesus said: The greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 23:11). Jesus also said, “I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27b)

Saving – James said: he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:20) Jesus said: For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. (Matthew 18:11)

These three words capture things in the heart and life of Jesus and things that should be in our hearts and lives. They are action words that describe and give direction to the mission of this church.