Big Game** Sunday

** See this post to read about how the NFL has allowed churches to have Super Bowl Parties, just not allow us to call them “Super Bowl” Parties!

Well, this “Big Game That We Can’t Name” Sunday is going to be awesome at Forest Park Carthage! We have a great new series on marriage starting called, “Old Fashioned Home Remedies.” It is going to be great! I know several of our members are inviting their friends and family to church tomorrow to experience this teaching on how to make their marriages better. That is awesome! There are so many things that pull us apart–kids, work, finances, a bad economy, and the list goes on and on. But it is good to realize that God created marriage and wants our marriages to not just “get by,” but to “prevail!” Come and check out the new teaching tomorrow and bring a friend!

Our Children’s Ministry is starting a new curriculum tomorrow called 252 Basics and is going to be AWESOME! Kendra and her team of children’s ministry volunteers have been working hard to make your child’s experience the best possible each week and this week is no different! This month’s theme is “Fairness” and the decor and theme of the experience is a “County Fair.” It should be a lot of fun for everyone!
Then, in the afternoon, we are having “The Game We Can’t Name” Party starting at 5 p.m.!! There will be lots of our folks there hanging out and watching the game on the big screens! Bring some tailgating food to share and be ready to have a great time! The basketball court, pool room, and the TV in the “family room” will be available as well for those who don’t want to watch the “Big Game We Can’t Name.” The Kickoff is at around 5:30 p.m. Plus, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are doing the halftime show. What could be better than that?? See you there!

The Mac is Back


The Mac is back, baby! Ryan Hunter, our awesome IT guy at Forest Park saved my computer from having to be sent off to get a new hard drive! He did some sort of magic on this baby! He recovered all of my data, wiped the hard drive clean, and put it all back just like new! Thanks to this awesome application built into MacOS called Time Machine, I was able to get all of my documents and only missed about a weeks worth of work. . . pretty sweet.

Moral of the story. . . well two . . . 1. “You don’t know what you’ve got, til it’s gone” (sung in an 80s style Hair band kind of way!) and 2. Backup, Backup, and Backup again! Go ahead, spend the extra money to get an external hard drive and back up your data–often!

Thanks again Ryan! You are the man!

Responding to “I Am A Racist” by Earl Creps

This post was scheduled for about a week ago . . . but my computer got sick. Better late than never, I suppose. . .

I read Earl Creps’ blog through my reader and always enjoy his take on life and church planting. He used to be the director of the D Min. program at the Assembly of God Seminary in Springfield, MO. He is currently living in Berkley, CA and planting a church aimed at university students–good stuff in itself for sure!! But all that aside. . . Earl wrote a post that really hit my heart this morning. He was honest enough to write what he truly thinks, and if I was honest. . . probably have some of the same experiences and thoughts.

You would do yourself a huge favor to read this post entitled “I Am A Racist–Ernie Graves and Barack Obama.” Some of the key thoughts that really resonated to me are . . .

The monstrous injustice of it all was clothed among whites with a sort of middle-class respectability. We did not consider ourselves racists because we did not burn crosses. Only fanatics did things like that. But our society was set up in a certain way and the marginalization of black people was assumed to be part of it. Overt slavery had been replaced by a sub-economy in which people unlike ourselves lived with invisible chains.

Just a month ago, Janet and I moved from Springfield, Missouri (94% Anglo) to very multi-cultural Berkeley, California to plant a university church. During the first few weeks after our move, I had to confess to my wife that I was reacting to people of different races in different ways.

Walking down the sidewalk, I felt fine if an Asian or Anglo person approached me, but experienced just a touch of elevated anxiety if that person were a black male.

This feeling disappeared in just a few days, but shocked me into recognition that racism is not someone else?s sin, it is mine. While abhorring the overt bigotry of others, my own mind can harbor the same sub-economy that my West Virginia town operated in the 1950?s.

At this point, I still think of race/ethnicity/etc. as a modifier. For instance, our friend next door is our ?Anglo? neighbor and the people across the street are our ?African American? neighbors. By God?s grace, I want to one day think of them as just neighbors and let them define themselves. When asked what kind of person constitutes a ?neighbor,? Jesus depicted a good Samaritan rescuing a robbery victim without regard for the person?s background or circumstances.

The inauguration of Barak Obama put a face on what I am feeling. Watching his speech was a moment of healing, joy, and hope for someone who remembers segregation and was a part, even unwittingly, of the system that maintained it.

But my journey toward really loving people did not begin in the Berkeley move or the inauguration of a new President so much as it did in that junior high school stairwell.

Thanks, Ernie.

I hope I can return the favor.

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National Mall, Washington DC Memories

capital mall.jpgWatching the Inauguration of President Barack Obama brings back some very fond memories of mine of the wonderful city of Washington D.C.

My first memory of Washington, DC was when I was a young boy on vacation with my parents. We happened to be there in the Nation’s Capital over the Independence Day holiday week. Being a young boy, I heard that there was an awesome fireworks display on the National Mall that just had to be attended–in person. They would shoot the fireworks from off of barges on the Potomac River over the Washington Monument . . . an awesome sight for sure. My mom and dad were suckers for their young son and gave in to my begging to attend the event in person!

We left the campground where we were staying in College Park, Maryland and rode the subway all the way in to the National Mall station. Upon exiting the subway, we walked into the middle of the largest crowd I had ever been a part of in my young life. There were also as many porta potties as the eye could see lining the entire length of the mall on both sides. We laid out our blanket and waited for the festivities to begin later that evening.

It was one of the most amazing nights of my life! Watching the huge crowds today have brought a flood of memories to that week in DC.

My second memory of Washington, DC was much more recently, but still a family memory. This time, our family was all there in DC, my brother Rick included. We were there for his retirement ceremony from the Navy. His ceremony was at the Jefferson Memorial–really cool deal for sure! We stayed with one of Jenny’s college classmates, Judith Norton outside of Baltimore. She is in the United States Army Field Band and Soldier’s Chorus–a professional music group that performs all over the world, but specifically in the DC area at all of the major events, such as the Inauguration today. We were able to hang out with my brother and his family as well as Judith, which was really cool. We were only a family of 3 at that point . . . but Tucker would soon be with us later that year.

It struck me then, and me now the beauty and shear genius of our founding fathers. Democracy is an amazing thing for certain! Where else but America can you have a complete change of leadership without force? Without struggle? Without “ever skipping a beat?” I mean, these guys ride in the same vehicle to almost every event for the whole day!! Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that limousine! The man swearing in Obama today, Chief Justice Roberts, is swearing in a man that did not vote for him to be confirmed to the Supreme Court. It is told that there was shear hatred between Chief Justice Warren and then President Nixon. It is all about the balance of power and the change of that power in a peaceful–almost poetic way. There is something extremely powerful about a peaceful transfer of power. Democracy is a beautiful thing indeed.

I think today there was another memory made for me. I am proud to be an American!

DRIVE-IN Conference 2009


I have been to DRIVE two different times at Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA. That conference has been a huge turning point each time in my own life and ministry. I have learned a ton of things about church leadership from Andy Stanley and the Northpoint folks over the years.

They have just recently announced a new conference for people who can’t make it to the DRIVE conference in GA. DRIVE-IN is a series of online web events on several days this spring starting this Wednesday, January 21st at 9 a.m. EST. Click HERE for more details.

It can be a really cool thing for our church to get all on the same page about how to create a church for people who don’t like church–in our culture! Jump in, log on, and drive-in.

Just Another Manic Monday . . . and Tuesday . . . and . . .

Go ahead and sing along the old Bangles song with me!? Don’t you just love the 80s?? They don’t make cheesy goodness like that anymore!? Who knew that Prince, or “The Artist formerly know as,” or simply “The Artist” wrote that gem of a song?

Ok, to the heart of the post . . . It seems as though I am really, really busy, but I can’t seem to get ANYTHING done!? Do you ever feel that way?? We had a great staff meeting yesterday morning, but the day seemed to get away and before I knew it, it was time for Life Group at our house.

We had an AWESOME Life Group.? I absolutely love hanging out with our new found friends and study the Bible and hang out together!? We are really starting to gel and “click,” which is really cool.? We are studying “Discovering God’s Will”–an Andy Stanley/Northpoint study.? Man, what a great study so far.? Some highlight statements that really spoke to me from this week:

“The problem with knowing God’s will is not God’s unwillingness to speak; the problem is our unwillingness to follow through. Discovering God’s Will by Andy Stanley & Reggie Joiner, 21

“God does not give us direction for our consideration; He gives us His direction for participation.”

“God is more interested in your discovering Him than His will.”

“In the process of trying to know His will, we get to know Him.”

The message was built around Proverbs 3:5-6–

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

I think this verse is very appropriate for my Tuesday that I had today . . .

Have you ever noticed how we seem to tell God “how it’s going to be?”? You know the deal.? We basically expect God to get on board with what we are doing.? When He does something we don’t want, weren’t expecting, or makes us uncomfortable; and we get all bent out of shape.? We tend to work harder, plan more thoroughly…work YOUR plan and ask God to bless YOUR plans.

God doesn’t work that way!? He wants us to wait on Him.? He wants more than anything a relationship with us that is real and personal.? He wants us to be so close to Him, that of course we would know what to do in order to do His will.

I am learning that the more plans I put together, the more they will not go so hot.? When I seek God and work on my relationship with Him, then I set to planning. . . that is when the my plans will become His plans.? When I am so atuned to His heart, that His heart becomes mine.

When things are seeming to “go your way.”? Maybe it is a perspective change?? Maybe it is a change in who is making the plans.? As Experiencing God says, “God is always at work around you.”? You need to find out what He is doing and do it.


I should have gone to bed a long time ago, but I can’t seem to go to sleep after finding this website.? Click on and see what it is like to know that Christ is first in your life and you are second.? I am blown away by the amazing stories on there . . . not so much the celebrities, but the everyday people as well who are dealing with addiction, hurt, pain as well as success, fame, and “the good life.”

When it all gets stripped away, at the end of this life, you really have to examine why you are on this Earth and what is your purpose.? This site is the Gospel in a nutshell and there are tons of resources to find Christ, ask the hard questions, or even call or chat with someone who has gone through some of the same struggles you might be going through.

Sit down and take some time to read and listen to the stories and see what Christ continues to do all around the world.

Thanks Mike Zumwalt for showing me this site!? You da man!

Never Give Up in Doing Good . . .

I have really had several encouraging moments over the last week or so that have really made me rethink Paul’s words in Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

First off, I went to my new dentist here in Carthage and one of the dental hygentists is a daughter of a fellow pastor way back when (’95) , when Jenny and I were in Pryor, OK.? Her father is a great man and served in the Methodist Church in both Pryor and Locust Grove (where I was serving).? The work in Locust Grove was especially challenging, but he was always faithful to the call of God on his life.? I learned a lot from him in a very short time.

Then, later on that evening, I got a Facebook message from a former student in my youth group.? He was recalling a particular message I preached on a Wednesday night a LONG time ago that was still impacting his life!? What??? He talked about a simple phrase has stuck with him all these years and has helped him finally deal with some “junk” in his life and actually let some other people in the body of Christ to help him along in the journey!? At this point, I’m feeling really pumped about what God has done through me.? It gets better. . .

This Saturday night, I was studying for the next morning . . . looking over service, message, etc.? I had my email inbox open and got a latenight message from another “blast from the past.”? It was from a young lady that was in my youth ministry in Burleson, TX while I was in seminary.? She had been thinking about me and looked me up on the internet and found the Finley Crossings website and eventually this blog.? While she was looking at the CFC website, she downloaded a podcast–happened to be my last message at Finley before moving to Forest Park Carthage.? As she and her husband were sitting in their kitchen listening to the podcast, they made a decision to find a church in their city and really follow the call of God on their life–AWESOME STUFF!? So now I am really thinking that God is amazing and what am I mopeing around about, right??? It gets even better–last night . . .

I took Dinwiddie with me to Hopedale Baptist Church in Ozark, where I was a student pastor starting in ’99 after seminary.? We went to hear Aaron Hill give his first sermon ever.? Pretty stinking cool!? Aaron? was a 7th-8th grader when I left to plant Finley Crossings.? He was always one of “those kids” that you know God was going to do an amazing work through–you know the kid.? I am really good friends with his dad, John, who’s blog is linked over in the right margin.? Jenny and I have been worship pastors at their (HBC) children’s camps for about 5 or 6 years now and have gotten the opportunity to spend some quality time with Aaron in a cabin with a bunch of crazy elementary kids!!? I have always thought God was going to “do something” with Aaron. . . and I think he deep down thought the same thing.? It was really great!? He did an awesome job!? Brought back a ton of memories of student ministry at Hopedale as well as my “first sermon.”

I remember my first sermon in January of 1994 at FBC-Springfield at “College Night at Christmas.”? I gave the message and several of my other buddies did the other parts of the service.? It was a real nerve-wracking experience to say the least!? I was really nervous . . . in a suit and tie . . . had microphone feedback issues . . . and forgot (are you ready for this)–John 3:16.? I think they probably should have pulled my license at that point for sure!!

Again, I am reminded of Paul’s words of “never give up in doing good.”? Even thought things don’t always “go your way” or turn out the way you might want them to turn out . . . never give up.? Life and ministry are difficult and Paul was encouraging the early church to keep pressing on and hope for the harvest.? I am so thankful that the Lord has called me to do what I do and really thankful for His encouragement this week!? Thank you God!

Start the Year Off Right

For the last several years, I had always started the year with a new Bible reading plan.? Last year, I read in The Message paraphrase of the Bible.? I am going to do the 1 Year Bible Reading Plan that is on this year.? It is a plan that was established over 150 years ago that allows you to read through the entire Old Testament in a year and the New Testament twice.? In addition to that, I am going to read through the Book of Psalms with our church in the month of January.? It goes along with our new series on worship.? The Book of Psalms is really an ancient hymnal–really cool stuff.? Jump in and start the year off right by reading the Bible daily.