Category Archives: Thoughts

Death

When-Death-Becomes-Optional-602

Death can be fearful, simply because we have to physically deplete in order to physically ascend.  That can be degrading, because you either watch someone you love go downhill fast, or you watch yourself do so.  If you know Christ, you ascend and have a new body and a forever eternity.  If you don’t know Christ, well then, you will also physically deplete unto death, but your eternity will be on the opposite side of eternity; that place called, hell.  One of the most spiritual places you will ever be, is next to a person who is close to this thing we call death.  It happens in a home, a hospital room, or even next to someone in an accident somewhere in life.

Some couple of years ago, I drove up on an accident in our little downtown city.  I arrived to gaze, but also to sense the surroundings in my own spirit and see if there was something experience and being in the moment could teach me.  Blue lights, red lights, ambulances, fire trucks, policeman, crying people, and finally, a person lying in the middle of the street covered in a white sheet, with his motorcycle nearby.

You could feel the energy no longer on point because he had desisted, depleted, and deceased.  I began to wonder…who is this person, where are his family members, does someone care, where is he in the eternal spectrum, why tonight, I wonder what those who know him are doing right now, how will they react seeing an officer knock on their door, and lastly, how does God work in death.  I felt a sadness as I drove home.  That person probably had no idea their life would end on this night.

I am being convinced that many believers, including me, vaguely care about the eternal destination of others, outside of ourselves.  As a pastor, many of us through the years have cared, if, it meant being “on the list” or to get the accolades, or to grow our church, but most of that caring was simple selfishness and what the scripture calls, “wood, hay, and stubble.”   We still care but we don’t!  You know what I mean.  We want to care, but we don’t exemplify caring because we go about our busy lives trying to make it through, pay the bills, get it all done, count how many we have in attendance on Sunday, while ceasing to live with the end in mind.  The opposite extreme, is when we truly and authentically care…no feeling like this and people can sense you, smell you, and tell, if you really care.

Let me try to help- “On mission” is simple…live with eternity in mind, everyday, every hour, every minute, every second.  Make decisions this way, move to a new city this way, speak to a person in this way, consider your day of worship in this way, love your children in this way, educate yourself this way, love others this way, preach/teach this way, risk this way, travel this way, and most of all, obey God in this way. We make it all too complicated. Trace the maps in the Bible- Paul just went to the next best place in obedience.  We must do the same!

When you live life in obedience, your life will have counted for others, for yourself, and for those who come behind you and remember your life.  THIS, my friends, is the way to take the immediate “sting” out of death for yourself and those that love you.  Life is hollow without living for something and someone that will outlive you, your children, your grandchildren, and all of the ages.

Last November, I sat in the ER wondering why I had one pupil much larger than the other.  I was diagnosed with two dissected carotid arteries in my neck.  This can happen from turning your neck quickly through manipulation, accidents, sneezing, etc.  It’s very strange but real.  What that did to my mind, immediately, was it raced my thoughts of what could happen to me over the next few seconds because we did not know if there were blood clots, blockages, leaks through the arteries, etc. etc.  It was very vague. Death crossed my mind.  It was peaceful, however, I felt that I had much more to do down here.  My conversation with God was, “You know I have not reached my God-given potential yet.  You know I have some dreams for your kingdom that I have not had a shot at yet.  You know, you know, you know…..”  Ultimately, it was not a sad state for me, except in thinking of those I would leave behind, too soon.  World class doctors were orchestrated to my side.  I had no idea who they were then, but because of them, I am fine today.  We now have a friendship, and I sensed authentic concern from these top rate physicians…in other words, they truly cared.  Money or prestige was not on their radar, at least from my discernment.  In fact, my doctor would care enough to call me multiple times over the Christmas holidays while he traveled and would ultimately give me his personal cell phone (hmm, might be a word to professional pastors).

One thing I know for sure, is that in the times I have been really close to God in one on one communication, I sense Him, I know Him, I hear Him, and He shows me His love.   In fact, the greatest theology in the world is LOVE!  Shortage of love- yes, from human to human…no, from supernatural heavenly father to his children.  Right now, trust, start over, and step out, whatever it is you are contemplating!  We conquer fear of death by repeating “fear not” 365 times a year and believing it!  Live now so you can die well!

Thinkings Lately

1.  As pastors, we so often take personally, lack of attendance on a Sunday, as if we are the reason people didn’t show up……we’re not that important!  There are many other elements as to why we have a low Sunday.

2.  Risk is worth it.  Church planters understand this.  It’s ok if it doesn’t get off the ground. Faithfulness is all that is required of you.  Your ministry peers and even mentors might not understand this and could often deem you as a failure……very unfortunate and untrue.

3.  I believe God has far different evaluation processes than we do regarding our success for Him.

4.  Two voices speak to us every day; 1) Do whatever you want, your way.  2) Follow Jesus. Our choice.

5.  We have to lose our lives to gain them.  That could mean all our money, all our time, all our sacrifice, all our dreams, all our comforts, all our choices, and you get the picture.

6.  Warfare is very forgotten.  We often quit when it gets tough.  If the enemy can’t bring you down through drugs, alcohol, immorality, or impropriety, then guess what’s next:  Your family.  Do not fear when it’s uncomfortable at home.  Dig in, go back to Ephesians 6, and wait on God; keep moving!  It’s a part of you signing on as a green beret Christian long ago! Count your blessings- most Christians do not ever have the luxury of realizing they are moving heaven and hell at the same time.  God bless you!

7.  Most pastors can get discouraged quickly on a Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. No reason to, IF, you spoke the truth of the gospel on Sunday, did all you knew to do, and you feel you are where you need to be today.  It’s not your deal, it’s His!  Rest in that.

8.  The addition of extra money can bring on quick relief and immediate change in demeanor, however, the lack of money will create longer term growth in Jesus which we all need to sustain our faith to the end.

9.  Never pack up the equipment until the game is over.

10.  If you can keep hope alive, and can convey it, regardless of your circumstance, you have mastered life!

11.  You can change anything, including your genetic foul-ups……..it takes 21 days to make a habit.  Start with a list today and change what you want.  It will hurt, but it will be worth it.

12.  Large numbers or small numbers don’t necessarily indicate God’s will for you.  It’s much bigger than that.

13.  You are “created in the image of God” meaning you are made for success regardless if you fail……failure never determines WHO you are, UNLESS, you give up!  As long as you are still in the game, you are a winner!!!!!!!  So get back up, limp if need be, take both hands and pick your leg up over the saddle, and ride on; fight on; press on toward the mark!!!

I needed all of this myself!

Interesting……..by Focus on the Family

Halloween has become a major unofficial American holiday. Researchers at Hallmark Cards report that 65 percent of us decorate our homes and offices for the annual event. It is second only to Christmas in retail spending at about $5 billion, and it is the third biggest party day of the year in the U.S.

The treat ends there for many thoughtful Christians, however, who understand a very troubling reality. Halloween is the high holy day for real witches and pagans, not just a night of “pretend.” Several hundred thousand American pagans, Druids, and witches celebrate Halloween as a holy day called Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”) or Shadowfest, a 2,000-year-old Celtic festival held to honor Samhain, the lord of earth. Pagans considered it to be the end of “life” (summer) and the beginning of “death” (winter).

Although today’s pagans don’t roam in black or bloody garb, snatching children, they nevertheless gather to sing ritual songs and chant ancient prayers, most of which were condemned by the early Christian church. Some still put out food offerings for the dead.

Halloween is still the primary festival celebrated by those who follow Satan, but most of our culture has absorbed the festival by embracing its supposedly innocent customs. In fact, modern witches, warlocks, pagans, and Satanists have long used the holiday as a “hook” to present their belief system as a fascinating, even benevolent religious alternative.

Certainly, for Christians to shun Halloween and other pagan practices is to swim against the cultural tide. But redirecting Halloween celebrations for our children and ourselves is one of the easier ways we can take a quiet stand.

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft” (Deut. 18:10).

Worth It on a Friday

These are some thoughts that help me each day:

1.  Don’t compare yourself to other people, ministries, or workplaces. There are always people that have larger churches, do life better, or have more than you do, and this comparison often leads to compromise.  I like what Perry Noble says about this leading us to go against what God has called US to because we perceive that something else should be done.  Zig Ziglar said, You are the only person on this earth who can use your ability.” J. Campbell said, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Your value is viewed by God by you being WHO you are, not WHAT you do!

2.  Embrace the HOPE of God having big plans for you. Always be open to God’s plan.  I love longevity in ministry, living in a town, or in a job, but God’s call on our lives endears us to be “open” and listening to His voice to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.  In other words, you are here forever and leaving tomorrow.  Always have a suitcase packed in God’s economy.  I have watched Him leave people 30 years in one place and I admire that.  I have also watch Him use people in a perpetual “tour of duty” all over the world every six days, six months, or six years.  All of it is good!

3.  Never Give Up. Sometimes this takes unusual tenacity.  “Oh no, you never let go, through the calm and through the storm.” That song is one of my favorite worship tunes.  If you keep waking up and splashing what you know to do on the wall, something will eventually work in your favor.

4.  Convey Confidence That You Have Plenty to Bring to the Table. If you’ve lived life and experienced life, you have plenty to add to the conversation and to anyone’s life, calling, or career.  Act that way.  Regardless if you have the big job, the big church, the big checking account, you are an asset to this life.  You must believe it and act on it!  Respect everyone, but with humility, go add some value to a life today!

Stinking Thinking

Right thinking determines our future…it’s easy to get off-track.  Good thoughts come and go and so do bad thoughts.  Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Heart refers to “affections, those things we love, hold dear, and think about.” What’s always on your mind?  The one thing we can change, is our THINKING!  Do it today!  One of the best ways is to READ and GET BUSY!  It will do it every time!

See Ya Later Loss and Goodbye Loss

3057264831_618b6deff3_tNot sure really how to write this; we just took our firstborn to The University of Georgia yesterday……it’s been a dream of his for many years to attend there.  He’s been watching and listening to Georgia football since he was a baby.  Somehow, he fell in love with our alma mater.  Go figure!  Anyway, historically, Craven’s and Ridley’s are close knit families from within.  Family is a big deal and always has been. That’s one of the things that attracted Kim and me to each other back in 1985; the closeness on both sides; a natural fit.  Well, we knew this day would come.  Let me say, first, that Jordan has been one of those kids that both adults and kids seem to love.  He relates to both.  He’s worked hard in his classes, given passion to everything he has done, and worked hard serving Jesus.  He’s certainly not perfect but he has been a huge blessing to us.  His whole family is very proud of him.  In fact, we couldn’t be more proud of his acceptance into UGA, his future, and his person. We home-schooled all our kids until Jordan was in the 9th grade and given the fact that as a pastor for 20 years, most of the time, my office has been at home, we’ve been very closely knit together for 18 years, every day.  I think that makes it harder too.  What a great and blessed set of years we have had.

So, to say the least, I think it all hit us last night.  We didn’t want to say goodbye to those years.  It had come and gone all too quickly, as our parents told us it would.  We had a great day yesterday; we got up and cleaned his car together, packed both 3058101498_b8223999ed_tcars, hung out and laughed, and by 1:00 p.m. were ready to ride.  We had to get there before 5:00 so he could get his parking pass.  Kim was trying hard; I could tell she was different- a measure of quietness and lots of love about her.  There was a quiet transition developing of laying down the mantle of instruction to picking up a new mantle of serving.  These last few weeks as a family, we’ve spent some good quality time together and intentionally carved out days to be together; it was so good!

We got his dorm room all set up, went back to Walmart, Canes for supper, and back to his room to finish a couple of things.  It was pretty surreal; Kim and I walked those same halls and drove those same roads over 21 years ago.  I could feel what I felt as a student and my parents taking me over to UGA, all over again, yet I was a parent this time and was feeling a totally different set of emotions.  We dreaded the departing part, but here it came.

3604202469_4873d0c521_tHugs, kisses, and a quick and huge wave of emotion rushed over Kim and me; maybe Jordan, I couldn’t tell.  We rushed into the car and he walked quickly back into his dorm….tears most of the way home….the loss of a son.  Though, not really; only as we had all known it.  Natural, yes, but now it’s time to grow up some, Shane & Kim.

On the other side of the state, in Franklin, TN, Pastor Steve Berger pastors some of our dear friends, the Barrera’s and the Shamblin’s. We found out the night before we left for Athens that the Bergers’ 19 year old son, Josiah, struck a tree int_n100000148286370_5010 his car and was on life support at Vanderbilt University hospital.  There was no brain activity. Oh my God in heaven, how sad!  You can feel their pain…..the hope of the mystery of a miracle….the reasons they left him on life support with even a poor prognosis from doctors…..and the fact that he was going to be a freshman at The University of Tennessee this fall.  It was a flooding day of mystery in our world!

Tears in both places………yet, our tears were tears of chapter loss, season loss, and see ya later loss. Tears in Franklin were tears of goodbye loss. Both hurt but both are not equal.  God sees it all, knows it all, and has experienced both.  God must have missed Jesus when they said, “See ya later.”  But, when Jesus no longer had breath, the goodbye loss must have been overwhelming.  The good news is, HE is and was God.  He made all that happen and designed it that way.  With all this in mind, “Greater Days Were Yet to Come.”

Some of these mysteries God never meant for us to understand, yet embrace.  Remember, HE’s alive and well!  That’s why we serve him, specifically.  Other gods are dead……..ours is not!  Therefore, today can be a day of thanksgiving instead of self-pity, even in see ya later loss and in goodbye loss. How, not quite sure……I think it’s just knowing that God and time will heal.

We must all keep our eyes on why we are all here in this life…….to gain as many relationships as we can, thereby influencing as many people as we can for Jesus Christ, while developing our God-given potential to it’s maximum. To watch your kids be and do some of the things and ways you have been and think is pretty wild………to feel their feelings and watch their actions in an almost vicarious way, is pretty mysterious.

Both losses are forged to charge ahead in life today, to finish the task He’s set before us, to squeeze the seconds out of the day, and look forward to the next time we all gather…..the even better news is, HE loves us all!

Great Yesterday Sunday!

  • Might have been our best Sunday….everything was “on!”
  • Proud to have Jeremy Moyers with us.
  • Channing Eleton led us out with a Phil Vassar song, “Just Another Day in Paradise.”  Awesome!
  • Volunteers were on the money in serving……..Production team, a shout out to you, specifically, for all you do to “make it happen.”  Set was beautiful!
  • Great feeling brewing as we gear up for Grand Opening September 13!
  • First time visitors again yesterday.
  • Comments of what we stand for are very encouraging- “If I had a church like Origin and be accepted with all my shortcomings, I would get up every Sunday for it.” Good news team!  That’s Origin!
  • Trained some new volunteers.
  • Worship was off the chain-  loved the accordian!
  • Finally found some sweet spot on our subs.  Been working on it a long time.
  • We are so excited to be moving from every other week in worship to every week beginning September 13!  Gonna change the whole dynamic of Origin Church!
  • Just knowing that people are feeling God’s love is worth it all……..so many of us are hurting people!
  • Thanks God!