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April 11, 2011

Repost: Seek the Old Paths (Honoring God while Remainins Culturally Relavant)

Differences of opinion concerning the direction of the church will inevitably rouse great emotion. Conflict often arises because of a shift in a congregation's "modus operandi" or standard operating procedure. People get too comfortable with familiar and any deviation is seen as suspect. Too often, any change is summarily rejected and even branded heretical simply because "we've never done it that way before."

Lacking any real biblical basis for rejecting the new, opponents of change appeal to the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah's statement recorded in Jeremiah 6:16. Here, Jeremiah implores, "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient (old) paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." Just prior to this proclamation, Jeremiah prophesies of the coming destruction of Jerusalem if God's people do not change. Then in verse 14, Jeremiah decries, "They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace," they say, when there is no peace." Jeremiah was speaking to God's children who were relying on their past success, who acknowledged only the need of a minor patch (dress the wound), who only wanted to be left alone to do as they had been doing (peace, peace).

What was God's reply? When you stand at a decision point, choose the ancient way. Often this is interpreted as an endorsement of tradition and an injunction against innovation. However, Jeremiah's urging to "ask for the ancient paths" is a declaration to cast off tradition and simply seek God; seek not man's old path, but God's old path. Choose to do things God's way.

God's people face a daunting task today. People are indifferent to religion in general. Financial problems plague our households along with all the usual suspects such as drugs, alcohol, marital issues, health problems, etc. In other words, Jeremiah would say, "the wound is serious!" People in our culture are inundated with choices and will only devote their time to a cause that is relevant. Yes, they need God in their lives, but what is the church doing that says to the world, "We have the answers," and most importantly, "We care!" The church should be at the forefront of innovation when it comes to ways of connecting people with Christ.

The telegraph was once the way to send important messages, however, changes in culture and technology deemed this method of communication no longer relevant. While the messages once sent via telegraph still need sending today, they are sent using different techniques and technology such as email, facebook, and twitter. The same is true for the church and its message. While our message has not changed, our way of communicating the timeless message of Christ must change. To insist that we continue down the "old paths" simply because it worked in the past is positioning ourselves with the Israelites of Jeremiah's day crying "Peace, Peace!" A church that persists in traditions that no longer work because it is uncomfortable with trying new methods not only becomes irrelevant; it risks being condemned by its own selfishness.

Certainly, we can learn from our past. Much of what was done in the past in the name of the Lord is praiseworthy and brings God much glory. The previous generations had a passion for the lost, a craving for knowledge, and an insatiable thirst for truth that we would do well to imitate. If we emulate these qualities while employing culturally relevant techniques we not only honor those who have gone before us, we glorify God.

We sing the hymn, "There is much to do there is work on every hand. Hark! The cry for help comes ringing through the land. Jesus calls for reapers, I must active be. Lord, I must not, cannot dare to let them be. Here am I, Lord send me!" This song so eloquently puts forth our mission. The work is immense and the pleas of the lost are deafening. Jesus has called us to take his word to the world. To put forth less than our best effort is near the equivalent of ignoring the call of our Lord altogether.

We do indeed stand at a crossroad and God demands we make a decision. We cannot defer and do nothing; people in our homes, our church, our community, and our world are lost and dying! How do we answer? We "ask where the good way is, and walk in it."


November 23, 2010

The Life of Ryleigh

Tuesday is a special day, it is the day we celebrate Ryleigh Stegall's birthday.  The Butterfly Foundation had it's annual walk from the high school to the town square in remembrance of Ryleigh and to raise funds and awareness for the foundation.  Ryleigh's family started the Butterfly Foundation to help people in Wayne County who have children facing life threatening or life altering illnesses.  The Stegall family holds a special place in my heart, in my mind, they are true heroes.  The following post was originally written on September 15, 2007 the day after Ryleigh died, I read it at her funeral and since then it has taken on a life of its own.  It remains the most read post on my blog by far with dozens of hits each month.  My intention is to "re-post" it annually in conjuntion with the Butterfly Walk.  Mitchell

Ryleigh Stegall's seven year battle with Leukemia ended Friday morning as she passed from this life and into the arms of God. Ryleigh's life ended quite similar to how it began, surrounded by family and friends, appreciative to God for blessing our lives with her life.

Anyone who ever spent time with Ryleigh found themselves captivated by her strong personality. She had one of those smiles that could light up a room. With all of the things about Ryleigh that made her special, ironically, it was her desire to just be a normal kid that truly set her apart.

Ryleigh leaves behind her parents, Steven and Michelle, her sister Keerstin, and her brother Chandler, a close knit extended family as well as an entire community who loved her. At some point all of those who knew Ryleigh will ponder the question of "Why?" Why did Ryleigh have to bear such a burden? Why did she have to go so young? Why did all the prayers for healing offered on her behalf go seemingly unanswered? I will be first to admit that I have pondered these questions. While I may not be able to answer these questions, even to my own satisfaction, I do know that God holds the answer. Ryleigh now knows the answer and her smile continues to light up rooms.

We may wonder, "What if. . ." What if she had never gotten cancer? What if God completely removed it from her body? One thing I do know is that no one who ever knew her could imagine what life would have been like without her.

Steven and Michelle never let the disease that robbed so much from their daughter's life define her and neither did Ryleigh. This attitude, this determination, is what defined the life of Ryleigh, it is her legacy to us. It is not what happens to you in life that defines you, but rather it is how you choose to live.

We would all do well to choose to live the life of Ryleigh.

August 30, 2010

What's that Smell?

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”  (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)

Deodorant.  Soap.  Body Wash.  Perfume.  Cologne.  All of these items and many more make up a billion dollar industry focused on one thing, making sure we don’t smell bad.  Our culture has an obsession with how we smell.  No one wants to smell bad, if we are going to smell we want it to something pleasing to ourselves and others.  The Apostle Paul picks up on this idea in the verse above explaining how we are to “smell” as ambassadors of Christ.
Christians are commanded to spread the word of God concerning Christ.  It seems that we all know we have this responsibility yet sometimes we differ on how to accomplish the mission.  Some Christians seem to thrive on confrontation while others, it seems, would rather have no contact whatsoever with those who are lost. 
Paul’s idea of a Christian, however, is one whose life is so wrapped up in Christ and the word of God that he can’t help others from finding out.  If we are what God would have us to be then people around us can’t help but smell Christ.  If this is true then where is the need for confrontation?  If this is true then how can one be a Christian and go through life without anyone else finding out?
I think I’ll go take a bath and maybe put on some cologne.

August 22, 2010

NEW - Podcast: Attitude Makes a Difference

Due to some problems with hardware compatibility, it has been a while since I posted a new podcast.  We have all of those issues sorted out and I have posted my most recent sermon, Attitude Makes a Difference.  You can listen by using the mini-player below or download the file to your computer using the link below.

The easiest way to get my sermons is to subscribe to my podcast in iTunes by clicking here or use the sermon player in the left menu column.  Enjoy!

Download Attitude Makes a Difference

August 2, 2010

What I Love About the Church

This post was originally written for Preacher's Pen. Be sure to check out this awesome website by Chris Gallagher!
To me there is really only one answer to the question, "what do you love about the church?" It's the people. One of my earliest memories of church is being in bible class and learning the poem complete with hand signals, "Here is the church and here is the steeple, open it up and see all the people!"

Without people the church loses its purpose and reason for existence. In Romans 12:4-5 (NIV) Paul explains the church in this way, "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." The Contemporary English Version (CEV) says it this way, "A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. That's how it is with us. There are many of us, but we each are part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another." I love the thought expressed here, that while there are many of us we each individually make up the church.

I think sometimes we miss out on all that church has to offer because we have failed to understand this all important element of relationship in the church. Consumerism has turned the church into a business relationship where people search for the perfect organization with the most to offer. This was never what Christ envisioned when he established his body of believers on earth. It was only when I finally understood this aspect of the church that I was able to begin to fall in love with the church's people. I was never able to love a business model no matter how shiny it was but falling in love with people was something that just came naturally.

Granted, some people are easier to love than others but it is also true that some people need more love than others. I love the church because no matter how bad things get in my life here on earth I know that people's prayers are streaming heavenward on my behalf, no business model can replace that! I love the church because no matter how difficult things may become I know that there are real live actual people who care and who act because we share a common love for Jesus Christ.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)

May 9, 2010

Why I love my iPhone (My top 15 Apps)

A few months ago I finally took the plunge I had long been wanting to take, I bought an iPhone. I waited too long.

Before listing my top 15 apps I must first mention some of the standard features that make the iPhone stand out. The integrated iPod is something I use everyday. I love listening to music and since the radio in my truck is broken my iPhone comes in handy. The calendar on the iPhone is something I also use daily. The functions are pretty basic but I would literally be lost without it. Texting is common on all phones today, many even have a full keyboard, but the iPhone allows you to keep entire conversations with people in a neat list.

Top 15 Apps

These are the apps I use basically everyday.

1. YouVersion Bible - a free app from it features tons of versions to read plus a "Live" function that allows users to follow along with my sermons and even respond to questions in real time.

2. Logos - another bible program that I use. You don't need Internet connectivity or even cell service to use this one (if you download one or more versions).

3. TextLater - allows you to schedule a text for a later date and/or time. I mostly use this to remind me of important tasks.

4. Fox News - I like to keep up with current events

5. WSMV Channel 4 - Ditto

6. ESPN ScoreCenter - I get all the latest scores from just about any sport you can think of.

7. Google - if I don't know the answer, I can find it here. Plus, all you have to do is speak, no typing necessary.

8. Solitaire - great for down time and killing time. It also keeps the mind sharp.

9. QuickOffice - I can edit or create documents or spreadsheets and view PowerPoint slideshows. Fully compatable with Microsoft Office, this app allows me to work on and polish my sermons anywhere.

10. Maps - this app actually comes with the phone but it's functionality is much better than even MapQuest. It works with the GPS embedded in the phone and is highly accurate.

11. - with all the writing I do a dictionary is a must! This app is simple but has some extras like a thesaurus and "word of the day" that make it a favorite.

12. TV Guide - with so much on television I use this much as you would the paper version. Ratings and synopsis' of each program makes finding family friendly programing a breeze.

13. Evernote - this app fully sync's with your online account which means you can use it anywhere. You can store any kind of info in Evernote and retrieve it in various ways. Can't remember the name of a person you meet two months ago at a conference but you need to call him? With Evernote you can take pics of business cards, store them by name, business name, phone number, etc. But the coolest thing is that even if you can't remember the name all you have to do is search your business cards by location. You remember meeting a person in Nashville then Evernote does as well.

14. Fandango - look up movie times and locations and even purchase tickets right from your phone.

15. GoVolsXtra - news about University of Tennessee sports powered by the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Honorable Mention

A few apps I use that could be on the list but due to their nature I just don't have need for them everyday.

1. Disney World Wait Times - gives you the wait time for every attraction in WDW Orlando. Users submit actual wait times and on our last trip to Disney I found it to be highly accurate.

2. iPitchPipe - just like the pitch pipe your song leader uses just easier to keep up with.

3. Sleep Machine - I must have background noise in order to sleep. This app gives several options and is always with you when you travel.

4. Travelocity and Kayak - have you ever been on the road and looking for a place to stop for the night? These work wonders and you don't have to make 10 different calls to find a vacancy.

5. BlogPress - this app lets me compose and post articles to my blog right from the iPhone (in fact, I'm using it right now!). I'm sure this one will move up the list in a hurry.

So what are your favorite/most used apps?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

April 7, 2010

FINAL UPDATE 4/7/2010 Go Fish

The series is now complete.  I'll be adding the SlideCast for the final messages as soon as I get my new computer.  Enjoy!

So many people have been asking for copies of the podcast for this latest series we are doing on Sunday Morning that I decided to make a 'store' for one stop, easy downloading.  As each new episode becomes available you can come here to download.  You will also be able to get them in the usual way, by using the Sermon Player in the right menu, or by going to iTunes (download a la carte or subscribe).  

Be sure to direct your friends here to listen to these inspirational messages!

~Followers Fish~

Go Fish Message 1 

Go Fish Message - 2


Go Fish Message - 3

Muddy Water - Message 4 (My Personal Favorite)

The One that Got Away - Message 5

This series was inspired by Andy Stanley & David Salisbury

February 11, 2010

Culture and Evangelism

Our culture has been conditioned to look for the latest and greatest fix for any problem that confronts them. One example of this is health care where there is always a new pill for whatever ails you. Whether we realize it or not, our cultural conditioning shapes the decisions we make and the opinions we hold when it comes to church issues. Evangelism methodology is a great example of how culture has an effect in the church. The scenario usually goes something like this, we begin to notice a decline in attendance until we finally become uncomfortable and then the push to evangelize kicks in. This push is often accompanied by selecting a certain program or method of reaching out to the lost. Some members will remember door knocking campaigns and tent meetings which were highly effective in their time and suggest that this is the way to grow the church. Other members will suggest a newer program of outreach that they have seen work in other congregations and suggest that this is the way to grow the church. Soon the focus turns from seeking the lost into seeking the program as we argue over which way is the best way.


If we desire to reach people with the gospel, we need only to get the gospel in front of them. If you want to see how powerful the gospel can be, you don't have to look very far. If you open your bibles to the book of Acts, you can read about the powerful explosion of our faith and the church only days removed from the crucifixion. This explosive growth came about because people were excited about a message and nothing would stop them from sharing that message with their friends.


In other words, followers of Christ were not content to be followers only. These early Christians used whatever means were necessary to share the good news of Jesus Christ. They became the right person at the right time for someone in need of salvation.


How has God used you to be the right person at the right time? Please share your story with us in the comments section!


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