Summer Memories

When I think about summer, so many memories flood my mind. I remember the smell of the freshly cut grass. I remember catching lightning bugs in a jar and saving them for as long as I possibly could. I remember all of the late nights playing cards with my Ma. She always won. I remember FINALLY gaining the courage to jump off of the diving board. I remember the countless encouraging notes written and funny songs sung at church camp. I remember the late night praise sessions at UPLIFT. I remember choosing to follow Christ and be baptized.

All of these memories flood my mind when I think about the summers from my youth. You probably have similar ones, or maybe you have very different ones. The summer is such a fun time for so many. So many events and activities take place, and so many memories are made. Not only are the memories special to me, but who I made those memories with are even more special and important. The camp counselors who taught me and mentored me, the late nights with my grandmother, the long talks with my dad before deciding to be baptized, the moments of praise songs with hundreds of other students, those people had a huge impact on my memories and what they mean to me now. 

The people that we surround ourselves with play a role in those memories. Our youth and children will make memories this summer, and how exciting is it that we can play a huge role in those. What lasting impact will you have on those around you this summer? May I suggest some ways that you can make a lasting impact on the youth of this church this summer? In the coming weeks, our youth group and children’s ministry will be going in a million different directions, but there are ways that you can help. If you aren't able to physically help and be there for those memories, there are ways that you can make it easier for us this summer. In the upcoming weeks we would love for you to be praying for the youth of our congregation. Here are a few additional ways that you can help: 

  • Save your condiments from your fast food restaurants - they can be used at camp. 

  • Check the sign up sheets and consider walking around with the kids at VBS as a Tribe leader 

  • Check the “items needed” list located on the kids board for VBS snack items needed 

  • Provide scholarships for those who may need help attending camp (Help them make those memories!) 

  • Attend VBS 

  • Provide cookies and brownies for our girls and guys nights in June 

More than anything, we would love for you to be prayerful about our youth and children this summer. So many memories will be made this summer, and we pray that they are life changing. 

A RADICAL AND WORLD-SHAKING IDEA

Pieter van der Horst, professor emeritus in the faculty of theology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and author of Studies in Ancient   Judaism and Early Christianity, suggests that the predominant world view toward poor people has always been negative. This has been a societal norm for as long as history records show. During the Greco-Roman world domination, leadership promoted the idea of philanthropy and benevolence, but those concepts were much different than today’s interpretation. Ancient philanthropy was always directed toward those who could reciprocate with a greater gift. Think about that for just a moment. Let me say it again…  ancient philanthropy was always directed toward those who could reciprocate with an even greater gift. What does that mean? It means that people of means were eager to give gifts to other people of means, and the recipient of any gift was socially obligated to respond to that giver by upping the ante.  I might give you a very generous gift, but you would have to give me something even more generous. Society frowned on those who broke the code. And, since poor people were unable to reciprocate appropriately, they were never considered as suitable objects for benevolent giving.  

God wished to change that. When He spoke the Law into existence for the people of Israel, He said things that were directly opposite of world view. While the world ignored the poor, and heaped societal obligations upon the rich, the Hebrew people were told things like, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 23:22).  This was a very RADICAL and WORLD-SHAKING command.  To give to someone who cannot give something nicer in return simply made no sense to people of the ancient world. 

But Jesus took it one step further. The poet Hesiod, around 700 BCE, had coined the phrase “Give to him who gives, but do not give to him who does not give.” This phrase well defined the attitude of giving. If the giver cannot be repaid with something even greater, then he should keep it to himself. Now hear the words of Jesus in Luke 14:12-14, “Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Did you hear how Jesus attacked the very core of societal norms concerning the poor? He strove to create a society that urged people to give to those who are totally incapable of giving in return. And by urging people to live with that kind of generosity in their hearts, He was urging His people to create a society where everyone is to be considered an equal, with equal possessions and equal opportunities. This was a RADICAL and WORLD-SHAKING idea. And it’s one that you and I, as ambassadors of Jesus Christ, are being urged to embrace. As 2019 fades into the next decade, this should become a primary focus of our church.  Let’s work hard this year with 2020Vision to prepare for a GREAT, RADICAL, AND WORLD-SHAKING future for our church family, and for the community around us.  


You Already Have Your Ticket

When Corrie Ten Boom, of The Hiding Place fame, was a little girl in Holland, her first realization of death came after a visit to the home of a neighbor who had died.  It impressed on her that someday she and her family would also die.  Like any little girl, she was frightened by that thought.

Corrie’s dad comforted her with this thought, “Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”  She answered, “Why, just before we get on the train.”  “Exactly,” her father answered, “And our wise Father in heaven gives us our ticket before we leave this world so that we know we have safe passage to where he will receive us.”

Fear of death is natural.  God understands.  So he regularly in his word gives us reminders that we have nothing to fear because of his love and the death of Jesus for our sins.  “Since the children have flesh and blood, Jesus too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who has the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”  Hebrews 2:14-15  And just a moment later, we read that Jesus made “atonement for the sins of the people.”  Hebrews 2:17

Adam and Eve were sinners.  Are they in heaven?  YES.  Abraham was a sinner, a liar.  Is he in heaven?  YES.  Rahab was a prostitute.  Is she in heaven?  YES.  David was, well David was a lot of things.  Is he in heaven?  YES.  Peter vowed that he had never known Jesus.  Is he in heaven?  YES.  The sinful woman from the streets who washed Jesus’ feet, is she in     heaven?  YES. The thief on the cross was a, well I guess he was a thief.  But he was a murderer too.  Is he in heaven?  YES.  

GOD WANTS YOU THERE.  HE HAS PROVIDED HIS OWN SON AS A SACRIFICE FOR YOUR SINS SO HE CAN WELCOME YOU WITH OPEN ARMS.  Are you a sinner?  YES.  But by the grace of God will you go to heaven?  YES.  

If you haven’t accepted Christ’s sacrifice for your sins, do you need to do that?  YES.  And God will safely bring you home to him forever when you die. 

Don’t worry about your ticket.  He has your name in his book.

What Is Your "Word"

We’re two weeks in to the new year. Have you kept your New Year’s resolutions? Did you make any? According to surveys done at the beginning of the year, the top resolutions were to be healthier and to save money.

Some people make resolutions. Some people simply decide on one word that they want to represent areas of their life over the next year. For example, someone may choose the word “content”. They may want to strive to be content in all areas of their life over the next year. Someone may choose the word “passionate.” They may want to strive to be passionate in everything that they do. Someone may choose the word “joy.” They may pursue being joyful in every circumstance over the coming year. Choosing a word for the year has become a new favorite thing of mine!

If I could choose a word for Northside over the next year, it would be “service.” Not only are we striving to serve together in the 2020 Vision campaign, but my hope is that we serve together in regards to those around us in the community and in the everyday lives of those in this congre-gation.

One word that MANY of us would use to describe Jesus would be servant. Jesus didn’t “go to church” and leave it at that. His life was a life of service. He didn’t simply preach, but He practiced what He preached. We are commanded to serve one another, and we are called to be like Christ. Are we living a life where others are captivated by our words but our actions are far from our words? If we aren’t serving in some way, how are we striving to be more like Christ?

Do you have a word for 2019? If you could think of one word to describe the change you would like to see in different areas of your life, what would it be? 

Don't Write 2019 in Olde English Script

     This is the first Sunday of the new year.  There has never been a 2019 A.D. This year is brand new. The calendar rolling over is always a chance to mentally renegotiate with yourself. There are certainly things of the past that we want to keep, cherish and honor.  For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne (whatever that means).

    But don’t stay stuck in the past with your same fears, bad attitudes and negative thinking. God is doing so many wonderful things in our church family right now. Make a resolution to joyfully join in and see what he will do this year in your life.

     Make some personal resolutions. Don’t worry about what you    haven’t gotten done yet in life. Pick up where you are! You are not too young. You are not too old. God is always making all things NEW.

     My favorite “Dear Abby” of all time went something like this: “Dear Abby, I have always wanted to go to law school. My family encourages me to go. But I am thirty-eight years old. In three years, I will be forty-one! What should I do?” Abby’s response is brilliant and so encouraging.  “How old will you be in three years, if you don’t go to law school?”  That’s great! Go for it! Let’s take that attitude with us into this year.

     Friday, I have a birthday. It one of the big ones. And no, I’m not  going to be a hundred.  But it is the one where I get to go on Medicare.  Actually, that does sound like a hundred. But life here with God, my family and all of you is still so great. I thought that I was finished with full-time preaching. God had other plans. And I am so excited about the future we have together.

     Most of you are younger than I am. Some of you are older than I am. That’s irrelevant. I want God to use you in powerful ways until he takes you home. I want you to be a thriving part of this church family. I want that for myself too. Don’t let age or physical limitations or lack of talent in some areas keep you from joyfully doing all you can do in the kingdom of God. You are part of the body. You are just like God needs you to be.  

     Do what YOU can. Celebrate that. Don’t worry about what others can or cannot do.  

     You be the best you in 2019. That’s what the church and God and YOU need from YOU.

     I just checked that Medicare card.  It’s not in Olde English script.


Harvard And Science Journal May Be On To Something

     Harvard University and Science Journal are two places people go to learn some deep truths. And this time, I think they are on to one of the deepest of all. Their study was about how much money it takes to make someone happy.

     Here’s the finding: If you live below the poverty line, more money seems to make you a little happier. Life gets easier; some of the daily pressures lessen. But…hear this…If you are above the poverty line, having more money does not make you any happier. Interesting.  Hmm.

      The study showed that even if a family who earns $45,000 per year has their income doubled to $90,000 per year, they are no happier than before. Michael Norton, professor at Harvard Business School said, “Most people think that if you make a lot more money, you are going to be happier, but our studies showed that this is not actually true.”  

      But there is something the study showed about happiness and money. And it doesn’t have anything to do with your earnings, but rather how you use your money. Norton went on to say, “It’s what you spend your money on that makes a difference in your happiness.”   

      Regardless of income levels, those who spent more money on others in need or gave to worthy causes reported greater happiness in their lives. Those who spent money on themselves were not as happy.

      They then conducted a second study. Sixteen corporate employees were given bonuses, anywhere from $5000 to $10,000. And they were asked two months later how they used their bonuses. The results showed that the size of the bonus had nothing to do with their happiness. The only thing that related to happiness was that those who spent a portion of their bonuses on causes they believed in were the happier ones.

      Next forty-six volunteers were given from $5 to $20 to spend that day anyway they wanted. You’re probably catching on by now, but just so you know, the ones who spent their money on others or gave it away were much the happier group. Buying someone else coffee makes you happier than buying it for yourself.

     Now the SHOCKER! Harvard and Science Journal concluded… Are you ready for this?

      “It is better to give than to receive.” I think I heard that somewhere before.

—Phil Kinzer


2020 Vision

I suffer from myopia.  That’s near-sightedness, which means that I can see quite clearly things that are right in front of me, but everything becomes more and more blurry the further they are from me. Glasses correct the problem and can bring my eye-sight back to that wonderfully visionary goal of 20/20.  With corrective lenses, I’m able to see quite clearly that which is near and that which is far.    


That’s a reality that many of us share, but it’s also an interesting metaphor for something that is happening right here at Northside.  As we come to the close of 2018, we draw one year closer to the year 2020 and, therefore, one year closer to a new decade.  As the elders and staff met recently, we remember that we must not be myopic, only seeing what is right in front of us.  We need a vision of our church’s future that enables us to see what is further away.  That’s never easy, but with God’s help, we can have our vision correctly adjusted to see what He is calling us to. 


With that in mind, we’ve begun talking about 2019.  We want to spend time in this next year planning and preparing for the future.  We’re calling this endeavor “2020 Vision”, and we’ll be sharing some exciting  ideas with you on Nov. 18th.  Meanwhile, we ask that you pray that God will give us a clearer vision of the future, and the conviction and wisdom that we’ll need to step boldly toward that vision.  We, the Northside     family, will celebrate our 40th Anniversary next year.  We can look back at the first 40 years and approach the future with passive myopia, or we can observe the past 40 years and then go flying toward the next 40.  I hope you’ll be as excited as we are about the future our King is preparing for us.


Thank you for your part in the first 40 years!!  God bless you and your family for helping us to arrive at this giant milestone.  And thank you, in advance, for your family’s involvement in the next decade.  May He be glorified, and His Kingdom is firmly established on earth as it is in Heaven!!

Stan


First and Ten!

Football season is in full swing. The Titans are playing well. My Kansas City Chiefs are 5-0. The Vols and the Dores are . . . Well, as I said, football season is in full swing.

And in this season we are beginning a new slogan for our offerings to God: “First and Ten!” I am so grateful for your response to the lessons on giving. You have been so supportive as we have talked about using our money for God’s glory.

Our FIRST AND TEN campaign is simply this: Our church leaders are asking each family unit to give at least ten percent of a recently received pay to our church offering on the FIRST SUNDAY of each month. And now you can give online too!

Some of you have already started! Thank you! But we hope that everyone will join in on the first Sunday of November. Please do this in November, December, January and February. In four months, you may decide that God is blessing you and your heart is following your treasure and you will just keep on doing that. Some may jump to that ten percent giving level all the time.

At Northside, we are excited about our future together as a church family. There are so many opportunities to serve God and grow spiritually and in bigger numbers. We need every part of the body in on these goals.

Thank you for serving together with me.

Phil

“I Love You to the Moon and Back”

I read an article in the New York Times the other day about Neil Armstrong. It was a very interesting article, and it focused a lot on his two boys. The two boys, Mark who was six at the time and Rick who was 12 recalled the evening that Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the moon. Mark had to go to bed at nine, and his mom woke him up just before his dad stepped on the moon. Rick, being older was able to stay up the entire time and watch it. When Neil returned to earth, he and other astronauts were treated like celebrities. There was a period when they first returned that they had to stay in quarantine for several weeks, to make sure they didn’t catch any sicknesses from the moon. It was during this time that Neil’s boys were able to first talk to him. They said that he didn’t talk too much about the moon. “It was more ‘What had we been doing? Are you helping your mom? Are you mowing the grass?’ All that kind of stuff.” Here is this man who has just made history and helped to change the trajectory of what is humanly possible and when he gets the chance to talk to the people who are the closest to him, he is more interested in being their father than he is about being someone famous.


I loved this story, and parts of it reminded me about our Father God. God comes to us from his place on high and when you indeed consider all that he has done, our day to day issues and concerns might seem inconsequential, or silly. God, being the perfect father, has a love and care for us that surpasses all things. With all that God is doing and all that he has done and will continue to do, his primary concern is for his people. His children.

Chris Gannon


Seeking Good Balance

There are many books written about church growth.  I’ve read a bunch of them.  Sixteen years ago, when Linda and I first moved to Nashville to accept the position here as the Involvement Minister, I must have read a dozen or more of those books.  I was convinced that if we built it (or renovated it), people would come!  So we renovated the worship center.  At that time we averaged around 300 people in Sunday attendance.  Now, sixteen years later, we are averaging around 300 people.  Hmmm… we built it, but they didn’t come.

I began to read other church-growth books, some of which said churches were focusing on the wrong things.  Giving out prizes to visitors, cranking up the worship bands, staging incredible light shows and video presentations, and creating mini-magic kingdoms in the children’s and youth ministry areas were said to be extraneous fluff that doesn’t really help families grow in their faith.  And so I knuckled down on the Gospel, creating new ministries that are geared to take the good news into the world around us.  I was convinced that if we took evangelism seriously (and, to be honest, I’m not sure I have yet), the church would become an evangelistic powerhouse, and Northside would grow like never before.  Hmmm… 

Here I am today… somewhere in the middle of two extremes.  I know, and believe with all my heart, that it is the Gospel that has the true power to transform lives.  Read the first chapters of nearly every one of Paul’s letters and you’ll find him stating that in various ways.  Jesus Christ is God’s answer to the problems in this world.  But I’m also convinced that visitors are looking for more than doctrinal accuracy.  They are trying to find a church home for their families.  They are looking for the place that will have a big and positive impact upon their children.  They are looking for a place where they can create new friendships, a place where they can grow in their faith and in service.

That balance is important for the church.  Any church that focuses too much on only one side of that coin is in danger.  Many churches wind up with incredible facilities, and a watered-down gospel that prevents true spiritual development. Those churches are often overflowing with people, but they don’t know how the gospel can be “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Other churches may wind up with great ministries and teaching, but they wind up with facilities that look old and worn out.  Their membership is likely to be very faithful to that church family, but newcomers don’t feel like it’s a place where they can invest their lives.  As the old membership dies, the church dies also.  

Northside is in an interesting place right now.  Our teaching is strong… probably stronger than it’s ever been!  But through the years, besides the renovation of the worship center, we’ve merely maintained the rest of our facilities.  If something breaks, we fix it.  But if you asked some of the young families who have visited recently, they’d tell you our building looks old and dated.  And, sadly, a lot of that old stuff is beginning to break down. We don’t need to tear it down and start all over, but there are some things we can do to bring new life to the facilities.   And, while we’re at it, we can create an new energy and excitement, while offering a high level of involvement as members share in the work of re-creation here at Northside.  

We’ll be talking about this some more as we near the end of the year.  Please, pray that we do whatever God’s Spirit leads us to do, and may we represent well the Kingdom of Heaven right here on earth.


Since You’re Here Already…

Someone may have handed you this bulletin a few minutes ago.  Or if you’ve been busy, maybe it’s Sunday afternoon or evening.  Perhaps it has been on the kitchen counter for a day or two, and you are just now picking it up.  

In any case, if you are reading this, it likely means that you were in worship Sunday morning at the Northside Church.  Let me say thank you for coming and worshiping God together with other believers.  

If you came and stayed for Sunday school, thank you again.  You took another hour or so on the Lord’s Day to study God’s Word and fellowship with a smaller group of people.  

Sunday school is so important to our family at Northside.  Most of you know that already.  But if you come to worship and go home without Sunday school, let me talk to you as a friend.  I want to encourage you to take another small step and stay for Sunday school

Our culture thrives on being convenient.  Sunday School is convenient. 

You are already here.  You will still be out by lunchtime.  You may not beat all the Baptists to the restaurant, but you’ll beat most of them and all the Pentecostals.

You know how you go over to someone’s house to eat, but then it turns into more than just a mealtime?  The meal is great; it’s why you went over there.  That’s worship. Everybody needs to eat.  But after the mealtime, you go into another less formal room and chat and laugh; new subjects come up for the evening.  That’s Sunday School.  

At the big table, everyone sits together.  That’s needed.  That’s worship.  But when you leave the table, the kids go off by themselves.  You can have adult talk in one room and kid talk in another room.  That’s Sunday school.  

And you get it all done in one trip!  So, don’t eat and run.  Stay for another hour and enjoy a relaxing time in Sunday school.  

That’s been my habit forever.  And I am better off for it.  

What’s your rush? Stay a while.

World Famous Northside Annual BBQ

Well, we’re not exactly world famous yet, but we certainly know how to cook a pork shoulder!!  It’s almost that time of year again, with our feast scheduled for Saturday,  October 6th at 6pm.  If you haven’t been to one of our feasts, you better get this on your calendar and start inviting friends.  It’s a good time had by all.  

This is also one of our big fund-raising events.  Every year the money raised goes toward a particular mission or ministry.  This year we plan to purchase some new equipment for our much-used kitchen.  Our kitchen equipment is O-L-D!  And that fish you smell in the refrigerator simply must go away!!  We’ll sell our BBQ and sides by the plate for $8 (kids under 10 are free), and we usually also sell pulled pork by the pound.  We’re planning to talk to some other folks about the possibility of cooking some ribs to sell by the rack too. 

Also tied to the BBQ is our silent auction.  Each year we have received donations of new, or like new, items to sell in this auction.  We’re currently asking for donations now (please, no yard sale quality items).  Not just physical items, but services, trips, concert tickets, game tickets, etc.  If it’s of value, please consider donating it for this cause!  Bring your items to Stan’s office asap, or write him a note if it’s a service type item.

And, in the past, those who are involved in the all-night cooking that is required on Friday night have enjoyed a special meal and fellowship as the pork is smoking. That’s always been a fun evening for the cooks and families. This year we want to extend that invitation to others. In fact, some have said they can’t come to the Saturday BBQ but could join us Friday. So we’re now planning ways to extend our fund-raising and fellowship to include that cook night!  How about a Corn-Hole tournament?  Board games?  A Penny War (see Shannon Hudgins about this one)?  And, of course, more great food, fellowship, and fun!   We’ll have more details soon, but let us know if you have some ideas and would be willing to help.

 

Northside is a great church, and we’re always looking for ways to expand the family!  So let’s also commit to bringing a friend this year.    Everyone loves a good BBQ… and everyone NEEDS a good, strong family to love.  Northside offers both!!   Let’s start cookin!!!

Not goodbye- Simply lending a friendship

For those who don’t know, I grew up in Cookeville. It use to be a small town about an hour and a half from Nashville. Josh and I were married there, and all of my extended family still lives there, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. After we were married, Josh was presented with a job opportunity in Nashville that we simply could not turn down. I was blindsided. I’m not exactly sure why because I knew that a future in our fields wasn’t likely in Cookeville. Neverthe-less, I cried the entire evening. But, after much prayer and thought, we knew that there really wasn’t another choice. Some were excited, some were worried, and some were sad. We knew that we could use this as an opportunity to grow closer to each other and the Lord, but it was a difficult decision nonetheless. I can honestly say now that it was a life-changing, and for the better, decision. I can now see God’s hand at work through it all. 

We all face times in our lives where difficult decisions arise. Some-times, neither choice is right or wrong, but the decisions are hard. We are called to be His hands and feet and need to stay vigilant for ways that He can use us and our talents. 

Before becoming the children’s minister five months ago, I asked for God to send me a “burning bush” so to speak. I knew that that wasn’t likely, but I wanted to be absolutely positive and to be at peace with my decision. Whatever that may be. The outpouring of love and encour-agement from those at Northside was overwhelming. The staff and eldership were unlike any that I had seen and I had a sense of peace that I can not describe. 

Notably- Leslie made me feel extremely welcome and a part of the team. Les has known my father in law and family for years, but the thought of working with him myself was exciting and helped me to feel even more secure in my decision. Les has helped me, like so many of you, personally, spiritually, and relationally. I would not trade the last five months for anything, nor would I change any decisions that were made. 

I know that Les will be missed. Personally, I have cried many tears and was devastated by the news. I know how precious he and Mrs. June are. The impact that they have had at Northside and on my life is immeasurable. I also personally know the congregation that they are going to, so I know how much potential and greatness that they bring. God is going to use them to work in the hearts of so many, and I truly feel like this was a “burning bush” opportunity for them. They saw the potential and are using their gifts to further His kingdom. 

I want to personally thank Les and June for their support, their love for my family, their teaching, and most of all for their friendship. It is a cherished friendship that I will never lose. It is not goodbye. I like to look at it as I am simply lending them to others so that they may bene-fit from the same friendship and teaching that I have. 

Love you both immensely and praying for your new journey and influence. -- Megan

More From Les - Good-byes

How do you write your final article for the church where you have shared twenty-eight years—almost half of your entire life? How do you say “good bye” when nothing but tears are availa-ble? If I try to begin naming names, the bulletin is simply not big enough. If I try to thank everyone who has shared in and blessed our lives, there are not enough words to express our appreciation. 

As I reflected over the years, my mind went back to the first article I ever wrote for our newsletter. It was dated May 7, 1990 and it was entitled “What A Wonderful Beginning!” June, Robert, Kyle and I had moved (with the help of Charles Bearden and Mike Cox) to Nashville and my first day at Northside was April 15th of that year. 

The article began Words cannot describe the sincere apprecia-tion my family feels for the reception we have received from the Northside family. I was told by several that the Northside congrega-tion was just like family and now I understand why. While moving is always a distressful time, your acts of kindness have made our move very pleasant and, more importantly, encouraging in regards to our hopes, dreams and prayers for what lies ahead.” 

Initial impressions are not always accurate, but they do tell us much about ourselves and our relationships with others. While you have been trying to figure out just who and what this young man from Mississippi is all about (and good luck), I have been ‘sizing up’ the Northside church… 

Perhaps more than anything, I have been impressed by the po-tential for good which is evident in the Northside congregation. There is no doubt that God has great things in store for His family here. I just pray that we can pull together to make His dreams and plans for us a reality.” 

Twenty-eight years later, I still believe every word I wrote on May 7, 1990—except the part about a YOUNG man from Mississippi. I’m not quite that young any more. Black hair has been replaced with grey hair and in some places no hair at all. Small children have been replaced with grand-children (and the incredible joy that brings). Eleven years of marriage have been replaced with 39 years of marriage and the depth of love for June that only time and God can bring. A large building has been replaced by an even larger building and families with deep roots at Northside have been replaced with families with brand new roots. 

I have conducted over 210 funerals of Northside members, visited the hospital to welcome countless new babies to our church family, baptized so many into Christ and pronounced many of you as “husband and wife!” And while all of these moments were filled with incredible emotions from great joy to incredible sadness—I was honored to be a part of each one. 

I finished that first article so long ago with these words, I look forward to closer friendships and greater service together as we work side by side at this place to bring glory, honor and praise to Him for whom we live, work and serve.June and I thank God for the wonderful opportunity to do just that. May God bless each of you richly. 

Lions, Teams, Battles, Oh My! 

My Rowland loves animals! National Geographic, all of those beautiful yet boring Netflix nature shows, all of them can keep his attention for hours. Animals are his thing. The only person who could match him with his animal facts may be Eli Gannon with his dinosaur facts. We watched a lion show the other day on the couch together, and I couldn't help but watch his reactions. The lion was in hiding. The lion was quiet. The prey had no idea the lion was there. The sounds in the bushes that lured the prey didn't phase the prey and it thought nothing of it. No preparation. No knowledge. My Row wasn't scared because he knew what was coming. He also wasn't scared because he knew that the lion couldn't touch him personally. 

Have you ever felt like no matter where you turned, another problem, issue, or confrontation arose? If you don't feel that way now, it is likely you have felt that way or will soon. The last few months in the world around me all of this has been evident. I have watched friends struggle and family members try to start over. There has been world chaos and destruction one event after another. Satan is alive, and he is so real. He always has been. I think sometimes we believe that if we don't see a little guy with a pitchfork or experience a huge travesty, that he isn't active in our lives. The Bible tells us that our enemy is crouching around just like a lion looking for someone to devour. Just like that nature show, we are the prey. He's quiet and stealthy. 

But it isn't all doom and gloom! Just as the ladies have been talking about on Wednesday night, understanding that our battle isn't against each other but against Satan is key. Sometimes we lose sight of that and reconciliation and peace are more difficult. And understand, just as we all are reminded as Easter approaches, God wins! We shouldn't be scared because we have assurance of the end result. We must understand that Satan is active and be prepared and on guard. We must pray for each other and we must lift one another up. 

Our children at church know the real reason for Easter. They are so very smart! When I asked them why Jesus had to die, the answers varied. I got every-thing from "to save us" "to win the battle" "so that we can live with Him forever" "because we had sinned". All of this is true. But rejoice and take courage that the battle has been won. He did rise on the third day and astonished the world. Satan has no hold on Him. We are all on the same team, and what a blessing to know that we have won! 

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wicked-ness in high places.
— Ephesians 6:12

Decisions

My Lipscomb pride has been on a high this past week as the Bisons finally get their first bid into the NCAA Tournament. I remember being at the first game in Allen Arena when we won at the buzzer after a shot from the opposite free throw line. I remember countless Battle of the Boule- vard’s, one being mine and Bekah’s first date. I also remember years of watching us come up short and not make the tournament. So, this year, even though we will probably draw a tough team today, I’m pumped for the Bisons!

All this got me thinking about my decision to go to Lipscomb about 17 years ago. When I was in high school, I only took the ACT one time and only applied to one school. That wasn’t really because of great confidence - it was more a result of me not wanting to spend another Saturday taking a test, and...ok, I was pretty confident I’d get into Lipscomb. Luckily, they did let me in.

I talk to teens now a lot during their senior year about what their plans will be post high school. They typically fall between two extremes. Some stress about this decision endlessly, constantly weighing all the options and trying to decide where will be the right place to go, fearful that if they don’t pick the right one, they will be miserable and the rest of their lives they will live in regret. Others, you might wish, thought a little more about it than they seem to. Talking to them a few months into summer and their response to what they plan to do next is something like, “ahh, I don’t know. Some- thing probably.”

What I try to remind students this time of the year is that this is an important decision and it’s something you should be prayerfully consider- ing. But the most important thing isn’t where you go or what exactly you do. The most important thing is that wherever you go and whatever you do, to be faithful to God.

I was talking with a friend the other night. We were at Lipscomb together at the same time, and we were just talking about the ways that God works. My first year and a half at Lipscomb I nearly transferred. I didn’t have any friends at school and thought about going to a different school that several my friends from high school were at. In the end, I decided to stay and stick it out. The next semester I met a lot of good friends and then this other girl who was way out of my league named Bekah Kinzer. So, it all worked out, and I’m glad I stayed. My friend (really my only friend my first year or so at Lipscomb) left after two years, and we were talking the other night about how if it weren’t for him leaving he never would have met his wife.

It was a reminder that God can make anything work for our good as long as we are faithful to Him with our lives and our decisions. We both ended up doing different things, but God blessed both of us beyond what we ever thought imaginable. So, the biggest question for those contemplat- ing big decisions is not, “Where should I go? What should I do?” etc. It’s instead, “How will I be faithful to God wherever I go?"

 

More From Les

Everyone’s experiences were unique. From walking up Mt. Sinai to sailing across the Sea of Galilee to standing on the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended back to heaven, it is hard to explain the surreal moments and emotions you feel when you actually SEE what you’ve always only READ in the past! As Phil was fond of saying, “What you’ve always seen in black and white, you now see in color!” 

This past week, approximately thirty Northside members returned from a tour of Egypt and Israel (Ray Fuson, my son Robert and I joined the group in Israel). Awesome! Fantastic! Overwhelm-ing! Wonderful! Unfortunately, there are not enough words to describe the time we spent where people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Debra, Ruth, David, Elijah, (I think you get the point) all lived, walked, talked, died and were buried. Of course, the highlight of the week were the places where Jesus lived, walked, talked, died and was buried—oh yeah, he also arose again and ascended back into heaven where he sits at the right hand of God Most High. 

The very first evening in Tel Aviv, I couldn’t help but think of the Apostle Peter as he stayed at the house of Simon the Tanner which Luke says was “by the sea” (Acts 10:32). Our hotel was literally just up the shore from where Simon’s house would have been. 

2018 - Sea of Galilee - Les.jpg

The second morning, I woke up in Tiberius, a city just south of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. Remem-bering that Jesus got up early in the morning to go out to a solitary place to pray, I found a spot on the rocks along the shore of the Sea of Galilee where I could pray. I couldn’t hold back the tears as I thought of praying not far from where Jesus talked with his Heavenly Father. It was emotionally overwhelming. Most of us experienced moments like that. 

We explored the area where Peter made the good confession. We walked in the courts of the Temple where Jesus taught the people. We stood in the garden where Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. 

Perhaps the most moving time was when we gazed upon a hill that looked like a skull—Golgotha/Calvary. We then waited silently to enter the garden tomb where it is believed Jesus was buried and raised again the third day. Gathering nearby in a circle, we were led by Reed Richardson in singing “Up From The Grave He Arose.” That song immediately took on a new mean-ing. 

Special appreciation goes to Phil Kinzer for organizing and leading the tour. Phil did an awesome job of placing each place we visited within its histori-cal setting. I think I speak for all who joined in this spiritual pilgrimage—thank you Phil! 

New Heavens and Earth? 

In the past couple of years, we have heard A LOT about new heavens and new earth. I balked at it initially, but now I understand where that viewpoint comes from. I balked at it simply because I was so enamored by my historical beliefs. Old habits die hard, they say. I’m still not certain anyone should speak with such absolute authority on the subject . . . there is much ambiguity in the Word about the subject. But it appeals to me to think that what God created is exactly what He wanted all along, and He’s busy making it new again. 

I think, however, that we are mostly stuck in the eschatological (end times) point of view in this discussion. We would all agree that whenever Jesus decides to come back, the renewing work will be finished and complete. That which is broken will be broken no more! The more we focus on that end-times discussion, the more we’re inclined to just accept that this world is gonna be terrible (and even more terrible) until that grand finale of the Messiah’s return. And THAT is what I believe to be a big blunder. 

You see, when Jesus came initially, he said: “The Kingdom of Heaven has come among you.” Those words are pointing to a reality that was beginning right then, with Jesus’ presence in the world. He was NOT pointing to the end-times. And, as He made His way around that part of the world, whenever He healed a broken body (blindness, crippled, deaf, mutes, demons, or sickness), we see Him transforming the dead/dying world into the New Heavens and New Earth world. When He spoke up in defense of women or children in the face of misogyny or child abuse, He was transforming this dead/dying world into the New Heavens and New Earth world. 

Of course, when He went to the cross and, more importantly, rose from that tomb, He was doing the really heavy lifting of transforming this dead/dying world into the New Heavens and New Earth world. And when He poured out His Spirit onto the believ-ers (including 21st Century believers), He is giving them the power and authority to continue the transforming work that frees this dead/dying world from corruption and ushers in the New Heavens and New Earth at that very moment. Yes, someday Jesus’ return will fully complete that transformation, but we believers and ambassadors exist in the world for the sole purpose of continuing that transforming work! But how? Does that mean us?!? 

I’m starting a new class next quarter (beginning March 4th) called “In Service to the King – Training to be His Ambassadors for the World”. We will be discussing this subject and be learning how people like you and me can get busy healing this world. It’s not gonna be a class for everybody. But if you believe that God uses broken people to make all things new and that He can even use you, then this class is for you. I hope some of you will join me. But more than that, I hope all of us will begin to believe that New Heavens and New Earth have come among us… it’s time for us to recognize it, proclaim it, and step into that dead/dying world to transform it for Christ, our King. 

Stan (the eldest)

The Greatest Showman

One of the things you can’t miss when you read through the gospels, especially Luke, is the way that Jesus cared for the disadvantaged and the outcasts. Jesus' message of good news was for all people. In scripture we see Jesus reaching out to, hanging out with and loving those who were sick, the Samari-tans, tax collectors, etc. These, among others, were the outcasts of Jesus’ day, and while most people saw only their sickness, or their title, or their race, Jesus was always able to see beyond that to what was most important. 

I always like a good movie, which means it’s been a bad couple years for me as I just haven’t seen anything lately that was worth seeing. Recently, however, I heard a lot of talk about this movie called, “The Greatest Showman” and how I just HAD to see it. So I did, and wow! What a great movie! Some of you won’t like it - it’s a musical. But there are some elements to that movie that I think people can resonate with and appreciate. The reason I think people have latched on to this movie is that there are parts of it that really echo the greatest story ever told. Without giving too much away, I’ll briefly just say that it tells the story of P.T. Barnum, the man who went from nothing to a worldwide sensation by starting the Circus. The circus features a cast of people who are looked at as freaks and outcasts by the majority of society, however within the circus family they not only belong, they are the stars of the show. 

Jesus offered salvation to all people. Sometimes it came in the form of healing, sometimes in the form of the forgiveness of sins, sometimes in the release from the bondage of money. May we always strive to be just like Jesus in the way that we welcome the outcasts, the sick and the disadvantaged. The good news of Jesus offers us all - regardless of how we come to him - the greatest life imaginable. We get to enjoy this new status together with other brothers and sisters who also know what this joyful life in the kingdom looks like! We don’t call it a circus - we call it church, even though admittedly one can seem like the other at times.

Listening = Loving 

It’s a special holiday today that is centered around love. All of the focus centers around red hearts, flowers, candy, dinners, but what does it mean to show true love. What does that look like? 

Recently, Josh and I took a Myers Briggs personality test. While we are similar in many areas, we couldn’t be more different when it comes to the area of being extroverted and introverted. I’ll let you decide who was who, but let’s just say that I love to be around people and I love to talk. While I thought about the upcoming holiday, I stumbled upon a quote. “When the two ears are put side by side, it forms a heart. Interestingly, the word ‘ear’ sits right in the middle of the word ‘heart’ (h-ear-t). The ear is the way to the heart, so if you want someone’s heart, learn to listen to them. If you want God’s heart, learn to listen to Him” 

Many times, we are quick to give our opinion, our excuses, our advice, when instead we should be listening. Listening to what the other person is struggling with. Listening to what the other person likes. Listening to how the other person feels. The bible tells us to be slow to speak and slow to anger. The bible also teaches us to watch our tongue. I’ve often regretted things that I have said because I didn’t listen and think before I spoke. 

Every relationship, not only your spouse, requires listening. We have recently noticed outbursts of frustration and bouts of screaming from our boys when they feel that no one is listening to them. They feel alone. They feel undervalued. They feel unimportant. One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what the other person has to say. There are few greater feelings than to feel loved by those that you respect the most. One of the ways that we feel loved is when we feel listened to and when we feel that our opinion and voice matters. 

There are many times where I know that God has tried to show me something or speak to me and I have simply talked my way around or out of it. I know that I matter to God. How do I show Him that He matters to me? How do I show love to God? We can show it through many ways, but many times I feel we should just listen. Simply be still. 

Josh and I will be celebrating 10 years of marriage this year, and while we still get frustrated, we have come a long way with this listening love. I would challenge you this week to look at your relationships and your relationship with God. Are you showing love? Are you showing respect? Are you truly listening?