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Enjoy The Journey

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Friday Thoughts

Fri ,14/11/2008

To be honest with you – I’ve been in a fog all week. My children – whom I love and cherish – have so gracefully given me their head-colds, cough and all around tired feeling. This may not be so bad – but in the words of my wife as it come to sickness “I’m a baby.” I don’t have a problem with being a baby when it comes to being sick. Let the world know – I hate feeling bad. I want to crawl into bed, shut the blinds, watch some entertaining flicks on the tube, and have Sarah Beth bring me tomato soup and cheese toast on a tray for lunch, and a toasted ham and cheese sandwich for dinner. That’s what I would like – but that normally doesn’t happen. So in an effort to make a good of an all-around foggy week – I want to share with you guys some stories that I’ve heard from some of our folks over the past few weeks.

Nothing encourages me more than to hear someone say “I love our church.” It happens a lot, but sometimes I don’t slow down enough to hear it. When Sarah Beth and I submit ourselves to God’s calling to come and plant River Hills Church a year and a half ago – the prospect of actually finding people who would buy into the vision of our church was daunting, scary and downright lunacy. It was daunting because how do you get people to listen to you about the vision God has given you? It was scary because all of the “what if’s” rolling through your mind (most of them bad) when came to the prospect of asking someone to buy into the vision of our church. It was lunacy because who in their right mind would come into an area that seemingly has a church on every corner and start another (never-mind the fact that only 7% of our population are in church). So to hear someone say “We love our church” is humbling and encouraging.

Two families on two different occasions have or will have the opportunity to move out of this area in the next year or so. Both families have come to me and said “We aren’t going to leave because we love our church that much.” Wow – think about that for a second. Now I know we have a lot going for us around here that would make people want to stay in the area: Ft. Yargo, the new Target, 316, great schools, close proximity to Sanford Stadium – but for someone to say “I choose to live here because of River Hills Church” – is incredible.

I want to point out two things about our church that I want all of us to take to heart:

1) Like these folks who have bought into the vision of River Hills – they now see the church as “our” church. Not “your” church or “Chip and Sarah Beth’s church” or “ya’ll’s church” – but “our” church. That is exactly what it is – “our” church. When you buy into the vision – you own it. And these folks – and many other people as well – have done that.

2) These guys understand the vision of our church. Our vision is simple: Bringing Truth and People Together. That’s it – that what we are about. Everything from our small groups, worship service, kids connection, student ministry – everything hinges on the idea of taking the truth of Christ and bringing those who are far from God to that truth and bringing those who know God into a greater experience of that truth.

I’m so thankful that God called us here – and I’m thankful for each one of you who set up chairs, keep the nursery, work with kids, play in the band, give, serve, greet, and the list can go on and on – because of you we get to experience what we heard last week during worship when we celebrated baptism – we saw truth and people coming together. That is because of your faithfulness. I love you all – thank you for being the church.

Jesus, Obama, and Chicken Little

Wed ,05/11/2008

I stayed up and watched it all – I promised myself I wouldn’t do that – especially after 2000 when I stayed up in our little Waynesboro apartment in vain, but I’m glad I did. No matter who you may have voted for yesterday – I want to bring some encouragement to you about our future.

First of all I want to begin with “Chicken Little.” You remember that little chicken – he ran around saying “The sky is falling, the sky is falling”? Well I believe that our nation is full of chicken little’s. Why? Well – whether you’re on the left or on the right – people have run around saying if ____________ gets elected the sky will fall. Now I’m afraid, especially from my Christian brothers and sisters – that their voice may even be louder. It’s as if some think that we’ve elected the anti-Christ – so let’s put this into perspective: 1) If we did elect the anti-Christ good news – heaven isn’t too far a way, 2) If we did elect the anti-Christ – good news – Jesus is still king. No I don’t think Obama is the anti-Christ – I think this election demonstrates we may have entered into the post-postmodern world, but it doesn’t mark the end, the entrance of evil or even bad days ahead. The sky is not falling – and if it is – so what? Isn’t Christ enough? Isn’t a belief in a sovereign God enough? No I don’t agree with all that was on Obama’s platform – but I didn’t agree with Bush on everything either. But be very careful not to fit into the majority who voted yesterday – they’ve been screaming the sky is falling since 2006.

Obama – well here is where I’m encouraged, seriously, – every child who wakes up in America this morning can honestly say “I can one day be President.” Every child who is African-American, Hispanic, bi-racial, Asian, Native American, White, Poor, Rich, male, female, etc. We are officially in the “Post-racism” culture – that is good news. The bad news is – the church may be a decade behind. When Obama spoke last night – I would rank that with the speeches of Reagan, the Roosevelt’s, JFK  and even Lincoln. What was so great about you may ask? It was inspiring and it cast a vision for the future – and people wanted to follow him. There hasn’t been a president since Reagan, Kennedy and Roosevelt that was that inspiring – but that was my opinion. In the end people don’t follow democrat or republican – they follow vision – and you have to hand it to Obama – the man has vision.

Finally, I want to talk about Jesus in this entire scenario. I’ve already tried to spank the “Christian” extremist so now it is the other extreme’s turn. Obama is not Jesus – he will not come and wipe ever tear, save the world and bring world-wide peace – only Christ can do that. So be excited that your man won, but be aware that he is just that – a man. Time will tell if he will be a good leader – I’m praying that he will be a great leader for the common good, but here’s the deal – he cannont “fix” everything – but let’s hope he can be used by God to fix somethings.  Many people thought our current president was the next “Jesus” – kind of missed that one too. I’m not dogging Bush or Obama – I’m simply stating that Christ is the king – and he chooses who will be in office.

Let me leave you with two thoughts in this little rant: 1) God is on the throne – and Christians should wake up this morning believing and finding hope in that one thing (no matter who is president). 2) God’s plan is never thwarted, warped, changed or wrong – and his plan is always good – although the medicine may taste bad as it goes down (for some).

We will be starting a series in January called “Dear Mr. President” – things that we want our president to know – you don’t want to miss it. Pray for our nation today – not out of despair or celebration – but out of a firm hope that Christ truly has the whole world in His hands.

Sunday Reflections – 90 Day Challenge

Mon ,27/10/2008

Sunday was great – we just finished Step 5 of “REFUEL.” I must be honest I was really nervous about covering the topic of tithing yesterday. I do believe that it is a vital part of Christian growth – but people hate to hear about it. I always get nervous that someone might take offense – because let’s be honest – we do. But here’s reality: If we are going to grow spiritually, then we have to place all of our dependence on Christ – including our money. Here are some thoughts that I took away from Sunday:

1) Fear keeps us from tithing. We are so fearful that we might not have enough or the stock market is going to crash (wait that already happened) or we might lose our jobs. We learned yesterday that Abram was willing to give a tenth of all that he had in the face of a wicked enemy. Why? Because he trusted God.

2) Guilt keeps us from tithing. We feel guilty because maybe we struggle financially or maybe we haven’t tithed before – and that hinders our willingness to give. Let me remind you of Luke 21:1-4 – the poor widow gave out of her poverty – and God blessed her. God didn’t give us guilt – he gave us conviction.

3) Selfishness keeps us from tithing. What I mean is that we forget that everything is provided for and owned by God anyway – and this in turn breeds self-reliance and greed. We must beware of this monster. The Bible is clear that the LOVE of money is the root of all evil and that we should have a generous heart.

4) Lack of trust in the church keeps us from tithing. Many of you have disagreed with how a church spends its money or have seen a church mis-handle money – it happens. These experiences and lack of trust have hindered your willingness to tithe. This is justifiable – almost – the Bible is clear that we are held accountable to tithe and the church is held accountable to be good stewards. We take this very seriously at River Hills Church – we know that every cent that comes from our partners in ministry and our congregation is sacrificial – so we do our best to be good stewards of it.

At the end of the service we were challenged to a 90 Day Challenge:

1) If you are tithing – add 1% to you tithe for the next 90 days.

2) If you aren’t tithing – for the next 90 days make it a point to tithe.

I would love to hear from you and your goals coming out of our 90 Day Challenge – have a great day – God Bless. Thank you for all that you do and for being a part of the vision of River Hills Church.

Friday Thoughts

Fri ,03/10/2008

Last night I watched the VP debate – I fell asleep. I don’t know if it was that boring, or if I was just that uninterested – but I was snoozing half way through the debate. To be honest with you – I don’t care who won or lost either, really. I know, I know – many of you reading this are wondering where I stand, or who I may vote for, or how can I be so careless – so here are some things I want to see out of our next president:

1) I’d like to see a president who cast vision and focuses on the future. Every candidate that I’ve heard either tears down past decisions or mocks previous (not just the Bush) administrations. So – I just like to see a person who casts vision and paints a picture of what might be.

2) I’d like to see a president who has an intelligent love for Jesus. Now I know many people who will vote for a president just because they claim to know Christ – and love Christ. That is great, but I want to know that our leader is deeply committed to Christ and has a grasp on what it takes to lead a nation. Just because someone is a great leader doesn’t make them presidential – and just because someone is a Christian doesn’t make them qualified.

3) I’d like to have a president who takes hard stands against things that are morally wrong. Who cares if people send hate mail and you have to hire bodyguards – wait a minute that is already happening – so go ahead and do what is right instead of what is popular.

4) I’d like to see a president that inspires people to serve instead of encouraging people to be waited upon. I’ve been overseas a few times – and particularly in the developing nations – it is sickening to see the sense of superiority and entitlement coming from Americans. I would love to see the next president exchange his seat with one of the waiters at his inaugural ball and begin to serve the guests – that would be presidential.

5) I want a president who sees that we must be good stewards of everything God has provided – the environment, education, children, resources, influence, etc. Forget agenda – and think people.

6) Finally – I want a president who sees the hurting people of the world – both domestic and abroad – and is willing to do something about it.

This is someone I would follow – and although each candidate probably agrees with what I’ve said, I’m pessimistic in how they might fulfill this. So this is where I’ve come to in my own political journey: God is ultimately king, God is in control, and we must remember that God has put bad leaders in high places to fulfill his purposes before – he can do it again. So no matter who is elected – I sleep pretty well at night knowing that the real King is in my heart, not on my money.

So as a church lets do one thing: Become Christ-like in who we are and what we do – and while we need to be involved, we need to vote, we need to be knowledgeable, we need to protest at times – we need to be good citizens – let’s make our King the one whom we campaign for the most. So here is my endorsement for president: Jesus – oh I almost forgot – he’s already King.

Have a great week – and by the way Real Encounter was awesome – several of our students made decisions to follow Christ – and literally hundreds of people demonstrated a need to know Jesus.

Have a great week – See You Sunday.

Sunday Reflections

Mon ,04/08/2008

This Sunday was awesome!!! People are back in town, and I’m really getting a lot out of our “Authentic” series. What really pumped me up yesterday was after church during our first ever “Vision Meeting.” If you weren’t able to be there – here’s what happened:

1) We talked about where we’ve come from as a church. Do you realize that since we started planting River Hills Church on April 1, 2007 (we didn’t have our first worship service until September 9) we’ve grown almost 1400%? That is amazing – and although we don’t see some of the faces that were here 9 months ago – the church is doing great, we’re very normal for a new church and we’ve got a lot of momentum.

2) We talked about what our future leadership structure will look like, our financial situation and the strategy behind our church. What was most important was the foundation of our church (Acts 2:42-47) and the core values that we draw out of the text: Truth, Other People, Authenticity, and Community – all of which are things that we value and do as a church.

3) We talked about what the future will look like for our church: Social ministries, outreach, small groups, church plants – and even where we want to build one day – it gave me goose bumps.

4) We discussed the three goals for 2008-2009: 1) Becoming a church of prayer, 2) Connecting with our community, and                 3) Building a culture of small groups within our church.

5) There were tears. This wasn’t planned – but it is what made this meeting so awesome. To hear about how much God is using River Hills to touch lives is both humbling and exciting. People shared how much the community of River Hill had ministered to them – and the authenticity that was felt, was amazing. I left completely encouraged and excited.

 I am so thankful to be your pastor and super pumped about the future. Don’t forget -August 17 – be there and bring friends – its gonna rock.

When Life Gives You Lemons….Sometimes You Need To Drink OJ

Fri ,25/07/2008

I love to enter a challenging situation and come out of it victoriously. There is something about persevering through difficult situations and seeing the task through. So as I write this I want you to understand that I’m a big believer is taking the lemons of life and making it into lemonade; but sometimes we need to switch to OJ. What do I mean by this – well I mean that sometimes we waste so much time, energy and opportunity on proving that we can “make it” that we miss the opportunities laid before us. The focus is not quiting, but changing direction or tactics.

So how do we know when its time to drink OJ? Here are some thoughts:

1) Ask yourself if the current challenge is geared for your giftedness and personality. For instance, I may want to take on the challenge of being a world class gymnast, but the reality is that I can’t even touch my toes without pain. So we have to filter our decisions through the context in which God has made us.

2) Ask yourself is the current challenge is what God has for you. What I mean is that sometimes chasing dreams is not always following God’s will. The challenges may not be lemons they may be directional signs.

3) Ask yourself is the current challenge taking an unnecessary toll on your family. Now before we go any farther I want you to know that there have been times in my life when God has led us in a certain direction that has been hard on our family, but there was always a sense of peace. Sometimes the toll that the family has to deal with is not worth accomplishment that might be achieved in the future.

4) Ask yourself is the achieved end the legacy you want to leave. If you do persevere through the challenges – if you do make lemonade – is that the legacy that you want to be known for. I have found the greatest peace in pursuing the “lesser” things because they were the pursuits that God would have me chase.

 I’m not saying quit – but what I am saying is that as you fight – make sure it is the good fight and not the egotistical fight.

Cultivating Community

Wed ,09/07/2008

Have you ever noticed that although there are more neighborhoods and subdivisions, people, opportunities to be around people – we are becoming more and more isolated. At work we tend to keep to ourselves, at the gym we listen to our ipods, at home there is a tv in each room, in our neighborhood we wave at the neighbor and quickly hurry inside and at church we struggle with spending time with other people. Establishing and creating community is vital to any organization or relationship system – in fact when community is bad or non-existent the system becomes dysfunctional and disabled. We need each other to connect with, to do life together and to encourage each other in our journey. Imagine how much more spiritual we could become if we had like-minded people who genuinely cared for and encouraged each other in their spiritual development.  

A few years ago a fellow pastor experienced a tragic and life altering event. His wife and kids were viciously attacked and injured by a maniac. They recovered from their injuries, although his niece who was with them at the time died from the attack. I can’t imagine the pain, frustration and feelings of helplessness that he was experiencing. What was incredible during this event was the outpouring from his “community” that came to serve, pray for and offer support during that time. During his worst moment – his community stood with him and his family.

We all need that in our lives – and at River Hills Church we plan to be a church of small groups. We will be launching our small groups this summer. On August 24 we will give you an opportunity to come and “date” a small group for a few weeks before deciding if you want to join. This will be a great time and I promise you won’t regret the experience.

Treasure To Tool

Tue ,01/07/2008

This Sunday was great – we talked about Matthew 6:19-24 where Jesus explains that blessing is not found in wealth because our treasure should be Christ. I’ve really been pondering that passage and the implications that it has for my family and our church. Here are a few thoughts:

 1) As our church grows we will have more resources. We need to view those resources as something to invest in the lives of people in our community, state, nation and world. These “treasures” that we have need to be used as tools to express God’s love to others.

2) We can’t allow money to define who we are. Sarah Beth and I have had some really “lean” years, but we’ve also had periods of abundance. My prayer for my family and for our church is that we are faithful in managing and giving our treasure with the Biblical guidelines that he lays out – no matter what season of life we may be in.

3) “Love of money is the root of all kind of evils” (I Timothy 6:10) – its not wrong to have money, but it is wrong to love it. We all want to be those people who don’t love money, but have a lot of it – but the reality is that we can’t let it consume us as individuals or as a church. 

4) God’s provision is greater that man’s wealth. The provision of joy, contentment, peace, hope and spiritual life is far greater than what our wealth can provide. So we have to use this “treasure” as a “tool.”

I am so thankful for each of you and I pray that the “treasure” that you were given on Sunday will be used as a “tool” to demonstrate Christ – I’m already getting reports from people and I must say I am so thankful to be your pastor.   

Back In The Saddle

Sat ,28/06/2008

For a few days this week – we took the kids to the beach (I love Jekyll Island). It was really cool because there was no cell phone service and I left my laptop at home. We had a great time, but not a lot of time for spiritual refreshment – which leads me to this question: How can I increase my discipline to be more effective in increasing God’s kingdom in my life, my family and my ministry? I have two kids under four, a house to maintain (to help my wife maintain), a gym membership, church stuff, school stuff and time that I need (and want) to spend with my family. There are a few other priorities in my life, but there seems to be too little time for rest and spiritual discipline – and don’t get me started on working out – I believe that paying a gym membership should guarantee automatic weight loss and athletic stamina. So how do you do it all in a 24 hour period – and still get enough sleep to function well the next day? I don’t know – but I’m going to work real hard to find out. This vacation was great – and needed – but now its time to figure all this stuff out. Any thoughts?

Sunday Reflections

Mon ,02/06/2008

Sunday was awesome!!! The band absolutely rocked and it was incredible to celebrate the first baptism at our church. Thank you to all who serve, volunteer and pray for our church. God is doing great things in our church and as I reflect on yesterday there are several things that come to mind:

1) Starting a church is hard but it is worth the effort. I have had many, many, many jobs – youth minister, telemarketer (yes I am ashamed – but I was broke), waiter…but the hardest thing I’ve ever done is starting a church – and I realize that for you who serve every Sunday and are investing your lives here – it is tough for you as well. I cannot express how grateful I am to each of you. Yesterday as we were celebrating the baptism of two people I couldn’t help but think how awesome it is to be a part of this church and your life. God is doing great things – and it is worth the effort and time that we all put in.

2) Perspective is important – we are approaching summer and for the church it means that we go through a slump. Attendance goes down because people are on vacation or enjoying the blue-sky days that God is providing for us. For many of us – including me – this could be discouraging, but let me put this in perspective for you: We had a preview worship service in June of 2007 before we started our church on September 9 – 30 people showed up. We now have about 100 committed people, we’ve baptized 2 people this week, our kids ministry rocks (Kyle is doing a great job), the band rocks my face off, we’re supporting a church plant in Lawrenceville and there is a sense of community that is building with-in our church – God has done some great stuff in the last 12 months. Can you imagine what next June will be like.

3) Continue to dream big – going back to our sermon series a few months ago – continue to pray that God would do “God sized things” in your life and in the life of the church.

4) Enjoy the journey – make every moment that you’ve been given – a moment of worship by enjoying what God has done in our lives.

Have a great week –

Chip