Archive | January, 2014

Reflections after a storm

31 Jan

Tuesday, January 28 began just like a normal day. There was slight talk of a dusting of snow, but no one expressed any real concern.  Even as snow began to fall around 10 a.m. no one had any idea that within an hour all of the Birmingham metro area would look like this…


Believe it or not, it was even down hill from there!  Things got worse. By the time the schools realized this was not going according to the weather predictions and they needed to close the schools, it was too late. Buses never left the school or soon turned around to come back. By 11:30 a.m. hundreds of thousands of people were in full panic mode trying to get to their children or trying to get home – or both.  11:30 a.m. was also about the time that the Rocky Ridge Fire and Rescue department came to the church offices and asked if we could shelter people because they believed many were going to be stranded.  By noon, all of our staff had left for home or to take care of children except for Regina Houser, our Weekday Education Director who was caring for children and stressed out parents who could not reach them, the Weekday Education staff, Facilities Manager Mike Dennis, Administrator Steve Taylor, and myself.  We began to make plans to provide for people and stay as long as needed.

As the day progressed and the situation worsened, people began to come in for shelter.  Gisele Glaze, my Administrative Assistant, could not make it home and (barely) made it back to the church facilities. We were soon joined by Stacey Boutwell, our Minister of Education, who was returning from the airport, became stranded, and walked four miles to get to the church.  By mid-afternoon, the McDonalds and Krystal down the hill from our church facilities were jammed with stranded people and no longer open for business.  By God’s grace, we happened to have a church member in each restaurant and they brought many people on foot up the hill to Lakeside. Cheryl Lea and Becky Akers were God’s provision in so many ways!

By around 5 p.m. it was clear that we were going to have around 40 weekday children to care for overnight whose parents could not reach them and dozens more adults and children who got here after being stranded on the roads. We surveyed the church kitchen and found enough chicken fingers, french fries, and frozen pizza to feed everyone dinner. We also had an ample amount of drinks and snacks on hand for the overnight hours. As the evening progressed people kept arriving.  At 2 a.m. a mother and her two young children walked up to the door after being in their car on the interstate for ten hours.  More people came at 3 a.m.  We were able to offer each one some food and warmth.  Other than the weekday kids and their staff, everyone slept on the pews in Lakeside’s worship center.  Because we live in the age of smartphones and social media, we kept up with the stories of many family and friends all night long.  It was a long night.

Wednesday brought a little sunshine and some improvement to the roads. All of the Weekday children were able to be reunited with their parents by late that afternoon.  Nevertheless, we still had around a dozen people spend Wednesday night at Lakeside because they still couldn’t get home for various reasons. By noon on Thursday, everyone was able to leave for their destination and the sun was shining brightly most of the day. Over that 48 hour period, the stories that unfolded were truly incredible. Thousands of school students stranded at school. Thousands of people who spent the night on interstates. Thousands of abandoned cars all over the metro area.  Families separated for two days. It was certainly a traumatic event for our region that cast all of us quickly into fear and unknown.

Yet, God was good.

I couldn’t help but go back to a time in the Bible when the disciples were suddenly caught in an unexpected storm…

As He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping. So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.” (Matthew 8:23–26, HCSB)

Jesus reminded them that He was with them in the storm and He was in control of the storm. Those of us who lived through the last few days in Birmingham, Alabama can certainly attest to that!  Please allow me to close with a few reflections now that the storm has passed…

1)  God provides.   We know this truth, but at times like this storm we see it in a profound way.  God provided for Lakeside – the facilities we have, the people who wound up here, and the supplies that we had.  Therefore, Lakeside was able to provide shelter for so many. I heard countless stories of people who were helped by total strangers.

2)   The church is here for the community.  It was a privilege to be able to open our doors and be here for anyone in need.  While that is true all of the time, this week was a tangible reminder that our church is here for the community. It’s easy to get consumed with ourselves and have an inward focus.  People all around us are hurting every day – not just when there is a storm. It was a privilege to witness of Christ to many of those who stayed here.

3)   I lead a great team.  I cannot say enough about how Regina Houser handled the situation in our Weekday.  Steve Taylor, Mike Dennis, Gisele Glaze, and Stacey Boutwell went above and beyond the call of duty in every way.  Cheryl Lea and Becky Akers were honorary staff members for these two days and we couldn’t have done it without them!  Even though we housed 120+ people overnight on Tuesday, I did not hear a single complaint or problem. Everyone was so appreciative and complimentary. That’s a direct result of the leadership and servant spirit of our team.

4)  People need Christ.  We had people from all backgrounds here.  Many did not know Christ.  I am praying that the Lord will use the ministry and witness that we gave to sow gospel seeds in their hearts. I am challenged to be a greater witness because people are no less lost now that the storm is over.

God is good. Praise Him!

41 years ago today…

22 Jan

41 years ago today, the United States Supreme Court issued the famous Roe v. Wade decision.  See below a blog post that I wrote a year ago while serving in Huntsville on the 40th anniversary of this decision. I am looking forward to learning about the pro-life ministries that we have in the Birmingham area where I am presently serving.  Here is my post from one year ago….

Why January 22nd is a day you should mark on your calendar.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 will mark the 40th anniversary of one of the saddest days in the great history of the United States. It was on January 22, 1973 that the United States Supreme Court handed down the famous “Roe vs. Wade” decision that paved the way for legalized abortion in our country.  Since then, tens of millions of abortions have been performed.  A number of years ago, this led many churches (including the church I serve) to observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the third Sunday in January.   This issue is one that I care deeply about.

In thinking about any issue, it is most important to look to the Word of God and make sure we build our perspective on it from the foundation of scripture.  On the issue of life, scripture is crystal clear on two points.  First, from the beginning of creation, God makes a distinction between human life and animal or plant life…

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26–27, ESV)

Much has been written about what the Bible means when it says that human beings are made in the image of God.  You might consult five different Bible commentaries on the issue and find five different perspectives.  However, it is clear that God intends to make a distinction – while God created all life, only human beings are made in the image of God.  Certainly, there is nothing wrong with having a beloved pet or enjoying the beauty of nature, but human life is a special type of life created by God and valued by God above all others.

The second crystal clear perspective of scripture is that life begins at conception and that God is involved in our lives even while we are in the womb….

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13–16, ESV)

We can stand firmly on scripture and declare to anyone that they are not an accident and the God of the universe fashioned their existence.  Consequently, every single human life is precious in the sight of God and should be precious in our sight as well.  So, why is January 22nd a day that you should mark on your calendar?  Mark your calendar and be reminded to pray especially on this day that our nation might once again return to the value of life and end abortion. It is also a great reminder that if we really believe every human life is precious, that will also greatly affect how we treat others.  Think about it.

Finally, I could not conclude this post without mentioning some unsung heroes of mine who are on the front lines of ministry right here in our own state. The folks at Choose Life of North Alabama are there for women to offer free services like pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and counseling.  They share the gospel of Jesus Christ with every single one who comes their way.  They exist to help women choose eternal life in Christ Jesus and to choose life by having the child that is growing in their womb.  After you support your local church with your tithes, I do not know of an organization that is more worthy of your support than Choose Life.  I personally know many of the leaders in this front line ministry and encourage you to pray for them and support them financially as the Lord leads you.  For more information, go to

Interestingly enough, “Jane Roe,” the lead plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade class action lawsuit, was actually a 21 year old pregnant young woman named Norma McCorvey.  Two Texas attorneys recruited her in order to bring the case.  However, Norma McCorvey never had an abortion. Instead, she gave birth to a little girl that she subsequently gave up for adoption.  You see, “Jane Roe” actually chose life forty years ago. Join me in praying on January 22nd.

A prayer meeting in Atlanta

17 Jan

On Monday & Tuesday of this week, I had the privilege of gathering with almost 400 other pastors from 28 states for one and only one reason: to pray.  I must admit that it was one of the most refreshing times I have experienced. The agenda really was focused on the Lord and prayer. We had well known mega-church pastors, small church pastors, and every type of pastor in between!  We had young, middle aged, and old. We had Calvinists and not-so Calvinists.  We had pastors from very traditional churches and pastors from very contemporary churches. Yet, for two days absolutely none of that was mentioned. Really, none of those issues were on our minds. We were there to pray for revival and spiritual awakening. Here’s what it looked like…


Certainly, we had times of worship and several speakers challenged us, but every one was designed to lead into a time of focused prayer. I left that meeting refreshed, but also convicted and burdened.  I am firmly convinced that revival and spiritual awakening is the only hope for our country. God seems to be raising up people to pray for that to happen. I believe it can.  Powerful things happen when God’s people agree together in prayer.

Probably the highlight of the meeting for me was being reminded of the great preacher/theologian Jonathan Edwards’ writing on prayer for spiritual awakening. Here is the title of his work on that subject…

A Humble Attempt to Promote the Agreement and Union of God’s People Throughout the World in Extraordinary Prayer For a Revival Of Religion And The Advancement Of God’s Kingdom On Earth, According To Scriptural Promises And Prophecies Of The Last Time.

Ronnie Floyd and the other pastors who helped to put this prayer meeting together did so in that spirit. It was the only agenda on display and for that I am most grateful.  Ronnie Floyd also had the quote of the week…“I don’t know how much extraordinary prayer is, but I do know it is more than I am doing.”  To that I say a hearty, “Amen!”

Will you join us pastors in moving toward extraordinary prayer for revival?

In their proper place, team sports are good thing.

8 Jan

Like many readers of this blog, I spent Monday night riveted to the television watching the Auburn-Florida State national championship football game. It was a great game between two great teams. Certainly, big-time college sports is greatly influenced by money, and there are many who fail to keep it in the proper perspective.  It’s easy to forget that the overwhelming majority of those who play team sports never appear on television or have any sort of fame or fortune.  They play in little league, middle school, or high school on their respective teams. Unfortunately, all of us are familiar with the stories of those who have trouble keeping sports in the proper perspective even in those younger ages. Sports are NOT the most important things in life, and sports should never become the foremost priorities for any of us.  I fully recognize that, in today’s world, it is more difficult to keep a proper balance for lots of reasons.  Nevertheless, I still believe that team sports are overall a good and positive thing to be involved with. My sons are involved in sports and I encourage it, in spite of the tensions and pitfalls involved.  Please let me share a few reasons…

(1)  Sports teach the value of hard work and dedication.  Every sport requires years of training and practice to really excel or even be “good.”  The earlier our kids learn the value of consistent hard work over time, the better off they will be.

(2)  Sports provide an antidote to selfishness.  Let’s face it, we live in a self-absorbed culture. Everything is more and more about “me.”  Sports provide great opportunities to learn the value of teamwork.  When you are on a team, others are depending on you and you are depending on others. It’s not all about you.  That’s a great lesson to learn in life.

(3)  Sports teach mental toughness and resilience.  No one wins all the time. No one plays well every single game.  You win. You lose. You have great games, and you have games where it feels like you can’t do anything right.  Sports teaches a player to keep going through adversity and to never take the good times for granted. A set back isn’t the end of the world.  Put the past out of your mind and play the next play.  Again, those are great life lessons that will go with our kids for a lifetime.

(4)  Sports provide an opportunity for Christian influence.  All of us know of the positive influence that Tim Tebow has had, but there are thousands of other deeply committed Christians involved in team sports all over America. They just don’t make the news.  Just this week, I had the opportunity to meet a man who is a long-time, very successful Alabama high school football coach. “The Lord called me to be a coach,” he told me.  He views his role as a coach as a ministry the Lord has called him to and he has positively influenced hundreds of young men over the years.

Personally, I am thankful for the impact that playing team sports had on me growing up, and I am thankful that my boys are playing too!

How may I pray for you?

3 Jan

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18, NASB95)

It’s so easy to be selfish – even with our prayer life.  While I do keep two “prayer lists” consisting of people and needs that I pray for regularly, I realized in recent days that the circle of these is actually pretty small.  This blog has readers from a wide variety of places and I use it as a ministry, so I felt led to use this week’s blog post for those who would like for me to pray for a specific need. So, I am inviting anyone to leave a comment regarding a specific prayer need.  Please allow me a few reminders…

(1)  I do promise to personally pray for each request, even though I might not respond to each individual comment on the blog.  If we have a large number of responses, I likely will not be able to respond personally to each, but I will see every single one.

(2)  Please remember that these comments/prayer requests will be posted publicly on this blog.  Be mindful of this with prayer requests of a personal nature or on behalf of others.  As always, I reserve the right to filter any requests that I am not comfortable posting here.

(3)  Finally, if you have a request that you cannot share publicly but wish for me to pray for you, then you can feel free to email me at  Only myself and my administrative assistant will see these emails.  However, I hope that most of my readers will share in the comments so that all of the readers of this blog can pray for one another.

How may I pray for you?