Plant a Tree – Build an Ark

tree sunset

About three and a half years ago our family made one of those life decisions that set us on a much different course than we could have anticipated previously.  We sold our house in Chattanooga and moved to the Ocoee area of Southeast Tennessee.  It is a beautiful place and I have said about the area, I think God was practicing for making heaven when he designed it.  We have several acres and ever since we moved there I have often wondered if there is something I could do to use the land in a productive manner.  One idea I’ve considered for some time is to plant a plot of Christmas trees each year.  It takes 5 – 7 years for them to mature enough for harvesting.  That time to maturity is something that has caused me to pause.

The last few weeks our group at church has been doing a small group study using Mark Batterson’s book All IN.  The portion of the book I read this past week included a story Batterson shared about Noah and his “all in” commitment to follow God’s call to build an ark.  Depending upon which biblical scholar you read it took somewhere between 60 and 120 years to finish the ark.  Batterson shared the Jewish tradition that not only did Noah build the ark, but he planted trees!  Trees which grew to maturity; trees he then harvested and cut into boards to be used in the ark.  Yeah, I kind of chuckled at my hesitancy to plant trees that take 5 – 7 years to mature.

Which leads me to a question worthy of our consideration.  Noah planted trees to build an ark to save his family from the coming flood of destruction God had warned him was coming.  The ark I want to build is one that could provide another small source of income for our family into the future.  Oh, the question; what ark do you need to build?  Your ark may be a relationship that needs to be built or restored and the trees that need planting may be an encouraging word or act of kindness.

As for me – I think I’ll plant some trees…

Wally Hindman

Importance of Remembrance

memorial day

Being a deep thinker (those of you who happen to know me well stop laughing – this is serious), I’ve been thinking a lot about Memorial Day lately.  This led to an interesting discussion with some good friends this past Sunday.  One of the guys in the circle offered the origin of what we in these United States commemorated this past weekend.

It all started soon after the Civil War (always thought this to be a very odd name for a war).   Anyway, it was originally referred to as Decoration Day, where family and community members would decorate the graves of those who died in the “War Between the States”.  Various states and regions of the country observed the tradition at different times until after World War I when the tradition expanded to honor the WWI dead.  Finally, in the National Holiday Act of 1971 the day was formalized by Congress to be commemorated on the last Monday of May to honor all of our fallen heroes.  I think it is an awesome tradition.

As I continued thinking about this I was struck by the similarity of this tradition to something I remembered reading about the Old Testament Israelis.  They would occasionally memorialize significant dates and events.  One of the most significant was in Joshua Chapter 4 when they erected a stack of 12 uncut stones (one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel) to memorialize God’s act of stopping the flow of the Jordan River and leading them to cross into the Promised Land on dry land.  The scripture specifically says the purpose of this “memorial” was so that when subsequent generations of children asked about this memorial, they would be reminded of how God had supernaturally intervened on behalf of the nation of Israel.

As I thought about this, I was struck by the fact that we Americans typically do a poor job of remembering, much less honoring our past.  We tend to be focused on the present day or perhaps the future, and give little value to the past – a pity.

We in the church are no different.  As our discussion this past Sunday evolved, it found its way around to our own faith stories and whether or not our own children even knew the story of how we came to faith.  My resolve is that very soon I plan to make sure my children know more about my story, and consequently their own.

I think this is important.  What do you think?

Wally Hindman
TJM Leadership Team

Give It Away

Presently, I’m reading the book “Letters by a Modern Mystic” by Frank C. Laubach.  The book is simply his entry journals from his time in the Philippines from 1930-31 when he was attempting to modern mysticlive in a conscious moment-by-moment relationship with God.  His aim was to literally be thinking about and/or talking with God each and every minute of his day regardless of what he might be doing.  I would highly encourage you to go pick up a copy.  I’ve provided a link at the bottom of this entry that will take you straight to this book on Amazon.  Anyway, let me get to what I want to share from this gem.

As I was reading today Laubach’s entry for June 1, 1930, he made a statement that was incredibly simple, yet crucial for a vibrant relationship with the Father and non-negotiable if we are to make a difference in the lives of those placed in our path.  Here’s the passage:

“This week with its failures and successes has taught me one new lesson.  It is this: ‘I must talk about God, or I cannot keep Him in my mind.  I must give Him away in order to have Him.’  This is the law of the spirit world.  What one gives one has, what one keeps to oneself one loses.  Do you suppose that through all eternity the price we will need to pay for keeping God will be that we must endlessly be giving Him away?”

After reading this and re-reading this several more times, I began pondering what my typical day looks like in relation to my awareness of God throughout my day and how much I give Him away.  I wouldn’t say I’m a complete failure at this, but sadly most of my days are spent simply surviving the day, living in a much smaller story than I was meant to live.  But I’m intrigued by same question Frank Laubach posed….”What would it look like if I were in constant, minute-by-minute communion with the Father.”  Heck, what would it look like if it were just hour-by-hour….if I made a concerted effort to think about and talk to God just once every hour of the day.  My guess is that my world would be much different, less stress, less worry, more joy.

I’m convinced that my world would be drastically changed and that is a good thing.  But what I believe would be  impacted most, would be those around me.  Think about it!  If we were to be continually focusing our thoughts, motives, actions, and hearts on God, the lives of the people around us would be transformed.  How would I parent differently, how would that impact my relationship with my wife, what about the high school students I teach each day, and most importantly, how would my life impact all the people that come across my path that are hurting and searching and crying out for hope, something to believe in?  The implications are huge…the stakes are eternal!

In Psalm 19:14 the psalmist says:

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

We aren’t after this just for our sake.  If we’re living out the mission of Jesus (to bind up broken hearts and set captives free), then our calling, our desire is that our lives not only impact others, but transform their hearts.  So, could it be that Laubach’s lesson really is at the heart of the Gospel?  Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-39 that the two greatest commandments were to love the Lord and love others.  So, we must give Him away to others and in turn that continually draws Him closer to ourselves.  Sounds accurate to me.

So, are you continually giving others Jesus?  Giving them love, forgiveness, grace, truth, boldness, compassion, hope?  This is the way to the heart of God.  How I long to know and live from the heart of God.  Let us give Him away!

Click to go get the book Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank Laubach.

Know Your Role…and Your Goal

baseball

As a life-long baseball fan and one of four generations of Dodgers fans in the Cook family, I was super excited to hear that a couple of weeks ago, we Chattanoogans, were going to be given a very special opportunity.

See the city of Chattanooga is home to the Lookouts, the Dodgers AA minor league affiliate. Now, since I live about 10 minutes from the stadium, I try to take in as many games as possible throughout the summer. But 2 Wednesday nights ago, something extraordinary was being afforded to us. The Dodgers’ ace, Clayton Kershaw, was going to be making a rehab start here! Certainly no team wants its ace to be hurt or placed on the disabled list. However, if it’s going to happen to CK, I’m glad to be a Chattanoogan!!!

Now for the bad news…it was taking place on a night when I was called to be at my post of duty for my church. Being a music minister, Wednesday night rehearsals are a big deal. After one of my friends offered me to join him in his front row seats, I had to decline so I could be at my post. I had to know my role! This begs the question – where have you been called where you might not have been as faithful as you could have or even should have been?

Because I wasn’t at the game, doesn’t mean I didn’t follow the progress and take in as much of the radio broadcast as possible. I also took to social media to get updates from the fans in attendance. Many reports were complete with pictures of CK in his “Lookouts” uniform. For those of you who might not be baseball fans, Kershaw is an amazingly gifted talent. He is only 25(ish) years old and has already won two Cy Young awards. He has, arguably, the best curve ball in Major League Baseball today. Which leads to my next point…

I saw several tweets from folks who weren’t impressed with his stuff while watching at the local stadium. Then there were a couple of tweets comparing this kid disparagingly to other Hall of Fame pitchers! Here is my issue…

In Chattanooga, Kershaw’s goal wasn’t to show off his filthy nasty ‘stuff.’ His goal wasn’t even to win the game (would have been nice – but lack of defense didn’t help him any)! This was a REHAB start…his goal was to get through about 80 pitches without reinjuring his back. While the Lookouts lost the game and while the local pitching aficionados weren’t impressed, Kershaw accomplished his mission. Since being activated from the DL, he’s won his two appearances and looked extremely sharp doing it!

But the spiritual application here is, to me, obvious…we have got to know our goal! If not, we could be sidetracked; we could be brought down by the naysayers. Stay vigilant in what He has called you to! We all have our position in the army of the Lord – know your role and know your goal….

He will take care of the rest!!!

Tim Cook
TJM Leadership Team

Power of the Tongue

speaking

This past weekend I was privileged to attend a men’s breakfast at one of the best churches I know of in our area (Stuart Heights Baptist).  We had a great time and those guys really know how to put on a breakfast.

During the meeting we talked about the Power of our words.  Throughout this week I have continued thinking about this subject, thinking often about the impact our words have on those around us.  I think Proverbs 18:21 says it best: The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.

 Some time ago I read that if we had equipment that was sensitive enough we would still be able to detect and hear every word that has ever been spoken by receiving the sound waves still reverberating through the atmosphere.  Yeah I know, its probably a far-fetched sci-fi thought, but can you imagine, being able to hear Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, or Jesus actual words as he gave the sermon on the mount, or the words he uttered on the cross!  Or how about, “let us make man in our own image”?  Wow!!!

What words from history would you most like to hear?

As I let my mind run for a few minutes with this “sci-fi” thought, all of a sudden it hits me.  Oh no, how many of my own words are still reverberating out there.  Man, I wonder what percentage of my own words would I like to delete from the atmosphere so they could never be heard or felt, again.  Then another thought hits me – my words have already found their mark on the hearts of those I love the most, and I’m struck again by the truth of the Proverbs passage from above… sobering thoughts.

This gives me a stronger desire to measure my words – to listen more, think more, and speak less.  The New Testament book of James has some great instructions for us about our words and the potential our tongue has for blessing AND cursing.  Join me in spending some time considering this.  I encourage you to strongly consider brother James’ words, especially from James chapter 3.

Wally Hindman
TJM Leadership Team

Muddy Water, Meteorology and Perfection

mi_meteorologyI once heard an older, much wiser man than me say that, “in order to get muddy water clear, leave it alone.” I must say that I readily agree with this premise. I remember a time in my life when it seemed as if every way I turned, my world was a complete and utter mess. The harder I tried to “fix” the situations in one compartment of my life, the more it would seemingly have a negative impact on not only that area, but other areas as well. I worked hard at trying to figure out the problem and then to prepare a strategy to attack and correct the issues, but it was a futile attempt at a solution. The only thing I accomplished was to end up exhausted, frustrated and confused.

Then I began to question that which I KNEW to be truth…

How could God let this happen to me?

Why are other, less-spiritually-devoted men, successful and have it all together?

Why have You forgotten about me?

Why are You not keeping Your word?

The bible tells us in Matthew chapter 5 that “he…sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.” Here is what I know…

Life is going to come at you and come hard.

Sometimes the more we do to try to correct – the worse situations become.

He is faithful to His word and will see you through!

One of my favorite scriptures is found in James chapter 1 verse 4. It reads, “Now let patience have her perfect work that you might be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

I have learned that through the process of being a child of our Father, storms will come and storms will go. I have learned to stand steadfast in the middle of the battles of life because one prognostication every weather person in the world can get right, is that the storm will pass!

Praise the Lord – during this Easter season – stand strong in the process, be patient, perfect maturity and completion is coming!

Tim Cook
TJM Leadership Team

What Are You Asking For?

question

John 14:12-14 (NIV)

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

I have been thinking about the passage above for a while.  We usually think about this passage in context with all the miracles that Jesus did and thereby we should be doing them also.  If we boil Jesus’s life and impact down to just the miracles he did we miss a part of who he is.  Step back look at his life.  The greatest “works” that he did was how he interacted and treated people.  God in flesh talked with them loved them and lived with them in the messiness of their lives with some miracles sprinkled in.  Could some of his works have been in the casual conversation he has with a women at the well, or spending time with kids that His disciples wanted to send away or in meaningful conversations with disciples around a fire or teaching people around a meal.  I guess what I have been wondering is that by this verse, I haven’t been doing much based upon the number of miracles that God has been doing through my asking.  But could you see evidence of my asking and trusting in Christ living in me based upon the way I interacted with people.  I hope so, but I have been wondering if I should be asking more.

Mark Carpenter
TJM Leadership Team

Permission to Be a Man

We live in a society that does a really good job at emasculating men.  I mean just look at the TV shows that depict families.  Usually the father is a bumbling idiot who is being led by his wife or can’t do anything right unless his wife sets him straight.  Look at our public schools (I can go there…I teach in them), we have told kids that to be a good student you must sit in your desk, be really still and quiet, and be compliant without question.  Now, I’m all for order and discipline, but this is like torture for boys, especially in elementary and middle school.  The sad thing is, when the boys don’t act this way (bc it’s near impossible for them) we want to slap a label on them and give them medicine so they’ll conform.  What is the message we’re teaching them?  Walk in most churches and you’ll find a very similar situation.  Men are expected to conform to the rules and expectations of the organization.  If you stand up and question something or challenge those around you, you’ll probably be asked to temper your passion.  I could go on and on, but you get the point.

The bottom line is that it can be extremely hard to be the man you were created to be in today’s world.  God designed us to be strong, courageous, passionate, alive, and free, but is that how most men are living?  For whatever reason, and there are many, men are living well below God’s intention for them.  Whether it be that life is simply beating you down or that this world keeps giving you a warped definition of what it means to be a man, know that God is giving you permission to be a man.  He created you with a masculine heart and fully expects you to live this out.  This is not some macho image or rebellious spirit I’m referring to, but authentic masculinity that comes through for others when necessary, that stands up for what is right regardless of the consequences, that leads with strength and courage, and speaks up even when it’s not popular.  So, be the man you were created to be…you have permission.

If this resonates with you, then I want to challenge you to be at our Freedom Weekend May 1-3.  If we do nothing else, we give men permission to men.  We do a lot of other stuff, but I will guarantee that you will leave the weekend better than you came, knowing how to better navigate your world as the man you’ve been called to be.  Check it out and register at http://www.thejourneyministries.com.

Jason Carter
TJM Leadership Team

I Think I’ll Stay in the Big House with Dad!

big-house

Had a conversation with a co-worker yesterday about how she spent many years believing she was accepted by God, but at a lesser level than other believers – that due to some failing on her part, she could never enjoy the full and free acceptance originally intended for her.  It reminded me of the story from Luke 15, usually referred to as the parable of the prodigal son, or the lost son, but which I maintain should be known as the parable of the Love of a Father.

You will remember that part of the story after the Father welcomed the son back home, put a ring on his finger, sandals on his feet, a robe on his back and ordered the servants to prepare the fatted calf – you know, the part of the story that came after the welcome home party – the part where the son moves into the small cabin out on the back of the property.  He was indeed recognized as a son, but well you know, he had a history.  It just wouldn’t be right for him to move back into the big house with the family – right?

It occurred to me that this is the way many of us live our lives.  Because we have somehow blown it we are now damaged goods, and while our Heavenly Father accepts us back into his kingdom, we can never scale the heights once intended for us.  Oh, we would never say this out loud – we know the truth in our heads – adopted as sons, the whole business, but we don’t REALLY believe it do we?

Why not?  I think this question warrants some serious consideration.  Why do we have a tendency to fall into the trap of believing that we can never be what God intends us to be.  I hate to say it, but I believe the answer to this question is perhaps worse than if this wrong belief were true.

I believe the answer is that we consider ourselves more powerful than God.  We are essentially saying we have the power to make a mess God can’t clean up.  This kind of thinking is dangerous, not to mention heretical.  I am much happier believing that my Dad, the King of the Universe says my forgiveness is full and free; I prefer to take Him at His word.  Have we all blown it at times?  Of course we have.  But don’t make the mistake of believing the lie that God is not strong enough or loving enough to clean up your mess.

I love what Paul said when responding to the Galatians who also were falling back into a belief that “it” somehow depended on them.  Galatians 5:1 – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

I like that a lot…

Wally Hindman
TJM Leadership Team

A Toast to the Boastful

2 Corinthians 12:9

As I write this blog, I’m visiting my parents down in the South Georgia where my folks pastor a small Pentecostal congregation.  They have only been stationed here a little over a year and already God has blessed their efforts tremendously with growth spiritually, financially and numerically.  But on the travel down, I allowed my mind to just wander a bit while my three small ones were napping and my wife was, in an attempt to take full advantage of such an atypical event, doing the same.

I began to ponder my walk with the Father.  I allowed my mind to settle on this season of life and what it has brought me and my family.  Here’s my conclusion – it’s been tough!  No sugar coating it, no political correctness!   Life, in the last 5 years, has dealt us some tough blows…some because of us, some in spite of us and some through no fault of our own.  Consider, over the past 5 and ½ years, my wife and I have:

  • Gotten married
  • Had not 1, not 2 but 3 kids – however, I now know what causes that and it will stop!
  • Bought a house (selling said house)
  • Both changed jobs
  • Moved twice

All of these circumstances and more, coupled with the ‘normal’ marital challenges have, needless to say, been cause for concern, prayer and counseling.  So I felt the Lord asking me…”what do you do when times get tough?  Where do you turn?”  I came up with a seemingly super spiritual response when I replied, “Lord, I can’t handle all of this – I’m too weak!”

In today’s world, when times get tough, people often tend to turn tail and run or bail.  I have to ask…

What do you do when times get tough?  Do you isolate yourself?  Do you take yourself out of the game?  Do you rest on the sidelines while the direction of your life, your spouse’s life, and your children’s lives is being determined?  More importantly, while the destination of those mentioned above is being determined for ETERNITY…where can you be found?

I was reminded of Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth in his 2nd letter to them.  Paul, in talking about how he had asked the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh, penned these words, “but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Again, I want to challenge you today – He knows you can’t do it.  He knows your weaknesses.  He knows that in your own strength, you will fail.  However, if you understand and accept your weaknesses and yes, even boast in them…the promise is right there: the power of Christ will rest upon you!  I don’t know about you, that encourages  me to get back in the game and continue the fight!

So, when times get tough; when you feel like you’re all alone and you’re been pushed past the point of being able to make it, don’t bail…just do a little boasting!  So here’s to the boastful among us – I hope to be much more like you and Paul with my daily walk!

Tim Cook
TJM Leadership Team