I Corinthians 3:18 says, “Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.” Most of us are convinced that we have it all together, and most of us are doing a fairly good job at convincing everyone else as well. We make decisions based on our own intelligence or ingenuity, and spend countless hours and endless resources constructing castles of sand unto our own names. All the while, our families are degrading, our integrity is sacrificed, and our sanity is threatened. Why? Because we are convince that we have become wise by this world’s standard. I suggest that we become fools-that we set aside our arrogance and self-sufficiency and rely on the power of God, heed the call of God, and stand in awe of the glory of God. I suggest that we “foolishly” fall so head-over-heels in love with the sovereign God of the Universe that the only conceivable option is to “foolishly” chase Him relentlessly in anxious anticipation of where the chase will carry us. Let’s become fools.

If you’d like to follow along with my trip ti Burkina Faso, Africa, here is the site that I will be updating while I’m there. Feel free to check it out daily, as I plan to update it each night. By the way, for those of you keeping up, I will be 5 hours ahead of you.

Burkinafasotrip.shutterfly.com

So it’s less than a week out from my trip to Burkina Faso, Africa, and I am trying to make last minute preparations for the trip.  I have gotten shots, secures my passport and visa, gotten stuff ready to be packed, and tried to imagine what I need that I haven’t thought of yet.

Part of the preparation is trying to determine a way I can highlight the trip while I’m gone for those of you interested in following along.  I’m gonna try to use this blog to do that.  Jaylon and I went on an outing to the state park yesterday and took some pictures.  so, I’m gonna use that outing and pictures as a test to see how that might work from Burkina.  Enjoy the pics from yesterday.

http://cmd.shutterfly.com/commands/pictures/slideshow?site=mattjennandtheboys&page=mattjennandtheboys/pictures&album=8&albumPath=

Yesterday was a great day. I really enjoyed kicking off our mini-series called Proximity. In this series, we are talking about how we can gain proximity with our community so we can actively engage them with the gospel. We talked about the Greek army that gained proximity to the trojans by building a giant horse and giving it away as a gift. That night, Greek soldiers got out of the horse and opened the gates to Troy and the rest is, as they say, history. I am praying that God shows us how to build more horses that we can use to gain proximity with our community. All that being said, I want to talk about our Easter mascot, Invitesum Bunny. For those of you who don’t attend LifePoint, you may not have met him yet. Invitesum Bunny is a constant reminder to us to invite somebody to church this Easter. We have printed 15,000 invite cards for you to use to invite somebody to one of our three gatherings this Easter. Make a difference in someone’s life. Invite them to church. I want to leave you with some statistics I found on the Internet about how unchurched people feel about church.

-82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited – Dr Thom Rainer
Most Americans have been to church and yet only 20 percent are regular attendees. – The American Church in Crisis

-“Only 2 percent of church members invite a unchurched person to church. 98% of church-goers never extend an invitation in a given year.” – Dr Thom Rainer

-“71% Of Americans are absolutely certain there is a God.” –The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey

-“56% of Americans believe that religion is very important in one’s life.” –The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey

-“80% of Americans believe in God.” –Harris Interactive-“Only 21 percent of active church goers invite anyone to church in the course of a year” –Dr Thom Rainer

-“73% of people who dont attend church were never invited.” –Barna Group

-“15% of Americans go to a religious service once a week.” –The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey

-“Not counting weddings and funerals, 38% of Americans say that they go to religious services once a week.” –ABCNEWS/ BeliefNet Poll

-“83% of adults claim to be Christians” –American Religious Identification Survey 2008 (AmericanReligiousSurvey-ARIS.org)

-“Four percent of formerly churched adults are actively looking for a church to attend regularly (other than their previous church). Six percent would prefer to resume attending regularly in the same church they had attended. The largest group, 62 percent, is not actively looking, but is open to the idea of attending church regularly again.”–Scott McConnell, Lifeway Research

-“Clearly we can encourage Christians to pray that the unchurched would sense God calling them back, but God works through His people,” said McConnell. “The survey showed that many would respond to an invitation from a friend or acquaintance (41 percent), their children (25 percent) or an adult family member (25 percent).” – McConnell, LifeWay Research

-“The issue of affinity also surfaced in the responses. Thirty–five percent indicated that they would be inspired to attend church if I knew there were people like me there.” –McConnell, LifeWay Research

Well it has happened again. Last Monday was our annual Celebrate Recovery Banquet and blogging didn’t make it to the calendar. That event requires a lot of work prior to the night and a whole lot of work that day. I want to say thanks to all of our volunteers who work tirelessly to make that event a success. Thus far we have raised over $41,000 in gifts and pledges to continue doing the great work of recovery in our community.

The last two weeks at LifePoint have been exciting. As our Manifesto series is winding to an end (only one more week), the last two messages have proven to be insightful and controversial. There is nothing more controversial than telling people that Jesus is the only way to heaven (last week) and that everyone who doesn’t follow Jess will spend eternity in Hell (yesterday). This all seems narrow-minded, intolerant, and arrogant. In fact, the more I think about it, it doesn’t just seem narrow-minded, intolerant, and arrogant, but it really is narrow-minded, intolerant, and arrogant. But then, so is all truth. Isn’t it narrow-minded that 2+2 only equals 4? Isn’t it intolerant that 2 hydrogen atoms combine with 1 oxygen atom to only form water? It is definitely arrogant of a foot to only be 12 inches. Truth is absolute. Truth is definite. Truth is Jesus. Of himself he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one gets to the Father but by me.” Jesus is definite. He is only. As such any one attempting to get to the Father by any other means fails. The wrath of God toward sin and sinfulness must be avenged. Hell is the vengeance of God’s wrath on sin. We can absorb the wrath of God toward sin ourselves in hell, or be beneficiaries of His willingness to avenge his wrath toward our sin on His son on the cross. We have but two options-pay for our sins ourselves in hell or receive the free gift of redemption found in the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. I choose Jesus. I hope you do as well.

Yesterday was another incredible day at LifePoint. The band sounded great. It amazes me how great those guys are. Who would have thought that Enoch could play a wooden box and make it sound that good? Aside from the technical difficulties with the right side projector-hopefully that will get fixed this week-everything went well. Nick did a great job teaching about “whosoever believes.” However, I must admit that one comment has me intrigued, perhaps even perplexed. Nick said, “The only thing Jesus will ever ask you to do is believe.” Seriously? Is this really true or just hyperbole? Does Nick really expect us to believe that Jesus will not ask us to do anything else but believe? It seems far-fetched. It seems ridiculous. It seems impossible. It got me thinking. Obviously, there are many other things in scripture we are asked to do-obey our parents, take care of widows and orphans, share the gospel, attend church, and on and on. So what;s up? It seems as though Nick is trying to pull a fast one. I think I may have some insight.

Hebrews 11, the passage Nick shared with us yesterday, is filled with outrageous acts of obedience. Noah builds a boat, Abraham journeyed to an unknown destination, Moses led the nation of Israel out of egyptian slavery, Rahab risked her life to hide spies, men and women were stoned, sawn in two, beaten, and scourged. And the writer of Hebrews credits belief as the motivating factor for such bold obedience. So let’s wrap this us and put a bow on it. Obviously, God asks us to be obedient in many different ways, but it is belief that God is who He says He is, He can be trusted, and will do what He has promised that motivates us to obey Him. If we believe, then we will obey. Obedience is motivated by belief. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. When we disobey, then we have unbelief. Typically we don’t believe God’s ways are the best ways so we choose our ways.

So what if Hebrews 11 was still being written today? How would the verse with your name in it read? By faith,_______________(your name), _________________________________________. What great act of valor or obedience would be motivated by your belief?

Sorry about the absence last week.  Last Monday Jenn and I celebrated our 13th anniversary and got away for a couple of days in Gatlinburg.  We had a great time, and I was reminded of how blessed I am with an incredible wife.  

This past week seemed like a whirlwind.  Our whole family has had the crud and by Sunday I could barely talk.  But I really wanted to preach.  We are in the middle of a series we are calling Manifesto where we are discussing the basic core tenets of the Christian faith.  yesterday we focused on the deity and humanity of Jesus.  I have to admit this is not necessarily the most engaging topic.  In fact it is somewhat boring.  We would rather hear sermons that inspire us to mend relationships, get of debt, or take giant risks.  But the truth is all of the excitement that comes with a relationship with God is made possible by the obedient death of the God-man, Jesus.  Understanding the redemption story means understanding the humiliation Christ endured as he “took on the form of a bond-servant, and was found in the likeness of men.”  I hope that in some miraculous way, the Holy Spirit communicated to the hearts of listeners the greatness of the truths this passage holds.  I feel as though He showed me so much more than I was able to communicate, and my prayer is that He did the same for those who heard the message.

On another note, Easter is less than 8 weeks away and LifePoint is planning the go over the top in every area.  Hopefully you got a chance to meet our Easter Mascot, Invitesum Bunny yesterday.  i would recommend following him on Twitter @invitesum_bunny and checking out his fan page on Facebook.  We are planning for 1500 people at our Albertville campus and 250 people at our Brindlee Mountain campus.  This means every person must work diligently to bring one person with them to one of our 4 Easter gatherings.  We will be telling you ways in the next several weeks you can help get the word out.  You don’t want to miss Easter and you definitely don’t want to miss the opportunity to bring someone with you.  One invitation could change someone’s life.

Yesterday was another great day at LP. In spite of the fact that Nick wasn’t there, the band sounded great. Randy, Jason, and the rest of the band did a great job leading us in worship. I really loved how many different people had a part in leading yesterday. I also felt like the message went well. I am so amazed that God formed us to make us His image bearers. To think that we are His mirrors is an overwhelming thought. I find myself wondering how good of a reflector am I. I know that I am a broken mirror in need of restoration. It seems the more I journey toward God, the more aware I am of the imperfections of my mirror. None the less, when God planned me, we planned me in His image and His likeness. What a sobering thought. He gave me dominion, responsibility, morality, immortality, communion, and creativity to reflect His glory. What kind of mirror am I. He rules with compassion. I tend to rule with selfishness. He is responsible at all times. I am when it is convenient. His morality is perfection. Mine is questionable. His creativity astounds. Being creative is hard for me. Maybe I should hone my skills as an image bearer. Maybe I need to clean up the mirror a little. Perhaps I need to do more, do better, try harder. Or maybe I need to let He who called me to continue to do the work of making me into the image of His Son. Jesus restores the mirror. His blood covers my imperfections. The carpenter rebuilds. The creator reforms. Find restoration in the Son.