Sep 242007
 

My voice is gone.  The interesting thing is that I didn’t teach yesterday at CATGroveCraig did an excellent job.  I could tell that I was coming down with some type of infirmity yesterday morning and by the time our Community Group arrived last night my voice was completely gone!  We had some our best discussion last night.  I couldn’t talk!  Is there a connection?

  Someone might say this is simply a coincidence, but I believe God is trying to tell me something.  This is significant because there is something inside me that desperately wants to hear from God regarding several things in life.  Check out this verse:

1 Kings 19:11-13 (NIV)
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Sometimes we are waiting for God to write something in the sky or send us a message through a highway billboard, when most likely God wants us to simply slow down, get still and be quiet.  We are more likely to hear God’s voice in a “gentle whisper”.  His voice is most clearly heard as we read his written word, the Bible. 

It is as if God is saying, “What are you doing here, Russ?” 

I want to start answering him with, “Well God, I am serving you, I am planting a church to reach people, I am trying to be a godly man and leader.”  I can hear God speaking back, “I simply want you to be still and quiet and hear my gentle whisper“.

Okay, I get the message God! 

I will fill everyone in on what happened at CATGrove at another time.  I will update you my adventure in church planting later.  I will share what I am learning about leadership in a moment.  I will give a glimpse of life in the Butcher household soon.

Right now I am going to get off my computer and spend some time listening to the “gentle whisper” of God’s voice. 

 Posted by at 8:43 am
Sep 212007
 

I have been reflecting on the first year of Church at the Grove and I thought about my top ten favorite memories over this past year!  There may be some things that I have forgotten that will come to my mind later.  If so, I will add them to some other blog posts.  Here it goes:

10.  Watching Craig Story become an excellent teacher/communicator.  It has been so encouraging and so much fun seeing Craig grow in his confidence and creativity as a speaker.  It is a joy to serve with him.

9.  Being able to bring David Odom on to be a part of our full-time team.  Most people probably don’t know how blessed we are to have him. 

8.  Our ministry to local teachers and law enforcement people.  I love the acts of kindness and ministry that we have been able to do toward teachers and the law enforcement community.  They are a personal passion of mine and it is a joy to see so many of them connect with CATG.

7.  I will never forget the day that we (those of us in the CATG office) were overwhelmed with the bills that needed to be paid and the lack of funds in the bank.  This was in the spring of this year.  As we were lamenting the situation, I opened an envelope from some of our friends in Tennessee that contained a check for $5000.00!!!!!  We began to laugh and cry at the same time and we were reminded that God is faithful to resource a vision that HE birthed. 

6.  I don’t like to mention specific people too often, but I can’t help with this couple.  I remember the preview service where Troy and Shamrelle O’Connor literally came into our service from seeing the sign at the road as they were running late to attend another church.  Could it be God?  They have come to be so important to the life of CATG.  We saw both of them baptized at our first baptism service.  They have personally been involved in inviting so many people!  Wow!

5.  Countless emails and stories of how God has used CATGrove to influence and touch lives in this community and beyond.  We have been a sponsor of one church in the area and invested in many others with finances and coaching already in one year.  If you have a story to tell about how CATGrove has made a difference in your life, please let us know.

4.  Our PLUNGE series was so important in the early months.  The teaching series that we did on our core values (ministry filters) was one of my favorites.  If you didn’t hear it live, make sure you listen to it online or purchase the CD set.  We have also seen this teaching series be a source of encouragement to many other pastors and church plants.

3.  I love how CATGrove has been a connection for me and Jill and our family to get to know so many people in our neighborhood.  I love all my neighbors and CATGrove has been a catalyst for us to get to know so many neighbors that we probably wouldn’t have met otherwise.

2.  Easter Sunday!  I hate to talk about attendance, but I can’t help to look back to the 427 people that we had on Easter Sunday and reflect on how that affirmed our vision to reach this community for Jesus.  It was like God was sending the message, “Hey guys, this is a taste of things to come!” 

1.  Our baptism services and pool baptism!  That first baptism service in February!  WOW!  We had right at 300 people there to see us baptize 11 people.  It was a beginning of things to come.  That was overwhelming.  So many people that visited that week have connected to CATGrove.  Our other baptisms have been awesome.  It was special to have one baptism at the Carr’s pool this summer and see so many people come and hang out.  I love baptism because it is a visual picture of what God does in someone’s heart and life.

Honorable mention:  Craig’s metaphorical connection of Salsa and Sex.  If you missed it, you have to listen to the message online or get the CD.  You can also simply ask him about it.  It meant so much to Amy, that she went to Pablanos to get one of their special Salsa mixing bowls.  Something’s stirring!

 Posted by at 2:46 pm
Sep 192007
 

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the 50th wedding anniversary celebration for my wife’s parents, Mr. Ronnie and Mrs. Janie Sammons.  They are among the godliest people I have ever known.  I can honestly say that I have INCREDIBLE in-laws.  They treat me like a son and they have modeled to me what it means to serve one another in a Christ-like manner in a marriage.  It is a joy to be a part of their family.  Here is what I have learned from them that will make a 50th anniversary possible:

  1. Put Christ first.  They consistently put Christ first in their life and their marriage.
  2. They have consistently expressed their faith together through involvement in their local church.  Emphasis on TOGETHER!
  3. Turn the TV off and TALK.
  4. Do not take yourselves too seriously.
  5. Laugh daily and often.
  6. Reflect on the tough days you have ENDURED TOGETHER.
  7. Say “thank you” and “please” to one another.
  8. Each of you give freedom to the other to enjoy hobbies or personal passions.  Mr. Ronnie has enjoyed years of fishing and Miss Janie has enjoyed years of involvement in her ladies prayer groups and mission groups. 
  9. Love your children without spoiling them.  They have two daughters that have grown up with significant security but have both lived with great responsibility.  This may be a point of debate for Jill considering that she married me.  It also could be seen as a point of wisdom for her.  You make the call.
  10. When things are tough, simply hang in there like a hair in a biscuit!
  11. Invest in OTHERS!  This keeps you from over focusing on yourselves.
  12. Rely on your friends for support.
  13. Take care of your family (parents and loved ones) together, and support one another in caring for your aging parents.
  14. And when all else fails, refer back to numbers 4 and 5!!!!!!

Check out their pic below:

Mr. Ronnie and Miss Janie

 Posted by at 9:04 pm
Sep 182007
 

 Sex God

I have read a lot on sex and sexuality in preparation for our “Can We Bring Sexy Back?” series.  Here is what I learned from Rob Bell’s Sex God:

When it comes to talking about sex…….it’s always about something else.  Sex is about something else–namely intimacy.

God Wears Lipstick

When a human being is mistreated, objectified, or neglected, when they are treated as less than human, these actions are actions against God………..because how you treat the creation reflects how you feel about God.

Sexy on the inside

Scholars believe that the word sex is related to the Latin word “secare”, which means “to sever, to amputate, or to disconnect from the whole.”  This is where we get words like sect, section, dissect, bisect.  Our sexuality has two dimensions.  First, our sexuality is our awareness of how profoundly we’re severed and cut off and disconnected.  Second, our sexuality is all of the ways we go about trying to reconnect.

Angels and animals

Nothing involving sex exists independently of and disconnected from everything around it.

Leather, whips and fruit

The problem with Adam and Eve in the garden with the tree is what the fruit has come to represent.  Rebellion against God.  Rejection of the good, the true, and the beautiful.  Another way LUST promises what it can’t deliver.

She ran into the girls bathroom

Love is risky.  If you’ve ever given yourself to someone and had your heart broken, you know how God feels.

Worth Dying for

Jesus said in one of his teachings that there’s no greater love a person can have than to lay down his life for another.  It is easy to submit to someone who is laying their life down for you. 

Sex should not be the search for something that’s missing.  It is the expression of something that’s been found.  It’s designed to be the overflow, the culmination of something that a man and a women have found in each other.  It’s a celebration of this living, breathing thing that’s happening between the two of them.

Under the Chuppah

God’s canopy that represents God’s protection.  When you take sex out from under the Chuppah, all you are left with is mechanics.

Johnny and June

We want someone to see us exactly as we are and still love us.  That’s what being naked is!  ……  “this is terrifying!”  We crave unconditional, absolute acceptance from a lover, but ultimately from God.  Read This….

Whoopee Forever

Is sex in its greatest, purest, most joyful and honest expression a glimpse of forever?  Are these brief moments of abandon and oneness and ecstasy just a couple of seconds or minutes of how things will be forever?

More balloons, please

But I have to believe that we can recover from anything, I have to believe that God can put anything-anyone-back together.  I have to believe that the God Jesus invites us to trust is as good as he says he is.

Reviews on this book worth looking at:

Scot McKnight’s blog “Jesus Creed”

Ben Witherington’s Blog

 Posted by at 3:38 pm