Thursday, December 01, 2016

Imperfect is Perfect for God // A Christmas Thought

The Holidays are here meaning 2016 will soon be in the archives. But before this year is over there are still many memories yet to be made, because well…that’s what the holidays are for.  With Christmas, tradition, and memories in mind I hope you will take time to appreciate God in the imperfections.

I know that perhaps sounds strange. Because we often think of God in terms of perfect, without blemish, pristine.  But if the story of Christmas, that is the story of Jesus’ birth, teaches us anything it is that God shows up most often and most beautifully, in the imperfect.

So I invite you this Christmas season to look for God’s hand in the imperfect. See Him in that Christmas tree with the bald spot you missed when you picked it out, that casserole that doesn’t turn out right, the family photo with the one person whose eyes are closed, the house that is messy, the car that leaks oil, the kid in the choir that has to pee, the string of lights that doesn’t twinkle like it should… well you get the idea. God is in the imperfect.

I was reminded of this the other day at a For King and Country Christmas Concert at the Sun Dome. It was a marvelous show, complete with lights and smoke and lasers.  At one point in the show, the band played one of their hits, Let My Life Be The Proof.   It was a crowd favorite, evidenced by the 7,000 worshippers with hands raised, eyes closed, singing at the top of their lungs.  It was a great worship moment.

I was taking it all in when I noticed a young gentleman to my right in a wheel chair.  His hands were raised, his eyes were closed, his head down and he was singing with everything that was in him the lyrics of the chorus:

So let my life be the proof,
The proof of your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
-For King and Country

As he sang those words with such conviction, I was deeply moved. Here was a man bound to a wheel chair who was praying that his life (with all of its obvious imperfections) would be proof of God’s love.  And you know what? He doesn’t know it but in that moment last Tuesday night God did use his life and his imperfections to prove His love. Because he proved it to me through my brother. 

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you would see God in the imperfections. That you might see God’s hand at work in your own imperfections and in those of the loved ones around you.  When you sit at the table of friends and family with the assortment of imperfections each one brings, God is there. 

Christmas teaches us this.

The First Christmas was wrought with imperfections. An inconveniently timed birth. No room. A feeding trough. Smelly animals. Sinful shepherds. Poverty.  And yet, tight smack in the middle of that imperfection…God!  It turns out that imperfection is the perfect setting for you and me to experience God’s presence.

So this Christmas, my prayer is that you experience glorious moments of imperfection!

Monday, June 27, 2016

God’s Nightly Art Show

My wife Kristy and I were at the beach the other evening. It was one of those picturesque evenings, we so easily can take for granted in Florida. As we sat watching the blue sky turn pink we were in awe of the palette in the sky. It was a majestic swirl of pink, orange, purple, blue, and green. Truly amazing. And God does it night after night! I thought maybe there should be a chalk board sign at the entrance of the beach announcing, “Art Work Displayed Nightly - Free and Open to the Public.”

We admired God’s piece (see pic) like patrons at an art gallery, and talked about how creative our God is. He creates beauty effortlessly. His medium includes stars, planets, clouds and winds interpreted through our eyes (that He also created)! And with those he paints. He paints whatever he feels. And as we stop to observe and reflect we feel it too. We sense his beauty, his artistry, his care and his power.  Which is why, if you’ve been on the beach at sunset it is quite common for beachgoers to spontaneously applaud as the final speck of the sun dips into the sea. It’s a sort of “clap offering” to God for another masterful job. I just love it when that happens because people are ‘feeling’ God, and appreciating His artistry. In a way they are returning to the Creator His recurring words in Genesis 1, “This is good.”

While God is honored by it, He doesn’t create for applause. He creates because he is a creator. It’s just what he does because that’s who He is.  God never stops creating. He doesn’t wait until people are there to observe or admire the work of his hands. Or to write about it in blogs J  He just creates. All over the world, every day, our God is weaving together masterpieces in the heavens.  I suspect that some of the most beautiful sunsets have probably occurred in places where no one was there to applaud. In those occasions I just imagine the Holy Trinity, doing as they’ve done from the beginning. Celebrating, communicating, and allowing their joy to spill out on evening skies. The essence of the Christian life is being invited by Jesus, into the joy that has been shared eternally by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I offer two points I hope you will take away from this.
 1. Applaud a July Sunset or Two. This summer stop and applaud a few sunsets.  Make a point to go out to the beach at sunset with the purpose of worshiping. With your feet in the sand and the evening breeze blowing, read this:

Psalm 19:1-6
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 5  It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.

And when the sun dips into the Gulf of Mexico transposing the evening sky, just marvel  and clap. Be sure to clap.

2. God is Painting You … a Picture. God is a creator and he makes beauty out of unlikely mediums.  No matter what this summer season finds you going through, know that God has his hands in the paint of your life.  And he will, if you let him, create beauty out of all of the good, bad, mundane of your life. Our God is love and our God creates. Those two together make for a pretty cool picture!

Have a blessed and enjoyable July!

You are Loved,

Pastor Terry

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Honey, We Finally Graduated Elementary School!

Today we graduated elementary school. We had been there for 14 years, in 3 states and 5 different primary schools. Here's to you Atlantic Shores, Landstown, Clear Creek, Dennis, and Brooker Creek! My wife and I have posted hundreds of art pieces to our fridge, stuck mascot stickers on our cars, signed and returned permission slips, walked marathons to and from the bus stops, and volunteered at field days and class parties. We’ve attended countless talent nights, concerts, parent-teacher conferences, and fund raising events. Today we have moved the tassel.

Today JT, our youngest, graduated from 5th grade. This means the era that began with our first daughter in 2002, has now come to a close. The elementary years are complete. We, along with him, have graduated.  

Thank you to all the outstanding principles, teachers, assistants, coaches, and administrators who invested in our kids at their most vulnerable ages. We may not remember all of your names, but we will never forget the impact you made! 

Thank you elementary school, it was even better than when we did it ourselves!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Skip the Dip

First, thank you Baysiders for your faithful financial support of our mission to see more people become more like Jesus! As of this writing, giving has been over budget 11 out of the past 12 weeks! If you’re new to Bayside, curious why this a is bid deal, or just want to be reminded of the inspiration behind this move of God, go to the website ( and watch the “The Blessed Life” series. Without question, that series continues to be used by God to inspire and bless our church family. Let’s pray this upward giving trend continues through the summer and we skip the dip. That would be a miracle!

And here’s why. Summer is a unique season in the life of the church. While there is a lot of ministry going on with camps, trips, outreaches, special worship services and fellowships, it tends to be a time when worship attendance and giving take a dip.  That dip is compounded in Florida because our part-year members head back north for the summer. Let’s pray and commit ourselves to continue strong through the summer in our giving and our attendance in worship. So let’s skip the dip! 

Speaking of worship, I’d like to offer a few ways you can invest over the summer months in yourself so that you don’t experience a summer spiritual dip.

Find a Spot
A few weeks ago, in a message on worship I mentioned that one of the most important things we can do for our spiritual lives is to identify a spot where we meet regularly with God. Do you have a spot?  If not, this summer, identify that place that will be the place where you will worship, pray, and read the Word of God.  I’ve had many ‘spots’ over the years. But the spot that is my ‘spot’ for the past 3 months or so has been a picnic table at John Chestnut park. This park is right on my way to work in the morning, so I exit out of the southbound traffic and find this little table by the lake. And there I read the Scripture, talk to Jesus, and just ‘be’ in the presence of God.  Your spot may not be at a park; it may not even be outside at all. It may be in a recliner, or at kitchen table, or kneeling bench. It’s your spot so it can be anywhere you (and God) want it to be.

Pick a Book and Hit “Repeat”
Pick a book of the Bible and hit “repeat.” For me, my book this summer will be Proverbs. Short books in the New Testament work well for this too. Instead of trying to read through several books of the Bible, just pick one and read it through several times through the summer.  Pick a book like Proverbs, or Colossians, or one of the Gospels and seek to read it through a couple of times over the next several weeks. I think you will find this to be an incredibly enriching process. Think of the books of the Bible like 66 friends. Picking one book to read over and over is like spending extended quality time with one friend, instead of a few minutes with a bunch of friends. You will get to know and understand the book, the author, and ultimately God on a more intimate basis.

Learn from a Godly Person.
Pick a godly person, living or dead and listen to their biography on audio book (or read it.) While you’re sitting on the porch, deck or beach towel, take a biography with you. Reading the life journeys of people of faith can be an incredibly inspiring and challenging exercise.

If we apply these three simple things over the summer, we just may find come September that our spiritual life has skipped the dip. Instead of a lull, we may find it has actually heated up over the summer.

Praying that you will experience sacred moments of relaxation and refreshing this summer. And don’t forget the sunscreen!

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Christmas Forget List

If we aren’t careful, Christmas can become all about remembering. Excessively so. List makers have already started prioritizing the ‘to dos.’

Here’s just a partial list of lists.
  • Remember everyone on the gift list
  • Remember all the correct times and dates of the Christmas parties
  • Remember uncle Joe's birthday that is the week before Christmas
  • Remember to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Christmas Vacation, Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Story, and Miracle on 34th Street. (And remember not to fall asleep or it doesn’t count).
  • Remember to bring a dish to share at the Church dinner
  • Remember to put cookies out for Santa and hang the stocking.

The pressure at Christmastime to remember is real.  So at this Advent season, I’m going to suggest we forget something.

Forget trying to make it perfect. Aim for meaningful.
Christmas started out so simple.  Now when you hear simple, don’t think simple in the sense of tastefully perfect. No Jesus’ birth was simply…chaotic! We can’t forget this.
Now I not advocating for chaos. However, what I’m about to share with you may be the best news you’re going to hear this Christmas. Fact: the birth of Jesus was total chaos.

Our Chaos times Three
Kristy and I have had three children (well, Kristy had them, I just chauffeured and cheered). And in each case when it was time for delivery, it ushered in an intense period of chaos.

First child when the time of delivery was near we were at JC Penney’s on a Friday night browsing through menswear. “Terry it’s time to go,” Kristy said.  Naively I responded, “But I want to try this shirt on.” “No,” she said “it’s time to go!” Chaos. Running, Wheel Chairs. Hazard lights. Speeding. Squealing tires.

Second child. Middle of January. There’s a snow storm outside and the whole family has the flu,. I’m laying comatose on the coach. Kristy comes down stairs with the verdict, “Terry it’s time to go.” “But I’m sick and it’s snowing,” I whimpered. “You want to deliver this baby?, she retorted.  Out the door. 4x4. Balled up Klenex. Sliding. Mucinex. Freezing. Chaos.

Third child. Its 11 O’clock at night. Kristy and I are both just falling asleep. “It’s time to go.” When? “Right now!” Call the emergency baby sitter. Grab the bag. Out the door. Hazard lights. Speeding. Chaos.

Jesus’ birth was chaotic too. Let’s briefly recount the story. A pregnant Mary forced to take an involuntary journey. Unfamiliar surroundings. In an inn. Exposed to the elements with limited shelter. In a hectic overstuffed town. Exhausted from travel.  Mary says, “It’s time!” Joseph asks, “Right now?”  In a feeding trough. With the animals. God is born. A miracle set in chaos.

So my friend don’t fret when your Christmas doesn’t feel perfect. In those moments of Christmas chaos, remember you’re closer to how it was the night of Jesus’ birth.

Forget perfection and just remember Jesus. The whole thing is about him. If we forget Jesus we’ve forgotten everything. Even if we remember everything else! Christmas is not about how well the ham or turkey turns out. It’s not about getting this gift or giving that gizmo. It’s not even about having every chair at the table filled. Christmas is about God loving us perfectly by sending us His Son.

The coming of Jesus was the ultimate expression of God’s love for us because it’s one thing to be told something it’s quite a bit better to see it in action. In Scripture, the Old Testament prophets and writers told us that God loved us. That He had a special affection for you and me. And the righteous believed it without ever having seen God. But even they wondered. They must have wondered and doubted. Does God really loved us? Christmas (and Good Friday) is God’s answer; an answer that we could see.

The infant in the manger grew into the man who lived a perfect life and laid it down freely for you and me. All the while teaching us also how to love one another.

Praying a Merry Christmas for each of You!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tigers and Gators

Its college football season and I’m a big fan! Being a Louisiana native, I’ve always rooted for the Purple and Gold; The Louisiana State University Tigers.  My family and friends all know how passionate I am about the Tigers. For those of you that have worshiped on a Sunday at Bayside after a Tiger loss, all I can say is I’m sorry. I’ve heard of kids that warn their parents about my sermons when (on rare occasions) LSU loses.
This very public knowledge of my deep affection for LSU was the reason many became concerned when a few months ago, orange and blue started showing up at my house. University of Florida colors started cropping up, and even more alarming to some were the pictures on social media that clearly showed me donning UF gear. You must know that this was of grave concern to my mother, who bleeds purple and gold. If these pictures were true she was sure I was sick and in immediate need of a mental health professional. Or perhaps her son (that was practically brought home from the hospital as a baby in a LSU onesie) was the victim of some hoax, a joke, and cruel prank.  No son of hers would be caught wearing any other colors, than that of the Bayou Bengals, right? Even some of my friends seemed puzzled.

So folks are looking for answers. Or as Ricky Ricardo would say on the “I Love Lucy Show,” I’ve got some splainin’ to do.  As several of you know my oldest daughter is a college freshman at the University of Florida.  And this has had a strange effect on me, in terms of team allegiance.  Now I will always be a Tigers fan, and I still am the most passionate about LSU football. But I began to notice about 6 months ago a strange warming to the Gators. As I saw the desire in her to go to UF, and then to eventually get accepted there, to now living in Gainesville a fondness rapidly began to grow. Now it was a process. It took me a few months to get the nerve to buy an orange and blue shirt. It took me a few more months before I could actually wear it. But now it’s good. And certainly after we started paying tuition payments it got really easy! Chomp!

Jesus once said that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our heart follows our treasure, and our treasure follows our heart. This is true when it comes to giving financially to the church. If we love the Kingdom of God, if our heart is to advance the Kingdom’s cause, if our heart is to see more people become more like Jesus, then our deposits will follow our heart. We will tithe and make giving to the church a priority. The connection between treasure and heart is also the reason why those that invest deeply in the church love the church so deeply.

This principle is illustrated in my new affection for UF. A person I treasure dearly is there (my daughter) so my heart follows. My support follows my heart. So now I have two college teams. I’m still passionate about the Tigers, but now I publicly support the Gators as well. What you might want to know is, what about when they play each other. Mom will be happy about this… Geaux Tigers!

“Lord, you have designed us so that our affections follow our treasures. And you have blessed us with an ability to invest in things that matter to us. So please help us to invest wisely, in people, in your Kingdom and in our church family. Ultimately, it’s your church that we want to cheer on and empower to win. Amen” 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

College Move In Day

Last week we moved our oldest daughter into her college dorm room. Ok, yes we cried. But before the good-byes the day consisted of going toe to toe with 5000 other highly emotional and over-protective parents for dibs on command strips, extension cords, and reading lamps for our babies!  Grappling for supplies was part of the task, the other work was getting all the stuff up to the 4th floor of her dormitory.

At one point during the move in, I found myself waiting in line for the elevator; a line that stretched from Gainesville to Wesley Chapel. It has reminded me of a time when the same daughter was just a toddler and then too, I waited in the same type of massive line, twice for her.  It was back when the Toy Story 2 Movie was coming out on…ahhh… VHS! The autumn of 2000, Toys R Us was allowing parents to pre-order the video to ensure that our little darlings would have the videotape by Christmas.  The holiday was just weeks away and the line was long! In terms of popularity, Toy Story 2 was the year 2000’s version of Frozen. I remember waiting for what seemed like three semesters in the line. By securing my copy of this Disney animated classic, it was certain that my kid would be able to fully celebrate the birth of Jesus. (Marketing works!) I paid the money and started to leave the store when I realized they had under charged me. Against the temptation to run, I went back to the customer service counter and let them know I was undercharged about $10. They thanked me for my honesty, and then kindly sent me to the rear of the line to do it all over again! And I did it. I know, I was so naive.

As I stood in line for the dorm elevator my selfless service done 15 years ago was made right.   You see, as I was waiting in the dorm line it was discovered that Kasey’s room was actually on the other side of the building and accessed by a different elevator! When we went to the other elevators there was not a soul in line. We went right on, and in two uneventful trips we had everything moved in. The Lord is faithful! 

James, the little brother of Jesus says, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up.” Of course, I’m just kidding about this being some kind of repayment for faithfulness. But it is true that when we humble ourselves, God takes notice. And we are promised that the Lord will lift up the humble. It may not be today, but in due time the Lord will lift you up. As the old preachers use to say, “God may not be on your time. But he is always right on time!”

“Lord, help us to humble ourselves in your sight. Restrain us from the temptation to exalt ourselves or to lift ourselves up.  We know that you are faithful. And may we find hope and strength today in the fact that your timing is always perfect. We pray this in the name of, and mindful of the one who humbled himself and was raised up right on time by the power of God. Amen”

You are Loved,

Pastor Terry