Thoughts on life, leadership and the movement called the church by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Ever Elusive Balance

Susan and I have a little phrase we say to each other when we've gone several days without spending any time together. One of us will ask, "What's your name again?"

We've been asking that question far too much lately.

My mentor for many years - Cecil Sherman - also had a saying about kids. Talking about the seasons of the child-parent relationship, Dr. Sherman would say, "For 6 years you have them. For 6 years you share them. And for 6 years, they're leaving." That home-made proverb certainly was true for my relationship with my kids.

  • For the first 3rd of their childhood, they were my shadow, under my feet all the time, always wanting to be where I am.
  • For the middle third, they loved being with me, but only if they could have a friend come, too.
  • For the final phase - friend or not - they really weren't all that interested in hanging out with Dad.
It's ok, because I now have one who's 21 (22 next month) and she's starting to enjoy hanging out again. It's the way of life. And I'm ok with it.

But there is an interesting thing happening with me, and I bet that this is also common for others. As my first two children are grown (over 18) and the 'baby' is still a child (12 years old next week), Susan and I have started to behave a lot like 'empty nesters'. We find ourselves working all the time. Without the 'common cause' of the children to rally around (which is premature, really, because Joshua still needs us), we have moved into this pattern where we just pass each other. We both work all day, but then I have meetings on Tuesday evening, she has them on Monday evening, we both have them on Wednesday evening. Small group here, a wedding for me there, throw in a little maintenance on the house that needs to be done...

The next thing we know, literally weeks have gone by and we've spent virtually NO meaningful time together!

So, this week, on Monday, we both said, "Enough!" We agreed that this pattern HAS to stop! We needed to go away, invest some real time with each other and figure out how to live in a new way. I cleared my calendar on Thursday after lunch so that I could spend the afternoon with Joshua (I took him to see a movie and some other stuff). And later that night, Susan and I left for one of our new, favorite getaway places - a moutainside house in Rileyville, Virginia.

We sat on the back deck, overlooking the valley and the Shenandoah River and watched the sun go down behind the opposing mountain range. The beauty was stunning and indescribable. Even the birds seemed to pause in reverence, as if bowing to the parting immanence.

We sat - talking at times, silently at others, and enjoyed the cool breeze, the sounds of the cicadas, the view of the small white church building (you can see it in the middle of the picture), the over-full river and the little farms.

We started to dream again about slowing down, enjoying each other, enjoying our family, enjoying our lives. We dreamed of the future - tomorrow and ten years from now.

Why is it that when balance is found, it doesn't remain? How could I forget how important time like this is to being healthy? What would possibly motivate me to put anything above a steady, consistent, disciplined, large investment of time into being with her?

Of all the ways God has blessed me, none except Jesus himself surpasses the gift she is to me. She completes me, steadies me, takes care of me, helps me think more clearly. She makes me far better than I am. I am a steward of my time with her and my relationship with her. I can maximize that for all it's worth...or I can squander it, wasting that investment on things that will bring a far less valuable return.

And life if far too short for me to look back and wish I had worked less and loved her more.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Blessing God wants for You

If God tells you to do it, He is going to bless you through it!

That was the repeating mantra in my message yesterday. I think that the story of Joshua is a fantastic illustration of this reality, but there are many others, too.  (You can watch yesterday's service at PCC here.)  

"Blessing" can come in many forms.  But I believe there is one kind of blessing that God wants for every single devoted follower of His.

Take, for instance, the priests who carried the Ark into the middle of the Jordan River.  Their blessing was being able to stand in the middle of the miracle and know that God used them and their faith to make the miracle happen.  They did not make the miracle, but they were God's catalysts for the miracle.  

Think about it like this:  When we sit around and talk with our friends, we often recount our experiences, don't we?  The size of the monster fish we caught last week; the vacation we took to a new place; a great speaker, musician, band or comedian we got to see; something we saw our kid do; a date we went on; a special day with our spouse or our parents.  

Many of those events are 'average', but some of those experiences become Epic...Experiences of a Lifetime.  They are the pictures that hang on the walls in our homes, the memories that we will never forget, and the stories we tell over and over again.

Often, the blessing God wants to give you is an experience like that!  

After the 2 million+ Israelites entered the Promised Land, they would celebrate the land that God gave to them, and they would be thankful for it.

But those few men who took that one step into the perilous, unrestrained river, trusting God to do His part, believing that He had spoken and told them to move on faith - when those men talked about the 'blessing', the story they told wasn't about the promised land, it was about their experience crossing the River.  Their story was about taking a stand in the middle of the River, on dry ground - the evidence of the miracle as real as a visible, tsunami-sized wall of water behind an invisible barrier, held back by the hand of God Himself.   The story they would tell would be about the one step they took into danger, and how God followed their step of faith by stretching the laws of physics. 

God wants YOU to have experiences like this.  It's part of his Blessing Matrix that I believe God wants every follower of Jesus Christ to have.  To KNOW that you were a part of a miracle!  All it takes is one step of faith - not of your choosing - but of God's.

Perhaps God wants you to go somewhere - like on a mission to a far away place.  Or maybe He's telling you to stretch and get involved - working with a cause like feeding the hungry or helping the homeless.  It could be that God is telling you to actually ditch some things on your calendar and serve at PCC somewhere - like really give serious time.  Or God may be calling you to give some serious money.  Or take a risk and tell someone about your relationship with Jesus and how He has changed your life.

All of these things require that you risk something...give up something...take a real step of faith.

But you can be sure of this:  If God tells you to do it, He is going to bless you through it!

So why not pray a lot, swallow hard, and step out on the water.  Go for it!  And be a part of an incredible miracle of God that comes out of your single step of faith!

Saturday, June 8, 2013


I'm so sorry, but the weather these past two days has dumped enough rain into the James River to make it dangerous.  We've been inspecting it regularly over the past two days, hoping that the water might recede, but it's just too high, flowing too fast, making it too dangerous.
So, we are rescheduling tomorrow's baptism to the fallback date of June 23 (TWO weeks from tomorrow).  Next week is Father's day, which is why we are not doing it then.
The time will be the same.  The Baptism is June 23 at 4pm.  Everyone being baptized needs to be there at 3pm.
I'm sorry again, it's just one of those things that we cannot control.
See you at church tomorrow!

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Potent but Risky Exercise for your Spiritual LIfe

Yesterday at PCC, the services were about Rahab the Prostitute from Joshua 2.  I looked back over all the messages (sermons) I have ever developed (I started speaking in churches regularly in 1998) and I couldn't find a single one on Rahab!  I think yesterday was the first time I've ever taught on Joshua 2.  You can see the whole service here.

So, today, I was reading in Matthew and found something interesting that Jesus said and it was uncanny, since it had a lot to do with Rahab:

Matthew 21:28-32, Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees and the religious leaders and says:

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Did you see it?  The "tax collectors and the prostitutes" are entering the kingdom of God ahead of the very religiously devout!  Why?  Because even though the 'tax collectors and prostitutes' initially have lived in a way that was not obedient to God, they were open to Him, eventually believed in Him and took action base on that belief.  They changed their lives because of what they knew!

Jesus is making the point of the Rahab story - that it isn't about knowledge (the knowledge of the religious leaders was vast).  Rather, it's about faith in action.  Those who are willing to respond to God's voice based on what they know (whether it is a little or a lot) are the one's who are "entering the kingdom of God."

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote this:

You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:24-26)

So, take some time today and reflect on where you are right now.  What do you know about God?  What are those core beliefs deep inside of you?  Go ahead, list them...write them down, each on a separate line.  (They might include things like:  I know God is alive; I know God cares about me;  I know God is powerful;  I know God is personal;  I know God wants to use me;  I know God cares about the poor, etc.)

Now, pray and ask God to show you the truth about yourself.  Be still and quiet and listen for His voice.  Ask Him this question:  "With each of these things that I wrote down that I know about God, how is my life tangibly lived in a different way because of what I know?"

In other words, what action am I taking because of these truths?  Are they just academic, intellectual knowledge for me, or is my life notably changed because of them?  Is my behavior or choices different?  Ask God to show you the areas in which you need to take action.