An exciting change for the Fries family

Earlier tonight the Pastor Search Team from Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN shared with their church that they have invited me to preach in view of a call as their next Senior Pastor [presentation website]. If you are surprised by this transition in our life, you wouldn’t be alone. We have been surprised and amazed at how God has worked in our lives through this process of turning our hearts to Brainerd and Chattanooga. I’d love to share a little bit of that story with you.

Why leave LifeWay?
Why would I choose to leave LifeWay? The very simple answer, and I’ll explain more in detail below, is that we believe God has called us to Chattanooga and directed our hearts to Brainerd Baptist Church. We had no desire to leave LifeWay. Working for Ed Stetzer over the past 3. 5 years has has helped shape me in so many ways. Our time at LifeWay and in Nashville has been so good for our family and our ministry. We love LifeWay and, more than ever, we are excited about the future of LifeWay. We believe she is well led, and has a nearly unparalleled selection of giftedness across the men and women who make up the LifeWay family. I can’t say more strongly how much we love and respect LifeWay, her leadership and the resources she provides, and how bright we believe her future is. Leaving LifeWay will be tough.

However, over the past 3.5 years that I’ve served at LifeWay, we have realized that God has uniquely designed me to serve the local church in the role of pastor. Serving on staff at our home church, Fairview Church, and providing interim leadership over much of the last year at First Baptist Church of Jackson, MS (two churches I deeply love) showed me clearly that pastoring in the local church was exactly where I was designed by God to be.

With that said, we had no plans to leave LifeWay. At the beginning of our ministry Tracy and I made a decision to never send out resumes unless we were first approached by a church/ministry. We trusted the Lord and told him that we would be faithful where he placed us, and we would trust him to move us when he was ready. We weren’t planning to leave. In fact, on 4 occasions over the past year we were approached by wonderful churches and asked to consider possibly serving as their Senior Pastor. While we were honored by each of these requests – and believed each church gave evidence of great potential – we clearly discerned that God did not want us there. We now know it is because he was keeping us for Brainerd.

Finally, we struggled with the idea of leaving because we love our church and we love the city we live in. We have developed deep relationships here. Our girls have strong friendships here. It’s hard to say good bye to those. For all those reasons, and more, we didn’t plan to leave but God seemed to make this decision very simple for us.

Why go to Brainerd?
As I said above, the decision ultimately came down to our ability to discern God’s will, and we believe God has called us to go. One story can serve as a startling example. A few months ago Tracy and I had been talking about the future. We were grappling with what would be next for our family. We didn’t know, at the time, that Ed Stetzer would soon be announcing his transition to Wheaton College, but we sensed that some change was coming our way. As we talked together about what that could look like, our conversation revolved almost exclusively around opportunities within LifeWay. However, one morning as I was getting ready to leave for work, Tracy shared with me a sense of confidence that God was preparing her to be a pastor’s wife again. This was no small moment. Tracy loved my job at LifeWay and the routine that our family enjoyed. As I said, the past 3.5 years has been so very good for our family. As she shared this with me she cautioned me that she didn’t want me to look for a position but, should a position fall in our laps, she was confident we needed to consider it and pray through it. I got in the car and drove to work. I sat down at my desk at work, started looking through emails and about 90 minutes after that earlier conversation, my phone rang. It was Richard Bethea, the Search Team Chairman, asking me to consider praying about Brainerd’s open Senior Pastor position. Although I wasn’t aware, they had known of me for 6 or more weeks, and had been studying my life, our family and our ministry in detail and felt like God had confirmed in their hearts that we need to talk. Needless to say, I was floored. The timing seemed unmistakable. Tracy and I spoke quickly after that phone call, and it didn’t take long after that, through meeting with the committee, for God to confirm in our heart that this was his desire for our family in a number of different ways.

So what’s next?
We are going to work hard for LifeWay for the next 6 weeks or so. About 4 weeks from now we are going to spend the weekend at Brainerd, in view of a call. Assuming that the church affirms me as their next Senior Pastor, we’ll look forward to beginning our ministry the first week of July. This means, of course, packing, selling our house and saying goodbye to folks who have become very good friends – some even like family – buying a new house and beginning to settle in Chattanooga. But we are excited, very excited, frankly. We believe the future is astonishingly bright at Brainerd Baptist Church. We have a lot of hopes and dreams for the future of the church and the future of Chattanooga. We believe God is putting us together with Brainerd, and we cannot wait to see how this all comes together.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

That our children might love Jesus

Our oldest daughter, Sarah Grace, was born almost 12 years ago. Shortly after her birth, which was a bit hectic because of some slight complications during delivery, we gathered together around her, and I held her and prayed for her that her heart would be turned to Jesus at a young age. From that time until now, Tracy and I have prayed diligently that our daughters would know and love Jesus. Not long ago Kessed, our youngest daughter, approached me to tell me that she had trusted Christ. After some probing questions, we felt confident that her commitment to Christ was genuine and that her comprehension of the gospel was more than sufficient. During this dialogue, our oldest expressed to us that she had also recently decided to trust Christ, but she had neglected to tell her mom & me because of nervousness. Once again we quizzed her, and once again we felt confident in the genuineness of her faith, as far as we could be confident.

Thankfully our church offers a wonderful “New Christians Class” for children who have come to faith to help them be clear on the fundamentals of their faith, as well as the discipline of walking with Christ. After they completed that class, they were baptized. Even more special to me, however, was that I was able to baptize both of them, on the same day. Our church, like many other churches, asks each baptismal candidate to share their testimony of faith via video prior to each baptism. Below I have posted both of their videos because I think they can encourage you, and because I can’t stop watching them. 😉

However, before you see the videos, I thought I would mention four things that Tracy and I have tried to be diligent about with our children, in an effort to pastor them well and lead them to their own faith. I am occasionally asked by parents what it looks like to pastor your children, so maybe this can be a helpful anecdote to encourage you. I am convinced that these four helps were influential in our girls’ appropriation of faith.

1. We prayed for our children’s salvation, in private and in front of them.
Tracy and I have prayed individually and together for the salvation of our children. This is not groundbreaking, I am sure. Hopefully most Christian parents are doing the same. However, one thing we began doing early on, and have continued throughout their life, was praying with them for their salvation. Daily, almost without fail, we would gather with our girls and pray that they would come to a day where they would understand their need for Jesus, his gift of salvation and their need to trust him. We were explicit and unashamed about this desire. In addition to this, Tracy in particular has diligently prayed scripture for them, asking God to confirm the truth of his word in their lives.

2. We imperfectly modeled a commitment to the gospel.
We have tried to model for our girls dependence on Jesus and repentance when we have failed as individuals and parents. I am convinced that among the worst thinga a parent can do is model some sort of false perfection. I think our tendency is to avoid admission of failure to our children, in an effort to appear in control. This too often can backfire, however, making genuine faith appear out of reach to our children and failing to teach our children how necessary grace is in our lives.

3. We shared the gospel with them.
We placed our children in situations where they would hear the gospel, but we very intentionally and persistently shared the gospel in clear and certain terms with them. I would imagine we shared the gospel with each of our daughters individually, and both daughters corporately, hundreds of times in their young lives. It seems to me that, as parents, we often assume much about our children and their comprehension of the gospel. However, the danger is to push our children prematurely or to coerce them into a commitment. That both of our girls made commitments to Christ individually, and came to us to share their decision was a great encouragement to our hearts.

4. We embedded our lives in a local church.
Finally, we center our lives around our local church community. This was obvious and expected when I was a Senior Pastor. However, when we stepped out of that role and looked for a church to join, we quickly found one upon moving to Tennessee and embedded our lives in that church community. In fact, we recently moved closer to our church community, even though it doubled my morning commute, because we believe that God’s design is for our faith to be developed in Christian community. Sarah Grace, in particular, shares in her testimony that an essential element to her faith was hearing our pastor encourage people who were not yet believers to take Christ, instead of the supper, as our church took communion. Do not overlook the spiritual importance of Christian community.

“Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the heavens are above the earth, your days and those of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your fathers. – Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

Don’t worry. Seriously, don’t.

My daughter loves to try and do things on her own, even things she doesn’t have the strength or knowledge to accomplish. Often she’ll work at it, and work it, only to throw her hands in the air and give up. I’m prone, during those times, to remind her that all she needs to do is ask, and dad will be glad to help her take care of it. That’s what I’m there for. When she asks, I go to work, on her behalf because I’m her daddy and I love her.

Philippians 4:6-7 is among the more precious promises in all of scripture.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Did you catch that first admonition? Don’t worry about anything. Those are pretty strong expectations. Particularly in a culture where we worry about everything. Some of us reading this worry because we don’t have anything to worry about. Worry seems a bit inherent in our hearts. The problem is, our worry reflects a lack of belief that God is God, and that God is good. When we worry, what we fail to realize is that our worry is an indication of a denial of God’s authority, and a lack of belief that God really does cause, “all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” What’s more, our worry is a wasted endeavor. We worry, and yet scripture reminds us that our worry does not add anything to our lives. (Matthew 6:25-31) Like my daughter, we worry, and we worry, and we worry and yet we don’t have the strength, authority or wisdom to accomplish what needs to be done. We worry, nothing happens, and we worry some more. Yet, somehow we convince ourselves that our worry is a good thing. As if we are adding to the solution by worrying. In fact, we often think our worry is a good sign, a sign of care and affection. So, when we worry, we don’t help solve any problems, our worry usually compounds, and our worry works against our spiritual growth as we reflect a lack of trust in God.

So what is the appropriate response? Paul tells us that the appropriate response is to take our requests to God. We do this for the same reason my daughter should ask me for help when she can’t handle something. We can’t handle it, but God can. Our commitment to take concerns to him shows faith in His love and benevolent work on our behalf. What’s more, the passage points out that we are supposed to take our concerns to him with “thanksgiving.” Why thanksgiving? There are a host of reasons, truthfully. We are thankful because God is sovereign over all things. We are thankful because God is gracious and loving, and desires to work for our good and his glory. We are thankful because, even though we cannot carry problems on our own, he can and he desires to. So, when we are receiving the body blows; when the world seems to crumble around us, we take our concerns to him, with thanksgiving, and he moves on our behalf.

Then comes the most glorious part of the passage, in my mind. As we move from our worry to his providential care, the bible tells us that God will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. He will stand guard, on our behalf, helping us to not only trust him, but to do so joyfully. Remember that these two verses are located in the middle of a larger passage where we are being reminded that God causes joy in the hearts of his children. His work on our behalf, in the midst of the storm, is intended to continue to build that joy in our hearts. It is why Job could say, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh.” in Job 1:21. It’s why Job would also go on to say, “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him.” It is why Horatio Spafford, after the loss of his four daughters, ages 11, 9, 5 & 2, on a sunken ship, could stand on the deck of another ship, over the very spot where his daughters drowned, and pen these words:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

In difficult situations, the temptation to deny God, and worry, is strong. Our response, however, is to trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, to place our hope and faith in our good God, and to take our concerns to him, knowing that when we do, his promise is to guard our hearts and our minds in his son, Christ Jesus. I can’t think of a greater hope than that.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

This makes me happy

As a daddy, I love to hear my girls learning God’s word. Take 20 seconds to listen to Kessed and see if you don’t agree with me that it is incredibly sweet. 😉 I love it!

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Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

Giving, not getting

I’m pretty proud of my daughters. As I watch them grow I see myself in them, which terrifies me, and yet slowly but surely I am also beginning to see Jesus reflected in their lives. Tracy & I have committed ourselves to leading our girls to love Jesus, although we are pretty imperfect pictures of Him ourselves. In spite of that, every once in a while our girls surprise us in amazing ways as they walk more and more like Jesus.

About a year ago Sarah Grace surprised us in one of those ways. Just after her 6th birthday, she came to her mom and told her that she (Sarah Grace) had too many toys. Not exactly the typical fare from a 6 year old. 🙂 Surprised, her mother asked her what she wanted to do about it. Grace proceeded to tell her about her new idea for a birthday party. Instead of a “normal” party, she decided she wanted to invite friends to come and bring gifts for others. Operation Christmas Child has been special to Grace for a while since her school has participated in it every year she’s been a student there. So Grace decided to have an OCC party. She wanted to invite her friends, instruct them to bring items for the shoeboxes instead of gifts, and spend the party packing boxes.

Her mom and I agreed, thinking she would certainly forget, or change her mind, over the coming year. We should have known better. Grace doesn’t forget anything.

So, next week we’re going to be hosting a birthday party, but not like one I ever wanted to have as a child. Instead of getting, my little girl wants to give. As a daddy who loves Jesus, and wants his girls to love Jesus, I couldn’t be prouder.

Happy (almost) Birthday Sarah Grace!

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.