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 & (soon to be) Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainer 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 & (soon to be) Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainer Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

Please pray for Raymond

I am struggling to sleep tonight. I just got word that a very good friend of mine, the man who was my translator and language teacher when Tracy and I lived in Africa, was in a motorcycle wreck this past Sunday while traveling to a village to lead a worship service and is now in a coma in a hospital in Tamala, Ghana. Raymond is a wonderful man who is married and has 5 children. He is also a pastor in the Methodist church in Ghana. I love Raymond, and his wife Vida, very much and would really appreciate your prayers for him that God would preserve his life and give Raymond many more years of service to the church. Below is the note that Sue, an American who is working as a missionary in Ghana, wrote concerning Raymond’s accident and status.

I was told yesterday that Rev. Raymond Dery, my former Dagaare teacher, was in a motorcycle accident in /near Tamale on Sunday. He went to lead worship and to preach. While he was at the church, one of the villages he drives through built their own traffic/speed bump. Dery didn’t realize it was there, went over it and flipped his motorcycle. He was taken to Tamale teaching hospital and has been in a coma ever since. I spoke with Rev. Job in Kumasi (they are relatives) and he said Dery is a little better than he was on Sunday. One of the medications that is needed for Dery could only be found in Accra, so some is being sent to Tamale. Please keep him in your prayers.( He has a wife and five children, one of the children has special needs.)

*The picture posted above was a picture that we took while in a village meeting with Raymond during our time as missionaries in Burkina Faso.

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

Let the little children come to me….

A pet peeve of mine is teaching children “memorized” prayers. I want children to learn that their faith is a personal faith and so we have encouraged our daughters, since they began to talk, to formulate their own prayers to God. At the close of our family devotional time each evening we let the girls each pray. Grace has been a pretty avid prayer since she was 2 and a half or 3. She loves to pray and she can pray some amazing prayers at times. Kessed, however, has just recently decided that she needed to begin praying. She listens to her big sister a lot and often copies her, but she is also beginning to develop her own personal ability to converse with God. It’s pretty amazing to watch.

Tonight after she prayed, we thought it was so cute that we had to get it on video for the sake of archiving it. We asked her to pray again once the camera was rolling. She obliged (which is definitely not a guarantee when you’re talking about Kessed) and I love the video. I’ve posted it below.

In case you don’t speak Kessedese and need a translation, she says: “Jesus thank you for today. Help us. In Jesus Name, amen.” I love watching my girls begin to grow in their faith.

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

Pray for Forrest Pollock

**UPDATE** Dr. Pollock and his son have been found. They did not survive the crash of their private airplane. Please be in prayer for the Pollock family.

Please pray for Pastor Forrest Pollock, of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, FL. Pastor Pollock was flying his private airplane along with his 13 year old son, Preston, and he never arrived at his intended destination. They believe they have found the emergency transmitter signal in North Carolina and are currently searching. Please pray diligently for Pastor Pollock, Preston as well as his wife and his 5 additional children.

Updates on the search can be found at the church website, located here.

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

Unity

Here in St. Joseph we have a phenomenal partnership among churches of various denominational stripes. We work together in a number of areas to promote unity and enlarge the Kingdom of God. The National Day of Prayer is one such area. A few years ago it was transitioned to something we refer to as “One Church”. We have personalized it to reflect St. Joseph and year after year it continues to reflect a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ coming together to honor God and seek Him in prayer. This year proved to be no different.

The St. Joseph News-Press has written a wonderful article outlining this year’s event. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d encourage you to do so. You can read it by clicking here.

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