Showing posts from 2016

ADVENT: a poem and a thought

Here we are again on Christmas Eve,
     All dressed up with my heart on my sleeve.
I affirm this is for most a special season
     When love trumps selfishness and faith trumps reason.
But why should this Gift, which casts out all fear,
     Be wrapped in shiny boxes to be opened but once a year?
I'm proposing thoughts and actions take a new way,
     And live out the wonder of Christmas every day.


Milestones: #7 Dealing with Loss & Pain (as a Pastor)

This is the wrap up of a series of 7 blog posts on specific milestones in my ministry/life.  I've done this in order to "build an altar of remembrance and gratitude" to God, and to share a few things I've discovered and learned along the way.  Milestone #7 is a loss/disappointment or tragedy which God brought forth great purpose and good.

Honestly, I haven't experienced a lot of what I would call "tragedy" in my life.  Yes, I have lost loved ones to death, lost good friends to misunderstandings, lost respect because of my own stupidity, and lost my way on just about every road trip I've ever taken.  I am certainly well acquainted with loss and the pain that comes with it.

One of the most difficult things about being in the vocation of a church Pastor is losing friends.  Years ago, in my "college years," I was counseled to not make close friendships in the churches that I would serve.  Well, I'm a people person, and as Jesus works throu…

Milestones: #6 A Tallit, a Prayer & the Healing of My Soul

Collecting milestones of life/ministry.  These are "moments" when Jesus has changed/guided/shaped my life, which I am now using to build an "altar of remembrance" to Him.  Milestone #6 is an answered prayer that God used in a special way.

Sometime around the beginning of 2004, I was depressed.  It was worse than that.  I was sliding slowly into a deep depression.  There were a lot of factors that led to this, but ultimately it was burnout and misplaced priorities.  I was over 5 years into running as hard as I could as a youth pastor - I'm talking "no days off" type of running hard.  I lived, breathed, an even slept youth ministry.  If you were to cut me back then, I would have bled youth ministry. Profusely.

They say hindsight is 20/20; a friend recently said "hindsight is x-ray vision!" I came to the realization that my priorities were very out-of-whack in hindsight.  Had I been able to see it then, most likely the depression I was heading…

Milestones: #5 Opportunities

So be careful how you live.  Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. - Ephesians 5:15-16

The fifth milestone in this challenge is an opportunity from Christ that was life-changing.

Several years ago, Jesus began a new awakening within me. I began to see that healthy churches don't simply grow, they multiply.  I've learned that this involves intentionality and strategy, but it only truly happens as God adds members to His church.  I began to dream of what it would look like for the church I was serving in to follow God's leading into planting churches that plant churches who plant churches.  I began to dream of teamwork and a network, not for the sake of systems and programs, but to reach people with the love of Jesus Christ.

What would it look like to open every avenue possible to reach people who are far from God?  What would it look like to make disciples of Jesus instead of consumers of religion/doc…

Milestones: #4 Awake, O Sleeper!

Today, I continue to gather 7 specific life/ministry milestones, and stack them as an altar of worship and gratitude to God.

Milestone #4 is a scripture that has come alive in your heart to guide/shape your life.

Over the years, Jesus has brought many words of Scripture alive in my heart to guide and shape my life.  Just a few that come to mind... Psalm 30:11-12... Isaiah 43:19... 1 Peter 1:6-7... Matthew 7:12...

Just over a year ago, God very clearly called me, and my family, to relocate and plant a new church.  It's been a year of praying, pastoring, and preparing.  Earlier this year we began to pray specifically about what this new mission would be called.  As we prayed and brainstormed, I continued seeking God though His Word.  In studying the letter of Ephesians, in the New Testament, this passage jumped right out of the writer's charge to this ancient church to live as "Children of Light" in a dark world, relying upon God's Holy Spirit guidance into relatio…

Milestones: #3 SoFL Living

Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things He does for me.  - Psalm 103:2

In this challenge to set up personal milestones as an altar of worship & thankfulness, I come to the 3rd of 7: a blessing from Christ that was life changing.

Years ago, Shelly & I would visit my parents over the holidays.  My dad was given to watch the Weather Channel, especially in those winter months.  I would look at that map of the U.S., showing the blizzard threats, the freeze warnings, the some-what milder yet cold temps of the south... and then there was South Florida.  Most of the country ranged from 0-45 degrees, but South Florida registered temperatures in the 80s!  And sunshine!

I remember clearly thinking (and praying), "God, why can't I live there???"

To be completely honest, I detest Winter.  I don't even really like Fall.  Every year I attempt to keep these feelings to myself as long as possible, as I have come to realize that its pretty frustra…

Milestones: #2 Daddy

I'm writing a bit about milestones - those events, experiences, and people that are being stacked up as the altar of my life, bringing gratitude and honor to God, who makes the journey happen. Milestone #2 is a person whom the Lord specially involved in shaping/guiding your life.

Sometimes it can be difficult to just pick one.  This is one of those times.

There are numerous people that God has used in shaping and guiding my life.  I am in no way one of those "self-made" people. It's taken a bunch of folks, with different levels of influence, to make me who I am today... and who I am still becoming.  Teachers, friends, coaches, relatives, grandparents, and my parents, all contributing to my shape.

But since I had to choose one, I had to go with my Dad.

No one has a greater influence on our lives than our parents (or whomever the main parental figure(s) turn out to be).  Currently, our culture seems to be going through an epidemic of fatherlessness.  That was never my …

Milestones: #1 The Call

Recently, I have had the blessing of becoming a part of a small group of pastors, who are beginning to meet together monthly for mutual encouragement and accountability.  We began with a challenge to reflect, celebrate, and share 7 specific milestones in our life/ministry.  Pick up a stone, and on it place words or drawings that represent these milestones.  Each one is determined by a set of "moments".  The first...

An encounter with Christ that was life changing.

To be honest, every one of the seven will be a representation of life-changing encounters with Jesus.  But here's my specific milestone moment...

An encounter with Christ that was life changing was what I simply refer to as "The Call." 

In 1994, my wife & I were driving down I-30, just west of Little Rock, AR.  I was working retail full time in Shreveport, LA.  I had kicked around several career options, and attended college in three different "spurts."  I had worked a while as a DJ in a …

What is a "Healthy Church"?

For months I've been dreaming, listening, talking, processing, and preparing to "give birth" to a healthy church.  In preparation to share with our church plant team for Awaken Church this week, I began pondering if others know what I mean when I use the term "healthy church." In a moment of clarity, I opened the Bible to the book called Acts, and meditated on Acts 2:42-47.  Then, last night, our team discussed this as I mostly listened.  Here's where we landed:

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship and to sharing meals (including the Lord's Supper), and to prayer. - Acts 2:42

The apostles' teaching
The Word of God is the go-to resource for a healthy church.  Taking the eternal truths found in this ancient story is essential in knowing, and living out, the way of Jesus.  The Bible isn't simply to gain head knowledge, but it also impacts the heart and influences the hands.

The Fellowship
We like food.…

Disappointment vs. Discouragement (how we keep going)

I have a good friend named Ashley.  In high school she was very athletic, enjoying full participation in several sports - basketball, cheer, softball... and a great player on the church volleyball team!  Then she blew her knee out.  It was bad.  I remember having conversations with Ashley, and while she had a lot of pain and disappointment, she seemed to never become totally discouraged.  Eventually, her knee healed up and she was able to be involved in athletics once more.

It's been several years since then, but the memory of Ashley's persistence in pushing through disappointment, and not falling prey to discouragement still awakens hope within me. 

Because, I'm a lot like you, I'd guess.  Disappointment happens.  Things don't go the way I expected.  People let me down.  I let people down.  Failure and frustration are a part of the journey.

Disappointment is to fail to fulfill one's expectations or wishes.  It happens.

I've known many people though, who, u…

5 Things Thriving Churches Have in Common

In the weeks immediately following my last Sunday as Lead Pastor with Oaklawn Church of God, Hot Springs, AR, my family had the opportunity (a very rare one for us for the past 18 years) to visit 7 churches.  Each of these congregations seemed to be doing better than "just surviving."  I would say that each of them is a "thriving church."

I'm defining thriving as "growth by the addition of numbers of people, and a spirit of focusing outward instead of inward." With this in mind, there were some things that I (and my lovely wife) noticed they had in common.

5 Things Thriving Churches Have in Common

1) Jesus is the subject!  In each church, there was no doubt about why they did what they did - Jesus.  Jesus was the center of what we experienced, and the diversity of celebrating Jesus was refreshing! While there were numerous activities and projects mentioned in each one, not one single time did it appear that anything other than Jesus was the m…

Orlando and I have issues

I love Orlando. Definitely a great city to visit, and one of the top places that I would like to live.  Yesterday (June 12, 2016), I awoke as the rest of the world did to reports of a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.  50 dead, another 53 hospitalized.  My heart is broken.  But not simply for a city that I love... but for all of us.

The details are still coming to light, as the media and politicians and special interest groups spin it around and around and around... like a record, baby. Who am I supposed to believe?

The shooter allegedly made a 911 call pledging his allegiance to ISIS, a radical extremists Muslim group.  The target was allegedly the LGBT community, as Pulse is known to be a gay bar.

Now, before I briefly address each of the issues this brings up (for me, anyways), I feel I need to begin with the an important reality about who I am.  I am a follower of Jesus. I'm not perfect, but I am being made more and more like Jesus as I surrender to Him.  I hav…

In Limbo: 5 Things to Do While You Wait and Wait... and Wait

The limbo is a dance where you keep moving under a pole to see "how low can you go?" The limbo is fun and actually good exercise, and often makes for a great party game.

This post is not about that kind of limbo.

I love to fly when I travel.  A couple of hours sitting on a plane, for me, is far more preferable to multiple hours (and days) driving.  But a couple of times I have experienced the bane of traveling by flight: the "circle the airport as we wait to land."

Is there any greater feeling of powerlessness?

Oh waiting in the airport gate area for a delayed flight stinks for sure, but you can occupy your time pretty easily, take a walk, buy an over-priced ATL t-shirt, or possibly get a different flight. 

And who likes to wait while on hold on the phone?  But you can always choose to just hangup and try your call again... or call a different office or department... or just forget the whole thing and pay the extra $20 on the bill that doesn't make any sense.


We're planting a church Pt. 6: YOU Can Be the Difference!

"Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light."  Ephesians 5:14

We're planting a new church in Natchitoches, LA - Awaken Church.  In case you've missed previous posts that share the initial vision God has given us & the thoughts on strategy to get there, you can catch up in Parts 1-5 by clicking here:
Part ONE
Part TWO

We are convinced that no one should plant a church alone!  God sends leaders & gatherers (Apostles) to do this kind of work, but He always has them build a team.  We are blessed to have a great support team with Louisiana Congregational Ministries of the Church of God.  Also, we are thankful for the great resources available to us through the Healthy Growing Churches Network!

The truth is, in order for us to see God's vision for Awaken Church become reality, we need a team and we're praying that YOU will pray about what it might look like to be a part of this team.  Our hope is that Y…

We're planting a church Pt. 5: A Multicultural Church

Part ONE
Part TWO

The vision God has given us for Awaken Church in Natchitoches, LA, is for awakening people to a life-changing relationship with Jesus, and equipping them to awaken others.

The snapshot we're beginning with is that Awaken Church will intentionally be a...

Why is being a multicultural church so important to us?

A part of this vision God is giving us is that this new church plant will reflect the beautiful reality of the Kingdom of God.  In the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus said that it was to "be a house of prayer for all nations." (Mark 11:17)  We've found, lost in the translation, that "all nations" is more clearly understood as "all people groups." Awaken Church will be a house of prayer for all people groups, reflecting the beauty of the Kingdom of God.

Also, this vision is that this new church plant will reflect the community, and its richness of diversity.…

We're planting a church Pt. 4: Multiplication in the DNA

Part ONE
Part TWO

As my family is in the process of finalizing (prayerfully) the details to make the move to Natchitoches, LA, to give birth to a new church plant - Awaken Church - we're keeping God's vision for us in the forefront of everything we do: awakening people to a life-changing relationship with Jesus, and equipping them to awaken others.

The vision God is showing is for Awaken Church to intentionally be a...

What exactly does it mean to be a Multiplying church?

"Church Multiplication" seems to sound like something new to the "growth by addition" mindset ingrained in today's church culture. However, this is actually how the church of God grew in the New Testament narrative. Yes, "each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved (Acts 2:47)," but when we look at how the Lord added people to the fellowship of believers, it was through disciples makin…

We're planting a church Part 3: What is MISSIONAL?

This is part 3 of my "We're planting a church..." series.
You can read PART ONE by clicking HERE.
And you can read PART TWO by clicking HERE.

As we prepare to plant, or birth, Awaken Church in Natchitoches, LA, our vision is for awakening people to a life-changing relationship with Jesus, and equipping them to awaken others.

In order to see this become reality, we're beginning with what we're calling our 3-M Strategy.  As mentioned in Part Two of this series of blog entries, these 3-Ms are that Awaken church will be intentional about being a...

What is Missional?

Well, it's pretty much been a buzz word in the contemporary Christian church for the past few years.  To the point that it almost feels like a cliche thing to say, like "oh missional is the latest fad, so let's do that."

But then I've never been one to wonder or care if something was a fad or not.  Missional is basically being…

Take up the Sword

"...and take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." -Ephesians 6:17b

The letter in the Bible, called Ephesians, ends with a charge to the reader to "put on the full armor of God." The goal is to stand firm in the calling to serve God and follow Jesus, and describes what this "spiritual armor" looks like: the belt of truth, the body armor (breastplate) of righteousness, shoes of peace that comes from the Good News (the message of Jesus), the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation.  Every piece of this armor is essential, but notice what comes last - "and take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Why is it listed last? Certainly, it's not least important.  It's simply a matter of reality: a warrior/soldier/knight would get fully dressed, and then pick up the sword. Taking up the sword was symbolic that, "OK, now I have put on every piece of armor so I will be able to resist the enemy. Now, I…