Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Our God has a history of delivering His people:

He delivered Adam & Eve from immediate death
He delivered Noah and his family from the flood
He delivered Rahab from destruction
He delivered David from King Saul
He delivered Samson from his foolish pride
He delivered Esther from poverty and brought her to royalty
He delivered Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego from the fire
He delivered Daniel from the mouth of the lions
He delivered Luke from life as a mere doctor
He delivered Paul from a life of misguided murder
He delivered Peter from a career that wouldn't save anyone

He has delivered you and me from bondage, depression, addiction, the choices of our pasts, our sin and a future without hope. He is our Deliverer!

It started here on earth in a stable, but led to a cross that provided the ultimate deliverance for us-will you accept it? Will you throw off the chains of captivity and let the King of Kings set you free to follow Him?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Who Jesus Came For

I read this as part of our decision time yesterday and wanted to share it here. It is not my own work, but is borrowed from something Rick Warren wrote a while back.

In my study of the Gospels, I made a list of the people Jesus came for:

Jesus came for the chewed up, crossed off, crying out
The dropped out, edged out, fizzled out, and freaked out
The have-nots, the held back, hung over, and knocked around
He came for the left out, the loaded down, and looked over
The locked up, led astray, laid off and let down
The messed up and the mixed up.

He came for the passed over, the picked on, put down, pinned down and pushed around
The ripped off, the run down and the run over.

Jesus came for people who are screwed up and the shrugged off
The shut in and shut out
The smashed up, the stacked against, and strung out.

Our Savior came for the torn up, thrown away, and the turned off
Those who used up and walked over
The washed out, the worn out, the wiped out, and the written off.

He came for you. And me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

On Your Mark

In Galatians 6:17, Paul states that he bears on his body the marks of Jesus. In this context, he is acknowledging the physical beatings that he has endured for the cause of Christ. If we were to see Paul in this time the evidence of his conviction to follow Christ would be visible to us.

I read this and wonder where my "marks of Jesus" are. Can I even see what they are? We don't suffer physically here in America for our beliefs as our brothers & sisters around the world do, so our marks must show up in different ways. Is it through our finances? The time we spend with our families seeking God's will for us? The sources of media that we allow to either pollute or enrich our minds each day? The enmity or true forgiveness that we feel towards those that have wronged us? The unconditional love that we share with our children, spouse and family members? Our desire (and corresponding actions) to help a world without Christ find deliverance and salvation?

I have to stop and ask myself the personal question. Is God truly leaving on impact on my life that is evident to other people? I desire to have those "marks" in my life-for it to be plainly known and seen that my life belongs to Christ. I may not have them yet, but I pray that my passionate desire for them may be the beginning.

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21

Monday, November 29, 2010


In Galatians 5, Paul is writing to the church and refuting some of the legalistic actions that have been imposed by leadership. The argument here is over the practice of circumcision and whether or not the Gentiles who are coming to Christ must be circumcised before they can join the church. Paul makes a clear statement that if they are going to enforce the "law" that they must enforce all of it, but that Christ came and essentially made circumcision null and void. In verse 6 he says, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

The question that rolls through my mind this morning after reading this is, "How am I expressing myself?" If this is truly what counts as believers, then I should make it a focus to show love to those around me as a reflection of my faith in God. What happens instead is that I get focused on how I am feeling that day, whether I like something or not, how people treat me and my ideas, the value that I think others place on me, and the impact that I can have other people. These are all expressive emotions, but certainly not ones that reflect my faith in Christ.

Imagine how different our families would be if we focused on expressing our faith through love to each other. Think of how different our communities would be if we would show the same passion for sharing faith through love that we do for our hobbies, careers, favorite sports teams, TV shows or our children's athletics. How powerful and far-reaching would God's church be if we prayed each day for our faith to be expressed in love and then acted on it?

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Obviously I am few days late for an actual Thanksgiving posting, but in the spirit of the weekend I want to list a few things that I am grateful for.

  • My wife-beautiful, intelligent, God-loving, creative, passionate and puts up with me. 'Nuff said.
  • Three special daughters who are beautifully & uniquely made. I treasure the time we have with them at this age & look forward to what God is going to do in their lives.
  • A loving family that has always been supportive of me & has had a bigger influence on me than even I realize.
  • A supportive, encouraging & challenging staff to work with as we seek God's will for His church here.
  • A lead pastor that is willing to take a chance on me & my family and be patient as God refines us.
  • Northridge Christian Church-a place that opened up their arms to us and has made us feel welcome and a vital part of what God is doing.
  • Mercies that are new every morning.
  • The simplicity of shared times with family over the holidays.
  • New horizons & challenges in ministry.
  • Being comfortable with who I am as God continues to reshape & mold me.
  • Friends that are serving God in different states-all of us working towards the same goal even if we are in different zip codes.
  • Friendships that have not changed even though our address has.
  • A Savior who is jealous for me and loves me more than I can even begin to comprehend.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Face to Face

I was reading in Nehemiah this morning and in chapter 8, God's people have finished rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem and have gathered to celebrate. Ezra has found a copy of God's law and is reading it to the people. It's a powerful testimony to their faith as they hear God's Word read aloud and start to weep-not just a few of them, but the entire crowd. This is not a temporary moment however, as they return to the assembly three weeks later and make a covenant with God to be His people once more.

Reading this causes me to wonder about our reaction when we come face-to-face with God-whether that is through the teaching of His Word, through worship, other people or serving those around us. The Israelites who had been in exile were desperate for God's truth and the realization of how far from Him they had gone caused them great sorrow. The people in Nehemiah were not just reacting emotionally-they came back three weeks later to make a pledge to God to strive to be His people again.

What about us and the church today? How will we react when we are face to face with God and realize where we are in relation to where He wants us to be? Have we become so jaded in our Christian lives that we cannot create that same sense of longing when we encounter God? Will it be true repentance that we commit to following up with or simply an emotional reaction that is forgotten as soon as we leave the building?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Intelligence and wisdom are important assets to me. I value them in other people and work hard to increase them (to the extent that you can actually influence them) in myself. One of the worst insults that someone could throw at me would be to insult my intelligence. Obviously this speaks to the pride issue that is part of that battle, but that is a blog for another time.

This morning as I was reading in the book of Ezra in chapter 7, King Artaxerxes was sending Ezra back to his homeland. He was allowing him to return and reinstate their practices honoring God as well as sending him back with physical wealth. In the king's letter to Ezra, he stated that Ezra had wisdom and that it was from God. This was an obvious influence on Artaxerxes' decision to let Ezra return.

What a testimony to God being the source of wisdom! How often do we strive to know more than someone else and to flaunt our wisdom to inflate our own egos? If we were to follow the example of Ezra we would shift our focus to begging God to provide wisdom and then making sure that He receives credit for it.

When we are truly filled with godly wisdom even those who don't profess to follow Christ will recognize the power of God in our lives.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Time Like This

In the book of Esther, the young woman of the same name is presented with an interesting opportunity. She has been placed in a position of power and now has to make a choice. She can take a risk and save her people, but it might also lead to her own death. Her uncle Mordecai challenges her to take action in Esther 4:14 and says, "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

How differently would we approach each day if we would make decisions with this verse in mind? If we would realize that God continues to strategically place us in the right place and time for His glory it would alter our perspective. We would see the opportunities that are in front of us-both big and small-and would take advantage of them. Not only would this lead us to fulfilling God's plan for our lives, but we would see our faith increase, our families grow closer together and a church that is unstoppable in sharing the message of Christ.

We are here today for "such a time as this." What will we do with it?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Joyful Perspective

Needless to say, it has been an interesting week. There have been countless times of prayer and discussion as we seek God's vision for His church, planning sessions for the upcoming holiday seasons, budget revisions for 2011 and multiple coaching sessions. Sometimes the pressure of wanting to honor God through our efforts, bring people closer to Him and yet deal with human expectations can be overwhelming. In light of how much my head has been spinning and to help regain perspective, I thought it would be beneficial to make a short list of things that bring me joy this fine morning.

  • Confidence in a King who loves me for me
  • A beautiful, passionate & intelligent wife who is more than I deserve
  • Good morning hugs & kisses from three incredible daughters
  • A day off full of potential
  • A hot cup of coffee on a cool morning
  • Seeing my family in Orlando in a few short weeks
  • A meatloaf sandwich yesterday that brings back fond memories of my grandparents
  • A planned date night with my lover/best friend
  • Incredible friends here who make that date night possible
  • Friends from Florida who will be here next weekend
  • A chilly Friday morning
  • Working with friends that care enough about people & God's church to keep searching for answers
  • Family meals together
  • Too many other things to count, but still worth counting now & then

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Misery Loves

I am reading in Job this morning and I am in the middle of the dialogue between Job and his friends. It is interesting how they try to give him a different perspective (not always accurately) and how he refutes everything that they say. What his friends say is not always encouraging, but they are trying to help. It is his position of refusal that allows him to keep wallowing in his pitiful emotions-at least until God answers him and gives him the right perspective.

I know that the key when we are struggling is to turn to God as He is the only one that can actually provide comfort. It was Job's example that showed me that most of the time when we are miserable, we become content with staying in that trap. It isn't so much that misery loves company. I've found that far too often (at least in my own life) that misery just loves misery. It causes us to stay in self-destructive patterns of depression, to lash out at those that are closest to us, and to become vindictive in thoughts and speech towards those that we feel have wounded us. When we don't allow God to intervene, this becomes a life-long characteristic that leads to an embittered existence that sucks the energy from other people.

The truth is that God desires more than that for us and is prepared to guide us out of that imprisonment. Can we show people the need to let Him be the solution?

"The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full." John 10:10

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Off Script

As someone who has always enjoyed the theater and was a theater major in college for a bit, I have seen and performed in numerous plays and musicals. I love to immerse myself in a role or a show and enjoy all that the characters have to offer. One of the keys to a successful dramatic production is to make sure that everyone knows their lines-it helps you to get into your character and provides a seamless and realistic experience for those that are watching. When the other actors improvise in this area it throws off timing and can cause uncertainty among the principal players.

When we make a commitment to Christ we are asking Him to step into our lives-our own dramatic production if you will. We talk about wanting to give Him control and asking Him to lead us, but when He starts improvising off the script that we had written for our lives we get upset.

You can't have it both ways. Either you want an entertaining god (intentionally lower case) to play along with your ambitions or you want the real God to set you towards the plan and purpose He has for you-regardless of how uncomfortable it might make you.

It's not easy to cede control, but it's necessary for something that is real.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Response Time

In the book of Daniel, in chapter 4 is the story of King Nebuchadnezzar who was the king of  Babylon during the Jewish exile. The king has a dream and he turns to Daniel for interpretation. The vision from God tells Nebuchadnezzar that he is destined to have his kingdom removed from him and that he will live as a wild beast for a period of time before his kingdom is restored to him. The point of the vision is that the only reason that he is in power is that God has allowed it. Nebuchadnezzar is affected by this news I am sure, but does nothing with it as time goes by until a year has passed. At this point he is boasting about how great he is and all of his power when God fulfills His promise and takes it away.

The king missed the point of what God was telling him. He was given a chance to make a change and a whole year to do it and either chickened out or he was too prideful to change and figured that God really wouldn't follow through. God has always proven to be faithful to His Word though-even when we are not faithful to ours.

I wonder how often we hear something from God and either ignore it or conveniently forget about it. Not only are we disobedient when we choose this path we also miss out on what God has for us next. I'm firmly convinced that ignoring these God messages is what holds us back as followers, spiritual leaders and His church.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Enemy Within Us

David Platt in his book, Radical, writes this statement: "Part of our sinful nature instinctively chooses to see what we want to see and to ignore what we want to ignore."

We can own up to the "typical" sins that are so commonly shared (lust & pride as men) without letting the Holy Spirit actually reveal to us the true nature of all the sin that has a grip on us. It's in ignoring those "other" sins that we are only fooling ourselves.

We miss how talking about other people is gossip as we think it is "Christian concern." Complaints about methodology and structure in the church are "voices of reason" instead of recognizing them as dissension and divisiveness. Talking suggestively in person (or online) with someone of the opposite sex is seen as harmless flirting when it is adultery and harmful to both people and their families. Crude jokes and comments made between friends is painted as simply having fun when it is destroying a level of purity within our hearts. Having a few drinks too many is "not that big a deal" when God specifically tells us not to overindulge in any area of our life. A small lie that is told to cover over a small trangression isn't a big deal since nobody is really hurt even if God's Word tells us to let "your yes be yes and your no be no."

Hiding this sin from other people seems second nature since we don't want others to know what we struggle with, but the true danger comes when we hide it from ourselves. Honestly, I believe that we hide them because we are afraid it is too hard to let God work on them. The process of the Holy Spirit making us aware of this is not without pain, but it is necessary for us to be holy as God is holy.

We can only truly be free when we ask God to reveal all of the sin that has a stranglehold on us-those that we see and even those we try not to notice.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Not Too Much

I am reading Jerry Bridges book The Pursuit of Holiness, and he is writing about the need for us to get rid of sin in our lives if we want to be holy. Part of the problem with removing sin from our lives is in our attitude towards it.

1 John 2:1 says, "I write this to you so that you will not sin." John was clearly communicating that we have God's Word to help us set the goal of not sinning. We struggle because we have shifted that goal to trying not to sin too much. That certainly isn't the level of holiness that God is calling us to and may have a lot to do with why we battle so much with those sinful habits. Instead of trying to limit the sin in our lives, we should be striving to eliminate it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Influence: My Best Friend

At the end of this blog series on influences in my life, it has to be concluded by talking about my wife. She and I met in the fall of 1991, started dating February 14, 1992, I proposed on February 14, 1993 and we were married in December of 1994. It has been a difficult and yet rewarding journey, but I wouldn't have made it where I am today without her. It's interesting to see how much we have changed through the years, and how we have become so much closer as a result of life together blessed by God.

I couldn't possibly fit into one blog entry all of the ways she has influenced me, but I'll try:
  • She showed me toughness right away as she dealt with breast cancer and then became an advocate for early screening and detection for young women
  • She has this great family that has helped to shape my work ethic and desire to provide for my own family
  • She got me to go back to church and was the spiritual leader in our house when I wasn't man enough to do it
  • She prayed for me and held things together while I spent the majority of my time focused on my career in athletic training
  • She believes in me and is my biggest fan and supporter
  • She has become so passionate about studying God's Word and is definitely a better Biblical scholar than I am
  • She loves our children so much and is an incredible mother to them
  • She is one of the most intelligent people I know and I value her input in so many ways
  • She doesn't just accept something because "that's the way it's always been done" and pushes me to think about how things come together
  • She has dedicated herself to running and has pushed me to be in better condition for our family's sake and my own
  • She has shown a commitment to God's plan for our family and is willing to go wherever He leads us.
I could go on and make this the world's longest blog, but it is sufficient to say that I am blessed to be married to my best friend, my confidant, my lover and the woman who pushes me to be a better man.

Thank you babe for loving me and helping me to be who God wants me to be.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hard Habit to Break

There is always a battle with sin in our lives. If you have declared that you are a Christian, that battle has been won and yet we still struggle with sin in our lives. Sin doesn't have dominion over you yet it is still a constant struggle between our spiritual and physical natures. This reinforces the premise that sin is a habit for us. Even though we have been made free through Christ we tend to fall back on the habits that we are most familiar with.

An illustration that I read this morning equated it to the slaves that were freed by President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. The author stated that those slaves most likely did not immediately think and act like freed people just because they had been released. They still tended to act as slaves because they had developed habit patterns of slavery and had to work to overcome them to see the change in their lives.

Isn't this true of us? We have been freed, but still think and act like slaves of sin. It is a continual renewing and transforming of our minds that will eventually replace those habits with the ones that God truly wants to be ingrained in us.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Do I Know You?

One of the dangers of today's social networking life is that we spend most of our time discovering other people through their Facebook page. While this can be a positive way to reconnect with old friends and even make acquaintances via friend connections, it does tend to be a bit shallow in terms of knowing people well. It creates a dangerous situation where you may feel that you know someone better than they actually know you. You have looked through their pictures and seen their online observations, but it doesn't tell you the whole story of who they are. In some instances you may even approach them in public and ask about the birthday party they went to last week without them being very clear on who you actually are.

In 1 Corinthians 8:3 it says, "But the man who loves God is known by God." As I read that this morning it caused me to pause and wonder how many people think that they know God because they have grown up in a church or because they attend whenever the doors are open.

Church attendance, Christian t-shirts and the latest Tomlin or Hillsong CD don't get us membership into the God club. It is a love of God that is evidenced by the way that we live. It is a life marked by holiness as we seek to care for others and do what we can to bring them into God's Kingdom. When this is who we striving to be, there won't be that awkward moment when we think that we know God well only to find out He doesn't have a clue who we are.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Personal

There would be no ministry, no repentance and no revival without the Holy Spirit. I feel confident saying that and believing in the power that God provides to change lives. I have seen it at work in my own life and in countless stories of transformation in other people.

There is another factor to this supernatural occurrence however. It is the need for personal responsibility. I have no doubt that God could choose to heal a marriage, take away cancer, remove an addiction or cause Pentecost to happen all over again. I also see that we must be willing to take those steps to seek out the supernatural. We must choose to be actively engaged in worship. We have to decide that holiness is something we want to pursue. We must stand up for our children and their future. We have to stand in the gap for those that are unwilling to stand on their own. We must decide to do something with the messages that God gives to us each week instead of only being motivated on a Sunday morning.

It is our choosing to follow God and all that it entails that will make a difference in our lives here and in the life to come. It's that personal involvement combined with the power of the Holy Spirit that brings about a change that is noticeable to the rest of the world.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vision Revealed

We have been frequently dialoguing as a staff about the direction of ministry and what God is calling us to do next. One of the big areas of focus for us is the youth ministry. We are working hard to communicate the need for God in their lives and to hopefully move them closer to Him. That venture is not an easy one (although the rewards are certainly worth it) and we struggle with the balance of our efforts and what can only be achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday was a day of prayer and fasting for our staff and we all spent time seeking God and His wisdom for many areas. I didn't expect to be given a three point plan on how to change what we do and make it more powerful, but we were all searching for a revelation of direction from God.

Is that any different in other aspects of our lives? Aren't we all (if we will pause and be honest) looking for direction in our future plans, marriages, friendships, relationship boundaries, parenting, family relations, careers and goals? I know that God has that plan and vision and that He wants to be the central focus for all we do. Why isn't the truth plain and evident then?

What if the thing that is holding back that revelation is not the unwillingness of God to share it, but our lack of readiness to receive it?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Spiritual Catalyst

I am re-reading In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson as we prep to begin a series on it next month. I had previously underlined the phrase "spiritual catalyst" and it stirred my thoughts this morning.

A catalyst is something that causes change-that creates a reaction.Working through the spiritual implications of that can be challenging. That catalytic event is also different for each of us depending on our maturity and recognition of God at work in the middle of it. Certain experiences are obviously defined as spiritual catalysts: a mission trip, a worship experience like CIY Believe/Move, a week of camp, a powerful prayer service or the beginning/ending of a life.

As we grow in Christ however, the scope of that concept is broadened. It no longer requires a sentinel event to get our attention and get us to focus on God-we start to notice Him in the moments throughout the day and then they serve to draw us closer to Him. Our hearts are changed as we start to see how He is calling out to us in multiple ways: the pain that we don't understand, the brokenness of our human relationships, the hurt that others inflict on us, the joy of a child's laughter, the comfort of holding hands with someone you love, the intimacy of praying for another person, the satisfaction in our soul when we serve someone with no desire for our own recognition, or a meal shared with family.

Those catalytic opportunities fill our day. Will we recognize them and let them serve as spiritual experiences that increase our intimacy with God or will we miss the whispering of our Father as He seeks to bring us closer to Him?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Influence: Mike Waers

I'm sure that a few of my readers were wondering why I didn't mention Mike Waers in the two previous posts about influence, but I thought that he deserved his own entry.

I knew of Mike from his days at FSU and the campus ministry that he worked in there. He would periodically come down to TCC and speak as we continued to support him. It was about five years ago that he joined the Tomoka staff while I was already there as youth pastor. I can honestly say that since that time he has invested more in me than any other person.

We spent countless hours in Florida talking in his office and asking each other tough questions and seeking better ways to do things. He was willing to push my buttons (and often did!), but after reflecting on what he had to say he was right more often than not. I was able to watch him there and see how he interacted with people and the approach that he took to ministry. When he and Kathy left to come to Northridge it left a huge, gaping hole in my accountability and mentorship. The benefit of my time with him was clearly evident in the year that we spent apart as I can honestly say that my best year of ministry at Tomoka was my last year. I was able to put into practice the lessons that Mike had taught me and I feel that I had finally become a real pastor.

When things ended quickly in Florida, Mike was the first person that I called on the way home. He and Kathy cried and prayed for us and God used those circumstances to bring us here to live and work together again. Our roles have shifted here, but he still continues to teach me-more than he is even aware of. I see how he interacts with people in public, how he cares so deeply for the people of this church and this community, how he strives to always make things better, and yet seek God's will through every bit of it. He makes me aware of things that I don't see at first and pushes me to think carefully before I make a decision. We have had our volatile moments, but we love each other through them all and again-he's right more often than he's not.

My wife and I are more grateful for Mike and Kathy than they could ever know. We are thankful for their patience with us as we have healed from the painful departure from Florida. It is a privilege to serve here alongside them and to see the stretching influence that they have on our lives and it amazes me how God has brought us both here to serve and grow together.

I couldn't ask for a better friend, mentor and role model.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Influence: Partners in Ministry

I was very fortunate in my early days of ministry to be working with several other people in our community that helped to direct my thoughts and develop philosophy of ministry. They were willing to take the time to dialogue with me as we invested in each other and our common goal of reaching people for Christ.

Robbie O'Brien has been a friend of mine for about 15 years now and we have certainly seen each other through the tough and the good times. When I entered into ministry in 2003, we had been friends for several years and he was serving at First United Methodist. His experience working with youth was a tremendous blessing to me, but he has influenced me more since he planted The Beachside Church. I appreciate our open and yet challenging conversations and that he was there for us when things fell apart at Tomoka. He is one of those friends that I don't have to talk to very often, but we both know that we are there for each other whenever we are needed.

Drew Powell was the worship leader and youth guy at Oasis Christ Fellowship when I started. We quickly developed a partnership and worked together on several community events. We were fortunate to bring him on staff as he was planting The Beachside Church which gave us a chance to work more closely. Drew is a brother to me and is the most gifted worship leader I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with. He is truly anointed and has shaped my thoughts about worship and my attitude towards leading. I would love the opportunity to work with him again as we encourage each other from a distance.

One of my best friends in ministry is John Porterfield. We started working middle school camp together in 2004 and instantly struck up a great friendship. John's experience in ministry was a great benefit to me and he certainly helped to make my years of camp much easier. We were blessed to be an active part of each other's ministry for several years and I consider him a brother and great friend.

There are many other good friends and conversations that helped to shape my philosophy of ministry and still continue to do so: Justin Halleck, Ray & Susan Kelley, Al Force, Jay Gibson, Linda Marshall, Carrie Graham, Charles & Melanie Dolich and Gary Powell to name a few. I am thankful for fellow warriors for Christ and their willingness to work alongside me in the battle for people's souls.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Influence: The TCC Years

It has been a while since I continued in this blog series of influence, but I felt it was time to get after it and finish it up.

It is said, and accurately I might add, that we are the sum total of our life experiences. The individual that you are today is no accident, but has been shaped by the interactions of people around you with God obviously working through all of it whether we choose to recognize Him or not. I am the husband, father, pastor and follower of Christ that I am today because of the influence of many people, but a great deal of that influence has come from my years at Tomoka Christian Church, and specifically Joe Putting and Ed Marshall.

I grew up in the church, but wandered away from the truth that I knew through my senior year of high school and all of college. It wasn't until I was married and two very close friends invited Dana and I to TCC that we started the journey back. It was on my first Sunday there that we ended up "coincidentally" having lunch with Joe and Luanne Putting. That was the start of a friendship and a leading from God that changed our lives forever.

I was exposed to a passionate form of Christianity that was authentic and unlike anything I had seen before. It was no longer about Sunday rituals and was about being actively engaged in pursuing God's will for our lives and a desire to reach the rest of the world. Prayer took on meaning and was no longer a simple recitation. Worship was something to be actively engaged in and a part of every day life. I would say that I finally became a real Christ follower while I was there.

In 2003, Joe asked me to join his staff as the youth pastor. It was the start of the revealing of my true path in life and what God has called me to do. It was not always the easiest journey in my time there and our departure was certainly difficult, but the lessons that I learned from Joe and Ed are invaluable. Both men possess a passion for the Word of God and for lost souls that has shifted my focus over the years. We were all blessed to be part of some great works of God while we were there and I continue to look back even now for guidance on listening to God and how to be a pastor.

I am honestly grateful for the time that we were able to share together as a staff and warriors for the cause of Christ. The past year has been a tough learning experience and unfortunately I don't think our relationship will ever be the same, but I truly value the impact that Joe and  Ed have had on my life. My prayers are always with them and I hope that one day we could all sit down and celebrate God's work in our lives and what He accomplished through us while we served there together.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Good, Pleasing & Perfect

We spend a lot of time searching for God's will in our lives and in ministry. We pray, study the Word, and seek wise counsel before we take action. Sometimes we can become paralyzed by the indecision we face as we want to make the right choice and follow the direction of God without making a huge mistake.

As I read in Romans 12 this morning, I see the key. It is for us to be transformed as our minds are made new by God. When we are made into the likeness of Christ we no longer struggle with determining His will for us. We are able to test and approve what we are facing and know what is true because of the power of the Holy Spirit that is in us.

I have read this passage hundreds of times, but this morning it is the key of transformation-not just diligent prayer-that resonates with me and directs me to where my focus should be for my own soul's sake.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Hope So

A commonly quoted verse (especially in youth ministries) is Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." It is usually shared in the context of the great plans that God has for each of us and to encourage people to trust in God's will and direction for our lives.

This morning I am struck by another thought in my reading. This verse is more than just waiting for God to reveal His great plan to us. It is a challenge to have the bold faith to ask God for something magnificent and powerful in our lives. It should direct us to ask the question of what we are truly hoping for from God. This is something that takes faith and vision on our part.

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons that we (as pastors) can teach the church is to have a hope for the future in Jesus Christ. Not just a hope for heaven once this life here is done, but a hope for great things from God now. A hope for our children, marriages, finances, careers, relationships, churches and more. I think this must be constantly taught because too few people understand the vision of this concept (including me.)

Rod Parsley in his book Ancient Wells, Living Water puts it this way:
"Most people don't have a future, because they have no hope; they only have a prolonged today. They live in what I call the 'someday syndrome.' In order to have something you've never had before, you must do something different than what you're doing right now. God-given hope sees your tomorrows as different from your today!"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Right Way

When things don't go as well as I would hope (both from a personal and a ministry perspective) I tend to analyze and strategize. I will ask questions and dialogue with people that I trust to see what we might do differently to achieve greater impact and results. The problem with doing things this way is that it cuts God out of the equation far too much because I haven't spent the time in prayer.

I feel that I understand the power of prayer and truly believe that God hears us and answers us, but in practice my prayer life doesn't reflect that dedication enough. I feel safe enough to say that is probably the case for a lot of people. When we are in trouble or things start to fall apart around us we will certainly turn to God for solutions. How much different would our individual lives and God's church be if we faithfully petitioned Him each day for powerful things though? How much would our faith increase through that process of trusting and seeing answers? Are we willing to utilize the gift of prayer that He has given to us in the way that He intended for us to use it?

I see in Scripture that God is waiting to bless us and to use us here in mighty ways if we will only seek Him through prayer. I am challenged this morning to eagerly speak to God and to ask for His favor as we continue to move people closer to Him-and then to believe that those prayers will be answered.

"Nothing is more important to God than prayer in dealing with mankind. But is it likewise all-important to man to pray? Failure to pray is failure along the whole line of life. It is failure of duty, service and spiritual progress. God must help man by prayer. He who does not pray, therefore, robs himself of God's help and places God where he cannot help man. Man must pray to God if love for God is to exist."  E.M. Bounds

Monday, September 6, 2010

Something New

I am often too contemplative for my own good. I get things rolling around in my head and create perceptions and arguments for and against things that aren't necessarily the most beneficial footholds to gain. I also fall into the comparison trap between the past and my current standing/situation.

As I seek direction from God for what to do next in ministry here at Northridge, it can be easy to fall into the trap of looking at the past and what has worked instead of trusting God for a new vision. I believe strongly in the fundamental principles of relying on the Word of God for teaching, a lifestyle of worship, serving in the area of your giftedness and a commitment to leading others to Christ. Those areas do not change, but the methodology will vary. I trust in God's great plan for us though-even though I need to remind myself of that sometimes. I know that He has something that is new and incredible for all of us-as His church and for all of us as individual families.

My heart is focused on the youth at Northridge this morning and I know that God has something new for us. It is time to truly seek what that vision is and to be faithful and obedient enough to step out and follow it-even if it is something we have never seen before.

"Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say 'Thank you!' --the coyotes and the buzzards-- Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me."  Isaiah 43:18-21

Friday, September 3, 2010

Prevailing Purpose

As I read in Isaiah 28 this morning, there was a problem in the church. The spiritual leaders had become focused on their own position and comfort level. They were not teaching the truth of God's Word, but had instead fallen into a pattern of simply teaching "don'ts." There was no emphasis on the true nature of God and His great desire to have intimacy with His people. As a result of their lack of vision and obedience, the people following them were mere spiritual infants when they should have been mature. Due to their lack of faith and trust, God created circumstances that would bring their focus back to Him-painful as that process was going to be.

When God is ignored in His church (even today), He will get our attention. This is not out of His own pride, but out of His overwhelming love for all of us. It is a challenge for pastors and leaders to stay focused on His ultimate plan for us and to be sure that we do not lose sight of His direction. If we are firmly in the Word and committed to teaching it no matter what that looks like or how uncomfortable that makes people, then it won't be necessary for God to intervene in other ways.

Monday, August 30, 2010


There is a saying that I have used many times over the years in teaching (not my original work)-thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, habits become character. It can be a positive factor in life, but more often than not is a negative. My thought life is something that I struggle with-my mind is often my greatest enemy. I allow thoughts of inferiority to creep in, misperceptions of people and their reactions to me, impurity that frustrates me to no end and even speculation that my imagination runs wild with.

As I was mowing this weekend and my mind wandered (sometimes in positive directions) I reminded myself of the verse in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that challenges us to take every thought captive. As I thought of this verse however, I almost laughed out loud. "Really God? You want me to take captive the thoughts that I can't control even though I try? And what exactly would that look like?"

It wasn't until this morning as I was praying that I realized the only way to take my thoughts captive is to surrender them. I know that seems like an oxymoron-how can you capture something that you need to surrender? That is the whole story of God though-surrendering something/everything and yet finding victory instead of defeat.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Continuing to Chisel

God has been working on me lately-more so than usual-as He preps me for what is next in His great plan for my family and His church. Dana and I both have had some tough personal times lately as God has revealed through His Holy Spirit where we need His transforming power to work. We have had to humble ourselves to receive the healing power that God offers. It is not easy, but we can taste the sweetness of what He is doing and see that it is necessary.

I am nearing the end of reading Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life, and it has been a challenging and rewarding book as God has used it as part of the chiseling process. I read this passage today and feel that it stands on its own without any clarification needed from me.

"Light has one law: it shines wherever it is admitted. That is the only requirement. We may shut it out of ourselves; it fears nothing else. If we throw ourselves open to God, he will reveal. The trouble comes when we have closed areas, locked and barred places in our hearts, where we think with pride that we are right. Our defeat the lies less in our being wrong than in our not knowing that we are wrong.Wrong may be a question of natural strength; ignorance of it is a question of light....God is light, and we cannot live in his light and be without understanding."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


As I work my way through the chronological Bible this year, I found myself in Micah this morning. As I read of the disobedience of God's people and the impending judgment that is about to fall on them, the question asked in Micah 6 is, "what do we do now?" God's people become concerned because they realize that they might be in trouble and now want to offer the right sacrifices so that God won't do anything to them. In essence, they want to ask forgiveness so that they can avoid the consequences of their decisions.

God offers forgiveness, but He isn't looking for people who are sorry that they got caught. It isn't just about having them wiped away so that we can go back to what we want to do with our lives. It's the recognition that our decisions need to be filtered through the Holy Spirit so that we can find the lifestyle change that Micah 6:8 challenges us to have. He is looking to transform us into His likeness-not out of His own tremendous ego, but because He sees the big picture of life with Him and that it is better for us than the path of life that we most often choose for ourselves.

Micah 6:8 "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly
and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

If this becomes our life philosophy and the flavor of who we really are as Christ followers, I would wager that the world would view the church as caring, effective, powerful and genuine with all credit going to the King instead of our own individual efforts. We would truly become a people after God's own heart and our individual lives would be sweeter in the process.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

How much can change in one year? When I was younger, a year seemed like it would last forever. As I grow older however, I feel as if they fly by so quickly I almost can't keep up with them. Each one brings new opportunities and experiences and more often than not, things that I do not anticipate.

Our lives were changed forever exactly one year ago today. The recognition of that doesn't make me melancholy-it just causes me to pause for a few moments and reflect on the experiences and emotions of the last 365 days that are both enriching and testing.
  • A spirit of peace & calmness that can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit
  • Asking God the question, "What's next Lord?" and listening more intently than ever
  • Seeing our faith in God refined & increased as we have no choice but to trust Him fully
  • Packing up a house that was our 1st as home buyers and wondering how God was going to handle that part of the equation
  • Being reminded of God's protective plan by three job offers within seven days
  • Leaving a hometown that I had lived in for 30 years of my life-my children for all of theirs
  • Being so warmly welcomed by new family & friends in Georgia
  • Recognizing within five days that God had definitely brought me here, in His timing, to be part of this team
  • Painful and yet necessary refining by God
  • Challenging conversations with a brother in Christ who understands where we have come from and pushes me to seek God's best for the future
  • Seeing and hearing of the impact that we have had in other people's lives-even from a distance
  • Recognizing that we are in better spiritual shape as we go through the process of healing
  • A sweeter and richer relationship with God for my family
  • Lessons that I trust will guide me down God's path for the next steps in my life
It hasn't been an easy journey these last 525,600 minutes, but our family is truly learning what it means to trust in a God for whom there are no surprises. Thank you Father for what you have brought us through and what you have brought us to.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I pray quite a bit for success in ministry and life and for God to show me what path He wants me to take as a pastor. There are many times that I feel I am waiting for an answer that never comes, so of course I pray harder. I pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will change me and guide me down the right path.

My thinking has been challenged this morning by Watchman Nee and his book, The Normal Christian Life. In it he says that the Holy Spirit is in us and ready to work if we are baptized believers. We don't have to ask for it-it's already there. If that is true then the true heart of the matter comes down to our recognition of Him. A big part of that also comes down to surrender.

Are we willing to submit ourselves to the will of God-no matter what it may look like and where it may lead us-or are we caught up in our agenda and routine that we do not surrender it all? Perhaps the reason that we feel spiritually "out-of-touch" or "out-of-sync" is that we have a blockade up against the moving of the Holy Spirit. Instead of praying for more of God, maybe our prayer should focus on asking God to reveal that hindrance(s) in our life so that we might fully realize who He is. Surrendering that relationship, habit, goal, priority, reputation, material object or sin may be what God is waiting for so that He can reveal His full power in our life.

The process is not easy-in fact it can be quite frustrating-but to fully embrace God as the King of your life it is necessary and certainly rewarding.

Psalm 73:25 "Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides You."

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Promise

I read in the book of Joel this morning of the great swarms of locusts that God sent as punishment (and attention-getter) on Israel. They had lost their focus on Him and allowed other things to become their god. When His people are willing to return to Him however, He has promised to return His favor to them.

In Joel 2:25, God says that He will repay them for the years of the locusts. Obviously this refers to the physical needs of His people, but I see a spiritual parallel as well. When we suffer through periods of isolation and trial (some of it self-inflicted), we can be restored if we will allow our hearts to be broken for God. It is another reflection of God's great metanarrative-His people wander from Him, He draws them back to Him, and when they repent, He restores them.

I see so much of this story in Joel in my own life in the past year (and even farther back.) I am thankful for a God who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. I can already see His great repayment to our family in the lives of those around us.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Transform vs. Transplant

My first car was a 1974 Ford Pinto-I bought it in 1989 and it only had 38,000 miles on it. It certainly wasn't the greatest of vehicles, but it was mine and it got me around town. As a young man however, I was was disappointed in the pick up of the car. Since it was a straight-four (not even a V6 for this bad boy), it didn't get off the line very quickly. I wasn't engaging in street racing, but it would have been nice if it got moving just a bit quicker.

I could have spent a lot of money fine tuning that engine. Put the absolute best parts on it, the highest grade of gasoline and the most expensive oil in it. I actually could have replaced the interior with leather seats and even added the best sound system that money could buy. Even if I did all of that I still wouldn't have won a street race with a Vespa. The problem is that the car would still have been a 1974 Pinto.

We face the same dilemma when it comes to following Christ. We spend a lot of time and effort in dressing up the old self when the first thing that God needs to do if we are going to be successful is to throw the old away and give us something new. Transformation of our soul is key as we continue to grow in Christ, but we have to let Him give us a heart transplant before we can start to be more like Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

Friday, August 13, 2010

In Due Time

As I read in 1 Peter 5 this morning there is a challenge for the leaders of the church. Peter writes to us to direct us to the proper attitude that we should have. The basic thoughts are: have the attitude of a servant as you lead, enjoy the challenge of ministry-not as a burden or simply as a way to make money, be a godly example to the people you are leading and have the attitude of humility. Those concepts are much easier to write than to fulfill, but the promise from God in verse 6 is that He will lift you up in due time if those characteristics become part of who you are.

It is definitely not a "magical spiritual checklist" of things that you must do before God takes you to the next level of His plan for your life. It is instead a mark of spiritual growth and maturity-a level of transformation-that must take place before we are ready for what God has to show us next.

I feel safe in saying that this isn't just for church leadership either. It is the attitude that husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, employers and employees must also develop before God will reveal the next part of His vision for our lives. It is a good reminder for me this morning as it is so easy to get caught up in the flow of life and forget the greater meaning behind who we are and what we are here for.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Time Is It?

The blog title is a question that was asked on multiple occasions this summer-first at a week of middle school camp and then again on our mission trip to Michigan. Our theme for both weeks was "Time", with the focus being on getting the youth to see that now is the time to do something for God and to let Him work in our lives. Obviously the message was not just for the campers, but continues to be reinforced for me as well.

I was reading this morning and the verse that jumped off the page for me was 1 Peter 4:7. It says, "The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers." It obviously speaks of many things, but what caught my attention the most was the theme of not wasting time.

It can be easy to take a day for granted-to assume that if we don't do something today we can simply do it tomorrow. While that may be true for simple things (ie. mowing the grass, taking out the trash, doing laundry), the opportunity to do something for God may not be there the next day. Today might be the day that a focused prayer needs to take place for someone else. Today might be the day that a simple interaction with someone might help to guide them closer to Christ. Today might be the day that a conversation I have with my children is a small part of who they will become in the future. Today might be the day, as a pastor, that the words God has given me to share-through preaching or simple one-to-one interaction-are exactly what someone needs to hear for their situation.

I am still challenged by the depth of this verse as I sit here. It helps to create a sense of urgency in my spirit about the state of mind that I should continually be in. It should cause all believers to give emphasis to the state of their prayers and the intent of their words and actions.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Already Done

I pray and struggle over sin in my life so much. I continually ask God for strength to resist temptation and courage to do the right thing.

As I read Watchman Nee's book The Normal Christian Life today, I am struck by the thought that perhaps I am fighting a battle that has already been won. I continue to pray for power and victory over sin when the outcome of that fight has been decided! Instead of wallowing in the guilt and shame of temptation and sin, I should be living freely in the grace given by God and won by Christ's sacrifice and resurrection. I keep longing to be a man who is free from earthly/fleshly issues when God is trying to tell me that I already am that man. My calling now is to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and be who I am now-justified and sanctified by God, ready to do His great work.

How different would our churches and communities be if we could realize what is already ours and simply live & communicate that truth? Satan shudders at the thought.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Influence: The Mainland Years

After a slight hiatus from blogging due to a powerful mission trip to Michigan, we have returned.

Mainland High School is a special place to me. My mother and father graduated from there as my sister and I also did. When I graduated from college I was blessed to get a job at my old alma mater and spent nine very good years there as a teacher and the head athletic trainer. I don't think one blog could give credit to all of the people who invested in me and influenced me as a leader today, but here are a few:

Dan Eppelheimer-assistant principal, athletic trainer, mentor and friend. His passion for youth today and for seeing them succeed is contagious. You never doubt where you stand with Dan-glad I stood in a good place.

Dick Toth-athletic director extraordinaire and great friend. Committing his entire life to working with young people and understanding the connection between athletics and positive student growth is a trait to be valued. Also a great coach and leader for several generations of young men & women.

Charles Brinkerhoff-coach, teacher and friend. It was a pleasure to watch him coach and work with young men for several years. One of the most intelligent people I know who always challenged me. Our friendship was formed over the years through countless hours traveling and a bond of Christian brotherhood.

Doug Stanley-football coach and friend. Doug was the football coach at MHS my first two years as a faculty member there and taught me valuable lessons in caring for students and developing a family atmosphere in your staff. It was a brief football span together, but I value those lessons and our friendship.

Patsy Graham-principal, mentor and mother figure to us all. Patsy was my boss for the last seven years of my MHS tenure and was the most influential leader I have served under. She was challenging and loving, and managed to get the best out of an impetuous young man who's ego got out of control too many times. I always said that I would follow Patsy into hell and back and that is an honest statement. Telling her that I was leaving to go into ministry was one off the hardest things I have ever done.

As I write this, so many other names of influential friends & family come to mind: Ellen Clontz, Gertrude Sheppard, Greg Cardino, Jim Gardinier, Derrick Henry, Barb Putnam, Jesse Duval, Tim Huth, Tom Novotny, Cheryl Salerno, Melissa Carr, Jamie Pinyan, Don Garner, John Maronto and so many others.

My Mainland family holds a very special place in my heart that no one else can take. Thanks to all of them for influencing me in more ways than they could possibly know.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gotta Earn It!

The way our society is structured we have to earn everything we desire: the respect of others, the right to be heard, the trust of those around us, our standing in society and especially the physical things that we desire. The problem with this mentality is when it leaks over into our spiritual understanding. We start to believe that we have to do enough "good stuff" to earn God's favor and to keep our standing as Christians. If you have spent anytime in a real relationship with God you know that is not possible, but it certainly doesn't stop us from trying. The side effect of that is a poor self-esteem and an increasingly negative view of yourself since you can never "measure up" to the standard.

It also makes it difficult to keep the two greatest commandments-love God and love your neighbor as yourself. I can love God (or at least profess it), but it's difficult to love others as yourself when you don't tend to love yourself too much based on your own multiple failings and screwed up decisions. At the root of it, it comes down to whether you believe that God loves you for who you are or not.

"Do you really accept the message that God is head over heels in love with you? I believe this question is at the core of our ability to mature and grow spiritually. If in our hearts we really don't believe that God loves us as we are, if we are still tainted by the lie that we can do something to make God love us more, we are rejecting the message of the cross."   -Brennan Manning

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Influence: The College Years

I was blessed by several leaders in my college days and they taught me a lot of things that I was able to use in my early career in sports medicine as well as leadership lessons that I still carry with me.

I was able to support myself in college by waiting tables and eventually managing one of the restaurants. My general manager as Rich Katzman. Rich taught me valuable lessons in customer service, dedication to those that you are serving and how to build a team. He was also passionate follower of Christ and showed me how that could exist in the regular world. We shared a mutual respect and I still remember him tearing up when I moved to Florida to begin my teaching career.

There were three gentlemen at Lipscomb University who influenced me more than any other. Lynn Griffith and Kent Johnson were two of my professors in the Exercise Science department and Brent Oliver was the Head Athletic Trainer. All three of them put up with me and my idiosyncrasies and were a vital part of the development of my philosophy of athletic training, my work ethic, and my faith.

More than that all of three of them are good, godly men who showed me that being a Christian was different than I had once thought. I fondly remember hours of conversation with all three of them and I am grateful that they took the time to invest in a young man who was still trying to find his way. The three of them were constantly educating me and most of what I learned had little to do with the subject matter at hand. They are true heroes to follow and I still find myself reflecting on lessons from almost 20 years ago.

They are probably unaware of their impact on me and the countless others that they have cared for over the years, but that does not lessen their influence. Thanks gentlemen, for caring and being willing to be used for more far-reaching purposes than you know.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Influence: Family

I've been pondering a series of blogs focusing on the influence of people in my life and the leadership lessons they have taught me. Last week at CIY Move we studied 1 & 2 Timothy and the time in those books and the study of the Paul and Timothy relationship cemented it in my mind. So without further ado, here is the first.

My mother & father divorced when I was 4 1/2 so I don't know very much about my dad's side of the family. Childhood was not easy in a lot of ways (like a lot of other people), but through it all my mother and my grandfather taught me many invaluable things.

My mom will tell you that there are many decisions that she regrets, but I saw in her an indomitable spirit and the will to do whatever she could for her children. The lessons of unconditional love (which still continue to this day) were not easy to learn, but were very evident. I look back at the hours that she worked in low paying jobs, the many meals that she skipped so that her children could eat, the times she cried and prayed for us, and the love that was there no matter how poorly we treated her in our own immature stupidity. The importance of family never wavered and she had seen that modeled from her own parents.

My grandfather was more of a father to me and I know that he felt the same way. There are so many memories of how he spoiled us as children, laughing and teaching us (one of the smartest men I have ever known), how he took care of my invalid grandmother for 14 years and never complained, and the closeness that he and I developed in the last decade of his life. He was generous to a fault and would do anything for his family. He taught me what it was to be a father and a husband and I miss him very much.

There are many others who had an impact on me (and you dear reader will see who they are), but my mom and grandfather formed the foundation of who I am. I don't (and didn't) thank them enough, but their impact is not lessened.

Thanks Mom-thanks Gramps. You have done more for me and who I am today than you could ever know. I love you both.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

No See-ums

I haven't stumbled upon these in Georgia yet, but in Florida we had these gnat-type bugs called "no see-ums." They were quite annoying as they would flit about your ankles or arms and cause you to swipe at them even though you couldn't see them. My lack of ability to see them had no effect on their actual impact either.

Ministry and spiritual growth can happen in the same fashion (not in the annoying way-at least not in this particular blog post.) So much of the change and spiritual development is happening beneath the surface and it can be difficult to gauge what is actually occurring. That does not take away from the impact of the Holy Spirit however, nor does it decrease the faithfulness of the Kingdom workers that are striving to see that great work move forward. It does take a faithfulness in God's great redemptive plan and that He will see His work brought to completion-and even choose to do it through us if we are obedient to leading others.

Father, continue to bring about change that I can and cannot see. May I have the faith to trust that You are the one that will bring it to completion.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Full Life

One of my favorite verses to quote & preach is John 10:10, "The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it to the full."

It's amazing how I know this verse so well and yet I ignore it when satan attempts to do those same things to me. I have been caught up in the things that he has been doing to distract and hurt me while ignoring the promise of the second part of that verse. The evil one only has as much power in my mind and spirit as I allow him to have and I have been giving him too much of a foothold. It's good to be reminded by a good friend (and great boss) of how much I am loved by God and that there is a full life to be had.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I like to watch the clips of "America's Got Talent" and "Britain's Got Talent" online. Sometimes you stumble on something pretty good as people share their abilities. This particular video brought tears to my eyes for many reasons. I won't even try to describe it-I'll let it speak for itself.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I desire for my perspective to change. I want to shift my motivation for following God from one of obligation and expectation to one of godly passion. I read in Psalm 119 of the passionate desire to meditate and follow God's law and I know that it does not describe me-even if I want it to. I pray that God would transform my heart-even slowly if need be-so that my greatest pleasure is found in Him.

"I'm single-minded in pursuit of You; don't let me miss the road signs you've posted. I've banked Your promises in the vault of my heart so I won't sin myself bankrupt. Be blessed, God; train me in Your ways of wise living. I'll transfer to my lips all the counsel that comes from Your mouth. I delight far more in what You tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches. I ponder every morsel of wisdom from You, I attentively watch how You've done it. I relish everything You've told me of life, I won't forget a word of it."
-Psalm 119: 9-16 (The Message)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No Surprise

I make a lot of mistakes. Anyone who knows me at all will readily agree with that statement. Some of them are bigger than others and some of them cause more grief than others. I don't like it when I continue to make some of the same mistakes and see how it disappoints the people around me. Sometimes those choices will change and even eliminate close relationships.

When I find myself in this regretful pattern, I often wonder how much God is disappointed in me too. He has blessed me with more than I deserve and given me more chances than He should and yet I still fail.

As these thoughts roll through my head I am reminded that God already knows all of my thoughts and deeds long before I even choose to think or do them. While that can be somewhat intimidating to ponder, it also brings me a small amount of comfort. I cannot surprise God. There is nothing that I can do that will take away His love for me. Even as my choices will cause others to reevaluate their perception of me, it doesn't work that way with God. He does not change.

Thank you Father for loving me in spite of me. I am grateful that You see the whole of who I am and You consider me worthy of Your love.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

As we celebrate Father's Day today, I think about my grandfather and how much he means to me. It has been a year and half now since he has been gone and rarely does a day go by without a reminder of his influence. He was more my father for most of life than a grandfather. In a simple way of honoring him I thought I would post the video of pictures we showed at his funeral.

I miss you Gramps.

Gramps Video from Northridge Christian Church on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I'm reading the book, The Me I Want to Be, by John Ortberg and came across this today-thought is "blog-worthy" to share an excerpt.

"Spiritual growth is hand-crafted, not mass-produced. God does not do 'one-size-fits-all'."

"Our great model for this is God himself, for He always knows just what each person needs.

He had Abraham take a walk, Elijah take a nap, Joshua take a lap, and Adam take the rap.

He gave Moses a forty-year time out, He gave David a harp and a dance, and He gave Paul a pen and a scroll.

He wrestled with Jacob, argued with Job, whispered to Elijah, warned Cain, and comforted Hagar.

He gave Aaron an altar, Miriam a song, Gideon a fleece, Peter a name, and Elisha a mantle.

Jesus was stern with the rich young ruler, tender with the woman caught in adultery, patient with the disciples, blistering with the scribes, gentle with the children, and gracious with the thief on the cross.

God never grows two people the same way. God is a hand-crafter, not a mass-producer.

Now it is your turn."

'Nuff said.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Coach Wooden

John Wooden passed away last week. I have an immense amount of respect for him as a coach, a leader, a developer of leaders, a husband, and a Christ-follower. In honor of his passing I have borrowed several quotes from him to post below:

"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."
"Never mistake activity for achievement."
"Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then."
"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
"Be prepared and be honest."
"You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."
"You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."
"What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player."
"Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character."
"A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment."
"I'd rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent."
"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
"If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes."
"It isn't what you do, but how you do it."
"Ability is a poor man's wealth."
"Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be."
"Consider the rights of others before your own feelings and the feelings of others before your own rights."
"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability."
"It's not so important who starts the game but who finishes it."
"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."
"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."
"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful."
"The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team."
"Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."
"Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts."

Thanks Coach for years of wisdom that affected more people than you know. Glad that you are back with Nell once again.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Making Plans

Proverbs 16:9 says, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines His steps." On the surface this seems like an easy verse to understand, but as I reflect on it at this time in my life, it gains a depth of meaning I didn't know before.

I have always been a planner. In fact, I get frustrated with myself when I don't plan accordingly for things. I write them down in the huge Franklin planner on my desk, sketch out ideas & notes on whiteboards, send myself e-mails and make notes in memos on my Blackberry. Through all of my own endeavors however, God continues to work His great plan.

If you had asked me when I graduated college where I saw myself I can readily assure you that I would not have told you that I was a pastor in Milledgeville, GA. I would have had no clue that I was going to leave the high school to work in ministry in Florida. Actually, I wouldn't have been able to tell you that I was going to spend nine years working at the high school level either.

I didn't always get things right (still don't), but I believe that because I was willing to open myself up (sometimes in very small doses) to what God wanted to do in my life, He chose to re-order some of my steps. It's easier to see this on the other side and to look back at the detailed work that God has done. I don't pretend to understand it, but I am definitely grateful.

It's definitely comforting (and a touch scary) to serve a God who has a better plan than I do.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Journey of the Spirit

I just returned from another trip to Florida and was blessed in so many incredible ways. I truly can't even begin to describe what a powerfully rewarding trip it was for me (and I feel safe to say-for others too). A lengthy paragraph-style blog won't cut it so we'll bust out the bullets for highlights:

  • Connor & Cameron Barie running to greet me after having to wait an extra day to see that I was actually there
  • Late nights talking with Glenn & Kathy-Jo
  • The many divine appointments-from unexpected hugs in Starbucks, to walking out of a building as someone walks by to seeing a Milledgeville college student in front of a restaurant. It was a God-guided trip!
  • Walking into my old barber shop and sitting down to discuss Gator football-some things never change!
  • Having lunch at the best pizza place I know (Sorrento's-shameless plug!) with a really good friend-I miss Eddie Corns & his family tremendously
  • Having the chance to meet Pastor Bill Collins face-to-face and preach at The Attic. I have an immense amount of respect for him and the work that God is doing in & through him. It was an honor for me to speak there.
  • The joy of hugs (and even tears) as about 60 old friends showed up at The Attic that night-several of them that I didn't know were coming that brought a huge smile to my face!
  • Spending about 5 hours at Mainland High School. So many people there that have been my family for over 20 years. I love them dearly and I am glad that I can be the unofficial campus pastor for them.
  • 40 oz. Angel Food smoothie from Smoothie King. 'Nuff said.
  • Graduation party for Brittany Johnson-she waited for me to be in town to have it! Got to spend 3 hours laughing & talking with people that I miss connecting with!
  • Wedding rehearsal & dinner for Ashlee & Ryan (the true motivation behind the planning of the trip)
  • Two hours of conversation with Adam Bruno at the dinner-convo that we haven't had in a really long time. I miss getting to see him regularly!
  • Breakfast with my brother/friend Mike Roberts-so much history & time serving together-every time we get together it's like we were never apart
  • Coffee with Bill, Paula & Ashley Anderson-one of my very favorite families!
  • A lunch with four young adults that are very special to me-a surprise for three of them that I was going to be there-even now I tear up thinking about it!
  • Praying with a group of college students (including one from GCSU!) as God brought us all together at just the right moment
  • Spending time at the DOC with Ray & Susan Kelley. I have so much respect & love for them and what God is doing in their lives. They mean more to me than they probably know (and had a surprise stop-in from Katlin too!)
  • Coffee with an old friend that was good for both of us.
  • A last minute-decision to stop at the Herbruck home that led to an impromptu jam session with Sam & Jesse. I don't think you could have painted bigger smiles on all three of our faces when we got done.
  • A night hanging out at the Presswood home-great friends & conversation, good food & a blast playing in the pool with their kids & the Barie children-can't put a price tag on the night!
  • A beautiful wedding in Sugar Mill gardens-the love of Ashlee & Ryan is so evident and it brought me great joy that they wanted me to be part of their day
  • A home to return to with a gorgeous wife, three daughters & a church family that I don't deserve.
There will be further unpacking of the impact of this trip, but those highlights (and many, many others) will be with me for a long time. Thanks God for giving me the past four days.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I spent about 4 1/2 hours on my day off pressuring washing our back deck. It stretches the length of the house & is one of our favorite spots to sit and relax. After the falling leaves of autumn and the pollen of spring, it was pretty obvious that it needed to be cleaned. The results of my efforts were immediately noticeable and my wife & I were admiring how different it looked after I was finished.

I enjoy work like that-as much as I enjoy mowing & even painting (no sarcasm here-I really do like doing those things). I think the reason that those tasks bring so much satisfaction is that I can immediately see the results of my efforts. That doesn't happen quite as often when you are working in ministry-especially with youth. Sometimes you will labor for years before you see the fruit of something & then you may not see it at all.

This is the point where you simply trust that God has called you and that if you are listening to Him, He will produce the necessary results. It is a challenge to keep seeking God and His validation of what you do. It is more about being faithful to your calling than the immediately measurable outcomes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kingly Leadership

As I was reading early this week in Deuteronomy I came across a passage in chapter 17 that I don't remember seeing before. It is a part of the law that is intended for the king of Israel.

In verses 18-20, the instructions are given to write down the law on a scroll and that the king is to read that scroll all the days of his life. The interesting part (at least to me) is that Israel didn't have a king at the time-in fact, if you had asked the Israelites if they wanted a king they most likely would have said no. God obviously knew that they would desire a king one day and was laying the groundwork for what a successful king should do.

It doesn't surprise me that God was already planning in His people for what was to come, but it does reinforce in my spirit the need for daily studying the Word. If you look back at the history of God's people you see godly leaders & those who were obviously not. I would wager that the difference between them was the amount of time that was spent in the Word.

That is the difference for us even now. We are better leaders-whether it is in the church, our own homes, the secular workplace, school, etc.-when we are willing to pick up the "scroll" and read God's Word each day.

God, forgive me if I ever neglect to study it as I lead.

Psalm 119:11 "I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You."

Psalm 119:133 "Direct my footsteps according to Your Word; let no sin rule over me."

Psalm 119:165 "Great peace have they who love Your law, and nothing can make them stumble."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Orange Conference Reflections-Part 2

A few days later than intended, but here are a few more thoughts from Orange 2010:

  • Don't squander the chance to invest in our children's lives. -Rev Run
  • Building a ministry is much easier than building a healthy family. -Doug Fields
  • If I don't focus on my family no one else will do it for me. -Doug Fields
  • Spend as much time making your home attractive as you do your ministry. -Doug Fields
  • The best way to impact the church is to collide with the next generation. -Perry Noble
  • You can't hold people accountable for unspoken, unexplained expectations. -Perry Noble
  • If we don't empower our leaders it's because we don't want a move of God to happen that we don't control. -Perry Noble
  • If you're walking with Jesus, He won't let you stay like you are right now. -Perry Noble
  • Are you leaving things better than when you found it? -Donald Miller
  • God created us to be in family-we have made it corporate. -Donald Miller
  • We need to provide lots of positive male role models in our church! -Donald Miller
  • We need to teach children/youth to envision the future. -Donald Miller
  • The best teachers pull the best out of you, but don't kill your spirit in the process. -Sue Miller
  • Utilize a Systematic Relational Connection Approach to ministry.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Orange Conference Reflections-Part 1

I spent Thursday & Friday with our children's ministry team at the Orange Conference in Atlanta. It was a privilege to spend time with our leaders and we were all challenged by what we heard. Still processing a lot of it-especially in the wake of the Exponential Conference the week before.

  • The quickest way to see your spiritual gift is to have someone walk in the room with the same gift, but at a higher level. -Nancy Ortberg
  • People will stagnate or move backwards if they are not given challenges. -Nancy Ortberg
  • Leadership is the promise of development. -Nancy Ortberg
  • Vulnerability in leadership is a powerful commodity. -Nancy Ortberg
  • The more you collide with God, the more you understand who you are. -John Ortberg
  • Every parent is singularly overwhelmed by their own inadequacies. -John Ortberg
  • We are called to something bigger than being nice. -John Ortberg
  • For me to be the me I need to be, I will disappoint people. -John Ortberg
  • Transformation requires at least as much grace as salvation does. -John Ortberg
  • This generation will not grow if their leaders are not transformed. -John Ortberg
  • Both the culture and the church have failed children. -Chap Clark
  • God's heart never breaks passively-it always breaks in action. -Chap Clark
  • "Social capital" is the key to healthy growth. -Chap Clark
  • We have different measures of effectiveness than God does. -Chap Clark
  • A stable family is the safety net for an adolescent. -Chap Clark
  • We have made Jesus into our image and then we worship that image. -Chap Clark

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Exponential Reflections-Part 2

Continued thoughts from last week's conference in Orlando:

  • You cannot expect your people to be what you are not. -Matt Chandler
  • Be careful-since we deal with the divine it can become routine to us. -Matt Chandler
  • Your call is to Christ first and foremost-then to your mission. -Matt Chandler
  • Every church planter starts with a good vision-most of them don't resemble that a year later. -Shawn Lovejoy
  • The only way you can stay away from criticism is to do nothing significant with your life. -Bill Hybels
  • Whenever we answer God's call there will be much personal pain with it. -Shawn Lovejoy
  • Finishing the great work (of church planting) will take courageous conversations and courageous calls. -Shawn Lovejoy
  • The greater the work is, the greater the opposition will be. Opposition reaches a fever pitch right before God does something awesome. -Shawn Lovejoy
  • A pastor must have thick skin and a soft heart. -Darren Patrick
  • We complexificate things. -Reggie McNeal
  • The church is too much like a merry-go-round. It has lights and cool music, but it's only going around in circles. -Ed Stetzer
  • Two groups that pastors should spend more time with: leaders and sinners. -Alan Hirsch
  • God desires to advance His Kingdom through our transformed and transforming lives and churches. -Efrem Smith
  • We have separated evangelism from compassion, mercy & justice. -Efrem Smith
  • Whenever someone is lost and alone, God's reaction is to "go" and to "send."- Dave Ferguson
  • When we maximize the ministry outside of the church walls, we don't minimize the ministry inside of the church walls. -Dave Ferguson
  • How do we step out of our homogeneous, ethnocentric holes? -Brenda Salter McNeil
  • Leaders need to count the cost and be prepared to go the distance. -Brenda Salter McNeil
  • The process of engaging diversity will make you the church. -Brenda Salter McNeil
  • There are a lot of virtual/pseudo communities. -Shane Claiborne
  • Don't just tell people what not to do-give them replacements! -Shane Claiborne
  • True transformation starts in our mind. It is honed in great community. -Dave Gibbons
  • Why don't we stop focusing on the movement of masses and focus on the movement of the Holy Spirit? -Dave Gibbons

Monday, April 26, 2010

Exponential Reflections-Part 1

Mike & I were in Orlando last week for the Exponential Conference-essentially a church planting conference, but also a time to see what God is doing in churches both big & small as He calls His people to Him. I took copious notes (and also posted many quotes on Facebook &Twitter), but thought I would hit a few highlights here too-more thoughts will continue tomorrow:

  • Are you willing to trade your life for what you believe in?
  • It's never about where you are going, it's who you're becoming. -Mark Batterson
  • There are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet. -Mark Batterson
  • Sometimes God gets in the way to show us the way. When we realize that our frustration evaporates. -Mark Batterson
  • How much do you need power and need life? Be in the Word(s). -Louie Giglio
  • The operational power of the Kingdom of God is the Holy Spirit! -Louie Giglio
  • Rejoice in the cross, but don't forget the power of the resurrection! -Louie Giglio
  • God's words have an assignment & they never fail their assignment. -Louie Giglio
  • The harvest is now! Let's not be a group of people who want to wait for the harvest! -Rick Bezet
  • If you just send your money to the mission field and not your people, there is proof that the next generation will do neither. -Rick Bezet
  • It's not the idea that gets rejoiced at-it's the fruit that gets celebrated. -Matt Chandler
  • You are never going to make the gospel so cool that everybody understands it-it will always be offensive to some. -Matt Chandler
  • When your desire to draw a crowd is greater than your doctrinal integrity, you're out of bounds. -Matt Chandler
  • You can't protect (your church) from suffering/persecution, but you can prepare them for it. -Matt Chandler
  • We have to live a simple life to model a simple life for our people. -Matt Chandler
  • Are we crying out for good soil & good seed? -Matt Chandler
  • It's not about a "system" for producing fruit-it's about following God and being faithful to where He has called you. -Matt Chandler
  • Has there ever been a greater need for servant leadership than now? -Ken Blanchard
  • You have to be a servant 1st and a leader 2nd. -Ken Blanchard
  • Any time you don't feel joy, peace & righteousness, you are detached from the vine. -Ken Blanchard
  • When you follow God you get three consultants in one-Father, Son & Holy Spirit. -Ken Blanchard

Friday, April 23, 2010


I am reading in Exodus as God lays out the instructions for building the tabernacle. They are very specific as God knows exactly what He is looking for from His people. It will be a thing of beauty and will be a reflection of their homage to Him each time they enter it.

It gives me pause to think-do we trust God with the specific details of our lives now? He obviously has a plan for them (only if you believe in Scripture of course), but we are the ones who so often will choose to do them differently. We then find ourselves wondering why things seem out of whack, and end up turning (hopefully) to God to beg for relief from our circumstances-even if they are circumstances of our own making.

Perhaps the true progression of faith is when we start to seek God's vision for the small things in our lives and not just ask Him to give us direction in the "big" moments.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


As I continue to read through Exodus, I see where the Israelites did not understand what God was coming to do for them by freeing them. They were convinced that where they were was the best place, and were unable to gain a glimpse of the better plan that God had for them.

Isn't the same true for us? It is easy to become wrapped up in our moment and the comfortable nature of what we know and become too timid to trust God and follow Him into the unknown. We think that there is no way that we could leave where we are now and might even be afraid of where this "new place" might be.

Thank God that His plan is always better and that what seems frightening can actually bring about a freedom that is greater than we imagined. When we choose to let Him bring us out of our own Egypt we can finally develop into the people that He has called us to be. Hopefully I won't be as whiny as the Israelites along the way.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Are You Doing?

I have had this quote from Dr. Wil Dungy (former Colts coach Tony Dungy's father) written down for over a year and half now. I look at it periodically and meditate on it and think about how it should push me. He asks the simple question, "What are you doing to make the situation better?"

Obviously you can apply this to a lot of areas, but it had a significant impact on me as I thought about the church. It is so easy to sit back and talk about what is wrong, to condemn people for their conduct and mistakes, to judge them for what they are/aren't doing, and to talk about how awful it is that there are people all around that need help and no one seems to be stepping up to help them.

As Paul said in his letters, I will consider myself the worst of sinners in this. Even as a pastor it is easy to simply spot & point out problems and areas of needed growth without being part of the solution. I desire to be part of a revival though. I want to be a leader who can follow God's plan and help to guide others towards intimate, authentic relationships with Christ that transform their lives on a day-to-day basis.

One of my "catchphrases" is that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. The challenge for all believers is to ensure that each day, without hesitation or inconsistency, that we are the solution for those around us so that we can make situations better. This isn't for our sake, but so that God can continue His great work in and through us all.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Short Sighted

I decided to read through the Bible using a chronological Bible this past weekend (not reading the whole Bible in a weekend-I just decided to start then) and I am in Genesis 25 this morning. In it is a familiar story of Jacob & Esau-the brothers that never really got along with each other and were a precursor to two nations that are still at odds.

It is the passage where Esau comes in from hunting and Jacob has been cooking. Esau is famished and begs to have some of the food that is waiting and Jacob is willing, but only if Esau will renounce his birthright. He is asking Esau to give up something very important, but in the future, for a short-term, yet immediate benefit.

Isn't this what Christians do today? Don't we focus so much on the short-term benefit and the best decision for "right now" that we forget about God's promises down the line? We find ourselves staring at our feet instead of looking down the road and trusting & believing in what God says.

When we are short-sighted we:
  • spend our money on what makes us immediately happy regardless of the consequences
  • react emotionally to situations and lash out at others instead of considering their heart
  • neglect our children because we are tired instead of treasuring the time we have
  • put off getting serious about investing in our intimacy with God because tomorrow there will be more time
  • let other people go on mission trips
  • live as a part of a church for the social interaction instead of the discipleship factor
  • treat God as a "fix" for a immediate problems instead of letting Him be the God of our past, present & future
I don't want to be Esau. I don't want to be so short-sighted and fixated on the pleasure of the moment that I forego the long-term plans He has for me. I don't want that for my children or my wife.

God didn't want that for Esau either & He certainly doesn't want that for His church.