Sunday, March 31, 2013

Risky Easter

We moved away from our main campus and our normal multiple services this Easter to have one huge event at the Centennial Center at Georgia College. We wanted to do something completely different from the normal routine in hopes of reaching people who might not ordinarily attend a church service. We've invested creative energy, finances, personal invitation, faithful prayers, and detailed planning to see it succeed. We aren't sure exactly what will happen, but we're trusting that God will deliver His intended result.

It's a risky move to change what people are used to, but we believe that you need to take that risk to see a reward. When you're trying to reach a community that isn't sure about Jesus, there's nothing (short of sin) that is outside the realm of possibility.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Winning Streak

The Miami Heat had their winning streak of 27 games broken this week by the Chicago Bulls. There was a lot of hype about the potential for setting the record for the most consecutive games won and a lot less focus on the team now that it's over. The interesting thing is that unless the Heat win 16 total games once the
playoffs start, the winning streak won't matter at all. To be a champion a team has to win the right games at the right time otherwise it's merely a footnote in a season where someone else was the biggest winner.

Are we winning when it counts? Are we available for our family when they need us the most or only when it fits into our schedule? Are we stepping up to make the tough decisions or only making the easy ones? Are we taking a stand for Christ when there is opposition or just when no one else notices? All of the "wins" count, but we need to be willing to do the hard work to succeed when it really matters to the people around us.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Story Time: Happily Ever After

A good writer knows that the end of a story can either be a letdown or a fulfilling, satisfying conclusion. In the same manner, we need to pay careful attention to the end of our own story. While we don't know exactly when that will be we can still work to maintain the right habits that will speak well of our character. We can finish strong by bringing the right daily focus to our marriages, parenting, Christian faith, and career calling. It's a reflection of a our daily discipline of working to close well instead of leaving things handled poorly or feeling incomplete. Even when things are rough in the beginning & middle of our story a solid finish will positively influence others and be a tale worth retelling. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Story Time: The Plot Thickens

We should be willing to share our story, but we should also give careful consideration to what the details of that story will be. While we can't do anything to change what has already been written, we can decide what the story will say in the future. Our concern shouldn't just be about our reputation, but more about our character that is being developed and revealed as we keep scripting our life through our decisions. 

What story will our lives tell our children? It's one that will continue to speak over them throughout their adulthood. What story will be told of our leadership and compassionate care for others? It will be a perpetual chronicle of our life decisions that reaches farther and impacts more people than we recognize. 

The willingness to share our autobiography must be matched by a desire to see that testimony stand with strength and integrity.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Story Time: Tell It Well

I am a fan of a good story. A book that spins a good tale will find it's way onto my "to-read-again" list (and that doesn't happen often.) A movie that captures my emotions and challenges my thoughts will be added to my collection. I love to hear other people tell the story of how they came to be who they are & where they are today. Sadly, I don't think we stop frequently enough to tell these tales because we forget how significant they are.

Our stories are powerful and we should be willing to share them. For the greatest impact we need to work to develop the art of story-telling. Nothing is as powerful as a personal tale of redemption, sorrow, tragedy, and triumph. When we are passionately engaged with other people in the middle of their story it develops genuine community. It can be a lost art in the middle of our social networking Twitterific lifestyle. 

Are you willing to tell your tale? When it's intended for mutual benefit and not individual bragging, it's worth the energy.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Our Biggest Enemy

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, 
“Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized? ” (Acts 8:36 NIV)

Do we realize that are often the biggest obstacle to our growth? If sin is anything that obstructs our view of God, we need to realize that we are often that obstruction.
  • Our pride that prevents submission
  • Our past that prevents transparency & intimacy 
  • Our obstinance that prevents humility
  • Our adherence to an ill-fashioned vision that keeps us from God's vision
  • Our confidence in our self-control and will power that only betray us at the moment of crisis
  • Our fear of the unknown that prevents us from stepping out in bold faith.
When we realize we are the active inhibitors to God's work in our lives we can resolve to stop stopping ourselves and let God start working. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Starting Small

Some people might believe that someone has become an overnight sensation, but the truth is that preparation and vision breed success. It's the long term commitment to doing the right things each day that will help you achieve big things. You don't win championships on the first day of practice, but you do begin to develop the habits and skills that can eventually lead you there. It's what Eugene Peterson calls "a long obedience in the same direction" because there is no real shortcut to doing big things and achieving grand vision in your life. Jonathan Golden may have said it best," Every once in a while God gives us something big to do. Every day He gives us something small to do."

What small thing are you diligently working on today that is part of a grander vision for your life?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Good to Go

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:39 NIV)

Do we do this for other people? Do they leave our presence happy or are they just happy they aren't in our presence anymore? We get to choose whether we are bringing life to our relationships or we are draining the vitality and energy from them. I would rather lift people's spirits and have them walk away encouraged instead of dreading the interaction and feeling exhausted.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Good Enough

I confess that I struggle with the idea of being "good enough." It's a performance based affliction rooted in my childhood and continuing to spill over into my adult relationships and career. It becomes a constant effort of trying to measure up to a standard of excellence to find personal affirmation. Even though no one else may be validating these thoughts it becomes powerful enough to enslave us to an ideal that is beyond our reach. Not only is this potentially damaging in our personal life, it can also negatively impact our relationship with Christ. This misconception develops a skewed Christian value system erroneously based on the strength of our performance. It's a good thing that Jesus makes a habit out of turning our value systems upside down.

In Romans 5:8, Paul writes that Christ chose to die for us while we were still sinners. This is a humbling relief for all of us. God chose to save us before we could be "good enough." He doesn't wait for us to get things right before we choose to follow Him, but He paved the way for us to join in on the path of righteousness when we didn't deserve it. He chose to love us in our messy imperfection--and still does. Instead of being a God who says, "Get clean & then I'll help you," He says, "Let me help you get clean." 

That's a God I want to follow and a God that's worth sharing. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

March Madness

I love March Madness and the excitement of so many games in such a short period of time. I love great finishes with unexpected winners (and losers) and big shots in big moments. There are some years with heavy favorites to win the title and others years where the field is wide open for whatever team gets hot at the right time. I know that millions (if not billions) of dollars exchange hands throughout the tournament even though I have never been one to place any kind of financial wager on sports (I'm too cheap.) Even though I won't wager on it, I still fill out a bracket for my own competitive nature. I'm fairly well-versed in sports, but I still end up with a so-so bracket because there are simply results that I cannot predict. I could get frustrated about it & maybe if money was exchanging hands I would. I simply credit it to the fact that when human effort and skill is involved, things are not always 100% predictable. Interesting parallel for life, isn't it?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Right Minded

I don't know that we recognize how much damage we do when we are insistent on always being right. It can be a destructive root in all of our relationships when we are so consumed with our own affirmation that we are ignorant of other people's feelings. This selfish insistence on personal victory demeans others and only magnifies the ugliest parts of our personality. I have personally allowed it to hurt close friends and family and have witnessed it tear other's marriages and friendships apart. To avoid it we have to make a consistent, conscious decision to care more about other people and to seek resolution instead of establishing our own position of correctness. I believe it's one of the many reasons that God shares with us in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


We are in a battle against sin and a to-the-death fight against the enemy. It's a tiring endeavor and our very best efforts will often leave us exhausted and vulnerable at the worst possible time. As we grow weary we often forget that we aren't fighting alone but that God is fighting for us. He doesn't want us to fail--He is actively working to bring us success. 

God is not a distant Father and King who sits on His throne watching our lives like an episode of a reality show. He is literally by our side engaging in the fight and is consumed with passion for our success. When we grow weary He does not and will continue to be the strength we seek. His desire for us to succeed is greater than our own yearning for victory. 

Don't give up--God hasn't given up on you. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


The speed of the leader = the speed of the team

As a kid I wanted to be the fastest around. The faster you could run, bike, swim, and be pushed on the merry-go-round, the more impressive it was. We stay in that mode of speed as leaders. We falsely believe that a high capacity leader has to have the busiest schedule and produce the most work to be effective. It's a tough example that we set for our team as they adopt a speed-demon mentality for our organizational culture. 

Even the best NASCAR drivers know that the way to win a race isn't always having the gas pedal pressed to the floor. Advantage is gained when you learn when to floor it and when to pull back. It's a key developmental principle for modeling balance and appropriate self-awareness. It builds in time for rest and provides pacing for the best overall results and relationships.

What pace are you setting for others to follow?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Two for Flinching

We have a white mutt of a dog named Zeddie. He is a rescue dog that our family adopted from friends several years ago. He had obviously been abused and most likely by men (based on his reaction to any man that comes around.) Even after all of these years of living with us (and countless affectionate scratching) he cowers when I approach him. I don't really blame him--it's now a natural reaction from his past. Trust was broken in him a long time before we had him and this protective mechanism has  become the pattern of his life. 

It's not a whole lot different with us. When our trust has been betrayed we no longer feel safe. Whether it was mistreatment at the hands of family members, a relationship destroyed due to infidelity, or our attempt at honesty being quickly and severely dismissed, the result is the same. The sad side effect is that it also impacts our relationship with God. We wonder how He could have possibly let this happen to us and we shrink back when He approaches us because we question His motives. It's an unfortunate projection of human failings on an imperfect God who desires intimacy with His children. 

The only way to battle through it is to take the risk of letting God reach out to our bruised and battered spirits. Taking that first step might be one of the hardest things we'll ever do, but I know from experience that we won't regret it. The touch of a loving Father heals our brokenness and fills us with hope when we can't seem to find it anywhere. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pour It Out

Our staff attended the Drive Conference at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA this past week. We were incredibly blessed by all of their staff and volunteers and their willingness to share for the sake of God's Church continuing to grow. This mutual investment is part of their organizational culture and was evident in every area we went. I heard a fantastic analogy about this from one of their leaders while we there: North Point has had their "cup" filled by God with creativity & vision and they feel it it their job to pour that out into whoever is willing to bring a cup and ask.

I think that should be part of the culture of all of our churches and on a bigger scale as part of our life philosophy. This creates an intentional life-to-life mentoring that develops our community. It involves men, women, teens, couples, families, life groups, and churches. It returns us to the idea that we should be working together to provide the best possible outcomes & puts it into practice by willingly and lovingly investing in the people around us.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Parental Influence

Parents are the single greatest influence on a child's life. This doesn't negate the necessity and impact of other relatives and leaders, but it puts the heaviest weight on the shoulders of mothers and fathers. This can obviously be a positive or negative influence and will often include moments and interactions that we (as parents) aren't even aware of. I've seen the after-effects of good and poor parenting in adults and the youth & children I've been blessed to interact with. No matter how we might try to explain it, our lives have been shaped by our parents.

When we are cognizant of our own responsibility it can be somewhat burdensome--not because we don't want to do the right thing, but because we're often afraid of doing the wrong thing. As my own children get older I find that my anxiety level increases as I reflect on my mistakes in parenting and realize how short my time is to correct my errors. As my wife & I continue to pray for wisdom and discernment for our girls we also realize that there is no way for us to be perfect as parents. We will do the best we can with God's guidance and (most importantly) grace. We will keep doing what we can to show them Christ and help them take the next step to move closer to Him. It certainly increases our reliance on God's strength and constantly reminds us that success will only be found through Him. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Working Out

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, 
who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I've used this verse as a helpful crutch for myself and for fellow sojourners who are struggling through difficult times. It brings hope to God's people as we learn to trust in His power to create good things out of bad things. I was meditating on that verse this morning and focused on the deeper implications. It's not that God just wants to make our situation good--He is working through these circumstances to make  us good. He is constantly striving to reshape our character and to make it stronger in His perfect image. This isn't just a show of His power to transform the current status of our life into something better. It's His most powerful work of all--the molding of imperfect people into brand new reflections of His perfection. That's the perfect and complete goodness we are longing for in all circumstances. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Whole Truth

Recent circumstances have reaffirmed to me the need for absolute truth. This is easy to agree to in principle, but the practical application leads to a radical shift in our personal culture. We have to unlearn false things that have been a key part of the foundation of our lives to this point. Sometimes we have to earnestly investigate what we feel and be willing to undergo a radical transformation of our entire belief system. We need to humble ourselves enough to let someone speak words of truth into and over our lives. This will not usually be a painless process, but the blessing of living under the freedom of God's truth is worth the difficult process of breaking the oppressive chains of lies.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Acting Out

Regret can be a powerful motivational tool, but it can also paralyze us as we become consumed with the fantasy of things that should-have-been. When we are consumed with regret, we get to decide whether we drown under a wave of shame at our failings or if we will declare that our lives will be different from this point on. It won't always be as smooth of a journey as we would like to believe, but the change we are seeking begins with the first intentional step in a positive direction. Sometimes the best initial decision is to start acting like the person we want to become. As we continue to do the things that reflect who we want to be our habits will be reshaped and eventually our character is transformed as well. 

We will indubitably struggle in the early stages of these new behaviors, but we will perceive a gradual shift in life philosophy and personality as we commit to this preferred future. It's the decision to move from a written wish list to putting them into practice that delivers the transformation we seek.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Careful Consideration

Our staff is at the Drive conference at NorthPoint Community Church this week. It's a phenomenal organization that obviously follows God's leading and functions by staying strategically focused on the same vision through all levels of what they do.

The standard line when you are attending these conferences is that you need to focus on the one thing you will take away since there is obviously no way to implement everything you learn. I know some people who stop paying attention once they hear their "one big thing" and others who can't seem to narrow it down. I remember when I first started attending conferences (in my previous life as an athletic trainer) and how flooded with ideas I would feel over the course of 2-3 days. I've learned to soak it all in and take copious notes that allow me to go back later and work on what's most important. I guess that's probably a pretty decent idea for life in general--don't go running out and making major changes without some time to carefully consider the implications of your choices.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Real Deal

Our life group was talking about the growth of Northridge and how God is continuing to do big things. We talked about things that brought us all to the church and for each of us the reason was different. It included moving from out of state, being invited by a friend, growing up in the church, and settling there after doing some "church shopping." The one characteristic that people said helped to keep them there was that the leaders of our church were real. There was never any feeling of putting on a show or creating a facade of having it all together. People feel that the leaders of the church are able to admit their struggles and that this helped to create a sense of belonging as we all worked to move forward on this journey of faith.

That's what God wants His Church to be. It should be a safe place to be transparent about our weaknesses--not to boast about them, but to highlight our desperate need for God's strength and grace. When the Church is willing to be that genuine it will attract people who are tired of artificial substitutes for living faith.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Share the Message

For Easter this year, our church is doing something different by hosting one large service (instead of multiple services) and by having it at the Centennial Center at GCSU here in town. Our prayer is that 2000 people will attend--not so that we can boast about the number, but so that we might potentially reach people who wouldn't come to a church building on Easter. It's a bit of a risk, but we're trusting in God to fill the building through the faithful efforts of His people. It will take an evangelistic attitude from each of us to make it a reality and I know that the simple act of inviting someone to church (especially something this unique) will bring a positive result. If we believe that Jesus is the only true hope for the world we have no other true alternative but to share that message with our community. I guarantee that some people are simply waiting for the invitation to be extended and for someone to show that they care enough to ask.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hitting It Right

I have a sweet spot. Some may disagree with that assessment, but they would be misinterpreting my intent. I'm not referring to my disposition, but to the part of me that includes my talents and abilities. It's my natural wiring from God and what He has created me to do best. When I operate from my strengths I tend to be the most fulfilled, challenged, engaged, and energetic. There's no feeling quite like being able to use your gifting in the right way. That sweet spot was where I felt all morning as I spent time with good friends and leaders strategizing the future of ministry and the best way to impact our community.

When people don't know what their "sweet spot" is they struggle through day-to-day life searching for purpose and connection. If they are lucky they might stumble on it and then continue to feed that gifting without a great understanding of what's happening. The best scenario is when we take the time to discover how we work and then invest the time in developing those gifts so they can be used in the best possible way. There is nothing quite as fulfilling as understanding what you were created for and being able to thrive in those strengths.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Make It Right

I made a mistake today. That isn't news on its own as I end up making many mistakes every day. This one was particularly vexing however since it was the result of an incorrect assumption on my part. Fortunately, I was able to remedy it fairly quickly although the process will take a while (thank you Google for providing easy-to-find answers.)

It does remind me how important it is to handle our errors in the right way. When we respond poorly we shift blame to other people, cover it up so that no one finds out, and act out in misplaced anger and frustration. We become egocentric, weak-willed people who won't accept responsibility for our actions. Instead of a society coming together in trust we become a suspicious people that believes everybody else of working against us.

Our character is strengthened when we choose to accept responsibility and look for solutions to correct our mistakes. If our families adopted and taught this philosophy to our children it would be a game-changer. Not only would our homes be better places to live, but we would be developing honest, humble leaders for our communities.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Walk the Line

I keep detailed lists of things--long term projects, vision casting for future events, and personal to-do lists. It's the way I keep track of my personal life, goals & aspirations, and ministry. It helps to have it front of me on a regular basis so that I don't lose focus on what's most important. 

The lists represent an interesting balance between the present and the future. If I stay consumed with present details and needs then I will end up having no vision for the future. On the other hand, if I only pay attention to future vision and aspirations I can end up missing opportunities and victories that are right in front of me. It is a delicate balance of looking ahead while paying attention to where your feet are going in this moment. When I can put emphasis on current needs as well as building for what's ahead, I find momentum moves in the most positive direction.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I went to each of my daughters last week with a piece of candy in my hand and played the old, "pick a hand" game. They obviously aren't young enough to totally buy into it, but each of them did pick a piece of candy. They didn't know (until afterwards) that I actually had a piece of candy in each hand and that they couldn't have missed out. My middle daughter was the only one that actually asked me, "Dad, why do you have a candy in both hands?" My response to her was, "Because sometimes you just need a win."

It hit me right after the words left my mouth how much truth was contained in that comment. There are some times when a victory is desperately needed. It's a good thing that there are actually a lot of them around us if we'll just pay attention.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Worth It

My wife is a runner. She has worked to increase her dedication to this endeavor in the last few years and continues to amaze me with her perseverance. She commented on her Facebook profile about a difficult run recently and her brother (who is a mega-distance runner) posted this underneath, "It gets easier, then it gets harder again, then you are better, faster, stronger."

What a powerful statement that isn't just about running. It's about parenting, marriage, devotion, Christianity, personal relationships, and career. It's the motto of following God and trusting in the way He makes all things new. It's a reminder that you sometimes have to be broken before you can be made wholly new again. The act of breaking is horrific sometimes, but the strength gained makes the new person that you become appreciate the process you endured. It's reason enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Gaining Traction

What do you do when it feels like you aren't making a ton of forward momentum? I know that we all have those days (or sometimes seasons) when we continue to do what we know is right, but don't always see the results we are hoping to see. While it can be frustrating, it's important to remember that success doesn't always look the way we think it should. Our genuine efforts to honor God (no matter how imperfect they might be) will produce results. We have to remember that He is working through us in this unique time and place and keep working to gain traction in the right direction.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Our Provider

Our God is Jehovah Jireh, a name that identifies how He sees our need and that He provides. It's a perfect description for a loving Father that desires to bless His children. It reveals how He knows us intimately and is ready to give us exactly what we need at the moment we need it. His magnanimity can take many forms:

  • An encouraging word from an unexpected voice when we are downhearted
  • A financial windfall that arrives at the most opportune moment
  • Prayer offered from a friend when you think no one notices your need
  • An anonymous bag of groceries that fills the gap between paychecks
  • A friend who fixes your car at no cost when you aren't sure where to take it for repairs
  • Constant, small reminders that God is always with us even when we feel the most alone
  • Words from your children that show how much they appreciate your loving guidance when you wonder about your effectiveness
  • An invitation to attend church when you reach the breaking point of not knowing what else to do
  • God showcasing His generosity through the collective efforts of His people when the efforts of one person doesn't seem like it will be enough.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

In It Together

I hung out at a church basketball gym this morning that was packed with parents & children taking part in the Upwards basketball program. As part of their emphasis on a Christ-centered life they ask different people to give a devotional thought at halftime of the games. I got there early and spent time walking around talking to people from the community before sharing a brief devotion. One of the leaders of Upward thanked me several times for our church taking part in the weekend and while I was appreciative, I simply replied that we were all focused on the same target of seeing our community changed for Christ.

That is what it is going to take for transformation in Milledgeville or any other community for that matter. We need to see that we are in this together. We will have to set aside prejudice, selfish pride, apathy, and territorial issues to work in unity. It will take bold initiatives that refuse to ignore the state of our community, but insist in taking a stand with genuine compassion. We can't choose to neglect difficult situations just because they present a challenge and we can't wait for someone else to fix it for us. If we have any amount of time invested in this town then we have contributed to its current status. It's only going to improve if we unify with the common goal of seeing God's healing and revival in full force.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Frightful Future

As an incredibly blessed father of three girls, I recognize the need to spend time with each of them. We do lots of different things together as a family, but I also work to carve out special individual time. I took my oldest daughter out for coffee today to take advantage of a (mostly) day off. We hadn't done this in a while and we had some things we needed to talk about. She is a freshman in high school and we realize that the teenage years won't be with us for long. As we enjoyed the Starbucks ambiance and our caffeinated beverages, we talked about upcoming trips and the things we could do help her prepare for college. She readily admitted that she wasn't quite ready for that leap yet and the thought of the future actually scared her a bit. My first responsive thought was to say, "Me too kiddo."

The future is a bit scary. I don't know that what we have done as parents is going to be good enough to prepare our girls for what we will face. I have no idea what the specific details of God's plan for our family are--I don't even know what house we will be living in by summertime at this point. There is so much in front of us that is risky, adventure filled, and generally unknown. The good news is that we follow the lead of a Master who promises to bring us the best and to work all things out for our good as a reflection of our love for Him and His for us. When you trust the One who is leading, the future is still unknown, but not quite as frightening.