Sunday, June 30, 2013

King Me

We wrapped up our series for men, "Man Up" this morning at Northridge by challenging men to be kings. It should be the one of the final stages of being a godly man and yet it is often abused. Being a king isn't about being in authority over others and demanding elite rights & privileges. Genuine godly leadership is focused on providing benefit to the people that we have been entrusted to guide. An attitude of servant leadership best defines the way a king should lead and yet it rarely does in today's model. It's difficult for us as we battle our own selfish ambitions, the examples (both good & bad) that influence us, and the cultural call to succeed at all costs. 

It's an interesting paradox in which we see that a successful leader isn't the all-powerful, commanding, dynamo that causes people to fall at their feet. A respected leader will instead be marked by their willingness to submit to their followers and will work tirelessly for the greatest good for the people they lead. It's the way that the upside-down leadership model of the Kingdom of God has always operated.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Completely Content

I had a revelation while sitting in Starbucks this morning. My mind has been focused on ministering to men lately-how to develop community, how to empower them to lead, and to lead men to Christ. As I was reading I came across the phrase, "completely content." I immediately thought to myself--the lack of contentment is the root of the sin of man. It's why men are trapped in lust-filled fantasies through porn addictions, why we abandon our families in the name of furthering our careers, why we pour resources into maintaining appearances, and why we allow infidelity to destroy our relationships.

Complete contentment is only found in Christ. I know this to be true and yet struggle with the concept just the same. I'm always looking for what is next, how to grow more, and to find another level. There is nothing inherently wrong with that attitude as long as it based in Christ's development of us. Finding satisfaction in the grace of Christ and in the work of the Holy Spirit in us will be what enables us to be truly great men of God.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Ministry in Motion

I blogged yesterday about leaving my job teaching high school and moving into ministry full time. I ended up working in youth ministry for the next 8 years before transitioning into my current role. Similarly to my
departure from academia, I didn't leave youth ministry because I was tired of teenagers. I transitioned to another phase of my development at God's leading. Even as I love what I am doing now there are still some things that I miss about youth ministry. Fortunately, I am blessed to be at a church that highly values summer camp and allows me to continue to lead a week for middle schoolers each summer.

There was one night in particular that encapsulated all that is good about camp & ministry. It was after our Monday night Celebration experience. We had a night swim activity with some of our campers playing games & sports in the field. One of our campers (who had a broken arm) was sitting off to the side and asked if I would play Frisbee with him. We hit the field together and soon ended up with another ten campers joining us with only a few of them actually any good at Frisbee. The best part is that it didn't matter how good they were at it. We were all in community encouraging each other and making sure that everyone had an opportunity to take part in it.

Soon we were all in line for our nighttime canteen and I ended up at the back of the line with a group of guys. These were the same guys who were falling asleep and acting very disinterested in our nighttime worship. We talked about basketball, the golf cart, and the cool trick with flash paper that I had done that night. All of a sudden I had a captive audience of 5-6 young men as I shared how essential it was to be cautious with who you chose to follow. It was the most engaged they had been all night & was the best part of my night in my opinion.

These small things reinforced why I am in ministry. It's the unique times of teaching, the bond forged in simple community, and the opportunity to influence people in small ways. Those are motivating principles regardless of the age group you are called to serve.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Golden Opportunities

As I have previously written here, I began my professional career as a high school teacher and athletic trainer at The Mainland High School in my hometown. I worked there for nine years before being called into ministry. I will readily admit that this was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make, in fact, it took me three days to decide. I didn't end up choosing to leave because I no longer wanted to work at MHS when actually I still miss it. I left because I needed to be obedient to God's calling on my life. He was leading me to the next stage of growth for my family and our future. In this opportunity God was asking me, "Do you trust that my plan is better than yours?" 

I believe God presents frequent opportunities for us to make significant decisions to follow Him. Each time we have a chance to step out in faith and believe in His plan for our lives--even when it doesn't seem logical to others around us. Our confidence in God's leading will grow when we sacrifice what is personally important for what is eternally relevant.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I grew up in Florida and it was simply understood that every summer afternoon we would have a thunderstorm that would send you scurrying inside. It would last for 30 to 60 minutes and then the sun would come back out and you could go venture out again into the 200% humidity.

I remember one nasty storm in particular. I was driving towards our local mall and the rain seemed to collapse on me out of nowhere. I was trying to see the road, but the deluge was so intense that my windshield wipers couldn't keep up with it. I literally could not see the end of the hood of my car and since I didn't have air conditioning my windows quickly fogged over. While I did not always make the smartest of decisions as a young man, in this instance I chose to pull over and wait for the downpour to abate before continuing. 

Sometimes it seems like this in our life as well. We are rolling along and then it feels like everything is falling down around us. Our vision becomes obscured, we are unable to process what is next, and we become afraid of what could be a potentially catastrophic collision. Even though the general consensus might be to forge ahead and push through the disturbance this might not necessarily be the best advice. There is often wisdom in pulling over to the side of road and resting as God clears the storm around you and gives you the vision to see what is next.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life Span

We often have no idea how our lives are affecting others and how God will use things for great impact. As I have learned to spend more time in reflection, I can clearly see even the small personal interactions that have made a difference in who I am today. Some of those influences have been intentional and some were "coincidental" (not that I believe in that concept to begin with.) With the increase in social networking we are able to carry those relationships on over longer distances than was previously possible. While this can carry a potential for a negative influence the capacity for positive interaction makes the effort very rewarding. I'm grateful that God continues to show me those that have had an impact on me while giving me glimpses of the ripple effect of my life as well.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tough Questions

I am preparing to preach this coming Sunday as we wrap up our "Man Up" series at Northridge. I am teaching on David as King and the example that he sets for us in how to lead the right way. In the midst of my preparation I wrote down two important questions for leaders--queries that made me carefully evaluate my own leadership. 

1. Why are you leading?
  • What is your motivation?
  • Are you self-serving or selfless
This answer will influence all of your decisions--especially the tough ones.

2. What is life like for those under your leadership?

    • How would others describe the way you lead?
    • What words would your spouse use to describe how you lead in your home?
    • How is your attitude influencing your children? It is impacting them regardless of your intentions.
    Caring leaders give thought to how those they lead are affected by their efforts. It's an honest assessment that is necessary for growth.

    Sunday, June 23, 2013

    Getting Better

    I was watching the postgame interviews from the NBA championships the other morning. One of the announcers asked LeBron James about the team's potential for a three-peat. I am sure there were people who thought it might be premature to inquire about this since they were only hours after winning their second title. In fact, it may seem quite natural to refuse to answer simply based on a desire to celebrate.

    LeBron's response was different from what the average person might do however. He clearly said that each person on the team was going to have to get better. Even though there would be some downtime to enjoy the completion of a season of hard work, his team would have to begin preparing physically and mentally to improve to see success again. He understood that what worked to bring victory today may not (and probably won't be) enough to guarantee success tomorrow.

    Are we doing the same thing in the seasons of our life? Do we frequently pause for evaluation and then strive to find some way to improve? This introspection and adjustment is absolutely essential for growth. We won't achieve the same goals just because it worked before. The journey will become more difficult and we will have to work harder.

    Saturday, June 22, 2013

    Common Goal

    I have very vivid memories of celebrating championships at Mainland High School. There is deep value in the tension & anticipation of "the big game" bringing immense satisfaction as our preparation and hard work birthed success. We found incredible joy in a group of guys that fought through adversity as a unified team, especially when we were able to achieve our season-long goal. Our best teams realized that when we were all working with the same result in mind we stood a much better chance of seeing that dream fulfilled.

    That premise is the same for all parts of our non-athletic life as well. When our family, church, men's group, and friends are all striving for the same thing, we will find satisfaction in the journey together and in our eventual success. It's a common bond of unified vision that God intended us to have as we push forward in harmony.

    Friday, June 21, 2013

    Down Time

    I enjoyed watching the video of the Miami Heat as they celebrated achieving their goal of winning the NBA championship. There was a tremendous release of emotion from a long arduous journey that included off season preparation, an 82 game schedule, and the intensity of the playoffs. For this team to win they had to be united and focused in their efforts over the long haul. As I listened to LeBron James he talked about taking some time to simply relax and enjoy the fruit of their labors.

    It's good for all of us to find the time to celebrate and then to decompress. We end up running from one challenging part of the journey to another and never enjoying the moment or resting. A never-ending pace is not how we were wired even if we try to convince ourselves otherwise. We will enjoy victories more with a time of reflection and will find new energy for the next journey as we rest.

    Thursday, June 20, 2013

    No More Hold

    As I was mowing yesterday (and getting some good meditation in at the same time) I found myself thinking about a song from NewSpring Church called, "Sin Has No More Hold On Me." There is profound power in that title and the implications for life.

    I find peace in knowing that Christ offers release from the addictive powers of sin--especially those particular sins that we struggle to escape from. What God offers isn't just freedom from a sin that traps us however, but also a cleansing from sins of the past that threaten to hold us down. When we genuinely confess sin and ask for forgiveness, God cleans us up and sets us back on our feet. He removes the shame & guilt of past sin and provides a brand-new beginning marked by freedom in Christ.

    God doesn't just forgive us--He restores us. How relieving is it to know that we can have the oppressive chains of repetitive sin removed as well as the burden of shame and inadequacy lifted?  That's a Father who loves His children unconditionally and wants to make us new.

    Wednesday, June 19, 2013

    Break It Up

    The yard at our new house has a steady incline from the edge of the side yard back to the house.
    When you're mowing, it's quite a long stretch if you attempt to do it running from end to end. As I discovered while mowing tonight, it's much easier to break it up into sections. That way you get to ease uphill instead of charging up while pushing a mower.

    That's pretty good advice for anything monumental in our lives. We won't be able to accomplish it in one motion, but we will need to break our ultimate goal down into bite-size, manageable chunks. This way we can check off markers of success along the way without being discouraged or completely exhausted. We will still achieve our goal and we'll be able to stay encouraged to push ahead at the same time.

    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    Your Life

    People don't often want to take responsibility for the condition of their life. They make excuses and try to pin the blame for the current status on their upbringing, a difficult past, and the choices of other people. At some point, however, there has to be some personal accountability. To have a chance at transformation, improvement, and maturity we will all have to ask a tough introspective question: Are you who you want to be?

    It's not too late to have a life that matters. We have one life to live here and it's not about YOLO (even though from an earthly perspective that is true.) It's about taking advantage of the gift of life we have been blessed with and making the very most of the time we have. If you are unhappy with the way you are currently living, then it is time to make some adjustments with God's help.

    Do the scary work of examining your life and see if it measures up to your ideal and to God's. If it doesn't, get to work and do something about it.

    Monday, June 17, 2013

    Better Than Most

    Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses. 
    2 Kings 23:25

    It's interesting the things that people will say about you after you are gone. They may remember a positive encounter or something that you did to encourage them. They may also fixate on a bad memory or a negative interaction that created ill will. While there will be outliers that define you, most of our legacy will be defined by our overall body of work and the consistency of our character. 

    I want it to be said that I was a loving husband, a devoted father, a compassionate pastor, and a good friend. There is nothing wrong with any of those descriptors, but they also fall short of the ultimate assessment. My prayer is that I will live such a life that anyone who describes me when my turn here is up will simply say that I turned to God in all that I did. I feel comfortable in saying that if that is primary objective the other parts of my life will live up to my expectations as well.

    Sunday, June 16, 2013

    Happy Father's Day to Me

    I love being a father. I've never had a more rewarding or a harder job in my life, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I like to think that I am a good father--one with flaws, but someone who is really trying to do what is best for these girls. We have our ups and downs like every family, but I feel certain that our girls know they are loved and that we want the best that God has for them. I look back fondly on the times we shared when they were very little and also cherish the conversations we can have now as we prepare them for their future. Even though I miss the days of them depending on us for everything, I am enjoying the depth of conversations we are able to have now and the experiences we can share with them. My incredibly fantastic (and gorgeous) wife and these three beautiful girls make it easy to be a father.

    I really can't imagine a luckier or more blessed man than me.

    Saturday, June 15, 2013

    Camp Reflections: Good Leaders

    I love the opportunity to invest in middle schoolers at camp, but one of the best parts is the time that I get to spend with my adult staff. This past week I was blessed to work with an incredibly fantastic team that gave all they had physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. They have been brought together over several months all with an eye on creating the best opportunities to impact & influence campers. They range in age from 18 to 66 with varying degrees of experience and are all united in leading youth to Christ.

    Camp provided them with physical opportunities which built bridges with our campers. They danced, played sports, went down 30 foot slip & slides, climbed rock walls, walked catwalks 30 feet in the air, and dropped 45 feet on a giant swing. They used those bridges to talk about the important things, to pray with campers, and to lead them to make decisions to follow Christ. Some of our counselors even got to baptize someone for the very first time.

    We were family for an entire week as we pushed after an identical goal and we will share a bond that only a week spent with 120 middle schoolers can provide. I would take this camp staff anywhere and trust them to lead with integrity and maximum effort in helping to change the lives of young people. They make me look good as leader and certainly make it easy to run camp when you know things will be handled.

    Friday, June 14, 2013

    Greater Than: Reflections

    This past week at middle school camp provided so many poignant reminders of why I work in
    ministry and how much I have enjoyed working with youth in particular. I'm still sorting through many of my thoughts (even though with an exhaustion addled brain.) I'm sure there will be other highlights to share, but here are few that stand out in brief retrospect:

    • A conversation with guys in the canteen line about being careful who you follow--the same guys who were completely disengaged in chapel, but now listening intently as we just talked
    • Praying for my camp staff each day & sharing with them God's challenge to not grow weary of doing good work for the harvest is coming and then experiencing that harvest over the next 24 hours
    • Talking with one our young men who was overcome with emotion as he gave his life to Christ 
    • Calling parents to let them know their child has decided to follow Jesus-can't call with any better news than that
    • Simple, positive touches for campers each day--high fives, hugs, pats on the back, and verbal affirmation--just to let them know we care
    • Watching our incredible staff dance, play, sing, laugh, and cry with campers
    • Seeing 10 young people commit their lives to Christ and follow through in baptism
    • The gratefulness of parents for a week of Kingdom investment..

    Thursday, June 13, 2013

    Greater Than: God + me > world

    God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. It's the way He lets us be part of something that is bigger than our abilities and influence. He has uniquely equipped us to step up to meet needs, to lead revolutions, to transform communities, and to lead our family and friends to Christ. We simply need to recognize the opportunity, bring God what we have of ourselves and let His power flow through us to bring change. God's vast power working through our limitations has been the way the world has been changed from the beginning. 

    What are you asking God to do through you to make a substantial impact in the world?

    Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    Greater Than: God > death

    Death is a morose subject, but since it is inevitable we will all eventually deal with it in some way. We may strive to avoid it, but death runs faster and longer than we do and will eventually catch us. It's why we can gain confidence when we hear Jesus say that He is the resurrection and the life. Death may find us, but it will not hold us when we are Christ followers. He assures us that our commitment to Him will allow Christ's sacrifice to cover for our sins and bring us life forever with Him. It instills a sense of peace in us to know that God has our eternity planned.

    This isn't just about seeing people we love again or having a good time in heaven--it's about recognizing that we need something only God can give us. He is the One that makes everything right again.

    Tuesday, June 11, 2013

    Greater Than: God > fear

    Fear can be incredibly debilitating. It prevents us from growing, paralyzes us with indecision, and can wreck our concept of trust. It's not always an irrational fear, but can often be explained by our experiences as well.We can become fearful when we suffer through something traumatic and allow that moment to become the root of insecurity and a barrier to future decisions. When we refuse to address it we give it power over us that can sometimes bring our pace of life to an immediate halt.

    I believe this inhibiting power is why God tells us that the fear of Him is the beginning of wisdom. It involves our recognition of God's divine omnipotence and a spiritual release when we see that no fear is greater than God's ability to overcome it. As we learn to respect and honor Him we will find that the dark shadows that have entrapped us for so long have been illuminated by truth.

    Monday, June 10, 2013

    Greater Than: God > life

    Life is not always fair. This may be a reflection of circumstances beyond our control, the choices we have made or the things that have been done to us. We may feel trapped by this inequity and start to believe that there isn't a way out. 

    This defeatist attitude doesn't reflect the life God created us to live and it ignores His ability to overcome the obstacles in front of us. To find freedom and healing we have to begin with our admission of His greatness over us & then take the next step and believe that He is greater than anything we face in life. This understanding is part of God's great plan to restore our broken hearts and set us free from captivity. How comforting is it to recognize that no part of our life holds power over God? In this freedom we will find the strength to stand tall and lift up our eyes to the King who calls us His children.

    Sunday, June 9, 2013

    Greater Than: God > me

    It can be difficult for us to admit that someone is better than we are at something. It requires humility as well as an honest sense of awareness. When we are confronted with our own limitations and recognize someones superiority, our response is not always positive. We tend to shut down or foolishly insist on pushing forward with less than satisfactory results.

    I think it's the same reason we struggle in a genuine relationship with God. We have to readily admit that He is greater than we are. I think we know it, but we act as if we can manage our lives on our own just fine. How much better off would we be if we would realize that God is greater than we are and allow Him to actively work in our lives? This confession is the first step to God's majestic work being unleashed in us.

    Saturday, June 8, 2013

    Greater Than

    Forrest Gump said that life is like a box of chocolates--you never know what you're going to get. I beg to differ. I say that life is more like preparing for a week of middle school camp. You can write and creatively plan and things will end up going in a different direction than you anticipated. No matter how much time you spend putting together lists of supplies and equipment you will forget something. It is inevitable that you will experience technical difficulties with no obvious or logical explanation. The mix of campers and staff will always change and the resulting fluctuation in chemistry is highly unpredictable. And in spite of (or because of) all these roller coaster shifts, I love this week of camp.

    This marks my 10th year doing middle school camp and I am just as excited about the start of the week tomorrow as I have been in previous years. I can't predict the details of what will happen, but I am trusting in the plan that God has put together and the people He will bring here. We may not know exactly how it will go, but I can assure you that it will be Greater Than we thought possible.

    Friday, June 7, 2013

    Waiting for Something

    I mowed the yard at our new house today for the first time. It's a pretty good sized yard and it was the first time I had used our push mower in over a year and a half (we were spoiled at our last house by our delightful neighbors having a zero-turn riding mower.) There is a ditch in the front of the house that is tricky to mow & a slight incline from the street corner all the way to our driveway. It ended up being a serious workout that left me feeling very thirsty for the hour and 45 minutes I mowed.

    At one point I found myself wishing that my wife would bring me some cold water to abate my thirst. I could have stopped and come inside to get it myself, but wanted to keep moving to finish up. I actually found myself getting more frustrated as I got hotter and yet no one brought any water out. As I kept pushing on and glancing at the front porch hoping for refreshment, I realized how foolish I was being. I was getting worked up over something that I hadn't even asked anybody to do. I ended up laughing out loud (at myself) as I recognized what I was doing. I was getting upset over my own unexpressed, unmet expectations. Naturally, shortly after I had my front-yard epiphany my wife showed up with cold water for me. She's good to me that way. 

    Make sure you communicate what your thoughts are instead of hoping people read them and react the way you want.

    Thursday, June 6, 2013

    Dinner Time

    The pace and tension of ministry can often be high. There are difficult decisions to make, crises to respond to, present situations to manage, and the future to prepare for. It can honestly leave you quite exhausted at the end of the day--especially when you look ahead to a very full schedule.

    I find a great deal of respite in the simple, yet joyful time spent around the family dinner table. My wife is an excellent cook and lovingly prepares delicious meals for us, but that is not the biggest attraction. It is the laughter of three teenage girls as they share goofy stories and tales of a day spent together. It's the knowing glances across the table with my wife as we share inside jokes and insight. It's the gift of speaking truth into the lives of our three lovelies as we prepare them for their future. I place a high value on these times together and appreciate the fact that they won't last forever. They are good for my soul and I hope they are building a foundation in our girls that carries into their adulthood.

    Wednesday, June 5, 2013

    Strong & Passionate

    I had lunch with a couple of good friends today as we shared our concerns for our community. We
    talked about problems that we see and threw around ideas on how our churches can be part of the solution. As we talked, my fellow pastor shared what he thought were the strengths of his church and what his people were passionate about. He admitted that this is not always an easy thing to determine, but something that he felt was necessary.

    I believe this is vital for individuals as well as organizations. We have to take the time to determine what our strengths are and where we are the most passionate. It's in the process of identification and development that we mature and are able to be more effective. It's not always an easy endeavor and is most complete when other (trusted) people are involved.

    If we are going to bring change to our community I believe it's an absolutely vital exercise to engage in and one that is part of a continual process of growth. Operating out of the best of what we do and executing it with passion will give us a fighting chance in affecting the greatest change.

    Tuesday, June 4, 2013


    I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that God waits to hear from His people & that it builds intimacy and spiritual dependency on His power. I have seen the evidence of prayer in my own life & in the transformation in others. I have witnessed people being healed from addiction and disease and watched as relationships were made whole that I thought would be broken forever. There is no doubt that God desires this intimacy with His people and that He wants to give us the pure desires of our heart as we invest in our journey with Him.

    Sadly, even though I know it is the best thing that I can do, I often fail to make prayer my first instinct. It's a sad duality to be a person who firmly believes in something and yet doesn't always turn to it right away. The truth is that I don't like it when I realize this reality, but it spurs me to diligently focus on creating a first instinct of seeking God's wisdom & provision.

    I want my legacy to be of a man that goes to God in prayer without hesitation and then acts afterwards instead of the other way around.

    Monday, June 3, 2013

    New Beginnings

    My blog's title represents something that I have found is very important to me--new beginnings. I started this new blog after our departure from Florida amidst my need for a clean slate. It was my
    way of recognizing my own need for repentance and the opportunity to begin again. Each time I write I am reminded of how much this phrase is now a part of my DNA. A new beginning is not just about a departure from my old way of life, but it also brings the promise of unexplored territory rife with potential. It represents the newness of each day and my need for God's forgiveness. It is the excitement that I feel when I meditate on the future and the preparation God is doing in my life right now. It marks new steps of faith in my children's lives and the hope I have for their own calling. It's the love affair I have for my wife and the freshness of our relationship after 21 years together.

    New beginnings isn't just the name of a place that I write--it's the mantra that I live by as God blesses me each day.

    Sunday, June 2, 2013

    Seeking Peace

    We kicked off our new series, "Man Up" this morning with guest speaker David Rocker, the head football coach at Point University. He taught on King David from the Old Testament (our focus all month) and how David was both a warrior for God and a worshiper of God. It was his statement about the big similarity between the two that resonated with me. He said that both types of people are looking for the same thing: peace. Their approach is obviously different, but the goal is identical.

    The lack of peace is the root of the disturbance and is an underlying cause of disruption in most of our lives. So much of our energy is focused on finding peace in our homes, entertainment, ideals, relationships, and our aspirations. I would wager that the majority of the people that I come in contact with on a regular basis can't seem to find it in their lives & I will admit that it can be a struggle for me as well.

    This peace that we are searching for isn't about a lack of conflict in our lives (although we incorrectly assume that to be the case.) It is instead an unshakable confidence in the sovereign plan of God and a willingness to submit to His direction for each of us. It's a matter of trusting in God's promises enough to maintain our composure in uncertain times. We find it through our willingness to battle adversity and in the purity of our worship. It is available to us all if we would search for it in our Creator and King.

    Saturday, June 1, 2013


    We had our first Man2Man event at Northridge tonight and were pumped to see 93 guys come out on a Saturday night. We had great hamburgers and spent time with David Rocker-current head football coach at We have to work to provide opportunities for men to develop a brotherhood together.
    Point University, former All-American at Auburn and NFL player. Coach Rocker shared several things that challenged us and caused me to think about the role of men in our community and how to bring them together. He made a powerful point about his playing days as he shared that the part he misses the most is the camaraderie with the guys in the locker room. As I thought about my own life I agreed with his assessment. It's not always the experience that we miss, but the people we shared it with that matter most. This speaks directly to our innate need for community and will help guide us as we continue to work to reach guys in our area.