Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lack of Leadership

I have been a Florida Gator fan all of my life. I watched the second half of our annual rivalry game with FSU yesterday and wasn't too surprised when we ended up losing. While I had certainly hoped that we might be able to pull off the upset it wasn't unexpected when we fell short. 

I didn't catch all of the game, but the part that I did see had some pretty clear leadership lessons. It was very obvious why FSU is now undefeated over their last 28 games, are the defending national champions, and will have an opportunity to defend that title very soon. Florida on the other hand is wrapping up another unsatisfactory season in a minor bowl game and is already looking for another head coach. The game spoke volumes about the way successful leaders and teams operate.

1. They are disciplined: the Gators had 9 penalties for 100 yards and had several potential drives thwarted due to the inability to play disciplined football. Undisciplined leaders lose control of their emotions in tense circumstances.

2. They don't waste opportunities: the defense of Florida forced FSU's quarterback (and reigning Heisman trophy winner) into four interceptions and yet only managed to score six points off of those turnovers. Leaders don't let opportunities to move forward slip by without maximizing the impact.

3. They are focused on proper execution: even though their kicker kept them in the game, he ended up missing two field goals that would have ultimately given them the win. Even if circumstances are not ideal, winners find ways to be successful by executing at the right time.

4. They know how to shift momentum in their favor: Florida had a chance to put the game away early when they had a lead of 9-0. They were about to score near the FSU goal line when their quarterback threw an interception that was returned 94 yards for a touchdown. Instead of potentially being up 16-0 Florida was only up 9-7 and momentum had shifted. Leaders learn to divert negative circumstances for the betterment of their organization.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Forming new habits isn't easy, but developing new, healthy patterns is the only way to grow. These new rhythms of thinking and behavior help us maintain focus on our goals while giving us the strength to keep pushing forward. They end up helping us continue to do what is right even when our will power is weak and our rationalizations for abandonment are strong. They shift our emphasis from something that we've "got" to do to something that we "get" to do. That is the moment that we find pleasure in sticking to our transformed lifestyle and want to do whatever it takes to see it continue.

What new habits are you developing that will eventually become a positive engagement instead of dreary discipline?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Best Decision

I've learned to carefully weigh my options before making decisions. It's the result of hard-learned
lessons found by seeking out immediate fulfillment without considering the long-term impact for myself and others around me. The truth is that decisions are not always easy to make and even after you have committed to a course of action there are still doubts and second guessing. The best we can do is to prayerfully think through the implications of our choices, think compassionately about the people around us that will be impacted, and choose the best path from there. It may not appear to be the best choice to those outside our scope of influence, but hopefully we are acting in wisdom when we take it all into consideration.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

It might seem somewhat cliche to post the things that I am thankful for, but it's an important practice in gratitude for me. I thoroughly enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and it's a good reminder for me to ponder the things that I am truly thankful for.

  • Nearly 20 years of marriage to my incredible wife. She's far better than I deserve.
  • Three beautiful, kind-hearted daughters that challenge, encourage, and love me
  • A warm, love-filled home
  • Family that loves me through miles apart & my own shortcomings
  • Grace, grace, and more grace.
  • Being part of a church that is intent on changing the community we live in
  • The contentment of living out my life's calling
  • Friends & mentors who continue to invest in my life
  • Being part of a staff that genuinely loves Jesus
  • Knowing that I'm not the man that I used to be
  • Confidence in knowing God isn't done making me into the man I need to be.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Be a Blessing

Our church has a phrase that we use quite often: we are blessed to be a blessing. We believe that God has given us the resources we possess so that they can be shared with others. It's a reflection of our gratitude for God's generosity and a desire to make an impact in our community. This can be exhibited through financial means, physical energy, emotional support, and prayers. The key is in recognizing how much we've been given and being intentional about investing in others. It's not just a principle for the holiday season, but should be a year-round mentality.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mystery Creations

My family & I really enjoy a show on the Food Network called, "Chopped". It's a cooking contest show that brings on four chefs to impress a panel of judges. They are given a mystery basket that contains odd ingredients that they must whip into a tasty dish if they want to survive. It's a high-stress show (especially in the final seconds of each elimination round) that showcases the quick-thinking abilities of these select chefs. We watch because it's always interesting to see what creative thing they are going to come up with in the allotted time period.

I don't fool myself into thinking that I could be as successful as any of the chefs on that program. They are much more talented than I am and are able to make something amazing out of what appears to be very little. It reminds me of how God works with each of us. We may not believe that we have much to offer personally, but if we are willing to turn it over to God we will see something amazing. God is always able to do more than we ask or imagine, but He won't seize control of our lives and force us to submit to Him. The choice is always ours and the end result of our faith in Him will always be more than we thought it could be.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Challenged Thinking

I have a good friend who is a pastor at another church in town. Our friendship was developed through our churches mutual investment in a community camp a couple of years ago. We have continued to work together on a variety of projects and are both very welcome in our respective churches.

Outside of church events and outreach, we continue to meet for coffee and early morning breakfast to stay connected and encourage one another. I thoroughly enjoy conversations with my friend and always gain a great deal from the way we stimulate thinking in each other. He has more ministry experience than I do and is able to offer a unique perspective from his denominational and cultural background. It's obvious that he spends a great deal of time in prayer and Scripture as he is willing to change his own view of things as God works in him.

I always look forward to our conversations simply because of our friendship. I also appreciate how he challenges my understanding of things and raises questions that are aimed at growth. It's encouraging to me to see two pastors from diverse backgrounds come together and motivate each other as we look to make an impact on our community. It's an important relationship of diversity in unity and the kind that I believe all leaders should seek out.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


I am fortunate to be able to have a full day of ministry and reminders of the power of my calling. While the pace may be hectic, the rewards are plentiful even in complicated circumstances. I'm thankful that today had many different things that continue to affirm God's work around me. It wouldn't be possible to list every detail, but there were some events that stand out. 
  • Sitting with my family in worship
  • Encouraging words from a faithful Christ-follower
  • Having chances to pray with people
  • Baptizing a young girl whose family has set an excellent example for her
  • A full room of people excited about being part of the church
  • Seeing several people ready to take the next step in their spiritual journey
  • Working hard with a group to bless families with Thanksgiving meals
  • Spending the evening with an awesome group of high school youth & being reminded of the good old days of youth ministry 
  • A phenomenal meal with my wife and the comfort of each other's company

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Not Permitted

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; 
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

In another parallel to dealing with spiritual attacks (see yesterday's blog), I recently compared the enemy to a childhood punk who steals our lunch. He takes the very best things out of our lunchbox and leaves us with nothing worthwhile. He is the hooligan who always takes our Hostess cupcake and leaves the celery sticks behind. He doesn't want us to have anything to find joy in, but aims to leave us feeling short-changed and disappointed. 

I don't mean to diminish the attacks of the enemy (or those that love celery sticks) with my illustration. I simply want to draw attention to the discouragement that can be used against us. We have to recognize that our enemy, the thief, has come to steal from us. He isn't interested in our well-being or our happiness, but only wants to make us miserable by taking our focus off of God. If we want to fight back we've got to grasp the full life that God offers and refuse to allow anything to dissuade us from that path. 

The truth is the best gifts come from God and the enemy can't take those from us if we don't give him permission.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Frontal Assault

The clip above is one of my very favorite moments from the show, "The Office." The humor is obvious, but it struck me yesterday (pun intended) that it accurately describes how I sometimes allow things to attack me. You would think that I would recognize the work of the enemy when it comes at me in familiar ways. I hope that I will be able to deflect the blow when it is aimed directly at me and yet I often ignore it until it's too late.

Even though I like to think I am on guard, I allowed it to happen to me yesterday. After I realized it, I almost couldn't believe that I had fallen for some of the same old manipulations. I've got to be more vigilant in watching for distractions and disruptive attempts. While I certainly can't guarantee 100% deflection, I hope that I will get better at recognizing and avoiding traps as I keep maturing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hide It Away

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Why do we hide things? So others can't find it? To protect it? As an act of preservation?

We most likely wouldn't hide something of little or no value. We would only make the effort if it was something of great worth. I would think that our expectation would be to hide it for some future purpose.

That's why we should commit ourselves to studying God's Word. It's not so we can impress anyone with our knowledge and ability to recall long passages. We do this so that the power of the right path is there when we need it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In Grief

The shortest verse in the Bible is found in John 11:35 where it simply says that "Jesus wept." It is at a time when a close friend of his has died and people are attributing his emotions to this loss. I tend to believe it also revealed how Jesus understood the power death has over us. Even though Jesus was going to defeat this forever, He knew how much grief it would cause us. He knew the pain we would have to endure when we were confronted by it, and the deep sorrow we would feel.

I have seen death and its effects too much recently. I too grieve as Jesus did for those that suffer and I turn to the only answer I know. It's the solution of Christ, His peace that passes understanding and our confidence in a life beyond this one. It doesn't eliminate our sorrow, but it provides the only true source of hope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lifelong Coach

I saw a segment on ESPN today that highlighted Mike Krzyzewski, head coach of the Duke
University Blue Devils and the USA men's national team. There were four sports journalists talking about his career and influence and three of them were former players of his. I have great respect for Coach K, but was left with more appreciation for his character and leadership after listening to his proteges. There were several leadership principles that he obviously practices and should be applied by compassionate leaders as well.

He always wants his players to be better.
This wasn't just geared towards better athletic performance, but in being a better person overall. Being a better person makes you a better teammate and overall contributor.

He never stops coaching you.
One of his players said that even though it had been over 30 years since he had played basketball for him, he was still coaching him in life decisions and character development. This shows genuine compassion for the long haul and not just for immediate results.

He wouldn't tell us what to do, but would ask you the right question to get you to think.
The most effective leader will help you discover the best path as you discover more about yourself.

He's not just about basketball, but is about developing people.
Coach K understands that basketball can help to teach life lessons and shape our character more than just teach us how to play a game. A career as a basketball player will eventually come to an end, but the lessons learned will carry on throughout the rest of life.

His players would do anything he asked them to do because they trust him.
Effective leaders have committed followers because of the level of trust they have established with each other. Earning complete trust comes through consistent servant leadership and a belief that the leader is invested in you and not just what you can produce.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Daily Perspective

The pace of my day has been different than I anticipated, but as I wrote recently that doesn't necessarily make it a bad day. Looking back in retrospection reveals a lot of positive things that didn't show up on my to-do list.
  • A good cup(s) of coffee and morning meditation 
  • Reading that challenges my thought processes
  • Encouraging & praying for friends going through difficulties
  • Feeling like I am making valuable contributions to forward movement
  • Being part of a team
  • Talking with a like-minded colleague about the potential of ministry
  • An overly enthusiastic greeting from a happy dog at home
  • An appropriately enthusiastic greeting from a happy family at home
  • Pushing through exercise in increasingly cool weather
  • A really good meal at the end of the day
  • Taking time to read & write with another good cup of coffee
Our perspective determines the outcome and today's outcome has been good. Here's to finding those parts that help us see the positive things happening around us.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

That's Messy

I heard a quote from Madeline Albright (former Secretary of State) today where she was asked for her assessment on the state of the world. She simply said, "The world is a mess."

I think she might find many people who agree with her. We could all find things that contribute to the messiness we find ourselves in. It could be an uneven political climate, dysfunctional family dynamics, ineffective churches, the lack of male role models, and disunity. I doubt that we would struggle to come up with influences for our current situation. Identifying problems won't be an issue.

The bigger question is what is our response going to be? Are we content just to recognize the mess or do we want to do something about it? We can bemoan the current state of affairs or we can decide to engage in a two-step solution;

Step 1: Talk to the Creator and The Solver of problems and seek His wisdom and healing
Step 2: Do what He asks us to do to be part of the solution

It's time to stop simply talking about messiness and work to clean it up. We need to either do something about the state of the world or shut up.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Learn Something New

I learned two things that were new to me yesterday.

Fact #1: I had no idea that cows produced more milk in winter months. I guess it's too much effort in summer to make it.

Fact #2: The word "materiels" is not a misspelling when you are on a military base. It actually applies to the equipment, apparatus, and supplies of a military force.

I don't know how much more well-rounded these bits of knowledge have made me, but it does help fulfill an ambition of learning something new each day. It's when we neglect to keep learning that we stop growing as a leader and a person.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Museum Day

We spent time at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins today with our family. My mom & stepfather are in town and since Mario is a pilot and military veteran, we knew it would be a hit. I was pleasantly surprised that our girls enjoyed it as much as they did. It didn't hurt that there were a ton of actual planes for us to see and that it counted as part of their home school days. We all agreed that it was a successful and enjoyable adventure.

There's something powerful about walking through history. It's not just about the cool planes (although that part was phenomenal) but it's about the stories that each plane and exhibit told. It was about the great sacrifices of people in trying times of war and their willingness to fight for freedom. There is something appealing about sharing in tales of great valor, leadership in adversity, and a unified team fighting to preserve their values. It's was a powerful reminder of important principles and the people who lived their lives fully committed to preserving them. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In Part

What were you part of today? It's not that we have to be actively engaged in a community are part of something bigger and if we are aware of it our focused efforts will be that much more significant.
transforming movement to call the day a success. It's important, however, that we recognize the value of our role in each of our interactions. We have opportunities each day to influence others, encourage our friends, love our families, and develop our character. These might not seem like monumental increases, but they are key contributors to the flow of life around us. We

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Getting Hungry

Tonight we have people who came to the church to have a meal before our programming. Unfortunately, our fryer isn't working properly so our kids' meal has been changed. Instead of offering fried chicken fingers & french fries they will have chicken and macaroni & cheese. I'm certain that some people will be disappointed since they came expecting one thing and were served another. Some may even say, "I'm hungry, but I'm not hungry for that."

Obviously food is on a unique level as I've been known to eat anything to effectively curb my hunger. I think it's a different matter when we are talking about spiritual fulfillment however. We are created with a longing for something that is real and eternal. When we attempt to fulfill that feeling with anything less than what God offers, it doesn't take care of the need for long. Sadly, I don't know that people always recognize the lack of fulfillment. We'll keep attempting to satisfy our hunger and never come to the realization that we aren't hungry for anything but truth. 

Think of how much disappointment we could avoid if we could identify what we are really seeking and ignore the things that won't bring lasting satisfaction.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Common Focus

I'm encouraged tonight by the group of over 500 people that gathered in worship. There were multiple churches represented as we met to benefit a local charity and work together for a cause. The diversity of talent was impressive and it was all enriched by our shared concern for others. Tonight was proof that we need to continue to seek out ways to work together.

We need to continue to practice mutual respect as we honor each other's differences. It's vital for the future of our community that the shared attitude of this event is not restricted to a few events a year. If we intend to come together to transform lives, heal old wounds, build trust, and restore relationships it is essential to make this a permanent value. I have high hopes for the future of our area and pray that we will continue to strive to make this unity a priority.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Unity In Diversity

I had the honor of witnessing something very special yesterday afternoon at one of our local churches. A friend of mine was sharing his initial message after receiving his calling. In his church's culture, he would preach and then seek the affirmation of the church to receive his license. It was a ceremony of worship, Scripture, recognition, and the teaching of the Word in a powerful way.

Not only was his testimony engaging and effective, but the reverence shown throughout the entire ceremony impacted me deeply. I left with a higher sense of honor for my own role as a pastor and a tremendous sense of gratitude for my friends in this church. The diversity that our churches continue to share with each other is exceedingly valuable and I appreciate being included in this special day. I pray that our openness and willingness to share will continue as we grow together with understanding and mutual admiration.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Today has been full. Not just full from a schedule perspective (although that is certainly true) but full from a spiritual view. I have had the tremendous pleasure & responsibility of teaching God's Word and I have prayed with several people. I was honored to baptize three people into Christ and talk with another about her future partnership with our church. I have been encouraged by the words of good friends and challenged by God's powerful reminders of my weakness. I was incredibly proud to witness the initial message of a God-honoring man and to share in moments of worship with brothers & sisters from another local church. I now have the incredible privilege of wrapping up my day with my beautiful daughters, our energetic puppy, and my devoted wife.

I think it's going to simply be enough to say that today was full in some of the very best ways. Even though it may seem that I am the central character in most of the good things about today, I recognize that it is far more about God and His generosity.

I am grateful for the gift of this Sunday. Selah.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

If Only

The words "if only" are two very small words. They are often used to describe a sense of longing, an excuse, or a wish for something better. Our finances, families, marriages, jobs, and communities would all be better "if only" certain things would have been different. We would work to improve ourselves "if only" circumstances were right. They describe a sense of dissatisfaction, but are deeply rooted in the idea of discontentment. We are unhappy with our current situation, but these two words give us a pass on doing anything about it.

Perhaps it's time to stop using these two words as an excuse for our inaction. If we want to see things improve we have to commit ourselves to the discipline of identifying and pursuing the right goals. This will create new opportunities for change and eliminate the paralyzing power of two small words.

Friday, November 7, 2014

At the End of the Day

How do you know if you had a good day? Is it all about your emotional state as you lay your head on your pillow? Is it about the number of things you checked off on your to-do list? Perhaps it's the accomplishment of goals and a feeling of success. Do we fall victim to the lie that one bad moment causes the entire day to be bad?

The encouraging news is that we get to decide what makes it a good day. We are the ones assigning value as we determine how things are going. Maybe we should look for a positive moment and let that define the day instead of hanging on to the negative. It may not alter every part of our reality, but it will definitely alter our perception of it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sticker Shock

"I can't afford that." 

Have you ever used that phrase? It's most often used in a financial sense as we weigh out the cost of an item in comparison to our available funds. We decide that a car is too costly for our budget, a restaurant too fancy for our wallets, or a trip too expensive for the rest of our checkbook. Hopefully we are wise enough to recognize that this is out of our reach instead of going into debt. If we ignore the actual cost in pursuit of immediate gratification we end paying a higher price than we ever anticipated. 

I've got to know that there are other decisions that I can't afford to make either. There are people depending on me and trusting that I will make the right choice. If I forget my priorities and chase after temporary satisfaction, I will end up paying a higher (and very unpleasant price) for my actions. 

If more men would keep this principle in mind, we would see relationships being protected and Christ being honored instead of generations being enslaved to the emotional debt of sinful behaviors. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Believe It

What do you believe? Can you clearly articulate it? The key to our belief isn't so much in our ability to define those values. I feel certain that we can all speak fairly intelligently about a number of different topics and align ourselves with specific viewpoints. Even our most eloquent language doesn't necessarily indicate our true beliefs though. That is truly only indicated in our actions.

How is this seen in our lives? Where are we professing one thing and yet living another? If you are unsure about your belief system then take a careful look at what you are doing and it will be made obvious. We reveal our true level of belief by what we apply to our lives.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


I believe in the power of a well-timed, well-phrased question. It has the ability to draw people close together, to bring insightful clarity, and to communicate interested concern. There are two keys that make the art of question & answer effective.

1. Ask the right question.

2. Listen intently to the answer.

You will never get the answer you are looking for if you ignore either one of these.

Monday, November 3, 2014


The Gift and the One who gave the Gift are the same. You cannot have one without the other. The Gift and the Gift-giver are a package deal. 
Limitless Life, Derwin Gray

You can't expect to receive all that God has to offer without accepting Him as well. We might see portions of forgiveness, grace, mercy, and purpose without having a relationship with Him. We won't ever fully experience the beauty and power of what God offers if we won't commit to following Him though. It won't be a personal journey then, but merely a secondary spirituality that only comes into contact with the purity of God through other people. That's not the depth of commitment that interests God and it's less than appealing to us. All of God's gifts are illusions without Him at the center of them. 

Fulfillment and contentment are found in all of who God is.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Don't Slip!

I was running the steps next to our campus church on Saturday and meditating on two verses I had recently committed to memory. A portion of it says, "The law of God is in his heart and his feet do not slip." I was thinking about the idea of my feet slipping while I was concentrating to make sure that didn't happen when running up and down the stairs.

With winter's chill in the air, I was recalling our ice storms of this year and how I wouldn't find myself running steps if that happened again. In fact, it would be incredibly foolish of me to attempt to run the steps if they were covered in ice. I would hope I would have enough sense to stay off of them if they posed that much of a danger to me.

I hope that would apply in other areas of danger as well. If I want to maintain sure footing on my chosen pathway I need to avoid treacherous areas that might cause me to fall. I need to avoid looking at certain things, participating in certain conversations, and perhaps even having relationships with certain people. I hope that God has been active enough in my life and character development that I would recognize the potential of falling and choose to stay away from those areas. It's a much wiser move to stay in areas of firm footing so that I am not falling of the right pathway.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


I wrote yesterday about overload and how a certain level is essential for growth. While this is completely true, too much overload can also lead to damage. In the interest of pushing past our limits we can end up causing self-harm instead of helping ourselves to grow. 

The key is found in recognizing the difference between stress and distress. Stress lets us know that we are working hard while distress is a signal that we are pushing beyond our ability to withstand increased work. When we ignore these warnings we fail to achieve our desired objective and end up taking steps backwards in our development. 

Pushing through exhaustion helps us to see gains, but only if we are able to recognize when we are stretching into potentially injurious territory. We've got to be aware of the warning signs of injury if we want to maximize our maturity while minimizing risk.