November 21, 2011

Does God Care About A Football Game?

Growing up in the south, football, especially college football, is an obsession. Sickness may be the best word to describe. Anyway, it's definitely a disorder. People get their team's logo tattooed onto their bodies, have their cars custom painted to match that atrocious Tennessee orange & name their kids & pets after their favorite players. Some people even go so far as to think God somehow gets caught up in this hysteria. Now personally I've always believed that God has bigger things going on other than making sure Kentucky somehow managed to beat Ole Miss (the fact that either won could be argued as a miracle), but I'm beginning to think I might have been wrong.

Thursday night a guy who has been an obsession for a lot of people since he was in high school changed my way of thinking. In the name of full disclosure I must tell you I am one of the fanatics here in the south. I LOVE the Florida Gators, & Tim Tebow is like a national treasure for Florida fans, but even in all his years at Florida, I never thought God really cared who won or lost a football game. Then Thursday night, Tebow led the Denver Broncos to yet another win & to make it better it was against the Jets, a team no one expected them to beat. After the game, not only did they talk about Tebow, but they also talked to Tebow who took every opportunity to share his faith. If that weren't enough, after he left the set, the guys on the NFL Network continued to talk about Tebow's character & faith. With TebowMania hitting a fever pitch in Denver, Jesus actually got most of the spotlight.

So maybe God does care who wins a football game, if it's going to put His Son in the spotlight. If winning something as insignificant as a football game will allow Jesus to somehow get the glory that our world wants to throw at a guy who can run & throw, then maybe God does have a team or a player that He pulls for. After all, the Broncos were an absolute mess a few weeks ago, & they still look ugly for about 95% of the game, but then it's "Tebow Time". Then when the dust settles & the post-game flattery begins, the player in the spotlight deflects it all toward His Savior. So yeah, maybe God does care about a football game, just like He cares about that 3rd grade class you teach, those patients you see, that business you run, or that ministry where you serve. Perhaps leveraging whatever platform you have for the glory & fame of Jesus draws your Heavenly Father's attention & gets Him involved. Just a thought.

October 31, 2011

We Need More Builders

Yesterday I was in a meeting with some of my student leaders about some of the things we're looking at implementing in our student ministry in the near future. As the excitement in the room became more & more apparent, one of my seniors said, "We need to do this now so that I get to do this." It was at this point that I said something that had to have been from God because I'm not smart enough to have said this completely off the cuff. This is what I told that student & all the other older students in that room.

"You May Not Get To Reap All The Benefits From These Plans But You Get To Be A Part Of Actually Building It, & I'd Rather Be A Builder Than Just A Consumer."

Here's the thing: Builders make a difference. Builders leave a mark. Builders lay the foundation & build something that others enjoy, & oftentimes, builders are the ones who are remembered.

However, building is more difficult. Building is risky, but being a builder is an absolute necessity. No matter what arena of life we're talking about, if all we have are consumers, things eventually implode. One the other hand, if a generation or group of builders rise up & take the risk to move things forward, they can propel a business, a ministry, or a nation into a new season of growth & transformation.

Be a builder. Invest in builders. Challenge the next generation to be builders, not just consumers.

October 14, 2011

A Huge Blindspot In Student Ministry

I've been working with students for over a decade, & in my opinion one of the biggest blind spots & most neglected areas in most student ministries is in the area of teaching & equipping students to be good stewards financially. Thinking back over my own experience as a teenager, the only time I ever heard this brought up was in October which was always "Stewardship Month" in my Baptist church. That of course was likely due to the fact that the new budget would be proposed in November, & leadership wanted to either guilt or motivate everyone to support the upcoming budget.

However, I can never remember hearing it taught within the student ministry or hearing why financial stewardship & wise handling of money was so important. Honestly, I could understand why so many people think that the church is after their money. Too often I've heard preachers & teachers discuss money & stewardship divorced from the real spiritual issues involved. When we do that, the message is cold, forced, & too often manipulative. However, when we set financial stewardship in the greater context of the stewardship of one's life, it begins to make more sense. And when we go a step further & connect how that stewardship with our lives & our stuff connects to our mission as God's people, it can actually become compelling.

Recently I broke the ice with our students on this issue & much to my surprise it was really well received. In fact, I even had a 7th grader say, "I want to hear more about that." That blew me away, but it also opened my eyes to how big a blind spot this is. Think about it: If we have adults who are poor stewards of their lives & their finances, where do we think those habits were cultivated? Those patterns were developed when they were teenagers & got that first job & just assumed that every penny that they earned was just for their consumption. The result is that years later they are greedy people, no matter what tax bracket they are in. Then we have the difficult task of breaking those habits & attitudes. The real problem isn't financial; it's spiritual. They are serving their stuff & not God. As a result they don't invest in God's Kingdom. So instead of trying to get them to invest in God's Kingdom first, we have to tackle the real spiritual issue: where their devotion lies. Then we can give the prescription to fight greed: GIVING.

This fall our students are going to be challenged in this area through both teaching & in some opportunities to partner with our entire church as we begin a capital campaign that will allow us to continue to pursue God's vision for our church & student ministry. I would encourage all student pastors to figure out how to lead their students down this same path. Who knows, it may pay big dividends in the future as they become adults who have refused to let the pursuit of stuff to dominate their lives.

October 12, 2011

Jesus' Weirdest Sermon?

Monday I wrote a little about the small group of students I meet with & invest in on a weekly basis. One of the tips I gave about building such a group was to "Focus On Discipleship First & Leadership Naturally Develops". This time around, our group is going through the entire Gospel of John in detail this semester. Each week our students study two chapters of John's Gospel. Then we all come together to discuss it & work on Scripture memory.
This week our reading takes us into what has to be one of Jesus' weirdest sermons. To some people who have been in church for years, it may not seem weird because you have heard bits & pieces of it over & over, but put yourself in the place of a 1st century Jew. It's obvious from the passage that this was a really weird sermon. So what was Jesus' main point?

"Eat My Flesh & Drink My Blood"

Let's face it, that's weird. This is Jesus' Dawn of the Dead/Twilight sermon! As a result of this sermon, the Bible tells us that many people stopped following Jesus. It was too weird & too hard for the big crowds to handle. And here's the thing, I think Jesus did this on purpose. He preached a hard message & one that was almost impossible to ignore so that people would be forced to make a decision. Two times prior to this message in John 6, John makes sure to point out that the crowd was following Jesus because of the miracles & that they were asking for even more. Jesus wasn't going to let this crowd dictate His ministry to Him, & He didn't want their trust & faith in Him be built on how impressed they would be by His latest trick. The miracles served a purpose, but ultimately, everyone had to place their faith in Jesus, not simply His miracles.

At the end of the day, people aren't just trusting a miracle worker. They are being asked to put their faith in the Son of God. As someone who teaches God's Word regularly this reminds me that even though we do teach people how to live in a way that aligns with God's word, at some point we have to preach the hard message that it's not just about living a "good life"; it's about putting our faith in Jesus & Jesus alone.

October 10, 2011

The Best Thing I Do As A Leader

There are a lot of people that think they are leaders, but here's a defining trait that sets true leaders apart: Leaders Replicate Their Vision In Others. If you want to be a leader, you have to lead people & not just a big group of people. If a leader wants to truly lead, he or she has to invest himself or herself directly into a small group of people. I believe this is true in any area of leadership whether it be coaching, parenting, business, or ministry. When you're a coach you need to replicate your vision for the team in your assistants & in some key players so that it trickles down to the 3rd string punter & the waterboy. If you're a parent, it should be obvious who you need to be investing yourself in. Parents need to have a clear vision for their families. Then it needs to be communicated & demonstrated to your children so that they will eventually understand & adopt it themselves. In ministry you have to invest in a small group of people who can help you implement & achieve the vision God's given you as the leader.

As a leader, I don't know that there has been anything I've done that has paid off more than investing in a small group of my students & replicating the vision in them. Then I just unleash them to pursue it with their lives. I've been asked a lot how I do it, so here it is, & it's incredibly simple.

1) Make It Available To Anyone
When putting a group together, I always make it available to anyone who wants to explore the opportunity. This does two things. First, it might draw in someone that I may not have recruited myself. Secondly, it defuses any accusation of favoritism because in the end the student decides whether they will be in the group, not me.

2) Create High Expectations
Even though I make this small group available to anyone, I know it's not for everyone. I intentionally set the bar high for the group I'll be working with. They know upfront what's expected of them, & some simply won't want to do it or aren't ready. And there's nothing wrong with that. I'd rather someone realize this isn't for them than for them to commit to something that they won't be able to complete. Also, contrary to what some may think, teenagers want to be challenged & rarely are. Challenge your group to go farther than they ever have.

3) Focus On Discipleship First, & Leadership Naturally Develops
I have said for years that discipleship is leadership. If a person is growing as a follower of Jesus, she will become a leader because she will begin to use whatever influence she has in order to lead people toward Jesus & to bring Him glory. Every follower of Jesus has the potential to lead. They may not lead a church or a ministry, but they can influence & lead those they interact with everyday outside the walls of the church. Yes, I create leadership projects for my group, but the overwhelming content of our time together is focused on growing as a disciple. So utilize the classic spiritual disciplines: Bible study, prayer, Scripture memory, & fellowship among believers.

4) Don't Give Everyone Everything All At Once
One of my mentors told me that the quickest way to kill a ministry is to "give everyone everything all the time." What that means is that if there is no levels to your ministry, a 7th grader & a 12th grader are treated exactly the same & have access to the same things. As a result that 7th grader who has had access to everything from Day 1 will likely drop out around 10th or 11th grade because they've "been there & done that". On top of that, would any of us really argue that you should develop a 7th grader boy the same way that you would 11th grade boy? My small group is open to both middle school & high school students, but the specific leadership track is only available to high school students.  In the end the students who have been in the group as middle schoolers will be better prepared to handle the leadership track than they would be if I had let them have it from the beginning.

5) Turn Them Loose
You can't hang on to a group forever. In fact, you probably can't hang on to them until you think they are "ready". You have to unleash them to do ministry. It may be small but you have to turn over responsibilities & appropriate authority to them. A group that stays in training too long usually stagnates & isn't as useful as one who is trained & then released, even if they might be a little rough around the edges. Look at Jesus' disciples. They weren't really "ready", but it was time for them to lead, so Jesus unleashed them.

That's pretty much it. That's what I have done with my student leadership groups over the years, & over & over again, I've seen God use these students to do some amazing stuff. I wish there was a way that I could invest like that in every individual student, but it's not just not realistic. No leader can individually invest in every person under their leadership, but they have to be investing individually in someone.

September 27, 2011

Kids Are Full Of It

As I've been reading through Proverbs another common theme has jumped out that might make some folks a little uncomfortable. It can be found throughout the book of Proverbs but is summed up pretty well in Proverbs 22:15.

"Folly is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him."

Yep, that's right Scripture basically says there are times where the only thing that will get through to a child is a good ole fashioned butt whooping. It's just the nature of childhood to be foolish & childish, & there are some lessons that can only be learned the hard way. This principle crashes hard into the conventional wisdom of our warm fuzzy, politically correct, the kids are always right world.

I'm not saying a time-out, the naughty spot, sitting in the corner & all those other ways of disciplining children aren't effective. What I am saying is that there are lots of ways to administer discipline, & we should make use of all of them. Sometimes sitting a kid down is all they need, but we've all seen that kid that made us think, "Well all he needs is a good whooping!" When you have multiple tools to get the job done, you'd be foolish to think a one size fits all approach works.

Parents, use ALL the options available to us to discipline our kids & to teach our kids the path of wisdom. They're not going to figure it out on their own. They must have your help, & sometimes it's better for them to hurt a little now than be allowed to wander into an area that's going to cause long term, deep hurts that last for years. If you have to tear that little rear end up every now & then do it, because Scripture makes it clear that your kids & my kids are full of it (foolishness), & sometimes the "rod of discipline" is the only thing that will drive it out.

September 23, 2011

Don't Even Try

As I've been reading through Proverbs this month, a theme has been woven throughout the entire book that I want to look at today because it kind of jumps off of what we looked at earlier this week about disputes & arguments. Check out Proverbs 23:9,

"Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words."

Wednesday I said we should be willing to drop some disputes before they ever stop because of what's at stake. There's another reason why we should drop it before it ever gets started. According to this verse, a fool isn't going to listen anyway, so don't even try.

Have you ever had someone in your life who consistently asked for your advice & then just as consistently ignored it? Frustrating isn't it? Having worked with students for over a decade I have lots of those stories. A student wants some advice on a situation, but when they get solid, wise, biblical advice, they ignore it. The truth is they didn't want advice; they probably wanted validation. When you or I don't give it to them, they either give to themselves or keep asking until they find someone who gives it to them. They're going to do what they want no matter what. The Bible calls those people fools.

If there are people in your life who consistently ignore wise counsel, dont' even try to correct them or guide them because it's going to fall on deaf ears. Those people aren't interested in what's right or what's beneficial. They are simply interested in doing what they want, no matter the cost or consequences.

Be careful how you pour out your advice & wisdom. Be sure you're not throwing "pearls to the swine". Instead watch those who claim to want your guidance, & invest in those who demonstrate it by their actions.

September 21, 2011

Just Drop It

Today as I continue to share some things that are jumping out to me as I read through Proverbs, I want to jump back to Proverbs 17 & talk about something I read this week that has continued to stick with me. In Proverbs 17:14, we find this nugget of wisdom,

"Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out."

If you're like me, you love to be right. I mean you LOVE it. There's nothing like making that decisive point that makes the other party realize how misguided or misinformed they were is there? However, if you're like me you may have also learned that being right can come at a cost. When you or I are driven by being right, we put a relationship in jeopardy. Solomon & the others who contributed to the Proverbs understood this. That's why this verse is there.

An argument can be a devastating thing, so we need to carefully weigh the cost of starting one. We've all gotten into disputes & arguments where somewhere along the way we thought, "Why are we even arguing about this?" or even worse we think, "What were we arguing about again?" It's amazing how are need to be right can drive us into a heated dispute but along the way that issue that we thought was so important somehow gets forgotten in the middle of the argument!

What if we started to drop it? What if we started to drop the little things that don't really matter & aren't worth the time, energy, & damage that will result from the battle? I know, some of you think that being right is the most important thing in the world, but if you can't correct someone lovingly then you're totally missing the whole "love your neighbor" part of following Jesus. Truth is vitally important but so are people & so are our relationships. I love what Jon Acuff said yesterday, "It's impossible for me to love my neighbor when my need to be right, overwhelms my desire to be righteous."

Next time you're tempted to dive in head first into an argument, remember what you might be unleashing, consider how you might be seeking RIGHTNESS over RIGHTEOUSNESS, & whether or not you could just drop it.

How have you seen arguments & disputes in your own life damage relationships? Was someone's desire to be right at the core of it?

September 19, 2011

The Dynamic Duo

As I've continued to read through Proverbs this month, I came across this verse today. It's Proverbs 19:2,

"It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty & miss the way."

Did you get that? Zeal, passion, & excitement are great, but if that's all you've got, you're not going to go very far. Zeal & passion have to be complemented by knowledge & wisdom. Without knowledge, information, & wisdom, passion can take us down some weird paths. When we combine these two qualities, great things can happen in us & through our leadership.

How many of us have ever started talking about something that we were very passionate about, but very soon we revealed just how little we actually knew & understood about the situation? How many times have we gotten all fired up about something & got started only for it to fall apart because we didn't really know what we were doing? In both cases we had a lot of passion & enthusiasm, but it's simply not enough.

If you're passionate about something, marry that passion to a desire to learn & gain understanding. Passion gives you the drive, but knowledge, wisdom, & understanding give you the direction. So don't run on passion & excitement alone. Seek wisdom, understanding, & knowledge about whatever it is that makes you come alive, & when you complement your passion with real understanding, you will go further faster as a leader.

September 16, 2011

Who Checks Your Motives?

Have you ever sat back & watched someone & wondered, "Why in the world are they doing that?"

Do you think that someone has ever looked at your life & asked themselves, "What is he/she thinking?"

We've all done it. We've all seen someone do something or say something, & we think to ourselves, "What?" However, I bet if we actually asked that person what was going through their head & what their motivation was, they would give us a reason that makes complete them.

Proverbs 16:2 says this:

"All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord."

Have you ever noticed that we always seem to have a really compelling argument for why we do what we do? If you're like me, you can talk yourself into just about anything. In fact, some of the things that we now look back on with regret, we at one time thought was a really good idea. You've probably wondered to yourself, "Why did I do that? How did I think that was a good idea?" Well, this explains it.

We always think we're in the right, even when we're dead wrong. The only person who can really weigh our motives honestly is God. With that in mind Solomon goes on to tell us,

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, & your plans will succeed."

Since we can always talk ourselves into thinking we're right, we need to have some other filter that we can use to gain some insight on ourselves. That filter is God's will revealed through His Word. Proverbs is loaded with the concept that wisdom comes through listening to outside instruction, & there is no better outside instruction than God's Word. God's Word has this really uncomfortable way of pointing out where our lives are out of alignment with His plan for His people, & when we're confronted with that we get to choose whether we want to be a fool or a person of wisdom. If you want to wear the label of fool, then ignore God's Word & do what you wanted anyway, but if you don't really want to be known as a fool, then redirect your life to get into alignment with the path God has laid out in His Word. Then your plans will succeed because your plan is built first & foremost on honoring your Heavenly Father & staying faithful to the path He has for His people.

September 14, 2011

Rotten To The Core

This morning as I continued to read through the book of Proverbs, I came across Proverbs 14:30 which says,

"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."

Is that graphic or what? Rotting bones? Think about it, even after we die & our bodies are buried, someone can come back years later & our bones will still be there. Obviously the decay that's spoken of here is intense if it could be characterized as "rotting the bones".

The root of the decay is envy, & our culture trains us to be master's of envy. Of course, we would never call it that. Nobody would call themselves greedy & envious; other people are but not us. But has the average American & American family leveraged every minute of their day & penny in their bank account in order to pursue the "American Dream" simply out of some innate drive? No, our nation & so many of our families are caught in the current plight out of sheer envy. We have to have what "everybody else" has. We have to do what "everybody else" is doing, & in the end we're exhausted, broke, & disillusioned. After all shouldn't having it all & doing it all makes us feel like we've arrived? Why then are our families maxxed out financially, physically, & emotionally? Why are so many families weaker than they've ever been?

It's simple. Envy. We want what we think everybody else has, but the truth is we don't really know what they've got or what they're doing. In addition to that, why in the world do we want to live somebody else's life. Why would we want to waste our life trying to have someone else's. Envy is simply telling God, "What you've given me isn't enough. The life you've given me, the things you've provided for me, all of it isn't enough. I have to go out & get more because You & Your plan aren't enough." In the end instead of building something, we begin to rot, from the inside out. Our envy rots us at the core. It leads to resentment not only toward God but toward anyone that we perceive has what we think we have to have. Left unchecked, envy will rot & destroy our lives & our relationships, even if we get the stuff we want! We may have the stuff, but we'll be alone.

The remedy: Peace. Peace with who you & your family are, peace with how God has provided for you & your family, & peace with your place in life. When peace begins to waver & you begin to think you need what others have, call it what it is: envy. Then ask yourself, "Why do I think I have to have that or do that or be involved in that?" Usually the honest answer will be less that motivating. Find your peace in God & the plan that He has for you. You'll never find it in trying to replicate someone else's life.

September 12, 2011

Are You Listening?

Today as I was reading Proverbs 12, I ran into one of the most common themes found in the Proverbs. Proverbs 12 opens with this line,

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid."

Did you get that? Through Solomon & the other writers of Proverbs, God is basically calling a group of people stupid! Who are these idiots? It's the people who will not listen to the advice, correction, or input of others. In verse 15, it says that fools think that their way is always right. They can't imagine listening to someone else's perspective. However, the wise person listens to advice, perhaps even seeks it out.

There is some tension in this though. Who do you listen to? Do you listen to anyone who has "advice" for you? After all, if you have ever led anything, whether it's a multi-million dollar corporation or a Little League baseball team, you know that you get plenty of unsolicited advice. So do you listen to all of it & act on all it? No! Here are a few guidelines I use to filter the "advice" that comes with being a leader while still trying to exercise wisdom by respecting the correction, wisdom, & advice of others.

1) Always Listen To Those Who Actually Have A Relationship With You.
Hear these people out. They have a vested interest in you & the ministry or organization you lead. These people are less likely to simply be trying to get their way.

2) Always Listen To Someone Who Is Willing To Talk To You Personally.
If someone either comes to you directly or sets up a meeting with you in order to share some input or advice, you should honor their willingness to deal with things directly. When you get emails or notes from people who want to give you their input or perspective, try to meet with them one on one. If they refuse or give you the run around, that should tell you they're more interested in getting their way than working with you & seeing you & the organization succeed.

3) Ignore Anonymous "Advice".
If someone can't put their name behind their "advice", then it's not worth your time. Period. In fact, if there's no name on it, I wouldn't even bother reading it. There's a good chance that it will be loaded with misinformation & attacks against you. When you read that stuff, your inclination will be to try & fix it, but you can't because they weren't a big enough person to even put their name on it. It will become nothing but a distraction that will pull you away from your mission.

Remember, listening doesn't necessarily mean implementing, but it does mean seeing the other person's perspective. Giving someone an honest hearing sometimes is all they need. They need to know their feelings & ideas have will be taken into consideration, even if it doesn't translate into implementation.

So are you stupid, or are you listening? Who are you listening to? Are you listening to the right people? Are you getting distracted by the wrong people?

September 9, 2011

It's Obvious

The last couple of days I have been reading through Proverbs 8 & 9 as our church as a whole has been invited to read through the book of Proverbs for the entire month. As I was reading one big thing jumped out of these two chapters.

Wisdom & foolishness are obvious.

That's right, both of them are obvious. We tend to think that foolish behavior is obvious, but wisdom somehow is mysterious, even elusive. However, take a look at these two chapters. In these chapters wisdom is personified. Also in these two chapters wisdom builds her house at the highest point in the city. She prepares a great banquet & sends out messengers & maidens to issue an the invitation for all to come to her home. It's a metaphorical invitation to leave our current way of life & embrace the wisdom of God & a life built on the wisdom of God.

However, at the same time the Bible tells us foolishness is just as obvious. In Proverbs 9 foolishness also has her house at the highest point of the city. She also calls out inviting people come to her home. The way of foolishness is obvious. The invitation onto the foolish path is just as obvious.

Two things jumped out at me in these chapters. First, we have to stop pretending that godly wisdom is somehow this mystical thing that only some people can aspire to. Wisdom calls out to everyone. The Bible says wisdom calls out to the simple. You know what that means? It means you don't have to be the most intelligent person in the room in order to discover & embrace godly wisdom. Secondly, the difference between wisdom & foolishness is not how obvious one is & the other isn't. The difference is in how easy the two paths are. The path of foolishness doesn't require discipline or understanding. Foolishness even calls out that "stolen water is sweet." Foolishness is lazy, undisciplined, & ignores the obvious path of godly wisdom & makes excuses like, "That's just the way I am." That may be true, but it doesn't have to be that way forever.

There are two paths that we can take. There are two invitations being sent out to us. Which one will we choose to accept? Which one will we make the path of our life?

September 7, 2011

Double-Edged Proverb

This month our church is going through the book of Proverbs as we also go through a weekend teaching series on Proverbs. Over the course of the month I will be sharing some of my thoughts as I read through the Proverbs day by day. I won't cover all of them, but when something really jumps out, I'll talk about it.

Yesterday I was reading through Proverbs 6 which is just crammed with a bunch of warnings against foolishness, laziness, & adultery/lust. Wedged right there in the middle of this proverb is this:

"My son, keep your father's commands & do not forsake your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, & the corrections of discipline are the way to life..." Proverbs 6:20-23

The direct context for these verses is the following instructions concerning immoral women, lust, adultery, & all the junk that comes from falling prey to our own desires. However, there is an obvious broader application. It's clear that the point here is that the instruction of one's parents is vital to growing & living a healthy & potentially godly life. When we hear these verses taught we immediately go to the point of "children, obey & respect your parents" which is great, but this proverb is double-edged.

Shouldn't we also ask parents to evaluate what it is that they are teaching their children. As parents, almost everything we do communicates a lesson or value to our children. We can take our children to church programming as much as we want, but if our real, everyday message doesn't reflect biblical, godly values, then which message do we really think is going to win out in our children's lives?  Whatever we teach will guide; it will speak to our children; it will echo in their hearts & minds. What are we teaching?

September 5, 2011

Labor Day Recommendations

I thought I'd change things up for the holiday by recommending some reading, music, & entertainment ideas to you. Checking out these recommendations might give you some insight into how I think & where I'm coming from.
Books I'm Reading & Re-Reading
Think by John Piper-Great stuff from one of the smartest guys in ministry
The Seven Checkpoints For Youth Leaders by Andy Stanley & Stuart Hall-Classic

Songs On Heavy Rotation
"Barton Hollow" by The Civil Wars
"Poison & Wine" by The Civil Wars
"Waves" by Bela Fleck

Blogs I'm Visiting
Jenni Catron-Check out her series "Leading At All Levels".
Ron Edmondson-Ron has had some solid stuff lately.
Bowman Family-Features great pics of my gorgeous daughters & my wife's take on things.

TV Shows Worth Your Time
White Collar on USA-It's smart, funny, & has great cast chemistry. New season in January.
Seinfeld-Been watching a bunch of re-runs lately. I actually forgot how great this show was.

September 2, 2011

Are You Losing Or Are You A Loser?

We can all think of teams, organizations, & even churches that can never quite get it together. Even when they have the right resources, the right people, & the right timing, they somehow manage to blow it. At the same time, we can also think of groups who have a less than glowing history of success, but then all of a sudden they make the turnaround & find success. Look at the Boston Red Sox. They've had talent, money, & opportunities to succeed, but for generations they found ways to lose, sometimes to obviously inferior opponents. Now however, they are one of the powerhouses of baseball & have won more championships in the last 10 years than they had in 80 years prior to that.

So what's the difference between losing & being a loser? Is it as simple as your "record"? I don't think so. I think it's a little more subtle. I think the difference is your perspective on losing because we're all going to lose, & there's at least a decent chance we'll have as many or more defeats as victories.

The Difference Between Losing & Being A Loser
Is Determined By Whether You Endure Losing Or Tolerate It.

When you endure losing, you're still actively pursuing the win. You still expect to win, & as a result you still have a chance to taste victory. However, if you, your team, & your "fans" begin to tolerate losing. The chances of real victory are virtually erased. Just like the football team who thinks they're going to lose before they even put on their pads, organizations & ministries who simply tolerate their losing as "that's just the way things are" might as well not even show up because the end has pretty much been decided.

I really think it's this subtle difference in how we view losing that makes us a loser or not. When we as ministry leaders think that we just cannot break through a certain barrier, then we probably won't. When a business internally admits that growth just can't happen because "we've never been able to do that before", then they're right; growth won't happen.

If you have any influence with a team, organization, or ministry, challenge those you work with to endure the losses, learn from them, & press on toward the victory. The minute you tolerate losing, you've resigned yourself to the fact that neither you nor God can do great things through your leadership.

August 19, 2011

Your Biggest Battle

I know your biggest battle.

I know the battlefield where you have the most at stake.

Your biggest battle isn't with that guy at the office who always steals the glory. It's not the struggle, as great as it may be, to get your financial life in order. Your biggest battlefield is the same as mine.

Our Biggest Battles Are In Our Hearts & Our Homes.

The battles raging in your heart will determine everything else in your life, & the battles waged for your home & your family will have a greater impact on your legacy than anything else you do in life. Who cares if you can retire as a multi-millionaire by 50 if your family hates your guts or maybe even worse, doesn't even really know who you are?

We can see this at work in 2 Samuel 11-19. David has built an amazing life. It seems like everything is perfect. Then like so many powerful leaders, he inexplicably throws it all away to fulfill a momentary desire. He lost the battle in his heart. The result is that his life, his family, & his kingdom are thrown into chaos. He has sex with Bathsheba, murders her husband, & marries her all in an attempt to cover up his defeat. Part of the consequences of David's defeat is that is family began to fall apart around him. One of his sons lost the battle with lust & committed an unspeakable act. When David did nothing about it, his other son lost the battle with anger & rage & committed murder. All the while David sits by like he's helpless to do anything about it. When all is said & done, his family has been utterly devastated, & it all traces back to his defeat in 2 Samuel 11.

Years later, David's son, Solomon, wrote these words, "Above all else, guard your heart." Solomon knew the devastation that came from losing the battles in the heart & home. He knew his family's story, & his own story has some baggage too. Knowing all of this, the wisest man who ever lived basically says, "Before you do anything else, you must guard your heart. Your life flows from what you let in your heart."

What's in your heart? What are you letting in? Whatever you let in, whatever you allow to go unchecked could threaten to take you down. And when you go down, you won't go down alone. Chances are you'll take down those you care about most too. So again, I ask, "What desires are you battling in your heart?"

August 15, 2011


Today marked the beginning of an era in our home. Today was Julia's first day of Kindergarten. In the last couple of days her anxiety level had gone up a few notches. Saturday night she had a full on emotional breakdown because she didn't want to go to school, but this morning she got up, got dressed, ate breakfast, grabbed her backpack & was ready to go. As we walked her into the school & down the main hallway, it was kind of hard to tell what she was thinking. She was being very quiet & taking everything in. When we got to her classroom she found her chair & cubbie-hole, & after putting her backpack & lunchbox away, she sat down & started working on a coloring sheet. I talked to her for a few more minutes before telling her that we were going to leave. She smiled, gave us a hug & kiss, said "Bye", & went back to her coloring sheet.

It was really sort of anti-climactic. We were anticipating at least some sort of emotional outburst, if not from Julia then surely from her mother, but no, none of that. Julia was as cool as could be, & the only thing that had Valerie upset was that she had left the camera in the car. Of course, as I'm writing this Julia may be throwing the mother of all fits because she has finally decided that Kindergarten isn't for her. This afternoon I'll get the play by play of her day, but so far so good. We'll see how tomorrow goes when Mom has to drop her off at the door & can't walk Julia to her classroom.

August 12, 2011

Courage Exposes

Wrapping up our look at the indispensable nature of courage to our faith & our leadership, we turn our attention again to the aftermath of David's victory over Goliath. We've already seen that faithful courage inspires courage & triggers jealousy & insecurity, but when we look at another aspect of I Samuel 18-20 we see this:

Faithful Courage Exposes Your Real Friends.

Even though Saul's insecurity & jealousy jump off the page during these chapters, Jonathan's devotion to David is just as apparent. These two young men were such close friends because they were so alike. If you look at Jonathan prior to his friendship with David, you'll discover that he too was a faithful & courageous warrior. At the beginning of chapter 18, David & Jonathan make a covenant together. They sealed their friendship. As a symbol of Jonathan's devotion, he gave David his robe, tunic, sword, bow, & his belt. There is huge significance in this act. First, Jonathan is demonstrating that he is willing to serve his friend, even though he is royalty. Secondly, the very items he gives to David are symbols of Jonathan's royal status. It's almost as if there is a transference of authority & status going on. David is putting on the royal garb. Deep down I think Jonathan knew his friendship with David would cost him, & he was OK with it because he, like David, wanted to see God's plan become reality.

This level of devotion is huge because Jonathan became David's inside man. Jonathan warned David of Saul's intentions so that David could escape. Jonathan was David's only advocate before Saul. No one else stood up for David. Where are all the people who were just a few verses earlier singing songs about David? They were gone; only Jonathan remained.

When we stand in faithful courage, we'll gain both fans & enemies, but what matters are the true friends that we can really count on. Who are those people in your life? They are absolutely vital for both your faith & your leadership.

August 10, 2011

Courage Pulls The Trigger

As I continue to look at the centrality of courage in our faith & in our leadership. I noticed something else in the aftermath of David's encounter with Goliath. The first thing we mentioned was that faithful courage inspires courage. However, there's something else that will likely result from your act of faithful courage.

Faithful Courage Triggers Jealousy & Insecurity.

Go read I Samuel 18-20 & look at what is going on with King Saul. Saul loves David until David "shows him up." Saul couldn't stand the fact that David was getting some attention. Saul knew that David's faithful courage exposed his faithless cowardice, & he couldn't handle it. He went from loving David to making his top priority the capture & execution of David.

Don't be surprised if the same thing happens to you. When you decide that you are going to stand for the things of God, there will be a backlash, & that backlash will probably come from someone you didn't expect. It's all rooted in jealousy & insecurity. They feel as if your faithful courage exposes their lack of faithful courage, & they may stop at nothing to squash that feeling. They'll take shots at you. They'll undermine you. They'll say things like, "Yeah, but..."

How do you deal with them? First, know that they are there & when you stand for Christ, they will not like it. Knowing that they're in the background is half the battle. Secondly, do what David did. David didn't rebel against Saul; he tried to reconcile & help Saul understand. However, reconciliation requires two people's involvement. When it's clear that those people don't get it & don't want to get it, follow David's example. Take off. Get away from them. You don't have to literally hide out in the desert, but you don't need to be around that kind of person. They'll suck the life out of you.

Just because acting & living out of faithful courage triggers jealousy & insecurity in others, don't let it stop you from standing in faith & stepping forward in faithful courage toward the life & plan that God has for your life & your leadership. Just be ready for the backlash.

August 8, 2011

Courage Inspires

One of the indispensable qualities of both leadership & discipleship is courage. It is non-negotiable. The primary difference in the courage of a follower of Jesus is that their strength & courage is rooted in who they follow not just in what they can do. Our courage must find its roots in our faith in Christ.

There's a lot of talk about courage in leadership & courage when it comes to following Jesus day by day. However, I think we need to take a little time to see what happens when we step out in faithful courage. Sometimes when we listen to stories of faithful courage we tend to romanticize it a bit. This week I'm gonna look at three things that we see in David's life that are the direct result of a singular act of courage.

In I Samuel 17 you may have read a little story about a young shepherd who kills a giant soldier. The story of David's encounter with Goliath is by far the most well known episode of his life, but the aftermath of it tells us a lot about what happens as the result of one act of
faithful courage.

Faithful Courage Inspires Courage.

Prior to David's showdown with Goliath, the entire Israelite army was hiding in tents. However, when a young boy walked onto the battlefield & conquered the giant, the army rose up, found their courage & absolutely took the fight to their enemy. Why? Because courage always inspires more courage. Whether it's jumping off the high dive as a kid or being the only student to take a stand for their faith in their school, when one steps up, others find it within themselves to do the same.

You may be in a position where you feel you have to stand alone, but take heart in the fact that you may not have to stand alone for very long. Your act of faithful courage may be the very thing that inspires others to stand with you. However, it is the one who is willing to stand alone who rises to the top & is viewed as the leader. Don't be afraid to stand alone because, like David, even if you stand alone face to face with a giant, you are not really standing alone.

August 5, 2011

What Is Your Default Mode?

The default mode is the way something or someone responds to a situation. It's built in; it's the programming. Default settings are great on a computer because if we screw something up, we can click the default button & it restores all the original settings to whatever we're working on. Then we can make adjustments as needed.
The question we need to ask is "What is our default mode?" Spiritually speaking, what is your default response to God's prompting or leading in a situation. The reason I ask this is because I've seen far too many people who operate with the default setting of "No!" Sure, they've always got a good reason. It might be money, time, risk, or a whole host of other reasons, but the real problem is that their default setting is "No". They don't slow down enough to consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, God might want them to move forward in spite of all the really good reasons not to. They don't stop & remember that God is bigger than even their best reasons to stay where they are.

Can I get a little personal here? Parents, we're the worst about this. Too often we allow the parental instinct to protect override our trust in God. In the process, we protect & shield our children from the blessings of following God radically. See, we know that radical faith, trust, & obedience leads us to do things that are crazy, expensive, time consuming, & even dangerous in our pursuit of God. So we retreat to our default mode of "NO!", & we have great reasons to say "No", but don't we serve a God who is more than capable of dealing with our reasons "why not"?

I'm not saying that we need to completely switch our default mode to "Yes"; I mean we do have to use wisdom. But if we're going to have a knee jerk response to God's promptings, shouldn't it be closer to "Yes" than "No"? Shouldn't we at least be open to the possibility that God might want to do something amazing in our lives or the lives of our children in spite of the long list of reasons why we think it might not "work"?

August 3, 2011

Is It Really Safe?

"The safest place in the world is in the center of God's will."

This is a statement that I've heard thousands of times in the church culture. However, I'm afraid it's terribly misleading. In the big theological picture, it's true. God does take responsibility for the life that's fully surrendered to Him. On the other hand, radically pursuing God's will guarantees nothing remotely regarded as safety. Sadly though many of us guage where we are in our faith journey by how safe & secure our lives are in the moment. The thought that the center of God's will might actually be risky or outright dangerous is totally foreign to many American believers.

But what if pursuing God's plan might actually lead us into a danger zone? I mean look at some of the situations early followers of Jesus found themselves in. Paul found himself in jail or shipwrecked. Peter was so close to execution that when God busted him out of jail everybody thought it was his ghost. Even going all the way back to the Old Testament we find guys like David. In 1st Samuel 21 & 22, we find David trying to follow the life God has called him to & all he has coming his way is trouble & danger. He's on the run from the king that he has served faithfully. By the way, the king is his best friend's father & David's own father-in-law. Not only that, but he finds himself armed with only one thing: the sword of Goliath. Not a bad weapon, until David finds himself in Gath, Goliath's hometown. So David, the man after God's own heart, finds himself a hunted man who is now standing in the hometown of his most famous enemy & victory, & he's practically wearing a trophy of that victory by parading around with Goliath's sword.

What if following God & being in "the center of His will" actually leads us to places that are not only uncomfortable but might even be dangerous? What if we shouldn't be gauging our faithfulness by how safe & secure our lives might be & instead should be measuring by the depths of risk that our faith might require of us? I'm just thinking out loud a little bit, but I know that Jesus told us to expect trouble because of all of the trouble He encountered, yet so often we think following Him should lead to safety, security, & material blessing. What if we are dead wrong?

August 1, 2011

Everybody has made a bad deal or a bad trade in their lives. Somewhere along the way I'm sure you gave up something hoping for a payoff or at the very least hoping that there would be no negative effects. But sure enough, down the road you were burned by your trade.

In Genesis 25 we find perhaps the worst trade in history. A guy named Esau traded away his birthright for a bowl of soup...lentil soup, not exactly the most scrumptious thing ever served up. For a bowl of this amazing culinary delight, Esau didn't just trade away wealthy & authority, he forfeited the spiritual implications of his birthright. Esau's family wasn't just any family; it was the family God chose to use in order to make Himself known to the world. For some soup, Esau forfeited the part he could play in God's plan.

This sounds ridiculous, but we do it all the time. We trade God's plan for a momentary desire & the temporary feeling of fulfillment that comes from feeding the desire, but guess what? That desire will be back, & we will again be faced with the temptation to sell out in order to feed the desire. We have to learn from Esau that the thing we are throwing away might be the very thing we need most.

What is your bowl of stew? What desires in your life threaten the plan God has for you? Are there places where you are already compromising God's design for your life & leadership just to satisfy a temporary desire? Here's one question you can ask about four areas in your life in order to reframe that desire:

What story do I want to tell...
     -About my faith & journey/relationship with God?
     -About my marriage?
     -About my relationship with your kids?
     -About my legacy & influence in this world?

When the tension arises, & you are tempted to trade God's eternal , unchanging plan for your temporary, ever changing plan, ask this question. Once you know what story you want to tell, you can backtrack & map out how you can get to the ending you would like for your story. Live in a way that is consistent with the story you want to tell, & you will set yourself up to live the life that God desperately wants for you.

June 7, 2011

Driven & Enslaved

Yesterday I read a quote from Tim Keller that said, "If we take our meaning in life from our family, our work, a cause, or some achievement other than God, they enslave us." When I read that I thought back to talking about being driven yesterday. I truly believe that if you can honestly answer the question, "Who am I trying to please?" you will discover what drives you. I also believe that many, if not most, of us find ourselves driven by the things that Pastor Keller mentions in this quote.

Too often we're driven by our work or the fact that our work provides for our family. We men tend to really wrap ourselves up in the position of provider, & there is nothing wrong with that. However, how many men can we think of who destroyed their families in the name of providing for their families? Still other people strive to give their children everything they didn't have. They want their children to excel in everything they do, & again, there's nothing wrong with that. However, how many families have we watched self-destruct because mothers & fathers offered their children up on the altar of athletics or academics rather than offering them up to God? Perhaps most deceptively, thousands upon thousands will wrap themselves up in their religion, their church involvement, & their ministries. Again, nothing wrong with it, but how many stories do we have to hear about pastors who blow up their families, churches, & influence before we realize that even the drive to build a ministry isn't what should drive us.

All of those things are good things, but when we become driven by our family, our job, or even our ministry itself, we've gone off the tracks. When we seek to please our spouse, our kids, or the people we lead & serve with at church more than we seek to please our Heavenly Father, our drive has become unhealthy. Ironically, when this happens not only do those once good things enslave us, we often find that we are robbed of them as well.

So I ask again, "Who are you trying to please?" Honestly answer that & you'll discover what drives you. If you're not seeking above all to please your Heavenly Father, you are risking not only your freedom but also the very things that God would like to bless: your family, your work, & your ministry.

June 6, 2011


Everyone is driven, but we're not all driven by the same things. When we say someone is driven, it's more likely that we're recognizing that the person is driven by something different from what drives us or that his or her drive is expressed in a very different way from our own. In the end though, we're all driven.

The real question is "What drives me? What is it that serves as my motivation?" The answer to this question reveals the grid by which we make decisions, relate to others, and determine our priorities. But how do you really answer the question of what drives you? I think another very simple question, if answered honestly, will make it clear what drives you & me.

Who Am I Trying To Please?

That's it. If you can sincerely answer this question, you'll know for better or for worse what is driving you. I'm not going to make you feel good by telling you there are no wrong answers to this question; there are definitely wrong answers. We've all known people who attempted to please everyone around them, & in the end it burnt them out because making everyone happy is a huge myth.

Answer this question for yourself. If you don't like the answer, sit down & begin to figure out what you need to do in order to shift what drives you.

May 24, 2011

Great Expectations

Every summer this idea of our expectations fills my mind in a big way. That's because every summer I go with a bunch of students & some adult leaders to camp. At camp, amazing things happen, lives are changed, & you can feel the weight of God's presence. Then of course we go home, & after a few weeks, those feelings begin to wane. Why is that?

I believe with all of my heart that the difference is in our expectations. We go to camp, & we expect God to do great things. In fact, if something didn't happen, we might be tempted to ask for a refund! However, when we get home do we expect God to show up or do we expect "church" to happen? We can't have the "camp experience" every time we gather for worship or for some activity, but we can have the most important element in that experience: God Himself. All we have to do is expect Him to show up, invite Him to show up, & at times beg Him to show up as we repent of our reliance on cool production, great music, & ministry tools in general that try to manufacture an encounter that can only take place when God shows up. Don't get me wrong; I love all of the technical advances & tools we have available to help set the stage for an encounter with God, but those things are not the encounter. If God doesn't show up, it was really a waste of time.

God shows up when we expect Him to. He honors our desire, our pursuit for Him & Him alone. As we get ready to head to camp next week with our group, my prayer is not that God would show up at camp, but that he would make His presence known & felt each & every time we gather as a group or come by ourselves to Him in prayer or in His word, that when we walk away, we know we've been in His presence & that we've heard from Him.

May 20, 2011

10 Things I Learned In Seminary-Part 3

Here are the last few lessons I picked up in the course of my studies for my Master's Degree, & yet again, none of them are academic lessons.

4) How To Synthesize Thoughts & Communicate Them Clearly
Trust me, this is a big deal for guys like me who are preachers. We tend to want to include every detail or bit of info that we pick up in our research. However, you can't do that when you've been given the assignment of reading a 400 page book & summarizing both the content of the book & our critical thoughts of it in 3 pages! You have to learn to communicate only the essential.

3) You Have To Know "Why" Your Seminary/School Is Training Students
Before you enroll in any school & pay those nice tuition bills, you better know what that school is producing. What's the reputation of the school you're considering? Does the "product" their producing match up with your goals post-graduation? Make sure that your vision matches the training you'll be receiving. Many seminaries are supposedly training pastors & leaders, but there is little evidence to back it up. Instead, they are producing very smart pastors who don't know how to lead anything. Do your homework!

2) Online Or Extension Work Is An Amazing Advancement, But It's Not For Everyone.
I managed to complete an entire Master's Degree without ever setting foot on Liberty's campus or inside a classroom. However, I dont' think everyone could do that. In fact, I don't think I could have done it 10 years ago. I just didn't have enough self-discipline or motivation. However, if you've got the maturity & drive to take advantage of these programs, do it, but again, make sure the school your looking at has been doing this long enough to offer a quality online or extension experience.

1) Waiting To Pursue A Seminary Degree Was One Of The Best Things I've Ever Done.
When I was in college I was constantly told that I had to tackle my Master's work immediately after graduation. However, the most common argument I ever heard was that if I didn't do it then, I would never do it. To be honest, that wasn't the most compelling argument. The other argument that was more implied than actually stated was that only seminary grads are ready for ministry. Frankly, Scripture doesn't back that up, & experience hasn't really taught me that either. I waited until I wanted to pursue the degree & until God began to nudge me toward that degree, & it took about 10 years for that to happen. However, in that decade I learned things that no classroom could ever teach, & I learned lessons that actually prepared me for seminary rather than the other way around.

Thanks for reading my thoughts. Hopefully someone reading this is contemplating either seminary or furthering their education in general & these insights will get you thinking about things that maybe you haven't thought about before.

May 17, 2011

10 Things I Learned In Seminary-Part 2

Picking up today where I Ieft off in talking about the real lessons learned from my seminary "education".

7) Don't Go To Seminary "Because" Or For The "MDiv."
This goes to motive. Yes, it's true, for better or worse, that the typical church system is on where a seminary degree will open the door to more opportunities, but is that really the best reason for pursuing a Master's Degree or a PHD? If you're going to pursue that kind of training, do it for the training, not the piece of paper at the end, & that leads me to the other point. Don't just go get an MDiv because that's what you think you have to have. Over my 10+ years in ministry I've learned that most of the problems that we face as pastors & as churches are not due to the fact that our leaders need more doctrine, biblical, linguistic, or church history education. The problems that plague so many churches are due to the fact that the leaders aren't really leaders. When choosing a degree, choose a degree that will equip you in an area you know you need. That means you'll have to actually research schools & the different degree programs instead of just being a lemming who jumps off the same cliff as everyone else. If you need the MDiv, great go for it, but make sure that's really where you need to be trained.

6) Never Read A Book Without A Highlighter
This doesn't just apply to seminary, but that's where the lesson really became concrete for me. Because I was consuming so much information every week, necessity dictated that I have a huge stockpile of highlighters. However, I've transferred that principle over to all my reading. After all, how in the world am I going to track down that great idea or quote from a particular book if I haven't highlighted it, underlined it, or in some way pulled it out of the sea of letters & words surrounding it?

5) How To Process Lots Of Material Quickly
The way my program was designed, I had assignments due at the end of every week that included discussion boards, papers, & quizzes or tests. In order to do those assignments there was LOTS of reading. Some weeks I had around 300 pages of reading to do. That meant I learned really quickly to find & process the important material. By the end of seminary, most of the time I was only reading headings & the first lines of paragraphs. If the first line was something that resonated, I would continue. If it was just more supporting material for another idea, I moved on. This may be one of the most practical lessons because life requires us to take in, process, & act on lots of information at a faster & faster pace every year.

Check back tomorrow to read more lessons learned.

May 16, 2011

Ten Things I Learned From Seminary-Part 1

Last week I wrapped up my Master's Degree coursework through Liberty University. As a result of the intense workload, I haven't really been blogging much, especially in the last year. So I wanted to get back into it this week by sharing some important lessons I learned while during my time in seminary. Most of the lessons probably aren't what you'd expect because they have nothing to do with the curriculum of the seminary.

10) Seminary Doesn't Make You More Qualified For Ministry.
For you "church people" out there, if you think a piece of paper from a school makes someone more qualified or fit for ministry, you are insane! You're basically saying that God can only work through people who have not only the academic but also the financial means to pursue a degree. I knew when I was in college back in the 90s that I didn't "need" seminary to pursue my calling. Oh yeah, & just in case you need the Bible to back up this idea, Acts 4:13 reminds us that the apostles were "ordinary, unschooled men". Being with Jesus trumps an impressive seminary degree every day of the week.

9) Seminary Doesn't Really Make You Smarter.
Let me explain this because it's a very personal lesson. I was blessed to get my undergraduate degree from one of the finest universities in the nation in a major that was preparing me for ministry. Plus, I'm a learner by nature. I love reading. I love listening to other people in ministry who are further down the road than I am. So when I started seminary, I already had a huge foundation of "knowledge" through my formal & informal education. That means a lot of the information from my courses was not new, but it did reinforce & remind me of things I had learned over the years.

8) Doing Master's Work & Full Time Ministry Demands Boundaries.
If you decide to pursue a graduate degree while doing full time ministry, you better be ready to draw some hard boundaries in your life. Full time ministry will consume every moment of your life if you allow it, which isn't healthy to begin with, but when you add the label of "full time student" to your life, you're really piling it on. This means you've got to learn to say "No". You have to be willing to say, "Sorry, can't do that, I've got 2 papers & an exam this week." You also have to look at your calendar & plan your semester, & you have to prioritize your course schedule. Professors don't care if you overloaded your calendar with meaningless meetings that caused you to turn in a below average paper 3 days late. Create clear boundaries. It's a lesson that you'll benefit from beyond your time in seminary or grad school.

Check back in tomorrow as I continue to share some lessons I learned from pursuing "higher education".

January 10, 2011


I wanted to share with you guys about a new book that's about to hit your favorite bookstore's shelves or website. It's called Soulprint by Mark Batterson. Mark is the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. Mark has already had best sellers like In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day & his most recent release, Primal. Mark is a leader & thinker that I believe more people should be paying attention to.

In Soulprint, Mark uses the life of David to illustrate how the defining moments of our lives shed light on our destiny. Mark's unique style breathes fresh insight into stories that many believers will have heard over and over in sermons & Bible studies. One of the most important insights that Mark brings out is that often our greatest advantages are hidden in what we perceive as our greatest disadvantages. It's in these areas that we learn the skills necessary & develop the character necessary to fulfill what God has for us, & in the process, God gains even more glory. After all, of all the people God could have used to kill a giant, He chose a shepherd, not a soldier.

Soulprint is a great read, & a quick read which is always a plus. Soulprint doesn't quite live up to some of Mark's other works, but then again, each book should be judged on its own & not necessarily to any other work. I would recommend Soulprint to anyone, & while you're ordering it, go ahead & add on one of Mark's other books because you'll want more after you've finished Soulprint.

In compliance with regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I must inform the reader that Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of Soulprint for review purposes.