Are You Ready For Today?

30 01 2012

Today, I am unbelievably excited for all of you!

Why?  Because I know that God is about to do something radical in your life.

On Sunday, we gave our church a challenge to intentionally engage God in His Word, everyday for the next 28 days (The 28 Day Challenge).  To help you all get started in this, we equipped you with a Life Journal, which is a simple tool that walks you through a process of listening to, and responding to God.  The reason we challenged you to do this is because we know that God’s Word is one of those avenues where God’s transforming power is released.  It is only through Him that genuine life change happens.

My prayer is that today you embarked on that challenge whole-heartedly and filled with anticipation for what God is going to do in your life over the next four weeks.  However, I also hope that you are focused on today… the right here and now… because today is where God calls us to live!

Are you living your life for Him today?

Are you eager for God to speak words of Truth to you today?

Are you seeking God’s strength and power for your life today?

Are you listening to Him with a humble and surrendered heart today?

Are you willing to be changed by His power today?

Are you committed to obey what He says today?

Are you hungry for a deeper, more vibrant relationship with Him today?

I am, and I hope you are too!

May God radically transform our lives today, as we commit ourselves to completely to Him.

LET IT BE DONE, LORD!!!





A Pre-Relationship Posture (For Single Women)

26 01 2012

Being the pastor of a relatively young congregation, I often get questions from young adults about relationships, and how to keep God at the center of that pursuit.

One question that I have received, maybe more than any other, is from single young women.  It usually goes something like this…  “How do I know if a guy is interested in being more than a friend in Christ and how do I guard my heart in it?”

It truly is a great question, and I am proud that so many young women have the wisdom and maturity to ask it.  Making sure you answer this question with the right answer can ensure a blessed and God-honoring marriage… but if not, it can lead to all kinds of relationship problems down the road.

Before a young woman can find the right answer, they must be willing to allow God’s word to shape their view of what a God-honoring relationship looks like.   God invented the marriage concept and has given us His word to guide us in establishing God-honoring relationships and to live them out.  If a person doesn’t have a commitment to do relationships as God designed, there will always be confusion and guessing.  Without the guidance of the “relationship creator” we will be destined for poor choices, failed relationships, and broken hearts.

So what does God’s Word reveal about the structure of a God-honoring marriage?  Ephesians 5:22-33 lays out the foundation.  Here it is in a nutshell:

  • Husbands are to take the lead in the relationship.  (Eph. 5:23)
  • Husbands are to sacrifice their own personal desires (Love) for what is best for his wife and family. (Eph. 5:25)
  • Wives are to follow their husbands lead.  (Eph. 5:22)
  • Wives are to respect their husband.  (Eph. 5:33)
So, to sum it up, the husband has been given the task of being the Spiritual “Head” of the marriage relationship, and the wife has been given the role of partner or team-mate.  The husband is to have Christ as his “Lord”, and from out of that relationship, is to lead the marriage in a direction that exalts and honors Christ.  The wife is to support and respect her husband and work together with him in the pursuit of fulfilling God’s purposes for their marriage and family.  To accomplish this, it will take two devoted individuals who are committed to working together.  When it all works as God designed, God’s purposes are accomplished in big ways!

Here’s the big idea.  The structure of a healthy marriage is vitally important for you to understand and live out right now… even before you get married or into a committed relationship.

Think of it this way.  My high school basketball coach used to say, “You play like you practice”.  If you practice the right things the right way, those things will come out at game time.  However, if you don’t practice the right things in the right way, then when it matters most, those things will be totally absent.

In relationships, we play like we practice.  Think of your pre-relationship times like relationship practice.  Your job is to prepare yourself for game time, both physically and mentally.  You have to practice right boundaries, right thought patterns, right attitudes, right prayer focus, etc… Then, when God brings the right guy into your life, you will be ready for God’s very best.

However, if you allow unhealthy practices into your relationship before you get married, there can be no reasonable expectation that things will change once you tie the knot.  If there isn’t a shared Faith before marriage, chances are, there won’t be one once you get married.  If there isn’t a complete commitment to a Christ centered, God-honoring relationship before marriage, you can’t reasonably expect that the priorities within your relationship will change once your married.  It just doesn’t happen.

So what should the posture of your life be as you are practicing and waiting for God to bring Mr. Right into the picture.  Here are a couple thoughts:

  • You must learn to wait on God – God knows the kind of man you need and He knows what it takes to be the Godly Husband you deserve.  If you are trusting God, then God is in the process of making Mr. Right, Mr. Right.  God also knows the kind of woman you need to be and He will purposefully develop your heart and character in His time.  If you don’t wait for His timing, you can end up rushing into a relationship that is just not ready for Game-Time.  Wait for Him to bring the right relationship to you, rather than establishing one yourself, and then hoping He will bless it.
  • You must resist the urge to pursue – If you want a Husband who will boldly and courageously lead your marriage and family toward Christ, then you must allow him to follow Christ in whom he will pursue.  Many young women are afraid that if they don’t “put themselves out there” or let the man know they are interested, that the guy will never notice them or be aware of the possibility of a relationship with them.  The problem is that God doesn’t need any help in directing the right man into your life.  If the guy is not sensitive enough to the voice of God to hear His direction toward you, then he is probably not a guy who has the capacity to lead your marriage and family toward Christ.  To be a Godly husband, he must be able to discern God’s voice and respond accordingly.  If you are afraid he won’t hear God enough to pursue you, then he might not be the right guy, or he may need more time to mature and deepen his relationship with God before entering into a relationship with you.
  • You must learn what to pray for and what not to pray for –  Here is where I find so many young ladies start to struggle.  They begin to pray in the wrong ways about their future relationship, which makes it very difficult to keep the right heart when they find themselves around potential husbands.  Often they see a guy whom they notice and are attracted too, so  they begin to pray for that specific guy to be the one.  In your prayers, you should avoid praying for specific men, in the context of a potential relationship, unless they have initiated the formalization of a relationship (expressed interest or asked you out).  Until that happens, you are only setting yourself up for heartbreak (if the guy chooses a different direction) and temptation (to initiate or pursue).  Rather, in praying for your future spouse, pray for his spiritual development, for his life’s calling, and for his surrender to God’s leading, but do this in a general sense.  This will keep your heart from being caught up and hurt, and will keep your eyes open to all the possibilities that God may be bringing into your life.
  • You must learn to embrace a “Gentle and Quiet Spirit” – 1 Peter 3:3-4 says this “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.  You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”  It is an incredible temptation to think that “external beauty” will attract a the heart of a “Godly Man”.  However, a genuinely Godly man will be attracted far more by Godliness in you, than the external beauty that the world values.  A Godly man desires things that are precious to God, and for God, that is a “gentle and quiet spirit”in you.  What is a gentle and quiet spirit?  It is simply a spirit that is fully at rest and peace with God in control.  There is no worry or fret, no struggling or fighting.  A gentle and quiet spirit is fully surrendered to the will and providence of Christ.
  • Keep your eyes open to what Godliness looks like – It is unfortunate, but there are few examples of truly Godly men in the world.  However, they do exist and you will benefit yourself to keep your eyes open for them.  When you see one, pay special attention to what Godliness looks like, lived out in a man.  Things like how he treats his wife, how he treats his children, what kind of things he values, what kind of nature does he have.  The reason this is so important is because when a man expresses interest in you, you will want to know if the fruit of his life exemplifies Godliness  BEFORE you enter into a relationship, because there are no guarantees that they will manifest after you are together.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience his character or nature beforehand, then do some investigation.  Before you commit to a relationship, consult your pastor, his pastor (if different), and others that may give you guidance.  A Godly man will stand up under the light of scrutiny.

So, for all you ladies out there, wondering and worrying about Mr. Right, and when he will be coming along, just know that God has some great guys in development.  He has been forging them and shaping them to be Godly leaders in their marriages and in their families.  God is cultivating and nourishing them, and teaching them how to hear His voice and boldly obey.  And when the time is right, for both you and him, God himself will intersect your paths.

Why?  Because a God-honoring marriage is exactly what He has in mind you.





Things That Refresh

24 01 2012

Last week, I posted about finding myself on the edge of burnout and what the Lord revealed to me about how I got there.  One of the key things that God revealed to me in it all, was that I had failed to invest in things that “Refresh” me.

It was a radical thought to me at the time, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was true.  I knew that there were things that drained me and sucked the life out of me, but I never really thought about the things that replenished me.  Suddenly I realized that, if I was going to “re-charge”, then I was going to have to purposely engage in activities that energize and refresh my soul.

I was challenged to make a list of things that I knew refreshed me.  Here are the things I put on my list:

  • Writing – I don’t consider myself a writer, but I have realized that writing and journaling is something that helps me clarify my thoughts and process through the chaos of ministry and life.  I have begun to journal every day in conjunction with my times with God, and it has made an incredible difference.
  • Time Alone With God – I have started to prioritize taking mini-sabbaticals for the sole purpose of connecting with God.  The mistake I’ve made in the past has been to think that days off and vacations refresh and recharge me.  The reality is, I need days off and vacations, but they don’t necessarily re-charge me.  What does re-charge me is purposed and extended connection to God.  Knowing this, I am purposefully making this a scheduled part of my life at regular intervals.
  • Exercise – In evaluating what re-charges me, I discovered that the times that I have been purposefully caring for my body were also times when I felt the most energized and focused in ministry.  I used to think that it would rob me of valuable ministry time, but what I’ve found is that exercise actually makes the time I spend in ministry many times more productive and effective.  Working Out is something I now consider just as important as the daily work I have at the office.
  • Conferences/Retreats/Training – I have never been to a conference or training event that I haven’t returned having been ignited with fresh vision for life and ministry.  Because I am often pouring into the lives of others, I can run dry quickly if I don’t have an inflow of life giving investment in me.  I have several conferences, retreats and training events on the calendar already for this year.
  • Reading – As the pace of my life increases, one of the hardest things for me to do is to stop and read.  However, I have found that reading is one of the best things I know of to help me slow down the pace of my life.  Reading causes me to settle down, quiet my spirit, and to listen to what God is trying to teach me.
  • Date Nights – My wife is a true gift to me.  When we are close and united in heart, I can literally feel a renewed sense of courage to pursue big things in life and ministry.  When Tosha and I get to spend One-on-One time together, that unity in heart is forged and strengthened.  Date Nights not only renew our marriage, but they renew our intensity for ministry as well.

So what are the things that refresh you?  If you don’t know what does, then how can you intentionally invest in those things to help re-charge your life?  And if you don’t have things in your life that re-charge you, burn out might be right around the corner.

I would encourage you today to make a list of at least 6 things that you know energize your spirit.  Then, once you have that list, develop a plan to intentionally incorporate these things into your life at regular intervals.

Here’s the thing… if your not intentional and purposeful about getting these things into your life, they will probably never show up there.  So, make sure it doesn’t just stop at a plan.  Get these things onto your calendar.  Make a commitment to engage in them.  If you don’t find time for the things that refresh, it won’t be long before you are burned out and out of the game… and that is not God’s plan for anyone.

I am praying for the “times of refreshing from the Lord” (Acts 3:19) to come upon you!

Burn on!





Some Thoughts On Change

19 01 2012

I recently posted about finding myself in “Burnout City”, and the things that God revealed to me that got me there. If you didn’t get a chance to read that post, I would encourage you to read it here.  It will help you understand the context for what I will explain here.

When you are on the road to burn out, things need to change.  Jesus said, “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” and if that is not how you are feeling about life, then something is wrong.  If something doesn’t change, you will burn out, and things will change, but not in a good way.  Spiritual, Physical and Emotional breakdowns are ugly, painful, and devastating.  That’s not the kind of change you want.

In the midst of my burnout, I was caught in a deadly cycle.  I knew I was stuck, but because I spent zero time listening to God as to “why”, I didn’t have a clue.  Because I didn’t know why, I didn’t know what to change…  and because I didn’t know what to change, I found myself doing the same old things, hoping that somehow I would shake out of my funk.  Because nothing changed, nothing changed, and I remained stuck… still not knowing why…and because of that… well, you get the picture.  It was only by God’s grace that I got out of that cycle.

When I finally began to seek God on the “why”, He revealed a host of things that needed to change in my life.  However, as we all know, change doesn’t come easy.  Along the way, I had to learn how to change, and how to make that change last.  Here are a few thoughts I learned along the way.

  • Change has to be intentional – It’s not enough just to change something because you’re stuck.  You need to make sure that the changes you are making will actually help you get un-stuck.  The key here is to “connect with God” to determine the “Why” to your being stuck.  Once you see the “Why” clearly, you can make purposeful, intentional changes that will help move you forward.
  • Your flesh will resist any meaningful change – Again, change isn’t easy… especially when you are changing habits or activities that you have given yourself to for years.  You have to know, going in, that there will be great resistance to any valuable change you desire to make.  It will take courage and strength to overcome!  “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”  Ephesians 6:10
  • For change to last, you have to change the “Causes”, not the “Symptoms” –  A mistake many people make is focusing on “symptoms” rather than “causes”.  When you do this, you will expend all your effort trying to change something that will never really change, unless the cause is dealt with.  You can take Tylenol to remove a headache, but if the cause is a brain tumor, it will only be a temporary fix.  For lasting change to take place in your life, you have to focus on “Causes”, and let the symptoms go.
  • You can’t do it alone – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”  God has given us relationships to help make meaningful changes in our lives possible.  If there is something that needs to change in your life, then get a friend or two to hold you accountable to those changes.  If you’re serious about change, it will be a welcome and necessary step.
  • Don’t give up! – Here’s the reality.  You’re going to fall short at times.  However, don’t allow those lapses to be a justification for letting change go.  If I’m dieting and I give into the temptation of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, I can’t allow that one failure to derail the meaningful and important change I am trying to make.  I must understand what went wrong (why were Ben and Jerry invited into my house to begin with?), consider what the causes were (poor shopping habits?), and recommit to living out the change God is leading me to make.  If you quit, change will never, ever happen.
  • Depend upon Christ – Ultimately, no meaningful or lasting change happens without God doing an incredible and radical work of transformation.  When things need to change in our lives, we must depend upon Christ, and His strength and power, more than our wisdom, our plans, or our greatest efforts.  Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things, through Christ, who gives me strength.”  It is Christ who gives us the strength to live out the change we so desperately need in life.

God’s Transforming Power + Our Best Effort = Meaningful Change

When you combine God’s Power with your very best efforts, meaningful change is the end results.  We can’t just think that transformation will take place while we sit on the couch, and we can’t just believe that we can change ourselves.  It takes both God’s power and our best efforts to see the changes we desire come to fruition.  It’s in our efforts that God’s power is released.

So what kind of changes need to take place in your life?  Be intentional, be strong, be wise, be accountable, be diligent, and be dependent.  If I can change, so can you!  If you need help or prayer for things that need to change in your life, I would love to help if I can.  I am praying that God uses this to help you take those important steps!

Burn On!





Burn On… Not Out

18 01 2012

Six months ago I was in a bad, bad place.  No, it wasn’t a casino or a strip club.  It wasn’t a bar or a brothel.

I was in “Burnout” City.  And I didn’t even know it.

When I discovered I was there, I discovered that it is much more common than I wanted to admit.  I began to see the signs everywhere, in my own life and in the lives of those around me.  Because of this, I felt it was important to share my journey to “Burnout City” with you, in hopes that you can avoid finding yourselves there.  If you are already there, hopefully you’ll be able to glean some wisdom and get back on track… back on the Road to Refreshing.

“Repent… that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” Acts 3:19

I had heard about “burnout” from other pastors and leaders, but I truly believed that I was immune to such a thing.  I am a positive guy.  I am not prone to extremes.  I don’t really get depressed or down.  I was convinced that burnout was something that happened to other, much weaker people, but not to me.Image

However, as ministry continued,  I knew something wasn’t right.  Although I would have never called it burnout, I was very aware that I was stuck.  I felt as if all of my energy and efforts produced no forward momentum.  No matter what I did, it seemed nothing was moving forward.  I had no vision for the future, I was paralyzed by menial decisions, I was caught up in meaningless pursuits… I was a leadership mess.  My excitement about what I was doing was at an all time low.  I found myself drifting in the sea of “routine”.  Same thing, different day.  Over and over and over.

In the midst of all of this, I came across a book called “Leading On Empty” by Wayne Cordeiro (which I highly recommend).  In it, the author, a Pastor himself, shared his own story of “burnout”, and his pathway out of it.  What he experienced was so much like what I was going through, it scared me.  And what scared me even more was the reality of what could happen if I continued down this path.

If things didn’t change, I would not be in ministry in very near future. 

For the next two weeks, I intentionally began to seek God on this matter.  I secluded myself and began to ask Him to help me see what had happened, and how to get back on track.  It didn’t take long to recognize how it happened.  Here is what God revealed to me about my “Road to Burnout City”:

  • I Neglected Personal Time In God’s Word – It didn’t happen over night, but slowly, my personal time in God’s Word deteriorated.  Instead of daily times listening to God speak directly to me and my heart condition, my time with God was primarily centered around preparing for a message or speaking opportunity.
  • I Became Self-Sufficient – I have always struggled with consistent times of prayer, but during this stretch, Prayer was almost non-existent.  I rarely asked God to do anything… except to bless some event we were doing.  I was living an almost completely self-sufficient life, needing very little from God.
  • I Neglected My Physical Condition – I stopped working out or exercising and I placed little restraint on my eating habits.  I justified my lack of exercise thinking I was to busy doing the work of ministry.  When you add a horrific diet, I started to gain weight and feel poorly.  By the time I made it home at the end of the day, I had little energy to engage my wife and kids in meaningful ways.  I found myself drawn to mindless activities that required little to no effort or energy (internet, news, TV…)
  • I Took No Time Away – I understood the spiritual principle of “getting away”, but I never made it a priority.  And when I did get away, I was not intentional about re-connecting with God… rather I viewed it as more of a “break” from Him.  Ultimately, I was missing the very reason I needed to get “away” to begin with.
  • I Didn’t Understand What “Refreshed” Me – There are certain activities that “refresh” us, and because I had never considered what those things were for me, I was never intentional about engaging in them.  No refreshing leads to living less than fresh.

That was basically what the “Road to Burnout” looked like for me.  I would venture to say that if you are feeling “Burnt out”, that many of the above things are true of you as well.  It seldom happens overnight, but very slowly, our intensity on the things that matter the most starts to wain, and if we wander down that path long enough, we find ourselves on the outskirts of “Burnout City”.

If your there, it’s not too late to turn around.  The first step for me was to get away and get with God.  It might be the first step for you too.  As soon as possible, I would encourage you to grab your Bible and journal, and take an hour or two (maybe more) to allow God to reveal to you what your “road” looks like.  It might be different, or it might be similar, but when you see it, you will be able to start making the necessary changes to get off the Road your on, and back onto the Road of Refreshing.

In the next couple of days, I’ll post more on what it looked like to get back on the Road to Refreshing, and what specific changes I had to make to stay there.

Burn on, my friends!  Burn On!





What A Fully Devoted Follower Looks Like

16 01 2012

At Harvest Springs, the church I pastor, our purpose is the help people become “fully devoted followers of Christ.”  We recently shared this statement with our church, and since then, I have been flooded with texts, emails, phone calls, and Facebook messages from people who are excited about this new clarifying of our Purpose.  However, one question that I wonder if everyone has a crystal clear answer to, is this:

“What does a ‘fully devoted follower of Christ look like?

If our Church doesn’t know exactly what the answer is to that question, then we are just parading around a flowery phrase, and nothing more.  If the answer isn’t clear, our purpose isn’t either.

As a Lead Pastor, one of my Chief responsibilities is to “Define” the results we are pursuing.  Unless we clearly define what the results look like, then our church will never be intentional or effective in seeing those results birthed out.  One of the reasons I believe the Church has struggled to make disciples in an effective way has been that we haven’t clearly defined what Biblical Discipleship looks like.  We haven’t fully “defined” our purpose.

One of the best and most simple illustrations of “what a fully devoted follower of Christ looks like” is the Wheel illustration.  It is an illustration that the Navigators use to help people understand the key components of a “Christ Centered” Life.  Here’s a quick overview:

  • Christ The Center – A fully devoted follower of Christ lives with Christ at the center.  (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20)
  • Obedience to Christ – A fully devoted follower of Christ obeys what Christ says.  (Luke 4:46, John 14:21, 1 John 2:4)
  • The Word – A fully devoted follower of Christ spends daily time in God’s Word.  (Joshua 1:8, Matthew 4:4, Psalm 119:9,11
  • Prayer – A fully devoted follower of Christ engages God in faith through prayer.  (Ephesians 3:12, Philippians 4:6-7, Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 11:6)
  • Fellowship – A fully devoted follower of Christ lives in Christ Centered relationship with other believers.  (Hebrews 10:24-25, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, John 13:34-35, Hebrews 3:13)
  • Witnessing – A fully devoted follower of Christ purposely share truth, through word and deed, with those who are far from God.  (1 Peter 3:15, Romans 1:16, Matthew 5:16)

If this is our answer, then we know exactly what we must be about.  Crafting strategies and developing systems that enable these results to manifest themselves within our church.  Once our purpose is clearly “defined” then we have a tangible and measurable benchmark to measure our effectiveness.  Without the full definition, we will never see the results we desire.

And the great tragedy is… we will probably never know what we are missing.





5 Thoughts on Spiritual Growth

12 01 2012

Let me share something with you that you might find hard to believe.

Most people who attend church on a regular basis want to grow spiritually.  They really do.

Sure there are those who attend because their spouses made them, or for social reasons, or because it’s a great way to expand their Multi-Tiered Marketing business, but let’s face it… those folks are dwarfed by the staggering amount of genuine individuals who are simply trying to figure out how to take the next step.  The vast majority of people in our churches are there because they want to grow in their relationship with God.

I hope you’re growing, but if you’re not, I don’t think it’s because you don’t want to.  It might be that you just don’t quite know where to start.  I have been walking with Christ for 17 years, and been blessed to help many grow in their own walk with him.  So here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Spiritual growth requires intentionality. –  Spiritual Growth is intentional.  It takes work.  It takes investment.  A guy who can bench press 350 lbs didn’t get there because strength landed on him while he ate Cheetos on the couch.  He worked hard to get there.  For you to grow as a follower of Christ, you will have to work hard too.
  2. Spiritual growth requires a plan. – I have never met an individual who consistently maintained a fitness regiment who didn’t have a plan.  The same goes for those who want to grow spiritually.  A plan directs your energy toward things that produce the desired results.  A plan also keeps you focused on the purpose of your activity.  If you want to grow spiritually, you need a plan.
  3. Spiritual growth requires accountability. – I know very few people who will maintain healthy spiritual disciplines without accountability.  Sometimes that accountability can be self-directed (progress charts, etc…) but most of the time, we need others to help.  Sharing our plan with someone who will ask us about our progress can keep us from falling off the wagon.
  4. Spiritual growth requires patience. – I rarely feel as if I am growing spiritually.  However, as I experience things in life, every once in a while, I will experience something that reveals an increase in my spiritual strength or maturity.  Sometimes it happens fast… sometimes it happens slow.  The key is to keep pursuing growth.  Don’t give up!
  5. Spiritual growth requires a connection to God – I must understand this truth.  God is the one who grows me.  My job is to position myself in places where His transforming power can change who I am.  What are those places?  Spending time listening and responding to God is one of those places. As we get closer to Him, spiritual growth happens naturally… in fact, that’s exactly what spiritual growth is.

So, if you feel like you’re stuck, and you’re trying to jump-start your spiritual growth, then be intentional, get a plan, find an accountability partner, be patient, and spend time developing your connection with God.  If you do, I will guarantee you will see spiritual growth take place in your life.

If not, I will refund the money you spent reading this…   🙂