7 Things You Can Do To Make This Week Different

7.14.14Small things can make a big difference. If you want this week to be a little (or a lot) different than last week, here are some small things that could have a big impact on your week.

1). Set your alarm (or set your alarm 30 minutes earlier). If your morning is a frantic last-minute race to get out of the house to get to work, or if you have the mornings off and like to see how long you can sleep in, change things up. Get up earlier, don’t be frantic and stressed before you even leave the house. Don’t sleep in. Decide that you want to be productive this week.

2). Declare a “TV Free” day. Pick a day where the tv doesn’t come on all day. Choose to let something else besides the media influence your thoughts and actions. Read a book, play a game, just keep the tv off.

3). Listen to the Bible on audio. As you’re on your commute, as you’re doing things around the house, plug in those earbuds and listen to the audio Bible on free apps like YouVersion. See what happens when you allow words of truth to wash over you and settle on your soul.

4). Exercise. Yes, you know you need to do it, so do it! Get out and go to the gym. Walk around the neighborhood. Do something. As you take care of your physical health, your mental, emotional, and spiritual health will benefit as well.

5). Help someone accomplish something. To momentarily break the power of selfishness, choose to help someone else accomplish something they need. Help them with yard work. Help them finish a project. Do something intentionally for someone else and not you.

6). Don’t be a slave to lists. Just live!

Five for Friday (7.11.14)

5Learning never takes a break! Here are five articles (plus a bonus video) to keep you learning through the weekend.

Is There a Pause Button for Parenting? - My thoughts exactly!

Six Things You Can Do To Improve Your Marriage – Always helpful words from Perry Noble.

An Acts 17 Moment: What Burger King Has Right About LGBT People - Great perspective for those with ears to hear.

10 Keys to Being a Great Employee – We could all benefit from this!

Why We Won’t Live In Heaven Forever – Just to blow your mind a little.

Bonus Video – the new trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings is out, starring Christian Bale. Looks epic!

I’m Doing Something I’ve Never Done Before Today

7.10.14Much of ministry (like any profession) is filled with repetition. I preach every week, only the subject changes. I minister to people every week, just the faces change. But today I’m doing something I’ve never done before in ministry, and I’m a boiling mixture of nervousness and anticipation, excitement and fear.

Today I’m spending all day with six of my staff in one meeting with one goal: to rip apart my sermons for the upcoming year and make them better. It’s a sermon series planning meeting with the goal of taking the “B/B+” ideas I’ve already prepared for the next school year and hopefully turning them into “A” sermons, creating 52 contagious experiences that overwhelm our people with the gospel of hope. It’s something I’ve dreamed about doing for years but finally get the opportunity to do today.

To be honest, this is also the most uncomfortable thing in I’ve done in awhile. But ask me in a year (more importantly, ask my church members) if this worked. Here are some of the factors that got me to today:

Openness - Most pastors create their sermons in a vacuum. It’s just them and the Word. As spiritual as that sounds, it also is very insulating for the pastor, closing him off from any potential negative criticism. That’s why many pastors choose to prepare on their own. It takes a certain dose of openness to admit that you need help and creative input to craft the best sermons possible.

Thick Skin – Pastors in a way are artists, creating word pictures that hopefully lead to life transformation. But to make anything better, you have to be open to criticism. Some pastors have thin skin and are closed off to constructive criticism, choosing the drape themselves in the Bible and labeling any attacks on their sermon as an attack on the Word.

Preparation – Thinking a year ahead has been daunting. I’ve had to create enough margin from the immediate to allow myself breathing room to project ahead. I’ve created nine sermon series ideas that will potentially take us through the end of next school year. Developing nine different series and a year’s worth of sermon ideas has been exhausting, but I’m hopeful that the results will be worth it.

Discipline – There’s no way I could sit at a desk in one sitting and spew out a year’s worth of sermons. My trusted friend in this endeavor has been Evernote, an app that collects and organizes my ideas and syncs with all my devices. A few of the sermon series are ones I thought of the day of. Several of the best ideas are ones I had months or even a year ago. When inspiration hit, I wrote everything down in Evernote before I forgot, and I’m able to pull up my ideas when I need them most. It took discipline to faithfully write down my ideas when I had them, knowing that I might not preach those sermons for a year or longer. But today that discipline is paying off.

Team – I didn’t just pick six staff and random and ask them to tear apart my sermons. This same team is one I’ve met with every week for months, planning and dissecting all of our Sunday experiences. They have familiarity with my sermons on a weekly basis, giving them the foundation needed to project out with me for the coming year.

Self-worth – We’re not going to get too far into the day before someone (very nicely) begins to tear my sermon idea to shreds and suggests another one. What I thought would be the perfect sermon might get left on the cutting room floor. I’ve got to continually remember that they’re not attacking me, they’re attacking an idea. I am loved whether they like my ideas or not.

If you get a moment, please say a prayer for us today!

Why Jesus Was a Horrible Preacher

preacherOkay so the title was a bit of a tease, but at least you’re reading. Here’s my beef with seminaries today (I understand most of you reading this aren’t preachers, so we’ll chalk up this blog post to #PreacherProblems). The overwhelming way they are training new pastors to preach is verse-by-verse. (This approach preaches through an entire book of the Bible verse-by-verse, then picks another one and preaches through that. This style is in contrast with ‘topical,’ where preachers take a topic or theme and preach about it from Scripture). Verse-by-verse is the latest rage. I recently had a conversation with a seminary student on his preaching style. He said that he preached verse-by-verse, because that was the safest way to preach the totality of God’s word. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Noted theologian John MacArthur was subtle enough to write on the merits of verse-by-verse preaching and name his book “How to Preach Biblically.” Case settled, right?

My beef with verse-by-verse isn’t its form or function (I’m actually preaching verse-by-verse through Ephesians this summer, the first time I’ve preached verse-by-verse at Mt Vernon). My beef is the prevailing mindset coming from seminaries today that assumes that verse-by-verse is the only true way to preach, and all of us ‘topical’ guys are somehow mishandling the Word of God.

Here’s what I would say to that mindset: we never see Jesus preaching verse-by-verse. From our records in the gospels, Jesus was a straight ‘topical’ guy. You never see Jesus taking his disciples on a verse-by-verse exposition through the book of Leviticus. Rather, he’d pluck a verse or two from Old Testament scripture (Luke 4:18-19 is a good example) and expound on that. Even more frustrating for verse-by-verse folks, sometimes Jesus would teach simply by using stories (parables) with no Scripture involved. By today’s seminary standards, Jesus would have been a horrible preacher, reckless with Scripture and too cavalier in handling the holy texts. But as sacrilegious as it sounds, Jesus’ number one preaching goal wasn’t a verse-by-verse exposition of the Scriptures of the day. It was to teach people about and introduce people to his Heavenly Father. Jesus wasn’t a slave to verse-by-verse exposition, and neither should we be today.

QUESTION: Is there a ‘best’ way to preach? What’s your preferred style?

Kicking and Screaming Into Monday

7.7.14Monday came too soon. That glorious weekend, full of laughter, replete with memories, chocked full of leisure. But now it’s Monday, splashing you with the cold water of reality. Now it’s back to work. Back to the grind. Back to the real world.

If you’re like me, the temptation is to be dragged into Monday kicking and screaming, already looking forward to the next weekend, the next getaway, the next opportunity to relax and do nothing.

Today may be nothing miraculous. You may be shuffling paperwork, catching up on emails, at home with the kids. But even in the mundane, God can create something glorious. God loves to work in the quiet moments, taking ordinary encounters and turning them into something extraordinary. But we have to have eyes to see it.

Like a kid desperately holding onto the blankets when mom comes to pull him out of bed, some of us will be thrown into this week, whether we’re ready for it or not. We can sulk, we can daydream about memories past, or we can tackle this week head on and make something memorable of this opportunity called life.

Monday isn’t a throwaway day. This week is not a throwaway week. Others may be on vacation, having more fun than you, but you’re where you are. You’re at work. You’re with your kids. And God wants to do something glorious through you. There are lives that need to be impacted, spirits that need to be lifted, the name of Jesus that needs to be spread.

So if you’ve been dragged into Monday kicking and screaming, you’re here now. Go make something of it.

Five for Friday (7.4.14)

5Have a great 4th of July!

July 4th – A quick history of the 4th of July.

I Didn’t Know I Was Undocumented – Powerful first person perspective on illegal immigration.

Why Hobby Lobby Matters – Great perspective on the recent Supreme Court case.

31 Signs You Might Be a Pastor’s Kid – So true!

‘Sextortion’ is an Online ‘Epidemic’ Against Kids – A cautionary tale for all parents of teens.

 

Repost: 601 Marbles

11.15.13

originally posted November 15, 2013

I have 601 weeks left until my oldest son Zeke graduates high school. I know that may seem like a lot, but when he was born I had 936 weeks. I’ve already lost a third of my time with him.

In his book Playing for Keeps, author Reggie Joiner makes a great suggestion to help parents visualize the amount of time they have left with their kids. He suggests that you get a glass jar and fill it with marbles, one marble for every week you have left with your child. Each week, take a marble out and throw it away. It will serve as a tangible reminder that the few moments you have with your children are precious.

So, I have three glass jars on my nightstand. One for each of my boys. Each Sunday, I take out another marble and throw it away. I don’t like it. It makes me a bit sad. But it’s incredible motivation for me. Every time I’m tempted to waste a day, watch a useless television show, or squander a weekend, I see the jars of marbles. Every time my boys want to play ‘rough’ and I’m not feeling up to it, every time they want to throw the football outside even though it’s freezing, every time they want me to take an interest in what they’re doing even though I’d rather be watching SportsCenter, I see the jars of marbles.

When I see the jars of marbles, it serves as a reminder that every week is precious. I’ve already lost a third of my time with Zeke. How I choose to spend the remaining time with him is up to me. I want to make every marble count.

To help calculate how many weeks you have left with your kids, download the free Legacy Countdown app from the App Store.

The Dechurched: A First Person Perspective

7.2.14Today’s guest post comes from Janet Adams. I’m grateful for her sharing her perspective on church.

I was born into a devout Catholic family and was expected to adhere to the Christian way of life. Every Sunday my parents (with great difficulty) herded us three pranksters to church. We would most probably doze off during mass and had to be prodded at regular intervals to listen to the Reverend. To be very frank for an 8 year old like me it was absolute torture to remain still. To listen to an old man drone on an on was quite boring to say the least. But I remember glancing up at my mother and seeing her dabbing her teary cheeks with tissue and wondering what all the fuss was about anyway.

I finished school and joined college. My roommate was a Catholic and used to read the Bible regularly and we would have a few discussions. I usually took an agnostic position, while he used to be a believer throughout. I could never understand the concept of God and the transactional relationship that most people had with him. To me a God that had to be beseeched to and praised at the drop of a hat was no better than an egoistic man. My roommate was of the opinion that just because other people do something does not mean that I have to do the same thing. I noticed that he was very different in his approach. He rarely went to church and yet was religious. It piqued my interest in God.

One Sunday, I went with him to the church. The Reverend gave a sermon on ‘trust’. It was a rather enlightening sermon. He waxed eloquent on how people trust God and forget that trust in God is in fact trust in oneself. He also told a story of two tight rope walkers who walked across two cliffs without a stick to help him keep his balance. He believed that his trust in God would see him through. It did not. He fell to his death. On the other hand there was another tight rope walker. He had deep belief in God but he carried a long pole to help him with his balance. He prayed, got on the rope and reached the other side safe and sound. The second man was aware that trust in God need not be blind. It needed an amount of logic.

Logic, I had never heard a pastor talk about logic. I realized that there was more to religion that what I knew. The pastor was well versed in theology and it was with his knowledge that he had told this story. I realized that religion was not bereft of logic. I decided to embark on a journey of discovery of my own and started reading my roommate’s copy of the Bible. A few months later, I was back at the church and after the sermon we rose for the choir. As the solemn notes of the Navy hymn wafted into the chapel I felt something stir deep within me. My eyes welled up with tears and I hastily wiped them away. I realized that religion was a personal experience, the authenticity of which could never be measured with the same yardsticks that are reserved for science and role of the church was in accentuating the experience for everyone.

 

Author Bio:

Janet Adams is a skilled writer who is a specialist in dissertation writing for the graduate/PhD students. Janet, by her writings, is looking to be one of the best writers and she has gotten good criticisms for her works. Janet is pursuing a Masters Degree in educational science from a reputed university.