June 28, 2011


If motive or intent led to actualized and realized perception, we would never miscommunicate. But they don't. So we do. Miscommunicate, that is. At the end of the day it doesn't really matter what you MEANT to say or what you THOUGHT you said. What matters is what people HEAR! What's going to count is what the sponge actually absorbs. And this doesn't just apply to those of us who speak to or communicate with a crowd or the masses. If you're married, this is you! If you lead someone - even just one person - you're in the game. And so for those of us who rely on reducing what gets lost in translation to a microscopic minimum, we have to figure out a way to decipher what is actually getting through. We have to find a path where what we're trying to say begins to parallel what it is we're actually communicating.

One way of reducing the discrepancies is to ASK. Look the person in the face and ask them, "I know what I intended to say here, but what did you understand me saying?" And it may sound juvenile, but it can be life-saving in the long run to even request, "Could you repeat it back to me?" When I look at my 6-year old son, bend down, and say in that loud-talking parent voice, "DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I'M TELLING YOU?" and he looks back and says, "Uh huh", I haven't finished the job. I know this because most of the times he tells me he understands, he proves not long after this that he really didn't. What I need to say is, "If you understand what I'm asking you to do, explain it to me. What are the consequences if this doesn't happen?" Engage. Ask. Connect.

As a pastor, if I'm not looking for evidence that what's being taught is actually being absorbed, embraced, and lived out, I'm not really shepherding the people God has placed under my care. I'm just barking at them. If we don't search for honest, untainted, objective feedback from those we're attempting to communicate with, we'll go on potentially sounding more and more like white noise. And if the message is as important as we say and believe it is, we better spend a bit more time weighing the method.

Here this: There is a distinct possibility that regardless of your intent or motive in what you're saying and why you're saying it, all the other person may be hearing is "Blah blah blah blah blah"!

QUESTION 1: HOW are you communicating these days?
QUESTION 2: HOW do you know?

June 27, 2011


"...be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18)

So, are you? You know...filled with the Spirit? We asked the question yesterday in our services, "What is the Spirit of God doing in your life right now?" Is He bringing you comfort? Convicting you of sin? Leading you on in your understanding and obedience to God's Word? If we claim to be Christ-followers, yet the Holy Spirit is seemingly absent from our daily lives - if everything in our life is explainable - then aren't we missing something? Christ himself told His disciples, "It is to your advantage that I go away" so the Holy Spirit could come and guide us, comfort us, and fill us. Yes, FILL US. That said, what the heck does it mean - what does it look like - to be "filled with the Spirit"?

Paul opens his letter to the Philippians by telling them "...it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and be so pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (v.1:9-11) When we come to faith in Christ, we are instantly overtaken by the Spirit of God. Our heart becomes His home. But this doesn't mean we have allowed Him to invade every nook and cranny of our life. We have to willingly surrender every piece of ourselves to Him. Daily. And every time we lay down our life and our self - every time we allow ourselves to be emptied at the foot of the Cross - is an opportunity for the Spirit of God to invade us, indwell us, and to fill us. And evidence of this begins to take shape. Paul wrote explicitly about it in Galatians 5 as he described the "fruit of the Spirit". He says, "Here are the things to look for that will evidence you're growing in your walk with Christ". More importantly, Christ spoke about this as well. Check it out:

"I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.... My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to the Father. I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in His love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!" John 15

Don't miss it: The growing doesn't happen without the pruning. The filling doesn't happen without the emptying. But if we allow the Lord to prune us, refine us, empty us...we will be FILLED! We will overflow! And yes, OBEDIENCE leads us to being filled. When you obey God, He will fill you to the point you can't even contain it! I don't know about you, but I want Jesus Christ spilling and spewing over the top out of me, splashing onto every person I come in contact with. 

So, what is the Spirit of God doing in your life right now?

June 23, 2011


I just spent a week preaching at a youth camp. It was incredible! I hope and pray that the Lord used me half as much as He taught me. It was a HUGE encouragement to watch a friend leading - and not having to lead. I made some great new friends and had some amazing conversations. I was truly blessed by the students who were there from FBC Cleveland (TN, that is). Camp Cherokee was a much needed experience for me.

Now...I'm exhausted!

I don't think it hit me until this afternoon how absolutely wiped out I am.
At some point when you're not paying attention - like a 10 minute window - you all of a sudden get like 10 years older and your body mocks you. Not just physically, but emotionally as well. Like someone pulling the drain plug out of the bathtub. A really old bathtub.

But a GOOD empty!
Emptied so that He can fill me again.

D.L Moody said, "I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God's law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled."

Thank You, Lord. 
Are you taking time to be filled? 
Have you been emptied at all lately?

June 18, 2011

Update on Mom

These are pictures of Mom's car as it sits in it's new home, the automobile graveyard. Thankfully she is in better shape than the Accord.

Mom was transferred to Parkland Hospital in Dallas. After further X-rays they determined that her L-3 Lumbar was crushed. Ouch! After seeing the pictures of her car and hearing her recount what happened, it's an absolute miracle that her whole body wasn't crushed and that she is still alive. As you can see, the car didn't turn out so good. But what it is is a tangible piece of evidence of the hand of God protecting her. Her first words after the car finally came to a stop: "Thank You, Jesus, for letting me live!" We appreciate your prayers and want you to know how you can continue to lift her up to the Lord. Here's what all this means:
  • Mom will be in a back/neck brace for quite some time. She is not allowed to bend.
  • She won't be released from the hospital until she can put the brace on herself. This could take a few days!
  • With an injury like this (in her case) they believe the brace will allow the lumbar to heal. There is no surgery planned at this point.
  • On the one hand, Mom will eventually need a new car. On the other hand, she won't be able to get behind the wheel for awhile, so no hurry!

We are still waiting, praying, and discerning what we need to do to help. I am headed to eastern Tennessee today to preach at a youth camp. While I'm praying for my Mom, I know she's praying for me, that the Lord will use me to boldly preach the word to these students. I plan on it! Thanks for praying!

June 17, 2011

Praying For My Mom


Thanks for praying for my Mom. While she has some minor injuries, probably some scrapes & bruises, and most likely is still somewhat in shock, it is 100% clear that the Lord protected her and spared her life. Here's what happened:

WHAT HAPPENED: Driving back home to Arlington yesterday, she was on I-30 near Commerce/Greenville. (This is about 35-45 minutes NE of Dallas). She saw debris in the road - probably from previous wrecks that day - and swerved to miss it. When she swerved she hit a lot of gravel, causing the car to spin, slam into the wall, and ultimately flip over. ALL the way over! She received immediate help from drivers who saw what happened. I talked to her before she ever got in the ambulance. They took her to the hospital in Greenville. One of my close friends grew up there, so I immediately called him and he sent his dad up to check on mom. He called me and said, "It sounds like she's acting just like Pat!" That's a good sign.

STATUS: They are transferring Mom (or probably already have) to Parkland Hospital in Dallas. (I did tell her that things didn't turn out too well for JFK at Parkland. Not sure if she thought that was as funny as I did.) Her X-rays showed a minor fracture (or "crack", as she puts it) in her lower back. Parkland will most likely do a MRI to make sure there are no more internal injuries. When I talked to her late last night she said that her back was the only thing bothering her. I'll be talking to her again late this morning. Her friends are heading over to retrieve everything out of her car. The car, however, will not be returning home. I don't think "totaled" is going to describe it. Probably more like "destroyed"!

I would appreciate you continuing to pray for Mom. Also pray for Morgan and me, as we try to discern how to help and what to do. I begin preaching at a youth camp in TN tomorrow night. If needed, Morgan may change her plans and fly to Dallas. We're just waiting on some direction. I am grateful to the Lord that Mom is alive. The outcome could have been completely different. Thank You, Jesus!

June 16, 2011

God's Calling. (Provision Follows Obedience)

Erwin McManus told a story where he was preaching at a conference. A girl approached him afterwards and told him that she had sensed "God's Calling" to go into the mission field. But she was waiting. Waiting on the money to come through. Someone had told her that if the Lord wants you to go, then He'll provide the funds first. McManus - as compassionately as he could - looked at her and told her something to the effect of: "I don't think it happens that way. Who says God will provide all of that first? How do you know He isn't waiting on you to STEP OUT - to ANSWER the call - so that He can provide every last thing you need?" So, knowing that God "will supply all of our needs according to His riches" and that He won't call us to anything that He doesn't equip us and strengthen us to do, how does all of this work? What comes first? His provision? Or our obedience?

In the Gospels there's a story about Peter walking on water. People who've never even read a Bible have heard about this story. [Christians have been exploiting it with cheesy t-shirts and bumper stickers for years.] I believe in that story of provision, protection, obedience, and power lies a glimpse of the answer to this question. When Jesus told Peter, "Come to me", he didn't tell him, "Peter, I'm about to do something with you that people are going to talk about for thousands of years!" He didn't say, "Get out here and let me teach you how to surf barefooted!" He just said, "Come to me". And Peter did. He stepped over the threshold, jumped out of the boat, and he walked on water. AWESOME! Provision follows obedience.

When God told Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, up to the mountain and sacrifice him, He didn't give away the ending. He didn't leak the news to Abraham that He was going to provide a ram for him to sacrifice instead. He just told him what to do and where to go. And he went. And when Isaac asked his dad, "Where's the animal for the sacrifice?", Abraham looked at his son and told him calmly, plainly, and with all the confidence in the world, "God will provide". And He did. Provision follows obedience.

Right now - or maybe in the very near future - the Lord may call you to do something - or go somewhere - that comes along with a GIGANTIC question mark. HOW will I pay for this? WHERE will this ultimately lead me? WHO will go with me? Or will I go it alone? WHY, Lord? Why me? WHAT do you want me to do when I get there? A HUGE question mark. Question marks are OK, but you can't let them determine your steps or decrease your faith. You can't always wait for the question mark to be erased. Sometimes, it will never be erased. If God calls you to plant seeds, you may not seem them grow...or even watered! But HE will water them and HE will grow them. HE will provide! And whatever He may be asking of you, remember: Provision follows obedience.

Have you discovered or experienced this in your life?

June 15, 2011

God's Calling. (I think.)

This is the 2nd post in this series. If you haven't read the 1st one, take a second and start HERE. 

I started leading worship around the age of 20. I got serious about it when I was probably 22-23. I loved it! At times I could envision myself doing that for a long time. But if I'm being honest, I have to admit that some of my love for this was married to the idea that I enjoyed feeling like, even though I wasn't drowning in the ocean of being a rock star, I at least had my foot in the water. It's very hard to discern God's calling when you're still daydreaming about yourself in lights. So at that point in my life, and even up to 8-10 years ago, if you had told me that the Lord was preparing me to preach and to pastor I would have laughed in your face. Not that I didn't believe, but it was that I didn't WANT it.

Looking back I would say about 4-5 years ago it began to be very clear to me that the Lord was preparing me for something else. I still loved pastoring students, had a vision for what we were doing and why we were doing it, but I could feel this distraction inside me. (Different than my ADD kicking in!) And I had grown to not only love preaching, it was what fueled my heart. I could empathize with Paul saying, "Woe to me if I don't preach the Gospel!" This freaked me out. So as I approached this potential crossroad - asking God, "What is it you're preparing me to do" - I looked for wisdom. And yes, I started in the scriptures. But I kept reading in the Word that it's foolish not to "seek wise counsel", and that the "advice of the wise is like a life-giving fountain". Proverbs 15:22 plainly tells us that "many counselors bring success". And every time I thought I had the answer, I would follow it up with, "I think". So I asked the Lord for wisdom to know who I should consult. And He led me to those people.

I remember asking my brother, a couple of my friends in ministry, and even some of my former students who knew me well, a very pointed question: "If you  were advising me to do ONE THING - to commit to leading worship (or) to preach and to pastor - what would it be?" [For dramatic purposes I would love to tell you that everyone came back with different answers, just confusing things even more, leading me to take a 6-week journey into the wilderness where I ate berries, drank from leaves, and get alone to find the answers. Didn't happen.] Every single person I talked to gave me the same response: PREACH! It wasn't like they were scratching their heads saying, "I'm going to have to pray about this and get back to you." It was instantaneous! And it was backed up by reasons and wisdom from individuals that I trusted, respected, and loved - individuals who not only loved me, but loved Jesus Christ. I knew this affirmation was from Him. God's calling is often affirmed through the counsel of the wise.

Now be careful - YOU are the only one who can ultimately determine and discern WHAT it is the Lord is calling you to do. But He's put others in your life to help you discern this. Others who will pray with you, lead you to places in scripture that maybe you're overlooking, and (possibly) most important...bring an ounce more objectivity to the matter than you'll ever have.

But here's where I'm still questioning: If person after person after person gives you the same counsel, advice, opinion, or whatever you want to call it, yet you still don't agree with their advice, what do you do?

If it's clear to everyone in the known universe that an individual is "missing their calling", and person after person has boldly and lovingly attempted to shared this belief with the person, yet they "just don't see it that way", what's left to do? Maybe a more pointed question would be, how do you argue or debate with someone who says, "God's calling me to _________"? For this reason I will give anyone the advice: Be very careful who you use those words. If you aren't 100% sure it's "God calling", don't you dare write His name on it.

In answering God's calling on your life, what role will the advice and wisdom of others around you play in your decision making? Love to hear your thoughts....

June 14, 2011

God's Calling. (Are you going to answer?)

At more than one time in my life I've said the words, "God is calling me to _________." You can fill it in with several things. At age 18 I surrendered to God's call on my life to full-time Christian ministry. In 1999, at age 26, Morgan and I sensed He was calling us to move to Wichita, Kansas, to pastor students. In 2009, God called me to come and pastor this incredible church I'm now part of in Madison, Alabama, called The Brook. God called. I answered. But what the heck does that mean?

In Genesis, God audibly told Noah to build a boat. He repeatedly woke Samuel up in the middle of the night just to see if he was listening. God sent an angel to tell Mary what He was about to do. And Jesus blinded the Apostle Paul, knocked him to his knees, and spoke loud and clear. God called. They answered. While that was awesome for them to experience (and for me to read), here's the thing: I've never heard Him speak with my ears, talked 'mono y mono' with an angel, or much less been blinded by Jesus on a dirt road. (Although I did see a billboard once that I could have sworn God was trying to use to get my attention.) And I hear other people say all the time, "God's calling me to _________" or "I really don't sense the Lord calling me to __________." So it's all got me wondering...what the heck is the "Call of God" and how in this world do you know it's actually Him calling?

I believe there are a number and series of things God uses to reveal Himself, His will, and His guidance to us as His people. The first - and probably most obvious - is His Word. More than rules and regulations, He's given us standards, principles, and an all-consuming mission to carry out in and through the pages of scripture. He will NEVER call us to do something that conflicts with or contradicts His Word. That's why it's so essential that we KNOW His Word! Many people wait years for this special, individual "word" from the Lord of what it is they're supposed to do, while He's probably sitting there saying, "I've already told you. It's in the Bible!" For instance, if you keep praying about whether or not you're supposed to be a missionary and move to Kenya, yet you have all this unconfessed sin in your life, I think you're missing your calling. Right now, your calling is to confess your sin and repent. God won't usher the calling of WHAT we're to DO until we've responded to His calling of WHO we're supposed to BE. Let that one soak in for a moment.

One way God sends out His calling on the lives of His people is through His Word.

Have you ever clearly sensed the Lord leading or calling you to do something through the revelation of scripture?

More to come...

June 9, 2011

Share It With the Rest of Us!

Hey friends! Now that we're neck-deep into the summer, I'm wondering what has inspired you this year so far? What blogposts have you written (or read) that stand out? What books have captivated you on a new level? What scriptures have you been meditating on, seeing the Lord open your eyes to more of Himself? I would love for you to share it with the rest of us!

So, how about it? What scriptures, books, songs, blogposts do we need to know about?

June 8, 2011

I Needed That Pain...

This year I finally started watching "Lost". I know - I'm a few years late to the game. I also know that if you were wrapped up in the show like I am now it's not news to you for me to say that this is one of the greatest shows to ever hit TV. Period! I mainly catch single episodes while I'm hitting the elliptical at the gym. I'm now well into Season 5. And yesterday, in the midst of my sweating and running, I was struck by an exchange between 2 of the main characters. It went like this:

Sawyer: "Don't you want to go back there? Do things over?"
Locke: "Why would I want to do that?"
Sawyer: "To save yourself a world of pain!"
Locke: "No. I needed that pain to get to where I am now."

I don't really remember much about the episode after that. Those words just kept spinning through my mind. And this morning in scripture, the reason became clear. In Romans 12:2, Paul says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Here it is in simple fashion: If you want to get where the Lord desires to lead you - be WHO He desires you to be - KNOW what He has to reveal to you - there is only one pathway to that place: by testing. Through the pain - not around it. Weathering the storm - not avoiding it. And yes, even choosing and embracing the suffering rather than fearing and despising it. This is what drove Paul to confess not only his willingness, but his longing, to "share in His sufferings". He wanted to know Christ at any and all costs. Bring on the pain...if that's what it takes. And when we read Romans 8 we realize that it's the unknown, the unseen, the suffering, even the pain, that drives us to HOPE and to PRAY. If there was no testing...there would be no hoping!

I don't know what you're walking through right now, but if you're trusting in the Lord and clinging to Him, keep trusting and clinging. Don't for one second even think of giving up! Know that through the darkness, the unknown - through the pain and (YES!)...by testing...you will know more of Him. You will see more of Him in you. You will be transformed and renewed! You will know "what is good and acceptable and perfect." Whatever the pain is, you'll need it to get where it is that the King desires to take you. And wherever that may be, it will be good!

Is there pain - testing - in your rearview mirror that you now see differently?
Would love for you to share....

June 6, 2011

Teach Someone A Lesson

If you're not on staff at a church, I want to let you in on a little secret: Sometimes, church staff members get frustrated with people. Even though our whole calling in life from the King for His Kingdom is about people, we lose sight of this and forget that - just like us - people drop the ball, forget they signed up, get their priorities out of whack, and [GASP!] sometimes....just plain flat blow it! And when this happens, and we forget the aforementioned truth of the matter, if we don't guard our hearts with humility and prayer, we turn around and do the exact same thing. Just plain flat blow it! There's one particular way that this can flesh itself out that we have to be aware of as leaders in the church. If your motive in decision making or in your actions EVER becomes to teach someone a lesson, watch out. The person who winds up suffering is rarely ever the person you're aiming at with your strategic, passive/aggressive, beating around the bush "lesson". 

This can be hard for some to swallow, but even ministers, pastors, and church leaders can get so frustrated from being let down and having their hopes and expectations crushed that we actually think, "You know what: If I do THIS - or maybe don't do THAT - that'll teach'em. That'll show them what it feels like to get hosed and shafted." We can be tempted to be vindictive, vengeful, and just downright stupid. Human, I guess you could call it. But here's the problem: It's unacceptable! Tempted, sure. Everyone is. But give into it? Nope. Can't do it. Because our ministry and purpose is to be used by the Lord in the lives of PEOPLE. So if we're indirectly lining up innocent bystanders as collateral damage simply because we're trying to teach someone a lesson, we better stop dead in our tracks and think again.

If the Lord leads you to teach someone a lesson, do it eyeball to eyeball, face-to-face, with the courage to call it like it is and lovingly teach them. Matthew 18 says nothing about subversive tactical warfare strategies to indirectly communicate with a brother who's wronged us. It says to GO to them and speak the truth! 

Have you been there? Do you agree? Want to teach me a lesson? More to come......