Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What are you reading?

One of the goals I set for 2015 was to read 36 books beside the Bible. These books were non-fiction books to help me grow as a leader in my family and church.

I have reviewed a few of the books in previous posts, but here are the books I've read in 2015. This is in the order that I completed the book and the rating I gave each book. (1-5 stars)

1. The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning - 4 Stars
2. Amazing Faith by Wilfredo de Jesus - 3 Stars
3. Attitudes that Attract Success by Wayne Cordeiro - 4 Stars
4. Live | Dead: The Journey by Missionaries who love the Arab World - 3 Stars
5. The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller - 4 Stars
6. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer - 4 Stars
7. Be the Dad She Needs You to Be by Dr. Kevin Leman - 5 Stars
8. The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C. Maxwell - 4 Stars
9. Static Jedi by Eric Sameul Timm - 4 Stars
10. Transforming Church in Rural America by Shannon O'Dell - 4 Stars
11. In the Name of Jesus by Henri J.M. Nouwen - 3 Stars
12. Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard - 4 Stars
13. Talk Now and Later by Brian Dollar - 5 Stars
14. Thrill Sequence by Rob Ketterling - 3 Stars
15. When Work and Family Collide by Andy Stanley - 3 Stars
16. 9 Disciplines of Enduring Leadership by Kent Ingle - 4 Stars
17. Clear the Stage by Scott Wilson and John Bates - 5 Stars
18. Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro - 4 Stars
19. Transitions by William Bridges - 3 Stars
20. Extravagant by Bryan Jarrett - 5 Stars
21. Managing Transitions by William Bridges - 4 Stars
22. Activate by Nelson Searcy - 4 Stars
23. Not Your Parents' Offering Plate by J. Clif Christopher - 4 Stars
24. All In by Mark Batterson - 5 Stars
25. The Making of a Leader by J. Robert Clinton - 3 Stars
26. A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards - 5 Stars
27. A Spirit-Empowered Church by Alton Garrison - 5 Stars
28. But God by Herbert Cooper - 5 Stars
29. Nudge by Leonard Sweet - 3 Stars
30. Leadership Pain by Sam Chand - 5 Stars
31. Addicted to Busy by Brady Boyd - 4 Stars
32. Humility by Andrew Murray - 4 Stars
33. Non-Stop by Nathan Rouse - 3 Stars
34. The Bush Always Burns by Heath Adamson - 4 Stars
35. Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln by James C. Humes - 4 Stars
36. Live-Dead Joy by Dick Brogden - 4 Stars

My goal for 2016 is to read 45 books and include some fiction books this year as well as a biography or two. If you want to follow along with what I read, follow me on Goodreads.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Can "Joy to the World" be a Reality?

Whether you like the Traditional version or a modern version, "Joy to the World" is a classic Christmas carol. Is it a reality? Can we really experience Joy in this world?

The answer is Yes! Many equate joy with happiness. My friend, Scott Wilson, used to say "happiness is based on happenings." When good things happen to us, we are happy. When bad things happen, we are unhappy. We can go from zero to happy in one second. We can also go from happy to unhappy in a second as well. Joy is different. Rick Warren defines joy as “the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” (From http://rickwarren.org/devotional/english/the-definition-of-joy)

No matter what we are going through, we can have that confident assurance that God is in control of the details of our lives. That's why I believe James challenged us to conisder it an opportunity for joy when we go through trials. There is a purpose in your pain. God is using that to shape you into the man or woman of God He desires you to be.

James 1:2-4 (NLT) "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."

Joy is also one of the fruit of the Spirit. As God fills you with His Holy Spirit, you are filled with joy that comes from God. That joy can be your strength when you are going through tough times. This Christmas Season as you sing Joy to the World, know you can have that Joy that comes from God. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Inside Out: Allowing God To Transform Your Emotions

On Father's Day this year, my wife and kids wanted to take me somewhere to eat. They threw out a variety of local places or said we could make the hour drive to Dallas to eat somewhere. With a quick change of clothes and a snack, we hoped in the car and made our way to Dallas. We decided to catch a movie while in the Big City. We found what was playing and decided to watch "Inside Out," a Disney/Pixar movie about a preteen girl named Riley who has five emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear) that battle for control of her mind. In the motion picture, Riley and her family had moved from the Midwest to San Francisco. The movie had a profound impact on me. It may be the fact I had a preteen daughter and we had just moved to a new community nine months earlier. The movie caused me to think about how we let our emotions control us. Then, it hit me. God wants to transform us....including our emotions....from the inside out. 

2 Corinthians 5:13-17 (NLT) “If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

When we accept Christ, He can transform our emotions. Those old emotions are gone and Christ's love can control us. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that "God has given us everything we need to live a Godly life." That includes help with our emotions. Vs. 4 says that we can "share his divine nature and escape the world's corruption caused by human desires." Tim LaHaye, in his classic book Spirit-Controlled Temperament, wisely stated, “The ‘divine nature’ which comes through Jesus Christ is the only escape from the control of our natural temperament, for only through Him are we made ‘new creatures.’”

The Holy Spirit can transform our emotions. In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the acts of the sinful nature and the fruit of the Spirit. When we allow the sinful nature to control us, the results are obvious. Many of those results are emotions gone wrong or the results of bad emotion. Sexual Immorality, Impurity and Lustful pleasures all play on our emotions. Hostility, Quarreling, Outbursts of Anger and Dissension are all based on emotion.

The Good news is the fruit of the Spirit can be evident in our lives as well. Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) states, "22But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" Love, Joy and Peace are all emotions that are fruit of the Spirit controlling our lives. Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control help us control our emotions. We can be that new creation Paul talked about in 2 Corinthians.

When the Holy Spirit is in control of our emotions, He changes the way we think. The battlefield is in our mind (our thoughts and our intellect), but it is controlled and ruled by what takes place in our heart (the seat of our emotion). Romans 12:2 (NLT) states, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” When we allow God to change the way we think, He transforms us into a new person. It is possible for us to be new creations....including our emotions. It is possible for God to transform us from the Inside Out.

If you would like to learn more about allowing God to control your emotions, join us this Sunday at First Assembly of God in Sulphur Springs at 10:30 am. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Time's Up: Poor Clock Management Can Cost You

For the last five years of watching the Jason Garrett era as the Dallas Cowboys, I have noticed a trend. He and his teams are not good managers of the clock. With less than two minutes to go in a tie game last night, Garrett's team mismanaged the clock again. As one sports analyst I heard today said, they took it from a smooth ending to "heart attack" mode. Fortunately, last night, it didn't cost my favorite team the game. At other times, it has costed them the game.

Poor Clock or Time Management can cost us dearly in life. It can cost us credibility, rest, relationships and sanity. Poor Time Management adds unneeded stress because of poor choices we make. So, How do we better manage our clock?

1. Plan - There's an old adage that says "If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail." If we don't plan our time, someone else will. It starts with a calendar. Schedule your work time. Write down the things that are regular occurrences into your calendar. For example, if you have a regular staff meeting, place that on your calendar. Schedule your family time. Schedule your time of rest. Schedule your devotional time. Schedule your recreation time. You can use a digital calendar or an old fashioned paper calendar. I prefer the digital calendar. It is on my iPhone. I can access it from my iPad or computer. If I updated it on one device, it changes it on all of them. My wife uses a paper calendar that she carries around in her purse.

2. Keep a To Do List - This has been a huge time saver for me. If I don't write it down, I will forget. If someone asks me to do something on a Sunday, I immediately write it down. If I don't, I will forget until they remind me or I'll waste time trying to remember what they asked me to do. I use the Reminders app included on the iPhone. Again, it syncs with all my devices. I even have mine color coded so I know whether it is a personal task or work related task. It is important to put the tasks that you have to do every week on your list. When you do that, it will give you a list to work from and you won't waste time thinking of what to do next.

3. Limit the Distractions - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are great tools, but can be incredible time wasters. I've had to delete a game or two from my devices when I realized I was spending too much time crushing candy and not enough time focused on important tasks. If you need a social media or game break, put it on your calendar and stick to the time you allotted for it.

4. Don't Procrastinate - Interruptions are going to happen. The boss will call a surprise staff meeting. Kids will get sick causing you to miss time from work. In my line of work, divine interruptions happen all the time. Someone needs to meet about a family problem. Another unexpectedly goes into the hospital. If I have procrastinated, those interruptions can become irritants and I'm not at my best for the people I serve. If I have worked ahead, I can handle the moment with the grace, love and focus it needs.

Time Management can be the difference between being a good and great. How well are you managing your clock?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Are we suffering from Spiritual ADD?

For years, Attention Deficit Disorder was commonly known as ADD. It is now under a larger umbrella of ADHD with the subcategory of Inattentive ADHD. According to an article on WebMD, the symptoms are:
  • Not paying attention to detail
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Failing to pay attention and keep on task
  • Not listening
  • Being unable to follow or understand instructions
  • Avoiding tasks that involve effort
  • Being distracted
  • Being forgetful
  • Losing things that are needed to complete tasks
It is an inability to focus on the task at hand because you are easily distracted, forgetful or fail to pay attention. 

Is the church suffering from Spiritual ADD? I would define Spiritual ADD as the inability to focus on the mission of the church because we are easily distracted, forgetful or fail to pay attention. The church's mission is defined by the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment in the Law of Moses was, he gave what has widely been called the Great Commandment. Matthew 22:37-39 (NLT) reads, "Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" We define this at First Assembly of God as "Love God, Love People." We "Love God" through our spiritual devotion to Him, worship and discipleship. Loving People happens through our care and outreach ministries. If we are truly going to love people, we have to then execute the Great Commission. Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT) reads, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The church, the body of Christ, is commanded to reach out to people and disciple them. 

Having an understanding of the mission of the church, are we suffering from Spiritual ADD? We could answer this question from a corporate standpoint or as individuals? The reality is many do suffer from Spiritual ADD. They are unable to focus on the mission of the church because they are easily distracted, forgetful or fail to pay attention.

Let's look at these three symptoms on Spiritual ADD.

1. Easily Distracted

A person or church with Spiritual ADD is easily distracted. The mission of the church is to reach lost people, disciple them, worship God and care for the flock. At times, we can get distracted from the mission for things that have no eternal value. We recently went through a church sanctuary remodel. I was and still am thrilled that we had no one complain about the color of the carpet. Sadly, many churches, get distracted over temporal things such as carpet color. When we get to heaven, no one is going to care what color we decided to make the carpet in 2015 or in 1980. It will not last forever. Other ways we get distracted are:
  • Worship Wars (Contemporary vs. Modern Worship)
  • Pet Programs (This is when we elevate a program into the mission. For example, some prefer Sunday School over Small Groups as a form of discipleship. What is important is that a person is being discipled. Methods change. The Mission doesn't.)
  • Preferences (Cold vs. Hot Temperature, Loud vs. Soft Sound, Chairs vs. Pews, etc)
  • Being Busy (We are consumed by hobbies, work, etc. that it distracts us from our mission.)
These distractions keep us from accomplishing the mission of the church.

2. Forgetful

We forget what our true mission is. Paul was a tentmaker so that he could reach people. Our occupation may pay the bills, but our mission is to reach people for Christ. Our mission in life is not to build a fat retirement account or be on the fast track to CEO. Our mission is to reach people. As we go about our life, which may include building a great career, we need to remember our ultimate mission is to reach people, disciple them, care for others and worship God in whatever we are doing.

3. Fail to Pay Attention

Do we see God at work in our daily lives? One of my graduate professors, Dr. Wayne Lee, called it "the activity of God." We need to see the activity of God. Where is he working and what is he doing? Are we paying attention to the Holy Spirit at work in our world? In the book Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who's Already There, Leonard Sweet writes, "Evangelism for too long has been disconnected from discipleship. In Nudge, evangelism is discipleship. What yokes evangelism to discipleship, I propose, is the art of attention, attending to life and attending to God. The art of attention goes something like this: You have an appointment with God. The address of that appointment? The dress of the next person you meet, whatever it is. Their dress is God’s address. Want to find God? Look in the face of the person next to you or the next person you meet." Are we paying attention to those around us? Are we looking at the next person we meet as a potential appointment from God? Perhaps, we need to learn the lesson Ra's al Ghul taught Bruce Wayne in the motion picture Batman Begins. The lesson was "Always Mind Your Surroundings." Pay Attention to the world around you and see the activity of God! Where is he at work in your world?

Every minute that passes by is one minute closer to eternity and one minute we no longer have to utilize to fulfill our mission. Time is not a reusable or reproducible commodity. Once it has been spent, it is gone. As the body of Christ, we must be about our Heavenly Father's mission. We must Love God and Love People. At the end of our lives, let's not look back with regret from having spent a lifetime suffering from Spiritual ADD. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Are We Sharing Stains?

It was a typical morning of getting the girls dressed, fed, packed and ready for school. In the rush of our morning rituals, we somehow all ended up in Kenzie's room. Kenzie was picking out her clothes for the day when the conversation steered to Dad's ineptness at putting up their clothes. Apparently, I made the grievous error of placing a few of Kenzie's tights in Mady's closet. As the arrows were flying across the room from my beautiful daughters toward their stereotypical father who doesn't pay attention to whose clothes are whose, I made the small suggestion that the girls share clothes. Mady, my 12 almost 13 year old, was not having any of that. She said emphatically in a matter of a fact tone, "No, no, no, no, no. We are not sharing clothes and we are not sharing stains." It was quite a humorous moment in the midst of our morning chaos.

Kenzie takes after her Dad. Sometimes, she misses her mouth and ends up with a food stain on her shirt. Mady wanted no part of Kenzie's stains. As the morning continued, I thought a lot about that. The question came to mind, "Are we sharing stains?"

Stain means "to leave a mark on something." In the Audacity of Everything age we live, we are constantly being stained with offense. Are we sharing stains? Are we sharing those offenses? Basically, are we tainting someone else's view of a person or situation based on our perceived offense?

It is like a classic scene from a movie or T.V. show, someone throws food across the cafeteria
staining the clothes of an unsuspecting student. Then, the retaliation happens. Food is hurled violently toward the offending party. Still frustrated with the situation, the stained party turns and hurls tuna surprise in the direction of their close friends who have been laughing at their plight of green peas and potatoes oozing down their shirt. Pretty soon, lasagna and bologna are flying across the cafeteria in all directions. Everyone leaves stained.

When we are offended, do we turn around and stain an innocent party? Do we retaliate and stain someone else? The Bible teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Leviticus 19:18 (NIV) reads, " “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people,but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." We need to love our neighbor by not seeking revenge and not holding a grudge. We should love our neighbor by not sharing stains.

How should we respond then? Jesus taught us how to respond in Luke 6. 

Luke 6:27-31 (NIV) "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."

So, the next time someone offends us, let's not share our stains. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Audacity of Everything

Audacity is a funny word. It is not a word we use on a day to day basis. It is only reserved for those special occasions when we really want to emphasize a point about an event, group or individual.

Audacity is defined as "a confident and daring quality that is often seen as shocking or rude." A person who is audacious is one who has qualities that come off as shocking or rude. We make statements like "Can you believe the audacity of them?" The boldness of an individual, belief system or decision causes others to react based on what they see, hear and perceive.

America is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode over a topic in a matter of milliseconds. In the last 48 hours, we have seen followers of Christ get upset over a red cup. "The Audacity of Starbucks for making their cup red with no reference to Christ." The flip side occurs as well. "The audacity of church people for getting up in arms about a cup from Starbucks when there are orphans to take care of and people who are lost."

Our culture has become easily offended by anything and everything. Social media has given us instant access to express our opinion (whether it is right or not) and gain public support in a matter of seconds. We are living in the age of "The Audacity of Everything." Everything can be deemed shocking or rude. This blog, your last tweet, a look from a co-worker, etc. It all has the potential to offend because we are easily offended.

What happened to being able to dialogue on different subjects without worrying about the backlash? Where is our civility? Where is our love and compassion? Where is our mercy? We need to learn how to handle offense again.

How do we handle offense in "The Audacity of Everything" age?

1. Check Your Heart - Why are we easily offended? Is it because the offender made us see something in ourselves that we don't like? What caused us to react to something a certain way? Answer these questions and you may find the offense is inside of you and not with the perceived offender.

2. Go Private Before You Go Public - In "The Audacity of Everything" age, we are quick to tweet or post our grievance before we ever talk to the person, group or company we feel slighted us. Jesus in the book of Matthew gives us a great example of how to handle conflict. Matthew 18:15-16 (NLT) states, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses." As believers, we should go in private to the person, group or company. We may find that it was misunderstanding or something that can easily be fixed.
3. If all other options are exhausted, then go public. If the person, individual or company still refuses to listen, then you may have no other choice. Matthew 18:17 (NLT) states, "If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector." If we have no other choice, then go public. However, we still have a responsibility to do this in the right spirit. We should never get personal enjoyment out of taken our offense public. In fact, it should grieve us. It should break our heart to have to take an offense public.

If you would like to read more on this subject, a great resource is "The Bait of Satan" by John Bevere.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why I Decided We Wouldn't Host A Halloween Alternative Event

For the past 20 years, I have served some great churches. As far as I can remember back, my Halloween nights were devoted to Halloween alternative events. Fall Festivals, Trunk or Treats, Hell House, etc. You name it....we've been a part of it. Who doesn't love a good cake walk and bounce house? 

Several years ago, I was challenge by a blog I read by my friend, Brian Dollar. It really made me think about the purpose of Halloween Alternative Events and the effectiveness of them as a church. We spent a lot of money on Hot Dogs, Candy, Inflatables and more. Not to mention all the volunteer hours to pull off an event like that. In fact, one year we did a Hell House and Trunk or Treat on the same night. Every year, we would invite those guests attending our event back to our services. We saw little to no return. It hit me. Most of the people who were coming to our event were making the rounds to every trunk or treat and fall festival in town. They were great events for our church family and I'm not bashing the leadership for making the decision to host such an event. In fact, I always enjoyed the event. Although they were a lot of work, they were tons of fun. Even if no one came and connected to the church because of the event, it was an incredible party for our church family with free candy and games. We were able to spend time connecting with our people in our church and there is nothing wrong with that. 

When we moved to Sulphur Springs, someone told me that the neighborhood we moved into was the hot bed for Trick or Treaters on Halloween night. I admit I was skeptical. I was really skeptical last year when I was sitting on my front porch at 6:00 pm and there were just two groups of trick or treaters that I could see. By 6:30 pm though, our neighborhood was packed. Our street was a traffic jam. We made up over 400 bags of candy with invite cards in them and passed them out. 

This year, I decided to get enough candy for 500 trick or treaters. I got nervous when I ran into a neighbor and she told me last year was "a down year." I grabbed another bag of candy. This year, I was on my front porch from 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm with a steady stream of trick or treaters. We passed out candy to over 550. 

While Fall Festivals and Trunk or Treat type events are great in some locations, they are not right for me here. All of this can be summed up to three reasons why I decided not to do a Halloween Alternative Event. 

  1. The Community is already coming to my front door. We didn't need inflatables or free food to attract them. They just showed up. We will redeem the strategic location of my house and use it as an outreach hub on Halloween night. We are already thinking about passing out bottled water to parents next year. 
  2. Our Community is already saturated with Halloween Alternative Events. Several churches are already doing quality events and anything we did would be in competition. Basically, we would get the same people who are hitting all the festivals and probably already coming to my front door.
  3. We are called to be salt and light. On the darkness night in the world, I want to be a light to my neighbors
There are a lot of great events out there. There are people who are called to put them on and they are effective events. Just because another church does it doesn't mean we need to as well. Whatever you choose to do on Halloween, redeem the day! Be salt and light in your community! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Navigating the Busy Seasons of Life

October has been an incredibly busy month for the Posey Household. This month, we have navigated through our normal routines as well as additional activities for the entire family. There have been weeks that we had something every night of the week. Every weekend has been full of activities. Add on to that unexpected health problems for a couple of family members and it has been quite a month. Overall, it has been a great month. There are several things that I learned during this time that I want to pass on.

1. Enjoy the moment! Many of our activities have centered around our kids ball games or school activities. There were times I reminded myself or had a older person remind me that these days are not forever and to cherish these moments. They will not be playing ball or cheering forever. I want to do my best to enjoy these moments while they last.

2. Guard your time off! There were times when we did have a night off or a cancellation gave us an unexpected night off. It is important to take time to rest and relax. In these times, choose not to fill up the calendar with other things. Bottom line: It is ok to say no.

3. Eat together as much as possible! In busy seasons, it is so easy to run through the drive thru or have everyone eat at their convenience. Fortunately, for our family, those night were relatively few. Sasha made sure we had a meal in the crock pot or something quick to prepare so we could all eat together. The family meal time is important because we are all around the table with minimal distractions (our TV is in the other room). This is a time we hear about each others days and can talk about what is coming up.

4. Don't neglect your time with God! When you are in a busy season, it is easy to let your devotional time go or make excuses why you can't go to church. When we do these things, we are showing our families that God is not as important as whatever activity or event we choose to place before him. Choose to make Him a priority during busy seasons.

What lessons have you learned navigating through a busy season in life?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why I'm So Geeked Out Over the New Star Wars Movie

I remember the first time I saw Star Wars. I had spent the night with a friend of mine that lived in the Mobile Home park next to our house. His family had this crazy new technology called Cable Television and a new channel called HBO (Home Box Office). I remember watching intently this incredible movie of good vs. evil. From then on, every stick was a light saber or a laser gun. If only I had the collection of Star Wars Action Figures, Vehicles and Playsets that I owned, I probably could retire. (Maybe not, but I wish I still had my Millennium Falcon...they are turning those things into sweet bass guitars...but I digress.)

My Dad took me to the old Oaklawn theater to see "The Empire Strikes Back" when it came out. If I wasn't already, I was hooked. Now, fast forward 35 years, and there is a new movie, "The Force Awakens," coming out in December. Last night, I set my DVR to record a meaningless (to me anyway) Monday Night Football game just so I wouldn't miss the trailer for the new movie. After the trailer premiered, I got online and ordered my tickets for opening night.

Why is a 42 year old man so geeked out about a science fiction movie?

1. Nostalgia - it takes me back to a more innocent time and place. It reminds me of the good times of my childhood. I loved the original trilogy...yes, even the ewoks. There are probably some that wish the franchise would not be revived. They don't want anything to change. Nostalgia should help us appreciate the past, but it never should be at a detriment to the future.

2. The Moral of the Story - Good vs. Evil is a classic tale. The Jedi vs. the Dark Side. The Rebel Alliance against the Empire. What makes Star Wars special is that the Dark Side was redeemed. (Spoiler Alert for those who haven't seen Return of the Jedi) When Darth Vader turns on the emperor to save Luke, it proved there was good in him.

3. Passing it on to the next Generation - I am taking Mady with me. We will watch all 6 original Star Wars movies before opening night. She may not like it. I hope she does. However, I want to make a memory with her. She may not remember a thing about the movies and may never care about them, but she will long remember the night I took her to see the Opening Night of "The Force Awakens." I'm thankful my Dad took me to see the movie because of the memory. Whether it is a movie or activity, it is important for us to make memories with our kids.

4. Unanswered Questions - Anytime a movie ends, there are always unanswered questions. While Return of the Jedi left fans with a positive ending, it did leave me wanting to know what the future held for Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, C-P3O, R2-D2, etc. I'm excited to see the answers to those questions.

5. Technology - The original films were made with the limited, but innovative technology of their time. I am interested to see what can be done with the technology of today. If the trailers are any indicator, we won't be disappointed.

There are some that may read this because it said Star Wars. There are others than could care less about the movie and only are reading it because they follow this blog. Whether you are a fan or not, I want to pose a few questions to you. What is it that reminds you of a simpler time? What are you doing to make memories and share special moments with your kids? When our action figures have been sold in a garage sale or to a buddy (still regret that) and we grow old, the one thing that we will have are those special moments and the memories we make.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Etiquette Lessons from a Cheerleading/Softball/Volleyball Dad

This has been a blog I have wanted to write for a long time. My girls have been involved in youth sports since my oldest stepped onto a soccer field at the age of 4. I coached her first team without a bit of history in the sport other than the soccer ball I owned when I was 8. Over the years, I have helped coached other teams, been a helper or just a dad in the stands. We have been on some great teams and on some teams that were at the bottom of the standings. We have been blessed with great coaches and some that were more like I was when I coached my first team.  I like to observe people and I have seen some crazy things happen at ball fields and stadiums. So, for everyone who has kids, grand kids, nieces/nephews or friends or just likes to hang out at the ball fields because there's nothing better to do on a Tuesday night, here are the etiquette lessons I've learned from being a part of youth sports.

1. Remember, they are just kids. Not only are they kids, but they are kids who are playing a game because they want to do something fun. This is not the 9th Inning of the World Series or the final two minutes of the Super Bowl. This is a Volleyball game on a Monday afternoon at 4:00 pm in the alternate gymnasium. This is a Softball game on a dusty field on a Thursday Night. They are just kids having fun. They forget the losses and the wins more quickly than we do.

2. Don't try and relive your glory days through your kids. That's easy for me. I had relatively few bright spots in my athletic career. For others, it is not. They shined and were very successful under the Friday Night Lights or a packed out arena. Your kids are there to have fun. They may far exceed your athletic prowess or they may never measure up. Be there for them and enjoy the moment.

3. Remember, it is just a game. This one is not as easy for me. I am an ultra-competitive person. If there is a winner or loser, I want to win. If I'm playing a game of Monopoly or watching my favorite team play, I want to win. In my mind, the game is the most important thing happening at that moment. It needs to be called fairly and everyone playing to perfection. My greatest regrets coaching sports or being a fan at my daughter's games have been the times I let my competitive drive get the best of me. It usually manifests itself when the game official or umpires make an obvious bad call in a tight game. This point probably would be better written by my wife who reminds me that it is just a game. There is no reason to lose your cool over a missed call by an amateur referee.

4. Be more encouraging than correcting. In Youth Sports, we are dealing with kids who are still learning the basics of the game. They need instruction, but they need more encouragement. Whether you are a fan or coach, encourage twice as much as you instruct. As they mature in their sport, they will need different types of instruction. I would instruct a top High School player differently than a 6 year old who is picking up a bat for the first time. Kids, especially younger kids, need to know that you believe in them. When coaching kids, I opt for the sandwich method by encouraging them, correcting them and then encouraging them. For example, "You fielded the ball great. Next time, watch where you are throwing the ball. Your eyes were looking in the stands when you released the ball. That's why the ball went wide. You can do it! You'll get them next time."

5. Let the coaches coach. There is nothing worse for a coach than a parent trying to coach their kids from the stands. As parents, we are the key influencer in our child's life. Of course, they are going to have their eyes on us when we are yelling instructions to them. The problem is it distracts from what the coach is trying to do. They are thinking of the whole team. Over the years, I have seen multiple coaches try and get the attention of a player who is zoned in on their mom or dad. We all want our kids to be successful. If you desire to help them, spend some time with them in the backyard playing catch. When it comes game time, let the coaches do their job.

6. Don't publicly criticize the coach. You never know who is sitting around you. Remember, the coach may have family (including kids) who are sitting near you. Before kids get to middle school, the coaches are mostly volunteer. The only thing I have ever received as compensation for coaching is a free t-shirt. They are doing it for the love of the game and the love of their kids. If you disagree with the coach on something, talk to him or her in a private setting. I would also suggest not going to them right after the game. Call them up during the week.

7. Never criticize someone else's child. They are kids who are learning the game. They will make mistakes. If you want to pay $150 to buy a ticket to see the Cowboys play, then criticize the players who are making millions. If you are sitting in the bleachers watching 7 years olds play, then don't ever criticize them. They are kids. They are playing to be with their friends and to have fun. Definitely, don't yell at someone else's child. You are not their coach. If you want to coach, then pick up the application for the next season. Otherwise, cheer and encourage. We never know what some of these kids may be dealing with at home and the last thing they need is a random grumpy adult yelling at them or criticizing them because their serve flew into the stands or they weren't in sync with the other cheerleaders.

As parents, coaches and fans, our attitudes and actions can affect our kids and their teams. It is important to remember we are teaching them life lessons by the way we act and react in youth sports. Those lessons will far out last their ability to play the game they love.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Mark of the (Beauty and the) Beast

Who doesn't love Disney World? They have exceptional customer service and the experience is incredible. This summer, our family vacationed at Walt Disney World for the second time. It was an absolute blast! The lengths Disney goes for the customer to have a memorable experience is sensational. Other organizations can learn a thing of two from them. 

One of the changes Disney made since our first trip was the introduction of the MagicBand. The MagicBand is a bracelet (complete with the trademark Mickey ears) for each member of your family. For those staying on Disney property, the MagicBand serves as your room key and tickets to the park. It also is used for your fast passes and dining plan credits. When you have a fast pass scheduled, you walk up to the fast pass line and scan your MagicBand (by touching the Mickey Ears on your band to the Mickey ears on the Kiosk.) When you are ready to eat, you place your order and scan your MagicBand. If you want a souvenir, scan your MagicBand at the gift shop and it charges your purchase back to your room. It was more convenient than the credit card type ticket/room key we had on our previous trip.  

The first time we rode the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a new roller coaster in Magic Kingdom, I noticed a camera flash midway through the ride. This is not uncommon because Disney has several cameras on roller coasters to snap your picture. After we got off the ride, I began to look for the picture kiosk to see what the pictures looked like. There was no kiosk as on the older rides. I left the ride and thought maybe we had missed it somewhere. Later in the day, we were passing by the ride and I asked the cast member (what Disney calls their employees) about the pictures and where could I go to see it. He said it was already on my Disney PhotoPass account. I pulled the PhotoPass account up and there our picture was. Amazing! How did they know which cart we were in?

On our final day, we ate lunch at the Be Our Guest Restaurant inside Beast's castle. The food there is exceptional. You must try the Grey Stuff, but I digress. At lunch time, the Be Our Guest restaurant is a Quick Service restaurant. A Quick Service restaurant is Disney's way of saying "Fast Food." We walked in and placed our order. I touched my MagicBand to the Mickey Ears. The cast member instructed me to find a table and leave my receipt out. Since there were no seats available in the West Wing, we walked through the ballroom to the quiet dining room. After several minutes, a server came by and grabbed the receipt off the table. Then, they immediately gave us our food. I was fully expecting them to get my receipt, go back to the kitchen and bring us our food. No, they had the food with them when they came to get the receipt. I was stunned. I asked "How did you do that?" The server smiled graciously and replied, "Magic!" I smiled back and said, "No, MagicBand." From that point on, I referred to this little technological wonder of a bracelet as the Mark of the (Beauty and the) Beast. 

It truly is amazing technology. Disney knows your whereabouts and how you spend your money. They can even tag your account if you've been kind or rude to a cast member. I left Walt Disney World with a greater sense of what customer service is all about. However, I also left there with a renewed understanding that we are living in the End Times. The technology to pull off End Times events has evaded our world for centuries. I don't think Mickey Mouse or Walt Disney either one is the Antichrist. However, I do believe their technological advances proves our generation can experience the events of Revelation. Is a microchip under the skin or a MagicBand type bracelet the mark of the beast referenced in Revelation 13? I can't answer that nor can anyone claiming to be an expert in eschatology. Only God knows that. I do know we need to leave each day as if this were the last one on earth. That means we love God more than we ever have and we do our best to reach as many people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When you see those little Mickey Ears, I hope you remember Jesus is coming soon and we have a responsibility to fulfill the great commission. I am looking forward to that day. How about you?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How To Be a Low-Maintenance Church Member

Yesterday, we celebrated the life of my Great Aunt Velma Pecht. She was one of a kind with an infectious laugh. As with most celebration of life services, the ministers shared a variety of funny stories, cherished memories and noble qualities of Aunt Velma's life. There was one description in particular that peeked my attention. Aunt Velma and my late Uncle CJ were described as "low-maintenance church members." I listened attentively to hear what this meant. There were several qualities that stood out. 

1. Presence - They were there. They attended regularly and usually sat in the same spot. It is important if you are going to be a part of a church family that you attend regularly. In our hectic culture, it is easy to decide that we need the extra rest and stay home. However, we need each other. We need the encouragement from one another. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray with us. We also need to encourage others and be there for them. 

2. Friendliness - I referenced that Aunt Velma and Uncle CJ sat in the same place. According to their Pastor's wife, they did that strategically. It was a seat on the left side of the sanctuary, three rows from the back and on the aisle. That location allowed them to greet people as they came in and left. A low-maintenance church member reaches out to others and is friendly. Church should be the friendliest place on earth.

3. Givers - A Low-Maintenance Church Member invests into the Kingdom of God. Aunt Velma spent a lifetime investing in the Kingdom. Malachi 3:10 (NLT) states, "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!" The storehouse is your local church. As a member of the church, you should be a faithful giver.

4. Servant - As a member of the church, we should always look to give back as much as we receive. When I talk to pastor friends, the common needs of their churches are more money and more workers. In scripture, the church is referenced as the body of Christ with each part having its responsibility. As a Pastor, my job is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. I can only fulfill that commitment if people are willing to serve. Your Pastor can only fulfill his God-given assignment if you are willing to serve. As a member of the body, you have a part to play and a place to serve. 

As a Pastor, it made me smile to know my aunt and uncle were a blessing to their pastors, their church and the Kingdom of God by being low-maintenance church members who attended regularly, were friendly to others, gave and served. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Talk Now and Later

Parenting is one of the most rewarding, yet difficult tasks. As a parent, my role is to mentor, disciple and train my children. When they were younger, it seemed easier to have those teaching moments. Of course those teaching moments were limited to things like: "Don't put that in the electrical plug!" and "Get that out of your mouth!" Now that they are older, the conversations are shifting to more difficult life topics. How do you handle the difficult subjects, like sex and tragedy?

In his new book, Talk Now and Later, Brian Dollar addresses how to talk to your kids about life's toughest topics. Brian uses his own experiences as a parent and a veteran Kid's Pastor to give valuable insight and wisdom to today's parents. In the book's introduction, he writes, "Don’t wait until something happens in your family to have these conversations. Have them early, have them often, and have them wisely. Then, when a crisis occurs, you have a track record of communication about the topic." Brian addresses how to talk to your kids about:
  • God
  • Death and Tragedy
  • Sex
  • Self-Image
  • Making Wise Choices
  • Divorce
  • Friendships
  • Money
  • Bullying
  • Restoring Broken Relationships
There are a lot of parenting books out there, but very few that deal entirely with communicating with your children. It is such an important and necessary topic. Brian Dollar has written a masterpiece on communicating with your kids. I encourage you to pick up a copy of this new book. It will encourage you and help you. It will also be a resource that you can use for years to come as you continue to lead your kid's through life's difficult moments.

You can order a copy of the book here.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Pastor's Take on the Supreme Court's ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

Today, a landmark ruling came down from the Supreme Court lifting the ban on Same-sex marriage across our nation. You can look at this politically and analyze the federal government imposing its will on the states. That is not my purpose in writing. My purpose is to give a biblical response to the ruling.

Here are some thoughts:

1. Just because I disagree with the ruling doesn't mean I hate those that agree with it. In fact, I genuinely care for you. I care enough to do what the scripture says to do. Ephesians 4 gives me my mandate as a pastor....to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. In Ephesians 4:14-15 (NLT), Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, "Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church."

That is my mandate....to speak God's truth with love. Just because the truth of God's word is different from your belief doesn't mean I hate you. There are a host of people that will resort to name-calling, picketing, belittling and hate. I am not one of those people. As people of Christ, we need to be careful that our speech, tweets and posts are speaking the truth in love.

2. As the church, we cannot expect the government to do our work. The early disciples were looking for Jesus to set up an earthly kingdom. He came to establish an eternal kingdom. You never have nor never will be able to legislate morality. It is not the job of the government, school systems, etc. to disciple our children in the truth of God's word. It is the job of the family and the church. It is time for the church to be what God intended it to be.....a spirit-empowered movement bringing hope to the nations.

3. As believers, we need to be careful not to let culture dictate our convictions. There are many operating under the umbrella of "Christianity" that have strayed from the truth of scripture in the name of "political correctness." There are others who have twisted scripture to support their lifestyle. Today's ruling is about homosexuality, but this principle could be applied to other things as well. Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NLT), "For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths."

4. As the church, we will be persecuted for our beliefs. It is happening already and it will only increase in the days ahead. Paul continued his instruction to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5 (NLT), "But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you." We should not be afraid of the consequences, but carry out the ministry God has for us. Our responsibility is to work at telling others the good news. The good news is Jesus loves you and died for my sins and your sins. He sacrificed His life so we could have eternal life. There are brothers and sisters in Christ around the world that are jailed, beaten, ridiculed, mocked and persecuted for the cause of Christ. We have been blessed in America to not have that mass persecution. However, we need to ready and not afraid of suffering for the Lord.

As the church, we need to spread the message of hope in our communities, country and world. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NLT) states, "Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?" My prayer is the American church would be perceived as a life-giving perfume. To quote DeGarmo & Key, "We gotta job to do. We're runnin' out of time to do it. You got a gift to use. Get out in the world and use it." 

Let's be the church God intended us to be....a spirit-empowered movement bring hope to the world!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Books I Read in May

I wanted to highlight the two books that I read in May. Personal Growth is huge to one's success. One of the ways I choose to grow is through reading.

When Work & Family Collide
by Andy Stanley

This is an updated version of Andy's classic, Choosing to Cheat. In our busy culture, we will have to "cheat" something. We will either have to cheat our families or cheat our employers. Andy is not talking about robbing or stealing from your employer. Neither is he advocating working less than your required time. However, he does suggest that when work and family collide that you don't cheat your family. If you need to change work hours, ask for less responsibility, etc., then do whatever it takes to put your family before your career.

9 Disciplines of Enduring Leadership
by Kent Ingle

In my earlier days, I read a lot of John C. Maxwell books. I still love Maxwell. However, it is refreshing to read a quality leadership book by someone besides him. It gives you fresh insight and illustrations. Ingle has written such a book. This book would be great for new leaders to help them chart the course of their future leadership.  It is also a great reminder for existing leaders to help them stay or get back on the right path.  I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I've fallen and I can get back up

Life is a series of choices.  We all make good and bad choices. When I woke up this morning, I had a series of choices to make. I had to decide I was going to get out of bed. what I was making the girls for lunch, what I was going to wear and whether or not I was going to work out. By our choices, we establish habits. Again, some of our habits are good and others are bad.

There are times when we slip into old ways or fall from making good choices. Maybe you neglect your time with God or you stop exercising and eating right. There are a variety of reasons.  Wait a second! Reasons is just a nice word for excuses. There are a variety of excuses, but we know we have fallen from our previous path.

This is where many buy into the lie. The simple lie that you've fallen and can't get back up. There are some that think God won't love them based on their choice to sin again. There are others who feel disgusted with themselves over poor health choices and think they never can lose the weight or get their strength back.

No matter how far you've fallen from your spiritual or physical goals. YOU CAN GET BACK UP! The last year has been incredible in some aspects of my life. We moved and started a new chapter of our life. With that, I struggled to establish new health habits at my new location. My routine (both exercise and eating) was drastically disrupted. I found myself sitting a few weeks ago disgusted at how far I had fallen. It would have been easy to make excuses, but I knew it was just because of bad choices.

I started thinking back to all the meals that I had ate the previous week. There was not one meal that I was glad I had ate. Sure they provided me nourishment, but I could have made healthier choices. So, I determined from that point on I was going back into what I call "Biggest Winner" mode. It was the mode that help me win two weight loss competitions. I determined to exercise and eat right again. It has been three weeks and I'm still going strong.

Don't let a temporary setback affect your future. It would have been easy for me to continue the path especially with summer coming. Summer is a busy time filled with camps, conferences and vacation. Those are hard places to stay healthy, but I've determined to not let that be an excuse for a lifestyle of bad health choices.

Is there an area where you have slipped up? A relationship? Your Spiritual Walk? Health? Or perhaps something else? Determine today not to let your past mistakes affect your future. You can get back up again!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Books I read in April

Books are a powerful medium to gain knowledge and cause personal growth. I have set a personal challenge to read at least 36 books in addition to my Bible reading in 2015. Here are the books that I read during the month of April.  The first three books are from a growth group for Rural Pastors called the Water Tower Network that I am a part of this year. 

Transforming Church in Rural America 
Transforming Church in Rural America
by Shannon O'dell

In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership
Shannon gives an insightful and passionate plea for ministry in rural communities. This book is both practical and inspirational. Shannon shares his personal story as well as principles he has learned by serving in Rural America. It is a must read if you are a pastor, staff member or church leader in a rural community.

In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership
by Henri J.M. Nouwen

This is the second of Nouwen's books that I have read.  This one had some powerful insights in regards to Christian Leadership. There are books that are easy to read because of writing style. His style is difficult to read at times, but the truths are powerful.  

Date Your Wife
by Justin Buzzard

Buzzard issues an incredible challenge to husbands to not let the pursuit of their spouse stop with the "I do's." He gives principle as well as practical advice to help husbands keep the romance alive in their marriage. I  would recommend this for all husbands.

Thrill Sequence: Living for What Really Matters
by Rob Ketterling

This is the second of Ketterling's books. The first one, Change before you have to, was such an incredible book that really challenged me. For that reason, I had super high expectations for this one. Unfortunately, for me, this book fell short of his first book. It started off slow. However, it did get better as the book went on. If you are struggling with jumping from thrill to thrill, this book is for you.