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.