The Man Comes Around

Easter 2015 – Jennifer tells me that she has a gift for me for Easter.  I was mad because we didn’t have the money for any gifts.  I had no idea what was coming next.  She hands me the pregnancy test with neither of us knowing how to respond.  I was devastated.

It was just a few weeks ago that we had agreed the worst thing that could happen to us was a baby.  That probably sounds terrible to you, but you have to understand what was happening.  We were in between ministries with no income.  Our health insurance was going to run out in just a few months.  If something didn’t change soon we were going to have to move in with Jennifer’s parents (which we did).

Gwinnett Church had an amazing service that Easter morning, but I think both of our minds were on the news of our new baby.  We talked, prayed, cried, and tried to make sense of it all.  Slowly we were becoming excited about the baby, but we had no idea how we would survive the next several month.

We also had no idea how to  tell people that Jennifer was pregnant.  Everyone acted excited, but I’m sure they were concerned for us.  How many people go their entire pregnancy with no steady income?

I like control.  Actually I love control.  Our lives was suddenly completely out of control.  We were having to walk by faith in a way that most people don’t have to.  We had ‘real’ problems.

We began to fight to get government insurance and then the fight to actually use the government insurance.  We had no idea but Jennifer being pregnant made this process much easier and helped to provide insurance for her.  The fight to use the insurance is sometimes worse than the fight to get it.  We had a wonderful friend that was a nurse at an OBGYN practice.  Because Jen had switched to their practice they agreed to take the insurance.

I remember that sweet nurse saying this is going to be the best thing that could happen to you.  I thought she was crazy.  What she meant was that the insurance would cover everything (which it did).

The doctor told us that the baby would be due near Thanksgiving.  Such irony this baby would be born when we focus on being thankful.

We had a lot of heartbreak on the job end, but I learned how to sell on eBay.  God provided every step of the way.  We went that entire pregnancy with no income, but every bill was paid on time!  I still don’t know how it worked out, but the Lord provided.

When we found out the baby was a boy we became even more excited.  We were going to get to use the name that we had chosen years ago: Cash River.  Cash is named after Johnny Cash.  When Johnny Cash became a Christian his life was radically changed.  Instead of living his life in a Christian bubble, he chose to live it in the real world.  Several people followed Jesus because of Johnny’s influence.  My life was changed by my youth pastor – Scott Carter – who is a part of Cash’s family.

Everything worked out for the best.  Jennifer received the best hospital care she had ever had at Gwinnett Medical.  Cash was healthy and a wonderful blessing.  We owe nothing from his birth or hospital stay.  The Lord provided through it all.

You can do a thousand bible studies on faith, but nothing is like having to walk in faith that God is in control and He will provide.  Faith is experiential and cannot be learned through a class or study.  Our faith in the Lord is much greater today because of the way God chose to give us Cash River.

Thankful for Connect

 

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I was being interviewed for a position with a church in Indianapolis a couple of years ago.  The pastor reviewed my resume and asked a unique question.

“Which of the churches you have worked for best represent who you are”

“None of them really” – Me

“Really?  You’ve spent your whole life working for churches that are not like you?  That is sad” – Pastor

I don’t think you are suppose to have a major life crisis during a Skype interview, but I was having one.  I remember just wanting to shut the computer and stare at the wall.  I finished the interview knowing that his question was more important than the position they were trying to fill.

Honestly I never thought I would be at a church that would line up with who I am.  My values, ideology, philosophy, etc.  Considering all mainline denominations are dying,  I always thought I would be working in churches different than me trying to helping them transition into reaching their community- with probably little success.

I am so thankful for Connect Christian Church.  They were an answer to our prayers.  Connect has been a blessing for our family.  We have seen God work in an amazing way in just 4 months.

The reason is that who I am and who Connect is – fits.  In every way Connect is a representation of what I believe church should be.  Instead of fighting silly battles, we are working toward reaching our community for Jesus.  Connect has made drastic changes in 3 years all to help reach those don’t have a relationship with Christ.  I believe our area would miss Connect if we didn’t exist.

I’m thankful for our Connect family.

Thankful for Seasons of Growth

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I have always disliked the statement that ‘all healthy things grow’.  I typically hear this statement in churches that are struggling to grow.  People who say this usually mean well, but it puts undo pressure on staff.  My belief is that when a leader says this it means we need to do something to grow or ….else.  I think I dislike it because of the condemnation and guilt behind the saying when I’ve heard it.  If your ministry/church isn’t growing then you are unhealthy and you’d better fix that now.

Maybe there is a better way to look at church, life, and ministries.

It is freezing here in Cincinnati and all of the plant life is dying for the season.  Those same plants will bloom in the spring and thrive during the summer.  Many will die during the fall and all will be gone by winter.

Those plants are going through seasons.  In some seasons they will be beautiful.  In other seasons they will struggle.  In some seasons they will need more help than others.

There is no perfect quote or illustration, but I think it is better said that healthy things have seasons.  People go through seasons of pain, depression, happiness, transition, etc.  Churches go through seasons of loss, growth, decrease, etc.  The season you are in doesn’t last forever.  Many times it leads to a better season.

Right now our ministry and church is seeing a tremendous season of growth so it is easy to write this.  I am very thankful to be a part of such a wonderful church and growing ministry.  I’ve been in just about every season you can imagine in ministry.  I’ve seen churches go through tremendous pain.  One time I told a church no on becoming their student pastor because I felt that they were not working toward healing.  A season of healing is vital if you want to have a season of growth.

This week of Thanksgiving I’m thankful for seasons in life.  I learn the most during the worst seasons.  I enjoy the seasons of growth.  The Lord uses all of them for His purposes in our lives.

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

 

Turning 5 years old

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My older daughter turns 5 years old today

In 5 years she has:

  • lived in 3 states (Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio)
  • lived in 4 cities (Richmond, Snellville, Covington, and Cincinnati)
  • been to 2 MLB ballparks – Nationals and Braves
  • been to around 15 MLb games
  • Been to 1 NBA game – Wizards vs. Pistons in DC
  • flown in an airplane 7 times
  • been in 3 preschools
  • had 2 concussions (likes to climb too much)
  • seen 4 movies in a theater (Muppets, Finding Dory, Jungle Book, and Secret Life of Pets)
  • involved with 5 churches (Swift Creek Baptist, Mount Zion, Gwinnett Church, Zion Baptist, and Connect Christian Church)
  • played lasertag, bowling, all kind of arcade games, inflatables and trampoline parks
  • played hide and seek in the Braves Hall of Fame and Museum.
  • been all over Turner Field.
  • prayed some BIG prayers
  • been to every church event you can think of
  • been loved by many people

Happy Birthday to my big girl

How to Make America Great Again

Donald Trump’s political slogan of “Make America Great Again” will go down as one of the greatest political statements in history.  A person who many thought wouldn’t make the top 5 candidates in his party rode that slogan all the way to the nomination.  The statement is clear, memorable, and promises absolutely nothing.  I’m not sure that even he knows what it means.

What does it mean to make America Great Again?  Are going back to Mayberry days?  I hope not because I’m pretty sure Sheriff Taylor didn’t even have WiFi.  Does it mean we will go back to a time where people respected each other more?  I hope so, but I don’t think a politician can make those changes.

While I think we would debate what it means to make this country great again (or greater than it is) – I believe most of us want to see a higher sense of morality, respect, and caring for others.  We want our hurting and downtrodden citizens to be loved.  We want everyone to have an opportunity at success.

The fight for a great country doesn’t start with the White House or getting a more conservative Supreme Court – it starts at home.  It start with you.

The best gift you can give your spouse is an emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy you.

The best gift we can give our kids is a healthy, loving marriage.

The best gift we can give our churches are healthy families that are following the Lord.

The best gift we can give our communities are healthy churches seeking to show the love of Jesus.

The best gift we can give our states are healthy communities of people caring and looking out for each other.  Full of people who have heard and seen the gospel demonstrated from believers.

This will show the world real change.  Change that didn’t come about because of a law, but because of our obedience to God’s word.

It starts with YOU not with Donald Trump.

It start at HOME not in a courtroom.

 

My Moment with Pat

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I loved trick or treating on Halloween.  You can probably guess that I’m a fan of candy.  There was one really nice house that we would trick or treat at every year.  They had the best candy and full size candy bars – not just the fun sized!  They were the nicest people and we enjoyed our time at their home every year.  I later come to understand that those nice people were Pat Summitt’s in-laws.

People outside of East Tennessee probably don’t know that Pat’s ex-husband owned a bank in Sevierville.  She wasn’t around Sevierville as much as RB and his parents, but she would make some appearances.  One time I met with Pat at her book signing at the bank.  I remember her to be intense (even at a book signing) but very gracious.

I asked Pat about speaking on the subject of leadership.  We talked a little about her faith and I encouraged her to get involved in conferences and events.  Who would be better to speak to students on leadership and discipline than Pat Summitt.  She signed my book and wrote down her phone number and told me that if I ever needed a speaker for an event give her a call.  I was very impressed with her and amazed that she would give me her number even though it never worked out.  She was a gracious person and a wonderful lady.

The Big Ask

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A few years ago The CW was casting the part of Ra’s Al Guhl for the show Arrow.  The character of Ra’s was famously played by Liam Neeson in the movie, “Batman Begins.  Mostly fans loved Neeson as the character.  When asked if he would like to reprise his role as Al Guhl on the show Arrow, he said yes.  The problem:  they already cast the role.  Nobody thought they could possibly get the huge star to come to a television role!  What if they had asked earlier enough for him to say yes.  Huge ratings!  Great publicity.  Lots of momentum.  (Yes Batman fans I realize there are reports that he was asked and they couldn’t work things out.  Nobody knows if or when that happened)

I’ve set in countless staff meetings and event meetings working on church related activities.  Something that always bothers me is the unwillingness of leaders to think big, plan big, and ask for big things.  What if this year we did ________________________?!?  What if we asked ___________________________ to be a part of the Fall Festival?  What if we didn’t do ________________________ and instead put our resources into __________________________________?

Are we too busy to make big changes?  Sometimes.  Mainly I think we are too scared of failure and reaction of people if we actually did something different.

A little cost-benefit analysis on dreaming big and asking for big things:  Cost- time, energy, and maybe a little money.  Benefit – momentum, excitement, more energy, impact, salvations, baptisms, growth, etc.

What if for this summer and fall instead of just doing what you did in 2015, 2014, 2013, 1998, 1987, etc you began to think and pray about doing something different?  God might led you to do something that would impact hundreds or thousands of lives.  Begin to think, research, ask, and pray about what the church could do.  You will fail some, but those sweet victories would not have happened otherwise.

Make a call you think probably doesn’t have a chance.

Send an email that might not get anywhere.

Have a meeting that might not produce the event you want.

HOWEVER it just might work!  Think of what will happen then.