Every new year, there seems to be a pruning of things that just don’t make the cut to continue as a habit or tool that is effective. Here’s a few things that I picked up or continued in 2018 that have made the jump into the new year.
2. Nate Bagatze – How have I not heard of this guy before 2018?! Absolutely hilarious and very clean comedian. If you like Jim Gaffigan and Brian Reagan, you’ll love Nate. Check him out.
3. HIIT Training – In December, I joined a High Intensity Interval Training Group at our gym. Having been a Crossfitter and 9Rounder in the past, I’ve loved the intensity and brevity of this workout. And I love doing it with a group. 30 minutes – 15+ different exercises – 80%-100% of max heart rate for 20 minutes or more. I’ve lost 15 lbs, and a couple of belt loops. And planning on a triathlon on my 45th birthday in August.
3. Music: Jenny and Tyler – Not sure how I came across their music, but I’m hooked. Very deep and meaningful lyrics. Personal feel. A couple of their songs have been very special to me during deep waters over the last year.
4. The Christian Planner – I developed a reputation a few years ago in my professions circle for being a go to guy for media and technology questions. I’ve even developed and taught courses called Social Media and Ministry and Technology for the Church Office. Well, last year, I made the backwards leap to Paper. Paper Calendar – the giant one that sits on the desk, and Paper Planner. I’ve loved the Christian Planner. Great crowd funded story from a veteran turned entrepreneur. Very user friendly, simple, and always fun to open.
5. Podcast: The World and Everything In It – The best source of daily news from a Christian perspective, in a 25 minute, engaging format. I never miss a day. Looking for a Christian news source with positive voices. Check it out on Itunes or wherever you get your podcast.
6. Book: How to Read the Bible Book by Book – I talk about this book a lot. It’s my favorite “Read along” with my daily Bible Reading plan. It summarizes every book of the Bible, so as you read along and feel a little lost in the geography or history of the Biblical narrative, the summary in this book can get you back in the know, so you can hear from God. It’s not the only one. Any Bible Handbook will do the same, but I love this one. Check it out.
7. Youversion.com / The Bible App – I’m hooked on this app for Bible Reading, sharing Bible verses, and now our church uses the Events page for sermon notes. Check it out if you haven’t already. And when you do, let’s be friends.
8. Feedly.com – for staying up to date on news and blogs on all my favorite topics, which include theology, gardening, hunting, church, technology, marriage, parenting, etc. Great place for consolidating the things that you want to see everyday from around the internet.
9. YNAB – This will be our 6th year as YNAB’ers. Love this budgeting tool and App, that helps us keep up with our money and spending. I like what I see from Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar as well, but we were YNAB’ers before that, so we’re hooked and not going anywhere. If you’re looking for a budgeting and expense tracking tool, check out YNAB. And I’ve enjoyed the YNAB Podcast this year as well.
What making life easier for you? Don’t be stingy. Please share.
It is an understatement to say that prayer was an important part of the life of Jesus. It is also an understatement to say, if it was important to him, how much more should it be to us. During our churches 40 Days of Prayer journey this year, I’ve spent some time exploring the prayers of Jesus. A simple rhythm emerged that’s worth emulating.
1. Jesus prayed ALONE.
“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” Luke 5:16
For the believer, private prayer is essential to power and essential to demonstrating to God our faith in him. If you don’t really believe in God’s promises to hear and answer prayer, you’ll never go to your private room or prayer closet, shut the door and with no one looking, seek God for power or for people (Matthew 6:6). Jesus spent considerable time alone with God. So should we.
What is your plan to pray ALONE? Where is your PLACE of private prayer?
2. Jesus prayed WITH OTHERS.
“he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.” Luke 9:28
Jesus had a small group of disciples that he did life with 24/7. He also had an inner circle of his closest friends that he gathered for special seasons of prayer and connection with God. Jesus promised special power to those who pray in agreement with others (Matthew 18:19-20), and he practiced this, by praying with others regularly throughout his ministry.
What is your plan to pray WITH OTHERS? Do you have a small group of friends that you pray with? Do you have prayer partners who pray for you regularly? Are you a faithful, praying friend to others in your life?
3. Jesus prayed FOR OTHERS.
“people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them” Matthew 19:13
Jesus talked to God about men along with talking to men about God. In Matthew 19, we see Jesus praying for children brought to him. Jesus prayed for his followers, including us future believers in John 17. The Bible even says that he intercedes for us still today (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Paul, commends intercession, or praying for others, as a top priority for believers, urging prayer for everyone, including those in authority (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
What is your plan to pray FOR OTHERS? What people do you pray for by name everyday? How are you making intercession a part of your life of prayer?
4. Jesus prayed STRENUOUSLY.
“Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 6:12
We see Jesus, taking prayer to another level throughout his life and ministry by spending nights in prayer to the Father. He began his ministry with 40 days of fasting and prayer. We see a rhythm in the life of Christ of him exerting himself with greater intensity in prayer.
When was the last time, you took your prayer life seriously and strenuously for a season? Could you see yourself doing an annual fast? Could you see yourself doing an annual retreat where you focused on God and God’s desire for an area of your life or a person or persons in your life?
A simple rhythm of prayer: Pray Alone – Pray With Others – Pray For Others – Pray Strenuously.
Next Steps / To Do’s:
- Schedule time alone with God at least 3 times this week. Find a place of connection with God in your home or in nature.
- Join a group at a local church or start a group in your home or at your work, that is committed to praying for each other.
- Make a list of people to pray for everyday. Your family, your church, your coworkers, your neighbors. Check out the Prayer Card app to help with organizing your prayer list.
- Look at your annual calendar and plan an overnight prayer retreat or a season of fasting and prayer this year. More about fasting HERE.
“Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 7:2,3
The Disciple of Christ must make the Word of God his constant companion. We do this through reading, studying, committing to memory, meditating on, and applying God’s Word EVERYDAY. Over the last six months, I’ve reinvigorated my MEMORIZING OF and MEDITATING ON the Word of God using the Bible Memory App. See my post on Cultivating the Habit of Scripture Memory for more about my journey.
Why is Memorizing Scripture an important Discipline for a Follower of Christ? Here are 4 Reasons:
1. IT WILL HELP ME DEAL WITH TEMPTATION. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119:9-11. Jesus used memorized scripture to defeat the temptations of Satan himself. If he used it, how much more do you and I need scripture stored away as a weapon against temptation.
2. IT WILL HELP ME MAKE WISE DECISIONS. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” Psalm 119:105. The principles and promises of the Word of God give clear directions for decision making and facing the crossroads in life.
3. IT WILL COMFORT ME WHEN I’M STRUGGLING. “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16. My journey began during one of life’s rough patches, that I longed to have the promises of God nearer to my heart. What do you have in your mind to challenge the minds, the world’s, the devils wrong perceptions of events in life. The Word of God is a perfect remedy.
4. IT WILL HELP ME WITNESS TO UNBELIEVERS. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15. God promises to use His word in the transformation of peoples lives (Hebrews 4:13; Isaiah 55:11). I struggle with persuasion and to know what to say. Memorizing Scripture helps me in responding to questions and objections. The Word of God is the best witnessing tool we have as disciples of christ.
How do I Memorize a Verse?
Here is the process I started with in my collegiate years:
1. Pick a verse that is meaningful to you.
2. Say the reference at the start and end.
3. Say it aloud.
4. Break the verse into natural phrases.
5. Write the verse on and index card.
6. Display in prominent places (mirror, computer, dashboard, etc.)
7. Always memorize word perfect.
8. Put verse to music.
9. Get a partner for accountability.
10. Start one or two verses a week.
Now, technology helps us do all of this. I’ve found the Bible Memory App to provide a great process and system to commit verses to memory on an even a more regular basis.
When do I memorize a verse?
- During your time alone with God. Hopefully you’re spending a daily time with God. If not, start that now. Then verses to memorize will present themselves as you read and study God’s Word. Get our booklet How to Get a Grip on the Bible for help in getting started with a Daily Time with God.
The Key to Memorizing anything for most people is repetition and review. So to memorize scripture, you need a plan and time to review. That’s where the Bible Memory App or other Apps can help. The app lays out a review schedule for each verse and most people have their phone with them at all times.
- When you are waiting. Just think of all the moments that you currently scroll social media. What if you just turned half of that time into reviewing the eternal, life changing Word of God? I review my verses anytime I’m waiting or sitting, during commercials, and then immediately when I wake up and before I go to bed, I’m sure to review two verses.
You have the time. You have the technology. You need the wisdom and spiritual ammo. Get started today and begin hiding and treasuring the word of God for yourself.
See my post Cultivating the Habit of Scripture Memory on how to get started with the Bible Memory App.
The brain is an amazing organ. It’s ability to catalog information for the future, to block out traumatic events, to recognize things and places, and so much more is an incredible aspect of our wondrous and remarkable creation (Psalm 139:13-14). I believe that we utilize an incredibly small portion of what the brain is capable of. Taking the easy way out through amusement or observing other peoples smarts is the rule of the day. God calls us to engage our faith fully with our minds. We’re called to read (Revelations 1:3), study (2 Timothy 2:15), meditate on (Psalm 1:1-2), memorize (Psalm 119:9-11), and apply the word of God to our lives (James 1:22). We’re promised the brain hacks of wisdom, insight, knowledge, discernment (Proverbs 2:1-10) as gifts of God to aid our lives and our learnings.
So how are you engaging your mind through spiritual disciplines and habits?
In 2018, I re-established the habit of scripture memory. I had picked up the habit during my collegiate years through the influence of the Navigators and use of their Topical Memory System. Since 2002-2003 this habit was sporadic. In 2018, after going through one of life’s rough patches and longing for the promises of God to be nearer to my heart and mind, I downloaded a few Bible Memory Apps to try out. I landed on the Scripture Typer App, now called the Bible Memory App and after 7 months, I have mastered 430 verses. The Bible Memory App provides a great system to start and maintain the regular habit of memorizing and reviewing scripture. The key to memory for most people is repitition and review. With the Bible Memory App, you progress through verses by reviewing and as you review verses correctly, through typing the first letter of each word in a verse, your review schedule for each verse lengthens. So now, with 430 verses mastered, I’m still only reviewing 25-30 verses each day, spending 10-30 minutes each day in scripture memory.
Where did I find the time? I’ve pretty much replaced 75% of the time I spent on Social Media and other quite meaningless web surfing with this habit. I feel much better about myself. My faith is strengthening. Scripture memory improves your preaching and teaching, if you do that regularly, which I do. Besides the spiritual benefits, Scripture memory is also a habit and memory exercise that if maintained can keep the brain sharp as you age, potentially warding off dementia and cognitive decline.
Let me encourage you to try this Biblical injunction out and develop it into a habit. You will not regret it. If you use the Bible Memory App, here’s how I would get started:
- Download the App, open and account, find the Verse Library and start with the Group of Verses called “Verses for Children.” About 20 verses that are short, familiar, foundational.
- After that, move to the Group “Top 100 Verses.” Another great group of verses that are short, familiar, foundational.
- After that, pick another verse library category that speaks to where you are in life. Or, you can search for a group that you would like to connect with. I started with the Topical Memory System Group, because those verses were familiar to me. Right now, I have a group that is trying to memorize every YouVersion.com “Verse of the Day.” Find the group HERE.
- Put together a group with your Small Group, family, accountability partner, or for your church.
There are other apps and tools out there. Which one have you found helpful?
You can do this. Yes, you’ve got the time. You need this habit. Now, it’s not something we HAVE TO DO, as believers. It is something WE GET TO DO. Hiding God’s word in your heart is a privilege, given to us by God.
Tomorrow – Why and How to Memorize Scripture?
The Bible is full of resolutions. Our reading of the Bible should be to see the gaps between ourselves and God’s will and close that gap with resolve. The difference between worldly resolution and Biblical resolution is that as believers we have the promise of God’s presence with us to empower and encourage us as we resolve to walk with him. So let’s be resolute in 2019. Here are four Biblical Resolutions in way of reminder and challenge.
1. Devote yourselves to Prayer… Colossians 4:2
Prayer works every time it is tried. God promises to hear and to answer the praying believer, who prays in faith (Matthew 7:7; James 1:5-8; 1 John 5:14-15). Resolve to be a person of prayer in 2019.
- Set your alarm for 10:02am as a reminder to pray for your church and for more laborers for God’s mission (see Luke 10:2).
- Get your church’s directory and pray for one page per day.
- Sign up for Daily Prayer List of the International Mission Board
- Sign up for BlessEveryHome.com and pray for your neighbors everyday
2. Every man mature in Christ – Colossians 1:28-29
The resolve of the apostle Paul was to move EVERY PERSON in his sphere of influence closer to Christ. What a resolution!? Our influence as believers is currently limited by our vision and our lips. Resolve to see every person in relation to eternity and communicate God’s Gospel truth in practical ways in 2019.
- Pick up or make invites to your church to hand out around town.
- Ask God for divine opportunities and commit to share the gospel on a daily or weekly basis.
- Make a list of lost friends, relatives, coworkers, and neighbors to pray for everyday.
- Pick up a book or study on sharing the faith and read to get equipped. Let me suggest: Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations by Jimmy Scroggins, Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out by Alvin Reid, or Tell Someone by Greg Laurie.
3. Exercise is of some value – 1 Timothy 4:8
In most of us, a new year brings a desire to make changes. Gym memberships increase by about 12% every January. While we do not all need to be Iron Men, we should recognize the secondary value (next to godliness) of maintaining and/or improving our physical condition as a steward of God and faithful witness until our last breath. Resolve to improve and/or maintain your physical condition for stewardship and witness in 2019.
- Walk. This is a great way to combine #1, #2, and #3. Walk your neighborhood and pray for each home and look for opportunities to build new relationships.
- Try a 21 Day Fast as a way to reset your prayer life and dietary life.
- Join a gym and/or fitness class as a way to get in better condition and build new relationships in the community.
4. We will tell the next generation – Psalm 78:4
The next generation is to be a priority for disciples of Christ (Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Psalm 78:1-4). Parents and Grandparents have a built in reminder of their duty and priority. But we mustn’t stop there. With Christianity in decline, we need all hands on deck to make sure every child hears of God’s love in Christ for them. Resolve to pass on your faith to someone younger than you in 2019.
- If you’re a parent, commit to a family meal time each week where you share a devotional and pray for and with one another.
- Sign up to volunteer in the children’s ministry of a local church.
- Look for opportunities to volunteer at a local school or mentoring program.
- Ask God to show you a child at your church or in your neighborhood that needs an encouraging word.
What are some other Biblical Resolutions that we can resolve to pursue in 2019?
This year our church partnered with a couple of great organizations for Christmas On Mission Projects:
1. The Kids In Transition (KIT) Program through our local schools. KIT as the program is called helps teens who are in substandard or transitional housing. Another term is “couch surfer.” A teen without a permanent address. It also covers teens who find themselves in other situations such as teen pregnancy or fleeing from an abusive parent. We were able to fill a few wishes for some of the kids in this program. Find out more info HERE.
2. James Storehouse and Louisiana Dept of Child and Family Services. James Storehouse is a Non-Profit that mobilizes resources for foster children and families associated with foster care and adoption. Kim Bigler founded and directed the Storehouse with a lot of enthusiasm. They have many volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Bridge Church was able to provide a breakfast at their new facility on Hwy 21 in Covington for the staff of our local DCFS office.
The DCFS staff does amazing work for our community. This year alone, 192 kids were adopted through our local Covington office! Also, 107 kids were placed in a foster care home and 165 homes were certified as foster care providers. STILL MORE ARE NEEDED!
Incredible people doing hard work for the neediest among us. Praying for these and others on the front lines of need in our communities.
One of the most significant and unsung verses in the Christmas Story and maybe in the New Testament is Luke 1:11.
An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.Luke 1:11 Christian Standard Bible
This is the moment that God broke through after 400 years of silence, after allowing the rampaging and devastation and defeat of His chosen people, and after allowing Judaism to become a ritualistic shell of itself. God broke through. God spoke. God set in course the events that would bring salvation to all the world in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The before and after of this verse goes like this: An aging Priest named Zechariah got the opportunity of a lifetime to offer incense in the Temple’s sanctuary. He and his wife Elizabeth, who was never able to have children, and now was well along in years, made arrangements to fulfill this obligation. As he offered incense, God reached down and spoke. Unexpected events, unexpected people involved, unexpected announcement that Elizabeth would have a baby. That baby would become the way-preparer for the Messiah, John the Baptist.
This is the moment where God initiated the keeping of His Promises and Securing the Hope of all who believe. This is the moment that those caught up in this story saw their Hope Restored. What does Restored Hope look like? For Zechariah and Elizabeth and that group of ordinaries that surrounded them on this day, it looked like this:
The Pathway to Hope Again:
1. Recognition that God’s Word is still true. The prophecy of the coming Messiah and the Way-Preparer IS TRUE! And in the coming days, 100’s of other prophecies would be fulfilled in the coming of Christ. For Zechariah, this was no longer just stale religious ritual, but a dynamic voice, capable of restoring hope and bringing change.
2. Recognition that God can still use even me. The sun was seemingly setting on Zechariah’s life and ministry, but God broke through and gave he and Elizabeth a place of prominence in the Gospel story. God is never finished. He gets the last word on our significance.
3. Recognition that God can still accomplish the impossible. Elizabeth’s barren womb and old age, would be no obstacle to God’s will and God’s promise being kept. Neither will any obstacle that we face in life and leadership. Nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37) will be a core belief of the hope-filled believers.
Maybe this Christmas, you find yourself with lost hope or deferred hope (Proverbs 29:13). Ask God to breakthrough again with these three truths. You can Hope Again. His Word is True. He’s not finished with you. He’s still doing the impossible. Hope Again. Believe Again.
Father, restore our hope through demonstrating the truth of Your Word. Show us that we are your instruments until the day we die. Open our eyes to see the possibilities of your power and your promise.
Join Bridge Church, Sunday’s at 10am at Hollywood Theater in Covington to discover more great truths from the story of Christmas.
Louisiana Baptists have planted 22 Churches so far in 2018.
- 6 in North Louisiana, 16 in South Louisiana
- 6 in New Orleans
- 13 non-Anglo. 8 African-American, 3 Hispanic, 1 Asian, 1 Multi-Ethnic
- 234 Churches Planted
- 56 in north Louisiana, 178 in south Louisiana
- 61 in New Orleans
- 128 non-Anglo. 70 African-American, 31 Hispanic, 10 Asian, 17 Other
Our goals have been to plant 300 churches by 2020; to plant more in south Louisiana where 70% of the population lives; at least 20% of plants in New Orleans where 20% of our population lives; and to plant more non-Anglo churches, increasing the diversity in Louisiana Baptist life.
- Since 2010, Church Plants have reported 13,208 Professions of Faith and 3,536 Baptisms. Church Planting continues to be one of the best ways to evangelize communities.
- Since 2010, churches have been planted in 100 of Louisiana’s 304 cities and towns and 41 of Louisiana’s 64 Parishes.
- Now, RePlanting is ramping up, with 25% of last years new works being replants and 40% this year.
66 churches away from our 2020 goal of 300. With each new church comes new brothers and sisters in Christ, new fronts on meeting real needs in communities, and more glory for our great God as the gospel bears its fruit across Louisiana.
You can be a part:
I’ve heard this one for years when church planting comes up among pastors. A couple of responses:
1. Who said we’re trying to plant small churches? That’s never the goal. The goal is to reach people for Christ. Church Planting is one of the means. God, the context, the partners, and a lot of other things often determines the size of the church. If you don’t want to see another small church, get involved and help us plant a big one!
2. This may say more about your vision and belief in God’s ability than the local church planting strategy. In every apple is an orchard. In every believer is a potential to reach more. In every group of believers, no matter how small is the potential for a movement. Let’s believe God for bigger things.
3. “We don’t need another small church…” Unless your lost and on your way to hell. Then you need a small church, medium size church, mega church, or whatever kind of church to come and get you and share the good news of God’s grace and salvation! Let’s not forget that this is about heaven and hell, not our own ego or discomfort.
4. And remember, God has no small churches and no big pastors. God doesn’t show favoritism (James 2:9). God doesn’t see as man sees (1 Samuel 16:7). The kingdom is upside down – to be great, be a servant; to be first, go last; to live, you’ve got to die. Can’t you imagine with me that the God that governs an upside down kingdom values and cheers on the small church as much as the big church?
Church Planting is a great means of evangelizing and discipling a community. Until every person is reached, let’s strive to do everything possible to reach them. Including planting small churches, big churches, and all kinds of other churches to see the kingdom come as earth as it is in heaven. And today, every church can get involved in church planting, church replanting, multi-site development. Pick your pleasure and lets reach people for Christ.
“The Gospel came to you because it was heading to someone else. God never intended for your salvation to be an end, but a beginning. God saved you to be a conduit through whom His glorious, life changing gospel would flow to others. You are a link in a chain….”
Robby Gallaty, in Growing Up: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes Disciples