Category Archives: Reflecting
2020 – A Year of Loss
The first quarter of 2021, has been one of reflection. Man! Aren’t we feeling a little better about the world?! A little. Lol. 2020 was a tough year to say the least. For our family it not only included experiencing the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic – shut downs, separation from friends and family, uncertainty about the future, etc. – but also five hurricanes in Louisiana which took me away from home for a lot of nights August – October, as I joined the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response as an Incident Manager.
I also experienced several losses to my network of relationships that I never really stopped to grieve properly or pay tribute. In the last 13 months, four people have passed away that had significant impact on my life. Over the next few weeks, I want to share the short story of these four people here.
Most Read Articles of 2020
In the midst of a lot of brain fog moments, I did manage to get a little writing and research done in 2020. 55 articles worth. More than I expected. Here are the top 10 most read, shared, etc. from these contributions. Thank you for following, reading, sharing, and encouraging me on my journey as a disciple this year. I’ve got a few drafts ready for 2021. Hope we can all bear fruit that remains in this new year.
- Dealing With Rejection in Ministry – LINK – “There is too much at stake to allow the rejection of a few to keep you from pursuing the high call of God to reach the world. Break free from the fear and the pain of rejection.”
- Covid-19 as an Acts 8:1 Moment for the Church – LINK – “God always wanted the message and the people dispersed and scattered. Persecution was the scattering agent that led to exponential growth. Could Covid-19 serve as a 21st century scattering agent?”
- Lost in Louisiana – LINK – “a compilation of Parish by Parish data that shows how many are potentially lost, how many evangelicals there are, and how many attend southern baptist churches across Louisiana.”
- Would Jesus Wear a Mask? – LINK – “What does it say about my heart if wearing a mask or not wearing a mask is of greater concern and riles more passion in me than the lostness and brokenness of people in the world?”
- Giving When the Church Can’t Gather – LINK – “There are at least five ways for people to be regular, sacrificial, and cheerful givers to your church, no matter what.”
- Lost in Louisiana’s Metros – LINK – “Louisiana has nine Metropolitan Statistical areas, which includes all of our major cities and 34 of our 64 parishes. 82% of the population of Louisiana lives in one of these Metro areas. So how are we doing at reaching Louisiana’s Metros?”
- Mobilizing Prayer with a Prayer Calendar – LINK – “If we want to make disciples, we must do what Jesus did, and he prayed regularly and consistently. Go beyond encouraging prayer. Mobilize prayer and expand the kingdom as Jesus did.”
- It’s Time to Think Outward about Kids Ministry – LINK – “93% of kids do not go to anyone’s church. How can we get the gospel to them?“
- If it’s Safe – LINK – “How tied is your faith to safety? Have you said no to an opportunity or a side of town because of the idol and illusion of safety? Is your faith in God lived out only in safe, comfortable environments where you’re never challenged, never have to sacrifice, never have to stress over the needs of others?”
- The Father’s Heart for the Lost – LINK – “Who’s the one that I’m going after right now? Do I celebrate one sinner’s repentance or only the crowds faithful participation?”
Getting Healthy Again
Last November, I decided it was time to get healthy again. I was heavy, tired, stressed, near burn out. I was coming out of one of life’s rough patches and made the decision to come out stronger. Since then, I’ve lost 30 pounds, I’ve drastically improved my cardio fitness, I’ve established 5 to 6 days per week of intense exercise, and I’ve memorized over 800 Bible verses (health is much more than physical. It’s spiritual first).
A few habits and tools I’ve added to make progress with my health;
- Intermittent Fasting. For six months, I utilized the 16:8 Fasting Plan. The plan is to do all your eating within an 8 hour period and fast for the other 16. This helped me get out of the habit of snacking, which pours on the pounds and get my calorie intake under control. I utilized the Life App for tracking.
- High Intensity Interval Training. I joined a HIIT class at my gym called Zone 30. It’s a heart rate monitored class that last for 30 minutes and utilizes dozens of exercises to get your heart rate up and work lots of muscle groups. Every class burns 400+ calories. Feels great! It’s always something different, so you never get bored. Seems like a lot of gyms have a HIIT option. There’s also Crossfit and other intense exercise based gyms and programs. And there are a lot of Apps that give you HIIT workouts to do at home.
- Running 15-20 miles per week. I utilized the Couch to 10k plan to get ready for the Crescent City Classic 10k, then jumped to the Half Marathon Trainer. I’m now running 4 days per week and looking forward to my first Half Marathon in years this October.
- Setting some goals – weight loss goal of 25 lbs. Also, put a few races on the calendar, including the Crescent City Classic 10k first, then the Tarpon Triathlon on August 3rd, and the Jazz Half Marathon coming up in October.
- Daily Scripture Memory. I typically follow a Read the Bible in a Year plan, and spend 20-30 minutes reading and journaling through the scriptures daily. This year, I’ve upped the intensity of my devotional life with Scripture Memory. I gave myself the challenge of memorizing every Verse of the Day from the Bible App or Youversion.com in 2019, utilizing the Bible Memory App. We saturate our minds with so much junk. I wanted to get intentional with what I saturate my mind with. The Bible Memory App helps me memorize, then review verses to mastery. I review about 30 verses a day, mostly just in the spare moments of waiting. Get some ideas on how to get started with the Bible Memory App here.
- Get rid of some things. I also turned off Social Media notifications, deleted Facebook and Twitter Apps, and replaced much of the time spent on those diminishing influences with exercise and Scripture Memory.
Where did I find the time? It wasn’t that hard, after turning off some non-beneficial habits. Thankful for the opportunity and the grace from God to get healthy again.
A few books and resources that have helped and inspired me on this recent journey:
- David Goggins’ book Can’t Hurt Me.
- Rich Roll’s book Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself
- Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt
- The E-Book Right-Side Up Leader: Choosing Health in the Age of Impact by Alan Briggs. “Health before impact!” was a great challenge from Alan and this book.
- Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences by Carey Nieuhof.
What tools, apps, books have been helpful for you in getting or staying healthy? Are you near burnt out? Overloaded? Message me and allow me to pray for you and assure you that things can change.
9 Things Making Life Easier in the New Year
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.
1. The Bible Memory App – I’ve loved incorporating this app into my devotional life. Written about it already Here and Here.
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.
When You’re Out of Gas
I experienced a first this week. I ran out of gas in my vehicle while driving on the Interstate. Having never ran out of gas, I was thankful for a few things:
- I had a friend with me. Carlos Schmidt was with me to experience the emotions of the moment (laughter) and help me brainstorm next steps. My friend walked with me and told me about similar experiences he and others had along the way.
- I wasn’t far from a Gas station. I was a short 1/2 mile walk from the nearest gas station, so I didn’t have to call and wait for my insurances road side assistance or some other service to get some help. Replenishment was in sight.
- There were people that offered help, even though I didn’t need it. Those along the way did see my need and offered help, which gave the valuable feeling of other options being available, should I need them. It was great to experience caring individuals that were kind enough to show concern.
- It only took a little bit to get my truck back rolling again. I bought a small jug, filled it with two gallons of gas and my truck was back on the road. I just needed a little fuel to get going again.
I thought of times in life when I was spiritually and emotionally out of gas as well. What I needed was a friend, a nearby place to replenish, to know others care, and just a little bit of fuel (encouragement, correction, admonishment, compassion, resources, etc.). I also thought of those around me that are spiritually and emotionally out of gas. I hope I can be and that I can equip others to be:
- A friend to walk along with them.
- A place of replenishment and fresh air.
- A caring, concerned neighbor.
- A source of fuel to get them back on the road again.
Grateful for these people in my life. May their tribe increase.
Twenty Lessons from 20 Years of Church Planting
In June of 1998, I joined my first church planting team in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We helped in late stage planting of Celebration Church in Rio Rancho and in starting Bible Studies in apartment complexes in Albuquerque’s north side. Since then, Heather and I have set up chairs for church in Apartment complexes, fire stations, store fronts, gyms, schools, a museum, and an old church sanctuary or two. Reflecting in my journal the past few weeks on some of the tough lessons learned and that I’m still learning along this journey. Here’s 20 off the top:
- Judge each day by the seeds you plant, not the harvest you reap.
- Communities have different degrees of spiritual receptivity or soil conditions (see Matthew 13). Timing of results may be dependent upon how long it takes to cultivate the ground.
- Expect to feel like a failure. Be patient. “patience is better than power” (Proverbs 16:32)
- Failure can be a friend. The best lessons have been learned in my failure and weakness. The first four events I planned as a church planter, no one showed up! Best thing that ever happened to me.
- Church Planting = burning shoe leather. Intentionality, determination, perseverance, relationships.
- If you’re not successful, someone behind you probably will be. We all stand on the shoulders of those before us, or we prepare the ground for the success of those who will come behind us.
- If God called you, he’s calling others to partner with you. Believe it!
- God has no small churches, and no big pastors. When you have 25 people, you should preach and serve just like there is 25,000.
- Persons of peace make ministry possible and show God’s favor. Pray for them. Watch for them. From Apartment complex managers, to fire chiefs, to restaurant owners, to community leaders; a successful church plant will have a long list of community people that opened the doors for ministry. Remembering these names and faces along our journey.
- It takes all different kinds of churches to reach all different kinds of people. One church can’t reach everyone around them. Many Christians don’t understand the gap between some lost people and attending their church. We. Must. Plant. More. Churches.
- The value of a godly, faithful wife along this journey is incalculable. I would have quit a long time ago were it not for the faithful love, prayer, faithful service, and counsel of my godly wife.
- Expect criticism. And don’t expect it to ever get easier to digest.
- Don’t compare your work to others. No two church planting scenarios or ministry settings are equal.
- If it seems like God is trying to kill you, He is. Death to self will be an outcome of faithfulness in church planting.
- It’s about the whole world, not just your church. From the beginning, get a vision for the people your church will impact all over the world.
- Expect pastoral competitiveness. Many pastors have had joy at my presence and success as a church planter. Some have sounded like David’s older brother, “with whom did you leave those few sheep?” (1 Samuel 17:28)
- Don’t ignore longstanding rules of thumb as a rule. The things wise, experienced leaders told me that I ignored, almost always came back to haunt me.
- Faithfulness trumps talent on a church planting and leadership team. Look for faithfulness and character first, talent second.
- The resources are in the harvest. The quicker you can turn the harvest (i.e. people reached) into the resourcers of the ministry the better. Mobilize immediately.
- When there are no other answers, perseverance is the answer.
I love church planting. I’ve also hated it a lot of times over the past 20 years. Lol! I’m stilled convinced of something I heard at the very beginning of this journey – “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven” – Peter Wagner. I hope and pray that God allows me to be a part of many more new starts over the next 20 years.
Becoming More Tech Wise as Parents
Parenting is hard. Much harder than you’ll ever imagine. Nobody can tell you how hard it is until you’ve experienced it. And each new generation has its challenges. One of my generations parenting challenges is definitely technology. We are learning more and more about the land minds that smart phones, social media, and gaming devices deposit before our kids every day. Parents must be vigilant to remain on top of this ever changing world. Some of the unexpected lessons we’ve learned over the last few years as parents and as a pastor:
- You can protect kids from internet searches and some harmful websites with filters, but filters have little affect on Social Media sites.
- Snap Chat is bad. Really bad. No child should have access to Snap Chat. Block it!!!
- From a local school principal: “Everything bad at this school – drugs, bullying, and sexting – can be traced back to Snap Chat or Instagram.”
- Instagram has grown more like Snap Chat, allowing anonymous sharing of pics. Monitor it or block it!
- Watch who your kids are following on Instagram. These people are discipling your children and shaping their worldview.
- Gaming devices are not just about playing games anymore. The unfiltered internet, Youtube, and many games offer views of the darkest parts of the fallen world to kids.
- Youtube is a great disciple making tool and mostly for bad. Figure out how to block access to it on gaming devices and smart phones.
- Kids and most adults are not capable of handling the emotional toll that constant connectivity offers us through smart phones and social media.
- Kids get up at night and reconnect with technology after their parents have gone to bed. They struggle to turn it off and stay disconnected. Turn off the internet! Place devices in a secure place. Model and teach the importance of rest from technology.
- Drug dealers are using Snap Chat and Instagram to entice your kids. Yes! Local drug dealers are on Snap Chat and Instagram advertising their services to your kids.
- Sexting is a huge problem for teens and many adults!!! Model and teach the importance of accountability with text messaging.
- Most parents are clueless of how their kids are being affected by technology.
I could probably go on, but we are learning more and more of the potential harmful effects of technology and how to shepherd our kids through these mind fields. I know, I know. There is good that can come from technology too. But parents, lets beware and be aware! And set limits and boundaries on technology use for your kids and for yourself.
Here are some good sources of info for parents that have been helpful to us along our journey of discovery:
- Book: The Tech Wise Family by Andy Crouch. This book helped us devise our own Technology guidelines for our home. Great resource.
- Blog: CovenantEyes.com/blog. Covenant Eyes is a great filtering and accountability tool. The blog offers regular articles that are informative for parents and leaders in setting limits and boundaries. The stories also share reminders of the potential danger of the internet and hope for redemption after inevitable mistakes occur.
- The Axis Culture Translator. This is a weekly email that deposits some good tidbits of info for parents trying to keep up with language and trends impacting our homes.
What are other good resources for families regarding technology? What are lessons you’ve learned so far?
From the Parenting Trenches
Parenting is at the same time, the greatest joy and the most difficult task one can undertake. Now, I’m a veteran, and getting opportunities to share my failings and hard lessons learned more often with parents younger than me. Here’s what I find myself saying over and over:
- Parenting is hard. Much harder than you’ll ever imagine. Nobody can tell you how hard it is until you’ve experienced it.
- Parents must work to set the spiritual temperature and pace in the home.
- Limit technology. Limit technology. Limit technology. So much danger lurking on the other side of a click, finger swipe, and game controller.
- Say no to Snap Chat. Just do it. There’s just nothing good about it. Just say no!
- Recognize the competing voices in their hearts and heads and deal with them decisively.
- Get them around mentors and positive people early and often.
- Recognize God’s providence is greater than imperfect parental guidance.
What would you add to this list?
C.S. Lewis said it best: “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
This February, I’ve for the first time tackled preaching through the Song of Solomon. Sounded like a great idea last summer when I was planning sermon series for 2018, but as I got to digging in I began to think, “what have I gotten myself in to!?” Ha! As I studied, I began to see a beautiful love story outlined in the relationship between the bride and groom depicted in the Song. Here it is:
- God is the author of LOVE, ROMANCE, SEX, AND MARRIAGE. Genesis 2:18-25.
- Love is FOSTERED through God-given desire, attraction, and curiosity. Song of Solomon 1:2, 7-10; Proverbs 30:19.
- Love is FULFILLED in the marital relationship between man and woman. Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:7-11; 4:9-11; 5:1; Proverbs 5:19
- Love can be FRUSTRATING as two people bring their differences together and experience life’s difficulties. Song of Solomon 5:2-3; Proverbs 17:1; 21:9; 25:24
- The beauty of Love is found in FAITHFULNESS. Song of Solomon 7:1-2; 8:6-7; Proverbs 5:18; Ecclesiastes 9:9
Get the messages HERE or on Itunes.
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And I’m glad to be living this story out with my bride of 18 years now (valentine of 21 years). Thinking about our story, here’s my Valentine’s Day letter to my valentine:
God created you just for me. Light shined from heaven and music started playing in my head the first time I saw you. You were different from anyone I had ever met. As I got to know you, the curiosity and desire to know more about you never dulled. Separation from you scared me because it made me feel incomplete. Our wedding day still seems like the best dream I’ve ever had. My every wish and idea about love has been fulfilled in this relationship. There has never been one day that I have regretted taking you as my wife. My heart still leaps when you walk into the room and my mind remains ever curious about your heart and your thoughts on everything. We’ve faced our share of frustrations with this life, with no doubt more trials and difficulties to come. I look forward to growing old with you and experiencing the beauty of faithfulness. Thank you for being my valentine and my wife. Thank you for putting up with the frustrations caused by me. Thank you for the promise of life long love. Thank you for making faithfulness easy and longed for. Happy 21st Valentine’s day!
What’s your Love Story? Can you see your story in the Song of Solomon? Take time to write it out. Identify gaps and close them.
Charles Starnes: Planting Churches is not Optional
Pastor Charles Starnes went home to be with the Lord on December 29th, 2017. He served as Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Slidell for 32 years. During that time the church baptized 485 new believers and added 733 other members to their roles. They also gave over $1.5 million to the Cooperative Program and other missions causes. I remember Bro. Charles as a great encourager of church planters, which included me, after moving to St. Tammany Parish in 2001 to plant a church about 35 minutes from Calvary. Under Bro. Charles’ leadership Calvary was part of planting six new churches, including the first Hispanic SBC Church on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. I’ll never forget what he said at the constitution service of one of those church plants, Thompson Road Baptist Church in West Slidell. He said,
“Everyone always makes a big deal about Calvary planting churches. Thanks for the kind words, but I just thought that planting churches and missions is what every church was supposed to be doing.”
On another occasion he said it like this:
“Everybody makes a big deal about Calvary being part of planting churches. I always say, I didn’t know it was optional.”
Grateful for Bro. Charles and his vision for multiplication and encouragement for church planting everywhere. May his tribe increase.