Thursday, May 28, 2009


I have three telephones, two web sites, a blog, three e-mail addresses, a FaceBook and Twitter (yes, I Tweet!!) and yet there are times when I still feel disconnected. How does that work? How can I have so many connection opportunities and still feel a sense of disconnect?

I have been thinking about disconnection in leadership and life over the last couple of days and have drawn a few conclusions. They may not be earth shattering, they may not be entirely new, but they are real in the ways in which they show up in y life.

I feel disconnected when I am focused on the deadline and not the goal.
When I am focused on the fact that certain things must be done in a certain time frame and not the fact that they serve a purpose it causes me to disconnect from the larger vision. It becomes the tyranny of the urgent rather than the pursuit of a vision. This happens frequently in ministry life because as soon as one Sunday passes you begin preparing for the next. Perry Noble described preaching as “giving birth on Sunday and waking up on Monday pregnant.” But when we focus on the task of preaching and not the end goal of communicating the greatest message ever it causes disconnect in our life.

I feel disconnected when I see people as interruptions instead of opportunities.
This is a weird tension in ministry because some people need you to pay attention to them always and we can never meet everyone’s needs. However when my calendar does not allow me time to actually minister to individual needs instead I am missing the point of the Great Commandment. You remember that one: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Ministry is about people and we cannot reduce them to programs that fit neatly into our calendar.

I feel disconnected when I allow ministry to try and feed my heart.
When I fail to spend time with God to feed my own soul I am cheating myself out of the refreshment that God’s Word has for me. We can’t always be preparing the next series or talks. We have to focus on the heart of God connecting with our heart first before we can imagine it connecting to others. Time is life’s great equalizer. Everyone gets 24 hours a day. If some of that time is not spent feeding my own soul, disconnect leads to drift which leads to desire which leads to sin. We have to be connecting to God in order for him to connect into our lives.

So, I can have all the communication tools I need, but if I fail to use them properly I will be disconnected from others. We have been given all we need to connect with God. But if we fail to implement them into our daily lives, we will miss the message of love, grace, freedom and hope that God has for us.

How connected are you?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Speaking to the Next Generation

This past week I had a very cool opportunity to speak at a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting at the University of Florida. Yes, it was very hard as a Tennessee fan to go to Gator Country, but if any place needs Jesus it’s Gainesville!! I kid: every place needs Jesus.

It was a great time to watch some students that I have known since they were in elementary school lead the summer program. They organized everything that happened and we had about 120 people at the event. It was exciting, energizing, and then sobering.

Crusade events are very fun. College students have a lot of life, energy and they love to laugh. I was having a great time until the moment I realized that I was almost twice as old as anyone else in the room. When did this happen? I have known for a while that I am no spring chicken anymore, but really!!!

As I spoke, I made mention of the fact that I was twenty years removed from there they are. I remembered how God worked through situations in my life in college to help me see things in a new perspective. I also remember that the lessons were not always learned easily and were very rarely learned the first time.

When I finished speaking, several students came and talked about stuff going on in their lives. One young lady shared about how she was trying to minister to some friends. One talked about how churches in his home town were dying and he felt God calling him to go make a difference. He also asked about seminaries where he could be trained for ministry.

What I realized through this time was that every conversation I had started with a question. Students were looking for answers and hoping that maybe I could help. This is the exciting part of having some life experience. You get to share what God has shown you to a new generation of leaders that God will use to carry on his mission throughout the world.

It is not so bad being the old guy when God allows you to have a platform to share and teach his love to those coming behind us. I love having opportunities to speak to young crowds. They are passionate, challenging, and motivating. I only wish I had possessed their passion when I was their age.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Preference or Kingdom

It is so easy to see that sometimes the church is not focused on the true Kingdom of God. That may not seem quite right at first glimpse, but look deeper into the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 14 and see if you can wrap your brain around this concept.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17

How many times do we as a church place eating and drinking at the center of the issue? Okay, we never talk about eating because we don’t view gluttony as a sin. And some denominations still wrestle with whether or not to drink alcohol, which even members of the same church can’t agree on. But in my view, Paul is talking about something much deeper. Yes to the first century Christians he was writing to eating and drinking were the issues, but what has replaced those in the church today?

In 21st century American Christianity the issues may not be food and wine, but types of music. Maybe it is political party affiliation. Maybe it is how to spend money in the church. Maybe it is style of leadership. These issues have become the issues that divide the church and keep us from having the life of power in the Spirit of God that he has designed for us.

If we look at the passage, what we really see is that Paul is calling us to put aside our own personal preferences or desires and to focus on the major aspects of community that the church should be about. We are to lay aside our preferences for the good of others. We are to set aside our agenda for the agenda of God.

What Paul calls us to follow is a life of living rightly in God’s eyes; seek peace through giving preference to others over ourselves and to seeking out joy over complaining. The result of this type of life is a unified community seeking the honor and glory of God and not the agenda and prideful desires of man. If we were really honest we would say that our lives are not always seeking these areas because they require sacrifice. They require self-discipline. They require not getting our way.

What would the church look like today if we truly sought righteousness, peace and joy?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Shocked By God

God constantly amazes me and I am continually disappointed that I am shocked at God. I have been praying for God to move in our church in some great ways lately. We have been praying specifically for over 250 people who need to know Christ. I have prayed everyday for the past three weeks that God would open the eyes and hearts of these people and draw them to salvation in Christ.

Yesterday we had a great celebration service. We had first time guests, we had folks returning who have visited for a while and I knew God was going to do something. In the middle of the week I had a restless night where I knew I needed to change my message to a straight gospel presentation. So I presented John 3:16 as simply as possible; phrase by phrase, meaning by meaning.

At the end of the message I gave an old fashioned, come to the front invitation. Before I even finished Ron, a first time guest who was on our prayer list, was standing in front of me. As the song began I asked why he came forward. He simply said, “I need what you have been talking about.”

It was awesome!!! My friend Jack put Ron on our list. I grabbed one off the chair next to me and showed him his name. He was stunned. After the song I introduced Ron and Jack and talked about how we had been praying for Ron and God answered our prayer. The place was overwhelmed with emotion.

It is not about having 500 people come forward at one time; although if God wants to move that way it is cool with me. It is all about one guy, who loved his friend enough to pray for him, invite him to church and stand with him as he stepped across the line of faith.

Maybe this is the beginning of a movement. Maybe there are many more that God wants to bring into eternity through LifeQuest. I hope that is the case. But if I learned anything from yesterday it was that God is faithful and powerful. And I lack faith. God, forgive my small faith and help me to increase my vision for you and your kingdom!!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Need to Be Needed

I start most days with some time in scripture and with some passages from some of my favorite devotional writers. It helps me to focus on the Word of God and absorb the wisdom of others who have been on this journey with Christ. Lately I have been spending time with C.S. Lewis and listening to his heart as he shared with his reader’s insight into the heart of God.

I have long held that humanity has two great needs: to be loved and to love. It is not original with me and it is not a new idea, but this morning as I was reading Lewis I was struck by another need that humanity has that can, in many ways, be both appositive and a negative: the need to be needed. In many ways we all have this built into us. In another way it can become the driving impulse of our lives.

As Lewis notes in “Mere Christianity” this need can be one of the greatest temptations to resist. It makes us feel important, useful, productive and vital. It can, when not tempered with the humility of Christ make us arrogant, selfish and dependant on our own strength rather than the strength of Christ.

I love lessons in leadership. I am avidly reading and connecting with people who I see God using to lead so that I may glean from their experiences. But what if our leadership is “me” driven and not Christ driven? What if it is not a need or desire to build His kingdom but ours? How do we temper our giftedness, leadership and service with humility, grace, and honor for Christ?

This morning before I read Lewis I read Romans 12. In that passage Paul gives us the secret to how to live a life of being needed without it becoming a prideful lust of our hearts.

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Romans 12:3

In other words, think of yourself rightly through the eyes of God. See yourself as you are. Don’t think more of yourself so as to become brash and arrogant. And don’t think of yourself as worthless and unnecessary. Instead, think clearly as God sees you: a child of the King.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kid Drift

I had a funny moment with my 8-year-old daughter yesterday. Our family had spent the weekend at Disney in Orlando for a basketball tournament that Emily was playing in with her travel team. On Sunday morning we didn’t have a game and had enjoyed a slow, easy morning. Alana and I had coffee by the pool while the kids watched TV and then we began the process of showers and packing up to head home.

In the midst of all of this, Kimberly needed a muffin and I needed a coffee refill, so we walked down to the food court to grab a bite. As we walked to the room, Kimberly swerved into me several times as her attention was captivated by people or the decorations. I joked about her trying to run me off the road and she just looked at me and said, “Sorry, I drift.” Needless to say I wasn’t sure how to respond.

As I think about it, that moment really sums up the life of a parent. Our job is to provide a foundation and a structure so that if our kids drift we are there to help them back onto the road. Far too often I see kids who drift with no one to guide them back. I see parents involved in themselves so much that they don’t see their kids drift. Or I see kids drifting and their parents refuse to step in and point them the right direction.

God understood the human condition enough to know we would drift. He also understood the family dynamic enough to know that we should guide our children toward the path that truly leads to life. Parents, live up to your responsibility so that our children never drift off the path and so that we can steer them back in the direction of the true source of life.

“These commandments that I give to you today are to be upon your heart. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lines of Sight

Everyone draws different lines in their life. We draw lines of behaviors, of attitudes, of sin and personal holiness. We draw lines of values and ethics and decisions in our lives daily, if not moment by moment. But some lines in our lives are closer than others. Some lines seem, upon first glance to be polar opposites, when in reality they are different sides of the same coin.

I was thinking about this last night as I had a conversation with Alana. We were talking about different aspects of life and got onto the subject of pride and self-worth. The more we talked the more we were able to unpack a little that those two things are deeply tied together.

When we think of pride we usually think of arrogance or overconfidence. We see the cocky pro athlete or the actress with the entourage and we see that in their eyes the universe revolves around their every move. Pride is deceptively wicked. Scripture warns us of pride in many different places (Proverbs 8:16; Isaiah 2; James 4:4-6).

On the flip side is the attitude of low self-worth. People are depressed, circumstances have gone against them and they feel worthless. Instead of being the light in the room, they prefer to bring a dark cloud around everyone. They don’t see themselves as God sees them as a unique and wonderful creation of His (Psalm 139).

Both of these ideas seem to be opposite ends of the spectrum, but I have come to realize that they are more closely tied than we imagine. The problem with both of these instances is a problem of vision: we have an “I” problem. In both pride and low self-worth we place ourselves at the center of the issue. We focus on us and not on the eternal God who loves and shapes us. It is not until we get our eyes off of ourselves and our circumstances that we can truly see the delight and the joy that comes from following Christ.

If you are like me, you suffer from both of these problems. At times pride and arrogance blind you to the reality of the world around you. We think more highly of ourselves than we should. Or at times we beat ourselves up because we are not perfect. Both cause us to cast our vision on earthly ideas or earthly issues.

In order to overcome this issue we must begin to look eternally at life. We must train our spiritual eyes to look at the eternal reality of the world around us.

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we are in.”
Hebrews 12:2 (The Message)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Life Moments

Life is made up of hundreds, if not thousands of moments where things change quickly. It’s the moment where you are intent on one project or purpose and something of extreme importance jumps in the mix. It is the moment where your plans are all coming together and suddenly everything falls apart. That was the story of my life this past weekend.

Friday I was actually enjoying a beautiful day outside while I was trimming bushes in our yard. The weather was gorgeous; I was feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride in finally tackling a project I had put off far too long. I had a momentary thought as I held a vine that needed to be cut that went like this: “I probably shouldn’t do this; I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST DID THAT!!”

The next thing I know I am in the emergency room getting stitches. The yard work remains incomplete, my finger still throbs when I hit it on something and for the next two weeks, I will have to try and keep my finger dry. I will probably catch Swine Flu because I can’t wash my hands completely!!

Life happens. As I remarked when I was calling my wife to have her take me to the hospital, “You can’t fix stupid.” But how do we respond afterward? The finger deal is a small thing. It could have been much worse. It really is an annoyance more than anything else. But I find in my life that moments like this sidetrack me and cause me to lose focus on the most important things.

The best thing we can do to avoid being sidetracked by the circumstances in life is to remember the words from the author of the book of Hebrews: “Let us keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” When we see life’s circumstances through the eternal eyes of the eternal Christ, we are able to gain a measure of balance. As the insurance commercial states: “Life comes at your pretty fast.” How are you going to respond?