How I Started the Year Successfully

I’m not working the first week of the new year.

Well, actually I am working. I’m writing a message for Sunday, I’m replying to dozens of emails, texts and phone calls, I’m thinking, processing, and dreaming about the new year.

I’m not in the office. Normally on this week there would be dozens of meetings. I’d begin implementing the plans I dreamed of over the month of December. I am a “hit the ground running” kind of guy.

But, instead, I’m on a “retreat” with my youngest son Nate. And, I’ll admit, it’s fun!

I’m at Passion Conference, a gathering of 44,000 mostly 18 to 25 year olds whose primary purpose is worshipping Jesus!

And, I’m not disappointed. I actually hope this is representative of my year.

I realize some would need no encouragement to do something like this to start the year, but you see, I don’t sit still very well. I’m more of a doer than a be…er. (Couldn’t find a way to write that word without you thinking it was an alcoholic beverage.) I struggle to rest in Christ. I’m more like Martha than I am like Mary. (Luke 10:38-42) I’d rather be doing something for Christ. Worship, as much as I want my life defined by it, is often pushed to the side for other, more “tangible” projects. (Sorry, just being honest.)

This year:

  • I want my life defined more by devotion than by duty.
  • I want to meditate on God’s Word as much as I study or even teach God’s Word.
  • I want to praise more than I produce.

So, while this may seem like an unproductive start to the new year, I hope it’s the beginning of my most productive year ever. Hopefully, the older I get, the better I’m defining productivity.

How about you? Are you more like Martha or Mary?

Fear Not! It’s Christmas!

“Fear not!”

Those have to be two of my favorite words from the Christmas story. The phrase may be “do not be afraid”, but I’ll take that also!

I love the fact that Christmas removes the need to worry, to be fearful, to dread the future.

Consider these familiar verses of the Christmas story:

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20

And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” Luke 1:12-13

“But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:29-30

“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Luke 2:10

Are you fearful this Christmas? Are you worried about the future?

Fear not!

It’s Christmas! Our Savior has come! He has a plan! He’s on His throne.

Christmas Flash Mob

According to YouTube, Journey of Faith performed a Christmas “Flash Mob” at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach on December 18, much to the delight of local shoppers.

One of the best I’ve ever seen…don’t miss the ending.

Ever been a part of a flash mob? Would you like to be?

(Thanks to @MaxLucado for pointing me to this one.)

Moody Bible’s Culby X: Free Christmas Album

Introducing…from the men of Culby X

A Christmas Album.

It’s free, it’s inspiring, and it’s good.

Forgive me, but this is a personal privilege post. My son Nate, a pastoral student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, released his first Christmas album today. This was his brainchild. He recruited the guys on his dorm floor, Culby 10th floor, to help. Nate coordinated the electronic music, another guy sang, and the guys on the floor participated with Scripture input, marketing, and general morale support.

Most amazing to me is that this project was completed in a dorm room. I don’t recall that insanity in dorm rooms from my days in college. Don’t let anyone tell you this generation can’t make a difference. The guys of Culby X, and so many others, will prove you wrong.

Do me a favor and be encouraged:

Download the album:


Like their Facebook page:


And have yourself a Merry Christmas!

Jesus on Leadership: Interject a Little Fear

I love a good leadership principle learned from observing Jesus.

There’s a story in Matthew 14:22-33.

Perhaps you’ve read it, but in case you haven’t, let me summarize.

After a long day of teaching, Jesus made His disciples get into a boat at night and head out to sea. After a few hours had passed, Jesus came to them walking on water. It was dark, late, and Jesus scared them, thinking He was a ghost. Jesus assured them it was He, to which Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you out on the water.” Peter joined Jesus walking on water, until He saw the wind and began to sink. Jesus saved Peter, got in the boat, and they were amazed at the power of God. (End of story)

Sermons and books have been written about this story. I believe it’s 100% true. It actually happened. My God is awesome.

What I want to consider this look at the story, however, is a leadership principle.

Jesus was leading the disciples to become “fishers of men”. He was teaching them His easy so they could continue a mission…which would launch a church…which continues even today.

In this story, Jesus introduced fear, challenge, and He stretched their faith. Sometimes leaders take people where they don’t want to go, so they can teach them what they need to know.

Pastors/Leaders, don’t be afraid to stretch your team. Don’t shy away from interjecting change. Don’t even be afraid to interject a little fear. If your challenge is designed for good…if you are leading to a better place…it will eventually make your team better.

Help this post. What’s the scariest thing you’ve faced in your leadership development or had to do as a leader?

Leadership Under Stress: The Jesus Model

Are you feeling the stress of leadership?

Are you in the midst of chaotic times?

Are there more times of crisis right now than times of celebration?

Are you facing decisions which appear bigger than you today?

Are you wondering how you should respond?

Perhaps we can gain some insight from the life Jesus.

Imagine the setting. In the midst of one of the busiest periods in Jesus’ ministry, Jesus received word that John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin…the one who had been preparing the way for Jesus’ arrival into public ministry…the one who baptized Jesus…had been executed at the hand of Herod the ruler. This had the potential to derail Jesus’ ministry. How would His disciples respond? Would they run in fear? Would the momentum shift?

Observe how Jesus, feeling the weight of leadership responsibilities and certainly dealing with personal grief, immediately responded to this tragic scenario.

When Jesus heard about it, He withdrew from there by boat to a remote place to be alone. Matthew 14:13

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, we consistently read of Him slipping away from the crowds…often by Himself…sometimes with a few close disciples…to be alone…to pray. Those times were apparently critical to His ongoing strength and success in the journey.

Now look back to the questions I posed to you at the beginning of this post…

Do you need to slip away? Do you need to get alone? Do you need to pray?

I’ve personally found the more stressful my circumstances the more time I need alone with God.

Whether you are a pastor, a ministry leader, or a stressed-out parent, I realize it seems everyone is looking to you for answers today. Your greatest response could be to slip away from the crowds. You’ll return better able to handle the demands placed upon you.

Have you often found strength in slipping away from the troubles before you respond?

(BTW, this post is not to be confused with the principles of THIS POST. Don’t use this as an excuse to run. Use it as a tool to prepare.)

Money is NOT the root of all evil…

“Money is the root of all evil”

Have you ever heard that phrase?

I hear it often. The problem is that it’s not in the Bible. It’s from a commonly misquoted verse from the Bible.

The actual verse says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10 (emphasis mine)

And, you’d have to admit that verse is true. You’ve seen people fall in love with their money and it causes all kinds of grief.

But, money isn’t bad in itself. I happen to like money. It provides for the necessities of life and some of life’s pleasures. It pays the church bills too. We can use our money to bless others.

God uses our system of commerce (money) to further His Kingdom. Sure, He could do without our money…He could do anything He wants with no money at all…but God does choose to use money. You’ve most likely seen Him do so.

Where we get in trouble isn’t with money. It’s with the love of money. Jesus said we can’t love both God and money. He was referring to that sold out, fully committed, do whatever it takes to get kind of love. That love isn’t to be towards our money, but towards our Savior.

Be honest, which do you love more: Your money or Your Jesus?

The best way to tell is to have to give one of them up for the other. Hope you never have to choose that way, but it would at least determine the truth of your heart.

How can you tell when someone is loving their money in an unhealthy way?