Category Archives: Life
There I was getting out of my car – it was sometime this past week during my vacation on a blistering afternoon after having spent about two hours in the gym – heading into Albertson’s, a local grocery store, to pick up a few items for the house when this blog post idea hit me.
So I quickly grabbed my phone, entered my pass code, and selected the “Notes” app (I’ve learned to write things down when they come to me and not try to remember them until I get home to jot them down. A lot of ideas have been lost because of my failure to capture them in the moment. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t recall them later.).
By the time I finished running my quick errand and getting back into my car to head home, I noted five benefits for taking a break (i.e., a vacation) from local church ministry (this list is by no means exhaustive or even groundbreaking, but I pray it is helpful nonetheless).
Taking a break from ministry:
1. Recovers my physical and mental strength
Pretty obvious, I know. But you will be surprised – or maybe not – to know that many people come back to ministry work just as tired as they left because they didn’t truly use their vacation time to rest from the demands of ministry and to do things that would replenish their energy.
I must confess: this go around I slipped a bit and read and replied to emails. But I snapped out of it due in part to a loving reminder from one of my ministry leaders that I needed to stay away from email and enjoy my time off.
At about the midway point of my vacation, I started to get that “itch” of wanting to get back involved. Many of you know what I’m talking about because you too have felt it while on your break. But if we are to maximize our time away, we must prayerfully fight against that urge, and commit to doing things that will recharge our batteries, so that we can come back with full strength.
2. Reminds me that the church (and particularly my department: Christian Education) doesn’t revolve around me
As I was typing this point on my phone that day, it was as if the Holy Spirit just gently whispered to my soul: Remember it’s Jesus’ church, not yours or anybody else’s. He bought (with his own blood) and builds her (Acts 20:28; Matthew 16:18). He is the reason the church exists and continues to function.
This is such a life-giving, freeing, and loving truth! For our finite shoulders wouldn’t be able to bear the tremendous weight of responsibility to grow and sustain the church. We would be crushed to pieces!
What a wonderful, healthy dose of humility to our egos, which are predisposed to convincing us that the church (department, or ministry) wouldn’t make it or would be significantly hindered without us.
3. Reveals how well (or how poorly) I have equipped and empowered others for ministry
The effectiveness of the leadership development of our churches, departments, or ministries will likely be most clearly seen in our absence than in our presence. If the church, department, or ministry that we lead comes to a screeching halt when we are away, it is probably an indication that we haven’t done a good job of discipling others and deploying them in ministry.
If you come to discover that there are some gaping leadership holes in your church, department, or ministry, don’t see that as an utter failure. It is evidence of the grace of God in that He would allow you to see the holes, so that you can seek Him on how to fill them.
4. Recalibrates my soul towards Jesus as my life’s ultimate satisfaction, joy, and meaning
I’ve come to realize that over time I have a tendency to get off center of Jesus and begin to fundamentally derive my significance from ministry. Doing so is like becoming so fixated on the rays that we forget the Sun. The rays of ministry service and effectiveness are designed to direct our attention to the Son, The Lord Jesus, not away from Him. Simply put, Jesus is our life, not ministry.
Prayerfully stepping away momentarily from ministry made me even more keenly aware of my tendency to drift from Jesus and afforded me the space to sense the prompting of the Spirit to run back to him so that the idol of ministry that subtly tried to erect itself in my heart might once again be destroyed.
5. Reinvigorates my commitment to Jesus’ ministry
On one hand, taking a break from ministry reminds us that we are not indispensable. And yet on the other, it is a sweet joy to know that Jesus called us and the Holy Spirit has gifted us to serve His church. God doesn’t need us; He wants us! Our All-Sufficient, Sovereign God has determined that we would be valuable to Him and to His work in and through us, the church. What a staggering thought! May this revitalize our commitment to our Lord and His church.
“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service…” (1 Timothy 1:12; ESV)
Man, it has been a minute since I’ve been able to blog. It has been a whirlwind of a few weeks, and I am just now getting a chance to catch my breath. So much has been going on I don’t even know where to begin. There is just too much to recount. So let me just hit some of the highlights.
Last weekend (or was it the week before that? I told you it has been crazy) I was invited to teach a breakout session on “Life Balance” at Community Missionary Baptist Church’s Men’s Conference. I was assigned to teach the 26 to 40 year olds. It was a lot of fun. I love teaching people God’s Word, especially to men.
Here’s a skeleton of what I shared that day:
If anyone knew how to use his time for the glory of God the Father, it was Jesus. I believe when you take a cursory view of his life, as it is recorded in the New Testament, you see the following six characteristics that make for a maximized life:
1. Recognize Your Mortality
2. Embrace Your Identity
3. Know Your Purpose
4. Set Your Priorities
5. Focus Your Prayers
6. Watch Your Gauges
Spiritual Gauge – What is the condition of your relationship with Jesus?
Relational Gauge – Who are you connecting with?
Emotional Gauge – Are you appropriately dealing with your emotions?
Vocational Gauge – Are you working in a field according to your God-given design? Are you working diligently as unto The Lord wherever you are (Col. 3:23)?
Rest/Recreational Gauge – Are you enjoying life responsibly? What helps you to refuel?
Today I commenced my teaching series on Ephesians with the first of a two-part lesson called, “The Blessed Life.” We tackled chapter 1 verses 3 through 6. Take a peek at my outline:
I. The Source of Our Blessings (vs. 3a)
II. The Nature of Our Blessings (vs. 3b)
III. The Scope of Our Blessings (vs. 4-14)
1. Selection (vs. 4)
This is known as the doctrine of election, which says that God, without any merit or effort from us, graciously and sovereignly elects (or chooses) individuals to be in relationship with Him through Christ (John 15:16, 6:37, 44-45; Acts 13:48).
A. The Timing of the Father’s Selection – “even as (since) he chose us in him before the foundation of the world”
B. The Purpose of the Father’s Selection – “that we should be holy and blameless before him in love.”
2. Adoption (vs. 5-6)
A. The Means of Our Adoption – “for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,”
B. The Basis of Our Adoption – “according to the purpose of his will,”
C. The Result of Our Adoption – “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
As I said, we stopped with verse 6 today. Lord willing, I plan to continue with part two of “The Blessed Life” looking at verses 7 through 14 next week.
We all know that there is a fatherless epidemic in our nation. However, I am grateful to be among the many fathers who are involved and invest in their children’s lives and were honored today in our service. Hats off to all you gentlemen who are doing it right!
Why eleven? It’s an odd number, and it seems so arbitrary, doesn’t it? Well, it is definitely an odd number, but it is not random, and here’s why.
It was eleven years ago on this very date that I married my High School sweetheart. It has been a wonderful and, at times, challenging journey. But one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. We, like all marriages, have had our ups and downs. But, by God’s grace, we stand here eleven years later stronger, wiser, and better.
So as we celebrate our wedding anniversary, my wife and I want to share 11 keys with you on how to have a healthy marriage. We definitley don’t know it all and have much married life to live, Lord willing. But we have learned a few lessons along the way. You will not find these to be new, groundbreaking, or complex, but we pray they will be beneficial to you nonetheless.
11. Have fun!
Hopefully you married (or will marry) someone who is your friend; someone who you love to be around and do things with. Your spouse should not only be your soulmate and teammate, but also your PLAYmate.
Whatever you two consider to be enjoyable, keep doing it! And it wouldn’t be a bad thing for you to venture out and do something that you normally wouldn’t do. Take a trip to some place that you’ve never been. Try a different restaurant. If you are predictable, do something spontaneous. You get the point.
Marriage shouldn’t be a drag. So enjoy life with your spouse.
P.S. – Don’t take yourselves too seriously. It’s okay to also make fun of each other. Just be careful about pushing your spouse’s buttons. Not doing so can turn a playful, breezy moment into a serious tornado of conflict.
10. Celebrate your spouse
I’m sure there are enough things that you could complain about regarding your marriage. But we want to encourage you to focus on the good concerning your spouse and your relationship. This doesn’t mean that you don’t deal with what is wrong or not so good, but that shouldn’t be what consumes your focus and energy. If it is, it won’t take long before you and your spouse become miserable and your marriage turns toxic.
Celebrate how God created your spouse (physical and personality traits).
Celebrate your spouse’s strengths, skills, intelligence, wisdom, etc.
Celebrate your spouse’s achievements.
Celebrate your spouse’s spiritual growth.
Celebrate special days (e.g., birthday, anniversary, etc.).
9. Communicate respectfully and listen attentively
If your physical health is significantly affected by what goes IN your mouth, then your marital health is similarly affected by what goes OUT of your mouth. You can sicken your marriage by spewing out rotten words. Prayerfully guard your words and resolve to only speak words that will in the end build up and not tear down. And if you fail to do so, be sure to apologize.
Listen just as much, if not not more than you talk. We won’t tell you to not formulate in your mind a response or rebuttal to your spouse as he or she is still talking (some people have to do this or else they will forget) – although doing so, we believe, is wise. Just please make sure that you fully hear your spouse out.
8. Surround yourselves with people who can speak into your marriage
It not only takes a village to raise a child, we believe it also takes one to sustain a healthy marriage. Having mature Christian brothers and sisters who love us and whom my wife and I have given permission to ask us hard questions, counsel, and gently yet firmly call us on the carpet as needed has been a tremendous expression of God’s grace in our marriage. God has used them to get us over some hurdles in our relationship, and to keep us on the right track.
7. Date your spouse
To this point, some people don’t feel like it takes all of this to have a healthy marriage. We are not saying that you HAVE to do this or your marriage is doomed to fail or won’t be all that it could be. We actually know a couple who has 20-plus years under their belt and don’t go on date nights and probably never will.
Whether it is a date night, pillow talk, etc., the point we are simply making is that all of us need to constantly be spending quality, uninterrupted time with our spouses.
6. Pray for and with your spouse
Pray when things are good and when they are bad. Pray when you feel like it and when you don’t. Pray before, while, and after having difficult conversations with your spouse. Pray when you have major decisions to make. Pray for contentment. Pray for spiritual growth. Pray for blessings. Pray to steward those blessings well, if God grants them. And when you feel like you have prayed enough, pray some more!
Durable marriages are made up of dependent spouses. Pray as if your marriage depends on God…because it does!
5. Keep the intimacy aflame
Admiration and affection should be constant staples in your marriage. And a consistent diet of loving sexual intimacy never hurt a marriage. As far as it depends on you, don’t sexually starve your spouse. The more the merrier!
4. Accept each other
All of us have idiosyncrasies that we bring into the marriage. This is not an issue of right or wrong, but rather different ways of doing things. The sooner you accept these things about your spouse and learn to work around or in spite of them, the better.
3. Serve one another
What can I do today to serve my spouse? Asking this simple question will revolutionize your marriage. Why? Because many of the root causes of the problems we encounter in marriage have to do with selfishness. Can you imagine the type of marriage you would have if both of you look out for the other’s interest and not merely your own?
2. Forgive sincerely and reconcile quickly
It is possible that your spouse will sin against you at some point during the course of your marriage. And I am not referring to just major transgressions, like adultery. There are a number of ways we can sin against each other: using harsh words, maliciously doing things that we know will irritate our spouses as a way to make them suffer for what they did against us, lying, etc. Forgiveness, therefore, is a must, if your marriage is to survive these moments.
But it’s not enough to forgive; reconciliation is needed as well. You’ve got to come back together, and be willing to trust and put your heart on the line again. With that, let me say this to the offending spouse: If reconciliation is going to happen, you need to have sincerely repented to God and your spouse, and you will need to demonstrate fruits of that repentance. In other words, you need to say and show that you are sorry.
1. Keep Jesus at the center of your lives and marriage
Jesus’ perfect life, redemptive death on the cross for our sins, and his resurrection from the dead is the source from which all healthy marriages flow.
Submitting yourselves to the Lordship of Jesus will position your marriage to last a lifetime. He can keep your marriage, and even put it back together again, if you both will obediently follow Him.
We have seen Him do it, not only for others, but in our marriage as well.
I’ve been privileged to serve on numerous panels. I’ve had some great experiences and I’ve also had some unpleasant ones. Some were due to my fellow panelists; others were due to my mistakes. There is much I could say, but here are just a few tips to help us preachers/pastors better serve as panelists. These should not be viewed as absolutes, but rather general rules of thumb.
1. Be concise
I know this can be difficult depending on the questions you are asked. Yes, some questions are complex and therefore cannot be answered simplistically or concisely without a preface or reference, context, or clarification. But try to be brief in your responses. Why? For one, there are probably a boat load of questions that have been submitted by the audience, and even if some of theirs are not chosen, they will at least appreciate the fact that the panel was able to address many of them and didn’t get stuck on a handful. Secondly, it is a show of courtesy to other guests on the panel. To be frank, it is frustrating to serve on a panel with someone who monopolizes the time. Preachers/Pastors, you and I both know we can be long winded. So, as much as possible, keep it short and simple.
Side note: Beware of chasing rabbits (which is so easy to do, as you know). Stay on the trail. Answer the question. Make your point. And then put the microphone down.
2. Don’t beat around the bush
This was an old saying that my dad used to tell us when we were skirting around a question by not giving a straightforward answer. It would aggravate him to no end, and so it will with the audience. People can tell when you are avoiding a question. If you don’t want to, are not sure how to, or are not able to answer a question, it’s okay to pass on it.
3. Answer according to the Bible
I remember sitting in the audience at this Christian conference slightly perturbed during a Q&A session. The questions were legitimate. It was the answers that were getting under my skin. Why? Because the panelists were for the most part pontificating over each topic without any regard for the Bible. It should go without saying that in a Christian setting Christian panelists should defer to God’s Word. This doesn’t mean you have to reference book, chapter, and verse. But it does mean that our answers should be informed by Scripture.
4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Tackling questions that are bigger than our knowledge or experience is a disaster waiting to happen. Don’t attempt to answer questions that are beyond your capacity. Be humble. Remember: our goal as panelists is not to impress people, but rather to impact them. Don’t be the guy (or girl) at the pool who knows he can’t swim well, but sees an opportunity to impress a group of ladies by jumping off the diving board into the deep end, only to be rescued from drowning by a lifeguard. Stay in the section of the pool that you are comfortable in before you find yourself in over your head.
5. Try not to be preachy
If you are on your feet with the microphone snug in the palm of one hand and gesturing with the other, if the musician is tuning up and “you feel your help coming on,” if you shifted from your normal, conversational voice to your “preaching voice,” you just might be doing a little too much for a panel. Seriously though, people who have submitted questions are there for answers or insight, not to hear how many pithy sayings we can rattle off, or who can get the crowd worked up the most, or to see an impromptu exhibition of your preaching prowess etc. Preaching is in us. And some crowds will try to push us there, even in a panel session. I get it. I truly do. But there is a time and place for everything. Save that great illustration (unless it is appropriate for the discussion at hand and it is short) and sermon for Sunday.
a child was born to Ed and Dorothy Johnson. Ok, THAT sounded old. 🙂
Seriously, I was born on this day in 1977. Every birthday I reflect back on the circumstances surrounding my birth and one particular incident that followed months later, and stop to give God thanks because my life almost ended when it was just beginning.
I was born 3-months premature, weighing 2 lbs. As reported by my parents, after spending around three months in a NICU incubator and on oxygen for such an extended period, the doctors concluded that it would be a high probability that I would permanently be mentally challenged and blind.
But neither of those things happened. I eventually gained weight, was eating fine, and breathing on my own without assistance. All my vital organs were functioning and developing well. I was released from the hospital with no complications. I was out of the woods, as they say. But not for long.
I had been home for only a couple of months. On Tuesday morning, as I was sleeping in my crib, one of my sisters came to check on me. When she leaned over to look at me, she noticed that I was having difficulty breathing and was turning blue from lack of oxygen. She screamed to my mom, who was heading out to work, to come in the room where I was. They grabbed me and rushed me off to the hospital.
All morning and into the afternoon, the doctors were scrambling to keep me breathing and conscious, all the while baffled as to the cause. My blood was drawn and sent off to the lab. As they waited for the results to come back, and after numerous seizures, I slipped into a comma. Not knowing the cause and therefore unable to appropriately treat me (beyond IVs), the doctors “threw their hands up in the air” out of hopelessness and despair, telling my parents that until they could get the results back there was essentially nothing that they could do, and that they didn’t know if I would survive to see another day. But my parents knew the Great Physician, Jesus. So they prayed.
The lab results came back. It was determined that I had been bitten by a mosquito – probably during a weekend family outing at the lake – that carried a rare baterial disease called “Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.” So they began administering antibiotics, but to no avail. I remained in a comatose state Tuesday and Wednesday with no signs of recovery.
Thursday morning. The doctors walked in and there I was wide awake, eyes open, and responsive. God answered my family’s prayers. He brought me back from the brink of death!
And I am alive today, 36 years later, to tell the story.
So on this day as I celebrate my birthday, I am reminded of what Paul said to the Athenians: “In him [God] we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28a)
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
We are up-to-our-neck deep in basketball season! The Louisville Cardinals defeated the Michigan Wolverines to capture the 2013 NCAA Championship on yesterday, and we are about to embark on another journey through the NBA Playoffs.
I love this game. But not simply just for its entertainment value. There are so many things about the game that serve as great illustrations of biblical truth and principles regarding life, especially marriage. I had one dawn on me a few weeks ago when I was driving my wife to work.
As we were traveling up I-35 in the HOV lane, my wife called our daughter’s pediatrician to see about scheduling an appointment because she had been suffering with sinus drainage, sneezing, stuffiness, and a low-grade temp for little over a week and the over-the-counter meds we were administering to her were not really working. As I listened in on their interchange, there was something that I felt I needed to lovingly address. So after she hung up, I proceeded to talk with her about what I heard. Long story short, the remaining drive time to her job was filled with silence, frustrated gestures, short responses, relational tension and distance. Anybody else been there? 🙂 Exiting off the HOV lane back into the main highway traffic, I thought to myself, “What in the world just happened?” “Did I say something that I shouldn’t have said?” “I was only trying to be helpful.” What did I do or not do?”
After I dropped her off and we said our good-byes, I began to pray – which by the way is something you should do when you are dealing with marital conflict – asking God to help me understand what just went down between us. And He answered…through my wife. I called her later and asked her to help me understand what happened this morning on the way to work. She, in essence, said, “It was not the right time for us to talk about that issue.”
As I waded through the emotional marsh of this relatively minor conflict, God helped me to reach the dry land of clarity by bringing to mind an illustration from the world of basketball:
With the score tied and less than 24 seconds remaining in the game, coaches and players know that if their team has possession of the ball and if they are to have a good chance of winning the game, the player with the ball doesn’t just simply need to rush to score a point, but he/she needs to manage the clock to ensure that the shot that is taken is the last one of regulation.
Simply put, timing is crucial.
Timing matters, not only in basketball, but in marriage as well. So as a “marriage coach,” here’s an axiom that I want to share with you to help you when you are seeking to address issues with your spouse: Be mindful of the clock and not just on making a point.
If you don’t, you will score the point, but you may very well still lose the game.
“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply – and how good is a timely word!”
(Proverbs 15:23, NIV)
Worship On Wednesday
This is what we call our mid-week worship service. Our Pastor, Dr. Karry D. Wesley, was out of town preaching a revival this past week. So he asked me to preach in his stead. I am always grateful to have the opportunity to preach God’s Word to my church family. It is a high honor to me. I preached on “It’s Going To Cost You” from Luke 14:25-35. It was one of those sermons in which I struggled at times, not from lack of preparation, just one of those times in which you are not real sure if you might be saying something clearly enough. In spite of that, God was faithful and made up the difference. I am always amazed at how the sermon where I think I struggled some was the very one that spoke to people the most. Only God!
All of this was just a reminder for me to always and ultimately depend on God to transform lives through the faithful preaching of His Word, and to remain humble before God.
I continued my teaching series on Proverbs today looking at chapter four with a lesson I entitled, “From Generation To Generation.” I probably would have retitled it, “Wisdom For All Generations,” but that’s neither here nor there. I didn’t finish. Out of the 27 verses, we got through 11.
I absolutely love studying and preaching/teaching God’s Word. I couldn’t dream of doing anything else. I would do this (and have) even if I didn’t get paid for it. The fact that I do is a bonus, better yet, a blessing!
In addition to my regular weekly ministry responsibilities, I have a few preaching engagements outside of Antioch this month. As I said in my last post, this is truly “March Madness” for me…but I’m loving every bit of it! Here are the two that will be happening this coming week:
2013 Spring Revival
Tuesday, March 19th
Morse Street Baptist Church (Denton, TX)
Young Adult Men’s Gathering
Friday, March 22nd
If your remember, please pray for my strength and focus this week. Thanks.
Fundamentally, love is not a feeling. It is a choice fueled by God’s love for us.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:9-11, 19, ESV)
You are loved by God in Jesus! Enjoy these two songs by Da T.R.U.T.H. You can purchase his whole album – “Love Hope War” on iTunes.
As I tweeted sometime on last week, I continued my series on Proverbs today, looking at chapter 1 verses 20 through 33. The lesson title was “Listen Up! Wisdom is Talking.” To summarize, the passage contrasts the resulting consequences/outcomes of those who ignore (God’s) Wisdom versus those who listen to her.
I am very encouraged by the number of people who are showing up for the class. We are averaging about 45 so far. Praise God!
All-Male Service Provider Sunday
Today we launched what our Pastor calls all-male service provider Sunday. Every 1st Sunday of the month the men of our church will be responsible for serving in all areas of ministry: parking lot attendants, choir members, ushers, greeters, decision team members, etc.
The goal of this is simply to encourage more men to get involved in serving the church. Today was a good start. I’m hoping that more of my young adult peers will take up the challenge and begin using their gifts to build the body of Christ, as God intends.
Next Sunday, February 10th, I will be going over to Greater Bethlehem Baptist Church (www.greaterdallas.org) to preach for my friend, Pastor Stephen G. Brown, who serves as the Senior Pastor. Jesus is doing a tremendous work through him in leading this church. If you have an opportunity, check him (them) out online.
I am truly humbled and honored to serve him and the Greater Bethlehem family through the preaching of God’s Word. I look forward to our time together in worship and fellowship as well!
Well, time to relax, eat some of these Italian Sausage Rotel Nachos that my wife made, and watch this Super Bowl game and entertainment.
Enjoy your day. Go Ravens! 🙂
These past few weeks have been very busy for me. But I am grateful for all the ministry opportunities that are coming my way. My prayer is that each one will be fruitful and glorying to God.
RYBT (Read Your Bible Today) Challenge
Since launching this first of three challenges, the testimonies of people’s growth in the Word have been simply amazing! Members are spending more time in the Scriptures. One sister told me that she spent a whole hour in reading and studying the Bible, which she had never done before this challenge. Praise God!
We are almost through with the book of Romans. We are set to complete it on this Tuesday. Can’t wait until the summer when we kick off the second challenge – reading through the book of Amos.
Today I continued my teaching series on Proverbs by looking at chapter 1 verses 8 through 19. The lesson title was “Don’t Fall for the Bait.”
I am extremely excited and grateful to see the number of members who are coming out early in the morning to study God’s Word. There are over 50 people who have been attending my class. The interaction has been great and the feedback has been encouraging.
I was invited by my friend, Pastor Nyal Bell, to come and preach at the church where he serves as the Senior Pastor – Greater New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. It is always a joy to worship and fellowship with them.
I preached on 1 Kings 17:8-16 (Elijah and the widow at Zarephath) and titled the message, “Just Enough.” From all accounts, the members received it well. Afterwards, Pastor Bell told me that I spoke on some specific things in the sermon that coincided with what God had placed on his heart to unveil to the congregation later in the year. I, of course, had no idea. I absolutely love when the Holy Spirit does things like that! God is awesome!
Well, it’s been a long but great weekend, and I am tired. So until next time, peace.