Category Archives: disciplines
It has long been a goal of mine to read 1 book per month for an entire year. Every year I have really great intentions, but never actually get to a place where I intentionally set aside the time to read. I’m learning that I need time for personal development. And so do you. If you aren’t making time, start making the time.
At this point in 2015, 4 books are in my rear view mirror with many more ahead of me. I wanted to share the books that I have read so far this year. This is not intended to be a review of each book, although that might be a great future post, it is simply a list of where I’m at so far and what is immediately in front of me.
Done Reading |
[No More Dragons – Jim Burgen]
Real life ministry book. Don’t read if dirt under your finger nails makes you queazy.
[Give God Some Credit – Brett Andrews]
The story of New Life Christian Church
[United Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity – Trillia Newbell]
For those with a passion for racial reconciliation.
[Finding Your Way Back To God – Dave & Jon Ferguson]
For whatever reason you may have become disconnected from God, this book helps you find your way back.
Up Next |
[Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass]
[Ready. Set. Grow. – Scott Wilson]
[The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer]
[The Master Plan of Evangelism – Robert Coleman]
So that’s what I have read so far and what’s up next. What are you reading? What are your other suggestions for books to read this year?
We are almost always in a rush to get somewhere. Hurry to the next thing. Get to the next place. Do it quickly because I have a “to-do list” a mile long.
But today is my day off. So I slept in a little later than normal. All the way to 7:15 am. Mostly I slept in a little because of my workout last night. I spent some time with the kids before they headed off to school. And when they were off to school, the house was empty and quiet. A great time to simply take it slow and enjoy the beautiful morning.
When my wife returned from taking the kids to school, we decided to go on a run together. I absolutely love the freedom to go on a quick run with my wife. We don’t get to do that together very often, but it’s so much fun when we can. I guess there’s something special about having a hobby you can share with your favorite person on the planet.
The scenery was beautiful; my wife being the #1 source of scenery attraction for me. I’ll just leave that thought there. =) The sun was bright. The temperature was perfect for a run.
It was simply a fantastic morning! I took it slow and I liked it that way.
I do still have things to accomplish today, but what a great start to the day.
So I want to encourage you to take it slow. Find time today to slow down. Evaluate life a bit. Enjoy those closest to you. Take time to enjoy the weather and sunshine. Don’t just rush through it and take it for granted.
Get out there and slow down!
If you were to come into my home and listen in on some of our family conversations in the house, you would hear me getting onto my kids periodically for different things. Sometimes it has to do with the way they treat each other. Sometimes it has to do what they are saying about someone else.
But none of those even come close to the one thing I’m always all over them about. It’s a small thing really, but in the long run it’s a big thing. My wife might even tell you that I get onto them so quickly about manners that I sometimes fail to give them the chance to use them. Maybe so. But manners are a big deal to me.
This was only reinforced during my time in North Carolina. It seemed like every where we went, people were only too willing to extend a hand of common courtesy. Letting you pull into a space in front of them. Starting a conversation with you as if you had been friends since birth. The kindness to give us a free sweet tea, not because we ordered one, but because you were just extending a hand of good, old fashioned, southern hospitality.
Granted, some of these examples go beyond manners, but it starts with the basics, “Please,” and, “Thank you.”
I want to help my kids grow to be respectful and kind to people around them. I don’t want them thinking they are above treating people respectfully for the things they do for them. Some days my kids are really on the ball with manners. Other days I go to bed with a sore throat.
Still, being at the beach simply reinforced for me my stand on manners.
What do you think about manners?
So, you might be thinking to yourself, “Where has Stan been?” Well, I’m still alive. That’s a good start (at least for some of you I guess).
The real question is, why haven’t you blogged in 3 months (or however long it has been)? The answer is a good one. You’re never going to believe this. I…have…been…freaking…busy!!!
That’s right folks, my answer to my weird absence is, I’m busy.
However, in the midst of my crazy, busy start to a summer, I have found a few minutes to touch base with you about something that has absolutely been annoying me for quite some time. That’s right, you don’t hear from me for months, and the first thing I say is, “I’m annoyed.” Sorry for the negativity, it’s just where I am.
Over the last few weeks I have been flipping through radio stations where I live in Northern Virginia. Let me just say, there’s nothing good on. I want to make sure you understand my sentiment, that even includes “positive” radio. Yeah, you know them. The “Christianese” guys on the radio who don’t say they’re Christian, but they’re just so “positive.” In other words, there isn’t much on.
Here’s where I think God is trying to tell me something. I turned on the radio (yes, I hear you. I need an iPad to listen to Pandora while cruising the highway. I totally agree with you.) when I got in the car and started flipping through stations. One of the first stations I landed on had a caller on the line. It was a lady. I missed the context, but didn’t take me long to pick up where they were. Not a quote, but this was her story…
Yeah, I do that all the time. One time, I asked my boyfriend if he minded if I flashed an attendant so we could get free parking.
Of course, I changed that station, only to find another talking about this…
Well, I just think you should do whatever makes you feel good and happy. Maybe you shouldn’t be with your husband if he doesn’t make you happy. You need to follow your heart girl, and do what feels right.
And still another…
The only way to be happy is to find it within yourself. You’ve just got to look inside of you.
At this point, I had all but given up on humanity. And radio in the DMV. Here’s what God is telling me in my search for something decent to listen to on the radio…
- Humanity is broken and we desperately need to be
- The worldview that many people are living by is leading them to heartbreaking decisions and a painful existence.
- When it comes to Northern Virginia, I need to help people develop a biblical worldview.
Here’s where you come in. I would love to hear what you are doing in your ministry, para-church or other organization, to help people develop a worldview that will actually make an eternal difference in their lives.
Everyone lives by some worldview. How are you helping connect people to a biblical one?
I really enjoy going to conferences. There are so many amazing stories to hear and it’s great to see God at work across the nation and world. I almost always leave refreshed and excited to go and chase all kinds of crazy ideas. That’s what I love about conferences!
However, there is something that I have been waiting to hear. It is overlooked at almost every conference (at least the ones I have been to). It is a topic that goes beyond missional, attractional, traditional, denominational, non-denominational, small-group driven, purpose driven (should I continue?), etc.
My point is this; there is an issue that goes well beyond all of these methods and styles of doing church. I have been waiting to hear someone at a major conference say, “It’s not about any of this stuff. It’s more about whether or not you’re Godly.”
Well, I finally got what I was waiting for.
His message was this…
Why are you trying to be Francis Chan? Why do you want to be the next Rick Warren? Why are you striving to be Matt Carter or Dave Ferguson? God loves you for who you are right now! God doesn’t love the future you more because ten years down the road, you will have a big church like some other guy. God loves you right where you are, right now. Stop trying to be everyone else!
He basically asked us, “How well do you understand and apply the Gospel to your own life?” And you know the answer to that question by asking five others (I don’t have all five unfortunately). Questions like; are you violent towards sin? Are you utmost in your own affections? When you screw up, do you run away from or toward God?
The questions were pointed and direct. He was passionate and animated. He got off track at times in order to do more than stick with notes and fit into a conference workshop box. He was preaching. He was preaching the Word of God and he was bringing the Gospel to a room full of pastors. And I was so excited that someone was finally saying what I had been wanting to hear. The difference was that Matt Chandler says it far better than I ever could.
My goal in life should not be to become the next big-church pastor.
My goal in life should not be to be the next main session speaker at a conference.
My goal in life should be to become Godly, holy and more like Christ.
I was so excited to hear someone release me from the pressure of being like one of those guys on the stage. That’s not what I’m here to do or become. I am here to do the will of the Father who has given me a task to do and has given me exactly what I need in terms of gifts, talents, background and education to accomplish just that.
Thank you Mr. Chandler, for saying what I have been wanting to hear so desperately.
Thank you for allowing God to use you to preach!
If you haven’t heard Matt yet, I would encourage you to do so. Beyond a God-given talent to preach, he has such an inspiring story of strength and faith. God is using him in a big way!
It was the final session at Exponential Conference 2011. Matt Chandler was the main speaker (I’ll have more to say about him in a later post). Exponential ends with a bang each year. This year was no different. The plan was to have a prayer and anointing time with church planters and teams that wanted to be prayed with before leaving the conference. The New Life staff team was asked to help with the prayer and anointing.
I stood backstage awaiting instruction. Our team listened as the session was talked through and how everything would go. I left with a small tube of oil as did the rest of our team. As we sat through the service, something began to nag at me. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this. Who was I to pray with and anoint these people, these church planters and leaders. The more I thought about it, the more inadequate I began to feel. In fact, I sent a text message to one of our guys who was sitting behind me. It said…
I don’t feel qualified to anoint. God has much work to do on me still.
His reply was fantastic and really helped me to make one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Up to you. Question isn’t whether you have it all figured out, but whether you can be God’s agent in blessing these pastors. If you decide to pass, no worries.
I decided that I would go for it. I wanted to be up there with our team, praying for all these men and women who were getting ready to start a new church or had just gotten underway.
When the time came, I went to my spot with the rest of the people set aside for this role. People began to flow forward by the hundreds. I heard stories from church planters who were tired and worn out. I heard stories from those who were afraid and anxious about what was coming their way. I met teams of people who were working together to make an impact in places like Los Angeles, Denver and Orlando. I met one woman who was on a team trying to plant churches in Canada. I was able to pray with them and put some oil on their forehead.
I don’t know how everyone else felt. I can only speak for myself. What we did for those people, praying with and for them, maybe accomplished as much, if not more, for me than it did for them. I was blown away by the stories and by what God is up to in our world. I was given a fresh sense of the fact that, it’s not about me. It’s all about God and what He is doing.
I am so thankful that I went for it. I’m so thankful that the man I sent my text to, didn’t just give me an excuse to get out of it. Instead, he challenged me to bless others. God worked in my heart and soul through praying for others. It was an unbelievable experience and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything (except having my wife beside me when all this happened).
If you’re out there, working in ministry, church plants, leadership team, etc, I want to hear from you. I want to hear your story. I want to know how I can pray for and encourage you.
God is doing big things my friends. Sometimes it feels like we’re losing the battle, but I assure you, God is winning the war!
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid!
Keep it up, church!
Keep it up!
Today was an amazing day! The opportunities to learn were amazing and the chance to meet some very cool people is simply fun.
I sat amazed today. A large stage filled with speakers who are inspiring in the church world. Names like; Alan Hirsch, Francis Chan, Matt Carter, Neil Cole, Ed Stetzer and more. There aren’t many things that are obvious to me, but one very clear thing slammed into my face today; God is amazing!
God has blessed me beyond what I deserve and I’m so thankful to Him for all He is allowing me to see, learn and do. I pray that I will be wise and use His grace to reach as many people for Christ as I possibly can.
As I listened to many speakers today, here are a couple of things that I picked up.
- “Everywhere you go, that’s where the church is!” -Rob Wegner, Granger Community Church
- “If you want a disciple making movement, you have to have the Lord’s blessing!” -Jim Putman, Real Life Ministries
- “Don’t plant churches. Plant Jesus!” -Neil Cole, CMA Resources
When all was said and done, I developed a challenge for myself. I’m not going to tell you what that is just yet. Maybe some day. For now, it’s a personal challenge that God and I are working on. I believe that God is up to something big. And I hope He has in mind to allow me to be even a small part of it.
And today also held a few fun surprises. It was very cool to sit in a room with 75 church leaders and planters from around the country and world, to listen to Rick Warren share some inspiring vision stuff for the church. It was also fun to shoot a video with him. No, really.
I’m very excited about what God is doing through church planting.
I’m very excited that I get to work closely with people who are doing some really cool things.
I am humbled that God even lets me near this stuff.
Typically, I’m scared I’ll just mess it up. Which is very likely.
Thanks again, God, for being so gracious to me.
And thanks to all those who have made this conference possible.
What are some of your favorite things, that you have learned at different conferences, classes, seminars, books, etc?
What pieces of knowledge have been the most valuable for you in ministry?
I just finished a short run. I needed to clear my brain and have some time to think. It has been a while since I last went for a run. So before long, all I could think about was my legs. They were revolting in every way. When I got home, I did some stretching, but that didn’t help. So, I busted out the trusty, handheld muscle roller. For those who have used one of these, it’s a modern day, torture device.
Grab each end, and roll the small, plastic wheels over whatever muscle is sore. It’s amazing how many tiny bumps this
torture device health tool will find. Press down and slowly roll out the kink in your muscles. If you aren’t screaming in pain, or crying, you’re doing it wrong. The only thing that keeps you rolling over every muscle fiber, putting yourself through that kind of pain, is knowing that on the other side, your muscles will be thanking you.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about discipleship and all that Jesus expects of me. As a follower of Christ, there are certain disciplines that I want to have in my life. I want to spend time reading the Bible. I want to spend time praying. But sometimes those disciplines can be a little like the handheld, muscle roller.
Some days, I read the Bible and something jumps out at me. It lands on some of the most sensitive areas of my heart and soul. Then it begins to work, rolling back and forth. Often times there is pain and tears associated with the work God is doing. As a disciple of Jesus, I open myself up to being examined and improved by the Holy Spirit of God. And when He does His work, it can be painful as even the tiniest, hidden parts of me are exposed. He brings them to my attention and I’m forced to deal with them. I’m forced to look at my flaws in light of the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ, who I claim to follow.
Yet, I want to be exposed. I want the Holy Spirit of God to see every part of me. Why? Because I know that growing through those times will lead to an even closer relationship with my Father.
This is not about how great or wonderful I am. This is about a journey of faith, growing to be more like Christ. And along the way, Jesus is shaping me into His likeness. Sometimes it’s a painful process, but I believe that it will all be worth it in the end.
Zechariah 13:9 – “I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”
Have you ever used a muscle roller?
What images, metaphors, come to mind when you think of discipleship and growing to be more like Christ?
Jesus asks a lot of me. He has high expectations of me. And to be quite honest, His standard is not an easy one to reach. Maybe that’s why He says the road to destruction is wide and the road to salvation is narrow. In Luke 9, Jesus is talking to a crowd about what it means to follow Him. This is how He describes what it means to be a disciple.
Luke 9:23 – “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”
That is no easy task. I mean, the cross was where criminals went to be tortured and die. It’s where people hung for days, starving to death while they urinated and defecated all over themselves. It’s where the smell of blood and sweat mixed under your nostrils. You simply died in your own shame and filth. It was the most gruesome way to die ever devised by mankind (in my opinion).
And that’s the standard for those who want to be followers of Christ is that on a daily basis, they take up their cross and follow Him. Daily cross-carrying, is the standard of discipleship for those claiming to follow Christ. The cross is very symbolic of your own death. Jesus carried His own cross to His death. Criminals carried their crosses to their death. In other words, Jesus wants me to die to myself and only live for one person; Him.
Being a disciple means that you are a follower, a student of someone. If I want to follow Jesus more closely, I need to study Him more. I need to spend more time in the Gospels, absorbing every move and conversation. I need to seek after Him as if I believe I was really lost without Him (and I do). And when I have discovered Him in a whole new way, I need to take His radical life and begin to replicate it on a daily basis.
I need to love the unlovable.
I need to serve even when it’s not in my best interest.
I need to teach as if eternity hung in the balance.
I need to spend time with the least of these.
I need to give all that I have, 100% of the time.
And no matter how far I think I have come, there is always a next step. There is always someone else to love. Someone to serve. Someone who needs to hear that Jesus is the way to God. I’m thankful for the words of Paul in Philippians 3…
Philippians 3:12-14 – “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,tbut I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
I’m so thankful for Christ. I’m so thankful for the forgiveness He offers me. I’m so thankful for grace. I’m so thankful for an example of how to live life. I know I will never attain perfection on this side of heaven, but I’m going to continue striving toward what I am called to. And I’m called to be more like Jesus.
What do you think about discipleship?
What do you need to do today to be more like Jesus? Tomorrow?