Keep It Simple

February 22, 2013

I am often reminded of how complicated life is and how it often carries over to our local church and its ministry. Why does it have to be this way? Why do we get so busy? How do we keep it simple or as I like to say, “Keep the Main Thing, the Main THING?”

I would like to offer up just a couple simple thoughts about keeping it simple:

1) Stay focused on what really matters.  You don’t have to do everything that everyone else is doing. What matters most to you? Then focus on that and do it with quality and passion.

2) Learn to say NO!  Yes, you can say NO!  Learn to do it. Practice with me right now… say NO! come one out loud. NO!  It feel good, NO?

3) Stay simple; Do a few things great rather than a bunch of things with only mediocre results.  Figure out your basic priorities and stick with them. When you focus on keeping it simple it prevents you from going off in the wrong directions or taking ministry “rabbit trails.”

So Keep it simple.. How do you keep it simple? What advice would you give!

When the Lights Go Out!

February 4, 2013

Last night was certainly a memorable Super Bowl and when the lights went out it was kinda funny, actually, twitter went wild, CBS scrambled for it’s announcers to go unscripted and the players didn’t really know what to do but stand around, stretch, etc.

I couldn’t help think this morning looking back at the times the “Lights” seemingly have gone out on me. When ministry get’s hard and those unexpected hurts come, the lights seem to go out. How do we  handle it? Yes, the Sunday School answer is we are supposed to pray, I’m not trying to be disrespectful but too often, my reaction is too sunday school and not real. Let me explain. I have often criticized people for incorrectly throwing out Romans 8:28 as a safety net verse and almost name it then claim it attitude. 

When I have found myself down and hurting or struggling, that is one of the last verses I wanted to turn to for some reason, until lately.  It’s like the Spirit redirected my heart towards this passage and not just the one verse. Romans 8 is a powerful and transforming passage. It’s a “turning on” passage.

Let me give you a few light on moments in this passage for me and how God has been turning it on in my heart.

1. When you down, when someone hurts you. Remember who you are, in CHRIST. Vs.1 You are forgiven and loved by the Creator.

2. Your present suffering is accomplish things only God can see and you can and need to rest in that TRUTH! vs. 18  (yes, we may have to wait to see the good in it.)

3.)Remind yourself of what you KNOW. VS.28- What do you know about the Character of God. Who is he to you? What has he done for you? Spend some time focused not on the problem your facing but on the God who faces it with you. He says it will be GOOD (remember when he said “it is good, back in Genesis?, that means its really good.)

4. You can overcome whatever your facing! Vs. 37  I know what people can do and I know the effects of their sinful behavior and how it hurts, I know about problems in ministry that you may think cannot be overcome except by running away and hiding. Let me say from someone who has many experiences in this field. You can and will, by God’s grace and power overcome.  Begin by turning this over to him and rest. Keep walking ahead the course he’s set before you and stay faithful. Forgive quickly, live in peace!

I hope when the lights go out? you can power up with the Source of all real power!

Share with me, how do you “turn the light back on?”

CM Leaders Conference 2012- Feinberg & Adams

September 20, 2012

Not they are not a lawfirm, but they are some super servants of God who took some time to share their hearts with us. Their job was to speak to the theme: DEVELOP!  Michael Chanley, pointed out that Develop was all about the leader and ultimately about their relationship with their Creator. Each of these made some great statements that will stick with me for quite a while.

Margaret Feinbergs, smooth and sweet presentation of Sacred Echo’s was like walking down a trail with a friend and talking about the whispers we hear in the wind. She used the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. When Elijah stood in the mountain cave and God passed by he was not in the wind, He was not in the earthquake and he was not in the fire, but the Lord came in the gentle whisper. She asked a question I’ve never really considered before. “If God wasn’t in the storms, what was?” Hmm, Then she stepped it up, “

God uses the repetitive nature, (storms) to get our attention and he does this by allowing these by his permission and power. Now you may say Duh! I know God uses the storms to get our attention, but what we don’t often consider is that those storms are allowed by God to not only get our attention but to make the Whisper even clearer. He uses storms to prepare us to humbly listen to his voice.
Steve Adams from Saddleback Church was so awesome. The sword and knife swinging kids pastor challenged us to develop our relationships with other so that we ourselves can be sharpened and prepared for what God desires to use us for. He kept everyone on the edge of their seats because he kept swinging around these knives and a machete. (Great Object Lesson!!)  There were two statements that he made that I found impacted me. The first one, “You are a steward not an owner.” This is so true, so how good of a steward are you of the resources, people, time, energy, etc that God has given to you?   I kept thinking of the story of the 3 servants and how the first 2 invested, the last one buried. I don’t want to bury the things God has given me to hold use.  The second quote,  “I’m using borrowed gifts and living on borrowed time.” This also has great truth to it!  Again, are you developing the gifts and talents for the greater good of the kingdom or for your own fame and fortune. I know some “christian celebrities” who will do nothing unless paid for it. I’m not begrudging making a living but sometimes being a servant and remembering you are living with borrowed time and serving with borrowed gifts, can make a difference. I have seen some who are well know sacrifice and do something for nothing because they see the greater impact it can have on the community of believers.
Both of these speakers had great impact and said many other great things so if your on Twitter, just check out the hashtag #cmleaders to catch some of those.

CM Leaders Conference 2012- Reflections Part 2

September 19, 2012

As I have taken a few days to soak up some of the many thoughts that were shared at CM Leaders, I cannot help but Thank God for Michael Chanley and his team at INCM. I’m thankful they had the courage to follow God’s leading and do this conference in a day where the kind of adventures rarely produce a profit. But that is only an earthly perspective, the eternal ramifications of this conference are yet to be known. I can only pray that I will apply what I have learned and improve my leadership so that those who come behind me on this trail of life, can do even greater things that God has allowed me to do.

Chanley, lead things off by introducing the three Biblical patterns that we would be wrestling with for the next few hours: Develop, Lead, Disciple. A great quote from him was that “Leadership is more art than science.”  I find that to ring so true. He also shared about Leadership and how it is viewed in scripture and the pattern that God has outlined for us to follow, by giving us leadership examples as role models.

What strikes me about this is God gave me a visual object lesson of just how important it is for us as leaders and as followers of Christ to make sure the “pattern” of living reflects Christ, because others are looking and watching us. I was at our local race track, letting my inner redneck out, and as I was watching the cars do some warm up laps, I noticed a young boy down in front of me with some race flags. At first I thought, “how cute” and put my attention back on the race. Then it was as if I was getting thumped in the head to really watch this kid. So I began to just watch him and that’s when I noticed. He was not just waiving the flags randomly at the drivers, he was following the exact pattern that the official flag man was demonstrating. This kid had the entire set of flags and was doing exactly as the man in the flag stand. In fact, someone else had noticed and they invited him up to be the “official” starter for the first race! You should have seen this kids face shine with excitement!  He had followed the pattern set before him and he was executing it very well.

As a leader, I have those who God has placed under my care to model Christ like leadership. I want to lay down a trail for them to follow so clearly that they don’t wander down the little rabbit trails that would get them into the troubles I’ve had. Hebrews 12:1-2 rings so loud in my mind as I think about develop, lead, disciple.

How are you doing on your “trail” of life with Jesus?  Let us press on, so that those who come behind us truly find us faithful!
Walk on, Lead on,

CM Leaders Conference 2012 Reflections

September 16, 2012

I had the privilege to go to the first ever CM Leaders Conference sponsored by the International Network of Children’s Ministries (INCM) This conference was totally focused on leadership. It was a topic that I was fascinated by and so I decided to make the trip to Columbus, Ohio and see what was going to happen.

I went with no real expectations but just to be open to learn whatever God had for me to learn. I want to be a better leader, no, honestly, I want to be a great leader! I desire to lead children and their families and those who are on my team in a way that inspires them to grow closer to Jesus.

I will share more as I have time to reflect but let me first focus on something that happened that God pointed to my heart  as I was sitting alone in my hotel room.

One of my new friends, Ron Brooks, came from Michigan to this conference.  I am blessed to call him a friend. This  young man inspires my heart because he’s walking through some tough days and yet, he keeps a big smile on his face and his eyes on Jesus. He is taking a bold and courageous step of faith by working with a church that can’t even afford to pay him what he’s worth. He doesn’t have a regular job yet and he yet he will tell you that God is going to supply. He did for Ron to come to this conference and I loved hanging out with him.  Ok, back to the story, I had invited Ron to join me for dinner and we and some other headed off to Chipotle. When we arrived the line was really long and one of the guys quickly suggested, White Castle! OH MAN! I jumped over the wall and was out the door leaving Ron stunned and wondering what I was doing, (Because I had told him I was buying dinner!) LOL!! He stood there watching me run down the sidewalk.  All of the sudden, I froze in my tracks, as I realized, “What am I doing? I promised Ron dinner!  Wow What a friend I am to just abandon my friend.  ( FYI, I did run back and give him some cash so he could buy his dinner and yes, I got my White Castle!)

The Lesson came as I was laughing to myself, about the events of the past nights dinner. It was then I felt God speaking, “You’ve line jumped before, Tom. You had your eyes on a project and then all of the sudden, You jump the line and run off to another thing only to realize or sometimes not that you left the original plan unfinished, the lesson unlearned. You need to slow down, even stop! and make sure your still in line with what I want you to do.”  Wow! I realized there have been many times I have jumped from project to project, program to program without really seeking God’s plan to see if I should jump or not.

I have made many promises and commitments to be a better leader, father, husband, person, and jump to something else that I would promise anew.  I jump way to often.

I spent the rest of the time sitting in my room in silence to hear God speak again, just walk with me, don’t jump into your day, be still and know! Stay in line with me and  you will see some great things.

Time to make a sign: No Line Jumping!

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