Category Archives: disciplines

Use Your Manners!


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.

Manners

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?

 

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WHYB?


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 fixed healed.
  • 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?

What I Was Waiting To Hear!


Exponential Conference

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.

I sat in on a workshop by Matt Chandler, lead Pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas.  It was obvious that God had given him a very specific message to say to me.

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!

An Anointing!


Exponential Conference

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!

Exponential Conference 2011!


Exponential

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.

  1. “Everywhere you go, that’s where the church is!”  -Rob Wegner, Granger Community Church
  2. “If you want a disciple making movement, you have to have the Lord’s blessing!”  -Jim Putman, Real Life Ministries
  3. “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?

Muscle Rollers And Discipleship!


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?

Not An Easy Task! But It’s Worth It!


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?

Just “Like” The Update Already!


Social mediaSince last Wednesday, I have been fasting from social media.  I have given up Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare and more for Lent.  This has turned out to be a great decision for me personally!  I am finding myself with so much more time for more meaningful things.  With the exception of a few moments, I really haven’t missed social media that much.  To be honest, I really needed to contact someone the other day and I thought I could get their info from Facebook.  Instead of logging on, I chose to email someone who could give me their info.  It was a close call.

I’m not being legalistic about my decision, but I do want to honor the promise I have made to God as well.  It seems as if things are going the right direction.  I feel like things are clearing up for me.  Now that I have given God more of my time, it feels as if He is trying to capitalize on it.  I don’t believe I have all the answers and I certainly don’t believe I have arrived at some state of spiritual nirvana from which I can go no higher, but I do believe God is showing me some things.

I believe that social media is here to stay.  It may not always exist in its current form, but I think that social media in some form will be with us for a very long time.  That being said, God is the Beginning and the End.  God existed before social media and will continue to exist long after its gone.  God is showing me that social media can be a tool for ministry and that’s it.  Just a tool.  Social media is not life.  It is not the cure all for what ails you.  Social media when used properly, can be a great tool for connecting, networking and even caring for people you know.  But sometimes I act as if social media is somehow life.  That somehow my worthiness is wrapped up in how many people comment on a picture or “like” a status update.  If people don’t RT me, somehow I’m less of a man.  But this simply isn’t true.

God created me with a purpose.  He has big plans for me, plans that He designed for me (and for you) before I was even born (Ephesians 2:10).  And social media is not the plan.  It might be a tool that goes along with the plan, but it isn’t the plan!  I’m going to continue seeking God’s face and clinging to Him in times when social media used to reign supreme.  And in those moments I will wait to see what God has in store.

How is Lent going for you?

What are you learning?

Lent 2011!


I have never done anything for Lent.  Never fasted.  Never sacrificed anything.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.

I always thought Lent was some weird holiday for Catholics (just being honest here).  But it’s more than that.  Lent is simply a time of preparation.  It’s a 40 day preparation, leading up to the Holy Week (the week of Jesus’ death and resurrection).

Lent

I was out running tonight with a group of guys.  I get together with them once a week (at least).  We workout, run and even study together.  It’s a great group.  Tonight, we ended up on the subject of Lent.  One of the guys in our group basically said, “We should do it.  We should sacrifice something for Lent.”  So, we decided to go for it.

Since Lent is a time of preparation through sacrifice, we will each be sacrificing something to God for 40 days.  Each guy chose something that would be difficult for him to give up.  The idea being that it would be something difficult, a challenge, something that would really be a sacrifice.  One guy chose sweets, and another chose Mountain Dew.

What about me?  I wasn’t sure what to give up.  I was stuck.

So I went to my ever faithful wife and asked her what she thought.  When I asked her to make it tough, I had no idea how tough she was going to go.  Still, it’s a great challenge and I’m going to go forward with it.

For 40 days, I’m going to give up social media!  (Isn’t she brutal?)

I’m exempting my blog from this fast/sacrifice.  All other social media will go.  Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Tumblr, Path, etc.  40 days.  All gone.  No comments.  No posts.  No status updates.  No picture posts.  Nothing.

My goal is to spend the time I would usually be on social media, reading Scripture, praying and clinging to God as Easter approaches.

So, there you have it.  Lent 2011 – no social media!

What do you think about Lent?

Will you be sacrificing anything this year?

Risk > Failure!


If I told you that risk was greater than failure (r>f), would you believe me?

Some of you would.  More of you wouldn’t.  For many of us out there, risk is equally associated with the possibility of failure.  And most of us out there want no part of failure.  We are taught and trained to believe that we must succeed and that failure is not an option.

But what if I told you that failure was a great option?  What if you began to believe that your failures were simply steps forward and that they were necessary for you to be successful?

Seth Godin says it this way in his new book, “Poke The Box,”

Seth Godin

Risk, to some, is a bad thing, because risk brings with it the possibility of failure.  It might be only a temporary failure, but that doesn’t matter so much if the very thought of it shuts you down.  So, for some, risk comes to equal failure (take enough risks and sooner or later, you will fail).  Risk is avoided because we’ve been trained to avoid failure.  I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance…and if you have anxiety about initiating a project, then of course you will associate risk with failure.

Honestly, sometimes I get stuck.  I am afraid to fail.  There are probably many reasons for this.  Some linking back to how I was raised.  My beliefs growing up were that when I made mistakes (sinned), that somehow God was then against me and all of the work was on me to make things right with God.  I grew afraid to mess up, paralyzed, afraid to move for fear of getting out of line with my God or my family.  As a result, I fell in line (for the most part) like a good soldier.

My story has lead me to where I am today.  I have been in full-time ministry for 9 years.  The first 8 years of ministry, I took a lot of risks.  I made poor decisions and many of them did not pay off.  Those failures have fed into my feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.  My thoughts go something like this, “How could God use such a failure?  How can God use someone who has made so many mistakes?  Surely God will just find a more talented, qualified person to do amazing things.”

Sometimes, my thoughts win.  I fail to risk everything for God.

Other times, my heart for risk wins.  I succeed and risk all I have for God.

Does that make me bi-winning?

I want to risk everything for God.  I hate the status quo.  I despise common.  I abhor same old.

What if Jesus was afraid of movement and collisions in life?  What if Rosa Parks allowed a fear of failure to keep her from sitting right where she belonged?  What if failure prevented Martin Luther King Jr. from having a dream?  What if fear paralyzed our Presidents in times of crisis when we need them to be our fearless leaders the most?

Mr. Godin has nailed me on this point.  I’m tired of being afraid of failure.  It’s not a good feeling.  I want to do more.  I want to risk more.  Why?  Because God created me for risk.

When I “push the envelope”…God sends another box of envelopes.

When I stand on the edge of the cliff…God sees a bigger cliff around the corner.

When I turn over a new leaf…God sends fall.

When I shift a paradigm…God says that’s just the beginning.

Even when I think I have risked as much and gone as far as I can go, God can do more and wants me to accomplish more.  He wants the same for you.

Ephesians 3:20 – Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Are you risking everything to make your marriage a success?

Are you risking everything to bring your children up in the right way?

Are you risking everything to make sure you are a good steward of your finances?

Are you risking everything to tell your friend, neighbors, co-workers and family about Jesus?

Are you risking everything to make sure God has your entire heart?

Are you risking everything to love the unlovable?

Are you risking everything to make sure that God’s name is made great?

Are you risking everything for the mission of God and His Kingdom?

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