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Do For One

January 8, 2015 — Leave a comment

There’s a principle that I’ve learned from Andy Stanley. It’s a phrase he uses all the time. I use it all the time.

Do for one what you wish you could do for all.

Taylor Swift shows us how to do this in her video about giving Christmas gifts to a few of her fans. Are the fans that didn’t get them mad? No! They’re excited that someone, someone ordinary, someone like them, could get a gift from someone like Taylor. Watch the video to see what I mean…

3-TIPS-FOR-BIBLE-READING
Here’s a secret. Don’t tell anyone, but reading the Bible is a discipline for me. In other words, it’s not natural. In fact, reading in general is something that I have to discipline myself to do. I don’t think I read an entire novel-length book until high school. And I didn’t enjoy reading until half way through college. So, as you can imagine, reading the Bible is something that takes work for me… even as a pastor. Don’t get me wrong, I crave it and when I get into it, I’m in. Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe it’s easy for you. Then stop reading because this won’t help you.

If reading in general and specifically, reading the Bible, are difficult for you. I hope these 3 tips to kickstart reading the Bible helps.

Andy Stanley, pastor and founder of North Point Ministries does a great job unpacking a simple strategy to kickstart this process. Enjoy this 9:30 minute clip from an old sermon series called TEXT below:

If you’re like me and reading doesn’t naturally, maybe these 3 tips for kickstart reading the Bible is just what you need to get started.
  1. Find a Time
    This is all about the principle of pre-decision. If you pre-decide that you’re going to read some of the Bible at a certain time of day, it will help you stay consistent. If you say, “Maybe I’ll do it in the morning” or “Maybe I’ll get to it on my lunch break” you’ve basically decided not to decide, which leads to inaction. But if you pre-decide, you can set an alarm, and then when the time comes it will be easier to follow through.
  2. Find a Place
    You need a space without distraction. I recommend not reading in a place where you would normally text, watch TV, or sleep. If I read in bed, I fall asleep. If I read with my phone next to me, screen-up, I end up texting or checking my email. You need dedicated space. You need a chair in the corner or a pillow in your closet. You need a bench at the park or a stool at your coffee shop. The point, find a place that you don’t use for anything else.
  3. Pick a Plan
    Believe it or not, this is probably the easiest part. There are literally thousands of plans but here are the resources I recommend. If you’re a digital reader, meaning you read on your iPad or iPhone or whatever already, then it won’t be that difficult for you to start reading on that same device. Download the Bible App, sign up for a youversion.com account (through the app) and subscribe to a reading plan. Reading plans range from 3 days to 1 year reading plans. I like to mix it up and do a two week plan, then a 3 day, then something else. It keeps it moving and different. The length of what you’re reading doesn’t need to be long, but you just need to concentrate while you read. Give it your focus. If you’re not a digital reader, then I recommend a printed out reading plan that you can keep in a Bible and you can mark off as you go. Here’s a great one to download  and use.

So there you have it, 3 Tips for Kickstart Reading the Bible in 2014. So go Find A Time, Find A Place and Pick a Plan to get you started with reading the Bible.

What else is working for you?

You May Also Like:
5 Tips to Kickstart Your Prayer Life in 2014
5 Things Christian Parents Should Pray Over Their Kids Daily

At our Launch Group (pre-launch small groups for the church we are planting, Two Cities Church) the other night, the question was posed:

What’s the last big bold prayer you prayed?

Recently my prayers have been changing. [See: 5 Tips to kickstart your prayer life and 5 Things Every Christian Parent Should Pray Over Their Kids Daily]

Historically, it’s been a lot of asking for things… but not a lot of significant things. Don’t get me wrong, there have definitely been seasons or moments when I prayed big and I prayed often. But that’s not a natural thing for me. What’s natural, what’s comfortable is something like this…

Dear God, Thank you for today.
Thank you for my family and all the blessings in my life.
Help me to steward those relationships well.
Please help _____ and _____ get better quickly so that they can continue to be productive members of society.
Help me be patient with my kids and know how to be a great parent.
Thank you for the sacrifice you made so that we could be in relationship with you.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

I mean, that’s fine. But it’s primarily self-centered. It probably isn’t much of an exciting prayer to receive. It’s the same ol’ hum-drum prayer. It’s nothing special.

But what if we, Christians, learned to be sincere in our prayers for OTHERS and for the MISSION of Jesus Christ, “to seek and save that which was lost.” What if it wasn’t all little, me-centered, prayers? What if it was BIG, Jesus-centered prayers? What if we prayed like first century Christians, who when their lives were threatened didn’t pray for protection… as I would probably do. But instead they prayed this:

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. – Acts 4:29-30


You know what happened to those first century Christians who prayed that prayer?

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. – Acts 4:31-32

That’s pretty amazing. I want to pray like they did. I want to pray Big Bold Prayers. And I am. How about you?

5 Tips to Kickstart Your Prayer Life in 2014

Photo Credit: gospeltoday.com

Let me start out by saying something I might be hanged for… I DON’T BELIEVE IN PRAYER.

That’s was liberating. I feel better now. It’s hard to keep that kind of secret, especially when you’re a pastor.

If you’re a Christian, you are probably getting more angry by the second as you read this. Let me challenge you a little bit. What does prayer do? What is prayer? Why would you believe in prayer? Praying, in and of itself is nothing more than talking or thinking coherent pleas, praises and promises to someone or something. Have you ever heard the phrase, “I pray you.” That kind of talking is mostly gone from our language, but it’s telling that “prayer” isn’t anything spectacular in and of itself.

If you’re not a Christian, you’re probably agreeing with me, but here’s where you might disagree…

I don’t believe in prayer, but I do believe in the one I pray to. I believe that God wants to be in relationship with me and you. I believe that praying to Him is part of growing that relationship. I believe He has the power to change my life, my relationships, my world… but He’s not interested in just changing my life or circumstances. He’s interested in redeeming all of the creation. He’s interested in His plan. He’s interested in involving you and me in the greatest story, the greatest adventure and the greatest mission… to be an instrument of His divine purpose. So that’s why I pray, to spill my guts to him and seek alignment with His will for my life and my world.

Maybe you’ve never learned how to pray. Jesus gives us a template for that and Andy Stanley does a great job unpacking that in this short clip.

If you’ve found your prayers to be a bit dull or feel like they’re hitting the ceiling, Don’t Start off Asking. Here are 5 tips for kickstarting your prayer life this year.

  1. Start Your Day With Prayer.
    Here’s a practical reason this is a great tip to kickstart your prayer life in 2014, it frames the way you think for the rest of the day. It also goes great with reading a bit of the Bible. Sounds simple, sounds easy, but is anything but easy for me. I’ve got two small kids and my wife and I both work from home, so we switch off watching the kids while the other one works. That makes it difficult to get right to prayer and the Bible in the morning. But the days I do it prepares me to handle the stresses of the day.
  2. Write Your Prayers.
    I used to keep a journal of thoughts. I have volumes and volumes of little moleskin books that I’ve written in as I travelled Europe and the United Stated while in college. I tried to keep up the habit post college, but it turned into a book where I jot down things I need from the story, or notes from a meeting or doodle. But recently I picked up a new moleskin and dedicated it to prayers. Let me tell you, it’s a different experience when you write your prayers. It causes me to concentrate more. It causes me to think about what I’m saying and not ramble. I causes me to pray with purpose and resolve and I like it.
  3. Go On A Prayer Walk, Run or Bike Ride… While On Airplane Mode.
    Leave the phone at home or put it on airplane mode (if you need the clock function) and walk, run or bike as you pray. For me, when I stop to sit on a bench, I get distracted, unless it’s a secluded place with no people. But if I keep moving, in a rhythm, my prayer keeps flowing. Something about doing something mindless with your body, like running, means my brain works overtime and can concentrate better. I found this to be especially true when it was also a test of endurance. The longer the run, the harder I prayed. Imagine that.
  4. Get Outdoors.
    This one goes hand and hand with number three. Just get outside. Get into a different environment. Go to an area of town or country that you don’t usually go and you might find yourself in a better mind frame to pray. For me, nature is a way I experience the presence of the God more than in a room by myself. My favorite place in the world is Yosemite National Park, especially, at the base of Yosemite Falls. I love it there. And somehow I feel close to God there. So, find a place, outside and try it out. Getting outdoors might just help you kickstart your prayer life too.
  5. Get On Your Face, In Your Closet.
    Sometimes nothing but getting alone, in a dark place, with nobody else to see, on the ground, on your face… is what you might need to kickstart your  prayer life. It’s humbling. It’s different. You’ll vacuum more. And you’ll rise from that prayer a little different, by the grace of God.

So there you have it, 5 Tips for Kickstarting Your Prayer Life in 2014. It’s not a complete list and I can think of a few more like, “Be Specific” that should probably go on this list. But that’s what’s working for me so far in 2014.

What’s working for you?

SeparationOfChurchAndHate_580x326
Recently, in one of our Launch Groups, we watched a message called The Separation of Church and Hate. It’s an interesting concept, typically you don’t hear those things being juxtaposed. However, during this message some of our launch team members began to think about their own thoughts and actions towards others. Here’s some of the quotes from our discussion after watching the message and being asked, “So, how does that hit you?”

  • “Convicted.”
  • “I’m a judgmental person, so this is really hard for me.”
  • “I’ve been expecting people who don’t follow Jesus, to act like they follow Jesus. That’s not what Jesus did.”

Here’s the bottom line of the message: We’re here to make a difference, not a point.
When we have to choose being “right” or making a difference, we’ll choose to make a difference.
Jesus didn’t come to be “right,” he came to seek and save the lost.
I love being right, but being right doesn’t necessarily give you influence and it doesn’t necessarily make a difference.

Two Cities Church is committed to being a church that separates Church and Hate, a place that doesn’t just try to make points, but makes a difference. You can watch the Separation of Church and Hate message from Andy Stanley here.

Big Rich Baptism

November 14, 2012 — Leave a comment

This came across my twitter feed from a pastor friend of mine. If you like the TV show, Big Rich Texas, then you’ll probably get a kick out of this video on how to make an adult baptism stylish.

The problem for the Style Network is… this video totally backfired on the show because the rating for it on youtube is crazy low. Only 14 likes and 248 dislikes.

rating

People don’t want a “stylish” baptism. They want a Real baptism. One that is more concerned about what’s happened on the inside of a person than how they look. While this makes me laugh, it also makes me sad to think about how much “cultural Christianity” exists in our country, as apposed to real followers of Jesus.

So, What is Baptism really is about? Watch this message.

What do you get when you have these three things…
Down Syndrome, an iPad and a story?

Jennifer Everett

I especially love that she serves on their Host Team!
Wow.

Where would Jennifer fit into your church or community?
Would she have a place?

There’s a gut check for ya.

I first heard about North Point in the fall of 2006, when Erica and I were taken by a church we worked for to their Drive Conference. It was a game changing experience. I loved working in ministry, but felt like something was missing. What was missing? A clear sense of strategy and a calling for specific way to do ministry. North Point and Andy Stanley gave me words to say what I already felt in my soul. Here are two videos about the history of this great part of the body-of-Christ:

Want to know more about what was so incredible? Here’s a post I wrote a little while back on it.

This post if part of my life mentors blog series. More posts here:
Andy Benton
Cheronn Foster
Jason Foster
Coach Vance Walberg
Westin Noble 

*I signed up. If you’re a communicator of any kind, you should too. This post is written by the promoters of a free web event*

After talking to hundreds of preachers, we’ve found most preachers love preaching, but the grind of preparation can often become a pain.  Here are three things we’ve seen.

1. Great preaching comes from a great preparation system.  Perry Noble doesn’t prepare in a vacuum.  He has a team at NewSpring Church that helps him prepare.  Perry will talk about how this works at the PreachBetterSermons.com FREE online event on March 15th.

2. A Preparation day is better than feeling like you have to prepare all the time.  Andy Stanley sets aside every Wednesday to prepare messages, and his team helps him keep this time guarded.  While Andy is gifted, his commitment to preparation helps make his messages memorable.  Andy will talk about the structure of his preparation day on the Preach Better Sermons online event.

3. Developing a sermon planning system takes the pain out of preparation.  There are things you can do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis that will dramatically improve your preparation time and help you deliver better messages. Helping you put something like this into place will be a part of the free online event.

Make a commitment to be a better preacher.  Sign up for the free online conference.  Here are the details.

  •  Date:  March 15, 2012
  • Time:  1pm – 4pm EST
  • Speakers:  Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Louie Giglio, Dr. Charles Stanley, Vanable Moody, Jeff Foxworthy.  The event is being hosted by Jeff Henderson.
  • Registration:  Free sign up at preachbettersermons.com

Leadership Podcast

January 11, 2012 — Leave a comment

Today in our staff meeting we listened to one of Andy Stanley’s leadership podcasts titled Five Inescapable Truths of Culture. He unpacks some great insights into organizational life. This is true for churches, businesses, or any place really. Here they are:

  1. The leader is responsible for creating the culture and they do whether they mean to or not.
  2. The longer you are anywhere, the less you are aware of where you are. You need to systematize refreshing your perspective.
  3. Healthy cultures attract and keep healthy people.
  4. The culture of an organization impacts the long-term productivity of an organization.
  5. Unhealthy cultures are slow to adapt to change. Inward focused organizations don’t grow.

If you want to unpack this further… I suggest you go listen to the Leadership Podcast (it’s free on iTunes) from Nov, 2011.