Category Archives: Remarkable

Huger Than Huge

I just got around to catching up on some news articles, tweets, and emails that I saved from last week. One thing that I was very much looking forward to reading was an info-graphic on The World of Amazon that Michael Hyatt linked to last week.

I hope you are sitting at your computer as you read this. The stats presented here are incredible!

I was at my local Borders just days before they closed up shop and I overheard one of the customers bemoaning the fact that the store was shutting down. He said, “I hope this doesn’t start a trend (of brick and mortar book stores closing).”

I thought to myself, “This isn’t the start of the trend, buddy. You’re right smack dab in the middle.” These stats bare that out. The old paradigm of browsing the local bookstore changed drastically even before Borders was forced to shut down and will continue to change due almost exclusively to Jeff Bezos and Amazon.

I browse Amazon daily- for book deals, mp3s, and movies. I have almost made the full jump to reading exclusively on my Kindle. I never thought that would happen but it has.

Amazon has literally built an empire. Don’t believe me? Check out the graphic below.

Amazon Infographic


Present at Catalyst 2011

I just returned from my 9th Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. Hands down, this is always my favorite weekend of the year. It is an opportunity to hear new voices, reflect on my calling, and cast vision for the future. This year was no different except…

Now I’m no longer the youth minister but now I’m the team leader. I’m the senior person on staff. I’m responsible for other leaders and volunteers now. The game changed since last October. It’s a freeing, scary, awesome, terrifying place to be. I am loving it.

What I love about Catalyst is that I don’t return with a series of new plans or programs that I’m ready to implement this Wednesday. Catalyst isn’t the kind of conference where you change everything about your ministry and programs 10 minutes after stepping off the plane back home.

Catalyst is a slow burn. The thoughts, concepts, challenges, and exhortations go to work in your own heart and mind first. Then, over time the things I have heard in October will begin to guide and change my approach or thinking. The change has to start within me as the leader.

Here are a few of the thoughts or concepts that are currently marinating in my soul from this weekend. I don’t know what they all mean for my context right now but I’m trusting that God will use them to make a big change in me so I can lead where I am more effectively.

  • Don’t be fair, be engaged. – Andy Stanley
  • Go deep rather than wide. Go long-term rather than short-term. Go time, not just money. – Andy Stanley
  • Life is people. – Jim Collins
  • 3 Behaviors that allow leaders to thrive: 1) Fanatical Discipline, 2) Empirical Creativity, 3) Productive Paranoia – Jim Collins
  • The Signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change, innovate, or grow; it’s chronic inconsistency. – Jim Collins
  • Fire Bullets, then Cannonballs. – Jim Collins
  • What is my “20 Mile March“?
  • Learn to marry creativity with discipline so that disciple amplifies creativity. – Jim Collins
  • We live in a world that is holding on for dear life to straws. – Joel Houston
  • An incredible team in a culture of excellence matters. – Dave Ramsey
  • Bring it everyday. – Dave Ramsey
  • Readdress your calling everyday. – Dave Ramsey
  • “If I could get a transcript of your prayers over the last month, what would be the one thing you kept praying for?” – Francis Chan
  • We make the things we are afraid of functional gods that we worship. – Mark Driscoll
  • Fear makes us false prophets. We predict a future that will never happen and cause ourselves fear, stress, and anxiety over these things that will never happen.- Mark Driscoll
  • Fear is vision without hope. – Mark Driscoll
  • FEAR NOT! Fear not, your Daddy is with you. – Mark Driscoll
  • Hatred of injustice is not the same thing as a love for everyday people. – Cornel West
  • Love is about going on the offensive. – Cornel West
  • We are who we are because somebody loved us. – Cornel West
  • Messiahs are crucified; prophets are assassinated. – Cornel West
  • Be intentional about pouring into those leaders that are coming behind you. It’s not about filling their cup. It is about emptying yours. – Andy Stanley
  • MEDs– Model, Explain, Demonstrate – Andy Stanley
  • Success is ultimately measured by whether or not you leave your responsibilities in capable hands. – Andy Stanley
  • Let’s hand the church better off than it was handed to us… to those who can do it better than us. – Andy Stanley

These are just a few examples of the leadership challenges and questions that are currently running laps around my head and heart. I walked away from Catalyst 2011 just like every other year thinking:

I am so blessed and honored to have experienced what I just experienced. Thank you Father for the Catalyst Team and for all that they do.

It is my prayer that God will give me the wisdom I need to do something with what I heard and experienced.

See you in Dallas, Catalyst Team!




The Hero’s Journey

I’m in the middle of preaching through The Sermon on the Mount and I have been so excited about what I’m learning and how God is connecting me to his overarching story. In my study over the last few weeks I have seen a connection between Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. If you are unfamiliar with the Hero’s Journey, let me give you a quick tour of what I’m talking about.

There are two things I love to do- read and watch movies. I feel that these two pursuits often go hand in hand.  In fact, I have heard it said that movies are today’s literature.

Both movies and literature seek to tell us a compelling story and when we interact with those stories we can’t help but try and find ourselves within the narrative. We imagine ourselves in the role of our favorite characters and often times we try and emulate what we see on the screen or what we read on the page.

While watching the King’s Speech, I began asking myself how I would react if I were in Prince Albert’s position. If I had a debilitating speech impediment, how would I react? Would I become a mute- so embarrassed by my stutter that I decide not to speak at all? Would I seek help? Would I pretend nothing was wrong with me?

As the film progressed, I began asking what if I were asked to give a speech to rally the entire empire against an enemy as fierce and evil as the Nazis? What would I say? How could I convince the people around me to join the cause and fight for a better tomorrow?

Stories force us to look at our lives and how we are currently living them and they give us a glimpse into how our lives could be and they whisper to us concerning what should be.

In 1949, a man named Joseph Campbell published a book entitled, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Campbell studied thousands of myths and stories from every era of human existence and out of all those stories and myths, he identified a similar patter regardless of time and culture. He called this pattern The Hero’s Journey. This is absolutely fascinating to me. If you went home and pulled out your favorite book or movie, there is a very good chance that you would see this pattern.

I just turned your quiet Friday night into an academic exercise. You’re welcome.

In every story, the hero or the main character starts out living his life just like everyone else. He is knee deep in living an ordinary life. Rick owns a nightclub in N. Africa. Dorothy lives with her Aunt and Uncle on a farm in Kansas. Tomas Anderson is a computer programer. Ben-Hur is a Jewish noble.

Then our hero is Called into an Adventure. Sometimes this is an actual call- Build It and They Will Come. Sometimes it is an event or something outside their control.

In all the gin joints, in all the world Ilsa walks into Rick’s American Cafe. Dorothy is carried away by a tornado. Neo meets Morpheus. Frodo is given a ring. Ben-Hur is betrayed by Messala.

This call to adventure is really the opportunity for something greater. The hero is invited to change their life and USUALLY the lives of those around them by entering into a great adventure.

The hero has to make a choicelife as they know it or take the journey and change the world. They can Refuse or Respond to the call.

Will Rick help Ilsa and Victor Lazlo get to America so they can continue the Resistance against the Nazis? Will Dorothy stop the Wicked Witch of the West? Will Neo embrace his destiny and free the human race? Will Frodo destroy the ring?

If the decision is made to respond and answer the call then the Hero begins his journey. There is usually some spiritual help or aid- A Fellowship, a French police officer, a yellow bricked road, Yoda- that guides our hero toward his/her goal.

Then our Hero comes face to face with a Road of Trials.

The German Major Strasser and the Gestapo arrive in Casablanca. Dorothy is captured. The Fellowship is broken. Cypher makes a deal with Agent Smith. The Empire decides to Strike back.

Barriers arise and seek to derail our hero and try to keep them from achieving a new life. These Trials are difficult to overcome but if our Hero desires to change their life and the lives of those they care for the Trials must be dealt with and overcome.

So what does this have to do with The Sermon on the Mount? Like any great story, this post is To Be Continued….

Grace > Your Sin

I could spend the rest of my life reading about and studying the subject of Grace. I am obsessed with understanding just exactly what it is and what it means for my life. I could spend every waking minute of the rest my life dedicated to understanding Grace but I’m convinced that I would never even scratch the surface of understanding what Grace is or why God gives me that which I don’t deserve.

Today I came across another example of just how big God’s love and grace is for his children.

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve choose to believe the lies of Satan over the promises of God. They were experiencing God’s grace and love in the form of unbroken relationship and care. When they ate the fruit of the forbidden tree their “eyes were open” and for the first time they experienced shame and fear. Realizing that they were naked they fashion for themselves a covering made from fig leaves. The Hebrew word here (chagorah) means something along the lines of a belt. They made underwear from leaves and grass. Not the greatest effort to cover their shame but it was the best that they could do. It was all they were capable of.

In Genesis 3:21, after God has caught his children in their sin, after he has pronounced judgement over mankind, and after removing Adam and Eve from the garden (God’s tangible representation of his relationship and care for his children) God does something, to me, that’s incredible. God once again demonstrated his grace and love even in the face of those who openly reject and ignore his instruction.

“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

Did you catch that? God made garments and clothed them. Kuttoneth is defined as a tunic or a robe. God completely covered Adam and Eve after their sin and disobedience. God did for Adam and Eve what they couldn’t do for themselves. What they could NEVER do for themselves.

Adam and Eve covered themselves (just barely) with some twigs and leaves.

Even though their sin had removed them from God’s garden, even though their sin separated and destroyed the intimate relationship they enjoyed with God, their sin couldn’t separate them from God’s grace. God gave them more than they deserved. God’s grace covered them completely.

We are a lot like Adam and Eve. Try as we might, we will never be able to adequately cover up the shame of our sin on our own. Instead of animal skins, God’s grace covers us completely by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Trade in your fig leaf briefs. God’s grace is greater and more complete than anything you can do on your own.

Penn Gets a Bible

I came across this video earlier in the week. A friend posted it on their Facebook page and I have been going over it in my mind all week. It is a video blog posted by Penn Jillette, the illusionist. In the video Penn, an atheist, recounts a conversation that occurred after a Penn & Teller show between him and a Christian business man. Watch the video below and then read my observations. (If you are reading this in RSS you may need to click through to see the video)

Ok, now for some observations:

Genuiness. The first thig that Pen noticed about this man was that he was GENUINE. The way the man complemented the show and spoke praise to Penn & Teller came across as real and from the heart. Penn also saw that this genuine nature wasn’t just evident in the way he praised the show. This man had a genuine concern for Penn’s soul. Having the character trait of being genuine with and about people was shared by Timothy in the Bible. In the letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that Timothy was a man who had real and genuine concern for the people of Philippi. Paul writes, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” (Philippians 2:19-22)

Boldness. Acts 14:3 says, “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time (in Iconium), speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” Penn Jillette is a bear of a man. At 6’6″ he towers over most men and his booming voice looms large as well. Penn speaks his mind and is very animated when he talks. As nice as he seems most people would try to avoid any argument with this vivacious magician. However, it was the boldness of this man that seemed to capture Penn’s attention and his respect. It seems that Penn wasn’t the only one pulling off amazing wonders that night. God had a few tricks up his sleeve as well.

Love. Penn argues, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Penn, a dedicated atheist, believes that sharing your faith in Jesus Christ is ultimately an act of love and that keeping quiet about your faith is actually telling the world that you hate them and want them to go to hell. Think about that one for a minute.

One. In the video clip, you can tell that Penn is wrestling with the entire situation. He isn’t dismissive. He was touched. He isn’t defensive. He’s disarmed. He isn’t angry. He is thankful. One man. One incident. One gift. One conversation. That’s all it took.

“I know there’s no God and one polite person doesn’t change that… but I’ll tell ya, that was a very, very, very good man. And… that’s real important. And with that kind of goodness… it’s ok to have that deep of a disagreement. And I still think that religion still does a lot of bad stuff, but, man, that was good man who gave me that book.”

I’ve really been thinking about this video all week. How can I make an impact on others the way this man impacted Penn? I hope that I too can be GENUINE, BOLD, and LOVING to others so that God can use me to impact others in His name.

Choice Cuts from Linchpin

I have been reading Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin this week and I have just been soaking in the leadership goodness that overflows from this book. This book is one part field training manual and one part kick in the pants to help you get out and make a difference right now. Here are a few of the gold nuggets I’ve highlighted so far:

You Are a Genius If a genius is someone with exceptional abilities and the insight to find the not so obvious solution to a problem, you don’t need to win a Nobel Prize to be one. A genius looks at something that others are stuck on and gets the world unstuck.

The tragedy is that society (your school, your boss, your government, your family) keeps drumming the genius part out. The problem is that our culture has engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.

This book is about love and art and change and fear. It’s about overcoming a multigenerational conspiracy designed to sap your creativity and restlessness. It’s about leading and making a difference and it’s about succeeding. I couldn’t have written this book ten years ago, because ten years ago, our economy wanted you to fit in, it paid you well to fit in, and it took care of you if you fit in. Now, like it or not, the world wants something different from you. We need to think hard about what reality looks like now. What if you could learn a different way of seeing, a different way of giving, a different way of making a living? And what if you could do that without leaving your job? This is not a book for the wild-haired crazies your company keeps in a corner. It’s a book for you, your boss, and your employees, because the best future available to us is a future where you contribute your true self and your best work. Are you up for that? One promise: the world to come (and this book) is neither small nor flat.

It’s time to stop complying with the system and draw your own map. Stop settling for what’s good enough and start creating art that matters. Stop asking what’s in it for you and start giving gifts that change people. Then, and only then, will you have achieved your potential.

After years of being taught that you have to be an average worker for an average organization, that society would support you for sticking it out, you discover that the rules have changed. The only way to succeed is to be remarkable, to be talked about. But when it comes to a person, what do we talk about? People are not products with features, benefits, and viral marketing campaigns; they are individuals. If we’re going to talk about them, we’re going to discuss what they do, not who they are. You don’t become indispensable merely because you are different. But the only way to be indispensable is to be different. That’s because if you’re the same, so are plenty of other people. The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.

Every successful organization has at least one linchpin; some have dozens or even thousands. The linchpin is the essential element, the person who holds part of the operation together. Without the linchpin, the thing falls apart.

If your boss won’t raise your bar, you should.

Fearless doesn’t really mean “without fear.” What it means in practice is, “unafraid of things that one shouldn’t be afraid of.” Being fearless means giving a presentation to an important customer without losing a night’s sleep. It means being willing to take intellectual risks and to forge a new path. The fear is about an imagined threat, so avoiding the fear allows you to actually accomplish something. Reckless, on the other hand, means rushing into places that only a fool would go. Reckless leads to huge problems, usually on the boss’s dime. Reckless is what led us to the mortgage and liquidity crisis. Reckless is way out of style. Feckless? Feckless is the worst of all. Ineffective, indifferent, and lazy.

You are not your résumé. You are your work.

All That Can’t Leave You Behind

I’ve been listening to one of my all-time favorite albums, U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, most of the evening. I absolutely love this album. It reminds me of early college life and all the new experiences and fun that come with time of your life. We’ve been rearranging some furniture in the house tonight but I have found myself a little distracted. You see, it seems as though some lyric or line captures my attention and pulls me into the music. This has happened on each and every song (yes, even New York and Wild Honey). So, as we listened, I collected my favorite lines or verses below.

To me, music doesn’t get much better than Beautiful Day, lyrics don’t get much better than Stuck In a Moment, hope doesn’t get much better than Walk On, and love doesn’t get better than Grace.

Beautiful Day
See the Bedouin fires at night / See the oil fields at first light and / See the bird with a leaf in her mouth / After the flood all the colors came out

(Beautiful Day ranks #1 on my “Greatest Songs to Wake Up To” list)

Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
And if the night runs over / And if the day won’t last / And if our way should falter / Along the stony pass / It’s just a moment, this time will pass

(Perfect finish.)

Love, lift me out of these blues / Won’t you tell me something true / I believe in you

(Narrowly beat out the line A mole living in a hole / Digging up my soul. Narrowly.)

Walk On
You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been / A place that has to be believed to be seen

(The live version takes you home with a chorus of “Hallelujahs” at the end.)

Who’s to say where the wind will take you / Who’s to say what it is will break you / I don’t know where the wind will blow / Who’s to know when the time has come around

(When Bono dedicates this to his late Father I dare you not to tear up.)

In a Little While
In a little while I won’t be blown by every breeze / Friday night running to Sunday on my knees

(There’s an entire youth group message series contain here in)

Wild Honey
Did I know you, did I know you even then / Before the clocks kept time, before the world was made / From the cruel sun you were my shelter / You were my shelter and my shade

(Every album needs some throw away ditty. Thankfully these lyrics narrowly save this one. Narrowly.)

Peace On Earth
Their lives are bigger than any big idea

(This song is bigger than any one lyric.)

When I Look At the World
So I try to be like you / Try to feel it like you do / But without you it’s no use

(“When you see as God sees, you will do what God says.” – A. Stanley)

New York
In the stillness of the evening / When the sun has had its day / I heard your voice whispering / Come away now

(Every album needs an odd track.)

What once was hurt / What once was friction / What left a mark no longer stings / Because Grace makes beauty / Out of ugly things


Bonus: The Ground Beneath Her Feet was a bonus track on some of the early presses of ATYCLB. No lyric hit me but I rocked out some sweet air guitar to the Edge’s solo.

Making Jesus Famous

If you have not read The Tipping Point, Blink, or Outliers than you are probably unfamiliar with one of the greatest storytellers and one of the most brilliant writers around- the great Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell’s latest, What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures, is a collection of his favorite articles written for The New Yorker. Gladwell has the uncanny knack of drawing you into something that is at first mundane and somewhat uninteresting. However, you quickly begin to find a hidden nugget of wisdom or truth right smack dab in the middle of a story about Hush Puppies or airline disasters.

That’s why it came as no surprise to me that as I was reading his article about Ron Popeil last night I was reminded of the most important truth for authentic God-honoring ministry- the key is making Jesus famous.

You don’t know who Ron Popeil is? I’m certain that you know about his greatest product to date: The Ronco Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ. The tag line is unforgettable: (Say it with me) Just Set it & Forget it!!! The Showtime has sold millions of units and made a billion dollars all because of a twenty eight minute and thirty second informercial filmed and financed and starring Ron Popeil. According to Gladwell, Popeil “didn’t use a single focus group. He had no market researchers, R&D teams, public relations advisers, Madison Avenue advertising companies, or business consultants. He dreamed up something new in his kitchen and went out and pitched it himself.”

Gladwell makes it perfectly clear that in the informercial- in any of his infomercials- Ron Popeil is decidedly not the star. The product is the star! Ron built a product that is designed well- designed in such a way that the user can see “the magic happen” and Ron simply shows the thing off. He lets the machine sell itself!

So what does that have to do with making Jesus famous? I am NOT comparing Jesus to a stupid rotisserie or even saying that ministry is about selling Jesus as a cheap product. Repeat: I am NOT comparing Jesus to a stupid rotisserie or even saying that ministry is about selling Jesus as a cheap product. Heaven forbid that I reduce the King of Kings to a thing like that! However, I have learned a valuable lesson from Mr. Popeil.

As a minister of Jesus Christ the greatest way for me to make Jesus famous is to allow people to see more of Jesus than they see of me.

Jesus said that when He is lifted up, then He will draw everyone unto himself. (John 12:32) That is a powerful promise! The power of love was made evident when Jesus was lifted up on the cross. The power of new life was made known when Jesus was raised from the dead. As Jesus ascended into heaven the power of mission was given to us. The power of Jesus is still best understood and radically experienced when we lift Him up to a dying and broken world.

If we would lift Jesus up higher than our churches, higher than our ministries, higher than ourselves… If we would make it our goal to make the name and person of Jesus Christ more famous than ourselves… can you imagine what would happen?

Do you want to make a difference in the lives of others? Do you want to see marriages healed and families strengthened? Do you want to see people released from lives marked by fear, greed, pain, and sorrow?

Than get out of the way and lift high the One who can really change broken lives.

Lift up Jesus Christ- put Him at the center of your ministry and life- and let him be the star.

Scenes from U2360

I had an absolute blast at the U2 concert on Monday. Unfortunately, my camera battery died halfway through the show so these are the best of best shots I was able to capture. I cannot explain to you how great this show was. U2 has ruined all other bands for me.

I was able to catch them in Atlanta last week and the show was great. the Dallas show however, was over the top! The energy level was amped up, Bono’s voice sounded crisp, and the whole thing was just that much better. What an experience! See ya next time boys!









Nine Moments from The Nines

1) 5 Step Apprentice Process (Dave Ferguson)
2) “Stay Close to Jesus Son.”
3) My number one prayer is that I’ll hear God’s voice everyday and that I’ll have the courage and faith to obey. (Scott Hodge)
4) Have the faith to walk away from the orchard. (S. Hodge)
5) A movement cannot be planned but it must be prepared for. What are you doing to prepare for God’s movement in your church? (Perry Noble)
6) The Daisy Cutter Doctrine: the larger the impact of the ministry, the more legitimate the ministry – this is false!!! (Skye Jethani)
7) Numbers 20: Moses was disobedient but a miracle happened anyway. Maybe outcomes are not an accurate portrayal of legitimacy in ministry. (Skye Jethani)
8) Root your legitimacy in Jesus not in outcomes (Skye Jethani)
9) The Red Sea is gonna part! (Steve Robinson)

11am- 1pm
1) You are a “spiritual coach”- help people discover their gifts/ministry/desire for Christ (Scott Wilson)
2) Phil 3:10: Know Christ. Know the People you Serve. Know Your Partnerships. Know the Poor. (Dino Rizzo)
3) Spiritual Malpractice- offering people Jesus as the healer but failing to offer the safe places, people, and processes to help them heal. (Jorge Acevedo)
4) As people get closer to me, do they really grow closer to Jesus or do I turn them away from Jesus? (Nancy Beach)
5) Guard your heart (Prov 4:23) through 1) Spiritual Practices, 2) Safe Relationships, 3) Stretching experiences
6) I hope that I can give you INSPIRATION and INFORMATION that leads to TRANSFORMATION not STAGNATION that leads to FRUSTRATION. (Steven Furtick)
7) Elijah never would have gone to Mt Carmel if the brook had not dried up. Even when you are doing what God has called you to do- the brook might dry up. God’s glory will be revealed. 1Kings 17:7. (Steven Furtick)
8) You must learn to do Ministry out of the overflow of the Spirit of God in your life. (Craig Groeschel)
9) the challenge is to engage in the stream (of people, the culture) that flows right outside our doors. (Rick Rusaw)