Join The Prayer Team

Yesterday official marked the beginning of the Easter season. The 40 days leading up to Good Friday is  traditionally known as Lent. This is a season that calls Christians to prepare their hearts and minds through repentance, worship, fasting and prayer. Personally, I am using this time to refocus and recommit to praying for my life, family, and ministry.

I recently read Turnaround Pastor by Don Ross and he uses the acrostic P.R.A.Y.E.R. T.E.A.M. as a great approach to give you clarity and to help you stay focused as you pray. I’ve been using this as my prayer agenda over the last few weeks and I have experienced an increase in my capacity to concentrate and articulate what is really on my heart.

I want to share this with you today with the hope that it will help you gain a better handle on the time you spend with God in prayer each day. If you’ve ever been able to spend much time in prayer, I think this guide with help you create a strong foundation for a consistent and beneficial prayer life.

Try and spend at least one minute praying through each of these areas of focus.

1. Praise: How can I praise God my Father? Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4   

2. Repent: Is the Spirit convicting me of sin? For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. Psalm 51:3–4   

3. Ask: What “Big Thing” am I asking for? Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7–8   

4. Yield: Am I regularly obeying the Spirit? If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:15 

5. Example: Father, make me an example others can follow. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. I Corinthians 11:1   

6. Relationships: How can I love others in my relationships? My marriage, children, friends, neighbors, etc. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34–35   

7. Three: Who are three people the Spirit is asking me to pray for and invite to our church? Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:5   

8. Eyes and Ears: Pray that each person has a soft heart so their eyes and ears are open to the gospel. You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Matthew 13:14–15   

9. Attitude: How does my attitude need to change to be more like Jesus’ attitude? Have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5   

10. Mission: How is God asking me to move the mission forward in helping people discover, trust, and love Jesus Christ? I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18

adapted from Turn Around Pastor by Don Ross

Watered-Down Love

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A few years ago I purchased the Bob Dylan Collection, a digital box set, from iTunes. The collection included every single Bob Dylan song, bootleg, and album from Bob Dylan (’62) to Modern Times (’06).

As I sifted through all the tracks, I came across a handful (ok, more than a handful) of songs that I had never heard before. One of the songs that I came across wasWatered-Down Love from the 1981 album Shot of Love.

The first time I listened to this song the lyrics seemed instantly familiar to me. The song is a contrast between pure love and the cheap, imitation that the world tries to pass off to us as love. Bob seems to say to us what Paul had to say to the church in Corinth.

Watered-Down Love
Shot of Love
Bob Dylan

Love that’s pure hopes all things,
Believes all things, won’t pull no strings,
Won’t sneak up into your room, tall, dark and handsome,
Capture your heart and hold it for ransom.

You don’t want a love that’s pure
You wanna drown love
You want a watered-down love

Love that’s pure, it don’t make no claims,
Intercedes for you ‘stead of casting you blame,
Will not deceive you or lead you to transgression,
Won’t write it up and make you sign a false confession.

You don’t want a love that’s pure
You wanna drown love
You want a watered-down love

Love that’s pure won’t lead you astray,
Won’t hold you back, won’t mess up your day,
Won’t pervert you, corrupt you with stupid wishes,
It don’t make you envious, it don’t make you suspicious.

You don’t want a love that’s pure
You wanna drown love
You want a watered-down love

Love that’s pure ain’t no accident,
Always on time, is always content,
An eternal flame, quietly burning,
Never needs to be proud, restlessly yearning.

You don’t want a love that’s pure
You wanna drown love
You want a watered-down love

I hope that no one would ever dedicate this song to you or me. Jesus said that people will know that we are his disciples by the way we love others. For too long, the people of God have been known more for what we hate than for what we love.

Paul writes, “If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. Itdoes not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil butrejoices with the truth. It alwaysprotects, always trusts, alwayshopes, always perseveresLove never fails.” (1Corinthians 13:1-8)

Let’s resolve to live everyday loving those around us with a pure and unadulterated love. A love that lifts high the name of Jesus. A love that seeks to bring hope and healing. A love that is fueled by the Holy Spirit.

Let there be NO watered-down love around here.

An earlier version of this essay was posted on August 28, 2009.


As I wrap up the last few minutes in my office on this final day of 2013, I wanted to post a thought or two here before I power-down the Mac, lock the doors, and head home for the evening.

I keep thinking back over the previous 364 days and I’ve come to the conclusion that this past year was a bridging year for me and my family. We had to cross a mighty river and we experienced a myriad of emotions, setbacks, triumphs, near-tragedies, exhaustion, much grace, and lots of mercy.

All this to get us from where we are now to where God intends for us to be.

I look forward to the new year because I can see a hint, a glimmer, of hope and God-sized possibilities. This vision has been born out of the crucible of this past year. I wouldn’t trade the last 12 months for anything because I believe God gave us this past year to lay a foundation for what is to come.

I’m ready to live in 2014.

My prayer is that you are too.

Let’s live a better story together as we move forward into whatever God has in store for us this next year.



Like a baby’s birth
Something brand new comes this way
and changes bring life.


Last Sunday, I began a new sermon series entitled, “Legacy.” All of us desire to leave something of worth to those we leave behind. Our legacy can be an inheritance, character traits, or a passion for a cause or people group. Leaving a legacy then is really about STEWARDSHIP.

Traditionally, when we have heard the word stewardship we automatically begin thinking about finances or writing a check to the church or another organization. Stewardship encompasses much more than just our money. Stewardship is about living the life that God has given us in such a way that all the glory and honor goes to Him.

If we are going to understand the true, biblical understanding of stewardship then we have to understand 3 things:

  1. God is the owner of everything. He owns our money. He owns our things. He owns our livelihoods, and ultimately, He owns our lives.
  2. We are merely stewards of all that God owns. When God created Adam and Eve, he made them stewards of the Garden. They were placed in charge of all that God created and they were given the responsibility of taking care of God’s creation. The same is true for us. We get confused when we begin to believe that everything we have is ours and that it is owned by us. We can get possessive. We can get territorial. We can get selfish. However, when we begin to see that everything we have – our families, our things, our relationships, our lives – has been entrusted to us to care for, tend, and nurture than that can change our hearts and the way we live.
  3. We have the responsibility to manage everything for God’s glory. Everything that God has given us isn’t ours to own but ours to manage. You don’t own your finances, God has blessed you with income so that you can take care of your family and bless others. Your job isn’t yours to own, you have been put in your position in order to interact with and impact those around you. You aren’t just a student, you are using the gifts and cognitive abilities that God has given you in order to learn and grow.

So, if God owns everything and if we are merely stewards of those things, talents, and abilities than leaving a legacy is really about how we live.Your legacy won’t be determined by how much money you have when you die. Your legacy won’t be determined by how many buildings or organizations are named after you.

The truth is, your legacy will only be determined by the way that you steward the life and relationships that God gives you.

Only One Life

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.

– CT Studd

New FPU Kits Have Arrived!

Good morning everyone!

Summer is less than one week away and I can’t believe this year is flying by so fast. I am getting so excited about the summer. One of the reasons I’m so excited is because we are starting a whole new semester of Financial Peace University at our church. This class has truly impacted the way I view and interact with money. Dave Ramsey’s material is practical, fun, and most importantly, biblically driven.

Dave teaches that personal finance is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge. Taking contra of your finances is more about what you do than what you know. FPU helps with both of these aspects in order to challenge you to use your money God’s way.

Last Fall, Dave’s team released an update to its FPU material. Our new Member Kits arrived this week and I wanted to show you what you get when you register for Financial Peace University. There is some great stuff in these new kits!


When you open the box you are greeted with an awesome reminder: Your Story Begins Today. That’s right! You have decided to do something different. When you choose to start using your money and finances according to God’s Word, it will impact your future. It will change you. It will change your kids. It will change your family tree. FPU really does change your story. Let’s take a look at the tools you’ll be using to write that new story.


The first stop is to unpack the Start Here box. Inside you’ll find a handful of goodies including stickers, bookmarks, and some old school “budget tools” (aka: A pencil and an eraser. What, no abacus?) The most important thing you’ll need is your Online Member code which will give you access to a dozen or more online resources, forms, and articles. This really is an invaluable tool and as an FPU student, I’d encourage you to take full advantage of everything available online.



Next, you’ll find two books. The first is your Workbook. This will be your constant companion and the the thing you must bring with you to class each week. This new and improved workbook still provides you with an outline  and fill-in-the-blanks for each lesson but it is much more user-friendly than its predecessor. There are more forms, more articles to help you understand the concepts, and I believe the contents is just presented in a much more concise and engaging way.

The second book is Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money. This is a brand-new book created specifically for this material. It is the supplement text to everything you’ll be learning in FPU. The previous version of the kit came with Dave’s Total Money Makeover. That book focused more on the 7 Baby Steps where as this book really is a companion guide for the class.

If you have been a part of FPU in the past, you may know what that blue case is. It isn’t a check book. It’s your Envelope System! The Envelope System is introduced in Lesson 3. Basically, you fill each envelope with the cash that you have allotted for it in your budget. Then you are free to spend from the envelope but when it’s gone, it’s gone. It is a basic tool but a game changing one as well. This latest incarnation comes with plenty of envelopes for the future and the ledger on each envelope has more spaces for you to record your activity on.


There is another blue case in the kit. This case houses all of the Audio Lessons from each session. Since we are teaching a summer session of FPU, I know that you are bound to miss at least one of the lessons due to traveling for the summer. That’s ok! You have all the lessons at your fingertips. These 9 discs are the audio from each of the video lessons we will watch at FPU. You can listen to them around the dinner table and fill out your workbook. You can listen to them in the car. You can put them on your iPod and listen during your workout. I love having access to these lessons so that I can go back and be reminded of something from class or get some clarification on something I may not have understood. In fact, this is my favorite part of the kit.


So there you have it! The new Financial Peace University Member Kit not only looks great but is filled with some many great tools to help you start using money God’s way. I have a couple of these kits left for you to purchase at $89. Once these are gone, the price increases. Sign up today and get ready to change your life!

Our class begins on June 20th and I hope you will be a part of it. You can click here to find out more details about the class, time, and location.

The Greatest Thing You Do…

A few numbers for you this morning:
2 Billion.

2 Billion.
In 1970, Neil Borlaug received a Nobel Peace Prize for helping to increase the world’s food supply and help to alleviate world hunger on a global scale. He and his team set out to hybridize crops like wheat and corn so that they could grow in arid climates. These crops were hearty enough to withstand the harsh elements and food production was able to overcome these climates. As a result, 2 billion people were saved from famine and starvation.

In 1941, Henry Wallace became the 33rd Vice President of the United States and served under FDR until 1945. Before becoming Vice President, Wallace had served as the Secretary of Agriculture. His father, a farmer and college professor at Iowa State, had held the Secretary post a little over a decade before him. Shortly after becoming Vice President, Wallace created a program called the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program which set out to focus on soil development and corn/wheat production so that these crops could be grown in dry, arid climates. Wallace established the program and Neil Borlaug spent 16 years in it developing and breeding wheat and corn for 2 billion hungry people all over the world.

In 1894, George Washington Carver was a student studying botany at Iowa State – the first black student at Iowa State. He was not allowed to stay in the student dormitories because of his race so one of the professors took him in and allowed Carver to stay at their home. This professor had a 6 year old son and would allow Carver to take the young boy out into the fields on nature walks and botany expeditions.  After Carver left for Tuskegee, the boy he mentored, Henry Wallace, continued working with agriculture and plants. This boy’s fascination with plant breeding and the potential of agriculture to impact the lives of many only grew over time. Years later, George Washington Carver would rise to prominence as a great scientist and his work with plants, especially the peanut, changed the world as we know it. However, one of Carver’s greatest accomplishments might have been the time that he spent with that 6 year old boy teaching him about plants and nature and life.

These stories represent a great truth that I was reminded of last week. The greatest thing you may do as a leader might not be what you accomplish but the impact you make on someone who watches you. The greatest thing you do in this life may not be something you achieve but someone you serve.

George Washington Carver mentored a 6 year old Henry Wallace who grew up to become Vice President and start a program where Neil Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize for developing crops which helped save 2 billion people from starvation.

What you do today in the lives of those around you- your co-workers, your children, your students, your spouse- is laying a foundation for a future harvest.

Go out today and serve those around you. 2 billion people’s lives may hang in the balance.

Want to be a Catalyst Leader?

If you are a leader, I want you to know about a brand new book that is hot off the press. Many of you are familiar with Catalyst, the innovative and experiential leadership movement that has been going on for now almost 14 years, and now one of America’s most influential leadership organizations, with conferences and leadership gatherings all around the US.

Today is a big day because of the release of the book The Catalyst Leader. My good friend Brad Lomenick authors this game changing leadership book, based on his 20 years of leadership experience, as well as the last 10 years experience as the president and lead visionary of Catalyst. In it Brad identifies and captures what he calls the 8 Essentials for Becoming a Change Maker. Ultimately identifying the essentials of a Catalyst Leader needed for leading well, and leading now.

According to the book, a catalyst leader must be the following:

Called by God to leadership and willing to seek his will

Authentic and humble, becoming influential rather than impressive

Passionate about God, committed to developing a heart for the creator

Capable and determined, working harder than anyone on the team

Courageous when the time comes to take a leap

Principled in every decision made, unwilling to compromise for convenience

Hopeful despite challenges, believing God can do what we cannot

Collaborative, drawing on the strength of others and sharing praise

Living and leading by these essentials provides both spiritual and practical avenues to developing the qualities essential to leaders hoping to build a passionate, effective team that will last. This is not a book of theories. It is not a bragging autobiography from one successful boss. It is an honest and authentic examination of what you must be and do in order to empower and lead others to success and righteousness.

You can purchase the book wherever books are sold. Go to the book site at to purchase today. I can’t recommend this book enough, whether you are a young leader or seasoned sage. It’s filled with practical leadership advice and application.

And, as a special bonus anyone who purchases the book between today and May 5th, scan and send your receipt to and you’ll receive over $600 of leadership resources for FREE, all for simply purchasing the book during this week from any outlet, including the Catalyst store as well as other retail outlets.

Order the book and receive:

Catalyst Leader eBook – Take The Catalyst Leader with you on the go with the e-Reader of
your choice. Or, keep the eBook for yourself and give the physical copy to a friend!

? Catalyst Leader Audiobook – It’s true all leaders are readers, but if reading isn’t your thing,
this is a great way to hear this incredible content!

? Catalyst Leader Music Sampler Album - Catalyst is passionate about worship and releasing
new songs into the church. This sampler album will give you some of the top songs from the Catalyst movement.

? Catalyst Message Sampler Album – Get a few downloads of some messages that have
impacted the Catalyst movement throughout the years. Featuring timeless leadership lessons,
these messages have helped form the insights shared in The Catalyst Leader.

100 Photo/Text Images – We’ve picked some of our favorite quotes from The Catalyst
Leader and created 100 sharable images with the quotes. Tweet, Instagram, or share them and
challenge the leaders around you with profound leadership insights.

You will want to have The Catalyst Leader in your leadership library for years to come. Get it today and make a dent in your universe for the Kingdom of God.

The Power Of Money

“This is money.”

It began after a trip to Nana and Papa’s house. Ever since I was a boy I can remember my dad coming home from a long day of teaching and coaching and emptying his pockets of keys and loose change. The change would go in a jar or in a drawer or even in a small change purse. I guess things hadn’t really changed because after spending the weekend at my parents house my then 2 year old boy had added a new category to his understanding of the way the world worked. He had become aware of money. In fact he was now a little too aware.

Leave a quarter on the table. It was snatched up by his little chubby hands. Drop a penny on the floor. In a flash he had ferreted it away to his room. He would take all the change from my car, my jar, and my nightstand table. He would grab it, look at you, laugh, and then run away with it. My little boy had turned into Gollum and anything round and shiny became his “precious.” Try and take that quarter back and risk loosing a finger. He started asking me for money. He asked his mom. He told us about Nana and Papa’s money. Money was now something he was keenly aware of. And he was in love with it.

As a dad it unnerved me a little. Where did this obsession come from? Is this a sneak peek at his future? Would he live his life collecting and swimming in gold coins (Duck Tales! aWEEOO!)? I had visions of my perfect little boy becoming a crusty old miser.

However, something quite different has happened. Something like what happened last night.

As Sandy was tucking him in bed, my son asked her, “Mom, why do all little boys have their own bed?” Sandy told him that not everyone has their own bed. He got very concerned and wanted to know why. Sandy explained that sometimes their families don’t have enough money to afford a bed. Hewson jumped up and grabbed his money bucket where he keeps all my spare change he has stolen.

“I have money. They can take this and buy a bed.” He didn’t offer up some of it. He gave it all. So that some kid some where could have a bed to sleep in.

After, I stopped crying. I thanked God for giving me such an amazing kid. I also thank God for some how, some way helping us to teach him the value and the power of money to do good.

It hasn’t been very easy but there have been a few things we have done to intentionally help our little boy move from loving money to using using money in order to love people. 3 things come to mind:

1) Giving Gifts
We have an amazing group of people that help us function as a family. From friends to teachers to babysitters to family members we are surrounded by people that help us every week by caring for our kids. When it comes to giving them tangible expressions of our thankfulness for their love and sacrifice we have included our son in giving those gifts. He goes with us to purchase items for care packages. He stands with us at the register to help pay. He helps us care the gifts to their recipients. We make a big deal out of how much fun it can be to give. If you are with us on the nights we get to say thanks, you would see what we mean. Lots of laughter, singing, and fun. My son has the same spiritual gift as I do: a loud voice. To hear him say “Thank You” at the top of his lungs will melt your heart.

2) Talk About How Blessed We Are
We try and daily draw his attention to just how blessed we are. My wife does a great job at this. Just like our little conversation last night, Sandy takes opportunities daily to tell him that sometimes people don’t have the things that he does. It could be a bed or toys or even body parts. One night during prayers Hew thanked God for his hands. Sandy swallowed hard and took that opportunity to tell him that some boys and girls don’t have hands. I know that sounds gruesome but we want him to know that he has been blessed because we believe that that blessing comes with a responsibility. We are blessed to be blessings.

3) Use Holidays and Events to Teach Giving
Over the last few years Halloween and Easter have helped us teach Hewson the value and fun of giving. (Did I just write about Easter and Halloween in the same sentence?!?!) These are two holidays that are taylor made for teaching this lesson. At Halloween we have spent more time having Hewson give away candy at our house than we have taking him around the neighborhood. When that doorbell rings he can’t wait to hand out candy. This Easter, we had him stuff eggs for the egg hunt at our church. We reminded him that these eggs were for others. He got so excited about sharing. We took 2 holidays that already have positive giving elements and simply tried to highlight the giving over and above the getting.

Does my son still balk at sharing his toys with others? Yes. Does he sometimes flip out when he doesn’t get his way? Yes. Does he still snatch my change from my car? Oh Yes!

I recently watched an amazing documentary about a musician named Josh Garrels. In the opening few minutes, it shows Josh and his wife wrangling their two kids and Josh talks about how they do life as a family together in the midst of work and creating art. He echoes my feelings about all of this when he describes what it’s like growing and teaching little kids at this stage of their lives. He says, “This has been the biggest lesson for me and my life: Unconditionally loving and serving someone without, at this point, seeing any return beyond just having a relationship with them. Especially at the ages their at…when they are young, you’re in reaction mode.”

Teaching my son about giving and serving has been an exercise in patience and hope and frustration and victory and setback. Much like what God goes through in teaching us important lessons. The breakthroughs come not from 3 neat steps or an instructional video or even a how-to book.

The breakthroughs come from a relationship marked by unconditional love and service. 

We catch small glimpses of breakthroughs when we experience things like what happened last night. It’s those glimmers of hope that give us encouragement to keep investing in helping our son understand that the real power of money is found in giving it away.

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