Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Learning from the Best

Man...this week has gotten off to an amazing start.

On Monday, I had the opportunity to meet Andy Stanley, one of the most gifted leaders and communicators in the country. Andy is the Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church, and a best-selling author of many of my personal favorite books. He came to speak to our staff, as well as a few church planters that NorthStar has been instrumental in helping to launch over the past year or two.

Instead of delivering a "canned" message, Andy did something a little different. He shared with us some of the most profound quotes he has personally heard or read in his 11-plus years at North Point. These are quotes he has taped to books and bookcases in his office - words that fuel his passion for reaching people who don't yet know Christ.

Perhaps my favorite quote he shared was one he heard recently in a presentation to the board of Crown Ministries: "When your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near."

How profound! The danger of accomplishment, Andy said, was that people spend far too much time talking about the past. It paralyzes people. They cannot move forward because they are still patting themselves on the back for things they may have done a decade ago!

The real issue here is keeping your feet (and your mind) moving forward. It's great (and necessary) to look back on our lives and recall God's victories through us. But, there's no "rewind button" in life. And, if we're living in the past, we'll lose touch and relevance with both the present and the future!

I met another amazing guy on Tuesday...I'll share about that experience in tomorrow's post!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The 2sday 10

Top 10 Worst Halloween Treats
Disclaimer: straight from the above web site - I didn't write these, but thought they were funny

Apples. Not only do parents freak out about razorblades, kids can get apples any time they want! Parents give kids apples in their lunch boxes every day! Apples are a lame treat, even if you do cover them in caramel.
Bible verses. In my hometown, this always served the self-righteous pontiff with at least two cartons of Grade A Farm Fresh.
Chocolate-covered peanuts. These almost never taste good unless you buy a really good brand. Besides, Halloween can mean a lot of sweaty running around, and those things will melt everywhere.
Cookies you baked yourself. Might as well pre-crumble them before handing them out, because they are done for once they get tossed in the sack. Plus, baking cookies en masse means uneven baking and burned bits. Yuck.
Those caramels wrapped in orange wax paper. Does ANYBODY like those?
6. Dried fruit of any kind. You're not making a pity visit to the rest home. Dried fruit is an instant TP'ing.
Coupons. Probably the most disappointing thing ever to get in your plastic pumpkin.
Novelty Halloween candy wrapped in foil. This stuff tastes like wax. It may cost 20c per truckload but you'll be paying more to clean off the front of your house.
Mints. Unless there's some kind of chocolate on that mint, you're in big trouble. Kids hate mints because they remind them of toothpaste. If you MUST freshen their breath, try Andes mints or Peppermint Patties.
Popcorn balls. Stale, tasteless and crappy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Strike a Pose

As a kid, I always had dreams of hoisting the Heisman Trophy. I just didn't know that it would be when I was 33 years old and at church on a Sunday morning...but it was a thrill nonetheless!

Yesterday, we capped off our Fanatic sermon series at NorthStar, and one of the guys who has been attending who works for Nissan Corporation asked if we would mind if he brought in the Heisman Trophy for us for the final week. Obviously, it was a decision we didn't need to stew on very long.

The final message of the series was entitled "Team Player," and each year the Heisman Trophy is awarded to a player who does more than any other player in the country to help his team succeed. In life there are individuals who are all about themselves. Men and women who look for the spotlight and run around trying to stay in it (these people are easy to identify).

And, then there are others who are so consumed with helping the TEAM win that they virtually get lost in the shuffle. These are the true champions in life. And, they're likely the people in your life who hold you up because they are your biggest fans!

Everyone loves a team player. And, I pray everyone strives to become one. Because we all accomplish more as a team than we ever can when we act only in our own best interests.

Friday, October 26, 2007

new book uncovers perceptions about Christianity among young people

David Kinnaman (The Barna Group) and Gabe Lyons (Fermi Project) have just released a new book that has the potential to truly revolutionize how churches and Christ-followers see "lost" people.

"How?" you may ask. Well, it's because the book - entitled Un-Christian - reveals gobs about how Christians are perceived by Generations X and Y. What we, as believers, do with this information will reveal quite a bit about who we really are, and if we truly care about those who don't know Christ.

I have not had an opportunity to read the book yet, but you can bet that I will!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The 2sday 10

Top 10 Baby Names of 2006

Girls' Names
1. Emma
2. Madison
3. Ava
4. Emily

5. Isabella
6. Kaitlyn
7. Sophia
8. Olivia
9. Abigail
10. Hailey
Bonus - Most popular girl's name in the 1990's: Jessica

Boys' Names
1. Aiden
2. Jacob
3. Ethan
4. Ryan
5. Matthew
6. Jack
7. Noah
8. Nicholas
9. Joshua
10. Logan
Bonus - Most popular boy's name of the 1990's: Michael

Monday, October 22, 2007

Self Perceptions and Deceptions

All too often we, as human beings, confuse "what" we are with "who" we are. For example, think about virtually any social setting in which you are in a room of people you do not know. When pleasantries are exchanged and introductions are made, what is the first question asked? You got it - "What do you do for a living?"

And, as frustrating as that can be, there's hardly a way around that question, as insignificant or unimportant it may be in the grand scheme of things. I guess we ask that question because we're fishing for common ground, and it's a less threatening question than, "Have you ever been arrested?"

But, as platonic as the "What do you do?" question can seem, the danger of that question being repeated is that we begin to adopt "what we do" as our identity. It becomes a label. "That's the mortgage guy." or "You know Jim. He's the guy who cleans gutters and pressure washes houses." Or, "She's the stay at home mom who is the President of the PTSA." Labels.

In a sense, others' perceptions of who we really are can be considered cases of mistaken identity. But, this becomes even more problematic when we are the ones short-changing ourselves and begin a pattern of self-deception. Nowhere is this more of a threat than in the spiritual realm.

Our enemy taunts us and convinces us to believe the worst about ourselves. When we make mistakes, he reminds us how flawed we are. When we make poor moral choices, he shames us. He entices us to beat ourselves up. He urges us to eliminate and disqualify ourselves from being in the game. Before we know it, we identify ourselves as "sinner." And, when this happens, he accomplishes his goal.

As followers of Christ, we have a new identity that Satan cannot remove - child of God. This is the true identity that we must embrace. In times when we fall short, this is what we have to cling onto. Without this identity, we are everything Satan tells us we are.

We all will make stupid decisions, poor choices, and use bad judgment. In those instances, the enemy will be looking for the upper hand. We can deny him this opportunity by remembering who we REALLY are, and to whom we belong.

Don't fall into the pit of mistaken identity.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

You Must Be Joking

I don't know if you've been following the whole Yankees & Joe Torre deal the past couple weeks, but I am just dumbfounded. Essentially, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner issued a statement right after the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs stating that Torre would not return as the club's skipper in 2008.

Then he hit the brakes. He issued another statement that a decision would be make in the next couple days. And, when a decision wasn't reached after a couple days, the team announced that meetings would be held in Flordia to determine Torre's future with the Yankees.
Now, after two days of meetings involving General Manager Brian Cashman, team President Randy Levine, and Steinbrenner, a decision still has not been announced.

Here's my take. Torre has been an incredible manager for nearly 25 seasons. He was great with the Braves, the Cardinals, and for the past 12 seasons with the Yankees. He's a winner. Now, I don't know about you, but if I was in my 60's, had millions and millions of dollars stashed away, and had amazing success with a team that wasn't sure if it wanted my services any longer, I'd make the decision easy for everyone: I'd say "sayanara" and wipe my hands clean of Steinbrenner and the Yankees.

Obviously, we haven't heard much from Torre, but all signs point to the fact that he wants to come back to the team. Why in the world would he want to come back and work for a micro-managing, unappreciative egomaniac? Beats me.

As crazy as this Torre deal is, it's probably not much different than some of the silly things we do. We might be in a situation that is less than ideal, but we're willing to compromise in order to stay in the limelight or cash a larger paycheck than we would in another set of circumstances that could ultimately be more rewarding.

Remember, there's something much more at stake than winning and a bank statement. And, it's infinitely more valuable than either of those: character.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The 2sday 10

Top 10 Deadliest Creatures on Earth

10. Poison Dart Frog - produces enough toxin to kill ten humans
9. Cape Buffalo - These 1,500 pound bad-boys charge predators head on with two sharp horns.
8. Polar Bear - Can rip your head off with one swipe of its giant paw
7. Elephant - These 16,000 pound beasts kill more than 500 people annually. Dumbo, yo!

6. Australian Saltwater Crocodile - Krikey! This dude looks like a log. Accidentally step on one, and it'll pull you in the water to drown and dismember you. Nice.

5. African Lion - A near perfect hunter - razor sharp claws, quick, and giant fangs. Hakuna Matata!

4. Great White Shark - Bloodthirsty fish with 3,000-plus teeth. I thought Jabber Jaw was a friendly dude.
3. Australian Box Jellyfish - Has up to 60 tentacles that are each 15-feet long. Each tentacle's toxin can kill up to 60 humans.
2. Asian Cobra - Not the most venomous snake, but the cobra is responsible for the most snakebite deaths each year.

1. Mosquito - Man, that mosquito bite is killing me. Really. These suckers are responsible for more than 2 million deaths each year worldwide.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Difficult but Rewarding

This past Thursday morning, my wife Amy's grandfather passed away after a long and difficult battle with cancer. A few months ago, my mother-in-law asked if I would represent the family and serve as the Officiant of the funeral service. While I must admit that the thought of delivering a eulogy for a member of the family was unsettling, I was truly honored to fill that role, particularly in such a difficult time for the family.

In the days leading up to the funeral, a steady calm came over me like I could never have expected. In the previous weeks, I was truly a basket case - mostly because I was so saddened by his declining health, and often putting myself in the shoes of those closest to him. But, I asked many of my close friends to be in prayer for the family, and to lift me up to the Lord - that I would delicately but confidently speak words of encouragement to the family during this emotional time.

The Lord came through - both for the family and for me - over the weekend. While we were all heartbroken at his passing, we celebrated the fact that he is in an amazing place now - in heaven with our loving Father. There were many tears shed at the viewing and at the funeral service - tears of sadness and pain; but, also tears of pure joy, for "Paw Paw" has a new home and a new body.

In the hours leading up to his passing, and in the days following his death, my prayers were centered around the Lord providing comfort and peace like only He can. I continue to ask for that same comfort, but also for a stirring in the hearts of those members of the family who either have not met Him yet, or who recently met Him and are just beginning the journey. And, if you would, I know these folks would appreciate your prayers as well.

Because, when we join Christ's family, we really aren't saying goodbye to Paw Paw. We're just waiting to say "hello" to him again.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Doin' the Hokey Pokey

I have my head buried in my hands in disbelief after putting the words “hokey pokey” in the title of this post. What am I thinking…?

But, despite what preschoolers, elementary music teachers, and party planners might think, putting your right foot in and out of a circle of people and shaking it is not REALLY what “it’s all about.”

If you were to really observe the people around you throughout your day, you’d likely come to the conclusion that “it” is about them. Or, you may come to the realization that when you pay close attention, “it” is all about you. Don’t get upset…I realize the same thing much of the time. But, the great news is this: when our eyes are opened, we are more easily able to discover what “it” really is all about.

I just returned from a local discount retail store where I had one of these eye-opening experiences. It was fairly early in the morning, so only two check-out lanes were open. I had three items in my hands – a stick of deodorant and two small toys I bought for my son’s friend’s birthday party. As I was making my way to Aisle 13, a woman with a cart full of stuff spotted me and began to make a mad dash to the checkout counter…to beat me! You would have thought she was a contestant on everyone’s favorite grocery game show: Supermarket Sweep.

Being the kind, gentle soul that I am (cough cough), I slowed down. She then steered her way onto Pit Road so she could change the tires on her cart while the cashier scanned her items. Then, it was a race to the checkered flag, and through the automatic doors at the store’s exit. I was left covered in her dust.

Certainly you can relate to this. I can. I am often the one impersonating Dale Jr. behind the wheel of my buggy. I’m focused. Determined. Trying to set the new track record at my local store. I only pay attention to others when they stand in my way of bringing home the Kroger Kart Kup.

But, when I do this I have “it” all wrong. When Jesus was asked by the religious leaders of his day what “it” was really all about, his answer was simple and profound: Loving God and Loving Others. And, while Jesus had his own “race to run,” he always found time to slow down and serve other people.

Serving others isn’t always easy. Our tendency is to meet our own desires first. But, it’s not what’s best. What’s best is to put God #1 in our lives, then to do everything we can to demonstrate our love for Him by putting others ahead of us.

Sometimes that means doing something you don’t really enjoy doing (another word for that is sacrifice). It could be volunteering at your child’s school; serving at your church – parking, childcare, greeting; mowing your neighbor’s overgrown lawn; or stopping to allow someone else to go in front of you at a check-out line.

When we are putting others first, we are pleasing God. And, there’s nothing God enjoys more than when we get “it.” So, take a step back. Decrease yourself and allow others to increase. Then, you can do the Hokey Pokey and spin yourself around. ‘Cuz THAT’s what “it’s” all about!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The 2-sday 10

Top 10 Best-Selling Books of All Time Courtesy of Matthew Simpson on

1. The Holy Bible - 6 Billion (first volume printed ca. 1450)
2. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung - 900 Million (1966)

3. The American Spelling Book (Noah Webster) - 100 Million (1783)

4. Guiness World Records - 94 Million (first published in 1955)

5. The World Almanac and Book of Facts - 73.5 Million (first published in 1868)

6. The McGuffey Readers (William Holmes McGuffey) - 60 Million (1836)
7. Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care (Dr. Benjamin Spock) - 50 million (1946)
8. A Message to Garcia (Elbert Hubbard) - 40 Million (1899)

9. In His Steps (Rev. Charles Monroe Sheldon) - 30 Million (1896)

10. Valley of the Dolls (Jacqueline Susann) - 30 Million (1966)

Click Here for Matthew Simpson's detailed synopsis

Monday, October 8, 2007

Lighten the Load

I've got a problem. I get too worked up about stuff. I stress. I toil. I obsess. I voluntarily carry the weight of burdens I am not equipped to bear.

I constantly play things out in my head, even though I have absolutely no clue how things will actually unfold. It's my way of dealing. Coping. Trying to make sense of things that may NEVER make any sense. And, most of the time I have such a firm grip on this stuff that I fail to realize that it actually has an even firmer grip on me.

The great news for me is that God is ready - and anxious - to take this "stuff" off my plate. But, I have to be willing to release it to him. One of my favorite scriptures is 1 Peter 5:7, which says
Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you.

When we hold onto the junk that drags us down, we are essentially telling God that we do not trust Him to provide for us. Many times, we prefer to "own" the problem instead of relinquishing control to our gracious, loving Father.

So, what's got you down? Distracted? Disturbed? Off-kilter? Whatever it is, it's not bigger than your God. Hand it over to Him today, and lighten your load. The journey is always easier when you don't take as much "stuff" with you!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Common Denominator

Today, I had the opportunity to attend Catalyst, a high-energy, cutting-edge leadership conference. In short, the two-day event is truly an incredible experience, and is held annually at the Gwinnett Arena.

I think what I noticed immediately upon arrival was the diversity. And, as much as I resist change in my life, and become uncomfortable when I am in an unfamiliar environment, today it was a welcomed change.

Interestingly enough, the Lord revealed something to me today that seems so basic and fundamental that you might say "duh" when you hear it. But it was huge for me.

The great revelation? That we, as Christians have one thing in common: that we are all covered by the grace of our Lord and Savior.
I know, I know - earth-shattering stuff, right? But, it's impossible to escape that simple fact when you and 11,000+ others are lifting your voices in unison in adoration of our Heavenly Father. And, for more than an hour today, through the amazing worship music, that's exactly what happened.

You see, many times as followers of Christ, we tend to focus on the differences we have among one another and completely overlook the very thing that bonds us all together: the blood of Christ.

Perhaps the greatest quote of the day came from one of my favorite authors, Patrick Lencioni, who has penned several best-selling business leadership books. Lencioni said, "Too often we are trying to educate and instruct people, when really all they need is a reminder."

And, that is what I received today: a great reminder. A reminder that even though we are all very different people, we have one common denominator: an amazing, giving God who loves us beyond measure.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The 2-sday 10

Top 10 Best-Selling Albums in the United States
Source: Wikipedia
  1. The Eagles - Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) (Asylum, 1980) - 29 times platinum
  2. Michael Jackson - Thriller (Epic, 1982) - 27 times platinum
  3. Pink Floyd - The Wall (Columbia, 1979) - 23 times platinum
  4. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV (ZoSo) (Atlantic, 1971) - 23 times platinum
  5. AC/DC - Back in Black (Atlantic, 1980) - 21 times platinum
  6. Billy Joel - Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2 (Columbia, 1985) - 21 times platinum
  7. Shania Twain - Come on Over (Mercury, 1997) - 20 times platinum
  8. Garth Brooks - Double Live (Capitol, 1998) - 20 times platinum
  9. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (Warner Bros., 1977) - 19 times platinum
  10. The Beatles - The Beatles ("The White Album") (Apple, 1968) - 19 times platinum

Monday, October 1, 2007

Dropping the Ball

OK, so I am a big-time Georgia Bulldogs fan. My wife and I are alumni of the University of Georgia, and we buy season tickets to the football games each year. We spend a ton of money on the tickets, fan gear, food, and gassing up the car for each home game. We also spend a ridiculous amount of time tailgating, attending the games, and traveling from Kennesaw to Athens six or seven fall Saturdays each season. Needless to say, we have a vested interest in what happens "Between the Hedges" each week.

But, despite all the jack we spend and the precious time we sacrifice for our beloved Dawgs, I do not feel that it entitles us to "boo" players who may be having a tough time on the gridiron. Tripp Chandler (pictured), who is the starting Tight End for Georgia, has had a tough go of it through the first few games this season. Truth be told, he has dropped a dozen or so passes that were right on target. As a fan, I have gotten frustrated with his butter-finger tendencies. I have yelled at my TV screen. I have stomped on the ground. I have slapped my knee. But, I have not - and will not - "boo" a player.

I was rather embarrassed this past Saturday when thousands of UGA fans booed Tripp Chandler after he bobbled and dropped a pass that would have put the Bulldogs inside the 15 yard line during a first-half drive against Ole Miss. Chandler lay prone on the grass, discouraged and exasperated after disappointing not only his teammates, but 90,000+ fans who live and die by the scoreboard on Game Day.

I was quietly miffed at the dropped pass myself, but this feeling was quickly replaced by sympathy for the kid. And, I immediately thought how I'd feel if 90,000 people stood in my office and booed me for a typo, a blunder, or misstatement I might happen to make during the course of my work day. I'd probably want to lie face-down and not get up too!

The fact is we're all human. We don't always perform like superstars, no matter how hard we try and how much time we put in. We're flawed. And, there's no time where our flaws are brought into the open more than when we're "kicking a man while he's down."

Remember, God gave us a big-time break. He took the licks so we wouldn't need to. And, we've done much worse than bobbling the pigskin.

God's our biggest fan. In fact, He's a fanatic when it comes to how He feels about you. Even when we drop the ball.