A Miracle Souvenir

I like souvenirs. I always have. One of the perks to having an office is the ability to display my souvenirs. As I type this, I see a small replica of Rodin’s sculpture “The Thinker” that I picked up while visiting his sculpture garden in Paris. Then there is the replica of the Library of Celsus that I snagged on a journey to the ancient city of Ephesus. I can’t forget the 1980 National Champion Georgia coke bottle my mom picked up after the big game, the landscape painting of Haiti I purchased from the compound where our mission team lodged, and the compact Bible printed in 1848 I nabbed from an antique store in Waco, TX. All of these items, along with dozens of others are scattered about my office. Everytime I look at them, special memories flood my mind.

One of the most well-known miracles Jesus performed is recorded in John 6:1-14: ”The Feeding of the Five Thousand.” It is one of my favorite stories, and I vividly remember hearing it as a child. I often wondered what it would have been like to have been the little boy who gave Jesus his dinner (5 barley loaves and 2 fish). I imagined watching him pray over that little meal and then distribute…and continue to distribute food until every person’s hunger was satisfied. That had to be an incredible experience. Just imagine that little boy telling the story to his grandkids years down the road. 

Towards the end of the story, Jesus told his disciples to gather up the leftover fragments. And this is what John records in chapter 6 verse 13: “So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.” There is a ton of significance to the number 12…especially in light of Jesus performing this miracle in a context where there was primarily a Jewish audience. There were 12 tribes in Israel and the fact that there were 12 baskets of leftovers no doubt pointed to Jesus as the “Bread of Life” (he would proclaim that in John 6:22-59)…the long-awaited Messiah. 

But, I’m fascinated by another aspect of the number 12 and these baskets of leftovers. Jesus had called 12 disciples, and these disciples were the ones he tasked with collecting the leftovers. It was almost like he wanted them to have a souvenir of the miracle…a reminder that his provision is always more than enough! Of course, the food would not last forever even though it could have provided them nourishment for a short time afterward. I wonder what happened to those baskets. If I had been one of the 12, I would have kept it…as a souvenir…a reminder of what Jesus had done. I would have stashed it in my office and told everyone that entered about that time I was with Jesus, and he fed 5000+ people with a little boy’s dinner. 

We have no indication of what the disciples actually did with those baskets. The Bible does not tell us the rest of that part of the story. However, I think souvenirs are important…especially if they remind us of God’s faithfulness. We are in a season of uncertainty right now as our nation battles the coronavirus. Our lives have been turned upside down. But one thing is for certain…God is faithful in this season. Every day we are witnessing His hand at work…little miracles are being performed in our lives…prayers are being answered. God’s provision is always more than enough! 

I want to challenge you to identify an item that you can carry with you out of this season as a souvenir of God’s faithfulness to you and your family. Use your imagination…let your kids help you pick out that item. Place it in a prominent location in your home, and take opportunities in the days ahead to celebrate God’s faithfulness!

Monday Musings (12-3-18)

Coffee cup on Black
  • I’m still recovering from UGA’s loss to the evil empire (a.k.a. Alabama) in the SEC championship game.
  • We have dominated Alabama the last two times we played them but could not seal the deal.
  • I think Kirby can get the Bulldogs there soon…after all, we have the more underclassmen on scholarship than any other SEC school.
  • Let’s hope in that process Kirby learns to coach a little smarter (pun intended!). I’m looking at you Mr. Fake Punt on 4th & 11!
  • The future looks great in Athens and I’m excited to be a Dawg!
  • I see a national championship in our future…likely in the next 3 years with more to follow in short order.
  • 1980 sure was a long time ago! I wasn’t even born the last time UGA won the natty.
  • I have been reading some really good books lately: Didn’t See It Coming (Carey Nieuwhof), Becoming Dallas Willard (Gary Moon), 12 Rules for Life (Jordan Peterson), and George Washington’s Secret Six (Brian Kilmeade).
  • This quote jumped off the page this morning as I read Nieuwhof, “Your competency leaves the first impression, but your character leaves the lasting one. The crowd is intrigued by your competency, but your family and close friends are influenced by your character.”
  • This is absolutely true. A great question follows, “Am I spending just as much time developing my character as I am spending developing my competency?”
  • While reading Moon’s biography of Dallas Willard, he focuses on the relationship between Willard and Richard Foster (Dallas’ pastor at the time). He said both men sought to make three things the focus of their congregational life; (1) “the kingdom of God as a present reality,” (2) “salvation as an ongoing life with God,” and (3) “the participation in spiritual disciplines as a means of transformation.”
  • This has been an excellent biography!
  • In other news, I have been working on a writing project recently.
  • A good friend invited me to co-edit a volume in The Collected Writings of James Leo Garrett.
  • It is a great honor and I have thoroughly enjoyed the project.
  • I’m also teaching a couple of ministry classes in the master’s program at Grand Canyon University.
  • I love being able to play a small part in training future pastors and ministry leaders!
  • Well, it is time to get back going.
  • Happy Monday friends!

Friday Five Reading List (11-2-18)

On Fridays, I put out a list of five interesting blog posts that I have read through the week. These can range from ministry to business/finance to woodworking…and everything in between! Happy reading!

The 7 Habits: Sharpen The Saw

Eugene Peterson Has Completed His Long Obedience

Mark Dever On Shepherding The Elderly

Jeff Bezos’s Net Worth Is Down As Much As $14 Billion

America’s Hidden Mission Field: Why We Need Rural Churches

Friday Five Reading List (10-19-18)

On Fridays, I put out a list of five interesting blog posts that I have read through the week. These can range from ministry to business/finance to woodworking…and everything in between! Happy reading!

3.5 Million Americans Would Rather Go To Jail Than Pay Debt

What To Do When Stock Market Volatility Returns

Christian, What Do You Believe?

When An Average Joe Turns 40

The Audacity Of Gender Reveal Parties: Another Step Towards Cultural Insanity

Friday Five Reading List (10-12-18)

On Fridays, I put out a list of five interesting blog posts that I have read through the week. These can range from ministry to business/finance to woodworking…and everything in between! Happy reading!

We Don’t Need To Go Back To The Early Church

4 Reasons You Should Consider Teaching Or Volunteering In Kids Ministry

How To Stay Married When You’re Stuck Between Needy Teens & Aging Parents

Warren Buffett Sheds Billions In Net Worth

Training Inmates For Ministry Inside Maximum Security Prisons

Friday Five Reading List (10-5-18)

On Fridays, I put out a list of five interesting blog posts that I have read through the week. These can range from ministry to business/finance to woodworking…and everything in between! Happy reading!

The Truth Of How Pastors Are Doing As We Look To Pastor Appreciation Month

How To Diagnose Your Discouragement

How Pastors Can Leave Well

The Church At Election Time

The Average Household Net Worth In America Is Huge

Monday Musings (7-9-18)

Coffee cup on Black

  • For pastors, Mondays can be a train wreck of emotions.
  • Throw in 2 morning meetings (1 that went terribly) and I feel like I have been run over by a Mack truck!
  • This morning I read through several Psalms, having no idea that one verse that I highlighted would feed my soul today.
  • “O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge…” (Psalm 7:1a)
  • Maybe that verse is one that you need to cling to as well.
  • We continued in our series yesterday through the book of Ecclesiastes.
  • Our time together focused on chapter 7 verses 1-14.
  • The message was entitled, “Practical Wisdom for Daily Living.”
  • It was a first for me…I had 12 sermon points!!!
  • I let the church know that ahead of time and everyone laughed…then I told them I was serious.
  • Usually, the messages I preach have 3 points but there was no way to distill the verses into that few of points.
  • I am also not a big list person when it comes to preaching.
  • I am always concerned that people will take the list (5 Ways to Have a Better Marriage, etc.) and try to follow it without truly grasping the why behind the list.
  • Solomon spent the previous chapters of Ecclesiastes highlighting the truth that life apart from a relationship with God is pointless.
  • We may seek to find meaning in any number of things but they will never satisfy the deepest longings of our heart.
  • Jesus is the only one who can fill that void.
  • If you take the 12 points I walked through and divorce them from a relationship with Jesus as the foundation of life, you will miss Solomon’s true point.
  • All of those truths that were mentioned are impotent without a solid foundation.
  • If you are so inclined you can listen to the message here.
  • I started reading James Patterson’s novel, The President is Missing, last night.
  • This is a book he co-wrote with former President Bill Clinton.
  • All the reviews say it is fascinating and a real page-turner.
  • I could hardly put it down last night but finally did for my sanity!
  • Well, I’m off to get in a little bit of exercise.
  • Everyone loves a 3-mile run when it is 92 degrees.
  • Gotta love Southwest Florida!

Monday Musings (7-2-18)

Coffee cup on Black

  • Happy Monday friends!
  • I dropped off our girls at Winshape Camp this morning.
  • They were excited to start the week.
  • This is the first year that they will participate but we have heard great things.
  • We have quite a few kids from our church attending.
  • Speaking of church…we had a great day of worship together yesterday.
  • There is nothing I love more than gathering with my church family.
  • What a great privilege to live in a country where we can freely gather to worship the Lord.
  • I continued our sermon series through Ecclesiastes yesterday and we worked through chapter 6.
  • The focus of our time was on 3 questions:
  • What good is great wealth if you can’t enjoy it? (v. 1-6)
  • What good is great hunger if you can’t satisfy it? (v. 7-9)
  • What good are great questions if you can’t answer them? (v. 10-12)
  • The main idea I left our church with was: A relationship with Jesus makes life worth living.
  • We will never be fully satisfied (have a life worth living) until Jesus is enough!
  • We have an exciting opportunity with regards to our building project at NRC that I am not able to share at the moment.
  • Let’s just say it would be amazing if it materilized.
  • Will you join me in praying for God’s provision?
  • I’m so excited about finally having a permanent home for North River Church.
  • In other news…we only have 61 days left until UGA plays their first fall football game!
  • Let’s suffer through the heat of July and August so that we can enjoy fall football!
  • Well I’m going to get back at it.
  • Have a great week!

Hey Pastor, Sing!

May I make one confession? I would rather listen to a podcast than a worship song.

Gasp……

Now that I got that off my chest, I want to remind pastors (myself included) that people watch us worship on Sundays. I don’t mean they solely focus on us, but they do take note of whether or not we are signing. They notice when we are distracted or when we are aloof.

I attended a conference last year and was pleasantly surprised with the pastors there who were delivering the conference messages. Instead of camping out in a green room prior to their turn to preach, they all stayed in the service and participated. They sang. They raised their hands. They prayed. They cried out to the Lord in worship and praise. As a conference attendee, I was encouraged and challenged. Their sermons had more credibility because I had just watched them worship.

Let’s be honest, there are a ton of distractions for pastors on Sundays. Often times, we find ourselves anxious about the upcoming message we will deliver and the temptation may be to steal a few moments of extra prep during the singing. There may be fires that need to be put out and we may try to take care of those prior to delivering the message. We notice if the sound isn’t quite right. We cringe when the words are not being scrolled well on the screen. We fret about why the temperature is too cold or too hot. We wonder why a certain family is not at church for the third week in a row. I could go on and on!

Here is the bottom line: our people need to see us worship and we desperately need to worship before we preach. May we be able to say to our people, “Worship with me as I worship Christ!”

Pastors, Do We Want To “Be” God? (Reading Notes)

“A curious thing happens to us when we get a taste of God. It happened first in Eden and it keeps happening. The experience of God – the ecstasy, the wholeness of it – is accompanied by a temptation to reproduce the experience as God. The taste for God is debased into a greed to be God. Being loved by God is twisted into a lust to God-performance. I get a glimpse of a world in which God is in charge and think maybe I have a chance at it. I abandon the personal presence of God and take up with the depersonalized and canny serpent. I flee the shining face of God for a slithery world of religion that gives me license to manipulate people and acquire godlike attributes to myself. The moment I begin cultivating the possibility of acquiring that kind of power and glory for myself, I most certainly will want to blot out the face, flee from the presence of the Lord, and seek a place where I can develop pride and acquire power.” (Eugene Peterson in Under the Unpredictable Plant)