20/20 Conference

I had the privilege to take a group of college students to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary‘s 20/20 Collegiate Conference this past weekend. I attended seminary at SEBTS and this was the first time my wife and I had been back on the campus since we left in January of 2008. We loved our time at Southeastern and were able to catch up with some good friends while we were there.

The conference was amazing and beyond anything I ever expected! Our college students loved the speakers and the breakout sessions that they attended. You would do well to take some time and listen to the conference speakers discuss the importance of God’s Word and how every part of Scripture testifies to Jesus Christ. Here are the links to the videos:

Session 1: Daniel Akin

Session 2: D. A. Carson

Panel Discussion

Session 3: Tullian Tchividjian

Session 4: Tony Merida

What I took away from the conference:

1. Jesus is the point. He is the point of all the Scriptures, Genesis – Revelation. We should not approach the Bible as a “how to” book. If we do, we will miss the grand story of redemption woven throughout all 66 books.

2. Progressive sanctification is not becoming more dependent on yourself but more dependent on Jesus. For some reason we have this idea that we only need Jesus to get saved and then we can “pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps” and live out the Christian life. This is so far from the truth but for many it is reality. We must daily preach the gospel to ourselves.

3. Preach Jesus. It is extremely easy to preach morality and  “do better” sermons. People don’t need morality; they need Jesus. Our people should walk away from our sermons saying, “What a beautiful Savior.”

Great quotes from the weekend:

“Though we are saved by grace alone through faith alone… if it is true grace and true faith, it will never be alone.” (DA Carson)

“If we read the Bible and miss Jesus our reading becomes fuel for our own self improvement plans.” (Tullian Tchividjian)

“When we see ourselves as the point of God’s story, the story becomes a tragedy.” (Tullian Tchividjian)

“Preaching and teaching the Bible is not about mastering certain techniques but being mastered by certain convictions.” (Tony Merida)

“If you want to preach life-changing messages you must keep the Life-Changer at the center of the message.” (Tony Merida)

“Religious people find Jesus useful but disciples find Jesus beautiful.” (Tony Merida)


Book Review – Beyond Tallulah

I was not really interested in reading this book when my dad gave it to me. There were several books on my “to read” list and this one was not even on my radar. I let it sit on my shelf for several weeks until my dad asked me if I had started it yet.  He had given it to me and I felt compelled to work through it. I was hooked after the first chapter and had a great time reading this biography.

Sam Wyly is an interesting man. He is a phenomenal entrepreneur and a brilliant businessman. He was on the cutting edge of computer technology long before personal computers were viable. Wyly dreamed of creating what we know as the Internet before anyone ever thought about giving Al Gore credit. He built multiple businesses from the ground up and sold several for billions of dollars.

Wylie was born into a working class family in Louisiana and graduated from Louisiana Tech University and the University of Michigan’s School of Business. After graduation, he went to work for IBM and then Honeywell. In 1963, he founded University Computing Company, which had sales of $125 million by 1971. He and his brother bought the Bonanza Steakhouse restaurant chain in 1967. In 1981, he co-founded Sterling Software, which was later sold to Computer Associates in 2000 for $4 billion. He bought controlling interest in Michael’s Arts and Crafts in 1982 and took their sales from $10 million at the time of purchase to $1.24 billion by 1996 (he sold it for $6 billion in 2006). In 1990, Wyly co-founded the hedge fund Maverick Capital, which had $8 billion in assets by 2003. He is also the largest stock-holder of clean energy producer Green Mountain Energy and operates a bookstore in Aspen with his wife.

Needless to say, Wyly has an impressive resume and has accomplished a great deal by the world’s standards. There are few, if any, entrepreneurs or businessmen that have had Wyly’s success in multiple industries.

What I learned from Sam Wyly

1. We can learn a lot from unbelievers. Sam Wyly is a devout Christian Scientist and would reject orthodox Christianity. I often find it interesting that many followers of Jesus Christ would dismiss someone like this based simply on their beliefs. I believe all truth is God’s truth and it is clear to me that Wyly is a gifted businessman and entrepreneur. He knew how to surround himself with quality people and never appeared to be intimidated by their expertise. He understood how free markets worked and capitalized on this knowledge. Learn from people outside of your camp.

2. Vision is key. Sam Wyly envisioned a world that was interconnected by computers back when computers took up an entire room and cost millions of dollars. He was a visionary in several industries and this helped him become successful. He read widely and continued to push to make his dreams become a reality. If you want to be successful, you need vision.

3. Treat people well. Wyly did not manage companies; he managed people. Even after acquiring a company he always took care of employees even if he let them go. Often people are used and resources are managed when it should be the other way around. Relationships are vitally important for the success of any organization.


Healthy Living – Week 2

Starting Weight: 225lbs

Week 2 Weigh-In: 224lbs

Total Weight Lost: 0lbs

Goal Weight: 195lbs

If you have read my previous post (7 Goals for 2012) you know that I want to lose 30lbs by my 29th birthday (March 31, 2012). This week was about like last week. I did not lose any weight and I know why – I only exercised 2 days this week and ate pretty badly. I learned some things about myself this week!

Weekly Tips

1. Stop making excuses. This one is pretty self explanatory. I am the best at making excuses – just one brownie… just one oreo… just one more slice of pizza won’t be that big of a deal. They are a big deal! They add up and they hurt. I need to stop making excuses.

2. Your health is tied to everything else. I struggled this past week eating well and exercising and it affected other areas of my life. I had a shorter attention span when I was reading and studying. I wanted to “veg” out more than usual (watch tv, etc.). I had a short temper with my kiddos. It wasn’t a pretty week!

3. Early is better (at least for me it is). I have tried to work out at different times of the day but the mornings are better for me. Truth is, if I don’t work out first thing in the morning, it won’t happen. This means I need to be up by 6:15 each morning and in my laundry room by 6:30 (my treadmill and weights are in there).

Am I Small In God’s Eyes?

I am reading through the Bible this year and also studying the book of Genesis in-depth for the next several months. John Phillipscommentary on Genesis has been a constant companion over the past several weeks and I have enjoyed his insights immensely. In discussing the creation narrative, he offered this statement, “There is no such thing as bigness or smallness to a God who is infinite.”

Most people would consider themselves “small” in God’s eyes. After all, Scripture reminds us that heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool (Isaiah 66:1). Considering this, it makes sense to think we are small in God’s eyes. We know God cares but often wonder if our prayers, concerns and desires are small compared with everything else God is doing.

The quote from Phillips should give us a great deal of comfort. It reminds us that an infinite God can deal intimately with every single person. God does not see us as big or small. He sees us as we are. He cares for us. He loves us. He desires that we know Him.

You are not small in God’s eyes!

Healthy Living – Week 1

Starting Weight: 225lbs

Week 1 Weigh-In: 224lbs

Total Weight Lost: 1lb

Goal Weight: 195lbs

If you have read my previous post (7 Goals for 2012) you know that I want to lose 30lbs by my 29th birthday (March 31, 2012). I had a rough week this past week. I did not feel well much of the week and struggled to wake up early and exercise. I did pretty well eating healthy but know that I can pick it up over the next few weeks.

Weekly Tips

1. It’s not necessarily how you start but how you finish. I had a rough week. I didn’t feel well much of the week and exercise was not on the top of my priority list. I had to remind myself this week that this is not a sprint; it is a marathon. I am changing my lifestyle and that takes time.

2. Counting calories is tough work but you must do it to lose weight. There is no other way around counting calories each day. I was not very diligent this past week and this needs to improve. I did not eat terrible during the week but if I want to hit my goal, I will need to pay more close attention to the calories I consume.

3. Exercise even when you don’t feel like it. There were a couple of days that I did not even want to think about exercising. In fact, there were a couple of days when I did good to survive through the day. But several days, even when I did not feel up to it, I worked out anyway. Those were “wins” in my book and I actually felt better afterwards.

5 Steps To Become A More Effective Writer

If you have read this blog you know one of my goals for 2012 is to write more. I love to write and hope to post 3-4 times each week on this blog and write a book this year. Even though we are only a few days into the New Year, I have written more than I ever expected. Here are 5 action steps that have helped me and hopefully they will be helpful to you if you want write more effectively in 2012.

1. Make writing a priority in your schedule. If you want to write more you must make the time to do it. If you never schedule blocks of time to write you will likely never write more than you do right now. Get up early and devote 20-30 minutes to writing. Stay up after everyone else hits the sack and spend time writing. We are always able to find time to do the things that are important to us so give writing a prominent place in your schedule.

2. Keep a pen and paper with you at all times. You never know when an idea will pop into your mind and if you are not ready to capture it, you might lose it forever. I am writing this as I sit in the Emergency Room waiting for my daughter’s test results (she is fine by the way). Every day events cause you to think and putting those thoughts on paper is helpful both short-term and long-term. Be resourceful if you find yourself wanting to write but don’t have a pen and paper. When I rushed out of the house this morning with my 15 month old, I did not think about grabbing a pen and paper. So what did I do? I pulled out my Blackberry and began typing this in an email. Most phones have memo pads on them and some even have voice recorders. Use whatever means possible to capture your thoughts and ideas.

3. Write to write and not to be read. I struggle with this more than anything else. After 7 years of post college education, I have had to train myself to write without worrying about the editing process. I do edit my writing before publishing it but only after I have allowed myself to write without thinking about the editing process. My initial writing may appear choppy and disconnected but I am able to capture my thoughts thoroughly. The result is writing that is clear, passionate, and from the heart. Let the sentences flow and edit later.

4. Write about things you are interested in. One of the most difficult things to do is write about something you care nothing about. I love my family so I write about them. I love being a pastor so I write about ministry. I love reading so I write book reviews. Whatever you do, do not let writing become a chore. Write because it is fun and you enjoy doing it. Think about the things you care the most about and fill pages and pages writing about those things.

5. Write even if you don’t publish. I have spent a good amount of time writing blog posts and working on my book recently but I have also continued to write in my journal almost daily. I have been writing in my journal for several years and have no plans to publish what I write. My journal contains my most personal thoughts and it is the place where I record, with pen and paper, what God is teaching me. The process of thinking and writing makes me a better writer and it will make you a better writer as well. Write because you love to write. Then it will not matter if it is published because you will be doing what you love.

Parenting 101 – Celebrate When Others Win

My parents love to tell the story about the time I demolished our Connect Four game. Evidently, we were enjoying family game night up to the point that my dad cut me off…right when I was about to win. As a kid, I never wanted to lose. So I slammed my next token into the slot with enough force to break the game.

Ironically, this past Christmas my parents gave Anna (my 3 year old) the game Hi Ho Cherry-O! I came home from work last night and Anna wanted to play her new game. If you know anything about Hi Ho Cherry-O you know that the object is to get rid of all the fruit on your tree. Each person takes a turn spinning the wheel and then follows whatever the wheel tells them to do. There is very little strategy in this game but it is great for teaching a 3 year old how to count.

We played several games last night and all of us (my wife, Anna, and I) won at least once. I’m not sure if it was a flashback to my earlier “destroy Connect Four” days or not but I saw the value of teaching my daughter, along with the amazing help of my wife, how to lose well and celebrate when others win. Anna won first and we went crazy clapping, jumping up and down, and telling her how awesome it was that she won. My wife won next and I bet you can guess Anna’s reaction. She had a frown on her face and with a wimper-like voice said, “I want to win!” Like daddy, like daughter. She was disappointed and upset that she didn’t win. It was a great teaching opportunity. I starting doing the exact same thing to celebrate Janie’s win as we had done earlier when Anna won. Anna first looked at me puzzled but then joined in the celebration. We continued our crazy celebration every time someone won, regardless of who it was.

We can all be sore losers. Think about how you felt when someone got a promotion over you at work or the time you should have been recognized for a job well done but the credit went to someone else. How do you respond when your neighbor gets a new car or when your best friend finds the person they will marry before you find the “one?” Life is full of disappointments. Life is full of times when those around you “win” and you don’t.

Our sinful nature tells us that we should celebrate when we win and pitch a fit when someone else wins. If you don’t believe me take a visit to any nursery or preschool in the country. Paul offered this challenge, in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” We do a pretty good job weeping with others as they weep but rejoicing when others rejoice can be difficult. Concerning this passage, Adam Clarke wrote, “Take a lively interest in the prosperity of others. Let it be a matter of rejoicing to you when you hear of the health, prosperity, or happiness of any brother.”

That’s a little bit of what we were trying to teach Anna last night. It was a good reminder for me, too!