Creating a Gospel Life Plan for 2018

It is that time of year, time to reflect on and evaluate the passing year and look forward toward the new year. December is the month where my family and I take our yearly Gospel Life Plan retreat. These are some of the sweetest times we know as a family. Over the course of a few days, we look back at our goals and plans for loving God, leading well, and living the gospel. Joy and I are blessed to spend time individually with our kids reflecting on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. This time is also an opportunity for our family to separately and corporately set new goals for the coming year. Gospel Life Plan retreats have allowed us to grow closer as a family, see God's gracious fruit of the gospel, and challenged us to pursue Jesus with greater passion and affection. 

You can download the Gospel Life Plan Worksheet and resources by clicking the link below. Don't miss out on an oppurtunity to commit your life and year to loving God, leading well, and living the gospel as you and your family manifest God's kingdom here on earth. 

Gospel Life Plan Resources

Family Worship and Advent

advent |ˈadˌvent|

  • the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event: the advent of television.
  • the first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays.
  • the coming or second coming of Christ.
Family Worship- Family Worship is the regular and intentional gathering of a household to praise God together.
— Tony Kummer

regular = consistent, habitual, normal

intentional = planned, deliberate, on purpose

gathering = coming together, meeting, assembly

household = family unit, everyone living in your home

praise = worship, expressing love, showing value, glorifying

11 Principles for Family Devotion

adapted from Tony Kummer, Ministry-To-Children.com Permission granted to make copies for non-commercial use. 

1. Worship is about God. Family devotions are when you meet with God as a family. Don’t let the details hide the big point – you are gathering together to hear from God and respond to Him in love.

2. Make it important. You can make family devotions a regular and joyful part of your home life, but you must make it a priority. Don’t let time pressures rob your family of the eternal treasure of knowing God.

3. Keep it short. For most families, 15 minutes several times each week will work well. As your children mature, devotion time will naturally become longer. But regular short meetings are better than occasional long meetings.

4. Make it fun. Everyone should look forward to family devotion time. Use role-playing to act out Bible stories, or invent motions to accompany the singing.

5. Use songs that teach. Choose songs that tell about the character of God, incorporate Bible verses when possible, and sing with your kids:) 

6. Make it a habit. Getting into a pattern (or habit) will make family devotions a normal part of your home.

7. Learn as you go. Experience will become your teacher. Since every family is different, you will need to discover what pattern of family worship best fits your home life.

8. Involve your kids. Have you children lead in different ways and times.

9. Avoid distractions. Turn off the television and remove toys from the area. If you have small children, an illustrated story Bible will help retain their attention.

10. Model leadership and ask questions. Mom and Dad should be heavily engaged and involved as the lead their family during this time. Learn the art of asking questions.

11. Always include the cross and the tomb. Clearly communicate in light of the Gospel.

Objectives for Every Family Concerning the Gospel and Christmas.

1. Teach clearly the Biblical story of Christmas and the Doctrinal meaning of Christmas.

Old Testament Prophecies: Isaiah 9:6–7 (ESV)

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

New Testament Narrative (Luke 2): Luke 2:8–11 (ESV)

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Doctrinal Emphasis (Incarnation): Philippians 2:6–8 (ESV)

6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

2. Recognize the Worldview of materialism and consumerism; Beware of The Law of Unintended Consequences.

consumerism: the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.

3. Model the example of Jesus and serve.

Philippians 2:4–5 (ESV)

4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

John 13:13–15 (ESV)

13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Download the "Gospel Era" Advent Family Worship Guide

Cultivating and Maintaining Good HABITS

Leadership experts tell us that it takes between 45-66 days to cultivate a habit. The dictionary defines a habit as a "settled or regular tendency or practice". Over time we all develop habits in our life, some good, some bad. Habits are the fruit of what you love the most. Here are few thoughts and resources for developing good habits in your life.

1. Live in Reality.

Your habits will impact your life. Sure there are those stories about someone's grandmother that drank, smoked, and ate bacon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day her whole life and lived to be a hundred and ten, but that is the exception, not the norm. Every person has a pattern of daily habits that influence and shape their life. Live in reality and see the future impact your habits will have on your life.

2. Develop Good Habits.

Many people struggle with developing good habits, believing it is impossible to change. This lie is contrary to the transforming work of the gospel. Stop feeling your stuck because of long term bad habits. Many years ago, I went through a season of not wanting to get up early. I began praying a simple prayer that God answered, "Lord, if the Holy Spirit can raise me from the dead, He can raise me from the bed." Start praying today that God would give you the grace and power to change.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
— Romans 8:11

3. Be Accountable.

Accountability is essential in cultivating and maintaining good habits. Having a spouse or friend that holds you accountable can be the difference on those days you need that extra motivation and encouragement. Authentic accountability will give someone permission to challenge you in cultivating and maintaining good habits. Do not go it "alone" find a partner to share your struggles and goals as you seek to lay a solid foundation of good habits in your life.

4. Leverage Tech.

There is an "App" for everything these days. Leveraging technology is helpful when cultivating and maintaining good habits in your life. Just do a Google search for "Best Habit Apps", there are numerous free and inexpensive apps. Here are a two apps that I find helpful in tracking and recording habits. Do not spend more time than necessary researching and experimenting with every app out there, find something that works and stick with it. Consistent use of effective technology can be very useful in cultivating good habits in your life.

1. Strides

2. Evernote

5. Evaluate, Adapt, Overcome.

Evaluation is essential, is what you are doing working? For the last fourteen months, our family of four has been on the incredible journey of fostering a two-year-old and three-year-old! Being OCD about calendars and schedules, this new reality threw a wrench in our family and personal routines, to say the least. Many of my previous routines had to change; I had to re-evaluate, adapt, and overcome to maintain consistent habits in this new seasons of life.

Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

POD Coaching: Disciplines of a Godly Family- Part 2

This semester of POD Coaching will focus on Family and Community. We will be using "Disciplines of a Godly Family" by Kent and Barbara Hughes, and "Life in Community" by Dustin Willis as resources.

As a way to help anyone who has a desire to coach and disciple, I am posting my Coaching Scripts download links below, I pray it is valuable to your ministry.

Disciplines of a Godly Family-Part 2 Coaching Script

POD Coaching: Disciplines of a Godly Family- Part 1

This semester of POD Coaching will focus on Family and Community. We will be using "Disciplines of a Godly Family" by Kent and Barbara Hughes, and "Life in Community" by Dustin Willis as resources.

As a way to help anyone who has a desire to coach and disciple, I am posting my Coaching Scripts. I pray it is valuable to your ministry. 

Download Disciplines of a Godly Family Part 1- Coaching Script

Part 2- Creating a Gospel Life Plan: GOAL Setting

Over the next few weeks Joy and I will be sharing something near and dear to our heart. "How to Create a Gospel Life Plan." We are both in agreement the last six years of our marriage and life have been the most intentional and fruitful of our fourteen years of marriage. The main reason for this, is our commitment to create and evaluate a yearly gospel life plan. In the upcoming posts we will share different aspects of exactly how this is done and hopefully encourage you and your family to practice the same. Feel free to email me with any questions you may have at gross@namb.net and everyone is invited to our Gospel Life Plan Workshop on Nov 21st in New Orleans, this will be a great jump start to your year, we hope to see you!

S.M.A.R.T GOALS

If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.
— Yogi Berra

Scott Thomas once said, "living life without goals is like playing football with no end zone." Needless to say, playing football without an end zone would be meaningless, which is also true when we live life with no goals. Cultivating a discipline of setting gospel-centered goals radically changed my life and the life of my family. Our lives went from being all over the map to missionally focused, resulting in gospel fruitfulness. 

The following are ground rules we use as a family for goal setting in our gospel life plan. We pray they are helpful as you as you seek to love God, lead well, and live the gospel for glory of God. 

S – (Specific/Strategic)


Prayer is the starting point for setting clear and strategic goals. Goals are then set and steps of action are developed in order to achieve the goal. We set specific goals when we ask why, who, what, when, where, and how? Prioritizing your life helps inform you concerning strategic initiatives in goal setting. 

M- (Measurable)


What good is a goal that you can't measure? If your goals are not measurable, you never know whether you are making progress toward successful completion. You will not know if you are growing if you cannot measure. Written goals are a means to evaluate and measure growth. 

A- (Attainable) 


Goals must be realistic and attainable. The best goals require a person to stretch a bit to achieve them, but they are not so difficult that they are unattainable. Goals should create a meaningful challenge for the individual. Making un-realistic goals will lead to discouragement and defeat. However, sanctification will involve times of crucifying our flesh in order to grow. 

R- (Relevant)


The foundation for Christian goal setting is; are they relevant to the gospel of Jesus Christ? Make sure you don't confuse goal setting with performance. Your goals are not to define your value and worth, your identity is in Christ. There is no way we can set a "goal" for God to love us any more than He already does. We do not perform our way into pleasing God. Personal and family goals are a way to grow in Christ and manifest His kingdom here on earth, as you LOVE God, LEAD well, and LIVE the gospel. 

T- (Time Bound)


Goals should have starting points, ending points, and fixed durations. Commitment to deadlines helps individuals to focus their efforts on completion. Goals without deadlines or schedules for completion tend to be overtaken by the day-to-day responsibilities and difficulties in life. 

“So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:26, ESV)

No Shave November: Facial Hair For Foster Care

No Shave November is almost here, which means “Facial Hair for Foster Care” in New Orleans! Joy and I have been privileged to be foster parents for the last seven months, and would like to share a few thoughts about our foster care journey and encourage you to participate in helping and serving the foster care community.

1.     Prayerfully consider being a foster care parent.

Let me be clear, being a foster parent is not for everyone. Without question, the last seven months have been the hardest and most sanctifying of our life. Going from four kids to six kids, with the youngest two in diapers will turn your world upside down; not to mention meetings, court dates, and the upheaval of your daily routine. Three years ago, we wrote  in our Gospel Life Plan to begin faithfully praying about adoption and fostering. The empty bedroom and two empty car seats were our consistent answers, we were compelled to open up our lives, home, and resources.

2.     Take the initiative and Involve your church.

There really should be no question about involving your church in adoption and foster care, the Bible is pretty clear (James 1:27, Ps 82:3-4). At some level everyone should support and participate in adoption and foster care. Not everyone is called to be a parent, but everyone can participate in support.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
— James 1:27

There have been two specific times in our journey, that if it were not for our church family at Edgewater Baptist Church and church planters here in NOLA, we would have thrown in the towel. There is a great ministry in providing support to foster parents. We cannot express how grateful we are for prayer, respite, meals, and even a surprise house cleaning from our wonderful faith family. Do not miss the opportunities you have to join in the ministry of foster support (see the links below for ways to lead your church to participate)! This may be exactly how God wants to involve your family and church.

3.     Educate yourself on the needs in your community and region.

Joy and I have been impressed to engage missionally within our zip code. As we looked for opportunities within our community, the need for foster parents was absolutely overwhelming. How could we preach missional living and not help? Currently in New Orleans there are approximately 400+ children in the foster care, this is certainly high, but in many cities and states the numbers are much higher. I would challenge everyone to research the foster needs in their community and region. The facts will surprise you and hopefully compel you, to take action for the sake of the gospel.

Here are some Foster Care resources and information about “Facial Hair for Foster Care.”

Crossroads NOLA "Facial Hair for Foster Care"

NAMB Foster Care Resources

Practical Ways to Support Foster Parents

Foster Care Statistics

 

Part 1- Creating A Gospel Life Plan: Planning 101

 

Over the next few weeks Joy and I will be sharing something near and dear to our heart. "How to Create a Gospel Life Plan." We are both in agreement the last six years of our marriage and life have been the most intentional and fruitful of our fourteen years of marriage. The main reason for this, is our commitment to create and evaluate a yearly gospel life plan. In the upcoming posts we will share different aspects of exactly how this is done and hopefully encourage you and your family to practice the same. Feel free to email me with any questions you may have at gross@namb.net and everyone is invited to our Gospel Life Plan Workshop on Nov 21st in New Orleans, this will be a great jump start to your year, we hope to see you!

Planning 101


Cultivating a healthy habit of planning is essential in creating a gospel life plan. Joy and I consistently implement times of planning, calendaring, and evaluation. Here are some of our notes when considering how to effectively plan. 

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.
— Luke 14:28–30

Ground Rules:


1. Rhythms over rigidness.


Life does not stand still, even if you do. Things are always changing with family, work, and schedules. One critical key to planning is to realize what rhythms of life you are in. You will plan differently with two infants than you will with two teenagers. Creating a plan so rigid that it is impossible to implement will only lead to defeat. Learn to roll with the seasons of life you find yourself in and plan accordingly.

2. Consistency over compulsory.


Planning with a list of mandatory accomplishments each week will soon become drudgery, which inevitable results in failure. Planning should always aim for unchanging achievement over a period of time (consistency) in contrast to metrics which you are obligated to perform (compulsory). Joy and I keep the word consistent in front of our children, this is what we pray they see modeled in us and embrace as their own. 

3. Grace over law.  


We cannot plan our way into pleasing God. Gospel-centered planning keeps the finished work of Christ in view for all that we plan to do and that we planned and failed to do. Our worth and value are in Christ, not our plans, therefore we are free to plan and live by that plan with and in grace. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
— Ephesians 2:8

4. Long -term lifestyle over short-term fix.


Our current culture is fixated on the short-term fix. We want to lose 50 lb. in 10 days and are mad when we do not get our desired results. Cultivating a healthy habit of planning is a powerful tool in bringing about long-term lifestyle change personally and spiritually. Don't believe the lie, there are no quick fixes in this life. 

Why Plan?


1. Direction determines destination.
2. Drifting is a result of poor planning.
3. Discipline is a means of sanctification.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train (discipline) yourself for godliness;
— 1 Timothy 4:7

4. Discipleship happens when we plan for it.
There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep 8 hours a day that leaves you 112. What are your priorities? You will either AGONIZE or PRIORITIZE! 

  • Everything cannot be a priority. You can’t have it all.
  • Everything should not be a priority. All things are not created equal.
  • Some activities and investments are more important than others.
  • Some activities and investments are more lasting than others. 

You will either master time or time will master you.

5. Planning is an act of obedience.
6. Planning is an act of stewardship.
7. Planning manifests the kingdom.

How to begin planning:


1. Identify your priorities.
2. Address your conflict. (laziness, idleness, over commitment, what keeps you from planning and living by a plan?)
3. Develop a process.
4. Implement and evaluate the process.

Do not get stuck!


1. Some people are stuck because they fail to get perspective. They are afraid to acknowledge their current condition.
2. Some people are stuck because they don’t put their plan into action. They are unwilling to do the hard work of being disciplined and monitoring their progress.
3. Some people are stuck because they fail to plan. They assume if they hope and pray for a better future, they can cling to past practices and still find success.

When it comes to life, most people are spectators. They watch events unfold a day at a time. They may plan their careers, the building of a new home, or even a vacation, but it never occurs to them to plan their life. As a result, they drift along, often to destinations they would have never consciously chosen: failing health, a broken marriage, or a stalled career. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
— Michael Hyatt

 

Ministry With Your Kids

I love being with my family, I absolutely love it! Are our children perfect? Just come spend a day in the Ross home as we fuss, yell, whine, and cry; your perfect social media family will be shattered. There are occasions our sinfulness is on full display and Joy and I want to go on a parenting sabbatical. But we still love being with and investing in our children, we live for it! 

Over the years I have made it a priority to include my children in my ministry. When I was pastoring a local church, my children would consistently participate in local and global mission trips, join me making hospital visits, travel with me to preach, spend time at the office,  make prospect visits, and a number of other ministry activities. Joy and I had a calendar and a plan. We were committed to leveraging our ministry and having focused intentionality in leading our children. 

Investing in your children if you are a pastor or in ministry can be a tricky undertaking. The demands of ministry at times seem insurmountable, inserting your children could feel overwhelming and unwise. But let me encourage you, If God has called you to shepherd the flock do not forfeit the opportunity to include your children in your ministry.

I am making two huge assumptions:

1. Everyone has commons sense and will use it when taking their kids:) Are there times you should not include your children? Absolutely, I would never take my kids into conflict, counseling, abuse, or tragedies.  

2. You will make it "worthwhile". I was going to use the word "fun", but praying over someone who has terminal cancer is not fun, however it can be a teachable moment. If you are Big Chief "No Fun" and make everything over the top serious, don't take your kids.

Although I could write many reasons for involving your kids in ministry, here are three that stick out for Joy and I:

1. You are modeling a love for your kids. 

Involving your children in ministry clearly models that you love them. Ministers should be doing ministry, enough of this I cannot neglect my family as an excuse for being lazy. If God called you to ministry he called you to unexpected hours, unplanned meetings and difficult people, it is part of the call. Ministry will and has to happen. Be intentional, when possible take your children with you every chance you can. They will love spending time with you and you will model love for them. Involving your children in ministry is a declaration of your love and commitment for them. 

2. You are teaching them discipline. 

"My kids would never act right if I took them with me?" That statement deserves an entire response, in a later post. Nevertheless it is the calling of a pastor to manage his household well, your children should be able to participate in ministry at an age appropriate level. My 6, 8, 9, & 11 year old will be disciplined enough to sit in someones home or a hospital room for thirty minutes while I minister, visit and pray. In our cultural climate of catering to our children, our expectations for how our children should behave have fallen to an all time low. 

3. You are encouraging them in the faith. 

Allowing your children to participate in ministry encourages them in their faith journey. Whenever my children are allowed to pray, serve, or share it is an opportunity for them to own their faith. As I model servant leadership through ministry I am informally discipling my children to hopefully do the same when I am not around. Over the years I have seen first hand how involving my children in ministry has played a part their conversion and growth as a christian. 

Don't waste your ministry and don't waste your parenting, leverage God's call in your life and share it with your children for their good and God's glory. 

 

Too Busy To Pray For Your Children?

Some months ago I read, Setting Their Hope in God, Biblical Intercession for Your Children, by Andrew Case. It is a practical prayer book written to challenge parents to pray consistently and biblically for their children. Intentional prayer is certainly one of the greatest challenges of a busy life, but if we believe the scriptures, we must cultivate this discipline.

Praying for your children has to be one of the greatest privileges God gives us as parents. I am so grateful that at 43 years of age God is still gracious and patient as he sanctifies me in the discipline of prayer. This was a great short read that I highly recommend. 

Here are some takeaways:

From Ephesians 6:4, the work to be done by parents includes:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
— Ephesians 6:1–4

 1. Instructing them in the faith.

2. Setting them a holy example.

3. Restraining them.

4. Praying for them. 

 

You should pray for your children's conversion because:

  1. Their salvation is so great a prize that it is worth all the pains which your prayer to secure it for them may cost you.
  2. Few will pray for them if you do not. 
  3. No one else can pray for them as you do.
  4. Your omitting to do so will be perilous to them and to you.
  5. You will find it easier to perform other parental duties, which God has ordained as means to their salvation. 
  6. Prayer alone can call into exercise that divine power on their behalf, which is absolutely necessary in order that the prayers, which you may employ for their salvation, may not be used in vain.
  7. By their salvation, granted in answer to your prayers, your savior will be glorified. 
It is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone.
— Hudson Taylor

You should pray for your children's welfare because:

  1. You may expect, as a result of your prayers, that the power of God will counteract the times you have failed in your parenting.
  2. Their will be critical periods in their lives when, without your incessant prayers, they may act most unwisely, if not disastrously. 
  3. It will lead you to a better understanding of them.
  4. It will increase your holy desires for them.
  5. No other means will be so effectual in enabling you to overcome the difficulty you experience in talking with them on religious subjects.
  6. You will thereby secure for them God's aid in efforts they may make to yield to you in obedience.
  7. Other parents seeing you example, may be led to imitate you.
  8. The will often, should they continue in the world, have their times of need when the power of God alone can avail to help them.  
Prayer lays hold of God’s plan and becomes the link between His will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit’s prayer.
— Elisabeth Elliot


3 Reasons Coaching Is Essential

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There is much talk these days about “Christian Coaching” and from my perspective, rightfully so. Coaching can be a valuable resource for any pastor/planter to grow personally, spiritually, and missionally.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
— Acts 20:28

Here are three reasons I believe coaching is essential:

1. Discovery. A pastor friend said it best; “There is a criminal lack of self-awareness in pastoral ministry.” Although there has been much written on self-awareness, the reality remains, we see ourselves better than we really are. Coaching provides insight and input into how others see us. It is difficult to lead effectively when those you lead perceive you differently, than you perceive yourself. Who has permission to adjust your self-perception?

2. Development. Years ago while living in Helena, MT., I met a cowboy who said  profoundly, “If you are not green and growing, you are dead and rotten.” Simple and ever so true! We are all in one of three places: We are growing and moving forward, we are losing ground and going backwards, or the most dangerous, we are stagnant and don’t even realize it. Coaching is not magic, only you can be responsible for you, but more often than not coaching is a catalyst for development and growth in the life of the leader.

3. Discernment. Impulsive decisions were one of my greatest leadership deficiencies during my first four years as a lead pastor. I am convinced that had I been coached, the experience would have enabled me to be a far more effective leader and decision maker. Coaching provides a listening ear and sounding board during critical times of ministry and life. Good coaching helps the leader by asking questions, listening, and giving input.

Entering into a coaching relationship is one of the most strategic decisions a leader will make. Through self-discovery, leadership development, and godly discernment a leader begins a journey of lasting and fruitful ministry. Stop lamenting your current circumstances; enlist a coach for your good and God’s glory. 

Ten Milestones For Our Children

As my children grow older I see the day quickly approaching where they will leave my home and be thrust into the world. Intentionality becomes paramount when you calculate the time you have with your children. Nevertheless, many parents have no intentional plan for parenting and families are left to experience the law of unintended consequences.

There is an ocean of regret among parents who in hindsight realize the consequences of not investing in their kids spiritually when they were young. Do not waste your parenting! 

Isaac (11 yrs old) and I just finished a Manhood Retreat in the Black Creek Wilderness of South Mississippi where we covered two of our five Manhood Axioms:

1. BIBLICAL MANHOOD RECOGNIZES THE BREVITY OF LIFE
AND REFUSES TO WASTE IT.

2. BIBLICAL MANHOOD IS A JOURNEY TO A DESTINATION. 
 

Milestones are an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development. Our Ten Miliestones start at birth and end at independence. Generally, they are progressive in order and age, although some milestones may come before others depending on the development of the child. 

Joy and I have milestones to teach our boys about biblical manhood and our daughters about biblical womanhood in an age appropriate way. This would not happen with intentionality if we did not have a plan to implement. 

Here are ten milestones we aim for in shaping and sharpening our sons and daughters. I am not suggesting you aim for our ten, but am suggesting you aim for something. 


Don' t Waste Your Vacation

The dictionary defines vacation as: a break, time off, recess, leave, leave of absence, furlough, sabbatical. 

Unfortunately far too many families do not experience this reality and even less leverage vacation as a part of family growth and discipleship. Personally, I separate vacation and break. There is only so much time you can strategically invest in your kids, for me family vacations are key times to do just that. Therefore my primary goal on family vacation is not rest it is family. This does not mean rest is not important, over the course of the year we implement strategic "breaks" to ensure personal and family health. I have even been known to take a nap or two on vacation.

Here are 4 practical ways to not waste your vacation:

1. Make Family Vacation A Priority

I can remember as a child getting a shark tooth necklace in Destin, FL. and catching trout in the mountains of Arkansas. These times are a cherished and vivid memory. It is not surprising how many adults can recall their family trips and vacation(s) when they were young. 

Every family has different resources and circumstances that will impact where and what you do for family vacation. Nevertheless, families should be as proactive, creative and resourceful as possible to prioritize a family vacation. One of our family's most memorable vacations was a week stay in a farm house of a friend of a friend, 30 miles from civilization. It was cheap, memorable, and fun.  

2. Prepare For Family Vacation Creatively. 

The Dollar Tree is my best friend before family vacation. I can spend $40 and buy some of the craziest games, toys, and food you can imagine. My kids look forward to getting something crazy from Dollar Tree each afternoon/evening after family worship. 

We always look for free parks and trails within driving distance wherever we go on family vacation. These are not only great opportunities to enjoy God's creation, but ways to enjoy time together without being locked into the phone, t.v., or computer. Make it fun! 

For those with limited resources, there are always inexpensive or free activities to be found in most cities if you just spend some time on Google. Live within your means, but make every effort to do something fun and memorable, it only takes a little planning and research. 

3. Record Family Vacation Faithfully.

I record every family vacation in my Evernote family vacation journal. Included are brief highlights, our family worship acrostic of the week, and some of our favorite pics. Thirty minutes maximum and I have a short record of a family memory. This has become a treasure for Joy and I to read and gift for us to pass down. You can read more here about the benefits of journaling and an example here of our last family vacation. 

4. Leverage Family Vacation Intentionally. 

Family vacations are a great time of discipleship. I am not talking about doing a study out of Leviticus, but leveraging the gospel as you manifest the rule and reign of Jesus on vacation. Each year I take a tradition from my father-in-law and create an acrostic for the week of family vacation. This year our word was G.R.A.C.E. Family worship is always a part of our vacation that my kids love. I give them a letter a night with a word for the day and a corresponding verse. After a 10-15 minute time together, we load up on Dollar Tree junk and play high/low for the day. 

I was reminded this Spring about the impact you can have leveraging family vacation when I took my son and his friend with me to preach. During the drive they talked about vacations, my son out of no where began to talk about what he learned about praying at family vacation that previous summer. I listened in amazement. Our word for the week was A.C.T.S...Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. He remembered the first three, and I helped him out with Supplication:) I am always shocked at what my kids really remember. 

Don't waste your vacation! 

5 Benefits of Journaling

Journaling has at times been a very seasonal discipline. I have a row of journals in my office that span almost 12 years of consistent journaling. Then came a very sporadic time of journaling that lasted nearly 7 years.

Each time I review written notes from my grandmother, I am reminded that the written word is jewel to be treasured. Consistent journaling is a discipline that has great value. Numbers 33:1-2, has always been an encouraging word when it comes to keeping a record of my life's journey.

These are the stages of the people of Israel, when they went out of the land of Egypt by their companies under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by command of the LORD, and these are their stages according to their starting places.
— (Numbers 33:1–2, ESV)

Here are 5 benefits I have found in journaling. 

1. Journaling keeps you sharp. 

Research reveals that writing stimulates your brain. I find that consistent journaling keeps me focused, strengthens my memory, and causes me to think and process at a higher level. The older I get, the more this becomes a reality. 

2. Journaling provides a written record. 

Reading the journals of others can have a profound impact on your life. Some of my favorite non-religious reading has come from Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as they recount their epic round trip journey up the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast. Our lives may not be that adventurous, but our journey with Christ is worthy to record. 

3. Journaling acknowledges God's activity. 

Reviewing old journals has brought me incredible encouragement. From reflecting on God's past faithfulness, to rejoicing in God's patient sanctification and discipline. It is an easy thing, to forget all God has done. Journaling is a discipline that wages war against our forgetfulness. 

4. Journaling allows you to process. 

When I write, I am forced to think. The thoughts from my head and heart have to make it to my pen and paper. There have been many occasions, that had I not been journaling, a significant truth would have been missed or an emotion would never have been articulated. 

5. Journaling informs your posterity. 

The dictionary defines posterity- all future generations of people. I have 2 categories of journaling. A personal journal that includes my daily devotional, prayers, and personal current events. A family journal with entries for each person in my family, that includes milestones, special moments, and family vacations. I pray these journals will impact with my children and their children for generations to come. 

Journaling is not a tool that gives you greater value, worth, or standing with God, but another means of sanctification. I stress to myself that daily journaling is not the goal, consistent journaling is the goal. 

 

Children Are Like Arrows In The Hands Of A Warrior

It was a privilege for Joy and I to be with the Vintage Church family a few weeks ago. Pastor Dustin was gracious enough to ask me to write a follow up blog that I am reposting. Here are some family principles Joy and I try to implement and practice from Psalm 127 as we shape, sharpen, and prepare to send our arrows into the world.

 The Bible is full of pictures of family & home life, Psalm 127:1,4 states, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain…Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” Since I love family and bow hunting, this was a very interesting illustration to me.

 Parents, Lay A Solid Foundation

Anyone who has lived in New Orleans recognizes the importance of a solid foundation. The sounds of pile drivers creating a solid foundation in our mud soaked city are everywhere. Laying a gospel foundation is critical in your role as a parent. It is impossible to lay a foundation if you do not have a foundation. How does the gospel impact your parenting worldview? Immerse yourself in the gospel, grow in the gospel, lay a gospel foundation in your home. The gospel should inform our worldview, transform our life, and conform us to Jesus. Any foundation apart from the gospel is to build and labor in vain.

 Parents, Parent With Courage

The Psalmist did not say that children were the “tools in the hands of a farmer” or “utensils in the hands of a cook”. I suppose he could have, but under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he chose, “arrows in the hands of a warrior,” which I think is significant and meaningful. Warrior (gib-bor) translates to hero, champion, valiant, mighty, strong… You get the picture? It speaks of courage. Effective parents must parent out of courage in the post-Christian culture we now live in. In twenty-one years of pastoral ministry, I have found that parents want my counsel, but often lack the courage to act on that counsel. Your pastors can give you counsel but they cannot give you courage. Be courageous in your parenting. Have a view to glorify God as you raise your arrows.

 Parents, Your Arrows Should Be Carefully Made

Years ago I was driving through Montana and was able to stop at the “Battle Of The Little Big-Horn Battlefield.”  I was able to see a group of Indian men who where part of a battle reenactment actually sit and make arrows from wood, arrowheads from rock, and put it all together with animal parts. One word described this: “disciplined.” They had a focused, monotonous duty to make and shape a weapon from a branch. To turn a branch into an arrow requires considerable time, care, and skill, as evidenced by the Indians on the reservation that day. Here’s a question: who is going to be the primary shaper of your kids? ...School friends? TV? Movies? Magazines? Technology? Sports? If you don’t shape them, someone else will.

 Parents, Your Children Are Weapons of War

The current Christian parenting ethic aims to raise good, successful, well-behaved (publicly) kids and to keep the safe from harm. Do What….? We are in an epic battle between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of Christ. Lord, give me the grace to raise courageous gospel-warriors! My prayer is that God will use them as swift, penetrative, and offensive weapons to advance the gospel and unleash great damage on the kingdom of darkness. Paul continually reminds us that we are in a battle against the world, flesh, and the kingdom of darkness. As believers living for God’s glory, we should train our children to live like they are in a war and serve their King Jesus as Gospel arrows that are fired into a lost World.

 Parents, Your Arrows Should Go In The Direction They Are Fired

Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes, “To this end we must have our children in hand while they are yet children, or they are never likely to be so when they are grown up; and we must try to point them and straighten them, so as to make arrows of them in their youth, lest they should prove crooked and unserviceable in after life.” -Spurgeon, C. H. (1993). Psalms. Crossway Classic Commentaries (274). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

 As we teach, train, and fire our “arrows” towards Jesus and the Gospel, our hope and prayer is that by God’s grace they are saved and fired out as weapons of war, obediently living for His glory. As parents, it is critical that we begin firing our “arrows” at the right targets early in life. Many of us fire our “arrows” into the world as we target success, money, prominence, status, and worldliness. Just remember- there is a great chance that your “arrows” will go just where you trained them to go.

10 Things A Dad Can Teach His Son While Hunting

Hunting season is upon us and thanks to a gracious member of my former church, my boys and I have a Lifetime Mississippi Hunting License which we will use over Thanksgiving break! I take raising my children seriously and because of that everything I do must in some way lead my children to see and hear the gospel, hunting is no exception. I often think about two verses in the book of Joshua that constantly challenge me to lead my children to ask the right questions:

that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:6–7, ESV)

And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.” (Joshua 4:21–22, ESV)

The father’s in Israel were to lead their children to ask questions about what God had done and who He was. The role is no different thousands of years later, fathers are to lead their children to ask the right questions so they can proclaim the great name and glory of God.

Just in case some of you men print this off and tell your wife, “the pastor said I need to hunt more”. I am gonna give you 3 ground rules before I share “10 Things A Dad Can Teach His Son While Hunting”.

1. Hunting never comes before family. As the head and leader of your home, you now realize hunting is not a priority, your family is. When hunting comes before your family, it certainly comes before your God, and therefore it is an idol….hunting can’t be an idol. If you need help here, just ask your wife.

2. Hunting should always be fun for your son! Often times Dads forget, children are children. They are gonna be loud, they are gonna get whiney, and they are gonna mess up. Getting mad, angry, and fussing at your son will be a sure way to make your son hate hunting with his Dad. Be patient, positive, and productive; see the big picture.

3. Be Safe and Be Legal! If you don’t know the law learn it. http://home.mdwfp.com/License/info.aspx?id=13

10 Things A Dad Can Teach His Son While Hunting:

As I was hunting the other day, and absolutely nothing was moving, I thought about how much I have been able to teach Isaac through our hunting time together. I realized very quickly I needed to come home and put these in writing to encourage other Dads. I am often amazed at how we compartmentalize our Christianity here in America and especially the South. We talk God on Sunday, Church functions, or at a funeral; but I hardly ever find Dads who use life to talk about God…the bible is clear on how we should teach our children:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ” (Deuteronomy 6:4–7, ESV)

Essentially you are to talk about the LORD all the time. Just think about how much time we waste when we don’t constantly engage our sons in spiritual conversation. Here are 10 things you can teach your son while hunting.

1. God. This is huge and you have SO much material when you are outside and hunting. We don’t use creation near enough to point our sons to God. Teach your sons God made everything. Teach him how He made it (He spoke it into existence out of nothing, Gen 1-2). Amaze your son with the creativity and power of God through creation. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. ” (Romans 1:20, ESV). Psalms 8, 19, and 139 are great texts on creation, use them!

2. Sin. I know you are saying, how can you get “sin” out of hunting and the outdoors? Here is an illustration, just a few day’s ago Isaac and I are riding the four wheeler to hang a deer stand. He gets hit with a sticker bush and gets several stickers in his arm. After a few minutes he ask’s me, “Dad, why did God make stickers?” As I was laughing he answered his own question, “Because Adam and Eve sinned and God gave them thorns.” And by the way he is right, we have stickers because of sin…“thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. ” (Genesis 3:18, ESV). You get my point, the consequences of sin are easy to find. Showing your son sin, opens the door to explaining the Gospel!

3. Discpleship. Have you ever thought about the fact discipling happens before and after conversion. To be a disciple means you are following in the footsteps of someone in order to be like them. Dads disciple your son to Jesus! If your son is not born again, the greatest gospel testimony you can give him is through your life. In fact you are the physical representation of Jesus (if you are born again) God intends your son to see! Teach your son to follow in your footsteps as you are a disciple of Jesus. Pray God would graciously save him and use your example to open his heart to the Gospel. Think about this as you spend time hunting, savor the opportunity to disciple your son to Jesus! I am reminded of this every time we are walking through the woods and I turn around and say, “come on Isaac follow me“. A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. ” (Luke 6:40, ESV)

4. Listening. Man oh man…..where do I begin. We live in a culture saturated with communication and information, yet it seems like the art of listening is DEAD. Christian Dads must teach their sons the discipline of listening. This will be critical as they develop spiritual disciplines as they grow older. As you teach your son about safety and how to hunt they will have to listen, be patient and help them learn this. What a great opportunity to use the environment of hunting to teach your son what it means to listen, not just for animals or to Dad, but to others and for God. “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” ” (Isaiah 6:8, ESV)

5. Purpose. What better way to teach your son they were created for a purpose, “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” than through His glorious creation. Watching the sun set or the sun rise, seeing a deer, duck, or turkey, observing the beauty of fall or snow, looking at a full moon on the way home…God created the earth and all it contains for His Glory! God’s word tells that He made Adam and Eve after His own image, we are special and created for a purpose, to glorify God! This begins by repenting of our sin and receiving Jesus as our LORD. “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. ” (Psalm 86:12, ESV); “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” ” (Isaiah 43:7, ESV); “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. ” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)

6. Reading. I know that this only applies as your son is able to read, but hunting is a great opportunity to model and teach your son about reading. Research tells us fewer and fewer people read anymore, the number of boys is incredibly low. We live in an internet based society where you can find what you want without having to read the entire book. This has killed our culture and our young men. I do some of my best reading while hunting. Dads use hunting to teach your son to read. If your son is old enough pick a book or two that you want to read during hunting season and talk about it. Read Christian biographies, Christian Adventure, Spiritual Growth books or the Bible. I usually read at least 3 books during hunting season, I can’t wait until Isaac and I take up the challenge together. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ” (Romans 12:1–2, ESV)

7. Role. Taking your son hunting is a right of passage and an opportunity to model biblical manhood. Has there ever been a day where we need more men who model biblical manhood and are the Christ-like leaders of their home, than today? We have a new age range called “perpetual adolesence”, boys never grow up into young men. We have boys who grow up with an overly-bonded mother wound because they never broke away from mom and entered manhood. We have feminized young men, because they never did manly things with Dad and have been overly influenced by women their entire life. Hunting and the outdoors is not about making your son into a redneck brute, it is about teaching and modeling manhood characteristics and lifestyle. Hunting and the outdoors is a great platform to teach your son about what it means to be a “Christ-like Man”. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. ” (1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV)

8. Obedience. This is probably one of the greatest areas of conviction and growth I have experienced in hunting over the last 10 years. I was not raised to respect hunting laws or officials, which I regret. Therefore, learning and obeying laws was never important for me and I could find a way to justify just about anything. I remember vividly one of my first hunts with Isaac, and the Holy Spirit was convicting me that I could not continue to “halfway” obey the hunting laws. Partial obedience is “disobedience”. I knew I would never have a leg to stand on when teaching Isaac about obedience and following God, if I could not obey and follow the law. I also knew my disobedience was sin, and repented. You can teach your son so much about God, His standard, and HIs Son Jesus; through modeling, following, and teaching your son the law. “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22, ESV); “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. ” (Galatians 3:24, ESV)

9. Character. “Character is doing the right thing even when no one is looking“. Hunting and the outdoors gives Dads more ammunition than you could shoot through a machine gun for developing character. I could write page after page about the conversations Isaac and I have had about honor, integrity, and character while we have been hunting. From what we hunt, to when we hunt, to how we hunt; the opportunities are endless from my sons questions to teach him about character. Dads don’t miss this opportunity, and just in case you need a reminder, ”you won’t teach your son something you are not living“. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him… ” (2 Chronicles 16:9, ESV); “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. ” (Proverbs 28:1, ESV)

10. Gospel. Last but not least you have time to sink deep roots into your son through hunting and the outdoors. Nothing spells love like “TIME”. Spending time enjoying God’s creation and teaching your son about God, sin, and His son Jesus is what I call “sharing the Gospel as you live life.” Certainly we need to be constantly verbally explaining and telling our kids about the good news of the Gospel, but have you ever thought about how much we “tell” our children? Have you ever thought for a moment you were raised being “told” your whole life. Go back to my first two verses in Joshua, God told the people, “When your children ask, then tell them….” Dads, hunting and the outdoors is a great environment to lead our sons to ask the right questions. May we lead them to ask about the “good news” of Jesus. “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ” (John 3:1–8, ESV

Thank You For Giving To The Cooperative Program

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Sunday (June 8th) our family will participate in the joint commissioning service with 100 NAMB and IMB Missionaries at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Baltimore. (Your invited to watch this service live at 4pm EST) We are so grateful for this opportunity. Just over 6 months ago our family embraced God's call to be a kingdom family and join the North American Mission Board as SEND Missionaries in New Orleans, LA. We have never been more excited about the opportunity to glorify Christ and manifest His Kingdom. 

Without the Cooperative Program this would not be possible. Our ministry efforts and kingdom impact are because of faithful local churches across the SBC that believe we can do more together than alone. Having served in the pastorate for over 20 years, I recognize the sacrifice churches make when they give a portion of their budget to the cooperative program, and I am thankful for those that continue to make it a priority. 

There is much talk today about the decline of the Cooperative Program and the uncertainty of its future. Local Church Cooperation has been the catalyst to create the greatest missions sending agency in the history of Christianity, and although our resources have been in steady decline, I for one find reason for optimism. Never before has there been such a passionate generation of young christians who are zealous to advance the gospel. This certainly is not the time to give up on a proven means to support and send missionaries across the street and around the world. 

Over the last six months, I have been able to preach in many different Southern Baptist Churches, my first sentence is the same on every occasion, "Thank you for giving to the Cooperative Program, I am your missionary in New Orleans, LA." No doubt there needs to be discussions about how to stem the tide of decreased giving, but for today my family and I just want to say, "Thank You." 

Kingdom Families Are Joyful

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Joy is manifestation of the rule and reign of Jesus in the life of a Christian. A kingdom family should manifest joy. Peter writes, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” (1 Peter 1:8, ESV) Peter’s audience was discouraged by the persecution they were encountering, but he challenges them to manifest inexpressible joy in spite of their circumstances.

Inexpressible joy does not describe many of the Christian families I encounter these days. As D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, “We have given the impression that to be a Christian means to be miserable."  Christians should be the most joyful people on the planet. When we are joyless we harm our witness to the world and impact our legacy with our family. Demonstrating joy in a fallen world is one of the greatest testimonies of Christ living in you. Here are 4 practical applications for leaving a legacy of joy.

1. Prioritize your passion.

When we have misguided passions and misplaced priorities we find ourselves void of joy. Families become whirlwinds of busyness trying to find their joy in the pursuit of empty idols. Scott Thomas writes, “We discover what our idols are by asking what gives our life meaning, worth, and value.” What do your priorities and passions say about where you get meaning, worth, and value? Many families are joyless because they have misguided passions and misplaced priorities.  Prioritize wisely.

2. Choose love. 

Bitterness, hurt, anger, hate, and the like, steal our joy and infect our families. Sometimes we just have to make up our mind that the most Christ-like action we can take in a circumstance is to choose to love. When we choose love we are crucifying our flesh and relying on the Spirit. We manifest joy when we are walking in the Spirit and choose love.

3. Cultivate contentment.

When I reflect on my marriage over the last 12 years, some of the most miserable times occurred when we were not practicing contentment. Because we allowed all our wants to become needs it affected our finances. My wife would agree we were not a joy filled family. Today our family is totally debt-free, we are renting and do not even have a house payment! There is a marked difference in the joyfulness we exhibit and experience as a family, when we are practicing contentment.

4. Grow in the gospel.

Paul celebrates the Christians in Colossae’s growth in the gospel, Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,” (Colossians 1:5–6, ESV) You are growing in the gospel when you are repenting and bearing fruit. A fruit of growing in the gospel will be the manifestation of joy as we lead our families.

Prioritizing our passions, choosing love, cultivating contentment, and growing in the gospel will lay a strong foundation for a legacy of joy in your family. 

Hospitality Defined And Practiced

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Have you ever thought about how much hospitality is a part of God's grand story? From Abraham entertaining guests in Genesis 18 to Lazarus and Martha opening up their home to Jesus and his band of disciples in the Gospels, hospitality is a major theme in the Bible. In fact the Apostle Paul makes two significant mentions of hospitality. In Romans 12 he uses it as a mark of a true Christian, 

   “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13, ESV)  

and in Titus and Timothy it is a qualification of an elder in a local church,

 “but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:8, ESV)

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,” (1 Timothy 3:2, ESV)  

Clearly, hospitality should be the practice of Christians and most certainly pastors

Hospitality Defined

The practice of entertaining strangers graciously. Hospitality was a very important trait in Bible times. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers.
— Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, Thomas Nelson Publishers, eds., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995).

This practice was a sacred duty in biblical times and extended to enemies and friends alike. While in Israel several years ago we spent the night in a Bedouin tent camp near Beer-Sheba. I loved the experience of nomadic hospitality, no doubt similar to what Abraham provided to his angelic guests. There was instrumental music, singing, dancing, discussion and food! You may have entered a stranger, but you left a friend. 

Hospitality Practiced

This past year, Joy and I became very convicted over our lack of hospitality. Our goal for 2013 was to have all of our deacons and their families, all of our widows, and random church members in our home for dinner. We organized monthly dinners with our deacon families in groups of two. Each family with all their children would come over to our house for dinner, fellowship, and family worship. Joy started a prayer journal for each family with specific requests. I took ten minutes at dinner to challenge families to love God, lead well, and live the gospel.

I could write an entire series of blogs about the fruit and impact of this simple act of hospitality. In my nine years of pastoring Lifepoint, this was the most fruitful ministry I experienced. At my transition from Pastor of Lifepoint to Missionary with NAMB, one of the deacons sent me a text saying, "You showed me the most important part of my spiritual leadership having me in your home; how to lead my family in worship and the courage to do it."  Wow! I had preached numerous sermons in nine years about leading your home and practicing family worship. I even gave out guides almost every week! But one dinner and ten minutes of family worship in our living room gave new meaning to application. 

I want to encourage you to model hospitality. Many of our greatest victories in making disciples is not taught but caught. Practicing hospitality gives you the unique opportunity to bring people into the reality of your walk with Christ. The question I would ask is, "Why would you not want people in your home?" Don't waste your home, practice hospitality. 

2014 Reading List

I remember reading a biography on Fredrick Douglass, the slave turned abolitionist, and learning about how he was taught to read. As a young boy he knew that his freedom and life hinged on being able to read. As a slave in Maryland, he would bribe white kids to teach him, and taught himself from a Webster's dictionary. Douglass would write in his autobiography, "he who does not improve himself by the motives and opportunities afforded by this world gives the best evidence that he would not improve in any other world." Fredrick Douglass would become one of the greatest orators and public readers of the 19th Century. He not only received his freedom, he was appointed United States Minister to Haiti before his death in 1895. His story has always been an inspiration for me to be a consistent reader, never taking for granted the wonderful privilege of reading.

I will be starting my Doctor of Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Seminary this year, so my reading list is certainly subject to change. This is the largest reading list I have set as a goal since seminary, this will be a real challenge for me in 2014! A major focus for reading reflects our transition to New Orleans and assuming the role as a NAMB Missionary. Although I am aware of most of these authors I have only read one of the books, Andrew Murray's The Prayer Life, which was over 10 years ago. The list is not an endorsement of content, but a goal to read through. The reading list is broken down by categories and you can click on any book to purchase it from Amazon. The Kindle versions are much less expensive than the hardcover or paperback. 

Missional Ministry

Preaching & Communication

Marriage & Family

Spiritual Formation

Church Planting, Church Growth, & Discipleship

History & Biography

Resources:

1. Douglass, Frederick. Autobiography. New York: Bonanza Books, 1962.