The Gospel of Good Success

Paul and Silas were in jail, and they were innocent. The longer I live, the more I have come to realize that there are indeed innocent people in jail, and guilty people roaming the streets. This is a result of a fallen world, impoverished by sin. Paul and Silas are singing at midnight when a miraculous earthquake throws open all the jail cell doors. But, Paul and Silas don’t leave. How can they? There are other people in jail who need help. This is God’s assignment for them. The goal in their circumstances was not to get out of wrongful imprisonment, but to use the opportunity to serve other people in the prison!

 

One of my heroes of faith is a minister named Kirbyjon Caldwell. He wrote a book called, “The Gospel of Good Success”. Since 1982, he has served as Senior Pastor at the Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. Now a congregation of 16,000-members, when Kirbyjon became pastor of the church, there were less than a dozen people attending. The church was located in a “not so pleasant” part of town. As the church grew, he was offered promotions and assignments to bigger and more glamorous churches. He turned them all down. His assignment was to make the community he pastored INTO ONE OF THOSE MORE GLAMOROUS COMMUNITIES. kingdom_builders_featured

 

He started by partnering with business folks to develop a piece of land into affordable single-family homes, which they sold below market value so that those in his community who never owned a home, could do so. After developing a neighborhood of over 100 of these beautiful brick homes, he went to the City of Houston and offered to donate church land to the City if they would build a brand new elementary school for the kids of that neighborhood. A new school was built. He then did the same thing with the Y.M.C.A, which built a new facility next to the new elementary school. He bought a strip mall and brought in successful entrepreneurs to teach his people how to start businesses using godly principles, and then allowed them to set up shop in the strip mall to get their businesses started. There are other creative endeavors that he has led, but I hope that is enough to make the point.

 

Kirbyjon has prospered; his church has grown, he has authored books, and developed business partnerships. But, he chose to stay with his church, and in his community. The result is that the church has prospered as well, and the community has become a beacon of transformation for the world to see.

 

We all walk through difficult circumstances, and many of us are tempted to make it our goal to escape whatever present challenge we are in. Yet our assignment might very well be to the very people around us going through the same thing! For more on this subject go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

 

I Killed the Horse

Recently, I received a book in the mail. As a pastor, this happens a lot. Many people moved by something they have read; want to share it with others. What better way than through the weekly mouthpiece known as the pastor?

 

This time though was different. I knew this person only as the mother of a friend. Apparently, as she was reading during her devotion time, she suddenly thought of me. Instead of moving on through the moment, she stopped, ordered a book for me and then dog-eared the section she had been reading when she started thinking of me, and sent it on to me with a nice card. I found it very moving that someone would care enough to do this, hoping it would encourage me.

 

After reading the card, I immediately turned in the book to the dog-eared section her note had directed me to. To my GREAT surprise it was on rest and balance. Imagine that!

 

The marked section I turned to mentioned Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a famous Scottish pastor. One of the most powerful ministers of his time, he died at age 29, weakened through chronic fatigue and busyness. Before he died, he said these words, “The Lord gave me a horse to ride and a message to deliver. Alas, I have killed the horse and cannot deliver the message.”

 

The book literally arrived at my office while I was on vacation. And, while on vacation I had been reading in the Book of Numbers where a man willingly broke the Sabbath by picking up sticks, and had to be stoned to death. Wow. I was once again convicted of my need and the importance for a Sabbath.

 

Gratefully, I am now rested, and am in the habit of exercising and eating right. But, I am also grateful that this kind woman didn’t just breeze through that moment. She took the time to go out of her way to make me feel noticed by God and important. I challenge you; if you are reading this, the next time someone flitters through your mind, do something. Maybe you could go see them, stop and pray for them, or send them a card. Do something that tells them that God had them on his mind and sent you to make sure they know He loves them. For more on this subject visit

Photo to convey idea of resting

http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

Building Material or Scaffolding?

Have you ever taken the time to consider all the different people that have influenced your life? If you are like me, many people from all walks of life have impacted and helped shape who you are today.

 

I am blessed to have many stable people in my life, people that have been with me for the long haul. And, I have experienced some people who were only in my life briefly, but left an indelible mark.

 

My pastor once told me; “Some people are like building material and some are more like scaffolding”. He encouraged me to understand the difference. He said, “Some people you can build your life around. They will be with you throughout your life journey. They are building material to your life. Others are scaffolding, a temporary structure that helps you for ashutterstock_55365469 season and then is removed”. He went on to say, “Be grateful when God allows someone to be building material in your life. They are rare and precious people. Also, be careful to not be overly disappointed when you discover that someone was only meant to be temporary scaffolding. It is normal to have both”.

 

That being said, I want to give a shout out to a man that was “scaffolding” for a season of my life. His name was Dave Robison, my boss at a previous job. He saw the potential for leadership in me. He promoted me, then promoted me again, and promoted me yet again. I soon found myself sitting at his table, part of his inner circle. Honestly, I thought I was in way over my head. But, he saw something in me that I did not see in myself, and he gave me a chance to succeed.

 

At one of my performance evaluations, he gave me some of the best advice I ever received. He said, “Nick, you are amazing in a crisis. You rush right in and do whatever is necessary. But, what we need from you is…A LITTLE MORE CLARK KENT AND A LITTLE LESS SUPERMAN!” Hah! He had amazing clarity, and that advice was profound. Several times throughout my life I have caught myself unconsciously putting on the cape!

 

Dave passed away about two years ago. While he was only my boss a few years, he continues to impact my life today. Who says scaffolding can’t make a permanent impact on our lives?

 

For more info, go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

 

 

A Love that Makes You Leave

Recently, during a ministry trip to Europe, my good friends Lukas & Dita took my wife and me on a day trip to Hernhutt, Germany. It was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities, since Hernhutt isn’t near anything else I would be visiting. For those of you who don’t know anything about Hernhutt, it is the birthplace of the Moravians.

 

The Moravians were a group of persecuted Protestants that came to Hernhutt in 1722 and asked a land baron named Nicholas Ludwig Von Zinzendorf if they could stay on his land in order to practice their religious freedom. He agreed. And guess what happened next? More people arrived wanting to join this new religious colony. This continued for about 5 years. During these five years, there were many people with different religious views living in community with one another. And, there were many problems. As well as their differing religious views, the people also had different views on communal living. There was unrest in the camp.

 

Then, one Sunday, while holding a communion service, the Holy Spirit was felt by everyone. From that point forward, there were no doctrinal disputes or need for handling communal squabbles. The Moravians would later say they experienced the Holy Spirit much like the church did in the Book of Acts.

 

This move of the Spirit drove the people to a deep desire to pray. They set up 24 hour Prayer picprayer watches and did not stop praying around the clock for over 100 years!

 

 

What was the result of their selfless living and intense prayer life? People felt called to missionary service. As a result, many sold themselves into slavery as indentured servants, for the opportunity to take the Gospel where they were otherwise unwelcome! They sailed to these foreign fields with nothing but travel fare, a bible and a wooden coffin. This sounds like true religion to me. A move of God that stopped arguments over doctrine, caused godly men and women to pray, and inspired them to give their life away! That is the kind of religion I want to experience.

 

The Moravians have left a deep mark on the world that has continued to touch and inspire myself and many others. I will leave you with this Moravian motto:

 

“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, charity (love).”

 

Let us pursue God until we get along with our neighbor, draw nearer to God, and find a reason to give our lives away! For more, visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

 

Gym Friends

I grew up without any steady healthy relationships, and spent most of my life “relationally challenged”. But, over the years, with the help of healing, counseling, books and some long-suffering friends, my relational I.Q. has improved. That has made me much more aware of relational issues that the average person may miss.

 

I started back to the gym. I go at the same time every day, four or five times a week. I take the same class (which varies the workout every other week) with the same people. I am only at the gym for one hour and most of the time I am sweating, and trying to breathe, not start up conversations. But, since we are all relational creatures, inevitably small talk happens and you learn a little bit about each other. I now have “Gym Friends”. The difference with gym friends is that intimacy doesn’t come from talking, it comes from sharing.

 

My wife and I have been married for 26 years. My friends are her friends and her friends are my friends…except for my gym friends. She doesn’t know one of them. That is a new dynamic in our relationship. You might say, “Yeah, but you only see them an hour a couple times a week”. Yes, that is true. But, there is a level of intimacy you develop at the gym.

 

  • mighty-miteWe see each other stripped down to the basics/ no frills.
  • We high five and hug each other while pouring the sweat.
  • We observe one another about to puke after a particularly grueling workout.
  • We witness each other’s body parts bouncing, jiggling and stretching in a way that none had ever hoped to see.
  • We share the bathroom, locker room, and showers.
  • We see each other’s weaknesses (overweight, flawed, and unable to do a chin up) and cheer for each other.

 

I would say there is a great deal of intimacy that happens at the gym. Working out with my gym friends has become a favorite part of my day/week. Yes, I am more vulnerable at the gym than at other times, but I also don’t have any unrealistic demands put on me by my friends there. So here’s a shout out to my gym friends. I wish everyone had some.

Just Eat the Frog

I was having one of those conversations with my wife and son. We were talking about something that someone did that would precipitate a difficult conversation. Granted, I wasn’t excited about having this conversation with someone I love, but some actions left unresolved can begin to destroy a relationship. The actions themselves may not destroy the relationship, but not resolving the issues creates a slippery slope that could.

 

So, in the midst of this conversation, my son blurts out, “Dad, you just have to eat the frog”! I said, “What in the world does that mean”? He went on to disclose to me that his boss, a long time good friend of mine, had recently shared this relational golden nugget with him.

 

Here it is.

 

If someone handed you a live frog and informed you that you had to eat it, how would you begin? Would you lick it to death? Or maybe you would start with the head or its legs? Would you dose it first with salt? How would you eat the frog?

 

My friend said; when you have to have a difficult conversation, don’t delay. Eat the frog. Just plop it in your mouth and get it over with. His perspective is that the more he thinks about the eventual conversation, the more anxious, or worked up he is going to get going into the meeting. One of two things happens at this point. We either experience paralysis by analysis (we over think it and decide to do nothing), or, we envision several possible painful outcomes. When this happens we go into the conversation EXPECTING one of those painful outcomes and at the first sign that one is developing, we jump to the final conclusion and PREDETERMINE the outcome of the discussion.

 

My friends advice; just eat the frog. Pull the person aside as soon as possible, and ask the hard question. It will save you days of anxious inner talk that will predispose you to possible failure.

 

Don’t delay. Eat the frog.frog6

Relational Advice from Moses

I have a friend who wants to know God more, not about God more; but to know Him. Intimate relationships take time and lots of heartfelt communication. But, she doesn’t seem to have an awareness of His presence or be able to recognize His voice among the thousands that seem to occupy all of our brains. Recently, she said to me that not everyone hears God like I seem to. She said I must be some kind of Moses or something.

 

Well, no. I am not Moses and I do not have special powers that no one else has. I do have a trained ear that is getting better and better at hearing His voice (not audibly, though that is biblical). The more intimate you are with someone the more trained your ear is to hear what they are saying. And the Bible tells us that sometimes God speaks in a still small voice.

 

So, this morning I spent about five hours studying for a sermon that involved Moses and I noticed several things about his relationship with God. Moses had a unique experience that I don’t think another human being has ever had. Moses got to a place where his face would shine with God’s glory after he spent time with God. Moses began to look like God, or at least reflect His glory.

 

relationship development

 

There is an old saying; folks who have been married a long time, start looking like one another.

 

The shine didn’t happen the first time they met. It happened after repeated conversations and after a 40-day period of prayer and fasting on the mountain. He comes down and his face is shining and everyone is uncomfortable and he has to cover his face when he talks to Israel. Nowhere in scripture does it ever say that the shine went away.

 

What can we learn about developing intimacy with God (and other people) from Moses?

 

Talk regularly even when the mountain is on fire and your afraid. Long-term sacrifices (40 days of fasting) do produce relational rewards. Moses pitched a tent outside the camp and he called it the “Tent of Meeting”. Anytime Moses wanted to talk to God, he would go out there and God would show up. Have a special place where you and God meet. My wife and I have special places that mean something to us. I also have a few places where God likes to meet me. So; talk a bunch, make appropriate sacrifices, and find a special spot. It works for people and God. For more info go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/tablets-of-testimony.html

 

 

Two Big Relational Sins

What I know about relationships, I have had to learn. It did not come to me naturally.

 

Having said that, there are two BIG relational sins that I have witnessed. The first one I like to call, THE BIG MISTAKE. The big mistake may be an affair. It might be an addiction that destroys a friendship, or even an unethical financial decision that destroyed a partnership. Big mistakes can cost us greatly and one of those costs can be the death of a relationship.

 

The second BIG relational sin is starving the relationship by not investing in it. This is the number one reason people come in for marriage counseling. They just don’t nurture the relationship, and then over time there is no relationship. The kids grow up. One party changes. Or, somebody decides they aren’t doing this for another 20 years.

 

I have seen couples that were so in love with one another. But, when things go south, they fight in such a matter that it destroys everything they built up in the good season. If they could minimize their blowups, they would have a world-class marriage. But, periodically they give back everything they have built in one big fight.

 

I am a firm believer that people do change, but, we grow best in an environment that is supportive for growth. We are energized by people who can recognize who we are, celebrate that uniqueness and cheer for us to be our best. When we do life with Math_Couplepeople who don’t celebrate us, who take us for granted, we sometimes stop competing. Who makes you want to be your best? Whose affirmation means more to you than any others? Who are you celebrating?

 

Tina and I have always told our sons, “Never date a girl that doesn’t celebrate you. If she doesn’t see your unique genius and celebrate it now, there is little hope she will when the hard times of marriage come”.

 

Tina has always believed that I was someone rare and noteworthy (even when we were teenagers). She believes that I am a better version of myself than I really am. But, her believing that makes me want to become that person. We all need someone in our lives like that. I pray that you find that, and it is multiplied to you in your friendships.

Do You Have the Midas Touch

In Greek Mythology there is a story about King Midas. He was supposedly “blessed” with the ability to turn anything he touched into gold. He enjoyed this new power for a while. But, when he sat down to eat, he inadvertently turned his food and drink into gold when he touched it. And, finally he accidently turned his beloved daughter into gold when he touched her. He quickly despised this new gift and asked to be relieved of its power.

 

Recently, I was studying the scriptures about how Jesus healed people. He rarely healed anyone in the exact same way. His preferred method was to touch them. One time there was a man with a withered hand that Jesus simply instructed to stretch it out and when he did, it was healed. So, Jesus didn’t have to touch people when He healed them. But, He preferred to.

 

I am especially moved by the occasion when a leper came to Jesus and wanted to be made clean. Notice he didn’t say healed, he said made clean, implying more than just healing. Lepers not only had a physical disease but the stigma and shame of being publicly unclean. They were contagiouMidas Touchs and could not touch anyone. They were restricted in their public activities and when they were in public, they would have to scream “Unclean, unclean” so that everyone would know they were present. In fact, if a priest (who were in charge of declaring someone to be clean or unclean) touched a leper, the priest was made unclean. But, when this leper came to Jesus and asked to be made clean, Jesus touched him. He didn’t just heal him, which He did. He touched him. Not only was the man cured of leprosy, but also the Savior dignified him!

 

Whatever Jesus touched was changed. If they were sick, they were healed. If they were blind, they could now see. If they were dead, they would come to life. Whoever Jesus touched went away with more life than when they got to Jesus. I want to be like that. When I touch someone, I want him or her to walk away from me with more life than they had before they got to me.

 

Last week, I was running on fumes. I was so depleted. I had nothing left to give to anyone. I hate being here and have been here too often. I was painfully aware that I regretted any interaction with another human being. But, I had one more appointment before the weekend. It was with one of our pastors Dustin Price. Thirty minutes into the meeting, I looked at him and said, “You life me. I have more energy now than when I sat down thirty minutes ago.” I had never been that aware of whether people life me or drain me. Now I hope I never forget. I want to be a lifer. Interested in hearing more? Go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/healing-in-his-hands.html

 

 

Are You In Between Friends?

 

I was talking to a friend recently and he said to me that he was in a season where he was in between friends. That struck me as an unusual statement. So, I asked him to explain. He said, “When you are in a drug recovery program you have to stop hanging out with your old friends. It is just something you have to do”. Which reminds me of an old saying I heard about people working through recovery. It goes like this:

 

No old play things

No old playgrounds

No old playmates

 

I think that advice would work for most of us.

 

My friend went on to say, “So you have to cut off your old friends and it takes time to make new friends. There is about a 6-month period where you have no friends. You are in between friends”.

 

To-have-friends-be-a-friend

 

I had one immediate thought and another that came a day later. The immediate thought was that trying to overcome an addiction must be difficult all by itself, but to do it without friends makes me understand why the success rate is so low. I just can’t imagine how amazingly difficult that must be. My empathy went up for people who fight that battle just from that one conversation.

 

The thought that came to me a day later was I bet that “in between friends” principle works when you are being promoted from one season to another as well. Think about it. For us to make a brave move, change our lives and create a whole new reality, we would have to squelch some of the input from our current friends. They know the old me. They have been very comfortable with the old me and will continually reinforce that version of me.

 

But, when you make your move and have no idea what your doing, you sort of have to go it alone for a while. Don’t you? People can’t really go with you, when you don’t know where you are going…unless they are a rare, friend for life. Are you “in between friends”? If so, it might be uncomfortable but it’s totally normal. You’re probably on the verge of a breakout in your life.

 

I am cheering for you!

 

 

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