Lost in Translation

I recently had the privilege to lead a team of 11 people on a two week, short-term mission trip to Ghana, West Africa. A favorite part of my job is to encourage people to participate in international ministry opportunities. These opportunities are rich is so many ways. One benefit is that you can establish deep relationships with the team and the nationals—in a short amount of time. You also get to step out of your comfort zone and experience things you never would in the United States.


On this particular trip, we spoke at several pastor conferences and ministered at several Sunday morning worship services. We held 4 medical clinics, preached daily on the radio, and visited a school. Although our ministry varied from day to day, one thing was a constant. Each ministry opportunity demanded an interpreter. We needed translation for everything we did.


The Americans all spoke English. The Ghanaians where we were (on the coast) mainly spoke “Ewe” But, at a couple events we had churches that had driven from the northern part of Ghana and they spoke “Twi”. You would probably be surprised to know that the official language of Ghana is indeed English. Everyone speaks their tribal tongue and the educated Ghanaians speak English as well.


If you have ever used a translator, you know that you are to speak slowly and clearly—in succinct thoughts—and then wait for the interpreter to re-state the thought that you just communicated. It is difficult to do if you are a fast thinker/talker like me, or if your interpreter isn’t fluent in your language. On this trip, there were several times when an American speaker would talk, then an interpreter would translate the message into Ewe, and then a second interpreter would translate that into Twi! Many times people in the audience who knew one of the languages—would clarify or correct the interpreter as he spoke.


As I considered how difficult it is to communicate like this, I started thinking about e-mails, text messages, Facebook and twitter—and how social media is another layer of speech that has be intimageserpreted to get our message across. Social media has become the primary way Americans communicate, and I do not think we fully consider how much of what we say is “lost in translation” by using these mediums.


I came home from Ghana wanting to look people in the eye, speak my language, and communicate in a deep and personal way. I didn’t want to “talk” through social media. I wanted to talk like we used to—eyeball to eyeball. I know I will surrender back to our culture though I hope it isn’t anytime soon. And I hope you understand what I am trying to say. After all, I am communicating with you right now through a blog found on social media! For more on this subject visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/the-voice-of-victory.html

So Why Can’t I Rest????

I am fascinated by relational topics. That is probably because I have spent most of my life “relationally challenged”. As you might expect, there are some good reasons for that. But there are no good reasons to stay that way. I am always shocked when I discover a relational truth that other people know, but I was totally unaware of. That happened this week.


I have always been a productive person. I do not need anyone to look over my shoulder and create a list of tasks for me to accomplish. I start every day with a To-Do list that I have created. In the past, I suffered from a “performance mentality”. That mentality says, “the more you get done; the more you are worth”. I don’t live there anymore. My value is now based on the fact that I was created in the image of God. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and Jesus paid the ultimate price to have relationship with me. That is my value.


So, why can’t I rest???


A pastor friend asked me one time why I took adventurous vacations instead of just sitting on the beach and relaxing. He said my life was chaotic enough, why did I want to add more stress to my life? He saw a striving in me that I could not see in myself. Looking back, I realize I never took a REAL day off, even when I was on vacation.


So, why can’t I rest???


A dear person in my life recently took a year off from her career. She was exhausted and needed a break. She actually was being totally re-worked by the Lord. Upon hearing her story, someone else dear to me said that they would be miserable if they had to take a year off. As they pondered this, they realized that they could take an extended period of time off IF THEY COULD SPEND IT WITH THEIR FRIENDS. They deduced that rest sounded attractive, only if it involved hanging out with people they enjoyed being with.


So, why can’t I rest???


I can now. I have found some friends (relationships without a purpose). I never really had friends in my life outside of high school. I hung out with the people I worked with. So all my relationships were, to a degree, performance based. Today, I have friends that I can hang out with and talk for hours without any concern for time. In fact, I leave energized when I have been with them.


I am convinced that the reason I could never rest was I never developed friends outside of work. Maybe that is your struggle too. I am now on the other side and hope you can get there to. For more on this subject visit


The People Who Watch

I had a cool experience yesterday that I want to share. Sometimes it’s the small things that make a difference, and if we capitalized on each of these encounters they would add up to a great day. Frankly, how many days do we have the opportunity to make a sizable contribution? Yet, each of us has several small opportunities throughout every day to make a difference.


I was asked to attend a meeting with several area pastors. One of the other pastors picked Starbucks as the meeting place. When I arrived, a table was already reserved so I went straight to the counter to order my coffee. One person was in front of me and no one behind me. The guy in front of me orders a drink that the cashier turns around and makes (unusual, since the cashier usually takes your order and money then passes the order down the line to be made by another barista). However, in this situation, the cashier takes a minute and makes the drink AND THEN asks for payment. The guy in front of me hands him his Starbucks card, which the cashier swipes then says, “There is no money left on this card”. To which the customer in front of me pales and says, “There’s no money on it? I didn’t bring my wallet with me. I don’t have any money…”, as he holds his already made drink. Pause for a moment. It isn’t a life or death moment, but can you feel the guy’s pain?


I am the only other person in line. I too have a Starbucks card, a gift someone gave to me, and this guy needs a freebie. There is no one else in line. Do you think this was an assignment? So, I step forward and say, “Here, let me buy that for you”. But, the guy objects. I have to ask him three times. With no other options, he finally says, “O.K.”, quickly turns in embarrassment—says thank you almost under his breath—and is gone. I am telling you, this guy was white as a sheet and very embarrassed. I was delighted to have been put in the position where I could help. Did I tell him about Jesus? No. I bought his coffee and that was enough.


Do you want to know the real blessing in this story? It was the cashier. As soon as the customer left, the cashier says, “Man, that was so cool. That made my day. I am glad I got to see that.”


Maybe our assignments are not for the person we help, but the people who watch? For more on this subject visit

Self Sabotage

I’ve been working on a four part sermon series. I like to start with a concept, pull together examples and quotes I might want, and then separate all of my notes into how many sermons I want to speak on. The separation part and actual sermon construction can take from four hours, to a full day, depending on the grace to get it done.


I had finished the third sermon and was happy with the outline and the pro-presenter graphics. As I began work on the fourth and final sermon, I got about halfway done and then set it aside and started a new project that was going to be pretty intense. I wanted to get a jump on it. I got it about 10% underway and then went back and finished the fourth part of my sermon series. That is when I noticed the hidden dysfunction that has been a normal part of my life.


You see, I am a finisher. I finish almost everything that I start. Osabotagence I commit to a project, I will see it through. So, subconsciously, I stopped the almost finished sermon series to begin a new project, and then went back and finished the series. Because I had started the new project, a sense of urgency was created to move me quickly back to it without any rest or celebration for finishing the sermon series. I was artificially providing a demand that would keep me working without rest.


I am a grown man and yet I had never noticed that I was sabotaging myself. It is amazing how much we overlook or do not notice about what we do to ourselves. I was tricking myself into more work, and have been doing it to myself for many years. How many other things like that are going on in my life that I am not even aware of? God help me, and God help us all. For more on this subject go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/faith-in-action.html

Courageous Followers

There are leaders and there are followers—and leaders that can follow and followers who can lead. I have experienced each of these four categories in my life. Because I am a leader, I have read many books focusing on the qualities and characteristics of good leaders. However, in all my years of reading and studying, I never came across a book on how to become a great follower—until now.


“The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders” by Ira Chaleff was a rare and unique find. This book would mobilize and galvanize any organization, if the culture of that organization would allow it to.


I am sure you have read a quote and thought, “EXACTLY”. Like a universal truth was perfectly captured and we all learned new language for it. Then there are other times when someone says something that is all together different from anything else we have ever heard. That is exactly what this author does, throughout the entirety of this book.


An example of a specific thing he said that I had never heard before is this: “The main difference between a leader and a follower is that the leader can externally articulate what the followers internally believe.” In other words, all of us (leaders and followers) believe in the vision. But, the leader has a unique ability to articulate externally what all of us hold deeply in our hearts. He goes on to say that if the leader can make the mission very clear for everyone, then the followers can contribute an equal or greater share than the leader.


One key point he makes is the necessity of the leader to communicate clearly. “When a common purpose guides both the leader and follower, control shifts from the leader to the purpose itself.” We probably have all witnessed an organization that is personality driven (leader) versus a purpose driven organization where everyone is empowered to contribute to the success of the mission. If this post inspires you, please pick up the book, “The Courageous Follower”. I don’t think you can hear what he has to say anywhere else.

Be Careful What You Touch

When I was young I did not go to church, ever. I didn’t know the Lord and didn’t know any Christians. My reference point for the things of God was zero. Those who grow up in a Christian family are made aware of the things of God, but that wasn’t my journey. So, how does God find and introduce himself to a guy like me?


It was fifth grade and I was flunking out! I hated school and was not a good student. It is a fact that had I not moved out of state at the end of my fifth grade year, they would have failed me and held me back. I can only imagine what that would have done to change the course of my life. That was one of seven or eight calls I can point to in my life that could have gone either way and made all the difference for who I am today. Thank you Lord!


One day a classmate named Christy Westmoreland brought a Bible to class with her. To my recollection, this was the first time I had ever seen a Bible. I remember asking her why she had it at school. I don’t remember her answer. But, she did invite me to church (way tshutterstock_173726786o go young lady). I laughed and said that we did not attend church. Class started and there was that Bible on her desk. It had my full attention. I remember it was all black, and written on the outside were the words HOLY BIBLE. Something about the conversation and the presence of that Bible made me feel uneasy, like something was wrong with me. So, I drew a picture of a Bible with holes all in it and called it HOLEY BIBLE. When I gave it to Christy, she was not amused to say the least.

That was it. I didn’t get saved that day. That would come a couple months later through a crazy turn of events, when my father led me to the Lord and my life changed forever. But go back to that moment for a second. Imagine what happened in heaven that day. God—knowing that I would become a preacher who would one day study, teach, eat and sleep the Bible—touched that spot in my life before I even became saved. I imagine the fun that He had with the angels as they watched me studiously drawing that disparaging picture of the Book that would change my life.


Two closing thoughts: Thank you Christy, for making me aware that there is a God. And thank you God, for finding me when I didn’t even know I was lost. For more one this subject go to  http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/the-elements-of-a-great-testimony.html

Try Measuring It

When man was put on this beautiful global ball, he was instructed to multiply. Deep down, each of us desires to flourish, reproduce, and multiply. And, each of us does it differently. Whether it is a mother that wants to have children and share her love with a family, or a man who has an idea for a business that could change humanities daily life and create honorable jobs for others—we are driven to make a contribution to this world with the life we have.


So, how do we “multiply”?


There is a great adage that says, “You cannot multiply what you will not manage, and you cannot manage what you will not measure”.


Recently, I re-read the great business book “E-myth revisited” by Michael E. Gerber. The premise of the book is: just because you’re a great cook—doesn’t automatically qualify you to run a restaurant. One is a talent—and the other a business. He goes on to say that each one of us has three basic business elements, although in very different portions.


The first business element in each of us is the “entrepreneur”. It is the dreamer, visionary measureand risk taker part of us. The next is the “manager” who develops systems, processes, and routines that puts legs to the vision. The last is the “Technician”, who performs the daily tasks that make the vision tangible. Some of us lean heavily towards one or the other. While we all have these three elements, we all need help from those who have the opposite leanings.


Let’s honor the “technician” for a minute—they never get enough credit. The process of multiplication begins with measuring, and that is a “technician” job. In January, I joined the gym. I weighed more than I wanted to, had gotten a little soft, and needed to sweat! So, I joined a class. One of the first things they did was establish a benchmark for me. They had me do one sit-up, one push-up, and one air squat. Then I was to add a rep to each exercise in round two—so I did two sit-ups, two push-ups, and two air squats. I was to continue adding a round, adding a rep each round to each exercise, then see how many reps I could get done in 15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes I was spent. I had accomplished 10 rounds, and was in the middle of pushups on the eleventh round when time was up.


A month later, they had me do the very same exercise. This time I made it through 15 rounds. I improved to 65 sit-ups, 65 push-ups, and 65 air squats. I had not lost a bunch of weight. I didn’t have bulging muscles—yet. But, I unequivocally knew that I was making progress, and that the class was working, because I had measured it.


Measurements can change our lives. Calendars measure our time—budgets measure our money—diets measure our calories. If you want to make a change in your life today—measure something. For more on this subject go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html







Sibling Seniority – a lesson in leadership

Recently, I played cards with a group of young men. I hadn’t played cards in sometime but one of them had heard I like to play a certain game that he wanted to learn. The card game is called “Bambu” and I unabashedly (first time I have ever used that word while writing) proclaim it the BEST game e-v-e-r. I know all the card enthusiasts out there are screaming, “You can’t say it is the best game ever!” But, it is, and the reason it is, is because it is 6 card games rolled into one.


I was to meet the three young men at 5:00 pm sharp. When I arrived, the ten year old was waiting. We talked for a few minutes while I shuffledeldest-siblings-are-more-intelligent1-1459856533 the cards. Then mom summoned the other two and the twelve year old appeared. After a few more minutes I asked, “Where is your older brother?” The twelve year old replied, “He must not have heard mom call.” He then turns
to the ten year old and says, “Go get our brother!” Without argument the youngest brother left to fulfill this command, at which the twelve year old turns to me and says with a smile, “Sibling seniority!”


He was implying that because he was older than the ten year old, he could expect the younger to comply with any reasonable request. As I thought about this, I realized it is an important and powerful spiritual truth. While older siblings do have seniority, the first word in that phrase is sibling. Being a brother comes first and while they might boss each other, you wouldn’t want to get between them because they would fight to the death for each other.


In other words, never use your seniority (authority) in a way that could cause you to lose your brother!


The Bible says about Jesus that He is the firstborn among many brethren. He attained ALL authority when He sat down at the right hand of the Father. He shares His authority with all His brethren. But, Jesus never uses His seniority (authority) in a way that abuses or jeopardizes the BROTHERHOOD.


Remember, relationship with your brothers and sisters comes first and must be guarded and valued above all else. Only when that is held in the paramount position does seniority and authority find its rightful place. For more on this subject, go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/a-case-for-christ.html


Relief makes relationship possible, but conflict makes relationships stronger!

One day I was giving a guy from Atlanta a tour of our beautiful community, showing him some of the incredible ministry successes we have seen that have happened through collaboration between our churches, non-profits, businesses, and government officials. He was amazed at what God had done in our “neck of the woods”.


I love it when big city folks are amazed that God also moves in the sticks.


As we concluded our tour, he stated that our community looked like we were operating in a Jesus’ ministry model. Curious, I asked him, “What is that exactly?” He said, “Jesus always provided relief, which then created a margin to have a spiritual conversation.” He encouraged me to go back and review the gospels. Jesus would meet someone along the way, identify their torment, deliver them from their ailment, and provide relief. Once relief was established, the person then had space or margin to make a choice to enter into a relationship with Jesus, or not.


I have noticed this as a pastor. I, or someone on our staff, meet someone at a point of need, and once that person has experienced relief, some go on their way, but others take the opportunity to further develop a relationship with myself or with our church family.


Later, I was talking to a Christian counselor abimagesout this and he said, “Ah, yes, but nothing builds relationships like conflict. If the relationship can’t handle conflict; you don’t really have a relationship. During times of deep conflict, you have the opportunity to truly navigate what is important to you and the other party. Never aim to resolve conflict too early, rather aim to grow the relationship to its maximum potential during a conflict.”


I thought both ideas were good advice. Use relief as an invitation for relationship. Let people make a choice for relationship based on want, not need. Once a relationship is established, don’t be afraid of conflict. It is the ingredient that seasons your relationship. For more on this subject go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/partner,-position,-and-purpose.html



Garbage Speaks

I was standing outside of the recycling center having a conversation with someone when suddenly I heard a crash. I turned and looked in the direction of the noise and saw an elderly woman in great distress, standing in utter shock staring at a large pile of garbage at her feet. As I sprinted her way to help, I deduced that she had been attempting to throw her garbage in the recycling bin when the bag broke and spilled everywhere!


As the woman started picking up the garbage, she was startled by my presence. I quickly said, “Here, let me help you with that”. She didn’t seem to know whether she wanted my help or not. Which made no sense to me, until I started helping.


You can learn a lot about someone by their garbage.Garbage


I never asked the woman her name, where she was from, or even how she was doing. But;, I can tell you the type of beer she drinks, the formula she takes every morning to help her with a health problem she has, and a couple other things I would prefer not to talk about here. After helping the woman, I understood why she probably would have rather not had my help. Garbage is intimate stuff.


It got me to thinking about my own personal baggage and garbage. I do not like people to see all my stuff; my quirks, oddities, and shortcomings. So, like everyone else, I keep most of this information to myself, and allow just a few people that I trust into those areas. The problem is, from time to time, our bag will break in public, and everyone can see our yuck. It happened to me this week. I was not kind, I was not patient, and I was not loving to someone. My garbage came out and several people saw it. I was embarrassed that I could act like that. In the end, I went back to the person and publicly apologized. I wished I could do more, but sometimes you can’t undo the mess, you just have to own it.


I learned two lessons from these two experiences. First, be kind to people when their garbage is exposed, and consider how much they would want you involved. Just because you see it doesn’t mean they want you to go through it with them. Secondly, I am switching to black garbage bags from now on. Just saying. For more information go to www.alovethatdoesntendure.co