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,-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


Maggots……a gift from God?

I am a builder. I like to create, establish, and birth new things. Whether it is a ministry, program, book, organization, or relationship; I like starting new things. I am not a very good maintainer. If I am responsible for an organization or relationship for the long haul, I have to recreate it from time to time as my form of maintaining or managing it well.


One time an older man in my life said to me, “Be careful what you birth. Whatever you birth, you are responsible to care for the rest of its life”. Wow! That comment stopped me in my tracks and took the wind out of my sails. Was that true? If so, I was not so sure that I ever wanted to birth another thing the rest of my life.


Is the price of birthing something maintaining it as long as it lives? It is if we are discussing children, of course. But, what about organizations or churches, are they supposed to live forever? Whether you agree with the man’s comment or not, it was a word of the Lord for me and a much needed wake up call. I had not considered the long-term care that was going to be necessary for the things I birthed.


Recently, another man provided well-needed balance to this conversation. It was T. D. Jakes, as he was being interviewed by Bill Hybels, during The 2016 Global Leadership Summit. T. D. explained it this way; while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, God fed them fresh manna every day. If the people gathered the manna and tried to keep it over night, maggots would spoil the manna. God allows things to spoil, and sometimes provides maggots, so we don’t try to hold onto everything that belongs to yesterday. He went on to say that not every relationship, assignment or program deserves the energy, time or resources that God has given you for today.Unknown


Some things you birth will live for a season and then pass away, because their usefulness has passed. That is ok. But, it is not ok to create and build new things without any consideration for their care. There has to be balance.


What if the maggot devours things that allow us the freedom to fully embrace today? Just a thought. For more on this subject,

Battles & Burdens

Growing up, I was always looking for ways to make money. My first job was as a paperboy. I delivered papers three times a week. But, I always had something going on the side as well. I also picked up soda bottles and redeemed them; five cents for the small bottles, and 10 cents for large bottles. I loved making and saving money.


When I became older, that drive or desire to make and save money didn’t change, just the ways I chose to make extra money. Instead of picking up bottles, I became interested in flipping houses and owning rental property. I invested a ton of time and money in real estate. And things went really well until 2008 when I learned for the first time in my life, what a downturn in the economy looked like. I had some investments that didn’t make it. It was painful watching something I had once loved become something I loathed.


Something else happened the winter of 2008. A group of people formed Haywood County’s first homeless shelter. I was elected to the board and served on that board for six years. Then the homeless shelter merged with two other organizations to form, The Haywood Pathways Center (a homeless shelter, half-way house, and soup kitchen). I have served on that board since its inception, and still do so today.


The Haywood Pathways Center houses up to 100 people who are working on turning their lives around. Currently it is an adults only center since we may need to serve those who have been past sexual offenders, and our two dormitories are an open floor plan. The next phase of our ministry is to focus on families in crisis, by providing off campus temporary housing for moms and their children. This may involve buying, flipping, and managing families in individual units.


Funny isn’t it? I got into real estate to make money for my family. I learned a lot about the market, renters, contractors, bankers and their policies and procedures. And as I personally experienced the ups and downs of the real estate market, God began turning my heart towards those that have no place to live. God is now redeeming all of the time I invested in real estate, and I am now using every bit of it for the benefit of others.


Some of our greatest failures might be God given burdens misapplied! God has graced my investment as I have focused on helping others.


If God has given you a passion, but it doesn’t seem to be working for you, you might want to consider using it to serve someone else. You may find, like I did, that it was always His original intention. For more on this subject


Discovering the Mind of a Woman

When my wife and I had been married about seven years, we went through a very difficult time. We were both working hard to make ends meet and take care of two toddlers. Our marriage became very strained. Honestly, we were in trouble but didn’t even know it. Then a friend handed me a book on marriage. The title was “Discovering the Mind of a Woman” by Ken Nair. The author said, “you cannot understand all woman, but you should understand yours!”


I read the book so long ago I can’t fully recommend it, but I do remember two things. The first was that we should listen to our wives, they usually only want our best. Most women aren’t getting up in the morning thinking; how can I ruin my husband’s life, or how can I make him miserable today? Yes, there are some, but most don’t.shutterstock_16524841


What my wife wants is a husband she is proud of. She wants me to be the best in every area of my life because it increases the quality of her life and she loves me. But, who do you think I regularly don’t listen to when she has something to tell me? My wife! All too often I discount what she has to say, because I am overly familiar with her voice since I hear it every day. But time and time again, I have found she is my best counselor.


The second thing I remember from the book was that a woman wants to be pursued, discovered, and cherished. I remember asking my wife if she felt I was pursuing her or if she believed I cared about the matters of her heart. She bluntly told me, “no” and that she had lost all hope that I ever would. She had resigned herself to thinking we would end up roommates at best in our marriage. I promised her that day that I would change and not take her for granted. She said, “I will believe it when I see it.”


Twenty years later we are happily married. Those toddlers are grown and gone and we love each other more than ever. My wife is pursuing her dream of being an artist. She is blossoming into who she always knew she was, and I am chasing after her, trying to keep up with this new and beautiful version of her. I am grateful that God saved our marriage. I am grateful that today I still have so much more to discover…and to enjoy about the woman I chose to love. For more, click on






Raising Men

My wife and I have two sons. We made the decision early on to raise men, not boys. That can be difficult in a society that panders to children. I am continually amazed at the decisions and the adjustments parents make based on the whims of their child. There was a day, in our society fifty years ago, when a child wasn’t to speak until spoken to. That, in my opinion, swung too far to one end of the spectrum. Today, most children can interrupt any conversation, at any time. That, in my opinion, swings too far in the other direction.


Raising men means that we accept where our children are in their development but parent them towards who they will become. We treat them one developmental stage ahead of where they are. That can be hard, especially for a mother, to train a child to be independent, instead of enjoying their dependence upon her.Raising Men


My wife insisted our sons clean their own room at a very young age. The boys started cutting the grass when they were six. Both did their own laundry by middle school. We taught them how to treat women, by opening doors and treating them with respect. They could feed themselves for as long as I can remember.


Besides giving them responsibility, we let our kids make some adult decisions for their own life (not for our family, see the first paragraph). This allowed us to use their real life successes and failures as coaching opportunities while they were still in our house. This limited the negative impact when they made a poor decision and allowed us to truly dissect the learning opportunity when their decision was a good one.


Now let me clearly say that my wife and I are not perfect parents. Rarely do I give parenting advice because I made a ton of mistakes along the way. But, those mistakes don’t discount the truths we did discover while raising our sons. Here are two truths we discovered about raising men:


  1. If you treat a boy like a boy, he may grow up to be a boy. I know some 30 year olds boys and no one thinks their boyish behavior is cute anymore, especially their wives. Boys desire to know (especially from their father) that they have what it takes to be a man. So, whenever you can, let them make manly decisions for their life and applaud their successes.


  1. Understand the difference between authority and influence in your children’s lives. When they are young, you have authority over them. You tell them when to go to bed and decide what they will eat. But, as they mature into teenagers, the “season” of authority begins to wane and the “season” of influence begins. Many parents miss this change and continue to operate from authority. If we miss this change, many times they move out of our house and reject any influence we have over their lives.


Today, my adult sons will call me and say, “Dad, I am making this decision, but I want to get your advice before I make it.” That means the world to me. They own their decisions but somehow, through all the mistakes I did make; I still have some influence in their lives.


Parenting is hard; the most difficult thing I have ever done. I do not envy todays parents and the hard decisions they have to make everyday. But as a father who has been down that road, I implore you to consciously raise men, not boys. You will not regret it. For more on this subject go to



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


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

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?


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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