Tag Archives: parenting

Christmas Towns, Part 4

Christmas Towns, Part 4

Take a walk with me through some of the towns where the story of Jesus took place.  Along the way you will meet people who struggled to understand what God was doing.  In each town we will learn something significant about what it means to believe God.  I’m sure the individuals had doubts, yet they were certain that God had a plan and would carry out His plan.  As we walk through these towns, take notice, you may catch a glimpse of yourself and what God is doing in your life.

The fourth town we come to in the story of Jesus is Nazareth.  Nazareth is where Jesus grew up. 

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”  Luke 2:39, 52


Most of what is written about Jesus’ life covers a three-year time span, specifically the last three years of his life.  Yet, Jesus spent most of his life in the small, out-of-the-way town of Nazareth.  After being born in Bethlehem and spending a short time in Egypt, he spent the majority of his childhood as well as all of his teenage and young adult years in Nazareth. 

Here’s the thing…Nazareth wasn’t an impressive town.  It definitely wasn’t a destination location.  In fact, if ever anyone wanted to hide from the law, they often would go to Nazareth.  No one thought well of this town.  A well-known saying during that time was, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  Yet Jesus became known as Jesus the Nazarene.  It wasn’t a compliment.  It was intended to define Him. 

Jesus wasn’t embarrassed about growing up in Nazareth.  When Saul saw the bright light on the road to Damascus and asked, “Who are you?” Jesus answered, “I am Jesus of Nazareth…”  I like that.  The sign nailed above Jesus’ head on the cross included: “Jesus of Nazareth”.  While the world around him thought little of anyone from Nazareth, Jesus owned it, because that’s where he grew up.  He redefined what it meant to be from Nazareth.  But that didn’t mean it was always easy.

Tragically, as Jesus was launching His ministry he wasn’t supported by His hometown of Nazareth.  He was rejected.  Their familiarity WITH him hindered their faith IN him.  In fact, the residents of Nazareth knew Jesus so well that once when He returned to his hometown…well, I’ll just let you read what happened.

On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?” But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further. Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all. He couldn’t get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.” (Mark 6:1-6, The Message)

Jesus loved them but they did not believe in him.  That didn’t stop him or slow him down.  We may sometimes believe that where we grew up is holding us back or that certain people are not being supportive enough.  Don’t allow the rejection in one place to stop you from doing what God has called you to do.  Jesus chose to follow God.  We can make that same choice.  We get to choose how to best move forward in life.  We are definitely PRODUCTS of our past, we are NOT PRISONERS.  

We get to grow into what God has for us right where we are.  Maybe you’ve felt like you were born in the wrong place or even at the wrong time?  Have you ever felt like if you had just grown up somewhere else other than where you did, that you’d be better off today?  Or maybe you believe that if you had grown up in a different family that everything would be so much better for you today.  Whether we grew up in an inner city, suburb or small town, near mountains, an ocean or desert, we can see that we are products of our past.  God knew where you would grow up.  Maybe the reason WHY you live where you do is because that’s exactly WHERE you need to be to grow into WHO He intended you to be to do WHAT He’s called you to do.  

Nazareth represents times of preparation and growth.  What can you do to grow mentally, physically, spiritually and socially?  One thing you can do is to take time to write down a specific action item next to each area.  Here are some examples to get you started.  

Mind:  Be thoughtful.  

Engage in meaningful conversations, listen to podcasts when you drive, or read a good book or magazine.  Also read Matthew 22:37; 2 Peter 1:5-7; 2 Timothy 2:15; Romans 12:2

Body:  Be active.

Move. Whether you walk, bike, surf, work out, or garden.  Also read 1 Timothy 4:8; Romans 6:13; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 9:27; James 3:2-6; 1 Peter 4:1; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Spirit:  Be mindful of God.  

Consider God in everything you do.  Talk with God often, read his word daily, find a place to serve someone somewhere and do it consciously for the sake of Christ.  Also read John 8:29; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 John 5:3-4

Relationships:  Be friendly. 

Be social and plan time with a friend(s) and be patient and kind to everybody.  Keep a few friends close…take time for a hot tea and conversation…or maybe call or text them just to check in.  Also read Matthew 2:39; 7:12; Luke 6:31; Galatians 5:6b; 1 John 3:18; Romans 12:9-21; John 13:34-35; Galatians 5:13.

Everyone grows up somewhere.  For Jesus, it was a town called Nazareth.  Was it perfect?  Not by a long shot.  But He grew up mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially right where he was and so can you.  We are PRODUCTS of our past, NOT PRISONERS. 

I’d love to hear from you.  Comment below.  Where did you grow up?  What difference has that made in your life?  


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Mind Your Head


“Mind Your Head,” the sign read. Not that it mattered because I wasn’t paying attention. I was having so much fun in London, certainly not reading signs and the next thing I knew, “WHACK!” I had hit my head…and it really hurt! Then I saw the sign but it was too late.

“No duh!” I thought. Have you ever done something like hit your head and then get mad like it was someone else’s fault? Only there was no one to blame but you. The sign would have been more useful had I read it before I nearly knocked myself out. There should have been second sign that read, “Told you so.”

Life is a lot like that…just when things are going fantastic, you can become complacent so that you ignore the most obvious signs. Recently, Justin Miller, lead pastor of Real Life Christian Church, gave our team a heads up on three destructive behaviors. Sometimes you may think that nothing can stop you or go wrong for the simple reason that things are currently going so well. Here’s a heads up on what can derail your life and plans…in a big way.

Warning: Please don’t make this all about “church” or “spiritual things” – that would be an enormous miscalculation. The truths mentioned below are just true. If you want to wreck a church, family, friendship or company, ignore these signs. But you don’t want to do that, so here we go.

First, Secret sin will stop you. Don’t live in sin. That is don’t practice sin so that you’re getting good at it and growing your appetite for it. What Achan did in the story of Joshua (chp. 7) was calculated. He knew personally that what he was doing was wrong and his family thought it was a way of getting ahead. Truth was ignored so by the end of that story Achan was aching. The worst part is that his self-centered behavior ruined his family as well. This was a community deal. What is done in secret will be shouted from the rooftop. Everyone suffered because Achan and his family ignored the sign. Don’t be that guy.

Second, Selfish ambition will stop you. If you stand for gossip in your family or backstabbing in your business then look out! Not everybody that you pay is for you and wants you to do well. Not everyone wearing the uniform wants to be on the team; sometimes they’re there because they get a check. And the thing is, as the leader you need to do something about that. Jesus said that there would be wolves among you…people with an agenda. Watch out for those people…and, don’t be one of those people with a secret agenda. If being where you are is all about you, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t end well.

Third, Schisms will stop you. Jesus said a “house divided” couldn’t stand. Not that it would struggle to stand. Not that it would have a hard time standing. No. He said that when there are schisms or divisions you would not stand. Be very careful with hallway conversations and water-cooler conversations. Lots of leaders have ignored the signs of division in hopes that they would just “go away.” Those leaders have suffered for ignoring the signs. Listen, whether or not information about someone is true: gossip, slander, undercutting leaders and co-workers are still divisive behaviors and are therefore a threat to the existence of your family, business, church, or school.

Whenever I witness such consistent negative behaviors in someone, I imagine a sign hanging over his or her head that reads, “I don’t really want to be here.” Don’t misunderstand me…Critics are not all bad or wrong. They’re just critics! When your critics are right, set aside your pride long enough to make some personal changes. However, as Miller said, “I don’t mind having critics, I just don’t want to employ them.” If you are a leader, and you have noticed a consistent negative pattern, then it may be time to release that certain someone to their future.

I hope that everything is going great in your life: marriage, business, church, friends, family, financially. I also hope that your team is pulling in one direction together.

Now…Mind Your Head!


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Strong Leader

Strong Leader01Have you ever had someone say something to you that was so true it made you stop the conversation, or at least pause for a moment, just to think about what had just been said?  I had one of those exact experiences a few years ago, and I’ve tried to live up to it since.

Here is what happened: I was on the phone with a trusted friend and mentor that lives in Miami.  We were discussing solutions to some challenges I was facing and that is when he said it.  He spoke in a deliberate tone: “If you want to work with strong leaders then be one.”

I’ll never forget that moment.  I was so grateful and at the same time I wanted to yell, “Ouch…that hurt!”  Although I agreed with him the impact felt like I had hit a speed bump to quickly.  The kind of speed bump that almost brings you to a stop while your car rolls up and over the “bump.”  That one comment stopped me cold in my tracks.  In that instance I had to slow down while I finished getting over that thought.

My friend was dead on accurate:  Leaders are people who think of solutions and act.  Leaders not only can identify a problem but feel the burden to bring a solution to the problem.  Be the person in your family, office, or team that spends the necessary time to think through a problem long enough to think new thoughts about possible solutions.  Expect the leaders around you to do the same.  The fact is that whenever you live as a strong leader you find yourself in the company of other strong leaders.  You will either attract them to you or you will be attracted to them.  It’s probably both.  Pretty cool deal for sure.

I have the privilege of working with a lot of strong leaders…and hopefully so do you.  About six months ago at one of our staff meetings we went over some guiding principles, the kind that really resonate in the heart of those who want to lead well.  If memory serves me, I think that lead pastor Justin Miller gave the list.  The basic points are his, the commentary is mine.  Anyway, here is the list.  I hope that these thoughts are helpful and inspiring.

1. There is a clear difference between processes and people.  A strong leader will fix systems and deal with individuals.

2. Planning and preparation are key to success in most anything.  Sweat before or sweat during.  The weekend is won or lost by Friday.  In other words, before you get to an event or meeting you can feel confident when you have planned and prepared well.

3. Be people focused on the weekends.  Regardless of the type of business, in the end it comes down to people business.  I joke that ministry would be so fantastic if only we didn’t have to deal with people.  Of course that would be true for most businesses.  Of course what is also true is that if it weren’t for people, you would be out of business.  My guess is that its as easy for electricians and pastors alike to forget that we are in the people business.

4. Take ownership for all we do.  Take responsibility for being heard, don’t assume people know.

5. Back of house and team preparedness sets the tone for everyone.  Remember that everyone in your organization matters.  For one thing their attitude matters because it will come through in their interactions with those you serve.  That is why it really matters for you to have conversations with everyone in your organization.  Your people need to know what matters to you.  Not just one speech to your team at Christmastime, but lots of conversations all of the time.

6. Follow up promptly, accurately and tactfully.  In other words, keep your word…do what you said you’d do. The secrets to success aren’t secrets at all: Say thank you and please, smile, show up on time, and keep your word.  Four easy things that anyone can do and there free!  Does anyone remember the red Staples Easy button?

7. Spend time on the ground with your sleeves rolled up.  Don’t depend solely on reports from those you lead.  Get into their world and understand what it takes to get things done that you as a leader expect to have done.  That is exactly what happens in the television show Undercover Boss.  Awesome…  Imagine that your boss, I mean the big dog in your company is working next to you.  Would you work, act, or speak differently then you currently do?

That’s all: If you want to work with strong leaders, then be one.

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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Leadership, Uncategorized


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The Reason WHY

Reason02Why do you do what you do?  And…why do you do what you do the way you do?

Fortunately, as a pastor, I get a front row seat to witness the lives that are being changed and impacted through this ministry.  On one particular weekend after services, our team met to pray and celebrate the changed lives.  I complimented one of the team leaders about the excellence and intentionality of his leadership.  His response was more than a “thank-you-for-the-compliment.”  His response to our team summed up his reason WHY behind his life and leadership.

Regardless of your profession, you might appreciate and be motivated by his reason for living and leading well.  Here is what he said:

“One of the reasons that I am so detail oriented when it comes to the presentation and operations of Real Life UCF/Oviedo is because we only have 90 minutes to let God do what he does best.  My objective is to eliminate as many distractions and hindrances as possible in order to let God have full access to a person’s heart. 

I am blessed to work with such an awesome crew that is willing to do whatever it takes to make the Sunday morning experience the most inviting and least distracting environment for our visitors and newer members.”

Here are three take-a-ways we can apply immediately to our life and work.

First, eliminate distractions from your environment.  Anything that interrupts or disrupts the flow of your life unnecessarily might be considered a distraction.  Also, consider others so that you do not become an unwanted distraction in their life.  It is easy to underestimate the power of changing your environment.

Second, eliminate hindrances from your life.  Anything that obstructs or sabotages what you do can likely be dealt with if a little forethought is given to your day.  Identify those things that were hindrances yesterday or last week.  Write down three possible options that will be helpful to remove, or at the very least, minimize the impact of the obstacle?

Third, surround yourself with an awesome crew.  Pay close attention to the people to whom you choose to entrust yourself.  This may be one of the hardest leadership lessons of all.  You will influenced and shaped by those with whom you surround yourself.  Others are being shaped by you too.  

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.”  Ephesians 5:15-16


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The Tortoise and the Hare


Have you lived long enough to know the value of patience and perseverance?  Do you believe that the good stuff in life comes only through endurance and long-suffering?

We like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare because in the end the improbable happens…the tortoise wins!

The slow unimpressive turtle won against a much quicker, more impressive opponent rabbit.  He didn’t win because he was slow or because he was entitled to win.  He endured, didn’t quit and eventually crossed the finish line…in first place.  He won because he applied the principle of steady plodding. 

Leaders generally agree with the importance of persistence and grit.  Yet how often have you looked for another way?  Is there another way?  Of course there is.  There is the way of the Hare!  However…

Wisdom teaches us, “Easy come, easy go, but steady diligence pays off.” (Pr 13:11, The Message).  While the principle of steady plodding applies to all of life the context uses wealth to illustrate.  This is more obvious in the NIV:  “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”

Little by little?  Frankly I would prefer “a bunch by a bunch.”  What about you?  However much you may prefer quick growth, the change that is produced usually isn’t sustainable.  The tortoise won because he used the principle of steady plodding and because the hare loses focus and interest.

Did the hare want to win?  Of course he did!  Everyone wants to win.  But because he was fast he knew he could easily win.  So he started out fast and impressive but soon grew tired.  He could not sustain the pace.  Not true with the turtle.  Mr. turtle started out at a speed that was sustainable and simply didn’t stop walking.

Where have you behaved like the hare?  Where would you like to be more like the tortoise?  Do you have areas of life where you would like to win?  Your health?  Your money?  Your energy level?  Your friendships?  Your marriage?  Your children?  Your spiritual life?  Your education?  May I suggest that you pick a direction and start walking!

Take a life lesson from Solomon: “…steady diligence pays off.”

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Posted by on August 24, 2013 in Leadership, Uncategorized


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Not Alone


I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – Jesus (John 16:33)

Trouble is part of being alive. Jesus told his followers what to expect so that they could have peace in the midst of trouble. I like that.

Difficult times do not catch God by surprise. In the context of this verse Jesus had just predicted that everyone would leave him all alone. Then he said, “Yet, I am not alone for my Father is with me.”

Imagine that you were one of the disciples hearing Jesus lovingly say to you, “You will leave me all alone.” That just goes against everything within me. I imagine that I might tell Jesus, like Peter did, not me Lord! “Though everyone abandons you I will not.” But Jesus would know otherwise. Jesus was prepared for the worst. He was prepared for rejection by friends.

The irony is that Jesus died for everyone, but he did it alone.

Prepare yourself to be at peace even though you will have trouble.  Jesus did not say to his followers that they ‘might have,’ or ‘were likely to have’ trouble.  He said that they would have trouble.  He sounds pretty certain to me.

Maybe you can be grateful for the heads up on this one. Now that you know that you will have trouble (in various shapes and sizes for sure, but trouble none the less) know this: the only reason he wanted you to know was so that you would find your peace, your calm, in him.

When you have trouble in your world of family, marriage, finance, church or business remember that you can also find peace ‘in Jesus.’ He is a friend who will never leave you.

A prayer: Master. Thank you for the heads up on the trouble I will face. Thank you for friends who stand with me when there is trouble. Teach me to wait on you. May trouble be the wind that lifts me into your calm presence; in your presence I am courageous and my heart is full. Amen


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Goals Of A Father

ImageIn my mind father’s are men who walk with their family through life. When my children were young I heard this excellent advice that has helped to guide me over the years. The moment I heard it I knew the guy was dead on. So, I wrote it down and carried it in my Franklin Planner so I could review it often. Overall, I had some successful, shining moments and, honestly, failed miserably at other times. But I could always find my way back by checking The Six Goals of a Father. Sadly I do not recall the man that gave the speech so I cannot give proper credit. Maybe you will find these goals helpful. Maybe you can improve on them. I hope they are helpful to you. Enjoy.

First, be the spiritual leader of your home. A spiritual leader is someone who helps another attain his or her spiritual goals. Pray for your wife and children. Attend church with the family…it matters more than you may imagine. Help each one discover their spiritual gifts and then help them find a way to express that gift to serve others.

Second, help your helpmate. Dads are commanded in scripture to teach their children. That is sobering considering that in today’s culture it seems that our wives are mostly the ones to train our children. There are two zones to pay attention to in the home. Zone one: education and academics. Zone two: home economics such as grocery shopping; see that she gets a break and time to step off of the treadmill of daily routine; and especially a break from childcare so that she can read, take a walk or maybe sew (you get the picture).

Third, fulfill your role as protector. First, protect your family legally. Second, protect your family from people who hassle your family. Third protect your wife’s time by monitoring phone, taking care of things you can take care of, etc.

Fourth, prepare child for a career: help them toward a career that will support a family. Teach initiative and living with excellence. Maybe point them toward a liberal arts study in college.

Fifth, prepare child for marriage. Teach them about romance in preparation for marriage as well as romance in marriage. Teach them to be both emotionally pure and sexually pure. Today our societal restraints have been removed. Teach your children to save their heart for the season of life when you’re ready to be married.

Sixth, prepare child for full exercise of rights of citizenship. Teach them by doing: vote, volunteer, and give money. Engage them in real life issues that matter. For example: Teach them how a bill becomes law. Teach them how a business works. Take them to learn how a bank functions. Let them be with you over lunch with interesting leaders from various walks of life.

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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Leadership, Parenting


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