Life in the "Fast" Lane

Every year, during the month of January, many Christians, churches and ministries call their supporters and followers to observe an extended 

I'm choosing to participate in the 21 day fast that many Christians participate in during the month of January. However, rather than the Daniel Fast related to food, I'm doing an extended fast of just water and juice for several days, coupled with a 21 day social media fast.

Here are the measures I'm putting in place:
  • No communicate via Facebook or Twitter for 21 days
  • No blog reading via Google Reader feed for 21 days 
  • Removing Facebook and Twitter apps from my iPhone
  • Replacing social media time spent with time spent in reading the Bible
During this time I will:
  • Replace social media with reading the Scriptures. I plan to read the New Testament during the 21 days
  • Have others that can update facebook pages and twitter feeds if needed (this would be related to work/ministry)
  • Begin a journey through the Bible in 2010 that I believe will nourish me spiritually and strengthen the ministry God has entrusted me with
  • Journal, daily, the things God shows me through prayer and Scripture
  • Have my accountability partner and others hold me accountable to this fast - the primary purpose of this is not a "check up" so much as to reflect to them what God is showing me
  • Separation from non-essential media to focus intensely on essential disciplines (reading Scripture, prayer, journaling)
  • Establishing a pace of spiritual disciplines that will set in motion the priorities and focus of my life for 2010
  • Clarity in hearing the voice of God as I reduce the "noise" of social media

    Blog Recap for 2009

    Here's a quick overview of my blog activity for 2009:
    • Before I get to stats, let me say that I've struggled to maintain a purpose for keeping this blog going - I still do somewhat. My numbers and activity were almost a third of what they were the year before. I hope to reverse that and have set some measures in place to help with it - I hope that regular, consistent blogging will help me develop a better understanding of WHY I should keep blogging.
    • Here's my look back at 2008 if you're interested.
    In 2009:
    • I wrote 53 blog posts (down from 160 in 2008). I wrote several others and rescinded them before publishing because of content or ambiguity
    • As of 12/20/09 I had 2,594 visits to
    • They came from 69 different countries (up from 55)
    • There were 1,712 absolute unique visitors, spending an average of 6 seconds less on my site, but viewing .01% more pages
    • 29 people used dial-up as opposed to 72 in '08 - come on you 29, you have to give in and upgrade to high-speed internet!
    • Fewer people use IE, more people use Firefox and Safari double. Chrome went from virtually nothing to almost 4% of viewers.
    • The top referrers: Google, Facebook, then fellow bloggers (thanks Rachel & Debbie)
    Here are 7 of my favorite blog posts from 2009:

    Looking Back - 7 Great Questions

    The following questions come from Michael Hyatt - great content to use as an annual life review:
    1. If the last year were a movie of your life, what would the genre be? Drama, romance, adventure, comedy, tragedy, or a combination?
    2. What were the two or three major themes that kept recurring? These can be single words or phrases. 
    3. What did you accomplish this past year that you are the most proud of? These can be in any area of your life—spiritual, relational, vocational physical, etc. Be as specific as possible. 
    4. What do you feel you should have been acknowledged for but weren’t? Okay, this is a little too personal for me to respond to directly. 
    5. What disappointments or regrets did you experience this past year? As leaders, we naturally have high expectations of ourselves and others. Where did you let yourself down? Where did you let others down? 
    6. What was missing from last year as you look back? Again, look at each major area of your life. Don’t focus now on having to do anything about it. For now, just list each item. 
    7. What were the major life-lessons you learned this past year? Boil this down to a few short, pithy statements. 
    Here are my answers:
    #1 - Adventure
    #2 - Relationships, Process
    #3 - Deepening relationships
    #4 - Not sure...not sure I'd tell if I were.
    #5 - Discipline in reading & health
    #6 - More time with family on vacation
    #7 - In view of eternity...

    Looking Back '09

    I want to look back in this post at two questions that I heard posed this year from Bob Roberts...

    • What is the right way to do church? (For me, it's easy to slip into this mindset and begin to opine on what I think the "right" way to do church is) - but, it's the wrong question
    • What does it mean to fulfill God's purposes? This is the right question!
    I'm working through to make sure that question #2 is the first question I ask when I consider God's plan for: my life, my family, my ministry, my future, His Church, my role in our denomination, etc.

    Don't miss it, it's subtle...
    What does it mean...

    to fulfill...

    God's purposes?

    All of them!

    It may NOT be what you are presently doing, thinking, planning...

    My Most Meaningful Post All Year

    The Birth of Jesus 
    The birth of Jesus took place like this. 
    His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. 
    Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. 
    (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) 
    Joseph, chagrined but noble, 
    determined to take care of things quietly 
    so Mary would not be disgraced. 
    While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. 
    God’s angel spoke in the dream: 
    “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. 
    Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. 
     She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—
    ‘God saves’
    —because he will save his people from their sins.”  
    This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:
    Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
    They will name him Emmanuel 

    (Hebrew for “God is with us”).  
    Then Joseph woke up. 
    He did exactly 
    what God’s angel commanded in the dream: 
    He married Mary.

    Merry Christmas All! This story, more than a story, a reality, brings hope-fulfilled, life-eternal, and joy never-ending.

    Thank you for reading & Merry Christmas!

    5 blog posts that have challenged me and you need to read!

    Just wanted to put some extracurricular reading on your radar during the Christmas break...these are 5 blog posts that I've kept in my Google Reader feed to read and re-read several times - scan through them - there are some important lessons to be found.
    1. I'm stoked about my friend Lee becoming the editor of our denomination's magazine! But in the midst of these changes, I'm thankful that he's addressing some hard core topics that need to be addressed by us in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement - issues such as: racism, materialism, erroneous theology and praxis, excessive focus on prosperity while shunning those in need. Recently, Lee picked up an endoresment from Ed Stetzer. Ed blogs about Lee's prophetic voice in his LifeWay blog (read, he's SBC and respects the voice of Lee and many others in our movement - for that, I'm truly thankful!). Here's his post: Holy Ghost Housecleaning. Thanks Ed for crossing the lines of your movement.
    2. One of my favorite blogs to read is Recently they offered some free advise - Don't Offend Those You Hope to Reach. If you get hung up over the word "marketing" then I suggest "communication" - that's what marketing, in essence, is. And, hopefully, you're not offended with the word communication - Romans 10:14 (from The Message version) says, "But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?" I leave you with this question, "Does who you say you are match up with what others experience?"
    3. Leadership teams should always evaluate - I'm a big believer in evaluating what we're doing, why we're doing it, whether or not it's working and what we need to do next? Perry offers seven questions that leadership teams need to consider here. My favorite is this question, "What bothers us about our church?" - most aren't willing to ask that question - let alone answer it!
    4. Ron offers us 10 quick ways to lead like Jesus does here - my two favorites are #3 and # 6 - what are your favorite (by the way, #10 is my "ultimate favorite") - I hope you agree! To help you agree, see what Ron says in the post below.
    5. I've re-tweeted this, evernoted it & saved it in Google Reader - this MUST happen. Let me be very blunt (and perhaps a little R-rated) - it's imperative that leaders people keep their pants on and their zippers zipped. It's also imperative that leaders people protect themselves, their families, their communities and the church. It simply MUST happen! If you don't click on any of the others above - PLEASE CLICK on this post by Ron Edmondson. Ron talks candidly about 7 ways to protect yourself from an affair. For some related reading you can read what Perry says here (be prepared!), here, here, here or here.

    When need and Kingdom collide...

    This is an appropriate video to share during the Christmas season, let me set it up...

    I've been really pondering John 1:14 over the last month...from The Message version it says,

    The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
    We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
    Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.

    I've blogged about it already, but this verse so strikes me and is quickly becoming a life-verse for me - I'm amazed when I ponder the richness of this verse - how God (Jesus) left heaven to rescue man. How he took the form of a man, became a man, and died as a man. How Jesus went to the ultimate end to rescue mankind...what astonishing love!

    Transition to the video I've embedded below. I don't know Carlos...I keep track of his twitter feed and read his blog, but what you are going to see below is and example, I believe, of God (in the form of the Holy Spirit) moving into the neighborhood, interrupting one artist's plans for the day, and bringing the Kingdom, as it is in heaven, to earth.

    To set it up, Carlos has recently recorded a worship album. While doing some photo-ops for the album around Atlanta, Danny, a homeless man, approaches Carlos and joins in the song. Unscripted, unedited and unplanned, God establishes His Kingdom in their midst. I literally cried as I watched this video. I repented because I probably would have shrugged this man off, avoided eye-contact, moved about my business - I'm guilty...I've done it before - in fact, twice this weekn while I was in downtown Atlanta. But Carlos is approachable, loving and compassionate toward Danny - Carlos invites him to join in, he embraces him, he celebrates in praise with Danny...

    Watch the video, examine yourself, cry with me, learn with me...

    God, make us patient, loving, generous from inside out. Help us to move into others' neighborhoods. May our lives be true - start to finish. God, help us to become, belong, believe and be transformed so that we can reach others - as Christ did. God, make us sacrificial and give us a willing spirit to reach people far from You so that they can be filled with life in You. In Christ name, Amen!

    How Much is Too Much?

    Like it,
    Hate it,
    Love it,
    Or, Leave it...

    Change happens!

    The opposite of change, I once read, is death. If you're living, you're changing.

    I was made aware of a very large, and very growing church that purposely tries to change at least 10% of what they are doing each year. That has to be a difficult metric to track, but the heart of the metric is that they are able to continue to grow, evaluate, reach people and make a major difference in their community because they are willing to constantly change. By the way, they realize that if they DON'T change at least 10% every year, in just 5 short years half of what they are doing will be ineffective. That's an eye-opener!

    So, how much change is too much?

    How can a local church continue to serve the members that are present (an important role), while still focusing on the people that need Christ the most?

    I have my thoughts...but, I'd really like to hear yours!

    When I reach 5 comments, I'll weigh in...ready, set, comment!

    How Far is Too Far? (Pt. 2)

    I thought I was finished blogging about this topic from yesterday - sorry, I'm not!

    I have become acutely aware, as I have reflected the past few days, of what some call the "spirit of Christmas." No, it has nothing to do with shopping (did that and survived), nothing to do with trees and decorations (still to be done...), and nothing to do with gift exchange. Well, maybe it does have to do with the last one!

    Gift exchange?!?!

    Christ...God's gift...exchanged His place in Heaven to "move into the neighborhood" (Jn 1:14, The Message translation). Paul reflects (from The Message; Philippians 2:6-8), that Christ "didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion."

    As I read these two passages together I'm challenged with these thoughts personally:
    • How much do I think of myself?
    • How much do I cling to the advantage of life as it presently is?
    • Am I willing to sacrifice? To live without? Knowing that my sacrifice may be rejected!
    • How many "special privileges" do Iput into place to shield me from sacrifice and suffering?
    • To what extent am I willing to "become" so that others can be made aware of the hope and eternal life that I have found in Christ?
    • Do I live a selfless, obedient life?
    • How could I ever die a selfless, obedient death if I can't live such life?
    • Am I willing to move into someone else's neighborhood? Across the ocean? Around the world? For a season? Forever?
    How Far is Too Far?

    I'm wrestling with this one - I hope some of you will wrestle with it as well.

    If I knew I were going to die in 6 months, I'd live my life in a drastically different way from day-to-day - what's keeping me from it?

    As I said, yesterday: People, people matter!

    How Far is too Far?

    When I was a youth pastor, that was a common question.

    Typically, it was a teen wanting to play it "safe enough" to push the limits of their sexuality and sexual expression, while retaining the right to be considered a Christian. Now that I'm not in youth ministry and I deal more with adults...

    Nothing has changed!

    Let's move away from the discussion of sex and toward the discussion of salvation...

    How far is to far?
    How far do we go to reach people?

    Do we enter the world of porn shows and conventions like Craig Gross does?

    Are we gutsy enough to enter the world of human trafficking like Charles Powell is willing to do? (by the way, human trafficking is now the 2nd largest illegal crime behind the drug trade - some of it is for the purpose of the sex trade, but it's not limited to that-article by Charles is a little over half way down)

    Are we willing to give up all that we have for the sake of reaching someone?

    How much are we willing to sacrifice?

    Our chapels and churches?
    Our sanctuaries and seating?
    Our voice and our vote?

    People, people matter!

    They are who Christ came for...died for...arose for...waits for.

    I'm convicted when I read John 1:14, that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

    Christ became human (yes, I know, fully human, fully God - but don't forget - fully human!).

    Are we willing to become ______________ in order to dwell among some to reach them - no, not become a porn star or drug pusher or homeless person. But are we willing to sacrifice our status quo, our safe place and our sanctuary to understand the hell someone else is trapped in - all in an effort to reach them with Christ's love and life?

    I'm convicted that I have chosen comfort and convenience over risk and uncertainty. I'm convicted that I have chosen status and safety over sacrifice and peril. No, I'm not looking to be a martyr. But I wonder, given the choice of safety, comfort and convenience have I sacrificed some of God's richest plans for my life - I wonder!

    The issue of relevance can be a hot button topic in many settings within Christendom. So sad! Christ...left heaven...became man...became relevant...sacrificed...died - given the choice, would we choose this path?

    Have we chosen this path?
    Or, do we think that sacrificing all is going too far?

    4 Questions Everyone Must Wrestle With

    A couple months ago I took a day off after having gone for 20 days straight...I went to church on my day off - here are the notes from my church service at Elevation's Online Service:

    • What's in your hand?- Exodus 4 - The Question of Calling. Whatever you have in your hand, throw it down at God's feet and let him do what He wants to do with it. You have to find the thing that you have in your hand, offer it to the Lord and let Him turn it into something. You don't have to be able to preach, you have to do what you can with what you have now. Eph 2:10
    • Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? - The Question of Acceptance. Gal. 1:10. You cannot live for the approval of men and the approval of God - you must choose to serve one or another. Illustration using Kanye - "Who cares what you think?" - "It's not your award to give anyway." - In similar fashion, who cares what the opinion of others is? You are approved by God - it's settled!
    • How can a young man keep his way pure? - Ps. 119:9 - The Question of Integrity - Purity is a gift from Jesus and you walk in it - you don't earn it. How can a man do this? By living according to your word!
    • Who do you say I am? - The Question of Eternity - Mat. 16:15-16. If you get this one wrong, the others don't matter. So many misconceptions about who Jesus is. God has not sent a universal friend request on facebook - He's looking for followers, not friends.
    This was a message taught by Pastor Steven Furtick to the students in their church - it has universal application!

    Have you answered these questions?

    Let's talk about it...