Faith • Leadership • Life

The Principal Of The Boat

PrincipleOfTheBoatThe principal of the boat is something I’ve observed and talked about for a long time.  I grew up around rivers, creeks, and bays and I spent a lot of time on the water in boats.  Me and my dad or my grandfather would go fishing close to the banks where the fish seemed to hang out.  They would shut the motor off to keep from scaring the fish away and I’d take out a paddle and simply steer the boat along.  Here’s the principal I learned: a moving boat is easier to steer than a boat sitting still.  I know, I know….profound, right!!  However simplistic it may be, it is very true.

If a boat is moving it can be steered with incredible ease by simply placing the paddle in the water and moving it ever so slightly.  It truly becomes effortless to steer a moving boat.

This is not the case when a boat is sitting still.  In fact, you really can’t steer it at all.  If you try to steer while sitting still you just turn in a circle.  Round and round you go….lot’s of movement, but no progress.  Plenty of energy being burned up, but no intended destination is being pursued.  Without movement, steering becomes really useless.

This principal is true in our lives as well.  Many of us are steering the boats of our lives while they’re sitting still.  We pray and plan and pray some more, but we never take a step in any particular direction.  The Bible is clear that if we acknowledge God in all our ways He will direct our paths.  This is a powerful promise that should be quite freeing to us as we sail the boat of our lives on the waters of circumstances and time.

We need to start moving!!  I’m not downplaying the importance of prayer and planning, but at some point you must get going.  Once your boat is moving, it will be much easier to steer it more precisely.  Don’t continue putting off the very moves you know you need to make.  The phone call, the letter, the conversation, the resume….get going!!  Don’t get paralysis by analysis.  Don’t end up stuck going in circles in your life ending up nowhere.  Do something!! Get moving and listen closely to the direction of God.  You won’t regret it.

Posted in: Blog, Life, prayer, principles

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Love God With All Your Strength

Strength

Romans 12:1

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you   to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,   holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.

 

 

The last portion of Mark 12:30 commands us to love God with all our strength.  This means we are to love God practically with our physicality, our energy, and our efforts.  A reading of the verse makes it clear that Jesus had a specific order in mind when it came to loving Him.  It begins with our inner man (heart/soul/mind), but always should make it’s way to our outer man (strength).  What we symbolize with baptism we should live out in loving God with our strength.  What’s going on inside of us should impact what’s going on externally.

Often, we mistakenly compartmentalize our lives and love for God.  We separate what we deem as spiritual from physical.  This typically will be prayer, Bible study, and worship in the spiritual column while good works, service, and effort fall into a different column.  Romans 12:1 should do away with this notion.  The Apostle Paul makes it clear that offering our bodies to God (loving Him with our strength) is a spiritual act of worship.  Yes, what happens on the outside of you is as spiritual as you inner man.  For many, this could be a game changer.

This has some important implications.  It means how you use and take care of your body is actually very spiritual.  Do you trash your temple constantly with bad food, lack of rest, and no physical activity?  Do you overemphasize your inner man and completely ignore your body, actions, and behaviors?  This is why compartmentalization is so problematic.  Everything you do, both inward and outward, matters!

My hope is this truth will inspire you to become more holistic in your approach to your life with God.  Don’t fall into the trap of emphasizing one area of your life with God over another.  God wants you to love Him completely with all that you are.  He created your inner and outer person.  Honor Him with both!  Pray and read God’s Word, but also exercise and eat healthy food.  Both will glorify God greatly.  Let the transformation that is happening inside of you begin to tangibly impact what is happening in your outer person.  It really is very spiritual.

Posted in: Bible, Blog, Yellow Brick Road

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Time – James 4:14

time

Time sure does fly by!!  How many times have you said that lately?  It really does go fast doesn’t it?  I was spending the day with my granddad recently and he laughingly told me there’s no way he can be 75 years old.  He said that I would blink a few times and be there myself.

I tend to agree with him, because I can hardly believe I’m 35.  It truly feels like yesterday that I was a college student singing and preaching with a group and leading students at a church.  It doesn’t feel possible that Nan & I have been married for almost 13 years.  Then there’s the kids.  It is almost sad to me how quickly it seems their childhoods are blowing by us.  Kids have made me more aware of the passing of time than anything because for the most part, I don’t look drastically different today than I did 10 years ago, but my kids seem to change daily.  It’s all a big reminder that our time is limited.

In the book of James he tells us that our lives are like a “mist”, here today and gone tomorrow.  Many use this verse to say our lives are not only short but also insignificant.  A mist can’t mean much, right?  Well, I think the point in James is the exact opposite of this erroneous premise.  James is saying that our lives are short, but they are very significant!!

God wants you to be AWARE of the limited nature of your life and time, so that you will make the most of it.  Your life counts!  Your life matters!  Everyday we choose to let our lives count and make a difference around us or not.  The problem is many of us live our lives very carelessly.  We live like we have all the time in the world, like our time is limitless.  That’s why awareness is the key.  The Bible is full of references to our short amount of time and God’s ability to redeem our time and use our short lives for His glory.

So, today I hope that you and I will live differently.  Live fully aware.  Live wide awake to the reality that you don’t have long.  Live wide awake to the possibilities and amazing potential that God intended for you when He created you.  Live fully aware that your spouse and kids need you now and their lives are ticking by quickly too.  Our lives are intended to be beautiful, rich, and powerful stories of God’s redemptive power and love.  But they are not intended to be novels.  They are short stories.  Make the most of yours, fully aware, wide awake.

Posted in: Bible, Blog, James

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Embrace Change – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Change

We’ve all heard it said a million times. No one likes change. While that may not be entirely true, change does most certainly cause a large portion of the human population to tense up, freak out, or check out. The problem with taking a strong anti-change stance is that you are literally going against one of the big realities of life: change is a part of the deal, whether you like it or not. It’s not a matter of if things will change in your life, it is a matter of when they will change.

My grandmother has always said that life changes significantly about every 5 years. As a kid and teenager, I didn’t notice the wisdom and truth in her premise, but as a 35 year old adult I now see it very clearly. She’s pretty spot on!! My life significantly changes every 4-5 years.

Here’s a snapshot of the last couple of decades of my life. I spent around 4 years in middle school, then started High School. Big change for sure. I then spent 4 years in high school and my church youth group, and upon graduation, things changed again. I started college at University of Mobile, went on staff with a new church, and joined a touring group. New friends, new town, new church led to huge change.

5 years later I graduated from UM, married my bride, and moved to Atlanta, which was an enormous change. Around 4 years later, we moved to Pensacola to plant a church, and we had our first child. Change!! 5 years later we merged our church plant with Potential Church out of Miami and became multisite opening the door to a ton of change. This past summer, which was 4 years after that merger, I became the lead pastor of COTES and moved to the Eastern Shore. Yep, grandma nailed it!!

The truth is your life is going to change. You can fight and try to keep things the same, but you’ll fight a losing battle. Churches, organizations, and people who fight against change often do so to the detriment of their own futures. This doesn’t have to be our story. We can choose to handle change differently. We can actually embrace it.

I think change can be viewed like wind in the sails of a boat. The wind will effect the boat one way or the other. The captain can fight against it to no avail, or he can make a better choice. He can harness it. He can put the boat in a position to actually use the wind as energy to move it forward to a preferred destination.

You and I have the same choice available to us concerning change. Inevitable change can be harnessed to actually move your life forward. I believe God brings change into our lives for this very purpose. Ecclesiastes 3:1 makes clear that God designed our lives for seasons, and those seasons will change. Don’t be discouraged or intimidated by change. Welcome it, harness it, and embrace it. It can become wind in your sails.

Posted in: Bible, Blog, change, Church, Ecclesiastes

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Use Your Brain

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God made your mind and He wants you to love Him with it.  One of the major distinguishing characteristics that separates us from the rest of creation is our intellect.  The human mind is an amazing work of God’s creative power. Sadly, this seems to be one of the most ignored aspects of our love for God.  Mark 12:30 records Jesus telling to love God with our heart, soul, MIND and strength.  To love Him completely your mind must be involved.

​The problem is that over the past couple of decades it seems a strong wind of anti-intellectualism has blown into the church world.  The “experience God” movement , while positive in many ways, shoved the pursuit of the knowledge of God to the background.  This is detrimental because God wants us to know Him and know about Him!!  The more you know God the more you’ll love God.

​Knowledge and intellect have gotten a bit of a bad wrap because there’s no doubt that it can lead to arrogance and pride.  We’ve all seen the  brand new theologian armed with a specific theological system become puffed up in a way that both annoys and harms.  We shouldn’t allow this to deter us from seeking to know God on an intellectual level.  Knowledge can puff up, but it does not have to puff up.  ​

​The Apostle Paul made it clear that if your knowledge leads you to pride then you don’t know what you think you know.  Knowledge of God should never lead us to be prideful, but instead to deep humility.  Allowing your knowledge of God to lead you to pride is like a mountain climber getting 50 feet up the face of Mt. Everest and beginning to brag about it.  It’s crazy!!  He still has so far to go.  You and I could learn something new and deep about God everyday for the rest of our lives and still be scratching the surface of God’s greatness.

​We need to love Him with our MIND.  To do this, we need to start with the truth, God’s Word.  The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us.  God specially revealed Himself to us through Jesus and His Word.  When you read the Word and think on the Word and study the Word you are loving God with your mind.  I invite you to join me and my church on an 85 day reading plan in the New Testament.  This is a great way to get started.  Here is the link.  Whatever you choose to do, get started loving God with your mind!!

Posted in: Blog, Church, Learning, The MInd, Yellow Brick Road

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Cruise Ships And Marriage

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This week the news, both local and national, was taken over by a broken down Carnival cruise ship and the plight of the thousands of helpless people on the boat.  After assessing the situation, Carnival and the Coast Guard decided to pull the massive ship across the gulf via tug boats to our very own Mobile Bay.

As the powerless boat inched across the Gulf, the situation onboard deteriorated rapidly.  People couldn’t breathe due to muggy heat and the horrific smell of sewage, bad food, and water.  People we’re pulling their mattresses onto the open deck to sleep in a breeze and some semi clear air.  No bathrooms, little food, and people getting sick by the minute.  To put it mildly, this was a horrible situation and a very public failure by a major cruise line.  The most stunning part of the story however is that their were many warning signs that this boat was ripe for a disaster and nothing was done.

You see, Carnival has admitted they knew the boat had been having major mechanical issues for months.  Yet nothing was done.  The warnings were not heeded.  People suffered because of a lack of attention given to a very important issue…..SAFETY.  I have found through almost 13 years of marriage and counseling many couples that marriage is very much like a cruise ship.  I’ve never seen a marriage that was destroyed without warning signals ahead of time.  I’ve also never seen a marriage destroyed that didn’t suffer from a lack of attention.

We date our spouses pre-marriage passionately and attentively but often after a few years of marriage the attention goes down fast.  We stop honoring each other and serving each other.  The warning signs are often very small and seemingly insignificant, but over time they can become lethal.  After time the lack of attention can lead to a disaster, like an engine fire on a cruise ship.

Great marriages do not just happen.  Great marriages take work, effort, and attention.  That’s why at our church, COTES, we’ve launched a ministry called True Marriage to help couples give their marriages the attention they need.  God created marriage as a means to make us HOLY first, but also to bring great joy and meaning to our lives.  No one wants you to have a great and healthy marriage more than your Heavenly Father.  But you must choose to do the hard work that it takes to keep your marriage floating safely on the seas of life.

Sadly, we often put more effort into our workout plans, our careers, or even our hobbies than our own marriages.  If you’re spending more time on your golf game or your wardrobe than you are on the connection in your marriage there’s a big problem.  Don’t let your marriage suffer from a lack of attention and wait till your stranded in the middle of an ocean of hardship to decide to try to make it work.  Decide now!!  Love your spouse!!  Serve and honor your spouse!!  Pray and worship with your spouse!!

We have a great event coming at COTES called True Marriage LIVE on March 1st.  It’s a night where you can let some people speak into your marriage.  If you live in the area, get a ticket and come.  Remember, God wants you to have a great marriage…..but it will NOT just happen!!

Posted in: Blog, Church, Community, True Marriage Live

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No Condemnation

No Condemnation

“There is therefore now no condemnation.” Romans 8:1

If you’re like me, you probably deal with feelings of guilt and condemnation in your life from time to time.  For some, these feelings can become crippling and eventually detrimental to their walk with Jesus.  I think one of the greatest weapons we have in our arsenal against this is the knowledge of all that Christ did for us through His life, death, and resurrection.  I would like to remind us all of some of these wonderful truths today.

First, if you belong to Christ you have been totally cleared from guilt. You have been justified in Christ.  You have been set free from the prison of guilt into which we are all born.  You are free, and free indeed!  This freedom in Jesus is staggering in it’s implications.  We have freedom to boldly approach the throne of God.  As we approach the throne, we don’t have to fear the wrath of God because there is no wrath for the innocent…..and in Christ you are innocent.

Before Jesus you were cut off from God and had no relationship with your creator, but now you are His child. You are invited to call Him Abbah (daddy).  The reality of Hell was once a terrifying thought, but the fear of it should be gone for those in Christ because there is no punishment for the guiltless…..and in Christ you are guiltless.

Have you ever thought of what it would be like had you never sinned at all in your life?  Well, in Christ, we actually experience this reality because in Him our sins have been covered.  Because Jesus kept and fulfilled the Law, if you are in Him, His keeping of that Law counts for you.  The love and blessings of perfect obedience are yours because Jesus was perfectly obedient in our place.

The Gospel is staggering, beautiful, transforming, and freeing in a way that should impact our lives every day.  So today my friends, live and love as free men and women if you belong to Christ. In Him there is NO condemnation!! Let this truth encourage and strengthen you today.

Posted in: Blog, Freedom, Jesus, Romans

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Stray Dogs

Today’s blog is from our Executive Pastor, Russell Creel, at COTES Ministries.  In this post he takes a deeper dive into his message on “The Enemy” from our Yellow Brick Road teaching series yesterday. I hope you enjoy the post from Pastor Russell, please comment and share with your friends. ~ Chris

Shelter Dogs
The Bible tells us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Have you ever wondered why the devil goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour? It is because he cannot devour just anyone. If he could, he would. Instead, the devil must be on the lookout, searching for opportunities. He is looking for access into someone’s life, looking for what the Bible calls a foothold. Satan can gain a foothold in your life through any area that you have not submitted to God. Once the devil’s foot is in the door, he will begin to wreak havoc in your life.

James 4:7-8 tells believers:

“Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

However, if you put out a welcome mat for the devil, he is within his rights to settle in and stay.  In that way, the devil is somewhat like a stray dog.  The story is told of a woman who had a skinny stray dog show up at her door. She felt sorry for it and began feeding it.  Then she started letting him come inside.  You could say she gave him a foothold.

Before she knew it, she had yielded her house to that dog!  She moved the furniture around to accommodate it and even gave up her favorite chair because the dog had claimed it.  She spent money on dog food, even though she could not afford it.  When asked her what she was doing with a dog in the house, she responded, “I just cannot get him to leave.”  Was it any wonder?

Likewise, you cannot open the door to the devil and expect him to leave the nice, neat areas of your life alone.  If you reserve a comfy spot for sin in your life, Satan will come and try to claim the whole house. Once he is there, he will not want to leave.

The good news is that Jesus not only took away your sins, He also redeemed you from Satan’s power and dominion. Colossians 2:15 says,

“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Jesus did not defeat the devil just to prove He could. He defeated him for you so you can reap the benefits and have at your disposal everything you need to enforce the devil’s defeat in your life.  So you see, Satan is already a defeated enemy!  His legal authority was neutralized by the finished work of Christ on the cross. Because Jesus made you more than a conqueror, you can enforce the devil’s defeat and keep him in his place.

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Why You Should Read

Why You Should Read

I’ve been reading books since I was a boy.  My Grandma (nanny) worked at our local public library, so I had endless access to books on dinosaurs, tornadoes, animals, and cars.  I’m still so grateful to her for encouraging me to love books.  My mother, recognizing my love of books, got me in to a disney book club where I received a great little book once a month by mail.  It was great. At 9 years old I was given a kids picture bible that I literally wore out reading from cover to cover over and over.  It was when I began to love the Story of God.  My next big jump into reader land was at 13 when my church hired the youth pastor who would be my first ministry mentor and also teach me to love the Bible and great Christian authors.  He was a huge Max Lucado fan, and since I wanted to be like Bro. Craig, I became a Max Lucado reading machine during my teens.

During college and seminary, my reading both required and voluntarily only increased.  Over the years I have developed different means of retaining the many nuggets of gold I find in different books I read.  My wife bought me a set of the great Charles Spurgeon’s sermons for our first Christmas.  They’ve been priceless.  The wonderful systematic theologies that sit on my shelves are so beautiful and rich.  Books like Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” and John Eldredge’s  “Wild at Heart” were game changers in my life.  My reading of a trilogy of biographies on the life of Theodore Roosevelt have inspired me in ways I could write 20 blog posts to explain.  Reading has enriched me, trained me, and helped me along my path…..and it will you too, if you will read!!

I want to encourage you to become a reader.  Just try it for a while and I really think you will be hooked.  Sadly, many people haven’t read a book since they left high school or college.  Turn the tv off and get a book!!  Read on topics that apply to your life and your life stage.  Read biographies on people that will inspire you.  Read on marriage and parenting.  More than anything, read God’s Word!!  Then, read books to help you understand His Word.  This will deepen your life in ways I can’t describe.

I’ve been personally poured into and mentored by people like Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, John Maxwell, and Mark Driscoll.  I’ve had conversations with Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Spurgeon.  How you may ask?  No, I’m not friends with these folks (some are dead!).  It’s because I’ve read their books.  When you read, it’s like sitting down with an author for a while.  It is having someone often far smarter and more experienced that you pour into your life.  So, read my friends. You won’t regret it.

3 suggestions for reading:

1) Take it slow at first.  Reading a chapter a day will get you through a couple books a month.  So you could potentially read 24 books this year!!
2) Read with friends.  Get a few friends and read a book together.  Discuss the chapters and insights.  You build community and friendships.
3) Take notes.  Find a way to capture the applications and highlights from your reading.

Posted in: Blog, Community, Learning

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Identity Crisis

IdentityCrisis

“What is your name?”  This was the question God asked Jacob after they wrestled all night long in the desert in Genesis 32.  Jacob had been living in the middle of an identity crisis since the day he was born with his tiny infant fingers latched tightly onto the foot of his firstborn twin brother, Esau.  His parents gave him the name “Jacob” which meant “schemer or deceiver.”  As he grew up, his life was shoved tightly into a mold like beach sand into a cup.  The problem was that mold wasn’t the one his Creator had in mind.

Jacob slipped further and further into a false identity as he grew.  While Esau lived out his interests in the outdoors hunting and working, Jacob spent the majority of his time becoming a great cook at the side of his mother.  She eventually became a huge negative influence in his life.  This culminated with Jacob tricking his elderly blind father into giving him the firstborn rights and blessing.  He spent the next few decades on the run from Esau while having several misadventures, including a 14 year job trying to get the woman he wanted as a wife.

Jacob’s lack of a God given identity led to an exhausting life of insecurity and mistakes.  It was at this point in his life that Jacob got the wrestling match of a lifetime with his God, and got the penetrating question that all of us need to answer: who are you?

God wanted Jacob, and us, to answer this question.  We must admit that we’ve created false identities so that He can give us the true one.  Only God can tell us who we really are. He created us. He knit us together in our mother’s wombs.  He alone can speak to our deepest needs, and there are few deeper than that of knowing who we are.

As people, we chase the answer to this question like gold at the end of a rainbow.  We chase it in places where the answer can never be found.  Our spouses, careers, net worths and hobbies can’t fix this crisis.  Our souls long to be defined by the One who called them to be in the first place.  The destruction that results in avoiding His answer to our longing can be devastating.

Jacob answered that he was simply “Jacob,” the schemer and deciever who lived up to his name.  He had allowed his past to define him.  God, however, had a different plan.  God changed Jacob’s identity that night in the deepest way.  He named him Israel, which meant overcomer and son/child of God.  What a difference hearing the truth from God can make!!

Jacob walked with the physical scars from that fight the rest of his life, but he never had to doubt his identity again.  He belonged to God.  He had a heavenly father who loved him enough to wrestle him down.  He had a God who was willing to wound him so He could name him.  God wants to do the same for you.  Through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, we can find our deepest identity and security.

The message of the Gospel is one of reconciliation.  Through Jesus we are made RIGHT with God.  Through Jesus our identity becomes children of the Most High.  God wounded Jesus so He could name you! Stop looking for it where it can’t be found.  Turn to God and hear His voice. Hear Him tell you who you really are. He’s the only one who can.

Posted in: Blog, Church, identity, Yellow Brick Road

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