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Better Together

Better Together

King Solomon shared some insights from his life and they are recorded in the bible as the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon was wealthy and had experienced many different things in his life. As he wrote it seemed he was constantly telling us that many of the things that we chase after are a waste of time. Occasionally in his writing though, he would tell us something that he thought was important. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, he offers some wisdom to us about our need for one another. Many people fail to see the value of other people in their lives, but Solomon points out that relationships with others are one of the most valuable things in your life. He tells us three different things that we receive from other people.

Success

Solomon tells us that two people are better than one because they help each other succeed. We can reach a measure of success on our own, but it will only be a measure of success. Our strengths and gifts will allow us to have some success as we use them. However, when we are in relationships with others who are also using their gifts, especially if their gifts are different from ours, we reach a whole new level of success. Partnership with others brings success to our life that cannot be achieved alone.

He also reminds us that when we fail, and we will at times, that there will be others there to help us up. When I read this verse I am always reminded of the Life Alert commercials where the elderly lady falls down and says “I’ve fallen, but I can’t get up”. There is much truth in that. Our recovery is usually much quicker and the damage much less when others are there to help us up. I recently read where a lady had died and no one discovered her for seven years. Would her situation have turned out differently if someone had been there with her or if someone she was in relationship with had checked on her? There is success is in relationships.

Survival

Two people can keep each other warm. Not just physically warm. There is a warmth of the soul that is offered in relationships. A warmth that cannot be experienced anywhere else. A caring, loving warmth that can only be experienced in relationships. There are times that we grow cold. We grow cold spiritually. We grow cold in our work or purpose and we need others around us to warm us when we do not seem to have any fire left. Relationships will often help us survive times that we would normally give up or quit.

Strength

All of us face battles in our life. We never know how they are going to appear or what the battle is going to be. Sometimes it involves our career. Other times it is a sickness or a family crisis. None of us are exempt from facing certain difficult situations where we feel like we are fighting for our life. Solomon reminds us that we are more capable to fight when we are in relationship with other people because they will help us fight. There have been times in my life where I not only needed someone to help me fight, but I was incapable of fighting for myself because I was either distracted or exhausted. Relationships make us less vulnerable. We are stronger when we are in relationships with other people. They can see things we cannot see. They can defend in places we cannot defend. They have knowledge of areas we do not have. We are much stronger when we have strong relationships.

None of us can survive as an island. We should not attempt to go life alone. We need each other. Relationships offer value to our lives that we will not have otherwise. Cultivate strong relationships in your life. They bring success, survival and strength.

Are the 10 Commandments Relevant?

Recently I have been preaching a series through the 10 Commandments and I have found it interesting all of the questions about the relevance of the 10 Commandments to our society and to the church in general. Most of the questions begin with something like “Since we live under grace” or “Since we have a new covenant” or “We are led by the Spirit now”. Almost always they are questioning how the 10 Commandments apply, if they are even useful and why are we talking about them today. The entire premise of the series has been that we are set free to live free and you can be set free but still live a life in bondage. Through Christ we have our salvation, but our daily walk is critical to the life of freedom He desires for us to have.

Often Jesus is the person people most often use to try negate the 10 Commandments. Not only was Jesus clear that He did not come to abolish the law, but He came complete it. He also took several of the 10 Commandments and raised them to an even higher level of application. For example, He would take murder and compare it to anger and name calling. He would take adultery and broaden it to mean the intent of your heart. So Jesus not only acknowledged the law, but He raised the bar as to what it meant to live the free life.

There are scholars who can offer great theological insight on the need for the law. But after studying and preparing the last few months on the subject, here are a few practical reasons why I think they are still relevant.

They are still wise advice

Many laws around the world are based on the 10 Commandments. Even if we take the portion about God out and we start with commandment 4, the advice of the next seven is great wisdom: rest, honor your parents, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie about your neighbors, and do not covet. No matter what you believe about God, these are still wise things to do. They not only protect us, but they protect others. Every society can benefit from putting these into practice and the truth is that most successful societies have.

<We want others to live by them

We may want to challenge how they apply to our life, but we certainly want others to live by them. We want our marriages to be respected by others. We do not want to be stolen from. We do not want people to lie about us. If we want others to respect these commandments, then should they not also apply to us? We feel like it is our right to not be stolen from. But it is also our responsibility not to steal from others. As Thomas Jefferson said, we are in trouble when we think more of our rights than we do our responsibilities. Expecting them of others while not applying them to ourselves is not only self righteous but dangerous.

They are a measuring stick

One of the most common things I am told is that we are now lead by the Holy Spirit and the law is not our guide. On the surface, that seems like a very super-spiritual thing to say. But my question always is, “How do you know someone is being led by the Spirit?”. You would be surprised at the things people will blame on the Holy Spirit? For example, I have had someone tell me that the Spirit had led them into an adulterous relationship. How do I know whether they are being led by the Spirit? I have been given some guidelines or a measuring stick that let’s us see whether what we are saying is the Spirit matches the character and desires of God: His law. If we do not have some guidelines, we truly can use the Spirit as an excuse to do whatever we choose (and we often do).

Obedience is not legalism and living a life that exemplifies the character of God is not being legalistic. John would write that people will know that we love God by how we keep His commandments. Not only that, but keeping these commandments help us to achieve the abundant life that Christ died to give us.

Are there other reasons? Of course there are. These are just a few that I think may help all of us understand the need for and a way we can apply the 10 Commandments. They are still useful for us today. Don’t ignore them. Allow them to help you live the life God intended for you to live.

Parenting: Spectator or Participator?

As parents, we spend a significant amount of time watching our children perform. We watch them play sports, dance at recitals, act in school plays, or just play on the playground. The list seems endless of the things that we watch them do. It is great encouragement for our kids to look into a crowd and see us there supporting them. There should be some concern though that this becomes our method of parenting instead of a part of our parenting. There is a huge difference between being a spectator of your child’s life and a participant in your child’s life. Though being a spectator at events can play a huge role in the confidence that our children have, there is a big difference between spectating and participating. Let’s take a look at how they might differ.

Spectator

Sporting events thrive on spectators. Texas A&M even calls their spectators the “12th Man” because of the contribution they make to a game. Spectators do have some influence, even if minimal, on the action going on with the participants. Spectators are not short on knowledge either. They often know every player’s number, their position and all of their stats. They call them by their first name or nickname as if they are close friends. The lack of knowledge is not the issue. It is the lack of influence on the outcome that is the issue. They cheer for good plays and jeer at bad ones. The encourage when something positive happens and blame others (especially referees) when the right call wasn’t made.

When we spend most of our time as spectators in the lives of our children, we limit our influence on the outcome. We are not usually short on knowledge. We know most of the things that are happening in their lives. We are just not having much influence on the things happening in their lives. There is something to be said that we are interested enough to support our children in their activities. However, we limit our influence as parents when we spend more time “watching” them perform than we do anything else.

Participator

Participants can have a much greater impact on the outcome. They are actively involved and have specific responsibilities that often determine how effective the other participants are. In football for example, an offensive lineman has a tremendous impact on how well a quarterback is able to carry out his responsibilities. Your suggestions on how to carry out the game plan are received more readily because you are a participant. When you are actively involved as a participator, you can appreciate the difficulty of a situation as well.

As parents, when we participate in the lives of our children, we have much more influence on the outcome. Often because of our own limited schedules we choose the events where we are spectators over actual participation. For example, if we are pressed for time on a game evening and we have to choose between having dinner with the family and attending the game, we often choose to attend the game instead of dinner. However, one puts us in the position of spectator where the other gives us an opportunity to participate. I am not making the case against watching your children perform. It is just much more important to participate than spectate. If we teach our children that we only pay attention when they perform, they will continually find ways to perform so they have our attention, and sometimes they will perform in unhealthy ways.

I encourage you to watch your children as they participate in events, but be a participant in their lives when possible. Do life with them, don’t just watch them do life. Just because we know what is going on in their lives does not make us involved. Get involved. Be a participant!

The Power of Music

This Sunday in our “You Asked For It” series, the question being answered is about music styles and the power of music. For me, music has had a profound impact on my life. My mom played the piano and sang at the churches my dad pastored while I was growing up. My first recollection of church music was when we lived in Wilmington, NC. Julia Milligan played the piano, her husband Mike played the bass guitar, and Bobby Harker played the drums. I was fascinated with the drums. I would have been 4-5 years old at the time. Bobby gave me a pair of sticks and my dad took at 2×4 and put carpet on it and I begin to learn rhythm. Actually, that wasn’t the only thing I played. I played forks and spoons at the dinner table, tapped my fingers on the window and door in the car and anything else I could find.

My parents understood the importance of music and they sent me to piano lessons at Mr. Willoughby’s. He was an older gentleman with the softest hands. His daughter Sandra was a great pianist and she played at a church across town from us. I admit that I did not particularly enjoy going to piano or practicing, but in hindsight, it became the strong base for any musical ability that I would develop in my life.

While in Wilmington I started to school and in 5th grade we could begin band class. My instrument of choice was the trumpet. That trumpet afforded me many opportunities over my lifetime. I would march in parades, play in church and at conferences, and travel with the school band to many competitions. That trumpet and my participation in music put me in places that began lifelong friendships. I have friends around the country today, that I would not have had without that music in my life.

Music has a way of bringing people together. You can go to a concert for any artist and find people from all walks of life, different races, broad economic backgrounds and diverse opinions. But on that night or in that venue, most of those things do not matter. Music influences how we behave, our moods, our relationships…our lives. Music is a powerful thing. Bono said, “Music can change the world because it can change people”. Music does change people.

Right after I turned 15, my dad moved to Washington, NC to pastor a church. It was there that music would greatly impact some relationships in my life. I finished high school there so I have a lot of friends from the band. But a few months before we moved to Washington, my parents bought an album by the Kingsmen “Live From the University of Alabama” where they walked on stage and opened with Roll Tide in 4 part harmony. I was hooked! I wanted to sing quartet music. It was there in Washington at the church my dad pastored where I would find some other teenage boys that wanted to do that same thing.

Five of us started this group call “Faith”. Jeff Jones, Tracey Conner, Mike Midyette, my brother Ramon and myself. I am not sure we ever had 4 part harmony. Most of the time 2, and sometimes 3, but we had fun. Over time, two others would join us in our endeavor: Chris Waters and Derrick Boyd. We would sing wherever we got the chance. And we loved it. Friendships were built around music that have lasted a lifetime. They were without a doubt some of the most fun years of my life. Music has remained a distinct part of all of our lives. Some of that group went on to sing or play professionally. Most of us are still contributing to music in some form, mostly in local churches. Chris and Derrick have made music their careers. Chris works with some of the biggest country stars in the world and Derrick has travelled the world singing with quartets for 25 years. Today I can hear one of the songs we used to sing or go by a place where we performed and my mind is filled with wonderful memories and my heart encouraged by great friendships.

So as I prepare to preach this sermon, I want to thank every single person that made music such a big part of my life. My parents, for pushing me to do things that I did not necessarily like and sacrificing financially, but they knew the lasting impact it would have. Thanks to the churches that let me play or sing even when I was not all that good. To Mr. Willoughby for being patient with a little kid who I know was not still. To every band director I ever had who helped me fall in love with music. To every singer I heard on the radio that performed a song that I needed to hear at that moment. Thanks to my friends I still have from band. Thanks to Jeff, Tracey, Mike, Ramon, Chris & Derrick for making those memories. Music has changed my life and I am thankful for it.

Friend Request

Facebook has created a new dynamic in relationships. It is called the “Friend Request”. Every time I receive or send a friend request, it reminds me of the notes that we sent in elementary school that said “would you be my girlfriend” and then two boxes, one to check yes and one to check no. The reason we sent these notes was to reduce the pain in case we were told no. It seemed easier to handle the rejection if it was not done in person. The request we send on Facebook often have the same implications. We often accept requests from people we do not even know and send requests to people that we have not even met because we have a need to be accepted and be in relationship with other people, no matter how shallow the connection may be.

One of the reasons we are attracted at a young age to the “check yes or no” notes and we continue to be attracted to “Friend Requests” now on Facebook is because there is a certain risk in relationships. The more distance or buffer we can place, the less pain we may feel. Facebook does not even tell us when someone rejects our friend request so we convince ourselves they did not get it or have not checked their friend requests in months. The real truth is that there are risks in relationships. Any relationship contains risk and the closer the relationship, the higher the risk of being hurt. Here are a few risks concerning relationships.

Rejection

Anytime we reach out to someone, there is the possibility they will not be receptive to our invitation. There is always that possibility of that note returning with the box checked “no”. No one likes rejection. I have not yet met the person that enjoys rejection. We have all felt the pain of rejection. Where we wanted someone to accept us, but they had no interest in a relationship with us. Sometimes they show it by simple avoidance, other times they just plainly tell us they do not like us. Any time we reach out to make a new connection, we risk being rejected.

Betrayal
Betrayal happens after we are in relationship with someone. It is difficult to betray someone you are not in relationship with. We have usually gotten past the possibility of rejection and a connection has been made. Trust has been built and certain confidences have been placed in each other. Betrayal is a breaking of trust. As much as none of us like to be rejected, it rarely compares to the pain of betrayal. Because we have trusted, and in many cases loved, our hearts are broken when we are betrayed. Betrayal will often cause damage to people that will make them very guarded about the relationships they allow themselves to enter in the future. Anytime we enter into a relationship, there is a risk we will be betrayed.

Responsibility
Relationships bring responsibility. There is some risk in that. We are responsible for the trust the other person places in us. We should be responsible for helping them in difficult times. We may even feel a responsibility or caring for them in situations where they may not be able to help themselves. This is a risk, because we do not always know what may be expected of us prior to entering a relationship. We will often shy away from relationships if we think they require to much of us.

All relationships carry risk. But all good relationships have rewards. Good relationships are worth the risk. We all need to experience the rewards of good relationships.

Make a Thankful List

This week represents to all of us in the United States the time we celebrate Thanksgiving. We often look at it is a day but it should an attitude that we show all year. This week while traveling, I took some time to reflect on things I am thankful for and how truly blessed we really are. As many of you, I fail at times to show a thankful attitude. As I began to list the things I am thankful for, I realized there is way more to be thankful for than to be frustrated or disappointed about. Here are a few things on my list. Though this is not all of them, maybe this will help you jumpstart a list of things you are thankful for.

Salvation
Forgiveness. Mercy. Grace. However you want to put it. It is something we often take for granted. Where would I be without the grace of God? I am thankful that I know Christ as my Saviour!

Family
I have a wife that loves me and loves God. She is growing in Him daily and making be better than I really am. We have four wonderful children who growing and learning life. We have the most awesome grandson in the world, Vandin, who has been a blessing to us that I could never have imagined. I have great parents who love and support me and gave me a Godly heritage. I am blessed in my family.

Church
We have the best church in the world. Period. Go ahead and argue with me…(smile please). We do have a great church with great people who are loving God and loving people!

Friends
If you have ever been through a time when friends were scarce, it will help you appreciate the friends you have. True friends are hard to come by. Treasure them.

Ability to give
Generosity is one of my core values. It shapes a lot of what I do in my life. I am thankful that God provides me resources to give and I am thankful that there are always opportunities to give.

Health
I preached a sermon recently on living healthier so we can accomplish our purpose here on this earth. I can certainly do better about taking care of my body, but I am thankful for good health. Many people I know are struggling with health issues that are no fault of their own. I do not want to take that for granted.

My country
Yes I know it was an election year and no this is not my turn to offer my political opinion. I have traveled the world enough to know that we live in a great land that has been blessed by God and we cannot forget that. I could have been born anywhere in this world, but I am blessed to be in the United States of America.

Vandin
OK, I know I have already mention him but let me be more specific. He has given our entire family something that we all love and enjoy. He has made me slow down and take time to do nothing but hang out with him. He has reminded me of the importance of life, the need to grow and learn. He has reminded me what a great gift children really are. I know I have to be a part of teaching him, but I think I am learning so much more. I am thankful for that.

My list is much longer, but I just wanted list a few and encourage you to be thankful. I challenge you not to just make a list, but to write why you are thankful for something. Be intentional about your thanksgiving. Make it an attitude not a holiday. We are too blessed not to be thankful.

Healthy Living is Spiritual

This past Sunday I spoke for the first time ever in my ministry on the need to live a healthy life. We took a look at what the bible has to say about taking care of our bodies. The verse that I really wrestled with all week was Romans 12:1 that says “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (NLT). It literally says that how we present our bodies to God is a way that we worship Him. I began to think about how I manage my own body. Do I take care of it properly? If I take care of it better, can I better serve God and be available for His service? Here are some specific ways that you can better take care of your body.

Rest
Many of us live such cluttered, busy lives that real rest is difficult. The fact that I am writing this at 2:30 AM is a sign that I struggle with this myself. The pressure and demands to perform at high levels often cause us to sacrifice our own health by not resting. Psalm 127:2 says “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Our busyness causes us to miss out on the rest God desires for us to have.

Eating the right foods
I think most of us recognize the need to eat better foods. We often find comfort or distraction in our food. When God first made covenant with the people of Israel, He set out certain foods for them to eat. The reason was not for punishment as much as it was for health. Someone may ask if I am promoting a Levitical diet and the answer would be not necessarily. I would however suggest that we revisit some of the reasoning God placed that in the covenant and make better food choices ourselves. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Exercise
Some may consider this to be the least spoken about subject in the Bible where this list is concerned. But exercise helps us to take care of our body and reflects our discipline. 1 Timothy 4:8 “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” Training your body is a good thing. Are there more important things? Possibly so. However it cannot be ignored. It is much easier to carry the gospel in a well maintained vehicle.

I encourage you to have a plan to stay healthy and live it out. Rest, eat right and exercise so that your body reflects your worship to God.

GO BIG!

Have you ever wondered why you are here? Why did God create you the way He did? Why do you have the talents and gifts that you have? Why were you born into a particular family or in a certain location? Do you think they were accidents or is there some intentionality to it?

God created all of us for a specific purpose and with a specific plan. John Maxwell says, “the two most important days in a person’s life is the day they are born and the day they find out why”. All of us know the day we were born, but many of us wander through life trying to figure out why. Why were you born? What significant impact were you placed here to make? You may have been born to be the President of the United States and lead the free world or you may have been born to be an exceptional parent to a single child and lead that one person well. Neither is less significant than the other if that is what God has designed for us to do.

I believe that God designed each of us to do something BIG with our life. Not big compared to what someone else has done or is doing. BIG as it relates specifically to the purpose and plan God has for you. BIG as in doing your best, above and beyond expectations, in the thing God gifted you for. You see we need great presidents and great parents. None is greater than the other. What is greatest is when we live our purpose exactly as God designed and we do it BIG.

Psalm 139 tells us that God intentionally and knowingly created us from the inside out. We are not accidents. He had your days planned before you even had your first one. Daily He thinks about you. So many thoughts that the sand cannot even begin to number them. If He designed you, created you and daily thinks about you, would it not be good it you consulted what He has planned for you? Your greatest fulfillment in life is when you live out what you were designed to be.

We all end up somewhere in life. The problem is very few of us end up somewhere on purpose. I invite you to join me this weekend at Open Door as we begin talking about what it looks like to GO BIG with our life. That is what God wants. Let’s GO BIG!

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.