David and Goliath

Sunday I spoke on David and Goliath at MPNCanton. You can listen or subscribe to the podcast HERE.

This is a story we all know because it transcends the church and Scripture, as culture has adopted the language and imagery for its own uses and purposes. We resonate with this story because we all feel like David at times in our lives. We feel overpowered, overwhelmed, ill-equipped to deal with our adversity, small against the big, etc. This story gives us hope that we can succeed against seemingly insurmountable odds.

There are so many things to love about the story found in 1 Samuel 17.

Here were three of my takeaways Sunday.

1) David saw his previous experiences as preparation for his current battle.

But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.  Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:34-37a

When David was declaring to a bunch of scared military men and the current king that he would go and fight Goliath he did so with reference to his past experience against enemies of his father’s sheep. Something about his battles with lions and bears caused him to feel prepared to face this giant.

What if we viewed our present circumstances for the value they possess in our future?

What if the battles you are facing right now aren’t to overcome to you, but to prepare you?

2) David ran toward the fight, not away from it.

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 1 Samuel 17:48

I remember in the aftermath of September 11th the stories that were written and the images displayed of those who ran into the buildings, ran into the rubble, ran into the chaos. They were heroes. Our humanity, we are told, gives us two options: fight or flight. Saul and his fellow soldiers were in hiding as 80 times Goliath called out for an opponent. David only had to hear it once to act. Then he convinced Saul that he could fight. Then he walked onto the battlefield and answer Goliath’s taunting. When the time was right he ran at his opponent.

We have a tendency to run away from our enemies, but our victory comes when we run toward.

3) Our battles are all about perspective. We are not standing toe to toe looking UP at a giant bigger than us, we serve a God who is looking DOWN on an enemy smaller than He is.

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hand.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47

David made sure his brothers, Saul, and Goliath knew that he was aware who was fighting this battle.

Often when we face our giants we are overwhelmed by their size in comparison to us. Why not change your perspective, zoom out, and focus on their size in comparison to the God who fights for you?

There are so many other things that speak to me out of this chapter. David was only there because he said yes to his father’s request to carry grain and cheese to his brothers. Faithful service of the father will always position in the right place. Saul didn’t believe David could do it. Others won’t always recognize what you are capable of. David’s brother, Eliab, rebuked, criticized, belittled, and questioned David’s motives. When you take a stand, people will speak up against you.

It’s not just a child’s story. It’s a reminder that when we put our trust in God the giants in front of us will come down.

Look Again

I previously posted this on ForwardLeadership but wanted to share it here as well.

Recently while sitting in the waiting room at my kid’s dentist I played a game of Tic-Tac-Toe with my son Branson. It was a wooden set they had in the waiting area and the size of the board and colors of the X’s and O’s made it a little confusing at first, but we figured it out.

(Just as an aside. It’s almost impossible for me to play Tic-Tac-Toe without hearing the words in my head “Whoopi Goldberg in the center square for the block.” Some of you may get that.)

The first 2 games ended in a draw with no one winning. The third game though was different. Branson started with a different opening move and while I was sincerely trying, it became obvious to me that he was going to win the game…but Branson didn’t see it yet. We continued to play the game out over the next few moves and after Branson played his last piece he had won…but he still didn’t see it. I played my last piece and waited.

Branson looked up and said, “good game.” Because I know the way he is wired I knew that if he were aware that he’d won his reaction would have been much different. So I told him to look at the board again. He did…and he finally saw it. He looked up at me with a mixture of joy, surprise and pride and said “I won. I beat you.”

It turns out that he was trying to win in another part of the board and hadn’t seen the events play out to give him the win.

I immediately had this thought, “I wonder how many times I’m trying to execute my game plan and end up disappointed when it doesn’t turn out like I thought, while being oblivious to the fact that I’ve already won?”

I don’t want to over spiritualize a child’s game, except that I wonder if it in anyway connects to the childlike faith Jesus referred to in the Gospels.

Many times I get mad when my plans don’t work out like I thought, but it could be that the Father is watching the plan unfold in a completely different way…and I still win.

Just because your plan didn’t work doesn’t mean things didn’t work out.

It could be that you just need to “look at the board again” while your Father waits for you to see what He’s seen all along.

Forgetting Your Child

I received the following text from my wife on Sunday morning at 8:20am.



Kinley is the name of our daughter & youngest child. Corrie was reminding me not to leave the house without her…

Let the confidence my wife has in me just sink in for a moment.

Corrie left our house around 7:45am with our 2 oldest boys for All-star baseball games. I was taking our youngest two to church with me. We would all meet at the ballpark after church for more games. When Corrie left Tucker was already up, but Kinley was still in her bed asleep. I assume she thought I would forget that she was in there, and not that I’m a terrible father.

Fittingly I preached from 1 Samuel 16 that morning. You can listen or subscribe to our podcast HERE.

The story of 1 Samuel 16 is about David being anointed by Samuel to be Saul’s successor as King. I spent some time focused here:

And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice…Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. 1 Samuel 16:5b, 11-13

I always thought Jesse was free from blame for not having David there because the prophet showed up unannounced. However, it appears that the prophet invited Jesse and his sons TO the sacrifice where one of them would be anointed. It appears that Jesse made a conscience decision not to bring David in from the field for this moment with the prophet of God. That seems like a big moment not to include one of your children. You could infer (though this is not in the Bible and only opinion) that Jesse didn’t think David was the one that would be chosen anyway.

He forgot his son!

Maybe Jesse’s wife just didn’t send him a text that said, “Don’t forget David” before he left.

If you’ve ever felt left out, you’re not alone. If you’ve ever felt like you don’t measure up to the people you assume God would choose, you’re not alone.

God’s got a plan, and thankfully He chooses people differently than we choose people.

The story in 1 Samuel is that God looked over the people Samuel assumed would be chosen because He wasn’t as concerned with their outward appearance or abilities as he was the content of their heart.

David was the man for the job.

It appears that in the economy of God the fastest way to the palace is faithful service in the field.

Quit eliminating yourself from consideration because you assume He won’t choose you.

Quit working harder on what you can do with your hands and focus more on cultivating your heart.

You may feel left out, but I can promise your Father hasn’t forgotten you!

The One Thing We Did that Changed our Home

A few months ago Corrie and I were riding down the road and she was checking Facebook or Pinterest or something on her phone and she said “Why Making Your Bed Every Morning Will Change Your Life.” I thought, “Well that’s a little bit of an oversell.”

In full disclosure we aren’t really “make our bed every morning” people. We aren’t dirty. Our house is picked up and clean…most of the time, but in our house of 6 it’s just not one of the things that takes priority very often.

So, back to our car trip. Corrie starts reading the article aloud based on a graduation speech at the University of Texas, Austin from Naval Adm. William McRaven. He said

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

As someone who loves checking things off a to-do list and is wired to be task-oriented, I can’t disagree with his premise.

So one day I came home from work and Corrie had made the bed after I left that morning. I have to be honest…I thought it meant we were having company over. The house looked amazing. Candles were burning throughout the house, so it smelled amazing too. Almost all of our laundry was done, which next to the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection of Jesus from the tomb is a miracle to be marveled. We can dirty up a lot of clothes. But Corrie had folded, hung up and put away everything that wasn’t still being washed or dried.

Come to find out she had started with making the bed that morning.

So we started making our bed every morning. As of this writing we are nearly 3 weeks in. Our house has never been so clean this many days in a row. Our cars are clean…for the most part. I cleaned out our garage the other day and we can actually park one of the cars in there. It’s been amazing how this one little tweak has changed the rhythm of our home.

Now I realize some people reading this already make their bed everyday. Others make their beds but their house is still a mess. Still others could care less about their bed. They share my brother’s sentiment growing up: “Why would I make the bed when I’m coming back to lay in it in just a few hours?”

I’m more interested in the principle of one small change impacting everything else.

What’s one thing you could change about your morning routine that would make a positive impact on your day? What’s something you could start doing, or stop doing, or do earlier, or later?

Commit today to trying it.

Do you make your bed everyday? Why or why not? Comment and let us know.

New Sermon Series Starts Sunday




I am PUMPED for our new series starting Sunday. We are going to spend the summer walking through the life and relationships of David, the “man after God’s own heart.”

The story of David has always spoken to me. I even wrote a book about him. I really believe this series has something for everyone.

This week I’ll be starting in 1 Samuel 16 and looking at David with Samuel and what God is looking for in people He uses.

Here’s info on the whole series if you’re interested.

I had a Panic Attack

Not for pity party purposes but just so you have context I need to give you some back story.

My mom died in 2011 after a 22 month battle with Stage 4 Colon Cancer. She was 5 weeks from turning 49.

Mom got married at 16, and had me when she was 19. She used to say that we grew up together. Her pin number for a long time was 3415 because when she was 34, I was 15…that’s still crazy to me. She always apologized for confiding in me so much. Needless to say, she and I were close.

I was playing golf with a friend the day I got the call. “They found 1 small tumor. Surgery will be on Monday.” I walked off the course, drove straight to the airport and a couple hours later walked into my dad’s arms in the lobby of a hospital. The next 72 hours were hell on earth as we waited.

Monday came and the surgery was more involved than they thought. 1 small tumor became “it’s everywhere” in the words of the doctors.

Life changed. Mom and dad started researching treatment options. I went back home.

Late night phone calls. Mom and dad, who never missed a milestone moment, missed the birth of our 3rd child while mom took chemo in Chicago.

I’m a fixer and I couldn’t fix this.

Good reports. Bad reports. Breaks from chemo. Restarts.

During the 2 years of her sickness I thought I was doing okay. I was trying to be there for my dad, my brother, and my mom as a sounding board. I was processing my feelings with Corrie periodically. I was writing some.

Christmas 2010 none of us knew that would be the last one. A few days after New Years she went into the hospital. She never really got out until the last few days.

Mom made us promise not to let her die in a hospital so while we were fighting for her, we were also aware of dad’s promise to take her home.

One day I was at the hospital alone for a few minutes and I asked the doctor, “If this was your mom, and you promised not to let her die here when would you take her home?”


So we packed her things, requested the discharge and off we went.

She ended up living a few days longer than they said she would, and we felt that we stole those days with her. But her awareness was limited at best. She never got to say goodbye.

As we walked through her final days there was so much going on. I spent most of the last 3 weeks of her life in Ohio with her and my dad. Corrie and the kids came back and forth some. I was trying to help with the doctors, eventually with hospice. I was trying to help manage the family members that were coming and going. I put together the slideshow we would play at her funeral.

Then on Wednesday, March 2 she passed away while I laid right beside her.

We did 2 separate services because of the nature and location of their work. I delivered part of the message at both funerals. I stood in line both nights while literally thousands of people hugged my neck, shook my hand, and offered condolences.

We left the graveside and drove home…and life kept going. I had missed a lot of work so I jumped into work. I tried to be present with Corrie and the kids. Eventually I just slipped back into life.

A few months later Corrie made dinner one night and we were eating on TV trays watching television as a family. I got up to go in the kitchen and I felt like there was an earthquake inside my body. I told Corrie something didn’t feel right and I came and sat down. When I did I literally felt like my insides were shaking and my whole body was going numb. I fell over on the couch and I cried for an hour. I thought I was dying. Later I was told I was having a panic attack. The emotions that had been bottled up in me just came out.

I had cried a little I guess, but it felt as though 2 years of bottled up feelings, worry, fear, sadness, grief and hurt poured out of my eyeballs while my body freaked out releasing this pent up stress.

I thought I was dealing with it in a healthy way. I was wrong. In hindsight I should have gone to a counselor.

I don’t know the correct name for what I had: Panic Attack, Anxiety Attack, Mental Breakdown, Nervous Breakdown, or something else.

I just know I was broken.

It’s never happened again. This year on the 4th anniversary of her passing I was more emotional than I have been since that night. I can’t really put my finger on why that day on this year was harder than the others, but it was.

I write this for 2 reasons:

1) If you’ve been there, you’re not alone. Reach out and help someone who’s walking a similar road to where you’ve been. Your experience could save them in many ways.

2) For those who are under heavy stress, grief, anxiety, or worry. Don’t wait until your body and mind break. Find a healthy outlet and help yourself now.

I would love to hear from you! Comment below or contact me through the About page!

Investing in Others

I sing a certain song when I rock my daughter to sleep because if my mom were still alive it’s what she would sing.


That probably sounds hokey to some of you, and that’s okay. While mom was alive any time she would rock my three boys to sleep she would sing, “You are my sunshine”. Now that she’s not here I want to extend that song and the emotional connection, to my daughter Kinley, who mom never got to meet. When I sing, I tell her “this is what Mimi would be singing if she was holding you”.

I was recently talking to a friend in ministry who has made it a point to pour into my life, lessons on leadership, ministry, and family. He is in a rough season of discouragement in his present ministry context, and it pained me to hear him talking about his lack of things to offer anymore. I said to him, “what you don’t realize is that when we launched a new campus with great attendance, awesome volunteers, and what we believe to be the beginning of fruitful ministry…and that is in part because of you. You’ve never been here or met these people, but you are leading through me. Some of the things you taught me, I’m teaching these people.” I reminded him of other ministers he had influenced over the years and what God was doing in and through them in recent days. I reminded him that he made it a point to pour into us, and we were now pouring those things out to influence others. I said, “your influence reaches far beyond what you can see when you stand up on Sundays at your church”.

Andy Stanley talked at a Catalyst Conference about apprentice relationships. He said, “You aren’t responsible to fill someone else’s cup. You are only responsible to empty your own into others.”

The only way to insure that your influence surpasses your current context is to make it a priority to invest in people who will carry that influence elsewhere.

1) Don’t, not do it, out of fear for your own position. Invest in people. Replacing yourself is the most selfless thing you can do in leadership.


2) Don’t, not do it, because you don’t think you have anything to offer. Your experiences, both big and small, set up the next leader to be prepared when they face similar things.


3) Do it because they need it. Every human being on the planet wants to be affirmed, valued, and chosen. As you choose and invest in them you help validate their potential.


4) Do it because you need it. If your life is only about what you accomplish with your own hands, when you die, your influence dies with you. But if you invest in others…if you empty your cup of leadership into as many people as you can…neither your dark days of discouragement nor your ultimate passing can stop the influence that God has entrusted to you.


I sing to my daughter because my mom’s not here to do it. I sing her song, because it keeps her alive just a little bit longer.

Who can you teach a “song” too, that someone once taught you?

Polish vs Raw

A few nights ago I went to the Y to play basketball.  The usual suspects were there, mostly “streetballers”, guys trying to relive the glory days, and some guys trying to get in cardio to lose weight without the use of a treadmill.  (I won’t tell you which group I belong in)  Since the local high school teams have finished their seasons there were also several of those players and it was obvious who the HS players were and who the “streetballers” were.

From the first game there was a glaring discrepancy between the two different systems that existed on the court.  One system existed on the team of high school players.  They had a structure that hasn’t existed in my previous visits to the Y.  Each player upon receiving a pass, faked a pass into the paint, made a pass, and cut through to the other side of the floor.  They called out when a player was about to set a screen on their teammate.  They took good, calculated shots.  They were polished.  It was a beautiful thing to watch.

They got absolutely KILLED in most games, losing everytime.

The other team didn’t call out screens.  They usually laughed if there teammate got picked or fell down.  They turned the ball over a few too many times.  They attempted passes that were risky at best.  They tried to recreate scenes from AND1 videos.  They missed on a lot of these attempts, but ultimately made more shots than the other team.

This same thing played out again and again throughout the night.

So what?

I work at a very polished church.  While we don’t do everything perfectly, we do a lot of things well and with excellence.  Because I’m demented, as I watched the 2 differing styles I thought about some raw churches I know.  They “make some mistakes” (in some people’s opinions).  They aren’t polished in many areas, but they are just flat out getting the job done.  That isn’t to say that all “raw” churches get it right, and churches with structure, excellent systems, etc aren’t getting it done.  This is about me.

My prayer is that I don’t become so polished that I lose the raw.  The raw for me was really falling in love with Jesus, which didn’t really happen until college for me, though I was raised in the church.  The raw for me was my first few years in student ministry when I made a lot of mistakes I’m sure, but I just loved kids, spent time with them, and constantly looked for ways to get better at my job. The raw for me was in the first few months of our portable church experience when we were committed to “whatever it takes” to get the job done.

My church is great, and I believe I’m still doing effective ministry.  I just hope I never get satisfied executing within the system, but find myself on the losing end when it’s all said and done.

It’s All the Same Game

A few weeks ago I had a really cool day that revealed an amazing truth to me as a leader and Pastor. The staff from both of our campuses took an outing to go see the Rome Braves play the Asheville Tourists in a Single A Minor League Baseball game. Every few months our staff will get out of the building to do something fun together and to celebrate all the amazing things God is doing at our campuses.


On this day that outing was a 10am baseball game featuring mostly 18-22 year olds on their quest to make it to the big leagues. Our tickets were up in the 2nd section, but I’ve never attended a ballgame I couldn’t “move down” and find a better seat, so I ended up sitting on the 1st row right behind the visiting team’s on deck circle. It gave me an opportunity to do a little “trash talking” and to take in the game from a very close vantage point.


After the game was over we returned to the church to continue our workday. Later that evening I again found myself at a baseball game. This time, though, I wasn’t watching I was coaching. And it wasn’t 18-22 year olds, it was 7-8 year olds. I did a lot less “trash talking” and a lot more encouraging from my even better vantage point on the field.


At some point it dawned on me…


They were playing the same game.


Yes the minor leaguers had more experience and looked a little more polished in their efforts. Yes our 7-8 year old game didn’t offer the same amenities that the minor league stadium had…


But the objective was still the same: Throw it, hit it, catch it.


Every player all day long was trying to get outs on defense and score runs on offense.


In the midst of my day leading my team, preparing my sermons, or planning events if I’m not careful I will look at the bigger church across town. I’ll think about the Pastors I follow on Twitter.

I might be tempted to get frustrated and think “I’m not as good as they are.” “If only I had the budget/building/people/etc they do.”


Take pastoring and leading out of the equation, and the process is the same. I look at others and don’t think I measure up or that they are somehow doing things so much better or different than I am.

Author Seth Godin says, (paraphrase) “No matter what business you think you’re in, everyone is actually in the people business.”

This is a great reminder that WHAT you do doesn’t change WHY you do it. 

It doesn’t matter if you Pastor 50 people or 5000 people. It doesn’t matter if you make widgets or sell cars. It’s all the same game. That church that’s bigger than yours is driven by the same motivation yours is: reaching people with the life-giving message of Jesus Christ. That Pastor that has lots of staff members and gets opportunities you can only dream about started with the same desire you started with: reaching people with the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.

Those people you look at and think you’ll never measure up are looking at someone else living with the same insecurities.

Don’t allow yourself to think that just because they look better doing it or you can’t offer the same things they do that somehow they’re playing a different game than you.


God created you, just like He created them. God called you, just like He called them.


To my 7 year old, his game that night was just as big a deal as the minor league game…you know why? Because it was.


And so are you!

How to Get from Here to There

As I write this I’m leaving tomorrow to go on a trip. I know where I’m starting and where I’m heading so it is easy for me to put the information into my GPS. I wish things were that easy as a leader in getting from point A to point B.
Dr Ike Reighard recently came and spoke to our staff and said, “The number 1 job of a leader is to define the present reality.”
I bet if you surveyed a hundred leaders you would get a pretty healthy list of things as their number 1 priority before they said something similar to defining the present reality, but it makes sense doesn’t it?
I can cast all the vision I want and tell everyone where I think we are headed. But if we don’t have a clear understanding of where we are, we don’t have a starting point as we set out for our destination. Let me give you a practical example.
Suppose I’m pastoring a church that averages 50 in attendance on Sunday mornings, but because of “pastor math” I “know” we are a church of 90 people because I can always think of 6-8 families I don’t see on any given Sunday. Now suppose I have a goal of growing our average to 100 people. We don’t need 10 people…we need to double our church! That’s a different endeavor altogether.
I’m doing myself and my team a disservice by attempting to build on a false sense of reality.
Here’s another example that is a current conversation the team I lead is having:
We currently have 2 rotating serving teams on a Sunday to set up, serve and tear down (we are a portable church meeting in a school). In theory one week team “A” serves and the next week team “B” serves. We have set a goal to grow from 2 teams to 3 teams to allow our current volunteers to go from serving 26 times per year to approximately 17 times per year and to create more serving opportunities for people who aren’t involved yet. If we need just shy of 60 people serving on a Sunday “to do church” then we need 60 more people to create our 3rd team, right? Well what we’ve discovered is that we don’t have 2 clearly defined teams. We have a core group who serve on each team, and then they are surrounded on any given week by a number of volunteers who serve one Sunday per month. We really have a team “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D”, and it just so happens that some of our volunteers serve on 2 of those teams each month.
What we found out is that we know where we want to go…we just didn’t know where we were starting. To create the plan of action we had to more clearly define the current reality. When we did, it actually caused us to change where we’re headed, but that’s another post.
So here’s my challenge to you as a leader, or an individual. This week define your present reality. Take a break from looking to the future, casting vision about where you’re headed or setting any new goals for the coming year.
Put words to what you are right now.
Don’t be scared to say that things are as good as you want them to be. You’re not staying here, you’re just here now.
If you’re honest with yourself and with those you lead they’ll respect you. They can see what you see. They know the reality anyway. They’re probably questioning your leadership as you continue to paint a different picture than what they see around them.
Be honest with who you are. Pick out the next destination. Then get to work!