Great Resources to Aid Your Devotional Life

Quite often as a pastor I get asked for recommendations for good devotional helps.  In fact, I was asked about this again this past Sunday, so I thought I would I’d mention of few of the ones that I personally use.  Although there are many great resources available, there are several that I use on a regular basis that have helped me tremendously.


Bible Reading – Reading my Bible daily is a must, but I don’t just want to read my Bible, I want to digest it.  To do this I use two different items together.  First, I have the YouVersion Bible app on my iPad.  This gives me access to many different versions of the Bible, and also the ability to select a Bible reading plan.

Why Go On A Missions Trip?

I love mission trips. They give people the opportunity to make a huge impact on their world, and they also give the world the opportunity to impact the people that go on them. Some of the most memorable, and formative, moments of my life have been on a mission trips. (You can read about one of these moments in a post I wrote entitled “A Moment That Changed My Life“.)

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There are just so many reasons for people to go on a short term mission trip.  Mission trips allow people the opportunity to…

Do Something Significant

Mission trips allow people the chance to help build churches, help with evangeslitic outreaches, serve the needy, and so much more. I have helped missionaries fix their computers on a missions trip, held school assemblies, cleaned up street graffiti, played soccer with village kids, raised awareness for an organization that fights human trafficking, among many other things. The most significant thing about a mission trip, is that it you get to work alongside a missionary to help them fulfill the vision that God gave them for the people they are serving.

Learn About Others

You learn about your world on a missions trip. You learn about other cultures, customs, and people. If you want to have your world enlarged just go on missions trip to the jungles of Peru or to the city of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. You’ll see your world, and your faith, in a whole new light.

Learn About Yourself

You learn a lot about yourself on a missions trip, and find out what you are really made of. You find out if you really have a servants heart. You find out if you have a good work ethic. You find out how much you really care about other people.  You find out how deep your faith is.  And, when you know more about yourself, it gives you the opportunity to grow to new levels.

Fulfill the Great Commission

Jesus said to go and make disciples. On a short-term missions trip you may lead someone to Christ, encourage them to get involved in a local church, or teach a class that encourages them in their faith. You may have the chance to build them a church to meet in, or a Bible school to be taught in. On a short term trip you get the chance to be a part of someones walk with Christ.

Personally, I think everyone should make an effort to be a part of a missions team at some point. There are lots of great opportunities coming up to join a Calvary missions trip. Let me highlight one. In September 2012 we will be going to South Africa to do both construction and some evangelistic outreach. For the construction we need people of all skill levels (you’re welcome to come even if you have never picked up a hammer before in your life), but especially are in need of some skilled plumbers, electricians, and carpenters. For the evangelistic outreaches we simply need people who are passionate about reaching the lost. If you haven’t been on a missions trip before this would be the perfect one to join.

Will you join us in 2012? If you are interested, you can contact me at, or just come out to our first team meeting on September 18th @ 12:00 PM at the church.

Parenting…There’s An App For That

Looking for a little something extra to help you as a parent?  You might want to check out ParentCue by reThink in the Apple App Store.  This great app provides you with cues throughout the week to remind you to take some moments with your kids, and lead them in their walk with Christ.

Most of us don’t leave home without our cell phone.  And if statistics are right, most of us now (51%) have a smart phone.  For those who happen to have an iPhone with access to the Apple App Store, there is a gem of an app you can download that has all sorts of parenting helps for home, and on the go.

It gives songs to sing during “Drive Time”, conversation starters for “Meal Time”, activities to do during “Hang Time” and for when the kids are not around, links to great articles and a podcast for “Parent Time.”  The cost is $1.99, but if you are looking for some cues to help you with your parenting routine throughout the week, it is well worth the cost.

You can download ParentCue here.

What other apps have you found helpful for parenting?

Persistence In Parenting

It’s reported that 80% of all sales are made on the 5th to 12th sales pitch.  Whether someone is selling life insurance or a snuggie, most people won’t buy one the first time they hear the infomercial.  Most likely, they have to hear the sales pitch as many as a dozen times before they’ll buy whatever it is being sold.  The  trouble is that many salesmen give up long before the 5th try (on the other hand, some don’t give up even after they have been told “no” 100 times, but that is a different problem altogether).  Persistence is important in sales, and it is also important in parenting.

We’ve probably all had a similar experience.  Shopping in the supermarket you turn down the aisle to walk past a mom and her 3 year old son.  As you pass by you hear the three year old ask for a candy bar and he mom promptly reply “no.”  You then pass the same mom and boy again in the next aisle.  Only this time the kid isn’t asking for a candy bar; he is screaming and crying for it.  The mom still is saying no.  Finally, you pass them one last time.  This last time the child is calm, and the mom is defeated.  Unwilling to endure a misbehaving and screaming child, she gave in to his demands just to shut him up.

What we occasionally observe in the supermarket, is repeated everyday in homes all over.  I remember one Sunday when a child was misbehaving in kid’s church.  After a few minutes of them getting out of their seat, crawling on the floor, and bugging every kid around them, I simply asked the child to sit down and stop talking.  They replied “I will if you give me a prize.”  When I asked him why I should give him a prize for behaving like every child is expected, he simply said “My mom always gives me what I want to behave.”  This kid was blackmailing his mom daily with threats of bad behavior, and she was giving in.

So what is a parent to do when a child doesn’t want to behave?  Persist.  Realizing that giving in, and giving them what they want, only has short term gains.  It  may keep them from screaming the grocery store, but it will result in them screaming later in life when they don’t get what they want then.  Better to learn the lesson early in life, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

It’s true in grocery stores, and it is true in homes.  It is true of kids, and it is also true of teenagers.  Persistence is a key to effective parenting.  If you are unwilling to repeat the same lesson 5, 6, 7, 12 times there will be many lessons your kids will never get.  Kids are like every other person, and they don’t buy the sales pitch on the first try.

What about you, where have you seen persistence play a role in parenting?

Should Your Kid Ride the Bus?

We need to have kids that can be sent off to the most hostile universities, toil in the greediest work enviormonments, and raise their families in the most hedonisitic communities and yet not be the least bit intimidated by their surroundings.  Furthermore, they need to be engaged in the lives of people in their culture, gracefully representing Christ’s love inside these desperate surroundings.

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This quote, which I didn’t write it myself and can’t remember where I got it, came to mind when I was talking with a mother recently.  She was talking about how she was afraid to let her kid ride the bus home, because “nothing good happens on the bus.” The truth is she is right, nothing good really does happen on the bus (bad language, bullying, you know the drill), but does that mean our kids shouldn’t ride on them?

I have known some outstanding parents who have said “no, my kid will not ride the bus.”  Parents who have pulled their kids off the bus, out of public school or away from non-Christian friends because they have noticed their kids being affected negatively by those environments.  I know parents who have pulled their kids out of poor school systems, because they were in fact poor school systems that were only holding their kids back.  Honestly, I think many of these parents were right in pulling their kids out.

I have also known parents who have left their kids on the bus, in the public school system and purposely made sure their kids have non-Christian friends.  I was one of these kids.  I was a bus riding, public school teenager, with several non-Christian friends.  Honestly, I think I am the better for having those experiences, and I think that many other kids would be better for having hem too.

So, when if ever, is it okay to pull your child out of these environments, or should Christian parents keep their kids in there, to grow and to represent Christ?

Should your kid ride the bus?  Should they go to private, or home school, rather than public school?  Should the not hang out with non-Christian kids?  What’s your take?

It Takes A Team To Raise Good Kids

You may, or may not, remember the 1986 Basketball Eastern Conference Finals.  A young Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were squaring off against Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.  What many people remember from that series is Michael Jordan’s game 2 performance.  In that single game alone, Jordan scored 63 points, which still stands a playoff game record.  The thing that stands out to me, and to most of my Boston friends, is that the Bulls lost that same game.

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Michael Jordan set a playoff single game scoring record that stands 25 years later, but his team lost the game, and ultimately lost the series.  I think it goes to show, that it takes more than one person to win a basketball game.

It also takes more than parents to raise a great young man or woman.  It takes a team.  Many parents try to do it all by themselves.  They try to be the superstar parent.  They may even score 63 points all by themselves.  The trouble is, parents can be the Michael Jordan of the parenting world, and still lose their kids.

I have written previously about how kids need multiple voices speaking in their life here.  Kids who have no voices speaking into their life, outside of a miracle, are not likely to grow up to be Godly men and women.  Kids who have a all-star parent have a better shot; but how much better off is the kid who also has a youth pastor, or a children’s pastor or Sunday School teacher who is investing in their life?  How much better off is the kid who has close family friends that they know they can go to when they need help with something?

The reality is, even if you are the best parent in the world, there is coming a day when your child will want to talk to someone else about their problems, not you.  In fact, in may be because you are such a great parent, and love your kid so much, that they don’t feel comfortable coming to you.  You are too close to the situation.  When this happens, will your child have not just someone, but the right someone, they feel comfortable talking to?  Will they be going to their friends who will tell them who knows what, or going to someone that you know reflects your families values and priorities?

Who they are going to go to for advice depends on the team you are building when they are young…or whether you are building a team at all.

10 Things Churches Should Learn From Ikea

I’ll admit, I love Ikea.  My first trip to Ikea was less than a year ago when I went to the store in Thessaloniki, Greece.  Since then I have been back to my local Ikea in Avon, Massachusetts, dozens of times.  Honestly, after visiting Ikea so many times I think there are a few things the church could learn from how they run their stores….

1. There is Something for Everyone – Although I have been to Ikea several times now, I have probably only bought furniture 3 or 4 times when I was there.  So, why would I go to Ikea if I am not going to buy furniture?  There are a few reasons, but the biggest one is because my son loves Ikea.  After entering the store the first thing you see is the children’s area.  At Ikea they will watch your kids for you while you shop (nice perk for parents).  Inside the play area there is all sorts of stuff to climb on and play with, there is always a movie playing, and there is a staff that will color and do all sorts of stuff with your kids.  In short, my son loves going to Ikea, not because of the furniture, but because they have an awesome play area that he enjoys.  And, even if your kids decide to stay with you, there are all sorts of mini kids areas throughout the store, where they can play while you shop and look around.

Most stores are not like this.  You walk in and you have to strap you kid down in the cart, because that cart is the only place for them.  Even worse is that many churches are like most stores.  They have no where for kids to go when they show up.  And even if they do have a class, they are boring and kids don’t want to go there anyway.

2. Family Oriented – Not only are their certain spots in the store for you kid, but the entire store is designed to accomadate families.  Two things stand out here.  First, family bathrooms throughout the store with clear signs pointing the way.  Any parent with a child who is having an “emergency” can appreciate this.  Second, their kids meal is about half the cost of a McDonald’s happy meal and is probably 200% more nutritious.  Not only is a good value, but they have a special area where kids can eat their lunch and watch TV and interact with other kids.  Everything from going to the bathroom, to eating, to actually shopping for furniture is designed with the family in mind.

Many churches may have children’s ministries space, but what about the rest of the church?  Family bathrooms?  Crying rooms?  Nursing mother’s rooms?    It wasn’t Ikea, but I was recently at a restaurant that had parking for “Expecting Mother’s and Mother’s of Toddlers.”  What a great idea.

3. Make It Easy for the Customer – When you walk into Ikea the first person you usually meet is the greeter, and not only does he or she greet you, but they hand you a shopping bag.  This doesn’t seem like anything big, until you walk into a BJ’s one day looking for a cart only to realize that all the carts are kept outside, and so you have to walk back out into the cold.

Are churches making things difficult for people?  Do they make it easy to get involved in a small group, get involved in ministry, to give, etc…  Or are people walking right back out the front door looking for a cart?

4. Clear Direction – I don’t believe I have ever been lost in Ikea.  Despite the fact that my local Ikea is 2 giant floors of products, I have never had to wonder which way to go, or where something is, as there are maps all over the place.  Even if you did somehow get lost, all you would have to do is look around and you would probably see a kiosk somewhere near you that has a map of the whole building and each department.  Second, not only are there maps, but there is only one way to go.  Most stores you walk around any which way you like, but at Ikea you start at the beginning and just follow the one isle to the end.  It’s the only official route. There are even arrows on the ground pointing you in the right direction, and clear signage everywhere telling you where to go.

How many churches make it difficult for people, especially first time visitors, to figure things out?  Where to park, where to sit, where that Sunday School class is at, where their kids go, is there even something for their kids?

On a spiritual level, how many people are lost wondering which way to go after they make their first visit, accept Christ, get baptized, etc…

5. They Are Flexible – There is an official route for going through the store, but there are also short-cuts for those who don’t want to take the official path.  Want to cut from bedrooms to bathrooms without having to go through dining rooms?  Not a problem, just take the short-cut.  There is the official path to make it easy for the first-time guest, but are short cuts for those who are more familiar with the store.    They make it easy for both types of people.

Are churches flexible in their approach, willing to give a bit to make it a bit easier for more people?  Or is their favorite two lines, “That’s not how we do it here”, and “This is the way we have always done it”?

6. The Unexpected – Today Ikea surprised me.  Jack and I got to Ikea a little early.  They open at 10, but we pulled into the parking lot at 9:45.  I was content to sit in my car waiting for the doors to open, but I kept noticing people going inside.  I thought I must have misunderstood the opening time, so I got Jack out of the car and we went in.   When I walked in to my surprise the greeter told me the store wasn’t officially opening until 10:00, but they were serving complimentary coffee in the cafeteria for those who got their a little early.  Contrast this with standing outside the post office waiting for them to unlock the door, 5 minutes after they were supposed to open.  Again, today, Ikea surprised me with a nice little perk.

Is church the same boring routine every week?  Or do we do things that mix it up every once in a while?  Small things like gifts for mother’s on mother’s day, and graduation gifts to graduates, go a long way in mixing things up a bit.  Bigger things like Christmas and Easter productions are important too.

7. Attention to Detail – Today I saw one of the Ikea employees cleaning the high-chairs in the cafeteria.  She wasn’t just quickly wiping down the seats, but painstakingly cleaning every square inch of every highchair.  She cleaned the legs, under the chair, the straps, everything.  Here is the crazy part….she wan’t cleaning dirty highchairs, she was actually going back through a stack of clean ones double checking to be sure they were acceptable for customers to use.

Are most churches content with good enough, or do they go the extra mile and re-clean the clean highchairs just to double check?

8. They Let You Take the Experience Home With You – Okay, I’ll admit I am a sucker for the Swedish meatballs they serve.  Those things are amazing.  But what makes them even better is that I don’t have to drive all the way to Ikea to get them, they sell them in their grocery section, which means I can buy them, bring them home and enjoy them anytime I like.

Are Sunday services everything your church offers or is there something for the rest of the week?  Home Care Groups?  Ministries?  Does your church encourage you parishioners to develop their spiritual life beyond attending church?  Are there materials for kids to take home and work on with their parents?  Or, is Sunday morning all their is?

9. It is Possible to Keep The Bathrooms Clean Even With 1,000’s of People Using Them.  Enough said.

10. They Don’t Assume You’re Smart Enough to Figure It Out – Today I noticed a small sign in one of the windows of the cafeteria.  The sign wasn’t selling any products, but rather was explaining that Ikea puts plants on the roof of it’s building to help keep its heating and cooling costs down, which helps the environment.  To be honest without this sign I would have never known this.  I probably would have thought they were doing it because it simply looked cool.

I think many churches assume a lot.  They assume that people understand what baptism, communion, raising of hands in worship and a host of other things are all about.  I wonder how many people sit through a church service, but miss out on so much because churches are assuming they understand everything that is going on?

Again, I love Ikea and I think churches could learn a lot from looking at how they run their stores.  In fact, I am sure there  is even more to learn than what I’ve listed here.  What did I miss from looking at Ikea?  What other lessons can a church learn from looking at other companies and organizations that are doing things well?


Save the Shoes

Small acts of kindness can really touch someone. Even if it is something as small as saving their shoes….

If you can’t see the video, click here.

What small thing have you done today, this week, or even this month that made a big difference in someones life? What small thing could you do that would make someones day?