Month: November 2010

Do you take notes?

Do you take notes when someone is teaching you the scriptures? If you do, chances are you retain more than those who do not. In fact, I believe 90% of people who do not take notes on Sunday morning forget everything they have heard by Wednesday morning. If my calculations are correct, Sunday morning was mostly a waste of time for those who did not bother to write something down.

Jesus told us this would happen in Luke 8 when he described the four types of soil that represent the common conditions of the human heart.  The path, the rock, the thorns and the good soil are all mentioned. The seeds that fell on the good soil are the only ones that produced a lasting harvest. Notice what is said in verse 15.

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a good crop.”

Luke did not underline the two words above, but they certainly jumped off the page at me recently. The Message Bible says “who seize the word and hold on no matter what.” I have heard some amazing insight that I have not written down and I am certain I have forgotten most of it. Good seed had been sown, but I did not seize it and hold on no matter what.  What can we all do to make sure the seeds that are being sown fall on the good soil of our hearts and produce a crop?

1. Write down two or three big ideas from every teaching you hear and have a conversation with someone about them within 48 hours.

2. If you use your iphone to take notes, like I sometimes do, don’t check your email or text someone during the talk. Take notes only and do not play paper toss. 🙂

3. If you are speaking and the big ideas are not evident, then use simpler language and better illustrations to make them clear to everyone.

4. If you have access to decent AV equipment, put the big ideas on the screen long enough for everyone to write them down.

5. Hand out notes to people before the talk and have pens or pencils available. Even if you hand out blank sheets of paper, you are encouraging people to take notes.

The word disciple means “learner” and learners take notes. Even if we do not agree with what is said, at least the talk will spark some interesting conversation that might lead us to deeper truth. Let’s not sit in the crowd with our arms folded assuming that we will remember everything that is being said. Let’s hear the word, retain the word and by persevering produce a good crop.

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An Adoption Story – Part 2

Late on a Sunday night ten years ago, the phone rang at our home in Hereford, TX. It was the phone call Pam and I had been waiting to get for a month. Our little girl was about to be born at a hospital 45 minutes away in Amarillo.

Abram had just turned two and was asleep when the excitement erupted. We bundled our little guy up and called my brother who lived in Amarillo at the time to see if he could watch Abram while we went to the hospital.

At the hospital, Callie’s young birth mom was already in labor. Pam went into the room while I stayed outside in the hallway with the mom’s two young friends. Not long afterwards, I heard the sweet sounds of a baby crying and I knew my little girl had arrived. The biggest question Pam and I had was also answered. She did have red hair. For years, Pam and I had prayed for a little girl with red curly hair and blue eyes. That is exactly what God gave us on that November night.

Two days later, we had a ceremony in the hospital where the birth mom gave us Callie. Pastor Garvin McCarrell spoke and prayed for both families inside the small hospital chapel. As we were leaving, the birth mom looked at me and said something that I will never forget. She said, “I hope Callie is always a daddy’s girl.”

Her wish has come true. Callie is definitely a daddy’s girl who loves to play sports, ride horses and wear baseball hats. She is the tallest girl in her class and is already wearing the same size shoe as Pam.

Adoption is a joy that is difficult to describe and I hope more and more Christ followers say yes to the call. If you want more information about adopting a child from the foster system in your state, go to

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The 6-Week Hospitality Challenge

We have made Christianity way too complicated.  It is not about complex theology or understanding some hidden code, but instead, it is quite simple if you follow the teachings of Jesus. Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.

This past Sunday, I challenged the people of New Life to return to these simple ideas and to embrace a culture of genuine hospitality. In the next six weeks, I asked our fellowship to do one of the following.

1. Bring a meal to someone who is sick, has just had a child or has suffered a loss in their family.

2. Invite a new person in the church to your home for a meal or dessert.

3. Invite a student who is away from their family to your home for a home cooked meal.

4. Host a New Life group in your home next semester.

5. Invite someone who has no family in town to your home to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I believe hospitality and sharing meals together is powerful. Church is not an event to attend but a family in which to belong. In a family, meals are time to talk and to laugh. Let’s open our hearts and our homes to our family, to strangers or to anyone else that God leads our way.

Share your stories with me along the way. I believe God is forming a family before he forms an army. Let’s practice hospitality and let’s do it cheerfully.

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Guidelines for the Guest Speaker

This weekend, we had Pastor Robert Morris as a guest speaker at New Life. Pastor Robert is the Senior Pastor at Gateway Church in DFW and is one of the overseers of New Life, plus one of my closest friends. Pastor Robert spoke at both Sunday morning gatherings and did a great job. Meanwhile, I was at Gateway as his guest, speaking twice on Saturday and once Sunday.

I don’t just let anyone speak at New Life when I’m gone. Most often, the speaker is a part of our pastoral team, but like this past Sunday, we do sometimes have guests from around the country who come to speak. Before they are invited, I make sure they meet certain criteria.

1. They must really care about the people of New Life and genuinely want to pastor them while in the pulpit.

2. They must have some relationship with me or have a substantial relationship with someone I really trust.

3. They must have similar theology, but not necessarily identical theology.  I think it’s great to have speakers who come from different backgrounds so long as they are not out of bounds on the essentials of our faith.

4. They have to be there to minister to the people and not sell something to the people. I am ok with books and products being available for purchase but the guest speaker will not be allowed to make a big sales pitch.

5. They are  typically pastors who are leading their own fellowships because true shepherds usually have a high regard for the local church. I do have people speak who are not pastors, but not often.

I am grateful to have so many gifted speakers and pastors available to communicate the scriptures when I’m gone. I want New Lifers to trust that no matter who speaks on Sunday, truth will be declared and people will receive pastoral care.

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