Age is definitely a number for Cam and for me

Number, 26, Tile, Indicative

Aside from Cam Newton’s lackadaisical attempt (if you can call it that) to get the ball which he fumbled, and Eli Manning’s disappointed look after his older brother completed the 2 pt conversion, and the post game interviews comprising Peyton’s plug for Budweiser and “The Big Man Upstairs,” or Cam pulling the plug on his own presser, the game was quite enjoyable. At least I enjoyed it. If you like defense, you saw it. Lots of it. I’m a die-hard long-suffering Buccaneers fan, so I’m used to seeing one team score a lot. But to see neither teams score much, well that was kind of a breath of fresh air. And the game was within reach for the Panthers for most of the game.

I am not a Cam fan. Let me state that. Not because of he has fun playing the game, and not because he walked out on the presser. The Bucs play him twice a year, and besides the Greg Schiano led Bucs holding him to single digit yards rushing several years ago, he kills us. That’s really all I have on him. He’s an absolute beast, who if he had some decent receivers, would clearly be unstoppable.

Panther/Cam apologists will cite this as reason for his presser “walk-off.”  Perhaps there is something to this.

But I will say this, he is 26 years old. That’s what age I got hitched to my lovely wife, and now mother of three. Two years later, I was ordained as assistant pastor in the P.C.A denomination. The number of mistakes I made when as 28 year old pastor, and probably as a husband, could fill the pages of any book. What if they were on camera? Ouch.

Now I know do know you pretty much ask for the spotlight when you are the face of a franchise. And even more so, when you showboat and dab, or whatever it’s called. Even more when you say, “If you don’t like my antics, then stop me.” When someone actually does stop you, for the first time all year, perhaps you should tip your hat in the presser? Perhaps you should answer hard questions? Perhaps you shouldn’t walk away? I say “should” because “should” is simply my opinion, not a biblical black and white. Russell Wilson stayed and answered hard questions after arguably the worst offensive play call of all time led to an interception when they should have run it from the one  yard line! Wilson is a very mature man.

Cam will probably look back upon yesterday’s performance, on and off the field, and realize he needs to do a better job. He’ll see the film, and probably have some explaining to do on his fumble.

But he is still 26. I remember myself at 26, and all of the should have’s…. Yes I know, people fight wars at 18, but for those my age (38), I do think we would do well to be reminded of our failures at 26.  Perhaps we (myself first and foremost) could be a little more gracious to those younger than us? I mean this less about Cam, since you probably won’t run into him, and more for those who seem a bit more immature than us.

After all, the epitome of class (though not beer choice) Peyton Manning, did throw his linemen under the bus when he got beat badly one season. He was roughly around the same age as Cam.

If he’s doing the same things at 38, then let’s revisit the issue again. But I have a feeling, that won’t be the case. Hopefully the Bucs can prevent him from getting back to the big game again and we’ll all have to wonder. Sadly I don’t think that will happen. He’ll probably get better, the GM will probably bring in a few wide receivers who can actually catch the ball (I counted 8 drops last night), and I’m pretty sure he’ll mature as a man.

While I’ll pull against the former, I’m pulling for, and quite hopeful, for the latter.


A Kingdom perspective when someone moves away

Rails, Railway, Railroad Tracks, Train Tracks, Tracks

I’ve been learning a lot about having a “Kingdom” orientation these days. Now that word itself could mean a zillion different things such as being involved highly “visible” ministry outside the walls of the church. For instance one of our core values clarifies Harbor’s “Kingdom” focus to emphasize intentionally loving one’s own neighborhood. Sometimes a “kingdom” mentality could involve resourcing, or encouraging a new church plant, instead of feeling threatened, territorial, or envious.

However, the Kingdom reorientation I’m referring to is dealing with people moving away from our particular church. Every church will experience its members moving away (and in the end I’m happy for those who feel called to move), but it is not easy for any pastor. It’s not easy for any member whose lives were touched by the moving party. And of course it becomes more difficult when the church is smaller and/or if they were deeply involved.

I recently had lunch with a man who has become a friend during his time at Harbor. He’s the latest of our music team set to move, marking the 3rd family with multiple music team members to leave in a years time.

Yet in spite of the moves, and perhaps even because of the moves, we have more people than ever serving on our music team. In reality, it’s never sounded so good (or at least fuller as we have more instruments/vocalists).

Regardless of the quality of sound, I’ve been learning (reluctantly I might add) that this church isn’t my church; it is Jesus’ church. That’s super easy to proclaim, but in reality, quite hard to believe regarding the issue of moving. In God’s sovereign plan he shuffles his deck of people to put them in places where He’ll use them. He did this in the Babylonian exile (Daniel) and he did it in the early church (Acts 8:1, 4)

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria….Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went

Why could he not do this same thing through job transfers today?

I thought being Kingdom-centered had more to do with what happens outside of our church. But I’m convinced that it has just as much to do with how I view those inside the church. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.….His will, will involve people moving away to bless others.

So may I/we do all I/we can to shepherd, disciple, train, preach the gospel, encourage, challenge, and love everyone at Harbor, realizing

22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas[a] or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Worship: A time when familiarity doesn’t breed contempt

Fishbowl, Fish, Immersion, Environment, Surroundings

I haven’t blogged in a really long time. And I’m not coming out of the “blog fog” simply because I had a wonderful epiphany, or anything like that. I just felt like it was time to “come back.”

Two good friends offered to preach for me the two Sundays after Christmas, so I decided to take them up on their offer and finish out the calendar year with a stay-cation. On the first Sunday after Christmas…. (sounds like a song, but it’s not-I checked), I headed to Harbor. On the 2nd Sunday after Christmas….I headed to worship out East, the opposite direction of the Magi.

I rarely have the time to go see how the Lord is working outside our “own” four walls, so this was a fun opportunity. I was amazed by how well this church had “decorated” the school in which they met. The music team, at least for this Sunday was actually smaller than Harbors, which kind of surprised me-because the church seemed to have nearly twice the attendance. But it featured a keyboard, awesome bass player, guitar/vocalist, and a Cajon. We bought one of these sit on drums for Harbor a few years back but has yet to be used by our drumming purists (not for lack of my trying.) Pure drummers like to use drums. I get it.

It was a simple, non-liturgical, 3-4 songs, sermon, few closing songs and offering. Illustrative, loving, and challenging preacher, and the church has already assisted starting new churches! So cool to see the multiplication process.

But one thing I really had a hard time with was singing, though it had nothing to do with volume, musicians, lack of participation, song selection, singability, or anything like that.

All difficulty came from “my side of the table.” When you love your church, it can be hard to visit other churches, particularly those outside of your tradition.

I do think that was part of it. I missed Harbor. But I think a large part of my singing difficulty was the fact I was just grossly unfamiliar with the songs. I had never heard them before.

And as I stood there, I began to place myself (or rather had been placed) in the shoes of someone else completely unfamiliar with worship songs. Whether it be a visitor or long term attender, I really experienced first hand the difficulty of unfamiliarity.

I love incorporating new songs in worship. At one of the church’s I served, we didn’t have more than a new song or two for literally close to 2 years. The team wasn’t able to practice, but simply rehearsed on Sunday morning. There just wasn’t any time to learn new songs.

However, at least for this season at Harbor (despite 4 young talented musicians moving away) we are still blessed with a growing team, a time, and a place to practice. So I look forward to continuing to incorporate some new songs this year: (re-tuned hymnody as well as newer praise songs). However, instead of adding a plethora all at once, we’ll continue to add them slowly in order to get people familiar with them. This concept is nothing new, nor is it new to Harbor. This experience just reinforced the feeling of unfamiliar worship shoes. Sometimes familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. Sometimes familiarity enables us to more fully cherish our Lord through song.

What we can learn from Peyton Manning’s record good and bad day

This past Sunday, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning completed a short pass. With that short completed pass, he leapfrogged Brett Farve for the most passing yards by any quarterback in NFL history. At some level, it would have been a day to remember for the rest of his life. The play stopped, there was a brief pause in the action for celebration. He stood on top of the world for a brief moment.

Then the game resumed, and so did the interceptions. In the third quarter, after his 4th interception, this Hall of Fame quarterback, the most prolific quarterback ever, got benched. I honestly don’t think this had ever happened to him. Ever. I don’t know how he looked as a Pop Warner quarterback, but since his father played in the NFL, as does his younger brother Eli, I imagine he came out of the womb throwing.

Can you imagine how humbling that might be? Setting the record, solidifying your legacy as one of the best, and then getting benched the same game, half-way through the third quarter.

The high’s and low’s of one’s career in a matter of minutes.

This reminds me of the frustrating process of sanctification. One minute you seemed to really “get grace,” displaying calmness in the storm, courage when you normally would have back down, discernment after someone came to you for counsel. And then the next moment, you lost your cool with a kid, customer, co-worker, gave someone a dirty look who tailgated you, acted on your envy or jealousy through gossip, ignored an opportunity to talk about the gospel. From all time great, to all time dud. And very quickly I might add…

Romans 7 describes Paul’s Peyton Manning experience. I think we can all relate.

Romans 7:21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;
23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
25 Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Thankfully, Romans 8 comes after 7. Not just chronologically, but redemptively.
Romans 8: 1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Through my religious performance, I deserve the bench. Through Jesus performance for me, I get to stay on the field. Amen. Perhaps that is why I’m pulling for him to finish the season strong.

How the body of Christ helped this preacher practice what he preached

Harbor Community Church had an “interesting” Sunday.

Immediately following the service, a number of volunteers cleaned our chairs as well as the YMCA hallways; both of which were stained by last season’s basketball and 10 weeks of summer camps. Just as we began to devour the delectable Hungry Howies pizzas, a dude with a wristband from the hospital walked into the YMCA. Then on to the gym, and then back to our “commons area,” and heading straight for the pizza. Pizza is my “precious.”

I asked him, “Can I help you sir?” He immediately took a 90 degree turn and headed out towards the door. Honestly I was glad because I didn’t get the best vibe from him. My only thought was “get him away from the pizza and toward the door.” I just didn’t want him around.

Immediately some women put a piece of pizza on a plate and told me to bring it to him. All I cared about was getting him outside. Then one woman said, “Geoff, you just preached how God wants us to love the ugly, difficult people, and how people are made in God’s image.”

Wow. They were paying attention and challenged me to practice what I preached. They were right. So I grabbed the pizza, and head out the door to catch this guy. He gladly accepted the pizza, asked me, “Are there any kids around here?” I told him no, so he took something out of his pockets. Immediately I regretted answering his question in the negative.

So he pulls out a water bottle from his pocket and asks me for some change. I told him I didn’t have any, and he once again, rotated 90 degrees, and then walked off.

Honestly I didn’t feel good about this guy and wanted to get rid of him. I think my heart, as far as I can remember, was focused primarily on the security of our folks. But in my concern for safety, I had failed to see him as made in the image of God. He had dignity. He had needs. Even though we really couldn’t help him much, we could at least meet the need for food.

To love your people well requires concern for their safety. Some leaders had already followed this guy and invited him to leave. We had that covered.

But to love others outside the church (and to model such love), particularly as they walk in your church requires mercy. Some ladies, with glad appreciation for those who directed this gentlemen to the door, also sought an opportunity to show kindness. They simply “looked,” putting arms to the sermon application and one of our core values: “looking.” We need both safety and mercy in the church body. I am thankful we have both types of folks at Harbor, because I’m insufficient on my own. While humbling, I’m as needy as I am grateful to have folks who help me practice what I preach.

When you don’t journal, at least take a note

Someone told me the other day, “I’m not a big journal-type guy.” Meaning, its very difficult for him to write down experiences on “paper” and then go back over them. Strangely enough, as much as I love to write, I feel the same way. It’s hard to keep an official journal and then go back to it time and again. I don’t know that it will ever really catch on for me.

One of my favorite “devotional” books is Paul Miller’s A Praying Life. It just doesn’t get much better, as he weaves prayer (why and how to do it) into the entirety of life-even praying for parking spaces!  One of the tools he recommends at the end of the book in his practical section is keeping a prayer journal. As much as I love the book and have been influenced by it, I don’t see it sticking.

Yet, I understand the WHY behind a prayer journal! You can literally see God answer prayers (and sometimes the answer is that He’s changing us) one at a time. You can literally see how your prayers actually do make a difference, and  your heart will overflow with thankfulness.

Today, I was going through some recently recorded church-wide prayer goals I thought I had saved on my computer within my Evernote App. I couldn’t find them so I looked through some previous prayer goals I had written in 2014. As I looked, I noticed how all of them had been answered in a way consistent with what I had prayed! Here are some of them below:

  • Music leader house sold; more vocalists
  • Attendance averaging 100 (we’ve had a few Sundays over a 100, and some in 90’s last month, so I think we’re pretty close)
  • 4 Community Groups
  • Young families  (we’ve picked up a few towards the end of the summer)
  • A Children’s Leader
  • More children’s church teachers
  • Women’s bible study leaders

Now next Sunday could see a drop in numbers, some families could choose to leave, a teacher quit, etc. I gave up assuming anything since I’m often wrong and there really isn’t a need to do so; it’s Jesus’ church, not mine! But this simple note reminded never to leave out prayer. As Bon Jovi wisely postulated, “We’ve living on a prayer.” Most of what and whom we have here at Harbor has been given in response to specific prayers. Since He has clearly said yes on a number of occasions, I need a place to store these requests. If I didn’t have a place to store these requests, I wouldn’t have seen how faithful He had been to us. Even if you’re like me, and probably won’t journal, it’s a good idea to find some system that allows you to record your prayers.

Evernote is the easiest to use and is free for the basic option (which I use). It is the most helpful app known to man (or at least this man).

Prayer Notebook is just $1.99 for I Phone and $ 2.99 for I Pad and is an app I used religiously (not in the pejorative sense) before church planting but I have gotten away from since moving back to Bradenton. I confess I’ve hyper-focused on praying for this church plant to the exclusion of many other categories I used when living in West Va as an Ass. Pastor.

Whatever you use, make sure to record your prayer requests in a place accessible by you at some time in the future. You’ll be glad you did.

Why I think James Harrison gets it wrong


James Harrison, Steelers linebacker, made headlines recently when he reportedly gave back trophies which his kids didn’t “earn.” I have no idea what would have qualified them to “earn” a trophy for “Next Level Athletics-Student Athlete.” But apparently, Harrison’s “family values” for raising of his boys don’t allow for such compromising poppycock.

I know it is “wrong” these days to say anything is “wrong” unless it departs from secular mainstream values. But I do believe this is the wrong approach because the trophy is not the problem.

Does your child receiving a trophy make him work less to reach a goal? Does your child receiving a participation trophy make him “softer” or lazier?

Let me share an experience I feel is all to common with youth sports today. I coach 6-7 year old basketball but a kid I mentor played in the championship game on Saturday morning. During the game I overheard that a coach of an 8-9 year old cussed at a ref and got tossed the previous night. The 10-11 year old championship ended with bad clock running, a kid getting singled out, and some adults cussing at each other as they walked out.  Earlier in the season a coach/pastor told a team, “The other team simply got lucky.” Not exactly losing with class or grace.

Now I don’t know how much the other kids are practicing, but I do know my son and my neighbor (who lost the finals) work extremely hard. They do it to perform the best they can and to win the game. The trophy isn’t the problem.

The kids want to, or rather need to, win. Even more so the parents and coaches, including myself at times. But this isn’t a local problem. It’s like this on the baseball field, soccer fields, (I’ve never been to a lacrosse game-but I imagine it would be the same). They want to win, regardless of the trophy.

Is our problem that kids and adults don’t care enough? Really? Trophy or not, these kids cared plenty enough that Saturday, and some of their parents or grandparents cared way too much.

Returning trophies is just a legalistic quick fix way to get your kids to work hard.

Spend time talking with your kids about their heart idols. Spend time diagnosing your own heart idolatry-what you really look to for meaning, hope, life. While not a quick fix, but an instead an ongoing dynamic relationship where you point your kid to Jesus, it does make a difference. It already has with both my son and me.

Let us also learn how glorifying God through our sports can motivate us to never give up, but also to lose with dignity (unlike the Seahawks) or win by cheating (like the Patriots).

Ill never give back a trophy my kid didn’t “earn.” My competitive 7 year old doesn’t need his dad reminding him to work harder because he didn’t play his best game in the championship. That’s ludicrous.

Harrison is a complicated cat indeed. This is the same guy who didn’t go to the White House after winning the Super Bowl because Obama would have invited the Cardinals had they lost. Really? But I thought losers shouldn’t be rewarded?

Forget the trophy, and look at your heart. Then look at your kids’ hearts. Then see how much more amazing Jesus is than a victory in sports, or any other success you could achieve in life.

And by the way, if you think God’s grace makes you lazy, you obviously haven’t tasted it. Check out what it did for the Apostle Paul:

“10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

He worked harder to spread the gospel, harder to repent, harder to believe the gospel himself because of grace. You can begin to grasp grace and still work to be the best athlete you can be. And then you arrive, you’ll be the most humble as well. Grace is what makes a man.