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Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm Coming With You

This morning, at prayers, JP and Jordan were cuddled up in the church commons area watching a Jesus video while Penny and I prayed. As we began, I was tucking JP in with a blanket which usually hangs over the back of my chair... actually a pretty old wool blanket from my first international mission trip way back in the day.

They seemed to be set, and I set out to go have my prayer time. About the time I began to back away from their position, JP grabbed my arm and declared, "Daddy, you sit here with us..."

I leaned in and gave him a big Daddy-hug, and softly told him that I couldn't because I had to go pray and read my Bible. At that point, JP did the coolest thing. He simply began to un-tuck himself from the blanket, grabbed his favorite bear which was along for the ride, and declared, "All-right, I'm coming with you, Daddy!" Now what do you say to that but, "OK, Buddy!"

We went into the Worship Center, where I sat at the back for easy connectivity with those praying and my kids, and JP simply leaned up against me and rested while I read the Bible and prayed. One arm holding the Scriptures, the other arm serving as blanket to my son, and a renewed idea of prayer time.

Interestingly enough, this morning's New Testament passage was one of my favorites, Romans 12. "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom. 12:1-2, ESV)

"...good and acceptable and perfect." That's a great description of what happened this morning.

Oh, what I would have missed should I have chastised JP into staying away while I prayed and sought God! I had to shift my mindset. I had to remember that when I was a little boy, "I'm coming with you" was often my own declarative as I learned and grew toward becoming a man. I had to remember the heart of Christ's own invitation to the disciples, "Come, follow Me." Not, come and be convenient; not come be my friend; not come be all you can be; but come with me... "follow Me."

This morning JP and I had great fellowship together as he joined me in following the purposes of God.

There's a lesson in there for me... maybe for all of us!

Let us say to the One Who made us, "I'm coming with You!" It's always the right move.

May the peace of Christ sustain you along the way!

Pastor John

Thursday, July 22, 2010


In the day to day, hectic-hoptic, get it done world of today, it's easy to forget the simple.

We fill our lives with plans, schemes, and complications, both legitimate and illegitimate, and often allow the simple sighting of success to evade our grasp.

The other day, JeeP happened into my office. I was busy. I had just enough time to play for Penny a new song I had written some three weeks prior.

JeeP wanted to play guitar with Daddy.

Suddenly what had waited some three weeks would wait for another time as he climbed up in my lap and started playing guitar like a pro.

Soon the time available was gone, and research, counseling, or some such called me back to the tasks for which I'm called. Simplicity had played its part, and the orchestration was illuminated in the eyes of my boy and the heart of his Daddy.

No fireworks went off. No monuments were planned. No new song for today except in the simple three year old heart and mind I held and taught to play guitar. It was a good reminder of a good lesson.

Remember the simple.

Peace in Christ,

Pastor John

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Starting Point

This coming fall, I will be leading many of you here at Journey Church New Orleans to write out the where-when-how of your personal time of embracing the grace of Jesus Christ. Some call it your "story"... others call it your "testimony"... it's really just the starting point of life in Christ!

So to whet you whistle, so to speak, I thought I'd give you my own personal testimony... here goes:

In the year preceding my sixth birthday, after being raised in a Christian home by parents who played “42” with the pastor and his wife, I began aggressively seeking answers to questions about God.

From time to time, usually out of the blue, I would ask questions of my parents and my pastor, until on Labor Day of 1976, while my mother and brother were away at the store, I asked my father to help me pray to be saved. His face turned a little white, I remember his hand shaking a little as I grabbed it and asked him to help me, and after some minutes of watching him search through the family bookshelf for the salvation tract our pastor had provided for this occasion, we decided to settle on the swings in our back yard.

From that point forward, my father led me through the basics of giving my life to Jesus Christ. We talked about our sin problem and the need for forgiveness; we talked about how and why Jesus died to offer that forgiveness to us; and he told me about the fact that Jesus would then get to “be the boss” of my life from that point forward… that was the bargain.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget asking him at that point if he thought that was a good deal… salvation in return for life’s submission to Christ. He told me, as only an accountant could, that he thought it was, but that I had to decide for myself. So we counted the probable years left until I would “get to go to Heaven” and I agreed that “it was a good deal” indeed. I prayed with my father out there on the squeaky old swing set of our house in Ft. Worth, Texas on a hot Labor Day before we cooked out as a family. I confessed belief in Jesus as the only Son of God, admitted my sin to God, asked Him to forgive me, and committed my life to follow Him.

Just a few years later, the Holy Spirit called me to preach the Gospel. Just a few years after that I began being mentored by the ministers of my church and teaching adult classes upon request; and a few years later, at the age of sixteen, I preached my first sermon on a Sunday night before about three hundred folks… I was both terrified and long winded. The first has gone away, the second hasn’t changed so much!

At the age of seventeen, my home church licensed me to the ministry, and later, my second church plant ordained me. I’ve seen much of the United States in ministry and have been honored to plant five churches, tour as an evangelist and singer/songwriter, be pastor, mentor, and friend to some amazing people along the way, marry my very best friend, grow the most wonderful kids I’ve ever known, and to currently pastor a church in New Orleans, Louisiana, as it solidifies it’s footing after being planted, all but destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, and replanted again.

Almost thirty-four years after the fact, I’ve found my life in Christ to be “a better deal” than I had imagined. It has cost me most everything… I expect that it will cost even more; but what would I gain should I ‘gain the whole world but forfeit my soul?’ (Mark 8:36, nasb)

This is my testimony, that I would do no different but to follow the Christ who has saved me with greater resolve and with deeper determination. What else could I reasonably bring to the service of the Almighty God?

What's your story? In the comment section, take a moment and share the when and where of your starting point with Jesus... I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Sound of the Nail Guns

In the realm of Napoleonic warfare, French troops were instructed that, once the battle had begun, they were to move toward the sound of the guns. Thus, Napoleon combined the flexibility demanded by endeavors which engage the human element, along with the intensive curbs of strategy toward execution.

Over the years, I have found pastoring to be quite similar.

The trick of the trade, if you will, is really then simply to recognize the report of the right guns. All guns do not sound alike. The projectile weight, powder load, bore diameter, and more make huge and slight differentials in the report of any particular gun. In ministry, "muzzle reports" fly through a pastor's office like so many wars that want to be, wish they were, and every once in a while, should be. You have to know the sound of the right guns. You have to be able to recognize and verify the voice of the commander.

Several weeks ago, the church I pastor, which has transitioned from a mobile church into a permanent structure, was experiencing the need, once again praise God, for baptism. In the past, the church has administered baptisms off-site, since dragging a tank into a movie theater was neither practical nor amenable to theater management. However, now that we have a permanent structure in which to meet, there is a real desire and need to include baptism in the fabric of weekly worship. All the while, a few of our folks have wonderful memories of swimming pool baptisms, and we would love to see that tradition continue. So with the sound of many guns swirling through the pastor's office, I focused my attention on the one gun that matters, the direction of the action of the Holy Spirit.

For weeks I prayed and sought the Lord. I've learned over time that, often times, intensive soul quiet has to ensue for God's action to be discerned. With long sessions of seeking Him, and over time, I could sense the Holy Spirit continuing to move me toward His position.

Finally, one Tuesday, as I prayed through lunch time, the Spirit showed His direction... the direction that included His yet unseen action. The Lord simply spoke to my heart to give people the choice as to being baptized in worship or at an old school baptismal party. "Ok," I thought, "this one will be easy since we don't even have a baptistry yet in our new building."

About twenty minutes later I drove to a local pizza joint to get lunch. About five minutes later the owner was donating a blue insulated tank just big enough for baptizing to the church just out of me asking what it was. And just a few weeks later, God's action embraced, His primary provision being toted back to the church and waiting, now the sound of God's nail guns are reporting just outside my office from the next stage provision of a team of Christians I didn't expect to help us at all.

The funny thing about the sound of God's artillery is that I had to get quiet and focused on Him to hear it. He was working out in Cincinnati His plans for New Orleans baptisms. The nails guns were already being loaded, but I could have missed them altogether had I not let all the other sounds drop to the side save His voice. And as is so typical of God, with the nail guns came contractors, finances, and creativity for some much needed renovations, help to our church families, and encouragement to the body of Christ gathered here.

I wonder today what I might miss should I fail to focus my attention upon the voice of the Commander of Heaven's Armies. His ways are hidden from the haughty, and given as gifts in portions to the humble... to the soul bent with the knee... to the servants bent toward submission.

"Ride to the sound of the guns."

It works... how about that?!

May the peace of Christ overwhelm you!

Pastor John

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Well, I've been forty for a couple of days now, and I've been trying to put my finger on the differential between before and after. This afternoon, it hit me.

The main difference is not, has not been, in the 40, but in the "turning 40."

Way back, in what feels like another lifetime, when Penny and I first got to know each other, she was telling me about how old it felt to turn thirty. "I know what you mean..." I said. "Yeah, but I JUST TURNED THIRTY..." she replied, and the repartee went on for a few moments until I finally asked her, "Just how OLD do you think I AM?!" at which point she paused thoughtfully, and with timid confidence proceeded to posit the guess of "forty?".

Inside of myself, I thought something to the effect of "Wow, ministry really does kill you early, huh!" But, to be frank, I had kind of felt the age already anyway.

The other night on my birthday, then, Penny remarked, "'re finally the age I thought you were back when I first met you!" I chuckled a little, smiled at my bride, and thought, "yeah, I guess I am." It felt different than I thought it would. Tired, good, tired, satisfying, and simply happy somehow. Somewhere along the way I turned, I guess... forty. To Penny, and inside myself, forty seemed to come a few years back for me... I don't really know how or when, really, and it makes me wonder when sixty will hit!

However it happened, along the way the years caught up and I'm left looking across a table in the Big Easy, smiling at the woman I love, seeing my children laugh in the sparkle of her eyes, and feeling just plain satisfied.

Money and fame have gone another way, found other friends, and for the most part left me alone with happiness. It's simpler than I thought it might look and better than I thought it might feel. In the end it's both excruciatingly hard and remarkably satisfying. There is pain and gladness, both tears and cheers, defeat and victory that line the path to "turning forty" and as crazy as it might sound, it's been a good trail to ride.

I don't look back much, and what's ahead is only shown to me a bit at a time; but for today, I wouldn't trade the grey hair for gold... well... no, not even for gold.

To all of you who have been true on the trail with me over the years, who have fought the dragons and stood the test together, who have taken the wounds and toasted the victories with me, I say thanks... it was good to have sat the trail together. For tomorrow, there is another trail to ride.

As I've written to so many over the years, "May we live long, ride hard, and die in the saddle!" Such is the life we are given, and the privilege of service with which we are rewarded!

Pax Christi ad Nobis!


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Providence, Freedom, & Liberty

May God who holds us in His hands, hold us fast. May He, in His providence, see fit to continue our freedom; and in that freedom, may we honor Him in liberty.

Pastor John

Saturday, July 3, 2010


This weekend, we pause to celebrate one of the most sacred of our national holidays, July 4th. For most of us, it's a time of long weekend days, rest and relaxation, fireworks, and just generally cutting loose from the everyday stressors of life. My wife and kids and I will be all in for that kind of fun this weekend as many of us celebrate together.

In the course of your celebration, I want to extend my personal invitation and encouragement to join together with the Journey Family in worship Sunday morning. Have you thought about how much more "free" the weekend might be if you could just skip church, sleep in on Sunday morning, and pick that stuff up the next Sunday? Maybe the following Sunday rolls around and there's a great concert that goes too late on Saturday, or a last minute trip that makes worship in church inconvenient?

The truth is that our freedom has been given us by God and paid for with the blood of many brave men and women over these last two plus centuries of our nation's history. That freedom includes things we take for granted like the right to peacefully assemble, the freedom of speech, and the freedom to worship God. This year, I'm asking you to reserve Sunday morning, July 4th, 2010 for God... for worshipping Him with your church family... for thanking Him together for the unspeakable freedom He has given us.

There are so many other things we could do with that time... so the real question is whether those things are more important... or not.

I hope you'll use your freedom to worship the God who gave you that freedom this weekend.

If you're here in New Orleans, then I'll see you there!

In the Peace of Christ,

Pastor John