New Adventures In Ministry Site Launches Today!

The crew at AIM (Adventures in Ministry) has been hard at work getting a brand-new site ready for everyone, and they've done an outstanding job. In case you didn't already know, Adventures In Ministry is a podcast network for 5 different podcasts focused on ministers, technology, sports, and Christian living. It's also a repository for FREE downloadable resources like classes, retreats and devotionals from some of the biggest names out there. As part of the AIM team, I'll tell you that we have some big plans for the near future, so stay tuned!

Run, don't walk to the new AIM site at our new home at You won't be sorry. 

Render To All: Fear To Whom Fear Is Due

It's tax time. Have you paid your dues? In Romans 13, Paul tells us that we have payments to make to God as well. 

Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.  Romans 13.7 (NASB)


The Bear Trap


Imagine you are walking through the woods at dusk on a hiking trip to the top of a mountain. It’s cold, it may be the end of the day and you’re trying to get home. You're thinking about how great it was to see the overlook, and see the beauty of God’s creation at sunset. As with all cases, there is an unknown factor on this seemingly peaceful hike.

There’s a big bear down the path. 

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In this situation, what do you need to know? Do you need to know how to better your career? Do you need to understand the best way to improve your marriage? Should you be concerned with the renovation of the house that you just purchased for your family? These are each important things and knowledge in these areas is highly advisable but, as you walk down this path in the darkening woods towards a life-altering, if not life-ending experience, there is only one thing you need to know. There is a bear on the path, and it intends to do you harm. At this moment, there is simply no other knowledge that is important, relative to the knowledge of the danger that awaits you.

If someone came running down the path from the other direction, having just escaped this huge beast, you would expect them to warn you. You would expect them to impart the knowledge that there is a bear in your path, because this is the only knowledge that matters at this moment. This stranger might be an expert at home renovations or he might be a marriage counselor, able to guide and direct you to a wonderful life of marital bliss but, this would be of little consequence to you if this stranger did not first say, “Hey, uh, there’s a bear in the path. We gotta get out of here!”

Just like the bear in the path, our God demands, if not commands, our fear. Our mighty God is one to whom our fear is due.

When the Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111.10), it is saying that without the knowledge of God and the impact He can have on our lives, all other knowledge is pointless and irrelevant. Before we can impart any helpful knowledge to someone else, we must first tell them that THERE IS A REAL GOD. And, once an individual comes to the personal realization that there is a God and that He is personally involved in the lives of every man, they will naturally feel some sense of fear, just like the hiker who learns that a bear is in the path. He fears the fact that the bear has the power to alter his life. 

God has the power to alter your life. God is powerful and he can change circumstances. God can and does stick His finger in our lives. So, what do you need to know? Just like the hiker, there are many other things you need to know, but if you don't know the main thing (fearing God) nothing else really matters.


What Do You Fear?


A lot of us have different fears. Some of them are silly. Others are completely justified.

A silly fear of mine is wasps. I hate those little things, and they terrify me to no end. I also have a fear of heights, despite flying in planes in the Marines for 2 years.

But what about legitimate fears?

Right now there are some families at our congregation that are going through some tough times health wise. Talk about legitimate go to the hospital a couple of times because of health problems and you will know legit fear.

But is that the fear that we’re talking about? Fear of roller coasters, bugs, the dark, our health - whatever? No it’s not.

Fear of God is totally different. I believe it’s one of the basics of our Christian life. If we don’t fear God, if we don’t respect Him and His Word, nothing else works. Not worship, not relationships, not anything. Without a healthy fear and respect for God, nothing else falls into place.


Fear = Respect?


You must first understand what kind of fear we’re talking about. This is not an afraid, fear-for-your-life kind of fear - it’s a respectful, reverent, prioritized fear-for-your-soul kind of fear. It’s a feeling that if I don’t do what God and His Word says, then I am going to Hell. And Hell is a place that I don’t want to be, so out of fear I serve God and obey His commands. But is that it?

I don’t believe so. Part of fearing God is respecting God. While they’re not the same, they relate to one another. Who is someone you respect? Who is someone you fear?


We Are Children In God's Hands


The best way to understand the fear of God is to think about the relationship with your own parents. I deal with teens everyday that think they hate their parents, but really don’t. They love their children. They are responsible for discipline of those children, and we’ve all seen those kids who aren’t disciplined by their parents. When your parents discipline, does that mean they don’t love their children? Of course not. It means they want what’s best for them, and to protect them. We sometimes don’t understand that.

It’s the same way with God. We fear our parents for what they might do to discipline us, but there’s no doubt that we don’t love them. We fear them and love them at the same time. We are likewise to fear God and love Him at the same time. 

I tell kids that your parents, whether you like it or not, have power over your life. When we realize that God has that same kind of power to change our lives and we recognize that fear and respect, our perspective changes.

God is due our reverent fear. Just like we must pay taxes to who it is due, give honor to whom it is due (Romans 13.7) Our fear is due to God. We must respect Him and know the power He has over the world and our lives. 

If we don’t fear God, we don’t love Him. Romans 8.38-39 states that nothing can separate us from His love. The only thing that can separate us from God is us. If we refuse to fear God, to acknowledge Him and serve Him, then we will be separated from that love.

If we don’t fear God, we’re separated from Him. In Luke 12.5, Jesus says this. If we don’t fear God, we will be cast into Hell.

And if we’re separated from God, we have nothing.

The writer of Ecclesiastes figured this out long before you and I ever existed. He says at the end of his philosophical book in chapter 12 that The conclusion, when all had been heard, is: fear God and keep his commandments, because this applies to every person. 

We must pay our fear to whom our fear is due, and that’s to our sovereign God. 

Need A Cheap Photoshop? Get Acorn

If I had a nickel for every time that a minister or youth minister has said to me, "Well, I can't afford Photoshop," then I would have like, six dollars. 

But seriously, there's a great Photoshop alternative for the Mac that's usually $50 that's on sale for $15. So go get it. Now. 

In the Photoshop clones business, there's really only three alternatives: Pixelmator (Mac only), Gimp (Mac + PC), and Acorn (Mac). Acorn is a great Photoshop alternative that will let your edit and create images easily, and stop making your images look like junk on the web and in your Powerpoints.

Acorn (Mac App Store)

If OneNote Is A Filing Cabinet, Evernote Is A Bucket

I have actively struggled with how to take notes. From organizing them in nested folders in plaintext and markdown documents to throwing everything I digitally collect into Evernote, I have never been really happy. 

Microsoft's OneNote made a splash last week when the company released the Mac app (on the Mac App Store no less), and reduced the price to free. I've heard a lot about OneNote and loved the iPhone app, but without a companion Mac app, it was dead to me. 

I've been using the Mac app, along with the iPad and iPhone app for over a week now, and I am truly impressed. 

First, it's a Microsoft product. I didn't know that the boys from Redmond could make quality and stable apps on the Mac. Usually you got one or the other: it was great but not stable, or it was stable but not great. OneNote is both. 

OneNote for Mac

I plan to do some comparing and contrasting of OneNote versus other note-taking platforms in the coming weeks, but I can faithfully say that I've found what I'm looking for. 

Why do I like it, you say?

1. It's pretty. I know that doesn't matter to some people as long as it's not ugly and it's great at what it does, but it matters to me. A lot. In OneNote, you can add notebooks, which go down into tabs that you can color any way you want. Then those tabs can be further subdivided into pages in that tab. Microsoft's stamp is all over the product and it should be - from Calibri font to the famed "ribbon" for formatting at the top. What's weird is that after kicking Office to the curb six years ago, all this doesn't bother me one bit. I will use whatever I deem is the best for me, no matter what company makes it. 

2. It does everything Evernote does. From a basic functionality standpoint, OneNote does everything Evernote does for me. It just does it a bit better. I never bought into the tagging system - even with multiple tags on one note, I still didn't feel like everything was organized. With OneNote, everything is categorized into your tabs and then subdivided into your pages if you wish. OneNote is also pretty great in the fact that it lets you type anywhere on the document open, almost giving you a canvas feel to the thing. I can put blocks of text, to-do lists, pictures, and anything else I want to - anywhere I want to. 

3. OneNote interfaces with Office much better. If I was an Office user, I would be absolutely giddy over OneNote. It would be a major thing for me. As it stands, I'm not, but OneNote is still a great standalone app for me. It collects everything I need it to, and it syncs to my devices for later use. I can configure what I need to and drop whatever I need to in it. And it will be organized where I want it. 

You should give OneNote a try, on the Mac or PC. There are obvious advantages to using OneNote on Windows, and for the low price of free, you can't lose by trying it out. I hear that the Windows Phone app is pretty swell also. 

Bottom line: don't change your notes system if it's working for you. Just like the Bible says though: "Test everything." Doesn't mean you have to change your whole process, but it might be a good thing for you to do. 

Voice Recognition [John 10.27]


If you know me at all, you'll know I'm a Star Trek nut. And one of the coolest things they did on those shows was talk to the computer like it was a person. The voice recognition knew exactly what you said and would do whatever you told it to do. 

When Siri first came out on the iPhone, I had high hopes. "My very own Star Trek computer, waiting for my commands!" is what I thought. Turns out it's not like that. Siri is useful, just not Trek-level computing. Yet. 

But think about how much voice recognition has improved on computers and smartphones in just the last 10 years. Now I can speak to my computer and dictate, just like I'm doing with this article right now. And most of the time, it's correct. 

Jesus says in John 10:27:

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." 

Lots of things to look at in this verse. First and foremost, we must be a part of the flock. We can't hear our master's voice if we're not in the group to hear it. Secondly, when we're in that flock, Jesus knows us. He knows who we are. He knows what our heart is. And third, if we hear his voice and obey, we will follow him. 

Voice Recognition isn't quite up to Star Trek standards yet, but it's getting there. One thing we can always depend on is Jesus' voice - if we hear it, we know we're in the right place. 

Embracing Criticism

Jerrie Barber is one of my favorite ministers, and I've only heard him speak a couple of times, mostly about being a preacher himself. Jerrie has what he calls a "Criticism Contract" that reads as follows: 

"All criticism about Jerrie Barber should be directed to Jerrie Barber and Jerrie Barber alone. Jerrie will listen to your criticism and embrace it. Likewise, any criticism about the staff or Elders must be directed to them as well." 


First of all, great policy. Second, Jerrie says that he embraces criticism. 

Do you embrace criticism? Or do you dread and loathe it?

Indirectly and unintentionally, I have always tried to encourage my youth committee and Elders to constructively criticize me in all things. I need to know when something is wrong and then, hopefully, I can fix it. I can't do anything about anything if the problem with me is not directed at me. Sneaking around and talking about someone to someone who can't fix the problem is just juvenile and anti-Christian. 

As ministers and youth ministers, we should have an attitude of embracing criticism, not abhorring it. We should tackle problems with solutions instead of getting depressed or something about what so-and-so complained about whatever you did, said, or didn't do. Our jobs are ones that invite every type of criticism, viable or not, and we need to learn to embrace it and take it, not dread it. 

Digital Parenting: Radical and Intentional

Last week I had the honor and privilege to teach a class at the Revival Youth Minister's Retreat at Graymere Church of Christ in Columbia, Tenneessee. I got to talk to some youth ministers and give them the exact same talk that was on the Ministry Bits podcast this week. I got some great insight from those guys just talking with them about the subject of internet safety and digital parenting and how we can help parents be on top of it better. 

One thing that stuck out to me (that I actually wrote down because it was so good) was what Jon Morris said during the class: 

"If you're telling me that 60% of the internet is porn, then we as Christians and Christian parents need to start being radical and intentional with this whole internet safety thing."

Radical and intentional.

Two things I think that we as Christian parents have not been

We need to be radical in our thinking and intentional with our actions regarding our kids' safety on the internet. We need to be those parents who are relentless on keeping our kids safe and not apologize for doing it. We need to make sure that we don't let other parents influence our decisions to do these radical things. Protecting our children from these dangers and letting the internet be a tool for communication, rather than a method of destruction. 

I've gotten a great response to the podcast yesterday. This is a huge need for our parents and I'm glad to be able to help, even if just a tiny bit. Take a listen to episode 008 and let me know what you think. 

And then be radical and intentional with your own kids. 

Preachers In Training, Episode 40

I got to have a great conversation with Robert Hatfield over at The Light Network about Getting a New Computer this week on his show Preachers In Training. It's very similar to the episode of Ministry Bits on Moving to a Mac this week as well, only Robert said and mentioned everything I didn't and in a much more eloquent way. So that's good. 

Give episode 40 a listen over at or listen in iTunes

Making Time for Family

Below is the audio, notes, and slides for a sermon I preached this past Sunday evening at Church Street. It was originally first taught as a class at Restore, a family conference put on by Chase Park Church of Christ in Huntsville, AL back in August 2013. I'm happy to share it with you today. 

Ministry Bits is Now Part of The AIM Network

Well that was fast. 

I am privileged and honored to announce today that Ministry Bits, my new audio podcast, is going to be a part of the AIM Network. The AIM Network, or Adventures in Ministry, is a network run by Paul Spurlin in Montgomery, Alabama. They offer lots of free materials through their AIM Project website, as well as Podcasts, Devotional Songs, links, articles, and many other things. They work in close conjunction with Faulkner University and the Southern Evangelism Conference. 

It's a huge, wonderful step for Ministry Bits. We hope that even more people can become part of the network of ministers helping each other use the tools of technology for the betterment of the Kingdom of God. 

Nothing will change on the podcast - you'll still see and be able to listen to the shows here on the site or through iTunes. The shows will shortly be available on the AIM site as well as the AIM app. 

In addition to joining AIM's complement of podcasts, Paul and his gang are bringing me on in a design capacity as well. I hope that I can help them out and get these great materials and resources to the most ministers and youth ministers possible. 

The AIM Network is growing and expanding. I'm glad to be aboard. 


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