Archive for the Learnings Category

Christmas Eve Quiet time learnings

Posted in Learnings on December 24, 2010 by mikekeaton

I thought to do something different today…to share my handwritten journal entry as I wrote it this morning in my journal…enjoy:

Christmas Eve!!  I’ve enjoyed my time off this week.  very refreshing not having to speak last Sunday, going to 12 Stone with my family and just being with them this week!

I’ve been able to finish a book this week that I have been working on, “Unstoppable Force” – by Erwin McManus.  it was a good read and I got several nuggets from it.  I’ve started another book by a business author, “what got you here wont get you there”, which is about behavioral leadership.  I really enjoy the relaxed schedule that allows me to absorb some “condensed” reading this time of year.  if I’ve counted right, I’ve read 16 books this year , pretty good, but well short of my goal of 24, but that’s ok, I guess!  My reading list this year has been quite different – more based on what I’m going through vs. a balanced reading plan.  I trust in God’s providence in all that and in a few days I have a new set of months to get back on my reading plan!

The one book that means the most to me, I have read faithfully this year – the Bible!! I love the Bible!! I’m on track to read it through, but I probably wont accomplish that until January.  i have my own reading plan, b/c I cannot follow a calendar grid – it drives me crazy, by my plan is systematic none the less!!

Right now I am absorbing Job.  Today I could so resonate with him so much.  He was complaining and told his friends to leave him alone and let him complain.  He said his bitter heart had to complain b/c his life had gone from bad to worse and God wasn’t even letting him catch his breath!  This so sounds like me sometimes.  the only difference is I  don’t have boils from head to toe.  Usually, I am just frustrated about car repairs or money problems, which are so minuscule when i think about the situation Job was in: his wife was not encouraging him just belittling him, his kids were dead, he found himself in the poor house, and physically difficult to even look at with maggots crawling on his “pussing” boils.  He had reason to “dislike his life” s he put it, but me, ha!, what’s a little inconvenience or struggle compared to that?!

the NT tells me to grumble and complain about nothing, b/c I am supposed to stand out from the culture around me (Phil. 2:14-15).  I dont have any of the problems Job had so I have little to complain about in fact, my suffering, when compared to his, doesn’t even qualify as suffering!

My decision and application from this is to try and go through this day – Christmas Eve – w/o complaining!!  God has given me a fresh set of mercies today (I think it will take all of them to make it w/o complaining 🙂 but that’s ok, the Lord has told me to focus on today b/c tomorrow has enough of its own concerns!  I have grace sufficient for today!

Thank you Jesus for your love, grace, and mercy.  w/o you I can do nothing, but with you all things are possible…even not complaining, bless me as I seek to bless you this day!!  Love you Lord!!

Is your faith a noun or a verb?

Posted in Learnings on December 17, 2010 by mikekeaton

“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the Lord tests the heart” – Proverbs 17:3

I read this verse in my “Proverb for the day” reading (which is reading the chapter in Proverbs that is the same as the calendar date).  I have been doing this for years and always see new things.  Well, God spoke to me this morning as I read that verse, it was underlined in my Bible, so I stopped and meditated on it a bit then continued on in my reading of the rest of the chapter.  Then I read verse 19…

“anyone who loves to quarrel loves sin, anyone who trusts in high walls invites disaster”

It was the latter part of verse 19 that resonated in my heart and soul with verse 3…”anyone who trusts in high walls invites disaster”.  In Biblical times the cities were fortified with “high walls” and thereby safe from invasion from enemies, animals and other catastrophes.  So, with high walls any citizen would feel safe and secure, live in confidence and assurance that they could go about their lives with relative ease and comfort.

Another verse of Scripture found throughout the Bible is “the ones who are made right walk by faith, not by sight”.   I heard someone say once that “most Christians think of faith as a noun not a verb”.   Insert that idea in the verse and it would sound like this, “the ones who are made right walk by “the faith”, not by sight.    For many  of us, myself included, “the” faith is more often our system of belief, our creeds and doctrines, the things we know instead of a living, dynamic, dependent, fluid relationship with the God of our belief, creed, doctrine or knowledge.

Sometimes I trust in “high walls” to protect me, like my bank account, or my wife’s love for me, or my family or our church, or my children being obedient rather than trusting in my Lord and Savior to protect me and take care of me, and those things.  Why do I or does anyone for that matter, trust in our faith (noun) to keep me safe from suffering, harm, sickness, difficulty, hardship, etc, etc, instead of living by faith (verb)?

So, back to the beginning…“the Lord tests the heart”, and “anyone who trusts in “high walls” invites disaster”.  Possibly, the disaster we are experiencing right now, is because of our misplaced faith and so the Lord, because of His great love for us, tests us to let us see whether our faith is a noun or a verb.  I know this is true for me and God has spoken to me clearly about this today…

We would do well to heed the writer of Hebrews’ advice…”let us hold firmly to what we believe…our High Priest [Jesus], faced ‘testings’ like ours, yet w/o sin, so let us come boldly before the throne of grace to find help when we need it most”!!

ya’ll have a blessed day!

MK

Is your giving a sweet smelling sacrifice?

Posted in Learnings on November 23, 2010 by mikekeaton

I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. NIV – Phil 4:18

I saw something this morning in my quiet time I don’t think I realized before.  I was reading in Philippians and in chapter four I came to 2 fairly well known verses that get quoted A LOT and sometimes (probably most of the time) out of context.  Here are the 2 verses…

Phil 4:13 – I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength-NIV

Phil 4:19 – And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. -NIV

The learning to share is that I never saw before that these 2 verses are in the context of money, finances, and giving!!!!

Paul’s reference to “doing everything in Christ who gives me strength” is directly related to contenment!  Basically, he is saying “I can do everything, be content, through Christ who gives me the strength to be content“, with financial/material abundance or financial/material hardship.

Also, he has learned that his needs will be met through the sweet smelling God pleasing sacrifices (giving) of others.  Apparently, the Philippian Christians were generous in their supply to meet Paul’s needs.  By my count in just a couple of verses Paul references at least 4x they gave him money to help his needs!!  Their giving was a sweet smelling sacrifice that was acceptable and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1) which allowed Paul to realize that God will meet his needs according to the riches of Christ and help him to continue in being content with abundance or lack!!

What a powerful truth!!  Our giving is powerful!!  Our giving can be a sweet-smelling-God-pleasing sacrifice!!  Is mine?  Is yours? – hmmm!

MK

dealing with discouragement

Posted in Learnings on September 23, 2010 by mikekeaton

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  -niv-1 Kings 19:9

the other morning i woke up really tired.  i must not have slept good but it seemed like that was the 4th day in a row that i woke up tired and not refreshed from sleep.  so you know, when i get really tired, i get really irritable.  So, i knew right from the start that i would most likely struggle that day.  Needless to say, my perspective was not the best.  Everything seemed bad and negative, you know, the glass half empty!  unfortunately, i had been feeling that way a lot as of late.

so, there i was feeling discouraged and easily finding myself and my thinking “off in the weeds”, and with that setting, sat down to have my ‘quiet time'(…what a way to start right?!)  so, i read the proverb for the day and then went over to Psalm 11 and read this… “In the Lord I take refuge…When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”  The Lord is in his holy temple...”niv.   If i was really spiritual that would have been enough.  i mean when things are as bad as the foundations falling apart, God is still in control and sitting on the throne…so, no need to fret, worry or be down or discouraged.  But because i am not spiritual, it wasn’t enough.  i then went over to 1 Kings and read there in the reading i was to read that day and guess what it was about?  the time Elijah got discouraged in 1 Kings 18-19.  do you ever wonder if God has a sense of humor or if He wants to speak to you??

honestly, i almost just closed the book and went to another passage, but i didnt and continued to read and as a result, God spoke…Elijah was really tired to start off with b/c he ran faster than a chariot (special spiritual ability according to ch. 18).  in the midst of fatigue and coming off an incredible spiritual high (prophets of baal), he heard Jezebel was going to kill him and then, the text says, he became afraid.  at that moment, Holy Spirit reminded me of the proverb that says, the “fear of man will lead to a snare”.  in elijah’s case his snare was discouragement.  i am not sure if all discouragement begins with fear but i think mine was to some degree-fear of failure, fear of others opinions and acceptance and more.

Well, Elijah basically said “that’s it”,  “i’m done”, “i’m out” and then fell asleep.  An angel came to him and ministered to him with food and more sleep.  in fact he woke up and the angel told him to eat again and then go back to sleep, which he did.  Refreshment is so needed in life and especially in ministry. i go, i go, and i go, i give, and i give, and i give, and get little rest.  its not right i know, but its the truth, and as a result i get tempted to fear man, and see everything as bad and negative.

God came to elijah and said, “what are you doing here, Elijah”?  so i asked myself, “what are you doing here, Mike”?  why are you at this place of discouragement?  idk, just tired i guess.

you know what i noticed next?  God never helps Elijah out of his discouragement.  after Elijah, whines and complains 2 times, God just gives him some new directions and instructions.  in other words, just more to do.  one of those things was to annoint an apprentice, which would help him and eventually replace him, maybe that can be encouraging, but i just noticed that God listens to him and then basically, in a nutshell, says, “get busy about my work”

interesting how Scripture flows together…a few days prior, i read in proverbs, “in all work there is profit”.  i dont know if i got over my discouragement, but i know i feel better today.  i did rest better last night.  my conclusion is, get rest, plenty of rest, b/c it is so needed for longevity in ministry, dont fear man, and stay focused on the work that God has given me.  God will help me through it, and you too.  so, next time you are down or tempted to see everything as bad and negative…look around, find some work to do, and get busy!!

from the heart,

MK

The Fear of the Lord!!

Posted in Discipleship, Learnings on July 5, 2010 by mikekeaton

I believe something that is missing in the church today is a healthy fear of the Lord!!  It seems many can just co-habitate with sin and it not even bother them. (at least not enough to change)  This is a troubling thing but really shouldnt surprise any of us.  Jesus and many other writers wrote in the Bible about how the last days would be characterized by such heart attitudes.

this past sunday I preached about how necessary “Godly sorrow” was for true repentance.  However, if we take it back one step further then the key to experiencing Godly sorrow is found in our relationship with Jesus which is directly related/connected to our “fear of the Lord”

Defining Terms –Anxious Dread vs. Reverential Awe

when I was a kid I often heard my mom say, “you just wait until your father gets home” (it was b/c I was a little angel you know!! :), anyway, the rest of the day was a wash needless to say.  All I could do was “dread” the time my dad was to arrive!  That is a description of Anxious Dread and that is not the fear of the Lord!  Even though we ought to respect the mighty power of God and His Sovereign choice to exercise that power, we should never be “afraid” of our heavenly Father- i don’t think He desires that kind of connection with us.  Reverential Awe on the other hand is what we would feel when we are in love with Him to the point that we wouldn’t want to sin against Him or go contrary to His will.

How do we grow a Healthy Fear of the Lord?

A healthy Fear of the Lord is key to our love relationship with Him.  Here is how it works…the only way I can grow a healthy fear of the Lord is to know Him more, the more I know Him, the more I grow in my fear of Him (reverential awe), which is also based in my love for Him…so, the more I know Him, the more I love Him, the more I love Him, the more my “reverential awe” (fear) grows, and results in more obedience and holiness.  the best way to grow in “fear of the Lord” is to study God!!  Get to know Him!! Intimately!

Study for yourself!

Here is a bible study mostly through Proverbs on the topic…(go from one passage to the next noting the connections between the fear of the Lord  with “understanding”, and “knowing”, and write down all the Scripture has to say on the fear of the Lord and its results: enjoy!

Prov. 1:7

Prov. 9:10

Prov. 15:33

Prov. 2:1-5

Ps. 111:10

Deut. 6:2

Deut. 10:12-13

Eccl. 12:13

Prov. 30:3

Job 28:12-20

Prov. 3:7, 6:6

Take Possession of the Land!!

Posted in Leadership, Learnings on June 1, 2010 by mikekeaton

Our church is reading through the bible together this year and I have really enjoyed it.  As many times as I have read through the the OT books of Israels history I still get moved by many of the stories of faith and boldness for God.

One thing that stuck out to me recently really hits home with me regarding my own leadership and the leadership community of Crossroads.  Over and over God tells His people that He is going to give them a land of their own.  A land flowing with milk and honey, He calls it.  This was one of the covenant aspects between God and Abraham that was continually promised to his descendants.  Not until the days of Joshua was that covenant promised ultimately realized.  God’s sovereignty is seen in that He said over and over, “I will give you the Land”, “I will drive out it’s inhabitants”, and “I will deliver them into your hand”.  God did give them the land.  He did in many supernatural ways (Jericho, Aia) deliver much more powerful nations into the hands of the Israelite’s.

But do you know what stuck out to me?  The Israelite’s had to take possession of the land!  They had to go fight!  They had to wield the sword!  They had to kill people!  They had to “take possession”.  This was their responsibility!

I find that in my life leadership is the same way. (not killing people-ha) I am realizing that I need to focus on leadership development in my own life and even more so in the life of our leaders at Crossroads!  Because of that I am taking some intentional time to focus on that and how to do it over the summer.  One book I just started is “Shepherding Horses” by Kent Humphreys which was given to me (somewhat prophetically) by a church builder I met for the very first time in my office a few weeks ago.  In this book, I highlighted the following quote…

you, pastor, have been called to shepherd these leaders [stubborn horses].  Only the Living God can equip you to this task.  He is able and ready, and He will accomplish it through you…if you so choose”

God has called me, equipped me, able to equip me more, develop me, and use me to lead other leaders!! (He will give me the land), but I must choose to train them, lead them, influence them, show them, challenge them. (I must take possession of the land)!  What a powerful learning this is in my life right now!!

The same is true for you, leader!  God has called you and is able to do it.  But you and I must “take possession of the land!”  We must step up and lead.  We must make the appointment.  We must engage with the ones we are leading.  We cannot lead from a distance and hope that “they read my email!” (Have you noticed email is not working like it once did?)  We must wield the sword, we must actively pursue influencing others.  God will do it and He is more than able, but for whatever reason, He WANTS  to use us, just like He did with those bold men and women of faith in the bible.

I encourage you and challenge you and myself, to take possession of the land….LEAD!

MK

Stewardship of Self

Posted in Leadership, Learnings on May 20, 2010 by mikekeaton

I watched and listened in on Leadership Networks SAGE live event some yesterday.  It was a great experience listening to different leaders from all over the country talk about their learnings.  I gathered that to be a SAGE you had to have over 25 years experience in ministry/leadership.   So, from these men and women they gave their top 3-5 learnings of what they could have or what they wished they had done differently.

I thought it was great!  Unfortunately, I dont have 25 years of ministry experience (mine is about 16 yrs or so).  But, even with limited experience (compared to the SAGES), I could resonate with what they were saying.  I have to say that of all the speakers (about 25-30), there was a common learning.  Stewardship of Self!

The basic idea is this…take time for yourself!

I must admit this is counter-intuitive to me.  Of all the passages in the Bible, most that deal with self are not positive.  The Bible teaches self denial.  So, my first thought is that taking time for yourself, is too much focus on self, in other words selfish and prideful, the focus is…me!  This works against my theology.

However, I also know how I feel.  To be honest, I feel tired.  I find it hard to focus.  Decisions are harder to make.  Joy seems distant like a vacation spot that you dream about knowing that it will never come because you could never afford to go there.  Doesn’t sound like Stewardship of Self!

Truth is, we all must know our limits.  One of the SAGES yesterday said he had to come to realize, “one man (human) could not save the world”, speaking of himself.  Even Jesus took time to get away from the crowds and even those closest to Him and He was the one God-Man who could and did save the world!!  Maybe the epitomy of pride and self focus is to put oneself above Christ!!

So, feeling tired?  Overwhelmed?  Decisions hard to make?  Too much drain not enough fill?  Maybe a little bit, or lotta bit of Stewardship of Self is needed!!  I will be honest, it’s true for me.  I don’t know about you, but I would like to be around 25-30+ years serving and living for the Kingdom of God.  Without heading the wisdom of the sage’s, and Steward Self, we might not make it for the long haul.

So, in order to be around for the long haul, follow what I say and not what I do, b/c to be honest, I need to apply these recommendations just as much, if not more…consider the following 5 suggestions for self stewarship:

1.  Stop violating the Sabbath!!  (its’ a sin) -take a full day off for REST! -(so hard for me to do)

2.  Discover the top 5 things that ‘fills’ your tank and pursue them with a passion!

3.  Identify the top 5 things that ‘drains’ your tank and avoid them like the plague!

4.  Laugh more! -(start with laughing at yourself)

5.  Exercise hard and consistent!  (sweating and breathing hard 3-5x a week–go hard or go home)

I am going to give it a try!  I will let you know in about 3 mos how it’s going…

MK

Christ was not even a Christian

Posted in Learnings, Uncategorized on May 10, 2010 by mikekeaton

how does that title catch you?  does it bother you?  is it hard to say?  what feelings does it bring up in you?

if you are like me when I first heard it, you don’t like it.  Of course you don’t have the benefit of “context” that I did.  I read that statement in a book our staff just finished reading by Dave Gibbons, “The Monkey and the Fish” .

The book is a great read!  I really recommend it.  Just click on the book image and you can order your own copy.  It really talks a lot about what the church is going to need to be in order to be effective in the future.  It resonates with me and helps me deal with a lot of what has been churning within me for some time now.

so, back to the title…Christ was not even a Christian…to that I say, thank God!  I like the word Christian because it’s biblical.  the followers of Jesus were first called Christian at Antioch because they resembled Christ and those who knew of Jesus, followed Him and remembered how He lived saw these people and said they look like….Christ-ian!

Our culture has skewed what it means to be a Christian so much that someone who goes to church can say they are a Christian.  to that I say, ….well, I can’t say that, many wouldn’t like it.

To many, being Christian is cultural.  People will take on a certain church’s philosophy, dress standards, separation issues, entertainment standards and then call themselves a good Christian.  Basically, I call these things religio-sity, church-ianity, and far from the Revolution Jesus came to start.

Jesus was about love and grace.  He was about those 2 things so much that He transformed those around Him and they were about love and grace so much that others looked at their actions and attitudes and said, that looks like…Christian!

I want this so bad for the church today, especially the church I lead, Crossroads.  I saw it happen yesterday in our whole worship team just before we went out to lead our church in worship.  I was privileged to experience “christianity” in a powerful way with them and then what God did was amazing in our worship service, God’s spirit descended and He was moving in people’s lives.

It was Kingdom of God.  I don’t ever want to be “Christian” if it is not about love and grace, not about Christ.  He wasn’t, why would I or anyone ever waste time, just coming to church?

MK

Recruit & Release!!

Posted in Learnings, Uncategorized on April 12, 2010 by mikekeaton

We just got back from a week in the woods!!  We went camping as a family with some other friends at Red Top Mtn. State Park.  We had a great time!

The park is located on Lake Allatoona.  So, we were able to get a little fishing in while there.  We did not catch much, which was weird b/c we used live bait and artificial lures, which is strange to me since it’s Spring.  But as my friend Keith says, “that’s why they call it fishing and not catching”!  – (btw-i hate it when he says that!)

My 10 year old daughter caught the only fish and it was just a bream about the size of the palm of her hand.  She thought it was great and honestly, i did too.  Instead of keeping it, we supported the “catch & release” philosophy (which is always easy when they are small, right?)

i am learning a new leadership lesson along the same lines.  I call it “recruit & release”.  I am trying to constantly tell our ministry leaders (volunteer and paid) to build their teams!  lead their teams!  multiply their teams!  the best way to do this is to “recruit & release”.

A leader has to constantly be focusing on two paradigms- getting more people on the team, and getting more people owning the team for a team to truly be a team and for us to be fulfilling the mission Jesus gave us – Multiplication Discipleship!

I am learning that if I don’t ask more people to take steps into serving that growth will be slow.  I am also learning that if I don’t let people “run with the ball” so to speak, growth will be even slower!  So, it takes both, Recruit-build the team, get people on the team; and Release– multiply the team, get people to own the team!

What a tremendous joy it was to see my young daughter be so excited about her catch, honestly, to her, the size of that fish didn’t matter, she caught one-she was happy!  It was also exciting to hear her be the first to say “let him go daddy”.  She beat me back to camp so she could tell her mom and everyone who could hear about her “catch and release” experience.  So it will be with any leader who is able to brag on God and tell “glory stories” about the fun in ministry that others are having b/c of their “recruit & release” experience!  join in on the fun of building God’s Kingdom!!

love ya lots,

MK

take a “cs” step of faith!!

Posted in Learnings on March 2, 2010 by mikekeaton

so i was at this conference the other day, Velocity, it was great.  I always love to grow in leadership and personal growth, so getting some intake was huge.  Well, while there, one of the speakers said, “take a cs step of faith”.  you’re probably like me and the majority of the conference attendees…”what is a cs step of faith?”

Well, he said a cs step of faith is a “crack-smoking” step of faith!!  Dude, it was so funny!!  Everyone just cracked up.  It was hilarious!!

Well, I totally stole it this past Sunday and said it at our church and didn’t get quite the same reaction!!  in fact, right after i said it, I then said, “I could tell you weren’t ready for that”.  Truthfully, a lot of people liked it, but I think there were others that just didn’t know what to do with it!!  Well, the younger crowd thought it was awesome, and honestly, so did I!

Truth is, it really spoke to me b/c I have listened to “nay-sayers” a bit too much and even talked myself out of taking big steps for God and His Kingdom.  I really want to have a great faith, b/c great men have great faith!!  Abraham didn’t know where he was going and just went.  Gideon defeated over 100k soldiers with just 300 soldiers using lamps, jars, and horns instead of the normal swords.  I want that kind of faith that will believe and act on that belief.

So, I told all that to a ministry friend today over burgers and fries at 5 guys and he just looked at me and said…”so, what are you gonna do?”  I love this guy b/c he speaks truth to me and just lays it out there…”so, what am I gonna do….”

I guess just believe…”Lord, help my unbelief”

MK