Monday, December 31, 2012

Aren't we Blessed?

Tom didn't have an easy life. His parents had drinking problems, and sometimes beat him and his little brother. His brother ran from the family at every chance, spending most of his time with friends and even some strangers. Tom tried to help his parents when he could, and tried to do what he was supposed to. A neighbor invited him to church at 7, and Tom learned about a God who could help him through the pain of his family. When he was 12, his dad was arrested and spent the next 6 years in prison. The family's financial condition got worse, and his mother more difficult.
But Tom's Sunday School teacher told him something that encouraged his natural optimism. She was crippled, with difficult arthritis since early adulthood. But she started every class helping the class to see how blessed they were. That resonated with Tom, who began every greeting with "Hi! Aren't we blessed?" His faith, attitude and hard work helped him in school, in the first of many after-school jobs, and with others.
When we met, he was in his 30s. He had a beautiful wife, a good job and two wonderful kids. He was blessed. He didn't count that his wife had been in a terrible fire and wasn't the beauty that God had created her to be. He didn't count one child with Down's syndrome and a work environment where he was challenged each year to do more. He counted his blessings- and he was blessed.
As we start a new year, I echo Tom's words. "Aren't we Blessed?"

Saturday, December 29, 2012

War & Football- Instruction for Life

I grew up with three men in my family who had fought honorably in war (my father & brothers-in-law), and in a state where football had become somewhat of a reaction to losing a war 80 years before and resulting poverty, social upheaval and a bad national reputation (Alabama- Roll Tide!). So I learned was that life has analogies- and sports or war teach about life.
Lessons from that: Love your team, hate the enemy (not really in sport- some get that wrong). We prepare harder and do our best and we don't have to worry about others. You don't choose who or where you play or fight, you just strap it on and go do it. Life is a team game- the guy next to you depends on you and you on him. Don't let your team down. Fighting with honor isn't easy, but living without it is worse. I am here because of the sacrifice of others for us- I must make sacrifices for those after me. Fighting with honor is hard, and may kill you- but living without honor is worse.
Love God and your team, and be willing to die for both at any time- then you will learn what life really is.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Power of the Pause

Although slightly interrupted by some work, most of us are in the midst of the holiday lull. Except for those places where unplanned emergencies (my other job) or organizational anxiety (my wife's work) require extra effort, a good portion of the nation slows down during these two weeks at the end of the year.
And it's amazing what happens. Life really does seem better for most. Most families really do enjoy being together. People do the things- work, rest, play, service, celebration- that they would do if they could do whatever they wanted. People reconnect- again, mostly in good ways- and renew.
We can live in Kairos- right time- until we feel the returning pressure next week of Chronos- measured time.
I'm deciding not to overachieve next year. No radical plans  goals or programs. Just living, loving and discipling- to enjoy each day as if it were the only one. I want to be the child of God, husband, father, friend and pastor that I would if I had all the time in the world. That won't prevent there from being Chronos pressure- but it might make all year feel more like Christmas- and isn't that our goal, anyway? Take time to be who God calls you to be- instead of pushing for more quicker faster. Enjoy the power of the pause!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Headed into 2013 - again

I have many blessings and gifts in my life- but persistence and discipline haven't been chief among them. At this time of the year I, like many of you, find it easier to find places I've dropped the ball than places I've made the 100 yard crawl from "Facing the Giants." I have a journal that goes back to many bad and good things- but lots of restarts. Even since I've been using a computer, the days starting over are more than the days finishing.
Two good things-
1- God's grace is better than my failure. God's love really is more powerful than my past. I am thankful- and forgiven.
2- Holiness is, in the end, allowing God's power to change my habits of addiction, failure and weakness into the character of Christ. So eventually, I have to do the disciplined work to allow God's grace to overcome the hurts, habits procrastination and laziness that I allow to keep me from who God calls me to be.
So here we are- you and I, with the Lord watching. Are you ready to start now and make 2013 the year of the Lord's grace overcoming your past & present? May God bless and strengthen us!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Are you ready for Christmas?


I am asked that at least every other day this month. This morning, while Jaysha cleaned my teeth, I found my answer.

Yes, I am ready for Christmas. No, I haven’t done all my shopping. No, I won’t be out looking for gifts at the last minute. Yes, I will have a Merry Christmas!
Can you say that? I think there are four parts to being ready for Christmas:
1. Say yes to Jesus- without the Savior, there is no Christmas. And let’s face it, you’ve been doing great running your life, right?
2. Say no to Madison Avenue. You DO NOT need to buy things people don’t need to say you gave them a gift.
3. Say Yes to relationships. Your family wants you, not stuff, unless you’ve totally corrupted them. And you can fix that still! You do not need to spend money on your children for them to know love. You do not need to send or give things to avoid guilt or make up for a lack of relationship- just fix the relationship! Why don’t you give time this year- time, activities, doing things for people. Stuff is SO OVERRATED!
4. Say yes to celebration and thanksgiving (there’s a reason it comes before the party season!). See or hear the Messiah. Go to a Christmas play. Sing Carols at a nursing home. Call your family. Celebrate the life given by Christ, not the sack of presents falsely promised by the world!
4a. Why don’t you take part of what you’re not spending on stupid gifts and give food, shelter, clothing or water to the needy? See me for details- you could change the world while letting God cure you of materialism!
Are you ready for Christmas?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

There It Was There it was


It just stared at me. I used it, I went by and over it, I ignored it. But I had made a choice, so I had to face it- my floor.

I have made two decisions in these days with people important to me. I am giving up chocolate- which, more than any other food, has controlled me, as I support friends who are breaking habits with God’s help. The second is to exercise and lose weight, as I support my son in growing strong in Christ.
But both of these decisions are made not just in public, but in private. No one but God and I actually know if I exercise or avoid all chocolate. So I have to, daily, commit to making those choices part of who I am and what I do. So I face the floor, and my exercise, each day.
And every day I choose right instead of easy strengthens me, and every day I choose ease or comfort instead of strength weakens me. I am a disciple, and the choice I made makes the choices I make each day which make me the man God wants me to be. No one but we and God know if we are living the life all the time. But the choice we made makes the decisions we make and those decisions make the person we will be.
May God bless you with light, strength and power to let the choice you made in Christ make you through the Christ-like choice you make today.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mom's Birthday (2008)


Today is a special day for me- my Mother’s birthday. Dad taught me to have courage, and to give respect and love to others, and to have honor. Mom showed me a life hidden in Christ, and taught me to love God passionately and to do the common everyday things I need to do each day. Gone for 8 and 10 years, I still miss them every week, if not every day. Love your friends and family, care for those God puts in your path, and rejoice that you have been given this day with them!

"Pastor Joe, Should we get married?

Couples ask me this question. Some don't ask, already knowing what I will say.
But I love couples. I love marriage. But I don't love failed couples or marriage. So I say:
Yes, you can pray about getting married. If you can answer yes to 7 questions:

Love question- Do you love your intended with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 love? Do they love you that way? This is what love is supposed to be- if you don't have it, don't call lust or infatuation love.
Faith question- Does this person help you grow closer to Christ? If they don't, being with them now IS NOT God's will for you. I am sure.
Purity question- Do you love Jesus and the person you love enough to say no to sleeping with each other? - This is a test of faith, self-control and character- Matthew 6:33!- Also, if you can't say no to illicit sex now, what makes you think you can once you get married? Living together before marriage triples the possibility of divorce or infidelity in marriage.
Time question- Have you been in an exclusive relationship more than 24 months? That's how long infatuation lasts- then you are left with what might or might not be under that. Don't confuse passion with true love.
Honesty question #1- Do you lie to each other for any reason? Then don't get married
Honesty question #2- Have you talked with this person and another (preferably a pastor or counselor) about your past, plans and structure of family, faith, plans, dreams, money, sex, communication, fighting, health choices and family influence? If you haven't, you set yourself up to fail.

Family question- Do your friends & family, & your intended's, think this person is good for you? If they don't, do you know why? Could they be right? Approach this in the cold light of possibility. Listen to those who love you, even if you don't agree right away.
Future question- are their dreams for career, family, finances & faith compatible with yours? If not, understand that something will have to change, and make that change BEFORE you get married. Don't start a failed marriage because you were headed different places to begin with!
Final question- did you ignore any of these? Have you gone through these issues in prayer and with your intended? Are there Godly people who agree that this could be God's plan for you? Then go ahead, seek God for a final answer, and plan to serve this person in love, no matter what they do, for life- that's what marriage is about.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Benzing on Speaking

From David J Benzing - powerful words: For those of us in front of mics, crowds, our kids or just our spouse:
"Dear Speaker:
"Your ego has become a wall between yourself and me. You're not really concerned about me, are you? You're mostly concerned about whether or not this speech is really working … about whether or not you're doing a good job. You're really afraid that I will not applaud, aren't you? You're afraid that I won't laugh at your jokes or cry over your emotional anecdotes. You are so caught up in the issue of how I am going to receive your speech, you haven't thought much about me at all. I might have loved you, but you are so caught up in self-love that mine is really unnecessary.
"If I don't give you my attention it's because I feel so unnecessary here. When I see you at the microphone, I see Narcissus at his mirror … Is your tie straight? Is your hair straight? Is your deportment impeccable? Is your phraseology perfect? You seem in control of everything but your audience. You see everything so well [except] us. This blindness to us, I'm afraid, has made us deaf to you.
"We must go now. Sorry. Call us sometime later. We'll come back to you … when you're real enough to see us … after your dreams have been shattered … after your heart has been broken … after your arrogance has reckoned with despair. Then there will be room for all of us in your world. Then you won't care if we applaud your brilliance. You'll be one of us. Then you will tear down the ego wall and use those very stones to build a bridge of warm relationship. We'll meet you on that bridge. We'll hear you then. All speakers are joyously understood when they reach with understanding."
—Your Audience

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas 2011 - January 3 2012 Tweets

Pastor Joe Bell @Joe2355 Gastonia, NC Having a BLAST Loving God and Others and Making Disciples

RT @Loren Hawkins Everyone thinks every girl's dream is to find the perfect guy-every girl's dream is eat what she wants without getting fat
@RachelHeldEvans on @PastorMark's book: Being a pastor doesn't make you a marriage counselor/Relating to Christ improves other relationships 3 hours ago 
@RachelHeldEvans on @PastorMark's book: Being a pastor does not mean one is an expert on sex, money, relationships or marriage. 3 hours ago 
Don't use technology to broadcast unilateral decisions. Do use technology to tap into the wisdom of crowds. 7 hours ago 
Top 40 business books to read in 2012 + a chance to win them for free! via @appsumo 7 hours ago 
RT @Stevenfurtick It’s refreshing to talk with one who wanted to be someone else, but left that behind to become the best herself ever seen 7 hours ago 
"@CaseyGraham: Can't wait till next week at this time! #bcschampionshipgame" / Roll Tide! 20 hours ago 
Barrett Jones on BCS-"This game is for more than revenge, it's about restoring order." To understand why, read this: 2 Jan 
RT @DaveRamsey: I hate change. But I love that it brings growth. If it isnt growing it is dying. So bring on the changes!!!! 2 Jan 
RT @Leadershipfreak@LeadToday: In all of history merely thinking about doing something has never gotten it done. Do it today! 2 Jan 
RT @JohnCMaxwell: Your past is important but it is not nearly as important to your present as the way you see your future. -Tony Campolo 2 Jan 
RT @OsChambers Have you asked God what God is going to do? God does not tell you; He reveals to you Who He is. Know God- then live in that 2 Jan 
Don't start anything later- the time to change, grow & influence- to lead others to follow Jesus- is NOW! 2 Jan 
“9 Ways to Create a Winning Organizational Culture"… 2 Jan 
Take the His Radio 7-7-1 Challenge- Listen for 1 week & it will change your life! Join me! 98.3 Gastonia,NC 2 Jan 
RT @pwilson: Over the bleached bones & jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the words,‘too late.’ 2 Jan 
I'm currently reading day 1 of The Bible in a Year. To join in and read along go to: 2 Jan 
Rt @MichaelWSmith Mother Teresa “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway... 2 Jan 
Rt @OsChambers Phil.1:20-Shut out every other thing & keep this one thing-My Utmost for His Highest-be absolutely & entirely for God alone. 1 Jan 
Auburn Tigers -demolish Virginia Cavaliers 43-24- War Eagle! Go SEC! 1 Jan 
@DavidBusic Love & prayers to you- and keep an eye on Paul DeAngulo for us- he's our adopt-a-kid (ask him!) 1 Jan 
I pray God's best for you in 2012: to seriously bother whatever you haven't given to God's control; & to Matthew 6:33 bless everything else! 31 Dec 
RT @RickWarren: The ONLY way to grow leaders is let them lead! TRUST your next gen! ALL our services this wkend are led by our… 31 Dec 
Catalyst #3 Blog Post of 2011| 7 Random Pieces of Advice for the Younger Leader /Check it out if you would lead others! 31 Dec 
The route to genuine & enduring satisfaction-generosity-giving our most valuable resources-time, talents, treasure & touch-Cathy & Blanchard 31 Dec 
RT @oschambers: Join the "I have plans for you" Fb page&receive updates that God has a purpose&plan for your life 31 Dec 
Rt @RickWarren @edgarvann “Never do anything permanently stupid because you’re temporarily upset.”/ Wow- VITAL words! 31 Dec 
RT @MichaelHyatt Goal-Setting: The 90-Day Spend 3 months seeing if goal-setting can transform your life! 30 Dec 
RT @nazcompassion: Learn about the church’s work through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries by going to 30 Dec 
Rt @DaveRamsey Goals convert vision into energy.When you write your goals down,you immediately start feeling the earth move under … 30 Dec 
RT @CaseyGraham: “@IzzyGould: Barrett Jones says he will return to Alabama for 2012 season.” // Can you say 3 titles in 4 years?!!! 30 Dec 
Rt @CFALeadercast 3 Disciplines To Expand Influence- Selective listening; Active Reflection; Cultivating Care-Jason Young 30 Dec 
RT @CaseyGraham: Want to get out of debt? money?...give more? 30 Dec 
RT @CaseyGraham: “@craigmattox: Is it to early to ask@CaseyGraham for his BCS Championship prediction?” AL 23-LSU 10/Right! Close for :20! 30 Dec 
RT @DamarisBruce If you have to justify something you're doing, you probably shouldn't be doing it. / Truth! 30 Dec Best cleaning product? an old one- baking soda & vinegar(with an orange peel chaser!) Tried it? Reply with experiences! 30 Dec 
RT @OsChambers People can't depend natural love, patience or purity. But as we surrender,God gives us the virtues of Jesus. /(Mt.6:33!) 30 Dec 
RT @compassion: Many Christians struggle in 4 key areas: commitment, repentance, activity & spiritual 29 Dec 
Barrett Jones- "This game is for more than revenge, it's about restoring order." To understand why, read this: 29 Dec 
Rt @LenSweet By 28, Mozart's hands were deformed from practicing, performing, & writing to compose. How dedicated will you be in 2012? 29 Dec 
RT @churchplanters: Get your team off to the right track in 2012 - get inspired at #velocity12 - Join me in Atlanta! 29 Dec 
RT @CaseyGraham: To run an organization that employees people without proper cash reserves is foolish./CG,What does that make most churches? 29 Dec 
RT @AndyStanley: RT @perrynoble: Covering laziness in prayer is not a spiritual discipline!/ Get off my toes! Pray for initiative this year! 29 Dec Best cleaning product? an old one- baking soda & vinegar(with an orange peel chaser!) Tried it? Reply with experiences! 29 Dec 
RT @lensweet: Maybe priests at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity have something.Replace guns with brooms & fight over who gets to clean… 29 Dec 
RT @Leadershipfreak@LeadToday: "The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are." - C. S. Lewis” 29 Dec 
Rt @Stan Parker "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." Mohandas Gandhi 29 Dec 
The @ZAGGdaily iPad-a-day Giveaway is back! Each day is a new chance to win an iPad 2 - 29 Dec 
RT @MichaelHyatt book list for my 2012 Mentoring Group. You can find it here / Love Michael Hyatt- check these out! 29 Dec 
My other great resource's book list- from - check them out! 29 Dec 
I'm getting a personalized report of my email usage from 2011, you should too! 29 Dec 
Rt @MichaelHyatt Understand this question:“Are you for me, against me, or for yourself?” For your leaders & followers-what's the answer? 28 Dec 
RT @TonyMorganLive Church in decline: No clear mission/vision;no defined path to grow disciples;complex structure;inward focus;weak leaders 28 Dec 
All Music is God's Music- or not? Secular Music in Sacred 28 Dec 
Trying this again- EVERYONE: What is your all-time favorite devotional book? Why? 28 Dec 
Student privacy at risk from feds—Emmett McGroarty & Jane Robbins - 28 Dec 
DerwinLGray Derwin L. Gray  Lord, please grant me the mercy to help others soar to new heights in 2012. 28 Dec 
Retweeted by  RT @mattadair: LSU's Will Blackwell to Erin Andrews on Alabama "We didn't really feel like they necessarily earned their spot in the game." 28 Dec 
32 of the Best Ways to Get Organized When You Have This is good for people without ADD, too! 28 Dec 
RT@TonyMorganLive Stuck churches Don't empower/equip;unclear vision/mission;blame others;worship past;focus=activity vs.goals;i… 28 Dec 
RT @CSLewisDaily: To be low means to be raised: all good masters are servants: God washes the feet of men. #CSLewis 28 Dec 
RT @NazPublishing: In regeneration we are not merely declared righteous-we're made righteous. -Rob L. Staples 27 Dec 
I'm watching The Middle (32 others checked-in) @TheMiddle_ABC 27 Dec 
I unlocked the Yeah! First Check-in! sticker on @GetGlue! 27 Dec 
Love it! Redemption, commitment, adult (but not R-rated) humor! @GetGlue @LastManABC 27 Dec 
RT @EntreLeadership:This is a great week to lay out your goals for 2012 in writing, specific, time sensitive, measurable, personal to you.12/27
Being Christian is a death sentence - Washington While we still have a say, Christians must speak up!27 Dec 
7 Questions to Identify Who Should be on the Leadership… 27 Dec 
RT @churchplanters: The clock on $79 #Velocity12 tix is clicking away ... snag 1 before 12/30! Join me there- Joe! 27 Dec 
Rt @CaseyGraham Visualize your faith, marriage, family. friendships, health, finances & church 1/1/2013- Then live it! 27 Dec 
RT @oschambers:Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence/The only choice is to follow(MT6:33)12/27
 RT @DerwinLGray: Leadership is embodying what you want others to become. - 27 Dec
RT @ Stan Parker: "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."- T. Jefferson 12/27
RT @JeffGoins Influence begins & ends with relationship. Why we miss: Pride, Laziness, Fear. To build relationships: Serve, Hustle & Risk
RT PerryNoble Ideas for Church Planters:
    13-You'll change your mind-innovative will become traditional. Don't allow pride make people talk about what God used to do!!
    12-You'll be tempted to copy success.BUT God called you & can trust you with what He's given you
    9- You are going to have to choose whether to please insiders or reach outsiders-you cannot do both.
    -You are going to have to be WAY more passionate about what you are for rather than what you are against!
    -If it is God's will then it is God's bill!What the King wants the King pays for!
    6-There will be financial pressure with God's vision."Is THIS what God wants" not "Can we afford it?"
    4 & 5-Some "great friends" & "always with you" will leave. Some you don't know now will be friends & partners
    2&3-You'll have doubters-those used to "pave the parking lot" not "reach the world" faith-especially you!
    1-You have to pray & take huge steps of faith to see dreams God placed in you become reality.
RT @CatalystLeader To Grow as a Leader:Read-leaders are readers.Serve-help where needed.Watch & learn from others.P… 26 Dec
RT @craiggroeschel You have everything you need to do what God wants you to do right now.When you don't, God's trying to tell you something 25 Dec 
RT @PerryNoble Church Planters 2-Sharing your vision brings doubt-especially churches used to "parking lot paving" not "world reaching"faith 25 Dec 
Rt @Michael Barefield "The only blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart"-Helen Keller 25 Dec
God's love for us in Christ is a gift we cannot & will never be able to repay it. But doesn't the incarnation make you want to try forever?