Sitting here on my day off watching the Vuelta a España. I missed the first two stages but it is a great ride right now. I rode this morning but it was nothing like a pro rider.

13932846_10210258169235697_5892120056865699944_nI finished up our Living Stones message series yesterday.

Preaching is a funny thing for me. God gives me a pretty clear picture of what He wants me to communicate. The problem is that what God is talking to me about is in the midst of a conversation we are having that other people don’t have privy to.

That means I have to recreate the conversation within the context of a biblical framework and present it within  a series of independently coherent 40 minute gatherings. In the end it is more about shepherding a crowd than teaching a class. At least, that’s how it works for me.

Though if you got nothing else from the message understand that your meditation becomes your manifestation.

I have a hard time talking with people who will not own their part in their situation. At the very least you can take ownership of getting involved in the solution.

(I just watched the end of the Vuelta. I don’t understand how these guys can accomplish what they accomplish. )

A few more random thoughts:

  • Super happy about Intro to Revival Life
  • I got great Life Group reports from last night’s meetings
  • Did you do your declarations this morning? If not you can find them right here.
  • The message from yesterday is up. Here is the link. The Key to Fulfilling Your Call.
  • We start our new message series through 1 Peter this Sunday.
  • It is beautiful outside today. I hope I get under the sun at some point.

Screenshot_2016-08-20-11-12-11My alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. this Saturday morning and I was super tired. It took all of my willpower not to hit snooze. We had some people over last night and I stayed up a little later than I wanted to but I knew I needed to get up.

I knew that if I got out of bed and out the door that I was setting myself up for a more successful day.

After my ride I was spent but I knew I was farther down the road to full recovery from my recent illnesses.

Now, pumped full of endorphins I am taking on the day.

August 19, 2016

How I Use Social Media

Social media platforms come and go and as their popularity waxes and wanes I normally follow the crowd. Jesus went to where the people were and today, they are on social media platforms a good portion of the time.

Below are a list of social media platforms I use and what I use them for. I don’t use every popular platform because some I can’t figure out (looking at you Snapchat), and others revolve around a culture I could never fit into.

That being said here is the list:


facebook:

Facebook is the public square. For much of the world facebook is still the king of social media. What’s interesting is that my teenage children have no interest in it.

I use facebook for things I would say in a public place.

  • Where the family is vacationing
  • Where the wife and I are having a date
  • Theological thoughts I would say from the platform
  • Encouraging messages
  • Links to things I write

Crazy how pastors get hyper critical with other pastors and hyper grace with their favorite political party.

Posted by Carl Thomas on Thursday, August 18, 2016

 

I just looked, I have almost 1,700 friends and 257 followers on facebook (it says I have 97 friend requests right now). Very, very few show up in my feed. I limit my feed to either friends who are living for God (don’t post crazy stuff) or people I admire and don’t constantly post links to their “ministry resources.” I am probably the most active there because it has the widest broadcast. Everything I post here also goes to Twitter.

Most likely to follow: People I live life / worship with, ministries and organizations I regularly interact with.
Most likely to unfollow: Angry people. Slanderous people. Anyone posting unclean pics. People I don’t ever see in real life.
Number I follow / Number of friends:  40? / 1,695 + 257

My profile: https://www.facebook.com/pastorcarl
Revival Life Church page: https://www.facebook.com/RLCRevivalLifeChurch/

Twitter

Twitter is like a newspaper and I have gone through seasons with the site before finally making my peace with it. Right now I see very little conversation and more broadcasting. That means you better follow folks you don’t mind reading and have no expectation of feedback.

I post and follow more sports stuff here than on facebook (CyclingHub, Ray Maker, Ira Winderman). I also follow reporters, politicians, ministers, and some folks I know in real life. I unfollow some folks in facebook but follow them here. It keeps my fb feed fresh. The limitation of tweets keeps the posts compact there.

Additionally I purposefully follow some folks. I follow Religion News because that is the line of work I am in. I follow Terrormonitor.org because it keeps the persecuted church before my eyes and it reminds me that there are people with real problems out there.

Everything that gets posted to facebook gets posted to Twitter but not everything posted to Twitter goes to facebook.

Most likely to follow: 2 categories 1) People I know in real life posting interesting info not posted to facebook. 2) People who post about things I am interested in.
Most likely to unfollow: folks I don’t find interesting. (it’s not you, it’s me)
Following / Followers : 70 / 474

My profile: https://twitter.com/carlthomas

Instagram

Facebook is the public square. Twitter is the newspaper. Instagram is a friendly chat around the water cooler.

This is where I post the most. I post gardening stuff, pics from workouts, family snapshots here. Unlike the other sites, Insta makes me happy.

Thursday Starbucks tradition with the girl.

A photo posted by Carl Thomas (@_carlthomas) on

Everything that gets posted to Instagram goes to Twitter. I only crosspost some things to facebook.

Most likely to follow: People in my immediate circle, or an athletic folks that inspire to move my body.
Most likely to unfollow: Folks I don’t know, stop coming around, or if their pics get “colorful.”
Following / Followers: 85 / 371

My profile: https://www.instagram.com/_carlthomas

Strava

Strava is a social media platform built around cycling but now includes running and swimming. All my workouts go here. I only follow people I know in real life (shout out to circuit riders), do group rides with (shout out to ZMotion Camp Cove) or one or two professional athletes.

I have been pretty inactive here for the last month as I fought some illness but I am back at it!

Most likely to follow: Folks I ride with and exercise regularly
Most likely to unfollow: People who stop working out / move away / post pics of something other than workouts.
Following / Followers: 36 / 42

My profile: https://www.strava.com/athletes/9591331

Other Sites

YouTube: The profile I post to has all the videos hidden because they are for a specific audience. I have old channels but I don’t even think I use them. I still follow folks on YouTube but there is nothing social about it. However the church uses it extensively.
RLC Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/RevivalLifeChurchTV

Snapchat: I have it, have a really hard time remembering how to use it. I only check my daughter’s snaps cause she is so funny. Would not even know how to give you a link.

Pinterest: I use this as a shopping list at times. I haven’t used it in a very long time.
My profile: https://www.pinterest.com/revivallife/

LinkedIn: Don’t use it. Please don’t send me requests.

flicker: All my Instagram pics automatically get copied here. I never go there.

Vine: Nope

VK: I don’t go to Europe much but you never know.
My profile: https://vk.com/carlthomas

I use various forums for hobbies and interests. Way to many to list.

Did I miss anything?

We had a packed weekend at my friend Norman Benz’s church Covenant Centre International this weekend. Saturday night we were with Heidi Baker and Will Hart.

13934867_10210189126269666_6770205448965402652_nAnyone who knows me I don’t celebrity worship. I especially don’t worship Christian celebrities. In short, there really is nothing they can do for my life to make it any better. They aren’t going to pay my mortgage or grow my church or make me feel better about myself by meeting them or them telling me they love me. I have watched people I love chase celebrity and it never ends well.

That being said, some of the people I hold the highest respect for are celebrity Christians. These folks are well known because lots of people hold them in similarly high esteem. Some of these people know me, others don’t.

Heidi Baker is in the second category. We have had conversations and prayed together but there is no way she knows who I am. I still try to attend her meetings whenever I can.

As she came on stage Saturday night I almost immediately got on my face. I had no idea I would be there for the next hour and a half. It was not my plan. I just could not get up. Trust me, I tried. I had to go to the bathroom so bad but it all seemed so futile.

Nevertheless I got completely rocked by God. As I was laying there I was getting a look back at impossible things God has told me to do and then He began to add to the list. I could not stop it.

At the end of the meeting Will Hart, who is one of the nicest guys you could meet, prayed for Tracey and I and it was like getting his by a wrecking ball.

Sunday morning I was still overwhelmed by the Spirit. At the very end of service I prayed for anyone who felt called to vocational ministry and it was so powerful!

I got to see my hero Randy Clark last night and today I am finally healed enough to start training in earnest.

Have a great week!

What an amazing service we had yesterday at Revival Life Church.

I say that a lot but it is always true. We have a group of leaders who exercise their faith as they lead the service. We are regularly checking to make sure we are not going through the motions.

look thereThat is the beginning of religion. I don’t suppose there is anything inherently wrong with religion it just doesn’t connect people to God. When you gather to know God and make Him known that is a problem.

So at the end of worship we went after God and He flooded the room. At the end I was laid out on the stage having an amazing vision of the interaction of two angels in the room. It was amazing and I was getting rocked.

On one hand I was thinking, “I am leading this meeting. What will people think if I am laid out on the stage? I really should look more responsible.” On the other I was thinking, “Wow! Massive angels. Can’t get up! Who just ran past me? Stuck to the ground. Power going through me.”

Once we got things back in order / the Lord lifted His hand, I began to share my message.

Overall I think it was good. I taught about we, “as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood.” It was a fairly basic message that I hope blessed some folks.

Bottom line: God cares about our every basic need, and it’s not about us.

soundboardHere is a cool part. We had communion at the end of service. We practice an open table, meaning that anyone who has been converted to Christ can come and receive. I then told folks that if they aren’t qualified to receive the Lord’s table, they can come and give their life to Christ and receive with us.

Then two people did!

Boom!

Between the kick off of Intro to Revival Life, amazing presence, salvations and a good looking preacher, I don’t know if the day could have gotten any better…until.

Later last night we hosted life group. At the end, Tracey and I ministered some amazing breakthrough to some folks. We were ready to end the day exhausted, but satisfied. Then our plumbing decided that it no longer wanted to work.

I spent the evening digging up my yard looking for my septic cleanout only to find it, and not be able to open it. So this morning I am calling a plumber. No bueno.

Before we went to Mexico, several of us were getting some pretty bad spiritual warfare. One of the ways I was affected was that my insomnia went into overdrive. Because of that I couldn’t work out for almost a week before we went.

13880118_557458324459702_1343355547336388531_nAfter being gone for a week I came home with some brand new health issues which has kept me from working out all this week. Today is the first day I feel like I can get an easy exercise time in but it is raining. If it stops I will go for a walk with my wife.

By the way, here are some great pics our friends in Mexico took of our time there.

This past week we moved out of our offices. I spoke with Corey just to hear again that we are following god. He assured me we were. Even after all these years, that helps.

Not renewing our office lease has some other effects though. For the first time in a really long time we don’t have morning prayer tomorrow. I plan to pray but not at the office. I guess I now have time for a Tuesday morning breakfast meeting.

hmmmmmmm

We are talking with the school about Friday nights. I don’t think it is the best plan but it is better than many other options.

I will be working out of my home office for the time being. This little room is packed! I have to get some more shelving or something. I am just thankful we have the space. There was a time that my office was in my bedroom. Thank you Jesus for advancement.

Other random thoughts:

  • God is adding some really cool people to our church.
  • We are starting Intro to Revival Life this Sunday. Great to get that off the ground.
  • My Carolina Reaper and Ghost pepper plants look great. I will post some pics to instagram tomorrow.
  • My tomatoes are not looking so hot (they have not gotten enough water).
  • My Cayenne needs some love. I want to repot it tonight.
  • I finally restrung my Takamine
  • I am super excited about what God is doing among us.

I always have a challenge with these service recaps. There is so much I could write about that it becomes difficult. I don’t have time to write everything but I don’t want to leave stuff out. So lately I have not written anything.

Spirit filled church Boca Raton

Me trying to stand when I got on stage. The Presence was so strong I thought I might fall.

We have been in an amazing season as a church. The presence and power of God has been so tangible that I have wanted to be very careful to protect it. I never want to slide into hype and I never want to whip up a crowd but I also don’t want to ignore what God is doing. Back be a tricky balance.

In the last couple years I have made a conscious effort to not try to make things happen on my own. The real deception is thinking that you can.

If man makes something than man has to keep it going and I know what that pressure feels like. I never want to live under that again. It doesn’t bear as much fruit nor bring as much joy as if you just let God be in charge to begin with.

So again this week in worship the presence of God began to roll into the room. Don’t get me wrong, he was there the entire morning. Everyone who serves at Revival Life Church comes to the morning meeting at 10 o’clock. During that meeting we talk about how important each person’s role is in accomplishing what God wants to do that day. Then we pray for each other.

We don’t just do courtesy prayers. We pray until we all have an awareness of God’s presence.

During worship the power became so intense that the room began to explode spontaneously. This wasn’t the worship leader yelling for people to jump up and down or anything like that. This wasn’t the product of any song encouraging people to do anything in particular. This was God invading the atmosphere.

At one moment a guy on the worship team and a guy laid out on the ground both received a miraculous healing in their leg. The guy on stage began to dance wildly and the guy on the ground got up and began to run laps around the room. He walked in with a cane and in the middle of worship began to run laps around the room.

Wow!

This is an amazing season we are in. I would like it to last as long as possible as I don’t plan to change the subject in my life.

In the past I have written a little about my message prep in general and using mind mapping specifically (here and here). I don’t use it all the time or even normally but when I do use it, it is priceless. Sometimes I use it exclusively to craft my final message and other times it is useful to show me what is not working. In both cases it is a time saver.

Here is a case in point from earlier this year:

Back earlier in the year I taught a message series entitled Transitioning Well. I was in the fourth week of the series and wanted to talk about Joseph coming into the promised land.

Brainstorming!

Though I knew my message was in Joshua 2Open Link in New Window, I did not know exactly what it was. I read Joshua 2Open Link in New Window and Numbers 12Open Link in New Window multiple times trying to figure exactly what the key facts were. I opened a mind map entitled Joshua 2Open Link in New Window to connect all the highlights I found.

I tried to group it into main themes and sub themes. Here is my first mind map (click for larger view).

1

At this point the only goal is to get all the info out of my brain and onto one page. The great thing about mind maps is that you can rearrange them over and over to find how they relate to one another simply by dragging them.

Organizing Thoughts!

I had a collection of thoughts from the two chapters but that is not a message. I now needed to try to sluice through all these facts and try to organize them into a coherent story.

I wound up developing three points based on Joshua 2Open Link in New Window with several sub points, a handful of floating points and a fairly lengthy intro based on numbers 12 and Joshua 1Open Link in New Window.

2

Yikes! Things are going in the wrong direction.

Time to Get Focused!

I then worked hard to solidify the points and organize all the information in a coherent talk. There were four points, two major floating points with several sub points and a few unattached points.  Some of the points had sub points two and three layers deep.

3

This was clearly way to much information and there was no way I could deliver it in any timely manner. A larger problem was that I still did not have any peace that this was the message I was supposed to give. This lack of conviction was the reason there was a lack of clarity in the message.  The more I tried to organize the info the less clear it was.

Time to Regroup!

This happens to me all the time. I find myself at the end of a trail that does not lead to a message. It just has lots of information. I never force a message out of this. I can throw it all away at any time without any regret of lost time. I look at all the work that I have done as research. I open a fresh word document, or in this case a new mind map and start over from scratch.

I refocus my prep by answering the question, “What is the main point of this scripture I am teaching?” I start with that then work backwards from there.

In this case, the main point was not a history lesson, it was that God wanted to give victory on the grounds of an old defeat. That is what He did for the children of Israel and it is what He wanted to do for the people of Revival Life Church.

I opened a fresh mind map entitled Joshua 2b and started over. I don’t remember where it came from but God lead me to Isaiah 35:3-4Open Link in New Window which perfectly encapsulated what He was speaking to our house.

God was not telling me to teach Joshua 2Open Link in New Window. Joshua 2Open Link in New Window was a case study of how to win new battles on old battlegrounds. This was part of a word He spoke to us the previous Spring.

Based on this I pivoted and began a message entitled, “Winning new battles on old battlegrounds.”

Since I had done so much research I quickly banged out my points as seen here.

final

Those aren’t even the points I wound up using but the mind map did its job. It helped me to catalog and organize my thoughts. After all that process I knew the message and wound up with these points:

  1. Listen to God
  2. Surround yourself with faith
    Get people around you who will believe your vision
  3. Not everyone’s opinion has the same value
  4. Focus on the Victory

You can download the entire outline here. You will see it looks vastly different than my original mind map.

After the message I re-titled it, “Two Good Men” based on the actions of Joshua and Caleb. You can listen to it here and watch the video here.

I hope this helps you use these tools to craft your writing. Remember, even if you throw out all your work it is not lost.

Let me know if you have any questions.

So yesterday we had a great service. I don’t quantify that by the super hype centered amazing church metric of today. I measure that by asking the Father how He saw our service.

godsplan1-2blk96gThe thing about being a Christ follower is that you don’t get to chart your own course. You have to let God chart it. That means you have to check with Him to see if you are still on the right route.

Now, it’s easy to look at the world and chart your progress against their benchmarks but that feedback doesn’t tell you anything except how you are doing compared to the world’s system.

As a Christian, you checked out of the grind of the world’s system. Unless you don’t.

Trying to do what God told you to do while looking successful to folks who have no idea regarding God’s value system is a recipe for frustration.

No, it’s way better to both get the game plan from God and check with Him to see how you are doing.

We can disagree about some things and still be friends, right? Perhaps there is not greater area for this than in politics.

I take great satisfaction in the fact that people come up to me in my church and tell me how great Bernie Sanders is as often as people tell me Donald Trump is great. I love this because we leave politics at the door. We are not a political party. We are the church of Jesus Christ.

2015-politics-word-cloudThe truth is that God fearing people who hear Holy Spirit can have very different views about the needed political direction of this country. Please embrace that truth. Many people think voting decisions should be based on their one core issue. I understand that. I don’t understand how people can’t grasp that the one core issue may be different for other believers.

What also confuses me is how people can’t see their own political leanings can cause vastly incongruent conclusions from their stated faith in God. Let me explain.

I see lots of folks supporting Azusa Now, a large prayer meeting in Los Angeles this weekend. The event takes its name from the Azusa Street Revival. That revival was born out of the holiness movement which railed against drinking and gambling. People wanted the Holy Ghost so they could live holy lives among other things. A direct result of this outpouring was the widespread temperance movement and the passage of the 18th amendment banning alcohol sales in the United States.

The funny thing is, I see many of the same people supporting a casino magnate for president of the United States. Do we want Azusa now or not?

Side Note:  I am NOT talking about any of the people organizing this event. Though I don’t know these people personally, I know Lou Engle has publically sworn to abstain from alcohol and I have no reason do doubt his vow. The man barely eats, I doubt he is being comped free drinks at the blackjack table. Please hear this is not about people leading events.

This is also not about whether you drink or not. This is about your words having meaning. If you think American needs Azusa now than you don’t publically advocate leaders who advocate the opposite.

In the same regard on the other side of the political spectrum I know believers who are grieved by the disenfranchisement of so many on the lower rungs of our society. They have championed a leader who promises that the government will make all that better with free stuff.

I noticed this past week as I was studying the parable of the talents that when Jesus found someone who only had one talent and was not working to better their situation, He took the little they had and gave it to a rich person who was willing to work.

Ouch! That’s painful. But that’s what Jesus did and He said that will happen again and again if you don’t use your talents. So we are Christ followers right? But some Christ followers think God wants to undo this principle. He is not confused.

It seems that instead of picking a candidate and putting the God stamp on them that we should prayerfully decide which candidate is best for the job and own that decision.