Challenge 2025 Conference

Challenge 2025

It seems like it has been forever since I have been blessed with the opportunity to gather with other spiritual leaders at a Pastors Conference. I can remember different seasons of ministry where these kinds of meetings were a monthly occurrence, but with the changing of ministries and the busyness of life, it has been more than two years since I have been to a pastoral leadership conference. Yesterday ended that streak, and I am thankful.

The Florida Southern Baptist Convention hosted a conference for pastors all over our state for the purpose of sharing a vision for Evangelism over the next five years, and for the purpose of recognizing and celebrating our unity among the Southern Baptist Churches of Florida.

The conference was at First Baptist Orlando, and it was a fantastic day of spiritual encouragement and accountability. I was blessed by the preaching in two different general sessions that reminded us to be faithful in ministry and not to forsake the mission of God to share the gospel to all nations. I loved the emphasis on global missions, especially in a season when we have all been so localized due to COVID.

The preaching was great, but the sessions were even greater.

I went to a session on missions that blew my mind. From the very beginning of this breakout, the Missions and Evangelism Pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church, Dr. Brian Barlow, shared how he and his church promote missions from newborns to senior adults. Get this: An emphasis on missions begins when a baby is dedicated to the Lord. The church gives each family a $25 dollar check to start their Childs first missions trip fund. They encourage the parents to raise their children with a focus on global missions and they ask the parents to add $3 per week to their Childs missions fund. By the time a student is 15 years old, they have over $2,000 saved up for their first missions trip. In addition, the church is so passionate about missions that they make the entire staff eligible for a fully funded missions trip every three years. These are just two examples of countless things that this church does to keep missions among its highest priorities. I was telling our staff on the way home, that someone could literally take the packet of resources that Pastor Brian gave the attendees and they could become a missions pastor, that is how incredibly valuable the packet of information is that he provided.

In addition to the great preaching and the great breakout sessions, I was blessed the most by the great fellowship. I was listening to a podcast last week that explained that 70% of the guest who attend Catalyst Leadership conference each year say that the conference is amazing, but the greatest benefit of the conference is the drive to and from the venue where the church staff has the opportunity to discuss how they can apply the things they have heard and seen. This is true of most great conferences.

It is less about hearing great content, and more about how you are going to use what you have learned.

We had some very encouraging conversations on the way to and from the conference with some of our pastors. I was blessed by and thankful for the engaging conversation.

Finally, I was blessed to see some old friends at this conference. After the first session, an old college friend walked up and said, is that Lee Tomlin. I turned and was so excited to see Kim Wells. Kim and I were great friends in Bible College and we were able to catch up on life, our families, our ministries, our friends, and what God has done in our lives over the last 16 years. It was a tremendous blessing.

When I got home, I spoke to Katie about why it was so special to see Kim and she said something profound. Katie said: It is so special to see an old friend and reminisce about the old days, because in many ways, that part of your life is gone forever, and it is nice to know that someone else knows about it, can relate to it, and remember some of the details with you.

I could not have said it better myself. Kim and I were able to reminisce about the care-free days of college. It was so much fun to sit there and remember details about family, friends, Gods faithfulness, and a lot of funny stories. It was a huge blessing, and I am so thankful for that opportunity. It was a great conference. I left full. Full of passion for missions, encouragement in ministry, and thankfulness for old friends.

Missed Opportunities…

I have had this thought on my mind over and over for the past few months. It all goes back to one person named Bob Kendall. In Bible College my favorite professor was Dr. Bob Kendall. He was an incredible teacher. He taught in such a transparent, easy to understand, practical application way that captured the attention of every student. When I asked Katie to marry me, I knew there was one man who I wanted to do our marriage counseling. The way that he taught his students about his own life lessons, his own marriage and family experiences, I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps. He taught me many things during our marriage counseling sessions that I have remembered for years. In fact, I have shared several of those principles and saying to every couple that I have led through marriage counseling over the years. He made such a great impact on my heart, life, marriage and ministry. I have been so blessed by Bob Kendall.

Four years ago God led Bob and his wonderful wife to Westside Baptist Church. Within his first few weeks, I went up and told him what a blessing that he was to my wife and I. I told him how his teaching and counseling has impacted my life and ministry and I told him that I would love to spend more time with him now that he is a member of Westside. I will never forget his response. Bob said to me: “I have nothing but time.”

I have nothing but time…

On Friday, July 17th this great man left this old world and went to be with Jesus.

His funeral was the sweetest memorial service that I have ever been to in my entire life. His children got up and spoke so eloquently about this legend of a man. They each shared about the faithfulness of their father and his love for Jesus. I was blessed to get up and lead a few songs to sing, and I was able to briefly share about his impact on my life.

It was bittersweet in many ways. I was so thankful that he was no longer struggling with his health. He had been struggling for years. I was thankful that he finished his race so well. I was thankful to witness a memorial service for this faithful saint. But I also had such an overwhelming feeling of regret. Other than a few minutes before or after worship services, here and there, I never took the opportunity to meet Bob for breakfast or lunch. It was such a missed opportunity for me. Such a missed opportunity.

He was willing to meet me and pour into me at anytime, and he had plenty of time for me, and I missed it. While I will never know the lessons that I missed that he would have taught me, I can at least learn this lesson. Do not miss opportunities.

What opportunities are available to you right now, that if they were no longer available tomorrow, you would regret not taking advantage of? Who do you need to contact, that may not be available tomorrow? What trip do you need to take before it is no longer available? What race should you run before you no longer have the ability to run?

Pray and ask the Lord to show you what opportunities are in front of you. Ask the Lord to give you clarity about who and what you need to do, and then DO IT! Don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Don’t miss this opportunity.

P.S. There have been hundreds of blog posts ideas that I have had over the last year. I think to myself: This is such an important thing for me to write about. I want to record my thoughts so that I can help others and remind myself later, and guess what… I missed those opportunities as well. I forgot many of those lessons and may never remember them again. But, if the Lord brings them to my mind, then I will not miss the opportunity again. I will record those thoughts and I will share them with you.

Thanks for reading!

God Bless you my friends!

Lee

The Allure of Gentleness

I have so many things running through my mind these days. I can barely keep track of it all, and then the moment I pull up my blog, I cannot seem to remember anything to share. Last night, while watching the SuperBowl, I had my laptop on my lap typing a Book Review on a great book that I just finished. The assignment was due by 11:59pm and I posted it at 11:49pm. 10 Minutes before the deadline! 🙂 Impressive!

The book was fantastic. It was about the importance of gentle apologetics. He explained that many people want to argue and debate their theological positions, but really they are simply trying to win, trying to outwit the other person, appear more intelligent, more Right! However, with that motive, they are not helping the cause of Christ, they are hurting it. They are more concerned with their own pride than actually helping the other person learn the truth about Christ. I have rarely been one to get excited about debating a theological argument, largely because I generally feel like I only understand a fraction of the whole issue. However, the theme of this book struck me in a number of other ways. I will share two here:

First, gentleness is alluring. It is easy to believe the lie that gentleness is weakness, and strength is aggressive. But that is not accurate. Jesus was the strongest and yet he was so gentle. Just this morning I was challenged by the way I speak to my children. For some reason I thought to myself, it would be so nice to be able to replay moments of my life with my children, to just jump in at any moment of my life with children and watch what was happening, and then I immediately thought, I wonder if I would be gentle or abrasive to my children at that moment. What about with my wife? Jesus set the example as a loving shepherd, harmless as a dove, and I want to follow His example. I want to treat my wife and children with gentleness, I want to lead my ministry with gentleness.

Second, Willard talks about hearing the voice of God. He explains that we have done a disservice to Christians in telling them that God doesn’t speak to people anymore. He shares a very convincing case for his position. He explains that speaking is simply making sounds that sends waves to another person’s ears which the brain turns into thoughts and images in our mind to communicate information. He then goes on to say that God also sends thoughts and images into our mind, we simply need to learn to discern the “voice” of God in our mind. He gives several tips about how he does that in his own life. He explains that if we simply ask God to speak to us, and then if we will intently sit and wait, He will speak. He will put thoughts into our mind, and we must learn to identify those thoughts, verify that they are in line with the Word of God, and then we must do those things. He explains that soon enough, we will be so attentive to the voice of God in our life that when God speaks to us by putting thoughts into our mind, we will immediately know it and we should get into a habit of immediate obedience. It was a wonderful and refreshing reminder that God wants to have an intimate relationship with me and He is longing to communicate with me every day through His Word and His Holy Spirit.

 

Summary:

  • I want to be gentle to my family and friends.
  • I want to learn to identify the voice of God more clearly in my life.

What have you been reading or learning this week?

Thanks for reading!

#ClearlyMissingYourBlogPosts

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Most of the time I blog for myself. I view it as a place and an opportunity to share my thoughts so that I can come back and trace growth, perspective and the fun things in my life. However, today I post for a friend. My dear friend that I miss so much sent me a very kind message to request some thoughts on a few current events. I am honored that she would be interested in my perspective. Thanks, Nicci!

Kanye – Jesus is King

I have never been a Kanye fan. Obviously, I wouldn’t listen to his music on a family road trip and usually, any news that I heard about him was less than appropriate. That being said, I didn’t “not like the guy”, I just didn’t think about him all that much. When I heard that he had a new Christian Album, My first thought was, I Like the Name of that Album. Think about all the people that he has influence over who are going to say those words at some point to discuss his new album. Because of his influence, the World is talking about the fact that Jesus is King and I like that. I started listening to his album and thought it was nice but soon moved on. Until I watched the last 6 minutes of his in-flight interview with James Corden. I was moved by Kanye’s humility and transparency. I appreciated his application of scriptural truth. And obviously… I LOVE THE MILE HIGH CHOIR!! Wow! So, I went and listened to the album over and over and quickly found my favorites. Selah, Everything We Need, On God, Use This Gospel, and Jesus Is Lord. I will say that like all of my favorite things, it was an acquired taste, but it was quickly acquired. Our family has adopted his song Everything We Need as our Christmas Theme Song. That means, anytime my kids are asked what they want to Christmas they sing: “We have everything we need… oh, oh, oh, oh” 🙂 I am thankful that Kanye is boldly sharing the news that Jesus is King and like he asks in his songs, I am praying that he is faithful to Jesus and that God will continue to use him.

One other note: I have 2700+ friends on facebook and I have not seen one negative post from a Christian about Kanye. Not one. I have however seen a million posts about how Christians should be ashamed of themselves for not welcoming Kanye to the faith. I guess I am blessed to have none of the same friends, but I also wonder how many Christians are making a bandwagon out something that isn’t even an issue. Focus on the positive people.

Christians and the Enneagram

Wow! Throwing out some tough subjects. So, this one is way too deep to address thoroughly on my blog. I will say that I fell in love with the enneagram several months ago. I have taken several different personality tests and this was by far the most accurate and helpful. After my last post about the benefits of Enneagram, I was contacted by a friend who told me that I should remove my post because Enneagram is founded in the cults and has ties to spiritism and witchcraft. I thanked my friend for the information and asked him for his source. He sent me a link with two ladies who mocked the Enneagram (and anyone who would use the Enneagram) for an hour. I listened to the whole podcast and found it desperately lacking. They made points like the symbol on the enneagram looks like a pentagram if you turn it upside down. They also shared about several people who use the enneagram who they do not like. There was a lot more, but that was the gist of it. In the end, they acted like someone who takes an enneagram test will soon fall into spiritual darkness and go down a path that leads people far from God. The only thing that any personality test has ever done for me is to help me gain perspective. That is exactly what the enneagram did for me. I know that like every personality test, there are weaknesses, but overall, this test helped me step back for just a moment and actually see the lense that I am prone to see life with, and then it helped me to see the lense of others. This perspective causes me to extend more grace and compassion to people who do not think and do things like I do. The greatest example is that for the first time I saw my wife’s tendency toward negative thinking as a blessing and a positive. I have found myself frustrated with that in the past, but one thing I read explained how that is a gift that causes her to foresee problems and help others avoid them. For me, an Enthusiast, who always jumps in without thinking, it is a wonderful blessing to have a loyalist on my side who will process and guide through the details. The Enneagram is not my Bible, and I am not obsessed with it. In fact, I have not thoughts about it most weeks since my last post, but it did offer great perspective and insight toward my natural behaviors and there are many great Christian blogs that discuss Biblical application of the principles learned through the enneagram. The haters should chill out, learn what they can from it and then move on.

John MacArthur / Beth Moore

Stop it. Be Nice. If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all. I thought that MacArthur was very disrespectful in his response about Moore. I do think that Moore likes to stir the pot sometimes, but MacArthur’s comments about her were classless. We must be better at how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is basic Christianity. Luke 6:27-36 – Love those who hate you, for even the lost world loves those who love them. Love your enemies. Be kind to the evil. Be Merciful. There were none of these things is his public response about Moore. Very sad.

2019 / 2020

Not doing great at some of my goals. However, I have been in my Bible more consistently than ever before. And as I see it, that is most important. I am too busy. I don’t know how to change that, but I am trying to figure it out. I am so thankful for the many wonderful opportunities that God has given me this year and hopefully have lived out my feeling of responsibility that to whom much is given, much is required. I have been working hard on School and balancing ministry with family and all the other responsibilities of life.

As far as 2020 goes… I will use your request as an impetus to begin writing some new goals and plans for next year. Thank you for making me better! Thanks for reading all of this! Thanks for caring and encouraging!