encouragement

The Power to Empower

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What you are called to do is so much bigger than you. You need God’s help. That help is most often met by the people that are in your life and coming into your life. You can only do what you can do, but God has placed people in your life as partners to help you accomplish what you cannot do.

Since the Garden of Eden, God has always used human partnership to accomplish His purposes on the Earth. It was God, then Adam. Then God provided Eve to help Adam, and they populated the earth in order to accomplish God’s purposes on the Earth. (Genesis 1:28)

Jesus had disciples. They were not just His disciples, they were His friends. They were also His partners.


“He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach” -Mark 3:14 NIV


The disciples were there with Jesus, partnering with Him. They gathered crowds, passed out food, advanced the message, and they even performed miracles. (Mark 6:13)

The disciples even took over and grew the ministry of Jesus after He left the planet.

(To the disciples he said)
“Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.- John 14:12(NIV)

Jesus established a model and partners to advance His purposes, when He walked the Earth. It’s the greatest leadership strategy that the world has ever known. He didn’t just disciple followers, He discipled leaders!

If we are followers of Jesus, He wants us to emulate this model.

Leadership is often viewed as “be the best that you can be,” but what if we saw leadership as empowering others to be the best that
they can be. Self improvement is critical, but leadership is not self improvement, it’s improving others. Leadership is not education, it’s impartation, imparting and empowering others to fulfill a greater purpose.

"Leadership is not self improvement,
It’s improving others."

In the end, our greatness will not be measured by what we do with what is in our hands, but what we put in the hands of others.

The Process of Empowering Others

  1. 1. Know Them
Before you will ever lead somebody effectively, you will have to connect with them relationally. John Maxwell says it this way: “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.”

Jesus on the earth was highly relational. It wasn't just about the work they were doing, but the lives they were living. He was in their world and they were in His. So much so, that the disciples were irate when they discovered that the purpose He was accomplishing involved Him dying. (Matthew 16:21)

Look at this verse again: “He appointed twelve that they might
be with him and that he might send them out to preach” -Mark 3:14 NIV

"Before you will ever lead somebody effectively,
you will have to connect with them relationally."


2. Show Them
Showing somebody how to do something can be difficult and time consuming sometimes. It can be true that many times it’s “easier (and even better) if I do it myself.” But if I continue to do it myself, then somebody else doesn't get to do it. It’s actually selfish.

Developing people takes time, but is aways more important than accomplishing tasks! Take the extra time to develop somebody to do what you are doing, and you might be surprised in the short amount of time that they are doing it better than you ever could!

Developing people > Accomplishing task.


3. Grow Them
Jesus spent way more time with His disciples than He did with the crowd. Much of what we read in the gospels are resourcing moments where Jesus was growing his disciples.

Resourcing and encouraging those who are around you is your responsibility as a leader. Whether it be an article, blog, video, a message, or something you generate yourself, it is the leader’s job to be the equipment manager of the people they are developing.


4. Let Go of Them
I heard years ago that if somebody can do what I am doing 80% as good as I can, then I should give it to them.

This is a struggle for me. I am a hands on leader. I am also very particular. (All of the people close to me said “Amen!”) This can be a problem because if I am not careful, I will micromanage what I hand off. It can cause those that I impart to to operate out of fear and become insecure. Insecure leaders will sometimes meet expectations but rarely exceed them. In order for people to get better, they have to be able to set expectations for themselves rather than living under the scrutiny of the person delegating to them.

"Insecure leaders will sometimes meet expectations
but rarely exceed them."





Get Up

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In 1997, a song was released called “Tubthumping" by a British band called Chumbawamba. You may think you haven't heard of the band, or the name of the song, unless you are a student of late 90’s alternative music. However, I am certain you know the lyrics:

"I get knocked down, but I get up again….”

The song climbed to #1 in the Alternative Rock charts. Eventually it also fell off the charts. I am pretty sure it never “got up again.” In fact, Chumbawamba never had another Billboard song in the US.

Ironic.

Now that I got a familiar tune stuck in your head, I want you to think about the words…
“I get up again.”

Most of us love come-back stories. Somebody who was at one time great and full of potential only to find themselves crashing down. Then we cheer them on as they climb their way back up! We are inspired because most of us have been down, and we know the struggle of getting up.

The fear of failure often times controls us. For me, it’s one of the most controlling fears in my life. The fact is we are probably going to find ourselves down. Either by failure or by pushing, we will at some point need to get up again.

Getting up is one of the great definers of character. It’s not a question of whether or not we fall, but
if we get up.


For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.
- Proverbs 24:16(NIV)


That is what we do. We get up. We rise from the ashes. We are not one hit wonders. As leaders, the greatest stories we use to inspire others are the redemption stories of when we were low, and we were able to gain ground.

3 Things to Remember to Help Get You Back Up:

1. Grace
Sometimes it is easy to have grace for others but not for ourselves. In fact, in my life, I have found that when I don’t have an understanding grace for myself I am not very graceful towards others. Take it easy on yourself! Grace empowers the second chance. Grace doesn't simply show pity when we are down, it empowers us to get up!

"
Grace empowers
the second chance."


2. Reach Out
There will be moments in our lives where the only way we can get up is with the assistance of another. Everybody needs a hand. God has placed people in your life to help you when you are down.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

3. One More Time
It is critical to remember that you only have to get up one more time than you fall. When you are down, just declare the words, “just one more time.”

Micah 7:8 (NIV) Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.



Originality

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Originality

In a world full of proven formulas, inspirational models, and the accessibly of information, it is more and more difficult to be original. John Mason wrote a book called
You're Born an Original, Don't Die a Copy. I haven't read it, but the title speaks volumes(no pun intended). I don't even know anything about Mr. Mason, but I do know that originality is getting lost in our culture. There seems to be a few originals that set the trends for the rest of us. There is nothing cutting edge about being on point with the latest trend. It may make us trendy but it doesn't break any ground. It’s easy to follow the culture, a littler harder to lead it. As an artist, and as a leader, I am met with this struggle everyday.

Here are a few thoughts to help you maintain your originality:

1. You Can’t Imitate Anointing

You can't copy calling. You can't copy anointing. By anointing, I don't mean a feeling, but a function that connects people with the presence of God. It’s difficult to see something that appears to be working and not copy it. It is the easy way, but it’s not the better way. Surely our aspirations don't need to be set on how or what somebody else is doing.

I mean, God made me. God called me. The fact that I have been selected by God and placed on this planet, means that there is something unique that I am supposed to do with Him. The only anointing we are called to emulate is the anointing of Jesus!

2. Inspiration > Duplication
I enjoy attending conferences , and as a leader, I have been to a ton of them. The stories of success are overwhelming and inspiring. However, if I am not careful, I can lose my identity by following what God has called another individual to do. I will simply become a copy. Copies are never as good as the original. We should seek inspiration from others, but people should never be our aspiration.

Style over substance has taken the stage, and a few creative well known people are driving what everything else looks like, sounds like, and feels like. When we copy somebody else, we personify style over substance. Substance doesn't come from copying a model. Substance is born in the heart.

"Substance doesn't come from copying a model.
Substance is born in the heart."

I don't want to seem dramatic, but I think at times we border on idolatry. Making people that inspire us the goal, and not what God has called us to do. It's hard to resist. As an artist I get it. As a public speaker I get it.

Let me be clear there is nothing wrong with repeating what another person says, or following a trend. However, it is imperative that when we are being an echo, that we don't lose our own voice. Go ahead with some retweets, but don’t let your life be a retweet of somebody else’s timeline.

"Don’t let your life be a retweet
of somebody else’s timeline."


3. Embrace Creativity
Believers should be the most creative force on the earth! You were made in the image of God! You are creative. Look inward and stop focusing so much on what others are doing. Comparison is killing your ability to create. Comparison screams be more like _____. However, God is raising up ground breakers and pioneers. Will you be willing to dream with The Creative One? Get alone, disconnect from technology, and dream with God!


4. Embrace Principles
I have spent most of my time in this blog trying to break a mold, but principles are important to remember. There are right and wrong ways to be original. The most virtuous and the greatest evil in human history all started with an idea. The noble follow noble principles. They color inside the lines, but they use different colors. As a follower of Christ, don't try to redefine virtue. As it’s been said, “The method changes but not the message.” The principles are given by your Creator.

5. Release Passion
What burns inside of you? Discover your “why” and give yourself over to it. It might not become the greatest trend, but the only way you will ever influence the masses is by influencing the one. The only way you can influence one is by pouring out yourself on what you do. Let it out. It’s inside of you. Do, be, and create all that God has put in your heart!




Consider The Sloth

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Over the past several years, sloths have become a bit iconic. From memes to animated movies, they have become a visual staple in our culture. Whether it's Monday or a lazy weekend, sometimes our pace can be illustrated by the lethargic beast that sleeps 15-20 hours everyday that gets in a hurry for nothing. The Bible does not really talk about sloths but scripture talks a lot about the slothful. 

Scripture uses several words to communicate the concept of slothfulness: sluggish, lazy, idle, slow, indifferent, careless. It's a deeper issue than simply not wanting to get out of bed in the morning.

Throughout the Bible and heavily throughout the book of Proverbs, we see warnings of this behavior because it can lead to debt(Prov 12:24), poverty(Prov 13:4) and even destruction(Prov 21:21). In Biblical culture laziness was no joke to be laughed at. It was very frowned upon, considered one of the lowest forms of behavior. Historically in the church and society slothfulness made the list of the 7 deadly sins. It's kind of a big deal.

We need to have days of rest, God commands it even. However, our mode in life should be that of diligence if we want to be successful and live a life that honors God. 

Romans 12:11 (NIV)  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 

Other translations state to it this way: Never be lazy, but work hard(NLT)In diligence not Slothfull.(ASV) 

The greek root word is
Okneo: meaning (1) to feel loath, to be slow (2) to delay, hesitate.

Spiritually we can become slothful- that is slow and indifferent. We become lazy, lose our fire, and we just coast. We figure just as long as we are not sinning as much as we used to that we are doing well. Stagnation in our walk can be just as detrimental as drifting. I want to ask you today, what does your spiritual diligence look like? Have you become slow in your pursuit of Jesus and his kingdom? Has your relationship with him grown mild? Have you became slothful in spirit? Have you lost your fire? If so, get it back! Return to your first love, your first passion and get it back! (Rev 2:4)


We are not called to just be spiritually diligent we are called to a life of diligence. What does diligence look like in your life? Are you slothful? I know a lot of us are naturally sloths. I get it, I’ve been there and have had to fight hard for a lot of years and lay down my tendency. I grew up in a blue color town and my dad modeled an incredible work ethic. Even in that environment, I had to fight the tendency to become slothful.


Slothfulness can be demonstrated in our lives in several ways:

1. Carelessness/ Apathy:
A lot of times it's just a heart issue. We simply don't care. If that is the case it simply ends there. If you are dealing with being apathetic every day, for as long as it takes get before Jesus daily and ask him to reignite your heart. 


2. Consistently running late:
Most of us will be late occasionally. Things happen. Being late for things is very inconsiderate of people that are waiting on you. Being late tells other people that we do not value their time. It’s inconsiderate. Value people's time and make being on time a priority, it will speak well of you! 


3. Procrastination:
Procrastinating is not always about laziness but it’s about priorities. We will do what we find most important first. Don't wait till tomorrow to stop procrastinating. ;)


4. Failing follow through
It is critical as believers, and especially leaders, that we follow through with our commitment. When we don't follow through with what we say, it's essentially saying, “I have no integrity.” Be a person of your word. Your testimony and your reputation hinge upon it. 

Follow through is a responsibility issue. Responsibility is not just the measure of maturity, it's the sustainer of our credibility. 

Don’t overcommit, don’t oversell. There is a difference between what you can do and what you actually will do. Make sure that your commitment is not what you intend to do but what you actually will do.

"Responsibility is not just the measure of maturity,
it's the sustainer of our credibility."

5. Lack of motivation:
I believe for most people slothfulness is a motivation issue. Whether you fell like doing it or you don't feel like doing it, if you do it the outcome is the same. Sometimes you only feel like doing it when you are doing it.  

I love mowing the lawn. I enjoy being outside, the smell, the heat, the monotony of it. It's very therapeutic to me. However, I always dread mowing the lawn until I am mowing the lawn. Sometimes you just have to allow discipline to do the driving and allow the heart to follow. 


Hebrews 6:10-12 (NIV) 10  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11  We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12  We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. 





Dear Christian Millennial



Millennials


Dear Christian Millennial,
I love you. I believe in you. You are not just our future, you are our present. A movement is happening and you are spear heading it. You have become a label, a cliche, a point of buzzed memes, and you have been stereotyped. But I love you and I believe in you. There are a lot of uncertainties in the world at this point in history, but I am optimistic about our future. The world is yours to steward and I don't despise you.

I am a 40 something year old Lead Pastor, married, and have four kids. I am creative and an entrepreneur, so I feel like I get you in many ways, probably due to the fact that I work so closely with many of you now and have been a youth pastor to many of you in the last two decades. I want to do what I have done most of my life: I want to encourage you and lead you. I want to do that today by giving you a few things to focus on. I know we don't
need another open letter or another blog about Millennials. I know you hate labels and I too am sick of all the negative attention your generation receives, but if you give me a few moments I want to invest in you.

1. Be Secure
Identity is so important to you. Like being true to yourself and searching your heart, these things are incredibly valuable to you. The likes on your latest snap selfie does not determine your worth. Since this is a letter to Christian Millennials, my encouragement to you is to yield yourself to your identity in Christ. Christianity is not simply your religion, it’s your identity. You are more valuable than you will ever know. When you discover His value for you, you will see that it dwarfs your tiny view of your personal worth.

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. -Colossians 3:3


2. Be Solid
Be a person of conviction. A person of long term conviction. Be set apart. Be sanctified. Live sacrificial and not superficial to your faith. Don't be so swayed by emotions or moments. Remember the YOLO thing…It was trendy for a reason. As you have grown up you have realized that living for the moment and living in the moment are totally different. Be smart and exercise self-control. Don’t live for the moment, live for an eternal reward. Develop an enduring work ethic with conviction!

"Living for the moment and living in the moment are totally different."

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. -1 Corinthians 15:58

3. Be Supportive
I watched some of you grow up in church and a lot of you are mad at the Church. I understand. There is a lot to be angry about, but your anger won't fix the Church. Your love will. Don't be so sarcastic and cynical. It’s not working. Be devoted to Christ’s Church. If you will love the Church like Jesus loves the Church, pray for the Church and commit to the Church as much as Jesus commits to the Church, it will be the Church that you can believe in. Be the Church. Be truly faithful to church, serve your church, raise your kids in the Church. The Church has a lot to offer you and you have a lot to offer her.

"There is a lot to be angry about, but your anger won't fix the Church."

Be devoted to one another in love. -Romans 12:10


4. Be Significant….Now!
I love your drive and desire for significance. I love that you want to matter. In order to matter you must become effective, and that takes time. Overnight significance is a myth. It’s going to take a lifetime of hard work. You matter and you will be significant, so stay the course. Focus on significance in the small and the mundane. Be significant in your commitments. Be consistent and significance will follow!

I love you. I believe in you.
Pastor Josh






Unfashionable


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There is a guy I see at the gym most days. He is probably in his 60’s, doesn't smile much, nor does he talk to other gym goers. I imagine him as a man that has worked hard his entire life. He is rugged and strong. Often times I see him on the bike or at the arm curl machine grinding out his workout. What fascinates me most about this man is that he does not have the typical attire of a gym goer. He wears athletic shoes, a trucker hat, a t-shirt, and jeans. Yes, he exercises every day in jeans. He works out hard wearing Wranglers with a long wallet sticking out of his back pocket. I also don’t imagine that he drinks Starbucks and is probably more likely to drink the canned Folders that is brewed for free at the gym. He doesn't have the look but he has the lifestyle. He shows up.

There are these ladies that frequent the Starbucks where I spend my Tuesday mornings. They order a skinny vanilla late and wear t-shirts, yoga pants, Nike caps, and athletic shoes along with pristine makeup. Their makeup looks so untouched most likely because they aren’t working out. They have the look, but they don't have the lifestyle. It's just
fashionable.

I feel like this is how a lot of people are. They have the look but they don't have the lifestyle. Rather than focussing on the work, they focus on the look. In the highlight reel of the digital age, we show people the best moments of our lives. We give them our fashion, but do we backup the lifestyle? We keep most people at a screens distance, so naturally we live in a extremely sensitive and insecure culture.

Leadership has become fashionable. It’s trendy to use quotes, attend conferences, and hold titles. All leaders need to be students of leadership, but it’s one thing to be a student of leadership and it’s another to actually lead. We love the idea of influencing others, but it takes time and energy. It takes
work. A lot of work. We can’t just carry the title, we have to show up.

Nobody likes hypocrisy. It’s not a new concept. Even Jesus hated it. The word hypocrisy is taken from the Greek term for “actor” and literally means “one who wears a mask”. (Ancient Greek actors wore masks during their performances.) So the true meaning of a hypocrite is someone who pretends to be what he is not. Now before you jump to the conclusion, I am not saying that yoga pant moms are hypocrites. My point here is that it does none of us any good to go around acting and putting on the garments if we are just playing dress up and pretending. Putting on a show.


Three easy ways to quit pretending:
1. Just be real
Be honest, and by being honest I don't mean that you announce your sin to the world with a megaphone. Stop feeling the need to cover up. It’s sad that a common term in our culture is “honestly” or “To be honest.” #TBH I mean, shouldn't we always be honest? Now, Self-Control is a fruit of the spirit that we should exercise regularly, but with people that we are living life with, we should let them know the real us- not the fake us.

“People would rather follow a leader who is always REAL than one who is alway RIGHT.” -Craig Groeschel

2. Show up
Our life and leadership will never produce if we only live based upon how we are feeling. There can be a great difference in how you feel and what you do. We must lead our heart if we want to experience life at the fullest.

One day at the gym, I noticed something about the man in jeans. He had a cane. I don’t know if he had it all the time but that day I noticed it. If I needed a cane I would skip the gym. But not this guy, he is the real deal. He doesn't make excuses, he doesn't let the pain keep him at home. He works out. It’s what he does.

On our best day or our worst day we show up. We are not being fake, we are being faithful.

"On our best day or our worst day we show up.
We are not being fake, we are being faithful."

3. Stay at it
Consistency is what defines us. It’s not our highlights nor our moment of weakness that reveals who we are. What we are made of is revealed throughout the seasons of our lives. Faithfulness ceases when we fail to be faithful, and fruitfulness is the result of being faithful. So stay at it! You are becoming the person and the leader that God has designed you to be. You can’t get results with out the hard work. Your job is to keep going and allow God to take care of your promotion.

Comments

Solutionist: Leadership & Problem Solving.

solutionist

One of my favorite things about my years spent in student ministry is the culture that was built. There were many fond moments as lives were being shaped and molded! One of the most fun things that came out of developing our culture were little “isms” that are formed. Part of the culture we developed was hard work. We would tirelessly hustle to get things done and often we found creative ways to problem solve. A term that we often used and lived by in those days was “Don’t tell me the problem tell me solution.” You see, I had trained our student leaders that they were not allowed to tell me about a problem until they tried several ways to solve it. If they came to me with a problem I would simply ask what they did to figure it out, or I would ask what they had tried. As stern as it may have sounded, rather than bailing them out, I taught them how to problem solve. Today some of those students are some of the most competent adults I know.

Problem solving is one of the most important aspects of leadership. Often times we will have to know how to find quick, innovative, quality solutions. Here are few things that will help you grow in solving problems.

“Don’t tell me the problem
tell me solution.”

5 Ways to Grow Problem Solving Skills

    When God allows you to be in a leadership role, He also equips you with a level of discernment. The only way you are going to grow in that is by having the courage to move forward in your discernment. Leaders can see what others can’t see. Problems and solutions. Not to just see the problem, but to quickly figure out the why behind it is even better. Start taking a birds eye view to all of the challenges you face as a leader. Open your eyes and ask God to bring clarity to your objective view.

    2. Take responsibility.
    Anybody can find a problem, leaders find solutions. John Maxwell says, “Leaders can give up anything but final responsibility.” If you see a problem, even if it is not in your area of expertise, jump in and own it.
    I can't tell you how many times I have been an attendee or a guest at a event and (after asking for permission) jumped behind a sound booth or a media center to figure how to make audio or video work properly. I might not be able to help, but I figure if the right person isn't there then I have to at least try to be that person. It’s what leaders do. We see problems as opportunities to contribute.

    3. Do whatever it takes.
    A friend I used to serve on staff with, Seth Wolverton, would often pipe up anytime we talked about accomplishing a big job. He would say, “Let’s make it happen.” His approach always lifted the standard and the morale of the team. It’s what leaders do. We start early, finish late, and do whatever it take to get the job done. Leaders exhaust every option to accomplish the objective. At times is inconvenient, but we didn't sign up up for convenience. We are running with a mission that is bigger than ourselves.

    Some may disagree, but in my experience I have seen the “whatever it takes” approach actually gets easier with time. It kind of becomes part of your nature after you make the necessary investment on the front end. Once you become a whatever it takes person, it is not as laborious.

    4. Refuse to make excuses.
    Another “ism” we would say in our student ministry was “Stop making excuses and start making arrangements!” Excuses will always end progression, we will never move forward, nor will our organizations move forward, if we have an excuse to why it is not.

    “Stop making excuses &
    start making arrangements!”

    5. Innovate.
    There is almost always a way to accomplish what you set out to do. Sometimes that way has not been discovered yet. Be a creative learner. Ask God to fill you with creative solutions to accomplish what He wants to do with and through you. Don’t ask the Lord to bail you out! Sometimes the old way won't work because God wants to show you a new way. Remember: Necessity the mother of invention.






    The Spirit of Agreement

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    Click the Play button below to hear the message
    (Show notes below)

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    Notes:

    1. Agreement is important to God
    John 17:20-23
    “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

    2-Agreement brings exponential increase.

    Psalm 133:1-3 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows(commands) his blessing, even life forevermore.

    We Celebrate DIVERSITY:
    The difference of identity.
    The difference of functionality.
    The differences of personality.

    Unity is not sameness: unity is oneness of purpose.

    Don't allow emphasis to become a point of contention.


    Things that break the spirit of agreement.
    1. A disagreeable spirit.

    Those that thrive off cynicism, sarcasm or disagreement, jaded, etc…


    “You can agree but still have a disagreeable spirit and
    you can disagree and have a agreeable spirit.”



    2. The Spirit of Offense.
    Proverbs 18:19 (NLT) An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.
    There
    are two types of offended people: (1) those who have been mistreated; and (2) those who think they have been mistreated but actually were not. 

    “Offense plays the victim but the only one
    victimized is the one who is offended.”


    3. The sin of Divisiveness:
    Romans 16:17-20 (NLT) 17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.

    “Divisiveness not only hinders relations of people it actually hinders our relationship with God.”

    Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT) 23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

    The Spirit of Agreement….
    1. Chooses conversation.
    We are not in covenant with our opinion we are in covenant with People.

    2. Properly confronts tension.

    When you speak your disagreement to non direct parties you open the door for offense and you break a spirit of unity.

    Matthew 18:15-18 (NLT) 15 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. 18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.


    3. Seeks Understanding
    UNDER STAND- Stand Under.





    Ingredients of a Healthy Soul

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    You may have seen the illustration before. I first saw Pastor Scott Wilson share it in the mid 90’s. It is basically about priorities. If you put the golf balls in the container first then the rice (or rocks) everything fits in the container. However, if you put the rice in first then try to fit all the balls in, everything won’t fit. It is an incredible illustration about priorities and how putting first things first makes for a more functional life and ensures everything fits in the right place.

    golfballs and rice

    We all want a healthy soul. We all want to be stable mentally and emotionally. When leading people through crisis of the soul: discouragement, depression, anxiety, rejection, despair, there is always a question I ask them. “How is your relationship with Jesus, how much time are you spending with Jesus on a daily basis?” I would say 9 out of 10 times the answer is the same. “Not as good as it should be.” Usually it means there is little to no consistency in their devotional life. It’s my view that most of the internal struggles we have in our life can be solved by living well connected to Jesus.

    I want to share with you 4 things that if they are prioritized in your life, will keep or get your soul healthy. We hate formulas, and I know its seems like a formula, so look at these as ingredients for a healthy soul. These are the golf balls that need to in place for you to have health in your soul.


    4 Ingredients of a Healthy Soul
    #1. Daily time in word of God.

    The word of God is the foundation of every believer. It is where we learn about God’s character, nature, and desire for us and towards us. Saturating ourself in the word of God renews our mind (Heb 12:1). We will never be able to think the way God desires for us to think unless we develop a devotion to God’s word. The word builds our faith and gives life! It is our guidebook for wisdom and living out the Christian life. A relationship with the word of God is essential in the sustainability of our soul.

    #2. A daily prayer life.
    The early church was empowered by their prayer life and they saw miracles daily. What would happen if we spent as much time talking to God about the things we are thinking about as we did discussing, complaining or even researching them? Prayer is a conversation and a transaction where we talk to God about the matters of our heart, we receive peace, and find resolve in our heart.

    There are some things, even things that are the will of God, that we will not receive simply because we don't pray and ask God for.(Matt 7:7-12
    )

    We can pray prayers of thanks, prayers of worship, prayers of supplication (request). Sometimes prayer is even just a time to sit before our heavenly Father and rest in His presence.


    Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
    Philippians 4:6–7


    #3. Community with other believers.
    Sometimes what you need in your life is found in the package of another person. God never intended us to live life alone. In fact, the first thing God said that was not good was that man is alone(Genesis 2:18). We need community! Sometimes our soul is empty simply because we don't have the right relationships in our life. I am not talking about just having friends, but true fellowship with people that are on a similar journey in their pursuit of Jesus. This is one of the reasons faithfulness to a local church is so important.

    Acts 2:42-44 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.


    #4. Christian Service.
    As we build our spiritual devotion we will fuel the engine of our heart. If we do not have an exhaust system we can implode. The last thing we need is spiritual constipation. Serve at your church, serve at a community event, a homeless shelter, share the gospel with a friend or a coworker. Invest emotionally, physically, and economically to something bigger than yourself. Sometimes the reason we don't reap emotionally is because we have not invested in the lives of others. This is crucial in having a healthy soul.

    1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.


    Dear friend,
    I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you,
    even as your soul is getting along well.
    3 John 1:2




    Recharge

    edge
    It has happened to all of us. We look at our device to once again discover we are at 20%. The battery icon is red and we think we will just wait a bit before we plug in, but the next thing we know our phone is shutting down. I don’t know about you, but I normally wait till I am at 1% before I hurry to recharge my phone. Or have you suddenly realized that you are needing an adequate charge and regret that you had not plugged in earlier. In the car, Leslie and I often times will protest who needs the charge by who has the lowest battery. #firstworldproblems

    Just like our phones need charging and our gas tank filled, people need to recharge also. I am not just talking about physical energy, but we need emotional and spiritual energy as well if we are going to function at an optimal level and accomplish our purpose. Here are a few things we can do to get recharged.

    "People need to recharge!"

    #1. Clear your calendar.
    If you don't run your schedule, then your schedule will run you. You must set a time in your calendar to recharge. I heard a man one time say that we need to take time off daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally (every 3-4 months) and annually.

    Daily- We need to sleep obviously, but outside of that we need 20, 30, or 40 minutes to check out and unwind.

    Weekly- We should take a day to rest from our work and enjoy ourselves. In the kingdom we call this the Sabbath. “Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’” Mark 2:27 I have the luxury of working from different locations, so when I tend to feel stale I just need a change of scenery. Sometimes this means going for a walk or working form another location. You may also take a day of the week and go to bed early. That can work better than sleeping in.

    Monthly- Try to take a little more than your normal day and do something eventful or recreational. I will take this opportunity to mention to parents to have a date night at least monthly to have some time to nurture your marriage. This will bring rest to the grind of raising kids.

    Seasonally- I try to get away by myself a couple of times a year just to reflect and recharge. Whatever it takes, set aside some time every 3-4 months to do something out of the norm. It will help keep you fresh! Do something that is relaxing that you enjoy.

    Annually- Take a vacation, plan it, save for it, and enjoy yourself.

    #2. Clear your desk.
    Recharging is not a reason to negate your responsibilities. Prepare in advance so you can be emotionally and mentally clear when you take some time to recharge. Right now I am sitting at Starbucks writing this blog (a commitment I made) so I can get away and not think about the things that need to get done. Last night I took care of some work so that when I leave town, I’m not thinking about all of the things I need to get done.

    #3. Clear mind mind.
    When it’s time to recharge, just recharge. Don't carry work and responsibilities with you. Delete apps, turn off notifications, and just rest. Do something recreational and fun. For me, I like solitude and quiet, so I have to get away by myself every once and a while to recharge

    "Unplugging won't charge you, you have got to plug
    yourself into a source to get a full charge"

    #4. Plug in.
    It's not enough to unplug. Unplugging won't charge you, you have got to plug yourself into a source to get a full charge. As a follower of Christ, I have to do this daily but I also need patterns of plugging in. Church services weekly and other events seasonally to recharge. We hear people all the time saying they need a break but what they need most is to plug into the Holy Spirit and allow Him to recharge their spiritual battery.

    “I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.” Psalm 121:1-3




    Leveraging the Imagination

    imagination


    Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
    according to his power that is at work within us.
    Ephesians 3:20


    “You are so creative!” I have heard these words most of my life. It’s encouraging, yet my response is almost always the same; “so are you.” Some will protest that they are not creative mostly because when we think of creativity we think of an artist, but creativity should not be restricted to the confines of the arts. Creativity should play into every area of our lives from strategies and systems at work, to the way that we play with and raise our kids, or express love to our spouse.

    Creativity is the ability to deliver what we imagine. The first part of the word imagination is the word image. We were all created in the image of God, therefore we all have a creative nature. Studies have shown that up to 50% of the time that we are awake we are imagining. We call this day dreaming, it’s the place where the “what if’s” dwell.

    The imagination is an incredibly powerful place, it can lock us down in fear, or cause us to move forward with hope. Our imagination can hinder our perspective and cause us to isolate ourselves from friends. In our imagination we can create the next breakthrough invention, or articulate the words that will transform somebody’s life forever. Think about it, everyday we use things that were initiated in a mind. It’s crazy! The way in which we live our lives is a product of somebody's imagination.

    One of a leaders greatest assets is their imagination. Here are some ways that you can leverage the power of your imagination.

    1- Take a Mind Break: Most of the time when I am lacking creativity, I know that my brain is exhausted. I am mostly thinking about work and my list of responsibilities. Sometimes I have to get out of the office and go walk around in a store or go get the mail, just to simply get away from what is in front of me. Sometimes I need to get away for a day and just spend that time to day dream. It is hard to do if you don't make time for it, so take the time! It may be 2 minutes in an hour or 2 full days a month. Your mind needs rest too! I have noticed I am way more productive if I will take the time to allow my mind to be refreshed.

    2- Ask Questions: When pulling away from your work, ask how can this be done differently? How can I be more efficient? How can I be more effective? These questions will inspire new ideas and a fresh approach to the monotony of our work.

    3- Pray: Years ago my Pastor Buster Russell peaked his head into my office and gave me a nugget I have carried for over 15 years. He said, “Josh, if you are ever lacking creativity, spend some time praying in the Spirit.” That is the best creative advice I have ever been given. Any time that I am in a slump I will get away from my screen and pray in the Spirit. It not only refreshes my soul, it energizes my creativity.

    4- Write Things Down:
    Every idea you have, scribble it down. Some of the best ideas I have ever had I forgot because I didn't write them down. It may be a physical journal or a notes app on your phone. WRITE IT DOWN!!! This will help you process and develop the things that are in the space of your imagine.

    I hope these tips will help you in your journey of expressing all the things God has put in your heart. May He nurture a spirit of creativity and empower your imagination!


    Comments

    Healthy Confidence

    confidence

    It may just be me, but I’d be willing to say I am not the only one…. I am insecure. I am also pretty confident. It seems like those things are polar opposites. I suggest that the thing you are best at, the thing that you are most confident in, may be the same thing that you are the most insecure in.

    I have been preaching in front of people for over two decades. I am confident in my ability to bring a strong word and bring it home to people in the room that are listening. At the same time I am very insecure about it.

    I would like to say that refining my craft and equipping people was the only motivator, but if I am being honest part of the motivation is insecurity. It just won't go away, I have a fear that I will make a fool of myself preaching or fail to give the people something meaningful. After 13 years of marriage I still ask my wife after each message, "was it ok today?” I often look for affirmation to cater to my insecurities.

    I would not say that my insecurity is total weakness. In fact, my insecurity is usually driven by the fact that I know I can do better.
    The thing that I am most confident in is what I am most insecure in also because I know I can get better, do better, and be better at what I am doing.

    Insecurity is not the same as humility and arrogance is not the same as confidence. In fact, arrogance often tries to simply cover up insecurity. Arrogance says, “I am the best” A healthy confidence says, “I do this well and I can get better.” It is vitally important that the fuel of improvement is not simply to feel better about our inadequacies. I am no way suggesting that insecurity is healthy, we need true humility, (a modest and mild disposition) yet healthy confidence in moving forward to improve our skills.

    Growing in Healthy Confidence?
    1- Seek HONEST feedback.
    Feedback is important because it gives us a bird’s eye view of what we are producing. It’s crucial that we get feedback from people we trust and are objective. Sometimes we are blindsided by our craft because we are so subjective in it. We spend a lot of time, energy and emotion working so many times we can measure success about what we put into a project rather then how good the project actually is.

    2- Don’t measure a moment.
    Never measure a moment, a single project. For me this is a single message that I preach. I can’t sum up the quality of my preaching of years worth of sermons with a single a bad day. As a graphic designer every project I design is not my best work, so I have to look at my work collectively. I have to make sure that I measure my growth NOT my moments.

    3- Find inspiration.
    When I want to be inspired, I don't go to my own work. I look for somebody that is better than me. Sometimes it can be intimidating but don’t let it, use it as fuel to get better! I would also encourage you to look outside your normal “go to” for inspiration as this will challenge you in new ways.

    4- Be diligent.
    This is not a article on hard work, but there is just no way around it. You cant get better without working at it. In my early days of preaching, I would spend 2-3 hours preparing a message. Two decades later I spend at least ten, and sometimes up to 15 hours preparing a 40-45 minute sermon. Your gift will open the door but getting better will keep you in the room!

    Comments

    In Ministry?

    ministry

    Often times when we hear the word ministry, many people think about what preachers do. We think about people that “get paid to meet the spiritual needs of people.” We relate ministry to a vocation or an occupation. Although ministry may be an occupation for some of us, it’s an invitation for all. I will go a step further and say it’s an assignment for all.

    If we are not careful, we can so personalize our faith in God that it becomes about us.( ie. peace through circumstances, joy for discouragement, the Spirit that is sufficient for me.) Albeit true that God sustains us personally, it is impossible to encounter an ALL sufficient God and it stay at a subjective level. Encountering him means his influence pouring in me and through me impacting my world. Our faith is a personal devotion that demands a public demonstration.

    The concept that ministry is for the specific “called ones” usually comes from the idea of Old Testament priesthood where priests would minister to the Lord and represent the people to God.
    However, when Jesus showed up on the scene he eliminated that system because people no longer needed to go through a priest to get to God. In the new covenant we have an all access to the Father. Therefore, we have full access to his presence AND his power. The focus is usually placed upon the accessibility of his presence: his availability to us. It is also important to remember we also have access to the power of God! It’s not just for us, it’s for the world around us. God has given us great power and if we learned anything form Uncle Ben it’s, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Here are some keys to affirm you in your ministry.

    1. You are called into ministry
    Callings are real and we should determine what we are called to. (see this blog about calling)
    You may not have had a moment when God called you into full time or vocational ministry, but we all have an assignment to impact our world for Jesus. The great commission (
    Matthew 28:19-20) to advance Gods kingdom on every nation is not for a select group of super christians, it’s a call for all who would follow Jesus. I suggest that if God called you to simply live a good moral life, then he would have taken you to heaven when you gave him your life. Instead he left you on the earth to accomplish his purposes. Remember, it’s not really about God’s will for your life but your life for God’s will.

    2. You are qualified for ministry
    You may not have a license form an organization, yet as a follower of Christ you have been qualified to share the the goodness of Jesus.
    2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV) - He has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant.

    Whereas our lifestyle does not qualify us with it, it may disqualify us with people. It is important to remember that as ministers of the kingdom that our currency is our credibility. Therefore, we should guard our credibility and never surrender it to our liberties or convinces. We should live worthy of this calling we have received!
    Ephesians 4:1(NLT) I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

    3. Your ministry is unique
    God made you in such a way that there are very special assignments that were made for you! There are generic principles that we all are to follow, but there are certain things that he has set up for you to accomplish! I suggest that God has a list for your life, I encourage you to start asking God what he has on that list!

    4. Your ministry is today
    Don’t wait till you are a “better” christian, a more knowledgeable scholar, or for the right time. Start today.The Kingdom is at hand and God has incredible ways for you to demonstrate his goodness. There are people we encounter everyday that need to simply hear that Jesus loves and desires them. There are sick people that need to be healed, people that need to hear a word from God, lonely people that need encouragement…today. Don't wait, the time is now for people to encounter our great God. Make haste!


    Revelation 1:6 (NLT) He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

    1 Peter 2:9 (NLT) You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

    John 14:12 (NLT) ”I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”







    Comments

    Your Pastor Needs You

    yourpastor

    What if churches didn’t have someone to greet you when you got there? What if they didn’t have clean bathrooms to use, even worse a bathroom to use period? What if they didn’t have a place that you could drop off your kids ages birth to 11 so you could sit in a nice service? What if you had to bring your own chair to sit on? What if the church had no heat or air conditioning or electricity (let alone free wifi- gasp)? What if the church had no musicians to provide the worship? What if the church had no projection for you to know the words to sing along? What if the people speaking/teaching spent no time preparing and just got up and started speaking? Have you ever realized just how much goes into a church service?

    Greeters. Cleaning crew. Nursery and kids workers. Finances. People serving with their gifts. Equipment. Paid Staff.

    Incase you didn’t know, churches run solely off the people investing into them with their time and finances. People give, so the church can be there, the way it is, week in and week out. Hours of preparation work go into an hour or so service on Sundays. Like any other organization, the staff is paid by the funds that are brought in. Pastors aren’t getting a pay check provided by someone else unless they are bi-vocational, which many these days are. Then their time is divided between their job and their calling-the ministry, simply so that the church doesn't carry the full burden of providing their total income.

    Your church needs you. Your gifts, your support, your encouragement, your attendance. Your pastor needs you. To be there, to be thankful for what they give, to be a supporter before a critic.

    Must be easy being a pastor though, right? Preach for 30 mins give or take once a week, maybe twice, and then what do they do the rest of the week? Pastors don’t have a time clock. If someone calls at midnight, broken down and needing to talk, they don’t send it to voice mail and get back to you Monday- Friday 8-5. And when they give someone counsel in their marriage, they don’t stop thinking about it and praying about it, like, EVER. They hold onto that. Pastors carry this weight of making sure their church is inviting and put together, and provides an atmosphere of peace, and has enough helpers to accomplish the plans, and doesn’t do anything to possibly offend anyone, while obviously not doing anything that offends God.

    Pastoring is probably one of the few professions that has to deal with rejection at such a high level. People come and people go, in every are of life. If you own a restaurant and someone goes to eat at a different restaurant, you probably won’t lose sleep over it. That is most likely because the owner of a restaurant isn’t invested in the lives of its patrons. They might know a few details, and learn a name or a favorite item on the menu, but when a person is broken down and needs hope, financial help, someone to perform a wedding or a funeral, or pray that their wayward teenager would come back home and find salvation, they aren’t going to go to their favorite restaurant. They are going to go to a place that offers hope, and provision, and support, and counsel, and helps carry the weight- long term.

    Why did they leave? Did I offend them? What happened? Do you think they will come back? Why aren’t they responding to my attempts to reach them? These are the thoughts that go through a pastor’s head possibly forever. Because someone is always leaving and basically what they are saying is, “I fire you as my pastor.” Is that to say that you should pick a church and grin and bare it until you die, no, but would you want to be fired with out being given any reason why, with little to no notification?

    So if you are going to leave, here is what your pastor most definitely wants: A conversation, an HONEST conversation, as to why you are leaving. If the nursery doesn't feel like a safe place for your child, don’t you think the pastor wants to know so that they can fix it? If someone in the congregation is spewing gossip, don’t you think the pastor wants to know so that they can fix it? If you disagree about one issue even though you see mostly eye to eye every where else, don’t you think the pastor wants to know so that they can fix it? Just like never returning to a restaurant because you had hair in your food once with out telling the manager and giving him a chance to make it right does not help to the restaurant, leaving a church with out giving any one a reason does not help. The real reason.

    What am I getting at here? Is this post about leaving, no. It is about being there. Being the greeter, being the nursery worker, being the one to clean the bathrooms, being the musician in the band, being the person running the words on the screen. Being a part of a movement that is bringing hope and help to the lives of its community. The church isn’t a building, it is all the people that give of themselves to do life together while enjoying the process. The more you plug in, to the lives of others, to helping serve, to the vision of the pastor, the more you will receive and benefit from your church. But if you want to leave, because it will probably happen at least once in your adult life, don’t just be a disappearing person. Have a conversation with the pastor so he doesn’t deal with rejection and the “was it because” questions for ever.

    -Leslie Brown






    Comments

    Unsolicited

    advice2

    I know it’s happened to you: you are in a conversation with somebody sharing life, talking, possibly expressing frustrations then here comes advice, unsolicited….advice. An opinion you didn't seek, from a source you were not petitioning. It’s so annoying. It has to be the most aggravating thing to me.. Seriously one of my biggest pet peeves.

    OR you post on Facebook and people you rarely interact with chime in to share their wisdom!
    “What you need to do is….”
    “You know what I think…”
    “What I always do….”
    I ain’t gonna lie I have deleted a few annoying comments from trolls AND I have had to hit backspace on a few of my of my reply’s.

    So how do we manage unsolicited advice?
    1. Chill out.
    Why does this issue bug me so much…because of pride. The pride of the unsolicited advice, possibly, but my pride as well. It is a pride thing on my end because my attitude is “hey who do you think YOU are telling ME what to do.” I am trying to get better at this and just chill out, take a step back, humble myself and value people. Even if what they are doing is difficult to tolerate. It’s hard, but we can’t allow pride to drive us to a place of hardness with people.

    2. Understand people usually mean well.
    Most people are not mean spirited and most people mean well. Most of the time people are trying to help. I know it’s irritating but it will help us if we can just try to see rationally through the irritating comment and love the person that is wanting to help. Even if we disagree or disregard the advice, we can still try to love the person that is frustrating us.

    3. Ask yourself, “Do I do this?”
    For me the answer is yes. I offer unsolicited advice and it probably annoys people and pushes them away at times. Now that I’ve come to grips with the fact that I am annoying at times, it will help me be gracious to those that do the same things.

    4. Remember, advice fits best in relationship.
    Something to remember when sharing advice especially unsolicited advice is that if we don't have relational equity with that person, our advice will most likely fall on deaf ears. Before we ever offer advice, it’s polite to ask, “Can I share something with you?” This takes the “unsolicited” part out off of the table.
    If the advice is something that is challenging or possibly threatening to the person, keep in mind that it might not be accepted unless we have history and have built trust with that person.
    This is really important for advice givers. ;)

    5. Consider that possibly God is speaking.
    People are valuable. Their opinions are important and valuable. God put that value inside of them and that value can be beneficial to your life. Many times God will deal with our heart by giving us a gift we need in a package that we don't like. This is why its important for us to maintain a humble and gentle spirit towards those that rub us the wrong way!

    1 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV) 8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.





    Comments

    Vison & Clarity

    vision
    When we speak of vision, some of us get intimidated and others of us get excited. When talking about people possessing vision, we tend to classify them into categories: those that are incredible visionaries and those that struggle with vision. I feel like there is a mystery that surrounds this topic and I hope to clear things up for you! (No pun intended)

    #1. Everybody Has Vision
    The reality is everybody has a vision. We all have a picture of what we want our lives to look like. Wether you are a stay at home mom, a college student, a young entrepreneur, or a minister, there is a level of success you are aspiring to. What does success look like for you? That visual is essentially your vision.The question is not wether or not you have a vision, but how big is the vision you have. 

    #2. A Big Vision Keeps You Moving
    Vision has to be bigger than daily, weekly, or even annual goals. If it's not, there is nothing to work towards once the goal is reached. Goals are simply makers along the way of accomplishing our vision. You can have goals without having a big vision but you can't reach a significant vision without having goals.

    Doing ministry over the past two decades there have been a number of times that I have felt like stopping. As a youth pastor it was always on Thursday mornings and as a lead pastor it’s Monday mornings. You see, it was always the day after the accomplishment of the last goal that I felt like giving up. If my vision was limited to one service I would have quit a long time ago. My vision is bigger than a single goal.

    #3. A Clear Vision Can Be Carried Out
    Habakuk 2:2(NKJV) “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it." Vision is something that should be clear….I mean, quality vision cannot be blurry. 

    What is your vision? How clear is it? Can you communicate it quickly and clearly? Is it abstract or does it change often? 

    Making the vision clear will allow you to be better focussed on it. If we don't solidify our vision then the demands of life will drain us of our purpose and we will never reach what we hope for. A clear vision will add drive to your purpose in life. It will also allow you to lead others with and to the vision you have. A significant vision will always be bigger than you, so if others are to rally around your vision, you must “make it plain” enough for them to see and run with it.  

    As the dawn of a new year is upon us, I would encourage you to set some time aside and write down your vision! I am not talking about goals for the upcoming year, but the vision of your life.


    “Vision is a mental picture of what could be, fueled by a passion that it should be.”
    -Andy Stanley






    Comments

    Giving Thanks

    thanks
    1 Thessalonians 5:18  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

    As I kid, I found Thanksgiving to be boring, yet as an adult it has become my favorite holiday. I love the fact that it is not over commercialized and its meaning secure. We take part of one of the oldest traditions known to man as we gather around a meal and…..talk. Thanksgiving is centered around, well, giving thanks. At least it should be. Back home, my dad always asks us to go around the table and share what we are grateful for. It can be an emotional time. You always want to have the right answer and sometimes that is the only motivation. I’m learning to not just have the right answer but to dig deep and ponder what I am truly grateful for. I love that my dad taught me this important lesson and I am now passing it along to my children.

    Gratefulness, it’s the posture of those that consider themselves the recipients of something undeserved. It’s God’s will, not because it does something for Him, but because of what it does in us. It’s reflective in nature and causes us to take inventory of all that is good in our lives. To count our blessings. It’s not for the entitled. Gripping, complaining, criticizing does quit the opposite. It is poison to our hearts because it is rooted in the tension of what we do not have. Greed. 

    Dr. David Soper, in
    God Is Inescapable suggests that basically the difference between a prison and a monastery is just the difference between griping and gratitude. Imprisoned criminals spend every waking moment griping; self-imprisoned saints spend every waking moment offering thanks. When a criminal becomes a saint, a prison may become a monastery; when a saint gives up gratitude, a monastery may become a prison.

    I encourage you, to take 30 seconds right now and think about something you are grateful for and tell Jesus that……

    Now I encourage you to do that everyday and begin to watch the peace of God unfold in your life.

    Colossians 3:12-17...As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 





    Comments

    Called?

    called

    God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.
    -Romans 11:29

    Am I Called?
    The short answer is yes, but I think you should keep reading.

    We have heard many times, “This is my calling.” In and out of the church we talk about our calling. Mostly I think we mean that it is something that we instinctively have to do. A voice, an experience, we woke up to a burning in our heart, or possibly it was an opportunity that opened up and we enter into an assignment that makes us feel alive. It’s the ultimate nonnegotiable in our lives, it’s our purpose, our mission, the ambition of our life. We all have a calling.

    Scripture gives us some insight to our calling.

    We are all called to:
    #1. The Great Command
    “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
    Matthew 22:36-39 (NIV)

    It’s pretty simple. God’s expectation is for mankind to love and connect with God in every aspect of our lives and to demonstrate love to those around us. We can’t get out of it, it hasn't changed for over 2000 years and it’s not going to change, ever. It’s the great command, God’s great expectation of every human being.

    #2. The Great Commission
    Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
    Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

    The purpose of The Great Command is to love God and people enough to get the gospel to them and lead them to a life that follows Jesus. I’ve heard it said before, “It’s the great commission, not the great suggestion.” I think we are wise to devote our lives to The Great Commission if we truly follow Christ.

    #3. The Great Contribution
    The great commandment and the great commission are universal, meaning that they are for all people.
    The great contribution is where is gets personal. This is where what we normally feel “called to” comes into action. It’s really the nuts and bolts of the universal mandates (commission/commandment) So how do we discover that?

    In June of 1993, I was a new christian and attended a youth camp in Roaring Springs, Texas. Months before that our youth pastor had resigned because of an incurable disease, so every night I would help gather our youth group together to pray for him. That Thursday night as we were praying, I looked around that circle and felt that God was calling me to gather people around His presence. I knew that God was calling me to into pastoral ministry. It was an incredibly powerful moment and most days I still remember that moment. There have been many days over the past 23 years that that moment was the only thing that kept me in pastoral ministry. I understand 2 things about a calling:

    #1. You don't pick a calling, a calling chooses you.
    #2. You can quit a job but you cannot quit a calling.

    There have also been dozens of moments over the years that have confirmed that moment. Not everybody has a moment like mine or a “burning bush” experience, but we are all called.
    Here are few questions to ask yourself in discovering your calling to the Great contribution.

    #1. What bothers you?
    What annoys you? What are the things in the world or the church that frustrate you? I have heard it said “your misery, your ministry.” We all know complaining doesn’t work, so how can you do to fix the irritation? Maybe God is causing this divine frustration to so that you can be the solution to the problem. If you see improvements that need to bet made, then jump in and make them! You may discover your calling.

    #2. What burns in you?
    What moves your heart and keeps you up at night? What are you passionate about? If somebody gave you 10 million dollars tomorrow, what would you do with it? This reveals what you are passionate about. What is the single thing you cannot get away from?

    #3. What burdens you?
    What breaks your heart? What is the thing that you have been thinking about over the last several months or even years that moves you heart? That is compassion in your heart. This is what moved Jesus to do much of his ministry on the Earth! Don't just feel sorry and pity the need in your heart, act on it, develop a plan, and do something. You may discover your calling.

    #4. What blesses you?
    What gives you great joy? When you hear about or see something that makes you so happy inside no matter how many times you hear or see it? Don’t let your joy be in the hands of others. Get out there and accomplish the things that bring pleasure to your heart. Doing what ever that may be is also going to bring great pleasure to your Father’s heart!






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    Opportunity

    edge


    Friends, I wan't to talk about the opportunity you have. No not your opportunity to vote, albeit that is important. I voted, and I have a lot invested prayerfully, emotionally, and mentally in this election. In fact the next 40 years depend on it. Not just my children but my grand children will be affected by it. It’s that important.

    This is more about you than your vote.

    I want to talk about the opportunity you have IF things don’t go your way. The way you hoped, prayed, and thought they should go. The way you thought that God would have it. You will have the opportunity to demonstrate Christ or demonstrate your flesh. You have an opportunity to be like Jesus and love those that voted different than you, and you will also have the opportunity to honor a candidate you possibly despise. You will have excuses for your instincts. You can blame the character of the individual you slander or you can reveal your character by slandering them. You can pray for them, their character, their protection, and pray that God would do a work in their heart. It seems to be the way of Christ and the way of the early church when they faced grave injustices and their liberties were taken away.

    Before you say “well the disciples didn't face a king like this…”,
    I would encourage you to do a little research on the kings of old, especially Nero. He was one of the most vile kings in history. His life was characterized by debauchery, violence (he caused his own mother to be killed), and extravagance. A lot of people thought he was the Anti-Christ. He torched cities & killed Christians.

    This is God’s unchanging word to them that were under a vile kings rule:

    “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” 1 Peter 2:13-14 (NIV)

    “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” -1 Peter 2:17(NASB)

    It wont be easy, but
    let’s choose the way of the righteous.

    Choose love and honor towards the candidate that wins and the candidate that loses. Before you cuss (or almost cuss) at the television, before you rant on Facebook, remember Jesus. His words, His heart for that person and for our nation. Remember that God deeply loves each candidate and each person you disagree with.

    I like my candidate. I think they are the better choice, and although I think they have a great shot at winning, it may not happen. I faced this test 4 years ago and there is a real possibility I will face this tension again. Will you join me to control the thing I can control…. My response?

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)






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    All Things New

    all things new bannerHere we are once again. A new year, a time that we reevaluate priorities, and rejuvenate our desire for greatness! With each passing year of our life there are chapters, sections of the journey of life that define and refine our lives. Each chapter individually does not define us, but the sum of them do. A book is made up of chapters however, it is not defined by a single chapter. Chapters are incredible contributors to the story but the sum of the story is not defined by a single chapter. We all have a story. If we are asked to tell “our story” we share the trials and triumphs, we share seasons, chapters and markers of our life. Sure, one chapter may be more influential to the story, however, what makes a good story is that a page is turned, a chapter closes, and new chapter begins. 
    I encourage you to turn the page in your story. I have known too many people that have been defined by a single chapter in their life and the story ends in misery. They simply get locked into a season of life and never get out. Embark to the next page, it’s risky, But you will never know until you...well, turn the page. 

    I want to share with you a few thoughts that will help you embark on the next chapter:
    1. Divorce Your Past:
        It is time to divorce your past! You may have some incredible memories during that season, but the relationship with your past is killing you and hindering God's best in your life. In no way do I insinuate that we simply bury our memories,In fact we need to cherish our memories and embrace our history. However, our story does not end there, that is why we call it history. It is critical if we want to leave a legacy and provide a good story for others to tell, that we are not restrained by our memories. Memories are great for reflection and even motivation. They are a great place to visit but a terrible place to live,  good or bad. Its time to sever the ties with yesterday: the failures, the success, the sin, the shame, the guilt, and all of the problems. 

    • Philippians 3:7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ ….13 Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus


    2. Trade Up:

    Its not time for a tune up, its time for a trade up! Why are you driving around in that old, beat up, broken down life? Jesus has a better ride for you, so its time to trade up. He has already made all the arrangements and it doesn’t cost you anything, you just have to leave the old ride at the dealership. Simply trade the old for the new! I love the great exchange with Jesus. We bring him the ugly and he makes it beautiful. We bring all of the negativity, all of the sin, all of the shame, and Jesus transforms us. Our situation may not be pretty but there is a man walking with us who promised to never leave or forsake us. (Duet 31:6)
    One of my favorite passages of scripture is Isaiah 61. Its such an incredible reality of what Jesus paid for.
    • Isaiah 61:3 To provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.


    3. Embrace the New: 
        You may think that you have a reason or some sort of need to stay stuck in your past or in your pain. Your reasons for sadness, or feelings of hopelessness may be very real and difficult for others to understand. Can I tell you that Jesus has a plan and that plan is to remove your heart ache?! Jesus came to provide a new way. Its different from the way that we have known, full of life and abundance,(John 10:10) freshness and joy, peace and fulfillment.

    Forget your reasons for misery! Jesus is a good king who is deeply in love with you. His thoughts towards you are good and his plan for your life is way better than you could ever imagine.

    • II Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

    • Lamentations 3: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

    May this year bring you incredible hope and joy, and may you be filled with and overwhelmed by the fullness of God!

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