Originally written November/21/2016
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.
Gratitude, 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. Griping, 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.
Gratitude, it’s the posture of those that consider themselves the recipients of something undeserved.
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.
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 Read More...
Today our video doorbell went off, so I answered it digitally because I thought the guy was a salesman. Plus, we were about to leave. He said he was from the Seventh Day Adventist Church. I quickly made my way to the door. I have always been a little unsure about the 7DA, so it was a way to have a quick conversation with someone who has some different views and give me a peek into their beliefs. I had read a lot and heard some things but no discussions with an actual person.
Speaking your mind is not virtuous; self-control is.
We've all met someone, or some of us have been at times (me!✋) people who simply say whatever they think. Often we consider that virtuous. Honesty is a virtue. But you know what else is? Self-Control.
One of my favorite passages in the bible is Psalms 51. It’s David’s psalm of repentance from the sin of adultery and murder. (Yes one the greatest influencers the world has ever known was an adulterous murderer... Read More...
Written in 2017
I must have heard it over a million times, “You need to get rid of the toxic people in your life.” There are numerous sermons and YouTube videos about separating yourself from people, finding new friends, cutting the cord, etc.
If you are looking for dirt you will always find some. Sometimes it’s on the lens you are looking through.
I have been in church leadership for 27 years. I served as a youth pastor for the better part of two decades, and we planted and have pastored our church for the last eight years. I've pastored people through 9-11 and other national events that shook our nation, as well as through many personal trials and difficulties. For all humans, this year has been strange. It's also been a struggle. That's an understatement. It's really been the heaviest time for most pastors that I have ever seen. It's been a year….
It’s interesting to me how many prefer harshness. A harsh word, a stepping-on of toes, a strong word, something that cuts; from a point of presentation or reception. I have observed, as I have posted various things over the years, how some just enjoy truth in a harsh tone. It’s curious. Read More...
Jesus rebukes the wind and speaks to the waves.
It’s easy to accept the cause and speak to the effects Read More...
Be still, and know that I am God.
It's probably the hardest things for me to do. To BE still. I can get still, especially in the morning before I get going or at night when I am winding down for the night, but BEing still is difficult. Especially in a world full of notifications and continuous communication threads, in a world that our work is always in front of us... Read More...
God designed us for His enjoyment—He enjoys us, and He wants us to enjoy Him. The trouble comes in when we are not enjoying what God enjoys. It is important to remember that in the moments when we do things that God doesn’t enjoy us doing, He does not stop taking delight in us. His love for us is constant and unmovable.
Often times, God will have us do something we don’t enjoy. This takes self-discipline, and that isn’t fun.… Read More...
When I was as younger, I would say things that made light of people’s feelings, insinuating that feelings were not valuable. Out of my youthful zeal, I would even say, “God doesn’t care about your feelings.” Well, that’s not true. God absolutely cares about our feelings! He, in fact, made us emotional beings. Therefore, He wants us to have good and healthy emotional experiences.
It’s important to remember that feelings are not the meat of life, they are the seasoning of life, enhancing or hindering our experience!
As leaders…. Read More...
2 Corinthians 1:19-21 (NKJV)
19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us--by me, Silvanus, and Timothy--was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. 20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God.
It’s always encouraging to share something that is burning in your heart and it is reciprocated with an “Amen” to what you are saying. The preacher in me loves to hear “amens"
One of the deep cries in our culture is the need for authentic, real, genuine relationships. I love that social media allows me to be able to see how—and what—my friends are doing. I like to see what has transpired in their lives since the last time I saw them in person. However, the human need for authentic relationships is not met by how many social media friends I have, or by how many likes or comments I can generate on my latest post. Social media is a great supplement for human connection, but it cannot replace physical interaction. We are all designed for and want human connection, a connection with skin on, and you can’t fulfill that desire on a screen.
One thing you don’t normally see on the highlight reel of a social media timeline is vulnerability. Just a few moments ago I took 4 pictures of my coffee and spent probably 3 minutes working on the staging of that pic. Why? Perhaps I think that if I get the perfect angle or add the perfect filter, I can generate more likes and enjoy the 30 seconds of delight that it gives me. My life is not enhanced by that at all.
Last weekend I shared at a men’s breakfast with about 10 men. I shared a short message, then got really vulnerable and real with them about my journey. My heart was stirred, theirs was as well. There is something about sitting across them sharing the ups and downs of my walk. The equity I get from my post fails in comparison to the conversations at the breakfast. Vulnerability opens the door to the heart.
Here are a few thoughts on vulnerability:
1. Vulnerability is not emotional vomit.
Gossiping, complaining, and griping is not vulnerability. They are sins. There is a grave difference between describing another persons behaviors and talking about your feelings and the tensions you are dealing with. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people justify gossip under the banner of “I’m just being real.” Maybe what you need to do is deal with the bitterness in your heart and be more self-controlled? Being vulnerable is about “you” not somebody else.
2. Transparency is sacred.
We all have issues. I don’t tell everybody everything, nor should you. There are things my wife knows about me that nobody else does. She is the only one who should know those things. If I tell everybody everything, then there is nothing sacred about my trust or my transparency. You need to develop trust before you share the deepest parts of your life. The more we trust, the more we share. As a rule, I only share deep things with people that can help me with deep things. We must have these people in our life. We were never meant to carry the weight alone.
3. Be real, and let them be too.
I’ve found that when I am authentic with people, it reciprocates.
When we are wrestling with an issue and we go to somebody about it, we are going for help. Sometimes believers are quick to impose the standard and not offer a hand to help. This is one of the issues we see with Jesus and the religious leaders. In most cases, Jesus had the same standard as the religious. The difference was that Jesus helped the person through the issue. Jesus didn’t point to the standard and tell the hurting to reach it, he lifted them to it. (See John 8:1-11)
When we don’t let people be real we force them to be fake.
Being vulnerable is important. Knowing the difference in when and whom to share with is vital. When we are able to open up in areas that we are hiding due to shame, we will start to get freedom in that area. Be prepared: to be vulnerable where you need to be, and gracious when someone deems you the person they see fit to be vulnerable with.
[if you have this time this is a powerful video a Ted Talk on The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown]
Yesterday morning, we had our friend, Ron Campbell, minister at Overflow Church. Ron is a prophet, and we love his ministry. We are always encouraged to have the Lord bring outside voices to speak—or to confirm—what He is already speaking to our congregation. Sometimes when a word comes and we don’t see the fulfillment of it, we can easily dismiss the vessel or the word that was given as "off." I don’t think that is always the case.
Sometimes when we read the Word (scripture) and see what it says about our lives or our situations, our experience does not line up. Some folks will dismiss the prophetic word and say it’s not truth because it didn’t "work for them." It doesn’t mean the word is not true but it is apparent something isn’t right.
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed,
but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Peter 1:23 (NIV)
It could be that the one presenting the word was "off." It could be that we are misinterpreting the scripture. Yet there is a third option.
The condition of our heart.
In Mark chapter 4, there is a parable about the sower and the seed (see below). In this story, we see the same seed being sown yet only 1 out of the 4 times did the seed produce what it was intended to produce. Jesus likens the seed to the word.
Verse 14 “The farmer sows the word.”
The Word of God is not sometimes true, it's always true. It is the incorruptible, indestructible, inerrant, eternal word of God made ineffective. Wow! The infinitely powerful word of God is limited; limited by the human heart.
Let that sink in: Our heart can limit the word of God.
Now, our heart does not change the word, it doesn’t rob the word of its power, however, it is rendered ineffective by the condition of the heart that receives it. The potential of God’s life-giving word is contingent upon our capacity to receive it. Hard hearts, shallow hearts, and hearts that are consumed with worldly desires, can limit the power of God in our lives.
I want to encourage you to keep your heart ready to receive the word of God. Whether it be when somebody speaks the word over you through a message or prophetic gifting, or when you are having your daily time in the word. Keep your heart ready!
Here are five ways to nurture the condition of your heart, and help get your heart tender and ready for the word. Tenderness makes the soil of our heart fertile for producing fruit.
1- Pray- Before you read. Before you hear. Then pray again after. Pray that the word takes root in your heart and produces fruit.
2-Ask God For Forgiveness- Of offenses you are holding onto, or bitterness of your heart towards others.
3-Worship & Praise God- Spend time reflecting on the beauty of God. Nothing will bring tenderness like thinking about greatness and expressing gratitude for all that He has done.
4-Heart To Heart- Have heart to heart conversations with people. Talk about your hurts, your pain, your anger. Not to rant, but simply to express what you are wrestling with.
5-Read It Again- And again until it gets in you. The very thing that we need in the soil of our heart is the thing that will make that heart tender! Read it, memorize it, print it, and stick it on the fridge. Write it on the bathroom mirror with a marker. Get into the word until the word gets into you!
Get into the Word until the Word gets into you!
Mark 4:1-20 (NIV) 1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’[a]”
13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
Who remembers what it was like to be 14 or 15 and so eager to finally be 16 so you could drive? Or being a senior in high school with major Senior-itis ready to be in “the real world”?
Maybe you find yourself single desperate to finally be married, or married and ready to be a parent. Perhaps you are new parents and would trade an entire year’s salary just to have a week of solid sleep. Then again, you could be past all these seasons and find yourself a mere year or two away from retirement, so close you can taste it like a (virgin) Pina Colada on the beach, or a sweet tea on the golf course if that is more your jam.
No matter what season you are in, I bet there is a part of you—even if it is small—that longs for what is next. But what if I told you there were treasures in this season that aren’t in the next one. That you can only find them where you are!
As I type this, I have a giant two year sitting in my lap old vying for my attention and trying to touch my keyboard, laughing as my fingers dance around the buttons causing it to take me twice as long to finish. (And maybe I just wished he would go away and play before God reminded me what I was writing about—I see you Lord.)
To you high school student: Living in your parent’s house is probably the bane of your existence somedays, but it’s FREE. All of it. In the not to far off future you will have to pay for the roof over your head, the food in your kitchen, and the toilet paper in your bathroom. One day having a meal back at the parents house will be a welcomed treasure. I know it is hard to believe right now.
To you young adult: You may feel like you are floating between student life and adult life, but you will only have this stage in life for a blink of an eye. You might want to be married more than you used to anticipate Christmas morning as a child, but one day you will have to run everything by your spouse (**if you want a healthy marriage—all the married folk said amen). Where you spend your money, if you can go hang out with someone, if you have enough money to eat out. These years are yours! To do whatever (talking holy things now) you want! So do them! Explore. Take an adventure. One day you will miss staying up all hours of the night watching whatever it is that is your vice on Netflix and eating half a tub of peanut butter for breakfast. I know it is hard to believe right now.
To you aspiring parent: The ache in your heart to have a child might be deeper than the undiscovered ocean, and it is legit. I believe God put the desire in us to reproduce ourselves; how else would the world have continued? Hopefully this season isn’t tortuously longer than you can handle, but in the meantime…. Enjoy date nights that don’t require an extra $60 to pay the babysitter. Every night is date night, simply because you are together.. Give all of your love to each other, and build a foundation strong enough to take all the blows that parenthood throws (because they will come!) Your spouse is the only one that will live with you until you die. One day you will miss being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want. I know it is hard to believe right now.
To you sleepless parents: Sleep? What is sleep? I hear you! Been there, done that: four times. You find yourself bargaining, pleading, willing to do anything for sleep, and some how you are still able to function on the little you get! **HIGH FIVE** The nights seem endless and the days seem long, but I promise they disappear like a vapor. You’ll look back and wish you had a baby to smell and cuddle, even if you had to trade sleep for it. When forcing your seven year old son to sit in your lap for an awkward hug as he fights for freedom, will remind you just how far away the sleepless nights seem. One day you will wish you could trade a few hours of sleep for a baby in your arms: One. More. Time. I know it is hard to believe right now.
To you parent of (hormonal) teens: You will survive. I only know because the world hasn’t ceased to exist. Those who have gone before us, brave souls, have done it, and we will be able to do it too. I guess this is where sleepless nights will make a reappearance as you stress and worry about the choices they are making that will shape their lives forever, or why they aren’t home yet. Remember how fast it has gone already? You only have a few more years of them (safe) in your home. Love them hard, and get them ready for the brutal world. One day you will miss having the sounds of chaos in your home day after day. I know it is hard to believe right now.
To you worn-out adult: Life is no fun sometimes. Monotony is an evil prison. You put in all the work and wait for the reward that seems like it only gets farther away. You may find yourself thinking: What do I do now? Is this really all my life has come to after decades of decisions have passed by in a matter of minutes? Did I do it well? How many more years until I can retire, even if it is with less pay? One day you will be so starved for conversation you’ll talk off the checkout clerks ear and call your adult children just to tell them you are going to bed. I know it is hard to believe right now.
To you ready for heaven: You are prepared for the ultimate reward. To meet your creator and reunite with those who preceded you. It is closer than it has ever been, but once you are there you can’t take anyone else with you. People are the only thing that we get to take with us. How many have you secured? There is still a little more to do here, on this side of eternity. Your assignment isn’t over. One day you will look back and hope you finished strong. I know it is hard to believe right now.
Embrace each season, whichever you find yourself in. If you are knee deep in homework, diapers, bills, or doctor appointments; live it. It will be over before you know it and you will have a whole new field to work again in order to find the treasure. Help those that are in a season you have passed. Learn from those you are in a season ahead of you. Embrace it all. Life is full of treasure.
A Time for Everything
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.
And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.
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. Know Them
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."
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.
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:
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.
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!
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!
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,
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.
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.
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
1. Grow in Discernment.
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!”
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.
(Show notes below)
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.
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.
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.
#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.
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
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.
“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!
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.
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!
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?
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)
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.
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.
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.