Thursday, September 29, 2011

Shoot the Generals?

When it comes to winning a battle and cutting short the fight, shoot the generals!

Taking out the leaders leaves the soldiers without direction. Removing the persons who are responsible for winning strategy and decisions necessary for forward progress quickly results in their defeat.

That's a leadership principle for any kind of organization.

With that being true, then it becomes vital that leaders who refuse to consistently lead into change that results in progress need to change that about themselves or be replaced. Leaders who reach a comfort zone and decide to go no further determine the place of stagnation and, ultimately, the start of decline for the organization they lead.

Thus, leaders must always be leading forward for the vitality of those they lead or they become the root of decline.


Because Reebok says so ...

Buy these shoes, walk in them, and it will be like working out your legs and glutes but with better results!

Sound like a ridiculous claim? It is.

Reebok will now pay $25 million for making that kind of sales pitch (read the story in USA Today here

Reebok --- like many, many others --- was just trying to cash in on the laziness and self-indulgence of people. Instead of eating right and exercising, people look for a pill, a diet, a machine, even a surgery, that will effortlessly melt away their fat and obesity without having to change their terrible nutrition or require them to get off the couch and get active.

That's nothing more than wishful thinking that doesn't work.

The big mistake Reebok made was making a claim without any proof its claim was actually true. Again, like Reebok, people do that all the time. Even in the face of stiff evidence and unbridled truth, we hold to our own personal opinions. The problem with that is, when our personal opinions are confronted with conflicting truth, Truth remains the truth and our opinions fail us.

We allow our opinions to get us into a lot more trouble than a hollow claim about shoes. When our opinions contradict the truth about marriage, about parenting, about friendship, about loving others, about responsibility, about faith, about God, then the cost for clinging to our opinions over the truth can be devastating.

We do it anyway, only this time it's "... because I said so."

But thinking it or "feeling" it doesn't make it so!

Reebok will now pay dearly for holding to its unsubstantiated opinion. How costly will your unsubstantiated opinions be?

Truth may cost you on the front end, but there are no hidden penalties, fees, or fines. Given that fact, it's worthwhile to re-evaluate what we believe to make sure our opinions harmonize with Truth. Any opinions that can't be supported by truth are just too costly to cling to.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Project Leader or Servant Leader?

People are not projects.

Regardless of how leaders (in the church or in business) try to justify thinking of them as projects, they are not.

God did not send His Son to this earth for projects. Christ did not die on the cross for projects. The Holy Spirit doesn't convict, direct, enlighten or indwell projects. We are not adopted by God as pet projects, or made a member of a family of projects. Christ will not return for His projects.

So why do leaders treat people like projects?

There go those excuses again!


Monday, September 26, 2011

How to achieve to your limitations ... or surpass them ...

You want to accomplish something with your life. You want to make wise decisions that lead to positive results. You want to use your resources efficiently and effectively. You want to live fully and contribute as much as possible.

All good desires!

So you assemble a team of counselors to provide you with expert insight. You share your goals with your team of advisors and make sure they adopt the exact same vision. You describe exactly how you want to accomplish your objectives, and make sure your team is on board with your methodology. You describe your strategy and make sure all your team members think exactly the same way.

Congratulations! You just wasted the time and efforts of your team!

If all you want are people around you who see, think, and act exactly as you do, you don't need them as counselors! You've already made up your mind what your objectives will be, how you will think about them, and what you will and won't do to achieve them. You don't need a circle of Mini-Me's to go forward.

However, if you want to be stretched and challenged --- possibly beyond what you have dreamed by yourself --- you could build around you a circle of counsel that is purposely different from you. People who may have a capacity to see what you don't. People who think differently to add to, or round out, something you may never think of. People who approach things with styles or strategies other than your own. People with gifts, talents, skills, and experience you don't have.

Now you have a team of counselors who may actually be able to offer you something of value: a different (sometimes enlightened) point of view.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Competing isn't leading ...

Do you know the guy in the photo above?

Many millions of people around the world do. He's Tom Anderson, co-founder of MySpace. If you ever used the site, you likely saw the above photo a lot!

So what's he doing showing up on Facebook?

Well, he's no longer leading MySpace, so he has the freedom to use Facebook if he wants to. You can bet he was anonymously checking out Facebook when it was his competition.

It was the competition that kept Anderson off Facebook publicly, and it's a sense of competition that keeps church leaders out of each other's churches.

Instead of seeing the Church as one body --- the body of Christ --- and the family of God, with the church down the street or around the corner being where our brothers and sisters gather, we instead compete to build communities instead of expanding the family.

Instead of praying for one another, helping each other, learning from each other, collaborating with each other, even pooling resources --- instead of being brothers and sisters from the same family with the same Father --- we compete to be bigger or more successful than the other church.

That's far more like the attitude of James and John in Mark 10:35-37, "35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him [Jesus]. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we want you to do us a favor.' 36 'What is your request?' he asked. 37 They replied, 'When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left'.”

James and John were looking out for themselves, wanting to build their own sense of glory. That's too much like some of today's church leaders. And any of that attitude is a far cry from the exhortation the Apostle Paul makes in Ephesians 4:3-6:

"3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all."

Paul says, "Make every effort ..." to do these things that unite us!

Just exactly what are you doing?


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A little consideration ...

It seems as if there is an invisible switch next to the snooze button on the alarm clock marked "automatic pilot."

As soon as we hit snooze for the last time, we launch ourselves into a thoughtless routine. We get up and start doing many of the same things we did yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and the day before that ... and the day before that ... and the week before that, and the year before that.

So much of what we do is ordinary and routine, which lends itself to being able to be executed with little thought.

Therein lies a source of some our spiritual problems: we don't think much.

In a single sentence, the Apostle Paul challenges such behavior: "Carefully determine what pleases the Lord," Ephesians 5:10.

Paul would have us live our lives with the auto pilot turned off, and our minds turned on, suggesting we give purposeful consideration of how we could live in such a way that would actually please God.

When was the last time you sat and gave that a ponder?

Paul goes a little deeper in Ephesians 5:15-17, "15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do."

It's a good thing to not take yourself too seriously. It's not so good to not have a thoughtful core from which you can be light-hearted. In today's church culture, it's trendy to live a little recklessly.

But it's a foolish thing to live thoughtlessly. Or, as the old saying goes, "You snooze, you lose!"

What do you do to consider and understand what pleases God? How are you careful about how you live? Or do you run on auto pilot and hope for the best?


Sunday, September 18, 2011

A word of encouragement, please ...

At times, we all need a word of encouragement. Dr. LeRoy Lawson speaks to that subject in the video of the sermon posted below ...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

REPOST: Called to do something greater than "build community"

In January of this year, I posted an article that generated some excellent discussion. It was on the topic of referring to, and seeing the church as, a "community." Adopting that cultural language and concept derails a far more significant identity for the church provided in the Bible. So I'm re-posting the original article here for those who wanted to further consider this topic.


I've been convicted of something, so I'm going to make a change.

It's not something earth-shattering, but it's important. It's not a sin, but it is a matter of becoming more biblical. It's correcting something I hadn't noticed adequately but was part of. Here goes:

I will no longer refer to the church as a "community."

I'm making this change because the church isn't a community, isn't supposed to be a "community," and our taking on the cultural language and concept of "community" is making the church into more of a community than it is the church.

"Building community," being in a "faith community," and other such phrases are some of the hot buzz words in our culture. We think if we're community-oriented, we're on the right track. But the concept of community for the church is taking us off track in a major way.

In our culture, community is what you see when you look out your window. It's being part of a group of disconnected people, most of whom you don't know, and usually are content not to. We use communities for what we want and need, and only pay what is demanded (via taxes) while preferring the free services offered. We rarely give anything back to the community unless there's something in it for us.

Communities are, more often than not, made up of shallow relationships. There are some communities which are more supportive than others, but these are more the exception than the rule.

Communities are distant because we keep them at a distance, they don't "live" with us. We come and go in our community according to our own needs and wants, and most interaction is more in passing than on purpose.

Fortunately, Jesus never taught us to go into the world and make communities. Not even communities of disciples. Instead, the Bible describes the church as being the body of Christ, with each of us being a part of the body and connected to one another.

The Bible also describes the church as being the family of God. We aren't simply neighbors (as in community), but brothers and sisters. We belong to each other because we belong to the same family, God's family.

The picture of the church as described in the Bible is vastly more intimate than the concept of community. In your community, you may do something to help the poor, homeless person holding the cardboard sign at the stop light (although many of us lock our car doors, avoid eye contact, and speed away as quickly as possible). BUT ... what if that homeless person was your brother? Or your sister?

Chances are, your response would be dramatically different.

We take care of our family, and our body, very differently than we do our "community."

We live with, love, care for, and cherish our family. And we protect, provide for, and please our body. We give our time, our attention, and most of our resources to our family and taking care of ourselves. That's a significantly greater interest and investment than we give to a "community."

Now here's the problem: the church has become good at building a "faith community" while losing sight that it is much more than that. It's a family, God's family. It's a body that is intimately connected to each other.

Yet, we have created the church to be a community much like the communities we live in, unlike the model of the church we see in the Bible. Those early Christians cared for one another as if they were family, and the result was there was no one among them who had a need left unministered to (Acts 4:32-37). These Christians were known for their love for each other. They acted as if they belonged to one another ... because they did!

When I was a kid, the churches I was a part of had a practice that reminded us that we belong to one another. The church members always referred to each other as "Brother ..." or "Sister ..." So when someone referenced me, they called me "Brother Scotty." That's because we were brothers and sisters in the family of God.

But when we think about community, we don't think of "community" belonging to us in the intimate way family members do. We don't think about, value, or respond to a community in the way we do our family or our body. We don't engage our neighbors we don't know like we do a little sister or big brother that we dearly love.

Jesus didn't instruct us to go make communities. Instead, he wants us, as His body connected together, to be His ambassadors in bringing the lost into His family, NOT His community. The difference in that fact is so vast I'm not going to refer to the church as a community anymore, because it really is --- and must be --- much more!


Seeing double in this leadership model ...

"Hi ho Silver! Away!" was the cry, then off rode the Lone Ranger ...

... with his partner, Tonto.

Yes, even the Lone Ranger wasn't alone.

But many leaders in the church today serve in their positions alone, in spite of the biblical example we see in both the Old and New Testaments of leaders serving in partnerships.

Moses had Aaron and Joshua, Elijah had Elisha, Daniel had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In Luke 10:1, Jesus sends out disciples in pairs, and the apostles often "did ministry" together or in pairs. Paul had Timothy, Barnabas, Silas, and several other partners at different times, and Barnabas and John Mark worked together.

While there are biblical examples of a man serving alone --- Philip bringing great joy to Samaria (Acts 8) or Apollos preaching and evangelizing effectively in Achaia (Acts 18) --- the common ministry model in the New Testament is shared leadership.

One of the single greatest benefits of a shared ministry is the capacity for spiritual support to be given to practical work, and vice versa. For example, imagine if two men shared the responsibility of being Senior Minister for a church. While one is praying and studying for a sermon, the other can be visiting the sick, calling on visitors, counseling members, evangelizing, and other tasks that pull a minister away from prayer and study. While one is preaching, the other can be praying. While one is writing, the other can be researching.

In a partnership, you have someone to bounce ideas off of, or to get ideas from; you have a constant prayer partner who prays passionately because your ministry needs are his as well; you can, in one sense, be in two places at once through the representation of your partner; and you not only have someone as an accountability partner, but someone to share in that accountability.

You also have someone to help you shoulder the load of responsibility, provide you with direction when you're unclear about things, and someone to keep you grounded when "successful."

In spite of these and other benefits to doing ministry in partnerships, two objections to this ministry model usually arise quickly.

First, the cost of paying twice for one position is usually objected to. A friend of mine once posted this to Facebook: "Never ask God, 'What's the budget?' Ask God, 'What's the plan?'" If God has given us an example of ministry partnerships, and desires for a work to be shared, He'll supply the means to meet the need ... if we trust Him.

Second, many people, including vocational ministers, look at multiple church staff as being ministry partners. But serving together on a church staff is not the same thing as sharing the leadership of a ministry. In fact, you'll often find the "silo effect" of looking after one's own area of responsibility to be as strong within the church as you see in office wars in the corporate world.

For all the constant banter among church leaders about creativity and innovation, why are few churches even looking at the real value of this biblical model? What do you stand to lose trying something like this?

Ah ha! Could it be that a leader doesn't want to share the "authority" that comes with their role? Or the spotlight? Or the influence? Or the stage? Or the budget? Some will see sharing their role as a threat to their role.

If we really want to be innovative in ministry, perhaps we have to think beyond catchy church names, flashy websites, and replacing the pulpit with a high top table and chair. Maybe something like partnering in ministry, and other examples straight out of the Bible could bring new, more vibrant life into our kingdom work.


Friday, September 16, 2011

You might want to add this to your bucket list ...

What's on your bucket list?

You know, that list you have either in the back of your mind or actually written on paper, delineating the things you absolutely, positively want to do before you die.

Everyone has one. Even if it's one simple thing, there's something each of us think, "If I could just do that before I die, I would be satisfied."

For some, it's a list of grand and exotic adventures ... climb the highest mountain, pierce the skies into outer orbit, write the great American novel, make a million dollars, win the Iron Man, or travel the world.

For others, it may be a list of more practical things ... find a "soul mate," get your kids through college, or pay off the mortgage.

It's not hard coming up with things we want to accomplish. The tough part is paring down the list!

Add to that God's bucket list for you.


Yep, God wants to add to your list. He has some things that He would like for us to accomplish before we die.

Have you ever thought about what's on God's bucket list for your life?

Some things on His list for us are easier to know than others. At the top would be for each of us to have a saving, loving relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. That's the one thing He wants for every one of us.

What else could possibly be on the list? Using the gifts He's given us in service to Him and others would likely be on there, He would want us to do that while we're still around.

How about obeying Him? Actually doing what He has instructed might be something He would like to see from us while we're still alive and kicking.

Maturing into the likeness of His Son would likely be on the list, since that's His goal for our earthly existence. Yes, He really would like to see us grow up in Christ.

I would think He would also like to see us learn contentment, experience His peace, and be filled with His joy. Those are all things He continuously urges us toward. They're likely on His bucket list for us as well.

And, if I were a betting man, I would go "all in" and venture that God would like us to introduce at least one person to Jesus Christ before we die. At least one. Surely, this is on His bucket list for us, isn't it?

Well if God really does have a bucket list for us (we might refer to it as His will for us), have you incorporated the contents of His list with the items on your list? Are they important to you? Have they become some of the things you're striving to accomplish before you die?

Or are you pursuing your own agenda?


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Continuing Education v. Continuing Interaction

"This is the end!" you think to yourself as you walk across the stage, shake a hand while taking the encased document, walk back to your chair, and finally swivel the tassel from one side of your graduation cap to the other.

"Free at last!" you think with a mix of ecstasy and exhaustion.

Having spent a bulk of your life working through some kind of learning experience, you're ready to focus on living and leading ... and leaving the books behind!

That is, unless you're serious about being a leader.

If you're passionate about not only leading, but leading well, the end of your formal education will mark the beginning of lifelong learning that will be essential for keeping you equipped to lead, serve, and equip others.

How leaders pursue continuing to learn and grow will directly affect the depth and breadth of the educational foundation they have already built. Some leaders extend their development with a continuing education program, while others opt for a continuing interaction program.

Some leaders think they are continuing their education when they are really continuing their interaction. These are the leaders who were more true to the "Free at last!" idea, and have hardly picked up a book since. Instead, they opt for interactive learning opportunities such as attending a couple favorite conferences each year, taking on a mentor, swapping thoughts and ideas on social media sites, or being involved in fellowship offerings with peers.

These leaders try to stretch themselves through continuing interaction with others. This interaction can contribute some to greater depth, but usually adds more to their breadth of experience. Interaction may garner the occasional great idea, instead of whole concepts. Being involved with others provides more example than sample.

Such a pursuit of continuing interaction may help a leader expand their practical capacity, but may not contribute as much to their depth.

Other leaders focus on consistently extending their depth with a pursuit of continuing education. Taking an occasional course, attending a lecture, participating in structured mentoring, studying online curriculums, and creating a personal library from the volume of books they read are examples of some of the methods used by these leaders to continue their education. These leaders strive to go deep, but the breadth of their learning might be limited as their methods are more academic and less practical.

A well rounded approach to continuing to learn and grow is a combination of education and interaction to stretch oneself in both depth of knowledge and understanding, and breadth of experience.

How do you continue to grow and learn as a leader?


Changing leaders on purpose ...

One way to improve leadership within the church is to change it.

On purpose.

Perhaps even a few times.

There is a traditional school of thinking that every vocational ministry position is supposed to be long-term. In fact, if you want to quickly pique church members' attention, just announce a change in a key pastoral position. The first question asked is usually, "Why?"

"To better serve the mission and needs of the local church body," would be a good answer, and it's a reason why some churches need to consider making leadership changes, even if the change is only seasonal.

The idea that one person would be equipped to lead a church through every season of its life is a stretch for many in ministry. Some leaders have neither the giftedness, talent, skill, experience, or interest in taking the lead in every situation or season in the life of a church. Sometimes, a church can grow and serve best under leaders who are more directly equipped to lead through certain seasons or situations the church may face.

For example, I know of multiple leaders who thrive in planting new churches and leading them to stability within the first three to five years of their start. But then they are ready to turn the leadership over to someone else while they move on to plant other churches. These men are gifted in evangelizing and leading a church in its early formation. They aren't wired to spend the next 20 or 30 years leading the same church in maturing.

Likewise, there are some great shepherds who would be overwhelmed with the challenges of planting a new church, but have the giftedness of settling in with a congregation for many seasons of growing, maturing, and serving.

Some pastors thrive on the demands of a quickly growing congregation, but are completely overwhelmed when having to add to that a capital building program. Others wind up with so much to do they need someone to share responsibility with.

All of these, and other, scenarios from the life of a church can be met by providing the right leader for the season of the church. This can be done various ways, including:
  • Seasonal Leadership. When a church is going through a transition in its congregational life that will last for an extended period of time, it may require changing leaders to provide leadership that is seasoned to the changing needs of the congregation.
  • Situational Leadership. Different situations can bring new needs for leading a church. Going through a capital development campaign, recovering from a split, revitalizing an outward look, or any number of situations a church may face can result in the need for either a different kind of leadership, or additional leadership. Perhaps a church needs to change leaders to meet the situation, or simply supplement its current leadership with additional leaders equipped and experienced for the situation the church is facing.
  • Shared Leadership. Sometimes key leaders benefit the congregation by sharing their leadership with someone who rounds out broad leadership needs. For example, a senior minister leading a church during a time of vibrant growth while also trying to build new facilities could benefit by sharing responsibilities in order to continue momentum and meet all the demands of leadership. A few churches are purposely making the senior minister role a partnership of two men, thinking the responsibilities are too demanding for one man to carry alone. A group of churches with similar needs could share a leader, or a larger church with a larger staff could "loan" a leader to smaller churches for a temporary period.
  • Supplemental Leadership. Sometimes current leadership are a blessing to the church and have about every gift or skill they may need, minus one. In such instances, supplementing leadership with the temporary expertise of another leader for a short period could be just the boost a current leader needs. Preparing now for the future with additional study or training is another way current leaders can supplement their leadership in preparing for additional needs in the "foreseeable future."
The New Testament doesn't provide us with just one model of church leadership which starts with the birth of a church and lasts for the life of a leader. The example of the Apostle Paul's leadership is very different than that. What is important is providing each local church body with the type of leadership it needs when it needs it. How to accomplish that might be something some churches need to be more flexible and innovative about.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The problem with modern church planting ...

Church planting is broadly thought of within today's church as the most effective way of building the church or expanding the kingdom of God, kind of like the way Al Gore proclaims global warming to be settled science.

The problem with both is that science hasn't settled the issues surrounding the arguments for and against global warming, and the Bible doesn't point to planting new churches as the means of building the church.

If we look closely at how the church came into being, and then grew rapidly and expanded throughout the world, it was not by our modern concept of planting new churches.

Today, there are multiple church planting agencies that will tell you exactly how to successfully plant a church. Some have scripted a few hundred steps a church planter "must" take, and will even provide project management services to help a church planter make sure these steps are accomplished. They will tell you how many people you need to have as a "core group" if you want a successful launch. And they'll help you find a building to meet in so you can come together and "be a church."

That isn't how the church started or grew.

Instead, it started with a core group of Christ's followers, emboldened and empowered by the Holy Spirit, preaching and teaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to the lost. Thousands responded to the message, and the first local church family emerged. Soon after, a persecution of these new Christians resulted in scattering the believers to other lands, but they preached Christ wherever they were scattered to.

After that, as few as two or three believers were sent out to preach Christ to people in places who had not heard the Good News. The mission was to preach the Good News and disciple those who believed.

In the biblical account of the church, the mission wasn't to send a church planter to a city, develop a core group, rent a building, create a brand, market a trendy-named church, and then draw people to a place with the idea that those who came and stayed would be the church. Instead, those who were sent out went to evangelize, baptize, and disciple. From the fruit of those efforts, a new church family would emerge.

Today's church planting efforts try to reverse this approach, starting with a core group about the size of today's average church congregation, and then start as a church. Perhaps that's why there sometimes is a lack of emphasis on evangelism and disciple-making. New church plants can become inwardly-focused quickly because they often have had little time to be outwardly focused. With the larger the group they start with, the more attention is given (if not demanded) to creating programs for the group; these people want to be served, which leaves only so much time, resources, and energy to look outward. Often, a determining factor of whether a new church plant eventually "succeeds" or "fails" is whether the core group starts and stays focused on preaching Christ to those who don't know Him, or starting as a church that quickly turns inward.

I'm certainly not saying that today's church planting efforts haven't had their share of "success." But if a more biblical approach to church planting was pursued and supported, what might the fruit of those efforts look like?


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to deal with someone else's bad attitude ...

It doesn't feel good to have a bad attitude, but it may be worse to be on the receiving end of one. For many people, being the brunt of someone else's bad attitude is stimulation for having one of their own!

How do you deal with being the dumping ground of someone's bad attitude without striking back in like manner?

God gives us a great example when He dealt with the infamous bad attitude of Jonah.

Jonah had a truly nasty attitude with God. So bad that when God gave him an assignment, Jonah literally ran in the opposite direction, bought a ticket, and got on a boat to sail away in the opposite direction God had pointed him (Jonah 1:1-3).

That's a bad attitude!

You know how the story progresses, from Jonah being tossed overboard, God sending a large fish to save the attitudinal messenger, and Jonah finally carrying out the mission God had given him.

The mission worked out the way God wanted: the people of Ninevah repented, so God did not destroy the city.

A good end to a wild story, right?

Not quite.

Jonah's attitude got worse! Check this out (from Jonah 4):

"1 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. 2 So he complained to the Lord about it: 'Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 3 Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.' 4 The Lord replied, 'Is it right for you to be angry about this?' 5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city."

Jonah throws a fit with God, then finds a place to sit and pout. Seems like he didn't learn much during his time inside the belly of a fish!

How did God respond to Jonah's ugly attitude?

First, He expressed a lovingkindness ...

"And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant," Jonah 4:6.

In the midst of Jonah's bad attitude, God first reassured Jonah of His love for him with a tangible kindness.

For many of us, when someone's attitude goes south, so does our care for them. Not so with God. Before God addressed Jonah's attitude, He expressed His own: He loved Jonah unconditionally. That meant bad attitude and all.

Then He extended a lesson designed to reconcile Jonah to a right attitude ...

While God doesn't stop loving us or caring about us when our attitudes fail, He also doesn't tolerate a persistent petulance:

"7 But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 8 And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. 'Death is certainly better than living like this!' he exclaimed. 9 Then God said to Jonah, 'Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?' 'Yes,' Jonah retorted, 'even angry enough to die!' 10 Then the Lord said, 'You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?'” Jonah 4:7-11.

That's where the story ends.

God responds to Jonah's bad attitude with love and a lesson.

How do you respond to being on the receiving end of a bad attitude? What can you take away from God's example with Jonah?


Monday, September 12, 2011

Chewed up and spit out ...

Christians today have more available to them to help them live a remarkable Christian faith than they could possibly hope for.

Available are some great, gifted leaders committed to leading them in the footsteps of Christ. There are churches loaded with resources. There is about every kind of Bible you could possibly want or need. There are enough Bible study materials to fill libraries. There are schools to teach you the Bible. There are a vast array of parachurch ministries serving alongside the church to assist in equipping believers. There are more conferences offered to train Christians than you could attend in a year. Technology can bring you just about any resource you need.

Regardless of vast resources, all any Christian really needs to fully live the life of faith God intends for us is the Holy Spirit, a basic Bible, a consistent prayer life, and a sincere love for and commitment to Jesus Christ.

Yet, another pastor is chewed up and spit out.

Yesterday I was reading the stories of a pastor and his wife who planted a church in a major metropolitan area about three years ago. They were passionate about a God-given vision to be the family of God where they were. They worked hard. The people came. They became the "cool" church in that city.

So what happened?

The congregation liked having 10 percent of the people doing the work, and being the "cool" church.

The pastor didn't like that. They were not being the church God intended. They were not making disciples and serving. They were doing church like everyone else, with just a little more "cool factor."

So the pastor challenged the congregation to make some radical changes. The congregation rejected the proposed change. So the pastor has resigned to go "do church" God's way somewhere else.

Another pastor has been chewed up and spit out because he tried to lead a congregation to truly be a biblical body of Christ.

The pastor's wife wrote in her blog that people like to hear about radical Christianity, they just don't want to live it out themselves.

That's not quite true ... there are many who don't even want to hear about it!

There are many people and churches who are intent on living in contradiction to clear biblical teaching about what it means to be a genuine Christian or Christ's church. No matter how many sermons, no matter the biblical teaching, no matter the power of the conviction from the Holy Spirit Himself, they are fully committed to a mundane intellectual belief, a mundane church experience, a mundane faith. They fully intend for the church staff and a handful of radicals to do the "heavy lifting" and for them to do only enough to appease their consciences.

James spoke to this attitude: "Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it," James 4:17.

So did Jesus: 21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws'," Matthew 7:21-23.

I must say I agree with the pastor's decision to move on. We squander a tremendous amount of time and resources on people and churches who have no intention of being who God intends for them to be. In the meantime, the lost are dying without Christ.

Maybe you're a Christian who has been challenged to live a real, radical faith for Christ. What's your response? It's not something you have to give some time considering, or get around to later in life. It's something you do or don't do. Now.

Maybe you're a church that isn't making disciples, or making very few. Are you going to settle for that, or change?

Maybe you're a pastor serving a congregation you know will never become the church God intends. You've tried to lead them in that direction and they reject that leading. Are you going to stay and be part of their rejection?

When reading those stories yesterday, it struck me how it took only three years for a new church plant to become like an old, dead church; for a new family of believers to become inwardly focused and self-satisfied.

And for another pastor to be chewed up and spit out.

May God forgive us!

He will. "...
if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land," 2 Chronicles 7:14.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

How great leaders inspire action ...

When people understand the "why" behind what you're trying to accomplish, you will get a greater, more passionate, and more personal buy-in.

Simon Sinek establishes that point, and more, in the TED Talk video posted below, as he addresses how great leaders inspire action.

(Thanks to Daniel Decker and Kenny Silva for sharing this).


A step toward unleashing your creativity ...

One of the greatest longings of a truly creative person is the "setting free" of their mind. That's because they know they express the tiniest sliver of creativity that floods their thoughts.

So, let's take A STEP toward maximizing acting on your creativity, first by looking at an old but simple truth, and adding to it a reality, to learn something about what happens to our creative flow.

First, on multiple occasions previously, I've written about a simple fact of human behavior which is important for us to grasp. It's this:

Our thoughts create our emotions.
The combination of our thoughts and emotions create our behavior.

We could state it like this:

Thoughts + Emotions = Behavior

Now, let's add to this a common reality:

Creative Thinking + Acting Conventionally = Ordinary

The truly creative person is not striving to achieve the ordinary; ordinary is a contradiction to creativity. So this reality helps us understand that something interrupts what happens between creative thought and action (behavior).

What lies between thought and action? Emotions! So it's our emotions that keep us from acting on our greatest creativity, right?


Remember where emotions come from? Our thoughts. So here's what happens:
  • Creative thinking is flowing like the mighty Amazon through your mind ...
  • ... those creative thoughts generate emotions that accessorize the creative thoughts; you may be on an "emotional high" or very excited as the creativity flows ...
  • ... but instead of immediately acting on the combination of thoughts and emotions, you take the creative thoughts around for another cycle of thinking ...
  • ... this time, you allow some irrational thinking to blend with the creativity; now doubt, fear, and other types of irrational thought start to rise up over the creative ideas ...
  • ... this strain of irrational thinking generates emotions which act like a wet blanket on your ideas ...
  • ... and what once was a great idea is marginalized and, finally, snuffed out.
Knowing this, what is one step we can take toward maximizing creativity?

Minimize the gap between the origination of creative thought
and taking the first act toward actualizing the creative idea.

This will help to minimize allowing irrational thinking into your creative thought processes. The wider the gap between origination of thought and taking some kind of action on the thought, the greater the possibility of acting conventionally instead of creatively.

Some people simply call this "over thinking an idea." That's how the bulk of creativity gets killed.

The next time you sit down to intentionally focus on "generating creativity," be prepared to act as part of the process. You should be able to boost your creative output by doing so.


How to bring joy to an entire city ...

How would you like to bring the joy of Christ to an entire city?

Sound impossible?

It's not. It has been done. It can be done. And fortunately, more and more church leaders are starting to dream that big.

But when was the last time you saw a church actually do this?

It may have been a while. Maybe you haven't actually seen it done. So how can you achieve such a grand objective? Once again, scripture provides us with an example, and perhaps by applying it we could achieve the same results!

God used Philip to bring joy to the city of Samaria. In Acts 8:4-8, we see how it was done:

"4 But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. 5 Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. 6 Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did. 7 Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city."

This passage of scripture provides a very simple method that resulted in joy to the city of Samaria: Philip told people about Jesus, and he served the needs of the people through the power of the Holy Spirit.

That's it.

The result was "... great joy in that city."

We often hear church leaders talk about "keeping the main thing [proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ] the main thing" while launching or managing a host of programs that do everything but that. We talk a lot about serving one another, but we have churches full of people with real needs that continue to go unmet and unserved.

If we aren't teaching about Jesus and serving one another through the power of the Holy Spirit within the body of Christ, how could we ever honestly hope to bring the joy of Christ to an entire city?

Look again at how uncomplicated it is:
  • Preach Christ.
  • Serve the needs of people in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Notice in this Bible text that God brought joy to an entire city through a single Christian! He didn't use a whole church, or the unity of churches in a city, He simply used one faithful follower who was willing to preach Christ, and serve the needs of people through the power of the Holy Spirit.

How much joy could God bring to your city through you? Through the combined efforts of your local church body? He's willing to do His part, so the next move is yours.


Friday, September 9, 2011

The "Bloomberg Effect" in leadership

Americans across the country have joined New Yorkers in their recent outrage over New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to exclude prayer, clergy, first responders and their families in the ceremonies of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. But Bloomberg is making sure there is plenty of room for politicians at the event.

This behavior is what I call the "Bloomberg Effect," the tendency of leaders to lift themselves up, even if it means snubbing real heroes or trying to elbow in on honor deserving of God.

The "Bloomberg Effect" isn't reserved for politicians, but can be seen among any kind of leaders, and is common within the church. In many churches, leaders are given seats of honor on a stage in front of a congregation, and much of the verbal praise offered in a service is directed to leaders. Many preachers so consistently saturate their sermons with stories of their own lives that church members hear more about the details of the leaders' lives than they do of the life of Christ!

As leaders wade into the social media world of our modern culture, it's common to seem them "retweet" to their followers tweets of praise made about them, or see Facebook posts from a leader commenting about how some other leader had spoken so highly of them, and how humbled they were by the gesture (just not humble enough to refrain from sharing it with their social media audience)!

When Jesus saw the "Bloomberg Effect" among the religious leaders during His earthly ministry, He strongly condemned their self-glorifying behavior, describing it this way:

5 "Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. 6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi'," Matthew 23:5-7.

Then Jesus spoke directly to the concept of the "Bloomberg Effect" in Matthew 23:11-12, "
11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Many leaders deserve an appropriate expression of "praise" for their work, but it shouldn't come from themselves. When a leader is lifted up, it should be because God has done the lifting, or those served by the leaders are expressing appreciation.

Who's doing the lifting in your church?


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Now that school is back in session, consider this ...

"What are you so tired for?" the parent asks with an edge of incredulity in their voice. "You just spent the day at school, it's not like you had to go to work all day!"


Let's examine that claim:
  • Parents have to get up early to get to a job. Kids have to get up early to get to school.
  • While parents are listening to the radio station of their choice, or talking to their friends on their hands-free Bluetooth in traffic, the kids are stuffed like sardines on a packed bus that doesn't have a radio or seat belts.
  • While parents spend their day working in their cubicle (decked out with personal decorations) albeit dealing with unruly clients, the kids rotate each hour to another teacher who has them studying, testing, and often quizzing them publicly in front of their peers.
  • But the parents are judged at work each day by their performance. So are the kids, at school.
  • Parents run out to their favorite fast food joint for a quick lunch. Kids choke down what's served up in the cafeteria.
  • Parents have to deal with demanding bosses. The kids? Have you ever met a maniacal math teacher? A testosterone-driven Phys Ed teacher? A science teacher bent on downloading every ounce of knowledge he has? A bully twice your size?
  • Parents often communicate with their boss by email. The kids have to raise their hand, seeking permission to speak.
  • Parents sometimes have to work overtime. The kids usually have homework every night.
  • Parents get paid for all the work they do during the day. Kids often have to do additional work for a small allowance.
And the kicker? The kids have to ask permission just to go to the restroom during the day.

Parents, before you unload on your kids during the evening with the thought they had it easier than you all day, think again. There's a lot of work that goes into being a full-time student. Not to mention all the mess of the emotional world of children and teens who have to spend their days with hundreds of other children and teens just as confused as they are.


The Gospel of Deconstruction ...

The sermon was powerful to Ned. The scripture taught landed with impact on both his mind and heart. The Holy Spirit concluded the experience by gripping him with overwhelming conviction. Ned realized how sin had ravaged his life, and finally he knew things must change.

Fortunately, the pastor listed three points in his sermon on how change can happen. In addition to that, the church Ned attends offers a number of classes and groups to help further change, and counseling is also available.

Ned left the service that morning committed to doing what he thought must be done: deconstructing his broken life, and rebuilding a better one.

Welcome to the Gospel of Deconstruction ...

There are a lot of Neds out there who have similar experiences. The pastor may have preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but Ned only heard and felt the need for his life to change. With that realization, it only made sense to Ned that he needed to deconstruct himself, get rid of the "bad parts," and remake himself into someone "better."

Ned's church unwittingly feeds his deconstruction efforts by supplying him with a variety of outlets for working on creating change in his life.

Months later, Ned is frustrated, feeling like a failure and full of a new, deeper sense of guilt. His remake hasn't turned out any better than the original version.

Through all Ned's efforts, no one helped him understand that his attempt to effect change in his life will largely be ineffective until he has life! The change God calls us to isn't deconstruction, but regeneration!

"He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit," Titus 3:5.

Ned's contribution to changing who he was would be that of maturing as a child of God once he had a new birth and a new life in Christ. Until then, Ned would only be trying to breathe new life into a spiritually dead man ... something Christ alone can do.

Churches are full of people who both practice and preach the Gospel of Deconstruction. Great focus is placed on the need for change, and anyone can identify with that need. But God is the primary Change Maker. His intent is not to deconstruct us, and reassemble us as a "Ned 2.0," but to put to death and bury the old person, and give us a new birth into a new life.

" ... anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" 2 Corinthians 5:17b.

Are you attempting to deconstruct your life in a futile effort to build something better? Or have you let God wash away your sins and, through a new birth, give you a new life that you can actually contribute to changing through a maturing process?


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Lady Gaga leadership style ... in the church?

In the never ending quest for leadership knowledge, could it be that some church leaders have adopted the leadership style of Lady Gaga?

Although Lady Gaga didn't make a big splash until her debut studio album The Fame came out in 2008, she has since racked up 249 award nominations, winning 110 of them (including a few Grammy awards), dominating the music charts, capturing a massive fan base, and generally being thought of as the second coming of Madonna (but half her age and with a better singing voice).

How has Lady Gaga skyrocketed to the top in such a short period of time? What's her secrets for leading the pack in the music world? Here's a peek into her leadership style ...

Raw talent + copy the biggest stars ...
Lady Gaga was playing instruments by ear at age 4, writes her own music, and designs her own costumes. She's got some talent. Added to that, she's managed to copy some of the biggest names in music that have influenced her, which include Madonna, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Queen, and even Andy Warhol. While some criticize her for what seems to be blatant copying, she shakes off the comments by enjoying critical acclaim.

A great marketer ...
Marketing made Madonna a super star, and the same skill for building a brand and marketing herself is paying off in a big way for Lady Gaga. When you think of Lady Gaga, you think of more than a singer who has a song you might like. Instead, you think of a carefully crafted image, or brand, much bigger than a single song or performance.

Over-the-top dramatic productions ...
In the footsteps of Madonna, a performance by Lady Gaga will be anything but simple. Instead, you'll get a major production designed to shock the senses and marvel audiences. She does things bigger than her peers do.

Constantly re-inventing herself ...
What will Lady Gaga say next? Do next? Wear next? Anticipation foments prior to the star's next performance because you never know what her latest showing will be like. Innovation and creativity are at the heart of each of her shows. Even a simple interview may feature a completely new look.

Fierce ...
Lady Gaga is fierce about, well, being Lady Gaga. She knows what she wants to accomplish, and is fierce about pursuing it.

As you look at Lady Gaga's leadership style, you might see a little correlation with some leadership style being practiced in the church. But if you ever asked anyone directly if this is the kind of style they use to lead in the church, they would never admit it. They'd just ... put on their poker face.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wrong worship ...

As you watch the funny video below, LAUGH! Enjoy the humor! But don't miss the message. Thanks to Chris Goforth for sharing this; I agree with his Facebook comment that this funny video is a sad representation of our church culture today.


What does God have to do with your sermon?

Across America, there is more motivational speaking being done from church pulpits than there is biblical preaching.


Because God often has little to no role in determining what a preacher preaches about, or the content of his sermons.

Turning their eyes to the congregation is often the first place preachers look when developing sermon or series topics. "What are the needs of the people? Where are they at? What's standing out in today's culture?" are the type of questions preachers use to spark sermon ideas. Many sermon series today are developed from discussion generated among church production teams, often with the preacher being just one of several participants.

Once a "good idea" is sparked, the preacher launches into research by checking out leading books on the topic (usually written by senior ministers of mega churches), as well as scouring videos, blogs, and other internet resources on the topic. From there, an outline is fleshed out and the development of the sermon or series is on its way.

Where is God in this process?


Considering the church isn't ours but is Christ's church; considering the people we have the privilege of being under-shepherds for are God's family, His children; considering the responsibility we have toward their spiritual well-being; and considering our influence in their spiritual development, perhaps it would be a good idea to start with God when planning a sermon or series.

Before stepping in front of a congregation it is a preacher's responsibility to first seek what it is God wants them to say! God hasn't appointed us to say whatever we want, do whatever we want, and directly affect His people however we want. Preaching is supposed to be delivering the message God has for His people. How can you know what that is without first asking God?

Prayer is the proper starting point for a preacher because it allows him to ask of, listen to, and look toward God in determining what should be preached to God's people. Guidance from the Holy Spirit, and time spent in scripture can also be means of gaining direction from God about sermon messages.

Some preachers start there, then make the mistake of leaving God there. Once they have their topic, they're off researching what everyone else has to say on that topic without first listening to God about the matter. Before jumping into extra-biblical research, spend time digging into the Bible looking for direct and indirect teaching about your sermon or series topic. Once you've looked at what God has to say on the subject, you can then broaden your study to the work done on the subject by others.

One of the most common practices among many preachers today is the preacher immersing himself in extra-biblical study and research before they look to what God has to say about a subject. By then, the preacher may already have all the material he has decided to use for his sermon, so the biblical study is more a means of finding biblical substantiation for the message. In this process, God has an insignificant role in sermon development and content.

Preaching is a man doing a spiritual work. At least, it's supposed to be. How we go about doing it determines if it really is, or if it's human effort producing a humanistic message.

How do you do it?


Monday, September 5, 2011

This is discipling ...

I'll let the video speak for itself ...

Thanks to Floyd Hughes for sharing this.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

You can't be serious!

Three of your friends are blindfolded. You're brought in, but they don't know you're there, they only know someone has come in, and they have to identify who you are by a catch phrase they will be told. What's the one catch phrase they could hear that would make them instantly think of you?

There's a lot of trendy catch phrases out there to choose from ...
  • "Back in the day ..."
  • "What up?"
  • "That's how I roll ..."
  • "Wooord ..."
  • "Whatever ..."
  • "My bad!"
  • "Hook a brutha up!"
  • "Duuuuude ..."
  • "I know, right?"
  • "Sweeeet ..."
  • "That's sick!"
  • "Just sayin' ..."
  • "It is what it is ..."
I haven't had a catch phrase common to myself, but lately there is one that seems to enter my thoughts often. It's this: "Seriously?!"

It must be that I've heard the phrase so often I've started to apply it in my thinking. And it seems to be a good one! When you consider some of the things people do, sometimes you just want to pause and say or think, "Seriously?!"

That catch phrase comes to mind when I read a somewhat startling sentence the Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 6:9:

"So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up."

Paul has to encourage these Christians to not get tired of "doing what is good."

Seriously?! I mean, seriously?!

Just how much "doing good" would it take to make you tired of "doing good"?


Do you "do good" so much that you really tire of it? Do you know anyone who goes about doing good --- in any way --- that they're worn out from it?

How much love would you have to give to weary from it? How much kindness or gentleness would you have to express to others that would make you tired of continuing? How much encouragement, how much support, how much service would you have to give as part of your doing good that would simply wear you out?

Have you ever loved someone so much you actually thought, "I better back off or I'll be completely wiped out"?

Have you ever given so much you thought, "I must stop here, or I'll put my own personal finances in jeopardy"? Ever?

Have you ever helped someone so much you had to move on to helping others because you met their entire need?

Actually doing good to the point of growing tired of it isn't really our problem. What is the problem is not caring enough about doing good that we weary of it so quickly we do very little of it!

In our minds, doing good should swiftly (more like immediately) be followed by reward for doing good. When the reward doesn't follow immediately behind the "doing good," we grow tired of it and revert back to what we do best: focusing on ourselves.

Paul tries to help us understand that in God's economy, reward will come more greatly than we can imagine, but usually not immediately after our "doing good." It could be much later, and some of the reward will not come in this lifetime. But reward should not affect our persistence in doing good. Paul says, "At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up."

Many give up doing good, but not from wearing themselves out from it. More are like a friend of mine who considers himself to be a church leader. He's intelligent, gifted, talented, financially blessed. He could, through Christ, do a lot of good. Instead, he first tries to "qualify" people for any good he would do for them:
  • Is their need due to sin?
  • Is their need due to poor judgment on their part?
  • Or have they done all they can, and "really" need someone to do some good in their lives?
  • If they're "qualified" for needing someone to do some good in their lives, how much can others contribute? (meaning how little can he do!).
That's far from the example of "doing good" we see from Jesus. Jesus did good things for people struggling because of their sin, for people struggling because of their poor judgment, and for people who were plagued with problems from no wrongdoing of their own but just so the glory of God could be shown through them. In other words, Jesus didn't qualify people for loving them, being kind to them, being gentle with them, being a joy to them, healing them, feeding them, saving them. They were qualified if they had a need ... and we all have need!

Jesus did so much good He died from it! Seriously!

And when He became weary of it, He did it anyway:

"41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 'Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine'," Luke 22:41-42.

The next time you think you're tired of doing good, ask yourself this: "Seriously?"

Have you really done that much good?



Saturday, September 3, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Average Joe" is the same old story told well

How many versions of your favorite movie would you watch?

Three? Five? Maybe even seven?

How about 71?

Since Chapman & Hall first published "A Christmas Carol" in 1843 by English writer Charles Dickens, this story about Ebenezer Scrooge has been told in some kind of movie or television format at least 71 times. It's an old story that people seem to never tire of, although some versions are better than others.

Troy Meeder's new book, "Average Joe: God's Extraordinary Calling to Ordinary Men" (published by WaterBrook Multnomah) reminds me of the constant telling of a popular story, but this time it's the usual stuff men's ministries are made up of, just a different version told fairly well.

Therein lies the value of "Average Joe."

If you've been in --- or even near --- a men's ministry, you won't find the overall content of Meeder's book to be anything new. From the focus of God doing extraordinary things through ordinary men, to a chapter making the classic pitch for men to be involved in a mentoring relationship, the message comprising "Average Joe" isn't anything original or different. But the stories Meeder tells in crafting his message are new and often captivating.

From the first five chapters of the book, I thought Meeder may have been unfolding a larger, overarching message for his readers. Then chapter six happened. That chapter was an odd break from the preceding chapters inserted simply to "tip his hat" to the men who serve in a branch of our country's military. Chapter seven was also a little odd as Meeder turned to the image of a cowboy to draw out his example for the "average Joe."

But Meeder's skills at story-telling, coupled with his fluid writing, brings out a strong message about friendship in chapter 10, an intensely personal story in chapter 11, and chapter 12 tells a story powerful enough to make a grown man cry.

"Average Joe" has common messages for men, being told once again here by Meeder. But the messages are well crafted, and the stories they are composed of are worth the read.


I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

"Extraordinary Living" 500 posts later ...

"There's nothing extraordinary about my life" is what many (if not most) people would say. But if you're living your life as a follower of Christ, that isn't true!

Smith Wigglesworth once wrote, "To be saved by the power of God is to be brought from the ordinary to the extraordinary."

It's with that thought in mind that on March 21, 2009, I wrote my first post for this blog, "Extraordinary Living," with the idea of launching a blog that would provide a variety of material about the extraordinary call to life Christians face. A little more than a couple years later, this is now my 500th post for this blog. To re-capture the original intent, I've chopped off the opening and closing of that first article, and am re-posting it below.

From March, 2009 ...
Living the Christian life is not an ordinary thing. Who we once were exists no longer ... we have died to self, have been buried with Christ, and have risen to walk in newness of life. That's an extraordinary thing!

But living out that new life in Christ is where both adventures and challenges begin, and is something Jesus really wants us to experience fully. In fact, Jesus said that He had come so that we may have life and experience it abundantly.


We're to live differently. God calls His people to stand out, to be different. Yet, on any given Sunday you'll hear much the same conversation among Christians as you do co-workers around the water cooler ... challenges of life, difficulties of living, problems faced, challenges and testings.

I think we're missing a lot of the joy God intended for us to experience as His children. And if we are, it's our fault! God doesn't promise us a life of ease. In fact, Jesus said in this world we will most definitely have some troubles. BUT, then He added something we so often overlook ... He said, "But take heart, for I have overcome the world."

Extraordinary living isn't about a life of ease. And it doesn't mean that life is easy ... although I think it's often easier than we make it. But regardless of the circumstances we face in life, we decide how we respond to all of life's good and bad times.


Over the past couple of years, many of you have shared not only some great insights, but some great results in your own life as you have chosen to pursue living a more extraordinary faith as a follower of Christ. Thank you for joining in this journey of "Extraordinary Living" and for sharing your journey here. I'm excited to hear about what God continues to do in and through you!


Friday, September 2, 2011

How we rob today of its potential (and what to do about it) ...

If you were offering stock in your life, would it currently be a buy, sell, or hold?

Sounds like a silly question, but we often evaluate the quality of our lives, right down to the quality of our day, in the same comparative manner business executives do with their business.

For example, if a business generated $1 million in revenue last year, but made only $500,000 in revenue this year, the businessman would consider that a loss of half a million dollars. The average person might see that as making a half million dollars. But in business, this year is compared to last year, and projections for next year are closely scrutinized.

Maybe we aren't so different in our personal lives.

If yesterday was a happy day, an easy day, a rewarding day, a blessed day, and today is anything less than that, we often think of today as a "bad day." That's because we compared today to yesterday.

If, when you got out of bed yesterday the sun was shining, you had a hot breakfast waiting for you, rush hour was a breeze, you got your biggest customer of the year ... but today, you woke up late, scarfed down some cold cereal, was late to work because of horrible rush hour traffic, lost an important client at work, and discovered a flat tire on your car when leaving the office ... you would likely think life today was not "good." Because yesterday was "better."

That's how we routinely assess the quality of our lives: by the events of our day.

We quickly forget that God doesn't owe us a single day. He doesn't promise us a tomorrow. He doesn't promise that today will be as blessed as yesterday. If you're alive today, then God has gifted you with a day to live. If you compare today's gift of life to yesterday's, you're missing the real gift, the real opportunity.

Each day isn't going to be the same. Each successive day isn't always going to excel in "quality" over the previous day. If what we think about and gain from today is based on comparing today to other days, then we certainly aren't living in the moment. And if we add to that our anxiety of what tomorrow might be like, we're really making a mess of what today could have been!

Jesus spoke to the anxiety over our days in a simple statement recorded in Matthew 6:34, "So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today."

We can overwhelm our day by trying to load onto it worries about tomorrow. We can also rob ourselves of today's blessings and opportunities by comparing today to our yesterdays.

Today is not yesterday. Today is not tomorrow. Today is now. Use it --- live it --- fully and wisely as the singular gift from God that it is!