Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

You Are Your Own Worst Enemy!

I saw this little cartoon over at 22words. Frankly, it's brilliant. Marianne and I were just talking tonight about the dangers of "victim" thinking. No matter how much we might want to blame those around us for our troubles, the truth is that most of us... most of the time... are guilty of sabatoging our own lives.

How do we stop? The first step is to acknowledge and identify the things we do to ourselves that trip up our lives. Only then can we start taking positive steps to be PROACTIVE in life, rather than REACTIVE.

Screen capture from my IPad. Original source is unknown.
 

Have You Ever Heard Me Speak? Did You Not Hate It?

Have you heard me speak? If you don't hate listening to me, would you consider taking a minute to complete the survey below. I hope to use some of the answers as I put together my "introduction packet" I will send to churches/camps/organizations where I may have the opportunity to speak. (if you can add your name, if that's uncomfortable for you, that's okay also!) Thank you in advance!

3 Relationships That Enable Christians To Develop Spiritual Maturity


Over the years, I've done a little bit of thinking about what "spritual maturity" looks like, particularly within the context of a church community. Here's some (not all) thoughts I've had.

True spiritual maturity happens through a process we often call discipleship. They type of discipleship Jesus modeled for us was dependent on relationships. Therefore spiritual maturity happens as people are connected to one another.

I believe these connections can be identified in three relationships every Christ-follower engages in:

  • A relationship with God which is characterized by love. (Mark 12:30)
  • A relationship with our neighbors which is characterized by love. (Mark 12:31)
  • A relationship with other believers which is characterized by love. (John 13:34)

Walking the right path can enable a person to develop these three relationships in a healthy manner. Here are five maturity-producing activities which can assist any believer in growing the three relationship in their life.

Exploring their faith. Every person should take stock of their current state, examine the offer Christ extends, and seek understanding of the commitment required to enter the kingdom of God. 
Launching their spiritual journey. Once convinced, every convert to the way of Jesus should publicly declare their new relationship with Jesus and His church through the sacrament of baptism. 
Partnering with other believers. Because the Christian life is best lived in shared relationship with other believers, every Christ-follower should identify themselves with a community of believers for the purpose of being formed to the image of Christ and of being a formative influence in the lives of others. 
Investing their resources in the kingdom. Because Christ is Lord of all we have (our resources, our gifts, our time, etc.), we are to utilize all we have in the way we believe Jesus would. Therefore, since the example of Jesus was one of sacrifice and service, every believer should seek to use all their resources to sacrificially serve all with whom they come into contact. 
Engaging their circles of influence. The true sign of a kingdom subject is multiplication. Those who have accepted life of Christ in place of their own demonstrate their faith by acting like Christ in the world. In death, Christ redeemed sinners, thus we seek to bring that redemption to all within our circles of influence. Throughout his life, Christ relieved suffering, thus we strive to relieve suffering whenever we encounter it.

That's not all I have to say about that!

Monday, September 24, 2012

6 Things Every Leader Must Do

Not everyone can be a leader all the time, however, at some point in their life most people engage in leadership. When you find yourself leading, consider these six "must-do" activities.

6 Exercises to Cultivate Team Excellence
Establish a clear direction. I did not say "choose a direction" or "proclaim a direction". A good leader does not set agendas himself, he observes and listens to his followers/team and establishes a direction which reflects everyone's gifts and passions. Before you can be a vision-caster, you must learn to be a vision-collector.

Explain with precision the roles of those you are guiding. Most people simply want to know what is expected of them. They want to know how they will be evaluated, and they want to know what they can do to help accomplish the "win." While a leader may fully succeed in getting the right people in the right seats on the bus, if he doesn't clearly communicate the expectation, he will fail. It should also be noted that a leader can never get his people into the right roles if he doesn't know his people's gifts, passions, and dreams. True leadership demands a great deal of listening and observing.

Equip completely with the training and resources necessary to accomplish the team's shared vision. A good leader recognizes tht everyone with whom they work has an important role. They must equip them to accomplish that role. Equipping includes training and providing resources, but it also includes assisting someone in maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. A good leader recognizes that everyone they lead is unique and therefore they learn to develop creative approaches when equipping different people.

Enable accomplishment by unleashing people in their areas, by giving them necessary authority, and by regularly advocating their efforts in public. Nothing can be more disheartening for someone than to have a leader who doesn't enable them to accomplish their tasks. As a leader, if you can't unleash someone to do a job, it is an indictment against your leadership style. If you aren't willing to give someone the authority to do a job, the likely reason is that you haven't capably equipped them. On the other hand, nothing is more empowering than a leader who not only unleashes people to work, but takes every opportunity to publicly proclaim how much they value and trust the work of those they lead. A leads who does this will have followers who accomplish much.

Encourage perseverance by regularly collecting updates and providing assistance when asked. Those you lead will become discouraged, they will have setbacks. There will be times when they want to quit. You can intervene in those moments and encourage them to carry on. If you step in at the right time and help them to refocus on the ultimate goal, you may keep them from quitting. But you'll never know if they are wearing down if you aren't regularly checking in with them. However, don't check in just to "monitor their progress". Be certain they understand and believe that you are checking in because you want to see them succeed. "Progress reports" should be an exciting and anticipated time, not a dreaded practice. You'll set the tone, and by doing so, you'll create a culture of perseverance.

Evaluate the person's work by rewarding effective accomplishment and by correcting issues which may have led to incompletion. Simply put, "those who have done well with a small thing should be given more. And those who has struggled with a large thing should be given less." good evaluations will help you identify the proper load for all your team members.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Once Was Lost Has Now Been Found!

A little over fifteen years ago, Marianne and I moved to Muskegon with nothing to our name but tiny red-headed baby doll and a bunch of hospital bills from her birth. We bought a modest home and began our Muskegon-life together.

I had my dream job. I worked at my alma mater, and got to teach the Bible to teenagers five times every day. I was helping disciple several young people, and on the weekends I got to serve in a pastoral role for middle schoolers.

During these two years I created a four year Bible curriculum for Christian high school students. I had never completed such a large project, and in the process I discovered a passion for writing and creating educational materials. Even to this day, I consider that project one of my favorites of all time.

After two short years in that role, I shifted directions and became the Pastor of Student Ministries at my church. I was still working with some of the same students, as well as many other amazing kids from other schools; but my teaching load was significantly decreased. I did, however, continue to create curriculum and study material, but rarely on the same level as that initial project.

Sadly, in the move from one church buidling to another and in a computer crash a few months later, all copies I had of that curriculum were lost. I thought I had passed it on to a few people before I changed roles, but I was never able to successfully figure out who those people had been. Over the years, a few inquiries and searches yielded nothing, and I eventually concluded that the curriculum had been lost.

Until today...


Today I found myself in a storage barn digging through old files in a rusted out cabinet when I came across a hanging folder labeled "curriculum". My heart skipped a beat, partly because I thought the writing on the folders tab might even be my own. I opened the folder to discover...

It was Bible curriculum from Dayton Christian High School.

Disappointed, I returned to my task and discovered in the folder behind the Dayton Christian curriculum another folder which contained my curriculum in its entirety. I didn't weep, but on a lesser day I might have.

What once was lost, now is found... And what a strange path it took for me to find it.

Without a ridiculously twisted and involved series of events, I might never have found myself in that barn, today, looking through that filing cabinet...

So for whatever it's worth, for a moment I'm grateful for some really messed up events, if only because they helped me rediscover a piece of my past... And if anyone is looking for a high school Bible teacher, or a four year curriculum (with complete scope and sequence) for high school Bible, you know where to reach me!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Your Reputation May Be Damaging the Reputation of God

Have you ever considered the idea that God's reputation is not tied to His character, but rather is tied to the behavior of His people?

No one can control their own reputation.
Of course, I need to clarify that anyone's "reputation" is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of who they are. It is simply what people think of them. And everyone's reputation will vary from person to person, depending on what each person has allowed to influence their opinion.

God's reputation is largely derived from the way His people have represented Him over the ages. Is it any wonder, then, that in some quarters His reputation among people is not equal to His actual greatness? How damaging to the reputation of God have been the inquisition, the crusades, slavery, and opposition to civil rights? How much does God's reputation suffer when those who claim to follow Him spend all their time picking fights, gossiping, and asserting their superiority over others?

On the other hand, how much is God's reputation grown by those who care for the needy, who feed the poor, and who serve orphans and widows?

To be sure, God doesn't need our help! The success of the Creator is not dependent on our ability to win a PR competition on His behalf. Yet, he has gifted us with the opportunity to be His ambassadors, and He has declared that we are "aliens and strangers" who are to live uniquely in the world so that those around us will change their opinion about God. We ought to take this responsibility seriously. If we truly love Him, it will not even be a responsibility. Who doesn't care deeply for the reputation of those they love?

Have you considered what might be the greatest obstacle we face in trying to enhance the reputation of God?

Perhaps, it is our own reputation.

How many people's actions have reflected poorly on God because they were more concerned with how people thought of them. In the name of our own reputation, many of us have at times:

  • prioritized happiness
  • pursued pleasure
  • preferred convenience
  • persecuted enemies
  • picked on the weak

How this must grieve God, and how it must cause those around us to think ill of the one we serve!

As you walk your life's path, take time regularly to consider these question, "Is what I am doing today going to enhance my reputation at the cost of God's? Am I willing to decrease in the eyes of men, so that God's reputation will be enhanced?" Then ACT accordingly!